The ‘Golden Age’ of the Song Dynasty: part 3 of 4

April 26, 2018

The invention of movable type during the Song Dynasty also helped. The Dream Pool Essays (still in print more than a thousand years later) records most of the scientific achievements of the time, which included knowledge of petroleum and geological changes. The most important achievement recorded in the ancient encyclopedia was the invention of movable type by Bo Sheng.

The first printed characters were engraved in tiny cubes of baked clay.

The age of paper in the history of human civilization started in China. Papermaking had been developed during the Han Dynasty in 105 A.D. However, the quality of this paper was poor and was not ideal for writing. Later, during the Song Dynasty papermaking was improved to a high level.

Thanks to improved paper and printing presses, Song era books were printed in large numbers. Even today, original Song Dynasty books tell the world about the innovations and achievements of that era. At the time, Hangzhou (almost 110 miles southwest of Shanghai) was the greatest printing center in the world.

Movable type printing became widespread and had an important role in the cultural development of the time. The shape of books also changed. During the Tang Dynasty, books were rolled. However, with movable type, books were printed in volumes similar to modern books.

Han Qi, a research fellow at today’s Chinese Academy of Sciences, believes that the development of Neo-Confucianism during the Song Dynasty was due to the widespread availability of printed books.

Those printed books also promoted the development of science, technology, and education, and during the Song Dynasty, both private and public school spread at a faster rate.

This was also the age of the scholar-bureaucrat. A scholar from an impoverished background could become a member of the higher social class by scoring high on the imperial examinations.

China was also the first country to introduce bronze-block printing for advertisements.

Porcelain from China during the Song Dynasty also helped make China a well-known trading partner with the West.

Continued in Part 4 on April 27, 2018, or return to Part 2

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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The Taoist search for Immortality led to millions of early Deaths instead

April 3, 2018

Gunpowder was discovered by accident in China a thousand years ago and it was called fire medicine. While mixing ingredients to find an elixir for immortality, Chinese scientists stumbled on the formula. Fireworks and rockets came first to scare away evil spirits.

In fact, several ingredients for gunpowder were in wide use for medicinal purposes during the Spring and Autumn Period of China’s history (722 – 481 BC).

Sulfur is the main ingredient of gunpowder, and gunpowder was first developed during the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 AD). During the Northern Sung Dynasty, in 1044 AD, the book “Essentials of Military Art” published several formulas for gunpowder production.

Asian Education reports, “During the Song dynasty, gunpowder technology was further refined for military purposes and many kinds of firearms were invented. In the year 1000, Tang Fu designed and manufactured a gunpowder arrow, gunpowder ball, and barbed gunpowder packages and donated them to the Song emperor. In 1132, the fire lance was introduced with gunpowder in a long bamboo tube. When fired, flames were projected on the enemy. In 1259, a fire-spitting lance was enhanced with bullets. When fired, bullets were ejected with the flames.”

One theory says that the knowledge of gunpowder went to Europe along the Silk Road around the start of the 13th century, hundreds of years after being discovered in China. It is also ironic, that Britain and France used advanced gunpowder weapons to defeat China during the 19th century in the two Opium Wars.

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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Guess where the first device to measure earthquakes was invented

March 7, 2018

China was the most technologically advanced nation in the world for more than a thousand years. In fact, the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) put the Roman Empire (27 BC – 476 AD) to shame.

One example of China’s technological abilities was when the first seismograph was invented in 132 AD.  Zhang Heng’s device measured an earthquake in 134 AD, and he used the results to predict the location. Han Ministers didn’t believe him. Then a courier arrived and reported that an earthquake had taken place where Zhang said it did.

In 1951, Chinese scientists from China’s National Museum worked on recreating Zhang Heng’s seismograph. Since there was a limited amount of information, it took until 2007 to complete the reconstruction.

By comparison, it wasn’t until the 18th century (AD) that there is any record of Western scientists developing a seismograph.

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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What would life be like today without paper?

March 6, 2018

Imagine the rise of civilization to today’s level of technology without paper and the books that came with paper and the printing press.

Would men have walked on the moon? Without paper, what would we use to clean up after defecation – I’m talking about toilet paper?

Papermaking is one of the four significant inventions from ancient China.

Almost 2,000 years ago, the discovery of paper was made in China. In 105 AD, Cai Lon submitted his discovery to the Han emperor. His method of paper making soon spread to the rest of China, and the emperor rewarded Cai Lon by making him a member of the nobility.

The basic principles of papermaking invented by Cai Lon are still in use today. To make paper was a six-step process, and properly manufactured paper lasts for centuries.

In fact, Buddhism arrived in China about the time of the invention of paper and this helped spread Buddhist ideas, which contributed to the spread of that philosophy/religion.

For a long time, the Chinese closely guarded the secret of paper making, but by the 15th century, the paper making process finally reached Europe. It only took about fourteen-hundred years.

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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China’s long history with Astronomy: Part 2 of 2

January 24, 2018

Chinese astronomers named the constellations long before anyone in the west did. For instance, the Big Dipper was called The Plow. The North Star was Bei Ji. Another constellation was called the Winnowing Basket.

From the 16th century B.C. to the end of the 19th Century A.D., almost every (Chinese) dynasty appointed officials who were charged with the sole task of observing and recording the changes in the heavens.

However, the Chinese were not alone in mapping the heavens.

Ancient cultures in the West studied the skies too. The “Nebra Sky Disc”, discovered in Europe, dates to about 1,600 BC.

National Geographic says the Nebra Sky Disc is the oldest depiction of the night sky.  It is a hundred years older than the oldest images found in ancient Egypt.

The Nebra Sky Disc may be the first representation of the universe in human history.

But in China about 4,000 years ago, the oldest astronomical instrument known to man appeared. It was merely a bamboo pole planted in the ground so that the movement of the sun could be observed from the direction and length of the shadow of the pole.

The Chinese were the most persistent and accurate observers of celestial phenomena.

Return to or Start with 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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China’s long history with Astronomy: Part 1 of 2

January 23, 2018

For thousands of years, Chinese astronomers have studied the stars and planets moving in their endless journey across the night sky.

Oracle bones from the Shang Dynasty recorded eclipses and as many as 90 novae (exploding stars).

For about two thousand years, the Chinese used the North Star (which stays constant). The Chinese used that star to map the location of every other star in the sky.

This method of mapping stars is called the equatorial system. The West would not use this method to map the heavens for almost two thousand years after the Chinese invented it.

In early 1980s, a tomb was found at Xi Shui Po (西水坡) in Pu Yang, Henan Province. There were some clamshells and bones forming the images of the Azure Dragon, the White Tiger and the Northern Dipper. It is believed that this tomb belongs to the Neolithic Age, about 6,000 years ago.

Star names relating to the 28 lunar mansions was found on oracle bones dating back to the Wuding Period (about 3,200 years ago).

Continued in Part 2 on January 24, 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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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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