I'M GOING TO CHINA THIS SUMMER!
Let that sink in.
Anyway, to prepare for the trip -- which is intended to see as much as possible while hanging out with a friend from college who's teaching there now -- I'm reading a book called "A Traveller's History of China" by Stephen G. Haw. And the book has taught me some rather interesting tidbits.
- Ancient Chinese philosopher Yang Zhu subscribed to the ideal of Hakuna Matata, and the Daoist movement his ideas were incorporated into boiled down to "if it ain't broke, don't fix it."
- The dynasty that left behind its Terra Cotta Warriors and built the first Great Wall (later extensively rebuilt/repaired) lasted just 50 years.
- One random Chinese Buddhist monk spent 16 years on a jaunt around India collecting Buddhist texts to take back home. Those texts got their very own pagoda for storage -- the Wild Goose Pagoda in Xi'an.
- The Khans (as in Kubla Khan... otherwise known as the Yuan Dynasty) were invading Mongols from the north, and gained control over the whole of China. However, they were driven back home by the Chinese within a century of their invasion. A century!
- The Chinese pigtail was actually a requirement imposed by a Manchu (foreign) conqueror in the 1600s.
- Tea was virtually unknown in Britain until the 1700s. But by around 1800, the import duties Britain imposed on Chinese tea amounted to 10% of the British government's total revenue.
- "Kowtowing" literally means the ceremonial gesture that the Chinese dynasties expected of people visiting the Emperor's court -- kneeling and touching your forehead to the ground. It was a sign of submission to the Emperor, which the British ambassadors pretty much hated so they refused.