The Wealth of China and Empire Reigns by Japan ~ Kwentology


What Made China So Prosperous?


The inventions of Chinese farmers and engineers made the land productive, and this made China wealthy. In the Middle Ages, the Chinese made spectacular strides in agriculture. They dug networks of irrigation channels to bring water to the rice fields. They built machines like the foot-powered pump (below) to lift water to the fields from canals. They also worked out ways of fertilizing fruit and vegetable plots with human manure.

Image of Water PumpMen worked for hours at this endless-chain machine to irrigate the fields. It forced water to flow uphill, pushed by wooden squares. Image by factsanddetails.


What Was China's Best-Kept Secret?


How to make silk? For centuries, no one else knew how. Chinese women kept silk-moth grubs, which they fed on mulberry leaves. The grubs spun thread around themselves, forming cocoons. Workers steamed the cocoons to kill the grubs, unwound the thread, dyed it, and wove it into cloth.


Where did the Silk Road Lead?


From rich Chinese cities, through the mountains of Central Asia to trading ports in the Middle East and around the Mediterranean Sea. European merchants traveled for years along the Silk Road, bringing back silk, porcelain, and other valuable goods.


When was the World's First Book Printed?


No one knows for certain, but it was probably between AD 600 and 800, in China. The world's oldest surviving book is "The Diamond Sutra," a collection of religious texts printed in China in AD 868.


How did China Get Its Name?


From the Qin (pronounced Chin) dynasty, the first dynasty to role over a united China. Founded by Qin Shi Huangd, it lasted from 221 to 206 BC. It was responsible for standardization of Chinese script, weights, and measures and the construction of the Great Wall.


Image of China Ming VaseChinese potters left clay to weather for up to 40 years before firing (baking) it at very high temperatures, until it was smooth as glass. Image by Nagarjun.


Where was the Middle Kingdom?


The Chinese believed their country to be at the very center of the world, which is why they called it the Middle Kingdom. Certainly, for many centuries, China was one of the largest, richest, and most advanced civilizations anywhere on Earth. Under the Tang and Song dynasties (ruled AD 618—1279), for example, Chinese cities like Chang'an (present-day Xi'an) and Kinsai (present-day Huangzhou) were the biggest in the world, and very prosperous.


Image of Bullock Cart An image of Bullock Cart which mainly traveled on the Silk Road. Before, carts were made of wood and woven bamboo, with strong wooden wheels. Photo by magiceye.


Who Made Laws About Cart Wheels?


Qin Shi Huangdi, the first emperor, who united the country. He made strict new laws, reformed the coinage, and burned all books he disagreed with. He ruled from 221 to 206 BC, and was burried with 6,000 terracotta warriors guarding his tomb. He wanted to stop cart crashing on rutted roads, so gave orders that they should all have wheels the same distance apart. The way, they could follow the same track.


Rulers of Japan Claimed Descent from the Sun Goddess


The emperors of Japan. The first Japanese emperor lived about 660 BC; his descendants ruled until AD 1192. After that, shoguns (army generals) ran the government, leaving the emperors with only religious and ceremonial powers.

Who Wrote One of the World's First Novels?


Shikibu Murasaki, who lived at the elegant, cultured Japanese court between AD 978 and 1014. Japanese nobles loved music, poetry, painting, graceful buildings, and exquisite gardens. They lived shut away from ordinary people, who had harsh, rough lives.


Who Valued Honor More Than Life?


Japanese warriors, called samurai, who were powerful from around the 12th century. They were taught to fight according to a strict code of honor. They believed it was better to commit suicide rather than face defeat. The act of this self destruction was known as Kamikazee.

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