2012年6月22日 星期五

Made in China - Chinese Inventions (2): Agriculture

The agricultural technology of China had been traditionally one of the most advanced of the world.  By the Han Dynasty around 2000 years ago, the population had reached levels of around 60 million and remained at this level up to the Ming Dynasty.   To feed this immense population, agriculture was essential.  Lets look at a rundown of Chinese inventions that revolutionized agriculture.

1) Iron Plow: The invention of hoes have been dated in 3000 BCE and iron hoes were commonplace by 5 BCE.  Yet, it is in plow technology that China leads the way.  When the Greeks and Romans was using perishable materials to make plows during around 4 centuries BCE, the Chinese had begun making theirsout of iron.  Only three centuries later, a full century before the common era, full moldboard plows had been invented by the Chinese that allowed the farmer to turn a true furrow and invert the soil.  Nutrients from deep from the earth can be drawn to the top also being softened in the process.  The design remained largely unchanged to this day.

Iron plow - Source: east west dialogue
2)  Wheelbarrow: While the agricultural use of the wheelbarrow seems to simple concept to mankind today, it actually an awe-inspiring innovation two thousand years ago at its birth.  The first wheelbarrows (or wheelbarrow like objects) were described in Chinese texts as early as the first century BCE although this evidence had been disputed.  Yet, indisputable evidence indicates that the wheelbarrow was definitely commonplace by 118 BCE.  While some scant evidence suggests that Greeks had 1 wheel carts, the  evidence for the existence is circumstantial at best & far more conclusive.

3) Planting: Sometimes, innovations does not have to be concrete.  Instead, revolutionary ideas are as important as physical inventions.  Chinese farmers had always planted seeds in rows as is the practice today.  However, European farmers of the time scattered the seeds into the fields randomly which caused a large waste of seeds (hungry birds, lack of nutrients) and this practice was recorded by the Qin officials during the third century BCE.

4) Seed Drilling: Today, when one plants their seeds, they use a seed drill that digs a small hole for the seed and covers it back up.  In China, this technology had evolved by 200 BCE.  Records indicated that they had used multi tube seed drills since the Warring States Period that does not require the manual insertion of the seed.  This technology predates its European equivalent by over 1.7 millennium.

A Chinese multi tube steel drill - Source: east west dialgoue

2012年6月21日 星期四

Made in China - Chinese Inventions (1): Military

Taking a mini hiatus from the vampire series, I would spend the next few little while discussing Chinese contributions to the world in terms of inventions.  To begin, I am going to begin with their military inventions; lets go in history to a day when "made in China" means the most advanced technology, not a piece of plastic toy that will break in a week.

1) Crossbows: The use of crossbows with bronze triggers in China has been dated to 6th century BCE (Spring and Autumn period, Eastern Zhou Dynasty).  By 5th century BCE (Warring States Period, Eastern Zhou Dynasty), bolts are also being made of bronze.  Repeating crossbows discovered have to dated to the 4th century BCE (Warring states Period, Eastern Zhou Dynasty).  The usage of crossbow firing lines (similar to a musket firing line) had been developed by 2nd century BCE (Qin Dynasty).

Estimated proportions of a Chinese crossbow with authentic parts - Source: atarn
Repeating cross from the Warring States Period - Source: Grand historian 

2) Gunpowder: the invention of gunpowder was a pure accident.  Saltpeter, a flammable essential ingredient in gunpowder had been used since the first century CE.  Initially intended as a medicine, gunpowder's explosive effects was recorded by mid-900s CE and developed into fireworks during this time(Song Dynasty).  Depictions of a weapon that fire pellets using gunpowder had been dated to approximately the same time period.  However, the first documented use of gunpowder weapons (fire arrows) was in 1132 CE (Song Dynasty).  

Fire arrows depicted in 13th century - Source: history cultural china

3) Multistage Rockets: From 10th century to 13th century, the Chinese developed two types of gunpowder weapons.  One was the rocket (hollow bamboo rods with an iron tip or exploding warhead) which the other was the fire arrow (bow-shot arrows tipped with gunpowder that explode).  When combined in the 14th century, they became the world's first multistage rocket, the predecessor of the continental missile.  

Chinese Multistage Rocket - Source: history cultural China

4) Mines: The first recorded use of a landmine in China was in 1277 CE (Song Dynasty) against Mongolian invaders.  It is unknown whether these landmines were automically triggered or detonated with a fuse; however, by the 14th dynasty, it is recorded that the landmines had triggers which could automatically activated.  The use of timed naval mines in China also began in the 14th century with a lit fuse protected by a goat's intestine that would sent floating downstream to an enemy vessel.  By the 17th century, naval mines that could detonated manually by someone on shore had been invented.  
Self-tripped landmines - Source: enotes
Chinese naval mines - Source: wikipedia

5) While the Greeks have had small hand held flamethrowers since the 1st century CE, the first continuous flamethrower had been invented by the Chinese in 1044 CE (Song Dynasty).  It operated on a two piston system that would fire flame on both intake and outtake of air.
Chinese Continuous flamethrower - Source: wikipedia

Vampires in History (Part 2): Ancient Vampires in Culture

For those who believe the first mention of vampires in history is Bram Stoker's Dracula, they are mistaken.  Cultures around the world had always believed in undead creatures who drink the blood of the living to absorb their life force.  This creature of the night plays on people's fear of the dead coming back to life; a fear common towards different cultures.  However, this article will only on vampires in antiquity - if you are interested after this one, check back with me; Vampires in History will go on for at least a little while.

Jiang Shi of the Orient

Chinese, Japanese and Korean culture revolves around ancestor worship.  When the burial rites are ignored, the body will return to life as jiang shi to avenge its improper burial murdering those responsible - its family.  However, there are methods of zombie being created, for e.g. spiritual possession, lighting struck, a pregnant/ black cat leaping across the coffin, absorption of yang (male) energy.  These Chinese vampires kills with its touch and absorbs the qi (the Chinese version of life force) draining the blood in the process.

Jiang shis' method of movement is rather comical as it hops with its arms outstretched in front of it (hence, giving its name jiang shi, which literally means "stiff corpse" in Chinese).  However, its general appearance can be downright horrifying as legends claim they have green skin and long hair.  Details are in case are different as it depends on how far it had decomposed.

While the exact origin of the creature is unknown, it is generally believed to be related to the practice of "walking a corpse over a thousand miles" or "driving corpses in Xiangxi".  This practice, most common in Xiangxi, involves two men carrying a corpse on poles and it looks as if the corpse is hopping down the street in an effort to bring it home for burial.  There have been numerous Chinese texts that discusses the origins of jiang shi (as the supernatural creature, not as the myth) and the methods of killing one published over centuries.

There are numerous methods for defeating a jiang shi; some have made it into common Chinese burial practice.  In the past, it was not unusual for the corpses to be bound during burial to prevent it from leaving its coffin.  When a jiang shi had already been formed, superstition comes into play.  For example, feng shui elements such as a ba gua (feng shui compass), i ching (a book of devination) or a peach wood sword (which epitomizes the five elements) can deter jiang shis.  They also afraid of fire, their own reflection and roosters' call amongst many other things.

Kali is one of the most renowned deities in Hinduism and she had appeared in the Atharava Veda which dates back to at least 1500 BCE.  Kali first gained a taste for blood when she killed the demon Raktabjia as every drop of its blood would spawn demons.  Hence, when Kali killed him, she also drank all his blood.  From this point on, she had always been depicted as literally bloodthirsty and vampric and extremely destructive.  Even today, she is honored by practicing Hindus with a blood sacrifice.  

Kali's appearance in Hindu texts is downright horrifying.  She is commonly depicted with black skin, four arms and holding a collection of weapons and dismembered body parts (a severed head being a common fixture).  Her necklace is made of human skulls while her skirt are built of human limbs.  Her tongue is normally hanging and dripping with human blood.  

As a powerful goddess, Kali cannot be easily stopped and efforts are made to appease her and keep on her good side.  Despite her sometimes horrific actions, she is generally a benevolent goddess in Hindu myth and many worship her in hopes of protection from death and fear.  In myth, she is also described as having great affection for children and this had calm her from her drunken (from blood) frenzies.  

Kali the Destroyer of Hinduism

Kali is one of the most renowned deities in Hinduism and she had appeared in the Atharava Veda which dates back to at least 1500 BCE.  Kali first gained a taste for blood when she killed the demon Raktabjia as every drop of its blood would spawn demons.  Hence, when Kali killed him, she also drank all his blood.  From this point on, she had always been depicted as literally bloodthirsty and vampric and extremely destructive.  Even today, she is honored by practicing Hindus with a blood sacrifice.  

Kali's appearance in Hindu texts is downright horrifying.  She is commonly depicted with black skin, four arms and holding a collection of weapons and dismembered body parts (a severed head being a common fixture).  Her necklace is made of human skulls while her skirt are built of human limbs.  Her tongue is normally hanging and dripping with human blood.  

As a powerful goddess, Kali cannot be easily stopped and efforts are made to appease her and keep on her good side.  Despite her sometimes horrific actions, she is generally a benevolent goddess in Hindu myth and many worship her in hopes of protection from death and fear.  In myth, she is also described as having great affection for children and this had calm her from her drunken (from blood) frenzies.  

2012年6月20日 星期三

Vampires in History (Part 1): Actual Vampires in History

Twilight, Vampire Diaries, True Blood, Underworld; from cinema to TV screens to novels, vampires dominate popular media today.  Has there been actual vampires in history?  Where does the concept of vampires come from?  Who inspired the contemporary version of a vampire?  Where has the crisis of vampires affect history?  These questions will be answered in this multi-part series on this blog.

The Bloody Countess

Elizabeth Bathory - Source: bathory.org

The most prolific vampire in the pre-modern age is Countess Elizabeth Bathory, or the Bloody Countess.  She was thought to have killed over 650 victims but only 80 of these were persecuted in court.  Having renowned as a great beauty in her youth, she was motivated to maintain her appearance in spite of her age.  She accidentally discovered her 'answer' when she slapped a servant girl who had committed a mistake drawing blood.  To her amazement, her skin that came into contact with the wounded girl's blood had supposedly gained vitality.  From then on, she began using girls, preferably virgins', blood in her bath, lotions and even beverages.  

To lure girls into her castle, she opened a school that would teach peasant girls the mannerisms of the nobility.  In hopes of social mobility, many young girls were drawn to her castle and few survived to tell the horrific tales of the countess' bloodthirstiness.  Her victims were not killed for their blood also gruesomely tortured for her entertainment.  Yet, despite the missing girls and even the finding of some their corpses, the Bloody Countess was not persecuted as she was an important Hungarian noblewoman.  

Csejte Castle, home of Elizabeth Bathory - Source: vampirelegends 

This changed when she began killing girls of noble birth under the advice of Erzi Majorova which would supposedly be even more beneficial to her skin because of their blue blood.  The outrage of the nobles could not even be quelled by the Blood Countess' statue in the nobility.  The king was then informed of her crimes and he appointed Gyorgy Thurzo to collect evidence for her case.  In the end, she was convicted of 80 cases  and was sentenced to a life of solitary confinement (nobility is rarely executed is Eastern Europe).  Her accomplices were executed by burning arnd beheading respectively (after significant torture befitting of their crimes).  The Bloody Countess died 4 years later at the age of 54.  Her infamy lives on today in numerous articles and films depicting her.  
Movie poster for the film Bathory - Source: comivine
The Countess stills
Movie still from The Countess - Source: iCelebZ

Contemporary Real Vampires: 

Richard Chase (1950 - 1980), the Vampire of Sacramento: 
Chase was an American serial killer, vampire, necrophile and cannibal who suffered from schizophrenia and hypochondria.  Like many serial killers, he had abusive upbringing and a tendency towards animal cruelty.  He first demonstrated in his infatuation with blood on January 13th, 1978 when killed Teresa Wallin in her home, had sex with her corpse and bathed in her blood.  Two weeks later, he killed Evelyn Miroth in her home as well as her friend Danny Meredith, her son Jason and her nephew David.  Afterwards, he engaged in necrophilia and cannibalism with Miroth's corpse in her home; when interrupted by a girl at the door, he took David's body with him eating parts of David and drinking his blood.  After being convicted of 6 counts of 1st degree murder (he killed 1 person before Wallin but did not consume/mutilate/rape the corpse in anyway), Chase committed suicide in 1980. 

Roderick Ferrell (born 1980)
After playing a vampire-based role playing game called Vampire Masquerade, Roderick "Rod" Ferrell began to believe he was a 500 year old vampire named Vesago.  Upon hearing complaints of his girlfriend towards her parents, he went to their home to confront them in 1996.  There he murdered both her father and step mother Scott Wendroff & Naoma Ruth with a crowbar and drank their blood.  He proceeded to journey to New Orleans where he believed was a vampire mecca but was apprehended by the police after an accomplice's errant phone call to her mother.  After his arrest, it was discovered that he suffered from autism and had only the emotional age of 3.  Despite this, he was sentenced to death (later commuted to a life sentence) after pleading guilty to two counts of murder.  His accomplices received prison terms ranging from 10.5 years to a life sentence.  

So here it is, real vampires who lived and killed for food.  While none would ever reach the body count of the Bloody Countess, the problem still plagues us to this day.  While most of the us enjoy the films and movies and books and so on, certain individuals believe in acting out their macabre fantasies in malevolent ways.  So be careful the next time you stare at Robert Pattinson's glittering skin on Twilight or  Ian Somerhalder and Paul Wesley fighting over Nina Dobrev on Vampire Diaries; there just be a person next door who is thirsting for your blood.

Disclaimer: I personally support J.S. Mill's Harm Principle and respect the right for anyone to do as they please as long as they don't kill, maim or injure another person in way.  Hence, for those certain groups who practice voluntary vampirism, both involving blood or otherwise, I mean no disrespect or offense.  

Last note: This article will be posted on historum as well but without photos.  

2012年6月18日 星期一

Mongolian Biological Warfare

Black Death - the name haunts humanity to this day.  Europe, where the plague hit worse, killed 30 - 60% of the population.  Estimates of the death toll vary, ranging from 75 million to 200 million.  Most people already know this; however, one thing is often forgotten - Black Death's entry into European was an intentional act of biological warfare.  
Caffa is shown in the lower right-hand corner - Source: Encyclopaedia Judacia

The Islamic Mongolian Golden Horde which ruled central Asia, traditionally had an uneasy relationship with the Italian merchants which built the city of Caffa (also knowed Kaffa).  The contentious relationship boiled over in 1343 when a minor conflict involving Italians and Muslims turned violent leaving a Muslim dead.  The perpetrators of this escaped to Caffa where they received sanctuary.   Mongols commanded by Jani Beg was now enraged and laid siege to the Italian stronghold.  The siege ended in disaster for the Golden Horde with the arrival of Italian reinforcements slaughtering 15,000 Mongolian soldiers in February of the next year.  

Jani Beg, refusing to admit defeat, once again laid siege on the city in 1345 but was interrupted by the arrival of the Black Death.  In an effort to spread the disease to the population within the city, corpses of those who perished from the plague were placed on siege weapons and launched into the city.  Despite the Italians' best efforts to contain the disease by throwing the corpses into the sea, they were becoming overwhelmed.  One year later in 1347, the Italians began their exodus towards Italy in the face of the relentless onslaught of the Black Death.  (This event was recorded extensively by Gabriele De' Mussi, a notary from Picaenza.)  

On their journey home, the Italians made a stop at Constantinople inadvertently infecting the capital of the Byzantine Empire which began the spread of Black Death into Eastern Europe.  By the time they arrived in Sicily, off the coast of southern Italy, many of the sailors were dead or dying.  With this, the Black Death had reached the heart of Europe.  In three short years from 1347 to 1349, all of southern Europe was infected and by 1351, the entirety of Europe was under the shadow of the Black Death.  

A minor dispute between Italians and Muslims in a relatively insignificant section on the fringe of Europe had led to its greatest catastrophe.  European population would not recover for another 150 years.  This marked the first recorded use of a biological weapon and its effects were horrific.  A minority of scholars believe that the spread of Black Death from the Golden Horde to Caffa was accidentally done by rodents.  However, this view is unsubstantiated by historical evidence & implausible because the Mongolian encampment was over a kilometer away from the Caffa walls (rats rarely travel over 30 - 90m).  Because of this, the majority of scholars who have studied the events believe that Caffa was the gateway through which the Black Death entered Europe.  The second greatest plague in human history, begun by a ruthless act from a barbaric khan.

The Spread of Black Death in Europe 1347 - 1352 - Source: Princeton University

Jade Burial Suit of the Han Dynasty

During the Han Dynasty (206 BCE - 220 CE), members of imperial family were buried in jade burial suits.  These suits, once common among royal tombs, have now become rare and priceless.  These suits are made by sewing pieces of jade together using threads often made of gold or silver.  The most beautiful of these can be seen in Xuzhou, a city little known in the Western world.

During the early Han Dynasty, Xuzhou (then called Peng Cheng) was one of the most important regions of China.  It was birthplace of the first peasant-turned emperor Liu Bang, Emperor Gaozu of Han.  After uniting China under his rule, he endowed his younger brother Liu Jiao as Prince of Chu and granted him their ancestral home, Peng Cheng, as his fiefdom.  All was well in Peng Cheng until the reign of Liu Wu, 3rd Prince of Chu, who was caught drinking and having sex during the mourning period for recently deceased Grand Empress Dowager Bo, mother of Emperor Wen of Han and grandmother of Emperor Jing of Han.

In a fit of rage over the disrespect for his grandmother, Emperor Jing ordered seizure of half of Liu Wu's fiefdom.  This influenced Liu's decision to partake in a rebellion against the emperor with other princes later deemed the Rebellion of the Seven States.  The rebellion was put down by the emperor and Liu committed suicide upon defeat to avoid capture.  Fortunately for the modern generation, Liu Wu's son Liu Li was permitted to succeed the his father's fiefdom and title.  Liu Li buired Liu Wu at Lion Mountain which was discovered in the mid-1990s by an archaeological team.

Spencer P.M. Harrington, associate editor of ARCHAEOLOGY, recorded that "175,000 coins, 200 official seals, 200 jade objects, weapons and some 1500 other objects made of gold silver, copper, bone and lacquer" was discovered.  However, this was not the greatest treasure.  The most unique find of this expedition was the Liu Wu's jade burial suit.  Grave robbers have stolen much of gold thread that held the suit together leaving the jade pieces in a heap.  After almost two years, 60,000 USD, 1.576 KG of gold later, the jade burial suit was placed back together.

The jade used to make the suit was exquite and it is the oldest and best made jade burial suit to have survived.  4248 pieces of jade were used in its construction and details were so exacting that jade circles were placed over the nipples while a small hole on the top for the hair to come out of.  It is currently being exhibited at Xuzhou Museum in Jiangsu.  Although the other exhibits discounting Liu Wu's exotic belt buckle is underwhelming compared to what could be seen in other parts of China; the jade suit is definitely alone is definitely worth the visit.
Here you can see the detailed nature of the work if you look closely at the jade pieces forming the circle
just look at how each piece was jade was meticulously cut and carved for the hands & feet
This is the belt buckle i was talking about; the workmanship is extradordinary

Historical Inaccuracies of the 2008 Movie The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

Of the three Mummy movies in the recent trilogy, I liked the Tomb of the Dragon Emperor least.  First of all, there are no mummies.  Second of all, there is no Rachel Weisz.  Lastly, the movie was not even set in Egypt anymore breaking away from all previous connections to the other Mummy movies.

However, one Mummy tradition continued; the misrepresentation of ancient history and culture to provide a (in this case especially) cheap trill.  While The Mummy and The Mummy Returns at least had entertainment value, Tomb of the Dragon Emperor only highlighted the lack of historical basis in the movies.  So if you are inclined to watch to movie anyways, here are some historical inaccuracies you could use to trash it some more.  (note: the film never named the emperor as Qin Shi Huang but the prologue describing the one king who united China makes this perfectly clear)

1) Assassination: In the prologue of the film, the narrator claimed that "the other rulers hired assasssins to kill the king before he could conquer them all."  The assassination attempt is portrayed as two assassins who attacked the emperor in his bedchamber at night with fully armed guards arriving too late to assist the emperor.
A. The assassins were not hired by other rulers together and instead, was the brainchild of one man - Dan, the Crown Prince of the state of Yan.
B. The assassination attempt actually occured during day and in the Qin Shi Huang's court.

2) Attack!: After fending off the attempted assassins, the emperor threw his knife ordered the invasion to begin tonight.  This leads to audience to infer that they are invading the culprit behind the assassination attempt.  In actuality, the emperor did not immediately invade after the incident because the King of Yan, upon learning of the failed attempt, executed his own son to appease the emperor.  The state of Yan was not invaded for another 5 years.

3) The Great Wall: After depicting his victory, the narrator claimed that "[the emperor] enslaved his conquered enemies and forced them to build his Great Wall.  When they were dead or useless, he had them buried beneath it."
A. The laborers of the Great Wall were not just enemy prisoners of war.  He had also enlisted large numbers of peasants and other forced laborers to construct it.
B. While thousands died in the wall's construction, the deceased were not intentionally buried under the wall. Instead, they were buried around the general area out of convenience.

4) Quest for Immortality: Qin Shi Huang was described having sent General Ming to find a witch who can grant him immortality.  Inferring from the film's description (during his scene) and portrayal (during the conquest scene showing Ming beside Qin Shi Huang), Ming would likely be one of the top Qin generals.  After finding Zi Yuan, they traveled west ot Turfan on the western border of China in search of the great library. 
A. The generals most trusted by Qin Shi Huang were Wang Jian, Meng Tian and Tu Sui.  It was likely that Ming was modeled after one of them; however, none of the above were sent to discover the elixir of immortality.
B. Instead of sending an armed expedition led by a general to locate the elixir of immortality, Qin Shi Huang sent a eunuch named Xu Fu along with a group of young boys and girls.
C. The beliefs at the time states that the elixir of life was located east of China on a legendary island called "Peng Lai" and guarded by sea monsters where a legendary immortal named Anqi Sheng.  The legends of the time does not in any way involve a witch.
D. The Xiongnu who controlled Turfan during the period of time in question, Qin Shi Huang's reign 247 - 221 BC, were a nomadic people.  They did not have the culture to possess the greatest library in the ancient world.  Their empire was formed by Modu Chanyu a decade after the death of the emperor.

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (movie) RUSSELL WONG as warrior Ming Guo in an all-new adventure that races from the catacombs of ancient China high into the spectacular Himalayas: "The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor".

5) Oracle Bones: After a long search, Zi Yuan & Ming discovered the "long lost oracle bones, a collection of all mystical secrets of the ancient world."  The oracle bones were in the form a brown stack of reeds used to write on in ancient China.
A. Oracle bones do not contain any mystical secrets but instead is a way a divination to ask the deities questions.  These bones were burnt until they cracked and the cracks would be interpreted to read the answers.
B. Oracle bones are not reeds but instead bones or shells from either an oxen or a turtle respectively.

Actual Oracle Bone - Source: Chinese University of Hong Kong

6) Sanskrit: In the film, the writings on the the 'oracle bones' were written in Sanskrit.
A. The language of Turfan of Xiongnu people are debated to be either proto-Turkic or proto-Hunnic by different scholars.
B. Sanskrit is an Indo-Aryan language; there are no connections between  the Xiongnu people and the Indo-Aryans of India.

7) Death to An Emperor: In Mummy, the death of Qin Shi Huang was caused by Zi Yuan's curse which turned him and his soldiers into clay outside his imperial court.
A. Qin Shi Huang's death is rumored to have been caused by the mercury pills he took to prolonged his life.
B. He died in Shaqiu prefecture two months journey away from his capital.

8) The Emperor's New Clothes: The entire portrayal of Qin Shi Huang to this point had him in military uniform.  He should have worn the imperial robes with a veiled headdress.

Actual Appearance of Qin Shi Huang - Source: China Travel Depot

9) Colossal Mistake: During the cut-scene that delineates the passage of time, sand was shown to be blowing over a stone colossus.  While Qin Shi Huang did build colossus (12 in fact), none were made of stone.  Instead, they were made of bronze that was melted from the weapons he collected from the states he had conquered.

10) The Terracotta Army: Upon entering the Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, Alex and Roger found the terracotta army buried with Qin Shi Huang.  These clay figures were depicted to be colorless.  In actuality, the terracotta soldiers should have been fully colored.  Although the soldiers we see today does not have color, it was only because the colors dissolved very soon after it was exposed to air.

Terracotta Army - Source: Michigan State University

11) Booby Traps: As Roger and Alex along with the workers entered the tomb, they inadvertently engaged ancient booby traps that were in place to protect the emperor's corpse.  It is important to note that despite the prominence of ancient booby traps in adventure films, none had ever been encountered by archaeologists in the field as they deteriorate after a certain amount of time.  Ancient texts records that Qin Shi Huang's tomb does have crossbow-based traps; however, it is important to note that even if they were maintained at full-draw with a hair trigger, the bow strings were made of materials that would perish after thousands of years.

12) Treasureless Tomb: Throughout their entire journey into Qin Shi Huang's tomb, the only discoveries within the tomb were the terracotta army, booby traps and the hidden corpse of the emperor.  This means that many of the treasures that were supposedly buried with the emperor was missing.
A. There were supposedly rivers of mercury that ran throughout Qin Shi Huang's tomb that recreated a map of China within the tomb.  This has been further corroborated by mercury tests with results hundreds of times over the norm done in the area.  The map reportedly also has a astronomy section with precious stones inserted to form stars.  This was also absent in the film.
B. Texts record the presence of priceless jewels and artifacts buried within the tomb with the emperor.  

Estimated Apperance of the inside of Qin Shi Huang's tomb - Source: China.org

13) Shangri-La: When the British officer visited the O'Connells to request their assistance in a delivery, Evie immediately recognized the precious stone as the Eye of Shangri-La and claimed that "if you believe the legend, it points the way to the Pool of Eternal Life.
A. There has been countless Chinese legends of a hidden paradise but none mentioned the pool of eternal life.  The first recorded source of this legend The Peach Blossom Spring described a valley hidden from the outside world but made no reference to immortality.  Instead, the reason it was deemed a paradise was because of the absence of political turmoil.
B. The legend of Shangri-La was begun by British author James Hilton in Lost Horizon in 1933.  It had little influence from traditional Chinese sources and is generally believed to be based on Tibetan, not Chinese, customs.

14) 20th Century: General Yang welcomed Qin Shi Huang to the modern world by saying (in mandarin) welcome to the 20th century.  The emperor never questioned exactly what year this is despite him being born before Christ and would not know our current calendar system (the Gregorian calendar).  Furthermore, the Chinese a different calendar that combines lunar and solar qualities.

15) Overcrowded Beaufighter: Mad Dog Maguire flew a Bristol Beaufighter carrying 6 passengers (3 O'Connells, Jonathan, Lin and the cow) and landed it halfway up a mountain.  However, the Bristol Beaufigher is a fighter/ torpedo bomber and does not have capacity to carry passengers regardless of modifications.

16) Three-Headed Dragon: After entering the waters of the Pool of Eternal Life, Qin Shi Huang was able to transform himself into a three-headed dragon.  The dragon was covered with scales, breathed fire, had wings and three claws on each hand.
A. The Chinese dragon differs greatly from a western dragon.  It does not stock body that was seen in the film and should instead should resemble a snake more than western dragon.
B. Although Chinese dragons can capable of flight, they do not possess wings.
C. The dragon in the film only had three fingers.  During Qin Dynasty China, imperial dragons should have five fingers while three-fingered dragons are used more often by commoners.  Since it is the physical transformation of Qin Shi Huang, the three-headed dragon in Mummy should have had five fingers.
D. Most Chinese dragons are seen as controllers of rivers, seas, oceans and other bodies of water.  They have no association with fire-breathing - a western dragon trait.
E. The physical properties of a dragon is very exacting is Chinese culture.  It should have precisely 117 scales.
F. The dragon in the film is more likely based on King Ghidorah, a three-headed dragonesque monster from the Godzilla franchise.

Qin Dragon Tile - Source: Travelpod

17) Great Wall & Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum: Zi Yuan informed Evie that "the terracotta army is not indestructible until it crosses the Great Wall."  When Qin Shi Huang arrived to awaken the army, you could see the Great Wall in the near distance.
A. Assuming the supernatural is possible, it would be likely that the terracotta army would have the cross the Great Wall to become indestructible as the original Great Wall was intended to be a dividing point between the Qin Empire and the Xiongnu nomads.  Hence, it does not make sense that a Qin army needs to LEAVE the Qin Empire to become indestructible.
B. The tomb of Qin Shi Huang was built 30 km from Xian which is in Shanxi province.  However, no section of the Qin Great Wall was built in Shanxi province.  Hence, it would be impossible to march from the tomb to the wall in such a short period of time.

18) The Altar: Zi Yuan was depicted as performing a ritual in an altar beneath the Great Wall to awaken the soldiers buried there to battle against Qin Shi Huang.  However, the Great Wall was constructed as a deterrence against Xiongnu raiders and no evidence of any altar of significance was discovered there.

And here it is, more faults to add to an already long list of problems with The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.  To be perfectly honest, I had much more fun listing its detriments than watching the movie.  Hopefully, you feel the same way about reading this blog entry.  Anyways, this is the last movie of the Mummy franchise so I am going to have to find a new historical movie/ movie series to poke at.  If there any suggestions as to what next or if I missed anything, don't hesitate to give me a holler.

Historical Inaccuracies of the 2001 Movie The Mummy Returns

The Mummy franchise, revived in 1999 with the release of The Mummy marked a new beginning for films inspired by ancient Egyptian culture.  However, Egyptian history, religion and culture is often misrepresented in the films.  After delineating the historical inaccuracies of The Mummy, I have decided to write one for the recent The Mummy trilogy.  Here is a list of historical inaccuracies I noticed in The Mummy Returns.

Mistakes that were present in the previous movie I did not bother listing out.  For example, the wrong appearance of the Book of the Dead or the depicting of Seti I have already been stated in a previous post.  If you are interested in those historical inaccuracies as well, you can check it out at http://sophos-square.blogspot.hk/2012/06/historical-inaccuracies-of-1999-movie.html.

This list is organized in a chronological order according to the movie.  If you see something that you doubt as you can watching, just pause & check the list. ^^

1) The Scorpion King: In The Mummy Returns, the Scorpion King was described to be a warrior-king who wanted to conquer the world.  However, little is actually known in archaeology regarding the Scorpion Kings (note the plural, there are actually TWO in ancient Egyptian history).  However, the date of the movie's setting would be somewhat consistent with the estimated reigns of the two Scorpion Kings.

Scorpion Macehead - Source: Ashmolean Museum

2) Weapons: The Scorpion King and his army wields a bronze swords called the Khopesh and protected by armor.
A. However, large-scale domestic production of bronze objects in Egypt did not begin until 2000 years after the movie during the New Kingdom period.  Prior the New Kingdom period, bronze had been produced in Egypt but was extremely expensive and seldom used by an entire army.
B. Maces, spears and daggers are the primary weapon of Old Kingdom army to conserve the use of metal in weaponry (copper at this time).  Considering that the Old Kingdom's technology was more advanced that the pre-dynastic era of the Scorpion King, this would likely even more true.
C. The Khopesh is a Canaanite weapon while the Scorpion King is a pharaoh of Upper Egypt alone (southern Egypt).  Hence, the Scorpion King would not have come into contact with Canaanite weaponry.

Univeral Pictures - The Mummy Returns: Scorpion King

3) Crossroads Deal: In the film, The Scorpion King makes a deal with Anubis for an army with which to conquer his enemy.  However, in Egyptian mythology, Anubis never possessed an army and was only the god of death & mummification.

4) Scorpion King as a Myth: When Evie first sees the scorpion bracelet, she claimed that it had always been thought that the Scorpion King was only a myth with no evidence proving his existence.  However, evidence verifying the Scorpion King's existence (the Scorpion Macehead) had been discovered in Nekhen during the late 19th century.  Being an Egyptologist during the inter-war period, Evie should have known about the Scorpion Macehead's discovery.

5) Ahm-Shere: the Non-existent Oasis: Upon returning to London, Evie attempts to persuade O'Connell to journey to Ahm-Shere with her.  However, this location had never been mentioned in Egyptian archaeology

6) Year of the Scorpion: O'Connell claimed that Evie's dreams began during the Egyptian new year marking the beginning of the year of the scorpion.
A. the Egyptian calendar does not have a year of the scorpion.
B. there is no archaeological evidence that indicates the ancient Egyptians even had a calendar before the beginning of dynastic Egypt (which is when the Scorpion King reigned)

7) Reincarnation: When awaking Imhotep, Meela claimed that she was the reincarnation of Anhesnamun to Imhotep.  Yet, the Egyptians believed in an afterlife (not heaven or hell, mind you, but a continuation of daily life).  Hence, they do believe in reincarnation.

8) The Duel: During the film, Evie had a long extended vision to the past where she saw herself in a past reincarnation as Princess Nerfertiri  dueling Anhesnamun with a pair of Sais.
A. Sais are not an Egyptian weapon but instead, an Okinawan one.
B. There are two royals of similar names that Evie's reincarnation could have been probably modeled upon from around the this period of time (19th dynasty).
I - Queen Nerfertari, one of the famous Queens of ancient Egypt.  However, she was not a princess or the daughter of Seti I (although there are circumstantial evidence that she maybe related to the royal family of the 18th dynasty.  Instead, she was the wife of Ramses the Great and therefore, Seti I's daughter-in-law.
II - Princess Nerfertari was one of the Ramses the Great's older daughters and was likely the wife of Crown Prince Amun-her-khepeshef
Princess Nefertiri vs Anck Su Namun
Nefertiri vs. Anck-Su-Namun

Modern steel sais - Source: Wing Lam Enterprises

A statue of Queen Nefertari - Source: National Chiao Tung University

9) Shrunken Heads: As they entered the Ahm-Shere oasis, Jonathan noticed a collection of shrunken heads.  However, the practice was headhunting was never an Egyptian tradition.  Moreover, the practice of shrinking heads is unique practice indigenous to Amazon tribes in South America around Ecuador and Peru.

10) Osiris: On the wall of the pyramid in Ahm-Shere, O'Connell sees a stele on the wall depicting a how-to guide for killing the Scorpion King with the Spear of Osiris.  Yet, the Scorpion King reign dates back to the predynastic era of Egyptian history; during this time, the importance of Osiris as an Egyptian deity is minimal. His significance as an Egyptian god of death only began in the Middle Kingdom and previously in the Old Kingdom, the god Anubis was deemed more important.

shrunken head
Shrunken Head - Source: Bizarre Medical

So here it is, the historical inaccuracies I noticed.  If I missed anything, don't hesitate to inform me.  The next part of this journey is going to take me to China with The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.  Rachel Weisz & Oded Fehr is gone; the abscence of Weisz especially makes the movie less attractive.  Nevertheless, its time to complete the historical analysis of the series.  XD

The Dashing King: Vampire or Cannibal?

During the end of the Ming Dynasty, there were many peasant uprisings led by different individuals.  The most powerful of these forces was under the leadership of The Dashing King (Chen Wang) Li Zicheng.  When most people think of Li, they would remember his contribution to the destruction of the Ming Dynasty or his character in the famous Chinese novels written by renowned author Jin Rong (appears in both Sword Stained with Royal Blood & The Deer and the Cauldron).

However, one chapter of his life remains little known but often discussed by those who have of the heard.  It involves the death of Zhu Changxun, 1st Prince of Fu, the favorite son Emperor Wanli and uncle of the last emperor of Ming Dynasty, Chongzhen.  (For more information on the two emperors, you can refer to http://sophos-square.blogspot.hk/2012/06/emperors-of-ming-dynasty.html)

The Prince of Fu's fief is in Luoyang in Heibei province.  Being the favorite of Emperor Wanli and greatly respected by Emperor Chongzhen, he was endowed with great wealth from the two emperors.  Additionally, he taxed the people of his fiefdom brutally to the detriment of his people.  When the Li reached Luoyang, he was greatly angered by the wealth of the prince when compared to how destitute his own army and the population of Luoyang were.  While the Prince of Fu's son, Zhu Yousong, escaped capture, the prince himself was captured.

Unfortunately for the Prince of Fu, his body weight recorded to over 300 catties (150 kg or 330 lbs) further symbolized for Li and his followers of how different their lifestyles were as both Li's army and the local populace were starving and undernourished.  In his rage, Li ordered the death the prince's death.  Yet, this is where the historical accounts differ.  

It is recorded in Ming History that Li drained the prince's blood and mixed it with alcohol and deer blood to make what he called "Fu Lu wine."  (Fu refers to the prince while lu is the word for deer in Chinese)  This wine was then distributed throughout Li's officers and consumed by Li himself.  While this act of vampirism may seem extreme, it is the least controversial of the possible scenarios.

There are two other versions of the story (not recorded in the Ming History) that claims different, one bloodier than the other.  The first states the a large cauldron was taken from a nearby monastery was filled with spices and 7 - 8 deers taken from Prince of Fu's courtyard and cooked.  The Prince of Fu was then fedlaxatives to empty his bowels, shaved and cleaned thoroughly before he was tied up and dropped into the scalding water.  There, to the amusement of the spectators, the prince died after "swimming" in the hot water.  Supposedly, he was then cooked for another two hours before the entire pot was served to the people of Luoyang and Li's soldiers.

The second version of the story was far more morbid.  In order to prepare a proper meal, Li drained the blood out through the prince's carotid artery.  Afterwards, he skinned and filleted the prince before the pieces were thrown into the cauldron.  Like the previous version, the cauldron was also filled with spices and  deer from Prince of Fu's courtyard.  They share the horrific last part of the story in common: the prince was then served along with the deer to the soldiers and populace of the city.

While the two versions of the story cannot be proven (or disproven) decisively, the two latter versions of the story have spread from the city of Luoyang.  Personally speaking, I believe that the third  version of events is more likely for 3 reasons.  This is because 1) As we know definitely from Ming History that Li had drained the prince's blood for wine, this series of events correlate to Prince of Fu being cooked in pieces instead of being thrown into the cauldron intact.  2) While cooking a person alive for punitive reasons is not unheard of in China, they are always put into lukewarm water before being boiled. The reason behind this is that capital punishment executed through cooking is meant to inflict horrific pain but throwing a man into boiling water would kill too quickly and cannot achieve the desired effect.  3) lastly, in Chinese culinary culture, only small animals such as rabbits or birds are thrown into pots whole to make soups.  Larger animals tended to be dismembered for culinary reasons (so the spices would drain into the meat & so the meat would cook evenly).

Chinese history is littered by unsubstantiated rumors whose accuracy cannot be verified.  The two latter versions of the story could have arisen as Manchu propaganda to discredit the Dashing King Li Zicheng.  However, Ming History remains the greatest source of information from this period and is an undisputed collection of primary sources.  Hence, at the very least, the Dashing King had been a vampire if not a cannibal.

2012年6月17日 星期日

Emperors of the Ming Dynasty

The Ming Dynasty was one of the most illustrious of Chinese history.  Before the naval supremacy of Britain, China was the leading naval power and the state's technology was far superior to the world.  China in the early Ming dynasty was a true superpower and by Emperor Yongle's reign (the 3rd emperor), its power and influence reached as far west as Africa.  However, as enunchs amassed increasingly amounts of power, later emperors were relegated to lesser roles beginning a tradition of imperial incompetence that eventually doomed the dynasty.

Yet, when one looks upon the emperors of Ming dynasty, one thing becomes abundantly clear - only an state as powerful as the Ming could survive 20 years without the rule by its leader as seen in Wanli's reign.  Although this act left irreversible damage on the dynasty, it also showcases the bureaucracy and its ability to run a state despite having no directions from its leader.  Moreover, general incompetence or untimely deaths had ravaged the Ming over the reign of the seven last emperors but yet, it still managed to rule over the largest population of the world for  another140 years further demonstrates this point.

Reign Name: Hongwu
Personal Name: Zhu Yuanzhang
Posthumous Name: Gaodi
Temple Name: Taizu
Reign Years: 1368 - 1398
Familial Connection: born a peasant to Zhu Shizhen (posthumously honored Emperor Chun and temple name Renzu), grandfather of Emperor Jianwen, father of Emperor Yongle
Interesting Facts:
- only the second peasant in Chinese history to become emperor
- self-proclaimed as emperor after conquering much of China as a warlord
Major Accomplishments:
- instigated land and legal reforms
- established a new military system increasing the amount of trained Ming soldiers to 1.2 million by the end of his reign

File:Jianwen Emperor.jpg

Reign Name: Jianwen
Personal Name: Zhu Yunwen
Posthumous Name: Huidi
Temple Name: (none)
Reign Years: 1398 - 1402
Familial Connection: first son of Zhu Biao, Crown Prince Yiwen and grandson of Emperor Hongwu
Interesting Facts:
- was named successor after Hongwu's heir, Jianwen's father, passed away
- disposed by his uncle Emperor Yongle after suppressing the feudal lords
Major Accomplishments:
- few lasting accomplishments as Yongle erased much of his legacy

File:Anonymous-Ming Chengzu.jpg

Reign Name: Yongle
Personal Name: Zhu Di
Posthumous Name: Wendi
Temple Name: Chengzu or Taizong
Reign Years: 1402 - 1424
Familial Connection: 4th son of Emperor Hongwu, father of Emperor Hongxi
Interesting Facts:
- only known emperor to execute the 10 exterminations (on Jiangwen loyalist Fang Xiaoru) which included killing his peers and students as well (9 exterminations had been used in practice to execute the entire family from generations from great-great-great grandfather to great-great grandson all siblings and cousins)
Major Accomplishments:
- moved the imperial capital from Nanjing to Beijing and constructing the imperial palace there
- repaired & reopened the Grand Canal of China to supply Beijing and improve the economy
- commissioned Zheng He's expeditions that showcased Ming Dynasty's might overseas


Reign Name: Hongxi
Personal Name: Zhu Gaochi
Posthumous Name: Zhaodi
Temple Name: Renzong
Reign Years: 1424 - 1425
Familial Connection: 1st son of Emperor Yongle, father of Xuande Emperor
Interesting Facts:
- only reigned for 264 days
Major Accomplishments:
- restored Confucian officials that were disgraced during Yongle's reign
- relaxed the legal system
- lowered taxes to improve economy

File:Xuanzong of Ming.jpg

Reign Name: Xuande Emperor
Personal Name: Zhu Zhanji
Posthumous Name: Zhangdi
Temple Name: Xuanzong
Reign Years: 1425 - 1435
Familial Connection: 1st son of Emperor Hongxi, father of Emperor Zhengton and Emperor Jingtai
Interesting Facts:
Major Accomplishments:

File:Zhengtong Emperor.jpg

Reign Name: Zhengtong (1436 - 1449)/ Tianshun (1457 - 1464)
Personal Name: Zhu Qizhen
Posthumous Name: Ruidi
Temple Name: Yingzong
Reign Years: 1436 - 1449 & 1457 - 1464
Familial Connection: 1st son of Emperor Xuande, brother of Emperor Jingtai, father of Emperor Chenghua
Interesting Facts:
- during the 13th year of his reign, he was captured by the Monogls; this led to his brother being declared Emperor Jingtai.  When he was released, Jingtai refused to return the throne to he was relegated to the role of Retired Emperor and placed under house arrest.  In 1457, he launched a coup retaking the throne and named his second era Tianshun and ruled for another 7 years.  In contemporary times, he is referred to using his first reign name, Zhengtong
Major Accomplishments:
- while an incompetent ruler during the Zhengtong reign, he ruled with fairness for much of the Tianshun era
- showed mercy to disposed Emperor Jianwen's offspring who had imprisoned for 50+ years


Reign Name: Jingtai
Personal Name: Zhu Qiyu
Posthumous Name: Jingdi
Temple Name: Daizong
Reign Years: 1449 - 1457
Familial Connection: 2nd son of Emperor Xuande
Interesting Facts:
- refused to return the throne to Emperor Zhengtong upon his release & only spared Zhengtong's life because of their mother's intervention
- was demoted to prince posthumously by Zhengtong (imperial status later restored by Chenghua but never reburied as an empire) and not buried among previous emperors near Beijing
Major Accomplishments:
- oversaw an era when civil administration became more important than military leadership
- repelled the Mongolian assault in 1450 and forced them back out of the Chinese proper

