The ‘Golden Age’ of the Song Dynasty: part 2 of 4

April 25, 2018

The Song Dynasty was responsible for innovations and prosperity that doubled the population from 50-million at the end of the Tang Dynasty to 100-million.

Here are a few examples of what happened. A new type of canal lock was invented in 1373 AD, four hundred years before someone in Europe invented a similar lock. This enabled China to finish building the Grand Canal, the longest canal in the world that is still in use.

The focus on astronomical observations helped improve agriculture and the Song Dynasty’s grain yield was ten to twenty times that of Europe at the time. In addition, methods to fertilize land that was not suitable for growing crops was also developed leading to two or three annual harvests that helped support the large population. For a comparison, the 3rd edition of Introduction to Medieval Europe reports, “Bold estimates for the whole of continental Europe (including Russia and the Balkans) place the number of inhabitants in the year 1000 at 30 and 40 million.”

Although China’s four greatest inventions came long before the Song Dynasty, it wasn’t until then that papermaking, the large-scale application of printing, the compass, and gunpowder made their mark about four hundred years before the German inventor Johannes Gutenberg invented his printing press in 1440 AD.

It was also during this dynasty that the compass was improved for navigation making it less likely for ships to get lost at sea and allowed ships to travel farther from China.

To preserve these innovations, Shen Kuo published his Dream Pool Essays in 1088 AD (still in print today), a huge encyclopedic book that covered a wide range of subjects, including literature, art, military strategy, mathematics, astronomy, meteorology, geology, geography, metallurgy, engineering, hydraulics, architecture, zoology, botany, agronomy, medicine, anthropology, archeology, etc.

Continued in Part 3 on April 26, 2018, or return to Part 1

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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The ‘Golden Age’ of the Song Dynasty: part 1 of 4

April 24, 2018

Fifty-three years after the Tang Dynasty collapsed (618 – 907AD), the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD) was born and established its first capital in Kaifeng City, Henan Province.

The Song Dynasty survived for 319 years — thirty years longer than the Tang Dynasty.

Reference.com says, “While the Tang and Song dynasties shared much in common, there were a couple of major differences in the way they ruled over the populous territory of China. During both periods China experiences political, cultural and social blossoming. Some common traits include the development of trade, the flourishing of painting and poetry and the improvement of bureaucracy. Even though both Tang and Song were Chinese dynasties, they did not rule over the same territory. The Song power was centered on the southeastern part of the country, whereas the Tang power extended over much of modern China, as well as Manchuria, Tibet, and Mongolia.”

In addition, during the Song Dynasty, astronomy was one of the areas where advances were made. In July 1054, an unknown nova appeared in the sky. The sudden appearance of this nova alarmed the bureau of astronomy. A year later, the star vanished. The nova was important because Chinese astronomers discovered the Crab Nebula near Taurus and careful records were kept that still benefits science today.

In fact, the world’s largest and earliest star chart was carved on a stele in Suzhou, Jiangsu.

Continued with Part 2 on April 25, 2018

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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Judaism in China

April 18, 2018

The Jews settled in Kaifeng, Henan Province in 960 AD after arriving along the Silk Road.  The Jews who first arrived in China were welcomed by the Imperial government, which encouraged them to retain their cultural identity by building a synagogue that was finished in 1163 AD.

The Kaifeng Synagogue had a Torah written on sheepskin. The architecture of the buildings reflects Jewish culture. Evidence indicates that the Kaifeng Jews were very traditional and obeyed Kosher dietary laws and practiced circumcision for males.

The Jewish community in China thrived for centuries before it was assimilated into Chinese culture through intermarriage. But by the middle of the 18th century, little survived of that Jewish community.

In 1849, the Yellow River flooded causing what was left of the Jewish community to break apart. Today there are about five hundred descendants of the Kaifeng Jewish community that want to reclaim their Jewish traditions.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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Religious Influence in China

April 17, 2018

The Financial Times reports, “Christianity first reached China in the 7th century AD, brought by Nestorian Eastern Syriac believers.” The Review of Religions.org says Islam arrived about the same time, but in the 17th century, The downturn for Muslims began with the rise of the Qing Dynasty in 1644. Qing Emperors made life very hard for Muslims. First they prohibited the Halal slaughter of animals, then they banned the construction of new Mosques and the pilgrimage for Hajj. Conditions grew bleak for Islam in the second half of the 19th Century when rebellion led to the slaughter of possibly millions of Chinese Muslims.”

This helps explain why China has never had an organized religion dominate the culture as religions have in Western and Middle Eastern countries.

In fact, when organized religions meddle too much, the Chinese eventually strike back. During the Tang Dynasty in 878 A.D., a rebel leader named Huang Chao burned and pillaged Guangzhou (better known in the West as Canton) killing tens of thousands of Muslims, Jews, and Christians.

