Northern and Southern dynasties: An introduction

China History SG

The Han dynasty was one of the early Chinese dynasty that enjoyed developments and progress. Plagued by various problems in the late years, the Han empire disintegrated and soon gave way to civil wars. A brief respite was achieved when Jin 晋 unified China for a short 37 years before the chaos and war returned.

Division and war was never a proud moment in Chinese history. The Chinese considered division as moments of weakness, preferring times of unification where the empire progressed to greater heights. Historians  observed a cyclic pattern of unification and division. It was seen as the norm that China should be unified. When China was fragmented, all the rulers saw it as their duty to bring it back together again. This could be the many reasons why most people knew very little about the period of Northern and Southern dynasties. It is an extremely complicated period, if you…

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A Month of: This Day in History

Louise M. H. Miller; Around The Red Map.

On this day in 1839 in Humen, China, Chinese scholar and official of the Qing dynasty, Lin Tse-hsü destroys 1.2 million kg of opium which had been confiscated from British merchants. Lin forcefully opposed the opium trade on economic, social and moral grounds. The destruction of the opium stores is seen as the primary catalyst for the First Opium War of 1839-42; as it provided the British with a casus belli to open hostilities with the Chinese over their conflicting viewpoints on diplomatic relations, trade and the administration of justice for foreign nationals.



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Sokushinbutsu: Mummified Japanese Monks

Tribalmystic Stories

I have found these stories very fascinating. One story is about the Japanese monks and the other story is about ancient Chinese statues and an interesting discovery.


Scattered throughout Northern Japan around the Yamagata Prefecture are two dozen mummified Japanese monks known as Sokushinbutsu, who caused their own deaths in a way that resulted in their mummification. The practice was first pioneered by a priest named Kuukai over 1000 years ago at the temple complex of Mount Koya, in Wakayama prefecture. Kuukai was founder of the Shingon sect of Buddhism, which is the sect that came up with the idea of enlightenment through physical punishment. A successful mummification took upwards of ten years. It is believed that many hundreds of monks tried, but only between 16 and 24 such mummifications have been discovered to date.

The elaborate process started with 1,000 days of eating a special diet consisting only of…

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Pacific Paratrooper

F Force enroute to the Burma Railroad, by Otto Kreeft F Force enroute to the Burma Railroad, by Otto Kreeft

Fepows – Far Eastern POWs

Countless films and books concerned with the Second World War have, through the decades, concentrated on Europe and the Holocaust and the Far East prisoners of war have barely been mentioned.  The official 5 volumes of British history for this war include only 10 pages devoted to the subject, compared to the Australian history with 170 pages.

sketch by Jack Chalker, Fepow;British Army, Konyu, Thailand sketch by Jack Chalker, Fepow;British Army, Konyu, Thailand

Japan’s army conquered the Far East in 1941-42.  Prisoners were taken from Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaya, Thailand, Java, Sumatra, Ambon, New Britain, Celebes, Guam and the Philippines.  According to the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal, Japan took more than 50,000 British and Australian troops in Singapore alone; 42,000 Dutch (N.E.I.); 10,000 British in Java and 25,000 Americans in the Philippines and then transported to the mainland camps.

The Japanese government made…

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FGM and the Demise of Foot Binding – a Repost


the illusion

Foot binding –

“the custom of binding the feet of young girls painfully tight to prevent further growth. The practice likely originated in the Southern Tang Dynasty in Nanking but spread to upper class families and eventually became common among all classes. The tiny narrow feet were considered beautiful and to make a woman’s movements more feminine and dainty. Although reformers challenged the practice, it was not until the early 20th century that footbinding began dying out, partly from changing social conditions and partly as a result of anti-foot binding campaigns.

Foot-binding resulted in lifelong disabilities for most of its subjects and some elderly Chinese women still survive today with disabilities related to their bound feet” – from Wikipedia.

Foot binding first appeared in the upper classes and nobility and it seems fairly clear that it was intended to show that the daughters of the wealthy would be…

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The mystery of the Ming dynasty galleon and China’s 16th-century exports – Telegraph Blogs

My connection is still atrocious hence my inability to respond to comments.

Porcelain from the Nan'ao One

Porcelain from the Nan’ao One

Three years ago, a group of local fishermen were diving off the side of their boat near Nan’ao island chain, a cluster of small islands which lie close to the south China coast, roughly two-thirds of the way between Hong Kong and Xiamen.

