Table of ContentsMythology in China
Holidays in China
Communist Party of China
Hundred Flowers Movement
Hundred Schools of Thought
Journey to the West
Mandate of Heaven
Qin Shi Huang
Romance of the Three Kingdoms
Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove
Technology in China
The Liberation of Tibet
The 2008 Olympic Games
Chinese Space Program
The Dream of the Red Chamber
The Eight Immortals
The Forbidden City
The Four Olds
The Great Wall of China
The May Fourth Movement
The People's Republic of China
The Plumb in the Golden Vase
The Silk Road
Yunan Rectification Movement
Mythology in China
Chinese mythology contains a number of folktales, stories, and other legends. Like most mythologies, it contains a number of creation myths, a flood story, and a large number of gods, goddesses, demi-gods, and mortal champions. Some stories are believed to be based on actual historical events, while others are purely allegorical.
Chinese historians have tracked many Chinese myths back to the twelfth century BC, where they were passed down orally for years before being written. The earliest written myths found were in Shui Jing Zhu and Shan Hai Jing, two very early written manuscripts. Another, the Hei’an Zhuan, contains legends from the Han. Imperial records also contain some myths and legends. However, many Chinese myths continued being passed down orally, whether by word of mouth or in song, before being written down either as short stories or being used as the basis for novels.
Most cultures develop creation myths early on, but the Chinese did not. In fact, they had no creation myth until after Taoism and Confucianism appeared. Like in most cultures, though, they have several different versions of how humans were created. Some myths say Shangdi created humans, while others give credit to Nuwa, who supposedly created man with her husband, Fuxi. Pangu, a deity first described by Xu Zheng around 200 AD, is also given the title of creator.
Early Rulers of China
Myths state that early China was ruled by legendary or even god-like emperors. This time, known as the Three August Ones and Five Emperors Period, was from 2850 BC to around 2200 BC, when the Xia dynasty was established. The names of the august ones and emperors vary. While the august ones are sometimes said to be immortal or at least godly, the five emperors are usually listed as mortal, although their reigns were very peaceful and they themselves are usually considered enlightened.
The Chinese Great Flood
As in many mythologies, the Chinese have a flood story. During this time, the Yellow River was known to flood, destroying much of the land. The Huaxia tribe, which lived near the river, placed Gun in charge of controlling the flood. When he failed, he was executed and his son, Yu the Great, put in charge. Yu finally solved the flooding problem, becoming the savior of his tribe and, after the chief died, its leader. While this flood story isn’t on the same scale as those in other myths, the basic concept is the same.
After Yu died, stories vary on who he selected as his successor. Some say it was his son, Qi. Other stories say it was his deputy’s son, Bo Yi. Most scholars accept Bo Yi as his successor. Bo Yi taught his people many things, but while he had the title of successor, Yu actually gave more of the true responsibility to his son. After a few years, his son Qi was more popular than Bo Yi, who had run out of inventions and new ideas. Qi was then named successor. Bo Yi and Qi struggled for the title, with Qi winning. This directly lead to the Xia dynasty. The entire Xia dynasty is often considered at least somewhat mythological, although the Records of the Grand Historian does list 17 rulers of the dynasty. Still, no real archeological evidence has been found to support the records.
The Chinese Pantheon
Heaven, hell, and earth are all under the control of the Jade Emperor, one of the most powerful Chinese gods. He has a host of heavenly assistants and ministers to help him in his endeavors. He also rewards the just and punishes the wicked. With the introduction of Buddhism, the Jade Emperor was made to be less powerful than Buddha (as show in Journey to the West, when the Jade Emperor must call on Buddha to restrain Wukong the Monkey King).
Dragons play a large part in Chinese mythology, and many are considered to be divine, although not all work for the Jade Emperor or obey his commands. Dragons are associated with water and rivers, and one myth tells of how four dragons created the four great rivers of China. Dragons also bring the rain, and many pray to Ying Long, the dragon god of rain, during droughts.
Mythology and the Various Chinese Religions
Chinese mythology has adapted and influenced beliefs from Confucianism, Buddhism, Legalism, and Taoism. Taoism, a belief founded in China, incorporates some mythology into it, while Buddhism, a belief from India, has influenced mythology. The Taoist idea of a paradise Heaven where the gods lived became part of the Jade Emperor’s myths, while the idea of punishment and reward was taken as the focal point of Legalism.
The art of growing Bonsai trees, or miniature trees, is often referred to by its Japanese name, but it actually began during the Han dynasty in China. The word “bonsai” is how the Japanese pronounce “penzai,” the Chinese word for the art. Today, most people, especially those in the West, use bonsai to mean any small tree or plant grown in containers.
The earliest records of Bonzai are from the Han dynasty, although the art form could have originated earlier than that. Bonzai spread to Japan, Korea, and other parts of Asia once China began trading with these other cultures. In Japan, especially, the small trees were grown to decorate gardens and homes. In 1300, a Japanese poem first outlines the main principles of growing bonsai, some of which came from China, some of which the Japanese created. The current oldest growing bonsai are in Tokyo. The small trees in this garden are between 400 and 800 years old.
One interesting fact about bonsai is that they are not dwarf plants. Instead, you can grow a bonsai from any tree or shrub by placing it in a small pot and pruning the roots and crown. Some species do work better for bonsai than others, however. Improper pruning can kill the trees, though, so you must be very careful when growing bonsai.
To shape bonsai, aluminum or copper wire is wrapped around the branches. Once the branches lignify, or become solid, the wire can be removed. Bonsai cultivators also use techniques called jin and shari to make bonsai look older than what they really are. Jin involves removing a full branch to make the tree look like a limb has snapped off. Shari is the removing of bark to make the tree look like it’s been scarred from lightning or weather.
It’s very important to correctly water your bonsai as well since the pot is quite small and can’t hold that much water. On the other hand, bonsai can have too much water. It mostly depends on what kind of bonsai you are growing. Some need more water than others.
Generally, bonsai are first grown in boxes made from wooden slats. Here, the roots are able to grow better, which makes the tree sturdier and stronger. After this, the bonsai is transplanted into a smaller box that makes the roots denser. The bonsai is then moved to its presentation pot for further growth and display.
Bonsai also need to be repotted on a regular basis, usually when their roots are pruned. If the bonsai has a dormant period, that is when it should be repotted. Bonsai are repotted more often while they are still developing so they don’t become pot-bound and so that new feeder roots grow. These feeder roots help the bonsai absorb water more efficiently.
Soil, Tools, and Pots
Bonsai practitioners don’t always agree on what soil and fertilizer to use. Many will use only organic fertilizers, while others see no problem with chemical bases ones. Generally, most agree that you should use fertilizer in small doses. For soil, most bonsai practitioners use loose soil often mixed with sand, gravel, or pellets. Again, much depends on what kind of tree or shrub is being grown.
As far as tools go, there are special clippers and cutters designed especially for bonsai shaping. Special pruning tools are almost a necessity since many are designed to remove branches without leaving stubs. Wire pliers for bending the shaping wire and various other types of sheers are also useful.
Bonsai pots generally have small drainage holes on the bottom covered with mesh to keep soil from falling out of the bottom. The pots can be of any shape, size, or color, although they are generally kept small. Some containers made by famous bonsai pot makers are high sought after, but any container will do.
Many keep their bonsai outdoors all year round, but this is only really practical in temperate climates. Many bonsai go into dormancy during the winter, although not all do. Some people also choose to keep their bonsai indoors near a sunny window.
Indoor bonsai are generally cultivated specifically to be kept indoors. The traditional bonsai that are cultivated to live outdoors often die if kept inside for too long. However, there are some bonsai that are too sensitive to the cold to be kept outside during the winter. The best type of bonsai to cultivate for indoor growth is those that are drought-resistant.
Styles of Bonsai
There are several different styles of bonsai that are named after the way the main trunk grows. In the formal upright style, the bonsai has a straight, tapering trunk. There are no bends or curves like there are in the informal upright style.
In the slant style, the trunk grows at a slant from the soil, placing the top point of the bonsai off to one side of the root base. Then there’s the cascade style of bonsai. This style mimics the way trees grow over water or on mountain sides. Often, the top of the tree actually extends beneath the bonsai pot.
In the raft style, the bonsai is crafted to resemble a tree that has
fallen on its side. The branches grow as if they’re a group of trunks,
making it look almost like the pot has several bonsai growing in it.
The broom style of bonsai features branches that stick out in all
directions, making the tree look like a broom that has been flattened on
the ground. Contrarily, the literati style of bonsai is simply a bare
trunk with very few branches on it.
Cantonese opera is the well-known form of opera from the Cantonese culture in China. It’s quite popular in southern China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore. Cantonese opera combines several different traditional Chinese art forms, including acting, singing, music, acrobatics, and martial arts.
While there are many similarities between Cantonese opera and traditional Chinese theatre, there are some differences, such as the higher focus on martial arts and acrobatics. Many of the plot lines of Cantonese operas are based on historical events, myths, and the classical Chinese stories. Performers are trained in what are called the four skills and the five methods of acting and singing in Cantonese opera, each of which teaches the performers different ways of using their bodies and voices to create a character.
History of Cantonese Opera
No one is quite certain when or where Cantonese opera was created, but most historians do agree that it was based on the operas performed in northern China. These operas made their way to the south where, in the late Southern Song dynasty, they inspired the Nanxi, or southern dramas. These operas were reinforced when members of northern opera troops, fleeing the Mongols, moved to the south in 1276. All performers were men until the 20th century, when women began performing in Cantonese opera. While there are new operas being written, many of the most well-known and most-performed were written during the Yuan dynasty.
Cantonese opera is more than just a type of entertainment. The stories often include messages or moral themes. These came from the fact that the government often commissioned operas and other public forms of entertainment to help education the public before a formal education system was put in place. Opera was also used to promote the idea of loyalty to the empire and its ruler. If the imperial officials felt that an opera presented a message that went against these themes, they would have it banned.
There are two different styles of types of Cantonese operas. The first is Mou, which focused on martial arts and acrobatics. Most of these operas are about wars, generals, and action. The Man operas, on the other hand, were more focused on scholars, slow, elegant actions, and on characters rather than action.
Cantonese opera used a variety of different instruments, including the erhu (two-stringed fiddle), guitars, conga drums, and saxophones. Today’s operas combine traditional instruments like the yehu and the pipa with more modern pieces. Generally, instruments are divided into percussion and melody sections.
Likewise, Cantonese operas are divided into theatrical plays and singing plays. This defines the music. The singing plays are almost always composed of Western style music, while the theatrical plays are more Chinese in their origins. Lyrics are written for each of the plays, but a song may contain more than one melody. This allows the performers to add their own style to each piece they are in.
Costumes, Makeup, and Hair
The costumes changed with the theme and time period of the opera. The Man costumes featured long, flowing sleeves that attached to the sides or chest. These costumes indicated the rank and statue of the characters. Those with lower status wore simpler costumes, while the higher ranked individuals wore very elaborate outfits.
Getting into makeup is quite a long process for each performer. The most common makeup scheme consists of a foundation of white makeup with red highlights around the eyes. Red lipstick is also often used. Each role has a unique style of makeup associated with it. The clown or jester character always has a white spot in the center of his face. A character with an illness has a red line drawn between his eyebrows. These visual clues make it easy to identify the characters on the state.
Like the makeup and outfits, hats and other headgear also helped the audience know the age, social status, and profession of the characters. Officials wore black hats, while generals are usually seen with helmets featuring pheasant feathers. Kings, of course, wear crowns. A character often removes his or her hat when they are tired or surrendering.
Spoken and sung lyrics are markedly distinct in Cantonese opera. Speech is either nearly identical to spoke Cantonese or is spoken very smoothly. The latter is generally done with a character is reciting poetry or has musical accompaniment.
Cantonese Opera in Hong Kong
The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts began working with the Cantonese Artists Association of Hong Kong to offer a Cantonese opera certificate course in 1998. They expanded this to a full two-year diploma program in 1999 in order to better train professional opera performers. An advanced course in opera is planned for the 2009 academic year.
Chang’an has played an important role in Chinese history. As the capital city of more than ten different dynasties, many major events have happened in the city. Chang’an means “Perpetual Peace” in Chinese, and while the city has been mostly peaceful, it has also seen a number of wars. Since the Ming dynasty the city has been called Xi’an, a name that translates to “Western Peace.” The tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang of the Qin dynasty, with its massive Terracotta Army, is located near the city.
Chinese have lived in or around Chang’an since the Neolithic times. The Yangshao Culture is believed to have been the first group to settle in the area. The Qin later ruled the country from their capital of Xianyang, a city located very near present-day Xi’an. Later, the Han would settle in Chang’an, which was located a bit northwest of Xi’an. Still later, the Tang dynasty would rule from a larger Chang’an, rolling a number of smaller suburbs into the city. This city was actually eight times as large as the Ming city of Xi’an.
At its height, Chang’an was one of the most populous and largest of cities not only in China but also the world. In fact, records from 750 AD estimate that nearly a million people lived in the city. The New Book of Tang census from 742 lists over 350,000 families as living within the city walls and the suburbs.
The Han also had their capital located near Xi’an. During the Western Han dynasty, the city was the cultural, economic, and political center of the country, due in part to it being situated on the Chinese end of the Silk Road. The high amount of trade made the city equal to any of the great metropolises of Rome. Very little actual manufacturing was done in the city; instead, nearly all business was trade.
During the Han period, Chang’an was expanded three separate times. The first was under Emperor Gao-zu. He had lavish palaces built before having the city walls erected, and in 202 BC, he had several palaces renovated. Two years later, he built a new palace, Weiyang Palace. His son, Emperor Hui, continued his father’s building projects in 195 BC. Instead of building palaces, however, he had a series of walls built around the city.
Following the Western Han dynasty, the Eastern Han moved the capital to Luoyang. Chang’an was known as Xijing, or Western Capital, during this time. However, in 190, Prime Minister Dong Zhuo overthrew the government and moved the seat of power back to Chang’an.
The Sui and Tang dynasties also held their capitals at Chang’an. During the Sui dynasty, Emperor Wen built his city of Daxing southeast of Chang’an, and in 618, this city was renamed Chang’an by Emperor Gaozu of the Tang dynasty. During the Tang, Chang’an stood with Baghdad and Istanbul as three of the largest cities. Chang’an included two huge marketplaces, several gated wards, and large city walls that were nearly ten feet tall in places. However, this rebuilt Chang’an was almost completely destroyed when the Tang dynasty fell. A few monuments still stand from the Tang Chang’an, but most of the city no longer exists.
The Layout of Chang’an
Chang’an was laid out on a grid. The walls formed a square around the city. Two large parks and many palaces were part of the city. Many orchards, groves, and even vineyards were part of the southern section of the city, as were playing fields for polo and the Chinese version of football.
There were six major roads the divided Chang’an into nine different districts. These streets were quite wide—one was even nearly 500 feet across. In addition to allowing many different carts and individuals to walk abreast, the huge streets also served as effective fire breaks. When the East market burned in 843, the wide streets kept the fire contains, protecting the rest of the city. These streets were lined with fruit trees in 740 in a move that made the government quite popular with the citizens of Chang’an.
Various streams and rivers were enclosed within the city walls as well. Several ponds were features in the West Palace, and the Xingqing and Daming Palaces included lakes large enough to boat on. Five different transportation and sanitation canals wove their way through the city, fed by various sources. These rivers were also used for irrigation and provided water to many of the parks.
Chang’an served as the inspiration for several other cities in Asia. The ancient Japanese capitals of Heijokyo and Heian-Kyo (modern Nara and Kyoto, respectively), were based on the city’s grid structure, although neither featured large walls. Likewise, the Silla dynasty in Korea incorporated much of Chang’an in their capital city of Gyeongju.
Over the years, Chinese art has grown and evolved. In some cases, a new dynasty created a new form of art, while in others, the works were inspired and influenced by artwork from other countries, by religions, or by politics. All in all, China has a wide variety of arts, including folk art, theatre, painting, calligraphy, and much more.
Early artwork included pottery and jade. Later, the Shang dynasty began creating many different items out of bronze, including art and decoration. Music and poetry also existed during this early time, and much of it was based on the works of Confucius and the poet Qu Yuan. Music was, initially, mostly limited to percussion instruments, although string and reeds were later added. Many different items were made from bamboo during early Chinese history, including furniture.
By the time China became an empire, porcelain was being used. In fact, porcelain, especially very high quality porcelain, is often simply referred to as “china” in some parts of the world. Imperial China also saw the rise of painting and calligraphy, especially in the upper class and at court. Much of this was done on silk, even after the invention of paper. Buddhist art also became quite popular during this time.
Many dynasties have a signature form of art. During the Sui and Tang dynasties, Buddhist sculpture and architecture was very popular. Much of these works were inspired by art from India. However, by the end of the Tang dynasty, all foreign religious systems, including Buddhism, were banned by the Taoism government.
The Song dynasty focused on poetry, especially the form of lyric poetry called Ci. This form focused on expressing feeling. Paintings began incorporating a sense of subtlety, especially in landscapes. Emphasis also shifted from the emotional to the spiritual. In performance art, the oldest form of Chinese opera was developed during the Song dynasty. The popular modern Cantonese operas have their roots in these performances.
The later imperial period saw the rise of the Ming and Qing dynasties. Ming artwork, especially their vases, are very sought after in today’s art work. Also, the dynasty was home to one of the most popular Chinese poets, Gao Qi, and is known for their near-perfect color paints and prints.
The Qing dynasty, on the other hand, is known for the creation of the best forms of Chinese opera. Yuan Mei, another great poet, lived during the Qing period. Chinese art, too, reached new heights, and the style we know today as Chinese artwork was invented during this time.
Today, much of China’s artwork is influenced by the New Culture Movement. This movement incorporates many Western techniques, although many artists also make use of traditional techniques and art forms as well. Cantonese operas and other traditional theater forms are still performed today
The folk religion of China goes back thousands of years and includes the worship of many different gods and the veneration of the spirits of the ancestors. Many different aspects of Chinese mythology are included in this folk religion. While there is no organized group surrounding folk religion, it has been roughly estimated that there are at least 800 million followers of Chinese folk religions around the world.
The Chinese folk religion combined parts from a number of other practices, including Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and ancestor veneration. It includes gods and goddesses who personify the moon, earth, and sun, the many deities who exist in Chinese heaven, the Buddha, and communication with animals and spirits. Many different festivals and ceremonies are connected to folk religion, including many of the national holidays. While some Western religions would not work alongside the folk religion, the folk religion beliefs can be melded with Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. In fact, many practice several of these philosophies throughout their lives. One example is the Buddhist bodhisattva Kuan Yin, who is said to be the elevated and enlightened form of the deity Miao Shan.
Because there is no canon of literature or even a real name for these beliefs, the Western world has had trouble accepting folk religion as a “proper” religion. While the concept of a religion without a holy book may be confusing to non-Chinese, the Chinese have no problem with it. Often, however, they will describe themselves by one of the other three religions of China (Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism) simply to avoid explaining their beliefs in detail.
Chinese folk religion contains hundreds of different gods, goddesses, demigods, immortals, and other deities. Some of these started out as historical figures who were elevated to sainthood for their bravery or amazing deeds. Below are some of the more famous deities in the folk religion.
The Eight Immortals appear in many different pieces of literature. They were eight humans who have become figures of properity and good fortune.
Guan Yu, one of the heroes of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, is now known as the patron saint of policemen and is used as a symbol of loyalty.
Mazu is the patron of sailors. This goddess is particularly popular in the south of China, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Hong Kong. Shrines asking for calm seas and clear skies are often found on the coast.
Shangdi, or the supreme emperor, is one of the earliest creator gods and is seen as the leader of heaven. His name is often used for the Jade Emperor and the Christian God.
Sun Wukong, the monkey hero of Journey to the West is sometimes regarded as a god and other times as a great sage. While he isn’t worshipped as often as many of the others, his tales and legends are often told.
Xi Wangmu is known as the Queen Mother of the West and can grant others immortality. In some stories, she is the Jade Emperor’s mother.
Wenchangdi is the patron god of exams, scholars, and students. Students can often be seen praying to him right after their professors announce a pop quiz.
Yuexia Laoren, an old man, is seen as a heavenly matchmaker and is often worshipped by young men and women who are looking to find a lover.
Zao Shen is one of the kitchen gods and features in Amy Tan’s novel The Kitchen God’s Wife. It is said that he reports to heaven once a year to discuss the status of the household.
Traditional Chinese food is quite different from what the Western world calls Chinese food, although there are some similarities. Chinese food is quite widespread, and what were originally regional dishes are now available in the Americas, Europe, Australia, and Asia.
Because China is fairly large, there are many different regional dishes; in fact, some regions have an almost unique style of food. Because of this, Chinese food can be divided into what are called the Eight Great Traditions, or the eight most known regional styles of cooking. They are Anhui, Fujian, Cantonese, Hunan, Shandong, Jiangsu, Sichuan, and Zhejiang. The most popular are Cantonese, Shandong, Sichuan, and Jiangsu, which is generally referred to as Huaiyang. These four are often collectively referred to as the Four Great Traditions, and they are the styles most often served in other countries.
Some cuisine experts cite Ten Great Traditions by including Beijing and Shanghai cuisine. Some also discuss Muslim and Buddhist cuisine as part of the main cuisines of China.
At a meal, each diner has his or her individual bowl of rice. All other dishes are served in large communal bowls or plates. Instead of taking large portions and eating them, Chinese diners use their chopsticks to take food off the communal plates and immediately eat it. Other than the rice bowls, there are no individual place settings. This contrasts greatly with Western tradition, and many Western diners are somewhat hesitant to eat a meal in this fashion because others’ chopsticks touch the food on communal plates. To address this, sometimes individual plates are used, and food is taken from the communal plates with a set of serving chopsticks. In some places such as Hong Kong, a city with many foreign visitors, plates are prepared individually, and all communal dishes include serving utensils.
Pork In Chinese Cuisine
In cooking, the Chinese prefer to use pork over beef due to religious and economic reasons. Swine are much easier to raise and feed, plus they are not used for domestic labor. Many Chinese also prefer the texture, color, taste, and smell of pork to that of beef. Buddhist cuisine, however, restricts eating large quantities of beef, and in Chinese Islamic cooking, pork is not used.
Vegetarianism in China
A good number of Chinese are vegetarians, although, as in the West, the overall percentage of vegetarians is fairly small. Many who strictly follow Buddhist teachings are vegetarians since Buddhism stresses minimizing the suffering of all, including animals. Many Chinese dishes contain a large number and variety of vegetables, including corn, mushrooms, and various sprouts. Some also contain imitation meat made out of soy or wheat gluten. This imitation meat closely imitates the taste and texture of pork, duck, and chicken. Some imitation seafood is also available.
The Five Chinese Grains, also called the five sacred grains, are the five main staples of ancient China. The five grains included in the group vary. Some lists include rice, wheat, soybeans, proso millet, and foxtail millet. Other lists, such as the one in the Classic of Rites, replaces rice with hemp. The five grains were first mentioned in the Fah Shen-chih Shu, a farming text that dates back to 2800 BC. Because of their importance in Chinese cuisine and in history, the cultivation and use of the five grains were even said to have been supervised by Houji, a member of the Chinese panthenon.
Trends in Chinese Food today
A study conducted in the early 2000s showed that over ten percent of all Chinese were actually undernourished. While an alarming number, it’s actually less than half of the undernourished population of China in the early 1970s. The problem is that many Chinese in coastal and urban settings are unbalanced meals. Many older generations lived during the food shortages and food rationing that occurred in the 1980s and still carefully monitor how much food they eat, leading to few eating the correct amount of food. Some also blame the sudden popularity of Western style fast food. Many American food chains now operate in China, and until recently, few were that concerned with providing healthy meal choices.
Prior to the industrialization of the country, most ate meat very, very rarely. A typical Chinese meal was made up of vegetables and rice. Protein came in the form of peanuts, and most did not eat sugar or fats regularly. As China gained wealth, however, meats, sugars, and fats have been included with more and more meals.
The Holidays of China
Like every country, China has a number of traditional holidays that are not celebrated in any other country. These holidays are uniquely Chinese, and many are based on mythology or other rituals that have existed for hundreds of years. The most important holiday is Chinese New Year, a holiday that is celebrated world-wide by both Chinese and non-Chinese alike. Moast Chinese holidays are based on the Chinese calendar, although there are a few exceptions.
New Year’s Day – January 1st is celebrated in China, although the celebrations aren’t as big as they are for Chinese New Year’s, which is celebrated about a month later. Employees do get a paid holiday, however.
Chinese New Year’s Eve – The last day of the lunar calendar is set aside for the Chinese New Year’s Eve. During this time, people clean their house, place new images of the door gods on their front door, and then set off many fireworks to scare away evil spirits. They also eat a traditional ten course meal featuring fish. The fish course is never fully eaten—to leave some of the fish is to invite abundance and prosperity into the new year.
Chinese New Year / Spring Festival – The first day of the lunar calendar is the Chinese New Year celebration. More fireworks are set off, more food and treats are eaten, and many people visit their families on this day.
Lantern Festival – The first lunar month, 15th day is the day of Lantern parades and lion dances. This festival takes place during the first full moon of the lunar year. People eat Tang Yuan, a special type of rice dumpling.
Zhonghe Festival (Blue Dragon Festival) – The Blue Dragon Festival is celebrated on the second day of the second month by eating noodles and Chinese pancakes. It’s also the time of year when many households do spring cleaning.
Shanghi Festival – The third day of the third lunar month is set aside for International Women’s Day. Female employees get the day off of work.
Tree Planting Day – Since the 1970s, April 1 has been the Chinese version of Arbor Day, a day set aside to plant trees and think of the environment.
International Labor Day – May 1st is labor day for the Chinese. Workers get a day off of work to enjoy celebrations and parties.
Youth Day – May 4th is the day of remembrance for the events from May 4, 1919. It marks the occurrence of a student movement, and many different youth activities are held on May 4th.
The Dragon Boat Festival – The fifth day of the fifth lunar month features boats decorated as dragons. There are boat races, yellow rice wine to drink, and Zongzi, a type of food wrapped in bamboo leaves, to eat. The day was originally celebrated in memory of Qu Yuan, a great poet from the state of Chu.
Children’s Day – Children are celebrated on June 1 every year. Parties are thrown in elementary schools and parents give their kids gifts and tokens of appreciation.
Bathing and Basking Festival – Celebrated on the sixth day of the sixth lunar month, this festival is all about cleaning. Many items such as sheets and clothing are washed and hung out in the sun to dry.
The Chinese Communist Party Birthday – July 1, 1921, was the day the Chinese Communist Party was founded in Shanghai. Today, the date is counted as a minor holiday.
The Night of Sevens / the Magpie Festival – On the seventh day of the seventh month, the Chinese celebrate the meeting of the goddess Zhi Nu and her lover Niu Lang. According to legend, the mother goddess forbid their love, but once a year, the stars form a bridge across the great Milky Way river that allows them to be together. The two are represented by the stars Vega and Altair, which are close together during this time of the year.
The Spirit / Ghost Festival – On the 15th day of the 7th lunar month, Chinese honor their ancestors and the dead. The most common sight on this day is the burning of paper money and other paper luxury items. By burning them, these items move to the spirit world where the dead can use them. This way, the dead won’t bother the living.
Army Day – On August 1, Army Day is celebrated. On this day, military officers and civilians reflect on ways to work together to reach the goals of the country.
Mid-Autumn Festival – Also called the Moon Festival, this celebration is held on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month. To celebrate, people eat mooncakes and hold a family meal.
Teacher’s Day – Since the 1980s, teacher’s have been unofficially celebrated on September 1. The day is not yet a national holiday, although many give teachers small gifts on this day.
Double Nine Festival – Celebrated on the 9th day of the 9th lunar month, this is a date when many Chinese go outdoors and enjoy various activities. They also visit family graves to pay their respects to their ancestors.
National Day – October 1st, 1949, marked the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Like the Fourth of July in the US, the day is celebrated with parties and huge firework displays. Employees get two paid holidays, making this a holiday perfect for travel.
Water Lantern Festival – the 15th day of the 10th lunar month features tiny lanterns being set adrift in rivers and streams. These lanterns are offerings to the water spirits.
Winter Solstice – Usually celebrated around December 22, the Mid-Winter Festival or Winter Solstice Festival is a day of feasting and family gathering.
Laba / Congee Festival – the 8th day of the 12th lunar month is celebrated as the day that Buddha attained enlightenment. Laba congee, a food made of mixed fruits and grains, is traditionally eaten.
Legalism was one of the main schools of philosophy founded in China. It has its beginnings in the Spring and Autumn period and in the Warring States period (770 to 221 BC). During this time, China made great leaps in culture and intellectual thought; so many, in fact, that they collectively became known as the Hundred Schools of Thought. Other philosophies that developed around this time include Mohism, Daoism, and Confucianism. Legalism reached its height under Emperor Li Si, who made China a Legalist state.
Legalism’s Main Focus
Unlike some philosophies, Legalism does not try to find answers to the reason of life or address complex subjects. Instead, it is focused on following the laws and upholding justice. Han Fei, one of the most well-known Legalists, summed up Legalism in three ideas: Fa, Shu, Shi.
Fa is Chinese for law, and states that the legal code must be available to the public and must be presented clearly. All citizens should be equal under this code. Those who obey the laws should be rewarded, those who disobey punished. While the emperor or government enforces the laws, they do not actually run the state—the legal code does.
Shu, or method, states that the ruler can protect himself by using special tactics and secret methods to ensure that others cannot take control of the state. The ruler’s motivations should not be easily understood. This way, no one can know how to gain the emperor’s favor other than by obeying the laws.
Shi, which means power or legitimacy, states that the ruler does not hold the power; rather, the position of being head of state holds the power. This means that ruler must make informed decisions and work to make the lives of his people better. Otherwise, he may be overthrown and another put in his place to direct the power of the state.
Origin of Legalism
Legalism was founded by Shang Yang in order to reform Qin into a powerful country. His reform philosophy worked, and Qin eventually conquered its six rival states and unified China. Legalism advocated equality for all, punishments for those who broke the law, and general order over the chaos that was present before.
After being named prime minister by Duke Xiao, Shang Yang began rigorous reforms throughout Qin. He eliminated both his personal rivals and those he saw as holding Qin back. He eliminated the aristocracy and began rewarding those who excelled. Military commanders and high ministers could now come from any class. The ministers of government and soldiers, therefore, found reason to work harder and become more disciplined. After several years under Shang Yang’s leadership, Qin began conquering China. In the end, First Emperor Qin Shi Huang became the first man to rule over a united China.
The Emperor in Legalism
Under legalism, the ruler held the “mystery of authority” and, therefore, was always to be respected by the people. However, the ruler himself did not actually have power; rather, his position lent him the power to rule. Part of this involved the ruler keeping a low profile, working tirelessly but nonchalantly. A good ruler, according to Legalism, listened to his advisors, accepted that he could be wrong, and was courteous and kind to all. Rulers were warned against being too kind, however, and were not allowed to spoil their subjects.
The Ministers under Legalism
Various ministry posts were created to assist the ruler and help keep the government in check. Many of these minister positions were created by Shen Buhai, who solidified the Legalist concept of shu. These ministers were to advise the ruler by understanding specific affairs. They were to provide educated opinions and information to the ruler who, because of his vast responsibilities, did not have to time to delve into all details of a subject.
Knowing that government officials often abused their positions, Han Fei suggested that rulers control their ministers via handing out favors and punishments based on their performance. Ministers should, he said, complete their tasks without accomplishing anything too great or too inferior. All laborers should accomplish a specific amount of work, and top officials should know exactly how much each could accomplish in a given time. Likewise, because the ruler’s name or judgment should never be truly damaged, ministers were often held accountable for errors, even those made by the ruler.
The Role of Laws in Legalism
Under Legalism, the laws are to support the state, but they are also meant to reform any state that has become weak. Because the punishments under legalism are fairly harsh, Legalists believe that no one, no matter how powerful, would be above the state’s control. The laws also function to limit the aristocracy by awarding those who work hard and follow the laws.
Early Legalism, especially as instituted by Emperor Qin Shi Huang, severely weakened the noble land owning class, standardized the Chinese writing system, and created a system of 36 provinces. Records were written and copied for storage, and later rulers would create a standard system of measures and weights.
Legalism and the Individual
Under Legalism, the state was the principle entity. Individuals, in fact, had no true civil rights or even personal freedoms. The common people, especially the lower class, were viewed as being very foolish and, in some cases, actually evil. However, because Legalism also functioned on a reward-based system, it was possible for anyone, even a lowly commoner, to move to a higher station if they performed well, especially in the military. In fact, some even gained noble rank, a sharp contrast to other dynasties in which only those born to the upper ranks of society could become nobles. One of the most famous examples of a commoner moving upward in society is that of Lu Buwei. While he was originally a lower class merchant, Lu Buwei’s hard work and natural abilities eventually earned him the position of Chancellor of China.
However, there was a dark side to Legalism. While the people at first embraced it for its order, they soon came to realize that Legalism brought great punishments to those who did not obey the laws, no matter how small the infraction. This reached its height during the Qin dynasty when people were encouraged to report one another for even the most minor deeds.
Not even the Legalist philosophers were above the law or the emperor’s punishments. Shang Yang once suggested that the emperor’s son’s tutor needed to be punished, and the Qin rulers soon came to distrust him. This led King Huiwen to order Shang Yang’s death, and he was drawn and quartered by four chariots. Han Fei, likewise, was killed by one of his contemporaries, Li Si. Li Si would later be sentenced to death for breaking a law he had actually introduced.
Decline of Legalism
Legalism became less important in later Chinese dynasties, and eventually, it no longer existed as an independent school of thought. Some Legalist ideas did find their way into Confucianism, and Imperialist China has been described as operating with Legalist principles at its center despite its overt Confucian ideas.
Legalism was also wrapped with Buddhist ideas during the Sui and Tang dynasties. When the Sui dynasty began reunifying China, Legalism was revived. The following Tang dynasty operated on the Sui government structure, although they greatly reduced the punishment for breaking laws.
The most recent revival of Legalism came when Mao Zedong took power in China. He made it known that he approved of some aspects of Legalism and incorporated the reward/punishment system into his administration. Legalism has once again dropped out of favor in the following governments.
Today’s Views of Legalism
Today, most philosophers and political commentators express fairly negative views of Legalism. It is often blamed for creating a totalitarian government, and Chinese scholars especially point to anti-Legalism sentiment when listing the sources of Imperial China’s attitude towards morals and the individual instead of focusing on the law. However, older documents, especially those written by Confucian scholars, may not be non-biased due to the persecution of Confucians during the time Legalism was favored by the government.
The history of Chinese literature begins several thousand years in the past. The first few instances of literature being introduced into Chinese culture goes back all the way to seven hundred years BC. Many of these early “Classics,” were books that were either written by or for Confucius as a way of sharing his beliefs and viewpoints through writing. For example, these compilations include the Classic of Poetry, Classic of History, Classic of Rites, Analects of Confucius, and the Spring and Autumn Annals. During the second century BC, a series of classics that were important to Daoism were written. One of these books was Huainanzi, and it later became very well known because it was one of the first writings that discussed the geography of the country.
However, these more religious items were not that commonly read or well known outside of a select group of individuals. This would eventually end later on as there were novels being printed in large volumes as early as the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD) after woodblock printing became a common occurrence. However, the ownership of books and the knowledge of literacy was not truly widespread throughout the Chinese empire until Bi Sheng invented moveable type printing sometime around 990-1051 AD.
One of the first historians in China was Sima Qian, who lived and worked over two thousand years ago around 148-90 BC. While Qian may have been one of the first major historians to keep track of Chinese records, there were plenty before him, which is why there is such a thorough historical record of so many of the early occurrences in China. In fact, the earliest known history compilation dates back to the fourth or fifth century BC. The Classic of History was thought to have possibly been assembled as early as the sixth century BC, but this date is somewhat uncertain. The Chinese dictionary, the Erya, has been dated to the third century BC, showing that the Chinese were far ahead on literary developments than much of the rest of the world.
Many of these early historical compilations consisted mainly of court documents and other legal records. The main difference in Qian’s writing was the historical narrative, which was very broad and he wrote of much of the Chinese history that predated him. In fact, his works covered the era from the Xia Dynasty to that in which he lived (Han Dynasty). He is also credited with having fairly maintained a consistently objective view point. This was somewhat of an accomplishment because before Qian many of the historians would base the current historical narrative off of older models so that they could justify the current emperor’s reign. It is said that Qian’s history narrative set the pace and was the example for many of those who came after him. Today the scope of China’s history is presented through each of the Dynasties up until the Qing, which is not included, and is called the Twenty-Four Histories.
Encyclopedias were also prevalent in early Chinese writing traditions. Although they do not date back as far as many of the official historical writings, there was an encyclopedia compiled by the author Ouyang Xun in 624 AD called the Yiwen Leiju. Later dynasties would always attempt to do each other with this massive listing of knowledge. This tradition seems to have its roots in the Song Dynasty where the huge sum of knowledge was known as the Four Great Books of Song. This collection covered a wide scope of different materials that were brought in from a variety of eras and it was a huge undertaking. However, this was outdone just four hundred years later when the Yongle Encyclopedia was amassed during the Ming Dynasty in 1408 and contained over fifty million Chinese characters. Then, in 1726 the Gujin Tushu Jicheng was printed during the Qing Dynasty and it contained more than one hundred million characters and was more than eight hundred thousand pages in length.
These are just a few of the technical aspects of China’s literary history, but in fact the country also has a wide range of poetic and fictional writings to explore as well. One of the earliest writers to amass a poetic anthology was Qu Yuan and his apprentice, Song Yu, around three hundred BC. These were called the Songs of Chu, and most of the poems in this collection can be attributed to one of these two influential writers. The poems in this compilation were so influential because they were so different from any that had seemingly come before them as they embraced the more romantic and lyrical side of poetry. Later during the Han Dynasty this type of poetry would evolve into a different form of poetry that was known as the fu. Another form that was popular shortly after the fu’s rise was known as Shi poetry, which is believed o have been developed largely by Zhan Heng.
