Ancient China’s Terracotta Army Bronze Weapon Preservation

The good metal preservation probably results from the moderately alkaline pH, a very small particle size of the burial soil, and bronze composition. By Dr. Marcos Martinón-Torres, et.al.Pitt-Rivers Professor of Archaeological ScienceUniversity of Cambridge Abstract For forty years, there has been a widely held belief that over 2,000 years ago the Chinese Qin developed an[…]

The Woman in Green: A Chinese Ghost Tale from Mao to Ming, 1981-1381

An appropriate end, or beginning, for a ghost that will live many, many more lives. 1981 The film begins on a darkened set, billowing with fog, echoing with a woman’s cry to the heavens. Her figure comes into view and she zigs and zags across the screen, her diaphanous white robe glittering with silver fringe.[…]

Ghosts in Ancient China

Ghost stories were the earliest form of literature in ancient China. By Emily MarkHistorian Introduction Ghost stories were the earliest form of literature in ancient China. They were almost certainly part of a very old oral tradition before  writing  developed during the Shang Dynasty (1600 – 1046 BCE) and they continue to be popular in China today. Ghosts were taken very[…]

The Mongolian Yurt

The yurt tent has been used by nomadic pastoralist peoples of northern East Asia since before written records began. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction A yurt (ger in Mongolian) is a large circular tent made of wool felt stretched over a wooden frame used by nomadic peoples of the Asian steppe since before written records began.[…]

The ‘Secret History of the Mongols’

Written from a Mongolian perspective, the work is an invaluable record of their legends as well as oral and written histories. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction The Secret History of the Mongols is a chronicle written in the 13th century CE (with some later additions) and is the most important and oldest medieval Mongolian text. The[…]

Ogedei: Third Son and Unlikely Mongol Successor of Genghis Khan

Ogedei was a surprising choice for khan because he already had a reputation for often being drunk. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction Ogedei Khan (aka Ogodei) ruled the Mongol Empire from 1229 to 1241 CE. The third son of Genghis Khan (r. 1206-1227 CE), the empire’s founder, Ogedei’s accomplishments included creating a new capital at Karakorum,[…]

Medieval Mongol Warfare

Ultimately, the Mongols would establish the largest empire the world had ever seen. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction The Mongols conquered vast swathes of Asia in the 13th and 14th century CE thanks to their fast light cavalry and excellent bowmen, but another significant contribution to their success was the adoption of their enemies’ tactics and[…]

Xanadu: Marco Polo’s Famed Nirvana

Distant and mysteriously lost Xanadu came to represent a place of mystery, splendid luxury and easy living. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction Xanadu (aka Shangdu, Shang-tu, and Kaiping), located in Inner Mongolia, northern China, was made first the capital (1263-73 CE) and then the summer capital (1274-1364) of the Mongol Empire by Kublai Khan (r. 1260-1294[…]

The Origins and Prehistory of Ancient China’s Hsia Dynasty

Interesting myths and fascinating legends about Yü and the origins of the Hsia abound. The existence of the Hsia, traditionally regarded as the first of China’s three great founding dynasties and one of the chief progenitors of Chinese civilization, has not only long been questioned but also vehemently rejected by scholars caught up in the[…]

Evidence Confirms Health Benefits of an Ancient Chinese Sweetness

Examining two recent discoveries in goji berry chemistry and shedding light on how and why they are beneficial to your health. What in the Heck Is a Goji Berry? For those of you who aren’t yet familiar, (worry not, you’re about to be) goji berries (fruits of Lycium barbarum –L. and Lycium chinense –Mill.) originate from and have[…]

The Medieval Garden of the Humble Administrator in Suzhou, China

Designed at human scale, Chinese gardens are meant to be comfortable, intriguing, and pleasing at every turn. Introduction Extensive gardens are recorded in China from the third century B.C.E. onward. The scholar’s garden is often considered the most complete expression of the Chinese garden, especially in the late Ming (1573-1644) and Qing dynasties (1616-1911). These[…]

Temujin: The Reign of Genghis Khan, 1206-1227

Genghis Khan built the foundations of an empire which would ultimately control one-fifth of the globe. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction Genghis Khan (aka Chinggis Khan, c. 1162/67-1227 CE) was the founder of the Mongol Empire (1206-1368 CE) which he would rule from 1206 until his death in 1227 CE. Born Temujin, he acquired the title[…]

The China of the Jesuits

The history of the Society of Jesus’ first missions is a story of great journeys. Abstract During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries many reports and travel narratives helped to create a more positive image of China around the world. The remarkable efforts of the Society of Jesus were essential to this new view, thanks to[…]

