A monthly quiz of general history, traditions, geography questions for September
1. What does a carp symbolize a wish for in artwork?
A carp symbolizes a favorable wish as it sounds similar to 利lì ‘favorable, benefit, advantage’ and 力lì means ‘strength, power’.
2. The 'Five Avenues' (Wudadao) is an area of colonial buildings in which city?
The distinctive architecture of old foreign concession buildings can be seen at Tianjin and the nationality of the original concessions is embodied in the style of the houses. Reflecting its colonial past there are two large cathedrals: Wang Hai Lou (north) and Xi Kai Jiao Tang (south).
3. There is a festival on the ninth day of the ninth month (double ninth) which is also known by what name?
Mid Autumn festival
Dragon Boat festival
On the 9th day of the 9th month for the (Zhongyang or Chongyang) festival people used to take to high ground and fly all sorts of kites as a way of appeasing the spirits. If a mountain or hill is not to hand a tall building or pagoda would be climbed.
4. Liu Jin in 1510CE accumulated four million pounds of gold in just four years. What was his profession?
The top Imperial eunuchs controlled access to the Emperor and received huge bribes to get anyone a personal interview. Although some eunuchs became extremely rich most were just menial servants with very basic pay.
5. If a character in traditional Chinese opera wears black make-up what does it denote?
Actors dressed in black with black make-up are considered 'invisible';
6. A Jewish community has lived for many centuries in which Chinese city?
Discovering a Jewish synagogue at Kaifeng, Henan came as a great surprise to Europeans in the 19th century. Although the synagogue was built in Chinese traditional style it had a copy of the Torah and was following traditional Jewish teachings.
7. The second Yi Jing hexagram is called what?
Kui - diversity
Kun - earth
Li - brightness
The 64 hexagrams of the Yi Jing (I Ching) begin with heaven (all yang) followed by its opposite earth (all yin).
8. What is the ideal depth of water for a paddy field?
It's little known that the reason that rice is grown in flooded 'paddy' fields is not because rice needs to grow 'underwater' but it is the simplest method to suppress weeds that would grow in marshy or dry land.
9. Nu Mengjiang is associated with which event in Chinese history?
building the Great Wall
digging the Grand Canal
fall of the Tang dynasty
In the famous legend Nu Mengjiang's husband was a conscript sent to build the Great Wall. Nu Mengjiang went to seek out her husband and after much searching was told he had died and was buried beneath the Wall. After three nights of sad and lonely vigil, the Wall split open revealing the bodies of the dead including her husband clasping the other half a jade hairpin she carried with her. Heartbroken she threw herself into the sea.
10. What are foxes associated with in China?
While many creatures in the west have a worse reputation than in China for example rats; pigs and dragons, for the fox it is the other way around. They are believed to be inhabited by evil spirits.
11. Kowloon town within the city of Hong Kong means what in English?
Nine is an Imperial number and nine dragons is considered particularly propitious.
12. Why is Ginseng mainly considered a potent medicine?
yellow flower color
grows in graveyards
Like the mandrake plant in Europe, ginseng has been associated with magical powers because its root is shaped like a child (and hence the use of 人 rén ‘person’ in its Chinese name of Renshen). It was believed that it cried when it was pulled out of the ground.
13. Mukden is an old name for which Chinese city
Shenyang was the Manchu capital and ‘Mukden’ is its Manchu name. The city in Liaoning province has many historical sites within the large industrial city.
14. The founder of the Han dynasty Liu Bei had his powerbase in which modern province?
Liu Bang, born of peasant stock, led the rebellion against the vestiges of Qin dynasty rule and became the first Han Emperor in 206BCE.
15. Reginald Johnston was famous in China in what position?
Head of customs service
Tutor to the last Emperor
Governor of Hong Kong
Scotsman Reginald Johnston became Puyi's most trusted adviser, friend and mentor 1919-24. He was portrayed by Peter O'Toole in the Oscar winning The Last Emperor film.