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Why did emperors of India and China have so many mistresses?

Why did emperors of India and China have so many mistresses?

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Some Indian and Chinese emperors had more than 50 mistresses. Wasn't it difficult to please so many women and maintain peace among them? What caused them to have so many women?

I think you're finding this odd because you are looking at it from the point of view of your own culture, and assuming that is "normal". In fact, different cultures evolved with different standards for adult gender relations. Since the rules used appear to be nearly universal within language families, likely the roots of these idioms go back at least to the time their entire language families were formed.

In Afroasiatic cultures, the common historical arrangement was plural marriage. Wives had nearly equal status (subject to the preferences of the husband), and the status of all their offspring was strictly birth order.

Indo-European cultures tended more to a strict exclusive binary marriage. IE Men were generally free to dally outside of that bond (if they could), but both the women and any resulting progeny would not considered "legitimate" at all, so they essentially had no status.

Our records for the ancient Sumerians (who were neither Afroasiatic nor Indo-European) tend to show a surprisingly looser bond, with women able to control their own finances and hold their own positions and generally participate in society completely independent of their husbands.

China appears to have been essentially halfway between the IE and Afroasiatic models. You could look at what high-status men like the emperor had as a plural marriage, with the first wife having a greatly enhanced status. The offspring of concubines were not removed from inheritance, and thus were not considered "illegitimate" in the way a child of a European mistress would be. However, they were lower status than the first wife's children, regardless of birth order. So calling Chinese concubines "mistresses" as this question does is very misleading. Better to think of them as "lesser wives".

As for how this was run, consider it like any large workplace. People are thrown together not necessarily because they are or aren't friends, but because they all are working together on the same job.

In both Afroasiatic and Chinese plural marriage societies, the number of wives was limited by the number that the man was rich enough to support. Of course this meant having a large number of them was an indicator of wealth. As with any wealth indicator, its acceptance as such induces people to acquire more of the status good in question than they really need or can use, just to demonstrate how rich they are.

If you've read The Great Gatsby, you can consider a 50+ harem as like Jay Gatsby's library. The books were all real, so he's not a poser. However they were uncut, openly showing off their purpose is not to be read, but just for you, so you know they are there.

A line in the classic Chinese novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms illustrates the scenario well: After Zhang Fei causes Liu Bei's two wives to be captured, Liu Bei (let me emphasize that he is the hero of the story) tries to aleviate his guilt by saying that wives are like shirts but brothers are like limbs. A shirt can be replaced, a limb cannot. So yeah… that's how things worked at the time.

History's Hatred: China’s War on Drugs and the Power of Past Violence

Once part and parcel of Asia’s political economy during the age of imperialism, the opium trade wreaked social havoc in China and provoked an international movement toward drug control that endures to the present day.

By Steffen Rimner

For more than one hundred years, China has been waging a War on Drugs. For most of that century, its commitment to fight drug distribution and consumption was ironclad.

The same is true today China’s most recent public diplomacy has left little doubt that its anti-drug zeal has not abated. In spring 2009, the National Narcotics Commission of China joined hands with the Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to host seventeen member states of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB). 1 Combining public fanfare with diplomatic finesse, the centennial highlighted the International Opium Commission (wanguo jinyan hui) of 1909 in Shanghai as the first-ever anti-drug summit in human history. The one-hundredth anniversary of the birth of global drug control, supported equally by Beijing and the international community, offered ready material for an intrinsically global politics of history, almost like a bait to fish. 2

By 2019, only the centennial itself has been relegated to history. The screens announcing an “existing spirit of shared responsibilities and mutual trust” 3 have disappeared. So has the carefully choreographed exhibit featuring global drug control as China’s brainchild. Likewise, the Shanghai Declaration, proclaiming Chinese and international cooperation in global drug control, is now gathering dust, devolved into a historical document. 4 Most dramatically, even the luster of high office in Chinese drug control did not shield officials from sudden state scrutiny. At the commemoration of 2009, Meng Hongwei gave one of the major speeches as acting vice minister of public security. In 2018, he resigned as chief of Interpol after being arrested by his own government on charges of corruption.

Beyond the waxing and waning of political favor, Chinese anti-drug politics has retained its prominence, enduring for centuries, and showing how historical hatred of drugs can become a source of political mobilization in international affairs today. Asian modern history made drugs into forces of violence—forces that continue to shape national fears of societal collapse to the present day.

China’s historical hatred of opium started growing roots during the First Opium War (1839–1842). The British victory in the Second Opium War (1856–1860) paved the way to the legalization of the Indian-Chinese opium trade, crushing Chinese hopes for any viable form of opium control. By the 1890s, British-sponsored opium trading from India to China had raised the numbers of Chinese opium addicts to an estimated fifteen million. 5 It was only in the late phase of the Qing dynasty that this—the largest, government-sponsored drug trade up to the nineteenth century—provoked international outrage of an intensity equalled only by the abolitionist movements against the slave trade.

The backlash against the opium trade as a trope for imperialism’s intent, force, and damage at once gripped public opinion far beyond the Great Qing. 6 Anti-drug campaigns experienced a proliferation of their own, sprawling across diverse states and societies from East, Southeast, and South Asia to western Europe and North America. In the 1920s, the League of Nations, the predecessor of the United Nations, became the first guardian of national drug legislation around the world. The international community officially condemned the government-sponsored production, distribution, and consumption of “opium and other dangerous drugs,” now including morphine, cocaine, and heroin, as one of the most pernicious forces produced by the rise of global pharmaceutical empires. Through the League of Nations and its global governance, the unregulated or ill-regulated drugs business came to be envisioned for the first time as an act of violence—a perpetration of harm purposefully and perniciously designed to sabotage societies and human lives from within.

None of this would need to concern practitioners and analysts of international affairs were it not for the resilience of China’s fight against drugs—and the scope of that fight beyond China itself. In a rare confluence of interests, Japan, Singapore, the Philippines, and the United States all came to embrace the notion that opium and other narcotic drugs were immediate causes of national emergencies. Ironically, it has become a constant of global history that drugs cause widespread political alarm again and again as a poison corrupting mind and body, as a threat destroying the very sinews of society. Especially in Asia’s early twentieth century, opium undermined the national quest to seek strength at home and abroad.

Far beyond the commemorations of 2009, Chinese diplomacy has drawn on the national hatred of drugs as part of a long Asian legacy of seeing drugs as an existential threat from outside, from beyond one’s own borders. Further south in the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte shows little signs to reverse political priorities: the war against drugs and those suspected in trafficking them ranks far higher than human rights. The same may be said of China, where in January 2019 a Canadian citizen was sentenced to death, unsurprisingly, for drug trafficking—and presumably for becoming a symbol of retaliation for Canada’s arrest of Meng Wanzhou, the chief financial officer of telecom company Huawei, at the bidding of the US. 7

Meanwhile, Donald Trump has repeatedly couched the fight against drugs as a means to enhancing border security—a trope of thought familiar to Chinese anti-imperialists since the Qing dynasty that ended in 1911. Little coincidence, then, that in China, the “century of humiliation” (bainian guochi) opens with the First Opium War in 1839–1842 and closes shortly after the end of the Second World War with Mao Zedong’s proclamation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. To this day, the Opium Wars are commemorated in China not unlike Ground Zero in New York City: as a monument to the nation’s “zero hour.” 8 The Indian poet and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore must have spoken the mind of many Chinese contemporaries when he called the British opium trade to China a “death traffic.”

It would be impossible to trace the resilience of antidrug sentiment in Asia from the age of imperialism to the present day without a long-term perspective. Only then does the opium trade in Asia—from imperialist politics to national memory—show parallels to the slave trade in Africa. In each case, an imperialist practice came to embody the root cause of the most serious challenges of societies, from poverty to famine, from economic underdevelopment to a sovereignty restricted by others. Without a long-term perspective, the current outrage over pharmaceutical giants in the United States putting financial incentives far above consumer protection appears sudden and unprecedented, split off from the lessons of history. But it isn’t. Just as one hundred years ago, today it is public opinion that creates the urgency to rethink the principles of a political economy of drugs that has escaped effective regulation. All but forgotten are the earliest lessons of history, namely that supply repeatedly fuelled demand, that demand did not necessarily or even frequently preexist, and that financial benefit frequently clashed with concerns of public health.

The now-universal goal of protecting society against a drug threat emerged from the social laboratory of imperial China. International society today has inherited and appropriated what was initially and historically a Chinese cause: warding off drugs as an existential menace to the individual and to society writ large. 9

While the age of empire brought societies closer together, economic connectivity contained its own perils, particularly the centrifugal forces of drug trafficking that divided the world into winners and losers of public health. Today, international society faces a shared history of drug fears that can feed both into recognition of common ground and a reinvestigation of missed opportunities. Around the globe, analogous perceptions of drug trafficking as a tacit form of violence provokes opposition to drugs, from China to the United States. The means to protect against this threat range from hardnosed repression to decriminalization. Drugs are perceived to pose a social threat more visceral than discrimination yet less immediate than a bullet. Just as in Chinese headlines virtually every month, drugs have reappeared as forces of violence that damage individuals, families, and entire societies, well illustrated by the public scandals surrounding the US opioid crisis and the attendant scrutinization of the pharmaceutical corporate sector. For better or worse, the odium of opium seems to rebound from its dark past.

—Steffen Rimner, Assistant Professor of the History of International Relations, Utrecht University

Steffen Rimner, now an assistant professor of the history of international relations at Utrecht University, was a Weatherhead Center Graduate Student Affiliate from 2010 to 2013. His new book, Opium’s Long Shadow: From Asian Revolt to Global Drug Control (Harvard University Press, 2018), recalls the Chinese opium experience and its long-term consequences for international narcotics control, public health, and the global politics of memory.

Professor Rimner expresses his gratitude to the British Academy, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical Society for their invitation to and inspiration at the UK-US ECR workshop held in Cambridge, Massachusetts in February 2018.

The establishment of the Mughal Empire

The foundation of the empire was laid in 1526 by Ẓahīr al-Dīn Muḥammad Bābur, a Chagatai Turk (so called because his ancestral homeland, the country north of the Amu Darya [Oxus River] in Central Asia, was the heritage of Chagatai, the second son of Genghis Khan). Bābur was a fifth-generation descendant of Timur on the side of his father and a 14th-generation descendant of Genghis Khan. His idea of conquering India was inspired, to begin with, by the story of the exploits of Timur, who had invaded the subcontinent in 1398.

Bābur inherited his father’s principality in Fergana at a young age, in 1494. Soon he was literally a fugitive, in the midst of both an internecine fight among the Timurids and a struggle between them and the rising Uzbeks over the erstwhile Timurid empire in the region. In 1504 he conquered Kabul and Ghaznī. In 1511 he recaptured Samarkand, only to realize that, with the formidable Ṣafavid dynasty in Iran and the Uzbeks in Central Asia, he should rather turn to the southeast toward India to have an empire of his own. As a Timurid, Bābur had an eye on the Punjab, part of which had been Timur’s possession. He made several excursions in the tribal habitats there. Between 1519 and 1524—when he invaded Bhera, Sialkot, and Lahore—he showed his definite intention to conquer Hindustan, where the political scene favoured his adventure.

Shang Dynasty and Western Zhou ----771 BC

Shang Bronze The Shang Dynasty had a complete written language, so there is a written record of their accomplishments. Bronze vases from the Shang, made with sophisticated casting techniques, are large enough to hold a man, and are exquisitely decorated with Chinese characters, plants and animals. The molds were made in pieces, then joined together. They are breathtaking to look at, even if one has no idea how ancient they are.

Ancient Chinese characters on an "Oracle Shell" used to tell fortunes Soothsayers in the Shang dynasty held a heated piece of metal against a turtle shell or shoulder blades of cattle to make cracks, which were then “read” as a positive, negative or neutral response to the question which had been posed. From the inscriptions on these oracle bones, we know that the king “communicated” with his ancestors, asking for success in ventures, good harvests, etc. The King was considered especially effective in supplications for good fortune for the kingdom. Participating in rituals and divinations were a major part of the king’s duties.

Family was extremely important, as one’s ancestors would give help and guidance to dutiful descendants, and one would someday be receiving offerings from one’s own sons and grandsons. The present family was seen as a point in a line extending both directions: into the past as one appealed to one’s ancestors for help and guidance and into the future as one received the proper rituals and offerings from one’s descendents.

Accompanying the important burials were the bodies of a hundred or more servants or slaves sacrificed, presumably to attend to the wishes of the deceased in the afterlife. Along with the dead servants were finely worked bronzes, pottery, jade and other grave goods. Jade was shaped and polished by sand to form beads and jewelry, requiring many hours of skilled and careful work. The bronze pieces speak of a society where royalty could command labor from many workers, from miners to skilled sculptors, and the people to feed the many artisans, to produce art works for them. While the jade does not require hours underground hauling up ore, it took many hours of polishing with sand or other abrasives to shape the hard stones.

People were also sacrificed and buried under the foundations of major building projects, to insure that the building went well. Fortunately, this propensity for human sacrifice later declined.

A number of things associated with classical Chinese civilization were already evident in the Shang&mdashancestor worship, an extremely high level of craftsmanship, requiring both artistry and great technical skill a highly stratified society the ability to requisition massive amount of labor for military and civil projects divination, especially that done by the ruler himself an economy based on peasant farming written language with characters, not an alphabet silk, jade and bronze.

5 Most Lethal Wars in Human History

All wars are awful, but some are much worse than others.

All wars are awful. Some wars are much, much more awful than others.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, nor does it comprise anything but a fraction of the overall deaths in wars in human history. Still, the five wars on this list may have collectively killed up to a quarter of a billion people.

These wars were big and upset the status quo. The Chinese Civil War turned more than half a billion people Red. World War II destroyed a totalitarian menace. Even the Mongol invasions echo in the present as an estimated 16 million people worldwide carry the genes of Genghis Khan.

Chinese Civil War

The Chinese Civil War was fought between the forces of the Republic of China (ROC) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The war was fought on and off for more than 20 years, from 1927 to 1950, and resulted in the establishment of the People’s Republic of China on the mainland and the Republic of China on the island of Taiwan. Some eight million were killed in a conflict complicated by the presence of Japanese forces in China.

Like all civil wars in China’s history, social disruption was the main killer and affected civilians the most. Fighting generated refugees, leaving them vulnerable to disease and starvation. Reprisals by one side against cities, towns and villages thought to be sympathetic to the other killed more civilians.

Military casualties in the beginning of the civil war were relatively light, as the CCP primarily fought a guerrilla war. At the end of World War II the Soviet Army provided captured Japanese weapons to the CCP’s military forces, dramatically increasing their effectiveness in the field. Within five years the ROC had been swept from China into Taiwan and pockets of Southeast Asia.

An exacerbating factor in the civil war was the presence of Japanese forces engaged in a brutal campaign to pacify occupied China. The Japanese were usually more than a match for Chinese forces, but China had a seemingly inexhaustible amount of manpower. Both ROC and CCP forces fought the Japanese, even temporarily suspending fighting one another during the famous Second United Front.

