Friday, October 24, 2014

Wang ZhaoJun

Wang ZhaoJun
Wang Zhao Jun – Four Beauties in Chinese History

Wang Zhao Jun was nicknamed Wang Qiang and was also known as Mingfei or Mingjun. She is referred as being one of the Four Beauties in Chinesehistory.She was born in Baoping Village, Sigui County in the Western Han Dynasty and was sent by Emperor Yuan in marriage to Xiongnu Chanyu to establish friendly relationship with the Han Dynasty through marriage. In the prevalent version of the legend of the Four Beauties it is related that Wang Zhaojun had left her hometown one bright autumn morning on horseback and started her journey northward. Her horse neighed all along the way, which made her feel sad and difficult to control her emotions. She then began playing sorrowful melodies on a stringed instrument, as she journeyed on the saddle of her horse. It is related that a flock of geese heading southward saw her riding the horse and on hearing her music forgot to flap their wings and fell to the ground which is why Zhao Jun has acquired the nickname, `fells geese’ or `drops birds’.

Intelligent/Adept in Pipa

She was born to a prominent family of Baopin village and was born when her father was quite old and was the apple of his eye. She was bestowed with great beauty and with an intelligent mind, well adept in pipa and master of all the Four Arts of the Chinese Scholar, namely, Gugin, Weiqi, Calligraphy and Chinese painting.

Towards 36 BC, Emperor Yuan decided to choose his concubine from the state wherein as per the customs prevailing then, it was that when choosing a new wife, the Emperor would be presented with the portraits of the possible women. It became a practise then, for the ladies to offer bribes to the court artist to make ensure that they were well portrayed to the emperor. Due to Wang’s fame, she was the first choice for the concubine and the Emperor issued the edict that she should enter the harem.

Wang ZhaoJun 1
Wang’s father informed that his daughter was too young to enter the harem but could not violate the emperor’s decree and Wang had to leave her father and her hometown to enter the harem of the emperor.

It is said that because Wang has such confidence in her beauty and temperament, she refused to bribe Mao Yanshou, the artist, as the other maid did. Due to this, the artist painted a very unflattering image of her and the final portrait showed her as the ugliest of all the ladies in the palace resulting in the emperor not setting his eyes on her while she remained in the palace as lady-in-waiting.

Became an Envoy of Peace for Han

Wang ZhaoJun was not in favour of the thought of wasting her life in the harem and hope that something could happen one day which would free her from that way of life. Thereafter in the 33 BC, she got an opportunity to be free when the Hun, a group of nomadic people from the north who wanted to maintain friendly relationship with the Han Dynasty through marriage came on the scene. Huhanxie, the Chanyu – Khan, of Hun came to the capital requesting for a Han princess as a bride with the Emperor Yuan agreeing to help him.

Not keen on providing him with a beautiful wife, he gave orders to present the plainest of them all to be selected. When her unflattering portrait was presented to the emperor, he merely glanced at it and gave his approval on selection of a bride in marriage. It was only when Wang Zhao Jun was on her way of departure did the Emperor set eyes on her and much to his dismay, realized his terrible mistake that she was in fact one of the most beautiful woman in his palace.

Though he wanted to find a substitute for her, it was quite late to change his decision and the fate of Wang Zhao Jun was now sealed and she had to depart. With sorrow and anguish he parted with Wang Zhao Jun. The court artist on the other hand was eventually put to death for deceiving the Emperor.

Wang ZhaoJun 2
Loved & Respected by the Hun

The Emperor provided Wang with a generous dowry and due to this event; he also changed the name of his reign to Jing Ning, which means peaceful boundary, indicating that Zhao Jun’s departure for Hun, way beyond the Great Wall would bring about everlasting peace and harmony between the Han and the Hun together with a peaceful border. Wang, under the escort of Han and Hun official, dressed in a beautiful red dress with a pipa in her arms set out from Chang’an on a white horse for her journey to the distant land of the Huns.

Initially she found it difficult to adjust to the way of life of the Hun but being determined to overcome all difficulties she gradually became accustomed to their habits and customs. Subsequently Wang Zhao Jun got on well with the Huns and became successful in spreading the Han culture and civilization in the Hun tribe.

She was loved and respected by all the Hun and Chanyu gave her the title of the First Lady of Hun Peace, honouring Wang as a queen who was responsible in bringing about peace and security to the Hun tribe.

