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NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

READING EXPEDITIONS

Civilizations Past to Present

CHINA

KEVIN SUPPLES

INTRODUCTION

I magine living in the oldest civilization in the world. You could have been the first person to walk along the Great Wall or to use paper money. You wouldn’t get lost if you had the latest invention, a compass. And for good luck, you would be wearing red. These are just some of the things that you could have done in ancient China. The Chinese created many wonderful works of art. They invented many things that we still use. Today, people have found art and writings that tell us about ancient China. They have even found a huge army that the Chinese made from clay. This clay army was buried underground for thousands of years! Let’s take a look at the Chinese people and their history. There is a lot to learn about them.

CHINA: THEN AND NOW

C hina is in East Asia. The Chinese word for China is Zhongguo. This name means “middle country.” In English, the country’s official name is the People’s Republic of China. China’s capital is Beijing. The official language of the country is Mandarin. People in different part of China speak different languages and dialects. Putonghua, the common speech of Chinese language, is the standard Chinese pronunciation. China has many kinds of landforms. In the west there are tall, snow-covered mountains. Among them is the tallest mountain in the world, Qomolangma Feng. It is over 8,848 meters (29,029 feet) tall. In the north there are large deserts. The Gobi is the second largest desert in the world. In the east there are huge rivers and seas. Among them is the Yangtze River. Today, China is still an important country. It is the third largest country in the world. More people live there than in any other country. China has a population of over 1,200,000,000 people. China has about 660 cities with populations over 500,000,000. However, most of the people in China live in farm villages or small towns.

COMMUNITY LIFE

HOUSES In ancient China, three generations of a family often live together in one house. There were rules about how family members acted. The grandparents, as the oldest, were the most respected. Most people in ancient China were farmers. Farmers lived in simple one-story houses. The roofs were made of straw. Families slept on simple mats. Houses had outdoor areas for cooking. We know a lot more about the homes of the rich. The rich were sometimes buried with a clay model of their home. Their houses had two or more floors and tile roofs. Today, the houses of Chinese farmers are much better than houses long ago. They have tile roofs and electricity. In the cities, most people live in apartments. Cities, such as Beijing have large, new buildings. Living in the big city in China today is like living in any modern city in the world.

SCHOOL Do you think you would like being a scholar? You would spend all your time studying and learning. Scholars were the most respected group in ancient times. Scholars could read and write. Most worked for the emperor, the ruler of the country.
In ancient China, only boys went to school. Some of them might become scholars and officials. Girls learned to take care of the house. In areas where silkworms were raised, girls might also learn how to make silk. Today, almost all children in China go to school. They start school at age six or seven. Children in the cities go to school for five full days each week. They have six weeks of vacation during the summer. They also have four weeks off in the winter. Children in the country occasionally take time off from school to work on the farms.

FARMING In ancient China, many people lived in the country. They were farmers. They lived in small villages. Farmers were well respected in China. Farmers worked from dawn to dusk.
In northern China, farmers grew beans and grain, including wheat and barley. In the south, farmers grew rice in special fields called paddies. They flooded these fields with water from nearby rivers. In early China, farmers used oxen to pull plows. They also used iron tools. They invented the wheelbarrow, which they called a “wooden ox.” These improvements helped people farm better. Today, farming is still important in China. More than 60 percent of the people in China are farmers or work on farms. China is the largest producer of food in the world. It has to feed over one billion people. Grain, such as rice and wheat, is China’s most important crops. Large farms are run by the government. All the land is owned by the state.

FOOD In ancient China, poor families ate beans, other vegetables, and grains. They did not usually eat meat. Sometimes they ate chicken, fish, or wild birds. To save fuel, they chopped their food into small pieces. Then they cooked the pieces quickly in an iron frying pan, or wok. Families also steamed their food. Rich families ate many different foods. Noodles, fruits, and vegetables were popular. Honey, cinnamon, peanuts, ginger, and salt added flavor to food. The rich also ate meat, including pork, deer, duck, and lamb. They even enjoyed eating snake, dog, and bear paws! Tea was the most important drink. Some people became experts on tea. There were tea-tasting contests. Experts tried to tell which tea they were tasting. Today, many Chinese eat some of the same foods that families ate long ago. Breakfast is often noodles, wheat bread, or rice porridge. The Chinese eat with chopsticks and soup spoons. They use knives only in the kitchen, not at the table. Meals are either sir-fried in woks or steamed.

CLOTHES In ancient China, you could tell who was rich and who was poor by clothes they wore. The poor wore clothes made from hemp. Hemp is a rough fabric woven from plant fibers. Clothes were loose with tunic-like tops and simple pants. The rich wore robes made from silk. They also wore jewelry made of jade, gold, and silver. Sometimes men wore hats. A hat showed the wearer’s job and social class. The ancient Chinese thought that women should have very small feet. It was a sign of beauty. Girls had their feet bound so that their feet would not grow. This painful practice was stopped in new China. Today, many Chinese wear Western-style shirts and suits, and loosely fitting pants. They tend to wear more modern clothes, for example, jeans. In the country, farmers wear clothes that are more traditional and less fashionable than people in the cities. Nowadays silk is still a kind of popular clothing material.

