Reunification after the Han Dynasty: Part 1 of 2

February 20, 2018

The man credited for reuniting China after the end of the Han Dynasty was Cao Cao who lived 155 – 220 AD, but he didn’t succeed. He just set the stage for what happened after he was dead.

Cao Cao also appears as a character in the historical novel The Romance of the Three Kingdoms written in the 14th century by Luo Guanzhong.  The novel was based on historical events that took place during the turbulent years near the end of the Han Dynasty when China fell into chaos and anarchy.

According to historical records, Cao Cao was a brilliant leader and military genius. However, in literature and opera, he has often been portrayed as a cruel and despotic tyrant, an image of a Chinese ruler unique in history.

During his lifetime, there was the three kingdoms of Wei, Shuhan, and Wu. Cao Cao led Wei in Northern China. When the war to reunify China took place, Cao Cao started out with the smallest military force of ten thousand troops.

But Cao Cao must have studied Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. His battle plans against the rival army of Yuan Shao was evidence of a military genius. He carefully studied the terrain and selected the location where the battle would be fought so his smaller army could not be outflanked or surrounded.

Continued with Part 2 on February 15, 2018

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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The Han Dynasty

February 14, 2018

When the Roman Empire (BC 27 – 476 AD) was at its peak (about 200 AD), China’s Han Dynasty (BC 206 – 220 AD) was more powerful than Rome.

Xuzhou in northern Jiangsu province is one of China’s best showcases of the art and historical relics of the Han Dynasty. At its height, the Han Dynasty stretched from the Pacific Ocean to Central Asia and as far south as Vietnam. Its culture had a great influence on Central and Southeast Asia.

In the center of Xuzhou on top of a mountain stands the famous horse-training terrace where the first Han emperor trained his troops. At age 23, Emperor Gaozu (202 – 195 BC), then known by his common name Liu Bang, fought the Qin and defeated China’s first dynasty.

In Xuzhou, an entire mountain was hollowed out to build a king’s tomb, and it is open to tourists.   It is still unknown how the Han Dynasty constructed the tomb.  Experts say that it would take three hundred workers ten years to build.

In 1984, hundreds of Han Dynasty terra-cotta warriors were discovered at the foot of the Lion Mountains. These figurines were there to guard their lord in the afterlife.  These terra cotta troops are smaller than the ones near Xian for China’s first emperor, but they are just as detailed.

In one Han king’s tomb, there is a dining room and living room before reaching the inner-most chambers where the king’s casket was discovered. The casket is decorated on the outside with more than one-thousand jade pieces from Xinjiang, which is in the far northwest of China that was part of the Han Empire.

The king’s body was still intact and was dressed in a gold-threaded jade suit. Small pieces of jade were stitched together with solid gold threads/wires.  These suits were made for the highest-ranking Han nobles. The kings even took music with them into the afterlife along with terra-cotta dancers.

It was during the Han Dynasty that the Silk Road and trade with the West was started.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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China’s Ancient Capital that Served Twelve Dynasties

February 13, 2018

Most people outside China only know of Beijing (once called Peking) as the capital of China. However, another city was China’s capital for more than a thousand years, and there were others. The top five are: Xi’an (called Chang’an in ancient times), Beijing, Nanjing, Luoyang, and Kaifeng.

Chang’an (Xi’an) served as the capital for twelve dynasties, including the Western Zhou, Qin, Western Han, Sui and Tang dynasties, spanning more than eleven-hundred years. It was also the cultural center of the Silk Road.

To discover Chang’an’s long history also teaches us much about China’s civilization. Discovery Channel’s Neville Gishford said, “It (Han Chang’an) was more powerful than Rome. If any Roman army had actually gone there, they would have been absolutely annihilated.”

Han Chang’an was larger than Constantinople and richer than Egypt’s Alexandria. It was a fortress so powerful that even 20th-century artillery could not knock its walls down.

Today, Xi’an (once Chang’an) is home to almost nine million people and thousands of men made of clay, the Terra Cotta Warriors guarding China’s first emperor.

In addition, the massive city wall is more than six-hundred years old and longer than 12-kilometers. Cracks are appearing and an engineering team keeps close watch and makes repairs

However, the Xi’an of today was first built over two thousand years ago and has been three cities, not one. The Han Dynasty built the first city (Chang’an), which is located close to the modern city of Xi’an, and the old eroding walls of the Han Dynasty capital are still visible.

