The Saoba Stone Pillars of Taiwan Present A Peinan Culture Conundrum

The Saoba Stone Pillars of Taiwan Present A Peinan Culture Conundrum


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Taiwan is a modern and dynamic country, but it also has a rich culture and history, which is often forgotten by the wider world. The island has been home to a variety of communities and cultures since the Neolithic age. One of the most remarkable archaeological sites in Taiwan are the Saoba stone pillars in the Satokoay Historical Site which is a third-grade national historic monument and one of Taiwan’s most popular tourist attractions.

The Enigmatic Saoba Stone Pillars

The stone pillars are two large, badly-weathered standing stones that may have once had carvings on them. The pillars are of different heights - one is 18 feet (6 meters) and the other is 12 feet (4 meters) high. They are situated on a slope north of the Wuhe terrace and face a deep river valley. The Satokay Historical Site is located in an area of outstanding natural beauty and the pillars can be seen from a distance.

Circles of small rocks surround both pillars, and how the two large stones were transported and erected at this site is a mystery, but given their remarkable location, Saoba stone pillars may have been used for ceremonial or religious purposes.

The Peinan Culture

The stones are believed to be part of the ancient Peinan Culture, also known as the Beinan Culture. There has been an excavation of the Saoba site, but it yielded little of historical value. And at another Peinan site, similar stone pillars were found which has led many experts to accept that the stones are important relics of Peinan culture.

Jade earing found at a Peinan Cultural site (Beinan Site Academic)

A similar standing stone to the one at Saoba can also be seen at National Museum of Prehistory and Peinan Culture Park. This Neolithic culture flourished in Taiwan about 2,000 to 3,000 years ago. It was fairly advanced when compared to previous societies on the island. It is noted for its distinctive stone coffins that have been found all over the Pacific and South-East Asia, convincing many that Taiwan was the birthplace of some of the Asian-Pacific cultures and civilizations. There is evidence that migration from Taiwan was very important in the spread of civilization in the region. While experts generally accept the stone pillars are from the Peinan culture, their role and purpose are not known.

Legends Associated With Saoba Stone Pillars

The Wuhe Terrace is the traditional home of the Ami people, an aboriginal group in Taiwan. While the majority of Taiwanese are of Han Chinese extraction there is a large community of aboriginal residents on the island. The Ami revere the Wuhu terrace and believe that the stones are very important in their history and culture. As a result, there are many stories about the stones in Ami lore.

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Ami harvest dance ( CC BY 3.0 )

According to one story, a group of Ami came to Wuhi terrace several centuries ago. A storm blew up quite suddenly and they picked up some wooden planks for shelter and this saved their lives. In the Ami language, Saboa means plank, and the stones commemorate the time when men used wooden planks.

In another story, the pillars are a result of a ritual that was not performed correctly. When the Ami had built a house, the new owners had to circle the new construction while singing. This song had to be performed correctly or the spirits would be offended. Two people performed the song around their house, but it was not correct. The house was blown away by a wind and turned to a stone where it landed. The stone pillars, therefore, are the result of a song that was not sung in the right way.

The beautiful Hualien Landscape (Cho, W / CC BY-SA 2.0 )

A third legend holds that a chief’s wife gave birth to twins which was seen as an evil portent. The tribal elders decided that the twins had to be tied to the gates of the village and the inhabitants of the village left and built a new settlement a few miles away. The twins that were tied to the post were turned to the stone pillars that now stand in Satokoay Historical Site.

The Saboa Stone pillars are located in Hualien, a mountainous area in the east of the island. There are many things to do in Hualien such as visiting its nature parks, many shrines and temples. There is public transport to the Satokoay Historical Site and admission is free. Accommodation in Hualien is plentiful and tourists are welcomed in Hualien.


Taiwan

Identification. Over four-fifths of the people are descendants of Han Chinese settlers who came to the island in the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries from southeastern China. They were joined in 1949 by remnants of the Nationalist party and army that left China after their defeat in the Chinese Civil War (1927–1949). The island's original inhabitants ( Yuanzhumin ), who are related to Malayo-Polynesian peoples of Southeast Asia, have lived on the island for thousands of years. The culture is a blend of aboriginal cultures, Taiwanese folk cultures, Chinese classical culture, and Western-influenced modern culture. The Nationalists have failed to impose a Chinese national culture on the island, and the potential for a Taiwanese national culture is held in check by both the Nationalists and the People's Republic of China (PRC) as they contest the country's sovereignty.

Location and Geography. Taiwan lies between Japan and Philippines, off the southeastern coast of China. The total area is 13,800 square miles, (32,260 square kilometers). A massive mountain range covers two-thirds of the island and includes East Asia's highest peak, Yü Shan. The subtropical climate is affected by two weather patterns: a continental monsoon that brings cool, wet weather to the northern half of the island between October and March and an ocean monsoon that brings rain to the southern half between April and September. The monsoons can bring devastating typhoons. Most mainlanders live in the north, Taiwanese live along the western coast, and aborigines live in the mountains and on the eastern coast.

Demography. With an estimated population of 22,113,250 in 1999, Taiwan is the second most densely populated country in the world. Seventy percent of the population is Hokkien, 14 percent is Hakka, 14 percent is Mainlander, and two percent is aboriginal. The population is 56 percent urban.

Linguistic Affiliation. Mandarin Chinese is the national language and the language of education, government, and culture. Taiwanese speak Taiyu, a southern Min dialect ( nanminhua ), or Hakka. There are seven distinct aboriginal languages, which are grouped into three language families. Most Taiwanese and aborigines speak both a local language and the national language. Mainlanders are monolingual, although some second-generation mainlanders speak Taiwanese.

Symbolism. The symbols of the national culture are conspicuous on the Double Ten (10 October), a national holiday that commemorates the founding of the Republic of China (ROC) in 1911. In Taipei, the Presidential Office Building is lit up and covered with a colossal portrait of Sun Yat-sen, the ROC's founding father. The highlight of the parade is a city-block-long dragon, a symbol of imperial China and the ROC's recently abandoned claim to be the legitimate government of all of China and the preserver of the Chinese cultural heritage. A large military presence reminds onlookers of the government's determination to defend the homeland against communist aggression. High school marching bands in brightly colored uniforms are symbols of the modern educational system and modernity in general. Students from the eastern coast dress in aboriginal costumes to symbolize the government's paternalistic benevolence. Missing from the parade are aborigines who advocate self-determination and the Taiwanese goddess and protector Mazu, who is a potent symbol of popular culture, a local variant


Taichung Tourism

The old town area in Taichung refers to the area near the old train station where it used to be the center of prosperity in the past. It is nicknamed &ldquoLittle Kyoto&rdquo for the grid street plan and commercial streets. If you want to take a break from the city hustle and bustle, the old town area is a great destination to learn about Taichung&rsquos unique culture through exploring century-old historic buildings and tasting local deliciousness hidden in alleys.

Suggested Route
Taiwan Museum of Suncake &rarr Jiguang Street (Vietnamese baguette, Hsieh Breakfast and Douhua Store) &rarr Herb Street &rarr ASEAN Plaza &rarr Shin Sheng Bridge (Miyahara) &rarr Zhongshan Road (Yurong Fabric Store, Fourth Credit Union)

Taiwan Museum of Suncake
Delicious Suncake Passed Down with Sixty Years of History

Suncake is the most renowned treat in Taichung. It is a moderately sweet pastry featuring multiple layers and maltose filling. The original site of Taiwan Museum of Suncake located on Taiwan Boulevard was a century-old architecture, Chuan An Hall. The two-level museum was built in memory of Wei Ching- Hai, the person who invented suncake. The museum comprises a dining area, cultural and creative product store and exhibition of traditional pastry. Tourists are encouraged to visit the museum and learn about Taichung's local dining culture.

Taiwan Museum of Suncake
Open time:08:00-21:00
Visiting information: Free admission. Fee for DIY activity is NT$250 per person.
TEL:+886-4-22295559
Address:No.145, Sec. 1, Taiwan Blvd., Central Dist., Taichung City

Jiguang Street
The Street of Hidden Goodies

Jiguang Street near Taichung Train Station was called Rongding in the Japanese colonial period. It used to home businesses including fabric stores, restaurants, watch and clock shops and grocery stores. In addition to the most renowned Jiguang Fried Chicken, another recommended food to try in Jiguang Street is the must-eat breakfast dish among local Taichung residents, meat and egg sandwich. The exotic Vietnamese baguette is also worth trying.

Hsieh Breakfast and Douhua Store is a highly rated breakfast place suggested by locals. The sixty-year-old store features a simple sandwich made with three slices of toasts, fried fillet and cucumbers. The delicious and exceptionally portioned breakfast is surprisingly affordable. Douhua and omelets are also signature breakfast dishes.

Vietnamese baguette, on the other hand, is an exotic taste introduced by Vietnamese to Taiwan. The thick slices of meat, crisp and refreshing cucumbers wrapped with baked french baguette has captivated the taste buds of locals and Vietnamese migrant workers alike with authentic Vietnamese flavors.

Hsieh Breakfast and Douhua Store
Open time:05:00-12:00
TEL:+886-4-22202419
Address:No.136, Jiguang St., Central Dist., Taichung City

Herb street
The Fragrant Alley of Herbal Aroma

Herb street located on Chenggong Road Lane 90 in Central District seems unassuming at first sight, but as you get closer, you will soon be greeted with herbal aroma. Han Qiang Medicine Plant Store and A-Lan Herbal Tea Store are two of the decades old herb stores that sell thirst-quenching herbal tea, herbal medicine and fresh medicinal herbs. Indeed, Herb Street is no longer crowded with customers, but the distinctive herbal aroma and its rich history is definitely a treasure to visitors who look for a peaceful and tranquil cultural experience.

