History

Ch’in Shi Huang Ti - The first emperor in China

If you are going to see the Great Wall and Terra-Cotta Warriors in China, you should know this great person in China’s history. Yes, he is Ch’in Shi Huang Ti - The first emperor in China. Why did he build the Great Wall and Terra-Cotta Warriors ?

In the area of Shensi Province in the Yellow River valley, China’s earliest emperors lived and died. From the time the king of the feudal State of Ch’in conquered his rivals and became emperor in 221 B.C. After becoming king of Ch’in, excavations and building had been started, while after he won the empire, more than 700,000 conscripts from all parts of the country worked there. They dug through three subterranean streams and poured molten copper for the outer coffin and the tomb was filled with models of palaces, pavilions and offices, as well as fine vessels, precious stones, and rarities. It took 36 years to construct a subterranean palace in which he could spend eternity in other world during his reign.

The underground army we saw was discovered in the spring of 1974 by peasants and workers of the Yen Tsai commune in Lin-t’ung county. The position of the underground guards east of the tomb leads to speculation that, in keeping with Chinese ideas of symmetry, the same distances west, north, and south of the tomb, perhaps containing arrays of life-size statues of the officials, ministers, and ladies of the first imperial court. The emperor’s warriors carried real weapons and the horses pulled actual chariots. Each face of the pottery figures had distinctly different characteristics. The Archeologist believe this is because the emperor ordered the artists to model realistic portraits of each warriors, servants and footman in his live honor guard, so they can continue to guard him after death. All figures stand about six feet tall. They look as alive today as their models were 22 centuries ago. Some appear fierce, others, proud and confident, A few seem to be on the verge of a smile. The horses stand four abreast before their royal war chariots. Some are incredibly intact, while others sag against one another with broken backs and necks, though their magnificence remains undiminished. Their classic simplicity and smooth, pure lines have survived the test of time. A thousand years later, the clean, curved jawline of these early creations became the mark of the famous T’ang Dynasty horses (A.D.618 -907), which are still imitated today. The tails of the Ch’in horses are knotted at half length. The manes are short, standing straight at the crest of the neck, except for the forelocks, which were left long and parted in the middle to curl around the front of each ear, The ears are set forward and appear tense, indicating alertness.

Ch’in Shi Huang Ti was a tyrant who buried 460 Confucian scholars alive. He felt that the scholarly but conservative Confucian philosophy, which supported the old feudalistic system of the previous dynasty, was a threat to his authoritarian, centralized rule. He burned all books of the Confucian school. The emperor’s eldest son, Fu-su, attacked his father’s decision to kill the scholars and was exiled to the northwestern frontier where he spend the rest of his life helping direct the building of the Great Wall. Emperor Ch’in let thousands of workers perish while building the Great Wall, and spent more than 30 years building his tomb with forces labor. He also did good things during his reign. He erected a new and splendid capital city called “Ch’ang-an” meaning “eternal peace”. He transported 120,000 wealthy families from all parts of the empire. He built the Great Wall by joining walls and ramparts that had been erected earlier by the contending feudal states. He created the nation’s first standing army. He also accomplished the sweeping changes that made his dynasty a turning point in history. He radically altered the political and social structure of the state by destroying the ancient fedual system and establishing a centralized empire. He codified laws and standardized weights and meansures and they system of writing Chinese characters, so that the written language could understood all over China. To ensure communication and the transport of food and other essential goods to all parts of his empire, the emperor ordered a vast network of roads built, radiating from the capital and he standardized axle lengths of wagons and chariots to enable vehicles to travel in the same ruts. By a series of canals, he began what was to become the greatest inland water-communcation system in the ancient world. Some of these canals are still used, and one can still travel from north to southy by water. He also reclaimed wasteland for the cultivation of crops and introduced irrigation systems still in use.