The height of Chinese poetry took place from 618 – 907 AD during the Tang Dynasty. During this time there were two popular poets with extremely different approaches to prose. One was Li Bai, who believed in using romanticism in his poetry, making it something that could work to transcend normal human behavior. However, his counterpart, Du Fu was viewed as someone with strict Confucian moral values and a rigid feeling of duty and honor toward all of Chinese society. Later in the Tang Dynasty the poets that came after them (like Bai Juyi) would use their work as more of a social commentary, keeping the art strictly in the realm of realism in order to make important societal revelations.
As classical Chinese poetry was seen as something that was strict in retaining its form future poets strove to break free from this rigidity and as such they worked to create the ci. This was a form of poem that was actually based on the beats from songs that were popular during the time that the poet was writing. This form came on the scene during the Song Dynasty and really helped to expand the poetic form as many during that time saw it. One poet that was well known for his ability to be fluent in all of the major forms of poetic verse during this time period was Su Shi. Eventually even the ci came to seem artificial and stilted and before long another, freer form was developed, Chinese Sanqu poetry. This type of poetry was based on dramatic arias instead of popular songs and is often seen as a major step in the development of literature.
Chinese prose has been around since at least the fourth century BC, and possibly even longer. And by the third century BC, a handful of writers had emerged as powerhouses of this new prose style and they had managed to find a way to tell a story that would later work to serve as a model for the literary world for more than two thousand years. After these developments, major changes would not come into the literary community of China for hundreds of years.
While the Tang Dynasty was a major source of revival in poetry, it was also a time of upheaval in the world of prose. As more and more writers began to work on a new form that rejected the ornate type of writing that came before it and instead focused on telling a story through simple terms and forceful prose that cut to the literary chase. Later, during the Song Dynasty writers began to include different formats for prose such as narrative and diary format as a way of getting across different ideas in a new and exciting means of story telling. The writer, Su Shi, also prevailed at this form of writing and the new literary category of travel literature. His work, Records of Stone Bell Mountain, is a perfect example of these combinations of different prose styles.
It wasn’t until after the thirteen hundreds that popular fiction began to emerge through writing in the vernacular and gain popularity among Chinese who could not read the classical language. Despite the fact that millions of Chinese citizens would read these stories for enjoyment or pleasure, this type of literature was often regarded warily by the Imperial court and it never gained the esteem and prestige as traditional classical language stories. However, a number of this popular fiction of the time includes works that are now considered to be masterpieces, including the novel Dream of the Red Chamber that was written during the eighteenth century.
Late in the Qing Dynasty there was a change in literature that seems to be the point from which modern Chinese literature emerged on the scene. The end of the Qing was one of massive turmoil and civil strife as the Chinese citizens faced one conflict after another as uprisings broke out against the government on a steady basis. This contributed to a huge sense of impending national crisis and doubt among the people. Searching for a way to find solutions to these problems the intellectual Chinese began to look for something outside of the traditional means. One way of doing this was to take many of the western literature and translate it so that the people could find themselves removed from the chaos of their daily lives and caught up in a sense of intrigue, and even a little of the exotic as this type of writing was not something they were used to.
This sparked a sense of hunger in the people to read more, and many of the writers of the era had found themselves out of work after the civil service examinations were decommissioned in 1905. The following styles had an interesting combination of traditional Chinese literature and more westernized narratives. The stories also focused on many issues that were important during that time period, such as changing societal values, political upheaval, and massive problems within the foundation of society.
During this massive time of change, poetry was not immune to the different opinions and feelings of the people and as such it also underwent a sort of revolution. New forms and styles were experimented with as the poets that were writing these were searching for a new way in which to successfully express themselves and their troubled thoughts on the condition of the state. While many inside the poetry evolution were trying to find new ways of expression, the traditional form of poetry in the Song style was still considered to be the leading method for poets to work with. There was a split in the poetic community as the new wave of writers began to see those who stuck in the traditional way of thinking as blind, fake, and completely unaware of the contemporary turmoil surrounding them.
After the collapse of the Imperial government of the Ming Dynasty and the emergence of the democracy under the Republic of China, the writings changed once more to focus more on the romantic nature of the world. During this time popular love stories dominated the literary scene, and about half of them were written in the traditional, classical language, while the others were written using the vernacular language. This fiction had a purely entertainment purpose and was nicknamed “Mandarin Ducks and Butterfly,” or simply butterfly fiction for short. It was this entertainment prose that many Chinese would read during this time instead of focusing on instead of the socially engaging and critical material that was being put forth by other writers.
This time period was known for its dramatic changes (both politically, socially, and literary) that would be a hinging point for modern Chinese society. This was known as the New Culture Movement, and it would take pace from (1917 – 1923). During this time the vernacular language that had so been despised by the royal court during the dynasties almost completely replaced the classical language in nearly all areas of reading and writing. To many during this time the classical language was considered to be a dead language for all intents and purposes.
Another factor was emerging onto the scene of Chinese literature and that was the ability for women writers to be more prevalent and to be taken more seriously than they might have been in the past. The May Fourth movement and its inspired radicalism also initiated the willingness of many Chinese to accept this large influx of women writers. While these writers mainly dealt with the more feminine side of life and domestic issues, their voices were the first time that so many were directly introduced to a woman’s thoughts and opinions on subjects.
The twenties and thirties continued this tradition of expanding Chinese fiction creatively. A huge increase in the number of creative and artistic views on society and different theories about writing were vast and numerous. As a part of this expanding tradition many of those writers who found themselves embroiled within the revolutionary ideas of the party began to mirror their beliefs in their writings. Many of these stories showed the modern man in a struggle against repressive Confucian values and a need to change and expand their horizons. These revolutionary artists were largely rewarded for their contributions to society after the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949; however, those who were still around during the Cultural Revolution found themselves in a precarious situation. A group of writers that did emerge on the literary scene in China was the League of Left-Wing Writers. This contingent of writers began in 1930 and concentrated almost entirely on the ideals of socialist realism. This was a Soviet concept that believed all art had to focus solely on modern events in a natural and realistic sense. The idea behind it was that by doing this the writers would expose everything that was wrong with a society that was not operating under the socialist banner and reiterate the need for a stronger future under the communist belief flag.
While the league did have a large following and a number of writers who subscribed to its theories, there was still a large contingent of writers who opposed using literature and the arts to promote a form of government. However, the basic literary principals behind the league were boiled down and simplified for the masses. They were also pushed upon writers who had remained in the country, no longer giving them the option of choosing aesthetically pleasing literature over that with a political purpose. Mao Zedong used the Yan’an Rectification Movement as a way to make sure that the literary and artistic principals of those writers in China would reflect the politics of his leadership and introduced these ideals during the “Talks at the Yan’an Forum on Art and Literature.” The speeches he gave at this time later became a political mandate for cultural references after he had established the People’s Republic of China, thus beginning the reign of literature under Mao.
Once the Chinese Communist Party had officially seized control of the country in 1949, Mao quickly worked to make sure that the literary community was put under a national banner by centralizing the book distribution system and developing the Writers Union so that authors would have some form of control of their own established by the government. This led to a conflict between the writers and the government as social realism became the only acceptable style to the communists. All forms of satirical writings and the ability for the writers to choose their own subject matter were forbidden.
All of this frustration between the authors and the central government eventually reached the boiling point during the Hundred Flowers Campaign. During this short one year period from 1956 – 1957 Mao encouraged the writers to speak out about the ills of the government and the newly formed society. In the beginning no one spoke out about the party for fear of retribution. After the campaign had lingered on for a little while, however, increasing articles, stories, and even films began to explore the problems that were evident within the party.
Once Mao realized how deep the level of unease and discontent was among the writers he panicked and decided to instead use those who had spoke out during the Hundred Flowers Movement as examples and began to go through and target them. This became known as the Anti-Rightist Movement and it mainly targeting those who the government considered to be dangerous intellectuals and attacked them. Because during this time the Great Leap Forward was also having some problems authors were forced to combine socialist realism with a sense of romanticism linked exclusively to the revolutionary movement. People were allowed to write about any period in Chinese history that they wished as long as they did so with a slant of the desired revolutionary spirit added in for good measure.
In spite of all of these crackdowns on the literature field a number of good works managed to get published. These generally dealt with the modern Chinese man’s means of dealing with his new life and the very real changes that were going on within the Chinese community at the time. Many of the writers of this period were regarded as being able to read into the average person’s soul and their stories of change and historical growth were considered to be amazing works of literary art.
Even with all of these literary accomplishments and highly praised writers, nothing it appeared could save the authors after the beginning of the Cultural Revolution. Many were purged completely, and those who were left were forced to undergo massive stints of public humiliation. This was because during the Cultural Revolution all intellectuals were deemed as the enemies of traditional Chinese society and a means of using the influence of the western world to change the values of modern Chinese. Hardly any of the authors wrote during this time as the witch hunts had succeeded in putting an end to almost all of the cultural activity in China, with the exception of a few dramas and the occasional novel. Some writers continued to work in secret, but no major contributions were made during this period by Chinese writers.
After Mao’s death and the arrests of the Gang of Four that had dominated China’s society during the Cultural Revolution in 1976 writers began to see some sense of change that had come. By 1978 many of them were once again writing, and this time they would find a heavy subject matter in the overuse of power that had occurred in China under Mao. During the decade that the Cultural Revolution had lasted there had been a complete halt of literary achievement. No new writers would be coming on board for awhile since most of the students had not gone to class for fear of reprisals for being seen as intellectuals. The writers began to voice the waste of these years and the un-harvested talent of those writers while at the same time urging China to rebuild itself into something greater. The literature of this period is often referred to as the “literature of the wounded.”
However, the new leadership of China faced a serious threat. In one hand they wanted the writers to continue to practice their craft, but on the other this meant that they would be left with people who were criticizing the government, and they could not allow that to go too far. The growth in the literary sector continued undeterred as more and more literary magazines, novels, and short stories began to be published. The public, it appeared, wanted to read and a number of people were hired to translate newly published foreign literature so that people would be sure to have enough to read.
This continued throughout the 1980’s as writers began to experiment with different and newer forms of language. Some writers even formed a movement known as the “roots” campaign that sought to reconnect the culture of the public back to many of the Chinese traditions. This only fueled the spirit of experimentation among the writers as they sought to bring about changes; however, this feeling of fleeting freedom began to change after the Tiananmen Square Massacre of 1989.
Much of the literature from this period began to focus on escapism. While some of this more commercial literature did have a sub-content of seriousness, it was still a means of avoidance of the issues at hand. Today much of this commercialism remains, but the emergence of serious Chinese literature seems to be on the rebound. The different influx of writers and writing styles means that today the literary world of China cannot be easily reduced to a simple style or school of thought as there are just too many different types on the market at present.
This changing and expanding literary viewpoint in Chinese history is something that is somewhat important as all of the literature that is sold to the public must first pass through a state run office, the General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP). They have the right to go through any and all forms of literature and ban or censor what they see fit. This means that the majority of the books and information that is printed in China is done so illegally and there are numerous publishing facilities in the country which operate entirely underground.
To try and deal with this situation China government officials still occasionally hold public book burnings popular literature that has not been approved by them but which they see as a form of brain pollution. However, this usually has the opposite affect as many of the books which are burned or destroyed by the government only earn a notable status so that they are searched out by the public. In fact, some of the authors have been translated into other languages in the western world and published to much success.
There are many writers living and working in China today despite many of the restrictions. It has even been said that if you include all of the illegal publishers that are currently operating in China that the country is the single largest publisher of literary material in the entire world market (including books, magazines, and newspapers). And, in 2000 a disaffected Chinese writer, Gao Xingjian, (who currently lives and works in France) won the Nobel Prize for Literature. It was the first time that a Chinese author had even won the esteemed prize.
Chinese Martial Arts
Chinese martial arts have been practiced for hundreds of years in China. The two most popular are kung fu and wushu, and, in fact, are often used as blanket terms for Chinese martial arts. Wushu is used for many different types of martial arts, while kung fu can refer to activities that refer to cultivated skill or accomplishment achieved by working hard. Wushu today is mainly used to describe the sport that combines bare-handed and weapon fighting with activities that are similar to gymnastics.
History of Chinese Martial Arts
Chinese martial arts can actually be traced back 6,000 years. They were first practiced for self-defense, military training, and various other activities. Soldiers trained in both hand to hand fighting and weapons. Chinese martial arts also brought in philosophical ideas, shifting the focus from military training and defense to exercise and self-cultivation. Once individuals outside of the military began practicing martial arts, the martial arts began influencing other cultural activities, including poetry and fiction. Today, martial arts are intrinsically woven into Chinese culture.
Legend says that the Yellow Emperor created martial arts to train his military forces. He wrote many texts on martial arts, medicine, and astrology and developed jiao di, a type of marital arts used in war. From there, many other ancient Chinese kung fu styles were introduced, including shoubo and sanda. In 509 BC, Confucius first brought up the idea of practicing both martial and literary arts as a way of bring balance to an individual’s life. This led to many people practicing martial arts. A form of wrestling called jiao li became popular during the Qin dynasty, where it was declared a sport. It involved throws, strikes, and the use of pressure points. However, it was distinctly different from shoubo, in which weapons were not used.
During the Tang dynasty, martial arts that involved swords and sword dances were popular, Li Bai, one of the most famous Chinese poets, even wrote about them in some of his works. Xiangpu, an early form of sumo, was practiced during the Song and Yuan period, but it wasn’t until the Ming dynasty that the modern form of wushu was practiced.
Many Chinese philosophers discussed martial arts in their texts. The Daoist Zhuangzi, the Tao Te Ching, and the Confucian Zhou Li all feature principles for practicing martial arts alongside philosophical beliefs. In fact, the six arts included charioteering and archery, two pseudo-martial arts activities. Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, while mainly a text dealing with war, does discuss concepts and ideas practiced in Chinese martial arts.
The Shaolin style of Chinese martial arts, one of the most popular styles used in popular culture, is first mentioned in records dating back to 728 AD. It was used to defend Shaolin monasteries from thieves and bandits, and Shaolin kung fu was also heavily used in the Battle of Hulao in 621 AD according to records. Records from the 16th and 17th centuries show that Shaolin monks saw martial arts as a very important part of their lives, although some monks felt that new Buddhist lore had to be created to justify their use of force in martial arts.
Today, Chinese martial arts have been greatly influenced by events during the Republic of China. Following the fall of the Qing and the Chinese Civil War, the public began practicing more openly and more often. Many saw it as a way of promoting national loyalty and pride, leading to various martial arts books and manuals to be published. Studios opened all across the country, and martial art masters took on more and more students. A national system of exams and rankings were established, and martial artists also began traveling outside of China. The Central Guoshu Academy and the Jing Wu Athletic Association were both founded in 1910. Starting in 1932, various martial arts competitions were held, and in 1936, Chinese martial artists put on a demonstration at the Berlin Olympic Games. This was the first time Chinese martial arts had been demonstrated internationally.
When the People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949, martial arts began to spread across the world. Many instructors fled from the government and moved to Hong Kong, Taiwan, and other countries. They began teaching the Chinese and others their martial arts. This contrasted with China during the Cultural Revolution, in which martial arts were discouraged.
The People’s Republic of China radically changes martial arts to bring it more in line with the new Maoist doctrine. Wushu was promoted as a government-regulated sport over other forms of martial arts. This sport was divided from the other forms of martial arts that were seen as subversive. The arts were also more closely aligned with national pride instead of individual accomplishments. The All-China Wushu Association was established in 1958 to oversee all martial arts in China. Also during this time, the Chinese State Commission for Physical Culture and Sports was charged with standardizing martial arts forms. Forms, a curriculum, and even instructor grading was created, and Wushu was taught at high schools and universities.
After the government’s stance on old traditions was relaxed, the Commission began reevaluating Wushu, and the Chinese National Research Institute of Wushu was established in 1986 as the main authority for Wushu activities. The Commission was closed in 1998 as the government’s policy changed. This led to sports being more market-driven instead of controlled by the government. Today, both the traditional and modern forms of Wushu and other martial arts are practiced by Chinese.
Martial Art Styles
There have been many different martial arts styles practiced in China over the centuries. No one is certain how many, but it is estimated that there are at least a hundred distinct styles and many more sub-styles. Most have their roots in ancient forms, although some are more modern than others. The various styles are classified by families and schools. Some focus on mimicking animals’ movements while others are more inspired by philosophical ideas and focus on stretching and exercising. Still others are practiced purely for competition.
Chinese martial arts are also divided into categories, such as location, which city they were invented in, and more. The two main categories are northern and southern. Northern martial arts emphasizes kicks, high jumps, and rapid movements, while the southern style is focused more on hand techniques, arm movements, and footwork.
Martial Arts Training
There are four different areas of training in Chinese martial arts: basics, forms, applications, and weapons training. Each style of martial arts has its own system of training.
The basics serve as the foundation for all martial arts. They help build strong muscles and increase flexibility. Without mastering the basics, many of the more advanced aspects of Chinese martial arts are impossible to learn. These basic lessons include steps, stretching, meditation, basic punching and kicking, and learning the beginning stances. These stances involve the foot position, body alignment, and weight distribution of the fighter and provide a starting point for all other actions. Finally, medication is another basic technique. While some international practitioners do not seem to grasp the value of medication, to the Chinese, it is just as important as every other part of martial arts and is used to develop one’s mental focus.
A form in Chinese martial arts is a set of movements performed one after another. They were originally created to preserve the various styles since it was sometimes difficult to accurately write down what the practitioner should do. A form is always done in the same way—no new steps or improvisation is done. Forms are designed to flow from one step to another while allowing the practitioner to stretch and improve his or her balance and coordination.
Chinese martial arts are divided into solo and sparring forms. While both may include weapons training, sparring forms focus on using weapons more than solo forms. The forms that focus on weapons teach students how to use the weapon, how to judge range and extension, and how to safely spar with them. Some forms focus on one-handed weapons, while other teach students how to use two-handed weapons or fight with a pair of weapons.
Shift From Combat Training to Performance
Over the years, many forms of Chinese martial arts have come to focus only on forms and not on actually using martial arts against others. These forms are practiced as exercise or for performance only. Many include more acrobatic maneuvers and rapid steps to provide more entertainment. Traditionalists, on the other hand, see this form of entertainment martial arts as having lost much of the traditional values that martial arts were originally endowed with.
This shift to entertainment breaks away from the fact that Chinese martial arts are supposed to depict real fighting techniques. However, the high kicks and elaborate footwork sequences are simply not practical in an actual fight. Even some older forms are not useful in a fight—they were designed instead to focus on training students and building up muscle and reflexes. However, traditionalists are quick to criticize the fact that modern martial arts schools often replace practical movements with acrobatics and spectacular, overblown leaps and kicks that are more popular in exhibitions. In fact, Wushu itself is often criticized for containing more dramatic elements than practical ones. However, Wushu fans often point out that many older styles of martial arts were done for entertainment as well.
Another controversy among Chinese martial artists is the focus on forms over sparring and application. Some see forms as the only reason for practicing the arts and that applying what one learns to sparring or actual fighting is unnecessary.
Finally, some martial arts techniques are practiced differently in public, especially those advanced techniques that are considered secrets of the school. This has led to practitioners learning two different sets of forms: one meant for public performance and one that contains steps and movements that are kept secret from those outside the school.
Martial Arts in Popular Culture
Martial arts can be found in many different aspects of popular culture, sometimes accurately depicted, sometimes not. This appeal has led to Chinese martial arts spreading around the world at a much faster rate than any could have predicted.
The Chinese literary genre of wuxia is based on martial arts and the concept of chivalry. These stories are often set during historical times, and it provides many readers their primary view of what the martial arts are like.
Chinese opera also often features martial arts. This is especially true in operas that include a lot of acrobatic flips, jumps, and kicks. Some martial artists, in fact, performs almost exclusively in Chinese operas.
Martial arts films such as those starring Bruce Lee, Jet Li, and Jackie Chan are popular around the world. Bruce Lee’s films were responsible for making Chinese martial arts popular in the West during the 1970s while current films starring Jet Li and Chan continue to do very well at theaters world-wide. Many television series also feature characters who practice martial arts.
Chinese music first appeared in the early Chinese culture, but the first recorded use of music comes from the Zhou dynasty, which existed between 1122 and 256 BC. Over the centuries, many different traditional types of music were created, and today, these types of music are still played alongside more modern styles like rock and jazz. Music in central China is often more traditional, while Hong Kong and Taiwan music tends to be more commercial and modern.
Music Through the Ages
According to mythology, the founder of Chinese music is Ling Lun, a man who created a set of bamboo pipes using the sounds birds made.
Outside of mythology, music in China was first mentioned in Zhou dynasty records. It would be the Qin (221-207 BC), however, who would create the Imperial Music Bureau and greatly expand music. Emperor Han Wu Di expanded the bureau and assigned musicians to his court and to the military. The bureau began officially recognizing folk music and other pieces of music. While it was purely Chinese during these times, later music would be influenced by foreign arts.
Despite this, musicians were originally seen as one of the lowest classes, placed lower than painters. However, music was seen as being important to harmony and to the state. Nearly every emperor was a patron of music, and most worked to collect popular folk songs and preserve them. The Shi Jing, one of the four Confucian Classics, contains a number of folk songs that were popular between 800 and 300 BC.
Youlan is the title of the oldest known piece of written music in China. It was supposedly written by Confucius, although most historians agree the piece was simply attributed to him. The first well-documented piece of music was written during the Tang dynasty for the instrument called the qin.
During the Ming dynasty, the European Jesuit Matteo Ricci introduced the harpsichord to China. This was the first European instrument to be played in China (instruments from Japan, Korea, and other Asian countries had found their way to China via traders and trading vessels).
Music During the Republic of China
The Republic of China (1912 – 1949) saw the New Cultural Movement sweep through China. This movement was characterized by fascination with Western music, and many Chinese traveled abroad to learn foreign instruments, musical pieces, and to even compose new pieces based on Western notation and style. It was during this time that the first symphony orchestras were formed. New instruments were brought to China, including violins, saxophones, and xylophones.
In 1942, the Yan’an Forum on Literature and Art was held. Following this, many musicians in Communist areas started using folk music as the basis for revolutionary songs. These songs were designed to educate the illiterate about Communism and its goals, and many had new harmonies and bass lines added to them. Any music that was considered anti-Communist or superstitious was repressed.
Music in the People’s Republic of China
The People’s Republic of China brought about a new era of music when it began in 1949. The Communist government labeled Chinese popular music as “yellow,” which is often a term used in China to denote pornography. Pop music, according to the new party, was a denigration of the art. Instead, revolutionary music was accepted and promoted throughout the state, and most songs had some sort of propaganda message.
Following the 1989 student protest in Tiananmen Square, the new Northwest Wind style became quite popular with people. This fast style later evolved into Chinese rock. However, the government still regulates music in the media, and all large concert halls are owned and run by the state. Chinese rock, for example, was not backed by the state, and because of this, it has had limited exposure.
Modern Day Music
Because China’s intellectual property laws function differently than those in other countries and because China has a very high rate of music piracy, most new albums are first released in Hong Kong or Taiwan. Most of the time, there is a delay between this initial release and the album’s release on the mainland, although not always. This delay is one of the reasons music piracy is so high in China, however, and some labels are beginning to release music simultaneously to avoid piracy.
The government has relaxed many of its standards regarding music to the point that festivals like the annual Midi Modern Music Festival are not only held but thrive. Thousands of Chinese and international guests attend these events, many of which even feature Western musicians or music inspired by the West. These types of festivals have helped Chinese rock gain more popularity, although it is not quite mainstream.
Rock music’s influence is mostly limited to Shanghai and Beijing, with the more rural areas knowing little about the songs or artists. Even young people living outside of these two major cities may know nothing about Chinese rock, which is a vast difference between China and most Western countries. Despite this, Chinese rock does have an international following, and it became even more well-known in 2003 when Chinese rocker Cui Jian joined the Rolling Stones for a musical set.
Traditional Chinese Music
While many Western pieces are played by entire orchestras, most traditional Chinese music was written for either one instrument or a very small ensemble. Classic instruments included flutes, stringed instruments, and percussion (cymbals, gongs, and drums). The oldest known instruments include bamboo pipes and the qin, a seven-stringed instrument that was plucked. While orchestras did not exist until modern times, today’s orchestras include strings, woodwinds, bowed strings, and percussion.
Traditional instruments included the following.
Woodwinds/percussion: sheng, paigu, dizi, gong, paixiao, guan, bells, and cymbals.
Plucked strings: sanxian, yangqin, guzheng, guqin, ruan, konghou, pipa, zhu, and liuqin.
Bowed strings: erhu, dahu, banhu, zhonghu, jinghu, gaohu, gehu, yehu, diyingehu, cizhonghu, and leiqin.
Vocal music was usually song in either a non-resonant, thing voice or in a falsetto, and like instruments, songs were usually sung solo. Traditional music is also almost always melodic instead of harmonic, probably because it evolved from sung poetry.
Traditional music has had some popularity outside of China, mostly music played on the erhu and dizi. More traditional instruments like the pipa and zheng are more popular in China, however. None of these instruments, however, is as revered as the qin, despite the fact that very few Chinese have ever seen one or heard one played.
Because of the high percentage of the Chinese population that is Han, Ethnic Han music is quite popular. One of the most popular forms of Han music is heterophonic, which is composed of versions of one single melodic line.
Chinese Folk Music
Folk music, especially Han folk music, was generally played at weddings and funerals. Instruments used include the suona, a type of oboe, and the chuigushou, a form of percussive ensembles. It was quite diverse, and more recent folk music has been based on Western pop music and even TV theme songs. Northern Chinese enjoy ensembles made up of flutes, mouth organs, and percussion instruments. This music is based on temple music from Beijing. The sheng, a type of pipe, is also used often.
In Taiwan and a few other areas, the traditional ballad is quite popular. These ballads are sung by women and usually feature the pipa and the xiao. Most of these songs are sad and deal with sorrow and mourning.
In Nanjing, Hangzhou, and the southern Yangtze region, flutes and string instruments are popular. While this music, called sizhu, is spiritual in nature, it has become secular in most cities where it is played.
In teahouses, especially in Shanghai, the Jiangnan sizhu form of music is often played. Generally, amateur musicians play this type of music. Cantonese music, based on the Cantonese operas, is popular in some places. Modern Cantonese music has been influenced by Western music, especially jazz.
Music has had a huge impact on Chinese opera, one of the most popular forms of entertainment. Opera was one of the few places where ensemble music appeared, although generally only percussion and strings were used.
Other Ethnic Music
Besides Han music, there are a number of other ethnic groups in China who enjoy their own types of music.
The Music of Tibet
Much of the music of Tibet is based on Buddhism. Much of it includes chanting, although not all Tibetan Buddhist music does. Many Buddhist monks recite scripture to music and as a way of celebration. There are several different types of chanting, including yang, which has no metrical timing, and Gelugpa, a very restrained, classical type of music. It is also the most popular of the types of chanting.
The Music of Guangxi
The region of China known as the Guangxi Zhaung Autonomous Region, or simply Guangxi, has its own unique type of music. One of its most famous singers is Sister Liu. She was made popular in the 1960s when a documentary about her life was filmed and released internationally. Guangxi music usually includes the duxianqin, a type of string instrument that has only one string.
The Music of Yunnan
The southeastern part of China includes Yunnan, an ethnic province. Its most well-known instrument is the lusheng, a mouth organ, that is often used to play pentatonic antiphonal songs. Another nearby prefecture, Honghe, is home to the Hani. The Hani are known for their unique songs that feature choral, micro-tonal music. Another type of music played by the Nakhi ethnic group for song and dance is called baisha xiyue. This type of music, according to some records, was brought to the province by Kublai Khan in the 1250s.
The Music of Sichuan
The music of Sichuan province, a province in Southwestern China, is home to the Sichuan Conservatory of Music. The conservatory, located in Chengdu, is the only institution of higher education that focuses purely on music in the country. The province is also noted for its many Sichuan operas.
The Music of Manchuria
Manchuria, a region in Northeastern China, is mostly inhabited by the Manchu, the group that ruled China during the Qing dynasty. The Manchu folk music is mainly played on an octagonal drum, and one of their lullabies, the youyouzha, is very well-known.
The Music of Xinjiang
The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, or Xinjiang, is populated mainly by the Turkic Uyghurs. They are best known for the On Ikki Muqam, a very complex type of music that features twelve sections. These symphonies can vary widely but are usually based on a seven-note scale. They are played on the dap (drum), fiddle, lute, and dulcimer. One interesting feature of this music is that there is often room for performers to improvise, especially the percussion players.
The Music of the Kuaiban
Kuaiban is mainly a vocal type of music that features rhythmic talking or singing. Usually, if any instrument accompanies the performer, it is a drum or hand clacker. Kuaiban is mainly performed in Shandong province, and it many ways, it resembles modern rap and other fast, rhythmic types of music.
Since 1912, many different types of modern music have appeared in China. These exist alongside traditional music, and, unlike in other parts of the world, traditional music is just as well-known and enjoyed today as it was when it was first played.
Chinese pop music, or C-pop for short, was founded by Li Jinhui. He created the shidaiqu genre, a genre that was influenced by Western jazz music. When the Communist Party took over the government, however, this type of music was barely tolerated, and many C-pop stars left the country. During the 1970s, therefore, most pop music was recorded in Hong Kong and Taiwan, and it was in these two cities that the genres of cantopop and mandopop were created. In mainland China, pop music was rarely played and was not mainstream.
In recent years, the Taiwan mandopop has become popular among young Chinese, although it is not yet mainstream. In fact, mandopop icon Anita Mui was banned from performing in China for her “rebellious” attitude—an attitude based partly on Western star Madonna and her style of dancing. Because of this, many pop stars will begin their careers in Hong Kong or Taiwan and then attempt to break into mainland China.
During the 2000s, however, pop music has become more popular, and the government has relaxed some of its harsh regulations on music. Imported Western pop music has become popular as well, and some Western artists have toured China. During the 2008 Olympics games in Beijing, a number of artists performed either during the ceremonies or in venues around the city.
Chinese Rock, Heavy Metal, and Punk
Cui Jian, the father of Chinese rock, first began playing in the late 1980s. His song “Yi wu suo you” or “I have nothing” marked the first use of the electric guitar in China. He quickly became very famous, and in 1988, he was asked to play at the Seoul Summer Olympics. While his lyrics have often been censored because of their social messages, he continued to produce songs. Following the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, he began wearing a red headband in protest against the government’s actions.
Two other bands, Tang Dynasty and Hei Bao, capitalized on Cui Jian’s new style and also enjoyed great popularity in the 80s and 90s. Tang Dynasty, China’s first heavy metal band, actually took elements from Chinese Opera and mixed in heavy metal. Sadly, their career was cut short when one of the band members died shortly after the release of their first album.
1994 saw the beginnings of the first thrash metal band in China. Chao Zai, also known as Overlord, released three CDs. The mid to late 90s also saw a number of bands inspired by Korn, Linkin Park, and other metal and punk bands that were popular in the West. The punk rock genre also reached China during the mid-90s, starting with He Yong in 1994.
Patriotic and Revolutionary Music
Guoyue, music performed to encourage national pride and loyalty, has
been the favored genre of music by the government since 1949. Because
the government often stifles or even bans other types of music, Guoyue
is most often heard in the country. Many pieces of music, including the
popular Yellow River Piano Concerto, are played in concert halls across
the country and internationally.
Chinese painting is as old as Chinese culture and is, in fact, one of the oldest artistic forms in the world. While paintings began as decorations on pottery and other items, they eventually shifted to portraits and landscapes. Today, Chinese painting is inspired by a large number of things.
The traditional Chinese style of painting is called guo hua, which means “native painting” in English. This style of painting was popular up until the 20th century, when Chinese painters began painting in the Western style. Guo hau bears much similarity to Chinese calligraphy. It is done using the same type of brush and ink, although colored inks are used in painting but not traditionally in calligraphy. No oils are used. Also like calligraphy, most traditional Chinese painting is done on silk or paper and then attached to scrolls to be either rolled up for storage or hung on the wall. Some painters also paint on lacquerwork, walls, and other media.
Chinese painting can be divided into two different techniques: Gong-bi, or meticulous painting, that is also considered the traditional style of court paintings, and shui-mo, or freehand painting, which is sometimes referred to as watercolor painting.
During the Han and Tang dynasties, emphasis was on the human figure, and most paintings depict humans. These paintings contain much information about the two time periods; in fact, much of the information we have on them comes from paintings done at burial sites. These paintings were done on the tomb walls, on silk banners, and even on lacquered objects in the tomb. Some show the deceased and his importance, while others illustrate Confucius and other important philosophers and figures.
However, many art critics believe the best Chinese paintings are landscapes. The Great Age of the Chinese Landscape took place between the Five Dynasties time and the Northern Song dynasty. During this time, many famous Chinese artists such as Fan Kuan, Guo Xi, and Jing Hao worked on paintings of mountains, rivers, and other landscape scenes. They used very strong, black lines, dotted stroked, and ink wash to create unique paintings. Other artists such as Ju Ran and Dong Yuan used softer brushes to create rolling hills and peaceful country scenes. These two different styles evolved into the classic Chinese landscape.
The History of Chinese Painting
When China became an empire in 221 BC with the Eastern Jin Dynasty, the courts valued calligraphy and painting over all other art forms. However, the artwork was done almost completely by amateur artists who had the time to work on their painting and understood which types of paintings were popular at court. Calligraphy was actually considered a form of painting—the highest form, actually. It was done using a brush pen made out of animal hair and black ink created from animal glue and pine soot. Writing and painting during ancient times was always done on silk; paper was not invented until the first century BC, after which it eventually replaced silk as the medium of choice. Many of the most famous calligraphers’ works were displayed on walls alongside paintings.
The Six Dynasties time (220 – 589) saw painting and calligraphy becoming two separate art forms. Painting was appreciated for its own beauty, and scholars began writing about artists and their works. The focus was on making individuals appear graceful, even in illustrations of Confucian themes and artwork that showed proper behavior between spouses and parents to their children.
During the fifth century, writer and art historian/critic Xie He wrote about the Six Principles of Painting. These six principles were to be used when criticizing artwork and appear in his book The Record of the Classification of Old Painters. The six elements used to define and judge a painting in 550 AD include the following:
The “Bone Method” – this refers to how the painter used the brush. It includes texture, brush stroke, and how handwriting and the artist’s personality were communicated to the viewer.
“Correspondence to the Object” – this pinciple judged how well the form of the subjectw as depicted and included shape, line, and perspective.
“Division and Planning” – using this principle, the viewer judged how well the objects in the painting were arranged. It included depth and space between objects.
“Spirit Resonance” – Xie He claims that without Spirit Resonance, there’s no point in looking at the rest of the painting. Spirit Resonance has no exact definition but includes how the artist enfused his energy and vitality into his work.
“Suitability to Type” – the use of color, value, tone, and layers of paint.
“Transmission by Copying” – the copying of the models used.
During the Sui and Tang dynasties, figure painting was the main focus of artwork done for the court. Zhou Fang was known as one of the most famous artists, and his court paintings were greatly prized. The Southern Tang court artwork is considered the epitome of figure painting.
Most artwork from the Tang dynasty used dark lines to outline each figure or object and then filled them in with bright colors and details. One artist, Wu Daozi, however, used black ink only. His work was very popular, and many individuals even watched him work. Thanks to his work, ink paintings became more than just sketches or outlines for color paintings. They were, for the first time, valued as works of art.
The shanshui, or mountain-water, landscapes became popular during the early Tang dynasty. These landscapes were fairly plain and done with no color. The landscapes were not painted exactly as the landscape appeared in nature. Instead, they were done to convey emotion and atmosphere.
During the Song and Yuan dynasties, Guo Xi became a very popular figure. He painted mountains, forests, and rivers, generally during the winter. He used light ink and focused on open scenes done in a very artistic manner.
Landscapes became more subtle during the Song dynasty. Distance was often show by using blurry lines, mist was painted around tall mountains, and weather was done more impressionistically. The focus shifted to spiritual qualities, and the artist began showing how man and nature existed in harmony. This new style was heavily influenced by the concept of harmony as taught by both Buddhism and Taoism. Zhang Zeduan was perhaps the most known artist during this time. Ma Yuan and Xia Gui became very famous during the Southern Song dynasty. These two artists used heavy black strokes to draw rocks and trees while using pale washes to indicate mist.
It was during this time that Chinese painters split into two groups. Some worked on painting three-dimensional objects by creating the illusion of perspective and space. Others, including Su Shi the poet and his friends, started combining calligraphy with artwork to create ink paintings. They worked on showing the inner spirit of the individuals and landscapes they painted instead of focusing on its appearance.
In the Yuan dynasty, artists started including poems on their paintings. These poems, usually short, were done in calligraphy, combining the three different types of artwork. Together, the three could express the artist’s intentions better than one alone.
By the 13th century and the late imperial time, painters began painting simple subjects like a single tree branch, one piece of fruit, or a small bouquet of flowers. More colors were used, and the artwork became somewhat busier than it had been despite the focus on simple subjects.
The first illustrated books began to appear at this time, especially once woodcut printing was invented. Artists began illustrating manuals and stories. The five volume Jieziyuan Huazhuan, or Manual of the Mustard Seed Garden was printed in 1679 and served as the primary textbook for artists. This book is still in use today and is studied by students learning the traditional art forms.
During the Ming dynasty, the Wu School of Painting, led by Shen Zhou, continued to paint in the traditional style of the Yuan painters. They were complimented by the Zhe School, a group of artists who revived the art form of the Song dynasty.
With the beginning of the Qing dynasty (1644 to 1911), the Individualists, a group of painters, broke away from the established “rules” of painting and began doing more free brushwork. Their work helped establish Shanghai and Yangzhou as the artistic centers of the empire. Many wealthy merchants began supporting artists, and artwork in general took on bold new styles.
Around 1900, Western artwork began to heavily influence the Chinese. Some even went so far as to study in Europe and reject traditional Chinese styles. Other artists attempted to combine Western and Chinese styles. The most popular painter during this time was Qi Baishi, an artist who was born a poor peasant. However, his hard work and dedication to his art led him to be named a great master painter, and his works appeared throughout China.
