China sage : Updates

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motif
Thu 12th Nov

This much admired trio of figures founded the Zhou dynasty back in around 1100BCE. Little is known from historical source, not surprising as it all happened over over 3,000 years ago. The great sage Confucius held them, particularly the Duke of Zhou, as paragons of wise and virtuous government. We've added a brief introduction to these early figures of the early development of Chinese civilization to the web site. Both King Wen and the Duke of Zhou are associated with the great Chinese classic the Yi Jing and the development of the eight trigrams.

king wen, zhou dynasty, ji chang
A portrait of King Wen made in the Ming dynasty. Available under a Creative Commons License
Tue 27th Oct

The Dao De Jing (or Tao Te Ching using the old spelling) is a much loved Chinese classic. It is written as a series of short, individual thoughts and contemplations of our place in the world. It follows the Daoist (Taoist) philosophical tradition and although it is over 2,500 years old it still has a message for us today.

We have added a brief introduction to this ancient classic as part of our coverage of Chinese culture.

Dao de jing, seal, Daoism, Gian Jinlin
A seal by Gian Jinlun (1888-1950) which uses text from the Dao de Jing (Tao Te Ching). Image by Cangjie6 available under a Creative Commons License
Thu 1st Oct

The conflict between the UK and China in the mid 19th century had its origin in the failed embassies sent by Britain to negotiate trade deals. The Chinese were not interested in British goods and Britain refused to acknowledge China as a superior nation.

Unlike all other European nations Macartney refused to perform the full obeisance (kowtow) before the Emperor. The Chinese were affronted and the British were sent packing. It was a clash of civilizations and national pride that led ultimately to the destruction of the Old Summer Palace, Beijing 65 years later.

We've add a comprehensive description to the web site of this historic confrontation of which lessons are still being learned.

Macartney, embassy, kowtow
William Alexander's drawing of the reception of the Macartney embassy to China. Young Thomas Staunton (kneeling not kowtowing) receives a gift from the Emperor. Image by William Alexander available under a Creative Commons License
Thu 24th Sep

A full 500 years before Leonardo da Vinci worked on various ingenious inventions and developed new theories, Shen Kuo had produced a similar range of ground-breaking discoveries. The contributions of China to scientific discovery is little known so we have added a short summary of the life of this great polymath from the early Song dynasty. Had his ideas been followed up in succeeding generations world history would look very different.

shen kua, song dynasty, scientist
Shen Kuo. A prominent scientist and astronomer of the Song Dynasty. Image by Hans A. Rosbach available under a Creative Commons License
Tue 7th Jul

We've added a few more topics to the web site. The first is the success story that is the city state of Singapore, run primarily by people of Chinese descent. We've also added more about the early legendary gods and emperors that are much mentioned in myths and legends. Finally, again in the area of ancient China history we've added information about the small states that existed before the first Qin Emperor unified China.

Singapore, airport, vortex, gardens
HSBC Rain Vortex inside the "Jewel" area at Singapore Changi Airport (SIN). SkyTrain connecting Terminal 2 and 3 is visible in the photo. Image by Matteo Morando available under a Creative Commons License
Thu 25th Jun

Running a web site like this is a continuous process. Just when you think you've got the content looking good either the technology or the search algorithms change. We try to design the pages to work well with smartphones but these continue to develop with new features. In this latest set of changes we've made better use of the new HTML5 tags such as 'aside', 'section', 'figcaption' and 'footer'. This helps browsers and Google work out what bits of a web page are important and which are peripheral.

When you make the changes you can never be sure whether it has improved matters and the web pages will then appear higher on Google searches as a result - you have to wait at least two months for everything to be re-indexed and re-analyzed.

We've also split the Chinese calendar away from the Festivals page as we think people are either interested in one or the other and not both. if you have any views on layout or content we are always delighted to hear from you - just use the envelope icon at the top of any page.

Tue 2nd Jun

When looking for pages to give a good background to the spectacular tombs of the Ming Emperors we found that there was nothing that really covered the subject in depth. There were inconsistencies and confusion as to what could be found where and had to resort to using Google Earth to locate some of the buildings. We hope that our new page with numerous illustrations will help you appreciate the splendor of these magnificent constructions.

ming tombs, stele pavilion
Stele Pavilion on Sacred Way to Ming Tombs, Beijing. Image by Willi Luntzer available under a Creative Commons License
Fri 21st Feb

We've updated one or our earliest written pages to provide much more information about that great treasure of China - jade. We cover the Imperial jewel the Heshibi and have found some fine illustrations of jade objects that people have kindly uploaded for use on web sites.

jade, bowl, fish
Jade dish with two fishes among reeds, China, late Ming period. British Museum, room 33b ( the Selwyn and Ellie Alleyne Gallery). Image by Vassil available under a Creative Commons License
Tue 11th Feb

We can not ignore the news story that is dominating the world's news web pages. The new coronavirus (2019-nCoV) has the potential to become a major pandemic but so far containment within China seems to be working. It was first recorded on the very last day of 2019 in Wuhan, the provincial capital of Hubei province. To give information and advice we have put together a web page all about the outbreak from what we believe are trusted, authoritative sources. We aim to keep the page updated frequently until the outbreak is under control.

coronavirus
Mon 9th Dec 2019

Our popular quizzes have had a little bit of a make-over. We found that General quiz 4 had not been functioning properly. We also found that about 1% of answers were marked incorrectly - it indicated an incorrect answer as the correct one.