Herb Street
Address:Ln. 90, Chenggong Rd., Central Dist., Taichung City

ASEAN Plaza
ASEAN in Taichung

ASEAN Plaza, originally known as the First Plaza located near Taichung Train Station, was the First Public Market in the Japanese colonial period. The soaring buildings suggested that it was once the most prosperous shopping district in Taichung. Today, ASEAN Plaza features a very different look as local Taiwanese culture meets with diverse cultures from Southeast Asia. A variety of food stalls and stores featuring southeast Asian cultures can be found in ASEAN Plaza. It is the place to go if you&rsquore interested in tasting delicacies and experiencing cultures of Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and other countries in Southeast Asia.

Xinsheng Bridge
The Elegant Arch Bridge

Xinsheng Bridge (Zhongshan Green Bridge) located on Zhongshan Road over Green River was built in 1908 by the Japanese government at the time to commemorate the opening of north-south railway lines in Taiwan. The bridge features artistic railing made of iron cast. It is an elegant historic architecture like Miyahara nearby.

The external appearance of Miyahara features mottled red bricks and historic stone pillars. The moment you push through the doors to Miyahara, you enter a realm of nostalgia. The signature cheese cakes and sundae produced by Dawn Cake brought even more fame to the already popular Miyahara. It is now among a list of most visited stores in Taichung.

Miyahara
Open time:10:00-22:00
TEL:+886-4-22271927
Address:No.20, Zhongshan Rd., Central Dist., Taichung City

Zhonghshan Road
The Once Prosperous Zhonghshan Road

Zhongshan Road was a residential area for Japanese people in the Japanese colonial period. It was a residential area for Japanese people. Nowadays, Zhongshan Road appears rather quiet with unassuming old stores. However, the stores are in fact rich in history dating back to 70 years ago when textile business thrived.

You can find all sorts of fabrics of various colors and patterns in Rongyu Fabric Store. The store was originally a yamamoto kimono store opened for business near Jiguang Street in the Japanese colonial period. In addition to regular fabric sales, it also offers tailor-made clothes. Many old customers consider Rongyu Fabric Store their top choice.

The Fourth Credit Union also in the neighborhood is now a property of Dawn Cake Company. The historic architecture used to be the office of bank clerks was renovated into a dessert shop in which the old bank&rsquos vault and cement pillars were preserved. Its signature dessert inspired by Taichung&rsquos local treat Feng Ren Ice is served in a unique setting where the past meets the present.

Rongyu Fabric Store
Open time:11:00-20:00
TEL:+886-4-22222477
Address:No.71, Zhongshan Rd., Central Dist., Taichung City

Fourth Credit Union
Open time:10:00-22:00
TEL:+886-4-22271966
Address:No.72, Zhongshan Rd., Central Dist., Taichung City


For centuries, jade has been a cultural touchstone of China. The impact of jade in China can trace back to as early as 5000 BCE. Early Chinese jade use was in the form of nephrite and was used in tools due to its hardness.

The first jadeite reached China in the late 1700s, coming from Burma. It sparked a passion in Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty. Emperor Qianlong built the most extensive known collection of jade artifacts during his reign. He did this by importing countless tons of raw jade from Burma to fuel his obsession with the stone.

The Emperor spent hours contemplating his jadeite treasures held in the Imperial Treasury and is said to have composed over 800 poems and songs about jade. Frequently, these were carved onto the jade objects themselves, keeping with the tradition of Chinese rulers.

‘Qianlong’s passion for jade transformed Chinese culture and launched a worldwide obsession for jade jewelry over the coming centuries.

Green is the best known color of jade.

What Does Jade Mean in Chinese Culture?

Chinese culture considers jade to be a lucky stone. To them, it is known as “The Stone of Heaven.” Jadeite is so precious that there is a saying that goes, “gold is valuable while jade is priceless.”

Jade symbolizes prosperity, success, and good luck. It is also a symbol of renewal, longevity, and even immortality.

The Chinese call jade 玉 (or yù). This is closely related to the word for Emperor, which is 王 (wáng). This is significant because the Chinese language uses half the character to convey the meaning of the word, while the other half helps dictate the pronunciation of the character. Since 玉 (jade) and 王 (Emperor) is so closely related, it shows how the Chinese value jade as the royal gemstone.

In fact, many Chinese proverbs use the word 玉(jade) to express ‘one’s beauty, grace, elegance, and importance. For example, if you call someone a 玉女 (or a “”jade woman””), you are saying that she is a beautiful maiden beyond compare.

Confucius wrote that jade is like virtue, with its brightness symbolizing Heaven. Xu Shen, an ancient Han scholar, wrote that jade symbolizes the five virtues of humanity: wisdom, justice, compassion, modesty, and courage.

The Chinese value jade for carving as well as religious and medicinal purposes. Traditionally, the Chinese would place a green jade stone in the mouths of the recently deceased. Culturally, green jade represents the heart.

Ancient Chinese healers believed mixing powdered jade with water produced an elixir that strengthens the body and prolongs life. If taken prior to death, they thought it would delay decomposition of the body.

Jade occurs in a variety of colors besides green.

What Color of Jade is Most Important?

Green is the traditional and most prized jade color. Jade also occurs in colors like black, white, purple, blue, yellow, red, and orange. All jade shares the same symbolism, but extra meaning can be derived by the color of a stone.

  • Green is for friendship, harmony, and renewal.
  • Red is for energy, life, and love.
  • Yellow is for optimism, success, and generosity.
  • Orange is for ambition, vitality, and libido.
  • Blue is for loyalty, freedom, and faith.
  • Purple is for insight, peace, and devotion.
  • Black is for elegance, security, and pride.
  • White is for purity, truth, and clarity.

Jade Meaning in Religious Ceremonies

Many ancient Chinese religious practices made use of jade. Below are some common representations of jade in these ceremonies.

  • Green jade represents Heaven.
  • Yellow jade represents Earth.
  • Black jade represents North.
  • Red jade represents South.
  • Green jade represents East.
  • White Jade represents West.

Color and imagery plays a big part in Chinese jade symbolism.

Motifs in Jade and Meaning

Artisans carve or construct a wide variety of jewelry and objects from jade. Below are some of the most common motifs and their associations.

  • Mountains: Longevity
  • Bat: Happiness
  • Butterfly: Long life and love
  • Dragon: Power, prosperity, and goodness
  • Peach: Immortality
  • Bi (a circular disk with a hole in the middle): Heaven
  • Two Men, the “”Jade Twins””: Friendship

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Tzushr Temple

The centre of religious life in Sansia, the Tzushr Temple honours Qingshui Tsu-Sze, a Song-dynasty general worshipped by the people of Anxi, Fujian, for his power to protect their tea industry. First erected in 1769, the present structure hails from a late-1940s restoration that is still not finished.

In 1947 Tzushr Temple was in near total decay, as were many temples around Taiwan after WWII. Professor Li Mei-shu, scion of a wealthy and politically active family, was given the task of supervising the rebuilding. Li, a trained art professor, was the perfect man for the job. In addition to his formal training, which included a stint in Japan, Li had been a careful observer of temple crafts as a child. Li supervised reconstruction with an obsessive attention to detail and introduced numerous innovations, including bronze doors and wall relief and the use of gold foil over woodcarvings.

After Professor Li's death in 1983, however, the temple committee attempted to go the cheap route with the rest of the reconstruction. The master craftspeople were let go one by one, and a construction company was hired to oversee work. The ensuing public lambasting halted work, and these days everything still seems on hold.

Some standout features to look for include the 126 hand-carved stone pillars (the original design called for 156) and the astonishingly beautiful plafond (decorative ceiling), which recedes into a vortex. On every sculpted surface you'll find traditional motifs and auspicious symbols (such as bats, storks, frogs, crabs, cranes, peonies, pines, vases and turtles) and illustrated stories from history and mythology. Buy a copy of the Shan-hsia Tsu-sze Temple Tour Guide booklet (NT$200) at the temple for more details, or call for a private tour (in Chinese only).


The Saoba Stone Pillars of Taiwan Present A Peinan Culture Conundrum - History

Art imitates life- and nature!

Named after Tony Ridder, publisher of The San Jose Mercury News, this plaza honors his philanthropic efforts within the city. Oversized bronze running shoes symbolize the long run that he made to support and improve San José, and they further serve to give children something to aspire to, filling his shoes with their own strength, community focus, and dedication.

The Five Skaters art piece at Arena Green honors five Olympic champion ice skaters from the Bay Area: Peggy Fleming, Debi Thomas, Brian Boitano, Kristi Yamaguchi, and Rudy Galindo. The piece includes five mosaic-tiled pillars, a symbolic ice rink featuring quotations from each of the skaters and time capsules displaying memorabilia from their careers, medal platforms, and a plaque listing each skater’s national and international awards.

The Muwekma Ohlone people, Native Americans who once lived along the Guadalupe River, are honored with animal sculptures important to their tradition, on the Park Avenue Bridge. These include the Coyote, the Hummingbird, and the Eagle. The four flags that fly from atop the bridge represent the past and present governments of the area: Spain, Mexico, California and the United States. The Coyotes were created by artist Peter Schiffrin the Eagle and Hummingbirds by Tom Andrews. The Coyote, Hummingbird and Eagle represent the Muwekma Ohlone creation story. Coyote was the father of the human race who was responsible for creating people and teaching them how to live properly. Hummingbird was wise and clever. Eagle was a leader.

Remembering Agriculture, by artist Tony May, recalls the rich agricultural history that was the driving force behind San Jose’s economy for more than 150 years. The project recreates the distinctive shapes of those once-familiar clusters of farm buildings that are seen less and less frequently in the Santa Clara Valley. The structures include a water tank tower, a windmill, a barn and a small shed, which function as arbors for a carefully chosen selection of ivies and other perennial climbing plants.

The creation of artist Alan Counihan, The Weavers’ Gifts commemorates and celebrates the Costanoan-Ohlone Peoples, especially the Tamien Ohlone Indians who inhabited the land along the Guadalupe River where the sculpture is located. The Weavers’ Gifts is a site-specific artwork composed of four elements: the names of the 54 Ohlone tribal groups who inhabited California in the late eighteenth century, inscribed on pre-existing granite seat walls a four-foot high carved-granite basket representing a functional and creative part of the Ohlone culture a five-foot high carved granite mortar, broken to represent broken tradition and a stone representation of an unfinished coiled basket inlaid into the paving with inscribed text that speaks to the history and future of the Ohlone people.

