Posts Tagged ‘China’

The other day I was looking for some images of that face you see, of a cloud blowing, which represented the wind coming from various directions on old cartographic maps. I didn’t quite find the face symbol I was looking for. But I did find some unusual old maps, representing the world as it was known back in medeival days, just before the Enlightenment, and active trade and exploration.

What I immediately noticed, about both the maps below, was that although the Americas had quite a significant part of the maps carved out for them, surprisingly it was Europe itself, which seemed to be missing or inaccurate to say the least. And although the myriad of islands around the Phillipines and Malaysia had representation as well as Japan, China was quite noticeably lacking, as well as a good portion of Russia. This surprised me, because I thought that trade routes overland to the Orient had existed as long as the Middle East, and even Europeans fighting Crusades in the Holy Lands would have known of the Silk Road to and from China… Yet what was the reason for China’s under-representation on the European maps of the day?

I can only think of one reason, and that was that the purpose of these maps seemed to be delineating oceanscapes and sea-routes as much as accurately mapping landscapes. Rivers, the headwaters of exploration inroads into uncharted territory, were frequently marked moreso than mountains inland. Russia, known as “northern India” on the Visscher map showed numerous tributaries. And the bifurcated source of the Nile, deep in Africa was marked, well before Livingstone ever got there. But China seemed to be missing.

Was it because the Red Empire, whose dynasties existed for centuries well before monarchies in the west, rejected European contact and prevented trade and exploration by these outsiders as a matter of policy? Therefore it was not the fault of the Europeans, for finding the place, but having found themselves rejected at the door, they couldn’t put any data on their maps at the time. Therefore in a strange twist of fate, China, which had pre-existed Europe for centuries, by rejecting the Europeans, was left off of their map of “the known world” and remained isolated from the encroaching Eurocentric reality around it. In a real since, China “did not exist”, in the European world, as well as on the European maps of the time.


Munster map 1542

Visscher cartography 1658

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A little while back, I mentioned that part of my purpose in keeping this blog, was to preserve some of the more unusual links I come across…the weird stuff!

Here’s one. An ancient burial place in the desert of Xinjiang Province, China, just north of Tibet, has revealed bodies which were because of the unusual environmental conditions, naturally mummified, basically freeze-dried. What is also unusual, is that although the burial place is located north of China, the interred remains have Caucasion facial features. And apparently wooded forests existed at the time, because the graves are surrounded by a tall fence of wooden poles, similar to some of the wooden henges in Great Britain. Stranger yet, each grave is covered by an overturned wooden boat, and some of the wooden stakes nearby resemble long oars with paddle blades painted red and black. Wood and boats in the middle of a high desert in south Siberia?

Those factors almost override the initial shock that the bodies mummified at the Small River Cemetery in the Tarim Basin are almost 4000 years old. And yet you can see the shape of their faces, and even the facial tatoos, and hair and textiles are still well-preserved.

All the men who were analyzed had a Y chromosome that is now mostly found in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Siberia, but rarely in China. The mitochondrial DNA, which passes down the female line, consisted of a lineage from Siberia and two that are common in Europe. Since both the Y chromosome and the mitochondrial DNA lineages are ancient, Dr. Zhou and his team conclude the European and Siberian populations probably intermarried before entering the Tarim Basin some 4,000 years ago.

At the foot of each pole there were indeed boats, laid upside down and covered with cowhide. The bodies inside the boats were still wearing the clothes they had been buried in. They wore large woolen capes with tassels and leather boots. They had felt caps with feathers tucked in the brim, uncannily resembling Tyrolean mountain hats.

One, called “Cherchen Man,” was 6 feet, 6 inches tall. Dated to about 1,000 B. C., his light brown hair surrounds a face on which yellow paint forms
a rayed-spiral that extends from his right temple across his nose to the other temple. Hundreds of other light-skinned, fair-haired mummies have also been found in the Tarim Basin, along with advanced tools and dolmen burial mounds and circles of stone.

from the article A Host of Mummies, a Forest of Secrets

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behind the Great Wall

Pacificvs makes his first visit to the Middle Kingdom

Having abandoned it’s red ambitions long ago, China’s foray into a capitalistic authoritarian gray zone is at least monochromatically consistent with the physical China: a fleshy and penetrating gray, the color of a rotting tombstone.

China is penetrating, and oftentimes beautiful. Even a smog choked skyline can transport the viewer to the wispy trees, craggy monoliths, and misted valleys of an early Ming Dynasty watercolor. But it’s not all romance. When the same hue begins to arrive in your morning cough several days in, however, you begin to suspect less pure forces are at work.

Then you see the nuclear power plant in the middle of town. There it is, right next to the coal plant. Several miles away, you see the exact same combo: nuclear and coal. And apartments. Lots of apartments.

This is Xian. Xian is instructive because…

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