The Early Modern European Palaces of the Qianlong Emperor

These works represent an artistic encounter between East and West. A Controversial Auction In 2009, two eighteenth-century Chinese bronze sculptures — one representing a rat’s head and the other a rabbit’s — sold at a Christie’s auction in Paris for $40.4 million. Soon afterwards, the art world watched, stunned, as the winning bidder, Cai Mingchao,[…]

Woodblock Prints of Domestic ‘Westernization’ in Asia, 1868-1912

In the 19th and early-20th centuries, Japan, among the major countries of Asia, escaped colonial or neo-colonial domination by the United States and expansionist nations of Europe. Introduction What does it mean to speak of people, cultures, or nations responding to “the challenge of the Western world”?  What does “Westernization” involve in concrete practice? Beginning[…]

Woodblock Prints of the Sino-Japanese War, 1894-1895

The Sino-Japanese War provided something very new—a modern and highly mechanized war against a foreign foe. Prints and Propaganda The Sino-Japanese War began in July 1894 and ended in China’s shattering defeat in April 1895. It involved battles on land and sea; began with fighting in Korea that spilled over the Yalu River into Manchuria;[…]

Early Evidence of Cannabis Smoking Found on Chinese Artifacts

The findings are some of the earliest evidence of cannabis used as a drug. People have been smoking pot to get high for at least 2,500 years. Chinese archaeologists found signs of that when they studied the char on a set of wooden bowls from an ancient cemetery in western China. The findings are some[…]

Trade, Diplomacy, and Transformation in China in the 19th and 20th Centuries

Exploring how China’s economic and diplomatic ties to the outside world shaped its modern history. Introduction For centuries, China’s encounters with the foreign lands and peoples involved the commercial exchange of goods. The Chinese attitude towards trade viewed it as desirable, within a structured and regulated framework. Prior to the establishment of the People’s Republic[…]

The Sacrificial Puppies of the Shang Dynasty

A new study suggests young dogs were frequently buried with humans in China some 3,000 years ago, but the precise reasons remain elusive. By Joshua Rapp Learn During the last centuries of China’s Shang dynasty, which lasted from 1600 B.C. to 1050 B.C., ritual sacrifice was a well-oiled cultural phenomenon, rich and varied in its[…]

China and Hong Kong in the Canton Trade System

After their victory in the first Opium War, the British acquired Hong Kong under the 1842 Treaty of Nanking. Hong Kong held 3,000 Chinese scattered in small fishing villages until the mid 19th century. The city itself is a small island in the mouth of the Pearl River, 76 miles southeast of Canton. Its waterfall[…]

The Narrow World of the Artists of China’s Early Modern Canton Trade System

The new vistas of China available after the development of the East India trade attracted many Chinese and foreign artists. John Webber (1750–1793) accompanied Captain Cook on his third voyage to the South Seas and visited Macau in 1779, publishing his book Views in the South Seas in 1780. Thomas Daniell (1749–1840) and his nephew[…]

Ancient and Medieval China’s Silk Road

The European explorer Marco Polo (1254-1324 CE) traveled on these routes and described them in depth in his famous work. Introduction The Silk Road was an ancient network of trade routes, formally established during the Han Dynasty of China, which linked the regions of the ancient world in commerce between 130 BCE-1453 CE. As the Silk Road was not[…]

Ancient Chinese Alchemy

Chinese alchemists developed methods for manipulating minerals and altering the state of substances. Introduction Most of us are familiar with parts of the history of alchemy; the stories of the Philosopher’s Stone and turning base metal into gold have diffused into mainstream films and books. These tales evoke visions of grey bearded men at the royal court[…]

Ancient Korean and Chinese Relations

Contact between Korea and China goes back to mythology and prehistory. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction Contact between Korea and China goes back to mythology and prehistory. Trade developed from the Bronze and Iron Ages with raw materials and manufactured goods going in both directions for centuries thereafter. In addition to traders, migrants came, beginning with[…]

Ancient Chinese Warfare: Confucianism and Absence of Glory

The absence of a glorification of war in China was largely due to Confucian philosophy and literature. By Mark CartwrightHistorian Introduction In ancient China warfare was a means for one region to gain ascendancy over another, for the state to expand and protect its frontiers, and for usurpers to replace an existing dynasty of rulers.[…]

The Most Popular Gods and Goddesses of Ancient China

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. By Emily MarkHistorian 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[…]

Fook Shing: Colonial Victoria’s Chinese Detective

Fook Shing spent 20 years as a Melbourne gumshoe. He policed the thriving Chinese community – claiming opium as an expense – but was never promoted above his entry rank of detective third class. On July 25 1882, Inspector Frederick Secretan, the head of Victoria Police’s Detective Branch, shifted uncomfortably in his seat. In the[…]