Tai Ping Rebellion

Hong Xiuquan, a Chinese Christian mystic who believed he was a brother to Jesus, led a revolt against the ruling Qing dynasty. Hong founded the Tai Ping Heavenly Kingdom, and led an army to overthrow the Qing. The civil war, which lasted from 1850 to 1864, was possibly the most lethal conflict ever.

Hong’s rebellion started in southern China, with many of its recruits coming from Guangxi and Guangzhou provinces. As the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom marched north, enjoying victory after victory over Qing forces, a capital was set up in Nanjing.

The advance of the Taiping Army was halted by the Ever Victorious Army, an Imperial army led by European officers, including American Frederick Townsend Ward and British Army officer Charles “Chinese” Gordon, who would later be killed at the Siege of Khartoun. The Taiping Army proved unable to capture Beijing and Shanghai, and was eventually rolled back by Imperial forces.

Although military casualties were likely under 400,000, total casualties including civilians were reportedly anywhere from 20,000,000 to 100,000,000. Most civilian casualties were caused by civil disorder and resulting starvation and disease. Towards the end of the war Imperial government troops conducted reprisals in the birthplace of the rebellion, with up to one million killed in Guangzhou.

Mongol Conquests and Invasions

The Mongols, a tribe of nomadic horsemen from Central Asia, conducted a hundred year campaign of conquest that subjugated most of Eurasia. During the 13th century, the Mongol Empire systematically conquered modern-day Russia, China, Burma, Korea, all of Central Asia, India, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Bulgaria, Hungary and Poland.

The Mongols did not conquer gently. Between 1211 and 1337, they may have killed as many as 18.4 million people in East Asia alone. As Ian Frazier wrote in The New Yorker, “For the cities and cultivated places in the Mongols’ path, they were a natural disaster on the order of an asteroid collision.”

An example of Mongol brutality was the Persian city of Nishapur, destroyed in 1221 AD by Mongol forces who reportedly wiped out 1.7 million people living in and around the city. In their conquest of Baghdad, then the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate, the Mongols embarked on a seven-day killing spree that killed 200,000 to 1,000,000 inhabitants of the city.

Exactly how many people were killed in the various Mongol invasions is difficult to pin down. Historians have likely exaggerated many of the statistics, helped by the Mongols themselves. The Mongols spread word of atrocities far and wide to demoralize those next in line for conquest. Revisionist studies of the Mongol invasions have proposed rolling back the number killed considerably, from roughly 40,000,000 to perhaps “only” 11.5 million during a period of 120 years.

World War I

Sixteen million people were killed in World War. Of those, 9,000,000 were combatants and 7,000,000 were noncombatants.

The high death rate in World War I was a result of several factors. Political demands dictated every square foot of national territory must be held, which necessitated large armies. Militarily, many armies maintained an unflinching attitude towards maintaining the offensive, despite the fact that — for the time being — the defense was stronger than the offense.

World War I was the first Industrial Age war fought on a global scale, introducing machine guns, tanks and artillery on a widespread basis. The machine gun in particular dramatically increased levels of firepower for the infantry—but mostly in the defense.

World War I was marked by several grinding, bloody battles that became infamous for losses incurred on both sides. One of the first was the First Battle of the Marne, which saw French casualties of 250,000. Germany’s casualties are only an estimate but thought to be equal to those of the French.

The First Battle of the Marne, rather than repulsing military and political leaders and forcing them to change tactics, merely set the tone for the rest of the war. The Battle of Verdun cost an estimated 714,000 casualties during a three hundred day period. Total casualties at the Battle of the Somme are thought to be between 700,000 and 1.1 million. Casualties on the Eastern Front were worse, with 300,000 Germans and 2.4 million Russians killed—many due not to not combat but hardship and disease.

World War I was also probably the last time a war with a large death toll claimed more combatant lives than noncombatants. Despite so much of the war being fought on French soil, French civilian deaths are thought to be only 40,000.

World War II

The most lethal war in human history is almost certainly World War II. Other wars may have been more lethal but lack credible records. Sixty to eighty million people died between 1939 and 1945. Twenty one to twenty five million of the deaths were military, the remainder civilian.

The concept of Total War, in which the scope of legitimate wartime targets is extended from the enemy military to the state supporting it, relaxed previous restrictions and made even cities targets. Strategic bombing allowed air forces to drop bombs deep behind enemy lines, and civilian deaths from aerial bombing reached at least one million.

Unlike World War I, World War II was a truly global war with much of the fighting taking place in Asia and the Pacific. The Soviet Union lost an estimated 27 million military personnel and civilians, making it by far the country with the highest death toll. China is thought to have suffered 20 million deaths, Germany 6-7 million, and Japan roughly 2.5 to 3.2 million. The United States was fortunate, losing approximately 420,000, all but 10,000 military deaths.

Further exacerbating the number of civilian casualties was the large amounts of territory occupied by the Axis powers. Germany and Japan were both brutal occupiers, and civilians in countries such as Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union, Poland, China and the Philippines—just to name a few—suffered appallingly.

Acts of genocide contributed significantly to the war’s death toll. Germany’s campaign of extermination against Jews, Slavs, Roma, homosexuals, German dissidents and the disabled claimed an estimated 11 million lives.

Kyle Mizokami is a writer based in San Francisco who has appeared in The Diplomat, Foreign Policy, War is Boring and The Daily Beast. In 2009 he cofounded the defense and security blog Japan Security Watch.

Why did India change its stance on the Line of Actual Control?

As per Menon, it was needed because Indian and Chinese patrols were coming in more frequent contact during the mid-1980s, after the government formed a China Study Group in 1976 which revised the patrolling limits, rules of engagement and pattern of Indian presence along the border.

In the backdrop of the Sumdorongchu standoff, when PM Rajiv Gandhi visited Beijing in 1988, Menon notes that the two sides agreed to negotiate a border settlement, and pending that, they would maintain peace and tranquillity along the border.

Historian David Gilmour is interested in the motives and identities of individuals.

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In the 18th century, a Sikh from the Punjab had very little in common with a Muslim from Bengal, no more than they had with the red-faced Englishman who had braved the five-month journey to India in search of work or to escape gambling debts or scandal. Indian ruling dynasties had often been foreigners and the inhabitants of the subcontinent were estranged from each other by language, custom and religion. The British were indeed strange figures in India, but not that strange.

This impressive book from David Gilmour, an old hand at Raj history, describes this tribe of British conquerors, administrators and merchants who lived in India from shortly after the death of Elizabeth I until well into the reign of Elizabeth II, a period of some 350 years. For nearly three quarters of the time India was administered by the East India Company, and only for the last 90 years (1858-1947) directly ruled by Britain.

Gilmour writes about the viceroys and governors, but also about men and women at lower levels, those living in bungalows with “many insects and little sanitation” and a daily risk of being savaged by pets that had ventured out and contracted rabies. Their days at home were punctuated with three breaks for “pegs” of whisky, while outside they were the spearers of boar and pursuers of jackal who would greet the dawn with: “It’s a fine day, let’s go and kill something.”

Gilmour is interested in the motives and identities of British individuals, not in the virtues and failings of empire. It is impossible to avoid mentioning, however, that the governance of India was often in the hands of dim peers. Lord Sandhurst, governor of Bombay from 1895 to 1900, was “incurably dense” and almost illiterate, though he had the saving grace of being the brother-in-law of a cabinet member. Lord Lamington, another governor of Bombay, from 1903 to 1907, was so irresolute he never knew which train to travel on and did not know which girl to propose to until Lord Curzon made the choice for him (it fell on Mary Haughton Hozier). The contribution of Eton was considerable: two thirds of the viceroys between 1884 and 1943 went there, as did half the governors of Bombay. Some could, and did, receive imperial preferment for having been the secretary of state’s fag.

The introduction of a meritocracy under civil service rules led to the emergence of “competition wallahs”, professional bureaucrats who “neither ride, nor shoot, nor dance, nor play cricket, and prefer the companionship of their books”, as one superior complained. No governor wanted a man who was “of no assistance at a dinner party”.

British rule benefited from its similarity to the Hindu caste system, with the Indian Civil Service functioning as the Brahmin, a warrior caste of army officers coming next and, a stage down, a caste of merchants, planters and people “in trade”. The fastidiousness of the British with their formality as to dress, social class and inflections of language was immediately understandable in India. Even within professions, distinctions were taken to an absurd degree. One stationmaster’s wife felt she should go in to be seated at dinner before another woman because her rival’s husband, though doing the same job, was “not on the main line”.

Indian life added yet further distinctions to be piled on an already crippling class system. “Countrybred” was the disparaging description of those who had always lived in India. They were looked down on by expatriates born in Britain while “the countrybred families scorned those of mixed blood and those of mixed blood seemed to think that, by disparaging themselves of everything Indian, they were somehow purging themselves of an impurity”.

This is a rich and nuanced social history that does not treat every British footstep on the subcontinent as if it were a step on the way to the Amritsar massacre. That does not make it an imperial whitewash. Gilmour throws an interesting light on the massacre of 379 unarmed Indians in 1919, which punched a hole in the claim of British rule to moral authority. It was a punitive action following rioting that brought about the deaths of several Europeans. The shooting was commanded by General Reginald Dyer, who was denigrated as a countrybred Irishman his superior Sir Michael O’Dwyer was also Irish. “Had we had Englishmen in their places, the trouble would not have arisen,” said Sir Spencer Harcourt Butler, lieutenant governor of the neighbouring United Provinces. Gilmour records this as a fact of British life and attitudes in India he feels his role is to report, not to comment.

The only people allowed to elide class divisions were those who were female, pretty and good at tennis. India suffered from a shortage of British women, particularly before the opening of the Suez canal in 1869 made the passage safer and shorter. Girls of the “fishing fleet” who arrived looking for husbands in earlier years complained that potential spouses preferred to keep their Indian mistresses rather than take English wives. A member of the ruling council was as likely to have a “Bibi” or native mistress as was a tradesman.