Modern Chinese Painting
The New Culture Movement saw Chinese painters moving even further away from the traditional style and using many Western techniques. Oil paintings first appeared in China at this time, and many began experimenting with the new medium.
Early in the People’s Republic of China, artists generally painted realistic paintings in the socialist realism style. Some techniques were used exactly as they were in the Soviet Union, while others were adapted using Chinese techniques. Painters were given subjects to paint and were expected to almost mass-produce their artwork. In 1953, these guidelines were relaxed somewhat, and after the Hundred Flowers Movement in 1957, some painters returned to the classical Chinese style. Many painters began painting artwork depicting the everyday life of rural peasants, a shift away from the standard portrayal of aristocrats and the court.
Many art schools were closed during the Cultural Revolution, and most art journals and art exhibitions were done away with. Many pieces of art that were tied to the Four Olds were even destroyed.
However, since 1979, many of these schools and professional art groups have been reestablished. Today, Chinese painters use traditional, Western, and experimental techniques in their painting, and many travel abroad to study at foreign art schools.
Chinese paper cutting, called jianzhi in Chinese, has been created since the invention of paper during the Eastern Han dynasty by Cai Lun. While paper cutting artwork has been done in other countries as well as China, it began in China. These cut outs are often used to decorate rooms, doors, and windows. The oldest paper cut originated in the 6th century and is of a symmetrical circle.
Paper cutting as an art form has been practiced for several thousand years. After paper was invented, it was quite a rare commodity. Only the rich and the imperial house generally had access to it, and using paper for art and decoration was very rare. During the Song dynasty, records mention several different paper cutters who used scissors to create many different designs and pieces of art. One of these paper cutters was so good he was supposedly able to cut flowers and other designs on the inside of his shirt sleeves.
Beginning in the seventh century, paper cutting became a popular way of decorating for holidays. While the art form began with simple designs cut out of paper, many different techniques were developed over time, including using smoked paper and drafting. By the 14th century, paper cutting had spread to other countries, and many artists in these countries added their own techniques to the art. However, paper cutting fell out of popularity by the early 1900s. In the 1980s, artists began reviving the art form.
While professional paper cutters, especially those most well-known, were men, paper cutting was generally seen as a female profession in the rural areas. In fact, at one point, all women were expected to know how to make paper cut artwork.
There are two different ways of making paper cuttings—artists either use scissors or knives. When using scissors, the artist fastens together several pieces of paper (usually no more than eight) and then cuts out the design. When using knives, the artist again puts down several pieces of paper. These pieces are lain on a foundation of tallow and ashes. The artist then cuts out the design with the knife.
Many paper cut pieces feature a symbol of some sort. Many paper cut pieces feature an animal from the Chinese zodiac, flowers, birds, dragons, Chinese characters, and other symbols. Generally, paper cutting is only two dimensional, although some folded or stacked three-dimensional artwork has been created. Paper cutting can be created from any color, although red is generally the most popular.
In addition to cut out creatures and characters, some paper cutting artwork features symmetrical designs. These designs are created by folding the paper, cutting it, and then unfolding the paper to reveal the final design. Generally, cut outs are done in even numbers.
Paper cuttings are usually used for decoration and can be hung on the walls, doors, columns, windows, and on mirrors or lamps. They can also be given as gifts or used as patterns for doing embroidery or paintings. Hanging paper cuttings around entrances is supposed to bring good luck. Some paper cuttings are used as illustrations for stories as well.
Chinese shadow theater or shadow puppetry is an old Chinese form of telling stories and entertaining people in public. It uses articulated figures held in front of a lighted background to make it appear like the images are moving. While it originated in China, today shadow theater is popular in many different countries.
Many early shadow theaters used mulberry paper to create their screens and were focused on either telling Buddhist stories or on histories, especially wars, or traditional myths and fairy tales. Puppets were (and still are) generally made out of leather and attached to sticks to make movement easier. Shadow theater is sometimes accompanied by music.
Shadow theater first began during the Han dynasty. According to records, Emperor Wu was devastated when one of his favorite concubines died. He ordered his court to bring her back to life, and in response, the court created a puppet in the shape of the woman. This puppet was made out of donkey leather and had several moving joints and painted clothing. They placed the puppet in front of an oil lamp and made it dance and move, thus bringing the concubine back to life in a sense.
During the Song dynasty, shadow theater became popular during the holidays. Many different shadow plays were written during this time. By the Ming dynasty, over 50 different shadow theater troupes could be found in Beijing, with hundreds more scattered across China. Even during the 13th century and the Mongol invasion, shadow theater was still popular, and many Mongolians enjoyed the plays. It was during this time that shadow theater spread to Arabia, Persia, Turkey, and other countries conquered by the Mongols. During the mid-18th century, French missionaries to China took puppets back to France and began doing shadow puppet shows in Europe. Shadow puppet theater became very popular at court, although it was modified somewhat.
In Taiwan, shadow theater first began with the Chaochow school of shadow puppetry. Shadow puppet theater is commonly called leather or leather monkey shows, and they first appeared as early at 1644 AD, and many believe that there were hundreds of shadow puppet troupes in Taiwan by the late 1800s. Taiwanese puppets are usually between eight and twelve inches tall, and their stages feature various types of scenery and even props like furniture and plants (also made from leather). The Taiwan shadow players are usually accompanied by various melodies that are quite similar to the music played at Taoist funerals. One of the cultural assets of Taiwan is a set of 300 puppet theater scripts that date to the 14th and 15th centuries.
Shadow puppet theater has also influenced animation. In the early 1900s, Lotte Reiniger, a German animator, created silhouette animation by filming shadow play puppets one frame at a time. His technique is still done today, although films are often created by cel animation or done with computer animation instead of filming actual puppets.
Shadow theater is still a popular form of entertainment in China and
many parts of the world. It has also appeared in many films and
television series, including the Japanese anime Revolutionary Girl
Utena, the children’s series Bear in the Big Blue House, the movie
Dracula: Pages from a Virgin’s Diary, and the television series Buffy
the Vampire Slayer.
One of the most popular types of tea is Chinese tea. It is created by boiling tea leaves that have been processed using Chinese techniques. Some of these techniques are quite old—the first tea in China was said to have been brewed by Emperor Shennong in 2737 BC. According to legend, the emperor was boiling water when a Camilla Sinensis tree leaf fell into his pot. While this legend may not be true, tea has been used in China since around this time and is, today, considered one of the Seven Necessities of Life (the other six are rice, oil, salt, firewood, vinegar, and sauce). Most tea made in China is actually consumed by the Chinese—little is exported.
Chinese tea is often split into several categories, including oolong, white, green, black, red, compressed, and scented. All, like the tea made by Emperor Shennong, come from the Camilla Sinensis tree. Green tea is by far the most popular. Another type of drink, Chinese flower tea, is not actually classified as a true tea because of how it is made.
There are many different types of beverages in these categories. In fact, there are over 1,000 different variations of tea made in China. Some are made from different types of Camilla plants. One such tea, the Tie Guan Yin, can actually be traced to one plant found in the Fujian province. Other tea variations were created by changing the growing conditions. Still other variations can be made from processing the tea differently. The Green and white teas are cooked after they are picked to prevent fermentation or oxidization from occurring. Others, such as oolong, are allowed to partially oxidize. Finally, the red and black teas are allowed to become fully oxidized.
Selecting the Tea Leaves
Selecting tea leaves for high grade tea can be very complex. Tea shoots for white, yellow, and green tea are usually picked only in early Spring when the shoots are very young. Often, they contain only a single bud with one or two leaves. Generally, only leaves that are the same length or shorter than the buds are picked. Most are picked before the first week of April. The shoots are usually picked on a daily basis.
Red and oolong tea are made from leaves that are more mature. The buds generally have between two and four leaves on them when picked. Some green teas, such as the Liu An Gua Pian, are also boiled from more mature leaves.
Tea Through the Centuries
After its discovery in 2737 BC (or thereabouts), tea played an important part in Chinese culture. It was used for medicinal purposes at first, then shifted to use as a beverage. Even today, drinking some teas are said to help the body purge itself of various toxins. Over the centuries, the Chinese discovered various ways of making different types of teas.
Tea was originally used as an offering to the gods, although it was not boiled at this point. Tea leaves have also been part of a traditional meal—Chinese at one point considered them a vegetable. It wasn’t until the Han dynasty that tea leaves were generally boiled to create the beverage.
During the Song dynasty, tea became one of the most important crops in China. Some of the tea grown during this time was explored to various Asian and Arabic countries. Tea cakes, cakes made from pressed tea leaves, were also invented during the Song dynasty.
In the Ming dynasty, the scholar Wen Zhenheng wrote his text On Superfluous Things. In chapter 12, he mentions several famous teas. They include the Tiger Hill tea, which some claim is the finest tea ever created. Its growth, then and today, is highly regulated by the government. Some, however, find the Heaven Pool tea, another Ming dynasty tea, to taste much better. Other teas from the Ming dynasty include the Jie tea, the Liu An tea (a medicinal tea that, if not baked correctly, can be quite bitter), the Song Luo tea, and the Eyes on Heaven tea.
To boil their tea, the Chinese originally used wine pots made from bronze and ceramic kettles. As of the 1500s, however, they had created the traditional teapot design for boiling and pouring tea. The earliest teapot has been attributed to the Chinese inventer Gongchun.
Beginning in the 17th century, tea was exported to Europe in exchange for spices and other luxury goods. The Europeans also imported various teapots made from porcelain. Most of these were painted in what is now the traditional blue and white form of fine China, the term used for high quality porcelain goods made in China. Porcelain was able to withstand damage from sea water, allowing the pots to be shipped below deck. These teapots were very popular with the European nobility because, at the time, Europe did not have the technology to create porcelain items. It wouldn’t be until 1765, after a British inventor discovered a way of creating porcelain items, that the Europeans would start making their own teapots. The design, of course, was highly inspired by the imported Chinese teapots.
The Chinese yo-yo is quite different from the Western toy of the same name. The Chinese yo-yo is made up of two round discs attached to each end of an axle. This is the actual yo-yo part of the toy. The other part of the toy consists of two sticks (similar in size to drum sticks) that are attached to a string. A person holds a stick in each hand and spins the yo-yo on the string. While it’s considered a child’s toy, the Chinese yo-yo is also used in juggling and other feats. There are many different tricks that can be done including simply launching the yo-yo into the air and catching it. More advanced tricks are also possible.
The Chinese yo-yo was traditionally made out of bamboo, and these early toys broke very early. Today’s Chinese yo-yos are made from plastic, although the sticks are still made from wood.
Chinese yo-yos may include grooves on the disc rims. These grooves create a whistling sound when the yo-yo is spun at high speeds. Many yo-yos are also brightly colored or include geometric designs.
One more recent style of Chinese yo-yo is the single bell yo-yo. It features only one bell, causing its weight to be unevenly distributed. This allows for individuals to do many new and more interesting tricks.
In the west, the Chinese yo-yo is referred to as the Diablo. However, the Diablo and the Chinese yo-yo do differ. The central axle on the Diablo is shorter and the two discs are bell shaped instead of round. The Diablo is also generally not grooved and is made out of rubber instead of plastic.
There are a number of different tricks one can do with the Chinese yo-yo. Moving the two sticks up and down accelerates the yo-yo. From there, it’s possible to fling the yo-yo up into the air and perform various different catches and tricks.
Communist Party of China
The communist party of China was first established in the country in 1921, and later came to power at the end of the Chinese civil war when the communists overthrew the Republic of China that was governed by the Kuomintang. The rise of communism in China actually began after the May Fourth Movement in 1919 when Marx’s ideas about a shared government began to gain momentum throughout the country. When the communist party was formed by Chen Duxiu and Li Dazhao in Shanghai in 1921, it was meant to be little more than an informal gathering of like-minded individuals under one banner.
Before this there were actually several different communist factions on mainland China, but they often gathered under different names and had not yet unified into a single group. At the First Congress held in Shanghai the name of Chinese Communist Party was officially given by the fifty three members who were in attendance. Mao Zedong was actually one of those who were present at the first congress as a delegate from a communist group which had been founded in Hunan.
Just a year later in 1922, the party was forced through the Comintern to reorganize under the guidelines of the Chinese Nationalist Party or Kuomintang. This was because some members of the communist party felt that it would be far easier to work within the Nationalist party to try and get their beliefs noticed than it would be to actually recreate its foundations within the newly formed Communist group. Another problem that the communists found they were having during this time period is that they were divided on how far one should take the principals and teachings when applying them to real life. Some were in favor of a more moderate national revolution, while others were almost entirely for the establishment of an anti-imperialistic state.
The Chinese Communist Party was integrated into the Kuomintang in 1923, and shortly afterward the North Expedition in 1926, began. While the expedition may have been led by Guomingtan, many of the communist party members participated and they had much success in getting rid of the warlord government that plagued so much of rural China. This was known as the First Civil Revolution Period, and the end of that expedition in 1927, marked the beginning of the Second Civil Revolution Period and the emergence of the Chinese Communist Party to a full-fledged entity.
This was because at the end of the first revolution the Communists and the Kuomintang found that they had split and in retaliation it is believed that many members of the communist party were killed until eventually the only large section of the group that survived were those that were loyal to Mao Zedong. Mao had worked to establish the beginnings of the Soviet Republic of China through the use of pheasant riots in many of the more remote sections of China. But after the Kuomintang began to get progressively more and more active at searching out the communist party bases Mao and his followers were forced to start down the Long March, which began in 1934. This walk was an effort for the surviving members of the communist party to try and search out a new base at which they could better establish the party. During the year it took for the Long March to be concluded and a new base to be set up, the members of the Chinese Communist Party were greatly disillusioned with the Comintern and when they began to work from Yan’an Mao Zedong grew even more power as many who had once been loyal to the Comintern began to lean toward his leadership. It was at this point that the Russian Communist party began to realize that they had lost their grip on the Chinese Communist Party.
The Communists battle against the Kuomintang was temporarily set aside when Japan invaded and the beginning of the Second Sino-Japanese War broke out in 1937. They did this through allowing those fighting forces which were loyal to the communist to operate outside of the normal sphere of the Kuomintang controlled government. One thing this did do is caused the numbers of soldiers in the communist party’s troops to jump to over one million. Many speculate that if Japan had not invaded China during this period that the communist party may have never been able to gain the foothold in numbers that it did during these years.
After the end of the war in 1945, China once again found itself
involved in inner turmoil as the Third Civil Revolution Period came to
the forefront. The civil war resumed after the negotiation talks broke
down for the final time in 1946. The Kuomintang government was forced
to flee mainland China a short time later, settling in Taiwan and
establishing their own separate government on the island. In Beijing in
1949 Mao Zedong officially proclaimed that the new order in China fell
under the rule of the communist party and the People’s Republic of
However, the Chinese Communist Party has continued to evolve, especially after the foundation of the People’s Republic of China. In the beginning the communists were somewhat based on a more Marxist and Lenin based school of thought with a lot of consideration going toward the rural situations for many of those Chinese whose social situations kept them from rising above their stations. However, beginning in the 1960’s the communists in China had some problems with the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. Mao insisted that even though it would have appeared that the battle for the socialist revolution would seem to have been through many years before that there could still be enemies which existed that threatened the communist way of life.
It was this branch of thought which led to the Cultural Revolution
and established the Chinese Communist Party as a school of thought which
belonged to Mao Zedong. This type of belief structure is often
referred to as “Maoism,” and it was firmly set against the more Marxist
views on which much of the Soviet Union relied on. Mao died in 1976,
and with his passing came the chance for the communists in China to
revise some of his more extreme policies and practices. It was during
this transition period that Deng Xiaoping managed to led the Communist
Party of China toward a more stable economy by arguing that the
foundation of the socialist country was not exclusively linked with the
While these new policies and practices stimulated a large amount of economic growth in the passing years, it also created conflict. There were unhappy people both on the side of the more traditional Maoists who wanted to return to a more controlled state, as well as those who were more progressive and liberal about the direction which they wanted the communist party to take in China. The culmination of these problems led directly to the well-known Tiananmen Square Protests of 1989. The party did not change its stance after these protests but instead adapted the theory into the party’s constitution in 1997, calling it the Deng Xiaoping Theory.
The Communist Party of China continued this process of evolution
during its third generation of leadership. In the 1990’s the party
decided to hold onto many of the progressive economic reforms that were
instituted by Deng while at the same time dealing with the needs of
individual business owners in order to help encourage that growth in the
private sector as well as dealing with the reemergence of patriotism to
China. For many years this type of nationalism was not necessarily
instituted in the communist party, but in recent decades it would seem
that more and more the identity of Chinese has been strongly associated
with their country’s cultural heritage and not just their government.
Today the Communist Party of China has entered its fourth generation of change and leadership under the guidance of Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabao, who took power five years ago in 2003. Despite the country’s advance in the economic sector, the current incarnation of the communist party is attempting to help institute some changes that will help the social problems that have been increasing in the past years. Thus, they are attempting to create a Harmonious Society through the use of an official guideline known as the Scientific Development Concept which focuses on a more person-centered society through increasing democracy.
However, this has caused some concern among those in the communist party who favor more traditional party line to say that the country is beginning to lean more toward a capitalist society because of the fact that the government has progressively become more liberal and granted more freedoms economically with businesses over the past few decades. This has caused some internal strife within the party.
While the Communist Party of China does comprise the only party in the government, there are bickering factions within the single unit who do not agree with certain ideologies and concepts. Many believe that the party as it is now no longer represents the socialist changes that it was originally based on, but now tends to concentrate more on nationalism and the individuals than the society as a whole. It appears that the Communist Party of China is working toward a more democratic state in recent years, and while many debate on how genuine this progression is, there is no denying that the party as it is now bears little resemblance to the one that was first founded in China in 1921.
Confucianism is a religion that was founded in China by Confucius in the fifth century BC. Confucianism focuses mainly on righteous actions and on human morality. It contains a very complex set of moral, social, philosophical, political, and semi-religious though. At times, it has been considered the state religion of China. Even when it was not being promoted by the government, Confucianism has still had a major influence on China and on other Asian countries, including Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, Vietnam, and Korea.
It is important to note that there is some discussion on whether or not Confucianism is a true religion since many followers do not actually engage in worship of a deity. Some prefer to think of Confucianism as a philosophy instead, although it is often studied with other religions.
History of Confucianism
While the philosopher and sage Confucius is credited with creating the core thoughts and ideals of Confucianism, historically, there is only a tenuous link between the two. His ideas were not widely accepted while he lived, and he was generally unemployed by any of the aristocracy. He did not leave any of his own writings behind. The main writings of Confucianism were compiled by his students and disciples. At times, Confucian scholars were persecuted and their books burned, further erasing the history of the religion.
During his life, Confucius was very concerned with political and social issues. He worked to influence many of the rulers in the Eastern Zhou dynasty. The emperor of the dynasty had become little more than a figurehead during Confucius’s life, leaving many scheming politicians to try to seize power. Confucius himself planned to gain enough political power to create his own dynasty. However, he never succeeded, and many began to refer to him as a king without a crown or land. His political views often resulted in being exiled from cities or even states, although he did eventually return to his birthplace to teach. Most of what we know about Confucius himself and his views comes from the Analects of Confucius, an early book written about his life.
There is much debate over how the Analects are to be taken, however. Most do agree that Confucius did not use deductive reasoning to present his arguments. He instead spoke in analogy or other forms of rhetoric. Generally, his lectures were very contextualized. This makes it difficult for non-Chinese readers to easily grasp his philosophy.
The first implementation of the Confucian system was either by his disciples or by the students who studied under them. During the period known as the Hundred Schools of Thought, many of the brightest Confucian scholars took Confucius’s ideas and turned them into a political, social, and ethical doctrine.
The two most important figures at this time, Mencius and Xun Zi, worked hard to more fully explain the ideas behind Confucianism and how it set out what was needed for a good ruler and a good system of government. While Mencius and Xun Zi often disagreed on how Confucianism should develop, both worked hard to make the belief system viable. Mencius focused on exploring the idea of morality and human nature while Xun Zi worked off of the basic idea that humans are by nature bad and that they had to be educated and go through a series of rites to become pure. A number of Xun Zi’s disciples ended up turning to Legalism and helped Qin Shi Huang unify China. While Confucius’s dream was to unify the country, Legalism was far from many of his ideas.
Han Wudi used Confucianism as a means of running the government during the early 1st century BC. However, Confucianism would fall out of favor by the Tang dynasty, and its influence would not be as great for some years.
In the 19th century, Zhu Xi and others revived Confucianism. Starting the Song dynasty, this new version of the belief system merged some Confucian ideas with Taoism and Buddhism. Neo-Confucianism also included a more complex and complete metaphysics system. This went against some forms and splinter schools of Confucianism which were very opposed to Taoism and Buddhism.
During the 20th century, however, many radical Chinese philosophers and thinkers attacked Confucianism, calling it obsolete and a roadblock to modernization. During the Cultural Revolution, it was considered part of the Four Olds, ideas and systems that were to be repressed and removed from Chinese culture. However, Confucianism survived the purge and is now practiced and studied both in China and around the world.
An Individual’s Role in Confucianism
According to Confucius, people are generally good and should be punished only after they break the laws. To help ensure this, rituals are used to internalize behaviors and behavior patterns so that a person does not wish to break the law or lose face from committing an immoral action. Confucius redefined “rite” and removed the overtones of sacrifice that were often associated with religious rites. In Confucianism, a rite is more about politeness, acting properly, and understanding where each person fits in society. These rites and rituals also helped people determine their proper place by making social standings clear. For example, rituals could be used to determine age differences, who was the host of an event, and who was to be honored.
The word ritual in Confucianism does not mean the same as ritual does in most religions. Instead, it often includes ceremonial behavior, proper actions, and even politeness. Rituals occur every day in Confucianism and are often internal. In a way, Confucian rituals are equal to what many refer to as etiquette. Rituals are not only reserved for special occasions, regimented, or even seen as a part of Confucianism—they are nearly invisible guidelines that drive individuals’ actions, not something that one thinks about or even necessarily is aware of.
Most rituals involve internally knowing one’s place in society. This allows one to know exactly how much deference to show to another person and how to act in a social setting. Confucian rituals are partially responsible for the strict Chinese social hierarchy that determines the protocols between just about everyone a person interacts with, from family to co-workers to important people.
It’s interesting to note that, while the Analects very heavily promote rituals, some stories and myths concerning Confucius show him breaking with these rituals. This leads some to believe that Confucius’s students were more in favor of rituals than Confucius himself and injected this bias into the Analects.
Confucianism and Government
Before one can govern others, Confucianism states, one first has to govern oneself. This means that the king or emperor must be virtuous if he wishes to spread virtue through his kingdom. The king is to be the center around which the entire kingdom rotates. In fact, the king should do very little work if all things are going properly. The more the king has to interfere with parts of his government, the less that government is working as it should.
Rewarding Hard Work
One of the most revolutionary ideas Confucius had was to reward individuals based on their virtue and actions, not on their blood or family line. This idea led to the concept of the noble man, a term that is somewhat analogous with the English gentleman. A peasant could be considered a noble man if he always acted virtuous, while a prince may nothing if he does engages in a selfish, lavish life. Confucius demonstrated this during his life by accepting students from all social classes.
These gentlemen, or junzi as they were called, is what every Confucian follower strived to be. They combined the best of the scholars, saints, and gentlemen and were seen as the elite of society. They were moral, showed loyalty and filial piety, and were benevolent. Confucius is often seen as the best example of a gentleman. Those who were as far from being gentlemen as possible were referred to as xiaoren, petty-minded and greedy, materialistic, and selfish.
This idea of rewarding those who achieved the status of gentlemen led to the rise of the meritocracy, or government by those who worked the hardest. Many dynasties would later use the civil service exams to fill their offices with the best and the brightest. Under this system, anyone could be employed by a government office if they scored well on the exam.
Confucius felt that the best rulers were those who allowed their kingdom to be managed by the most qualified individuals instead of their family and relatives. Confucius set up a school, the Rujia, to train statesmen to read, write, and work in the administration. These statesmen had a great deal of power during the Warring States period and the Han dynasty.
Many emperors used a form of Confucianism, often mixed with legalism, as their governing philosophy. It has therefore been called a state religion at times, although Confucianism’s classification as a religion is somewhat disputed.
Relationships in Confucianism
One of the main themes of Confucianism is the relationship and how one relates to others. Duties are assigned based on how one person’s status relates to another’s. In a relationship, an individual may take on the role of junior or senior. Younger individuals are expected to revere their elders, be polite to them, and do as they are told. Seniors, or elder people, are expected to be concerned about the younger individuals and to show them generosity and benevolence. Children are especially instructed to revere and help their parents and other elder relatives, while parents are expected to show great concern for their children.
According to Confucianism, if everyone in society knows their place and shows the proper respect to everyone else, social harmony will be established.
Filial piety, another great virtual of Confucianism, is another form of relationship, although this one often includes the dead as well as living elders. Filial piety originally simply meant the respect a child was to show to his or her parents, but it has been expanded over the years to include five different relationships: that of a ruler to his subjects, a parent to a child, a husband to his wife, older siblings to younger siblings, and friend to friend (the only relationship of the five where the two individuals are seen as equal to each other).
Each of these five relationships has specific duties that each member is to carry out. Some duties continue past death, such as children continuing to honor their parents after their parents have died. Filial piety has also influenced the legal system of China. Often, a criminal faces a harsher punishment if the crime he/she committed was against a parent.
Much of the Confucian concept of filial piety comes from The Book of Filial Piety, a work that is often attributed to Confucius and/or his son. However, studies show that the book was more likely written in the third century BC by another author or authors.
Loyalty is another very important concept in Confucianism. It was especially important to young scholars because the only way they could really advance through the Confucian world was to take the civil service exam. Then, by working hard and being loyal to the government, he could advance into a higher position. However, loyalty and filial piety were over overlooked by corrupt rulers and the aristocracy. Some rulers took the concept of the Mandate of Heaven to mean that they could rule as they saw fit, which is not what Confucius intended. Over time, the emphasis shifted from the ruler’s duty to his people and more to the people’s duty to their emperor.
Loyalty also played a part in the relationship between family, friends, and one’s spouse. One was to be loyal first to their family, then to their spouse, then the ruler, and finally to their friends.
Confucianism and Humanity
Another issue Confucius was concerned with was humanity and how one developed. Filial piety, loyalty, and ritual formed what Confucius considered the basis of humaneness. His thoughts on what was humane basically boiled down to the idea of do unto others what you would have done unto you.
This concept applied to politics also. If a ruler was not humane, then Confucianism states that the people will begin to act inhumanely. Therefore, if a ruler wishes to rule without revolt, he must treat his subjects well. Otherwise, he may lose the Mandate of Heaven and will not be obeyed. If, however, the ruler treats his people in a just, humane way, he is expected to be obeyed to the letter.
The Proper Naming of Things
One of Confucius’s beliefs was that disorder often came from failing to understand and properly deal with events. The root of this, he said, was failing to call things by their true, proper names. He called this zhengming, or the rectification of terms. It was based on several thoughts that were ordered like this: language is not true if names are not correct. Therefore, if language is not true, it cannot be used to truthfully communicate anything. If nothing can be truthfully communicated, society cannot thrive. If society can’t thrive, then rewards and punishments cannot be property handed out. If the wicked aren’t punished and the good rewarded, people do not know how to act.
Confucianism and Corruption
Confucianism has often been criticized for allowing corruption and
nepotism to flourish despite the fact that one of its core philosophies
is rewarding those who are virtuous. One of the reasons for this is
that Confucianism rarely employs laws. Confucianism often regards
relationships as more important than law, and often, the law was not
actually enforced at all.
Daoism, sometimes spelled Taoism, is actually not one simple philosophy or religion. Instead, the term is used for a collection of related ideas and traditions that have influenced China for centuries. At the heart of Daoism are the Three Jewels: moderation, humility, and compassion. Daoism also focuses on longevity, health, immortality, non-action, and being spontaneous.
Daoism also focused on revering the spirits of the ancestors and on nature, but it is very clearly separate from the Chinese folk religion. Daoism has had a long impact on Chinese history, influencing its cuisine, martial arts, medicine, feng shui, astrology, and even its government at times.
Daoism, like Confucianism, is difficult to categorize because it isn’t clearly only a religion or a philosophy. Many feel like Daoism can be split into philosophical Daoism and religious Daoism, and some even categorize the Chinese folk religion as a form of Daoism. However, much of Daoism does differ from this folk religion, and the two are generally studied as separate belief systems.
Daoism is not a unified religion like many Western religions. Instead, there are a number of different teachings that one may follow. This has led to many different branches of Daoism. While each may have its own teachings, the core beliefs of almost all sects and branches of Daoism are the same.
Foundation of Daoism and its Fall
Daoism can be traced back to the 3rd and 4th century BC, although its founder, Laozi, lived during the 6th century BC. Laozi, which is generally believed to be an honorific and not an actual name, is considered one of the Three Pure Ones by Daoists, and he was recognized as a divine individual during the second centry AD. During the Tang dynasty, Daoism was officially recognized as a way of life and became more or less the state religion. Many Tang and Song emperors promoted Daoism, and some even claimed to be descended from Laozi. During the Qing dynasty, Daoism fell out of favor and was replaced by Confucianism. By the twentieth century, in fact, Daoism was so out of favor that only one copy of the Daozang could be found in any of the imperial libraries. Today, Daoism is recognized by the People’s Republic of China.
The Core Concepts of Daoism
Daoism focuses on a number of concepts, including Tao, De, Wu Wei, and Pu. The system of belief also stresses nature, peace, vitality, detachment, flexibility, receptiveness, and acceptance.
The concept of Tao can be translated in to English as line, way, or doctrine. To a Daoism, the Tao is the natural, spontaneous, and eternal way things, including humans, began, live, and end. This definition is different from how Confucians see the Tao. To them, it’s a system of morality.
Tao can also be seen as several other concepts. It can be the natural flow of the world. It can also be the driving force of nature. It can also be compared to the concept of Qi, or energy. Tao is never negative, and it is very rarely worshipped as an entity or concept by itself.
De is an even more complex idea. It is basically the active form of Tao. De itself means integrity, power, or virtue, and it is described as being the action of someone living the way.
Wu Wei is another main focus of Daoism. Wu Wei means “without action” and is sometimes transliterated as “effortless action.” The practice of Wu Wei is one of the underlying fundamental thoughts of Daoism. Basically, the idea of Wu Wei is to align oneself with the Tao, or the way. Once done, one finds harmony in living life without necessarily acting. The concept of Wu Wei is often modeled with water—water is soft and flexible yet it can erode earth and put out fire. A person who follows the way should not strive against the world but be like water, going with the harmonic flow by not acting against things that cannot be changed.
The fourth important concept in Daoism is Pu, or “uncut wood,” “unhewn log,” or, more simply, “simplicity.” Pu is a passive state where one is open to anything. In Pu, one perceives things without prejudice, seeing the object or person as it truly is. One enters into the Pu state when one achieves Wu Wei and is aligned with the Tao. In Pu, there is no black or white, right or wrong, only the free experience of the universe.
A follower of Daoism believes that every person is connected to the five elements. By understanding oneself, Daoisms say, one can understand the universe and everything in it. By performing exercises and rituals, one can positively affects one’s health (both mental and physical). These rituals help align a person to the Tao. Daoists have also practiced rituals and alchemy in an attempt to become physically immortal, although none of these rituals or potions have ever actually worked.
Another important belief in Daoism is that of the Three Jewels. These three concepts, moderation, humility, and compassion, serve as the three key virtues of Daoism. By following these three virtues, one can more easily become aligned with the Tao.
Deities in Daoism
The pantheon of Daoism is very similar to that of other Chinese religions and beliefs. The heavens are made up of a bureaucracy headed by the Jade Emperor. There are hundreds of different gods, goddesses, demi-gods, and celestial beings. Some are full immortal gods. Others are humans who have done great deeds. The number of deities in the pantheon and their names tends to differ from region to region. Most Daoists see the Jade Emperor as the chief god, although others view Laozi and/or the three Pure Ones as very powerful gods.
Generally, Daoists do not place a great amount of importance on god worship, although some do appear in various Daoist texts, including the Tao Te Ching.
The most important text in Daoism is the Tao Te Ching. It is the central scripture of the belief system. No one is quite certain when it was written. Historians tend to date it to somewhere between the 6th and 3rd century BC, although it may be even older than that. The Tao Te Ching is often studied outside of Taoism by academic scholars and others.
The text sets out definitions of the Tao and the other key Daoist terms and concepts. Unlike some holy texts, the Tao Te Ching is not ordered by theme. However, most of the text is focused on what Tao is and how one can become aligned with it. Many commentaries on the Tao Te Ching are regarded as very important texts, especially those written by philosophers and other important figures in Chinese history. The Tao Te Ching has been translated into a number of different languages, including English. However, there is no definitive English translation, and scholars often debate which translation best conveys the original text’s message.
The Zhuangzi, the name of both the text and its author, is a collection of stories and fables that compliment the Tao Te Ching. The stories cover a variety of subjects, and some focus on Laozi and Confucius.
The Daozang is another text that is often considered part of the Daoist canon. It has no single author but instead is made up of various texts written over a period of time, mainly the Jin, Tang, and Song periods. It was first published during the Ming dynasty and features nearly 1500 different pieces of writing. It is usually divided into three parts: the Zhen section, the Xuan section, and the Shen section. Many Daoists do not actually own published versions of the text; instead, they often inherit texts that contain the Daozang. These copies are often handed down from teacher to student.
There are a few other important texts in Daoism, including the Taishang Ganying Pian, a text that discusses ethics and what constitutes a sin in Daoism. It is one of the few Daoist texts that discusses the punishment that the wicked will suffer. The Taipingjing and Baopuzi are two alchemist texts that discuss formulas for immortality.
Followers of Daoism
It’s impossible to say exactly how many people follow Daoism since there is no organized central authority. However, it has been estimated that there are some four hundred million Chinese Daoists. Beyond that, nearly everyone in China is influenced in some way by Daoist beliefs and ceremonies. Worldwide, there are some fifty million practicing Daoists. Most are located in Asia in countries such as China, Taiwan, and Singapore. Others live in Korea, Vietnam, Japan, and some in the Western countries.
Daoists practice a number of different rituals daily. At specific times of the year, they also set out food for the spirits of their ancestors or specific gods and burn Joss paper notes to send money to those in the afterlife. These paper reproductions of money, cars, and other items are said to reappear in the afterlife after being burned, giving ancestors wealth.
Many Daoists also participate in secular activities, including New Year’s parades, festivities, and dances. These parades include the popular lion and dragon dances, puppets, people dressed as gods, and other fun activities. Daoists also believe in fortune telling, including astrology and the I Ching. Many also speak to the departed using fuji, a form of spirit writing. Finally, Daoists also often practice Tao Chi and other forms of martial arts as a way of keeping their bodies healthy and for medication purposes.
In addition to events related to Daoism, a large number of Daoists read or write books. Many of these practicing Daoists find jobs in the government or teach at a university, although many retired Chinese also enjoy reading, writing, and practicing the arts as an expression of their Daoist beliefs.
Images and Symbols
One of the most common Daoist symbols is the taijitu, or yin-yang symbol, which is a circle split by a curved line. One half of the circle is white, the other half black, but each side has a small circle of the other color within it. It is used by nearly every Daoist group, although the Confucians use it as well. The yin-yang appears on flags, logos, in temples, and even on ceremonial robes. The symbol can be dated to the 10th century. Sometimes, the concept of yin and yang is symbolized instead by a tiger and a dragon.
Temples often have square and triangular flags flying from their towers that feature writing and diagrams. These flags are often seen as a form of guidance for the dead. Other flags are flown to honor specific gods or spirits.
Another Daoist symble is the bushel, or the seven stars that make up
the constellation known as the Big Dipper. During the Shang period, the
constellation was seen as a deity. This shifted slightly during the
Han dynasty, where the Big Dipper was seen as the path the Qi of the god
Taiyi took across the sky.
The roofs of Daoist temples, especially those in China and Taiwan, can readily be identified by the dragons and phoenixes on them. Another symbol that often appears on roofs is that of the flaming pearl. Other than these statues, there is nothing to distinguish Daoist temples from other temples and structures in China.
Daoism and Other Religions
Daoism and Confucianism share many different concepts, including the use of Tao and De (although the two use them differently). Laozi, the author of the Tao Te Ching, is believed to have been one of Confucius’s teachers, although some believe the text was written as a reaction to Confucius and Confucianism. This connection as well as a connection to Mohism is discussed by Zhuangzi. However, most Daoist texts reject Confucianism’s basic concepts, especially those that relied heavily on ritual. Confucianism also deals more with society and ethical guidance, while Daoism focuses on challenging morality and conventional thoughts.
With the appearance of Buddhism, Daoism found a companion belief. In fact, some saw Buddhism as a type of foreign Daoism at first, especially since many of the Buddhist texts were translated using Daoist concepts and metaphors. One form of Buddhism, Chan Buddhism, was greatly modified by Daoist writers, integrating the Buddhist ideas with the Daoist concept of embracing life and focusing on the way.
During the Tang dynasty, Daoists took on many Buddhist ideas, including vegetarianism, organizing into monasteries, and not drinking alcohol. They also worked the Buddhist doctrine of emptiness into Daoist teaching. It was during this time that the Chan Buddhism sect became the largest sect in the country. Many people today practice both Buddhist and Daoist beliefs since the two can easily be practiced side by side without any conflicts.
In fact, Daoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism have all influenced each other while vying for dominance in China. While all three share similar concepts and values, such as focusing on moral behavior, they all differ in how to achieve this behavior. Most Chinese find something in each religion that they like. This view of the three religions became the standard one with the advent of Neo-Confucianism, a school of thought that includes philosophies from all three beliefs.
Ethnic Minorities in China
There are a number of ethnic minorities in China. In this case, ethnic minority refers to any group of people who are not a part of the Han ethnicity, the dominant ethnicity in China. Currently, the People’s Republic of China recognizes 55 different ethnic minority groups in China. These minority groups contained over 120 million Chinese, a large number until contrasted against the Han. In fact, these 120 million Chinese were only about 9.5% of the entire population of China and Taiwan. In addition to these 55 minority groups, there are some Chinese who classify themselves as unrecognized. Those individuals who have become Chinese citizens are also not included in these figures.
