China

  • Kamikaze and the Aborted Mongol Invasions of Japan

    In Simon Schama’s History of Britain, he makes the comment that the weather bats for England.  Apparently the weather has that same deal with Japan.  The word “kamikaze” brings visions of suicide pilots from World War II, but the word actually means “divine wind”.  In this case, the kamikaze defended the Japanese islands from invasion fleets. In the 13th century, the Mongols had swept through Asia and had finished bringing Goryeo, or Korea, into the empire.  Kublai Khan had become the first emperor of the Yuan (or Mongol) dynasty of China.  Now he cast his hungry eyes towards Japan.  At this time, Japan was ruled by the Shogunate Regents of…

  • An Introductory Overview of the Mongols

    Please note that this is not meant to be a biography of any one person but a brief overview of the dynasty to show the impact that the Mongols had for many centuries. More in depth posts will follow going into more detail of specific people and events. It all started in unassuming grasslands on the high plateau of Mongolia east of the Altai Mountains. Various Turkic and Mongol-Tungusic tribes roamed these steppes- herding animals such as sheep, goats, horses, yaks, oxen and camels; trading and raiding their more sedentary neighbors. The had no permanent cities as their primary shelter was a circular felt covered dwelling called the “ger” or…

  • Ching Shih

    Ching Shih’s early life is shrouded in mystery. Even her name isn’t really her own, as “Ching Shih” translates to “widow of Ching”. She first appears in the historical record in 1801. However, she left her mark on history as one of the most successful pirates. It is theorized Ching Shih was born around 1775 in the Guangdong province of China. One source records her birth name as Shil Xiang Gu. Nothing is known of her childhood, but I imagine it wasn’t one of ease. At the age of 26, she was a prostitute on a floating brothel in Canton. In 1801, she caught the eye of Ching Yi, who…

  • Wang Cong’er

    18th century China was not an easy place for those born into poverty, especially women.  This was the world Wang Cong’er was born into.  She was born around 1777 in the Hubei province to a peasant family.  There was no money for rents, and the families were forced to borrow at high rates of interest.  When they could not pay, the families were thrown off their land.  Beggars were everywhere. Her father died when Wang Cong’er was young, leaving her mother to try to make money any way she could.  Her mother took in laundry and sewing and hired herself out as a domestic servant, but still could not feed…

  • On Buddhism: Two men, one Buddha

    Two images come to mind when someone mentions a Buddhist Idol, such as a statue or a piece of jewelry; one man is seen as skinny and somber, while the other is depicted as a fat, jolly man. What is less known is who these Idols are and what each one represents, both of whom were prominent men in the Buddhist religion but only one was actually a Buddha. The fat Buddha, or The Laughing Buddha, is known by different names in different regions, Budai in China and Hotei or Qici in Japan, but he was not a Buddha at all. In China, Budai was a monk from Chinese folklore…