FESTIVALS AND GAMES In ancient China, festivals and games were important. The most important festival was held at the Lunar New Year. This holiday lasted 15 days. Families got together. Relatives came from far away. People visited each other bringing gifts. It was considered bad luck to turn away visitors. The holiday ended with a parade that included dragons and lanterns. The Chinese believed that the dragon would bring good luck for the New Year. Another important festival was Qingming. During this festival people honored their dead relatives. People brought food to the graves and “talk” to their relatives. They wished them good lives in the afterworld. Children had little time for games. Most children worked on the farms. But during festivals they flew kites and played chess and Chinese checkers. They also had a toy that is like our modern yo-yo. Today, the Chinese New Year is still a popular holiday. Chinese around the world celebrate it. Chinese New Year starts no earlier than January 20 and no later than February 20. There are fireworks and parades with huge dragons made of paper, silk or other materials. Children receive red envelopes with money and sometimes oranges for good luck.

INVENTIONS AND GREAT PROJECTS

T he Chinese are famous for many inventions. In ancient China, they invented an instrument for showing when and where an earthquake was happening. They also invented the kite. Today, many people in China still fly brightly decorated kites. Chinese writing is different to learn. It uses thousands of characters. Each one stands for a thing or idea. Another famous Chinese invention is paper! Later, they used it for painting and writing. Before they invented paper, the Chinese wrote on bamboo strips, jade, metal, and cloth.

THE GREAT WALL Have you ever heard of the Great Wall of China? It was one of the most famous building projects in ancient China. During the Spring and Autumn Period, separate walls were built by different states to protect themselves. The First Emperor of Qin decided to connect these walls to build the Great Wall, which would protect the northern border of his country. In 214 B.C., Chinese workers began joining together shorter walls built earlier. Prisoners, slaves, and members of the army helped. It took about ten years to complete the job. That’s because the wall was more than 5,000 kilometers (3,107 miles) long!
Later emperors rebuilt the wall using bricks to make it stronger. They also added to the wall until it was about 7,300 kilometers (4,536 miles) long. Today, people from around the world visit the Great Wall of China. Now the Chinese are working on another huge building project, the Three Gorges Dam. This dam is over 2.4 kilometers (1 1/2 miles) wide. It will control the flow of water, help prevent floods, and create electric power.

TRADE AND TRANSPORTATION

T he Silk Road was one of the most important trade routes in ancient China. Find the Silk Road on a map. It stretched across Asia from China to the Mediterranean Sea. Most traders traveled back and forth over a small part of the route. They stopped at trading centers along the way. There they bought or sold spices, gold, ivory, jade, and other expensive goods. This famous trade route is named after one of the most important items made at the time – silk. Silk is a special kind of cloth. It is strong but also light and soft. Silk is woven from long threads that come from the cocoons of silkworms. The Chinese have been making silk for thousands of years. People outside China did not learn how to make this expensive cloth until the A.D 800s. In addition to traveling over land, the ancient Chinese sailed along the country’s coast and rivers. The Yangtze River was a major transportation route. This river is the third longest in the world. The Chinese call it Chang Jiang, which means “Long River.” Today, the Chinese still make silk. China is the world’s leading producer of cotton, cement, and coal. Modern China has many different kinds of factories. Many of the goods that you buy in stores are made in China, such as plastic dolls, toys, and dishes. China’s cities have modern methods of transportation, such as trains, buses, and airplanes. However, many Chinese find that the best way to get around in a crowded city is on a bicycle!

THE ART

I n ancient China, educated men and women practiced many arts. They thought that the arts were important. The arts of painting, poetry, and calligraphy were called “The Three Perfections.” All three arts use a brush, so they are often combined in one piece of art. Some people still study the ancient art of calligraphy, or beautiful handwriting. They learn to write beautifully. They often write with a paintbrush or ink pen. They use calligraphy on special invitations, such as for those for weddings. The Chinese also created beautiful art using bronze. Bronze is a mixture of metals that includes copper. The ancient Chinese used bronze to make many objects, including coins, mirrors, and weights. Artists made bronze sculptures of animals. Horses were a favorite subject of Chinese artists. Today, the arts are still popular in China. Two of the most popular arts are acrobatics and opera. Chinese acrobats practice for many years. They have turned this sport into an art. Chinese acrobats are known for their grace and balance. Acrobats also juggle with swords, balls, and pottery. They tour the world performing their acts. How would you like to see an opera during lunch? Long ago, opera was performed in the marketplace. Today, it still is. Shopper stop for a snack of melon seeds and sip tea as they watch. Operas often tell of famous events. The performers wear fancy costumes. Their faces are painted like masks. Colors stand for different characters. Red is for loyalty and courage. Blue is for valor. White is for a trickster. Black is for uprightness. Movies and television are also popular in modern China. People watch educational programs, plays, concerts, and sports. Diving and gymnastics are popular sports to watch.

