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 Xian – a city with more than 3,100 years of history

April 17, 2012

We are taking a quick trip to Xian (in pictures that is). Xian was China’s ancient capital for more than a thousand years before being moved to Beijing.

After landing in Xian in 2008, (our third visit to the city since 1999) we found a great driver. He was honest and knowledgeable. Here’s the cell phone number he had at the time (136-0916-251). If you visit Xian, I recommend you book him for the entire stay. He also introduced us to some experiences we’d never had on previous trips.

The Famous Terra Cotta warriors were created to guard China’s first emperor Qin Shi Huangdi (221-204 B.C.). Qin Shi Huangdi made Xian China’s first capital until Kublai Khan moved the capital to Beijing where he ruled his Khanbalik Empire, from 1264 to 1267.

Xian was known as Chang’an before the Ming Dynasty and is one of the four great ancient capitals of China having held that distinction under several of the most important dynasties in China’s history. In fact, Xian was a cultural center more than a thousand years before Jesus Christ was born.

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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 revised post first appeared February 19, 2010


Xi’an (Chang’ an) – China’s Ancient Capital – Part 3/5

October 23, 2011

From the Qin to the Tang Dynasty, 62 emperors ruled China from Chang’ an (Xi’an). The China Daily says in and around Xi’an, there are about 500 burial mounds where the remains of emperors and aristocrats rest.

The largest tombs mark the passing of Emperors Qin Shi Huangdi (259 – 210 BC), Tang Gaozong (628 – 683 AD), and his wife Empress Tang Wu Zetian (624 – 705 AD).

When we left Neville Gishford‘s documentary, China’s Most Honourable City, in Part 2, Chang’ an was the capital of the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 AD) with a population of over a million — six times the size of ancient Rome.

The Daming Palace, where the Tang Emperors ruled China, was 800 years older and nearly five times larger than Beijing’s Forbidden City. This huge palace was built in one year.

However, it wasn’t the Daming Palace that made Chang’ an (Xi’an) powerful. Long before Manhattan, Hong Kong, Paris and Dubai, Chang’ an was where the world came to shop.

Over a thousand years ago, the wealth of the West poured into China (and it is happening again) and arrived at Chang’ an over the Silk Road.

But wealth wasn’t the only thing China gained. Major religions also arrived in China at this time.

Islam was barely a century old, when Silk Road traders brought this religion to Chang’ an. In another post, A Road to the Hajj from China, I wrote, “The ancient city of Xi’an in Shaanxi province is home to about 60,000 ethnic Chinese Muslims.”

Xi’an claims it has a Muslim history going back thirteen hundred years when Islam was first introduced to China in 650 AD.

In fact, the oldest mosque in China was built in 685-762 AD in Chang’ an during the reign of Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty.

Continued on October 20, 2011, in Xi’an (Chang’ an) – China’s Ancient Capital – Part 4 or return to 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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Qin Shi Huangdi – The Man who unified China – (Viewed as Single Page)

June 14, 2011

Professor Jeffrey Riegel, of the University of California, Berkeley traveled to China to unlock the truth behind one of the earth’s greatest legends, a man larger than life, the first emperor of China, Shi Huangdi (259-210 BC). This post comes from the documentary film of China’s first emperor.

The first time we visited his tomb was December 1999.

Shi Huangdi was barely thirteen when his father died (246 BC) after being king of Qin for three years. The legends say Shi Huangdi was a tyrant driven mad by power.

He had a tomb built the likes of which humanity has never seen. When the first emperor died, he was the most powerful man on earth. He created an empire that outlasted Rome by a thousand years, he ruled ten times the population of ancient Egypt, and today’s China owes its existence to this man.

Months after becoming king at thirteen, Shi Huangdi overcomes his mother’s desire to rule in his name and took his nation to war. He was the youngest king to wage war and soon proved he was also the greatest warrior.

He soon becomes known as the Tiger of Qin.

Shi Huangdi wages war against his enemies for ten years. At the time, there were seven countries in China besides Qin. The seven countries in what we know as China today were Zhao, Yen, Wei, Han, Chi, Chu and Qin.

During the war to conquer Zhao, Shi Huangdi’s army took ten thousand prisoners. The rules of war say these prisoners must be fed and sheltered. However, Shi Huangdi changed the rules.

