Chinasage Diary

Your daily snippet of information about China. Our diary has a daily fact, proverb and a reminder of upcoming festivals and holidays in China.
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Sun 5th Apr

Du Fu

The famous Tang dynasty poet Du Fu's (杜甫 712 - 770) small thatched cottage can still be seen at Chengdu the capital city of Sichuan province.
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On this day

1975 Chiang Kaishek no longer President Republic of China 1975 (45 years ago)
1975 Chiang Kaishek died 1975 (45 years ago)
1976 Tiananmen Incident 1976 (44 years ago)
Sat 4th Apr

Food transport

The grand canal performed a vital function for supplying food to the vast imperial capital of Chang'an (Xi'an) particularly in the Tang dynasty. Huge barges labored slowly along the carefully maintained canal - still the longest in the world at 1,100 miles (the distance from New York to Florida). About 100,000 tons of rice were transported from the agricultural south to the cities of the north each year.
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Fri 3rd Apr

The Silk Route

The transport of the delicate but non perishable fabric silk was one of the precious goods transported over the Silk Route. The name 'silk route' is a relatively modern creation as it was first used in the 19th century. It is a misleading term as the silk road represents a whole network of roads that led into China through the Gansu corridor. It was most important in the Han, Tang and Mongol dynasties.
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Thu 2nd Apr

Hainan Island

Hainan only became a province in 1988, previously it had been administered as part of Guangdong. As the extreme southernmost point of Chinese control, the island had long been used as a place of exile for court officials. The most famous exile was the poet Su Shi of the Song dynasty. It now has a thriving gambling and tourist industry.
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Wed 1st Apr

Equality of women

The role of women in China was through most of the Imperial Era one of subjugation to men. Women had to defer to men in all things; it was only as a widow that she would have the power to control their son's household. The position eased on the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1911 but it was not until the Communist party victory in 1949 that equality began to be introduced across the country.
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On this day

1912 Sun Yatsen no longer President Republic of China 1912 (108 years ago)
Tue 31st Mar

Britain's front door

You won't hear much from the guides about Shanghai's early history, they will say it was always an important Chinese city from ancient times. The truth is that China's second city, Shanghai, was essentially a British foundation. Soon after Britain won the first Opium War the British settlement was founded in 1843. It very rapidly developed and was known as 'Britain's front door'. Britain devolved power to the Shanghai International Settlement but British merchants were the dominant nationality. From 1760 with a population of 50,000 it grew to 5,000,000 by 1920.
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Mon 30th Mar

Years

The traditional cycle of astrological years is associated with twelve animals, each of these are combined with one of five elements to give a total cycle length of 60 years. The cycle of animals is rat; ox; tiger; rabbit; dragon; snake; horse; sheep; monkey; rooster; dog and pig.
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On this day

1940 Wang Jingwei Regime founded 1940 (80 years ago)
Sun 29th Mar

Qufu

The temple complex at Qufu that honor Confucius's birthplace rival Imperial palaces in their size and opulence. The reverence shown to Confucius over most of the last two thousand years is inspiring. Descendents of Confucius (family name in Chinese Kong) still live at Qufu and are in the 83rd generation making it the longest documented family tree in the world.
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On this day

87BCE Emperor Wudi no longer ruler 87BCE (2,108 years ago)
Sat 28th Mar

Many writing styles

The Chinese art of calligraphy has many different styles. There are ancient styles such as the Small seal script that dates back 2,000 years and then there is the grass script for faster writing. Calligraphy is considered one of the highest artistic accomplishments; the meaning of a character can be reinforced by the style of strokes used to write it. However, works of calligraphy can be hard to read and so styles that use clearer character outlines are used in books and newspapers. Recently a 1,000 year old piece of calligraphy fetched over $30 million at auction.
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Fri 27th Mar

Passing the Dragon Gate

The importance of the Imperial examinations in dynastic China was such that many metaphors arose about them. Passing the Dragon gate was one such term. The idea was based on a folk tale of how a lowly carp became a dragon when it succeeded in braving the rapids of the Yellow River at Dragon Gate. The rigors of study were likened to the struggles of migrating fish jumping up waterfalls. Success in examination was associated with carp, and successful candidates would buy their ticket home in Carp Street near the Beijing Examination Hall.
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On this day

1993 Yang Shangkun no longer President PRC 1993 (27 years ago)
1993 Qiao Shi became Chairman NPC 1993 (27 years ago)
1993 Wan Li no longer Chairman NPC 1993 (27 years ago)
Thu 26th Mar

