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Pak-China Friendship Year - A Brief Introduction to Ancient China and Some of its Wonders.

Byline: Shaukat Qadir - Email: shaukatq@gmail.com

Ancient China was one of the great civilizations of the history. Although its Dynasties began much earlier; the first Dynasty to leave historical records was the Shang (or Yin) Dynasty which began in 17th Century BC.

The vast tract of land known as China today, originally used to alter with each dynasty; thus in the era of the Qing Dynasty it was called The Empire of the Great Qing and under the Ming Dynasty, The Empire of the Great Ming etc. It is interesting that the modern name, China is of Persian origin, where it was referred to the Empire as Cheen, popularized in Europe by the famous Venetian traveller, Marco Polo, who travelled to Persia before going to China.

The first unified Chinese state was established by Qin Shi Huang of the Qin state in 221 BC, who proclaimed himself as the "First Emperor" and created many reforms in the Empire, notably the forced standardization of the Chinese language and measurements. The Qin Dynasty lasted only fifteen years, as its harsh legalist and authoritarian policies soon led to widespread rebellion.

The subsequent Han Dynasty ruled China between 206 BC and 220 AD, and created a lasting Han cultural identity among its populace that extends to the present day. The Han Dynasty expanded the empire's territory considerably with military campaigns reaching Korea, Vietnam, Mongolia and Central Asia, and also helped establish the Silk Road in Central Asia.

In 1974, some peasants working in the fields in the city of X'ian, the ancient capital of China, found some mud figures. Archaeologists from the world over began to throng the place and soon established that this was the Mausoleum of the Emperor Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of all of the extended Chinese empire. On ascending the throne in 246 BC at the age of 13, he immediately started working on constructing a secret and secure mausoleum where he was to be buried when he died.

Apparently, Qin suffered from paranoia and, even after his death, he wanted to be protected. Thus the secret mausoleum, which was known to exist, but its location remained unknown till 1974. In the paranoid desire to ensure the secrecy of its location, the thousands of labourers and fantastically skilled artisans were put to death, after its completion, which took 11 years. Although opened to the public in 1979, on the Chinese National Day, work on uncovering all of it is ongoing.

It is called 'Warriors and Horses' and has been established as the seventh Wonder of the World. The International Heritage Foundation has also accorded it the status of priority for preservation.

When I first visited this fascinating site in 2009, I found myself spellbound. The sheer artistry and the intricate detail of the workmanship are fascinating. Out of more than a thousand mud statues, no two figures have identical features! Each region of the Qin dominion is represented in the features of the lifelike, full size figures, and in the dresses they are adorned in! Moustaches, beards, of different sizes and shapes, alongside clean shaven figures with features that resemble Koreans, Vietnamese, Hans, and all other races can be easily identified.

From the military point of view, I could write a book on the entire layout. Being a student of military tactics and operational strategy, who was privileged to teach some unfortunate present-day senior officers both these subjects, I was absolutely dumbfounded by the strategic and tactical brilliance of the layout.

There are three pits housing these figures. Pit No. 1 is the main army. With scouting patrols ahead, the main army is led by, an infantry-heavy vanguard, with a smattering of Chariot borne cavalry and archers (the artillery of that era) immediately behind and protected. On each flank are flank-guards facing outward and a rearguard to protect the main body of the army. The main body has a mixture of infantry and cavalry again with layers of archers who are protected, but can be moved further forward or backward as the situation dictates. The bulk of the cavalry is in the centre and leading elements of the main body. In the exact centre of the entire force is a chariot borne figure, who can be recognized by his dress and commanding posture as the Field Commander. He is ringed by his personal guards. No modern tactician could layout his force better, whether poised for a defensive battle or advancing towards an enemy.

Pit No. 2 lies slightly to the left and rear of the main army and is obviously the reserve/strike force. Again infantry led, it is cavalry-heavy, with elements of infantry and archers grouped with each sub-force; what could be considered in the modern terminology as armoured infantry elements. Once again, the general in command of this force is located in the centre and ringed by his personal guard.

Pit No. 3 is behind the main army and is, quite obviously, the command post of the C-in-C. The C-in-C is again located in the centre, ringed by his guards with infantry and cavalry protecting front, rear, and each flank. Close to the general and on both sides are pouch bearing well-armed soldiers, one to each chariot, obviously couriers, to carry his orders to the main army or the reserve as may be required.

The intricacy with which each individual can be identified as an officer or belonging to the rank and file; the detail with which each weapon has been carved out, swords made out of a mixture of metals which modern science learned of only towards the middle of the last century; spears, arrows, bows, quivers full of arrows, all exquisite in their carving and detail! The fact that these mud baked figures remained buried for over twenty two centuries and survived to retain their detail; almost defies belief.

It was a fascinating and humbling experience. The fact that modern students of tactics and strategy could have learned operational strategy and tactics from these generals who commanded large forces, centuries ago was humbling indeed.

Everyone knows that paper, paper currency, and explosives were introduced to the world by the Chinese, though many centuries later. In fact it was Genghis Khan who, as a guest in China, was introduced to explosives through fireworks on the Chinese Emperor's birthday, and carried that knowledge, to use it with devastating effects in later wars; introducing this weapon to China. But Warriors and Horses was a vastly different experience.

In fact, Genghis Khan's entry in China was the first in that, much later period, early 12th Century AD, since the Chinese Great Wall, also built by the same Emperor, Qin, was meant to isolate China as well as defend it.

Finally, during the same visit in 2009, my wife and I were taken to a 'Garden of Paradise'. Though built only 700 years ago, it was a fascinating from a totally different perspective. Built by the Emperor for his concubine, it was really a garden of Paradise. However, two additions by Modern China deserve narration. The garden has a 'Five Star' washroom! It includes a luxurious restroom, each urinal and each WC has its own 12 inch TV set! A place my wife and I found very amusing.

But then there is also the theatre for dances. The most technologically fascinating thing about it is the fact that it is used, only at night, to screen movies in the open air arena on a screen of water! Thousands of very powerful small fountains throw up a uniform screen of water on which the movie is reflected! Only seeing is believing! I cannot stop myself from visiting China every year to discover more each time I go.
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Publication:Hilal
Geographic Code:9CHIN
Date:Mar 31, 2011
Words:1288
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