China’s Oldest Known Dynasty

October 15, 2013

At one time, the Xia Dynasty (2205 – 1783 BC) was a myth as the Yellow Emperor still  is. Then in 1959 AD, scientists excavated the city “Yanshi”, which contained large palaces, making some archaeologists think that Yanshi was the capital of the Xia Dynasty. Source: Hanna Shakeri

Chinese archaeologists recently found a large-scale building foundation in the Erlitou Ruins of Yanshi in Henan Province, which belongs to the later period of Xia Dynasty. The discovery, the first of its kind, causes great concern because it was founded at the key moment when the Xia Dynasty was replaced by the Shang Dynasty (1783 BC – 1123 BC),” said Dr. Xu Hong, head of the Erlitou Archaeological Team under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. “Was it built by people of the Xia or the Shang? Further excavation will help discover the final resolution….


Chinese language with English subtitles

“The discovery of the Yin Ruins astounded the world in the 20th century,” Dr. Xu Hong said. “We believe the Erlitou Ruins will lead the study of Chinese ancient civilization to a new stage in the 21st century.” Source: China.org

Who knows? Maybe archaeologists will discover that the myth of the Yellow Emperor, who tradition says ruled China from 2697 – 2597 BC, is true.

Discover Qin Shi Huangdi, the Emperor who made China

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

His latest novel is the multiple-award winning Running with the Enemy.

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China’s Holistic Historical Timeline


The “Vanishing” Street Art of Chinese Calligraphy

June 19, 2011

Chinese calligraphy is not vanishing. What I’m talking about is demonstrated in the videos included with this post. In China, many artists use sidewalks as a canvas and a brush with water to paint the beauty of calligraphy. As the water evaporates, the art vanishes.

In fact, calligraphy is more popular than ever. After the Cultural Revolution, many people turned to calligraphy in the hope of finding solace in the calm repetition of its exercises. Then, in 1981, the authorities took the lead in setting up a Chinese Calligraphers’ Association, the first such nationwide body ever to be established in the country. Source: Fathom.com, The British Museum

Both a language and an art, Chinese calligraphy has been traced back more than 4,000 years to the crude form called “Jia Gu Wen” found on turtle shells from the Shang Dynasty.

Calligraphy first bloomed as an art during the Han Dynasty but by the time of the Tang Dynasty, it had declined as an art. Source: Chinese Calligraphy History

It would be difficult to talk about Chinese art without understanding Chinese calligraphy and its artistic inspiration. A painting has to convey an object, but a well-written character conveys only its beauty through line and structure.

In Shanghai on sidewalks, or Beijing at The Summer Palace, I’ve watched men with long handled brushes, as seen in the first video, using water for ink and concrete for paper. With grace, they exhibit the skills of a Rembrandt breathing life into the characters.

America’s so called street artists should copy the Chinese that practice calligraphy and trade in their cans of spray paint for brushes and water, which would save US taxpayers much money.

Lin Yutang writes in My Country and My People that Western art is more sensual, more passionate, fuller of the artist’s ego, while the Chinese artist and art-lover contemplates a dragonfly, a frog, a grasshopper or a piece of jagged rock—more in harmony with nature.

Owing to the use of writing calligraphy with a brush, which is more subtle and more responsive than the pen, calligraphy as art is equal to Chinese painting.

Through calligraphy, the scholar is trained to appreciate, as regards line, qualities like force, suppleness, reserved strength, exquisite tenderness, swiftness, neatness, massiveness, ruggedness, and restraint or freedom.

Maybe this helps explain why the Chinese are not as warlike as Christian and Islamic cultures.

This revised and edited post first appeared on July 3, 2010 as Caressing Nature with Chinese Calligraphy

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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.

To subscribe to “iLook China”, look for the “Subscribe” button at the top of the screen in the menu bar, click on it then follow directions.


New Year’s Recap

January 1, 2011

There’s much about China that I did not know when we started this journey on January 28, 2010. 

We visited China’s early dynasties (the Xia, Shang and Zhou) before Qin Shi Huangdi became the first emperor and unified China.

Then we visited the Han, Tang, Sung, Ming and Qing Dynasties while learning of the chaos and anarchy between the dynasties.

We met Confucius and Wu Zetian, China’s only woman emperor during the Tang Dynasty.

