After the death of Pangu, the universe became empty of any human presence. It was not until many, many years later that Nüwa, another ancestor of humankind, appeared. She felt so lonely, she wanted to create more people to live with her.
One day, she began to make human figures, both male and female, out of yellow clay. Strangely, each came to life as soon as she blew her breath upon them. At 1ast, all the figures she created acquired life, forming lively company gathered around her. As they lived and worked together, the adults gave birth to children. The playful infants grew up happy and carefree, then married and had their own children.
Unfortunately, while the human beings were living peacefully on earth, the universe was suffering serious damage. The ancient Chinese believed the heavens to be round, while the earth was square; at each comer of the square earth stood a pillar that propped up the heavens. With the passage of time, the pillars had decayed. As a result, the heavens began to shake violently as if about to collapse.
Major disaster then befell humankind. Many holes appeared in the sky, through which torrential rains poured down. Some regions of the earth caught fire, while others were flooded. Ferocious wild animals exploited the disorder to prey on humans. Cruel birds dove from the sky, seizing vulnerable people with their sharp talons. Human beings were thus plunged deeply into a perilous world.
At this critical juncture Nüwa came to their rescue. She mended the holes in the sky with red, yellow, blue, white and black stones that she had melted over reed fires. Then she replaced the four decayed columns with the legs of an enormous tortoise she had caught. She also killed the black dragon that had caused the torrential rain. Owing to Nüwa's efforts, everything returned to normal, with the heavens repaired, the four supporting pillars were strengthened, the dangerous wild beasts and birds wiped out, the lands once again covered with vegetation, so that human beings were able to resume their peaceful life. Nüwa, the great goddess, had not only created human beings but also saved them from severe calamity.
What is the origin of the universe? How did the sun, the moon and the stars come into being? Who created the rivers, mountains and lands? How was mankind originated? Human beings have been pondering such questions from the earliest days. Our ancient ancestors tended to give answers through mythical tales. What was the traditional Chinese explanation for the beginning of the universe? Among the many creation myths found in China, the one featuring Pangu is the most widely known.
Legend has it that in remote antiquity when the universe was yet to take shape, everything was chaos. The universe was like an egg, carrying Pangu, the first ancestor of humankind, exactly in the center of its yolk. Nurtured in this round hollow for 18,000 years, finally he picked up a handmade huge ax and wielded it with all his might to crack open the egg. The light, clear part of it floated up and formed the heavens, while the heavy, turbid matter stayed below to form earth. Pangu began to grow at a rate of three meters per day, and soon became a formidable giant.
Pangu was the only human being living in the universe he had just created. When he was happy, the sun shone; but when he was angry, black clouds gathered in the skies. When he cried, his tears turned into pouring rain. When he sighed, air puffed from his mouth to become gusts of wind.
At last, the giant died, sprawled out on the ground with his head to the east and feet to the west. His head transformed into Mt. Tai in today's Shandong Province, his feet into Mt. Huashan in today's Shaanxi Province, his stomach into Mt. Songshan in Henan Province, his left arm into Mt. Hengshan in Hunan Province, and his right arm into Mt. Hengshan in Shanxi Province, the five most famous mountains in China. His hair turned in to trees, flowers and grasses covering the different lands.
Although nobody still believes this myth today, the Pangu story is firmly fixed in Chinese tradition. There is even an idiom relating to it: "Since Pangu created the heavens and earth," which means "for a very long time." This is perhaps because it symbolized the human aspiration to triumph over nature, and our most fertile creativity.
In order to relieve his brothers of their worries, Zhougong confided: 'I offered to help govern the country because I do not want to see regional rulers turn against us. Now that Wenwang has died before Chengwang(Princess Song's official name after ascending the throne) has grown up, I have no choice but to shoulder the responsibility of strengthening the rule of the Zhou Dynasty."
After the family feud was resolved, Zhougong led the army to the east of the country and ended the turmoil there in less than three years. He also built an imperial city called Chengzhou, west of Luoyi, which served as an important city where the king could summon regional rulers in the east to meetings and as a fort to defend the capital city. The capital, with Fengjing and Haojing at the center, was then known as Zongzhou. The two city complexes were joined together, stretching some 500 kilometers. When Chengwang came of age, Zhougong returned state power to him and became his minister.
Zhougong assisted Wuwang in conquering the Shang Dynasty, and Chengwang in governing the country. He also suppressed rebellions in the east, and built Luoyi into a prosperous imperial city. For these remarkable achievements, he goes down in Chinese history as one of the most loyal ministers.
