Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

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  • The Fertile Crescent

    The Fertile Crescent is a term for an old fertile area north, east and west of the Arabian Desert in Southwest Asia. The Mesopotamian valley and the Nile valley fall under this term even though the mountain zone around Mesopotamia is the natural zone for the transition in a historical sense.

    As a result of a number of unique geographical factors the Fertile Crescent have an impressive history of early human agricultural activity and culture. Besides the numerous archaeological sites with remains of skeletons and cultural relics the area is known primarily for its excavation sites linked to agricultural origins and development of the Neolithic era.

    It was here, in the forested mountain slopes of the periphery of this area, that agriculture originated in an ecologically restricted environment. The western zone and areas around the upper Euphrates gave growth to the first known Neolithic farming communities with small, round houses , also referred to as Pre Pottery Neolithic A (PPNA) cultures, which dates to just after 10,000 BC and include areas such as Jericho, the world’s oldest city.

    During the subsequent PPNB from 9000 BC these communities developed into larger villages with farming and animal husbandry as the main source of livelihood, with settlement in the two-story, rectangular house. Man now entered in symbiosis with grain and livestock species, with no opportunity to return to hunter – gatherer societies.

    The area west and north of the plains of the Euphrates and Tigris also saw the emergence of early complex societies in the much later Bronze Age (about 4000 BC). There is evidence of written culture and early state formation in this northern steppe area, although the written formation of the states relatively quickly shifted its center of gravity into the Mesopotamian valley and developed there. The area is therefore in very many writers been named “The Cradle of Civilization.”

    The area has experienced a series of upheavals and new formation of states. When Turkey was formed in the aftermath of the genocide against the Pontic Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians perpetrated by the Young Turks during the First World War it is estimated that two-thirds to three-quarters of all Armenians and Assyrians in the region died, and the Pontic Greeks was pushed to Greece.

    Israel was created out of the Ottoman Empire and the conquering of the Palestinian terretories. The existence of large Arab nation states from the Maghreb to the Levant has since represented a potential threat to Israel which should be neutralised when opportunities arise.

    This line of thinking was at the heart of David Ben Gurion’s policies in the 1950s which sought to exacerbate tensions between Christians and Muslims in the Lebanon for the fruits of acquiring regional influence by the dismembering the country and the possible acquisition of additional territory.

    The Christians are now being systematically targeted for genocide in Syria according to Vatican and other sources with contacts on the ground among the besieged Christian community.

    According to reports by the Vatican’s Fides News Agency collected by the Centre for the Study of Interventionism, the US-backed Free Syrian Army rebels and ever more radical spin-off factions are sacking Christian churches, shooting Christians dead in the street, broadcasting ultimatums that all Christians must be cleansed from the rebel-held villages, and even shooting priests.

    It is now time that the genocide against the Pontic Greeks, Assyrians and Armenians is being recognized, that the Israeli occupation, settlements and violence against the Palestinians stop, and that the various minorities in the area start to live their lifes in peace – without violence and threats from majority populations, or from the West, and then specificially from the US.

    War in the Fertile Crescent
    https://aratta.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/war-in-the-fertile-crescent

    Everyone is free to use the text on this blog as they want. There is no copyright etc. This because knowledge is more important than rules and regulations.

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The Kunlun Mountains paradise of Taoism

Posted by Sjur Cappelen Papazian on November 25, 2013

The Kunlun mountains

Kunlun Mountains

Kunlun Mountains – Wikipedia

The Kunlun Mountains are one of the longest mountain chains in Asia, extending more than 3,000 km. In the broadest sense, it forms the northern edge of the Tibetan Plateau south of the Tarim Basin and the Gansu Corridor and continues east south of the Wei River to end at the North China Plain.

The exact definition of this range seems to vary. An old source uses Kunlun to mean the mountain belt that runs across the center of China, that is, Kunlun in the narrow sense, Altyn Tagh, Qilian Mountains and Qin Mountains.

A recent source has the Kunlun forming most of the south side of the Tarim Basin and then continuing east south of the Altyn Tagh. Sima Qian (Shiji, scroll 123) says that Emperor Wu of Han sent men to find the source of the Yellow River and gave the name Kunlun to the mountains at its source.

The name seems to have originated as a semi-mythical location in the classical Chinese text Shanhai Jing.