On the sea-floor, one of the fishermen found ten porcelain plates, which he promptly scooped up, stashing a few of them away and taking the others to the market to sell.

An informant promptly ratted on him and some officials from the Guangdong Cultural Relic Research Institute came to have a word about where the porcelain came from.

When the fisherman took the researchers to the site, they discovered the wreck of a 65-foot-long ship, probably a merchant vessel, which may have been carrying tens of thousands of pieces of blue-and-white porcelain to foreign markets.

More importantly, the researchers dated the ship to the late Ming dynasty, probably during the reign of…

Continue reading: The mystery of the Ming dynasty galleon and China’s 16th-century exports – Telegraph Blogs.

Judy: The miracle dog of World War II

Eagle-Eyed Editor

Judy onboard the Grasshopper Judy on the deck of the Grasshopper. Public domain image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

If you’re a dog lover or a fan of World War II history, have I got a book for you. I’ve just read a book from author Damien Lewis called Judy: The Unforgettable Story of The Dog Who Went to War and Became a True Hero.

Judy was a brown-and-white English pointer who acted as the mascot of HMS Gnat and then HMS Grasshopper. Born in Shanghai in 1936, Judy was an energetic, adventurous dog as a puppy, intensely curious about the world beyond the Shanghai Dog Kennels. She wriggled her way underneath a fence, ran away from her kennel and experienced life on the streets for a while, but later made her way back.

Judy was adopted by the crew of the HMS Gnat and became an immediate hit. She possessed an extraordinary ability to sense approaching…

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Book Review – Empress Dowager Cixi by Jung Chang

Lit World Interviews

I am fascinated with strong female characters, real-life or fictitious. So it is no wonder this book caught my attention when it was first published in 2013. Unfortunately with time constraints, it wasn’t until the paperback was released that it found its way into my home.


Title:               Empress Dowager Cixi: the Concubine who Launched Modern China
Author:          Jung Chang
Publisher:     Vintage Books, London (3 July 2014)
ISBN-10:        0099532395
ISBN-13:        9780099532392
Pages:              Paperback, 528 pages
Genre:             Literary Non-Fiction – History

 What’s it about?

Empress Dowager Cixi was never ‘crowned’ empress. But she was the de facto ruler of China from 1861 to 1908. At the age of 16, Cixi was ‘honoured’ for being selected to be a concubine to the Emperor Xianfeng. At the death of the Emperor, she (then 25 years old) with the official Empress Zhen, “sat behind the throne”…

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The Mad Monarchist: The Russian Army in World War I

General Nikolai Ivanoff

Like some other powers, there are a great many misconceptions about the part played by the Russian Empire in World War I. This is true generally but also in regards to the Russian Imperial Army with about the only thing every historian seems to agree on being the courage and endurance of the average Russian soldier. As was not uncommon in those days, but particularly so in Russia, the army also had a special bond with the monarch, Tsar Nicholas II, and many of the misconceptions about Russia and the Russian military necessarily involve the Tsar. In the first place, there is a misconception as to the overall quality of the Russian Imperial Army at the start of the war and a misconception about the part played by the Tsar in, if not starting the war, at least escalating it from a regional conflict into a world war. In some ways, the two are linked as both are often related to the most recent conflict Russia had fought prior to August of 1914; the war with Japan. In both instances, the Tsar was accused of being recklessly aggressive and the army was, in both instances, accused of performing rather poorly. In fact, the opposite is true. In East Asia, just as Russia had earlier taken up the role of defending China, and so gain an ice-free port on the Pacific, so too did Russia move to defend the Han Empire of Korea from the Japanese. As master of the vastly larger power, in land, population and resources, the Tsar was confident that Japan…

Continue reading: The Mad Monarchist: The Russian Army in World War I.

Sweet Dreams – Anaesthesia

The history of anaesthesia from ancient times to the present day can be divided into four distinctive periods: herbs, vapours, local anaesthetics, and ”modern-day” medications (opioids, hypnotics, relaxants, etc.).


Mankind gradually discovered pain relieving, hypnotic properties of plants existing in nature. This dates back to 5500 B.C., as underlined by an archaeological find in a cave site southern Spain. Here found in a religious artefact, were intact capsules of opium poppy (papaver somniferum).