100 Names

An old name for China is the 'Hundred Names' reflecting the fact that the Han Chinese have very few family names. Of these ‘Li’ is the most common worldwide (92 million in China). In China ‘Wang’ may be slightly more common (93 million). Traditionally a man could not marry a woman with the same family name as it was assumed they must be related.
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Wed 25th Mar

Spirit Way

For many centuries and dynasties the burial grounds of Emperors, their family and entourage was given the highest importance. Although many tombs have been looted over time the grand avenue leading to the tombs has usually remained. Pairs of huge stone animals and officials line the route to the tombs. The Spirit or Sacred Way can be a mile or more in length with over fifty stone statues along it. The life-like carvings are intended to intimidate any who ventured along them, and even the Emperor was only allowed to progress towards them on foot, not on horseback.
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On this day

1988 Li Peng became Premier PRC 1988 (32 years ago)
Tue 24th Mar

A True Story

The writer Lu Xun [1881-1936] revolutionized Chinese literature. He brought reading and writing to the masses, traditionally literature had been elitist, restricted to the educated few. He wrote many short stories and the best known and most influential is 'A true story of Ah Q' in 1921. The story satirizes the snobbery and superstitions of the time.
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Mon 23rd Mar

Matchmakers

Traditionally marriages were arranged between the parents of the bride and groom; the couple had no choice in the matter. Most families would seek the help of a matchmaker to suggest a suitable match often from the neighboring village. The matchmaker would use astrology to check compatibility. It was considered unlucky for the couple to see each other before their wedding day - indeed it was grounds for calling off the engagement.
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Sun 22nd Mar

China's china

Jingdezhen in Jiangxi has been the center of Chinese porcelain manufacture for centuries. It is one of the first places where a production line technique was used to optimize production. Skilled craftsmen specialized in one particular part of the porcelain manufacture process, passing on the end result to the next stage. By 1433 over 500,000 pieces were being made a year. Much of the ‘china’ was sent for export to Europe over the mountains via the port of Guangzhou (Canton).
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Sat 21st Mar

Jesuit mission

The Jesuit mission to China at the end of the Ming dynasty was partially successful. Matteo Ricci studied Chinese language and culture extensively and was admired by the Chinese for his scholarship. The Jesuits brought a more precise knowledge of astronomy which greatly impressed the Imperial court.
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On this day

927 Emperor Taizu born 927 (1,093 years ago)
Fri 20th Mar

Japan's ally

It is little known that Britain (U.K.) was Japan's important ally during the period 1890-1920. The support for the Japanese was a strategic decision to keep Russia out of northern China. Britain effectively 'ruled' central China with Shanghai as its main city but it did not have the resources to impose control over Manchuria. As Russia's control of Manchuria was growing rapidly Britain turned to Japan as an ally. It was not until Japan's expansionist plans became clear in the 1920s that Britain distanced itself from Japan.
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Thu 19th Mar

One child policy

The policy of only permitting one child per family is considered the most hated in China since the formation of the P.R.C.. It was introduced in 1980 after warnings of the dangers of over population had gone unheeded for twenty years. Mass starvation was considered the likely result. The fact that China's population has stabilized and is on track to fall slightly is a vindication of the policy despite the personal hardship and heartbreak that it undoubtedly caused. The policy has now been relaxed to llow for two children per couple. With sustainability of the world at risk one obvious way to relieve pressure is to reduce demand on food and resources.
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On this day

1279 Song dynasty ended 1279 (741 years ago)
1279 Battle of Yamen 1279 (741 years ago)
Wed 18th Mar

Pearl of wisdom

The quality of a pearl is somewhat like the moon. It appear cool and translucent for this reason the moon can be referred to as the 'night shining pearl'. It is often shown with dragons chasing it, representing the legendary connection of dragons chasing the moon to cause eclipses and phases of the moon.
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On this day

1839 First Opium War 1839 (181 years ago)
Tue 17th Mar

Wang Xizhi

The master calligrapher Wang Xizhi 303 - 361 is considered the “Sage of calligraphy”. The art of writing Chinese characters continues to be a well respected tradition. Fine examples of writing by famous calligraphers can achieve very high prices.
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On this day

1998 Li Peng no longer Premier PRC 1998 (22 years ago)
1998 Zhu Rongji became Premier PRC 1998 (22 years ago)
Mon 16th Mar

Zhang Guotao

Objectively it should have been Zhang Guotao not Mao Zedong who should have led the Communists when they met up in northern China during the Long March (August 1935) as he had an army four times larger and had local knowledge. It was only an ill-conceived offensive operation by Zhang that removed him from the battle for party leadership when they reached Shaanxi.
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On this day