We discovered China’s music, art and opera while meeting one of China’s national treasures, Mao Wei-Tao.

Learning about the 19th century Opium Wars started by the British and French opened my eyes to evils I had not known of.

What shocked me most was how the West forced China to allow Christian missionaries into China along with opium.

One reader challenged me in a comment saying that couldn’t be true then didn’t respond when I provided links to the evidence that missionaries and opium were included in the same treaty, which forced the emperor to accept against his will.

Then I sat spellbound as I joined Mao and the Communists on the Long March where more than 80,000 started out and about 6,000 survived — the only choice was to fight or die.

Along the way, I learned that Sun Yat-sen was the father of China’s republic and how Chiang Kai-shek started the Civil War in 1925 when he ordered his army to slaughter the Chinese Communists.

I didn’t know that the Communist and Nationalist Parties were the two political parties of China’s first republic and how it was the US supported Nationalists that fired the first shot that shattered Sun Yat-sen’s dream for China.

After the Communists won the Civil War in 1949, I saw the suffering and death from Mao’s mistakes during the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution that ended in 1976.

Then we learned how Deng Xiaoping saved China from the Revolutionary Maoists and launched the Capitalist Revolution, which led to the Tiananmen Square incident then China’s Sexual Revolution.

And there was my continued attempt to explain China’s Collective Culture. One comment basically said, “Yea, sure!” as if there were no such thing as cultural differences such as this.

We also were introduced to other Blogs about China such as the China Law Blog.

Of course, with more than a thousand posts in a year, what I have mentioned here is but a small part of the 2010 journey of China.

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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.


History’s Meaning of the Mandate of Heaven – Part 1/5

October 14, 2010

China was the last of the great civilizations to develop independently in the old world — a thousand years after the first civilization in Iraq.

However, the Chinese concept of civilization differed completely from that of the West. For the Chinese, the goal was a moral order on earth sustained by virtue, ritual and reverence of ancestors.

These ancient ideas permeated all aspects of Chinese life even to this day. 

Even the Communist revolution to the crushing of the so-called democracy movement in 1989, played out against these deeper forces, which have shaped China for thousands of years.

The discovery of the origins of Chinese history took place in 1899, when a Chinese scholar found a few (dragon) bones with engravings on them. 

His search for the source of the bones took him to the site of the ancient capital of the Shang Dynasty (1766 – 1122 B.C.).

 

Chinese civilization first arose on the banks of the unpredictable Yellow River, which has destroyed cities and killed millions.

Along the banks of this river, unlike Western civilizations, the source of political power did not lie in control of nature but in control of the past.

In the strange markings on the dragon bones, the Chinese scholar found the beginning of the I-Ching, the great Chinese book of wisdom.

Then there was Confucius.

The teachings of Confucius (551 – 470 B.C.) were the ideal of Chinese government for two thousand years, and Confucius was not concerned with God or the afterlife or heaven as those in the West were and still are today.

Instead, Confucius wanted to build a just and stable society. He believed that goodness was most important, and if people were taught goodness, they would regulate themselves.

For the rulers, to ignore this meant risking losing the Mandate of Heaven, which even the Communist Party that rules China today has discovered.

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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.


Running toward the Tang Dynasty (618 – 906 AD) – Part 1/4

September 24, 2010

If we were to compare Chinese civilization to an amusement ride, it would be a roller coaster.

As each dynasty ended, there was usually a period of chaos, war and anarchy among rival factions.

After the collapse of China’s last Dynasty, the Qing, between 1911 and 1949, chaos, anarchy, warlords, rebellion and World War II tore at the fabric of China. See The Roots of Madness

Then Communist China was born, which eventually led to China’s Capitalist Revolution.

The Xia Dynasty (about 2205 – 1766 BC) ended with the reign of a tyrannical emperor, who lived an extravagant life. When patriotic ministers attempted giving him good advice, he killed them. Then the people rose in rebellion.

The Shang Dynasty (1766 – 1122 BC) ended in similar circumstances when the last emperor lived a luxurious life and tortured both his ministers and people. Another rebellion led by the chief of the Zhou tribe brought down the Shang.

