Archive for ‘Social & cultural’

20/08/2016

The Chinese admiral who spread Islam across Southeast Asia | South China Morning Post

Near my childhood home in Kunming (昆明), Yunnan (雲南) province, is a park dedicated to its most famous son: Admiral Zheng He.

Our teacher would take us to pay tribute to the great eunuch of the Ming dynasty, recounting his legendary seven expeditions that brought glory to the motherland.

The marble bust of Zheng He shows the face of a typical Chinese, with a square chin, brushy eyebrows and a flat nose. My father joked it more resembled comrade Lei Feng than the admiral. Not until years later did I realise how true this was.

A statue of Zheng He in Nanjing, where his armada was built. File photo

The statue was erected in 1979 – a year after Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平) launched his open-door policy. Zheng, barely mentioned during the Cultural Revolution, was plucked from obscurity and hailed as a national hero who embodied China’s open spirit. A park near his ancestral home was dedicated to him. The same craftsmen who churned out revolutionary statues were employed to build his.

In real life, Zheng probably looked very different. My school textbook mentioned only that he was a Hui minority (Muslim Chinese). In fact, the admiral was a descendent of a powerful Persian family. Records discovered in 1913 trace his lineage to Sayyid Ajall, who was sent by Kublai Khan to conquer Yunnan and became its first governor. In 2014, Chinese scientists at Fudan University in Shanghai put the theory to test. They examined DNA samples collected from descendents of the admiral’s close kin and found they originated from Persia, modern-day Iran. In addition to Zheng He, most senior officers of the storied Ming armada were also Muslims.

Beijing follows the route well travelled by Admiral Zheng He in its belt and road initiative

Over the past decades, researchers have concluded Zhang and his armada were the key force behind Islam’s spread in Southeast Asia. The Arabs established settlements in Southeast Asia from the eighth century. But Islam did not become dominant there until the 15th century – around the time Admiral Zheng began to sail in the South China Sea. Historians found evidence of Zheng’s missionary work in documents discovered in Semarang, Indonesia, by Dutch officials in 1925. This prompted Indonesian religious leader Hamka to write in 1961: “The development of Islam in Indonesia and Malaysia is intimately related to a Chinese Muslim, Admiral Zheng He.

”A crowning moment of Zheng’s expedition was converting the King of Malacca, Parameswara, to Islam shortly after he paid homage to the Yongle Emperor in Beijing in 1411. The conversion played a crucial role in the spread of Islam in Southeast Asia, according to Professor Xiao Xian of Yunnan University.

A replica of a ship used by Ming Dynasty eunuch explorer Zheng He, in Nanjing. Photo: Reuters

Xiao was one of the scholars who presented research work on Zheng He at an international symposium in 2005. They painted a vivid picture of the Ming armada, which had all the elements of a multinational enterprise.

The 300 ships – many twice as big as the largest European vessels of the time – were constructed in dry docks in Nanjing ( 南京 ), Jiangsu ( 江蘇 ) province. Building materials were sourced from across the Ming Empire. The 27,000-strong crew included Han Chinese, Muslim Hui, Arabs, Persians, and peoples from Central and East Asia. The lingua franca was Persian or Sogdian – a language used for centuries by merchants of the ancient Silk Road, according to Professor Liu Yingsheng of Nanjing University.

Size was not the only difference between Zheng’s fleet and that of Christopher Columbus 70 years later. The Europeans aboard the Santa Maria were exclusively Catholic – the Ming fleet was culturally and religiously diverse. Zheng was a Muslim but he was fluent in the teachings of Confucius, Buddhism and classic Chinese philosophy. The fleet included many Buddhist missionaries. Many regard his expeditions as the high-water mark of Chinese civilization. The Ming armada’s true greatness lay not in its size or sophistication but in its diversity and tolerance.

A statue of famed Chinese navigator Zheng He overlooks the city of Nanjing, Jiangsu province. Photo: AFP

After the Yongle Emperor’s death, the Ming court lost its global vision. Power was in the hands of the Confucius gentry-class, who jealously guarded against other schools of thoughts. China became increasingly introspective and insulated. The court stopped further expeditions and banned seafaring. The Chinese civilization gradually lost its vigour and started a long decline.

