The Seven Wonders of China: Part 2/5

February 12, 2013

2. Hanging Monastery

Another popular tourist site is the fifteen-hundred year old wooden Hanging Monastery. The monastery is suspended fifteen stories above the valley floor on the side of a sheer cliff.  It is a mystery why the monastery was built there and why.

One reason might be the floods that once plagued the valley. Today, a dam controls the water. The monastery was built in an indentation in the cliff below an overhand.

What cannot be seen from the valley floor is the Hanging Monastery was built into the cliff’s face. More than forty caves and rooms were dug into the rock. This process allowed supports to be built into the cliff.  The thin wooden pillars are only there for decoration and were added in the last century.

3. The Great Wall

One of the world’s greatest treasures is the almost four-thousand mile Great Wall that took two-thousand years to complete.

The early great wall was made of layers of pressed earth and straw. The Qin Dynasty completed the first wall. The Han Dynasty extended the wall toward Mongolia. The Ming Dynasty built the wall stronger of stone and mortar. The Chinese used smoke and fire to send messages over long distances to warn of enemy attacks.

Continued on February 13, 2013 in The Seven Wonders of China: Part 3 or return to Part 1

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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.

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The Seven Wonders of China: Part 1/5

February 11, 2013

1. Xian, the first emperor and the Terra Cotta Warriors

From this Discovery Channel program on the Seven Wonders of China, we learn that there are 55 ethnic groups and 235 living languages. The first of the seven wonders is near Xian, which was the capital of thirteen of China’s Dynasties.

In 1974, Chinese farmers digging a well near Xian discovered the first of the terra cotta warriors guarding China’s first emperor, Shi Huangdi, of the Qin Dynasty (221 – 207 BC).

The terra cotta warriors are one of China’s most popular tourist attractions. About 10 million tourists visit annually.  No two terra cotta soldiers look alike.

The first emperor centralized the government, standardized the written language, currency, and weights and measures. With these changes, he created China’s national identity. Forcing hundreds of thousands of workers, he also had The Great Wall completed.

Most Chinese believe in the immortality of the spirit and life after death.

It is tradition that the Chinese believe there is continuity between life and death, and people may take things with them for comfort in the spiritual world, which explains why the first emperor had such an elaborate tomb built.

Continued on February 12, 2013 in The Seven Wonders of China: 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.

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Visiting The Great Wall Part – Part 3/3

July 25, 2012

On our way back to Beijing from the Great Wall at Mutianyu, our driver stopped at a factory-showroom where we learned about the manufacturing techniques for Cloisonné brass vases.

I’ve read some tourists/expatriates complain of these sort of stops, but I enjoy window shopping and this was something new—sometimes I even buy something.  In this case, I bought three vases (photos are included here).

First, we went on a tour where we watched men and women creating vases. Once the tour was over, we went into the showroom.

The vases I bought (after negotiating the price) are yellow with a blue trim.  One has a blue dragon on it, the second a phoenix beside a chariot, and the third running horses. Each one is about the size of my hand (see photos)

The cloisonné process is enamel on copper craftwork. It first appeared in Beijing in the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) and continued during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Cloisonné vases are crafted by using a copper porcelain process. The vase is made from copper with brass wires soldered to the body. Then a porcelain glaze is applied to cells between the brass wires.

After a series of complex procedures, such as burning, burnishing and gilding, the cloisonné vase is done. Chinese name: 景泰蓝(jǐng tài lán)

Return to Visiting The Great Wall – Part 2 or start with Part 1

______________

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.

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Visiting The Great Wall – Part 1/3

July 23, 2012

Like so much about China, The Great Wall is also the victim of myths and lies.

I’m reading Peter Hessler’s “Country Driving“, which is a great book that I plan to review when I finish it. However, his first chapter covers the months he spent driving the length of the Great Wall all the way to Tibet.

In fact, before there was one wall, there were many—all built by different kingdoms before China was unified under Qin Shi Huangdi in 221 BC.

Although I’m enjoying all of Hessler’s memoir, the hundred and twenty-two pages that focus on the Great Walls are the best part of the book.