The north entrance into Confluence East showcases San Jose as a multi-cultural society. The braided paths list the names of the many ethnic groups that comprise the city’s current demographics and meet at a reflective pool. Cobbles in the Pool of Genes feature the names of children that were submitted by community members to reflect San Jose’s diversity.

An amazing civic leader who dedicated a big part of her life to community, Shirley had a special place in her heart for Downtown San Jose Arts, Guadalupe River Park & Gardens and the Rotary Club of San Jose. These passions fused when she launched the Rotary Sculpture Walk during her term as Rotary President.


As a tribute to Shirley and her passion for the Park and City, the Rotary Club of San Jose in collaboration with the Guadalupe River Park Conservancy created and installed the 20th piece in the Rotary Sculpture Walk: Shirley Lewis sitting peacefully and watching over the kids at play, renamed the sculpture walk Shirley Lewis Rotary Sculpture Walk, and installed a monument to reflect the name.

About the Shirley Lewis Rotary Sculpture Walk
During her term as President of the Rotary Club of San Jose, Shirley had a vision of drawing families with children to and through the GRP for a special experience through art. She knew the importance of public art to a strong downtown, and wanted to create a destination for people to visit. Shirley’s vision became a reality. The first group of statues – cast aluminum figures created by San Jose State University Foundry artists – depicting children playing hide-and-seek and pointing skyward at airport-bound airplanes while launching a paper plane of their own have been a real wonder and discovery for children. The Children at Play sculptures provide the reminder Shirley wanted for people to appreciate their surroundings and remember the excitement of childhood. They also pay tribute to the business life and activity in the Bay Area, as well as emphasize the city’s commitment to community and family. The sculpture walk was a collaboration between the Rotary Club of San Jose, GRPC and San Jose State University Foundry. The very artists at the Foundry that Shirley and her team worked with to develop the first sculptures in 2011-2012 sculpted Shirley herself, as well. Shirley constructed the whole concept of this wonderful sculpture walk, and the importance of the link with the SJSU Foundry.

Artists: Ryan Carrington and Steve Davis

The Veterans Memorial, located on Park Avenue at the Guadalupe River, is an enduring tribute to the men and women who have served our country in peacetime and in time of war. It was dedicated on November 11, 1997. The Veterans Memorial consists of 76 flags on 30 ft. steel poles, representative of military personnel in formation. They also reflect the tiers of white headstones in a military cemetery. The white flags represent the anonymity of each who serves — white is a sign of peace. The snapping fabric in the winds, contrasted with the serene canopy of white banners, reflects the military strength which preserves our peace. The etched glass panels tell, through excerpts from letters home, the experiences of local veterans during the various wars. The figures in the panels cast shadows on the pavement in front of, or behind the panels, depending on the time of day.

The AIDS Memorial Grove was conceived as a special place for friends and families wanting to honor those who have HIV or have died from AIDS. The Chinese pistache trees were selected for the grove because they are deciduous and renew themselves every year, and because they thrive when planted in groups, where their branches can intertwine.

Local Color artist Laurel Picklum painted this stunning educational mural on the bridge support wall facing the west bank of the Guadalupe River Trail under Coleman Ave. The mural highlights the diverse array of birds and aquatic life that comprise the Guadalupe River ecosystem and integrates pollution prevention themes.

Sister City Seating Areas commemorate San José’s special relationship with particular cities throughout the world and give residents a tiny glimpse into those cultures. Several Sister City Gardens are in place in the park. Each is similar in scale, proportion and purpose, using plant and paving materials native to each country to express some of the country’s identity and culture. Partially enclosed, the gardens are designed to give visitors a retreat from the pressures of daily life and a window onto the river and its natural environment.

Veracruz and Guadalajara, Mexico
On the west bank overlooking the river and the Children’s Discovery Museum, this homage to Veracruz, Mexico, features rust-colored Adoquin paving stone and cobblestone insets, giving the space the craftsman quality typical of Mexican gardens. The Veracruz sister-city relationship was established in 1975, and with the establishment of a sister-city relationship with Guadalajara in 2014, the two cities share the site.

San Jose, Costa Rica
This garden sits in the shadow of a heritage Casuarina tree and features a specimen multi-trunked Jacaranda tree and Adoquin stone from Mexico. Tiles donated by the people of San José, Costa Rica, are used on the extended seat wall. The San José, Costa Rica, relationship was established in 1961.

Okayama, Japan
Okayama’s was the first of San José’s sister-city partnerships to be established, in 1957. This reflective garden sits on the east bank of the river, between the River Park Towers and the Center for Performing Arts. Academy black granite stone interspersed with moss and fine-leafed grasses reflect the peacefulness of a Japanese garden, with a gray Sierra granite seat furthering the simple elegance. A bronze plaque tells the story of Momotaro, the Peach Boy, and a statue of Momotaro donated by the city of Okayama stands watch over the garden. The landscape includes a Japanese maple, heavenly bamboo, and mondo grass.

Dublin, Ireland
Looking south from the steep banks of the Guadalupe River across Discovery Meadow, this garden features a 60-foot tall illuminated flag pole flying the Dublin flag. A poet’s rock, engraved by Irish poet Arthur O’Shaughnessy, has an understory of Irish clover that appears around St. Patrick’s Day. The ground plane is covered with masonry-style cream flueri limestone paving, and a donated historic lamp post sits in the seat wall, not far from a specimen Washington thorn tree. The Dublin relationship was established in 1986.

Tainan, Taiwan
The plantings and colors in this garden reflect Taiwan’s tropical climate. Tree of heaven and bamboo greet the visitor at the entrance, with red granite paving and varieties of tropical grasses setting the mood. This site commemorating the sister-city relationship with Tainan, Taiwan, established in 1977, also features a marble table and benches, donated by the city of Tainan.

Puné, India
From its early days as an agricultural settlement, to its growth under the Maratha (MARAH-THAH) Empire during the 1500’s, Pune, India, has had a long and colorful history. San Jose and Pune established a sister city relationship in 1992 and have carried on a cultural partnership since. Although Pune is known for its rich agriculture and universities, the city has also become one of the largest growing information and technology regions in India. The Pune sister city seating area features a statue that was donated by the city on July 3, 1999. Shivaji founded Pune in 1640 and was a modern warrior who fought foreign invaders and established a Maratha kingdom that lasted for 200 years, with the capital being Pune. To commemorate the statue’s installation, Pune’s Mayor traveled to the park to formally dedicate the statue as a gift to the people of San Jose.

Ekaterinberg, Russia
The site for this garden is located north of Coleman Avenue, but has not been developed yet.


A brief history of the cultures of Asia

Historians divide history into large and small units in order to make characteristics and changes clear to themselves and to students. It’s important to remember that any historical period is a construction and a simplification. In Asia, because of its huge land mass and multiple diverse cultures, there are several overlapping timelines. Also, for the same reason, different regions have different histories, but they all intersect — in myriad ways — at different points in history. Below are some important basics to get you started.

Orthographic projection of Asia (image adapted from: Koyos + Ssolbergj CC BY-SA 4.0)

Geographical divisions

Here are the major subdivisions currently used in textbooks or in curatorial departments in art museums. Keep in mind that these categories are complicated by previous divisions, some of which reflect a violent history, such as campaigns of colonization by Western or Asian countries.

Central and North Asia, comprising territories bordered by the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, and Afghanistan in the south (which is at times considered part of the Central Asian region).

Unfamiliar with the term “North Asia”? There is a historical explanation. North Asia is better known as Eurasia, coinciding largely with Siberia, which became a part of Russia in the 17th century. “North Asia” is still an under-explored area within studies of Asia because historically it has been integral to studies of Russia, a transcontinental country whose leaders nevertheless endeavored to shape it as a European power.

West Asia, comprising Iraq (in ancient times, Mesopotamia), Iran (whose territory previously encompassed Persia), Syria and the Eastern Mediterranean (today’s Cyprus, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Gaza Strip, and West Bank), the Arabian Peninsula (comprising Yemen, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates), and Anatolia and the Caucasus (today’s Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia).

East Asia, spanning Mongolia, mainland China, Macau, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, and North and South Korea.

Central and West Asia are better known as the “Near East” and the “Middle East”. By the same logic, East Asia has been referred to as the “Far East.” All these terms are Western-centric, reflecting European geopolitics. They are problematic terms because they isolate and lionize one vantage point. For the peoples of the “Far East,” for example, their territories and cultures are not “Eastern” nor “far.” Quite to the contrary, they represent the “home base” from which world geography is envisioned differently, complete with its own cultural and sociopolitical biases.

South and Southeast Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically north of Australia, south of China and Japan, and west of Papua New Guinea. These countries are Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Philippines, East Timor, Laos, Singapore, Vietnam, Brunei, Burma, and Thailand. South Asia, also known as the Indian subcontinent, comprises the sub-Himalayan countries of Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, India, Bhutan, and the Maldives.

South Asia was often conflated with the vague and politically motivated category of “India,” from the perspective of Western powers (Portuguese, French, Dutch, and British) who dominated and colonized parts of the region at different points in time, as outlined later in this essay.

Click here for a political map of Asia.

Cultural divisions

A radically different way of looking at Asia’s cultural histories is to trace major transcultural phenomena — from religious to commercial — that spanned multiple periods and geographical regions. Such phenomena include:

  • Buddhism , which developed in India in reaction to the established religion, Hinduism, and subsequently spread to other countries in South, Southeast, and East Asia. From the 6 th century B.C.E. to the present day, Buddhism shaped various aspects central to these Asian cultures, from principles of government to visual and material culture.
  • See the Smarthistory resource on Hinduism + Buddhism.
  • Islam , founded by Muhammad in the early 7 th century C.E. at Mecca (in modern-day Saudi Arabia), spread over the centuries in Central and Western Asia all the way to the Pacific nation of Indonesia, and reached non-Asian territories in North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula. One can trace the history of the Islamic world and its deep imprint on many Asian cultures and on pan-regional cultural phenomena within Asia and beyond.
  • See the Smarthistory resource, Introduction to Islam

  • The Silk Road
    , named as such only in the 19 th century, is a network of trade routes harkening back to the 2 nd century B.C.E., which connected, over the centuries, territories from Eastern China to Southern Europe and North Africa. Although occasioned by trade, especially in silk, these pan-Asian routes had a significant influence on local cultures and enabled cross-cultural encounters.

