China’s New Frontier

This is taken from an article in Adventure’s September 2006 issue. I haven’t been able to find the article online but luckily I have a copy of it. Below are 5 trips it recommended.

1) Bike across Szechuanz – This is a 12 day vehicle supported mountain bike trip through Bike China Adventures. It’s spendy ($2,720) and lots of biking. But you do get to hang out in a monastery and see yak herders.

2) Hike the Great Wall – Self explanatory and just plain awesome! (china-hiking.com)

3) Raft the Yangtze -Imagine this: Class IV rapids, Asia’s longest river, a 12 days trip though a gorge twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. (mtsobek.com)

4) Trek through Yunnan – Subtropical climate, bamboo huts, elephant habitats, and fertile rain forests typify this 6 day trek though Southeast Asia. (wildchina.com)

5) Drive the Silk Road – See thousands of years of history along this road to the Middle East. (caravancafe.com)

What will I get out of my trip to China?

During my brief hiatus from blogging I’ve been mulling over what I want to get out of my trip to China. I know I want to experience the culture both as a tourist and as an in depth traveler. What I mean by “in depth” is the extreme opposite of a tourist. I want to really experience authentic China. I imagine that to get this authentic experience I will have to travel far off the beaten path. That leads to the question of where to go.  That will have to be another blog post.

Another part of me recognizes the development that China is making and wants to be a part of it. I imagine the county’s progression is similar to the United States at the turn of the 20th century. There are those that say China will own the 21st century like the U.S . has owned the 20th. Unless the U.S. makes some drastic changes, I see no reason why this shouldn’t become a reality. What an opportunity to visit a country on the cusp of something great. I want to take full advantage of this while I am there as well. But I’m not sure how to do this.

The commercial real estate market is exploding over there. Companies both new and old are growing exponentially. Technology, the Internet, even universities are advancing. It’s hard not to when you have a billion “customers”.

Seattle has many ties to China both economically, politically, and socially. I haven’t decided which avenues I will pursue as my journey to China gets closer. It seems a shame to not do something, but I’m realistic enough to know that I cannot do it all.

So what to want out of my trip to China? To experience its culture, to take part in and be a witness to its economic prosperity. But how do I do that??? These are the things I’ve been thinking of lately.

The Complete History of China (abridged)- Part 4

This is part four of a 5-part series on the Complete History of China (abridged). I am covering the basics of China’s history to help me (and you) understand what makes China the way it is. Last week, we covered ancient China and the beginnings of the Dynastic age. Today, we cover 1000 years of China’s History.

960 AD – The Song dynasty takes over after the 5 Periods and Ten Kingdoms period. This dynasty happened at the same time as the Khitan Dynasty in the North of China. The Song are the first government to issue paper money. (cue the Money, money, money song!) The population has reached 100 million people! Even with all those mouths to feed, rice farming technologies improved creating a food surplus. In fact, the same techniques for farming rice are used up until the 20th Century. Other technological advances are made including the invention of the printing press, perfecting gun powder, and even a flame thrower!

1115 AD – Meanwhile in the north, the Khitan empire fell to the Jin Dynasty. Not happy with just that, the Jin went on to take the northern half of the Song Dynasty as well. Everything was great until the Mongols, led by Ghegis Khan, started encroaching from the West. The Southern Song Dynasty was feeling pressure from the Mongols as well.

1271 AD – The Mongols are finally able to defeat both the Jin and the Song Dynasties and created the Yuan Dynasty, made up of Mongols. This was more an occupying government than an actual Dynasty. The Mongol influence brought a diversity in culture, including changes in the novel and written word, the Chinese Opera, and new religions. In the end, the civil the Chinese and their culture proved too much for the foreign occupiers.

1368 AD – A rebellion against the Mongol led Yuan dynasty founded the Ming Dynasty. The last Han-led dynasty and the second to the last great dynasty of China. The Grand Canal is expanded enticing more internal trade. Naval exploration reaches Africa and some theorize even the Americas. A rift between Confucian scholars and the government led to laws against leaving the country. Occasionally trade ships were still sent out, mainly to the Philippines, but most ocean travel had halted. Because of a plot against the emperor, the prime minster of China is killed, along wit his family and anyone connected to him. Also at this time, the Ming built the Forbidden City and gaveMacao (of gambling fame today) to Portugal. An oversupply of money, famine and plague was the downfall of the Ming Dynasty.

1644 AD - The Ming were followed by the Qing Dynasty who were of Manchu decent. It is during this time that China truly shuts itself off from the rest of the world, much to the disappoint of the West. The Emperor attains god-like status and China gains an attitude of superiority over every other country. The Great Chinese novel is written. Like all other dynasty rebellion eventually ripped apart this one. With rebellion attacking from within China and foreigner attacked from outside, theQing Dynasty fell in 1911.

The Complete History of China (abridged)- Part 3

This is part three of a 5-part series on the Complete History of China (abridged). I am covering the basics of China’s history to help me (and you) understand what makes China the way it is. Last week, we covered ancient China and the beginnings of the Dynastic age. Today, we are covering over 500 years of China’s History.

