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China, a History

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Bee Cha
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« Reply #195 on: December 08, 2007, 08:39:57 pm »



A Tang Dynasty Chinese foliate mirror made of bronze, with decorations of mythical animals and phoenixes, 8th century
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« Reply #196 on: December 08, 2007, 08:41:21 pm »

Although the use of a teasing mechanical puppet in this wine-serving device was certainly ingenious, the use of mechanical puppets in China date back to the Qin Dynasty (221–207 BC) while Ma Jun in the 3rd century had an entire mechanical puppet theater operated by the rotation of a waterwheel. There was also an automatic wine-server known in the ancient Greco-Roman world, a design of Heron of Alexandria that employed an urn with an inner valve and a lever device similar to the one described above.

The Chinese of the Tang era were also very interested in the benefits of officially classifying all of the medicines used in pharmacology. In 657, Emperor Gaozong of Tang (r. 649–683) commissioned the literary project of publishing an official materia medica, complete with text and aid of illustrated drawing for 833 different medicincal substances taken from different stones, minerals, metals, plants, herbs, animals, vegetables, fruits, and cereal crops. Beyond medicine, the Chinese of the Tang period employed complex chemical formulas for an array of different purposes, often found through experiments of Taoist alchemy. These included a waterproof and dust-repelling cream or varnish for clothes and weapons, fireproof cement for glass and porcelain wares, a waterproof cream applied to silk clothes of underwater divers, a cream designated for polishing bronze mirrors, and many other useful formulas.
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« Reply #197 on: December 08, 2007, 08:45:07 pm »

In the realm of technical Chinese architecture, there were also government standard building codes, outlined in the early Tang book of the Yingshan Ling (National Building Law). Fragments of this book have survived in the Tang Lό (The Tang Code),[135] while the Song Dynasty architectural manual of the Yingzao Fashi (State Building Standards) by Li Jie (1065–1101) in 1103 is the oldest existing technical treatise on Chinese architecture that has survived in full. During the reign of Emperor Xuanzong of Tang (712–756) there were 34,850 registered craftsmen serving the state, managed by the Agency of Palace Buildings (Jingzuo Jian).

In the realm of cartography, there were further advancements since the map-makers of the Han Dynasty. When the Tang chancellor Pei Ju (547–627) was working for the Sui Dynasty as a Commercial Commissioner in 605, he created a well-known gridded map with a graduated scale in the tradition of Pei Xiu (224–271). The Tang chancellor Xu Jingzong (592–672) was also known for his map of China drawn in the year 658. In the year 785 the Emperor Dezong had the geographer and cartographer Jia Dan (730–805) complete a map of China and her former colonies in Central Asia. Upon its completion in 801, the map was 9.1 m (30 ft) in length and 10 m (33 ft) in height, mapped out on a grid scale of one inch equaling one hundred li (Chinese unit of measuring distance). A Chinese map of 1137 is similar in complexity to the one made by Jia Dan, carved on a stone stele with a grid scale of 100 li. However, the only type of map that has survived from the Tang period are star charts. Despite this, the earliest extant terrain maps of China come from the ancient State of Qin; maps from the 4th century BC that were excavated in 1986.
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« Reply #198 on: December 08, 2007, 08:47:11 pm »


The Dunhuang map, a star map from the Tang Dynasty showing the North Polar region. This map is thought to date from the reign of Emperor Zhongzong of Tang (705–710). Constellations of the three schools were distinguished with different colors: white, black and yellow for stars of Wu Xian, Gan De and Shi Shen respectively. The whole set of star maps contained 1,300 stars.
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« Reply #199 on: December 08, 2007, 08:49:14 pm »

Women's social rights and social status during the Tang era were incredibly liberal-minded for the medieval period. However, this was largely reserved for urbane women of elite status, as men and women in the rural countryside labored hard in their different set of tasks; with wives and daughters responsible for more domestic tasks of weaving textiles and rearing of silk worms, while men tended to farming in the fields. There were many women in the Tang era who gained access to religious authority by taking vows as Taoist priestesses. The head mistresses of the bordellos in the North Hamlet (also known as the Gay Quarters) of the capital Chang'an acquired large amounts of wealth and power. Their high-class courtesans, who very much resembled Japanese geishas,  were well respected. These courtesans were known as great singers and poets, supervised banquets and feasts, knew the rules to all the drinking games, and were trained to have the utmost respectable table manners. Although they were renowned for their polite behavior, the courtesans were known to dominate the conversation amongst elite men, and were not afraid to openly castigate or criticize prominent male guests who talked too much or too loudly, boasted too much of their accomplishments, or had in some way ruined dinner for everyone by rude behavior (on one occasion a courtesan even beat up a drunken man who had insulted her). When singing to entertain guests, courtesans not only composed the lyrics to their own songs, but they popularized a new form of lyrical verse by singing lines written by various renowned and famous men in Chinese history.

Women who were full-figured (even plump) were considered attractive by men, as men also enjoyed the presence of assertive, active women. In example of the latter, the foreign horse-riding sport of polo from Persia became a wildly popular trend amongst the Chinese elite, as women often played the sport (as glazed earthenware figurines from the time period portray). The preferred hairstyle for women was to bunch their hair up like "an elaborate edifice above the forehead," while affluent ladies wore extravagant head ornaments, combs, pearl necklaces, face powders, and perfumes.