As you read the timeline below…

  • keep these divisions in mind and notice changes and reconfigurations
  • think about parallel trajectories (similarly momentous developments occurring independently in different parts of the world) and points of convergence (cross-cultural encounters and developments)
  • and remember that the “gray areas” of the past are typically the most complicated, but they also tend to provide some of the richest and most rewarding histories.

Note to teachers and students:
To a large extent, this periodization corresponds to that of AP World History.

Prehistoric (before c. 2500 B.C.E.)

The term “prehistoric” refers to the time before written history. In Asia as elsewhere, this is the period when the most fundamental aspects of human civilization as we know it are formed and developed. Communities transition from hunting and gathering to taming animals and cultivating land, especially as irrigation is mastered. Prehistoric men and women create complex tools, pottery, and clothing, build homes and monuments, and develop language and rituals expressed through diverse forms of art and eventually through writing.

In Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq), as early as 8000 B.C.E., sedentary agricultural communities are established. By 2500 B.C.E., monumental architecture testifies to the development of hierarchies of social and political power. Writing — newly invented — provides invaluable information about city-states, rulers, and their reigns. Invented by the Sumerians, the cuneiform system is the earliest writing we know. It is no coincidence that cuneiform inscriptions were impressed onto tablets made of clay -—one of the earliest and most ubiquitous mediums for cultural transmission and artistic expression.

In China, writing is first seen as inscriptions on oracle bones, a hallmark of the Shang dynasty (1700-1027 B.C.E.). Made of the shoulder blades of oxen or the underbellies of turtles, oracle bones — as their designation indicates — were used for divination (foretelling the future). Up to that point, China had already developed a rich culture ranging from pottery and clay figurines to carved jade and bronze ritual vessels — the latter of which would have a lasting influence on Chinese art and design. Also, a central motif of Chinese art — the paired dragon and tiger, symbolizing water and wind in Chinese cosmology — first appears during this period. The earliest known example is a river-shell mosaic representation from c. 5300 B.C.E., excavated in a royal grave at Xishuipo, Henan province.

Representations of dragon and tiger, mosaic of river clam shells, c. 5300 B.C.E., royal grave no. 45, Xishuipo, Henan province (diagram: Feng Shi, “Henan Puyang Xishuipo 45 Hao Mu de Tianwenxue Yanjiu,” Wenwu, vol. 3, pp. 52-69).

Ancient – Conquests, New Empires, and New Religions (c. 2500 B.C.E. to 650 C.E.)

The ancient world is often thought of as a cradle of today’s civilizations. It is home to important “firsts” and to changes that shaped cultural practices and artistic expressions. In Asia as elsewhere, it is a period of military conquests that contributed to the formation of the first great empires, which quickly became cultural hubs — sites of effervescent intellectual, spiritual and artistic life. The empires formed in this period extend across and beyond the geographical divisions outlined above.

CENTRAL & WEST ASIA

The first of these empires is that of Cyrus the Great, who founded the multi-state Persian empire in the 6 th century B.C.E. and maintained control over a vast territory, that grew to encompass the (European) Balkans in the west and the Indus valley in the east. But empires come and go, and cultures transform in the process. Much of Cyrus’s empire was conquered centuries later by Alexander the Great, who is known to have nurtured great admiration for Cyrus. Alexander’s presence in West and Central Asia in the 3 rd century B.C.E. had a lasting impact on visual representation in those regions and beyond. Known as Hellenism, this phenomenon brought characteristics of Greek art — especially its synthesis of naturalism and idealism — to local centers of cultural production, where they were emulated and transformed.

In the ancient region of Ghandara (today’s Northwest Pakistan), this compelling fusion was at work, centuries later, in devotional images of Buddhas and bodhisattvas, such as the one below. Notice the subtly plump body, the expressiveness of the facial features, and the harmonious geometry of the clothing drapery. But human representations of the Buddha were not always the norm. In fact, in the earliest Indian images of the then-new religion, Buddha’s presence was indicated by means of footprints or an empty space under a parasol. The Gandhara tradition was the first to develop human images of the Buddha. As Buddhism received increasingly significant patronage in South Asia, other styles emerged, marking a transition from narrative to devotional images. Known as a “Golden Age,” the Gupta empire at its zenith (319 to 543 C.E.) saw the creation of “ideal” images of the Buddha, which spread along the Silk Road to China and beyond.

Standing Bodhisattva Maitreya (Buddha of the Future), c. 3rd century, Pakistan (ancient region of Gandhara), schist, H. 31 3/4 in. (80.7 cm) (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, image: public domain).

Middle Ages – Realms and Societies (c. 650 C.E. to 1500 C.E.)

The concept of the “Middle Ages” has been developed in relation to Western cultures to mark a period between antiquity and the Renaissance that presents a degree of consistency not encountered in Asia during the same period. In the “Middle Ages” as during other timeframes, different Asian regions had considerably different histories. That said, across Asia, this was a time of remarkable developments in communication and science. For example, metal movable type had been invented in China by the 12 th century (about 300 years before Gutenberg’s movable type press in Europe). Advances in technology and science — such as the invention and improvement of gunpowder — were put in the service of warfare, which led to the consolidation of the political power of empires. One of the most prominent was the Mongol Empire (1206–1405), founded by Genghis Khan. At its height, the Mongol empire controlled much of Eurasia and the Silk Road and saw the transcontinental dissemination of movable type printing and the flourishing of local cultures, all largely due to Mongol patronage.

CENTRAL & WEST ASIA

Another major catalyst of cultural and artistic activity was the formation of the Islamic empire in Central and West Asia, starting around 634 C.E. It is during this period that the Islamic political structure known as the caliphate emerges. Typical of new leaders seeking to legitimize political power, the 7 th – and 8 th -century caliphs used art and architecture to mark their presence and shape the cultural identity of their expanding territories.

A striking example is the Great Mosque (Friday Mosque) of Damascus in today’s Syria — one of the oldest in the world and larger than any other mosque built before it. Constructed under the patronage of the Umayyad caliph al-Walid I (who ruled from 705–715), the mosque occupied a site that once housed a temple dedicated to a Syrian god, then a Roman temple dedicated to Jupiter, and later a church dedicated to John the Baptist. As the site itself had been considered holy during so many earlier political and cultural regimes, the Great Mosque of Damascus brought significant prestige to the caliphate. The Great Mosque has three minarets, all from different historical periods, and a prayer hall modeled on early Christian basilicas. Walls are adorned with opulent mosaics attributed to Byzantine craftsmen and possibly illustrating passages from the Qur’an.

Mosaic, Great Mosque of Damascus (photo adapted from: american rugbier, CC BY-SA 2.0)

It is in this period that Islam is introduced to (parts of) China. In fact, this is a time of significant encounters and exchanges. For example, in 607, the first Japanese envoy is received by the Chinese imperial court. This diplomatic relationship opened a channel of cultural dissemination that had a lasting influence on Japanese political thought, literature, and the arts. Shortly thereafter, the Tang dynasty is established in China, leading to a cultural “golden age.” Tang-dynasty poetry is among the most extraordinary literary achievements in our world heritage, and will become an extremely rich source of subject matter for Chinese (and Japanese) painters throughout the centuries. Ultimately weakened by rebellions, the Tang dynasty gave way to a succession of dynasties that bring into focus the ethnic and cultural diversity of the vast territory controlled by China.

For example, between the Song and Ming dynasties, the Yuan dynasty was established by the Mongol Kublai Khan and maintained power for almost a century before it fell, a result of tension between its roots in the culture of the Mongol empire and its efforts to become a legitimate part of Chinese culture. Although short-lived in comparison with the relatively peaceful and prosperous Ming dynasty that would replace it, the Yuan dynasty saw the emergence of now-classical figures in Chinese visual arts, notably the so-called “four masters of the Yuan dynasty” (Huang Gongwang, Ni Zan, Wang Meng, and Wu Zhen) — experimental ink painters cultivating ideals of individual expression. Their distinctive styles — compare the restrained brushwork of Ni Zan versus the elaborate, tapestry-like compositions of Wang Meng — inspired and challenged generations of Chinese painters.

Left: Ni Zan, Six Gentlemen 六君子图, 14th century, ink on paper (Shanghai Museum) right: Wang Meng, Ge Zhichuan Moving to the Mountains 葛稚川移居圖, 14th century, ink on paper (Palace Museum, Beijing).

South of China, another remarkable society flourished, that of the Khmers. On the territory of today’s Cambodia, the Khmers founded the Hindu-Buddhist Angkor empire, which grew to vassalize much of mainland Southeast Asia as well as parts of Southern China. The cultural “golden age” of the Khmers’ empire, datable to the 12th century, led to the construction of one of the world’s largest religious monuments, the Angkor Wat, occupying over 400 acres in the Khmer capital of Angkor. Originally dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu, it gradually became a Buddhist temple as Buddhism was embraced by Khmer rulers, especially king Jayavarman VII—one of the most powerful leaders of the Angkor empire. With its many temples blending Hindu and Buddhist iconography, Angkor reflected the creative tension of a multicultural empire in its spectacular architecture.

Aerial view, Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia, 1116-1150 (photo: Peter Garnhum, CC BY-NC 2.0)

Early Modern – Self-Fashioning and Transcultural Encounters (c. 1500 – c. 1850)

As old empires consolidated their power and new rulers and dynasties emerged, this period saw some of the most remarkable expressions of self-fashioning . Coined by art historian Stephen Greenblatt with respect to the Western Renaissance (in particular, 16 th -century England), “self-fashioning” is an apt term to describe cultural processes in Asia around the same period. Self-fashioning was a response to the power struggles of a world increasingly rich in cross-cultural encounters, ranging from military tensions and diplomatic missions to commercial exchanges along the Silk Road to cultural and scientific collaborations.

