100th Episode Question Page!

For our upcoming centennial episode, THoC is opening up to your questions!  If you have anything you’d like to ask, please leave it in the comments on this page!



13 thoughts on “100th Episode Question Page!

  1. How do you think fictional representations of Empress Wu (The Empress of China series, Empress by Shan, ect) measure up against the “real” Empress Wu?

  2. You’ve referenced wine many times and my Western mind has always assumed you meant grape wind like the Greeks and Romans consumed. But now I’m curious, were the ancient Chinese drinking grape wind or a type of rice wine similar to saké?

  3. What do you think of Wanli of Ming’s reign? What would you say the biggest impacts he had on China and the dynasty? If you came across it, what do you think of the book “1587 A Year of No Significance” by Ray Huang?

  4. Do you believe that by the end of the 21st Century China will transition into a Representative Democracy? Will this be a smooth and gradual transition? On the flip side, has the approach of reform through free markets with an authoritarian form of government proven to be a successful alternative to Democracy? Is there validity in the argument for stability through one-party rule?

  5. As an Indonesian, I am interested to know what is the relationship between the Chinese and Southeast Asian kingdom?

    Why the Chinese choose to stop conquering the region in North Vietnam and not pursue more territorial conquest?

    What the Chinese think about the kingdoms in the region? Did they think them as barbarian like the nomads on the north or a civilized nation like them own or a vassal or just a part of India (due to heavy influence of India’s culture here)?

    How the contact between the Southeast Asian kingdom and the Chinese begin and how the Southeast Asian kingdom react toward dynasty changes in China? And how the Chinese react to rise and fall of kingdoms in Southeast Asia?


  6. Not exactly a question, but a recent discussion reminds me that I haven’t heard a lot about the migration of chai from India. I’m guessing that happened before Tang, is that correct?

    Now a question to follow your excellent discussion about the cultural significance of migration of paper. I forgot when, but you once mentioned the “secret” of silk making being kept in China for long (and by Tang it hadn’t been broken) together with some related legend. You clearly do not view paper making as a secret that the Chinese took effort to keep. How much is true about keeping silk making within the Great Wall? I never heard of such legend in China. In general discussion about history, there are lots of mentioning about laws restricting casting of various metals, making and trading of salt, etc. at various times, but nothing about silk. Silk, like paper, is also known to have been made in Japan and Korea for long. So even if the Chinese intend to prevent the technology from leaking, the effort would rely on cooperation from such hostile neighbours, making it in effective.

    1. Silly me – the first part came out like a question. What I mean is, I’d like to hear about the tea story when it is relatable.

      I know this is late, but as I have started, here’s another one. The story about how Wu Meiniang wound up being in the service of, then the favour, and eventually the wife of Gaozong sounds too similar to that of the other woman about to enter the stage shortly. Given that that story was written hundreds of years after the fact, is it possible that the two stories were simply mixed up, like the many similar “wine pool, flesh forest” stories of pre-Qin eras?

      1. You got to me just in the nick of time! I’m planning to record tomorrow… 15 pages already. Damn it, Yuan, you’re going to push me up to 20 or so. 😉

        Not that I mind, as usual, you are an incredibly insightful and informed questioner!

        (And I’ll address this in my on-air answer, but I do just want to be clear re: paper and silk, both – I’m *certainly not* trying to say China didn’t do their damnedest to keep such valuable trade secrets to themselves! Silk-worm smuggling was punishable by death all the way through the Yuan! What I was trying to convey – and maybe proved overzealous! – was that it wasn’t the absolute “lock box” situation the classical histories would have us believe. Isolated and isolationist as it could be, China was a bit more “porous” than they’d have liked to admit, and… well… smugglers are often a bit more clever than the authorities tasked to stop them!)

        Thanks, and added to THE LIST!

  7. Again, not a question:-) A friend of mine just came across this great puzzle: http://www.ancient-origins.net/unexplained-phenomena/what-was-ancient-chinese-palace-doing-enemy-territory-siberia-002023. This is so strange. One trouble I’m having with both defector theories is the intent of “Son of Heaven (ie the Chinese emperor), 10,000 years of peace, and one of which (i.e. the empress), we wish 1,000 autumns of joy without sorrow.” Now assume that one or another Han defector was allowed to live somewhere in Xiongnu territory, and even be rewarded financially, how could he dare declare himself “Son of Heaven”? Also, the site is but a few thousand years old, carbon dating should be reasonably applicable.