Guan Hanqing, also known as Yizhaisou (Old Man Studying the Past), was honored as the best among the four well-known writers of Yuan Opera, and the greatest playwright of the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368). He was born in Dadu (today's Beijing), capital of the Yuan Dynasty, around 1220 and died in 1300. During that period, Mongolia was in the process of destroying the Jin (1115-1234) and Southem Song (1127-1279) dynasties, with many social upheavals taking place. Born to a doctor's family, Guan Hanqing read widely and learned to write poetry and music from the time he was a child. He was very fond of zaju, a poetic form of drama set to music, and with his good friend Yang Xianzhi, founded a zaju composing society.
Guan Hanqing wrote over 60 zaju plays throughout his life, almost twice as many as Shakespeare's plays. Among Guan Hanqing's works, 13 plays, including Injustice to Dou E (or Snow in Midsummer), Rescued by a Coquette, and The Pavilion of Moon Worship, 14 sets of sanqu (opera with tonal patterns modeled on tunes drawn from folk music) and 52 short lyrics have survived to this day. Most of those works exposed and condemned the cruelty of local tyrants and corrupt officials, and exalted the unyielding spirit of resistance of the oppressed classes. A self-portrait, "An Uncrushable Copper Pea," in one of his sets of sanqu, faithfully mirrors Guan Hanqing's assertive character.
Guan Hanqing's love stories are represented by Rescued by a Coquette, Riverside Pavilion, The Pavilion of Moon Worship, and An Astute Girl Scorns a Love Affair. These plays combined love stories with real life and social contradictions, rather than just setting love stories in an isolated environment, as well as devoting much space to direct and detailed depictions of enduring affection and the tortuous path of love. They embraced a broad range of social phenomena and exposed various social problems. Guan Hanqing's dramas on love and marriage all centered on the female protagonists and paid tribute to their spirit of pursuing happiness and resisting evil. For instance, Riverside Pavilion tells a story about a resourceful, bold female protagonist named Tan Ji'er who calmly fooled an imperial bodyguard surnamed Yang, who attempted to kill her husband and force her to be his concubine, and how she finally had him thrown into prison.
In his late years, some treacherous courtiers usurped power and committed all sorts of wickedness. Against this background Guan Hanqing created the earthshaking play injustice to Dou E. This zaju drama presents a story about Dou E, who was sold as a child by her parents into her future husband's family, and was later wrongly sentenced to death due to a conspiracy hatched by the scoundrels Zhang Lu'er and his father with corrupt local officials. Prior to her execution, Dou E pronounced three vows. The first was of blood all spraying onto a long white silk streamer without a single drop staining the ground. The second was for a heavy snow m midsummer to cover her dead body, and the third for a severe drought lasting three years in the local district. Each of her vows came to be realized. Dou E had exclaimed, "While the Yamen has always appeared to be impartial, yet injustice is done in every case," expressing her sharp protest against feudal rule.
Guan Hanqing's zaju dramas demonstrate a perfect combination of ideas and art and have enjoyed popularity among readers at home and abroad. Injustice to Dou E has been published in many languages. In 1958 activities commemorating the 700th anniversary of the publication of Guan Hanqing's works were held worldwide.
After leaving the noisy and chaotic city, he contemplated the decline of his family and discovered that the society had grown rotten from the inside. Thus he started to write his novel The Story of the Stone (later renamed A Dream of Red Mansions), embodying his thoughts in the novel written with deliberate vagueness. Ten years later, he completed the 80-chapter book.
The novel is about four families - Jia, Shi, Xue and Wang - the despots of their area. They cruelly oppress civilians and wallow in luxury and pleasure; brothers and sisters-in-law are locked in open and smoldering strife, jockeying for position. Eventually they are reported to the authorities, and the emperor sends people to check on and confiscate the property of the Jia family. Later, the Shi, Xue and Wang families are also brought to justice and become impoverished.
In the Jia family, an unconventional young pair, Jia Baoyu and Lin Daiyu, both dissatisfied with their situation, become bosom friends, but people around them oppose their relationship. The four families in the book are a microcosm representing the entire ruling class; while Jia Baoyu and Lin Daiyu's rebellious spirit expresses Cao Xueqin's own resentment toward the society. Cao Xueqin devotedly poured all his experiences, conviction and talent into the novel. The novel is well constructed, the language fresh and cohesive; and the book creates many artistic characters with archetypal personalities. The novel represents the zenith of Chinese classics.
After Cao Xueqin died, handwritten copies of the novel spread, and more and more people came to learn of it. This literary masterpiece became a great sensation of the time. In modern times, research on A Dream of Red Mansions became a specialized subject called "Hongxue" ("Red" Studies), while experts studying the novel are called "Hongxuejia" (Red Studies specialists). There are many such specialists in China and abroad.