In 3000 B.C. (the Early Bronze Age) in the Swiss Lake dwellings caches of poppy seeds and press-cake were found. Although to date there is no evidence that it was used as a narcotic in either of the above time periods, it is plausible that in the Early Bronze Age, opium poppy was grown in Switzerland, enabling the large numbers of seeds that could be harvested to press for oil and to be ground for flour (dough).

In ancient China (1500 B.C.), India and pre-Columbian America, natural anaesthetics or soporifics were used to ease some types of pain, including that associated with surgical procedures. Among the first known records mentioning the anaesthetic properties of cannabis are from…

Continue reading: Sweet Dreams – Anaesthesia.

Japanese attack on Shanghai 8 December 1941

War and Security

The Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941 is extremely well known, but far fewer people know that the Japanese also attacked British and US warships at Shanghai without declaring war. This took place on the same day, although it was 8 December in Shanghai because it was on the other side of the International Date Line.

Britain and the USA both then maintained small naval forces on the Yangtze River in order to protect their interests in China. These included the Shanghai International Settlement, an autonomous district of the city inhabited by Westerners. It was originally protected by British soldiers, US Marines and Royal Navy and United States Navy gunboats, but most of these had been withdrawn by December 1941.

Japan and China had been at war with each other since 1937, when China began to fully resist Japanese encroachments into her territory that…

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East and West (1)

Pacific Paratrooper

There are centuries of information on this subject, but I’ve done my best to shorten the data, and maintain  the gist of affairs as they occurred:

A lithograph of Cmdr. Perry's fleet in Japan A lithograph of Cmdr. Perry’s fleet in Japan

Japan’s involvement with the West began early in the 16th century.  The Western missionaries and the contrasting firearms trading caused a disruption of the feudal lord system.  Later on, Dutch trading at Nagasaki became an avenue of scientific and political knowledge.  After which, the US naval mission and “Black Ships” of Commodore Matthew Perry in the mid-1800s basically forced Japan to open its doors.

Commodore Matthew Perry Commodore Matthew Perry

By the end of the 19th century, the views of the Asian world by the Anglos were of “Manifest Destiny” (global supremacy).  The British Union Jack flew over nearly one-third of the planet and the US wanted in.  But, after teaching the island nation how to conquer territory, the…

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Qiu Jin, Chinese feminist & revolutionary martyr – Amazing Women In History

Qiu Jin (1875–1907) was a Chinese writer & poet, a strong-willed feminist who is considered a national hero in China. Also called “Jianhu Nüxia” (Woman Knight of Mirror Lake”), she was executed after participating in a failed uprising against the Qing Dynasty.

Qiu Jin was born in 1875 to a family of the gentry, and received an excellent education as was typical for a young woman of her position. She always loved to write, and in this period of her life she wrote many joyful poems on subjects ranging from flowers and the four seasons to visiting historical places and domestic activities. She also wrote about female heroes and warriors from Chinese history, in inspiring poems about their strength, courage, and beauty. One of her poems begins “Don’t tell me women / are not the stuff of heroes”. Her poetry reflected her self-confidence and desire to become an excellent female writer as valued by traditional Chinese culture.

When Qiu Jin was 19, she obeyed her father and married the son of a wealthy merchant, against her own wishes. Qiu became extremely unhappy in her marriage. She wrote of her husband, “That person’s behavior is worse than an animal’s….He treats me as less than nothing.” and “When I think of him my hair bristles with anger, it’s absolutely unbearable.” Her previous self-confidence was shaken and her dreams of becoming a recognized poet were abandoned. Her poetry from this period of her life was full of self-doubt and loneliness.

Boxer Rebellion Soldiers

Boxer Soldiers, courtesy Wikimedia Commons

During this period Qiu also began writing poetry about current events and the fate of China. After hearing of events such as the Boxer Rebellion and occupation of Beijing, she used her poetry, with literary allusion to heroines of the past, to express her concern about the fate of China and Chinese women. Qiu longed to serve her country but realized that wasn’t possible as long as she was trapped in a conventional married life. Her marriage was an important catalyst in her development as a feminist and revolutionary…

via Qiu Jin, Chinese feminist & revolutionary martyr – Amazing Women In History.