The majority of these groups live in mainland China, although one noted exception is that of the Taiwanese aborigines. In Taiwan, the Republic of China recognizes 13 different aborigine groups, while the PROC classifies these 13 as one group.
Most of the 55 ethnic groups in China are distinctive, although some bear similarities to each other and to the Han. Hui Chinese, for example, are nearly identical to Han Chinese with the major exception of their faith (they follow Islam). A good number of these minorities can be further broken down into sub-groups. Some speak different languages, while others practice different customs (customs often vary by region). Many of these small ethnic groups have been rolled into larger groups, such as the Utsuls being classified with the Hui. In some areas, the Han Chinese are actually the minority, especially in parts of Western China.
Over the years, many ethnic groups have been assimilated into China, including the Manchu and the Mongols. Many of these conquered or attempted to conquer China, while others were themselves conquered by the Chinese. These and the aboriginal ethnic groups have had varying degrees of successful assimilation into Chinese culture. Some, such as the Tibetans, have clashed with the majority, while others, like the Manchu, have almost fully integrated.
The Han make up nearly 91.5% of all Chinese, leaving 8.5% split between the other 55 ethnic groups. Out of these, the largest is the Zhuang (16 million), the Manchu (10 million), and the Hui (9 million). However, the minority population is growing faster than the Han—a survey shows the population growth of non-Han at nearly seven times that of the Han. The main reason for this is that China’s One-Child policy applies only to Han Chinese.
According to the PRC Constitution, all ethnic groups are given equal and full rights. Many laws have also been passed to promote their economic development and to protect the cultures of these ethnic groups. Some of these laws even grant minority groups special treatment, such as the fact that they are exempt from the One-Child Policy. Ethnic groups enjoy representation on the National People’s Congress and in local government both at the provincial and at the prefectural levels. In some ethnic autonomous areas, the ethnic language, culture, and religion is still practiced without much influence from other minorities.
Other Undistinguished Ethnic Groups
In addition to the Han and the 55 recognized minorities, there are several ethnic groups that have not been officially classified by the government. There are over 730,000 individuals in these groups, most of who live in the Guizhou Province. These undistinguished groups do not include those who have been controversially grouped with other minorities. The Chuanqing, for example, are grouped with the Han, although most Chuanqing see themselves as a separate group and refuse the classification.
Finally, those who became citizens of China are classified as “foreigners naturalized into the Chinese citizenship” and are not listed with any ethnic group. The only exception is if the naturalized citizen is a recognized ethnicity. In that case, they are considered part of that ethnic group and not a foreigner.
Feng Shui, the Chinese system of aesthetics, is widely popular today. However, the system, which is supposed to use both the laws of Heaven and earth to improve one’s live, is quite old. The system of utilizing the Qi, or life force, dates back to 4000 BC and may be even older.
The words “feng” and “shui” mean “wind” and “water” in English. These words are used to describe the system because of the saying that Qi rides on wind and is retained by water. While modern, Western feng shui is mostly about arranging items to allow the Qi to ride and be retained, this is not the only aspect of feng shui. In fact, traditionally, feng shui included not only arranging items in the house but selecting the house itself. Burial plots and farming were also focuses of feng shui.
The earliest evidence of feng shui practice dates back to 4000 BC. In these primitive villages, the doors of dwellings were aligned in specific ways with the winter solstice. The Zhou dynasty used feng shui to decide when to build their capital city. Other sites show buildings that face south and were aligned on a north-south axis, traits of feng shui.
Items and formulas that are very close to modern feng shui accoutrements have been found at Hanshan. These items date back to around 3000 BC. Capital cities show evidence of more feng shui design. The designed, which were codified by the Zhou, give strict rules for architects and engineers on how the capital was to be laid out. Similar rules were applied to graves as well. Interestingly, the same rules were often used for both graves and homes.
Origin of Modern Feng Shui Techniques
Feng shui has its roots in astronomy, although over time, the practice has evolved and changed. The Han, Tang, Song, and Ming dynasties are all noted for adding new techniques to feng shui.
Direction is quite important in feng shui, and early practitioners used the position of stars to determine north and south (feng shui began some 3,500 years before the first compass was invented). Astrolabes were one of the very first instruments used in feng shui, and many have been found in tombs dating from between 300 and 200 BC.
Some historians believe that the invention of the magnetic compass was driven by feng shui practitioners since it has been heavily used in the practice. Other early feng shui instruments include the luopan, a compass that points south, and, later, a feng shui ruler.
Feng Shui Basics
The basis of feng shui is to position everything in the best spot to create an environment that supports the best flow of the qi. This may include both the physical location and a specific time frame. There are some areas that, according to feng shui, should be left to nature.
Qi literally means air, but the Chinese meaning is not the same as the English word. Qi is generally described as a life force, internal energy, or simply energy. Often, it is not translated into English because there is no perfect word that encompasses what Qi is. Many new age practitioners simply call it energy. Qi is related to how a structure is oriented, how old it is, how the vegetation is oriented around it, and how objects are placed inside it.
Polarity, or the concept of yin and yang, is also important to feng shui. There is a push and pull to feng shui—Yang is often seen as the acting agent while yin is the receiving agent. The yin yang theory has actually been connected to sunspots and other astronomical observations, a connection that many feng shui followers use to rationalize feng shui as a science.
Each of the five feng shui elements (wood, fire, water, earth, and metal) is made up of specific amounts of yin and yang. The earth is a buffer, a place where equilibrium is achieved between all of the elements and between yin and yang. Balance is the guiding principle of feng shui.
The Bagua, or diagrams, are another important aspect of feng shui, and both were used in feng shui before they were mentioned in the I Ching. The two charts are called the Lo Chart and the River Chart. They are connected to the Turtle Calendarof Yao and with astronomical events that occurred during the sixth millennium BC. The calendar can be dated to 2300 BC, a time when astronomy was very connected to feng shui.
Records show that the bagua diagrams were often used in divination and were connected to the four directions. These records also link this use of direction to the Yellow Emperor, one of the legendary rulers of early Chinese history.
Each of the cardinal directions is associated with one of the four celestial animals. East is connected to the blue-green dragon, south with the red bird (often called the phoenix, but the two are not completely analogous), west with the white tiger, and north with the black turtle. Each also has a set of seven constellations associated with it.
There are various feng shui schools, and not all interpret techniques or concepts the same. While there is no one “true” feng shui school, however, most do use the same basic techniques. Many modern techniques mix ancient feng shui concepts with New Age ideas.
While feng shui has spread to the West and become modernized, not all Chinese find this a good thing. In fact, one of the causes of the Boxer Rebellion was that Westerns had greatly violated the principles of feng shui by building railroads across China without consulting feng shui masters. Others are upset that, following Nixon’s visit to China in 1972, feng shui has become a commercial industry in the West. Feng shui practitioners often get paid hundreds of dollars to “feng shui” (the term is often used as a verb) someone’s home, for example. In the West, the practice has become synonymous with magic, New Age beliefs, and mysterious practices.
Today, a number of Western feng shui schools exist. They include the Black Sect, which has actually incorporated as an official church and has temples in several states. No evidence has ever connected feng shui with the church or with religious practices, so the sect’s incorporation is quite unusual. Another school is known as the Shen Dao. It is based on the five element theory and deals with building and medical assessment. The goal of Shen Dao followers is to gain environmental and physical benefits. The Shen Dao also incorporates other New Age concepts and practices them alongside feng shui.
Criticism of Feng Shui
Feng shui has attracted many critics over the years. Early Europeans who did not know much about feng shui referred to it as nonsense and accorded it about the same respect as they did folk tales, magical powers, and other things they did not truly understand. This view of feng shui is still held by many today, especially the very religious. This is because religious beliefs often clash with the concept of feng shui. Christian beliefs, for example, have no place for feng shui’s idea that balance can be achieved by manipulating the Qi that surrounds a person.
A similar view is actually held by today’s People’s Republic of China. Since it was founded in 1949, the government’s official stance on feng shui is that it is a superstitious practice and has no place in modern Chinese society. Feng shui has actually been banned several times since the Communist government came to power.
In fact, during the Cultural Revolution, feng shui was one of the Four Olds, or four concepts of ancient China that were seen as anti-Communist and needed to be wiped out. The Red Guards beat anyone caught practicing feng shui and destroyed anything associated with the practice. Once Mao Zedong died and the government relaxed some of its stances, feng shui was once again tolerated, although the state still did not condone it. In fact, it is still illegal in China for feng shui consultants to register as an official business, and advertising for such a business is also illegal.
Today, polls show that less than a third of Chinese believe in feng shui, and there are actually most feng shui practitioners and followers in other countries. Learning feng shui is something of a social taboo today, although academics do often study its history, especially those in anthropology or Chinese studies.
Many scientists and others who debunk the supernatural often attack feng shui, calling it superstitious nonsense and constantly fighting the claim that it’s a science.
Research into Feng Shui
Despite those who attack it, some serious research has been done on
feng shui and its concepts. Landscape students often study its
concepts related to situating homes, gardens, and flowerbeds. Some
ancient feng shui concepts have been shown to have merit. Architects
and environmentalists also study the art.
Fireworks in China
Fireworks are considered to be pyrotechnic devices that use low explosives to denote aesthetically pleasing light up displays. Usually a single firework is detonated as part of a larger fireworks display, and these types of fireworks events are common in cities and countries throughout the world. Fireworks typically utilize light, sound, and smoke, to put off a show that is especially awe-inspiring when done in contrast to a dark night. This is probably part of the reason that fireworks are used in so many religious and cultural events to signify celebration. Some of the largest Chinese festivals like the Moon Festival and Chinese New Year are celebrated with fireworks to this day.
Originally fireworks were invented by the Chinese as a means of using the gunpowder that they had also invented for entertainment. Today China is the single largest manufacturer of fireworks on the globe, and the numbers indicate that China ships close to one hundred and twenty five thousand tons of fireworks to the United States in one year.
Contrary to popular belief there are different types of fireworks. They can be set to detonate in the air or on the ground either through the use of an aerial shell or as a rocket that relies on its own propulsion. In the beginning the sky rockets were used in warfare; however, their bright displays were seen as more on the entertainment side of things. The fireworks are generally cased in a special tube that is then stuffed with pyrotechnics, and these tubes can be arranged to create an aerial show of multi-colored sparkling shapes offset against the night sky. Today these rockets are the largest part of the commercial fireworks industry.
When you are looking at the history of fireworks it looks as if they can be traced all the way back to the twelfth century. In the beginning they were used as a way of chasing out the evil spirits so that the people could pray for happiness as well as for means of war. Over time the construction of fireworks turned into a profession all on its own, and those who manufactured them were considered to be masters of their craft. The ability for them to create such displays out of gunpowder was seen as an art form.
Today one of the largest fireworks displays in China is the
Singapore Fireworks Celebrations. This festivity is just one part of
the National Day celebrations in Singapore, and the event is a
collection of teams (both local and global) that take turns launching
fireworks an different nights. There isn’t really a competition to
speak of with formal rules and regulations, but rather a way for people
to experience the various forms of fireworks displays in an open
The four occupations was the name given to the social class hierarchy used in ancient China. It was developed by either Legalists or Confucians during the Zhou dynasty and featured four different levels: the shi (scholars), thenong (farmers and peasants), the gong (craftsmen and artisans), and the shang (the merchants). These categories were more implemented more in the abstract than in reality due to how commercialized Chinese society had become. Farmers, for example, often traded or sold their crops, blurring the lines between farmer and merchant. The shi class also changed over the years, moving from the warriors to the aristocratic elite and the scholars. Merchants also slowly rose in social status, especially as the wealthy began trading during the late Ming period.
The Shi were seen as a level of aristocratic knights during the Shang and Zhou dynasties. They were socially lower than nobles but above merchants, peasants, and other laborers. They had the right to drive chariots and command forces from them plus take on civil duties. They generally used a double-edged sword and wore flowing silk robes as opposed to trousers. During the Warring States period, chariots were replaced by mounted cavalry and crossbowmen, and the Shi were shifted from battle to intellectual studies, scholarship, administration, and philosophical discussions.
During the Qin period, Shang Yang and Duke Xiao launched a number of reforms as part of the shift to Legalism. Those who worked for the government and obeyed the laws were rewarded, while those who broke laws were harshly punished. This worked to weaken the nobility and the shi, shifting them even further away from a warrior class and more towards a merit-driven scholarly class. When the Qin collapsed due to civil war, the Han dynasty rose to replace it. During the Han, Confucianism replaced Legalism as the government philosophy. It brought with it a system of nominating and recommending those most worthy for high positions. This system favored the rich nobility, especially those who were well connected. The shi once again were favored because of their family name. However, once the Sui dynasty took power in 581 and implemented the civil service exam system, the shi would be forced to focus on their scholarship once again in order to maintain their high positions.
During the Tang dynasty, the civil service system continued, although recommendations still counted for much. It wouldn’t be until the Song dynasty that education, scholarly work, and the civil service test score became the primary factors in government jobs. During these dynasties, the shi become more bureaucratic and competitive with each other, especially during the Song dynasty. As moveable type led to greater literary rates, more and more Chinese took the civil service exam. This led to much more competition, and the shi started to be threatened by other classes. They were also given more and more duties, including overseeing public works, schools, and tax collections.
The nong, or farming class, was responsible for handling the agriculture of China. They sustained the other classes both by producing food and through land tax, which was the direct source of much of ancient China’s wealth. Although the nong were not given the social standing of the shi, they were still valued, and many shi families held land and produced crops themselves. While noncommissioned soldiers were not, as a rule, placed highly in society, most came from nong families, and others were nong who were unable to pay their land tax. Many farmers also joined local militias during wartime, especially if their land was being threatened. Soldiers, likewise, often became farmers if they were injured in battle, retired, or as a way to support themselves and their families during peaceful times. Military officers often encouraged their men to farm while not in combat as a way of supplementing the military’s food supply.
During the Ming dynasty, the social class lines had blurred to the point that farmers and craftsmen were nearly one class. Craftsmen often worked on farms during harvest season or as a way to supplement their income, while farmers traveled to the city to work for craftsmen when there was little work to do on the farm or a bad harvest occurred. The distinction between country and town was also blurry during the Ming time because many farms were located near large cities or even within the walls of huge urban areas.
The gong, or the craftsmen, were seen much like the nong were—they were respected because they produced goods and services that society needed. However, they did not provide the government was a source of revenue since most did not own land or anything else that could be taxed. However, they were still seen as higher in status than the merchants.
Like farmers, many craftsmen passed down their trade from father to son during ancient times. However, as the centuries changed, many craftsmen shifted to a guild-like structure with set rules on how to do their trade. The architects and builders were especially particular about this, creating several illustrated texts on construction.
Most craftsmen were employed by the government, although some worked independently. Wealthy craftsmen often hired apprentices and other servants to handle grunt work, and the most skilled craftsmen could rival some of the nobility in terms of wealth. These rich craftsmen often created their own guilds to teach their own particular skills or how to make their signature products.
While the shang, or the merchant class, was seen as a necessity, it was also seen as the lowest social class. The shi denounced the shang in much of their writing, portraying them as greedy and without ethics or morals. They compared merchants to parasites, taking what the other classes produced and making a profit from them. However, the shi also had a use for the shang—they were not allowed to make a profit outside of their official government salary, which for some was quite low. In order to get around this, many hired merchants to conduct their business dealings. While their business sense was recognized, they were not seen as morally fitting in with the rest of society.
Despite this, by the Ming dynasty, many shi families also had members of the shang class or were related to shang merchants in some way. Also during this time, the shi no longer hid or played down their relations to merchants. While these merchants had previously not been included in the official family history, that trend disappeared during the Ming period. Part of this was because the shang class had become so wealthy that the shi and even the government often had to look to them to fund public works like roads, bridges, schools, and buildings. Merchants also funded services like book binding and printing, necessary services for the government.
The shang, in order to increase their standing even more, began to dress and act more like the shi. This made it more acceptable for the shi and the shang classes to mingle and work together. The merchants even began learning to read and wrote their own books, leading to the concept of business ethics and stricter business practices.
In addition to these four social classes, there were other classes like the military, the clergy, the concubines and eunuchs of the court, entertainers, servants, slaves, and prostitutes. Many of these were positioned between the four ranks—clergy, for example, were given often high social standing, while slaves had almost no social standing at all. Above all classes was the emperor. He was the absolute top of the hierarchy, even during those times he was reduced to merely a puppet figure.
Reasoning Behind the Classes
The government and aristocrats had several reasons for placing specific groups on certain levels of the social ladder. Farmers, for example, were placed highly because most of the officials held land themselves. Farmers and craftsmen were ranked higher than merchants because both had goods to sell and to provide to society, while merchants did not. They were simply good at trading and at making money, which did not help meet the needs of society.
Soldiers were not included in these four categories because the shi saw intelligent conversation and use of diplomacy over violence as the proper way of life. They did not want to give any glory to those who worked in violence and battle, and by leaving them out, they left them somewhat undistinguished.
Entertainers, likewise, were left out of the hierarchy because they were dependent on the wealthy or were seen as immoral. The fact that many used their form of entertainment to criticize the government also did not make them very popular in the eyes of the scholars.
Some religious leaders were given high status at court, but many were not included in the social hierarchy because of their faith. This was particularly true with Buddhist priests. They were persecuted a number of times during China’s history, especially once the Neo-Confucian scholars came to power.
The scholars also decided to remove the court eunuchs from the social ladder because the two groups were often at odds with each other. Powerful eunuchs had more or less run the court at several points in Chinese history, controlling the emperor and his top advisors.
The Four Occupations in Modern China
Today, the similar idea of the Four Shi is used in China, although this shi is not the same as the shi scholar class. These Four Shi are doctors, lawyers, engineers/architects, and accountants, four specialist occupations that are seen as prestigious and wealthy.
China’s Grand Canal is the longest canal in the world. Also called the Beijing-Hangzhou Grand Canal, this artificial river begins in Beijing and, after passing through various cities and provinces, ends in the Zhejiang province. Parts of the canal date back to the 5th century BC, although the canal has been worked upon over the centuries. It runs a total of 1,770 kilometers. The canal runs through the Shandong mountains, but after the Song dynasty (10th century), ships were able to easily move up and down the canal thanks to the pound lock, a way of raising the elevation in certain parts of the canal. Over the centuries, many visitors to Asia have noted how remarkable the canal is.
Periodically, the canal was threatened by flooding from the Yellow River. Other times, parts of the canal were deliberately destroyed to flood the plains and force enemy troops to retreat. However, doing so often led to farmland being flooded. That combined with the expense of repairing the canal made this tactic a last-ditch effort since it often resulted in famine or, at the least, economic problems.
While the canal did fall into disuse several times during the course of China’s history, it did result in helping the Chinese economy grow and flourish.
Uses of the Canal
The Grand Canal served as the main transportation route from the Tang dynasty until the Qing dynasty. It has mainly been used for shipping grain, although other materials have been shipped along the canal. At the height of its usage, over 8,000 boats floated up and down the canal every year. It was also used to transport military personnel, and emperors often used the canal to make inspection tours of their empire. Today, the Grand Canal is used to transport construction goods such as sand, gravel, and bricks.
The canal also made it possible for culture and politics to travel more quickly across the country. Several foreign visitors, including Marco Polo and Catholic monk Matteo Ricci, commented on how amazing the Grand Canal was.
The History of the Grand Canal
The Grand Canal had its start when the Duke of Wu, Fuchai, conquered the state of Qi during the Spring and Autumn Period (722 to 481 BC). Fuchai ordered a canal built between the two states to make trading easier. In 486 BC, work began on the canal in Jiangsu, and three years later, the “Han-country Conduit,” as it was called, was linked to the Yangtze River via other waterways and lakes.
While this was the first section of what is called the Grand Canal, it’s not actually the oldest section. That is the Hong Gou, or Canal of the Flying Geese. This canal connects the Yellow River to the Bian and Si Rivers and was most likely the model for the rest of the canal. No one is quite certain when it was built. Su Qin first mentioned it in writing in a text dated to around 330 BC, but Sima Qian attributes it to Yu the Great, a man who ruled during the 6th century BC.
Duke Fuchai’s Han Gou canal was important for both trade and for moving military personnel. It allowed for very rapid troop deployment and was often used to great success. This is especially true after the canal was straightened during the sixth century AD. Prior to this, the canal was quite winding.
The Sui Dynasty
It was during the Sui dynasty (581 – 618) that the Grand Canal as we know it was constructed. China’s main economic center had shifted away from the Yellow River valley and towards the Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces. In order to transport goods between the two areas, the Sui dynasty extended the Grand Canal.
They also did some major repairs and upgrades. Around the year 600, for example, silt had built up in the Hong Gou canal, making it nearly impossible for some barges to use it. Sui dynasty engineer Yuwen Kai drafted a plan to build a new canal parallel to the Hong Gou. The new canal would not connect to the Si River at all. Instead, it would connect to the Huai River. His plan was approved, and in 605, the first section of the canal, the Bian Qu, was completed thanks to the hard work of over five million people.
The canal lock system, built in 587, allowed for water to be regulated in the canal. The Sui also constructed double slipways that allowed for small boats to be hauled over areas in the canal when the water levels were too high or low for the flash lock gates to operate.
Emperor Yang Guang then ordered various canals dug from Hangzhou to Beijing and beyond. These canals linked the Qiantang, the Yangtze, the Huai, the Wei, the Hai, and the Yellow rivers, allowing ships to travel between them and the various cities they reached. These canal systems were not one continuous canal yet; however, they would later become the southern, central, and northern sections of the Grand Canal.
By 609, the rest of the Grand Canal was completed, and Luoyang was officially connected to the Yangzhou, Hangzhou, and Beijing. During this year, Emperor Yang sailed his 65 mile long flotilla of ships from Northern China to his capital at Yangzhou, one of the most massive Chinese naval deployments at the time. The Sui were also now easily able to transfer goods and military forces from the south to the north. An imperial roadway was built alongside the canal, as were post offices. All of these events and projects were recorded in the Kaiheji, the Record of the Opening of the Canal.
The Tang and the Yuan Dynasties
During the Tang dynasty, the capital was located at Chang’an. However, the economic capital of the empire was located at Yangzhou, a city near the Grand Canal. In addition to being located near the canal, Yangzhou was also near the center of the empire, making it the perfect place for trade between the north and the south. The government’s salt monopoly was headquartered here, as was the main industrial center.
Many farmers shipped grain on the canal because the Tang government reduced the tax on grain shipped along the canal. In fact, by 735, the government estimated that over 165,000 tons of grain were being moved along the canal every year. To facilitate this, granaries were built along the canal to provide storage in case parts of the canal flooded or ships were otherwise unable to complete their journey. Special barges were even designed to specifically transport grain and make the journey more efficient.
A few additions and repairs were made to the canal during the Tang period, but no major changes were done.
In 858, the Grand Canal flooded, destroying thousands of acres of grain and other food and killing thousands of farmers. This disaster along with the An Shi Rebellion led to many declaring that the Tang had lost the Mandate of Heaven. The dynasty fell and was replaced by the Song.
During the Song period, Kaifeng became a major city (and later the capital). The Grand Canal, once the flooding ceased, was once again a major economic trade route. However, during many of the previous dynasties, issues with barges wrecking in the double slipways and bandits attacking ships had been an issue. To prevent this, the Assistant Commissioner of Transportation, Qiao Weiyo, created the pound lock. His pound locks were implemented in 984 and held ships in a gated area while water was drained or added, allowing vessels to quickly adjust to different water levels. Roofs were built over these locks to protect the waiting vessels, and guard towers were added to fend off bandits.
In 1128, Du Chong destroyed many of the dykes south of the Yellow River in order to destroy the invading Jurchen army. The continued war between the Jurchen and the Song did not allow for the section of the Grand Canal between the Huai and the Yellow rivers to be repaired for many years. It wasn’t until the Mongols took control of China in the 13th century that much of the destroyed areas were repaired.
During the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368), the Mongols moved the capital to Beijing. This left the section of the canal that connected to Kaifeng and Luoyang unnecessary, and it fell into disuse. Another section of the canal was dug in the 1280s that changed the route of the canal so that it went through the Shandong foothills, shortening the overall trip by around 700 kilometers and directly linking Beijing and Hangzhou. As the Yuan dynasty declined, however, the canal once again fell into disrepair.
The Ming Dynasty
During the Ming dynasty, nearly the entire canal was renovated. This massive renovation took place between 1411 and 1415 at the bequest of the magistrate of Jining. He protested to the Yangle Emperor that transporting grain along the dilapidated canal was inefficient and was costing too much money. He noted that transferring grain between the various rivers and canals that made up the Grand Canal took too much time. He suggested diverting the waters of the Wen River by building a dam across it. This pushed over half of its waters into the Grand Canal. To hold this water, four huge reservoirs were dug in Shandong. Pumps installed in these reservoirs allowed engineers to control the water level. New channels, locks, and embankments were built along the canal to replace broken down and unused sections.
During the Ming dynasty, the Yongle Emperor moved the capital to Beijing once again, leaving Nanjing, the old capital, no longer the center of the government. Reopening the Grand Canal also shifted the focus away from Nanjing, this time to the city of Suzhou. Suzhou quickly became the economic center of the Ming dynasty. The Grand Canal revitalized other cities along its route, such as Hangzhou, while depriving landlocked cities of the flourishing trade that they once enjoyed.
Records indicate that more than 47,000 full-time employees were hired to maintain the Grand Canal, and over 121,000 soldiers and sailors were needed to operate the many grain barges. In addition to this, many were employed as couriers on the canal, especially for the post office. Courier stations were placed along the canal at regular intervals to insure that mail reached its destination on time.
The Qing Dynasty and Modern Times
In the 17th century, the Manchus invaded China and established the Qing dynasty, which ran from 1644 until 1912. During this dynasty, the Grand Canal continued to serve as an important economic trade route, albeit under Manchu control instead of Han.
In 1855, the Yellow River dramatically flooded, changing its course and destroying the canal that linked Shandong to the rest of the canal system. Instead of repairing the canal, other trade routes were used for some time. This included an alternate sea route for shipping grain and the new Tianjin-Pukou railway and Beijing-Hankou railway. These options left not only the Shandong section but also many other parts of the Grand Canal unused and in disrepair. In fact, even today the Grand Canal is still not up to the quality it was during its height. However, the canal did undergo massive reconstruction after the People’s Republic of China took power in 1949.
While still not completely repaired, the Grand Canal is heavily used today, and new plans to repair and upgrade parts of the canal are in place. By 2012, several provinces plan to have completed updates and to increase the canal’s usage by as much as 40 percent.
Sections of the Canal
After fourteen centuries of work, the Grand Canal has a number of different sections. Some are currently in use, while others are unused and considered historical. Some have completely disappeared over the years, and others exist only partially. Some of the most important sections are listed below.
The Jia Canal was built in the 12 BC so that ships no longer had to use 100 miles of the Yellow River. It was designed by Li Hualong and named after the Jia River because it followed the river’s course. After the Jia Canal was put into use, only 60 miles of the Yellow River was connected to the Grand Canal. In 1688, the Middle Canal replaced those 60 miles.
The Nanyang New Canal was built in 1566 to handle floods caused by the Yellow River. The Nanyang New Canal ran from Nanyang to Liucheng, a small village located north of Xuzhou City. This new canal shifted the Grand Canal away from the flood-prone Weishan Lake area and onto slightly higher land. It was fed by several different rivers that flowed from the Shandong massif.
The Huitong Canal is located to the north of the Jizhou Canal. It is mainly fed by the Wen River and meets that river at Linqing. It was constructed in 1290 by engineer Ma Zhizhen and is made up of a large number of locks. It also has a large number of feeder springs—somewhere between two and four hundred.
The first summit section of the Grand Canal was the Jizhou Canal. It was planned out by a Mongol engineer to connect Jining to the Huitong Canal. Built in 1238, the Jizhou Canal’s highest point is 138 feet about the Yangtze River. However, it suffered from water shortages for many years. Finally, Song Li renovated the canal in 1411 during the Ming dynasty. He had dams built on the Guang and Wen rivers and created reservoir lakes at Nanwang, a small village located on the canal.
Duke Huan’s Conduit was built in 369 AD by General Huan Wen. This canal connects the Huai River Valley with the Yellow River Valley via the Si and Ji Rivers. His canal was used as a model for the Jizhou Canal.
The Yilou Canal was built in 738 AD and was built to create a shortcut for ships on the canal. After silt built up on the northern shore of a section of the Yangtze River, ships were forced to sail around this new sandbank. It was often a very rough detour. To avoid this, the Yilou Canal was dug across the sandbank. Today, however, the Yilou Canal is no longer part of the Grand Canal system.
Modern Canal Segments
Today, only the canal sections between Hangzhou and Jining are in use. They cover over 1,700 kilometers and include these seven sections.
The Jiangnan Canal is the southernmost canal segment. It run from Hangzhou in the south to Zhejiang and connects with both the Qiantang and Yangtze River. It is one of the main parts of the canal used for barge traffic, especially barges hauling raw construction materials and coal. The canal is only 100 meters wide in some areas and congestion often occurred. To get around this, some bypass canals have been dug to help reduce congestion at major cities.
The Li Canal is one of the inner sections that connects the Yangtze River and Huai’an. The land west of this canal is higher than the canal bed, while the land to the east is significantly lower. Both sides have experienced frequent flooding, although the west side generally floods more often. However, recent improvements have allowed the floodwater to be shifted out to sea instead of into the canal or onto the plains.
The Zhong Canal runs to Weishan Lake from Huai’an. It follows several different courses today than it did because of the Yellow River’s flooding. One course goes north to Weishan Lake near Hanzhuang while one southern course enters the lake near Peixian. The Peixian course is currently used.
Both courses of the canal enter Shandong province at Weishan Lake. The course that goes from the lake to Linqing is called the Lu Canal. This canal passes through a number of lakes; however, water shortages often leave these lakes dry. The northern lake, Nanyang Lake, is near Jining. Thirty kilometers north, the Lu Canal reaches its highest point. During the 1950s, engineers dug a new portion of the canal to the south, but today, both sections are dry and cannot be used. This canal segment disappears in several places, eventually reaching Linqing.
The Southern Canal connects Linqing to Tianjin and follows the Wei River. Like the Lu Canal, the Southern Canal is not currently useable because of high pollution and water extraction. The canal runs through a number of cities and can be used as waterways in a few of them. However, outside of the cities, the canal is mostly dry.
Finally, the Northern Canal follows the Yongding river for a bit, then veers off to Tongzhou. The canal ends there at the Grand Canal Cultural Park. At one point, the Northern Canal connected to the Tonghui River. This river allowed travel from Tongzhou to Houhai. However, the water level dropped during the Ming dynasty, and ships could no longer use the canal. Today, the Tonghui River has been lined with concrete and is used as a water drain for Beijing suburbs.
The government of China is currently working on upgrading the canal
for use in the South-North Water Transfer Project. When completed, the
canal will be used as the Eastern Route. Extra water from the Yangtze
River is being diverted into the canal via huge pumping stations. This
water will then be fed into a tunnel that passed under the Yellow River,
then down into a reservoir at Tianjin.
Guan Yin, also called Kuan Yin, is the Bodhisattva of Compassion and one of the more well-known mythological figures. Her name is short for Guanshi’yin, or “Observing the Cries of the World.” She is known in the West ad the Goddess of Mercy. In addition to Buddhism, Guan Yin is an Immortal in Taoism, although some of her stories are different.
The origin of Guan Yin has not been discovered. In Buddhism, she is the female version of the male Avalokiteshvara. Some, however, believe she is a Buddhist version of the Queen Mother of the West, the mythological figure who is either the Jade Emperor’s mother or his wife.
Guan Yin appears in the stories and myths from many different Asian countries, including Japan, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia. While her name is often slightly different in each country, the stories tend to be very similar and highlight her compassion and mercy.
Guan Yin is also often associated with vegetarianism. Her image often appears on Chinese vegetarian menus and in vegetarian pamphlets and other informational writing.
Representation of Guan Yin
The male equivalent of Guan Yin, Avalokitesvara, is usually depicted as a prince whose shirt is often open or he is bare-chested. Obviously, this type of depiction was not appropriate for Guan Yin. Generally, statues and images of her show her wearing long, flowing robes (usually white) and wearing necklaces like those empresses and other royalty would wear. If she has anything in her hands, it is usually a water jar of pure water (right hand) and a willow branch (left hand). Her crown is connected to Amitabha, who is said to have been Guan Yin’s teacher before she was elevated to the rank of Bodhisattva.
In a few Buddhist temples, Guan Yin is actually shown as a young man. He is dressed in robes like those from the north would wear and is usually shown looking downward at earth, a symbol that shows he always watches over the world.
Some regions have slight variations of Guan Yin as well. In Fukien, she is usually dressed in Tang clothing and carries a fish basket. This image can also be found in many encyclopedias compiled during the 1500s and in the novel Golden Lotus.
In artwork, Guan Yin is usually show alone, although some depictions have two children or two warriors flanking her. She is also often shown standing on a dragon or with a bird. According to myths, the two children are her acolytes who accompanied her to Mount Putuo to meditate. The girl is Long Nu and the boy is Shan Tsai. The warriors are usually named Guan Yu (a figure from the Three Kingdoms period) and Wei Tuo, one of the characters from the Canonisation of the Gods. Often, other Bodhisattvas or Buddha himself were shown flanked by these two warriors as symbols of protection of temples and of Buddhism itself.
Generally, Guan Yin’s representation was male up until the Song dynasty (960). Some representations were them androgynous, featuring both male and female aspects. These were often associated with the Lotus Sutra in which Avalokitesvara was shown to have the ability of assuming any form he wanted in order to relieve a person’s suffering. The Chinese often saw compassion and kindness as traits associated with women and the Queen Mother of the West. Thus, Guan Yin shifted to a purely female form around the twelfth century.
Buddhist iconography usually depicts Guan Yin as either meditating or as sitting by a Buddha with another Bodhisattva. Which Bodhisattva varies and is usually dependent on which school of Buddhism the icon was created for. Guan Yin is usually shown with the Amitabha Buddha and the Bodhisattva Mahasthamaprapta in the Pure Land sect, for example.
Veneration of Guan Yin first appeared in China in the first century, but it very quickly spread to other Asian countries. By the mid seventh century, Guan Yin was recognized in Japan and Korea. Today, tahnks to the spread of Buddhism, Guan Yin is venerated in many countries. In some areas, she has become a part of the New Age movement, although her role as goddess of mercy and compassion is more or less the same as it is in Buddhism.
Guan Yin in Buddhism
Worship of Guan Yin as a goddess is usually not in conflict with worship of Avalokitesvara. In fact, her role as Goddess of Mercy is seen as an aspect of Avalokitesvara doing his work. Buddhist texts state that Bodhisattvas can appear as any gender or form; thus, Guan Yin is simply a female manifestation of Avalokitesvara. The Lotus Sutra and Surangama Sutra even specifically state that Avalokitesvara has appeared as a goddess and as a woman to save innocents from suffering.
In Mahayana Buddhism, gender is not an issue. There is no separation of men and women—all can be enlightened. This is illustrated in a number of texts and sutras, and once again, the fact that Avalokitesvara the Bodhisattva and Guan Yin the goddess are one and the same is not contradictory.
The Mahayana Heart Sutra is ascribed to Kuan Yin, which is quite unique since nearly every other Mahayana Sutra is ascribed to the Shakyamuni Buddha. The Heart Sutra features Guan Yin describing the essence of reality and of Buddhism to the Arhat Sariputra.
Chinese Buddhists see Guan Yin as giving unconditional love to any who need it and as a savior. She is one of the most popular and important figures in Buddhism. When she took her vows as a Bodhisattva, Guan Yin swore to always answer the cries of any who needed her and to do her best to liberate them from their karmic woes. This is consistent with what the texts say about Avalokitsevara, who is depicted as both a physical and spiritual savior. He is even able to elevate those who have no hope of being enlightened to an enlightened state.
In the Pure Land sect, Guan Yin is able to temporarily free individuals from the Wheel or Samsara, or reincarnation, and allow them to stay in the Pure Land for a short period of time. Here, they have a chance to gain the necessary karma to live as a Buddha in one of their lives.
Even those Buddhists who are non-devotional venerate Guan Yin. While they do not see her as an active force of love and salvation, they do revere her for her compassion, love, and mercy. The actual act and feeling of love or compassion is seen as Guan Yin, making her almost an anthropomorphic personification of the feeling of love. One who is loving, compassionate, and merciful can even be described as Guan Yin, as is a person who is contemplative or at peace with him or herself.
Guan Yin in Folk Religion
Guan Yin is also very popular in the Chinese folk religion. She is worshipped across Asia as an agent of love, mercy, and compassion. She is also often seen as the protector of women and of children. Some also see her as a fertility goddess, and women who want children may pray to her. She often helps the poor, the sick, the disabled, and those who are in need. In villages on rivers or on the coast, many view her as a protecting force for fishermen and sailors, and the Taoist goddess of the sea, Mazu, is sometimes seen as a manifestation of Guan Yin. Businessmen have come to see Guan Yin as a goddess of luck and fortune, although this role greatly differs from her traditional one.
Similarities between Guan Yin and the Virgin Mary
Statues of Guan Yin and the Virgin Mary have several noted similarities. Guan Yin has been depicted as holding a baby, and this depiction is very similar to paintings and statues of the Catholic Madonna and Child. The two have been identified as being similar. This similarity, in fact, was used by the Japanese during the Edo period. The government had banned Christianity during this time, so many Japanese Christians replaced statues of the Virgin Mary with Guan Yin. These statues have become known as Maria Kannon.
Guan Yin in Pop Culture
Guan Yin has appeared in a number of novels, films, stage plays,
operas, and even video games. She plays an important role in the
classic novel Journey to the West. Singer Alanis Morrisette mentioned
her in her song “Citizen of the Planet,” and in James Hogan’s sci-fi
novel Voyage from Yesteryear, a space probe is named after her.
