China sage : Updates
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We've added a major new article on China's population. The number of people in China has been a major concern for many years. With 20% of the world's population, China governs more people than any government has ever done before. With the imposition of the much hated 'One Child Policy', the only policy of its kind ever enacted, the population projections show the total numbers leveling off in about ten years time before a gradual decline. The issue of population in China is not a new one, it has been the most populated country throughout much of the last two thousand years.
The amazing discovery of the 'oracle bones' in the early twentieth century started to change the way Westerners thought about Chinese heritage. For here at the ancient capital of Shang dynasty China was a treasure trove of ancient writings. Not only did they prove that China had an independent written language way back in the Bronze Age but also that the ancient historical journals were proven amazingly accurate. The position of China as an ancient and continuous civilization was at last confirmed by even the most skeptical of Western historians. And it all started with one man's trip to pick up some medicine.
Pieces of oracle bone engraved with early Chinese writing. Shang dynasty. Collection of Pitt Rivers Museum, Oxford University. Donated by H. L. Dudley Buxton, 1923. Image by BabelStone ➚
available under a Creative Commons License ➚
We have scattered throughout the site links to audio China History Podcasts ➚ by Lazlo Montgomery. Lazlo has produced over a hundred excellent podcasts of half an hour to an hour on all aspects of Chinese History.
More updates and corrections to our quick guide to the most common Chinese characters. We have added more characters and updated others. The main character index is now indexed by first letter of the pinyin. Thanks to Wikimedia Creative Commons, many of the individual entries now have animated graphics showing the order in which the strokes to make each character are made.
Here is the one for the character for yellow 'huang'
The study of the written Chinese language - the characters - is a really fascinating subject. Each stroke that is made has some meaning. Most of the frequently used characters are very old and tell a story. They are made up of a 'radical' part and a part that either contributes to the meaning or hints as to pronunciation. We have started with over 600 characters and hope to soon build up the number of entries - you need a couple of thousand to read a newspaper. We provide a much fuller range of characters in our free online dictionary.
A visitor kindly pointed out that some of our pinyin had the tone marks over the incorrect vowel. If there are several vowels in sequence the rule for placement is rather odd (as in the case of 'xiao'). The rule is that the tone mark always goes over the 'a' or 'e' if there is one in the sequence, In all other cases (except one) it goes over the last vowel, so in 'ui' it goes over the 'i'. However there is one special case, for the combination 'ou' it goes over the 'o' not the 'u'. We hope we have corrected the offending instances.
We have performed another scan of every single page on the web site and made a few corrections here and there. More cross-links to related topics have been added and the quality of the text improved. One or two embarrassing mistakes were found which have now been corrected.
As much of this web site covers history and traditions it could be considered to be stuck in the past. We made the decision not to cover current affairs in China as we are not journalists and all we would be able to do was re-publish information produced elsewhere. However we felt it important to put down our general feelings about the direction that China is taking because so much is rooted in traditions and history and also we believe much that is written about China's future is misinformed.
Lanzhou city skyline, Gansu
Now that a quarter of 2016 has gone it was time to think ahead to Chinese New Year for 2017. When preparing the calendar for the full year 2017 we spotted that there had been a problem with the handling of the double sixth leap month in 2017. There was also an error affecting some 2018 entries too. Hopefully all the festival dates are now correct and nothing more needs to be done for another year. In adding the public holidays for 2018 we noted that the government is easing back from whole weeks of public holiday, making holiday on two of the days at the discretion of the employers.
When reviewing the Chinasage web site we discovered that although 'Emperor' is mentioned all over the place within our history pages, there was nowhere that we set out what an Emperor does and how the Imperial system operated in overview. So we have added a page that sets out to explain the Imperial name, 'son of heaven', empress, dragons, eunuchs and all the related terms that usually get mentioned in passing.
Ming Emperor Xuande with his imperial eunuchs. 1425-35.
Image by unknown court artist available under a Creative Commons license ➚
We've put in some page updates after reading quite a few more books about China. We've also listed some of the many messages of praise that visitors have kindly sent us over the last three years. Thank you!
We've beefed up our description of the ancient classics of Chinese literature whose origins go back well beyond 2,500 years ago.
We've added a short description of Mohism, the religion founded by Mozi. It is a refreshingly positive philosophy based on universal love and friendship. It has a message close to Christianity and yet it pre-dates it by 400 years.
“When all the people of the world love one another, then the strong will not over-power the weak, the many will not oppress the few, the wealthy will not despise the poor, the honored will not disdain the humble, the cunning will not deceive the simple.”
William Alexander's portrait of the official Qiao Renjie who accompanied the 1794 British embassy.
The impressive civil administration of dynastic China was a model that other countries sought to emulate. Open appointment on scholastic merit allowed a job as an official to become most family's dream. Read how the system evolved over two thousand years and how to quickly determine an official's position in the complex hierarchy.