He shows his troops what to do by beheading an enemy troop and calls on his army to do the same.

He says, “There is only one way to treat weakness and that is to exploit it. There is only one way for Qin to survive, and that is to conquer.”

All 10,000 Zhao prisoners were beheaded.

By the time Qin Shi Huangdi turns  twenty, he had captured thirteen cities from the state of Han and twenty from the other states. Huangdi’s rival countries send a combined army to stop him but they are repelled.

Some of Huangdi’s success is because of the precision weapons Qin craftsmen make for his loyal, highly trained army. Discover more of China’s Warrior King

However, while the king of Qin is conquering China, there is an enemy scheming to replace him.

His mother, the dowager queen, has taken a lover, who masquerades as a eunuch. The queen has had two illegitimate sons with this lover, who steals two royal seals that gives him authority to mobilize troops in an attempt to replace Shi Huandgi with one of the king’s half brothers.

Qin’s prime minister discovers the plot and a trap is set to destroy the rebel army. The dowager queen’s lover is captured, tortured and his mangled body pulled apart by four horses while the queen mother is forced to watch.

While the death sentence is being carried out, Huandgi has his two half brothers strangled to remove this threat to his throne.

With this challenge to the throne removed, Shi Huangdi has learned a lesson. He is ruthless and rids himself of his mother and his prime minister.

There is a dramatic scene where the prime minister asks for forgiveness for letting the queen mother do what she did.

The prime minister is exiled and not allowed to see the queen mother again. Within a year, the disgraced prime minister kills himself.

A scholar, who believes in harsh laws, becomes Huangdi’s closest advisor.

By 227 BC, the Qin state has conquered the states of Han, Wei and Zhao.

The state of Yen knows it is next and sends professional assassins disguised as peace emissaries to kill Shi Huangdi. The emissaries arrive in Xian with gifts and an assassin strikes.

Since no weapons are allowed in the throne room, there are no armed guards to protect the king. Only the king has a weapon and only the king can call the troops to save him.

By 223 BC, Shi Huangdi is ready to unify China. Only the states of Chi and Chu are left, but the Chu army destroys his first invasion force.

Shi Huangdi raises another army and invades again. A million troops face each other and it becomes a standoff. To win, Shi Huangdi tricks the Chu generals to make a mistake, and the last great obstacle to the unification of China falls.

Chi is the last country that has not been defeated. To avoid the slaughter, Chi joins Shi Huangdi without a fight.

Qin is now China.

At the age of 34, Qin Shi Huangdi was crowned with a veil of stars as the first god emperor of the Qin people and China.

The system of governance put into place will long outlast the emperor.

Qin Shi Huangdi commissions a Terra Cotta army that will guard him in death, and the troops are larger than life. In one pit, more than two hundred sets of armor made of stone have been found with no bodies to wear them.

It is believed that the armor may have been made for the spirits of dead soldiers who suffered violent deaths in combat so the dead would not become vengeful spirits.

The totalitarian philosophy in the new Chinese empire was called legalism.

Rules govern every part of every citizen’s daily life with the punishment spelled out. Physical punishment could mean mutilation.

For example, if two are caught having sex, they will be beheaded. Every aspect of private life is part of Qin law.

In 220 BC, Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi goes on an inspection tour of his empire. With the major wars over, millions of troops are put to work finishing the Great Wall of China, which was designed to stop the nomadic tribes to the north from raiding into China, which they have done for centuries.

The Great Wall is the greatest engineering project of the ancient world. It is thirty feet high and more than three thousand miles long. At one point, over a million people worked on the wall and about a quarter died.

The emperor makes more demands. He sends hundreds of thousands to build a tomb that fits his rank as the first divine emperor of China.

The burial mound, larger than the largest pyramid in Egypt, is at the center of an above ground and underground city. His tomb is made of bronze surrounded by
mercury rivers and oceans.

Recently, using ground penetrating radar and other instruments, a three dimensional model is built of this underground complex.

By 215 BC, Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi’s tomb is almost finished. The chamber where his body will rest is the size of a football field and will be hermitically sealed.

Then the tomb will be covered with a million tons of earth creating the hill we see today.

However, the Emperor doesn’t plan to die. Seeking advice from his doctor, he is given mercury capsules. At the time, it was believed that mercury would increase longevity.