Hua Mulan is one of the most famous Chinese fictional characters, thanks in part to Disney’s movie about her life. However, this animated film is not completely accurate in portraying Mulan or the events in her life. No one is certain if Hua Mulan was a real person or if her story is purely allegorical, and Chinese scholars still debate this today. One possible historical figure who Mulan may have been based on was female general Wang Cong’er.
The true story of Mulan is recounted in the classic poem titled the Ballad of Mulan. It was a part of the Musical Records of Old and New and was written some time in the 6th century. However, the records no longer exist. Instead, a copy of the Ballad of Mulan was found and included in the Music Bureau Collection that Guo Maoqin complied in the 12th century. We only know of the Musical Records because Maoqin cites it as the original source for the Mulan poem.
In Chinese, Mulan is made up of two words, mu (wood) and lan (orchid). Together, they refer to the flower called the Magnolia liliiflora, which is also known as the tulip magnolia, the lily magnolia, or, after the poem was written, the Mulan magnolia. Her family name varies from story to story. In one, it is Zhu, while another gives it as Wei. The Ballad of Mulan never mentions her family name at all. It was Xu Wei, a scholar who lived during the Ming dynasty, who gave her the name Hua Mulan. Hua means flower in Chinese, which fit well with her given name. Because of this more poetic name, Hua Mulan has become the most popular name for the heroine. Disney used the Cantonese pronunciation of the Hua character, Fa, for their character’s family name.
The Story of Mulan
Anyone who has watched the Disney movie knows the basic story of Mulan. When the army informs her elderly father that he is to go to war, she disguises herself as a man, steals his armor and sword, and takes his place in the battle. Later, the emperor offers her a government post. However, Mulan turns him down and returns to her family. When her former comrades come to visit her, they are surprised to learn that Mulan is actually a woman. The last image of the poem is that of rabbits, one female, the others male, running across the pasture. The poem’s narrator asks if it’s possible to tell which is female just by watching them run, a comment written to show there is no difference between Mulan and the other soldiers.
The poem doesn’t say exactly when the story is set. Some versions say Mulan lived sometime in the Northern Wei dynasty, which existed between 386 and 534. However, other versions of the poem suggest that Emperor Yang of the Sui dynasty requested Mulan as a concubine, which would have put her living between 604 and 617. The Northern Wei setting has more support from various sources.
The Ballad of Mulan is written in free verse, as most ballads were. This means lines do not have a syllable pattern, nor is there a form to the poem. The lines are mostly five-characters long, although some are as long as nine characters.
During the Ming dynasty, the poem served as the basis for a full length novel about Mulan. This story became very popular as a folk tale, and it is this novel that served as the basis of the Disney movie. The movie, however, is only very loosely based on the book.
Mulan’s Appearances in Popular Culture
In addition to Disney’s cartoon, Hua Mulan has appeared in a number of different novels and movies. Her story is retold in The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston. The films Hua Mulan Joins the Army, Mulan Joins the Army, and Hua Mulan all tell versions of the story as well, although they all change parts of the story to add more suspense. Finally, the Hua Mulan Crater on the surface of the planet Venus was named after her.
Hundred Flowers Movement
Although the actual time span of the Hundred Flowers Movement wasn’t that long, its impact lasted for years afterward. The Chinese Communist Party leadership decided in 1956 that the best thing for the government would be to allow people to express their discontentment, views, and wide range of solutions to remedy some of the problems that the government was experiencing during its earlier years. However, many people and historians believe that the whole plan was a large trap in which those in power worked to make sure that they held onto their control by leading those who were outside the party and yet in the greatest power to oppose them into political traps.
When the People’s Republic of China was officially formed in 1949, many of the different reforms and newly renovated institutions were the focus of much of the new government’s organization. This was especially true of the massive land reforms that were such a large part of the communist’s agenda during the early days. The land was taken out of the hands of the wealthy or of people who were declared landlords or capitalists. However, it wasn’t long before these campaigns ended and the government had to find a way to make sure that they held onto the attention and interest of the people.
Originally when the campaign was started as a way for smaller government entities that were traditionally outside of the central core of Communist influence to speak out about problems they may have been having with the government and to think up solutions and other ideas to fix these errors. The PRC claimed that they needed the people to speak out about their concerns or else there would be no way to for them to accurately fix whatever problems they may be having or whatever else may have been going on that they were otherwise unaware of. Despite these reassurances, when the program began in 1956 it was not seen as a very large campaign as very few people elected to speak out about problems or things that were going on.
Zhou Enlai was the leader of this first branch of the movement. He, as well as many other government officials spoke out about the need for people to come forward during the Hundred Flowers Movement, but it wasn’t long before it was perceived to be a failure by many because of its limited ability to get people to speak out. This was why at the end of 1956 that Enlai made a proposal at a meeting that the movement expanded its borders beyond the government officials and instead focused on any complaints and changes that the intellectuals across the country might have for the way that the PRC was handling its official capacity and governmental duties. Enlai apparently made several appeals for criticism from people was he felt that the only way for a government to properly grow and evolve was to accept criticism from the people it was working to represent otherwise it wouldn’t be able to function as it should. By most accounts it is apparent that Enlai wanted to make sure that the Hundred Flowers Movement called out some of the glitches in the government’s system.
It wasn’t long however before Enlai’s control over the project was taken over and Mao seated himself as head of the project because he found it interesting. One of the first things that the new and improved Hundred Flowers Movement was supposed to do was to allow the intelligent or well-educated people of the country to sit down and discuss what was going on and whatever problems they may have thought they encountered along the way as well as any new ways they might have of promoting new cultural ideas and art forms that would broaden the horizons of normal Chinese citizens. Many think that in the beginning Mao believed that having people discuss things openly would lead directly to the realization of how much better socialism was than other forms of government. The overall goal of this was that even those people who were not part of the Communist party would see the inherent goal of socialism and the discussions would then lead to more progress in that direction.
People were strongly encouraged to talk openly about any constructive criticisms that they might have about the government because this would lead to the restructuring of the government in a much more favorable sense. Even thought the intellectuals had been invited to the discussion, there were still not enough people participating in the movement to make a difference. Enlai went to Mao to ask that the government take it up a step to encourage more active participation on its part so that they would be far more likely to go ahead and give out valid criticisms so that the intellectual debate could move forward.
Mao’s response to the situation was to begin to put pressure on people to turn in healthy criticisms to the central government as a means of getting the project going at full pace. It worked to some extent as many of the more highly educated began to voice their opinions and criticisms without any restrictions on subjects that had previously been forbidden. From June to July of 1957 millions of liters began to pour into the central government offices from people voicing their concerns and questions. They also began to speak out in open forums, advertising these events at college campuses by putting up flyers and having rallies for members of the Chinese Communist Party. It also changed as the students at Peking University dedicated an entire section of wall known as the Democratic Wall in which posters and letters were put up with direct criticisms aimed at the Communists.
Many of the criticisms were valid, focusing on parts of Mao’s model which were thought by many to be problematic within the new government. For example, they criticized the government’s harshly instituted controls over intellectual freedoms as well as the low standard of living in China and how those members in high standing within the communist party enjoyed better means of living than the average person and how completely reversed this was to a truly communist model.
The volume of letters and talk generated by the campaign grew to such a proportion that Mao no longer considered the movement to be generating healthy criticism. He now considered the ideas coming forth to be harmful because they were moving through the people at an uncontrollable level. He was worried that the criticism would spark some deeper form of revolution and that lawlessness would replace the strict guidelines of the Communist Party. It appears that in the beginning, Enlai took some of these criticisms and suggestions to heart and tried to make some positive changes. Mao looked at all of the criticisms as a type of personal attack and did not seem to do anything constructive pertaining to these suggestions. The types of comments that were flooding the government were now concentrated far more on removing many of the restrictions that were present in the CCP’s governing policies and to be more democratic. Mao and many of his leaders felt that the government was beginning to come under attack by these criticisms and that if left alone the discussions would eventually undermine their leadership abilities.
Because the campaign had become too unwieldy for the Communist party within the span of just a month or two, Mao called an official halt to the Hundred Flowers Movement in July of 1957. By the time it had ended, the Hundred Flowers Movement had succeeded in doing something else entirely and that was to identify potentially harmful critics of the government and to silence them. It was a turning point in the operation skills of the People’s Republic of China and how they would continue to handle instabilities under Mao’s regime. During the campaign over half a million people were classified as right-wingers and either humiliated, left jobless, tortured, killed, or sent to re-education camps. This made a very large impression with many critics and intellectual individuals in China and made them very reluctant to do anything that would seem like a criticism of Mao or the government.
Hundred Schools of Thought
The hundred schools of thought is a term used to indicate the many different philosophies that appeared in China between 770 and 221 BC. This period was marked by a giant leap in culture and intellectual thought despite the fact that it includes some of the bloodiest wars and battles in Chinese history. The philosophical schools that were founded during this time have greatly influenced Chinese thought and history.
One of the most important schools founded during this time was Confucianism. It is one of the most integral philosophies in Chinese culture. Founded by Confucius (551 – 479), its main focus was on living the ideal life. He believed that people should accept their social status (the ruler was the ruler, a subject was a subject) and that rulers had a duty to their people to rule virtuously and justly.
Many of Confucius’s followers added to his philosophy. Mencius added concepts related to humanism, including the idea that man is by nature good and that a ruler could not rule without the consent of the people. These two men created a structure that gave society and individuals a way of looking at life through virtue and order.
Over the years, many other philosophers interpreted Confucian ideas differently or added new thoughts to the texts, forming the philosophy into today’s modern Confucianism. Some were in line with what Confucius and Mencius believed. Others, like Xunzi, went against some established Confucian code and created their own sects of Confucianism.
Taoism (sometimes spelled Daoism) was founded (or at least its founding was attributed to) Laozi, an old man who supposedly lived before Confucius. Taoism lays out concepts and paths for individuals to relate to nature, not society. The goal is for people to fall into the natural rhythm of the world by fallowing the Tao, or way, of the universe. Living in harmony allows one to pass through life with little stress or desire.
Legalism, founded by Han Feizi and Li Si, is the idea that laws ruled supreme. The only way to keep society functioning, they proposed, was that laws must be enforced. Those who broke the law should be punished harshly, and those that obey should be rewarded. The state, according to Legalism, was supreme. Legalism flourished during the imperial governments.
Mohism was founded by the followers of the philosopher Mozi, who lived between 470 and 391. Mohism began as a rival to Confucianism, but by the Qin dynasty, it was virtually dead. Mohism relied on the concept of universal love. Everyone, Mozi stated, was equal in heaven; therefore, people should not believe themselves superior or inferior to anyone and should love everyone equally. Practicing gifts of love imitated life in heaven. Everything, Mozi argued, should be based on the senses and not on logic or thought. However, Mozi also believed in being frugal. War was a waste, but so was music and rituals. Everyone was equal, but the ruler was imbued by heaven to lead the people. Virtue, rather than station or birth, was to be praised. Mohism and Legalism, in some ways, were quite similar, which is perhaps one of the reasons why Mohism did not survive.
School of Yin-Yang
The School of Yin-Yang, or the School of Naturalists, was based on the ideas of yin-yang and the philosophy of the five elements. Founded by Zou Yan, the school strives to explain everything in terms of the elements (in this case, fire, wood, water, metal, and earth), yin, and yang. These concepts eventually evolved into cultural concepts that were not connected with the school’s other philosophies.
Other Schools of Thought
A variety of other schools of thought also existed at this time, although many of them did not survive. One was the Logicians, a splinter group of Mohism that was focused on logic. Another was the School of Agriculture, a school of thought that placed farming techniques and agriculture above all else. This school even went so far as to say that rulers should actively work in the fields with their workers.
The School of Diplomacy was, as its name implies, focused on diplomacy and diplomatic relations with other schools, states, and tribes. Their philosophy was much more practical than the philosophies put forth by many of the other schools. Finally, the Miscellaneous School took parts from all other schools of thought and created an integrated philosophy that took only what the founders liked from the other schools.
The I Ching is one of the oldest Chinese texts. The book is a set of cosmological and philosophical systems that are inherently a part of Chinese culture. These ideas include the dynamic balance of the universe and accepting that change is inevitable. While some consider the I Ching as a divination system, it is more a commentary and philosophy of living.
The Three Principles of I Ching
The I Ching, which can be seen as a reflection of the world around is, has three underlying principles: simplicity, variability, and persistency. The first, simplicity, says that the fundamental principles of everything in the universe are actually quite simple, no matter how complex they may seem on the surface. Variability, the second principle, says that the universe is always in motion and always changing. If one understands this principle, one must be flexible and always be ready to deal with many different situations at once. Finally, the third principle, persistency, states that while everything is changes, there is also a persistence, or a central concept, that never varies.
History of the I Ching
Many believe that the I Ching principles were first created by Fu Xi, a mythical emperor who ruled China around 2800 BC. He claimed the eight trigrams of I Ching were given to him by a supernatural power. These trigrams then slowly changed into the 64 hexagrams by the time of Emperor Yu (2194 BC). These hexagrams would continue to change and be refined over the years, especially as dynasties rose and fell. By the Spring and Autumn period, the I Ching was mostly set, especially after Confucius wrote his Shi Yi, commentaries on the hexagrams and the I Ching in general.
Today, a more modernist history of the I Ching is generally used. This history is based on research on the oracle bones used during the Shang and Zhou dynasties. A Han dynasty tomb found in the 1970s contained a mostly intact I Ching text which differed in some significant ways form the traditional I Ching text. These texts feature some additional writing, supposedly by Confucius, on the I Ching. Most scholars point out that there’s no need to automatically reject either set of texts—the two are not mutually exclusive. However, most scholars do agree that Fuxi, who was given credit with the original concept of the I Ching, probably did not exist. Many also think that Confucius did not write all of the commentaries attributed to him. Textual clues point to a later date for the compilation of the texts, as well.
Scholars mostly agree that the I Ching is most likely based on some divination techniques of the Western Zhou dynasty. Likewise, scholars generally agree that Confucius had little to do with the I Ching and most likely did not write the commentaries. Most of these were probably written during the Warring States or Western Han periods.
Layout of the I Ching
The actual I Ching texts are actually predictions that are represented by 64 hexagrams. These hexagrams are made up of six horizontal lines that are either broken or unbroken. Each hexagram can further be broken down into two trigrams, each made up of three lines. While the traditional view is that these hexagrams were developed from combining two trigrams, most evidence shows that the lines were almost always drawn with six lines.
Each of these hexagrams represents a process or state of being. When they’re cast in one of the divination processes, each line is either changing or unchanging. This is important in the reading and can, in some cases, lead to a reversal of the state. There are several different ways of reading the lines, some older than others. However, the traditional sequence is the King Wen sequence.
The trigrams are made up of three lines, either solid or broken, that represent yin and yang. There are eight possible combinations of lines, and two sets of these lines form the hexagram. The bottom set of three, the lower trigram, represents interior change, while the upper trigram represents the outer aspects that are changing. This shows the relationship of the personal to the external.
The 64 different hexagrams that can be formed from the trigrams each stand for specific situations, aspects, or conflicts. The overall concept behind these hexagrams is that things must be in balance. There are four different hexagram layouts: old yin, old yang, young yin, and young yang.
I Ching and Confucianism
Some hold that the I Ching is actually a Confucian document despite the evidence that shows that Confucius had little to do with the text. They base this belief on the fact that studying the I Ching was required for the Civil Service Exams, which focused only on Confucian tests, the fact that it is included as a part of the Five Confucian Classics, the fact that it does not fit with Taoist beliefs, and the fact that most commentaries on the I Ching were written by Confucians.
No matter which belief one holds, it’s obvious that the I Ching plays a very large part in Chinese thought and philosophy, and its influence can still be seen today. Even in the Western world, the I Ching has influenced films, dances, music, and more.
Jiang Qing was born Li Shumeng on March 14th, 1914, and was the last wife of Chinese Communist Party leader, Mao Zedong, but she was actually a fairly powerful person in her own right. Many people think of her as a sort of first lady for the People’s Republic of China, but the role that she played in the political scheme of China actually extended far beyond that. Today she is probably most well known for the formation of the powerful Gang of Four and her influence during the Cultural Revolution which eventually led to her persecution after Mao’s death.
Jiang spent a lot of time on her own as a child and it has been reported that her father apparently wanted a son and her mother spent more time with her various boyfriends than with Jiang, leaving her to play in her own private world. This would later lead to Jiang’s choice of careers, acting. When she became a professional actress she changed her name for the first time from Li Shumeng to her stage name, Lan Ping. She was a fairly well-known actress in China at the time and had appeared in good number of different plays and even films. Even so, at the age of twenty three she left behind the life of an actress to join in on the revolution. To do this she went to Yan’an to the Chinese Communist Party headquarters, and it was there that she met Mao Zedong.
Before becoming an actress, the young girl married right away to a wealthy business man, but decided that the kind of cloistered life of a wife was not something that she was interested in. She left this marriage, but before long found herself married a second time to Yu Qiwei, but that marriage would also end in failure. By the time she met and married Mao it would be the third marriage for each of them. Originally when she and Mao were married he was still technically married to his second wife, He Zizhen, so Jiang had to work to keep their marriage a secret and to agree to only appear as Mao’s escort until the predicament was brought to some form of closure.
In the beginning Jiang was always present with Mao and appeared to be a good confident and helpful figure for the great Chinese leader, but she really had no large political activities of her own until she got into the Ministry of Culture in the mid 1950’s. She remained in this position until Mao placed her in the position of deputy director of his new pet project, the Central Cultural Revolution Group, in 1966. This propelled her status forward to that of a serious political contender within just a few months. Just three years later in 1969, Jiang was a seated member of the Politburo, and had already established the alliances that would later be better known as the Gang of Four.
Members of the Gang of Four included Jiang Qing, Wang Hongwen, yao Wenyuan, and Zhang Chunqiao, and they were responsible for much of the rioting and excesses of the Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution. Mao had begun the Red Guard as a way to try and regain some of his lost power back from Deng Xiaoping and Liu Shaoqi, calling for the Cultural Revolution as a way to stop revisionists and intellectuals from within the party and telling young students and workers that they were going to help solidify China’s socialist republic. Jiang used this opportunity to push the dislike of the Red Guards onto other political figures and officials within the government that she considered to be a threat to her and Mao’s position.
By the time that Liu Shaoqi had been driven form all of his government positions in October of 1968, Jiang and the Gang of Four wielded extreme political power as Chairman Mao gave them his complete faith and support. Within just five years all four members of this group would have highly powerful seats within the Politburo after the 1973 Tenth Party Congress.
Jiang also continued to keep up her work within the cultural side of affairs as she began to work on plays and operas, directing those that she deemed to have an important revolutionary message that would serve well to transcend and transform Chinese culture into more of the example of what she and Mao envisioned it to be. Reportedly she went to a little bit of excess in this, and according to her critics replaced many well known and respected works for with those that were filled with Maoist revolutionary images. It’s also been said that she helped to create the Eight Model Plays. However, she was not always considered to be particularly fond of all of the artistic community as she would later be charged with hiring forty men to portray Red Guards and to go into the homes of writers, actors, and artists and destroy their property in an attempt to find and destroy any material which related to Jiang’s earlier career as an actress and performer that she wanted to keep hidden.
After Liu Shaoqi left power Mao had named his predecessor from within the party, Lin Biao. However, after Lin reportedly attempted to end Mao’s life and later died in a mysterious plane crash while attempting to flee the country Jiang turned on him publicly during a campaign known as Criticize Lin, Criticize Confucius. However, Jiang began to overstep her boundaries when she started a public campaign against Deng Xiaoping, one of the few people who still had a great deal of power within the party besides Mao. It was now the 1970’s, and people in China were beginning to get upset and discontent with the constant problems associated with the Cultural Revolution and they began to take out this anger by showing their displeasure with Jiang. Part of this was probably because she was a public figure that was often seen as attacking others, but much of it was probably also due to the fact that she was an easier target for much of their anger than Chairman Mao.
Whether it was the stress of the position or a naturally occurring problem, Jiang became diagnosed as a hypochondriac some time during this period. It’s been said that she required two different tranquilizers during the course of the day to calm her nerves as well as three different types of sleeping pills to fall asleep. She could not abide by noise and she employed staff members specifically to keep the birds and locusts away from her villa, and she even went so far as to demand that the servants in the house not wear shoes and to move in such a way that their clothes would not rustle.
On September 5th, 1976, Jiang received word that Mao’s health condition had become critical and that his death was now imminent. Jiang returned from a trip she had been on to come to Mao’s side, however, she only stayed with his for a few minutes before leaving and returning to her home. She did not return to his side until Mao’s health deteriorated even further two days later. Jiang then began to exhibit erratic signs of behavior as she began insisting that he be woken up from his rests to have his back rubbed with a special powder she dusted over his skin. When she was told that the dusts coming from such a powder would not be a good idea for Mao’s lungs Jiang reportedly told the nurses that was nothing to worry about and instructed them to follow her example later in the day.
This odd behavior continued the next day when Jiang returned she demanded that they change Mao’s position. Mao had fluid on his lungs and was only capable of breathing when he was on his left side. When this was explained to Jiang she reportedly told him to do as she said anyway. Mao was moved onto his right side and his breathing immediately stopped, turning the Chairman’s face and body blue. The medical team rushed to get Mao placed on a respirator while Jiang left the room. Hours later Mao’s organs failed completely and his life support was terminated. He died in the early morning hours of September 9th, 1976.
Just barely a month after Mao’s death the Gang of Four came under fire for reported attempts at staging military coups in Beijing and Shanghai. Jiang was sent to prison for five years before she was brought back in 1981 to face criminal charges filed against her for making false accusations against innocent people and working to subvert the government’s true power during the Cultural Revolution. The other members of the Gang of Four were also charged with these crimes, but they chose not to try and argue against their guilt. Jiang, however, claimed that she could not be considered guilty of these crimes as she was only obeying the orders of Chairman Mao at all times and his word had been considered law when he was ruling. Her defense, however, did not work and she was sentenced to death in 1981.
Two years later Jiang’s sentence was changed to life in prison. The official word on this was that she would be given more time to think about her actions and to repent for her wrongdoings. This would not come to fruition as Jiang was apparently never repentant or showed the slightest remorse for those criminal acts she was charged with. Years later Jiang was diagnosed with throat cancer, and was eventually released form prison for medical purposes in 1991 after she refused treatment to deal with the problem. After she checked into the hospital under the pseudonym Li Runqling, Jiang reportedly hung herself in her bathroom on May 14th, 1991. She was seventy seven years old.
Journey to the West
Journey to the West is one of China’s most popular novels. One of the four classical novels of China, it was published during the Ming dynasty around 1590. It was first published anonymously, and no author ever claimed to have written it. However, most evidence points to Wu Chengen as the writer. In some Western translations, it is simply called Monkey because much of the story focused on the Monkey King.
Context and Themes of the Novel
In 629, the monk Xuanzang left Chang’an for India. His mission was to retrieve Buddhist scriptures to translate into Chinese because he felt the current translations were of too poor a quality to be useful. Assisted by other Buddhists, he eventually reached India in a year. He then traveled through the country for thirteen years visiting Buddhist sites and studying at the university at Nalanda. He returned to Chang’an in 646, where the emperor placed him in charge of building the Big Wild Goose Pagoda to house the scriptures. He also established several schools and monasteries in addition to writing about his journey. He died in 664.
Although there is no true evidence that the novel was written as a satire, some scholars do believe that it was written to show how weak the current government was. It also has religious overtones—most of the characters and events reference Chinese folklore, mythology, Taoism, and Buddhism. Because of this, Journey to the West can be read on many levels. It contains an adventure story, can be read as an allegory for the pilgrim’s journey, and presents a number of spiritual lessons.
Journey to the West was not the first story based on Xuanzang’s adventures. In fact, some date back to the Southern Song dynasty. However, these stories focused more on Wukong the Monkey King and less on Xuanzang.
The Basic Story
Journey to the West recounts the fictional adventures of a monk and his comrades as they travel to India. The story is based on the travels of Xuanzang, a Buddhist monk who journeyed to India to obtain a selection of Buddhist sutras, or religious texts, during the Tang dynasty. The journey is broken down into 100 chapters which are split into four unequal parts.
Part one, which contains chapters one through seven, is basically a
set up for the main story. It discusses the early adventures of Sun
Wukong, the Monkey King, including his birth, his studies of the Tao,
combat, immortality, and how he learned the 72 polymorphic
transformations. It also covers his dealings with the Jade Emperor that
eventually led to Buddha imprisoning him for five hundred years.
Chapter eight introduces Xuanzang the monk, the main character of the story. Chapters eight through twelve give us information about him and about his quest, given to him from Buddha, to retrieve the sutras from India.
The third section, the longest, contains chapters 13 through 99. These chapters are mostly episodic, recounting the adventures Xuanzang has while journeying to the west and how he meets his three companions. They battle demons, legendary monsters, and humans overcome by greed while always moving towards India.
Xuanzang and company reach India in chapter 87, and they continue to have fantastical adventures until chapter 99. There, their journey of fourteen years ends, and the living Buddha presents Xuanzang the sutras. In chapter 100, they return to China. They are each rewarded with a post in Heaven for their adventures, and Xuanzan and Sun Wukong attain Buddhahood.
The monk Xuanzang, sometimes called Tripitaka in English versions, is blessed by the Bodhisattva Kwan Yin. She arranges for him to meet his three protectors. In return for assisting Xuanzang, the three redeem themselves for their various sins. They and Xuanzang also rescue a number of people along the way, earning a reputation for themselves. Xuanzang attracts many monsters and other enemies because his flesh is said to grant immortality to any who eat it. His good looks also attract a number of female enemies and admirers.
Sun Wukong, the Monkey King, is perhaps the most famous character from Journey to the West. He was born from a rock on the Flower Fruit Mountain and studied for many years to learn a variety of techniques and abilities. After tricking his way into Heaven and causing much trouble, the Jade Emperor begged Buddha to deal with the mischievous Monkey King. Buddha took Wukong and sealed him within a mountain for 500 years. He was only released with Xuanzang made him his disciple and bodyguard.
Wukong’s two main items are the ruyi-jingo-bang, a magical staff that can shrink to the size of a needle or expand to a huge rod, and the band placed on his head by Kwan Yin. He won the rod, originally a pillar of stone, by tricking the East Sea Dragon King, who did not believe Wukong could lift the 13,500 pound pillar. Wukong did not, on the other hand, willingly take the head band. Instead, Kwan Yin placed on it him to that Xuanzang could control Wukong’s behavior. By chanting a spell, Xuanzang can tighten the head band until Wukong obeys him.
Zhu Bajie, also called Pigsy or Pig, was an immortal who was banished to earth for flirting with the moon goddess. Due to a mistake with the Reincarnation Wheel, he was accidentally reborn to a mother pig. This made him half-human, half-pig. However, he still desired women, and he attempted to take a human woman as his wife by disguising himself as a man. When the villagers discovered this, only Xuanzang and Wukong’s intervention allowed Zhu Bajie to live.
Zhu Bajie can transform into thirty-six other forms, can travel on floating clouds, and carries an iron rake. He is very strong, although not as strong as Wukong, and has exceptional fighting skills under water.
The final companion to join Xuanzang is Sha Wujing, who is often called Sandy in English translations.
Translations and Modern Adaptations
The first popular translation of Journey to the West in English was Arthur Waley’s Monkey: A Folk-Talk of China. However, this 1942 translation only covered 30 chapters of the story. In 1955, W.J.F. Jenner translated the entire novel into English. This was followed by Anthony C. Yu’s English version of the entire four volumes in 1977.
Many different media adaptations of the story have also appeared over the years. Several stage musicals have been launched, including one in 2007. Many different film versions have also been created. Some are very faithful to the story, while others, such as 2008’s The Forbidden Kingdom with Jackie Chan and Jet Li, are more loosely based on the story. Many television, anime, and manga series have also been produced, including the very popular Dragon Ball series, which is loosely based on the story. BBC even created an animated two minute advertisement for their coverage of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Finally, the story has also been used as the basic for video games, including Westward Journey, a huge online role-playing game in China that reached over 83 million subscribers.
One of the most popular traditional Chinese games is Mahjong. While traditional Mahjong is played with four players, the Western world’s version is a solitary game. To play Mahjong well, one must have skill, create a strategy, and calculate moves. Luck can also be a factor in the game. Mahjong is often played as a gambling game, although it isn’t always. In the traditional version of the game, players are dealt between thirteen and sixteen tiles (how many depends on the version being played). Each turn, a player draws a tile and discards a tile. The goal is to make either four or five melds and one pair, also called a head. To win, one must draw a new tile or discard a tile to complete their hand.
Many classify Mahjong as a domino type game because it is played with hard tiles (usually made out of plastic). However, Mahjong tiles are actually more like playing cards, and the game is played in a way similar to rummy.
History of Mahjong
No one knows exactly who created Mahjong. One legend says that Confucius developed Mahjong around 500 BC, but most agree that this is just a story. The myth says that Confucius developed the game while traveling through China spreading what would become Confucianism. This story says that the three dragon tiles represent the three main virtues Confucius stressed: the red tile for China; the green for prosperity; and the while for sincerity and benevolence. The myth is also built on the fact that Confucius loved birds—the word Mahjong can be translated as sparrow.
Historians, however, believe that Mahjong more than likely began as madiao, a card game that was played with 40 cards. These cards were divided into four suits numbered one through nine. The four extra cards each featured a different flower. Today’s Mahjong tiles include three suits of one through nine and four flower tiles.
Even though scholars agree Mahjong is probably based on this card game, there is no agreement on the inventor of Mahjong. Some claim it was invented by military officers as a way of passing the time during the Taiping Rebellion. Others believe that Shanghai nobles invented the game in the 1870s. Still other scholars have suggested it originated in the 1850s in Ningpo.
Mahjong was a popular game until 1949. The People’s Republic of China launched the Cultural Revolution that declared that the Four Olds (anything related to old China) were to be outlawed. They also declared that all gambling activities were corrupt (they were connected to capitalism) and were to be banned. Mahjong was considered one of these gambling activities. However, after the ban was relaxed, Mahjong once again became popular. Today, it is enjoyed in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and around the world.
Mahjong Outside of China
Mahjong was first introduced to the Western world in 1895 when anthropologist Stewart Culin mentioned it in a paper he published. This was followed by many other written accounts of the game, including discussion of it in French and Japanese publications. The first American Mahjong set was created in 1920 by Abercrombie & Fitch, and it instantly became a hit in New York. The company began importing as many Chinese Mahjong sets as possible, and they sold over 12,000 of them. Joseph Park Babcock quickly published his Rules of Mah-Jongg to explain many different variations of the game, including a simplified version. However, his rules were mostly forgotten after the initial Mahjong fad passed.
At the height of its popularity in the 1920s, the Mahjong fad incorporated more than just playing the game. It was especially popular with women. On Mahjong night, the whole room would be decorated with paper lanterns and other Chinese decorations, and the players would often dress in Chinese outfits. Some songs were even written about playing Mahjong.
Over the decade, Mahjong rules started to change, and by the 1930s, American Mahjong had been created. The rules had been revised a number of times, and Babcock’s rules were mostly unused. The National Mah Jongg League was founded in 1937 and created a standard American Mahjong rule set that was published in their official rulebook. Besides the different rules, the American version of the game did not normally involve gambling.
While the American rules are still quite popular, the classic Chinese rules are also often used. They were reintroduced to mainstream players in 1977 when Alan D. Millington wrote The Complete Book of Mah-jongg. It is considered the authoritative English rule book for the traditional Chinese version of the game.
There are many different Mahjong organizations in existence today, and the game’s rules, popularity, and even tile sets vary depending on the country and region. The classical game is much more popular in Asian countries than in the West, however. In Japan, for example, online Mahjong games or electronic Mahjong games are popular, especially in gambling halls. The game also appears frequently in movies made in Hong Kong, where a sub-genre of film called Mahjong movie has even been created.
Variations of Mahjong
There are a large variety of rules for Mahjong. Sometimes, players only go by one rule set, but sometimes, they know two or three variations of the game.
The classic Chinese version of Mahjong is the oldest. Today, it has mostly been replaced with simpler versions, although there are some loyal players who still only play the original version.
Cantonese Mahjong, first played in Hong Kong, is the most common variety of the game played today. It is close to the classical form, although it has some minor scoring changes.
In Taiwan, they have a version of the game that is played with 16 tiles instead of the traditional 13. It also includes various bonuses for the dealer and other changes.
Sichuan Mahjong is a fast version of the game that does not use some of the tiles. It is becoming quite popular in southern China.
The American form of Mahjong, created in the 1930s, used several different tiles and rules. It is the most different form from the original, and some even believe it has evolved into a separate game.
Malaysia Mahjong uses some of the same rules as Cantonese Mahjong. However, there are four different tiles used in the game and some different scoring rules.
There are many other variants that are played in different countries around the world. Each often has its own scoring method or extra/different tiles.
While the classic Chinese rules were used for competitions for years, the rules were changed in 1998 in an effort to shift the focus of the game away from gambling. The China State Sports Commission created a set of rules that are now used for all tournaments and competitions. They include rules designed to make Mahjong “healthy”: no gambling, smoking, or drinking is allowed. Since the Chinese actually consider Mahjong a sport, various Mahjong teams have been formed as well. The new competition rules contain 81 different combinations of patterns, including some from Japan.
Some Mahjong critics do not believe these rules will become very popular outside of tournament play because so many people are already familiar with other rules.
In fact, these new rules were debuted internationally in a tournament in Tokyo in 2002.
One hundred different players from around the world participated in the tournament. Mai Hatsune, a woman from Japan, won. In 2005, the Open European Mahjong Championship began, and again, a Japanese player (Masato Chiba) won. The second European tournament was held in 2007, and Martin Jacobsen from Denmark won. Since then, tournaments have been held in the United States and other countries.
Many of these tournaments and championships are hosted by the World Mahjong Organisation. It was founded in 2006 in Beijing and hosts a number of different competitions throughout the world.
While Mahjong can be played with a set of cards, it is generally played with tiles. Tile sets usually include the 144 common tiles plus a set of bone or chip tiles that are used for scoring and indicating the Prevailing Wind. Some also include racks to hold the tiles. Exactly which tiles are included vary from place to place, but nearly all sets feature at least 136 tiles, and some include more than the standard 144. The tiles are divided into three types: suits, honor, and flowers.
There are three different suits in Mahjong, each with a tile numbered one through nine. The Stones suit features small circles on the tiles. Each stone represents a can, or the traditional Chinese coin.
The bamboo suit contains small bamboo pieces on each tile. Each of these sticks represents one hundred coins. The number one tile of the bamboo suit is slightly different. It features a bird sitting on a piece of bamboo.
The Character suit, which represented ten thousand coins on each tile, features the traditional Chinese character for each number.
There are two different types of honor tiles. The first four represent the wind. There is one honor tile for each cardinal direction: north, east, south, and west.
There are also three dragon tiles. These are red, white, and green. The dragon tiles were originally connected to the imperial exam. According to some texts, the red tile, which usually has the character for China on it, denotes that a person passed the imperial exam. The green tile represents money or prosperity, and the white tile shows that a person acts virtuous. The white tile generally has a border of some sort (usually blue) to denote it from the blank replacement tiles that are sometimes included in a Mahjong set.
The flower tiles consist of the plum, bamboo, chrysanthemum, and orchid tiles. These tiles are often option and are usually worth bonus points. Sometimes, they are replaced by tiles representing the four seasons.
To play Mahjong, first players place all the tiles upside down and shuffle them. Then each player rolls a number of dice (usually two or three), and the highest roller is the dealer. The dealer is given the east wind. The player to his/her right is the south wind, the next player is the west wind, and the fourth player is the north wind. The winds will change each round if the dealer loses.
The Prevailing Wind is the east wind for the first hand. The Prevailing Wind changes each time the dealer loses.
After the dealer has been selected, players stack the tiles in rows two tiles high in front of them. If 144 tiles are used, each player has 18 stacks. The dealer then rolls three dice, and these numbers are used to decide which row belongs to which player. Once all tiles are divided up, the board is set.
Players draw from the stack of tiles left over from dealing, and gameplay goes clockwise. On each turn, a player draws a tile and discards a tile. It is possible for a player to be dealt a hand that wins automatically, and if that’s the case, the player announced this before the game begins. However, this very rarely occurs.
On his or her turn, a player first draws from the wall (the remaining tiles) and then discards to the table. While players do not have to, generally each player says which tile they are discarding. Some rules state that players have to place their discarded tiles in a row, while other rules have players place their discarded tiles upside down. Players should always have the same number of tiles they started with, so every turn requires players to both draw and discard.
One interesting superstition associated with discarding tiles is that, if three players have discarded the west tile, the fourth will not discard the tile. This is because, according to Chinese myth, when all four players discard the west tile, they will all have bad luck or even die.
When the flower tiles are drawn, the player immediately replaced them by drawing another tile. They must be immediately played on the table. The rules regarding flower tiles vary, with some rules stating flowers are worth more points than other rules, and in some, if a player has all four flower tiles, he or she wins automatically. In American Mahjong, flower tiles can be melded and are not played immediately. They are, more or less, used as a second set of honor tiles.
American Mahjong and a few other variations also have joker tiles that can be used as any other tile. Sometimes, the flower tiles count as jokers. The rules surrounding the scoring of joker tiles also vary from rule set to rule set.
The key to winning Mahjong is to create melds. To make a meld, one can either draw the required tile to complete it or bid for a discarded tile. While this can help win the game, the drawback is that the player must immediately show all other players the completed meld. This means that the other players will now know what type of hand that player is making and may not discard tiles they know will help him or her.
When a player makes a meld off of a discard, they place that meld face up and then discard a tile. Generally, players can make three types of melds, although there are some variants that allow more.
The first type of meld is called either a pong or a pung. It consists of three identical tiles of any type except flower tiles (although American Mahjong allows melds of flower tiles).
A kong meld is made up of four identical tiles. All other melds contain three tiles, so when a kong meld is created, it must be immediately declared. A discarded tile may be used to create a kong meld, or the meld may be formed when the tiles are dealt. A player can also turn a pung meld into a kong meld by drawing the fourth required tile. If that happens, the player may draw another tile in order to keep the required number of tiles in his or her hand.