A BURIED ARMY In 1974, people digging a well near the Chinese city of Xi’an uncovered a surprise. They found a broken man made out clay. They didn’t know it then, but about 7,500 more clay men and clay horses were buried with it! These famous statues were made out of baked clay called terracotta. Artists made them to guard the First Emperor of Qin after he died. That means that the statues are more than 2,000 years old. The statues are Chinese soldiers and army leaders. They are a little bigger than real people. Some of the figures are standing. Others are kneeling. Some statues show young men and others show older ones. The statues have different faces, expressions, and even belt buckles! Ancient Chinese artists worked for about 40 years to make all the statues. When the statues were first made, they were painted. Almost all the paint has peeled off or faded. These soldiers also had weapons to protect the emperor. The Chinese have built a large museum to protect the statues. Many tourists go to see them every year.

CONTRIBUTIONS

B oth the ancient and modern Chinese people have made many contributions to world culture. They have given us beautiful works of art from bronze statues to calligraphy. China is famous for its many inventions. The ancient Chinese invented the compass and the wheelbarrow, as well as silk, paper, porcelain, and paper money. They also gave us gunpowder, fireworks, and kites. China is also well known for its scholars and thinkers. The famous was Confucius, a Chinese teacher. He died in 479 B.C., but his sayings did not become popular until later. Confucius taught that it was important to live a simple life. He is honorably referred to as K’ung Fu-tzu, which means “Great Master K’ung.” His writings appear on many pieces of art. Today, many people still follow his teachings. Look around your own home. You may be surprised to see how many things that you and your family use can be traced back to ancient China.
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LOOKING BACK Did you know that the ancient Chinese did not use stone to build their houses? They used wood or bamboo, a tall, woody plant that grows in many places in China. The Chinese sometimes covered the walls with bricks or earth.

LOOKING BACK In ancient China, farmers often paid their taxes with rice. They could also pay by working for the government, digging canals, or building walls. Farmers had to join the army for a period of time.

LOOKING BACK The kitchen god was important in ancient China. The Chinese believed that the kitchen god reported how a family behaved during the year to the other gods. A bad report could mean bad luck for the next year.

LOOKING BACK The colors of cloth were important to the ancient Chinese. Cloth was colored with vegetable dyes. Each color meant something special. In the Qing Dynasty, yellow was a royal color. Only the emperor could wear it. Other people dressed in blue or black. White was for mourning. Children could not wear white while their parents were still alive. Read was the color of luck.

LOOKING BACK Do you like ice cream? Then you should thank the Chinese. They used ice, snow, milk, and spices to make a special blend of ices. Today, we use different ingredients, but ice cream is still a wonderful, cold treat!

LOOKING BACK How did the ancient Chinese traders carry all their goods? They used camels to carry heavy loads. Camels could also travel long distances across deserts without water.

LOOKING BACK Today, the main religion in China is Buddhism. Buddhism started in India in the 500s B.C. Traders traveling along the Silk Road spread the religion to China.

LOOKING BACK The ancient Chinese were also famous for their porcelain. Porcelain is thin china made from clay. For thousands of years, the Chinese kept how to make porcelain a secret. Today, many factories make porcelain plates and other objects to sell throughout the world.

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...“English should not become official” America is a country filled with many people with different language trying to get along. We live in a society made up and founded by immigrants. Looking at our society today, English shouldn’t become the official language of the U.S because, first of all it is unfair for others living here who have English as a second language or can speak little English. Second of all, it will limit certain people when it comes to finding a job because not everybody is capable of speaking, reading, or writing the English language correctly. Finally, it violates the terms our country was built on. If English becomes the official language of the U.S, people with English as a second language or with little English are put at a disadvantage. It’s a fact that our society is largely made of immigrants. Moreover, children who will be born in the U.S won’t be able to learn their parent’s native language. So it wouldn’t make any sense from the government to limit them because the government will need bilingual people. We take pride in our diversity, so when we limit our diversity, we put people here at a disadvantage. Additionally, there are certain people who don’t dedicate themselves to learn the English language. The reason is because they get employed by businesses that practice the same language. For instance, lots of Spanish immigrants only get to work in the Spanish community. Spanish is very much used in the United States, because they don’t develop......

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Free Essay

English

...George Orwell, "Politics and the English Language," 1946 [pic] Most people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the English language is in a bad way, but it is generally assumed that we cannot by conscious action do anything about it. Our civilization is decadent and our language -- so the argument runs -- must inevitably share in the general collapse. It follows that any struggle against the abuse of language is a sentimental archaism, like preferring candles to electric light or hansom cabs to aeroplanes. Underneath this lies the half-conscious belief that language is a natural growth and not an instrument which we shape for our own purposes. Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible. Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if......

Words: 5467 - Pages: 22