China

  • Eclipses- Historical Harbingers

    If you’ve been anywhere near the news, you would have seen that a solar eclipse happened in the continental United States yesterday.  I have to admit it was a pretty amazing experience as I was lucky enough to be in the path of totality.  As the sky went dark and the crickets started chirping, I thought about what it must have been like for those in the past.  They didn’t have the benefit of NASA and other scientists telling us that this was normal, the Sun would come back and to wear protective glasses.  How did people through the ages deal with eclipses? One of the first references we have…

  • Pingyang and the Army of the Lady

    Princess Pingyang was born in 600 to Li Yuan, a peasant who had risen through the army to become a commander.  She was the only daughter to him and his second wife Duchess Dou.  She did have two older sisters from Li Yuan’s first marriage, however, Pingyang spent more time with her four brothers.  As was customary, she was given in marriage when she was quite young.  Her chosen husband was Cai Shao, the son of the Duke of Julu.  By all reports, Pingyang was a dutiful and loving daughter, sister and wife.  However, her loyalty was put to the test when everything went sideways. During this time, China was…

  • The Lost Roman Legion of Crassus

    Marcus Licinius Crassus was one of the richest men in the Roman World and part of the First Triumvirate with notables such as Pompeius Magnus and Julius Caesar.  He had made his money through picking up the property of those killed in Sulla’s proscriptions at firesale prices.  Indeed, he was accused of adding the name of a particularly rich man just so he could pick up his property at bargain basement prices.  Combine that through slave trafficking and silver mines, gave Crassus a fortune estimated by Pliny at 200 million sestertii, or about 8.5 billion in today’s dollars.  If his name sounds familiar, you may have heard in the old…

  • Empress Wu Zetian

      In the East as in the West, female rulers were not the norm.  In China, the famous philosopher Confucius is reported to have said a woman ruling was as unnatural as a “hen crow like a rooster at daybreak.”  Huh.  A regular John Knox, that guy.  Well cock-a-doodle-doo, Confucius, because this is the story of Empress Wu Zetian of the Tang dynasty, the only female emperor in Chinese history.  Originally, named Wu Zhao she was given the name Zetian, which means “emulator of heaven”, after death.  Sources about Wu Zetian’s life are a hodgepodge, which some condemning her as the devil himself and others testifying she was an absolute…

  • Ancient Ghost Stories- Eastern Style

    We have discussed the similarities of how the afterlife and ghosts are viewed in the Western World in our previous post. There are also similarities that run through how these subjects are addressed in Eastern cultures, however, there are a few twists that mark them out as different. As in the West, the ghosts of ancestors could appear to their descendants to give warnings or advice. However, in China this was taken to another level as ancestor worship was widely practiced. The Chinese afterlife was a journey for the soul to cross a bridge over an abyss. There the soul was judged and if it was found worthy, it drank…