1501 marked the beginning of the Safavid rule in Persia — whose fascinating history presents a generative blend of transculturalism and self-fashioning. Safavids continued to rule for over two centuries at its height, their empire comprised today’s Iran, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Armenia, eastern Georgia, Iraq, Kuwait, and Afghanistan, as well as parts of Pakistan, Syria, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Over this vast territory, many cultures intersected and the Safavids utilized architecture and the arts as a means to strengthen their control. The capital of Isfahan concentrated the empire’s cultural power by providing resplendent examples of Safavid architecture and visual and material culture, thereby constituting a “microcosm” of the Safavid world.

A telling example of how the Safavids harnessed their multicultural reality is a curious and significant gift, presented in 1611 by the Safavid Shah Abbas in the memory of his spiritual ancestor, the Sufi Sheik Shaykh Safi al-Din, to be housed in his shrine at Ardabil. The gift consisted of over one thousand Chinese Ming-dynasty blue-and-white porcelain objects and is—to this day—one of the two most important collections of such ceramics outside China itself.

Why would a Safavid ruler donate and display Chinese artifacts in a gesture to honor the Safavids’ spiritual founder? It has been argued that this is a prime example of “porcelain diplomacy.” In other words, the Safavid shah sent a public message that his cosmopolitanism was a sign of his power on the world stage, signaled by his ownership of so many fine examples of coveted Chinese porcelain, now re-purposed as an offering to an important Safavid shrine. The gift was such an important part of the Ardabil architectural complex that a “Chinese [porcelain] house” (Chini Khaneh) was built to feature the ceramics in hundreds of specially-designed shelves carved into the walls.

Built-in shelves for Chinese porcelain, Chini Khaneh, Ardabil, Iran (photo: © UNESCO/Iran Images/Mohammad Tajik, Sheikh Safi al-din Khanegah Shrine Ensemble, in the City of Ardabil, Iran)

In China, the Ming dynasty — under whose rule the production and global dissemination of blue-and-white porcelain flourished — gave way, in 1636, to the Qing dynasty. Led by Manchu emperors and ruling over a vast and culturally diverse territory, the Qing dynasty placed strategic emphasis on multiculturalism in a way that calls to mind similar efforts by the Safavids. The Qing court became an important patron of the arts, largely characterized by grandeur, opulence, and eccentricity of design.

In Japan, the early 17 th century marked a turning point as the Tokugawa family took control of the country and began their long and relatively peaceful and prosperous shogunate . The Tokugawa ruled from Edo (present-day Tokyo), which gives the name for this period and where a vibrant urban culture developed. It was, to some extent, a foil to Kyoto, where the emperor continued to live, secluded in his palace.

Mostly shielded from the outside world (in contrast to Safavid Persia and Qing-dynasty China), the poets and painters of Edo-period Japan drew inspiration not only from nature and from the classics, but also from everyday life, developing the first so-called genre paintings (portrayals of common people engaged in routine activities). Within this category, a spectacular subtype was the rakuchū rakugai zu (“scenes in and around the capital”), depicting Kyoto and its suburbs in ways that mixed anecdotal detail from street life with vistas of the capital’s famous locations and seasonal festivals.

“Scenes in and around the capital” (rakuchū rakugai zu 洛中洛外図), Edo period, 17th century, six-panel folding screens, ink, color, gold, and gold leaf on paper, 66 15/16 in. × 12 ft. 3/16 in. (170 × 366.2 cm) each (Mary Griggs Burke Collection, Gift of the Mary and Jackson Burke Foundation, 2015, Metropolitan Museum of Art, image: public domain).

Modern (after c. 1850)

The 19th century brought major changes to Asia’s many worlds. By the mid-20th century, societies had undergone watershed transformations. In Japan, following the 1853 “black ship” expedition of American commodore Perry who demanded Japan’s “opening” to the world and the 1868 revolt that put an end to the Tokugawa shogunate and restored imperial power, the arts reflected an unprecedented broadening of styles and foreign influences, as well as imperial ambitions and rising nationalism that culminated during WWII. In China, the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1912 marked the end of the country’s imperial history that had stretched for over two thousand years. The rise of the Communist Party, China’s participation in the first World War, and the Japanese aggressions in Manchuria all led to the country’s involvement in WWII and the subsequent establishment of the People’s Republic led by Mao Zedong. In response to centuries of autocratic and colonial rule, communism became a rallying point for revolutionaries in countries across Asia, each drawing on Karl Marx’s manifesto, as well as the 1918 October Revolution in Russia that had been led by Vladimir Lenin.

CENTRAL & NORTH ASIA

Soviet control altered local cultural and artistic expression to an even greater degree than the pre-revolution tsarist rule of the so-called Turkestan (comprising present-day Afghanistan, China’s Xinjiang province, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, eastern Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan). Exploited for its natural resources, then subject to Soviet collectivization and mechanization, these regions struggled to maintain their multiple local identities, especially as mosques were closed, Arabic script was gradually replaced by the Latin and the Cyrillic scripts, and traditional crafts workshops were transformed into factories.

Posters and advertisements from Soviet-controlled Asia show the strong influence of modernist design (function-oriented form, bold compositions on a grid system, and visually striking typefaces) and illustrate how art was used aggressively as a tool for propaganda. Such images serve as a reminder of the power of images, which has been, and still can be, used to seduce, manipulate, and even erase and rewrite history.

Unknown artist, “Participation of women in work (…)”, Turkic text (Arabic script), book factory of the Central Publishing House of USSR Nations , 920s, print run: 2000 copies, 108.4×70 cm. (image: “Уголок Ленина,” Russian Perspectives on Islam)

Colonization is another phenomenon that has had enormous consequences on the cultures and societies of Asia in the modern period. During the long 19th century, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam were colonized by France the so-called Indian subcontinent was under British rule and today’s Indonesia became a Dutch colony known as the Dutch East Indies. Not unlike the Soviet situation in central and North Asia, the European powers in colonial South and Southeast Asia exploited resources and dictated what was produced, how it got produced, and for what purposes. In the process, colonization problematized and eroded local craftsmanship and artistic traditions. However, colonial powers also invested in learning and recording local histories, which in turn strengthened the identity and self-image of colonized societies — a phenomenon reflected in the consciously non-Western art of some 20th century artists.

For example, in India, the swadeshi movement encouraged artists to envision a non-Western, solely Indian art. However, in the case of the Bengal School of painting that came out of this context, European and modern developments still found their way in the underpinning concepts of the new school. The swadeshi -inspired Bengal School shared many characteristics with the contemporaneous Nihonga (literally, “Japanese painting,”) in Japan. Like the Bengal School, Nihonga was defined in opposition to Western painting but bore the influence of Western ideas and techniques. Some proponents and practitioners of both schools knew and inspired one another.

Abanindranath Tagore (1871-1951), founder of the Bengal School of painting, The Journey’s End, c. 1913, tempera on paper (National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, accession no. 1832, photo: public domain).

Contemporary Asian Cultures in a Global Context

Ai Weiwei, Han Jar Overpainted with Coca-Cola Logo, 1995, earthenware, paint, 25.1 × 27.9 × 27. 9 cm, © Ai Weiwei (image: Steven Zucker, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

In an interconnected art world whose online presence and international fairs and biennials make regional identities more elusive than ever before, contemporary Asian art presents an extremely diverse range of individual styles and expressions. That said, internationally acclaimed artists like Subodh Gupta (Indian, b. 1964) and Takashi Murakami (Japanese, b. 1962) continue to explore the creative tension between tradition and innovation and between the global and the local.

Working within the same paradigm, artists like Ai Weiwei (Chinese, b. 1957) combine references to traditional cultural elements with an activist agenda (which, for Ai Weiwei, has resulted on occasion in his arrest in China). Ai Weiwei also exemplifies the practice, embraced by many contemporary artists across Asia, of working in a variety of mediums, ranging from site-specific installations to film and curatorial projects.


FEATURES | COLUMNS | Buddhist Art

The Great Stupa at Sanchi, India. 3rd century BCE–1st century CE. Photo by Nagarjun. From wikimedia.org

One of the most fascinating examples of Buddhist architecture is the stupa, a structure that evolved from a simple burial mound into the large-scale domed structures of the Himalayas and Southeast Asia and the elegant multi-tiered pagodas of East Asia. Both stupas and pagodas are essentially containers for relics of the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni, or other Buddhist teachers or saints, but over the centuries, as the Buddha&rsquos followers spread his teachings throughout Asia, they constructed such monuments in various materials, sizes, and styles, to contain texts and other sacred items as well as relics. These sacred structures have played a variety of roles&mdashspiritual, political, and artistic: as a central focus for Buddhist devotion, as a tool for Buddhist rulers to unite their subjects, and as an architectural expression of belief in the Buddhist teachings.

The earliest stupas (a Sanskrit word meaning &ldquoa heap&rdquo) were ancient Indian burial mounds that marked the graves of religious or political leaders and reminded the living of their power. After Shakyamuni&rsquos death, these mounds were incorporated into Buddhist practice as containers of his relics and those of later Buddhist teachers. The relics were placed in the center of the mound and a pole was passed through the middle of the structure linking the relics with the stupa&rsquos top, which created an axis mundi symbolically connecting the mundane and the supramundane. In many stupas, the top of the pillar rises up from the dome and is topped by three circular disks known as chattra (Sanskrit for &ldquoumbrella&rdquo or &ldquoparasol&rdquo), which represent the Three Jewels (Skt: triratna): the Buddha, Dharma (teachings), and sangha (monastic order). The dome is frequently constructed on a platform, often square, while around the base is a walkway, which may be surrounded by gates. Typically, followers pass through the eastern gate and circumambulate the dome in a clockwise direction, in an act of walking meditation.