In 1800 Bibis were ubiquitous but 50 years later the moral tide had not only removed them but when biographies were written of famous men, the facts of their Indian wives and half-Indian children were expunged. When Sir Charles Metcalfe, former Resident at Delhi, was celebrated after his death, his obituary failed to mention his Indian wife and three sons – one of them a distinguished soldier. Propriety said they should not have existed, so they did not exist.

The only occupations on the subcontinent in which the British were outnumbered by rivals from other parts of Europe and from the US were those of missionary and prostitute. These time-honoured occupations came together in the 1890s when members of the Bombay Midnight Mission began patrolling the red-light district by knocking on doors, singing hymns outside brothels and accosting gentlemen, threatening to put their names in a journal that would be sent to the men’s clubs.

Nationalist Indians fomented unrest with stories of the British wishing to convert the nation or suppress native religions. In fact, missionaries were widely despised as bringing nothing but trouble to the subcontinent. It was not only the reprobates who found such endeavours irritating Queen Victoria said she “wished the Mohammedans could be let alone by missionaries”.

Gilmour names two missionaries who perfected local dialects and spent decades as itinerant preachers in bazaars – endeavours that led to literally no converts. Theirs was a personal devotion resembling that of Hindu fakirs with their repetitive acts of self-mortification, taking place in the same marketplaces.

In the 1880s, the Anglican bishops of India and Ceylon denounced the registration of brothels and compulsory medical treatment of prostitutes on the basis that the suppression of vice was more important than the diminution of suffering caused by that vice. The “lock hospitals” that specialised in treating syphilis and cantonment military brothels were closed, with an inevitable surge in venereal disease. Soon almost half the British troops were being treated, with an even higher proportion in parts of Bombay. The viceroy Lord Elgin lamented the moves which had led to “even more deplorable evils”, by which he meant an increase in homosexuality. The brothels were discreetly reopened.

Another path was followed by the missionary poet Verrier Elwin, who arrived at a mission at Poona in 1927. He encountered Gandhi, whom he found “sublime and Christ-like”, and became a convert, leaving the church and setting up an ashram along Gandhi’s principles. He lived with the tribal Gonds of central India but the Gandhian dream quickly turned sour – what was the relevance to tribal people of the cotton spinning, abstinence from alcohol and celibacy that Gandhi insisted upon? Elwin took another path, becoming sexually promiscuous, but also promoting a trenchant defence of the lifestyle of India’s 25 million aboriginals. By his death in 1964 Elwin was revered in the now independent India as among the best of the liberal-minded Englishmen who made the country their home.

Jad Adams is the author of “Gandhi: Naked Ambition” (Quercus)

The British in India: Three Centuries of Ambition and Experience
David Gilmour
Allen Lane, 618pp, £30

Shaolin Kung Fu, like all of the kung fu styles, is primarily a striking style of martial art that utilizes kicks, blocks, and punches to stop attackers. One thing that is pervasive in kung fu is the sheer beauty of the forms they practice, as well as the mixture of open and closed hand, strikes to defend against attackers. There is a minimal emphasis on throws and joint locks. The discipline also utilizes both hard (meeting force with force) and soft (using an aggressor's strength against them) techniques. The Shaolin styles also tend to stress kicks and wide stances.

The basic goals of Shaolin Kung Fu are to protect against opponents and disable them quickly with strikes. There is also a very philosophical side to the art, as it is strongly tied to Buddhist and Taoist principles. Shaolin Kung Fu sub-styles also have a very theatrical presence. Therefore, some practitioners have the goal of acrobatics and entertainment, more than practicality.

Gripping Facts About the Mysterious Tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang

Emperor Qin Shi Huang's mausoleum is considered to be one of the world's splendid architectural wonders, in addition to the Great Wall of China. This Historyplex article will enlist some interesting facts about the mysterious tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang.

Emperor Qin Shi Huang’s mausoleum is considered to be one of the world’s splendid architectural wonders, in addition to the Great Wall of China. This Historyplex article will enlist some interesting facts about the mysterious tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang.

“The revelation of the structure is the greatest achievement in the study of the Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum in the past 40 years.” ― Yuan Zhongyi, honorary curator, Museum of the Qin Terracotta Horses and Warriors

Unearthing ancient objects and discovering the myriad of historical tales surrounding them have always been a fascinating part of archeology. The tomb of Qin Shi Huang, apparently the First Emperor of China, has always been a source of great mystery for archeologists. The exploration of this site started more than 40 years back, and even today, some facts are unknown and can only be guessed.

This tomb contains what is considered by some as the eighth wonder of the world, the behemoth that is the terracotta army of soldiers. The paragraphs below will take you through an incredible historical journey, and list out some Qin Shi Huang facts along with details of the objects inside the tomb.


The original name of Emperor Qin Shi Huang was Ying Zheng, and he was born in 259 BCE. To the King of the Qin state.

● He ascended the throne at the age of 13 and was supposed to have been a very ambitious dictator.

● He was the one to unite all the provincial Chinese states, like Chu, Yan, Zhao, etc., and hence, he is considered as the first emperor of united China.

