China Preserving its History

January 6, 2015

A few years ago, David Frum wrote on his blog (I think he deleted that post or closed his Blog since then) about China’s Early Empires referring to Belknap’s six-volume history of Imperial China. Frum said, “There is no Chinese equivalent of the Parthenon or the Roman Forum, no Pantheon or Coliseum. For all its overpowering continuity, China does not preserve physical remains of the past… He offhandedly mentioned at one point that there remained not a single surviving house or palace from Han China. There are not even ruins.”

David Frum—who was a speechwriter for President George W. Bush—was wrong.

I wrote a three-part series about the Han Dynasty (206 B.C. – 220 A.D.) tombs discovered in Xuzhou, which was the location of the capital of the Han Dynasty. The tombs, which have not been destroyed or looted, are now tourist attractions. A museum was built to house artifacts that were discovered. One tomb has a living room and a bedroom before the coffin chamber.  Since the tomb was built inside a hollowed-out rock mountain, it survived more than two millennia with evidence of how the Han Dynasty lived more than 2,000 years ago.

And I’ve toured the Ming tombs, and seen the graves of heroes from the Song Dynasty near the West Lake in Hangzhou, south of Shanghai.  Also, let’s not forget that the Grand Canal, which was started five centuries before the birth of Christ, is still in use today.

Then, if you visit Tibet, there’s the Potala Palace, which was first built in 637 AD and is still lived in. Although much of ancient China has vanished, there are still vestiges that equal or surpass what the Roman and Greek civilizations left behind.

Last but not least, there’s the Great Wall and China’s Terra-Cotta Warriors from the first emperor (260-210 BC). I wrote about Qin Shi Huangdi in this post: http://ilookchina.net/tag/the-first-emperor-of-china/

Though the beginning of the Great Wall of China can be traced to the third century B.C., many of the fortifications included in the wall date from hundreds of years earlier, when China was divided into a number of individual kingdoms during the so-called Warring States Period (Beginning between 481 – 403 BC) .

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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 lusty love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

Honorable Mentions in General Fiction
2012 San Francisco Book Festival
2012 New York Book Festival
2012 London Book Festival
2009 Los Angeles Book Festival
2009 Hollywood Book Festival

Finalist in Fiction & Literature – Historical Fiction
The National “Best Books 2010” Awards

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The Machines of Ancient China — Part 4/4

October 29, 2010

Qin Shi Huangdi (259 to 210 BC), the first emperor who unified China, summoned 700,000 people to build his tomb. These people probably worked at least ten years or longer.

Modern day workshops that duplicated what it took to create the Terra Cotta warriors used ancient materials and methods. It took twenty days to complete one warrior.  Each warrior used an average of 130 kilos or 286 pounds of clay.

To complete the entire army, more than one thousand tons was needed.

Another Chinese inventor during the Song Dynasty created a machine known as the Cosmic Engine, the ancient world’s astronomical computer.

Su Song was the inventor.  The Cosmic Engine was so complicated that for centuries no one (even Westerners) understood how it worked. Today, few westerners know that it existed.

However, records show that the Cosmic Engine was created in 1092 AD.

The Cosmic Engine calculated time—not just hours and minutes but weeks, months and seasons reflecting how the earth moves around the sun. It also calculated how the earth and planets moved through space.

The Cosmic Engine was five stories tall and its working innards are complex.

Today, we know exactly how this device was created since Su Song left detailed blueprints and directions of exactly how it was built. Song’s Cosmic Engine worked from the eleventh century until enemies of the Song Dynasty destroyed it.

Using Song’s blueprints, the Science and Technology Museum in Beijing built a fully accurate reconstruction. Another reconstruction exists in London.

This ingenious device led to the invention of Western clocks centuries later.

Today, we know that many of the inventions and discoveries the modern world is built on originated in ancient Imperial China.

Return to the Machines of Ancient China – Part 3 or to discover more inventions see China Points the Way

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. 

If you want to subscribe to iLook China, there is a “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.


The Machines of Ancient China — Part 3/4

October 29, 2010

More evidence has been discovered that the Chinese had a long history using geared machines.

Beautiful, engraved jade rings were found in tombs dated back to 400 BC. 

After studying the elaborately designed rings, archeologists believe the only way to produce this precision was by using a machine—a device known as a compound machine is one that synchronizes rotational with linear motion.

Over thousands of years, these technological innovations traveled from east to west along the Silk Route.

In fact, there is an archeological site in China that provides solid evidence of the abilities of China’s ancient engineers and craftsmen.

The first emperor of China’s Terra Cotta army is that evidence.

Located near Xian, it is considered by many to be the eighth wonder of the ancient world.

Over eight thousand human sized statues were created by Chinese engineers and craftsmen to protect Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi more than twenty-two hundred years ago.

These Terra Cotta warriors were armed with over ten thousand bronze weapons—the exact weapons used in combat. Amazing as it sounds, these weapons were coated with chromium, which wasn’t developed in the West until the 1930s.

It is believed that these warriors and their weapons were mass-produced in factories that match today’s modern factories.

The most impressive discoveries were the emperor’s full-scale chariots made of gold, silver and bronze. During the Qin Dynasty, the Chinese had established high standards for metallurgy and metal production.

The methods used to build these chariots were highly advanced and are still in use today.

Return to the Machines of Ancient China – Part 2 or to discover more inventions see With or Without Paper

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of the concubine saga, My Splendid Concubine & Our Hart. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. 

If you want to subscribe to iLook China, there is a “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar.