Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Bushido-the Way of the Warrior

Bushido the Way of the Warrior is the code of honor and rules a true Samurai must follow. Bushido is similar to the code of chivalry followed by true knights of the European Middle Ages.  The code set out seven key principles that the Samurai needed to follow:

Rectitude-follow the straight path
Courage-always be brave
Benevolence-do good deeds
Respect-all according to their class
Honesty-in all dealings
Honor-maintained to the highest level
Loyalty-to your Lord and to the code of Bushido

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Ming -"the Bright" - Dynasty

The Ming or "Bright" Dynasty (1368-1644) was the last Chinese Imperial government to rule this ancient culture.  The Ming Dynasty was founded by Zhu Yuanzhang, "the Hungwu Emperor" (1368-1398), when he lead a successful rebellion against the foreign Mongol, Yuan Dynasty. Zhu Yuanzhang had the distinction of being born a common peasant and rising to the status of emperor by his own skills, cunning and bravery.
Art flourished during the Ming Dynasty and it was well known for is excellent porcelain.  Even today the term "Ming Vase," brings instant recognition as an art form of the highest value.
The Forbidden City, home to the Emperor of China from the early 15th to early 20th centuries was one of the greatest legacies of the Ming Dynasty.  Ordered built in 1406, by the Yongle Emperor (1402-1424) to consolidate his power in the restored capital of Beijing, the Forbidden Palace took fourteen years to build, contained 980 buildings and covered over 7, 800,000 square feet (720,000 square meters).
The Yongle Emperor was also responsible for the vast exploration fleets of Zheng He. (See Zheng He-Greatest Ming Explorer post).  After the last of these voyages in 1436, the Ming emperors chose a policy of isolationism.  For the next four centuries the Middle Kingdom attempted to retain what they had and prevent foreign concepts from contaminating the culture.  By the mid 19th century this policy would leave China vulnerable to the technological advances of the Europeans.
Fear of the return of the Mongols and other barbarian tribes, led the Ming's to rebuild the Great Wall into the massive brick structure that comes to mind whenever its name is mentioned.  It seceded for centuries in holding back the invaders, but in the end, weak emperors, government corruption, and peasant revolts completed the ever present life cycle of the dynasty and the Ming were destroyed and replaced by the last Imperial dynasty of China, the foreign (Manchu's) Qing Dynasty.
An interesting side note to the Ming Dynasty were the Kaifeng Jews, the oldest officially recognized Jewish community in Imperial China.  Kaifeng Jews may have come to this ancient city as early as the Northern Song Dynasty (10th to 12th centuries) but it was a Ming emperor who first conferred seven surnames upon the Kaifeng Jews, by which they are identifiable today: Ai, Shi, Gao, Jin, Li, Zhang, and Zhao. Today, over a thousand Kaifeng residents trace their ancestry to the Jews of the Ming Dynasty.