● He was the one who created the title of ‘Huangdi’, with ‘Shi’ (first), and hence, he was referred to as Qin Shi Huang, meaning the first ruler of the Qin dynasty. This rule was followed by all his descendants.

● He is notable for two brilliant achievements. The first one is the Great Wall of China. The second is the construction of his own tomb, which contains the terracotta army, a world-famous attraction of the modern world.

● Some sources claim that he was known to be ruthless, this probably stems from the records that he used innumerable laborers as slaves to construct his tomb, some even say that the laborers were killed so that they do not divulge the secrets and treasures of the inner architecture.

● He longed for an immortal life, and was constantly in search of the elixir that would make him immortal. According to ancient sources, one of his alchemists prescribed mercury as the elixir, and the emperor died after consuming it, during travel itself.

● While some sources say that he died at a young age of 39, others say that he died at 50.

● Coincidentally, the construction of the tomb was completed around the time he died, and was immediately used.


  • The tomb was always known to exist, what remained a secret for long was the existence of the massive terracotta army.
  • On March 29, 1974, some farmers were digging a well in the east direction of Xi’an, in the province of Shaanxi, about 1.6 kilometers off the tomb.
  • While doing so, they discovered a few fragments of the soldiers’ statues.
  • This discovery was promptly reported to the Chinese authorities, and an excavation began.
  • Many artifacts were discovered within the tomb, including the emperor’s magnificent army, yet, a major portion remains to be excavated, for we do not know what lies within the construction.

Historical Source

  • Much of whatever is known about this tomb and the emperor has been derived from the writings of the great historian, Sima Qian.
  • He has written all about the construction of the tomb (of course, not the inner details), which primarily includes how many workmen toiled over the construction, what artifacts were placed inside, the mercury rivers, etc.
  • Surprisingly, nothing has been written about the terracotta army, which was accidentally discovered.


  • It is located to the east of the Lintong province, about 22 miles to the east of Xi’an.
  • It is situated on the Lishan mountain to the south, while the Wei river faces it towards the northern side.
  • It is at the eye of the dragon-shaped land from the Mount Li to Mount Hua.


  • The tomb is a 2,200-year old structure.
  • It consists of a mound, a hillock above it, and the palace underneath, where the tomb is situated.
  • The size of the mound is reported to be approximately 115 x 2076 meters, while its base covers an area of 120,750 square meters.
  • A lot of this data is speculated, and a myriad of mysteries lie behind these stories as well.
  • The overall layout comprises an inner city, an outer city, and the grounds.
  • Two-thirds of the inner city consists of the underground palace, located at the southern side, which is said to be as grand as the king’s original palace. Sources report that it had beautiful buildings and other relics, some of which include the weaponry, storehouses, and coffin chambers.
  • There are different opinions regarding the number of gates, some say there were two, while others believe there may have been three or six.
  • The outer city contains the massive terracotta army, the stunning architecture that has left the world speechless. Apparently, these clay soldiers were ordered to be built for the safety of the emperor after his death.
  • The grounds contain the chambers for the horses, birds, and other animals. They also contain innumerable tombs of those who were buried alive with the emperor.

The Terracotta Army

  • This innumerable and outstanding work of art contains the clay figures of 8,000 soldiers and over 700 horses. It is located 1.5 meters to the east of the mound.
  • Today, it is supposed to be the highlight of this tomb. Each and every face of these soldiers have been molded differently.
  • According to sources, more than 700,000 workmen were assembled to build this army.

  • Along with faces, the size, uniform, weapons, shoes etc., of each soldier were also notably different.
  • They were painted with a number of colorful pigments, and after construction, were placed in pits according to the ranking.
  • Apparently, there are four pits. The first one contains the main army (6000 soldiers), and 11 corridors with large pillars, the second contains the cavalry, infantry, and chariots, the third contains the high ranking officers, while the fourth is left empty, perhaps the workmen died before its completion.
  • A wide variety of weapons are found in this part of the tomb as well, including spearheads, arrowheads, axes, shields, bows, suits of armor, etc.

Detailed Dimensions and Architecture

  • The four main pits of the terracotta army were approximately 7 meters deep, while the first pit is said to be 230 X 62 meters in dimension.
  • Reports say that the tomb is one-fourth the size of Beijing, the Forbidden City.
  • In size, it is also supposed to be bigger than the Great Pyramid of Egypt.
  • The hillock over the mound was originally said to have been more than 100 meters high, 515 meters long, and 485 meters wide however, it has now shrunk to less than 50 meters in height.
  • 98 chambers were found for the horses, while 30 chambers have been found for birds and other animals.
  • More than 600 tombs have been discovered, some of them belong to the workers who died, while the others belong to the ministers, statesmen, and even the mistresses of the emperor, who were buried alive with him in order to give him company.
  • The palace is supposed to have a ceiling like the sky, with pearls as stars.
  • Recently, another pit spanning 600 meters was found between the inner and outer wall, and on excavation, it was found to contain precious pottery and other relics.
  • The entire tomb covers an approximate area of 2,180,000 meters.
  • The palace is said to have been beautifully built with peals and gems.
  • The coffin of the emperor is said to be built with bronze.
  • The security of the tomb is said to be manifold, with mercury and other traps to prevent theft.

