Suzhou was the cradle of Wu Culture, a city with more than 2,500 years of history that is located in the southern portion of Jiangsu province about 50 miles from Shanghai along the old Grand Canal. By the 14th century, Suzhou was established as the leading silk producer in China. Suzhou is also known for Kun Opera with roots in folk songs from the mid 14th century.
The photos were taken by Nancy Williams, my sister.
The Japanese art of bonsai originated from the Chinese practice of penjing (盆景), and the earliest illustration of penjing is found in the murals at the Tang Dynasty tomb of Crown Prince Zhanghuai, 706 AD. Penjing is known as the ancient Chinese art of depicting artistically formed trees, other plants, and landscapes in miniature.
In fact, classical Japan borrowed China’s ancient architecture, Buddhism, a centralized, imperial state; Confucius ethics and political thought in addition to the Chinese writing system.
However, it’s crucially important to understand that what the Japanese borrowed from China, they also adapted and made Japanese.
Continued on September 3, 2014 in Suzhou’s Humble Administrator’s Garden: Part 2
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.
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I have always wondered if the reason the Chinese and Japanese are such enemies is because they share so much common history. Like cousins who spent too much time stuck in the back seat of the family car on long road trips …
As it was explained to me, Japanese merchants traded with China for its advanced goods, and sent ambassadors to the Chinese court where they may have felt like second class citizens. For instance, the capital of the Han Dynasty was Xian where they had sewers and running water. The city held more than a million people and the Imperial Palace was several times the size of the Forbidden City in Beijing. Imagine what Japan’s ambassadors must have felt like visiting the Han capital and the Emperor’s huge palace. I wonder if the Japanese ambassadors had to get down on their hands and knees and kowtow to the mighty Han emperors.
Up until the 19th century, China was the super power of Asia—comparable to the United States and Cuba, I think. The Han Dynasty was the rival of the Roman Empire and Rome bought Chinese silk and ceramic products but few products were exported from Rome to China. There was little to nothing being produced outside of China that was better or more advanced than what was being produced in China.
So it may not come as a surprise that, when the Japanese industrialized and built a modern army and navy in the late 19th and early 20th century and finally had the upper hand, they took advantage of a weakened China and attacked. China had many resources and Japan had few.
A China weakened from the Opium Wars, the Taiping Rebellion (and other rebellions in the northwest) in addition to the invasion from the West caused by the Boxer Rebellion and then the collapse of the Qing Dynasty that fractured China into fiefdoms ruled by warlords, that Japan couldn’t’ resist the opportunity.
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In the end, the Japanese for all their industry and arms couldn’t conquer China. No one has conquered China. I think it’s unconquerable, by virtue of its size and diversity, if not by strength of arms.
So the Japanese were kind of like poor cousins who got to visit, but not share the goodies.
Europeans — from Rome to today — have been stupid in how they deal with China. Our loss in the end.
Our loss if the Chinese decide to get even one day, but the history of China doesn’t show that. Instead, the Chinese tend to avoid the world when possible. We can hope that our influence doesn’t rub off too much. :o)