The Most Popular Gods and Goddesses of Ancient China

The gods were believed to have created the world and human beings, and they kept the world and surrounding universe functioning. By Emily Mark Introduction There were over 200 gods and goddesses worshipped throughout ancient China, but if one were to count every deity or spirit, the number would be over 1,000. Each town, village,[…]

China’s Rendition of the Trojan War in the Abduction of Helen Tapestry

This tapestry, made in China to be sold in Portugal, is an example of a transcultural object, or one entangled with multiple cultures. The Story of Troy Twisting, overlapping warriors fill the foreground of a massive 12 x 16 foot tapestry. It can be difficult to tell where one person begins and another ends, making the[…]

The Compensations of Plunder: Looting China’s Art, 1790-1930

Was the removal of antiquities from China simple theft or something more complicated? “After you have the institutionalization of the discourse of nationalism, a Chinese bronze that is buried in the ground belongs to the ancient Chinese nation. So now anyone who removes this artifact is a thief.” From the 1790s to the 1930s, archaeologists[…]

Lang Jingshan and Early Chinese Photography

Photography arrived in China from Europe in the mid-nineteenth century. Introduction Can a photograph be appreciated in the manner of a Chinese painting? This is the question that Lang Jingshan (also spelled Long Chin-San, 1892–1995, born in Jiangsu Province), a pioneer of early art photography in China and the so-called “father of Asian photography,” asked[…]

An Introduction to Ancient and Medieval Chinese Calligraphy

In the general order of their appearance, there are: seal script, clerical script, cursive script, running script, and standard script. Art of the Line Calligraphy is the world’s oldest abstract art—the art of the line. This basic visual element can also hold a symbolic charge. Nowhere has the symbolic power of the line manifested itself[…]

Bronze Age Ambition and Luxury: Marquis Yi of the Zeng State

How early burial customs and practices could not only reflect someone’s ambition, but also elevate their status. Introduction Imagine stumbling upon an undisturbed tomb filled with 15,000 items—from hundreds of jade and golden objects and enormous bronze wine vessels to massive lacquered coffins and a vast assortment of musical instruments. In 1978 in Leigudun, Suizhou,[…]

Who Would China Prefer in the White House – Biden or Trump?

While China is trying to find ways to become the dominant superpower around the world, Donald Trump’s re-election would likely prove favorable for China’s growth. Trump has been consistently enraged with China following the spread of the virus and the resultant pandemic. He has consistently blamed the Chinese authorities, to an extent where the novel[…]

The Passage and Repeal of the Chinese Exclusion Act, 1885-1943

Non-Chinese workers in the United States came to resent the Chinese laborers, who they feared would squeeze them out of their jobs. Introduction In the 1850s, Chinese workers migrated to the United States, first to work in the gold mines, but also to take agricultural jobs, and factory work, especially in the garment industry. Chinese[…]

How the Burlingame-Seward Treaty of 1868 Changed U.S.-China Relations

There was a general effort to convince the Chinese to adopt a more Western approach to diplomacy and governance. Introduction China and the United States concluded the Burlingame-Seward Treaty in 1868 to expand upon the Treaty of Tianjin of 1858. The new treaty established some basic principles that aimed to ease immigration restrictions and represented[…]

Philosophical Influences on Contemporary Chinese Law

One must study Chinese Law within the context of Chinese social, cultural, political, and legal history. By Weng LiAssistant Professor, Department of LawHangzhou University Introduction Those unfamiliar with China’s legal system frequently raise two questions: whether “Chinese law” is a meaningful concept[1] and whether there is value in discussing the philosophical influences on China’s legal[…]

Ancient Chinese Philosophy

Confucianism, Taoism, and Legalism would ultimately absorb other concepts and condemn previous schools of thought. Introduction The term Ancient Chinese Philosophy is generally understood to refer to the belief systems developed by various philosophers during the era known as the Hundred Schools of Thought (also The Contention of the Hundred Schools of Thought) when these[…]

The Political Development of Ancient and Medieval Imperial China

Exploring imperial China during the period from about 221 BCE to about 1644 CE. Introduction The word imperial means “ruled by an emperor. ” During this time, China was under the control of a series of dynasties, or ruling families. China is located on the continent of Asia—the largest continent on Earth. China has three[…]

Discoveries and Inventions in Ancient and Medieval China

Exploring discoveries and inventions made by the Chinese between about 200 and 1400 C.E. Introduction Over the centuries, Chinese scholars and scientists studied engineering, mathematics, science, and medicine, among other subjects. Their studies led to scientific and technological progress that was often far ahead of advances in the rest of the world. To understand the[…]

Economic Growth in Medieval China

During this period, China’s huge cities dwarfed the cities of medieval Europe. Introduction The Song period was a time of great prosperity in China. Changes in agriculture, especially a boom in the production of rice, fueled the growth of the economy. Trade and business flourished. These developments had started during the Tang dynasty. Under the[…]

Medieval China’s Contacts with the Outside World

Exploring how the Chinese both welcomed and rejected foreign contacts. Introduction At times, the Chinese welcomed foreign contacts. Great cultural exchange resulted as new ideas and products flowed into and out of China. Buddhism, which originally came from India, reached its height of influence during the Tang dynasty. A Chinese monk, Xuan Zang (zhwoo-AN ZANG),[…]