Remains and Objects Inside the Tomb

  • As mentioned previously, the huge clay army is the only thing that remains fully excavated till date. In fact, it is said to be just one percent of the entire tomb.
  • However, there are plentiful weapons and other treasures that have been found in and around the outer city and the grounds.
  • These objects include the beautiful pottery patterns, innumerable weapons, bricks, tiles, intricate architectural patterns, swords, alloys, arrows, etc.
  • Recent discoveries speculate that the emperor was probably a connoisseur of art and music, for many musical instruments have been excavated, which include the Bianzhong (bronze chimes).
  • Many ancient books are supposed to be there as well.
  • A number of statues of ministers, courtiers, musicians, acrobats, etc., were also unearthed, which confirmed the fact that the emperor wanted his afterlife to be as luxurious as his life on Earth.
  • A number of other treasures and jewels are supposed to be buried in the inner chambers.


  • As mentioned earlier, the emperor died of mercury poisoning, though some sources suggest otherwise.
  • On careful excavation and research, archeologists have found that the emperor’s body is perhaps preserved because of the mercury.
  • The tomb is rumored to have booby traps and 100 rivers of mercury flowing around it to protect it.
  • Perhaps, the danger of mercury is what is preventing further research, for we do not know how and where the mercury has been placed.
  • An evidence of this is that the researches used modern technology to estimate the internal palace structure and found strong deposits of mercury.
  • Other tests on the soil near the outer city also show mercury contamination.
  • This goes to prove that mercury is indeed present inside, in vast quantities this also proves that the emperor’s body was properly preserved and embalmed.

Speculated Dangers

  • The tomb is said to be massively protected.
  • Tests have indicated that the protection was strongly designed such that anyone trying to enter it would be instantly killed.
  • The internal structure is said to be covered with booby traps.
  • Research has indicated that a layer of chromate was found on the weapons, which prevents them from rusting. This means that the crossbow structure and arrowhead traps designed to prevent thieves from entering could very well work even today.
  • Technicians have also predicted that further excavation would be very dangerous, mainly because we do not know what kind of traps have been set.

Emperor Qin Shi Huang is a legend and has left behind a dynasty and architecture to be proud of. His tomb remains a mystery till date. The artifacts excavated until now have given us a wonderful account of his rule and the Qin era however, if it is ever possible to further excavate the palace (though the excavation has been stalled for now), we could discover a plethora of marvelous facts about his kingdom, his courtiers, his rule, etc. For now, we have to be satisfied with the terracotta army and other treasures.

Islam's History

But even though Islamic people made a lot of money from trade, most people in the Islamic Empire were still farmers or herders. You couldn't farm efficiently enough to feed very many people who weren't farming, so most people had to farm. The Islamic Empire was great for farmers. Some of that money from conquering people and from trade went into building new irrigation systems and new canals that helped farmers get more out of their land. And the money from trade also helped farmers get through a bad year, or even a number of bad years in a row.
In the late 1400's AD, Portuguese explorers figured out how to sail around Africa and get to India. Even though it was a long trip, it was profitable because they didn't have to pay the middlemen traders in the Islamic kingdoms. Soon most of the trade between China and India and Europe went by sea, around Africa, instead of over the Silk Road through West Asia. This was good for Europe, but very bad for West Asia.
As under Persian or Sassanian rule, the economy of West Asia during the Islamic period depended very heavily on trade. In the north of the Islamic Empire was the Silk Road, running across China, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Iran, Iran, and Syria to Lebanon, the Byzantine Empire, and across the Mediterranean to Italy. There wasn't really a road. It was just the track people went along. It led through deserts and over very high mountain passes, so it was a difficult and dangerous route.
As the name implies, silk was a very important part of what was traded along the Silk Road. But other things also traveled – from China, cotton cloth, paper, furs, lacquer work and jade. From Africa, the Mediterranean and West Asia, traders carried gold, silver, ivory, glass, and jewels.
The Silk Road first began during the Chinese Han Dynasty (the Parthian and Roman period in West Asia, about the time of Jesus). People all along the route soon realized they could make more money by producing the goods themselves, than by buying them. So by the 400's AD the Chinese were blowing their own glass. In the 500's AD, West Asians began to produce their own cotton (and sold it to the Romans and around the Mediterranean). By about 650 AD, Romans had learned how to produce silk. And in the late 700's AD, people in the Abbasid Empire began to produce their own paper. But trade continued all along the Silk Road anyway. The Mongol conquests of the 1200’s AD helped a lot by making one big empire out of China, India, West Asia, and all the land in between.
Traders in the Islamic Empire also controlled another very rich trade route from India to Egypt through the Arabian Peninsula. Most of these traders went by sea, taking advantage of the monsoon wind patterns to sail their ships. From the Mediterranean and Africa, these traders brought gold, glass, and ivory. They exchanged these things in India for cinnamon, frankincense, black pepper, and other spices, and for oranges, though by 300 AD people were beginning to grow oranges for themselves - even in Italy

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