Today as the new “Silk Road” and “soft power” become China’s new catchphrases, it is important to remember what makes the Chinese civilization unique in the first place. Its greatest strength lies in its people’s amazing ability to absorb, adopt and assimilate different cultures.

Buddhism, which originated in India, flourished in China. The Zen school – a hybrid of Indian Buddhism and Chinese Taoism – spread to East Asia by monks in the Tang dynasty and became mainstream. Islam arrived from Central Asia and the Middle East during the Yuan and Ming dynasties. It took root in western China before spreading to Southeast Asia with Zhang’s fleet. We should remember that until 100 years ago, China was not a nation state in the Westphalian sense. Narrow-minded nationalism and xenophobia are the exception rather than the norm of the world’s oldest surviving civilization.

Source: The Chinese admiral who spread Islam across Southeast Asia | South China Morning Post

19/08/2016

Why is Kite Flying a Deadly Hobby in India? – India Real Time – WSJ

India’s capital has banned killer kite string after three people died this week from injuries and accidents caused by string that has been fortified for kite fights.

The weeks around India’s Independence Day—Aug. 15—are peak kite flying and fighting season. Kids and adults fly kites high in the air and try to maneuver them so their lines cut those of other kites as part of a traditional and usually harmless competition.

To better their chances of surviving longer and cutting competitors, many people use extra strong string and nylon lines and even lines encrusted with ground glass. When those sharp lines fall across roads they are a hazard to two-wheeler riders who can’t see them. Hitting one of the lines at high speed can knock bikers off their vehicles and slit their throats.

While there are injuries and deaths caused by kite strings every year, this year was particularly tragic as two of the victims were under the age of five.

A three-year-old girl died, while traveling in a car Monday with her head sticking out of the sun roof. She sustained a neck injury and was taken to a hospital where she died, said Vijay Singh, deputy police commissioner for northwest Delhi.

In another incident the same day in west Delhi, a four-year-old boy died also while looking out of a sun roof and becoming entangled with a string hanging from a tree. He was taken to a hospital and died, Pushpendra Kumar, deputy police commissioner for west Delhi said.

Also Monday, a man traveling in west Delhi on a motorbike became entangled with a kite string and crashed his motorbike, sustaining head injuries. He was also declared dead at hospital, Mr. Kumar said.

Chandraker Bharti, Delhi’s secretary of environment and forests, on Tuesday banned the sale, production, storage and supply of kite flying thread “that is sharp or made sharp such as being laced with glass, metal or other sharp objects.”

Source: Why is Kite Flying a Deadly Hobby in India? – India Real Time – WSJ

19/08/2016

The return of the Xia | The Economist

CHINA’S leaders are immensely proud of their country’s ancient origins. President Xi Jinping peppers his speeches with references to China’s “5,000 years of history”. The problem is that archaeological evidence of a political entity in China going back that far is scant.

There is some, including engravings on animal bones, that shows the second dynasty, the Shang, really did control an area in the Yellow river basin about 3,500 years ago. But no such confirmation exists for the legendary first ruling house, the Xia. Even inside China, some historians have long suspected that the country’s founding story—in which Emperor Yu tames flooding on the Yellow river (with the help of a magic black-shelled turtle, pictured), earns for himself the “mandate of heaven” and establishes the first dynasty—was either a Noah’s-Ark flood-myth or perhaps propaganda invented later to justify centralised state power. This month, however, state-controlled media have been crowing over newly published evidence in Science, an American journal, that at least the flooding was real. This, they say, has made it more credible that the Xia was, too. Not everyone is so convinced.

Catastrophic floods leave their mark on soil and rocks. Qinglong Wu of Peking University and others have examined the geology of the upper reaches of the Yellow river. In the journal, they conclude that a vast flood did take place in the right area and not long after the right time for the supposed founding of the Xia. Although their evidence does not prove the existence of an Emperor Yu or of the dynasty he founded, it does provide a historical context in which someone might have gained power with the help of flood-taming exploits.