We have been keeping busy on extending the web site. We have added a large index of objects that may have a hidden meaning in Chinese art work of all kinds: painting, embroidery, porcelain and film. Symbols such as bats, bees, butterflies, birds are all covered. We provide a full list of 173 entries many with illustrations split into categories and with an index by association.
Only five months since the last full site review we have undertaken another scan. This is in preparation for producing a new edition of our book. This scan found very little that was wrong just a host of many typos. (the full site text is over 100,000 words) and some rephrasing to increase clarity.
inner ring expressway around the main city
We use a knowledge database to maintain the sources used for the content of the China Sage web site. From the database we can easily generate the source references that appear at the bottom of our pages. To help users find out more about the books we use, we have added a page with over a hundred book reviews. The reviews include a star rating, categories and full information about the book, including a link to an online bookstore (if available). With so many books about China we hope this proves a useful resource.
The ‘treaty ports’ of China 1840-1945 demonstrate the rapacious interest of foreign powers in opening up China for trade. The first treaty ports, including Shanghai and Hong Kong were opened after China's defeat in the First Opium War. The numbers grew to about a hundred by about 1900. Numbers began to fall at the start of the Republican era.
Newer version of THE SITUATION IN THE FAR EAST (时局图
). Its author (Tse Tsan-tai, 1872-1939) depicted the western powers encroaching on China at the end of the nineteenth century in symbolic form. At the left "to be clear at a glance" (一目了然
), at the right, "self-evident" (不言而喻
). The bear representing Russia is intruding from the north, the bulldog head with a lion body representing the United Kingdom is in south China, with its tail around the Shantung peninsula (Wehai english colony was the seat of the British bulldog in the first version of the cartoon), the frog (representation by english of french, "the froggies", french themselves use Gallic rooster instead), is in southeast Asia, with an inscription "Fashoda", in reference to Fashoda Incident opposing Britain and France in Africa. The frog has the Hainan Island in its right hand, in reference to Guangzhouwan, and part of the Sichuan in its left hand. The bald eagle representing the United States is approaching from the Philippines (the U.S. had already invaded the Philippines at this time). On the eagle is written "Blood is thicker than water", a reference to U.S. Navy Commodore Josiah Tattnall's saying in 1859. The symbolic Sun behind Japan spreads its rays across Korea onto China, while Japan fishes for Taiwan. Qing Amban is on Tibet and chinese teacher on Mongolia and Xinjiang with turco-mongol man. Some other European countries, following Prussia and some other countries, are waiting to invade China at the bottom of the map. 1900. Image by 谢缵泰 ➚
available under a Creative Commons License ➚
The tumultuous years of China 1860-1949 is reflected in the history of the development of the railways. Once again it was the foreign powers that took advantage of a weak Chinese government to build the railways and use them as a weapon for further exploitation.
We've been through all the pages of the web site yet again; fine tuning the layout, the text and the illustrations. We have started adding cross-links to related information so it it easier to locate other pages that overlap in content. The quizzes have been given a new look, and you can now publish your quiz results on Facebook.
Having completed a book on the Long March, I decided to greatly expand the description on the Chinasage web site. It is a fascinating tale, and came very close to disaster on a number of occasions. What could have been a heroic failure turned out to shape the politics of China for the next sixty years.
We have made a full scan of the text making some relatively minor corrections and re-organization. We have introduced more sub-headings to make it easier to find relevant sections in the text. Also, we have changed the quizzes so you get a summary of all the questions and answers at the end. Single quiz questions are now scattered over the site and these will change regularly.
With some trepidation we've added a page on the traditional attitudes to women
over the centuries. This topic is a little sensitive because Confucian doctrine was so heavily weighted towards men. It is all a bit strange to those unfamiliar with this topic seen from modern enlightened eyes. We also cover traditional marriages and widowhood as well as the much misunderstood term 'concubine'. At the same time we have released quite a few of the less well-known traditional festivals
including such things as the 'Clothes Drying Day'. They are now marked on our calendar page
Another pair of rather different pages have been added to the site. Throughout Chinese Imperial history the role of the court eunuchs
has been significant. Such a possibility now seems very strange but the practise of deliberate castration was not restricted to China it was used in Arabia and of course to maintain the vocal talents of castrati. Contrasting to this is a brief page about the Cantonese language
, spoken differently to Mandarin and yet amazingly written down in the same way.
As a background activity we've been enhancing our pages on the early history of China, we have now got as far as the Tang dynasty. A new section on the 100 Schools of Thought
has been added. Our main addition just released is a broad survey page of food
in China, with reference to all the main regional cuisines including Chuan; Cantonese; Min; Su and Tianjin.