One of the most ancient and important stupas is the Great Stupa at Sanchi. Located in north-central India, this stupa is believed to contain relics of the historical Buddha and was originally constructed by the Mauryan emperor Ashoka, who ruled a large part of India in the 3rd century BCE. After a particularly bloody battle, he renounced violence, converted to Buddhism, and attempted to unite his empire under the Buddhist Law. He had stone pillars inscribed with edicts proclaiming the virtues of Buddhism erected throughout his empire as a means of spreading the faith among his subjects. He also opened up eight Buddhist stupas containing relics believed to be from the Buddha and distributed them among the 84,000 stupas that he ordered to be constructed around India, thus providing many focal points of devotion for an expanding population of Buddhist followers. The Great Stupa at Sanchi is one of the few surviving monuments from this endeavor, and is still venerated as a sacred site today. In the following centuries, the stupa was renovated and enlarged, and in the 1st century CE, four stone gates (Skt. torana) were erected around the structure and embellished with ornate Buddhist imagery. On the south gate is an image of devotees praying in front of a stupa&mdashan early artistic testimony to the spiritual power attributed to the structure itself.

Boudhanath Stupa, Kathmandu, Nepal. Circa 7th century. Image by biranbag/flickr. From sacred-destinations.com

Similar domed structures were erected later at many other important Buddhist sites in Asia and were influenced by local architectural styles and traditions. In the Himalayan region, one of the most spectacular examples is the Boudhanath Stupa in Kathmandu, Nepal. Built in the middle of the first millennium CE, it is said to enshrine the remains of the Buddha Kashyapa, who preceded Shakyamuni, the Buddha of our age. This massive stupa, which was damaged during the 2015 Nepal earthquakes, is renowned for its whitewashed dome, the gilded structure that rises up from the dome, and the large pairs of eyes that gaze outwards in the four cardinal directions, offering protection.

In Southeast Asia, stupas (here, as in East Asia, often referred to as pagodas) have largely retained their original spherical form, though in Thailand and Myanmar the round section of many of these structures has become more slender and is often covered in gold. The colossal Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon is the most sacred stupa in Myanmar and is said to house the relics of the four previous Buddhas of our age. The structure features a bulbous, bell-like form built on a stone base and is entirely covered in gold plate and crowned with diamonds and rubies it is a prime example of the influence of regional artistic styles on the architecture of these sacred structures.


Shwedagon Pagoda, Myanmar. Originally constructed circa 6th
century, repaired most recently late 20th century. From wikipedia.org

In East Asia, the stupa underwent a fascinating transformation, evolving into the structure we know as the typical pagoda. Largely unrecognizable as stupas, these wood, brick, or stone monuments similarly house relics and have a pole connecting them to the top. While the &ldquoumbrella&rdquo disks are still present at the very top of the pagoda, in most cases the round section of the original stupa form has disappeared. Around the middle of the first millennium CE, under the influence of Chinese tower and pavilion architecture, the stupa stretched upward and took the form of a multi-storied tower, the levels (typically 3, 5 or 7) echoing the series of small circular &ldquoumbrella&rdquo disks that crown the traditional form.


Pagoda at Horyu-ji, Japan. 7th century. From wikimedia.org

The evolved form is exemplified by the five-storied pagoda at the temple Horyu-ji near Nara in Japan. One of the world&rsquos oldest surviving wooden structures, this 7th century tower is believed to contain a fragment of a bone of the historical Buddha, and was the principal building in the original temple complex. Enshrining Buddhist relics, this and other pagodas throughout East Asia were for centuries the main focus of devotion, with practitioners circumambulating the buildings and the relics inside. Later, the halls containing Buddhist statues became the primary focus for practice, and within most temple complexes, the pagodas became secondary buildings. Nonetheless, they are often the most eye-catching structures on the temple grounds. Today, the elegant pagodas of Horyu-ji and the later Kiyomizu temple in Kyoto, with their layered wood roofs ascending in stages towards the sky, evoke a connection with the spiritual and a reverence for the ancient teachers whose relics are housed within.

Three-storied pagoda at Kiyomizu temple, Kyoto, Japan. Image courtesy of the author

Fantastic Book

The Imperial Alchemist by A. H. Wang is a thriller full of Chinese history, legend and mysticism. Archeologist Georgia Lee uncovers a tomb that has been hidden for more than 2,000 years in China. This major find should have benefactors lining up to invest in it&aposs excavation and examination. Instead she is told to return to Australia because most of the department funding has been cut.

Millionaire Mark Lambert contacts Georgia with an offer to investigate an old chinese legend of Hsu Fantastic Book

The Imperial Alchemist by A. H. Wang is a thriller full of Chinese history, legend and mysticism. Archeologist Georgia Lee uncovers a tomb that has been hidden for more than 2,000 years in China. This major find should have benefactors lining up to invest in it's excavation and examination. Instead she is told to return to Australia because most of the department funding has been cut.

Millionaire Mark Lambert contacts Georgia with an offer to investigate an old chinese legend of Hsu Fu a healer who was sent on an exploration to find what amounts to the fountain of youth for Emperor Qui around 200 B.C. New information acquired by Lambert indicates that there may be a lot of truth to the legend and Hsu Fu did find "the elixer of life."

Promised future funding to excavate the tomb she just discovered Georgia agrees to look at and follow the evidence that might lead to answers about Hsu Fu. Georgia doesn't believe there can possibly any truth to this ancient legend but then pieces start falling into place. Following the leads she goes on an exhaustive search which leads her to her grandmother's home in Taiwan. From there things really get exciting and dangerous as clues keep falling into Georgia's hands.

I loved this book. It's a wild romp around Asia and incorporates Chinese history and legend into the story. Georgia is a really likable well defined character. There are a few storylines happening throughout the novel and all weave together effortlessly. The full cast of characters are well fleshed out and either extremely likable or total villains.

The book is a very easy read and immediately hooks the reader with an interesting and exciting storyline that keeps getting better as the book moves along. I can't wait for Georgia's next adventure and hope to see a series that revolves around her. The added bonus of Chinese history and legend add so much to the story and it gives the book a true feeling of the orient.

I highly recommend this book. I enjoyed every second of it. I honestly didn't want to put it down and then I didn't want it to end. The intertwining storylines meshed so well and the history was so interesting I can't wait for the next in the series. . more

I received this book as an ARC in return for an honest review.

The Imperial Alchemist is a brilliant mystery adventure book with a main story line rooted in Asian history, archaeology and geography. I can&apost say that there are too many similar books that have been written in this context, as most of these adventure type novels tend to be based in the Western world. A very pleasant change!

The protagonist Professor Georgia Lee is instantly likeable - smart, beautiful with a fierce intellect. In all I received this book as an ARC in return for an honest review.

The Imperial Alchemist is a brilliant mystery adventure book with a main story line rooted in Asian history, archaeology and geography. I can't say that there are too many similar books that have been written in this context, as most of these adventure type novels tend to be based in the Western world. A very pleasant change!

The protagonist Professor Georgia Lee is instantly likeable - smart, beautiful with a fierce intellect. In all honesty, it seemed as if Georgia would fall into the flawless overpowered cliche main character description which would be a bit boring. However, as the story evolves, we learn that Georgia is not infallible and has very real human issues to deal with. I loved this. It made her someone I could connect with as a reader and someone I cared about as the adventure unfolded. I would go so far as to call Georgia the Asian version of Indiana Jones - which is pretty high praise!

We are introduced to a few more characters as well, and I felt that most of them were fleshed out quite nicely and their character lines were brought to a satisfying close at the end of the novel. Of course, this is in consideration that there is a sequel! No spoilers, but there were enough open ends at the end to keep me wanting the sequel straight away!

The adventure itself is extremely well thought out. Not once did I have to seriously question any courses of action that seemed impossible or not grounded in reality. You can really tell that the author has thoroughly researched everything. I appreciated the attention to detail, especially the tidbits of Asian history and the common misconceptions from the Western world. A good novel that is blended in history will ALWAYS make me want to fact check! And I can tell you that I spent quite some time googling/wikipedia-ing the Qin dynasty, Japanese culture and Taiwanese indigenous people! I suspect Google will see a spike in searches for "Hsu Fu green eye painting Gugong" from me alone!

A lot of these modern mystery adventure books are all about the quick simple prose like an action movie script. Think Matthew Reilly books (which I love by the way!). But compared to Matt Reilly books, I definitely feel the prose is superior and written by someone well grounded in literature. It made me feel more invested in the novel and that my brain actually did some work in processing the history and lore that was being presented.

If there was anything I hoped for more, it would be that I wished the character Charlie had more time in the novel. A highly interesting character and hugely central to the plot. Some of the revelations were stupendous and I cannot help but feel that there was so much more to be offered from him. As Georgia herself thought "What do you ask such a man?". I can only hope that he may make an appearance in the sequel!

All in all, this was an impressive debut novel and it pleases me greatly that there will be a sequel. I am very interested to see what the next adventure brings for Professor Georgia Lee.

Congratulations on a wonderful first novel! (Although to be honest, you really cannot tell it's a first novel!)

What if someone tells you that there exists elixir somewhere in the world, making the person immortal who drinks it. Would you believe it?

The Imperial Alchemist takes you on one such adventure trip. Georgia, an archaeologist is assigned the task of finding the elixir by a business tycoon Mr. Lambert. The task is much difficult then it seems and much twisted then you would expect. Georgia who first thinks it is just an unrealistic demand of a copious businessman, soon realises it is well planned What if someone tells you that there exists elixir somewhere in the world, making the person immortal who drinks it. Would you believe it?

The Imperial Alchemist takes you on one such adventure trip. Georgia, an archaeologist is assigned the task of finding the elixir by a business tycoon Mr. Lambert. The task is much difficult then it seems and much twisted then you would expect. Georgia who first thinks it is just an unrealistic demand of a copious businessman, soon realises it is well planned conspiracy.

The story takes place in China, Japan and Taiwan.

The story unfolds beautifully, disclosing right amount of information at right time.

The story is part historical, part mythical, and part legend, and many of its characters are based on actual historical figures.

Though it contains lot of historical content but it never seems boring. The author has clearly done a detailed research about each and everything related to Qin Dynasty, Hsu Fu and the places where the story takes place.
The writing style is brilliant.