The Zhou Dynasty (1122 – 221 BC) was divided between the Eastern and Western Zhou Dynasties, which fell apart during the Spring and Autumn (770 – 475 BC) Period and the Warring States Period (476 – 221 BC) when the Zhou Emperor didn’t have the power to control the nobles, who fought amongst themselves again leading to chaos and anarchy.

The short Qin Dynasty (221 to 207 BC) unified all China ending the Warring States Period.

However, Qin Shi Huangdi, China’s first emperor, was brutal and soon after his death, the Qin Dynasty was swept aside to be replaced by the Han Dynasty.

The Han Dynasty (207 BC to 220 AD) was divided into the Western and Eastern Han. Near the end of the Han, the last two emperors were weak. The rule of law broke down again and life was hard.

The Han ended with another rebellion leading to the Three Kingdom’s Period (220 – 280 AD), which meant more chaos and anarchy before China would be unified again under one emperor.

With the end of the Three Kingdoms Period, the Jin Dynasty (265 – 420 AD) ruled until the final emperors were too weak to control the warlords, which led to chaos and anarchy.

The Jin Dynasty was followed by four successive southern dynasties (420 – 589 AD)  and five northern dynasties (386 – 581 AD) followed by the Sui Dynasty that lasted for 38 years when the last emperor of the Sui yielded the throne to the Emperor Gaozu of the Tang Dynasty.

The early Tang emperors built an empire that pushed China’s boundaries to their farthest existence and a culture whose achievements would profoundly influence all Asia.

A thriving economy with complex international ties created one of the richest, strongest and most sophisticated states in world history.

The western capital of Chan-an, which had been the first capital of the Zhou, Qin and Han Dynasties, had a population of a million inside the city walls.

Continued in the Tang Dynasty – Part 2

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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.


Emperor Wu of Zhou Dynasty – Part 2/4

September 7, 2010

To defeat the Shang Dynasty, King Wu crossed the Yellow River and immediately marched his army toward the capital.

At the Battle of Muye, the Zhou army was outnumbered more than three to one with less than fifty thousand troops against one hundred and seventy thousand.

However, during the battle, many slaves and conscripted prisoners of war from other tribes in the Shang army changed sides to fight with the Zhou army.


Video: Chinese with English subtitles

The remaining Shang army offered little resistance after that.  The Shang king fled to his capital leaving what was left of his army behind. Once he arrived at his capital, he set himself on fire.

To honor his father, King Wu named him the founder of the Zhou Dynasty (1126 – 222 B.C.). Now an Emperor, Wu established a feudal kingdom built on a patriarchal clan system.

The agricultural system of the time required peasants to not only farm the land they owned but also a plot of state land—this was called the “jing-fields” system.

Return to Emperor Wu of Zhou Dynasty – Part 1 or continue with Part 3

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. 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.

To subscribe to “iLook China”, sign up for an E-mail Subscription at the top right-hand side of this page and then follow directions.


Emperor Wu of Zhou Dynasty – Part 1/4

September 6, 2010

Wu of the Western Zhou Dynasty was named Jifa. He was the second son of King Wen, and the founder of the Western Zhou Dynasty.

The Zhou Dynasty would last almost 900 years. Source: Cultural China

The Zhou people lived along the western part of the Yellow River and were one of the first nations to develop agriculture. To the Northwest of Zhou were barbarian tribes.


Video: Chinese with English subtitles

The Zhou capital was near today’s modern city of Xian in Shanxi Province, and the Zhou, a vassal state, were given the job of protecting the Shang Dynasty’s western frontier.

However, while the brutal last king of the Shang Dynasty waged endless wars with surrounding tribes, the Zhou ruler placed more importance on developing agriculture and his small kingdom grew wealthy.

Zhou’s prosperity bothered the Shang king so he threw King Wen in prison.  After his release, Wen recruited a talented general to lead his army to wage war on the Shang Dynasty.

The Zhou king died during the war and his son Wu became king and defeated the Shang. To achieve this victory King Wu forged an alliance with other Shang vassal states.

According to historical records, the Shang Dynasty fell in the first month of 1027 B.C.

Continued with Emperor Wu of Zhou Dynasty – Part 2

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. 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.

To subscribe to “iLook China”, sign up for an E-mail Subscription at the top right-hand side of this page and then follow directions.