There were some prominent court women after the era of Empress Wu, such as Yang Guifei (719–756), who had Emperor Xuanzong appoint some of her friends and cronies in important ministerial and martial positions.
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« Reply #200 on: December 08, 2007, 08:51:56 pm »

During the earlier Southern and Northern Dynasties (420–589), and perhaps even earlier, the drink of tea had become popular in southern China. Tea comes from the leaf buds of Camelia sinensis, native to southwestern China. Tea was viewed then as a beverage of tasteful pleasure and looked upon with pharmacological purpose as well. During the Tang Dynasty, tea was synonymous with everything sophisticated in society. The Tang poet Lu Tong (790–835) devoted most of his poetry to his love of tea. The 8th century author Lu Yu (known as the Sage of Tea) even wrote a treatise on the art of drinking tea, called the Classic of Tea (Chαjīng). Although wrapping paper had been used in China since the 2nd century BC, during the Tang Dynasty the Chinese were using wrapping paper as folded and sewn square bags to hold and preserve the flavor of tea leaves. Indeed, paper found many other uses besides writing and wrapping during the Tang era. Earlier, the first recorded use of toilet paper was made in 589 by the scholar-official Yan Zhitui (531–591), and in 851 an Arab Muslim traveler commented on how the Tang era Chinese were not careful about cleanliness because they did not wash with water when going to the bathroom; instead, he said, the Chinese simply used paper to wipe with.

In ancient times, the Chinese had outlined the five most basic foodstuffs known as the five grains: sesamum, legumes, wheat, panicled millet, and glutinous millet. The Ming Dynasty encyclopedist Song Yingxing (1587–1666) noted that rice was not counted amongst the five grains from the time of the legendary and deified Shennong (the existence of whom Yingxing wrote was "an uncertain matter") into the 2nd and 1st millenniums BC, because the properly wet and humid climate in southern China for growing rice was not yet fully settled or cultivated by the Chinese. During the Tang, the many common foodstuffs and cooking ingredients in addition to those already listed were barley, garlic, salt, turnips, soybeans, pears, apricots, peaches, apples, pomegranates, jujubes, rhubarb, hazelnuts, pine nuts, chestnuts, walnuts, yams, taro, etc. The various meats that were consumed included pork, chicken, lamb (especially preferred in the north), sea otter, bear (which was hard to catch, but there were recipes for steamed, boiled, and marinated bear), and even bactrian camels. In the south along the coast meat from seafood was by default the most common, as the Chinese enjoyed eating cooked jellyfish with cinnamon, Sichuan pepper, cardamom, and ginger, as well as oysters with wine, fried squid with ginger and vinegar, horseshoe crabs and red crabs, shrimp, and pufferfish, which the Chinese called 'river piglet'. Some foods were also off-limits, as the Tang court encouraged people not to eat beef (since the bull was a valuable draft animal), and from 831 to 833 Emperor Wenzong of Tang even banned the slaughter of cattle on the grounds of his religious convictions to Buddhism. With large amount of facilitated trade over land and overseas, the Chinese acquired golden peaches from Samarkand, date palms, pistachios, and figs from Persia, pine seeds and ginseng roots from Korea, and mangoes from Southeast Asia.

Methods of food preservation were important and practiced throughout China. The common people used simple methods of preservation, such as digging deep ditches and trenches, brining, and salting their foods. The emperor had large ice pits located in the parks in and around Chang'an for preserving food, while the wealthy and elite had their own smaller ice pits. Each year the emperor had laborers carve 1000 blocks of ice from frozen creeks in mountain valleys, each block with the dimension of 3 ft. by 3 ft. and 3½ ft. There were many frozen delicacies enjoyed during the summer, especially chilled melon.
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« Reply #201 on: December 08, 2007, 08:53:52 pm »



Terracotta sculpture of a lady, 7th-8th century, Tang Dynasty.
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« Reply #202 on: December 08, 2007, 08:55:06 pm »



Beauties Wearing Flowers, by painter Zhou Fang, 8th century.
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« Reply #203 on: December 08, 2007, 08:56:41 pm »



A page of Lu Yu's Classic of Tea.
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« Reply #204 on: December 08, 2007, 08:57:22 pm »

The first classic work about the Tang is the Book of Tang by Liu Xu (887–946) et al of the Later Jin, who redacted it during the last years of his life. This was edited into another history (labelled the New Book of Tang) in order to distinguish it, which was a work by the historian Ouyang Xiu (1007–1072), Song Qi (998–1061) et al of the Song Dynasty (between the years 1044 and 1060). Both of them were based upon earlier annals, yet those are now lost. Both of them also rank among the Twenty-Four Histories of China. One of the surviving sources of the Book of Tang, primarily covering up to 756, is the Tongdian, which Du You presented to the emperor in 801. The Tang period was again placed into the enormous universal history text of the Zizhi Tongjian, edited, compiled, and completed in 1084 by a team of scholars under the Song Dynasty Chancellor Sima Guang (1019–1086). This historical text, written with 3 million Chinese characters in 294 volumes, covered the history of China from the beginning of the Warring States (403 BC) until the beginning of the Song Dynasty (960).

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« Reply #205 on: December 08, 2007, 08:59:33 pm »



A Chinese Tang Dynasty tri-colored glaze porcelain horse (ca. 700 AD).
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« Reply #206 on: December 08, 2007, 09:02:11 pm »

Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms

The period of political disunity between the Tang and the Song, known as the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period (五代十国), lasted little more than half a century, from 907 to 960. During this brief era, when China was in all respects a multi-state system, five regimes succeeded one another rapidly in control of the old Imperial heartland in northern China. During this same time, 10 more stable regimes occupied sections of southern and western China, so the period is also referred to as that of the Ten Kingdoms (十国).

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