The character development is really interesting. They are very realistic. Every character gets it's fair share of role in the story. You feel emotionally connected to them even if that character has no present existence.

The story ends with decent amount of lose ends to be caught up with in the sequel.

I couldn't stop myself from finishing the book. Neither did I want it to get over so soon.

Desperately waiting for the release of the sequel.

If you like to read history, mystery, adventure or thriller then this book is definitely for you. Even if you are not very keen about these genres then this is the book which will make you a fan of these genres. (I am was not a history enthusiast either.) . more

This book was the Winter 2019 F-BOM Book of the Month. Full review here: https://f-bom.com/2019/01/01/the-impe.

"As a Chinese major in college, there’s nothing I love more than an Asian-influenced science fiction or fantasy novel. The Imperial Alchemist is also a thriller, which means in typical thriller style Georgia is bouncing around the world following clues. The attention to detail is awesome, and after following Georgia around I have a few new museums (and hiking locations!) to add to my This book was the Winter 2019 F-BOM Book of the Month. Full review here: https://f-bom.com/2019/01/01/the-impe.

"As a Chinese major in college, there’s nothing I love more than an Asian-influenced science fiction or fantasy novel. The Imperial Alchemist is also a thriller, which means in typical thriller style Georgia is bouncing around the world following clues. The attention to detail is awesome, and after following Georgia around I have a few new museums (and hiking locations!) to add to my travel wish list in Australia, Japan, and Taiwan.

Also in true thriller style, there’s plenty of nail-biting action as the search for immorality–and the power it would give–comes to a head.

Immortality is always a fun concept to explore, and A.H. Wang leaves no stone unturned as she shows how mortality influences all our lives." . more

One of the best books I have read this year! And I am thrilled that there is to be a sequel soon. I always hate it when a really great book ends, don&apost you? But a sequel solves that problem!!

A. H. Wang&aposs book, The Imperial Alchemist has so many things I love in a book. It is certainly. an action adventure thriller. It has historical and legendary info about China, Japan and Taiwan. Georgia, our heroine, is an Archeologist working in the area of ancient civilization and its artifacts. And there One of the best books I have read this year! And I am thrilled that there is to be a sequel soon. I always hate it when a really great book ends, don't you? But a sequel solves that problem!!

A. H. Wang's book, The Imperial Alchemist has so many things I love in a book. It is certainly. an action adventure thriller. It has historical and legendary info about China, Japan and Taiwan. Georgia, our heroine, is an Archeologist working in the area of ancient civilization and its artifacts. And there is just a touch of the supernatural. There's some philosophy as well. An a touch of romance to round it out.

This would make an incredible movie! I received an early copy of this book and am voluntarily reviewing it. Absolutely 5 stars. . more

This was a fantastic read! I spent many nights reading page after page into the early hours of the morning. I loved the mystery and the twists in the story that you don&apost see coming. The heroine, Georgia, is such a wonderful character - so full of integrity and a thirst for knowledge. She&aposs so incredibly intelligent and yet so humble and courageous. And what adventure story isn&apost complete without a love interest - always cheering for Georgia right to the end!

Definitely a worthwhile read - go ge This was a fantastic read! I spent many nights reading page after page into the early hours of the morning. I loved the mystery and the twists in the story that you don't see coming. The heroine, Georgia, is such a wonderful character - so full of integrity and a thirst for knowledge. She's so incredibly intelligent and yet so humble and courageous. And what adventure story isn't complete without a love interest - always cheering for Georgia right to the end!

Definitely a worthwhile read - go get it now! . more

Great tale throughout. Historical and travel galore. Kept my attention from the first page til the last. Deals nicely with spiritual concepts.

Absolutely loved this book. It was a thrilling read from beginning to end and really didn&apost want the book to finish.

Cannot read to read more from A H Wang Absolutely loved this book. It was a thrilling read from beginning to end and really didn't want the book to finish.

Cannot read to read more from A H Wang . more

Thousands of years ago, Emperor Qin of China sent out an expedition in search of the elixir of life. Now, professor of archaeology Dr. Georgia Lee has been given the opportunity to pick up where that lost expedition left off. By tracing the clues across East Asia, she hopes to make a few new discoveries about a world-shaping period of Chinese history and perhaps secure the funding to save her research department, but before long, she finds herself chasing the secrets of her own past a The Basics:

Thousands of years ago, Emperor Qin of China sent out an expedition in search of the elixir of life. Now, professor of archaeology Dr. Georgia Lee has been given the opportunity to pick up where that lost expedition left off. By tracing the clues across East Asia, she hopes to make a few new discoveries about a world-shaping period of Chinese history and perhaps secure the funding to save her research department, but before long, she finds herself chasing the secrets of her own past and of human mortality itself.

Although certainly not an outlier in the thriller genre, I’d describe The Imperial Alchemist as plot-driven to a mild fault. The prose is utilitarian, invisible except for the occasional peculiar word choice (I’m not sure I was supposed to laugh when a character being imprisoned, drugged, and interrogated in a remote basement lair described her mood as “hangry”), and much of the characterization feels paint-by-numbers. Grandmothers are doting and traditional, couples with dead children can’t bear the sight of each other, power-hungry tycoons have abusive alcoholic daddies, and gay administrative assistants say “fabulous” a lot.

The archetypal characterization does not extend to Georgia’s gender. She’s an archaeologist, she’s the hero of a globetrotting mystery adventure, and she happens to be a woman. That’s pretty much that.

And as a globetrotting mystery adventure, The Imperial Alchemist is not only fast-paced but wonderfully flavorful. Throughout Georgia’s travels, the local history and mythology act more as her costars than her backdrop, vividly interweaving with each other and with the story, allowing the reader to experience not only her sightseeing opportunities but her blurring perception of reality and fantasy.

Wang’s knowledge and passion for research are on prominent display from beginning to end, adding depth to the world without ever bogging down the story. The doses of reality aren't all pretty travel ads and grade school history crafts, either. Some of the glimpses of the past are gut-turning in a completely different way from the expected car chases and shootouts of a race for the elixir of life, and the truth of what happened millennia ago remains as complicated and subjective as a current events debate in any living time and place.

Fans of James Rollins and anyone who loves Lara Croft but wishes she were a better archaeologist should definitely check this one out.

(This review and others originally posted on www.fjrtitchenell.weebly.com) . more

An archaeological and historical adventure with many twists and turns, The Imperial Alchemist has been described by some readers as an East Asian variation on The Da Vinci Code. In this reviewer’s opinion, however, A.H. Wang’s mystery thriller is of a higher order of literature than Dan Brown’s.

Wang skillfully evokes the world of the ancient Far East in a series of flashbacks which relate to the legend of Hsu Fu, a sorcerer of the Qin Dynasty. But the continuities between past and present are h An archaeological and historical adventure with many twists and turns, The Imperial Alchemist has been described by some readers as an East Asian variation on The Da Vinci Code. In this reviewer’s opinion, however, A.H. Wang’s mystery thriller is of a higher order of literature than Dan Brown’s.

Wang skillfully evokes the world of the ancient Far East in a series of flashbacks which relate to the legend of Hsu Fu, a sorcerer of the Qin Dynasty. But the continuities between past and present are highlighted in a parallel narrative set in modern times. While reading, I was often reminded of Faulkner’s principle: “The past isn’t dead. It’s not even past.”

The novel also features strong and compelling female characters. It is impossible not to sympathize with the protagonist, archaeologist Georgia Lee, as she searches for the deeper meaning of Hsu Fu’s story in her own life. Georgia’s driving ambition is counterbalanced by the earthy humor and practicality of her “tiger mum” assistant Sarah, an interesting character in her own right. And the personal history of Georgia’s “amah” or grandmother provides the novel’s most poignant subplot.

The maps, drawings, and reproductions of aboriginal art add another dimension to the text. The reader seems to discover these scattered artifacts along with Georgia, helping her piece the puzzle together and construct a narrative which links the present to the past.

Overall, this well-researched book offers an excellent introduction to the ancient history of the Far East, as well as fascinating perspectives on modern Taiwan, China, Japan, and Australia. I highly recommend The Imperial Alchemist both to the general reader and to those with a specific interest in Asian culture and history.
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This is one fast-paced, funny, heart wrenching, fascinating story. The detail is incredible as are the depth of the characters, who drew me into the story with ease. My first all-nighter for as long as I can remember..just couldn&apost stop reading! I loved it.

Probably the best book I have read since Dan Brown released the DaVinci code, seriously! The only problem now is waiting for the next book. This is one fast-paced, funny, heart wrenching, fascinating story. The detail is incredible as are the depth of the characters, who drew me into the story with ease. My first all-nighter for as long as I can remember..just couldn't stop reading! I loved it.

Probably the best book I have read since Dan Brown released the DaVinci code, seriously! The only problem now is waiting for the next book. . more

Fascinating

Amazing story. Wonderful characters. Enjoyed the history. I love to fact check historical fiction and learn new ideas and research new areas . So this was a delight. Looking forward to the sequel.

I loved this book. The story was great and the history was fascinating, so different than other books. Thanks thanks

2021 Popsugar reading challenge: A book set in multiple countries

Countries: Taiwan, Japan, China, Australia

This is more of a 3.5 stars read that I might round up to 4 stars since I did enjoy the reading experience a lot.

So, this is a very broad category that could fit tons of novels. And yet, when I first read it, I immediately thought of books like the Da Vinci Code. I had a couple non-action/adventure books listed as potentials for this category, but then this book was advertised on Facebook 2021 Popsugar reading challenge: A book set in multiple countries

Countries: Taiwan, Japan, China, Australia

This is more of a 3.5 stars read that I might round up to 4 stars since I did enjoy the reading experience a lot.

So, this is a very broad category that could fit tons of novels. And yet, when I first read it, I immediately thought of books like the Da Vinci Code. I had a couple non-action/adventure books listed as potentials for this category, but then this book was advertised on Facebook to me and I took it as a sign. (And now that I've proven advertising works on me, I'll be followed by this choice for all time.)