  8. Can’t help getting a chuckle as you brought dear Carl and Friedrich back for a time travel. That was exactly the wonder I had at the time when the Chairman called for the entire nation to “study the … original works.” (I even brought my wonders to some teachers.) Poor Chairman probably didn’t realise that, like the call for the nation to “reassess Legalism and criticise Confucianism” that school teachers grasped to dust off their lessons about Chinese cultural heritage, and the call for the nation to “criticise (the latter 40 chapters of) Water Margin” that librarians and publishers grasped to unleash the Four Chinese Classics as well as many other previously forbidden traditional books – or maybe these were his ways to remediate the extremes he perceived in the Red Guards movement, his last nationwide scholarly call fostered a new generation of true scholars who would eventually clash with the CPC orthodox school in late 70s through 80s. The “phase” and “stuff” were precisely some of the arguments picked up to defend Deng’s policies – or rather, Zhao Ziyang’s expansion thereof.

    Back to Di Yi Bai. You noted that Qin Ershi buried tens of thousands of slaves with his father, the First Emperor. Isn’t this against his father’s own policy/will/view, and even the empire’s cultural heritage? The reason I ask is because, while I have really lost all recollection about such details, a piece of Chairman Mao’s teachings – for he was such a good teacher. Except in this case, it came out more like a piece of ranting in mourning the loss of his own son during the Korean War, ranting that in popular culture is viewed as the first cleavage between the Chairman and his betrusted General Pen Dehuai (superior commander of the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army) who later sided with the more pragmatic Chairman Liu, both of whom then died in exile. The rant is a quote from some historic scripture: “始作俑者, 其無後乎!” Literally “the first (ruler) who use (wooden, clay, and porcelain) tomb figures (as opposed to use funerary live sacrifices, especially those of human lives) is doomed to be void of offsprings.” According to modern interpretations, the quote from Mencius was intended to express Confucius’ opinion on funerary sacrifices. At the time of the writing during the Warring Kingdoms period, Qin was rising as a major power and said to be among the first kingdom to deprecate the barbarian practice thanks to Shang Yang’s reforms. Shihuangdi was said to oppose funerary sacrifices of human lives; Qin Dynasty was often cited as an example of “ceased incense” associated with this quote; even after the excavation of his tomb, the expanse of terra-cotta warriors was said to reflect the First Emperor’s progressive views. So how do I reconcile the two images? Deeds vs words?

    Speaking of cleavage, interesting to know that Wu Zetian’s period dresses raising more than eyebrows when accurately represented in the mega TV series. (Which I haven’t watched. The closest encounter I had with an Empress Wu series was the earlier one produced by and starring the rebellious Liu Xiaoqing, which I also had not watched but read some complaints about its later episodes relying on blood shedding for viewership. Maybe you can still find that one.) Right in the heat of our good Chairman’s “reassess Legalism and criticise Confucianism” movement, his “亲密战友” (“close battlefield comrade” – an official title bestowed only to Jiang Qing) decided to show off her wifely talent of fashion making (despite they having been estranged for more than a decade), and “released” a gown/dress that was said to have been expressly morphed from the Zetian era female garments, with the express intention of “correcting” certain defects of the Empress’ dress, one of which was being too revealing. At the time, qipao, or Manchurian dress that features a shallow V-shaped side fold, had long been banned. If a female comrade including Comrade Jiang did not wear what became known as the Mao uniform (even though it was first popularised by Dr. Sun Yah-shan), she was wearing shirt and skirt. Comrade Jiang not only was the first to model her “new Tang dress” – as pictured in http://s4.sinaimg.cn/mw690/4b6668a1t7c1117d38b83&690, but also “encouraged” female cadres to wear the design. (The patent office had long been shut down, so I can’t say if she could financially gain from this promotion.) Shortly after it appeared in national newspapers, samples of this dress were prominently displayed in windows of department stores. Unlike the Manchurian qipao, Jiang’s “new Tang dress” features a centered, comparatively deep V-neck. (Unrevealing of course.) Many such displays also featured drawings or replicas of Tang era dress for comparison. (Well, with exception of neck folds, I can hardly see similarities today.) It was said that many female entertainers wore this dress in their public functions, although I had no recollection. Not that I was deeply interested in girls at the age, but access to live entertainment was terribly rare for all but entertainers themselves. Suffice to say, with perhaps less than 2% of the population having television, celebrity effect was extremely weak. Nationwide, what later became labeled as Jiang Qing Dress quickly fizzled.

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