History of Friendship and Unity

Wang Zhao Jun lived in Hun for the remainder part of her life where her children continued her good work of maintaining friendly and amicable relationship between the Han and the Hun. The narration of Zhao Jun’s Settlement Way beyond the Great Wall has now become a household story in the history of friendship and unity among Chinese and also a well-known subject in Chinese poetry, novels and drama.

It is related that after the death of her husband, Wang Zhao Jun married the eldest son of his and his concubine according to the customs of that time which was abhorred by the Chinese moral norms in which she was brought up. Due to the sake of her country’s stability and peace, she was self-sacrificing for a second time thereby earning respect of her compatriots in her generation as well as the generation to come.

 Her tomb, presently at Hohhot in Inner Mongolia is considered as one of the eight special scenery spots in today’s Inner Mongolia. It was built by the Huns of ancient time in memorial of the goodwill envoy from the Han.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Naga Fireballs

Naga Fireballs – Unexplained Phenomena

The Naga fireballs also known as the Mekong lights and `bung fai paya nak’ by the locals is a phenomenon with an unconfirmed source stating it to be often seen in Mekong river in Thailand. They are one of the well documented though unexplained phenomena in the world where every year on the night of Wan Awk Pansa during October, many spectators assemble on the banks of the river Mekong in Thailand and Laos to witness the legendary Naga breathe forth balls of fire from the river and many have watched this scene every year during their entire life.

The balls seem to be reddish in colour with diverse sizes ranging from small sparkles up to the size of basketballs which rises quickly to a couple of hundred metres before disappearing while the number of fireballs which have been reported varies between tens and thousands on each night.

It is believed that the legendary Naga breathes forth balls of fire from the river which slowly and silently rises from the river before ascending high into the air where they tend to disappear in the sky. This spectacular scene is seen at the time of the festive night which is believed to be of natural origin rather than an organized display by anyone.

Naga Fireballs
Naga Fireballs – Least Known/Most Spectacular Phenomena

According to Manas Kanaksin, a doctor from Nong Khai, is of the opinion that fermenting sediment at the bottom of the river could cause pockets of methane gas formation and the position of the earth in relation to the sun during those days could cause them to rise, spontaneously igniting in the presence of ionized oxygen.

The lights have been replicated by Italian chemist Luigi Garlaschelli and Paolo Boschetti who have added chemicals to the gases, formed by rotting compounds. Other researchers have dismissed this theory stating that the bottom of the rocky river does not have much sediment and the water’s turbulence could break up any such methane bubbles before reaching the water’s surface. The Naga fireballs of the Mekong seem to be one of the least known and the most spectacular of phenomena ever seen.

Naga Fireballs 1
Mythology – Naga a Gigantic Hooded Snake

The Naga fireballs always tend to appear on the night of the full moon in October or November which indicates the end of the Buddhist rainy season retreat. These lights have been named after the Naga with a belief that it is the mythical serpent inhabiting the waters that shoots the fireballs into the air.

According to mythology, it is believed that Naga is a gigantic hooded snake which is very prominent in Indian and south-eastern Asian cultures and is said to be an actual physical animal though with a supernatural spirit. The people in that region also believe that the animal lives in the local waters but it is the fireball which has drawn the attention of the people who tend to be both sceptical and believing.

However, the ancient Naga fireballs phenomena seem to be a locally held understanding and do not seem to be reliably documented before the middle of the 20th century. There are several theories regarding the origin of the light but the same has not been explained till date.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Lost Roman Legion

The Lost Roman Legion
The Roman Legion – Subject of Great Interest

A Roman legion operated from the first century BC till the mid-2nd century AD and fought in several provinces of the late Roman Republic as well as early Roman Empire. It was based in Britain following the invasion of the Roman in 43 AD.

Thereafter the legion disappeared from the Roman records towards the first half of the second century and there are no details of what happened to it. For 1900 years, the mystery of Rome’s missing ninth legion is puzzling and its ultimate fate is debated by several generations of historians.

It is said that it was the first in a chain reaction of disasters, where the Roman were forced to halt expansion and create the only two massive frontier walls that were ever built in the Roman Empire.

There are written evidence and a raft of new archaeology which portrays how and where the ninth met its end in the tribal bad lands of northern Britain.The fate of the legion has been the subject of great interest and research and it was recorded in 108 in York.