This book isn't for everyone. Like the Da Vinci Code, it takes facts about history, mythology, art, architecture, and pretty much dumps it into prose or dialogue wholesale. If info-dumping is a deal breaker, then you probably won't like this one. I love historical tidbits, though, and honestly adored those parts of the book. First of all, I've been obsessed with Qin Shi Huang's tomb since I saw a documentary about it as a preteen, and it was so fun to have an action adventure built around the mysteries of his reign (rather than the well-trod mysteries of Egypt, say.) Meanwhile, I also learned a ton about things I never knew about, such as all the ambiguities surrounding Xu Fu. Oh, to be a an official Court Sorcerer and sail off into the sunrise, leaving a ton of unanswered questions in your wake :,) (view spoiler) [His character in the book was also my favorite character by far, too. My interest had started to flag in the chapters just prior to his introduction, but then he showed up and I love the trope of the world-weary immortal. (hide spoiler)]

Georgia is also a fun character and I think I will most likely check out the sequel because I love Mongolian history. My biggest problem with this book was the characterizations of almost everyone beyond Georgia, her grandmother, Sarah and (view spoiler) [Charlie (hide spoiler)] . Action-adventure books aren't often character studies, but some of the choices were strange. There's a gay character, for example, and pretty much all of his dialogue revolves around being gay. He wasn't the dissolute gay stereotype, so I wasn't offended. But it did make me raise an eyebrow. Likewise, we learn very little about Georgia's ex-husband, which is a bit of a problem because (view spoiler) [Georgia's tragedies are meant to humanize her. And I did buy her love for her daughter, but it was weird that her ex was such a cypher. (hide spoiler)]

Three star reads are funny ones. Sometimes I feel entirely meh about them. Others - like this one - I thoroughly enjoyed, but can also see room for improvement. Like I said before, I'm very likely to check out the next book. So it's safe to say this overall worked for me.

Also, tying it back to the reading challenge category, I really did appreciate how much fun the author had with historical facts for all the different regions explored in this book. A few years ago I listened to a course about the history of Japan and it really hammered home how much cross-cultural exchange was going on in the ancient periods of east Asia. It was incredibly fun to see this filtered through an action-adventure book. It was also very, very cool to learn about areas and sites that are unique to specific countries. For example, the descriptions of Taroko were quite vivid and let me go on a mental vacation from the same four walls I see in quarantine. I'm very glad I spent time with this book. . more

A Review by Anthony T. Riggio of the book:“The Imperial Alchemist” by W. H. Wang

I purchased this book on Amazon in the Kindle format. It sounded so interesting even though this genre of book is not on the top of my list but since I love History, I took a chance. I am happy I did. This book was both interesting it was superbly entertaining and gave me some insight into Chinese history and thought.

A servant of first Emperor of a unified China, the same Emperor responsible for the January 29, 2021

A Review by Anthony T. Riggio of the book:“The Imperial Alchemist” by W. H. Wang

I purchased this book on Amazon in the Kindle format. It sounded so interesting even though this genre of book is not on the top of my list but since I love History, I took a chance. I am happy I did. This book was both interesting it was superbly entertaining and gave me some insight into Chinese history and thought.

A servant of first Emperor of a unified China, the same Emperor responsible for the Great Wall, which came into existence under Qin Shi Huang, who also sought to live forever, and sent a trusted aristocrat named Hsu Fu to find the “elixir of life” supposedly located in the Pengai Mountains, the fabled home of the Eight Immortals. He sailed east with a fleet of ships, hundreds of sailors but they never returned.

A little over two thousand years later. An Australian professor of archaeology named Georgia Lee, of Chinese ancestry, who is involved in an archaeological “dig” of significant importance, regarding the First Emperor of China on behalf of the university where she teaches. Distraught over losing her archaeological grant, she is contacted by a prominent billionaire named Mark Lambert who offers her a job. The job is to find Hsu Fu who he believes is still alive and to find the source of the elixir of life. Lambert believes that this discovery could have significant use in his pharmaceutical business in helping humanity overcome deadly and inherited diseases. After considerations she agrees with Lambert to take on this project.

As the search for this location the story takes on a number of mysteries that are intriguing and compelling to the reader. The characters, some related to Lambert and others related to Professor Georgia Lee, namely her grand mother who is well read and inquisitive woman who also works at a museum on Chinese culture in Taiwan who provides Georgia with significant background information identifying the location of the Pengai mountains as well as some historical background on Hsu Fu the original emissary sent by the first Emperor.

The story continues with a number of twists and turns reminiscent of numerous stories seeking the truth about legendary myths.

The story as it unfolds, has many intriguing and unexpected developments as well as some predictable side events. There is a romantic twist that become a possible dist ration to Georgia Lees quest which adds greater interest to the story as it is played out.

The real question which drives the reader on, is whether the “elixir of life” is real and reachable after more than two thousand years. It certainly kept my interests focused and I found my self staying up late a couple of nights and left me with a conundrum, if the finding of this elixir will be of benefit to human kind and would I really want to live forever. I still can't decide but the answer of whether Georgia finds this objective will have to be determined by the readers.

I totally enjoyed this book and it kept me on the edge through out its pages. I happily gave this book four stars out of five primarily because of the predictability, for me of the unfolding events. I would unhesitatingly, however, recommend this fast paced story to all of my friend that enjoy a well written historical mystery. . more

I received a gratis advance copy in return for my honest opinion and review. My thanks to Ms Wang for her generosity!

Just to let you know, I dropped the second book I was reading in a series I was really into so I could read this. I am not sorry. At. All.

There are a few extra words and a few missing words and one capitalization error. Only the capitalization error disrupted my immersion, though.

The narration is third person current tense (I guess), i.e. "Georgia watches him" instead of "Georgia I received a gratis advance copy in return for my honest opinion and review. My thanks to Ms Wang for her generosity!

Just to let you know, I dropped the second book I was reading in a series I was really into so I could read this. I am not sorry. At. All.

There are a few extra words and a few missing words and one capitalization error. Only the capitalization error disrupted my immersion, though.

The narration is third person current tense (I guess), i.e. "Georgia watches him" instead of "Georgia watched him", which I find unusual and threw me off at first. Then I flexed a couple of brain cells and accommodated it.

The language used is very simple. History and concepts are explained clearly and are easy to understand. The author provides a short pronunciation guide at the front for the Chinese names. Any 7th-grader could read this.

I liked the characters, but as with almost any first novel, the main character could use a little more. something. She seems more naive than just good-hearted. Although her beauty is mentioned several times, specifics are not dwelled upon which is refreshing.

Most authors end up using well-worn tropes somewhere in their books and Ms. Wang is no exception, although they are pretty much saved until the last 20% or so. There are no cliffhangers and everything was tied up, but I found the endgame a bit of a letdown because it seemed very familiar.

What grabbed my attention and kept me going with no effort was the history. The history and the stories told within this book are completely new to me and my imagination was snagged on those horns and pulled through time. I want to look up several things mentioned!


Stonehenge: Quarry Research Confirms Pillars Were Brought by Land, Not Sea

Determining how the Stonehenge was built is one of archeology’s great mysteries. It’s difficult enough to build a piece of Ikea furniture in 2019 how was it possible that prehistoric Europeans transported giant pillars hundreds of miles to their final resting place in Salisbury Plain? There’s a popular origin theory involving Neolithic ships, but in a study released Tuesday in Antiquity, researchers undermine it by going straight to Stonehenge’s source — the ancient quarries that housed the stones.

For the past decade, archeologists and geologists have worked together to figure out exactly where Stonehenge’s stones come from. The ancient structure consists of an outer ring of sandstone blocks, together with an inner ring and horseshoe of volcanic bluestone blocks. The outer blocks, while huge, don’t pose too much of a conundrum: Sandstone is relatively common in England, and these were quarried only 30 miles away from the structure. The bluestones, however, are more perplexing. In 2011, researchers matched the bluestones of Stonehenge with geological sources in west Wales, over 100 miles away. Since then, scientists have been trying to figure out the exact locations of those west Wales quarries.

Now, a team from University College London reports they’ve found two of them. One, called Carn Goedog, is 180 miles away from Stonehenge on the north slope of the Preseli hills. The other, called Craig Rhos-y-felin, is in the valley below. The team estimates at least five of Stonehenge’s bluestones came from Carn Goedog, and Craig Rhos-y-felin contains rhyolite, another type of igneous rock found at the monument.

“What’s really exciting about these discoveries is that they take us a step closer to unlocking Stonehenge’s greatest mystery — why its stone came from so far away,” team leader and University College London professor Mike Parker, Ph.D. explained Tuesday. “Every other Neolithic monument in Europe was built of megaliths brought from not more than 10 miles away.”

At Carn Goedog, Parker and his team found wedge-shaped stone tools as well as an artificial platform at the base of the outcrop of stones. Importantly, in the soft sediment of a hollowed-out track track at Craig Rhos-y-felin, they also found pieces of charcoal dating to around 3,000 B.C., which coincides with the initial building of Stonehenge.

The geologists involved in the study determined that the bluestone outcrops at Carn Goedog are natural, vertical pillas and — with the use of the stone tools — it was very possible that ancient Europeans broke them free from the rock face by hitting the vertical joints between each pillar. The pillars were then eased down onto a platform that the team says “acted as a loading bay for lowering them onto wooden sledges before dragging them away.”

The location of these quarries supports the idea that the stones were transported by land to the actual Stonehenge site. Previously, some historian theorized that the stones were brought by sea.

“Some people think that the bluestones were taken southwards to Milford Haven and placed on rafts or slung between boats and then paddled up the Bristol Channel and along the Bristol Avon towards Salisbury Plain,” co-author and Bournemouth University professor Kate Welham, Ph.D. explains. “But these quarries are on the north side of the Preseli hills so that the megaliths could have simply gone overland all the way to Salisbury Plain.”

What the team wants to determine now is why the Preseli Hills were so important 5,000 years ago. It’s possible that there could be more stone circles there — ancient structures erected before the bluestones ever traveled to Stonehenge. If these other stone circles are found, however, their purpose will most likely be a mystery as well.


Watch the video: Short Journey #6 - Spirit Stones