The chow meld is made up of three numbered tiles in order. A chow meld can only be made off of the discard of the player to the left unless the chow meld allows the player to win. In that case, the player can bid on any other player’s discard. In American Mahjong, the chow meld is not allowed.
If two or more players bid on a discarded tile, the player who can use the tile to win gets the tile. Then the player who can use the tile to make a pong or kong wins, and finally, the player who can use the tile to make a chow can claim the tile. If two or more players can win or created a pong/kong, the player closest to the discarding player’s right wins.
Winning the Game
A player wins by forming a standard Mahjong hand. This contains a specific number of melds: four if players have 13 tiles each, five if they have 16 tiles, and one pair. In some variations, the melds have to add up to a specific number of points as well. Players may win from either drawing the needed tile or bidding on another player’s discard.
The dealer will continue as the dealer if he or she wins. If not, the player to the right of the dealer becomes the new dealer and his/her wind becomes the new prevailing wind. Once all four players have been the dealer (i.e., the prevailing wind returns to east), then a round has been completed. A full game of Mahjong is finished when four rounds have been completed. Because of its association with death, it is considered unlucky to end a game on the western round. Likewise, one should never touch a player’s shoulders during the game as this can bring bad luck, too.
The game results in a draw if no one can create the necessary melds needed to win. In some variations, the game wind then changes. If a player has created a kong, he or she may become the dealer.
Scoring in Mahjong
There are a number of ways to score win Mahjong. When Mahjong was played for money, players would agree on how much money each point was worth before the game began. While most variations of Mahjong are played in a similar way, scoring is often very different. Players generally agree on how points will be scored before the game begins, especially if players know different scoring systems. Several attempts to create a standardize scoring system have never met with much success.
Mandate of Heaven
The Mandate of Heaven is the idea that Heaven gives rulers the right to govern the people. This traditional Chinese concept has been used to both justify a ruler’s harsh edicts and rebellions to overthrow rulers whom the people feel have lost the Mandate. These rulers, the people say, have lost Heaven’s favor and, therefore, no longer have the right to govern. The Mandate of Heaven was first used to justify the first Zhou emperor’s right to the throne.
There is no limitation on the Mandate of Heaven—a ruler may rule for a year or for decades depending on his or her performance. There is also no requirement for noble blood—emperors, especially those who overthrew corrupt dynasties, were often of common birth.
The First Use of the Mandate of Heaven
The earliest record of the Mandate of Heaven comes from records written by the Duke of Zhou, the younger brother of the first Zhou king. Many scholars believe he came up with the concept of the Mandate of Heaven, although there is no real proof that he did. The Zhou Empire used the Mandate as a way of justifying the destruction of the Shang dynasty. The Zhou proclaimed that the Shang rulers had misused their power and, therefore, had lost Heaven’s favor.
The Shang themselves had used the concept of divine right to justify their rule, although they had claimed their family was descended from the gods themselves. However, they and their texts claimed that the gods and other denizens of Heaven were actively interfering in the lives of mortals. The Mandate of Heaven, however, changed this claim to one that simply stated the emperor had Heaven’s favor.
For the first time, the common people had a standard they could hold their rulers to. No longer was the emphasis on where the ruler came from—anyone could gain Heaven’s favor. If the people suffered too much, they took it as a sign that their ruler had lost the right to rule. If their rebellion failed, it was an obvious sign to the rest of the population that the rebels were mistaken and that Heaven still favored the emperor.
Partially due to the division of the social classes, the Shang rulers and upper classes began accumulating wealth at the expense of the other classes. They constantly abused the peasants, especially, and by the end of the Shang dynasty, the entire government was corrupt. Zhou Wu organized his revolt against the king based on the fact that he and his ministers were acting immorally and committing actions that went against Heaven.
Justification of Rebellion Through the Centuries
While the Zhou may have been cleaver in creating the Mandate of Heaven to justify their takeover of the empire, they had little idea that years later, the Qin family would take up the concept and use it to overthrow the Zhou. This cemented the concept of the Mandate of Heaven firmly into Chinese culture, and from then on, it would be cited often by rebellious forces.
The Song dynasty even went out of their way to point out how the Mandate of Heaven applied to them. Their dynasty took place following the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, during which there was no clear ruler of all of China. To counter this, historian/scholar Xue Juzheng wrote Five Dynasties History, a text that attempted to show how each of the five dynasties of the period had, at some point, held or met the criteria for holding the Mandate of Heaven. He continued to show how each had, later, lost their right to rule, thus justifying the Song’s right to rule.
The Mandate of Heaven in Other Cultures
Other cultures have similar philosophical concepts like the Mandate of Heaven, although none are exactly like it. The Divine Right of Kings, a concept developed in Europe, gives unconditional power to the king. Unlike the Mandate, however, the Divine Right of Kings gives the people no right to ever overthrown the ruler, saying that he was divinely put on the throne and cannot be removed.
The emperors of Japan claim direct descent from the goddess Amaterasu and so, therefore, have the divine right to rule. They have no need for a Mandate or other decree, although they have drawn on the language used in the Mandate as a way of justifying their rule.
The principal behind the One-China policy is that all of China (including the mainland and the outlying islands of Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan) is in fact a single country. It is this foundation that is at the root of the relationship that now exists between the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China (PRC) that exists solely on Taiwan. The One-China policy is a firm belief of the People’s Republic of China and this belief has caused a lot of grief for the Republic of China (ROC) over the years. One reason for this distress is that the PRC refuses to cooperate or have relationships with any country that recognizes the sovereignty of the ROC.
Another problem that arises is that anytime there are negotiations between the PRC and the ROC, the ROC must be willing to recognize the One-China policy. This has caused a lot of problems because in reverse, the ROC maintains the One-China policy to the extent that it should still be the sovereign government ruling mainland China. Also in reverse of the PRC, any country that wishes to maintain a diplomatic relationship with the ROC must concede that it is the legitimate government of China. However, there are a lot more twists and turns to the story.
For example, in the Republic of China they do not accept that the PRC maintains control over Taiwan. They agree on the fact that there is one China, however, they refuse to allow the idea of the People’s Republic of China as being equated with China itself. This is where it can get very confusing. There are two fractions within the Taiwan government that think differently on the subject. As stated previously, the Pan-Blue Coalition parties agree on the principal of one China, but do not agree with the PRC rule. The Pan-Green Coalition parties disagree on the primary foundations of this because they see Taiwan as a completely separate country from China. The differing views of the two groups of parties vying for control in Taiwan have often caused some slight disagreements between the PRC and the ROC when attempting to negotiate any form of settlement between the two.
The People’s Republic of China views things in a completely different
light and will not even allow it to be referred to as anything except
Chinese Taipei because this is the only name that does not hold forth
the idea that there are two separate Chinas as Taiwan would be
indicative of its own country and the Republic of China makes it seem as
if there are two individual Chinas. While the PRC will not allow trade
with anyone who does not accept their sovereignty over Taiwan
officially, most countries have tried to advert this statement by
replacing it with something that acknowledges their understanding of the
arrangement without coming to any preconceived notions about the claim
ROC has over Taiwan.
While the PRC has long tried to use this exclusion of recognition for Taiwan in its trade agreements, many countries have found a way around this as well. It is seen as the norm for countries like the United States and Canada who want to have a relationship with both PRC and the ROC to allow private companies to set up shop in Taiwan so that they can represent the country’s interests. These trade offices allow the countries in question to have an established presence in the country and to have some form of relationship with the ROC government without having to directly disobey the One-China policy that the PRC holds to be true.
In fact, after the Chinese Civil War, when the ROC was moved to Taiwan, the United States government, as well as many others, refused to acknowledge the PRC and instead dealt directly with the ROC. By doing this, they acknowledged that the ROC was the legitimate government of China. However, by the mid 1970’s everything had changed as mainland China grew to be a larger industrial power. In order to deal with them on a trade basis, President Jimmy Carter officially broke of the United States’ recognition and relationship with the ROC. This resulted in the Taiwan Relations Act, passed by Congress so that it could continue to keep up a formal relationship with the country without fully acknowledging it as a separate entity from mainland China. This was followed up by President Ronald Reagan who adopted the Six Assurances in 1982. This was important because the sixth thing on the list was the fact that the United States refused to give any sort of formal acknowledgement of China’s control over Taiwan.
There are other countries, however, that pledge allegiance only to the Republic of China and refuse to acknowledge the role of the PRC in the government of China. In fact, of the one hundred and ninety two members on the United Nations, only one (Bhutan) refuses to acknowledge either government. The rest either acknowledge the PRC or the ROC, depending on where their allegiance lies.
For right now it seems that the PRC is content with leaving Taiwan alone as long as the ROC does not try to express its sovereignty as outright independent of the rest of China. They have stated on previous occasions that any attempt by the Republic of China to try and divide themselves from the rest of China would be met with military force. While this may seem like a contradiction, it is currently the fact that both sides consider themselves to be the true governments of China that is actually keeping them bound. If the ROC were to denounce the PRC and declare itself a separate China that had nothing to do with the mainland, or if they were to opt to declare that Taiwan was a country to and of itself, then military action would most likely occur. However, since both sides still believe that they have some stake in each other, the situation will most likely remain in the status it has been in since 1949 when Chiang Kai-shek and the ROC party fled China.
In recent years the PRC has discussed openly the policy of One China
with Different Interpretations. This means that while both sides can
agree that there is truly only one China, there is some flexibility
allowed as to exactly what this statement entails. For right now it is
uncertain as to how the One-China policy will eventually come to be
seen. It could be that the ROC is eventually absorbed back into the
PRC, or maybe there will be some acceptance of a policy that could set
aside the fact that there may only be one country, but that there are
two separate states within that country each with their own controlling
Pai gow is a traditional Chinese game played with Chinese dominoes. Traditionally, money is bet on the game, although not always. It is played in many casinos in China, both sanctioned and unsanctioned, and is also played in casinos in the US, Australia, and Canada. The game’s history can be traced to the Song dynasty, although the game may have existed before then. While Pai gow generally means this domino game, it is also sometimes used to refer to pai gow poker, a card game that is based on the domino game.
Playing the Game
A full set of Chinese dominos are turned upside down and shuffled. Then they are stacked into eight stacks, each with four tiles. These stacks are arranged into the woodpile. After the tiles are arranged, players make their bets.
Each player then receives four tiles that they arrange into two pairs. The pair with the lowest value is the front hand, while the pair with the highest is the rear hand. If the player’s front hand and rear hand beat the dealer’s front and rear hand, the player wins. If both the dealer’s pairs beat the player’s pairs, then the player loses. If one pair wins and one loses, the player pushes, or gets back his or her bet. Pai gow is usually played with seven players, each competing against the dealer, not each other.
Scoring in pai gow is figured by adding together the total number of pips in a pair and then dropping the tens digit (if you have two dominoes that each have pips that add up to eight, for example, you would add them up to 16 and then drop the 1, leaving you a score of 6). The highest score you can get, then, is 9 (in fact, “pai gow” means “make nine”). If you have two dominoes that add up to 9 by themselves (such as one with four pips and one with five), you also score the highest score possible. It is possible to score zero by having a total of 10 pips.
There are several ways a hand can actually score more than 9 points. The double-one and double-six dominos are called the Day and Teen dominoes. If either is used with an domino totaling 8 pips, then the player scores ten instead of zero. This combination is known as a Gong. If either the Day or Teen is used with a 9, the player scores 11 points and makes a Wong. However, if the Day or Teen dominoes are used with another domino that equals 10 points, the total is only worth 2 instead of 12.
There are also wild card dominoes called Gee Joon tiles. They are the dominoes with pips divided 1-2 (1 pip on one end, 2 pips on the other) and 2-4. They can count as either a 3 or a 6, whichever the player needs to score more points.
There are 32 different dominoes in a set of Chinese dominoes, and they can be arranged to make 16 different pairs—eleven pairs are made up if identical dominoes, with five of them containing two dominoes that are given the same score but look different (such as pairs made of Gee Joon tiles). A pair always beats a non-pair regardless of the pip value.
When the player and dealer both have a pair, the highest valued pair wins. However, this is not always determined by adding up the pips. Instead, it’s determined by which pair is more aesthetic, a list that must be memorized or written down to remember. The Gee Joon tiles, the Days, the Teens, and the red eights are the highest pairs in the game. The lowest pairs include mismatched fives, sevens, eights, and nines. However, these low pairs are still worth more than non-pairs.
While it rarely occurs, it is possible for the dealer and the player to tie. When this happens, the winner is declared by comparing the dominoes. The one with the higher value on the aesthetics list wins. However, the Gee Joon dominoes are considered to have no value when comparing pairs for ties. Also, if both player and dealer have zero points, the dealer wins regardless of the aesthetic value of the pairs. In the very rare event that both hands are identical, the dealer always wins.
The main strategy to use when playing pai gow is to aim to get the best front hand and rear hand possible. Players can arrange their four tiles in three different combinations, although sometimes these combinations are the same. Aiming to score 9 points isn’t always the best strategy since the special dominoes can be worth more. Likewise, sometimes it’s possible to make better aesthetic pairs that are actually worth less points. Players must try to make the best hand possible in regards to both winning the bet outright and breaking the tie in the player’s favor. Some superstitions also influence traditional Chinese players’ pairs.
Pai gow is mostly played in China, and many outside of the country and the gambling circuit do not know of the game. However, it has appeared in several novels and movies, including the hit Ocean’s 13 and the classic Big Trouble in Little China.
Qin Shi Huang
These tests were conducted in Imperial China as a means of determining who would be allowed to work within the government’s bureaucracy. This method of testing lasted for nearly thirteen hundred years and was abolished at the end of the Qing Dynasty in 1905. The method of testing people to allow them to enter into government was started in 605 AD and gave ordinary citizens in China the ability to become high ranking government officials instead of merely relying on the aristocracy to rule the government.
This means that if one were to pass the imperial examinations, then any suitable male in China would find that there were opportunities open to them that had not been available before. Unlike many of the other caste orientated societies that were around during this time, there are numerous examples of individuals throughout the long history of the Imperial examinations that used the system to their benefit and were able to overcome the lower class status which they had been born to. There were times when various emperors did not adhere to the code of testing established by the Imperial examinations and there were many government posts which were either sold or given away as favors. However, these periods of history did not tend to last long as the morale of the workers and the people would decline and corruption would inevitably increase.
Even though only about five percent of those men who took the tests eventually passed and earned a position within the government, the hope that they could a part of something larger, combined with the possibility that was offered to them through the examinations meant that they were more likely to be involved in the process. It helped to make sure that the majority of Chinese men were interested in continuing to be a part of the government and to help the culture unite under the government. There was also no punishment for failing the test as the majority of those who took it and did not pass were not chastised and their social standing remained intact.
The tests were completely abandoned in 1905, just six short years before the fall of the Qing Dynasty and the development of the Republic of China. During this time there was another examination system established that was known as the Examination Yuan, however, there was no real time to implement this ideal as China soon found itself involved in global conflicts and the Japanese invasion during the beginning of the Second Sino-Japanese War. Examination Yuan procedures began again in 1947 under the Kuomintang administration after the end of the Second World War. But, when the communists rose to power in 1949 and the government fled to Taiwan they took the examinations with them, where they are still in place as one of the parts of the five different branches of government for the Republic of China in Taiwan.
Romance of the Three Kingdoms
The Romance of the Three Kingdoms is one of the four great classical novels of China. It was written in the fourteenth century by Luo Guanzhong and is based upon the events that occurred during the Three Kingdoms period of Chinese history that began in 169 and lasted until 280. There are 120 chapters to the novel, and its English word count is over 800,000 words, making it quite a lengthy piece of writing.
Before being put in written form, the stories from the Three Kingdoms period were told orally. In many, the characters became nearly immortal or had supernatural powers. However, while the characters were not exactly true to life, the events the stories were based on did actually happen (minus any supernatural aspects, of course). The Confucian principles and values that the novel reflected are quite obvious today. Those who are loyal to their superiors and to the Han dynasty are good, while those who are not are evil.
While Luo Guanzhong was the first to collect the full Romance of the Three Kingdoms as we know it today, several other authors did write down some of the stories from the period. Most scholars do accept that Luo Guanzhong lived during the late Yuan and early Ming dynasties, although some believe the text was written more towards the middle of the Ming period. Most do agree, though, that Luo Guanzhong combined historical texts with some of the stories being told, creating a work that is, while historical, also fictional in many regards.
The Romance of the Three Kingdoms that we have today is not the exact version written by Luo Guanzhong. During the Qing dynasty in the 1660s, for example, the text was edited down to 120 chapters, and about 150,000 characters were removed. Much of this was to make the narrative flow better. This version is considered by literary critics to be much better than the original.
Luo Guanzhong drew on several different sources for his novel, including the Records of Three Kingdoms, the A New Account of Tales of the World, and several chronologies. He also incorporated some of the stories from the many different fictional plays based on the three kingdoms. However, much of the novel is historically accurate. Historians generally believe somewhere around 75 percent of the text reflects actual events as they occurred.
However, Luo Guanzhong was very obviously not unbiased. Romance of the Three Kingdoms is written for Ming dynasty readers; thus, Liu Bei and Shu were made the heroes, while Cao Cao, Sun Quan, and the kingdoms of Wei and Wu were shown as the enemy and often ridiculed.
Themes of the Story
Romance of the Three Kingdoms has a number of themes, including showcasing what an ideal ruler should be (in the form of Liu Bei), a traditional hero verses villain story (Liu Bei verses Cao Cao), and what happens when a ruler becomes corrupt and cruel. Some of these themes may not have been present in the oral versions of the story. Some were added by Luo Guanzhong to appease the ruling class of the Ming dynasty, especially the emperor. The text also contains some stories related to Buddhism, including that of a Buddhist monk.
The Novel in Pop Culture
Romance of the Three Kingdoms is one of the most influential stories
in Chinese history, and as such, it appears in a number of forms.
Cantonese operas, Japanese manga and anime, musicals, movies, and
television series have all been inspired by the story. The story is
also the basis for numerous video games, including a Romance of the
Three Kingdoms series that includes nearly a dozen games.
Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove
The Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove is the term given to a group of seven Taoist Qingtan scholars, musicians, and writers who banded together in the third century. While Chinese legends often have the seven working together, in reality, the group and its exploits are most likely fictitious. The seven individual members, however, are all historical figures and did exist, although their activities are often exaggerated. The seven sages included Xi Kang, Liu Ling, Ruan Xian, Ruan Ji, Shan Tao, Xiang Siu, and Wang Rong.
When the Jin dynasty came to power, Taoists were persecuted and even killed. Cao Wei offered protection to the sages, and under his banner, they often wrote poems criticizing the Jin, created Taoist texts, and conducted alchemy experiments. Not all of the sages held the same beliefs, but all worked to spread Taoism. They themselves became the subject of several writings, including the Shishuo Xinyu.
Stories say the seven sages wanted to escape the politics and intrigue that surrounded the various courts during the Three Kingdoms period. They supposedly gathered in the bamboo grove belonging to Xi Kang in Shanyang. There, they exchanged work and wrote on enjoying the simple life. They drank ale, celebrated nature, and enjoyed a life free of the courts. Some stories even say they engaged in sexual acts with each other—one story says that one of the sage’s wife accidentally came across Ruan Ji and Xi Kang making love and was quite impressed by their acts.
The sages served as an inspiration for artists and writers who wished to criticize the various politics of the Three Kingdoms period. The sages soon became a sign of anarchy, and many sought out their wisdom. However, the sages soon ran afoul of the courts, and Xi Kang was even executed for speaking out against them.
In later dynasties, the seven sages and what they stood for influenced various Chinese novels, music, and art.
Shanghai Solitaire, or Mahjong Solitaire, is what many in the Western world simply call Mahjong. While the game does use the normal Mahjong tile set, it’s only played by one player instead of four. Instead of drawing tiles, the 144 Mahjong tiles are arranged in a pattern. The tiles may be stacked up to four times, and all tiles are stacked face up. The goal of Shanghai Solitaire is to match pairs of open tiles and remove them from the board. When all of the tiles have been removed from the board, the player wins. The game is over if no open tiles can be matched. With online versions of the game, sometimes the remaining tiles can be shuffled if no match is available or the last several moves can be undone.
A tile is considered open if the player can move the tile to the left or right without disturbing any other tile. This means the tile must have an open space on one side of it. In some layouts, this is fairly easy to achieve, but in others, it can be quite difficult. These layouts can look like buildings (castle, pyramid), like animals, zodiac signs, or just random arrangements of tiles. Some electronic versions of Shanghai Solitaire allow players to create their own tile layouts.
The game is traditionally played with standard Mahjong tiles and a wooden frame that holds the layout. However, few players have the wooden frame to hold the layout and, in fact, many players (especially Western players) do not own a Mahjong tile set. Therefore, many play the game on the computer or other electronic device. This eliminates the setup time, allowing the player to get right to the actual game. Many of these programs also allow players to change tile sets, set a time limit to complete the game, reveal the next match if the player can’t find it, and undo a move.
While Shanghai Solitaire is generally played by one player, there is a two-player version. In this version, players work to either make the most pairs, score points, or other objectives. Points are earned by matching two tiles, and bonus points can be earned for matching specific pairs or removing tiles in sequence. Players may also gain extra points for matching flower, season, dragon, and wind tiles.
Shanghai Solitaire was actually created as a computer game in 1981. Brodie Lockard programmed in on the PLATO computer system. Originally named Mah-Jongg, Lockard said the game was based on an ancient Chinese game known as the turtle. This Mah-Jongg game was offered for free for the CDC-721 terminal, and players used the touch screen to select and remove tiles. A new version was released in 1983, although players had to purchase this version.
The game didn’t gain that much popularity, however, until Activision created a new version in 1986. Called Shanghai, this version of the game was for the Apple computer system. Like the first version, Brodie Lockard did the main programming and graphic design. Over 10 million copies of Shanghai were sold, and it was later ported to the PC and other platforms.
Since Shanghai was released, a number of other versions of Shanghai Solitaire have been created. Most use different named to avoid confusing the game with the traditional four player Mahjong. These include The Turtle, Kyodai, and Taipei. Ac Chen, a game for the NeXTStep system and the Nintendo DS, uses pop culture icons and pictures instead of the standard Mahjong tile set.
Microsoft included a version of Shanghai Solitaire in its entertainment pack for Windows 3.0. This version used the name Taipei and has been included in many different versions of Windows. A version called Mahjong Titans is currently available with Windows Vista.
Technology in China
The Chinese have developed a number of different inventions and discovered many scientific principles over the centuries. In fact, the Chinese were the first to observe eclipses, comets, and even supernovae.
Traditional Chinese medicine, which came from Taoist beliefs, included the use of many different herbs and acupuncture. Acupuncture can actually be traced to the 1st millennium BC, and there’s a possibility that it was used even before then. During this time, the Chinese also invented a rudimentary time-keeping device, including the shadow clock. In 2137 BC, the Chinese documented a solar eclipse, the first solar eclipse ever recorded. Around 1000 BC, the abacus was invented, giving the Chinese the ability to calculate mathematic problems more easily. Several centuries later, around 400 BC, the Book of Silk was written. It included information about 29 different comets that the Chinese had observed. Some of the earliest flying machines, including kites and hot air balloons, were also developed in early China.
Around 200 BC, Emperor Qin Shi Huang ordered the Great Wall constructed, which required a number of innovative architectural accomplishments. In fact, after this time, Chinese architecture really wouldn’t change again until the 19th century. The Qin dynasty also created the crossbow, a weapon the Europeans would import, and built the terracotta army to guard Qin Shi Huang after his death.
Zhang Heng, a famous Chinese astronomer and scholar, created a water-powered rotating armillary sphere and contributed many discoveries to astronomy, including listing over 2,500 stars and a hundred constellations. Zhang also built the first seismograph, one of the most accurate seismological detectors ever built.
Following Zhang, engineer Ma Jun (200-265 AD) created an improved version of the loom, built chain pumps to run irrigation, and created a very intricate puppet theatre for the court that was operated by a waterwheel. He also created the South Pointing compass, a very complex device that used gears. This device allows an equal amount of torque to be applied to all wheels of a vehicle and is still used today.
The Four Great Inventions
The four great inventions of ancient China were gunpowder, the compass, paper, and printing. Paper and the printing method were developed during the Tang dynasty, followed by the compass sometime between 20 and 100 AD. Gunpowder first appeared later, around 300 AD, when alchemist Ge Hong discovered that pine resin, saltpeter, and charcoal reacted explosively when combined and heated. Another record of gunpowder’s discovery comes from 850 AD. This record claims gunpowder’s discovery came while alchemists were researching the elixir of immortality.
These four discoveries changed Chinese culture and the world. Gunpowder gave the military a distinct advantage against their enemies, while the compass allowed for Chinese trade, especially ship trade, to advance. Printing and paper made literacy possible, plus impacted record-keeping and the way the government functioned.
The Middle Ages
A huge number of discoveries took place in China during the Middle Ages. matches, cast iron, dry docks, horse collars, the wheelbarrow, the parachute, the use of natural gas, the raised-relief map, the suspension bridge, the pound lock, and the propeller were all invented during this time. Many of these inventions were created during the Tang dynasty, such as wood block printing.
The Middle Ages was known for many advances in other fields . The Materia Medicia was written in 657 AD and documented over 800 different medicinal substances. Clockwork escapement mechanisms and the chain drive were also invented during this time. Liquid mercury was used for the first time in an astronomical clock. Movable type, although it did not replace woodblock printing, was created during the early 1000s.
In the realm of mathematics, Qin Jiushao (1202-1261) proposed the symbol for zero. Previously, the Chinese had simply left a blank space. Yang Hui illustrated the concept that is generally known as Pascal’s Triangle, and Zhu Shijie’s text, although it contained no new ideas for the Chinese, greatly influenced Japanese mathematicians.
Alchemists contributed much to Chinese technology while futilely pursuing the elixir of life. They discovered new alloys, porcelain, and many types of dye, ointment, and other creams. Waterproofing and varnish were discovered in this way and applied to porcelain dishes and other items, creating one of China’s main exports.
During the Song dynasty, the emperor funded several institutions to work on new scientific advances. These advances came in the form of arts, literature, and economic processes. Mints began printing coins, and in 1023, the first paper money was created. The concept of using a drydock to repair ships was proposed by Shen Kuo, who also discovered the concept of true north and built a navigational compass.
Shen Kuo’s contemporary, Su Song, also created a number of inventions, including building a clock tower that used a waterwheel and an escapement mechanism to keep time and to show the movement of the planets. He later went on to write a book on pharmaceutical concepts that touched on subjects such as metallurgy, botany, and zoology.
During the Yuan dynasty, China was under the rule of the Mongols. However, that did not stop innovation. Paper banknotes were mass produced under Kublai Khan’s rule. The use of gunpowder spread from China to the Mongols and Europe, as did the compass. Work between the Chinese and the Arabic world, especially in the realm of astronomy, became standard, with both sides learning from each other.
The Jesuit Contribution to Chinese Science and Technology
During the 16th and 17th centuries, Jesuit missionaries introduced many Western concepts to China. These included advances in calendar-making, hydraulics, geography, mathematics, and astronomy. The Jesuits, likewise, translated the works of Confucius into various European languages, and these translations would influence a number of European thinkers, including Francois Quesnay.
The People’s Republic of China
After the People’s Republic of China was founded in 1949, the major scientific institutions of the country were reorganized according to Communist principles. Scientific research became one of the Four Modernizations in 1975, and many new discoveries and breakthroughs occurred during the 1980s, including nuclear weapons and power, satellite development, and a new type of high-yield rice. This rapid technological growth continues today, and the government continues to place more and more emphasis (and funding) on increasing scientific knowledge.
The 17-Point Agreement for the Liberation of Tibet
The sovereignty of China over Tibet has been a sore spot with the
country ever since Mao and the People’s Republic of China took over
control of the government in 1949. At this time Tibet was mostly
autonomous, and relied very little on any outside influences. The Dalai
Lama was seen as the country’s spiritual and political leader.
However, the delegates of the fourteenth Dalai Lama reached an agreement
with Mao Zedong on May 23rd, 1951, known as the Seventeen Point
Agreement for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet (or Seventeen Point
Agreement for short) which affirmed that China was actually the
sovereign power over the country.
In the Seventeen Point Agreement Tibet agreed to not only allow China to be her sovereign, but also agreed that troops could freely pass through the country’s borders in order to better protect both Tibet and China through the use of force. However, China had agreed that they would not alter the political system as it existed in Tibet and would continue to allow the established government controlled by the Dalai Lama to keep working in his official power without interference.
Since this point in time the agreement has been a sore spot for many who believe that Tibet is an autonomous country which does not fall under communist controlled China. As early as 1952, officials in the Tibetan Cabinet were stating that the population of Tibet did not accept China’s control. They have insisted that the terms of the agreement were only signed because of the duress that the delegates were placed under at the time. Eventually, the Dalai Lama was forced to flee Tibet in 1959, and when he arrived in India he claimed that he had only agreed to the seventeen points under threat of armed attack.
In fact, when the agreement was signed there were twenty thousand Chinese troops at the border of Tibet, and the representatives that had been sent to Beijing to negotiate the treaty were told that they could not communicate with Tibet. Nor were they allowed to suggest changes or ask for any specific demands. While they were not official representatives that had been endowed with any specific powers to accept the agreement, they did so under threat of a military invasion to Tibet. This is why many do not believe that the agreement should be honored as a legally binding entity, even though the Dalai Lama did later acknowledge the acceptance of the terms. The use of force has been one of the largest points of contention for many who support Tibet’s government in exile.
The 2008 Olympic Games
The 2008 Summer Olympic Games were the first to be held by China. Centered in Beijing, the Games of the XXX Olympiad began on August 8th and closed on August 24. Beijing won the right to host the games on July 13, 2001, and the country began preparing for the event almost immediately. Despite criticism by politicians and others, the Chinese games were quite successful. Forty three world records and 132 Olympic records were set, and 87 different countries won a medal, the largest number ever. The 2008 games marked the first participation in the Olympic Games by the countries of Tuvalu, Montenegro, and the Marshall Islands.
There were five major cities bidding for the games: Beijing, Toronto, Osaka, Istanbul, and Paris. Beijing won the majority of the votes in both rounds of voting, making it the official host city. Thirty-one different buildings were built over the seven years between winning the games and the opening ceremony, plus many other venues, hotels, roads, and other locations were renovated or updated for the games. The airport, railway system, subway system, and the city’s bus lines were also expanded and updated to deal with the millions of people who would be visiting Beijing. This led to the games being the most expensive Olympic games in history, costing a total of $40.9 billion in U.S. dollars. In addition to the events at Beijing, some events were held in Shanghai, Qinhaungdao, Shenyang, Qingdao, and Hong Kong
The main stadium of the 2008 games, the Beijing National Stadium, was named the Bird’s Nest because of its design. Construction began in 2003 and could seat over 90,000 people.
Dancing Beijing, the Game Mascots, and the Motto
Dancing Beijing is the name of the emblem for the games. It features a Chinese red seal and the character for Beijing. Five different good luck dolls, known as the Fuwa, served as the mascots. Each one was done in the colors of one of the Olympic rings. Each represented a different element in fung shui, a different sport, and was inspired by a different aspect of Chinese culture. The motto of the games was “One World, One Dream.”
The Torch Relay
As with all Olympic games, the torch relay began in Olympia, Greece. The torch design was made to look like a Chinese scroll, and the flame it carried traveled 130 days and over 85,000 miles to reach the stadium. The relay began on March 24, 2008, and passed through 21,880 different torchbearers before arriving at the Bird’s Nest on August 8, 2008.
While the torch relay generally goes off without a hitch, the 2008 relay did have some issues. Attempts by political groups to extinguish the flame were actually successful in Paris, and the Sichuan earthquake of May 12 caused an unexpected change in the route. However, despite this, the relay did take the flame around the world, including the top of Mount Everest.
The opening ceremonies of the games began at 8:00 pm on August 8, 2008, taking advantage of the number 8 and its corresponding luck and prosperity. There were over 15,000 performers in the ceremony, more than in any previous opening ceremonies. Chinese drums, scrolls, and other cultural icons were used during the performances. In keeping with tradition, countries entered in accordance to the way their names were written in Chinese—those whose characters contained the fewest strokes entered first, although Greece did, as always, enter first and China, as the host country, entered last.
The closing ceremonies were held on August 24 and included an address by the International Olympic Chair Jacques Rogge, the handing over of the Olympic flag from Beijing mayor Guo Jinlong to London mayor Boris Johnson for the 2012 Summer Games, and a display by the London Organizing Committee for the 2012 games.
The Chinese Space Program
Like every other developed country in the world, China has been operating a complex space program for many years now. The foundations of the current program were first put into place shortly after the People’s Republic of China was established in 1949. In the beginning the plan was for the program to work so that it could cover a wide range of different weapons and nuclear capabilities, as well as the potential hope for China to one day be able to put men on the Moon. Even though this program began in the early nineteen fifties, it did not truly take effect until China opened itself up to more trade and capitalism grew after the fall of the Cultural Revolution and the industrialization of the late 1980’s.
In the beginning, Mao was worried that relying solely on the ability of his army to surprise enemy forces in something akin to a human wave attack would not be enough to keep his country safe from others who might be looking to cause the newly established communist regime harm. This was also a problem that seemed to be compounded by the world’s refusal to acknowledge him as the leader of China as they traditionally only dealt with Chiang Kai-shek and Taiwan. In order to better keep the foundations of the People’s Republic of China secure from outside foes Mao determined that the best option for him and the country would be to develop some forms of missile technology and nuclear warfare on his own. His announced his plans for these nuclear capabilities at a communist committee meeting on January 15th, 1955.
When the Soviet Union launched Sputnik a few years later on October 4th, 1957, it spurred the Chinese program to begin equalizing itself with the other world powers in its space age capabilities. Mao wanted to demonstrate to the rest of the world that the country was capable of keeping up with them and as such he decided that China would do this through “Project 581,” which was intended to make sure that China would be able to put its own satellite into space a year later in 1959. It was important to Mao that the satellite be launched during this year because that would help the country celebrate the ten year anniversary since the communists had seized power and the People’s Republic of China had been founded. He also felt that it would be a show of power to demonstrate how China could launch itself into the space race in just under two years’ time.
There were three different goals for this plan, which included first building sound rockets and launching them. These test rockets would be followed up by trying smaller satellites to see how they faired, and then finally launching a full-sized satellite. To help them achieve this end the Chinese government built Base 20, its first testing base that was constructed solely for the purpose of developing and checking missiles before moving onto the construction of the sound rockets. Building began in April and concluded just six months later, opening on October 20th, 1958. The Chinese were officially ready to begin putting their three part plan into action.
During the 1950’s China and the Soviet Union remained on solid terms, and as such the Soviet Union was more than happy to share some of its knowledge and technology with the Chinese government to help their fellow Communists. In fact, besides just sharing their knowledge, they also helped to train some of China’s best students in the field to prepare them in understanding the technology they were giving them. To follow this up the Russians also donated a sample rocket known as an R-2. Shortly after Base 20 was opened in October the Chinese managed to take apart the donated Soviet Union rocket and reconstruct another in its place based on that technology. However, China would not launch its first sounding rocket until February of 1960, meaning that they did not manage to implement their satellite plan in time for their ten year anniversary.
The Chinese space program began to expand upon the Soviet rocket and in 1960 they started working to develop a medium range ballistic missile that would potentially have twice the range of the old R-2 rocket. This all occurred around the same time as the Sino-Soviet split which also began in 1960 after Mao declared that the Soviet Union had caved in under an interior revolution and that during that time capitalism had been restored in the place of true communism. The two countries now found themselves out of friendly waters and facing a potentially combative situation, and as a result China lost all assistance with its space program technology from the Soviet Union.
The Sino-Soviet split took a harder toll on the Chinese program than Mao had originally wanted to believe possible. In the beginning it seemed as if all might go according to plan because only three weeks after the Soviet’s experts had left the country on September 10th, 1960, China managed to successfully launch an R-2 rocket fuelled entirely with the propellant that they had manufactured in China. Shortly after this on November 5th, 1960, they managed to launch their complete copy of the R-2 that was known as the DF-1, which was also a short range ballistic missile. However, when they tested the medium range ballistic missile (DF-2) a year and a half later on March 21st, 1962, it failed. One cannot say with certainty that this failure occurred because of the lack of assistance from the Soviets, but it certainly seems plausible that without the technological assistance of this advanced nation that China now found itself struggling to play catch up.
With the continuing conflict between the Soviet Union and China and the rise of the Cold War Mao issued another declaration that the Chinese needed to have a solid missile defense system in place as soon as possible on February 2nd, 1964. This plan was originally known as directive 640, but later took on the more formal name of “Project 640” when Mao’s declaration was later put into full effect. The first thing that the Chinese space program did toward this goal was to reconfigure the failed medium range ballistic missile (DF-2A), and they tested this new version in June of that same year. It was a success and the missile was put into service by the army in 1966.
However, an even more important step by the Chinese missile defense team was made during 1964 when it managed to test its first atomic bomb successfully on October 16th. Once this possibility of missiles carrying nuclear bombs was established they began work to develop their first intercontinental ballistic missile equipped with a nuclear warhead in August of 1965. The missile was being built with the capability to use a 12,000 kilometer range. While this long range missile was not immediately recognized, they did manage to successfully launch a DF-2A missile with an attached nuclear warhead in October of 1966, and this nuclear missile had a range of approximately nine hundred kilometers.
As they tested and worked on these weapons themselves Mao began to grow worried about the people of China in event of a possible nuclear attack and issued orders for people to dig, thus creating a series of underground areas known as the Underground Great Wall. These were intended to house people in the event of a nuclear holocaust and even linked large cities. The base at which many of the nuclear testing occurred was moved away from Base 20 and was set up at a separate facility that was farther away from the Soviet border, thus ensuring more safety and less scrutiny from their now unfriendly neighbors.
