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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China’s Ancient Chimes

July 17, 2012

In 1977, a discovery was made in China—a complete set of chime bells were unearthed from the tomb of Marquis Yi, who lived during the Warring States Period (475 to 221 BC). These chimes were older than the Qin Dynasty’s famous Terra Cotta warriors (221 to 206 B.C.) were.

When the chimes were discovered in Hubei Province (located in Central China), a plot of land was being leveled to build a factory.  The Red Army officer in charge of the work had an interest in archeology.

The officer discovered that the workers were selling the ancient bronze and iron artifacts they were digging up. He convinced local authorities there might be an ancient tomb buried below the site.

When the tomb was unearthed, a set of chime bells was found.  These musical instruments were an important part of ritual and court music going back to ancient times. An American professor in New York City even called these chimes the eighth wonder of the ancient world.

The sixty-five chime bells weighed about 5 tons.

No other set of chimes like this had been discovered in China before and this set was in excellent condition.

A project was launched in 1979 to duplicate four sets of these chimes. More than a 100 scientists and technicians were recruited.  In 1998, twenty years after the discovery, the project was completed. One of the sets was sent to Taiwan as a gift.

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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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Note: This post originally appeared September 2010


Tea for Emperors and Tibet – Kombucha Fermented Tea – Part 5/5

January 21, 2012

Sometimes I wonder about the sanity of most Americans. It seems they will drink or eat anything that arrives on an attractive plate or in a fancy bottle. I read a piece recently 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.

No one knows for sure where this fermented tea originated but recorded history says it started in Russia during the late 19th century.

However, promotional material says the drink comes from ancient China or Japan. In fact, some say that kombucha, known as 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 of this tea, you may want to learn about the Chinese “Chong Cao“. Remember, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) hasn’t evaluated any of these claims.

Return to Tea for Emperors and Tibet – Part 4 or start with 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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Note: This five-part series of posts on “Tea for the Emperors and Tibet” first appeared May 2010, as The Magic of “Puer” Tea, The Tea Horse Road, and Kambucha Fermented Tea.


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. 

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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.

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