We have added a page on money covering the 3,000 years of Chinese coinage and also the first paper money in the world. This somewhat dents the prestige of sterling
as the world's oldest living currency as it has only been going 1,500 years. A few mini articles have been added on diverse topics: the kowtow
; the ‘gang of four’
and the xixia kingdom
all expanding our coverage of all things Chinese.
Although substance ought to be more importance than looks, we have spent time fine tuning the appearance of the web site. Over the two years since the site was founded, pages were developed with their own individual style so it was time to review the whole site to enforce consistency. We have added page numbers to the reference material for the articles, we thought this would give confidence that specific pasages of books had been referred to when writing the article. Many of the history pages have been updated with information from new sources.
If you would like daily information about China our new diary feature
may be of interest to you. It provides a daily fact about China (historical or traditional not political), a list of upcoming Chinese festivals, a daily proverb and the current weather at Beijing.
We already offer a list of information about each Chinese province
and all the major airports
. We decided to add the information we have all on major Chinese cities
. The map lets you click on the map or the table to select a city. This lets you quickly find where a Chinese city is located. Also we dynamically update the distance to all the other cities in miles when you select a city. This shows for example that Beijing is 666 miles from Shanghai - as the crow flies. The largest distance between cities is between Kashgar in far western Xinjiang and Jixi in Heilongjiang at 2,780 miles.
A number of minor changes and fixes over the web site. Also preparing for next year already, with new Chinese calendar for 2014, the Chinese New Year on 31st Jan 2014
which summons in the year of the horse (wooden).
It is alarming how quickly errors creep into the pages. This release of the web site content fixes a number of the worst spelling
and grammar errors. All the external links have been checked, and even though some were last checked six months ago a fair proportion have had to be updated. Quite a few extra links to external sources have been added there are now about 700 such links.
The Chinese developed their own system of weights and measures
. Over the centuries a few strange units were introduced just as in the Imperial British system. The page includes calculators to inter-convert between the Chinese units and the Metric and Imperial units. You can also use it to convert to/from Imperial and Metric e.g. pints to litres or kilometers to miles etc.
To help with getting to grips with Chinese characters we have added information popups for many of the most common characters in Chinese. The popup will show information on the derivation and origin of the character as well as phrases, cities, proverbs and other names that use the character. We hope you find the information useful, it seemed better to add it as a popup when you hover over a character rather than needing you to go to another page. This new feature is available for most of the pages on the web site.
Added a page all about rice
in China and also a further language lesson
to add some more basic words and phrases.
Added a page describing the traditional game of Chinese Chess (xiangqi)
. It is another example of where Chinese traditions have taken a slightly different route to the 'West'.
We have added a couple of new quizzes, so there are now seven in all. The new ones
are 'hard' quizzes on history and general knowledge about all things Chinese.
A new section within the language portion of the web site has been dedicated to Chinese Proverbs
. Over 600 of the more common proverbs have been trawled from a variety of sources and divided into 17 categories. A Chinese proverb for any occasion.
Another scan through the text of all the pages on the site. Mainly corrections to grammar and spelling. Some factual errors removed. We had for instance Emperor Puyi married to a Japanese princess, this was in fact his brother Pu Jie.
China has changed so much in recent years that maps
do need a regular update. The growth of the motorway network in China has been incredible. For many 'developed' countries it is hard to spot any changes over 30 years, not so in modern China. Thousands of miles of new road are built every month. Mostly the new motorway follow the route of old trunk roads with bye-passes for all the towns and cities. Names have also changed, as corrections to spelling gradually get added to the base maps. If you spot a problem with a map let us know so we can correct it.
Traditional Chinese Medicine is one of the best known cultural traditions and it was high time we added a page giving a detailed overview
. We've also added a biography of the Tang poet Bai Juyi
and a page on the use of kites in China
Added a page introducing Traditional Chinese Music
and also a section on the influential modern writer Lu Xun
. We have had problems with the hosting of the web site. We decided to move to a new hosting company and Lithium Hosting
was chosen. This proved a very bad choice, after continual concerns over performance the site was down for 26 hours. No compensation was given despite a headline 99.7% guarantee on service which they managed to somehow wriggle out of. Avoid Lithium Hosting if you can. If you look at their web site you will see that they have removed any mention of this serious service outage, blog and tweets were deleted as if the event never happened! We moved to a new host Hostgator last week and so far this has worked out fine.
We have added five quizzes
about China: geography; history; language and general. Each has fifteen questions to test your knowledge of China.
Moved pages between sections and created new 'Modern History
' top level section with section on Korean War. The 'Features' have been renamed 'Culture'. A bug in the display of provinces and airport sortable tables has been fixed. New material on Mount Everest added to Tibet page
. Added pictures to all province description pages. New geography sub-section added with new Geography page
on mountain ranges and basins making up China. Top level navigation bar style updated.
Updated the history index page and all dynasty pages so that they have a summary list of chief events and dates. This feature is still under development. The history index pops up the list when the mouse is hovered over the dynasty list.
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