Ch’in Shi Huang Ti spent his last years seeking the fountain of youth.. According to a Magician, three fairy islands in the Eastern Seas where old age and death were unknown because their inhabitants had discovered the elixir of immortality. He sent a fleet of vessels loaded with precious gifts in search of the Islands of Immortals. After some time, it is reported that elixir is too expensive to be given. Instead giving gifts, 3,000 of the empire’s finest young people had to be provided. Emperor sent 3,000 young people away and never returned. A legend says that they colonized Japan.

Note: reference article from “China’s Incredible Find” written by Audrey Topping for National Geographic in April 1978


My Visit to China ...

China is an old and mysterious oriental country, and for many western people, China is sometimes still seen as an unfriendly, oppressed country, living under one of the last communist governments. With some of this thought in our minds, our family took a tour to China last month and experienced 17 exciting and enjoyable days exploring this ancient country. “Seeing is believing?” Everything we saw and everything we learned made us feel that we made the right decision to make this trip. We will never forget the sights, sounds, smells and experiences we had in China.

Our trip started from Beijing, then to Shanghai, Xi’An, Guilin and ended in HongKong. We never expected the trip to China to be so interesting and so much fun. The people we met were all extremely friendly and gracious. In the less touristy areas we “Westerners” were still a novelty. Often a child would point at us and stare with glee. Many times parents asked the fair haired woman from our group if we would have our picture taken with their child.

China is famous for its delicious food. There is a Chinese saying which goes “People regard food as their prime want” - and food safety is a top priority in China. Cooking is an ancient Chinese art. Some 3,000 years ago, the Chinese people already knew how to deliciously blend the five flavors, which are spicy, sweet, sour, bitter and salty. Today Chinese cuisine is ranked among the world’s favorites, as can be witnessed by the many Chinese restaurants that can be found almost anywhere in the world. Chinese cooking places great stress on the colour, fragrance, taste and form. To preserve the food’s nutrition, Chinese cooks are very particular about food preparation and temperature control. According to the rough estimates, there are more than 5,000 different local cooking styles in China. The most popular cooking styles in China are those of Sichuan, Guangdong, Shandong and Huaiyang. In our tour, both western cuisine and the Local fare were served. In fact, we were surprised to learn that some of the Chinese foods were the same as we would order in Winnipeg, including Dimsum. Our lunch and dinner were usually made up of many dishes presented on a lazy Susan. Watermelon was served at the end of each meal. When plate after plate of food kept coming out, and you wondered when it would ever end, the watermelon was a welcome sign. In most big cities in China, you can also find KFC, Pizza Hut, McDonalds, Friday, and all kinds of foreign restaurants.

Everyone knows China has a large population with 1.3 billion people. Interestingly, population was not a problem until the 1960’s when Chairman Mao Zedong introduced his radical population policy. He proclaimed that a great mother had to have a minimum of 8 children. The population exploded from 400 million to 1.3 billion over the next 40 years. Because of this population density, in 1979, the government introduced the one child per family policy.

Even today, at least half the people in China live on farms. The population density makes real estate expensive, compared to income levels. Most urban people live in an apartment. For example, buying an apartment in Beijing costs roughly $8,000 RMB yuan (CDN $1,143) per square meter and ShangHai would be $10,000 RMB yuan per square meter ($CDN$1,430).. Salaries range widely, but the average salary per month is about CDN$300.00.

July is hot and humid in most cities in China. The interesting thing is that ladies carry parasols to avoid the sun. Chinese people, especially ladies, don’t like to get tanned at all. A“tanned face” is considered as an unpleasant look. This leads to the vast array of advertisements for skin whitening agents. Many people have to ride bicycle to work everyday and have to wear sun hats or grass hats to avoid sun-tanning.