From the Pamirs of Tajikistan, it runs east along the border between Xinjiang and Tibet autonomous regions to the Sino-Tibetan ranges in Qinghai province. It stretches along the southern edge of what is now called the Tarim Basin, the infamous Takla Makan or “sand-buried houses” desert, and the Gobi Desert.

A number of important rivers flow from it including the Karakash River (‘Black Jade River’) and the Yurungkash River (‘White Jade River’), which flow through the Khotan Oasis into the Taklamakan Desert.

Altyn-Tagh or Altun Range is one of the chief northern ranges of the Kunlun. Nan Shan or its eastern extension Qilian is another main northern range of the Kunlun. In the south main extension is the Min Shan. Bayan Har Mountains, a southern branch of the Kunlun Mountains, forms the watershed between the catchment basins of China’s two longest rivers, the Yangtze River and the Huang He.

The highest mountain of the Kunlun Shan is the Kunlun Goddess (7,167 m) in the Keriya area. The Arka Tagh (Arch Mountain) is in the center of the Kunlun Shan; its highest point is Ulugh Muztagh.

Some authorities claim that the Kunlun extends north westwards as far as Kongur Tagh (7,649 m) and the famous Muztagh Ata (7,546 m). But these mountains are physically much more closely linked to the Pamir group (ancient Mount Imeon).

The mountain range formed at the northern edges of the Cimmerian Plate during its collision, in the Late Triassic, with Siberia, which resulted in the closing of the Paleo-Tethys Ocean.

The range has very few roads and in its 3,000 km length is crossed by only two. In the west, Highway 219 traverses the range en route from Yecheng, Xinjiang to Lhatse, Tibet. Further east, Highway 109 crosses between Lhasa and Golmud.

The paradise of Taoism

Kunlun Mountain (mythology)

Kunlun Mountain, or known just as Kunlun, Kuen-lun, or by other transcriptions, is an important and one of the most remarkable mythological mountain in Chinese mythology. It is the earthly residence of the Supreme Divinity, a paradise of deities and immortals, one of the pillars of the sky that prevents heaven from collapsing, and a sky ladder that links the earth to heaven.

The mythological Kunlun Mountain should not be confused with the real, geographic Kunlun Mountains. Various locations of Kunlun Mountain are proposed in the various legends, myths, and semi-historical accounts in which it appears. These various accounts describe it as the dwelling place of various gods and goddesses, together with marvelous plants and creatures. Many important events in Chinese mythology were located on Kunlun Mountain.

As the mythology related to the Kunlun Mountain developed, and was influenced by the introduction of ideas about an axis mundi from the cosmology of India were introduced, Kunlun Mountain became identified with (or took on the attributes of) Mount Sumeru.

Another historical development in the mythology of Kunlun, (again with Indian influence) was that rather than just being the source of the Yellow River, Kunlun began to be considered to be the source of four major rivers flowing to the four quarters of the compass.

The Kunlun mythos was also influenced by developments within the Daoist tradition, causing Kunlun to be perceived more as a paradise than a dangerous wilderness. The Kunlun Mountains are believed to be Taoist paradise.

Another trend argued in some recent research, is that over time, a merger of various traditions has result in an alignment of earthly paradises between an East Paradise (identified with Mount Penglai) and a West Paradise, with Kunlun Mountain identified as the West Paradise, a pole replaced a former mythic system which opposed Penglai with Guixu (“Returning Mountain”, and the Guixu mythological material accumulating around Kunlun instead, through a process of merging these two original mythological systems.

Poetic descriptions tend to lavish Kunlun with paradisaical detail: gem-like rocks and towering cliffs of jasper and jade, exotic jeweled plants, bizarrely formed and colored magical fungi, and numerous birds and other animals, together with immortal human beings.

The first to visit this paradise was, according to the legends, King Mu (976-922 BCE) of the Zhou Dynasty. He supposedly discovered there the Jade Palace of Huang-Di, the mythical Yellow Emperor and originator of Chinese culture, and met Hsi Wang Mu, the “Spirit Mother of the West” usually called the “Queen Mother of the West”, who was the object of an ancient religious cult which reached its peak in the Han Dynasty, also had her mythical abode in these mountains.

Sometimes it is the Eight Immortals who are seen, coming to pay their respects to the divine lady Xi Wangmu, perhaps invited to join her in a feast of immortal repast. Such anyway, was the well-worn image, which was also a motif frequently painted, carved, or otherwise depicted in the material arts.