According to Mr Wu, a vast landslide, probably caused by an earthquake, blocked the course of the Yellow river as it flowed through the Jishi gorge on the edge of the Tibetan plateau. For six to nine months as much as 16 cubic kilometres (3.8 cubic miles) of water built up behind the accidental dam, which, when it finally burst, produced one of the biggest floods ever. At its peak, the authors calculate, the flow was 500 times the normal discharge at Jishi Gorge. Mr Wu reckons the ancient flood could easily have been felt 2,000km downstream in the area of the Yellow river said by Chinese historians to have been the realm of the Xia.

At about this time, either coincidentally or (more probably) because of the flood, the river changed its course, carving out its vast loop across the north China plain. The significance is that, while the river was finding its new course, it would have flooded repeatedly. This is consistent with old folk tales about Emperor Yu taming the river not through one dramatic action, but by decades of dredging.

The ancient flood can be dated because the earthquake that set the catastrophic events in motion also destroyed a settlement in the Jishi gorge. Radiocarbon dating of inhabitants’ bones puts the earthquake at about 1920BC—not 5,000 years ago but close-ish. Xinhua, a state news agency, lauded the study as “important support” for the Xia’s existence. Xu Hong of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences challenged this, saying the scholars’ findings had not proved their conclusions. The first dynasty has gone from myth to controversy.

Source: The return of the Xia | The Economist

19/08/2016

Cowboys and Indians | The Economist

CLOSE your eyes and you could be in a farmyard: a docile heifer slurps a grassy lunch off your hand, mooing appreciatively. Now open your eyes to the relentless bustle of a huge city: the cow is tied to a lamp-post, cars swerve to avoid it and its keeper demands a few rupees for providing it with the snack.

Across Mumbai, an estimated 4,000 such cow-handlers, most of them women, offer passing Hindus a convenient way to please the gods. In a country where three-quarters of citizens hold cows to be sacred, they form part of an unusual bovine economy mixing business, politics and religion.India is home to some 200m cows and more than 100m water buffaloes. The distinction is crucial. India now rivals Brazil and Australia as the world’s biggest exporter of beef, earning around $4 billion a year. But the “beef” is nearly all buffalo; most of India’s 29 states now ban or restrict the slaughter of cows. With such strictures multiplying under the government of Narendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist, entrepreneurs have sought new ways to profit.

One promising line of business has been to become a gau rakshak, or cow protector. Some of these run charitably funded retirement homes for ageing cows, including rural, ranch-style facilities advertised on television. Other rakshaks have proven more concerned with punishing anyone suspected of harming cows or trading in their meat. Such vigilantes have gained notoriety in recent years as attacks on meat-eating Muslims or on lower-caste Hindus working in the leather trade have led to several deaths. A mob assaulted a group of Dalits (the castes formerly known as untouchables) last month in Mr Modi’s home state of Gujarat, thinking they had killed a cow. In fact they were skinning a carcass they had bought legitimately; Dalits traditionally dispose of dead cows.

More commonly, India’s less scrupulous cowboys simply demand protection money from people who handle cattle. An investigation by the Indian Express, a newspaper, found that cattle breeders in the northern state of Punjab were forced to pay some 200 rupees ($3) a cow to ensure that trucks transporting livestock could proceed unmolested. Under pressure from the rakshaks, the state government had also made it harder to get permits to transport cattle.

Earlier this month Mr Modi broke a long silence on the issue. Risking the ire of his Hindu-nationalist base, the prime minister blasted “fake” gau rakshaks for giving a good cause a bad name. If they really cared about cows, he said, they should stop attacking other people and instead stop cows that munch on rubbish from ingesting plastic, a leading cause of death.

In any case, vigilantism and the beef trade generate minuscule incomes compared with India’s $60 billion dairy industry. The country’s cows and buffaloes produce a fifth of all the world’s milk. As Indian incomes rise and consumers opt for costlier packaged brands, sales of dairy products are rising by 15% a year. But although a milk cow can generate anywhere from 400 to 1,100 rupees a day, this still leaves the question of what to do with male animals, as well as old and unproductive females.

