Art and Culture
The Yellow Crane Tower is one of the Four Great Towers in China. It stands along the Yangtze River and overlooks Wuhan City in Hubei Province. Many poets, including Cui Hao and Li Bai, have written famous poems about the tower. Legend has it that the tower was built in honour of a Taoist immortal.
Emperor Wu of Liang (464-549), also called Xiao Yan, was born at Nanlanling Zhoudouli during the Southern dynasties (420-589). Xiao Yan reigned for 48 years and died at the age of 86. He was one of the longest living emperors in Chinese history, second only to Qing Dynasty emperor, Qianlong (1711-1799).
According to a legend, there was a fearsome demon called “Sui.” Every year on New Year's Eve, the demon would come to touch a sleeping child's head three times. Out of fear, the child would cry loudly, then he would get a headache, fever, and begin babbling incoherently. When these symptoms disappeared, the child would become a fool.
Legends and mythology are a big part of Chinese culture, especially in relation to the Chinese calendar. Chinese people have every reason to be proud of those treasures, although many of them are regarded as myths by modern science. The 12 animals on the Chinese Zodiac calendar are believed to be chosen by a god to represent 12 years, and to continue this cycle every 12 years.
A trip to the temple to burn incense on New Year’s Day is still a tradition in China. But people’s prayers have changed. Rather than paying respect to the Buddha, people today ask for things, mostly to eliminate hardships and make a fortune. Ancient Chinese traditions taught people to value virtue over wealth. A person who would seek no monetary compensation when doing a good deed was said to receive virtue and attain rewards from an otherworldly realm.
In ancient China, education was conducted both in the private sector and by the government. Children were educated at home by private tutors (known as Sishu), scholars who failed central governmental exams. Educating children was an important career path for these intellectuals: it provided a means of livelihood, nurtured their talents, and promoted education in society.
The root of Confucianism consists of “benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom, faithfulness.” Many virtues, such as loyalty, filial piety, bravery, fairness, transparency, righteousness, diligence, etc. are derived from it. In ancient Chinese society, Confucianism defined the moral values and standards for being a good person.
Journey to the West is a major pillar of Chinese literature. Written in the Ming Dynasty (16th century), Journey to the West is one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature, the others being Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Water Margin, and Dream of the Red Chamber.
Ancient Chinese myths describe the creation of the universe, the origin of human beings, and the emergence of culture. They are part of the heritage of China’s five thousand years of culture. For example, these ancient myths tell the story of how the earth was formed. In the olden days, parents told their children the universe was created by Pangu.
Queen Dou, wife of the founding Emperor of the Tang Dynasty Li Yuan, was as renowned for her beauty as she was for her intellect and wisdom. When Queen Dou was just a little girl, she already demonstrated remarkable foresight and judgement on affairs of the state.
Wan Quan was a well-respected physician in the Ming. He was born on Hongzhi 11th Year (1498 A.D.) in present-day Luotian County in Hubei Province. Not only was he highly skilled in the noble art of medicine, he was even more admired for his impeccable bedside manners. He was known to be caring and forgiving, and treated all patients equally, holding no grudges for past squabbles.
The first batch of clay people made by Nu Wa, were just like puppets, with no life, thought, or movement. Nu Wa was not satisfied with them, so she breathed into the clay people, giving them a soul. Immediately, they transformed into lively human beings.
According to Chinese history, gods from heaven imparted culture directly to the Chinese people who Nu Wa had created. The best-known of these gods are Fu Xi and Shen Nong. They were sent down to earth to teach Chinese people basic skills and knowledge and to improve people’s awareness of nature.
In the midst of winter, before snow melts and the swallow returns, plum trees blossom onto the barren landscape, bracing the harshness of winter and reminding people spring will come. Celebrated here is the vitality of life, endurance through hardship, and hope that life will regenerate.
After Fu Xi instituted marriage in society, the population of ancient China gradually grew. Then people encountered new problems. First, they did not know what to eat and what not to eat. Second, they did not know how to heal disease. It is said many died of plague in those days.
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