At 36 square kilometers, Han Chang’an was more than one-and-a-half-times the size of Rome.

Archaeologist Charles Higham, a world famous authority on ancient Asian cities, said, “A delegation of jugglers from Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius (161-180 AD), who is regarded as one of the greatest emperors in Roman history) traveled and performed in the Han Court of Chang’an.”

More than two thousand years ago, the walls of Chang’an (Xi’an) were made of rammed (compressed) earth and most of the city was built of kiln-fired clay bricks, which was a revolutionary building material at the time.

The builders of Han Chang’an used this new technology in revolutionary ways such as building an underground sewer system connected to the moat that surrounded the city.

From the Qin to the Tang Dynasty, 62 emperors ruled China from Chang’an. The China Daily says in and around Xi’an, there are about 500 burial mounds where the remains of emperors and aristocrats rest.

The largest tombs mark the passing of Emperors Qin Shi Huangdi (259 – 210 BC), Tang Gaozong (628 – 683 AD), and his wife Empress Tang Wu Zetian (624 – 705 AD).

The Daming Palace, where the Tang Emperors ruled China, was eight-hundred years older and nearly five times larger than Beijing’s Forbidden City. The Daming Palace was built in one year.

However, it wasn’t the Daming Palace that made Chang’an powerful. Long before Manhattan, Hong Kong, Paris, and Dubai, Chang’an was where the world came to shop.

Over a thousand years ago, the wealth of the West poured into China. But wealth wasn’t the only thing China gained. Several major religions were also introduced to China.

For instance, Islam was barely a hundred years old, when Silk Road traders brought this religion to Chang’an. Today’s Xi’an claims it has a Muslim history going back thirteen hundred years when Islam was first introduced to China in 650 AD.

In fact, the oldest mosque in China was built in 685-762 AD in Chang’an during the reign of Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty.

Although Christianity and Islam were both introduced to China during the Tang Dynasty, Buddhism has deeper roots since it first arrived in China from India about 200 BC.

Christianity arrived in China in 635 AD (more than eight hundred years after Buddhism and only a few years before Islam), when a Nestorian monk called Alopen reached the ancient capital city of Tang Chang’an.

During the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1643 AD), China isolated itself from the world by rebuilding the Great Wall and a string of impregnable fortresses to protect China’s heartland from Mongol invasion.

One of those fortresses was a new military city built on the ruins of Tang Chang’an, and the Ming named this city “Western Peace” that in Mandarin is “Xi’an”.

Xi’an was one-sixth the size of Tang Chang’an, but nearly six hundred years later,  Xi’an’s walls still stand representing the largest, best-preserved set of ancient defensive walls in the world.

History records that when the walls of this third city faced its first attack, they stood firm, but the attack took place from April – November in 1926. The 20th-century artillery rounds only dented the walls.

The newest enemy to Xi’an’s ancient walls comes from modernization and the millions of inhabitants of the city. As the water table below the city is sucked dry from too many people, this has caused the earth to sink, which is pulling down the walls, and engineers and scientists work to discover ways to save them.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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The Ancient Bells of Marquis Yi

February 7, 2018

In 1977, a discovery was made in China—a complete set of chime bells were unearthed from the tomb of Marquis Yi, who lived during the Warring States Period (475 to 221 BC). These chimes were older than the Qin Dynasty’s famous Terra Cotta warriors (221 to 206 B.C.).

When the chimes were discovered in Hubei Province, a plot of land was being leveled to build a factory. The Red Army officer in charge of the work had an interest in archeology.

The officer discovered that the workers were selling the ancient bronze and iron artifacts they were digging up. He convinced local authorities there might be an ancient tomb buried below the site.

When the tomb was unearthed, a set of chime bells was discovered.  These musical instruments were an important part of ritual and court music in ancient times. An American professor in New York City even called these chimes the eighth wonder of the ancient world.

The sixty-five chime bells weighed about 5 tons.

No other set of chimes like this had been discovered in China before and this set was in excellent condition.

A project was launched in 1979 to duplicate four sets of these chimes. More than a 100 scientists and technicians were recruited.  In 1998, twenty years after the discovery, the project was completed. One of the sets was sent to Taiwan as a gift.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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The Oldest, Longest, and Greatest Canal in the World is in China

February 6, 2018

I learned about the Suez and Panama canals in grade school. In the 19th century, the French built a hundred mile long canal across the Isthmus of Suez. When it opened, the Suez Canal was only 25 feet deep, 72 feet wide at the bottom and 200 to 300 feet wide at the surface.