Not all can be taken in by organised shelters. This makes the urban cow-petting business a useful retirement strategy. A good patch (outside a temple, say) can generate around 500 rupees a day from passers-by. Feed costs just 20 rupees a day, says Raju Gaaywala, a third-generation cow attendant whose surname, not coincidentally, translates as cow-handler.

He inherited his patch in Mulund, a northern suburb of Mumbai, when his father passed away in 1998. His latest cow, Lakshmi, cost him 4,000 rupees around three years ago and generates around 40 times that every year, enough to send his three children to English-language schools and, he hopes, to set them up in a different form of entrepreneurship.

The handlers fear their days may be limited. A nationwide cleanliness drive has targeted urban cow-handlers, who are in theory liable for fines of 10,000 rupees. In practice the resurgent Hindu sentiment under Mr Modi should help leave the cattle on the streets. It may kick up other opportunities, too. Shankar Lal, an ideological ally of the prime minister’s, in an interview with the Indian Express extolled the many health merits of cow dung. Spreading a bit on the back of a smartphone, as he does every week, apparently protects against harmful radiation. Usefully for Indian farmers, only local cows can be used, not Western breeds such as Holsteins or Jerseys, he warns: “Their dung and milk are nothing but poison.”

Source: Cowboys and Indians | The Economist

11/08/2016

‘Primordial Girl’ or: How China Learned to Stop Gold-Medal Worship and Love Sporting Effort – China Real Time Report – WSJ

For two days in row, Chinese swimmer Fu Yuanhui clambered out of the Olympic pool in Rio clueless about her breakthrough performances: breaking personal records and clinching a bronze medal.

Each time a poolside reporter had to break the news to the bubbly 20-year-old, whose vivacious epiphanies on live television have broken the Chinese internet.“I was so fast! I’m really pleased!” Ms. Fu exclaimed Monday after learning that she swam the 100-meter backstroke semifinal in 58.95 seconds, a new personal best. “I’ve already… expended my primordial powers!”

After Tuesday’s final, when told that she trailed the silver medalist by just 0.01 second, Ms. Fu replied, “Maybe it’s because my arms are too short.”

Her gleeful candor made her an overnight online sensation. Fans feted her as “Primordial Girl” in online memes and viral videos spoofing her exuberant expressions. Her Weibo microblog following swelled more than sixfold to 3.8 million users.

China has a new sports star, and never mind that she didn’t finish first. In a country long obsessed with winning gold medals, Ms. Fu’s newfound fame seemed to signal shifting social perceptions about the meaning of sport.

“‘Primordial Girl’ and the netizens who appreciate her have taught all of us a lesson: sport is about the struggle and, especially, enjoyment, but most definitely not about spinning gold,” the Communist Party’s flagship newspaper, People’s Daily, said in a Tuesday commentary.

“The warm support from netizens,” according to the newspaper, “shows that public attitudes toward competitive sport and the Olympics have sublimated to a higher level.

”Ms. Fu’s fans, for their part, credited her “authentic” demeanor, which contrasted with the mild mien typical of Chinese Olympians. “We love your happy optimism and strong personality,” a Weibo user wrote on Ms. Fu’s microblog. “That’s what makes a true athlete.

”Winning used to be everything for China’s Olympians, virtually all of whom came through a grueling state-run sports regime that fetishized success. Athletes who strike gold can expect fame and fortune, while those who disappoint often suffer neglect or even ignominy.

Liu Xiang, a hurdler who became the first Chinese man to win an Olympic gold in athletics at the 2004 Athens Games, saw public adulation turn into anguish and anger at the Beijing Games four years later, when an injury forced him to withdraw just before running his first race.E

China nonetheless crowned a grandly staged Beijing Olympics by topping the gold-medal tally for the first time, with 51 in all. Their gold haul dropped to a second-place 38 at the 2012 Games in London, and some Chinese pundits expect a further slip in Rio, to between 30 and 36.

State media, for its part, has tried to manage public expectations about China’s ebbing gold rush.