After the times of prosperity in the reign periods under Emperor Kangxi and Emperor Qianlong, officials and civilians of the Qing Empire started to dream of the "Celestial Empire," and the government upheld the policy of closing the country to the rest of the world. However, at that time Western countries had already embarked on a new path to development. To put an end to the trade deficit, these countries started to smuggle opium into China in order to degrade the Chinese people.
Opium is a type of drug made from the milk of the poppy, and strongly toxic. A little opium can ease pain, reduce diarrhea and relieve cough; but anyone who takes it becomes easily addicted, until they need to take it every day. Statistics in 1835 showed that two million Chinese people took opium at that time, and more than four million taels of silver flowed to Western countries. Essentially, opium harmed the Chinese people, and moreover caused a great loss to the financial revenues of the Qing Dynasty.
In early 1839, Emperor Daoguang (r. 1821-1851) sent his imperial commissioner Lin Zexu (1785-1850) to Guangzhou. Lin was determined to ban the opium trade. Using all means possible, Lin Zexu acquired a good understanding of opium smuggling and severely punished certain officials, soldiers and opium traders. He then promulgated an announcement, declaring that all foreign businessmen should turn in all their opium and sign letters of guarantee to never again engage in opium smuggling. If they were still found to be engaged in the opium trade, they would be punished accordingly: the opium would be confiscated and the criminal executed.
At the news, foreign opium smugglers living in the Guangzhou Foreign Building became alarmed and confused, and some immediately turned over their opium. Yet, incited by British Commercial Supervisor George Elliot, others plotted to refuse to turn in the opium.
Hearing this, Lin Zexu ordered decisively: "Send an announcement immediately to the British merchants - According to our practice, they have refused to turn over the opium but plan to evade the law; thus the Chinese government must stop the trade between China and Britain. We should dispatch troops to blockade the building, withdraw Chinese personnel from it, and cut off transportation to the sea. If they still resist, we shall stop the supply of food. And our navy will keep close watch on British ships."
Therefore, the British merchants turned over their opium. All the opium totaled over 20,000 boxes (including 1,500 boxes from US merchants) and weighed 2,370,000 jin (about 1,185,000 kg). Lin Zexu decided to destroy the opium publicly on Humen beach. This lasted more than twenty days, after which time all the opium Lin Zexu had confiscated had been completely destroyed.
The social and economic development of the Ming Dynasty fostered a boom in novel writing. The Three Kingdoms, Outlaws of the Marsh, and Journey to the West, three of the four best-known classics of Chinese literature, were created during this period.
Luo Guanzhong, author of The Three Kingdoms, was a native of Taiyuan, Shanxi (although others claim ofQiantang, Zhejiang). The Three Kingdoms depictes the corrupt politics of the late Eastern Han Dynasty (AD 25-220), when people rose up in succession to set up separate regimes. The Three Kingdoms, Wei, Shu and Wu, ruled by Cao Cao, Liu Bei and Sun Quan respectively, gradually emerged as the three largest powers, leading to a three-way confrontation. In the end, Wei was succeeded by the Western Jin Dynasty (265-317), which later eliminated the Shu and Wu. China was reunified and came under the control of the Sima family. The Three Kingdoms recounts tortuous yet fascinating historical stories in succinct language, featuring vivid dialogue. It had a tremendous influence on the historical novels of later ages.
Outlaws of the Marsh, by Shi Naian, has enjoyed equal fame to The Three Kingdoms. It presents a full view ofthe rise and fall of the peasant revolts led by Song Jiang in the late Northem Song Dynasty (960-1127). The novel molded a large number of archetypal characters, such as the upright, outspoken and intrepid Li Kui and righteous, unconstrained and unyielding Lu Zhishen, each displaying a distinctive and impressive personality. Outlaws of the Marsh was very popular among the common people due to its vivid, easy-to-understand language.
Journey to the West, a combination of popular and scholarly literature, appeared after the earlier two novels in the mid- to late Ming Dynasty. Journey to the West is a great work of imagination, telling stories of combat between deities and evil spirits. It focuses around the story of Sun Wukong, the Monkey King, who escorted the Tang monk Xuanzang to fetch the Buddhist scriptures in India, overcoming 81 challenges along the way. Journey to the West became a much-loved romantic novel for its grand structure and miraculous tales full of rich imagination.
Distribution: southern areas of China's Yunnan and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Southeast Asia to Indonesia.
The body lengths of the Slow Loris is 26-38cm, with a l-2cm tail; they weigh 1-2kg. Their habitats are primitive forests in tropical and sub-tropical areas. Living on trees, they are nocturnal animals that move slowly. They feed on wild fruits and insects, but also eat fledglings and birds' eggs. The Slow Loris is a solitary animal and lives with others only during the mating season. The normal lifespan is 12-14 years.