One theory states that it was destroyed in action around 120 in northern Britain during a rising of northern tribes and this view became popular by the 1954 novel – The Eagle of the Ninth, wherein the legion is considered to have marched into Caledonia in Scotland and thereafter was never heard of again.

The Lost Roman Legion 1
Tile Stamps - Nijmegen

The theory seemed to be discredited till tile stamps found later in Nijmegen portrayed that the legion was based there between 121 and 130 though this evidence became disputed. There came up other possibilities that it could have had an end in the Bar Kokhba revolt or in Armenia in 161.

The Ninth does not seem to appear in a list of legions compiles in 165, in any event. Archaeologists reveal how Hadrian built a huge innovative timber rampart in order to protect Roman forces before his monumental stone wall and later sent one of his best generals which include the infamous Julius Severus who was a ruthless soldier, engaged in devastating new tactics against the insurgents. Beyond the frontier, there were tribes with powerful new alliance and harried Roman military in a guerrilla war of attrition.

 Fifteen wars were fought and the three Roman generals together with an estimate of over 20,000 troops lost their lives while fighting the hostile tribes. Huge resources were put into trying to maintain the frontier system.

Ninth Legion - Historical/Science Fiction, Fantasy

The mysterious disappearance of the legion from the records was noted first by John Horsley, a scholar in the 18th century in his book `Britannia Romana and by late 19th century, there were evidence that the disappearance of the legion coincided with unrest in the north of Britain.

Bartolomeo Borghese an Italian scholar found an inscription about the life of one Lucious Ligarianus suggesting that he served with the legion around 116. Conclusion was drawn with the combination of this together with the evidence which was sent by Legion VI Victrix to Britain, that ninth was destroyed during an invasion or rebellion where no details had been preserved. The mysterious disappearance of the Ninth Legion has become a popular subject for historical fiction, science fiction and fantasy.


Unseen Passages
Presented by ETO Doors

Monday, October 20, 2014


Rongorongo – Mysterious Glyphs 

Rongorongo is believed to be a script or glyphs which was discovered in the 19th century on Easter Island after the visit of the Spanish in 1770 and seems to be a system of enigmatic glyphs which were found written on several artifacts.

Many are of the opinion that they portray a system of writing or proto writing. It was probably inspired by some written document or annexation which was given to the islander to be signed, though from 1860, they seemed to lose the interest to read it resulting in the inability to understand it and no inhabitant of Easter Island was then capable of reading it.

Several attempts have been made at decipherment with none of them being successful. The glyphs however, remains undecipherable resulting in its true messages which according to some hints on the perplexing collapse of the statue building Easter Island civilization, being lost forever.

Though some calendrical and some which seemed to be genealogical information have been identified, none of these glyphs are readable. Around two dozen wooden objects with rongorongo inscriptions, some of which heavily weathered, burned or damaged were collected in late 19th century but are now scattered in various museums and private collections with none of them available on Easter Island.

These are typical tablet shaped from irregular pieces of wood, at times like driftwood which include a chieftain’s staff, a bird man statuette and two reimiro ornaments. Besides these there are also a few petroglyphs which include short rongorongo inscription.

Carved on Tablets or Staves – Ritual Chanting 

Rongorongo 1
Referring to oral history it was suggested that only few were literate and the tablets were considered as sacred. The word rongorongo was derived from the Polynesian island of Mangareva which was connected to the script that were carved on tablets or staves and used as mnemonic devices for the ritual chanting by the rongorongo men at that time.

The men here competed in annual ritual which were connected with the birdman cult and associated to the deity Makemake. Besides a part of one tablet which has portrayed dealing with a lunar calendar, none of the text can be understood and even the calendar itself cannot be accurately read.

 Three serious obstacles are there to be deciphered, the small number of the remaining text, which comprises only of 15,000 legible glyphs, the lack of context of interpreting the text like illustrations or parallels to the text that can be read and the modern Rapanu language that is mixed with Tahitian.

Written in Alternate Direction – Reverse Boustrophedon 

Rongorongo 2
This is unlikely to reflect the language of the tablets especially if they tend to record any special register like an incantations and the remaining few examples of the old language are either restricted in genre or would not correspond to the tablet.

Authentic rongorongo texts are written in an alternate direction which is a system known as reverse boustrophedon. The lines of text in the third tablets are inscribed in shallow fluting carved in the wood and the glyphs seem to be outlines of animal, plant, human, artefact and geometric shapes.