If you spot a problem with a quiz question or have a suggestion for new questions or whole quizzes please contact us.

china, puppet, shadow puppet
Exhibit in the Sichuan University Museum () - Chengdu, Sichuan, China. Photography was permitted in the museum without restriction. Image by Daderot available under a Creative Commons License
Wed 4th Dec 2019

In addition to a guide to the history and gneral form of paper-cuts we have now added step-by-step guides to how to make five paper-cuts. This includes a simple one based on the character for Double Happiness.

double happiness, paper-cut
Tue 26th Nov 2019

With the invention of paper about 2,000 years ago, China had a head start in making paper-cuts. There is a huge range of intricate, artistic designs that can take a minute, ... or months to make. Many make use of symbolism to conceal a hidden message while modern forms have taken the basic idea into new, exciting areas. For a quick guide please see our new web page all about this neglected art-form.

paper-cut
Tue 3rd Sep 2019
A mixed bag of updates to the web site has now been released. Looking ahead to the future new Chinese calendars for 2021 and 2022 have been added. These includes all the public and traditional holidays. While doing this work we found an error in the lunar month calculation for 2020 which has been corrected. Our three Mandarin Chinese lessons remain popular and we have added sound effects so you can here the words pronounced - very important when getting to grips with the Chinese tones. Some time ago we added a page on the Hanlin Academy but failed to mention an even older academic institution - the Taixue which was up and running 2,000 years ago. With now added a bit about it. On the same lines there is one ancient text, may be 2,400 years old that has a good claim to be by far the oldest Thesaurus, this is the ‘Er ya’, so we've added a bit about that.
Thu 8th Aug 2019

The big new page we've added attempts to summarize the Mongol conquest of China and Asia. Although Genghis khan is widely covered elsewhere we found very few maps that clearly show the expansion of the Mongol Empire and this made it hard to understand. We've also found some nice illustrations of the Mongol people and paintings of the Mongol conquest.

We've also added a new translation of the Thousand Character Classic ; Steles; Chinoiserie and the South China Sea. If there is a topic you would like us to cover then please let us know.

Mongol, Hingary, Qadan
The Mongols in Hungary 1241. Hungary. Ink and paint on pergament. King Bela on the flight from the Mongols. The Mongol leader might be Qadan, a son of Ogedei. Painted 1358. Image by Szechenyi National Library available under a Creative Commons License
Tue 1st Jan 2019

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.

Mon 31st Dec 2018
We've completed our one month fund raiser. Thanks for everyone who donated. However as there was only ten donations in all we can't consider it a success. This represents a donation from about 0.01% of our site visitors. We would receive about ten times that donation amount from advertisements so we will now experiment with targeted adverts again.
Thu 22nd Nov 2018
We don't like plastering our web site with advertisements so we thought we'd try a fund raising campaing instead - just like Wikipedia. We've introduced a popup that requests a donation - if cleared it does not prompt again for 10 minutes. If you donate you'll be popup free for 12 months. We'll keep the campaign going for the next month only.
Fri 9th Nov 2018

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.

Thu 25th Oct 2018

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.

Thu 25th Oct 2018

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.

Wed 19th Sep 2018

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.

May 4th Protest,  Beijing,  Tiananmen Square
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
Tue 11th Sep 2018
Leibniz
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.

Tue 28th Aug 2018

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
Thomas Hyde (1636-1703), Oriental scholar by Francis Perry (died 1765), Engraver. National Portrait Gallery. Available under a Creative Commons License
Fri 24th Aug 2018

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.

Mon 16th Jul 2018

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.

torture,  fingers
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
Thu 28th Jun 2018
The leading academy for scholarship in China and probably the world lasted from 725 until 1911. The Hanlin Academy was an imperial institution that chose its members from candidates who did best in the top level examinations. This pool of talent from all over China helped the Emperor administer the country in all sorts of ways. On one occasion it was tasked with writing an encyclopedia of all human knowledge. The work took thousands of scholars five years to write into eleven thousand volumes - the largest ever written document. It fell into decline in the late Qing and became the victim of a fire during the Boxer Rebellion. It stands as testimony to the prestigious place of scholarship in China from a very early date.
Mon 21st May 2018

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.

Dragon boat festival, Guangxi, people, boat
A dragon boat crew in Guangxi
Wed 9th May 2018

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.

Thu 26th Apr 2018

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.

pidgin
The Red-haired glossary,. c. 1835. Available under a Creative Commons License
Tue 10th Apr 2018

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.

snow leopard, chinese wildlife
Portrait of a male snow leopard (Panthera uncia) of the Rheintal zoo. Modifications made by Niabot . Image by Tambako available under a Creative Commons License
China motif