Before reading Hessler’s memoir, I wrongly believed, as so many others do, that The Great Wall was a failure as a defense against invaders.  However, Hessler proves that myth wrong.  For the most part, the wall did keep marauders out.

In fact, on page 116 of the paperback, he quotes David Spindler who found evidence that the Ming Great Wall actually worked as a defensive structure.

The Wall failed when the unified Mongols invaded China in the 13th century but it didn’t happen overnight. It took sixty years for the Mongols to conquor all of China.

Before Genghis Khan unified the Mongols, there was no unified Mongolia—only nomadic tribes that fought amongst each other and raided into China whenever one or more tribes decided on a whim—that is if they could fight their way past the Great Wall guarding China’s heartland.

In section one of “Country Driving”, The Wall, Hessler points out that no archeologists/historians have studied the history of The Great Wall but there are amateurs that have, both Western and Chinese and these Great Wall amateur (experts) have discovered original documents written by Ming Dynasty military officers and troops detailing the defense of the wall against nomads intent on raiding into China to loot, rape and steal. According to this information, the wall served its purpose more often than not.

Continued on July 24, 2012 in Visiting The Great Wall – Part 2

Note: I wrote this post about two months ago and scheduled it to appear July 23 before I finished reading Hessler’s memoir. Then after I wrote the review, I scheduled it to appear before this post appeared. You may find the review here: Country Driving in China with Peter Hessler

I often write and schedule posts weeks in advance with the goal to stay one month ahead. That way I may take a few days off now and then from writing posts.

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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.

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Country Driving in China with Peter Hessler – Part 2/2

May 29, 2012

In the first 122 pages of Country Driving, Peter Hessler sets out to drive the entire length of the Great Wall in a rented Chinese made Jeep Cherokee and he achieves his goal. In this section, I learned that the Wall was successful most of the time and not the failure historians claim it was. Yes, in several thousand years, the wall failed a few times but it served its purpose and did protect China’s heartland for centuries. Hessler says that there is no archaeologist in the world that has studied the history of the Great Wall but wrote there are amateur experts (we meet a few in this section along with a unique view of rural China) that have proven through historical research that the wall did work.

In Part II, Hessler takes us into a small village a few hours drive outside Beijing where he rents a house and becomes accepted by the insular-rural village community making friends and becoming involved personally with local families. The man that becomes his closest contact and friend in the village eventually joins the CCP (there are only about 80 million members in China) and then uses this to his advantage as he continues to improve the quality of his family’s lifestyle.

In Part III, Hessler travels to the city of Winzhou in Southern China where he spends time developing relationships with factory bosses and workers.  In this section, the Chinese people he meets are open and friendly. Hessler sees a side of China that few witness and it is obvious that the factory workers are not victims because of low pay and long hours of work but see this new life as an opportunity.


Peter Hessler discussing his novel “Oracle Bones”

When I finished Hessler’s memoir, I walked away feeling as if I had experienced an in-depth taste of the dramatic changes that have taken place in China since Mao’s death in 1976. Since China’s critics mostly focus on the negative, which is the corruption and/or authoritarian one-party system, and never admit the good that the CCP has accomplished, most people would not understand what I discovered.  To understand what I mean, one must compare China before 1949 with today by reading such books as those written by Hessler and his wife.

Before 1949, more than 90% of the people in China lived in severe poverty, more than 80% were illiterate, the average lifespan was 35, few people owned land, and the risk of death from famine had been an annual threat for more than two thousand years. In fact, most rural Chinese were treated as if they were beasts of burden and not human.

Today, about 13% live in severe poverty and those people mostly live in remote, rugged, difficult to reach areas of China.  The lifespan is now about 73 years and Helen H. Wang writing for Forbes.com (February 2011) reported that China’s middle class is already larger than the entire population of the United States and is expected to reach 800 million in fifteen years (2026). In addition, no one has died of famine since 1959-1961.

I highly recommend Country Living for anyone that wants to learn more about today’s dramatically changing China from an unbiased perspective.

Return to Country Driving in China with Peter Hessler – Part 1

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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.

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