File:Chenghua Emperor1.jpg

Reign Name: Chenghua
Personal Name: Zhu Jianshen
Posthumous Name: Chundi
Temple Name: Xianzong
Reign Years: 1464 - 1487
Familial Connection: 1st son of Zhengton Emperor, father of Hongzhi Emperor
Interesting Facts:
- his favorite consort was twice his age when they wedded
Major Accomplishments & Events:
- used extreme prejudice to quell several peasant rebellions
- instilled a far more autocratic regime than his predecessors


Reign Name: Hongzhi
Personal Name: Zhu Youtang
Posthumous Name: Jingdi
Temple Name: Xiaozong
Reign Years: 1487 - 1505
Familial Connection: 3rd son of Emperor Chenghua, father of Emperor Zhengde
Interesting Facts:
- only perpetually monogamous Chinese emperor
- his monogamy led to a lack of heirs to succeed him and his imperial line ended with Emperor Zhengde
Major Accomplishments:
- improved the Chinese economy through decreasing both taxes and governmental spending
- governmental transparency was improved
- seized power from enuchs who had gained tremendous influence under previous emperors


Reign Name: Zhengde
Personal Name: Zhu Houzhao
Posthumous Name: Yidi
Temple Name: Wuzong
Reign Years: 1505 - 1521
Familial Connection: 1st son of Emperor Zhengde, uncle of Emperor Jiaqing
Interesting Facts:
- notoriously indulgent as emperor (e.g. left the imperial palace for extended periods, kept exotic animals in palaces, had a harem so large the women within them were undernourished)
Major Accomplishments:
- personally led his army into battle against the Mongols and won decisive battles keeping them at bay
- permitted the establishment of the first European embassy in China (closed after his death)

Reign Name: Jiajing
Personal Name: Zhu Houcong
Posthumous Name: Sudi
Temple Name: Shizong
Reign Years: 1521 - 1567
Familial Connection: son of Zhu Youyuan, Prince of Xing, grandson of Emperor Chenghua, nephew of Emperor Zhengde, father of Emperor Longqing
Interesting Facts:
- buried his father, a prince, in an imperial tomb with full honors and the largest imperial tomb of the Ming dynasty despite great opposition (tradition dictates that he should adopt the previous emperor as father but he refused in what was later known as the Great Rites Controversy)
- was neglicent in his duties and refused to govern personally and delegated much of his responsibility
Major Accomplishments:
- maintained peace with the Mongols for the first 20 years of his reign and later later the conflict with the Mongols using diplomacy instead of war
- appointed General Qi Jiquang (who remains revered to this day) who expanded the Great Wall and ended the Wakou pirate raids in southeast


Reign Name: Longqing
Personal Name: Zhu Zaihou
Posthumous Name: Zhuangdi
Temple Name: Shenzong
Reign Years: 1567 - 1572
Familial Connection: 3rd son of Emperor Jiaqing, father of Emperor Wanli
Interesting Facts:
- suffered from a speech impediment which caused to stutter and stammer
Major Accomplishments:
- began lasting trade with European powers
- increased security of coastal regions which were often plagued by foreign raiders


Reign Name: Wanli
Personal Name: Zhu Yijun
Posthumous Name: Xiandi
Temple Name: Shenzong
Reign Years: 1572 - 1620
Familial Connection: 3rd son of Emperor Longqing, father of Emperor Taichang, grandfather of Emperor Hongguang of the Southern Ming Dynasty
Interesting Facts:
- governed exceptionally well over the first 28 years of his reign (only a minor in the 1st 10 years and therefore, the credit should go to Grand Secretary Zhang Juzheng); yet, refused imperial responsibility for the last 20 years of his reign
- refused imperial responsiblity because the officals would not allow him to change the succession order in favor of his favorite son Zhu Changxun (later created Prince of Fu) over the heir apparent Zhu Changluo 
Major Accomplishments:
- won 3 wars from 1582 - 1600 against the Mongols, the Japanese and a large-scale rebellion in south-west China (the latter 2 concurrently)


Reign Name: Taichang
Personal Name: Zhu Changluo
Posthumous Name: Zhendi
Temple Name: Guangzong
Reign Years: 1620
Familial Connection: 1st son of Emperor Wanli, father of Emperor Tianqi
Interesting Facts:
- died after a reign only 29 years
- because of his sudden death, his tomb was only hastily prepared and built over the demolished tomb of Emperor Jingtai
Major Accomplishments:
- attempted to eradicate the problems left behind by Emperor Wanli's 20 year refusal of imperial duty including unfilled positions in the imperial court & high taxes


Reign Name: Tianqi
Personal Name: Zhu Youjiao
Posthumous Name: Zhedi
Temple Name: Xizong
Reign Years: 1620 - 1627
Familial Connection: 1st son of Emperor Taichang
Interesting Facts:
- illiterate, had a learning ability and possibly retarded
Major Accomplishments & Events:
- no major accomplishments as he was not attentive as emperor and entrusted great power to a eunuch named Wei Zhongxian
- his incompetence effectively doomed the Ming Dynasty

Reign Name: Chongzhen
Personal Name: Zhu Youjian
Posthumous Name: Zhuangliemin
Temple Name: Sizong
Reign Years: 1627 - 1644
Familial Connection: 5th son of Emperor Taichang
Interesting Facts:
- the last Ming emperor of China (the Southern Ming Dynasty continued for a few decades after his death but they never governed the entirety of China and territorial holdings was gradually lost)
Major Accomplishments & Events:
- resisted the Qing incursion despite bad odds
- chose suicide over facing the end of his dynasty

With the death of Chongzhen, Ming rule was effectively ended.  It is important to note that the his death does not mark the beginning of the Qing dynasty but instead the birth of the short-lived Shun Dynasty under the "Dashing King" Li Zicheng.  Li was a minor Ming official-turned rebel leader who had fought his way to Beijing.  Yet, Li was defeated only months after the capture of Beijing at the Sanhai Pass of the Great Wall under the leadership of Dorgon, Prince of Rui of the Qing Dynasty.

Personally, I have believed that the Ming would have survived under Chongzhen if China did not face a two-front war.  The ease with which Dorgon's army defeated Li Zicheng further highlights the greatness of the Ming Dynasty which had kept the Manchus at bay.  With the defeat of Li Zicheng, the Chinese proper was open to invasion by the Manchus.  They would go on capturing the rest of China defeating the Southern Ming Dynasty (remnants of the Ming Dynasty) and establishing a 280 reign as the Qing Dynasty - the last imperial dynasty of China.