Ong Siew Chey

China Condensed. 5,000 Years of History & Culture

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    It seems that the author, Wang Fengzhou, had been wronged by an official and wanted to have his revenge. The official was known for his addiction to pornographic literature and, taking advantage of this, Wang Fengzhou wrote the book, coated the pages with arsenic, and had it presented to the official. At the time, it was usual for one reading a book to wet the fingertip with saliva to turn over the thin rice pages. The official was so enthralled by the book that he could not stop reading it. He died after reading the last page
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    The original, unabridged version is pornographic in nature, but the “cleansed” version is a literary masterpiece
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    Li Bai, dubbed “The God of Poetry”, was what we would call a Bohemian today. He was often drunk but produced the best works with flair in the intoxicated state. He drowned while trying to catch the moon in a lake
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    are mainly about men’s affairs, which the fairer sex may not find interesting
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    There are no tenses in Chinese verbs, and adverbs are used to indicate the time element. For instance, to the Chinese, “I go yesterday” is clear enough and there is no need to alter the verb
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    The least commonly used is the Khakas language with only ten fluent speakers in a small ethnic group in the Heilongjiang (黑龙江) province
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    Under Mao Zedong’s leadership, the nation was once again unified under an effective central authority. Unfortunately, on the bumpy road to progress, mistakes such as the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution practically erased a generation of people and created a moral vacuum in a once culture-conscious nation
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    Nevertheless, Soviet forces refused to stop after Japan’s surrender and pushed the invasion beyond Manchuria in an attempt to link up with the Chinese Communists. Russia occupied Manchuria until May 1946 and during that period looted Japanese industrial plants, moving all the heavy equipment to Russia
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    the welfare of the people was paramount if the country was to grow and prosper
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    The Qing dynasty marked the second time China was ruled by non-Hans, the first being the Yuan dynasty. Many Hans were unhappy, especially when they were forced to shave the front part of their heads and grow pigtails
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    Some semblance of democracy was introduced as the empress installed a suggestion box to receive suggestions, complaints and criticisms. Indeed, Empress Wu did a better job governing China than most emperors. It was probably in her reign that Chinese women became quite liberated. They rode horses and wore dresses with plunging necklines as shown by Tang pottery figurines
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    The downfall of Sui Yangdi began when he lapsed into irrational behaviour. He had a very luxurious palace built by a huge labour force and, when the palace was complete, filled it with a number of pretty concubines. The Canal was used for a pleasure cruise to Yangzhou (杨州) in the south with an entourage of more than 200,000
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    The most famous of these “lady diplomats” was Wang Zhaojun (王昭君), historically considered one of the four foremost ancient Chinese beauties. After marrying a northern tribal king in 33 B.C., she succeeded in having peace maintained in the frontier for a considerable time
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    A few years before Qin Shi Huang fell ill and died at the age of 49 while on an inspection trip in the south, a charlatan named Xu Fu (徐福) had approached the emperor, claiming that he could find herbs of immortality on an island in the eastern ocean. He asked the emperor for ships, supplies, 500 young men and 500 young girls. They set sail but never returned. Legend has it that they reached Japan and colonised it
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    Such great Chinese philosophers as Confucius (孔夫子) (551 B.C.) and Lao Zi (老子) (575 B.C.) lived during the Eastern Zhou dynasty.
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    Tradition holds that the pattern of traditional Chinese culture was set in the early Zhou dynasty when Zhou Gong (周公), regent for a young king, introduced The Rites of Zhou (周礼).
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