China sage : Updates
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For over a century China set the fashion in Europe and America. In fabrics, ceramics, furniture, interior and garden design if you were a person of impeccable taste you would look to China for inspiration. King George IV of Britain, King Louis XV of France and George Washington of America were all fans of Chinoiserie. We've scoured through over a thousand pictures for good examples of the this worldwide style. At times it was a crude approximation and a strange mixture of cultural styles, while at others the Europeans achieved a realistic copy of the Oriental ideal. The Pagoda at Kew Gardens, London and the Brighton Pavilion provide fine examples of this fixation with all things from the East.
As a minor enhancement to our popular maps of China, we have changed all the shapes of mountains to be less like piles of sugar to something more like the real thing. We have used a range of different shapes of hills and mountains loosely based on the kind of thing on a J.R.R. Tolkien map of Middle-earth. At the same time some of map layouts have been enhanced to be easier to read.
Every so often there are news stories of tensions in the South China Sea, so we thought it was time to add some information about this huge area of disputed sovereignty. China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei, the Philippines and Malaysia have all made rival and overlapping claims to the region. Apart from being a busy shipping lane there are believed to be huge reserves of oil. There are two separate areas of tiny reefs and islands: the Paracel and Spratly Islands. Our new page outlines the history of this important region.
Subi Reef, Spratly Islands, South China Sea, in May 2015, seen from southwest. Image by United States Navy available under a Creative Commons License ➚
We're in the middle of a scan of the complete site contents (over 200 pages + characters). You should see some typos. have been removed and a few tweaks to the layout of pages.Part of the rationale is to look for possible quiz questions while checking the pages, so far over 800 have been identified, so expect more quizzes and facts about China shortly.
The performing arts in China have a long history. Although modern media has reduced audiences there are still dedicated practitioners who spend their lives honing their skills at puppetry, story-telling, street theater, lion and dragon dancing.
We have added a page describing these art forms and by using a dozen carefully selected YouTube videos you can see these art-forms brought to life.
Our page on Chinese opera has proven very popular and we hope this new page will bring the less well known performing arts to wider attention.
The stimulus to writing this brief survey was the recent death of the noted Pingshu story-teller Shan Tianfang.
An intricate shadow puppet of a young lady in a house. Available under a Creative Commons License ➚
We've been busy adding a few hundred more characters to our web site. We use Chinese characters within the web pages whereever possible. To aid people learning the language we provide a simple pop-up that gives extra information when you hover the mouse over characters. We won't be able to add a full disctionary as there are thousands of them, we aim to provide about 1,000 of the most commonly used ones.
Over the last few years more and more web sites have moved to use the latest HTML technology. We have waited until all major modern web browsers fully support it. HTML5 offers a lot more options for presenting web information. We have changed to use the new header, nav (Navigation), main (Main body of text) as well as aside, section and article tags. A few HTML4 features are now obsolete so we have changed pages where necessary. The changes will not be all that noticeable to users, it is mainly search engines that will appreciate the more logical structure.
We have continued to use the stricter form of HTML, commonly called XHMTL, that enforces strict matching of open and close tags. It's a shame that more web sites don't use this stricter standard as it makes differences between browsers much less likely. Nobody these days should be writing HTML directly and so a tool can make sure all the tags are properly formatted and matched.
If you spot any problems with the new web site please let us know.
We've put in a number of site optimizations to make the information load faster. The performance according to Google Analytics is now at 100% performance for desktops. Unfortunately an information web site like this is not ideal for smart-phones as there is a lot of text and graphical information to broadcast.
We've also spruced up our Chinese astrology page - it was one of the first ones we added back in 2012.
With the centenary of the May 4th Movement coming up next year it seems a good time to look back on the events of 1919. After World War I China underwent ignominious treatment under the terms of the Versailles Treaty. Shandong province which had been leased by Germany was to be handed to Japan rather than returned to Chinese control. Anti-Japanese fervor had already been brewing over the 21 Demands which a supine Chinese government had accepted. It looked like not only Shandong but Fujian province would be lost too.
In the first mass urban protest in China student led demonstrations eventually caused the government to reverse its pro-Japanese polices and China refused to sign the Versailles Treaty. The May Fourth Movement pioneered the use of vernacular Chinese in magazines and pamphlets and just as importantly women began to take an equal part in reformist organizations.
29th November 1919. More than 30,000 male and female students from 34 schools in Beijing gathered in front of Tiananmen Square to denounce the Japanese imperialists for killing the people of Fuzhou and protesting against Japanese ships invading Fuzhou. After the meeting, demonstrations were held, and slogans such as "Strive for Fujian" and "Resist Japan" were sloganed along the way, and more than 100 kinds of flyers were distributed, totaling 78,000. When the brigade went through the General Chamber of Commerce, it also sent representatives to the inside to ask the Beijing Business Bank to boycott Japanese goods and to break the Japanese economy. Image by Sidney D. Gamble available under a Creative Commons License ➚
Gottfried Leibniz. Available under a Creative Commons License ➚
The high point of Western appreciation came in the early 18th century. One man was a real fan of China - Gottfried Leibniz and many of his great discoveries (monads, calculus, binary arithmetic) were inspired by Chinese civilization. After his time though relations soon deteriorated.
