Mapping Part of the Wall of China Gives Insights into Its Purpose

The Northern Line of the Great Wall of China has recently been mapped using drones and high-resolution satellite images. The 460-mile-long Northern Line mostly winds through Mongolia, and was constructed of pounded earth between the 1000s and 1200s CE. The Northern Line was previously thought to have been constructed to prevent incursions by nomadic tribes such as those eventually united under Genghis Khan. But the team found that much of this section of the more than 13,000-mile-long Great Wall is low in height and placed near paths. In other words, it does not match what you would expect for a wall intended to prevent enemy invasion. It looks more like a wall intended to monitor the movement of livestock and people -- and potentially tax it.

Laughing too hard can be dangerous. If someone is unlucky, or has a prior medical condition, laughter can lead to a brain aneurysm, asthma attack, gelastic seizures, or asphyxiation. Famous people who have died from laughter include Chrysippus (Greek Stoic philosopher in the 200s BCE), King Martin of Aragon in 1410, and Thomas Urquhart (Scottish aristocrat, polymath, and first translator of François Rabelais's writings into English) in 1660.

The use of paper as toilet paper was common in China at least by the late 500s CE. In 589 CE the scholar-official Yan Zhitui (531–591 CE) wrote about the use of toilet paper: "Paper on which there are quotations or commentaries from the Five Classics or the names of sages, I dare not use for toilet purposes." Since Yan does not feel the need to explain “toilet purposes” he assumes the reader knows and uses toilet paper, too.

When Eunuchs Could Marry

According to Chinese official historical records, there had been a historical record of eunuch marriage as early as the Eastern Han Dynasty. But they were not common until the Ming Dynasty. Starting in 1402, the Yongle Emperor quietly began allowing eunuchs to marry, as thanks for their significant contributions in Jingnan Rebellion which nearly knocked Yongle off his throne. From then on the marriage of eunuchs had legitimacy because it had the tacit approval of the emperor. The Yongle Emperor even awarded wedding to eunuchs who made significant contributions. These were, for obvious reasons, marriages for intimacy and companionship not children. Eunuch marriages remained common in the imperial court through the end of the Qing Dynasty in 1912.

The English word “bank” comes from the Italian word “banco.” In late medieval Italy banks were family businesses consisting of a single large room with a counter, or “banco,” in the middle to separate customers from clerks and bookkeepers.

A remarkable Liao Dynasty (907 - 1125 CE) tomb in China was unfortunately looted before its discovery by archaeologists. But the looters could not take the murals. Over 160 square feet of beautifully preserved paintings decorate the tomb's walls, reproducing constellations, wooden architecture, travel, and scenes from daily life.

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    HISTORICAL NON-FICTION

    By Lillian Audette

    This blog is a collection of the interesting, the weird, and sometimes the need-to-know about history, culled from around the internet. It has pictures, it has quotes, it occasionally has my own opinions on things. If you want to know more about anything posted, follow the link at the "source" on the bottom of each post. And if you really like my work, buy me a coffee or become a patron!

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