China continued to test and build its nuclear weaponry through the mid 1960’s, but after an unmanned craft had landed on the Moon, Mao issued another declaration concerning the beginning of China’s space program that would deal specifically with manned flights on July 14th, 1967. They started work on this immediately with plans for Shuguang-1 going into effect in the early part of 1968. The call for potential astronauts to man this craft was put out in April of that same year by the Central Military Commission. This search would not conclude officially until three years later in March of 1971 when nineteen astronauts were finally picked to participate in China’s space program. Also, in order to accommodate this new directive the space center, Base 27, was built in the Sichuan province.
On November 16th, 1969, China attempted to launch a satellite, but again was met with disappointment when the mission failed. However, less than a year later in April of 1970 China launched the Mao-1 into orbit. It was the largest and heaviest first satellite attempt to actually be placed into orbit by a nation on their first trial. This success opened the door to China declaring that it would put a manned ship into orbit by 1973 on the Shuguang. But in 1973 the plans for this launch had to be cancelled because of the financial instability and political upheaval that was occurring in the country due to the Cultural Revolution.
One of the largest problems that arose as a consequence of the revolution was the death or disappearance of people who were very heavily invested in China’s space program and its success and development. The most notable of those who were lost were Lin Biao, Zhou Enlai, Zhu De, and eventually even Chairman Mao. After Mao’s death his political rival, Deng Xiaoping, eventually began to take his place as China’s leader starting in 1978. At first this development almost put a complete halt to any further developments of China’s space program, and some of the more key projects were classified as unnecessary and were decommissioned.
However, as China began to develop the Long March rocket series (later renamed the Jiang Zemin Divine Arrow) they saw a potential for mass commercial interest. This led them to work on more than thirty different satellites for foreign interests beginning in 1985. This influx of interest and income to China’s space program allowed them to plan for the next manned space launch and was named Project 863-2. This manned flight would be used as a sort of ferry for those astronauts who were stationed on the international space station. This plan never managed to achieve its full goals as the designs of the potential space ships were ultimately rejected.
In the end this ideal ended up morphing into another plan for manned space flight in 1992 known as Project 921. To further help complete this goal the China Aerospace Industry Corporation was established in June of 1993 in Beijing. In 1999 the first of the test launches for the Shenzhou program was completed with success, but it was completely unmanned. The testing continued in 2001 with a launch that had test animals inside, and two subsequent launches that took place a year later in 2002 had test dummies inside to record important flight data information. The knowledge gained from these flights allowed China to finally launch its first manned space flight in October of 2003. This ship stayed in orbit for almost a full date and carried a single astronaut, making China only the third nation to ever put a human into orbit.
The next part of Project 921 began with the launch of Shenzhou 7 on September 25th, 2008. The space ship went into orbit and then on September 27th, Zhai Zhigang conducted the first ever space walk of a Chinese astronaut. The walk outside of the space craft lasted for approximately twenty minutes and was conducted while Zhai was linked to the craft through a line. During this time he managed to gather a lot of samples and wave China’s flag in outer space. The space walk was broadcast on Chinese television and was a huge success. The Chinese astronauts also conducted an experiment by placing an object on the side of the craft and leaving it out to the elements of space for forty hours in order to test the lubricant used on it and how it behaved in deep space conditions.
This was important because the lubricant was being tested for future space applications on a possible Chinese space station construction project. The next flights launched by the Chinese (Shenzhou 8, 9, and 10) will be put into space to start on a small space laboratory center. If this goes well it will give China much needed information that they can use to start on a more stable and permanent space station later on. The construction of this space station will bring about the last part of the three primary Project 921 goals. China has said that they plan to have the space station operational around the year 2020.
Realizing that this is just part of the equation, China also decided to launch a comprehensive project that will allow them to begin their own exploration of the Moon. This project formally began in 2004 and according to the China National Space Administration it will evolve in three phases much like the Project 921 space station goals. The first of these goals was accomplished when an un-manned Chinese space probe was launched to orbit the Moon in October of 2007, making China only the fifth country in the world to harness this space technology. The next part of the plan is for China to send a lunar lander to the Moon around the year 2010 with the final phase culminating in the scientific collection of soil samples from the moon around the year 2020. This last mission to the Moon will be a manned mission and will coincide with the opening of the space station.
China has also announced in recent years that they plan to focus on deeper space exploration in the near future with an intensive focus on the possibility of traveling to Mars. They hope that they are able to launch an unmanned probe to explore the area around mars around the year 2014. This study will likely continue for at least twenty years, and China has said that they hope to follow this up by a manned expedition to the red planet sometime between 2040 and 2060.
These recent developments in China’s space program demonstrate just how quickly their technological abilities are evolving and will eventually work to make them a key player in the future of space exploration in the upcoming years.
The Dream of the Red Chamber
The Dream of the Red Chamber is considered to be one of the Four Great Classical Novels in all of Chinese literature. It was written during the eighteenth century and credit for the story’s authorship was given in Cao Xueqin, and it is believed that many of the events that unfold in the character’s lives are mirror images of those in Cao’s own family, making the work semi-autobiographical. Many historians believe that Cao intended for the novel to be a sort of tribute to those women that he knew in his youthful years.
During the Ming and Qing Dynasties the literary inquisition kept many writers from coming forward when they published something, and this is also true of The Dream of the Red Chamber. It was for this reason Cao’s name was originally off of the novel when it was published post-humorously, and it remained an anonymous work for a long time until eventually even though later he was revealed to have authored the book. The novel is also intriguing because it was one of the first that was written in Vernacular Chinese instead of the established language of the time for novels, which was Classical Chinese. In fact, The Dream of the Red Chamber helped to more solidly legitimize the use of Vernacular Chinese by authors.
One of the things that is the most remarkable about the novel is the extraordinarily long list of characters. The writing not only fully encompasses each of these characters it also offers a psychological depth to their motivations that is previously unheard of in many other works of Chinese literature up until then. Another aspect of the novel that many literary historians discuss is how the book goes into great detail about the aristocracy and the confining social structures that restricted many women’s movements during this time period.
The actual literal translation of the novel’s title is Red Chamber Dream. This is relevant because the red chamber was the term given to the tightly restricted chambers where the daughters of the wealthy were secluded from the rest of society. The main character, Baoyu has a dream that is set in one of these chambers and it is within the confines of the walls of the chamber in which many of the female characters will realize their fates. Another interesting fact is that the name of the main character’s family in the novel which is a synonym with the translation for sham or fictitious. This clearly demonstrates that Cao was intended for people to realize that the family in the story was not a real family, but rather a creative rendition of a real family.
The novel has many roots in both Taoist and Buddhist beliefs, most notably the one which states that people may only find true enlightenment when they realize that the world that we live in is just a dream from which we should work to disentangle ourselves from. In this belief system you can accomplish this by withdrawing from society and retiring from the world, and the novel seems to disagree as it heavily concentrates on the importance of social reality in one’s life. So while it is clearly demonstrating that the author has a lot of close ties with these religious beliefs he also has a slightly different opinion of how they should be dealt with.
The novel concentrates on two separate branches of a highly regarded family in the capital city, the Jia Clan: the Rongguo House and Ningguo House. In previous times this family’s ancestors has been granted the title of Dukes by the Emperor and they live in two very large compounds located in the middle of the capital city. At the beginning of the story the great influence and wealth of this family are described in detail, if only to highlight their fall from grace later when they do something to displease the Emperor. This causes a chain reaction which eventually ends up with their large homes being confiscated by the government and raided by troops.
The back story to the novel begins with a tale of reincarnation. Stone was left behind by the Goddess Nuwa after she had mended the heavens at the beginning of time. One day Stone manages to convince a priest and a monk to take it out to see the world. During this trip the Stone is separated from a Divine Attendant-in-Waiting. The main character, Jia Baoyu is the reincarnation of this Divine Attendant, while his cousin, Lin Daiyu (who is always sickly), is actually the reincarnation of The Crimson Pearl Flower. In this life Baoyu has been promised in marriage to a different cousin, Xue Baochai, and this simple love triangle is the beginning of the most well-known plot in the novel. This interesting tale of love, marriage, and past lives is offset only by the family’s declining favor and fortune.
The extreme depth and width of story that the tale covers means that there are more than six hundred different characters within its setting, making it somewhat of a complicated tale to keep track of. Out of these six hundred characters at least thirty of them are considered to be major players.
Of course, Jia Baoyu is the largest character as well as the central male protagonist of the novel. He was born as the next heir in the Rongguo line of descendants, but he is considered to be remarkable because he was born with a piece of jade in his mouth. This small chunk of jade is intended to represent the past life when the Divine Attendant was separated from the Stone. As a boy Baoyu shows that he is not only intelligent, but also resourceful. He is a voracious reader, but he does not like reading the traditional works of Chinese literature and instead prefers to read opera novels. He often hates to interact with any of the bureaucrats that come to his family home, going so far as to shun men that he deems are far inferior to women. In the novel there are four most important women in Baoyu’s life, and they are as follows.
Lin Daiyu is considered to be the main love interest of the story, and she is also Baoyu’s first cousin. After her mother, Baoyu’s aunt, dies Daiyu is brought to his house. She is beautiful, problematic, and fragile emotionally. While she is considered to be a poet and musician of great note she is also prone to fits of jealousy and ultimately she is considered to be proud and lonely, marking her as a tragic figure in the story. She is considered to be the reincarnation of the Crimson Pearl Flower that Baoyu watered when he was the Divine Attendant, and her mission in this life is to repay his kindness with her tears.
Xue Baochai is Baoyu’s other first cousin, the daughter of a different aunt, and Baochai and Daiyu could not be more opposite. Daiyu is often seen as unconventional while Baochai could not be more sensible, and is written to be the perfect prototype for what a Chinese maiden should be. She is a beautiful and intelligent girl, but she is also quiet and reserved and does not share the extent of her knowledge and understanding of the world with Baoyu for a long period of time. During her childhood, Baochai was given a golden locket with an inscription that seems to match the writing on the stone that was found in Baoyu’s mouth at birth, and this gives the others cause to see their marriage as predestined.
Shi Xiangyun is Baoyu’s second cousin who is raised by her maternal aunt and uncle after being orphaned when she was just a baby. Xiangyun is often seen as cheerful and generous despite this abandonment. She is considered to be of extreme beautiful, even in men’s clothes, and is often described as being more masculine than most women of the era. She answers honestly no matter what the question and is often considered to be without tact, and despite all of this she is still as intelligent as many others and is considered to be just as talented a poet as either Baochai or Daiyu.
Miaoyu is a Buddhist nun that lives in one of the cloisters of the Rongguo house. She enjoys cleaning more than any other woman around. She is not very outgoing and treats most everyone else with disdain, even though she is also very beautiful and learned. She is supposed to have joined the nuns because of an illness, and she often hides out in Grandview Garden nunnery to try and avoid any potential conflict with political affairs.
The truth of The Dream of the Red Chamber is that the novel was not published while Cao lived, and only hand written copies of his story existed until the first print version was completed in 1791. The problem is that the Chenggao edition (which is what the print version became known as) had edits and changes to the manuscript that were not okayed by Cao. This has caused a lot of debate to go up about the complex plot points in the novels and exactly how much was changed in the transition to the print version and what effect this ultimately had on the plot and how the novel as perceived.
Right now it is commonly agreed that Cao did indeed write the first eighty chapters of the book, but all of the versions that were hand copied from his original end abruptly at this chapter. However, this is problematic as there are a great many details that are foreshadowed in these early chapters as to how the book will end, but these things do not come to fruition in this version of the book, which has become known as the Rouge Version.
The printed, published, version of the book that debuted in 1791 was known as the Chenggao Version as it ended with one hundred and twenty chapters instead of the original eighty that were contained within the hand printed, Rouge Version. While the original eighty chapters were mostly intact they had been obviously edited, probably to compensate for the newly attached forty chapters that were put on the end of the Chenggao Version. However, the next year in 1792 the publishers (a pair of brothers, Chen and Gao Weiyuan) claimed in a new preface that the last chapters had been once again edited to correct many errors within the original publication and that the latest installments of the novel had been based upon the author’s most current vision and that these documents described the end of the novel had been bought from a street vendor.
Despite this claim almost all literary historians agree that the last forty chapters are not Cao’s work. Today you can buy several different versions of The Dream of the Red Chamber. Some of them include the entire one hundred and twenty chapters that were originally included while others have the first eighty as a part of the book while the last forty are merely included as an appendix. There are even editions that you can buy which do not have any mention of the last forty chapters and only kept the original eighty chapters of the Rouge Version.
The Eight Immortals
The eight immortals are a group of eight legendary characters in Chinese mythology. Each of the immortals can place his power into an object that can be used to destroy evil or even return people to life. Many of these immortals are believed to have been born during either the Tang or Song dynasties. While they are revered by Daoists, the eight immortals are also present in secular culture. In legend, they live on the Penglai Mountain-Island. The Xi’an temple of the Eight Immortals Palace was built in the Song dynasty and features statues of each of the eight.
The eight immortals are Lu Dongbin (their leader), Immortal Woman He, Iron-Crutch Li, Lan Caihe, Royal Uncle Cao, Philosopher Han Xiang, Zhongli Quan, and Elder Zhang Guo. They were first mentioned in records from the Yuan dynasty, and most scholars agree that they were named after the eight scholars of the Han.
Traditionally, the eight immortals first appeared in art during the Jin dynasty. Artwork on several tombs from the twelfth and thirteenth century feature them, although they weren’t officially known as the eight immortals until the Quanshen sect of Taoism wrote about them. The most famous piece of art featuring the eight immortals is from the Jin period and is a mural featured on the Eternal Joy Temple in the city of Ruicheng.
The eight immortals are associated with longevity and prosperity, so they appear in many different types of art. They are often painted on vases, depicted in sculpture, and featured on silk painting and wood block prints. They may appear either as a group or alone.
In many early pieces of art, jade hand maidens are shown with the immortals. These maidens are generally only featured with high ranking gods or beings of great power. This shows just how important the eight immortals were in Taoism at the time. During the Ming and Qing dynasties, the importance of the immortals only increased, and they are often seen with the three stars representing longevity, good fortune, and emolument. The also often appear in artwork featuring the Queen Mother of the West and other important deities.
In addition to artwork, the eight immortals often appear in literature and in theater. Several plays are based on their legend. The Yellow-Millet Dream is a very popular story and has been rewritten many times. It tells the story of how Zhongli Quan met Lu Dongbin and how they became immortal. The eight immortals also appear in Gu Zijing’s The Willow in the South of the City, The Eight Immortals Cross the Sea by an anonymous writer, and in The Eight Immortals Depart and Travel to the East by Wu Yuantai. The last of these works is generally considered the most significant novel featuring the eight immortals.
The Eight Immortals in Popular Culture
Today, the eight immortals still appear in many pieces of art and statues. They have also appeared in or influenced characters in a number of different movies, television series, and video games. The appear in The Forbidden Kingdom (2008 movie), in the X-Men comic books, and are featured in the video game Fear Effect 2.
The Forbidden City
The home of the Chinese imperial palace for about four hundred and fifty years was housed in a complex known as the Forbidden City. It was originally built in the fourteen years spanning 1406-1420, during the middle of the Ming Dynasty, and served as the home for the imperial family. It’s located in the center of the capital city of Beijing, China, and since the end of its official capacity at the end of the Qing Dynasty it has now been turned into the Palace Museum. There are nearly one thousand buildings in the entire complex and it is built upon nearly seven hundred and twenty thousand square meters.
The Forbidden City is based on the area where the Mongolian imperial palace was during the Mongol Yuan Dynasty; however, at the beginning of the Ming Dynasty the site was completely torn down and the palace was moved south to Nanjing. When the Yongle Emperor (Zhu Di) came to power he ordered the beginning of the construction which would eventually become the Forbidden City. The city is at the center of Beijing, but it is protected by a special wall which is 7.9 meters high and a moat that is six meters deep and fifty-two meters wide. The city was divided into two separate parts, the Outer Court that was used for ceremonial purposes, and the Inner Court which housed the imperial family.
The largest surviving wooden structure in China is the Hall of Supreme Harmony and it is found in the Outer Court of the Forbidden City. This hall was mainly used for ceremonial purposes and the Emperors would hold court in the building to meet with people to discuss the affairs of state. It was also used for other purposes like imperial weddings and coronations. The Hall of Central Harmony is also located in the Forbidden City and it was a much smaller area that was mainly used by the Emperors for private resting times before, and even during, ceremonies. The final hall of the harmony halls in the complex was the Hall of Preserving Harmony, which was used for ceremony rehearsals and was the scene of the last part of the Imperial Examination (a test which determined which citizens would be allowed to enter Chinese government). Each of these halls features an imperial throne so that the Emperor could be seated no matter which hall he happened to be in.
The Inner Court is separated from the Outer Court by a courtyard, and at the center of this secondary, more private, court are three more halls. These halls were set up with strict adherence to the views of the imperial family, with the Palace of Heavily Purity being the home of the Emperor since he represented the Heavens and the Yang aspect of life, while the Palace of Earthly Tranquility was the home of the Empress as she was seen to represent the more natural or Earth side of the Yin. The Hall of Union is a neutral place where the Yang and the Yin could meet to produce the ultimate harmony. Behind these three buildings is the Imperial Garden. It is not very large; however, it was specifically designed to feature elaborate landscaping scenes.
In the far corner of the Inner Court is the Palace of Tranquil
Longevity that was built specifically for the retirement of the Qianlong
Emperor. It is a small scale image of the Forbidden City and likewise
has separate Inner and Outer Courts of its own, as well as other gardens
and temples so that the retired Emperor could live out the rest of his
days in a mirror image of the Forbidden City without actually having to
take up residence in the workings of the government that was going on at
that specific time.
All of the Forbidden City was set up so that every minor detail was specifically designed to be a part of the overall religious and philosophical views of the Chinese system and how it related specifically to the Imperial family and its power. For example, the yellow glaze on the roofs is to denote the Emperor as yellow was his color. The only two rooftops that differ are the Crown Prince’s homes which bear green tiles which are associated with growth and the Pavilion of Literary Profundity that has black tiles to represent water or fire repellent.
Now the Museum Palace that has taken up residence in the Forbidden
City houses a great deal of these relics with three hundred and forty
thousand pieces of ceramics and porcelain as well as fifty thousand
paintings and ten thousand pieces from a bronze collection that dates
back as early as 220 BC. Some of the pieces were removed from the
Forbidden City during the evacuation due to the Chinese Civil War on the
orders of Chiang Kai-shek. The Forbidden City was damaged some after
the official establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949,
but was spared any further problems during the Cultural Revolution when
soldiers were sent to protect it. In 1987 UNESCO declared the Forbidden
City a World Heritage Site.
The Four Olds
The Four Olds, or Four Old Things, were four ideas that the People’s Republic of China desired to end once the Cultural Revolution started in 1966. They included old customs, old culture, old ideas, and old habits. The campaign to stamp them out is referred to as the Destruction of the Four Olds, Anti-Four, and Smash the Four Olds.
The Communist Party’s definition of what was old and what was not, however, was very vague. Because the guidelines of what must be smashed or destroyed weren’t very specific, often anything that existed before the party took power in 1949 was declared old. This included everything from artwork that was centuries old to music that was composed only a decade or two before. Because the Red Guards punished anyone in possession of anything considered old, many individuals threw away as much as possible.
Many examples of early Chinese architecture, literature, painting, ceramics, and sculpture were destroyed during this time. Families even burned their genealogy books. Some did attempt to save relics and old artwork, especially scholars and intellectuals. In fact, Mao Zedong eventually declared that scholars were the personification of the Four Olds, leading to their harassment, imprisonment, and even death.
The Red Guard even marched on the Forbidden City with the intent of destroying anything old. However, Premier Zhou Enlai ordered the city gates shut and increased the number of guards at the gates and around the city. He was not a proponent of the campaign to destroy the Four Olds, and in this instance, he actually won—the Forbidden City and its cultural objects were protected.
No one knows how many priceless pieces of art, literature, and other cultural items were destroyed during the campaign. In fact, few outside of China even knew what was happening at first. By the early 1980s, however, stories about the destruction of the Four Olds had become known worldwide.
The 1990s saw another type of cultural revolution come about. This time, however, it was more of a cultural restoration, with scholars and experts working to restore as many classical works as possible. The Four Olds were once again viewed as being historically and culturally important. However, this restoration is not without its troubles. Many have seen it as a way of making a profit, and many fake “classical” pieces of artwork have appeared.
The Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China is perhaps one of the most recognizable man made features on the planet. The wall building began in the third century and continued until the sixteenth century until it eventually became the fortification system that we all know today. It was designed as a way of preventing (or at least slowing down) enemy attacks on the Chinese Empire. It’s total length is estimated in the area of four thousand miles and during the sixteenth century was guarded by over one million troops. The current wall was mainly built during the Ming Dynasty; however, many of the other portions of the wall were constructed at different times. The oldest sections of the wall were in fact assembled on the orders of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. While it served as a good system, during the many periods of its construction, the wall claimed the lives of an estimated three million Chinese workers.
The idea of using walls as a means of protecting the lands was already embedded in Chinese history before even the first construction of the great wall. In fact, during the Warring States Period in the early third century many of the different states all used very elaborate fortification systems involving walls to protect their own lands. These measures were more closely related to large fences that were put together with boards, gravel, and earth, which were pounded together to help prevent enemies from easily attacking with their swords and spears.
In 221 BC the Warring States Period came to an end when Qin Shi Huang finally conquered all of the different sections and unified them under the singular banner of China, thus beginning the Qin Dynasty. One of the first things that he did in order to prevent any retaliations to the centralized rule was to have these small walls torn down in hopes that it would keep the feudal lords from trying to reassert their positions as independent nations. He recognized the benefit of utilizing such a system, however, and had a wall built along the northern borders to deter any attacks which may have been launched at them from those who lived on the other side of China’s border.
During this time it became increasingly difficult to have the necessary materials for the project hauled across the large expanse of China, so when the walls were being constructed it was usually better for them to use whatever local materials they could get their hands on. This meant that when the wall was being built in an area next to a mountain range that stones would be used and when there weren’t any stones available the men would instead rely on compacted measures of earth and any significant pieces of wood they could find. Because of this, there are very few sections of the original construction areas that remain intact to this day, and no records survived detailing the exact measurements and length of the wall system. Also, some of the original sections of the wall were either rebuilt or expanded upon later in different dynasties to help the kingdom prevent attacks from northern aggressors. It’s because of this that we know that some of the original sections of the great wall were probably absorbed into the network and system that was eventually built during the Ming Dynasty.
In 1449 the Ming army suffered a large loss at the Battle of Tumu when it was defeated by the Oirats. The Emperor realized that the Ming government’s constant battling with the tribes in the north and their inability to gain a clear win over the Mongolian and Manchurian tribes, was hurting the empire’s ability to defend itself from further attacks and possible outside rule. Since their battles were mainly with the nomadic tribes of the north, the Ming government opted to return to the idea of using a wall system as a means of defense.
This process of construction was long and extremely expensive. It was also designed to be larger and far more elaborate than the original walls of the Qin Dynasty. Instead of relying on local materials, bricks and stone were brought in so that the wall would never have to rely on hardened earth and other less than perfect construction methods. The stone and brick system needed to be able to handle more weight and put up with the brutal force attacks that could be launched on them by their enemies. Since stones can handle a great deal more weight than brick it was chosen to be used on the foundation and the edges. The stones were cut into rectangular shapes to better hold up to any additional demands.
This need for the wall to be reinforced was especially important during the Ming as there were almost constant threats and raiding parties from the Mongolians on their lands. Many of the sections of the wall that were considered the most crucial (such as those nearest to Beijing) were reinforced and worked on almost constantly until they were very strong and capable of withstanding large attacks. Because of this it was also important for the Ming Dynasty troops to be able to communicate with each other in an effective measure that could quickly notify others along the wall of an impending attack. To help facilitate this there large signal beacons were placed on top of the lookout towers that lined different sections of the wall (usually those who were already on hilltops). This was chosen because the tops of these towers combined with the height of the hilltops allowed for the best possible visibility from which they could let everyone know.
After the collapse of the Ming Dynasty, there was a period from which the newly developed Shun Dynasty took control of China. At this time the Manchurians were attacking the great wall; however, the government was able to keep them from crossing it, especially at the Shanhaiguan Pass. This pass was considered very crucial so it was heavily staffed and fortified to keep the Manchurians out. However, in 1644 the Manchurians were able to convince Wu Sangui to open the pass for them because of his dislike with the ruling government. When this happened the Manchurians were able to quickly take Beijing and found the Qing Dynasty. This dynasty did not see much reason to continue with repairs and fortifications of the wall system because China’s borders were now extended beyond the Great Wall, so all efforts to keep the wall in good shape as a defensive measure were halted.
Today the sections of the wall that are in high tourist traffic areas and near large towns have been preserved and rebuilt to help maintain their draw to individuals. However, because of the immense expense of maintaining the wall completely, many areas of the Great Wall are now in a state of disrepair. Some portions of the wall have even been removed to use for rebuilding homes, playgrounds, and roads that may have needed them over the years. Another damaging factor to certain sections of the wall was new construction, and over the years areas of the wall have been knocked down or removed in order to make way for contemporary construction measures. Other portions of the wall have even been severely degraded due to extreme measures of vandalism and graffiti. Nearly forty miles of the wall is estimated to disappear over the next twenty years just due to erosion alone. It has already had places were the wall has lost more than three meters of its original height and the towers that served as lookout bases on the towers have almost disappeared altogether.
Even so, this does not keep the Great Wall from appearing in images of the earth taken from space. While the wall is not perfectly clear and the conditions that have to be present in order for you to be able to visibly identify it from a low earth orbit must be aligned just right. There is some debate as to whether or not the wall can be seen without the aid of binoculars or other vision assisting products, but it is believed that under the right circumstances combined with the preexisting knowledge of where the wall is located it may be possible to see it with the bare eye from orbits ranging from one to two hundred miles.
The May 4th Movement
Considered one of the most influential movements in modern Chinese history, the May Fourth Movement took place starting on May 4th, 1919. Many of the original problems that caused this political movement sprang out of the terms that China agreed to at the Treaty of Versailles. This may be true, but there have been other speculations that the origins of the movement actually rested in the quick succession from thousands of years of imperial rule to a government that was more closely linked with the people after the Xinhai Revolution that occurred in 1911 which succeeded in overthrowing the Qing Dynasty.
The people were hungry for a change; however, most of the country was still under the rule of the feudal lords despite the overthrow of the Emperor. The warlords were struggling to hold onto their individual powers and armies, and most of the conflicts that occurred between those lords looking to secure their power hold were leading to suffering among large numbers of the Chinese people who found themselves caught in the middle.
All of this tension came to a head at the end of the First World War. China had entered into the war on the side of the Allies with the promise that once the war was over they would once again regain a portion of German influenced areas like Shandong would be returned to their control. One hundred and forty thousand Chinese men were sent to France to serve under the Allies, but at the end of the war the Shandong Province was awarded to Japan in the Treaty of Versailles instead of China. The Chinese government put in a request which demanded that Shandong be returned to their control, and when the United States failed to go through with their commitment at the League of Nations, China viewed this as a direct betrayal. When the diplomatic approach at the Paris Peace Conference failed, it became known as the “Shandong Problem” and was seen as the thing that officially began the May Fourth Movement.
The morning of May 4th, students from thirteen colleges collectively met and drafted five resolutions in Peking to protest the granting of Shandong to the Japanese, as well as set forth plans to hold a protest that afternoon in Tiananmen Square to formerly protest the Treaty of Versailles. That afternoon more than three thousand students met at the square to hold their demonstration. The protest took on a life of its own as outraged students began shouting for punishment to be given to hose diplomats who had been unable to persuade the League of Nations to refuse Japan’s control over Shandong. Eventually the home of one of these leaders, Cao Rulin, was burned down. The government attempted to put down the riot and arrested a great many of the protestors.
This did not stop the movement, and the next day all of the students in Beijing proceeded to go on a formal strike. Other universities in other parts of the country followed suit one after the other. By early June many of the workers and businessmen in Shanghai went on strike as well in a show of solidarity with the students and their protests. The peasants also began to take part in the demonstration, calling for better treatment of workers and an end to class related poverty. The result was that all of the students who had been arrested were released from prison and the government was forced to go ahead and release the most offending dignitaries from their duties. As a result the Chinese diplomats that were currently in Paris declined to sign the treaty. While this act of refusal was actually nothing more than a symbolic gesture to the people of China, it did show that the May Fourth Movement had been successful.
One thing that most definitely did happen as a result of this movement was that people began to talk more and more about the political future of the country. During this fragile time to the country the communist party was formed by Chen Duxiu and Li Dazhao in 1921. The ideals that the party was founded on appealed to the youth and it was the beginning of a political change that would eventually end with the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949.
As it turned out this was all an offshoot of the original May Fourth Movement. The communist party even went on to say that without the pioneers of the students which first began the movement. Eventually the May Fourth Movement would be seen as having affected more than twenty different provinces and most certainly had some affect on more than one hundred cities in the country. It is seen as a turning point not just for politics in China, but also for the amount of intellectual involvement which the people devoted to the idea of being governed. It is seen as one of the first times that large amounts of Chinese people began to consider radical schools of thought and ideas for dealing with problems that existed within the sphere of politics and society at large.
After the United States declined to take part in the League of Nations and left the foundation for democracy which they had begun in the hands of Imperialistic powers that did not care to look out for or consider the needs of China, the people viewed this as a betrayal and began to consider alternative options to the way a government should be run. It has even been speculated that if the United States had taken a more firm stance on China’s requests and had done more to try and sow the seeds of democracy they had planted, then the May Fourth Movement may never have occurred as the Shandong Problem was the essential root of the rebellion. Without this important movement it is uncertain as to whether or not China would ever have turned toward communism as a better means of representative government.
The People's Republic of China
The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is also known as the country of China, the largest country in East Asia. It also has the largest population of any other country in the world with close to twenty percent of the world’s population, or nearly one and a half billion people. The PRC is ruled by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) as an entirely socialistic governing body with a capital located in Beijing since October 1st, 1949, when the PRC was established.
China was ruled by an imperial government for two thousand years but the revolution at the end of the Qing Dynasty led to the government being initially led by the Republic of China that was founded by the Kuomintang party. However, after the problems that the new government encountered with warlords, the Second Sino-Japanese War, and charges of corruption led to the Chinese Civil War. The Communist Party won control of the government in 1949 when it forced Chiang Kai-shek and the remainder of the Kuomintang party to retreat to Taiwan where it maintains the Republic of China government to this day.
One of the first main goals of the new government was the process of land reform. This ideal was founded in the socialist belief that people should all have equal stakes in their land. The process of removing the ownership of the land from the larger, wealthier families and handing it out to the peasants was designed to make sure that there was a more equal distribution of the classes. This was because Mao put a lot of his beliefs into the idea of class struggles and the belief that the country would be better without capitalists and landlords.
All of this was part of Mao’s ambitious Five-Year Plan which focused on his ideologies and plans of action. The plan was such a large success that Mao decided to start another project that would become known as the Great Leap Forward, which began in 1958 at the end of the Five-Year Plan. The Great Leap Forward called for China’s rural areas to come together in a sort of collectivization. Agriculture suffered greatly as peasant farmers who used to take care of crop production were removed from their positions and put to work in groups that worked in local iron smelters whose work was used to supplement the country’s steel production. Many of the crops suffered and rotted in the fields un-harvested, which led to a shortage of food supplies, and although Mao quickly realized that the backyard iron production would not serve his needs because they could not produce the quality of steel that he needed. However, he did not want to admit this as it would not only prove that there were flaws in his beliefs, but he believed that it would cause the peasant’s to lose faith in the Great Leap Forward program. It is believed that as many as seventy thousand people died during this time from starvation and persecution. In fact, it’s been estimated that as many as thirty million people died as a result of this imposed famine from 1958-1961.
The problems were exacerbated as no one wanted to contradict Mao. Many people who spoke out against the chairman were either purged from the party completely, sent off for re-education, publicly shamed, or even executed. However, the immense failure of the Great Leap Forward severely weakened Mao’s control over the government and caused him to lose his position of power. There are many debates as to the extent to which Mao was responsible for the problems that were incurred during this time. Some people believe that many of the issues were still left over problems from the brief rule of the Republic of China and Chiang Kai-shek, while others believe that Mao tried to control everyone in the country to an extent that was morally irresponsible because so many people either died or were imprisoned by the government.
Mao was head of the party for ten years, but after the problematic Great Leap Forward, Mao stepped down as chairman and was replaced by Liu Shaoqi. Even though Mao had been removed from the party’s everyday operations he still had a lot of influence over the party’s direction. However, after seven years of being behind leaders like Liu Shaoqi and Deng Xiaoping, Mao and his allies within the government started the Cultural Revolution.
This movement would last until Mao died ten years later. The Cultural Revolution was a way that would allow Mao to regain control by launching a subversive attack on the power structure of the Communist Party. This helped to get rid of Mao’s highest ranking rivals like Liu and Deng. Mao’s youth police force, known as the Red Guard. These soldiers were allowed to run amok as they classified many people of being counter-revolutionaries even when there was no evidence of these so-called crimes. Many of the systems involving education and transportation, as well as economic reforms that had made such a huge impact on the country after the Five-Year Plan were brought to a halt as political leaders and intellectuals were purged from society at an alarming rate.
Also around this same time China and Russia started to grow apart and during this split China reached out to the United States as Mao and Enlai met with Richard Nixon to help them establish a presence in the United Nations. They succeeded in this endeavor and replaced the Republic of China (Taiwan) as the representative for China in the U.N. in 1972.
Mao died in 1976, and his death left behind a large void in the power system. During this time a large struggle for power ensued between the Gang of Four (the four main motivators behind the Cultural Revolution besides Mao), Hua Guofeng, and Deng Xiaoping. Eventually the Gang of Four were arrested and charged with the excesses that occurred during the movement. Deng used this as an opportunity to return to the Communist Party and exerted himself as a major force, instituting large economic reforms that would help China tremendously in the years to come.
The Communist Party began to loosen many of its restrictions on personal freedoms. The communes for agriculture that’d been instituted during the Great Leap Forward were disbanded and the incentives to produce more in the agricultural market boomed. The economic outlook for China turned toward a more open market style that fuels its economy today as restrictions on the industrial production were loosened and many things were deregulated. It also allowed foreign investors and companies to work in China without many of the problematic restrictions on free trade and industry that had plagued many of the foreign investors beforehand. For many this was exactly what China appeared to need as there was a huge increase in the standard of living, as well as the appearance of a middle class, the rise of education and literacy rates, as well as the increase of the average person’s life span.
The results of these improvements were very prevalent in the 1980’s; however, there were some criticisms which were levied against Deng and his economic reforms. Many of those who were political conservatives believed that these policies would open China up to some of the ideals that the Communist Party was traditionally against such as commercialism, materialism, and capitalism. These were traditionally seen as Western ways of thinking and not something that many wished to associate with the People’s Republic of China. There was also a mounting attack from more liberal forces who believed that the government should not be so strict on the political front while being so open on the economic part.
Eventually the liberal protests against Deng’s government would culminate in 1989 in the Tiananmen Square Protests. The action taken by the People’s Republic of China during these protests when they moved in on what were otherwise peaceful protestors with force earned the country international condemnation. Many who are critical of the Chinese government also point out that the industrialization that was put forth under Deng created a lot of problems with impoverishment of workers as well as pollution and social stability. Many have called for reforms in the market to be put forward to help remedy these problems.
Deng retreated from public interactions after the Tiananmen Square Protests as the reigns of the government were passed onto Jiang Zemin. Jiang helped to advance Deng’s beliefs on economics and growth in that sector rose during the 1990’s. However, a new problem was beginning to emerge as social corruption erupted and grew with the increasing economic growth. With this grew the unemployment rates, pollution problems, and how to deal with the consumption of so many Chinese who had immigrated into the urban areas.
In 1997, Hong Kong was returned to China’s control from Great Britain. In 1999, Portugal followed suit and released Macau from their control. While Hong Kong and Macau were generally allowed to retain their own governing systems they technically fall under the control of the People’s Republic of China due to the One-China Policy. Technically this is how the Republic of China in Taiwan is also regarded, however, the destination of these two separate but same countries is still very much up for debate as talks have continued at differing levels for years in hopes of reunification on some level.
Today China is still facing many of the problems that often coincide with overcrowded and newly industrialized nations. In recent years the government (now under the control of Hu Jintao) dealt with a SARS epidemic, as well as the restructuring of the government to try and reduce the corruption problems. In 2008 the People’s Republic of China hosted the Summer Olympics.
The Plum in the Golden Vase
The Plum in the Golden Vase, The Golden Lotus, or Jin Ping Mei, is often considered the fifth great classical novel of China. It was written in the late Ming period by Lanling Xiaoxiao Sheng, which is a pseudonym. The novel is written in the vernacular and was first printed in 1610. Earlier handwritten scripts still exist today, although none of them contain the full one hundred chapters. The Chinese title Jin Ping Mei comes from the names of the three main female characters Pan Jin-lian, Li Ping-er, and Pang Chun-mei.
The Plum in the Golden Vase is noted as being the first full-length fictional Chinese novel to graphically describe sex, making it an object of controversy. Like the English novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover, many publicly described it as scandalous and filth while secretly reading every page in the privacy of their home.
The plot of the novel is set during the Northern Song dynasty (1111-1127) and describes the fall of the house of Ximen. The main male lead is Ximen Qing, a corrupt merchant who lusts for power, wealth, and many wives. One of the key scenes in the book revolves around the seduction of Pan Jin-lian. Ximen Qing secretly murders her husband, then marries her. What is interesting about this scene is that it’s taken from one of the four great Chinese novels, Outlaws of the Marsh. Following it, the story branches off in a different direction and focuses on the struggle of the wives of Ximen Qing and the fall of his household.
In addition to the scene featuring Pan Jin-lian’s seduction, the first chapter in The Plum in the Golden Vase is based on a chapter from Outlaws of the Marsh and features Wu Song, one of the characters from that novel. At the end of Outlaws of the Marsh, Ximen Qing is brutally killed by Wu Song; however, in The Plum in the Golden Vase, he dies from an overdose of drugs.