420 AD – It is still a time of unrest, called the Southern and Northern Dynasties. Two ways of fighting are mastered: the North with its cavalry (including the invention of the stirrup) and the South with its navy (on the Yangtze River). Advances in medicine, map making, astronomy and mathematics are made. Buddhism is becoming ever more popular, and the Chinese pagoda towers are used as a place to keep Buddhist scriptures. The South is becoming the cultural center of the area as poetry, calligraphy, painting and music flourish.

581 AD – Emperor Wen is able to unite Northern and Southern China forming the Sui Dynasty. A land equalization scheme is devised to bring the rich and poor classes together. The Grand Canal is dug and the Great Wall is expanded. But a heavy tax and labor burdens causes resentment among the people.

618 AD – The Tang Dynasty gains power and is considered the high point in Chinese civilization. The empire is expanded like never before. Chinese poetry is at its best. Buddhism is practically the national religion. A census puts the population near 50 million people. The Silk Road is also at its height of trade. But nothing ever lasts. Several military leaders start rebellions, and along with floods on the grand canal, proved too much for the ruling Tang. In 907, the Zhu Wen took control, making himself emperor. His was a short lived reign. He was poisoned the next year.

907 AD – Another chaotic period begins called the 5 Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period. Five dynastic attemps were made, none really succeeded. Also ten states broke off and formed their own kingdoms. Most of this was happening in the South. In the North, the Khitan Empire was taking hold. It’s from them that we get the word Cathay.

I’m glad to finally be blogging again. We’ll have the final two post for the series on Monday and Tuesday. Have a great weekend!

Complete History on hold

I have a good friend come in from out of town. So the Complete History of China is on hold until next week when I have some time to finish it.

The Complete History of China (abridged)- Part 2

This is part two of a 5-part series on the Complete History of China (abridged). I am covering the basics of China’s history to help me (and you) understand what makes China the way it is. Yesterday, we covered almost 600,000 years of history. Today, we we’re only covering 500 years.

221 BC – After all of the fighting, Qin Shi Huangdi gains control and declares himself the first emperor of China. Though his dynasty didn’t last long, he achieved much. He standardized money, laws, built roads and the North section of the Great Wall and even had 8,099 terracotta warriors made to guard his tomb.

206 BC – I told you Qin didn’t last long. Next up is the Han Dynasty, which brought a prosperous and expanding China, encompassing current day Vietnam, Korea and central Asia. Paper is invented, the first Chinese dictionary is written, and as trade expands, the Silk Road is formed. Buddhism is also introduced during this time.

220 AD – Considered the bloodiest part of China’s history, it is estimated that several million people died because the Wu, Shu and Wei kingdoms broke away causing a civil war to plague China. This period is called the Three Kingdoms.

265 AD – This is where it gets confusing. The Jin Dynasty takes control. Breifly everything is good, then the north part of the China breaks away into the “16 Kingdoms “period. Meanwhile, the Eastern and Western Jin Dynsasty rise and fall.

Come back tomorrow for the next installment of the Complete History of China (abridged).

The Complete History of China (abridged)- Part 1

This is the first post in a 5-part series on the Complete History of China (abridged). I am covering the basics of China’s history to help me (and you) understand what makes China the way it is. This post will cover Ancient China. There’s a lot of history to cover, so let’s dive in!

600,000 years ago – There is some evidence of primitive man living in the area we call China today.

400,000 years ago – Peking Man (homo erectus) was hanging out. 4oo thousand years after his death, Peking Man’s skull is discovered during WWII. In order to protect the skull from battle, it was shipped to the US, but disappeared enroute and never seen again. :( Let’s jump forward in history to…

8000 BC - No writing yet, so we don’t know a lot about the people living at this time, but we do know they farmed millet ( a type of grain) and started forming settlements.

6000 BC – Each settlement has its own unique style of pottery.

2800 BC – The story of the three sovereigns and five emperors supposedly takes place now. It is written down by Sima Qian in the first century BC. They are God-Kings prior to the Dynastic period. Most think these rulers were mythical.

2070 BC – The Xia Dynasty is in control. They create the concept of a dynasty and lasted through 17 kings.

1600 BC – The Shang Dynasty is now on top. They’re best known for mass-producing bronze. But nothing lasts forever…

1066 BC – The Zhou take power, move the capital to Xi’an, and start writing on silk and strips of Bamboo.

771 BC – Known as the Spring and Autun Period (because that’s what it’s called in a very old history book, no seriously), China is ruled by feudal Kings. Confucius will be alive soon (551-479BC) and war is about to come.

475 BC – War is here! This period is called the Warring States Period and I’ll let you guess why. No one is happy with anyone else. It’s during this chaotic time that Confucianism, Daoism and Legalism become popular.

221 BC – The warring finally stops. But who won?!? You’ll have to come back tomorrow to find out.