Ancient Chinese Literature

The earliest written works in China are ghost stories and myths. By Emily MarkHistorian Introduction Chinese literature is some of the most imaginative and interesting in the world. The precision of the language results in perfectly realized images whether in poetry or prose and, as with all great literature from any culture, the themes are timeless.[…]

Ancient Chinese Calligraphy

The brushwork of calligraphy, its philosophy, and materials would influence Chinese painting styles. Introduction Calligraphy established itself as the most important ancient Chinese art form alongside painting, first coming to the fore during the Han dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE). All educated men and some court women were expected to be proficient at it,[…]

Music in Ancient, Medieval, and Modern China

The legendary founder of music in Chinese mythology was Ling Lun, who made bamboo pipes tuned to the sounds of birds. Introduction The music of China dates back to the dawn of Chinese civilization with documents and artifacts providing evidence of a well-developed musical culture as early as the Zhou Dynasty (1122 B.C.E. – 256[…]

Astronomy in China since the Ancient World

China continues to be active in astronomy, with many observatories and its own space program. Introduction Astronomy in China has a very long history. Oracle bones from the Shang Dynasty (second millennium B.C.E.) record eclipses and novae. Detailed records of astronomical observations were kept from about the sixth century B.C.E. until the introduction of Western[…]

Imperial Examinations (Keju) for Government Service in Ancient China

The Chinese civil service system later served as a model for the civil-service systems elsewhere. Introduction The Imperial examinations or Keju (Traditional Chinese: 科舉; pinyin: kējǔ), were an essential part of the Chinese government administration from their introduction in the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.E. to 220 C.E.) until they were abolished during Qing attempts at[…]

A History of Science and Technology in China since the Ancient Han Dynasty

Among the earliest inventions were the abacus, the “shadow clock,” and the first flying machines. Introduction The history of science and technology in China is both long and rich with science and technological contribution. In antiquity, independent of Greek philosophers and other civilizations, ancient Chinese philosophers made significant advances in science, technology, mathematics, and astronomy.[…]

Early Medieval Chinese Presence in the Nubian and Abyssinian Kingdoms

Examining the visit of Du Huan to Molin-guo and Laobosa. Abstract This article focuses on the first Chinese whose presence in Africa is clearly documented. Due to the geographical curiosity of the T’ang dynasty, extracts of an 8th century travel report of a Chinese military officer, Du Huan, were documented and preserved. He visited Arabian[…]

An Overview of the Economy of Ancient China

Trade routes spanned China in early Shang dynasty times, but it was from mid-Zhou times that commerce expanded markedly. Agriculture The great majority of the people lived in farming villages, carrying out a host of tasks to grow their crops – sowing, ploughing, weeding, harvesting, storing  – and keep themselves fed, clothed and housed –[…]

Medieval Chinese Art and Architecture at the Longmen Caves of Luoyang

The Northern Wei was the most enduring and powerful of the northern Chinese dynasties before reunification. Imperial Patronage Worship and power struggles, enlightenment and suicide—the 2300 caves and niches filled with Buddhist art at Longmen in China has witnessed it all. The steep limestone cliffs extend for almost a mile and contain approximately 110,000 Buddhist stone statues,[…]

‘A Thousand Years of Art’ at China’s Mogao Caves of Dunhuang

The ‘Caves of the Thousand Buddhas’ are a magnificent treasure trove of Buddhist art. A Trove of Buddhist Art The ‘Caves of the Thousand Buddhas’ (Qianfodong), also known as Mogao, are a magnificent treasure trove of Buddhist art. They are located in the desert, about 15 miles south-east of the town of Dunhuang in north[…]

The Dragon in Ancient China

Dragons were one of the earliest creatures to appear in the tales and legends of ancient China. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction Dragons appear in the mythology of many ancient cultures but nowhere else in the world was the creature quite so revered as in China. There, in marked contrast to other world mythologies, the dragon[…]

A History of Chinese Art from the Ancient World to Today

The earliest surviving examples of Chinese painting are fragments of painting on silk, stone, and lacquer items. Introduction Chinese art traditions are the oldest continuous art traditions in the world. Early so-called “stone age art” in China, consisting mostly of simple pottery and sculptures, dates back to 10,000 B.C.E.. This early period was followed by[…]

Civil Service Examinations in Ancient and Medieval Imperial China

The exams were in place for over a thousand years and are the principal reason why education is still particularly revered in Chinese culture today. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction The civil service examinations of Imperial China allowed the state to find the best candidates to staff the vast bureaucracy that governed China from the Han[…]

Ethical Advice for Nobles and Civil Servants in Ancient China

Confucius looked to “the wisdom of the ancients” and a “return to li”. Introduction The teachings and writings of Confucius (551–479 BCE; also called Kung Fu Tzu or Master Kung) not only have endured more than two and a half millennia but have influenced Chinese culture to such a degree that they remain part of[…]

Ancient Chinese Philosophy

Chinese culture as a whole has been shaped by the influence of ancient intellectual leaders. Introduction Chinese philosophy is the intellectual tradition of the Chinese culture from their early recorded history to the present day. The main topics of Chinese philosophy were heavily influenced by the ideas of important figures like Lao-Tzu, Confucius, Mencius, and[…]