They are listed as first grade nationally protected animals in China.
The human race achieved remarkable success in "conquering nature" during the 20th century. But, nature also hit back to punish human presumption. The decline of forestry coverage, deterioration of grassland, drought in wetlands and air pollution not only brought great trouble to humans, but also decimated wildlife. In the early 1990s, Birdlife International reported that at least 1,000 of the 9,000 recognized species of birds had either disappeared, or were on the verge of extinction. Now, more and more people realize that nature plays an important role in the development of society, and we should seek to live harmoniously with nature rather than trying to conquer it.
With its vast area, diverse landscape and climate variations, China harbors a rich variety of wildlife. It is one of ton countries with the largest numbers of biological species in the world. In terms of temperature, the nation can be divided from south to north into equatorial, tropical, subtropical, warm-temperate, temperate and cold-temperate zones. In terms of moisture, it can also be divided from southeast to northwest into humid, semi-humid, semi-arid and arid zones. China's topography is varied and complicated, with towering mountains, different sized basins, undulating plateaus and fertile plains. The change of climate and altitude naturally produce many differences in the types of wildlife prevalent in each area. The wildlife typical of mountains, deserts and prairies are mainly spread north of the Qinling and Hengduan Mountain Ranges, while tropical and subtropical animals live to the south of these ranges. But, in the transitional areas between different types of climate or topography, there may be some overlap some species expand their living areas beyond traditional boundaries. For example, tropical and subtropical animals such as Rhesus Macaque and Masked Civet can also be found in northern China. The wolf and fox have moved out of their traditional habitat in the north into the rest of the country. Located in western china, the Tibetan Plateau and Mongolian Plateau are very cold and arid, and can only support Yaks, Tibetan antelopes, Mongolian Gazelles, Marmots and other wildlife capable of adapting to such a harsh environment.
China has over 4,640 vertebrate species, including 450 mammals, 1,329 birds, 387 reptiles, 274 amphibians and over 2,200 fishes, accounting for ten percent of all the world's vertebrate species. Among them, more than one hundred species such as the Giant Panda, Chinese River Dolphin, Golden Monkey, White-lipped Deer, Brown-eared Pheasant, Golden Pheasant, Black-necked Crane, Chinese giant Salamander, Chinese Alligator and Chinese Crocodilian lizard are native to China. The Giant Panda, a world-renowned wildlife species, can only live in a natural state in the western mountainous areas of Sichuan Province, the Min Mountain and on the southern slot)e of the Oinling Mountain Range. Of the 15 species of cranes in the world, nine are found in China. Additionally, China has 61 of the world's total of 28 l pheasant species. More than 20 species of pheasants are either unique to, or mainly live in China.
Owing to excessive exploitation of nature, rapid population increase and the development of industries, wildlife is suffering a catastrophic decline and more than ten species of animals, including the Wild Horse and David's Deer have been extinct in the wild. Nearly one hundred animals including the Giant Panda, Tiger, Asiatic Elephant and Crested Ibis are listed as endangered species. Poaching makes the situation even worse, so that wildlife protection has become an increasingly important issue.
Since the founding of New China in 1949, the government has promulgated a series of regulations, and finally established its first law for protecting wildlife - "Wildlife Protection Law of the People's Republic of China" - in November 1988. Some other laws and policies were issued by both central and local governments in the ensuing years, laying a solid legal foundation for the protection of wildlife.
China has made remarkable achievements in protecting and breeding rare and endangered species. Since the 1980s, for example, the Ministry of Forestry has been cooperating with the World Wide Fund for Nature (formerly the World Wildlife Foundation) on the study and protection of the Giant Panda. Only seven Crested Ibises were found in northern China's Shaanxi Province in 1981, when a Crested Ibis Conservation Area was set up. Now, the number has increased to nearly 300. After nearly 20 years of hard work, the Xuanzhou Chinese Alligator Breeding and Research Center in Anhui Province has managed to increase the number of Chinese Alligators from less than 500 to more than ten thousand.
The Chinese government has paid great attention to natural reserve construction as a means of protecting wildlife. So far. More than 1,000 sites covering 120 million hectares, approximately 12 percent of Chinese territory, have been declared as natural reserves. Some endangered species have begun a gradual recovery and steady population growth.
The cause of wildlife conservation in China has attracted international concern an d support, and the government has signed a number of international treaties on the protection of wildlife and nature in general. It has also signed agreements with foreign countries on the protection of migratory birds, the Giant Panda and the Tiger. Scientific exchanges between Chinese and international conservation organizations are quite frequent.
Wildlife is a treasure of mankind and an important part of the natural environment. They are our close friends, not our enemies. We have the responsibility and obligation to preserve valuable wildlife for coming generations.