The early contacts between the UK and China are revealing about attitudes back in the 17th century that seem to have changed little. The first few attempted contacts were purely to open up trading opportunities which were at this time chiefly wool. When the information started coming back from the Jesuit mission to Beijing the intellectuals in Britain were intrigued. There followed half a century of avid interest in all things Chinese. This new article looks at two people with differing interests in China John Weddell and John Webb.
Thomas Hyde (1636-1703), Oriental scholar by Francis Perry (died 1765), Engraver. National Portrait Gallery. Available under a Creative Commons License ➚
We've spent the last few weeks updating our dictionary of Chinese characters. There are now over 750 of the most commonly used characters. We've added extra features such as listing similar looking characters and indicating measure words. Many of the characters have a graphic to show how they are drawn and an audio guide as to how they are pronounced. Although we can't include all Chinese characters that are in our online dictionary we think it a very useful resource for learning written Chinese.
With some trepidation we decided to add a description of the Imperial Chinese system of justice. It had a deservedly bad reputation for cruelty for centuries. One approach to criminal justice is to make the punishment so painful that the deterrent effect makes people fear the consequences for even a minor crime. For centuries in Imperial China this is how the huge population was kept law abiding. Rumors of the tortures that couldbe used against malefactors did the trick and the country was seen as largely law abiding. The ancient system although heavily reformed still lives on to the present day in the general approach to justice.
The punishments of China: illustrated by twenty-two engravings: with explanations in English and French. Image by George Henry Mason available under a Creative Commons License ➚
We've upgraded the festival page so that it shows the upcoming festivals in date order rather than needing you to scroll down to the current day in the year. We've also included our month calender at the top for convenience. Please let us know if we are missing a festival or have a date incorrect.
We've been busy giving the web site a crisper, less cluttered look. We've changed the top menu colors and font, simplified the graphics and spent effort making pages work better on the smaller mobile screen. The top level drop menu is now mulit-level allowing quick navigation to popular pages. If we've broken anything that you liked, let us know. Your comments on the new look will be much appreciated.
All about the strange version of English/Chinese used for trading in southern ports (c. 1750-1880). The language has Chinese features but is widely thought of as a simple form of English designed by the British for the Chinese to use but the real story is a lot more complex than that.
The Red-haired glossary,. c. 1835. Available under a Creative Commons License ➚
Even though China is the most populous nation on Earth (although soon to be overtaken by India) there is still room for wildlife away from the heavily populated regions. As China has deserts, snow fields, high mountains, tropical rain forests and vast grasslands the range of opportunities for wildlife is remarkably diverse. In our brief survey of the main regions within China and the more remarkable creatures and plants living there we are immensely grateful to people who have posted their entrancing photographs for public use.
The yin and the yang is the best known concept from ancient Chinese wisdom. It is now used by everyone - and often incorrectly as it is about alternatives and balance rather than opposites. We've taken our short description of yin-yang out of the Feng Shui section, greatly expanded it and given it a section all to itself.
Korea is never far from the news these days and with the Winter Olympics just over it seems an opportune time to take a look into China's relations with Korea. It's unfortunately all too common for people not to know why we have ended up with a divided Korea, and that this division is certainly not of the Korean peoples choosing.
China has exerted a strong influence over Korea in the last two thousand years and shares many cultural traditions. There have been time when China invaded Korea but also times when China intervened to defend it from other invaders. In this new article we concentrate only on the history of foreign relations with Korea from the Chinese perspective.
Japanese Empress Jingu (169-269CE) setting foot in Korea. Painting by 1880 Yoshitoshi . Available under a Creative Commons License ➚
And now we've just completed a scan on all the 2,864 unique references to other web site. Even over a year many web sites have shutdown or been relocated, some have re-organized their content. In this latest scan we've changed many URLs to use the secure form (https://) as that is now becoming standard. You can already use https://www.chinasage.info for this web site.
Kanas national park in Xinjiang
As we approach the end of 2017 it seemed appropriate to publish more information about Chinese New Year, which is late in coming this year - it is not until February 16th. We describe the traditions and customs associated with the various days of the long festival. The Chinese people have never needed much excuse for a festival and will also celebrate Christmas Day and New Years Day, mainly in the cities.
Chinese New Year, Saigon, Vietnam. Image by falco available under a Creative Commons License ➚
In preparation for 2018 we've now made our whole year at a view available online, as a PDF and as a graphics file for you to download and print. It shows all the festivals, lichun calendar and public holidays as well as all the Chinese months and days.
At the same time we've upgraded many of the graphics on the web site as some were a bit too grainy (due to heavy image compression).
The relations between China and Britain were at a low ebb after the second Anglo-Chinese (Opium) war of 1858-60. They suffered a further fall after the debacle involving the purchase from Britain of a flotilla of boats to help put down the Taiping Rebellion raging in southern China. However Britain chose to misinterpret their instructions and wanted it to be a British commanded and manned fleet only under very vague Chinese control. The Chinese were appalled and the flotilla was rejected and sent back to the U.K. with much hostility and further distrust as its legacy.
We hit an obscure technical issue in our quiz implementation, so we have had to go back and re-design them using different technology. They work pretty much as before but they should load more quickly and be easier to play on mobile devices. There are now 14 quizzes each of 15 questions of different levels of difficulty. Each time you play them the questions are asked in a different order with a different selection of possible answers.
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