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Bits and Pieces

China Sage News

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We keep track of news reports from China but steer clear of the headlines that are well reported elsewhere. Here are some news stories, visit our news page for more stories and also follow us on Facebook .

Wed 28th Sep

Today marks the official birthday of China's great sage Confucius. 2022 is also somewhat special as it marks 2,500 years since he died.

Traditionally the birthday of the great sage and philosopher Confucius was celebrated on the 27th of the 8th lunar month (in 2022 this fell on 22nd September). It is now tied to a specific day, the 28th September each year.

The town of Qufu, Shandong was the home of Confucius ( Kǒngfūzǐ ) and descendents now in the 83rd generation still live there. The size and grandeur of the buildings rival that of the Forbidden City in Beijing.

Arguably the most important Chinese book is the 'Analects of Confucius'. It sets out the ethics and philosophy using incidents from the life of the great sage. Written around 300BCE a long time after his death, it admonishes the reader to obey the state rituals and know ones place in the order of things. It is not spiritual - Confucians do not believe in the after-life and does not include cosmology or the natural world. The system of ethics that are set out continue to guide the lives of many people in China.

One of the key tenets of Confucianism is that everyone should live in a spirit of benevolence rén. A follower of Confucius should be a person of empathy and humanity who believes it is correct to help those in need. This is not to be done on the basis of future reward (in life or death) but rather it is the virtuous way to behave.

Qufu, Confucius
Statue of Confucius at Qufu, Shandong

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Tue 6th Sep

The search for a suspected invasive 'monster' fish (probably a pet let loose after outgrowing its tank) in a lake near Ruzhou, Henan province has grown into a major operation. The Alligator Gar fish can grow to 10 feet long and weigh up to 350lb comes from the southern states of the US and Mexico and so is a threat to local Chinese wildlife. After attempts to catch the fish by conventional means failed, it was decided to take the drastic action of draining the whole lake. The fish has still not been found and may be hiding in inflow pipes. It gets its name because it looks rather like an alligator as it has a squashed snout ( “gar”comes from Anglo-Saxon meaning spike or lance). Some fear that the fish could attack children and this has added to the priority of the operation. Millions have been watching the story unfolding online. It's expected that the lake will soon be refilled with little long-term ill-effects to local wildlife.

Aligator Gar fish (Atractosteus spatula)
Alligator Gar fish (Atractosteus spatula).
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Tue 23rd Aug

It's been an exceptionally hot summer in most of the northern hemisphere.

Europe still suffers from drought and high temperatures but China has been affected just as badly; Japan also had record braking temperatures in June. The main area of concern at present is the inland province of Sichuan. This province is often hot in summer but usually has high rainfall. Sichuan is one of the main crop growing areas in China and so this will be a worry for the coming months. Large wildfires have been seen close to Chongqing near Sichuan's southern boundary. China has built many hydro-electric dams and these are now struggling due to increased demand but lower river flows - rationing of electricity is forcing some businesses to partially close.

Chongqing wildfire
©Image courtesy CNN/Getty.
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Thu 11th Aug

China is famous for producing world-beating bronze technology at a very early date. Large bronze vessel dating from the Shang dynasty (1600-1100BCE) have long been admired.

A recent study has been looking into the recipe for bronze used and it seems it is a complex system based on alloys rather than just a rough mixture of tin and copper. Only if a carefully followed process was followed would the Shang bronzesmiths been able to create such large and finely detailed objects. For many years the Kaogong ji was the source reference to follow but this uses the terms ‘Jin’ and ‘Xi’ as ingredients with no description of what they were. It is now thought these were specially produced alloys of precise proportion of elements.

Zhou dynasty, bronze, dish
Ancient bronze dish of Western Zhou dynasty date

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Thu 4th Aug

Chinese Valentine’s Day this year falls on Thursday 4th August.

In China the festival is a moveable festival as it falls on the 7th day of the 7th lunar month [Qīxìjié means seventh night festival]. It commemorates the love between Zhī nǔ the weaver and Niú láng the cowherd . Because after marriage they spent too much time canoodling rather than carrying out their work, the gods separated them and they were only allowed to meet on one night each year. The husband and wife are represented by the bright stars Vega (Lyra constellation) and Altair (Aquila constellation) and a bridge of magpies is made over the Milky Way which runs between them in the sky to allow them to meet. The magpies will only come if it is a dry day.

It has now become a day for lovers to have a romantic evening, exchange gifts and maybe pop the question.

ox, oxherd, Niulang, Zhinu
The oxherd Niulang seeking to reach his estranged bride Zhinu in the sky.

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Thu 28th Jul

China produced fine ‘magic mirrors’ that mystified everyone until quite recent years. The smooth mirror surface creates a hidden image in its reflection when bright light is shone on it. This new discovered magic mirror was made in the 16th century and creates an image of the Buddha surrounded by light beams, the characters on the reverse spell the name of the Amitabha Buddha.

These mirrors were made of bronze from the Han dynasty onwards. The way they work is not obvious, only careful microscopic analysis revealed that the mirror surface is not quite smooth but has very fine ridges and dimples that create the effect. The design is made by first making the smooth mirror surface and very carefully hammering in the design on the reverse.

These mirrors rarely survive and Shanghai museum has a couple this one is at the Cincinnati Art Museum, Ohio.

magic mirror
©The back of the mirror features Chinese characters that spell the name of the Amitābha Buddha, Photograph: Rob Deslongchamps
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Wed 13th Jul

On hot summer days one way to escape the heat is to visit the cool interior of museums. This page shows fifteen great treasures from Taipei, Hong Kong and Beijing.

national palace museum, taiwan, taipei
National Palace Museum, Taipei, Taiwan. Image by Dr. Gary Lee Todd available under a Creative Commons License

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Fri 1st Jul

The housing market in China has entered a challenging phase - too many houses and too few buyers. Some sellers are turning to desperate measures, some are offering a free pig to purchasers (Jiangsu province), while others are accepting payment in wheat or garlic (in Henan province). Clear signs that the housing market was in big trouble came when EverGrande defaulted on debt repayment last year. Buyers can elect to have the pig slaughtered without actually having to take delivery.

Shanxi, Taiyuan, lake, modern housing
Longtan Park, Taiyuan, Shanxi

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Gansu, mountains
Qilian mountains on the border of Gansu and Qinghai


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Teacup Media (China History Podcast)

We are delighted to be able to promote links to Laszlo Montgomery's excellent Teacup Media series created over the last twelve years. Laszlo Montgomery has in depth knowledge of building commercial contacts with China over 30 years. The set of 290 podcasts totals 150 hours of audio commentary which covers every conceivable topic in Chinese history. Highly recommended.


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