chinese tuesdays

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Chinese Invention Tuesdays: Longlist

 

It's an old saw that the Chinese invented most everything, including saws. But how many can you name to impress people at dinner parties? The four big ones are paper, printing, the compass, and gunpowder (while trying to create an elixir of immortality, ironically). Lesser known are golf, wheelbarrows, helicopters and – logical when you think about it – toilet paper.

We thought it would be interesting to list one Chinese invention for each letter of the alphabet. Most of these are well established, some are a stretch from the current version of the thing but the original idea was Chinese, or so they claim. Pity they didn't invent copyright.

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Chinese Invention Tuesdays: Brush

Edited from Fuck Yeah Chinese Myths!:

Meng Tian (蒙恬 Méng Tián) was a general under the first Emperor Qin Shi Huang, and distinguished himself in campaigns against the Xiongnu or Huns. Legend also credits him with inventing the writing brush (毛笔 máobǐ).

The thing is, Meng Tian had to report back to the Emperor a lot, and back then you could only write by carving on bamboo slips. Which sucked, because it took a long time to write anything. So one day, Meng Tian took his sword tassel, dipped it in ink, and wrote on the bamboo. It was so much faster, and after that Meng Tian’s soldiers hunted animals for their fur. They tied the fur ends to bamboo or wooden sticks, and the brush was born.

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Chinese Invention Tuesdays: Paper

Edited from Fuck Yeah Chinese Myths!:

One of the inventions the Chinese gave to the world is paper, and it’s helped everyone loads, because before paper books were written on bamboo strips, rolled up and tied with string. The thing is, these books were really heavy and a hassle to transport. Some of them were said to weigh 120kg, and others were 3000 bamboo slips long. Yikes. (Ed: silk was also used, but was too costly.)

Enter Cai Lun (蔡伦 Cài Lún), 50-121 AD, a eunuch working under the Emperor in the Han dynasty.

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Chengyu Tuesdays: Duck Romance

 

We're finishing up our run of chengyu with a few idioms for lovers, and then back to something completely different next month. This one is for all the mandarin ducks.

 

• 一见钟情 yījiànzhōngqíng – Love at first sight. Also connected is 一见如故 yījiànrúgù for that feeling when you meet someone like you’re old friends

• 擦肩而过 cājiānérguò – To brush shoulders but pass each other by. For missed connections, or when you’ve known someone a long time before falling for them

• 爱屋及乌 àiwūjíwū – Love me, love my dog. Although technically replace “me” with “my house”, and “dog” with “the crow [living in the rafters]”

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Chengyu Tuesdays: Smashing Jade

完璧归赵 wánbìguī Zhào – return to its owner

 

完璧归赵 (wánbìguī Zhào) is literally "return the jade disc to Zhao", and means to return something to its rightful owner. As always, there's a (somewhat overwrought) story behind it:

 

A precious jade disc (the 和氏璧 héshìbì) was stolen from the state of Chu and sold to the state of Zhao. In 283 BC, King Zhaoxiang of Qin offered 15 cities to the state of Zhao in exchange for the jade disc. Zhao minister Lin Xiangru was dispatched to take the jade to Qin. He handed over the disc, but when it became clear that the King of Qin would not uphold his side of the bargain, he claimed that the jade had an imperfection.

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