“As we mature in mentality, learn how to appreciate competition, and become able to calmly applaud our rivals, we’d showcase the confidence and tolerance of a great country,” state broadcaster China Central Television said Sunday in a Weibo post after a goldless first day.

“We still need our first gold medal to boost morale, but what we really need is to challenge ourselves, surpass ourselves,” CCTV said. By Tuesday Chinese athletes had racked up eight golds, alongside three silvers and six bronzes.The message seems to be filtering through, with many Chinese fans appearing more tolerant of athletes who underperformed.

Among the beneficiaries was Ning Zetao, a swimmer who won widespread popularity at last year’s world championships with his boyish good looks—and a 100-meter freestyle gold.

After crashing out of the same event in Rio at the semifinal stage on Tuesday, the 23-year-old appeared philosophical about his failure.

“I’ve done my best,” he told a CCTV reporter.

His comments found a receptive audience among his Weibo fandom. “This is Ning Zetao’s first time participating in the Olympics,” one user wrote. “Don’t give him too much pressure!”

Source: ‘Primordial Girl’ or: How China Learned to Stop Gold-Medal Worship and Love Sporting Effort – China Real Time Report – WSJ

08/08/2016

This Is Why It Is Difficult to Make in India – India Real Time – WSJ

PHOTO: Employees worked on the cabin of a Sikorsky S-92 at the Tata Advanced Systems Ltd. facility at Adibatla in the south Indian city of Hyderabad, June 07, 2016.

Having signed a string of multibillion-dollar orders from foreign firms to make parts for helicopters, jet fighters and trains, India is struggling to find people with the skills to build them.

In a $3.3 billion push, it is racing to equip 15 million people by 2020 with the skills necessary to realize Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s aim to bring more high-grade manufacturing to the country.

But the challenges are significant at a time when foreign suppliers including Boeing Co., Airbus Group SE and Alstom SA often can’t find the employees with the training and experience to help fulfill Mr. Modi’s ‘Make in India’ program.E

More than 80% of engineers in India are “unemployable”, Aspiring Minds, an Indian employability assessment firm, said in a January report after a study of about 150,000 engineering students in about 650 engineering colleges in the country.

A lack of specialized courses mean companies have to train their own people from scratch. At one training center outside Hyderabad in southern India, young workers in their early 20s toil with high-precision hand tools as they are taught for the first time how to fix rivets on aircraft-grade aluminum sheets as part of a year-long training program.

Source: This Is Why It Is Difficult to Make in India – India Real Time – WSJ

08/08/2016

India’s Controversial Cow Protection Group Conducts Cattle Census – India Real Time – WSJ

A group concerned about the safety of India’s cows has embarked on a controversial and ambitious mission this month: counting all the cattle in the state of West Bengal.

“Our aim is to save the cow mother,” said Subrata Gupta, president of the Bengal branch of Cow Development Cell, which used to be associated with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

The group will use the data to protect the state’s cows, many of which are being illegally exported to Bangladesh and Pakistan for slaughter, said Mr. Gupta.

The status of cows — an animal deeply revered in Hinduism – is a divisive issue in the country. Critics say conservative Hindu groups, emboldened by the BJP’s power in New Delhi, are eating away at the country’s secular roots by trying to ban beef consumption.

Over the weekend Mr. Modi spoke out against self-styled vigilantes who say they are trying to protect cows. He urged state governments to punish them when they use cow protection as a rationalization for hate crimes.

Cow slaughter is already illegal in many Indian states–including Uttar Pradesh where a Muslim man was killed by a mob last year following rumors he had slaughtered a cow for food.

The eastern state of West Bengal, however, allows the killing of cows during the Islamic religious festival of Eid.

Around 6,000 volunteers from Mr. Gupta’s group are going door-to-door across state to record how many cows each household owns. The group wants to finish the survey before Sept. 12, when Muslims will celebrate Eid.

“Thousands of cows are being smuggled across India’s border into Bangladesh, where they will be slaughtered,” said Mr. Gupta of the Cow Development Cell which has groups apprehending cattle trucks, even though it has no legal authority to do so.

He said activists from the group freed about 40,000 animals last month.

The BJP recently broke ties with Mr. Gupta’s Cow Development Cell.