Then there were two Opium Wars during the middle of the nineteenth century where France and England invaded to force opium and Christian missionaries on China.

That resulted in the Taiping Rebellion, which was led by a Christian convert, Hong Xiuquan, known as God’s Chinese son. Hong claimed to be Jesus Christ’s younger brother. Estimates say twenty to thirty million Chinese may have died during this religious war to rid China of opium and turn China into a Christian nation, far more than all the Crusades combined.

The culmination of a series of campaigns against organized religions starting in the late 19th century, including Mao’s Cultural Revolution, destroyed or forced Christians, Jews, and Muslims to hide their religious beliefs.

More than thirteen hundred years have passed since Christianity and Islam were introduced to China, but after all those centuries only 0.45-percent of the Chinese population follows Islam while about 2.5-percent are Christians. That means about 97-percent of the population does not belong to an organized religion like Christianity or Islam that often has an influence on politics.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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Subscribe to my newsletter to hear about new releases and get a free copy of my award-winning, historical fiction short story “A Night at the Well of Purity”.

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The Ancient Bells of Marquis Yi

February 7, 2018

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.).

When the chimes were discovered in Hubei Province, 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 discovered.  These musical instruments were an important part of ritual and court music in 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.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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Buddhism’s Journey to China

January 30, 2018

An Indian prince became the Buddha around the 6th Century BC, but Buddhism would not arrived in China for several centuries. The Buddha’s original name was Siddartha Guatama.

After he died, Buddhism split into two major branches that divided again several times over the centuries.

Today, Buddhism has almost 380-million followers and is the world’s fifth largest religion. Christianity is the largest with 2.4 billion followers. Islam is ranked #2 with 1.6 billion. Christianity and Islam also split into different sects after the founders died although Jesus Christ isn’t the real founder of Christianity. Jesus was a Jew and he died a Jew. There is no evidence that Jesus Christ wanted to launch a new religion that wasn’t Jewish. Hinduism (#3) has 1.15 billion followers with four-major sects.

The Bodhi-dharma was a Buddhist monk and a teacher who lived during the fifty and/or sixth century AD, more than a thousand years after Buddha died in India. The Bodhi-dharma traveled from India to China where he lived in a cave for 9 years.

A Sudden Dawn by Goran Powell is an epic historical fiction novel that opens with a young man named Sardili born in 507 AD to the Indian warrior caste. Sardili realizes that he would rather seek enlightenment than follow his family’s military legacy and he sets out on a life-long quest for truth and wisdom that leads him to China where he becomes the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma, known as Da Mo in China.

Da Mo establishes the Shaolin Temple as the birthplace of Zen and the Martial Arts. In ancient China, bandits and thieves were widespread and Buddhist temples were vulnerable to attack. The Da Mo taught a fighting system for the monks to defend themselves, and it proved successful. Over time, the Buddhist Shaolin style of martial arts evolved to what it is today.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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The Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End

January 10, 2018

China is the oldest, continuous civilization on Earth. Ancient records date back to about BC 2500 and agree with the Old Testament’s timeline that the great flood took place around 2344 B.C.

Ancient Chinese myth has their first king, Fu-hi or Fohi (Chinese Noah) making his appearance on the Mountain of Chin surrounded by a rainbow after the world had been covered with water.  Myth says this Chinese Noah also sacrificed animals to God.

The Miao tribe of Southwest China has a similar myth. According to the Miao, God destroyed the world by flood because of the wickedness of man. The myth also says Nuah (Noah) had three sons: Lo Han (Ham), Lo Shen (Shem), and Jah-hu (Japheth).

In ancient China, ShangDi was considered the high God.  He was worshiped as the creator God for thousands of years. ShangDi was known as the Heavenly Ruler and the Chinese emperors were known as the Sons of Heaven.  No other god was higher or more powerful.

Evidence supports that the ancient Chinese understood the nature of God as the ancient Hebrews did after Abraham (1812 B.C. to 1637 B.C.), who is considered the father of the Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

One of the earliest accounts of the Border Sacrifice is found in the Shu Jing (Book of History), compiled by Confucius (551 to 479 B.C.), where it is recorded that Emperor Shun (2256 to 2205 B.C.) sacrificed to ShangDi.

While the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans worshiped many gods, the Chinese also worshipped many but worshiped a high God called ShangDi. If true, that would mean the Chinese believed in God longer than the Jews, Christians, or Muslims.

What’s interesting is the many in China believed in ShangDi for more than four-thousand years without an organized religion to guide them. Is ShangDi the same God that the Hebrews, Christians, and Muslims worship?

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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Subscribe to my newsletter to hear about new releases and get a free copy of my award-winning, historical fiction short story “A Night at the Well of Purity”.

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