The Panama Canal was started in 1881 by the French but that attempt was a failure. The Americans ended up finishing the Panama Canal between 1904 – 1914, and it was 51 miles long.

Until my first trip to China in 1999, I had never heard of China’s Grand Canal, which is the oldest and longest man-made canal in the world at more than a thousand miles from Beijing to Hangzhou south of Shanghai.

The construction of China’s Grand Canal was started several hundred years before the birth of Jesus Christ and was completed centuries later, and it’s still in use today. To finish it, the Pound lock was invented in the 10th century during the Song Dynasty. There are 24 locks and about 60 bridges.

The Pound lock was pioneered by Qiao Weiyo, a government official and engineer, in 984 AD that replaced earlier double slipways that had caused trouble and are mentioned by the Chinese polymath Shen Kuo (1031–1095 AD) in his book Dream Pool Essays (published in 1088 AD), and fully described in the Chinese historical text Song Shi (compiled in 1345 AD).

In the 19th and early 20th centuries, the West built the Suez and Panama Canals that combined were 151 miles long. Both the Suez and Panama canals use the same Pound lock concept that was invented in China about one thousand years earlier.

Science Direct.com reports, “Historically, the Grand Canal was built in segments by many separated kingdoms starting some 25 centuries ago. Fuchai, the king of Wu, dug the first section named Hangou, which connected the Huai and the Yangtze rivers.”

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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A short-and-simple intro to Confucius and his impact on China

January 31, 2018

Confucius (551-470 B.C.E.) lived during the warring states period before China was unified as one nation. Confucius is considered the founder of the Chinese ethical and moral system based on the family and his Five Great Relationships:

1. between ruler and subject
2. father and son
3. husband and wife
4. elder and younger brother
5. friend and friend

In each pair, one role was superior and one inferior; one led and the other followed. Yet each involved mutual obligations and responsibilities. Failure to properly fulfill one’s role could lead to the end of the relationship.

In Fact, Confucius taught that responsibility was not given just because you had wealth or power.  Responsibility had to be earned through compassion for others and to live in moderation and not strive for excess.

Did you notice that religion and God are not mentioned among the Five Great Relationships?

Discover The Return of Confucious

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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Subscribe to my newsletter to hear about new releases and get a free copy of my award-winning, historical fiction short story “A Night at the Well of Purity”.

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Buddhism’s Journey to China

January 30, 2018

An Indian prince became the Buddha around the 6th Century BC, but Buddhism would not arrived in China for several centuries. The Buddha’s original name was Siddartha Guatama.

After he died, Buddhism split into two major branches that divided again several times over the centuries.

Today, Buddhism has almost 380-million followers and is the world’s fifth largest religion. Christianity is the largest with 2.4 billion followers. Islam is ranked #2 with 1.6 billion. Christianity and Islam also split into different sects after the founders died although Jesus Christ isn’t the real founder of Christianity. Jesus was a Jew and he died a Jew. There is no evidence that Jesus Christ wanted to launch a new religion that wasn’t Jewish. Hinduism (#3) has 1.15 billion followers with four-major sects.

The Bodhi-dharma was a Buddhist monk and a teacher who lived during the fifty and/or sixth century AD, more than a thousand years after Buddha died in India. The Bodhi-dharma traveled from India to China where he lived in a cave for 9 years.

A Sudden Dawn by Goran Powell is an epic historical fiction novel that opens with a young man named Sardili born in 507 AD to the Indian warrior caste. Sardili realizes that he would rather seek enlightenment than follow his family’s military legacy and he sets out on a life-long quest for truth and wisdom that leads him to China where he becomes the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma, known as Da Mo in China.

Da Mo establishes the Shaolin Temple as the birthplace of Zen and the Martial Arts. In ancient China, bandits and thieves were widespread and Buddhist temples were vulnerable to attack. The Da Mo taught a fighting system for the monks to defend themselves, and it proved successful. Over time, the Buddhist Shaolin style of martial arts evolved to what it is today.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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Subscribe to my newsletter to hear about new releases and get a free copy of my award-winning, historical fiction short story “A Night at the Well of Purity”.

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