“It was an all-India decision that a separate cell for cow development is not needed,” said Dilip Ghosh, president of the BJP in West Bengal.

That hasn’t stopped Mr. Gupta and his army of self-styled cow protectors who say they will release the results of the cow census on Sept. 15.

Source: India’s Controversial Cow Protection Group Conducts Cattle Census – India Real Time – WSJ

06/08/2016

Science and History Align to Hint at China’s Founding Legend – China Real Time Report – WSJ

Like Noah and his animal-laden ark, China has its own creation legends. Thousands of years ago, one story goes, a man named Yu tamed the country’s terrible flooding with the assistance of a dragon and was ultimately named emperor.

Now the authors of a new paper published in the U.S. journal Science say they’ve found evidence of an ancient, cataclysmic flood that helps to underpin at least part of that legend. In a bigger leap, they also say their research helps offer evidence for the existence of what some describe as China’s first dynasty, the Xia, long seen in some quarters as a myth.

The team found that a massive flood took place around 1920 B.C., a time that coincides with when many scholars believe the Xia dynasty first emerged. The flood finding is notable, they say, because annals that mention the Xia dynasty say that Yu went on to found the dynasty and become its emperor after successfully dispelling flooding along the Yellow River.

“Many foreigners haven’t heard of the Xia dynasty or don’t believe it existed,” says Wu Qinglong, who led the team’s work during a recent post-doctorate stint at Peking University. “But in China, it’s different, this is a story passed down by tradition.

”According to their findings, an earthquake triggered a landslide that in turn swallowed up a large gorge located in Qinghai province traversed by the Yellow River. That landslide created a “huge cork” and a natural dam 200 meters tall that caused water to build up for six to nine months before breaking free, causing some 16 cubic kilometers of water to surge forth, says David Cohen, assistant professor in anthropology at National Taiwan University and a co-author on the paper.

The precise date determined by researchers was derived from the analysis of findings at a village downstream from the dam destroyed by the earthquake. A test of bones of children killed in the quake found they died around 1920 B.C. The presence of sediment from the flood found in fissures caused by the quake helped establish the flood’s timing, Mr. Cohen said.

Still, scholars caution against too hastily connecting the dots between the existence of a flood, however sizable, and that of the Xia. James T. Williams, an assistant professor at Renmin University who studies the economy of Bronze Age societies in China, notes that written records invoking the Xia dynasty weren’t produced until hundreds of years later. While the flood evidence may be persuasive, he notes, “a one-to-one correlation” with the existence of the Xia is a harder case to make.Mr. Cohen acknowledges such skepticism. “A number of assumptions have to be made,” he says. “First, you have to accept that there was a Xia dynasty, and you have to accept that its founding was somehow related to a massive flood of the Yellow River.”

But for China, he says, “It’s a story of the foundation of civilization and how it came into being.

”Flooding remains a massive problem in China, with torrential rains leading to widespread urban flooding that has killed hundreds this year.

For its lead author, producing the report wasn’t easy. After completing his post-doctorate and leaving Peking University in 2012, Mr. Wu spent several years unemployed as he sought to complete his research. At times, he relied on loans from friends, he said. In Beijing, he lived in various subdivided apartments, including a three-room place shared among 10 for which he paid 600 yuan ($90) a month.

Still, he says he is gratified by his team’s findings. “We’ve found existence of a big flood. We think it’s very possible it’s the one from our legends and it helps support the history of the Xia dynasty,” he says. “The evidence supports the veracity of it all.”

Source: Science and History Align to Hint at China’s Founding Legend – China Real Time Report – WSJ

05/08/2016

Yellow River yields clues to Chinese legend of ancient ‘Great Flood’ | Reuters

A view of the Yellow river near the Lajia site, hit by a flood 4,000 years ago, in Qinghai province, China in this undated handout photo. Wu Qinglong/Science/Handout via REUTERS

The crushed skeletons of children point to an earthquake and catastrophic flood on China’s Yellow River 4,000 years ago that could be the source of a legendary “Great Flood” at the dawn of Chinese civilization, scientists say.