2003 Zhu Rongji no longer Premier PRC 2003 (17 years ago)
2003 Wen Jiabao became Premier PRC 2003 (17 years ago)
Sun 15th Mar

Manchuguo

The capital of Japanese controlled Manchuria (1933-45) was within Jilin. Here Emperor Xuantong (Puyi) was placed on the throne and Changchun renamed 'Xinjiang' (New capital). During the Japanese occupation industrial development was rapid, and the area remains heavily industrialized.
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On this day

220 Cao Cao died 220 (1,800 years ago)
1998 Qiao Shi no longer Chairman NPC 1998 (22 years ago)
1998 Li Peng became Chairman NPC 1998 (22 years ago)
2003 Hu Jintao became President PRC 2003 (17 years ago)
2003 Wu Bangguo became Chairman NPC 2003 (17 years ago)
Sat 14th Mar

Manchuguo

The capital of Japanese controlled Manchuria (1933-45) was within Jilin. Here Emperor Xuantong (Puyi) was placed on the throne and Changchun renamed 'Xinjiang' (New capital). During the Japanese occupation industrial development was rapid, and the area remains heavily industrialized.
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On this day

2013 Wu Bangguo no longer Chairman NPC 2013 (7 years ago)
2013 Xi Jinping became President PRC 2013 (7 years ago)
2013 Zhang Dejiang became Chairman NPC 2013 (7 years ago)
Fri 13th Mar

Dunhuang caves

The Mogao caves near Dunhuang are a famous visitor attraction in Gansu province. Over hundreds of years a series of caves were dug and decorated with Buddhist emblems. There are 2,300 painted statues and murals. Dunhuang used to be the last place before entering China on the Silk Road from India. Western archaeologists plundered the site in the late 19th century including the oldest printed book in the world: The Diamond Sutra.
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Thu 12th Mar

Chinese elements

While the Greeks had four elements (air, water, fire and earth) the Chinese had five (wood, metal, fire, earth and water) these should not be considered the same as chemical constituents, they are like phases of matter. So 'life' essence is wood, 'liquid' essence is water, 'gas' essence is fire. The Chinese built up a very complex system of interrelation between these elements trying to explain all phenomena as a blend of five basic properties. It came to dominate Chinese science and governed affairs at court. For example the correct time of year for executions was autumn because autumn is associated with death.
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On this day

1872 Zeng Guofan died 1872 (148 years ago)
1925 Sun Yatsen died 1925 (95 years ago)
Wed 11th Mar

From peasant to Emperor

Many of the founders of Imperial dynasties were drawn from the elite, a rare exception to this rule was the Ming dynasty, where Zhu Yuanzhang rose from being a poor peasant to become Emperor Hongwu founder of the Ming dynasty in 1368. After his parents and elder brother died in a famine, Zhu Yuanzhang was taken in as a novice at a Buddhist monastery. He joined the Red Turbans who led a key rebellion against the foreign Mongol rulers. Rising through the ranks through military prowess he overthrew them. His reign of 30 years established strong control by native Chinese.
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Tue 10th Mar

Chairman Liu

Many people may forget that Chairman Mao did not lead China from 1949 until his death in 1976. In fact Mao gave up the leadership of China to his then trusted Vice Chairman Liu Shaoqi 1959-68. It was when Mao saw Liu and Deng moving China towards a market economy that Mao stepped in and imposed hard-line Communism. Liu Shaoqi died in miserable circumstances under house arrest.
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On this day

1912 Yuan Shikai became President Republic of China 1912 (108 years ago)
Mon 9th Mar

Ice sculptures

Many visitors' experience of China will be of hot and humid weather. In far northern China the winters can be very cold. Harbin the provincial capital of Heilongjiang gets so cold that it has a park full of huge ice sculptures from January to March. Fruit and milk are sold in frozen form.
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On this day

141BCE Emperor Wudi became ruler 141BCE (2,162 years ago)
Sun 8th Mar

Canton

The name 'Canton' is still used here and there for the great city of Guangzhou. It comes from the days of Portuguese trading from the city when it was called Cantão as a mistranslation of the name of the province 'Guangdong'. The character guang 广 means 'vast, wide' and 'dong' means East to separate it from Guangxi for the western half. From 1730 until 1842 Canton was the only port officially allowed to engage in foreign trade. The 'Canton Fair' instituted in 1957 is China's main trade fair.
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feng shui, turtle, tortoise, calligraphy
Bronze tortoise used in Feng Shui

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