The Plum in the Golden Vase has been considered pornographic for centuries, and most governments banned it. However, many Chinese still found and read copies of the story. During the Qing dynasty, officials reclassified the novel as literature, citing its well written plot and use of classical poetry. The novel also deals with issues such as the role of women in society and societies view of sexuality. It has recently been recognized as one of the greatest of Chinese novels.
Many are surprised at the descriptions of sexual toys, techniques, and fetishes featured in the novel. There are also a number of sexual jokes and euphemisms. These descriptions and terms are often debated. Some scholars claim they are absolutely necessary, while others feel like the novel was written simply to shock readers. Unfortunately, the author could not be asked because no one is certain who wrote the novel. Some speculate that it was a Taoist priest who was commenting on the corruption of the Ming rulers.
Clement Egerton first translated the novel as The Golden Lotus in
1939 with the help of Chinese novelist Lao She. While the story is
complete, some of the explicit sections were actually written in Latin
to get around censorship issues. David Tod Roy’s edition is considered a
better translation, but as of 2008, he had only completed the
translation of three parts, leaving two sections to complete. The
Magnus graphic novel 110 Pills is loosely based on The Plum in the
The Silk Road
The Silk Road is one of the most famous trade routes in history, as it was comprised of a series of different paths that connected many different parts of Asia as well as Europe and even parts of northern Africa. Many people make the mistake of assuming that it was mainly just silk products which traveled along thee routes, but in actuality a great many different types of merchandise made its way along the Silk Road. In time this physical path began to be the transmittal spot for ideas and belief systems to be exchanged between merchants. It was this means of interconnectivity and social transmission which actually served to build some of the great empires of Persia, Roma, Egypt, and Byzantium, and this transmission of knowledge would also serve to make the Silk Road as notorious as it is today.
The Silk Road was developed out of necessity. When those people in prehistoric times first learned to cultivate the land and to domestic many animals like horses and mules, than they also increased their ability to expand their trade beyond their lands’ borders. This would have meant more opportunities to provide for their families as well as an increase of items that were available to them from outside sources. Since much of Asia is covered in grasslands, then these areas made it even easier for merchants to transverse across the continent in order to barter with other towns and countries. Eventually the routes widened as more and more civilizations were included on the trail. Archeological evidence points to trade between the people in Africa and those in Asia as early as 6000 BC.
While many different things were traded between regions using various routes, the first leap forward that trading between the East and West on the Silk Road underwent was during the reign of Alexander the Great around 329 BC. When he founded a city known as Alexandria Eschate, that point became a prominent configuration into the northern sections of the Silk Road. Then, in 130 BC, the Chinese Emperor at the time (Wu Di) wanted to find a way to cultivate an harmonious trading status on a commercial basis with many of the larger civilizations and cities. The Chinese would send out approximately ten trading emissaries a year to trade for things that they wanted like horses. It is even believed that direct confrontations between some of these Chinese and the Romans even resulted in the Chinese crossbow coming into the possession of the Roman civilization on or around 36 BC.
It is believed that sometime during the first century BC is when the Silk Road was brought into usage as we know it today. The Han Dynasty ruled during this time and frequently sent troops out to protect the trading routes from bandits and to secure the safety of the merchants and their goods. Shortly after the Romans had conquered Egypt around 30 BC, a more routine amount of trade began to open up between the areas in Africa, the Middle East, and Europe and countries like India, Sri Lanka, and China.
As the trade began to move more freely between all of these countries, so did the ideas and beliefs of the people. Technology began to be shared between civilizations, allowing it to be experimented with and maneuvered by different people and encouraging development in areas of thought that had remained stagnant for generations. The reason that the Silk Road got its name was because of the high demand by Romans for the material. Women in Rome loved the material and often used it in their dresses. When the trade got to be too much, the Senate in Rome tried to pass a law forbidding the use of silk in garments as they believed that too much of the empire’s gold was being traded out for silk.
The Silk Road seemed to reach its peak during the period from 500-900 CE, as this is when a great deal of trade has been discovered to have been occurring between the Byzantine Empire, Alexandria, and the Yuan Dynasty. The Silk Road has also been credited with the spread of different religious thought as well as the development of various nomadic lifestyles and state like governmental regions in northern China. In its later years the Silk Road is also credited with the massive development of the Mongol Empire, which ended p being the largest continental empire that has ever managed to exist at one time.
The decline of the Silk Road is thought to have been brought about by the rising expansion of Islam during the seventh century on. It was during the Middle Ages that the Islamic base in Persia held the monopoly on trade that was conducted throughout the region. It wasn’t until the beginning of the expansion of the Mongols around 1215, that the Silk Road would find itself being reestablished to help provide trade across the continents. It was also around this time that Marco Polo and his family began to travel along the Silk Road into China, becoming one of the first Europeans to do so. His tales of the Far East helped to encourage others to travel along these routes.
The reign of the Mongol Empire would continue until 160, and while they ruled the Silk Road as thought of to be a primary source for merchant trade, travel routes, and the transmission of ideas. However, after the collapse of the empire the route stopped being used and eventually the great paths that had once inspired so much political and economic harmony between countries was discontinued. It is believed that the Silk Road completely stopped being used as a successful shipping route for silk sometime around 1400. In part it was due to the already mentioned disintegration of the Mongols, but it is also believed that as the routes were less and less used and communication between those civilizations that had established themselves along the paths grew more distant that the trade routes were no longer seen as the relatively safe passages they had once been.
When the Silk Road ceased to be a useful means of trading and transmission of goods, much of Europe sought to find direct trading routes by sea. Great rewards were offered to those who could establish such routes. This is why Christopher Columbus set out in 1492 to try and find a more direct path to Asia across the ocean, eventually leading him to discover the new continents of North and South America instead. It was this desire to keep the trading routes open between Europe and Asia which brought amazing and magnificent discoveries. The years of trading along the Silk Road had effectively changed the history of the world and the development of civilizations which lived and thrived during its usage. Part of it was done through the desire to communicate between cultures and exchange ideals, but the large profits generated by this trading route on both sides kept its spirit alive much longer than it would have had it not been such a successful trading route.
The plateau region in Central Asia is elevated to sixteen thousand feet. It is the highest section on Earth and has been called the “Roof of the World;” however most people know it as Tibet. There is some debate over when and how the country of Tibet became a part of China as it once used to be an independent country. Before the incorporation of Tibet into the People’s Republic of China in 1950, Tibet was ruled by the Dalai Lamas, or spiritual leaders.
The history of Tibet can be traced back to the Songtsen Gampo in 605 AD. He brought together the different sects in the Yarlung River Valley and turned Tibet into a kingdom which he ruled over through his reforms and before too long created a substantial empire. To help solidify his emerging empire Gampo married the Chinese Emperor’s niece Princess Wencheng in 640. Buddhism was established as the primary religion over the next few reigning emperors, and Tibet was a major empire in Central Asia until the middle of the ninth century.
It wasn’t until the end of the 1230’s the Mongolian armies were marching toward Tibet, and while they’d already conquered much of Northern China and other parts of Central Asia. The kingdom of Tibet, however, was lost in its own internal conflict and by 1244, almost the entire country had submitted to the new Mongolian rulers. In 1247, Sakya (a Buddhist spiritual leader) was appointed the Mongolian viceroy for Tibet, and when Kublai Khan began the Yuan Dynasty close to thirty years later in 1271, Tibet officially became a part of that dynasty.
The Sakya were still ruling in Tibet until 1354 when they were overthrown by the House of Pagmodru. This remained the controlling infrastructure of the country for the next eighty years, and during that time Tibet was relatively stable and there weren’t any internal problems. However, in the 1430’s, the country was once again pulled into more internal conflicts as different parties vied for power and control. It wasn’t until 1578 that Altan Khan invited Sonam Gyatso, a high lama from the Gelugpa school of thought, to meet that the term Dalai Lama was used for the first time in reference to an individual. At this time the Dalai Lamas were not yet in a political position of power, but the tradition did begin of naming successors to Gysatso with the name of Dalai Lama.
Fifty years later in the 1630’s, the internal workings of the Tibetan government found itself struggling against a variety of Manchu, Mongol, and Oirad factions which were all trying to establish power and dominance. Eventually Gushi Khan won the battle and became the overload of Tibet. It was during this time that Gushi helped the fifth Dalai Lama establish himself as the supreme spiritual and political leader of the country in an attempt to help thwart any future rivals or claims to the ruling authority of Tibet. This came along with its own set of problems as the next Dalai Lama successor was imprisoned and died in route to Beijing after refusing to accept the role of monk.
The Dzungars invaded Tibet in 1717, and were eventually expelled by Emperor Kangxi in 1720, and the reinstituted the practice of installing a Dalai Lama when Kelzang Gyatso was named as such in 1721. The government of Tibet as its own entity and did not owe any taxes to the Emperor, nor were their legal and administrative branches of the government intertwined with China’s, but they were still not recognized as an individual sovereign state. It wasn’t until 1751, however, that the Emperor Qianlong named the Dalai Lama as the official political and spiritual leader of Tibet’s government. It seems, though that Tibet was still largely dependant on China and was for the most part seen as the larger country’s subordinate.
During the eighteen hundred Tibet began to get worried about the impending encroachment of the British and Russian Empires. Much of India was already under the control of Britain, and while Tibet had been tolerant of those European missionaries that had come to their lands in years past, the situation with foreigners started to become strained as Tibet began to look at Europeans with a more cautious eye. By 1850, Tibet had banned foreigners from entering the country and had proceeded to shut down all of its borders to any newcomers.
It turns out that Tibet had a right to be cautious. Britain began to
employ devious methods of mapping out Tibet through the use of surveyor
spies who wore disguises and plotted out the terrain by moonlight by
1865. At the turn of the century, 1904, Britain invaded Tibet and
reached Lhasa because they claimed that they were concerned that Russia
was planning on doing the same and claimed that they were only trying to
aid the Tibetan army in repelling this advance. That excuse, however,
did not seem to hold much ground as many Tibetan troops who tried to
stop the advance of Colonel Younghusband’s soldiers were murdered.
The Dalai Lama fled at the word of the British invasion, essentially leaving the government vacant when Younghusband arrived. Seeing this as an opportunity, Younghusband produced a treaty which effectively reopened Tibet’s borders for trade with Britain and ordered that reparations be paid from the Qing court to the British government for the necessary dispatching of troops in order to “protect” Tibet. Youngsblood then forced whatever officials were left in the Dalai Lama’s absence to force them to sign the treaty. Eventually China and Britain agreed on the terms of the treaty and it was signed into effect in 1906 at the Anglo-Chinese Convention. A position of British Trade Agent was given and in 1937 this position was made as a permanent position in Lhasa, granting a title in the Tibetan government to a British officer.
Despite this, in 1913, the Dalai Lama returned to Tibet and declared that the country was no longer under the control of the Emperor and was considered its own independent entity. TO demonstrate the country’s independence a treaty was signed with Mongolia in 1913, which stated that the country recognized Tibet’s autonomy from the Chinese government. The outbreak of World War One and the subsequent division of much of China to warlord like states meant that the thirteenth Dalai Lama could continue to rule over Tibet without any problems or interference until his death in 1933.
In 1950 The People’s Republic of China invaded Tibet and established control through the assertion of the Seventeen Point Agreement. Six year later, however, a rebellion broke out against the Chinese occupation. While the campaign had ended in 1959, just three years later, tens of thousands of Tibetans were murdered and the fourteenth Dalai Lama was forced to flee to India for his own protection. It was during this time that the Tibet Government-in-Exile was established. Many who urge for the freedom of Tibet argue that the Chinese often use methods which are violent and aggressive to try and quash the citizens and keep them under control.
The People’s Republic of China argues that it is necessary for them to control Tibet as they are unable to stand on their own either economically or militarily. They also claim that their centralized government is far better than the centralized rule the Tibetans had in place before the invasion in 1950. Currently, in 2008, there have been talks between the Tibetan Government-in-Exile and the People’s Republic of China, with little results as to how to close this conflict. The Dalai Lama wants full autonomy for Tibet, but it is unlikely that he will be able to get that without making some concessions which many Tibetans disagree with. For right now Tibet is still considered to be a part of China until the situation is further remedied.
Woodblock printing is a printing method developed in China and used as a printing technique until moveable type was invented. It was first used to print on cloth before the invention of paper, and Chinese woodblock printings exist that date to 220. The technique spread from China to Egypt, Europe, Japan, and other countries, where it was used extensively until other printing methods became popular. The art of cutting a wood block for printing is known as xylography, although few use the term.
The wood block is created in relief—the white areas are cut away from the block to leave the areas that are to be inked in black on the block. The block is cut along the grain. Once complete, the block is used much like a stamp: it is pressed into a tray of ink, then pressed onto the cloth or paper to create an image. This creates a mirror image of the block, so some parts of the image must be cut backwards to create the appropriate inked image. To print in color, multiple wood blocks are cut, one for each of the colors to be used. To create certain colors, overprinting can be used (for example, to make green, a blue and a yellow wood block may be stamped over each other).
There are three different techniques for woodblock printing: stamping is used on silk and other fabric. It was mainly used in Europe. This technique involved placing the cloth or paper on a table, inking the wood block, and then pressing it onto the cloth. Rubbing, on the other hand, was used in the far East. This technique is almost the opposite of stamping. The wood block is inked and placed face up. The cloth or paper is then placed on top of the block. The cloth or paper is rubbed with a piece of wood to transfer the ink onto the paper. Finally, the third process is a recent invention and involves using a printing press. There is some evidence that primitive printing presses may have been used in ancient times, but there is no hard proof of this.
A fourth method used for making patterns on cloth is also sometimes included on this list. Called jia xie, it is used for dyeing textiles. A top and a bottom wood block are carved, and the folded cloth is placed between them. The backs of each block are carved out, and plugs are inserted. These plugged compartments can be filled with different colors of ink. This can create a multicolored pattern on the folded cloth. However, since the pattern is not created by pressing the block against the cloth, this isn’t considered a pure printing technique.
History of Block Printing
While woodblock printing was first used in China, a variant of it appeared in Mesopotamia before 3000 BC. Round cylinders were used to roll an impress on tables. Some of these images were quite complex, although they were not made using ink. Likewise, Egyptians and the Chinese both used stamps to create wax seals before woodblock printing was invented. Like in China, the Egyptians, Europeans, and Indians first printed on cloth, most likely silk.
In China, the oldest surviving woodblock prints are from the Han dynasty and date to 220 AD. These fragments are made of silk and are decorated with three colored flowers. Other surviving woodblock fragments include Egyptian prints from the 4th century.
The Chinese were the first to use woodblock printing to create text. This allowed the Chinese to print books, increasing the literacy rate. Images and text were also printed together in books and on scrolls for decoration. In Europe, using blocks to print text with images was not done until movable type was invented.
While it’s certain that the Europeans learned woodblock printing from the Chinese, it’s not certain if the Egyptians learned cloth printing from China or not. Block printing was used in Arabic Egypt to create amulets and prayer scrolls during the ninth century. Metal was often used for the blocks instead of wood, however. The Chinese did not often use metal to create their blocks, although carved stones were sometimes used after the Han dynasty.
Because of the expense of woodblock printing, the government in China became involved in printing quite early. Likewise, the Korean and Japanese governments had a hand in printing as well, financing most of the early printed works.
Woodblock printing uses three components: the wood block, the ink or dye, and the paper or cloth. Once invented in the 3rd century BC, paper was widely used for woodblock printing. The Chinese apparently never used papyrus for woodblock prints, although papyrus could have been imported into the country.
The Chinese found woodblock printing more suitable than movable type because the Chinese character set features thousands of different characters. With woodblock printing, only those characters needed in the text or on the image are created, unlike with movable type. In fact, even after the Chinese invented movable type in the 11th century, wood block printing was still the preferred method of printing. Another reason the Chinese preferred wood blocks was that, once carved, they could not be changed. This resulted in fewer errors and made the set up for printing texts much quicker.
Book Printing in China
Early woodblock printing was very closely tied to Buddhism, and most of the early printed texts were of sutras and other Buddhism texts. In fact, the oldest Chinese woodblock print is of a Buddhist scripture dated to the Wu Zetian period (AD 684 to 705). This date has been collaborated by writer Fenzhi in his text Yuan Xian San Ji, a Tang dynasty work that mentioned that woodblock printing was first used during the Zhenguan period (627 to 649 AD).
Buddhist texts were also printed in South Korea during this time. One sutra found in Bulguksa dated to the early 700s. Mulberry paper was used for its printing. Another version of this same sutra was printed in Japan during the 770s and is one of the earliest Japanese prints. Empress Shotoku of Japan ordered a million copies of this sutra printed and stored in small pagodas.
The earliest book in the world was printed in China in 868 AD. The Diamond Sutra was printed on a scroll that measures some sixteen feet in length. This scroll was found in 1907 in a cave in Dunhuang. The scroll’s layout and design is fairly complex, showing a great understanding of printing techniques. Today, the scroll can be viewed in the British Museum.
The Buddhist canon, the Tripitaka, was completely printed using wood blocks in the tenth century. A text of over 130,000 pages, it took 22 years to print the entire text (from 1080 to 1102). While early woodblock prints were done on scrolls, other formats were soon designs. One of these was jingzhe zhuang, sutra binding. This format involved folding a scroll concertina-wise. This allowed readers to find passages in the middle of the document without unrolling the entire scroll.
By 1000 AD, butterfly binding was in use. It involved printing two pages of a text on a sheet of paper and then folding that paper inward. The pages could then be pasted together to create a book. While the first butterfly binding was done by alternating printed and blank pages, but the 14th century, the folding had been reserved to create continuous printed pages. Still later on, these pages were sewn together instead of pasted. Many small volumes were sewn together and then placed between wooden boards to create protective covers.
Texts such as the Diamond Sutra contained very detailed, elaborate images alongside the text, and later artists designed images to print in books as well. However, while prints of artwork were often made in Europe and Japan, the Chinese did not print images by themselves apart from a few Buddhist images.
Woodblock Printing in Other Asian Countries and Europe
Chinese woodblock printing spread to Central Asia and the Europe. By 1000 AD, paper printing could be found in Egypt and other countries. Cloth printing was quite common in Europe by the 1300s, but woodblock printing was otherwise only used to print images. In 1400, once paper became available, woodblock printing was used for playing cards and other religious images.
The earliest woodblock print from the Han dynasty included three different colors. This was done much earlier than any European color prints, which did not appear until 1508 in Germany. Once paper was invented, nearly every woodblock printing included color. The Diamond Sutra was printed in both red and black ink. The Chengshi moyuan, the earliest printed book done in color, was printed in 1606 using ink-cakes. During the seventeenth century, color printing was at its height, and many art books were printed during this time.
Illustrations done in Japan and Europe were generally done only in black ink, with only artistic prints featuring color. This is the opposite of printing in China, where color printing was used for art books and erotica. Japan’s color printing technique, nishiki-e, was more widespread than Europe’s, and Japanese woodblock printing because a very popular art form.
In fact, woodblock printing continued to be used in East Asia up until the 19th century, far longer than it was in Europe. Even after the printing press was brought to China, the Chinese still used woodblock printing for most of their texts. Even visiting Jesuits to China during the 16th century preferred woodblock printing for their texts because it was efficient and cheap. It wasn’t until mechanized printing was introduced to China that metal type was widely used.
Yunan Rectification Movement
With the rise of the Communist Party during, and at the end of, the Chinese Civil War, there were still a great many people who had not yet accepted the Communist movement in China. Also, the leadership ranks of the Communists were not that tightly woven as they would later become and this was seen as a problem (primarily by Mao Zedong) that needed to be addressed if the movement were to move forward as scheduled. The Yan’an Rectification Movement was designed with this problem in mind. It is generally seen as the first form of truly deceptive thinking that was put forth by the Communist Party of China (CCP), and although it was originally proposed as something that would unite the country behind this new party, it soon became a campaign against “intellectuals”. In the end more than ten thousand people were killed during the rectification campaign.
The rectification process took part in several different phases. The actual preparation of the movement was put into motion by Mao before the official launch of the Yan’an Rectification Movement in 1942. This time that was spent on getting the power consolidation of the CCP into the right order is now seen by many historians as the preparation phase of the process even though it occurred before the official launch of the public phase of the movement. Mao Zedong had taken over leadership of the CCP at the Zunyi Conference, but this did not necessarily guarantee his role as a primary leader within the party and he knew this. While he may have won the first power struggle within the party, there were still at least three other senior officials with which Mao had to share some of his decisions and power. At least one other of these leaders (Wang Ming) had a recognizable presence in the international Communist community, or Comintern, while Mao did not.
However, one thing that Mao excelled at was political tricks and these were put into effect directly after the Zunyi Conference when he began to take some of the power and control away from Zhou Enlai and Wang Ming, who had been joined with Mao in a military command team which consisted of all three men. The General Secretary of the CCP, another leader within the power, Zhang Mintian, did not really consider himself to be a leader and was not overly concerned with trying to increase his power base. Mao exploited this opportunity and used Zhang’s position as an intellectual instead of a revolutionary thinker against him in order to put himself at the center of the CCP’s affairs in increasing increments. These are just a few example of how Mao began to consolidate his power after the long march had ended in Yan’an.
Mao’s beliefs centered (at least partly) on the notion that the political ways of the past were incorrect and that they may have actually been harmful to many of the Chinese citizens. IT was this belief that allowed him to continually push for political reform and to claim that there were those in power who were not doing their positions justice. In fact, Mao would use this theme as well as his political wherewithal and knowledge in alliances and power struggles within government to break apart many of the friendships and common interests of those who might be a threat to him.
The official start date of the Yan’an Rectification Movement was in 1942. This was when Mao realized that the 28 Bolsheviks were beginning to gain momentum and control within the CCP through the assistance and aid provided to them by the Comintern. Mao took this opportunity to make what was seen by many as a superior stance by proclaiming that those who supported this way of thinking were backing the wrong cause. This clearly let everyone know exactly where Mao stood and left him seeming to be the more reliable and leadership worthy in the eyes of many within the Communist Party. One of the reasons that Mao worked so hard to distance himself from the Comintern and the Bolsheviks is that he truly detested the beliefs that had originally been put forth by Marx and Lenin. It is unclear if he didn’t like the orthodox views because he simply disagreed with them or because they were comprised of ideals that didn’t originate with him, but it is clear that he worked hard to make sure that those types of ideals didn’t infiltrate the CCP.
His next move would be placing those he considered to be his biggest rivals into two separate groups, labeling them as either practicing dogmatism that was influenced greatly by outside interests or as practicing empiricism. These two competing groups were made to sit in on round table discussions where they would criticize themselves and each other during specific meeting times. Each of them that were at the discussion were also forced to write up reports detailing what their biggest mistakes were and confession to these mishaps while at the same time apologizing for their transgressions. Mao would hold onto these letters and later use them against the members of the groups as a sort of weapon. Better than attacking them underhandedly without proof, Mao now had all of their mistakes written down on paper in their own hands and in their own words. It would be all he needed to persecute many of his fellow compatriots.
To deal with the movement specifically, Mao founded the Central General Study Committee so that it could directly oversee the Yan’an Rectification Movement. This committee was made up of five individuals who were strictly loyal to Mao, and it overtook the normal positions within the party, temporarily suspending the duties of those who usually ran the CCP on a daily basis. The group quickly became the most powerful thing inside of the CCP besides Mao himself. In fact, Mao had given them the means of operating through an authoritarian style. This allowed them to execute their plans without having to be held up with elections and protocol, and it also gave Mao the opportunity to do away with the normal decision making body of the CCP. This meant the collective will of the people was no longer represented, leaving Mao in complete charge of the CCP and firmly establishing his role as a dictator.
One of the main tactics that was used during the Rectification Movement was the idea that people should speak out about the parts of the government that they did not like or what they were dissatisfied with. Those staff members who spoke out about those inside the bureaucracy were immediately put on a list of people who should be looked into. Many times people spoke out against Mao, thinking that if he were confronted with the inequalities he had enforced in Yan’an that he would have to recognize their criticism as valid. Many times those people who spoke out were in fact arrested, and some of them were even executed.
This movement went outside the party and into the school system. In
the Central Political School of the CCP the students were required by
their teachers to write out the same reports detailing their mistakes
and self-criticism that Mao had employed on the upper echelons of the
CCP in those round table discussions. Many normal people were ordered
to hand in reports detailing their everyday lives so that they could be
examined by the CCP. This was called the Salvation Stage, and although
it was put forward to the people that this would be the way that the
party could achieve true unity and accomplishment, through introspection
and self-awareness, the truth of the matter was that by 1943 it had
turned into a means by which the CCP launched major persecutions against
those in the party with which it was dissatisfied.
The witch hunt continued as many people began to find that their own words were being used against them. In fact, the vast majority of those who were persecuted and purged from the party were those who had come over to the CCP from areas of China that had previously been controlled by the Kuomintang. These people were arrested, tortured, and many times executed. If someone were labeled as a spy of the Kuomintang or activists that operated against the party their families were also branded as such and were sometimes rounded up with them and put through the same rigorous process. In order to try and escape from the CCP, many people would make up false confessions or try to lay blame on the doorstep of their friends and neighbors.
The Yan’an Rectification Movement ended at the end of 1943 with Mao’s power being firmly established and those obstacles who posed the greatest threat to his political career being removed. It may have been the first wave of deceitful ideology that Mao would put on the citizens in order to assure his power, but it would not be the last.
Zhang Heng was one of China’s most famous Renaissance men—he was an inventer, cartographer, poet, artist, statesman, mathematician, astronomer, and scholar. Zhang was born in Nanyang during the Eastern Han period (25 – 220). Educated in Chang’an and Luoyang, Zhang became a minor civil servant before being elevated to the position of Chief Astronomer, then Prefect of the Majors for Official Carriages. Eventually, Zhang was named to the imperial court as a Palace Attendant. However, while his achievements would have normally put Zhang in line for the position of Court Historian, his controversial stances on certain issues made him an unpopular choice for promotion. Zhang often clashed with the eunuchs of Emperor Shun, and it was these clashes that would eventually lead to Zhang’s retirement from court. He accepted a position as administrator of Hejian. He later returned to his home of Nanyang before returning to court for a year. Zhang died shortly thereafter in the year 139.
Over the years, Zhang used his knowledge to create a number of different inventions. He improved the water clock design, invented the first seismometer in the world, worked on the Chinese calculation of pi, and added over 2,500 stars to the Chinese star catalogue. He worked on a number of theories regarding the moon, the sun, and the relationship between the two and other heavenly bodies. In more artistic manners, he wrote a number of different pieces of poetry, much of which is very well known. His writing and scientific discoveries have marked him as a polymath, and he has been compared to Ptolemy in astronomical discoveries.
Zhang’s Early Life
Zhang was born in Xi’e, a small town in Nanyang Commandery. His family, while distinguished, were not that well off. His grandfather, however, had been a commandery governor, and he has supported Emperor Guangwu’s retoration of the Han following the Xin dynasty. At ten, Zhang’s father died, and he was raised by his grandmother and mother. They taught him to write, and Zhang quickly became quite accomplished. When he was grown, he left Xi’e to study at Chang’an and Luoyang.
At the Imperial University at Luoyang, he studied the classics, became friends with various famous scholars, and was even offered several government jobs. Zhang turned down all of these positions, including the chance to be appointed as one of the Three Excellencies, the highest positions in the Han government. He was offered the appointment in his early twenties, which speaks of how quickly Zhang rose in the eyes of the government.
When he turned 23, Zhang returned to Xi’e as an Officer of Merit in Nanyang. He was given the position of Master of Documents under Governor Bao De. During this time, Zhang gained experience in government and in writing government documents. As an Officer, he also made local appointments and recommended appointments for higher offices. During this time, Zhang continued to write poetry and other compositions. In 111, Bao De was appointed Minster of Finance and moved to the capital. Zhang took on more duties in the administration and, at age 30, began studying astronomy. He published several works on mathematics and astronomy shortly after.
Zhang’s Court Career
In 112, Emperor An summoned Zhang to court and appointed him as a court gentlemen in the Imperial Secretariat. An was quite impressed with Zhang’s work, and in 115, he elevated him to the position of Chief Astronomer. Zhang held the position for five years, and in 126, he was re-appointed to the position (serving until 132). In this role, Zhang worked under the Minister of Ceremonies. He recorded astronomical observations, prepared the calendar, and made a list of which days were auspicious. Zhang also oversaw the administration and evaluation of the advanced literacy test that all potential members of the Imperial Secretariat and the Censorate had to take. Emperor An also named Zhang Prefect of the Majors for Official Carriages, a position in the Ministry of Guards. As Prefect, Zhang was responsible for managing all suggestions for policy or administrative change and making nominations for government appointments.
While Zhang had impressed Emperor An, he would make several enemies at court when he opposed Dan Song’s calendar. Dan submitted a proposal in the year 123 to add several apocryphal teachings into the calendar. Zhang felt that the teachings were questionable and that, even worse, they could cause errors in the calendar. While the majority agreed with Zhang in not changing the calendar, they did not agree that banning the writings was necessary. Because of this and because of Zhang’s views of Emperor Gengshi, Zhang was not allowed to assist with the compilation of Dongguan Hanji, a detailed history book being assembled by the court. Following the deaths of historians Liu Zhen and Liu Taotu, Zhang’s foremost allies at court, he lost all chance at being named Court Historian.
However, while his historical objectivity was in question, Zhang’s skill as an astronomer was never questioned. In 126, Emperor Shun once again named him Chief Astronomer, although Zhang’s salary was considered quite low for such an important position. In fact, he was given a salary of 600 bushels of grain, the lowest salary that could be given to a court official in the central government.
One of Zhang’s first and most prominent inventions was the seismometer, which he first brought to the court in 132. Zhang claimed his device could tell the exact direction of any distant earthquake. One of the first tests showed that an earthquake had occurred northwest of the capital. However, no tremor was felt in the city, making Zhang the laughingstock of the court. However, a messenger soon arrived at court to report that an earthquake had occurred in Gansu province, which was located about 300 miles northwest of the capital.
A year later, court officials were asked to give their opinion about a set of earthquakes that some called signs that the Han had lost the Mandate of Heaven. Zhang used the opportunity to criticize Zuo Xiong’s new recruitment system. Specifically, he argued against fixing the age of “Filial and Incorrupt” officials at forty and against transferring the power of assessing each candidate from the Generals of the Household to the Three Excellencies. Zhang’s arguments were rejected, but Emperor Shun did elevate him to the position of Palace Attendant for his well-argued stance. Zhang now earned 2,000 bushels of grain as a salary and was made part of the emperor’s escort.
Zhang used his new position to attempt to remove the court eunuchs from power. He pointed out to Emperor Shun numerous examples of the eunuchs’ attempts to undermine the emperor’s power, and Shun began to limit their authority. The eunuchs began slandering Zhang, to which Zhang responded with poems and cleverly disguised mocking verses.
In 136, Zhang retired from court life and took the office of Chancellor of Hejian. He served in this position for two years, during which he worked against Liu Zheng, the local king, and his favored families. He arrested a number of law breakers with disregard to their family name, earning him a reputation for being strict and unmotivated by political favor. During this time, Zhang continued writing, although his poems and texts were often bitter at his inability to more effectively serve his country. In 138, Zhang retired from his position and returned to Nanyang. There, he continued to write, now happier that he had retired, and played the lute.
Several months after his retirement, the emperor recalled Zhang to the capital and appointed him to a position in the Imperial Secretariat. Zhang died the following year, and his body was returned to Xi’e for burial. He was celebrated as a writer, political servant, and scientist; overall, he wrote 32 different texts on a variety of subjects, including astronomy, philosophy, literature, and mysticism.
Zhang’s Poetry and Literary Works
Zhang had read many of the great works stored in the archives at court, and he was quick to point out inconsistencies. For example, he found at least ten different places where famous historian Sima Qian and historian Ban Gu recorded facts differently. He also references many classical works in his writing and in his poetry. Many of his works were collected by Xiao Tong, a prince during the Liang dynasty. They were compiled into Wen xuan, an anthology containing Zhang’s rhapsodies, poetry, and other writing. One of these, the “Rhapsody on Returning to the Fields,” combined Daoist thought with Confucian ideas and is credited as the forerunner to Chinese metaphysical nature poetry. Zhang also wrote several rhapsodies based on writings by Ban Gu, and his overall literary style has been compared to Ban’s.
Zhang also wrote several texts in the shelun genre. In this genre, the author creates a dialogue between an imaginary person or historical person and themselves. This person generally asks the author a series of questions on life and success. In Zhang’s Response of my Idleness, he is criticized for failing to be appointed to a high office by a mysterious figure who, historians have asserted, is either a representative of the court eunuchs or a relative of Empress Liang Na. However, these acceptations were made during Zhang’s life, and he denied them both, saying that he wrote the text as part of his search for virtue.
Another of Zhang’s favorite writing subjects was the love affairs of the various emperors. These emperors often left their harems to sneak out into the city and sleep with prostitutes and other women. Many criticized the Eastern Han emperors for this. Zhang criticized this by writing about it in terms of the Western Han dynasty. He wrote about how they were decadent and did not follow the beliefs of yin and yang.
Zhang’s Scientific Work
In mathematics, Zhang continued the work done by Liu Xin in defining and calculating the concept of pi. Liu had revised pi to 3.154, but he left behind no record as to how he had reached this conclusion. Zhang, using various astronomical figures, came up with a different number: 3.1724. Zhang also revised many of the equations for figuring the area, volume, and other formulas. This allowed Zhang to figure pi as the square root of 10. Later, Liu Hui would build on Zhang’s work to calculate pi as 3.14159, the standard acceptable value.
In his The Spiritual Constitution of the Universe, published in 120, Zhang put forth his theory that the universe was shaped like an egg. The stars were painted on the inside shell and the Earth was the yolk. Zhang also added over 2,500 stars to the Chinese star charts and detailed over 120 constellations. These additions put the Chinese star catalogue ahead of the Greeks and the Egyptians (Ptolemy had listed around 1,000).
Adjusting the Inflow Clepsydra
The clepsydra, a timekeeping device that used water, had been used since the Shang dynasty. It had been updated and modified to the inflow clepsydra during the Han dynasty. However, many had noted that the pressure head often fell into the reservoir, slowing the device and causing inaccuracies. Zhang began working on this problem, making extensive notes on it in 117. He suggested adding a second reservoir, a compensating tank, between the inflow vessel and the first reservoir. Zhang also added two statues on top of the clepsydra. They were more than just decoration—the two guided the indicator rod with one hand and pointed out the time with the other. Later additions would be made to Zhang’s device to made additional adjustments and make the clock even more accurate.
Another one of Zhang’s inventions was to use hydraulic power to spin an armillary sphere, a device that represented the celestial sphere. It was first invented by Eratostehenes in ancient Greece and again by the Chinese in 52 BC. Over the years, the device was built upon until Zhang added a horizon and meridian ring and converted it to a water-powered device. His new armillary sphere would later influence water-powered clocks and the escapement mechanism. His device would also influence Chinese astronomers for years to come. In fact, in 436, after years of rust and wear and tear had left his original instruments nearly useless, the emperor ordered his men to recreate Zhang’s armillary sphere.
Zhang’s seismometer, as discussed above, was presented to the court in 132. Many historians consider the seismometer Zhang’s best invention. It was able to detect earthquakes hundreds of miles away, allowing the government to quickly send aid to any area damaged by an earthquake.
The seismometer dropped a small bronze ball through one of eight different tubes. The ball dropped down into a groove that represented one of the directions of the compass. A number of pins, levels, and tubes were activated whenever the earth shook. Like many of Zhang’s inventions, his seismometer was lost at one point, but enough of his research remained to allow other inventers to recreate it. One of the most interesting points concerning Zhang’s invention is that many modern reproductions are not as accurate or as sensitive as records describe Zhang’s seismometer to be. In fact, no perfect replica was created until 2005, and that was done only after very careful study of Zhang’s records.
While his work in cartography was not as impressive or as documented as his work in other areas of the arts and sciences, Zhang did so some work in the subject. Famous cartographer Pei Xiu, who lived during the Wei and Jin dynasties, was the first Chinese cartographer to use grid references on maps. It’s quite possible he derived this from notes Zhang left behind. Many, in fact, give Zhang credit for establishing the rectangular grid system, although there is some doubt as to whether he actually did or not due to lack of records.
The South Pointing Chariot and the Odometer
Zhang is credited with the invention of the odometer, although some credit Archimedes and Heron of Alexandria with the invention. Regardless of who created it first, Zhang was the first to build an odometer in China. His odometer featured a mechanical figure who hit a drum after a carriage had traveled one li. After ten li, a different figure struck a gong.
The South Pointing Chariot, a non-magnetic compass vehicle, was another of Zhang’s inventions. It used differential gears that constantly kept a wooden figure pointing south. According to the Song Shu records, Zhang didn’t actually invent the first South Pointing Chariot—rather, he re-invented it from a model and notes left behind from Zhou dynasty inventers. The chariot was later re-invented once again by Ma Jun from Zhang’s notes.
Zhang Heng’s Legacy
Zhang’s numerous inventions would influence many of China’s finest minds, including Zhang Sixun, Guo Shoujing, and Yi Xing. Su Song, inventor of a clock tower, gave credit to Zhang’s armillary sphere for inspiring his work. Scholar Chen Hongmou built upon many of Zhang’s astronomical observations, while seismologists John Milne, Thomas Gray, and James A. Ewing studied Zhang’s seismometer and his records while working on the modern seismograph. While no one can deny his inventions are amazing, many do criticize the fact that few of Zhang’s works rely on scientific theories, and his writings rarely feature concrete theories or thoughts on why his inventions work.
In literature, many of Zhang’s poems were read both during and after his life. They were published in several anthologies, and Xue Zong even wrote a commentary on several of them. Famous poet Tao Qian admired Zhang’s poetry for its simplicity and diction, as did many other poets.
Honors After His Death
Following his death, Zhang was given many honors and titles. A praising memorial was inscribed on his tomb by his friend Cui Ziyu, and a second inscription was added during the Wei dynasty. In modern times, his name has been attached to the mineral Zhanghengite, the Zhang Heng lunar crater, and asteroid 1802 Zhang Heng.