A Chinese-led team found remnants of a vast landslide, caused by an earthquake, big enough to block the Yellow River in what is now Qinghai province near Tibet.

Ancient sediments indicated that the pent-up river formed a vast lake over several months that eventually breached the dam, unleashing a cataclysm powerful enough to flood land 2,000 km (1,200 miles) downstream, the scientists wrote in the journal Science.

The authors put the Yellow River flood at around 1920 BC by carbon-dating the skeletons of children in a group of 14 victims found crushed downstream, apparently when their home collapsed in the earthquake. Deep cracks in the ground opened by the quake were filled by mud typical of a flood and indicated that it struck less than a year after the quake.

The flood on Asia’s third-longest river would have been among the worst anywhere in the world in the last 10,000 years and matches tales of a “Great Flood” that marks the start of Chinese civilization with the Xia dynasty.

“No scientific evidence has been discovered before” for the legendary flood, lead author Wu Qinglong of Nanjing Normal University told a telephone news conference.

In traditional histories, a hero called Yu eventually tamed the waters by dredging, “earning him the divine mandate to establish the Xia dynasty, the first in Chinese history,” the scientists wrote.

Their finds around the Jishi Gorge from about 1900 B.C. would place the start of the Xia dynasty several centuries later than traditionally thought, around the time of a shift to the Bronze Age from the Stone Age along the Yellow River.

Some historians doubt the Xia dynasty existed, reckoning it part of myth-making centuries later to prop up imperial rule. Written records date only from 450 BC.

The evidence of a massive flood in line with the legend “provides us with a tantalizing hint that the Xia dynasty might really have existed,” said David Cohen of National Taiwan University, one of the authors.

Deluges feature in many traditions, from Hindu texts to the Biblical story of Noah. In pre-history, floods were probably frequent as ice sheets melted after the last Ice Age ended about 10,000 years ago, raising world sea levels.

Source: Yellow River yields clues to Chinese legend of ancient ‘Great Flood’ | Reuters

04/08/2016

Rude Chinese banned from going on holiday | The Times & The Sunday Times

“Uncivilised” Chinese tourists who commit such crimes against etiquette as asking foreigners for selfies, throwing nut shells around or defacing historical sites may find themselves stuck at home because their names are on a travellers’ blacklist.

Authorities in China have been cracking down hard on individuals who sully the country’s name abroad by acting rudely or violently, and the national tourism administration introduced a blacklist for the worst offenders last year.

A draft regulation released this week will, if passed, allow government agencies and tour companies to share blacklists and bar trouble-makers from future trips.

As well as travel companies, government organisations such as customs control, quarantine and border protection bodies would potentially be able to access the blacklist and take measures against those on it.

So far the blacklist contains only 19 names. The administration said that behaviour that could lead to a tourist being blacklisted included “damaging public facilities or historical relics, ignoring social customs at tourism destinations and becoming involved with gambling or prostitution”.

The regulation draft, which is in its public comment phase, stated: “Punishments can be imposed by travel agencies or other related agencies or organisations based on the record.

”Some analysts questioned how effective implementation of the rule could be. Liu Simin, of the China Society for Futures Studies research group, said: “If tourism authorities want to restrict blacklisted tourists from travelling overseas, they can do this only through travel agencies. If travellers plan their own trips and skip the agencies, they’re out of reach.

”The introduction of the blacklist came after President Xi told Chinese tourists in 2014 to clean up their act when abroad to help to dispel negative stereotypes about them.

Talking in a light-hearted fashion, he said: “Do not litter water bottles everywhere. Do not damage coral reefs. Eat less instant noodles and more local seafood.

”The year before the president’s comments, Chinese tourists spent more than £14.5 billion on holidays abroad — more than any other country.

Badly behaved Chinese tourists have continued to make headlines since the introduction of the blacklist.

Last week a Chinese woman was arrested for common assault after throwing orange juice at a flight attendant on a flight from Dubai to Hong Kong. She is understood to have been angry because meals for her children had not been prepared by airline staff in advance.

Source: Rude Chinese banned from going on holiday | World | The Times & The Sunday Times

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