Although not originally located on Kunlun, but rather on a jade mountain neighboring to the north (and west of the Moving Sands), Xi Wangmu, the Royal Mother of the Western Paradise, in later accounts was relocated to a palace protected by golden ramparts, within which immortals (xian) feasted on bear paws, monkey lips, and the livers of dragons, served at the edge of the Lake of Gems.

Every 6 000 years the peaches which conferred immortality upon those who ate them would be served (except the time when they were purloined by Monkey). Originally a plague deity with tiger teeth and leopard tail, she became a beautiful and well-mannered goddess responsible for guarding the herb of immortality.

Fuxi and Nuwa’s marriage took place on the mountain of Kunlun. Generally held to be brother and sister, and the last surviving human beings after a catastrophic flood, the incest taboo was waived by an explicit sign after prayerful questioning of a divine being who approved their marriage and thus the repopulation of the world.

Nüwa is a goddess in ancient Chinese mythology best known for creating mankind and repairing the wall of heaven by filling the gap with her body (half human half serpent) and thus stopping the flood. Nüwa is also depicted as a creator deity. However, not many stories ascribe to her the creation of everything; they usually confine her to the creation of humanity.

A legend states that Nüwa existed in the beginning of the world. She felt lonely as there were no animals, so she began to create animals and humans. On the first day she created chickens; on the second, dogs; on the third, sheep; on the fourth, pigs; on the fifth, cows; on the sixth, horses; and on the seventh, humanity.

She began creating human beings from yellow clay, sculpting each one individually. After she had created hundreds of figures in this way, she still had more to make but had grown tired of the laborious process. So instead of handcrafting each figure, she dipped a rope in clay and flicked it so blobs of clay landed everywhere; each of these blobs became a common person. Nüwa still laboriously crafted some people out of clay; these people became nobles.

Kunlun Mountain Fist

Kunlun Sect

Kunlun Mountain Fist

The Kunlun Mountains are associated with a number of different martial arts, and are considered by some as an alternate source for the Daoist martial arts (Wudang being traditionally claimed as the source.) Kunlun Mountain Fist may be named after the Kunlun mountain range, or it may be named after Kunlun Mountain in Shandong province.

Kunlun Mountain Fist is a style associated with the Kunlun mountain range, although similarities between this style and Kunlun Fist, as well as the name of one of the forms (White Cloud Mountain Fist) suggest that this style may be associated with Kunlun Mountain in Shandong province.

The Kunlun Sect, named after the place where it is based, the Kunlun Mountains, is a fictional martial arts sect mentioned in several works of wuxia fiction. It is usually featured as a leading orthodox sect in the wulin (martial artists’ community).

The sect’s history traces back to the Zhou Dynasty during the reign of King Wu. According to legend, its founders were the mythological figures Laozi and Yuanshi Tianzun. The latter had 12 disciples, who later became the Twelve Elders of Kunlun. Although Kunlun has its roots in Taoism, its members do not strictly follow Taoist customs and practices.

Kunlun’s rise to prominence in the wulin (martial artists’ community) only came after martial artists such as He Zudao made their names through their prowess in martial arts and by doing deeds of gallantry.

He Zudao’s successors led the sect towards greater heights and achieving its status in the wulin as one of the leading orthodox sects. The Kunlun Sect has the greatest strength and highest fame of all martial arts sects in the western regions of China.

Kunlun has a strict code of conduct laid down for its members, who are forbidden from associating with people from unorthodox sects or else they will be expelled. Although Kunlun is considered to be a Taoist sect just like Quanzhen and Wudang, it accepts students of both genders, and members are allowed to marry and start families, and are not bound by any regulation to maintain vegetarian diets.

One notable trait of the sect is that it has a strong desire to become one of the superpowers in the wulin, and some members are especially extreme in their plans towards achieving this goal. In Jin Yong’s The Heaven Sword and Dragon Saber, He Zudao and He Taichong are depicted as ruthless and ambitious individuals who wish to dominate the wulin.

He Taichong, in particular, is depicted as a morally bankrupt villain who resorts to unscrupulous means in his attempt to seize hold of the Dragon Slaying Saber and use it against his rivals.

Due to the similarities between the forms in this system and those of Kunlunquan, a style of Chinese martial arts popular in the province of Guangdong, it has been suggested that one style is an offshoot or variation of the other.