Having lots of sex with multiple partners was also considered another way to increase life. The emperor follows the doctor’s advice and sends his doctor on an expedition to find an elixir for immortality.

The emperor isolates himself and delegates the power to rule the empire to those he trusts most. These men suppress free thought.

Entire libraries are burned. Those who try to hide documents are branded on the face and sentenced to a life of force labor — mostly on The Great Wall. Anyone who resists is buried alive.

Professor Jeffrey Riegel, of the University of California, Berkeley, says that Chinese archeologists have no immediate plans to unearth the tomb, because there is no way to safeguard the contents from decay.

Chinese alchemists knew liquid mercury as the only substance that could dissolve gold. To the ancient mind, that meant mercury had power that might prolong life.

However, the human body cannot absorb pure mercury so the Chinese alchemists made a compound the emperor could digest.

As the mercury is absorbed, it slowly destroyed his nervous system and brain.

Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi becomes aggressive, argumentative and paranoid. He goes into hiding. Anyone revealing his location is killed. His kidneys’ are failing and he starts talking to the gods.

Thirty-five years after becoming the king of Qin at thirteen, he goes on another Imperial tour. But this time, he is blind to a nation that is bankrupt and near famine.

All the emperor can think about is living forever.

He’s told that giant fish guards the island of the immortals. The emperor dreams that he is a sea god who will kill the giant fish.

Near the end of 210 BC, he visits the ocean hunting the giant fish with a crossbow while wading in the surf.

His advisors plan what to do with China once the emperor dies. On the return to the capital, the emperor falls ill and the Imperial convoy stops.

In the seventh month of 2010 BC, the first emperor’s search for immortality ends. At the age of fifty, Qin Shi Huangdi is dead.

While China’s first emperor is being buried according to his wishes, a power struggle rages outside the tomb.

By tradition, the oldest son should have become the emperor but several ministers want a younger son on the throne. The others are assassinated and there is a slaughter.

The emperor will also not go alone to the afterlife.

While his chosen successors are being assassinated, hundreds of his favorite concubines will stay with their master and die with him.

The tomb’s designers and builders will be sealed in the tomb too. Everyone who knows the way dies.

Qin Shi Huangdi left a legacy—a unified nation with a single written language and a system of administration that is still in use today.

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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.

Low-Res_E-book_cover_MSC_July_24_2013

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China’s Holistic Historical Timeline


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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The First Emperor: The Man Who Made China – Part 9/9

April 23, 2010

In the seventh month of 2010 BC, the first emperor’s search for immortality has ended. At the age of fifty, Qin Shi Huangdi is dead.

While China’s first emperor is being buried according to his wishes, a power struggle rages outside the tomb. By tradition, the oldest son should have become the emperor but several ministers want a younger son on the throne. The others are assassinated and there is a slaughter.

The emperor is also not going alone into the afterlife. While his chosen successors are being assassinated, hundreds of his favorite concubines will stay with their master and die with him. The tomb’s designers and builders will be sealed in the tomb too. Everyone who knows the way dies.

Qin Shi Huangdi left a legacy–a unified nation with a single written language and a system of administration that is still used today.

You may return to Part 8, or start with The Man Who Made China, Part 1

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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.


The First Emperor: The Man Who Made China – Part 8/9

April 22, 2010

Chinese alchemists knew liquid mercury as the only substance that could dissolve gold. To the ancient mind, that meant mercury had power that might prolong life. However, the human body cannot absorb pure mercury so the Chinese alchemists made a compound the emperor could digest.

As the mercury is absorbed, it slowly destroyed his nervous system and brain. Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi becomes aggressive, argumentative and paranoid. He goes into hiding. Anyone revealing his location is killed. His kidneys’ are failing and he starts talking to the gods.

Thirty-five years after becoming the king of Qin at thirteen, he goes on another Imperial tour.  But this time, he does not see the nation that is bankrupt and near famine. All the emperor can think about is living forever.

He’s told that giant fish guards the island of the immortals. The emperor dreams that he is a sea god who will kill the giant fish. Near the end of 210 BC, he visits the ocean hunting the giant fish with a crossbow while wading in the surf.

His advisors plan what to do with China once the emperor dies. On the return to the capital, the emperor falls ill and the Imperial convoy stops.

Go to Part 9 for The Man Who Made China or return to Part 7

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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.


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