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


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. 

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Propaganda Masquerading as a Movie Review

June 7, 2010

I found another example of media propaganda in a movie review. In June 1989, the Tiananmen Square incident took place in China and “hundreds” of demonstrators died in what started as peaceful demonstrations “demanding” changes in China.

A few months later, a New York Times review made comparisons between the first emperor and China’s modern government. “The depiction of Qin’s bonfire and of his soldiers pushing his flailing enemies (they weren’t the emperor’s enemies) into a ditch caused the American Museum of Natural History to cancel its planned opening of ”The First Emperor of China” last July, when the news was still full of the Chinese Government’s violent suppression of student protests.… This re-enactment of the faraway Qin’s often despotic and often enlightened rule becomes more believable and complex in view of the parallels with recent events.”

The New York Times made a comparison with an event that took place more than two millennia ago but made no mention of the 2/28 Massacre in Taiwan by a US ally where almost thirty thousand noncombatants were killed by Kuomintang troops. There was also no mention of the almost 70,000 U.S. troops in the Philippians, who slaughtered hundreds of thousands of Filipino freedom fighters and non-combatants between 1898 and World War II.

Filipinos killed by US troops before World War II

The New York Times does not review every movie or documentary produced so it is questionable why they would review this lackluster 38-minute documentary about China’s first emperor. Was there another motive behind this review—to remind Americans of the Tiananmen Square incident? After all, let’s not forget anything bad that Communist China does while forgetting worse historical sins committed by American troops and its allies.

See What is the Truth about Tiananmen Square?


Lloyd Lofthouse is the author of the award winning novels My Splendid Concubine and Our Hart. He also Blogs at The Soulful Veteran and Crazy Normal.

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“First Emperor of China” Movie Review

June 7, 2010

Released in 1989 and narrated by Christopher Plummer, this version of the First Emperor of China is about half the length of the nine-part series, The First Emperor: The Man Who Made China (link to part 1), about Qin Shi Huangdi on YouTube.


This documentary was first seen on an IMAX screen, and it covers a few of the known facts about the first emperor’s life.  There is the attempted coup by a prime minister; the assassin with a poison knife; the conquest of six Chinese nations to unify China (too brief on detail); adopting one written language, which resulting in book burning and burying hundreds of scholars alive who disagreed with him; completing the Great Wall of China, and the creation of the Terra Cotta army that would guard his tomb.

Then there is emperor’s quest to live forever by consuming a form of liquid mercury, which shortened his life by decades—an example of how power corrupts absolutely making a man believe he was as powerful as a god.

This link will take you to the New York Times review, which said it was a painless history lesson full of vibrant period details but lacking human drama.


Lloyd Lofthouse is the author of the award winning novels My Splendid Concubine and Our Hart. He also Blogs at The Soulful Veteran and Crazy Normal.

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Tainting History

June 4, 2010

As a child, I had a fascination for Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan.  Still do. I read everything I could about these men who built empires and yet I knew little because of the cultural filters the West puts in place for any history outside Christianity and Western Civilization.

Multi-story statue of Genghis Khan in Mongolia

In Reconsidering Genghis Khan, we discover how history written from a Western perspective was misleading.  Currently through November 1, Genghis Khan, The Exhibition is showing at The Tech Museum in San Jose, California. Prior to arriving in San Jose, the exhibition was on display at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science where it drew 175,000 visitors.

We now know that Genghis Khan was anything but the butcher and barbarian Western historians painted him as. Records from the period, many only now being uncovered, “give you a view of a person who is a superb organizer, a superb lawmaker, a fair and judicious ruler, somebody who supported women and gave women a lot of rights,” says William Fitzhugh, who is a consultant for the exhibition. “It’s wrong to say that Genghis created a democracy, but, for the time, he was remarkably enlightened.” Source: Mercury News

In fact, Kublai Khan, the grandson of Genghis Khan, established the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368) in China and ruled as the Emperor from Beijing. (Genghis Khan statue )

Discover China’s First Emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi


Lloyd Lofthouse is the author of the award winning novels My Splendid Concubine and Our Hart. He also Blogs at The Soulful Veteran and Crazy Normal.

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Kombucha Fermented Tea

May 30, 2010

Sometimes I wonder about the sanity of most Americans.  It seems they will drink or eat anything that arrives pretty on a plate or in a fancy bottle. I  read a piece this morning that said Lindsay Lohan and other Hollywood types like Madonna, Kirsten Dunst and Halle Berry are into this new (but old) synergy drink called Kombucha.

Kombucha Home Brew

No one knows for sure where this fermented tea originated but recorded history says it started in Russia during the late 19th century. Promotional material says the drink comes from ancient China or Japan. In fact, some say that kombucha, known as the Godly Tsche, dates back to the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC) and was “a beverage with magical powers enabling people to live forever”. Since the first emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi, didn’t live forever, we can discount that claim.

I asked my wife about this tea and she said that as a child she saw it being fermented and that the stuff floating around inside the jar reminded her of dead cockroaches.  Once someone like Pepsi or Coke gets hold of something old like this there is no telling what kind of chemicals will be added. If you want to make this tea, click Kombucha Tea for the home brew recipe.

If you believe the health claims for this tea, you may want to learn about the Chinese “Chong Cao“. Remember, the Food and Drug Adminstration (FDA) hasn’t evaluated any of this stuff yet.


Lloyd Lofthouse is the author of the award winning novels My Splendid Concubine and Our Hart. He also Blogs at The Soulful Veteran and Crazy Normal.

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