All the Kunlun Mountain Fist forms fit into the category of the Daoist martial arts, and some of the Kunlunquan forms seem to belong to the Southern Hakka styles, so it has been argued that Kunlunquan is a hybrid of the Kunlun Mountain Fist, but there is no consensus at this time.

As it is practiced by the minority Hakka it is considered a Kejiaquan. It was officially included among the styles nanquan, but originated in northern China. It was handed down in 1880 by Huang Huilong or feilong Huang, a native of Jinan in the province of Shandong. Shuangqing Huang, a practitioner of this style today, is considered sixty seventh generation, witness to what is considered ancient style.

Shandong

Shandong

Shandong, a coastal province of the People’s Republic of China, and a part of the East China region, which has played a major role in Chinese history from the beginning of Chinese civilization along the lower reaches of the Yellow River and served as a pivotal cultural and religious site for Taoism, Chinese Buddhism, and Confucianism.

Shandong’s Mount Tai is the most revered mountain of Taoism and one of the world’s sites with the longest history of continuous religious worship. The Buddhist temples in the mountains to the south of the provincial capital of Jinan were once among the foremost Buddhist sites in China. The city of Qufu is the birthplace of Confucius, and was later established as the center of Confucianism.

Shandong’s location at the intersection of ancient as well as modern north-south and east-west trading routes have helped to establish it as an economic center. It flourished during the 13th and 14th century and during the Yuan dynasty became the largest and most important Taoist school in Northern China. The school’s most revered master, Qiu Chuji, met with Genghis Khan in 1222 and was successful in influencing the Khan towards exerting more restraint during his brutal conquests. By the Khan’s decree, the school also was exempt from taxation.

With its location on the eastern edge of the North China Plain, Shandong has felt the influence of Chinese civilization since remote antiquity. The earliest dynasties (the Shang dynasty and Zhou dynasty) exerted varying degrees of control over western Shandong, while eastern Shandong was inhabited by the Laiyi peoples who were considered “barbarians”. Over subsequent centuries, the Laiyi were eventually sinicized.

During the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States period, regional states became increasingly powerful. At this time, Shandong was home to two powerful states: the state of Qi at Linzi and the state of Lu at Qufu. Lu is noted for being the home of Confucius. The state was, however, comparatively small, and eventually succumbed to the powerful state of Chu from the south. The state of Qi was, on the other hand, a major power throughout this entire period. Cities it ruled included Linzi, Jimo (north of modern Qingdao) and Ju.

The Qin Dynasty destroyed Qi and founded the first centralized Chinese state in 221 BCE. The Han Dynasty that followed created two zhou (“provinces”) in what is now modern Shandong: Qingzhou Province in the north and Yanzhou Province in the south. During the division of the Three Kingdoms Shandong belonged to the Kingdom of Wei, which ruled over northern China.

After the Three Kingdoms period, a brief period of unity under the Western Jin Dynasty gave way to invasions by nomadic peoples from the north. Northern China, including Shandong, was overrun. Over the next century or so Shandong changed hands several times, falling to the Later Zhao, then Former Yan, then Former Qin, then Later Yan, then Southern Yan, then the Liu Song Dynasty, and finally the Northern Wei Dynasty, the first of the Northern Dynasties during the Northern and Southern Dynasties Period. Shandong stayed with the Northern Dynasties for the rest of this period.

In 412 CE, the Chinese Buddhist monk Faxian landed at Laoshan, on the southern edge of the Shandong peninsula, and proceeded to Qingzhou to edit and translate the scriptures he had brought back from India.

The Sui Dynasty reestablished unity in 589, and the Tang Dynasty (618-907) presided over the next golden age of China. For the earlier part of this period Shandong was ruled as part of Henan Circuit, one of the circuits (a political division). Later on China splintered into warlord factions, resulting in the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period. Shandong was part of the Five Dynasties, all based in the north.

The Song Dynasty reunified China in the late tenth century. In 1996, the discovery of over two hundred buried Buddhist statues at Qingzhou was hailed as a major archaeological find. The statues included early examples of painted figures, and are thought to have been buried due to Emperor Huizong’s Song Dynasty repression of Buddhism (he favored Taoism).

The Song Dynasty was forced to cede northern China to the Jurchen Jin Dynasty in 1142. Shandong was administered by the Jin Dynasty as Shandong East Circuit and Shandong West Circuit – the first use of its current name.