Beijing was our first stop. It has an area of 16,800 square kilometers with a population of 12 million, plus another 4 million commuting in and out of the city. Beijing, formerly known as Peking, is China‘s capital. Her history dates back more than 3,000 years. Half a million years ago, in the time of Peking Man, the remote ancestor of Chinese nation, already lived at Zhoukoudian Village, southwest of Beijing. The famous Great Wall , Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Ming Tombs and Summer Palace are all located in Beijing. The 4000 mile long Great Wall is the only man-made project that can be seen from the moon. A famous Chinese saying about the Great Wall is that one is not a true man till you get on the wall. There are thousands and thousands of people from home and abroad visiting it every year. The Great Wall is the great creation of ancient Chinese people. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) listed it at Badaling as one of the sites of the World Heritage in 1987.

Peking Opera is one of the entertainments in Beijing. It is a mixture of athletics, theatre, dance and songs. In fact, Peking Opera has entertained audiences for more than 200 years with its elaborate costumes, ear-splitting arias, dazzling martial arts and musical dialogue. Characters are classified into three basic categories; the male roles, called “sheng”, the female roles ”dan” and clowns called “chou”. The nature of each character is shown through the different colours of the facial makeup. For instance,a red face usually means evil or sly, and black and white face makeup denotes authority.

The so-called “Eighth Wonder of the World” is the Terra Cotta Warriors located in Xi’An. Xi’An is the capital of Shaanxi province with an area of 190,000 square kilometers. The province has a population of 36 million, a little more than all of Canada. This province used to be the most prosperous area within China, especially in the Han Dynasty (200 BC - AD 220) and Tang Dynasty (618 -907), creating advanced social productivity and prime civilization of feudal society prior to that of other countries in the world. It is one of cradles of ancient Chinese civilization and the center of ancient China. Numerous relics have made Shaanxi a favourite place for tourists both from home and abroad.

ShangHai, is China’s most important commercial center, with the largest port in the country, and plans to make it even larger. Shanghai is the only Chinese city with two international airports. By 2010, it will have the annual capacity to handle 100 million passengers and 5 million tons of cargo. Between one of the airports and downtown, you will find the ShangHai Maglev Train, the world‘s first commercialized operating magnetic levitation line. It takes only seven minutes to get to the airport. Shanghai has already become the most exciting and fashionable city in China, and quickly earning an international reputation as one of the world’s fashion centers.

Because of the fast development of economy, more and more people can afford to buy a car. In Shanghai, one has to pay $5,000 USD for a license to drive.

Guilin is called the paradise city in China. Every part looks like a park. It encompasses 27,000 square kilometers with a population of 4 million. It is famous for green mountains, clear waters and strangely shaped rock formations. It is said that since ancient times the landscape of Guilin has been second to none under Heaven. Guilin is unique in four aspects : enchanting hills, lovely waters, strange caves and charming rocks. In addition, there are four excellent views : deep ponds, dangerous shoals, flowing springs, and torrential waterfalls. It takes years to appreciate each of these features. Cruising down the Li River, you will enjoy more than 40,000 hills that lie along the two sides of the river. With their astonishing resemblance to bamboo shoot, screen, elephant and camel, these mountains, together with the cottages and fishing boats, contribute to form a scenic picture; a haven of peace dominated by green.

Hong Kong, has a population of 7 million with an area of 1,000 square kilometers, which enjoys fame as an international financial, trading, shipping, information, tourism and free port the world over. It is acknowledged as a shopping paradise, culinary world, leisure resort and culture window. The city is full of towering skyscrapers, set amoung the hills and oceans that make up Hong Kong. Despite a 100% tax, it is amazing to see the roads covered with expensive cars like Mercedes, BMW, Jaguar, and Lexus. Everyone has a cell phone, which they all seem to be talking on at once. Located in a quiet bay outside of the downtown area is Stanley, with its wonderful market that is a true shopping paradise.

Even though this trip is over, we are left with our wonderful memories forever...... China is indeed an amazing country and so many things to see and so many adventures to have......

Bowen Travel Ltd. - Travel Tours of China