ancient china

my favorite thing i’ve learned in college is that way back in ancient china there was this poet/philosopher guy who wrote this whole pretentious poem about how enlightened he was that was like “the eight winds cannot move me” blahblahblah and he was really proud of it so he sent it to his friend who lived across the lake and then his friend sends it back and just writes “FART” (or the ancient Chinese equivalent) on it and he was SO MAD he travels across the lake to chew his friend out and when he gets there his friend says “wow. the eight winds cannot move you, but one fart sends you across the lake”

This country (the Roman Empire) has more than four hundred smaller cities and towns. It extends several thousand li in all directions. The king has his capital (that is, the city of Rome) close to the mouth of a river (the Tiber). The outer walls of the city are made of stone.

…The ruler of this country is not permanent. When disasters result from unusual phenomena, they unceremoniously replace him, installing a virtuous man as king, and release the old king, who does not dare show resentment.

The common people are tall and virtuous like the Chinese, but wear hu (‘Western’) clothes. They say they originally came from China, but left it.

They have always wanted to communicate with China but, Anxi (Parthia), jealous of their profits, would not allow them to pass (through to China).

—  from the the Weilüe, an account from the 200s CE of the interactions between the Romans and the Chinese. It was written by Yu Huan, a state historian for Cao Wei during the Three Kingdoms Period.

The “nine familial exterminations” or “nine kinship exterminations” was the most extreme punishment someone could receive in ancient China. Our first record of this punishment comes from a history of the Shang Dynasty and Zhou Dynasty. Apparently it was common for military officers to threaten before battle that if a subordinate disobeyed orders, all their family would be killed.

This eventually evolved into an elaborate, and legal, method of punishment. The nine familial exterminations varied by dynasty, and how often it was used varied as well. Generally, those to be executed included:

  • the criminal’s living parents
  • their living grandparents
  • all children over a certain age (which varied) and all their children’s spouses
  • all grandchildren over a certain age, and all their grandchildren’s spouses
  • siblings and their sibling’s spouses
  • the criminal’s uncles and aunts, as well as their spouses
  • cousins (in Korea, this could go to second and third cousins)
  • nieces and nephews, and their spouses
  • the criminal’s spouse
  • the criminal’s spouse’s living parents
  • the criminal

Wu wei ( 无为) is a Chinese word which is usually translated as “non doing”. This is a Taoist concept which has found its way into mainstream Buddhism via Zen (Chan). It is a fundamental principle in Eastern cultures and one which mystifies and at times frustrates Westerners.

The idea is that there are times when the best action is no action. We can best deal with a situation by not reacting to it. This is alien to most Westerners who feel that a reaction is always necessary. With wu wei we are as the water when it meets the stone in the river. It flows around without directly opposing the stone. Wu wei. The water way.

Wu wei wu(无为无), alternatively is essentially ‘doing non doing” or “action without action” Bruce Lee talks on this during an interview when we instructs those to “be like water”. 

“The Sage is occupied with the unspoken and acts without effort.’

– Laozi, The Tao Te Ching, chapter 2

I guess it’s time to bring this back.

This illustration was drawn by Yana back in 2008:

And this is a panel from the latest chapter (ch126):

I’m not saying these are the same photo, but it’s good to keep in mind that Yana has had the idea of the “burnt family photo” since 2008 :D

A New Tomb Has Been Found In China

Which ONE of these is the reason its an exciting find?

How to put on Hanfu (Han Chinese clothing)?

A typical set of Hanfu can consist of two or three layers. The first layer of clothing is mostly the zhongyi (中衣) which is typically the inner garment much like a Western T-shirt and pants. The next layer is the main layer of clothing which is mostly closed at the front. There can be an optional third layer which is often an overcoat called a zhaoshan which is open at the front. More complicated sets of Hanfu can have many more layers.

Jorogumo

The Jorogumo is a mythical creature from Japanese folklore whose name translates as ‘prostitute spider’. 

The legend comes from the Erdo period and era ruled by shoguns that lasted from 1603 to 1868. When a spider lives for 400 years it gains the ability to grow to the size of a cow and can shape-shift into an attractive young lady. One typical trick it would play to catch a meal would be to transform into an empty inn, house or shrine. Part of it would become an attractive young lady playing on a Biwa and singing beautifully to attract its victim. Some would lure the person in to eat cake and drink sake. She would then get close to her victim and cover his feet in deadly silk from which there was no escape. She like most spiders would then devour him at her own leisure.

2

The First Emperor of China and the Giant Sea Monster,

Qin Shi Huangdi is famous for being the first Emperor of a unified China.  While Emperor he created a common writing system, system of currency, an imperial bureaucracy based on merit, a codified system of laws, and a unified Chinese Empire.  He is also famous for expending much blood and treasure on the Great Wall of China as well as building a massive elaborate tomb complex complete with 8,000 terracotta warriors.

Another thing Qin Shi Huangdi is famous for was his quest for the elixir of life, a potion or concoction that could magically grant him immortality.  Qin Shi Huagdi commissioned hundreds of alchemists and mystics to create the elixir.  Many of the elixirs the Emperor favored contained mercury as a main ingredient.  A poisonous substance, mercury is now known to cause degenerative effects on the nervous system and madness. After many years of drinking dubious elixirs, potions, and concoctions, the first Emperor of China was beginning to lose grip on reality.

His alchemists never were able to find the right concoction, and the Emperor, growing more desperate and mentally unstable, order the execution of those who failed to provide him with a working elixir of life.  One day the Emperor commissioned an expedition of several ships crewed by 6,000 virgins to find the elixir of life.  The expedition was led by Xu Fu, the court sorcerer of the Emperor.  According to the Emperor Xu Fu was to find the mystical land of Penglai Island, where a 1,000 year old sorcerer named Anqi Sheng lived, a man who knew the secret of the elixir of life.  According to the Emperor he had once met Anqi Sheng who had invited him to the island.  Anqi Sheng promised the Emperor the elixir of life if he would bring him 6,000 virgins.

Xu Fu and his crew knew that the story told by the Emperor was nonsense, but they had to return with something or they would all surely be executed.  What Xu Fu came up with was an excuse, an excuse that took advantage of the Emperor’s failing mental health.  After a short sail, Xu Fu reported to the Emperor that the fleet was unable to sail to Penglai Island due to a large sea monster that patrolled the coast, preventing the fleet from sailing beyond coastal waters.  The Emperor believed the story, but not willing to let monster get in his way, he assembled a team of archers and a warship.

With Xu Fu, his eunuchs, and courtiers, Qin Shi Huangdi sailed the coast, his archers firing randomly at every disturbance of the water. The Emperor declared that he had killed the monster, it was quite apparent that Xu Fu’s plan had backfired.  He was once again ordered to set sail with his expedition and find Penglai Island.  This time the expedition never returned, instead opting to settle in Japan rather than return home to certain death.

Qin Shi Huangdi’s search for the elixir of life would be fruitless.  For the remainder of his life the Emperor continued to ingest harmful potions in hopes of gaining immortality.  He died in 210 BC after ingesting a number of pills containing mercury.