The modern province of Shandong was created by the Ming Dynasty. It also included much of modern-day Liaoning (in south Manchuria) at the time. However, the Manchus increasingly asserted independence, and managed to conquer all of China in 1644. Under the Qing Dynasty, which they founded, Shandong acquired (more or less) its current borders.

The Yellow Emperor

The Yellow Emperor

The Yellow Emperor or Huangdi, formerly Chinese romanized as Huang-ti and Hwang-ti, is one of the legendary Chinese sovereigns and culture heroes included among the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors.

Tradition holds that Huangdi reigned from 2697 to 2597 or 2698 to 2598 BC. Huangdi’s cult was particularly prominent in the late Warring States and early Han period, when he was portrayed as the originator of the centralized state, a cosmic ruler, and a patron of esoteric arts.

Traditionally credited with numerous inventions and innovations, the Yellow Emperor is now regarded as the initiator of Chinese civilization, and said to be the ancestor of all Huaxia Chinese.

Accounts of the Yellow Emperor started to appear in Chinese texts in the Warring States period. “The most ancient extant reference” to Huangdi is an inscription on a bronze vessel made in the first half of the fourth century BC by the royal family of the state of Qi.

As Michael Puett points out, this was one of several references to the Yellow Emperor in the fourth and third centuries BC within accounts of the creation of the state.

The renowned Chinese historian Sima Qian – and much Chinese historiography following him – considered the Yellow Emperor to be a more historical figure than earlier legendary figures such as Fu Xi, Nüwa, and the Yan emperor. His Records of the Grand Historian begins with the Yellow Emperor, while passing over the others.

Throughout most of Chinese history, the Yellow Emperor and the other ancient sages were considered to be real historical figures. Their historicity started to be questioned in the 1920s by historians like Gu Jiegang, one of the founders of the Doubting Antiquity School in China.

In their attempts to prove that the earliest figures of Chinese history were mythological, Gu and his followers argued that these ancient sages were originally gods who were later depicted as humans by the rationalist intellectuals of the Warring States period.

Yang Kuan, a member of the same historiographical current, noted that only in the Warring States period had the Yellow Emperor started to be described as the first ruler of China. Yang thus argued that Huangdi was a later transformation of Shangdi, the supreme god of the Shang pantheon.

Also in the 1920s, French scholars Henri Maspero and Marcel Granet published critical studies of China’s accounts of high antiquity. In his Danses et légendes de la Chine ancienne [“Dances and legends of ancient China”], for example, Granet argued that these tales were “historicized legends” that said more about the time when they were written than about the time they purported to describe.

Most scholars now agree that the Yellow Emperor was originally a deity who was later transformed into a human figure. K.C. Chang sees Huangdi and other cultural heroes as “ancient religious figures” who were “euhemerized” in the late Warring States and Han periods.

Historian of ancient China, Mark Edward Lewis speaks of the Yellow Emperor’s “earlier nature as a god,” whereas Roel Sterckx, a professor at University of Cambridge, calls Huangdi a “legendary cultural hero.”

The Yellow Emperor has been referred to as Xuanyan-shi and Youxiong-shi. Third-century scholar Huangfu Mi commented that Xuanyuan was the name of a hill where Huangdi had lived and that he later took as a name.Qing-dynasty commentator Liang Yusheng (1745–1819) argued instead that the hill was named after the Yellow Emperor rather than the opposite.

According to British Sinologist Herbert Allen Giles (1845–1935); Youxiong was a name taken from Huangdi’s hereditary principality; Giles also cited sources saying that Xuanyuan was the name of a village where the Yellow Emperor had lived. William Nienhauser, a modern translator of the Shiji, explains that Huangdi was originally the head of the Youxiong Clan, which lived near what is now Xinzheng in Henan.

In the late Warring States period, the Yellow Emperor was integrated into the cosmological scheme of the Five Phases, in which the colour yellow represents earth, dragons, and the center. The correlation of the colours in association with different dynasties was mentioned in the Lüshi Chunqiu (late 3rd century BC), where the Yellow Emperor’s reign was seen to be governed by earth.

The origin of Huangdi’s legend is unclear, but historians have formulated several hypotheses about it. Yang Kuan, a member of the Doubting Antiquity School (1920s–1940s), argued that the Yellow Emperor was derived from Shangdi, the highest god of the Shang dynasty.

 

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