How To Distinguish An Empress Dowager

This pair of ornaments and headdress were likely once worn by the Empress Dowager Cixi (1835-1908), the effective ruler of China during the later years of the Qing Dynasty. Click through the image gallery to see all three.

All three are exquisite. They show how Chinese decoration and symbolism were used to express rank. The myriad of pearls and gemstones mark that the wearer is one of the highest ranking women in Chinese society, while the phoenixes emerging from the surface represent the empress dowager specifically. Put together, a Chinese person in the early 1900s would have known immediately who the wearer was, and how important they were.

In 1960, Frances Kelsey was one of the Food and Drug Administration’s newest recruits. Before the year was out, she would begin a fight that would save thousands of lives — though no one knew it at the time.

In 1960, American scientist Frances Kelsey was one of the Food and Drug Administration’s newest recruits. Before the year was out, she would begin a fight that would save thousands of lives — though no one knew it at the time.

Where Is It Illegal To Die?

In the 400s BCE, Athens forbade anyone to die or to give birth on the island of Delos, to render it fit for the proper worship of the gods. Since 1878, no births or deaths have been permitted near Japan’s Itsukushima Shrine, a sacred site in Shinto belief.     Death is still outlawed in some places today, but for more prosaic reasons. In 1999 the mayor of the Spanish town of Lanjarón outlawed death, again because of an overcrowded cemetery. His edict ordered residents “to take utmost care of their health so they do not die until town hall takes the necessary steps to acquire land suitable for our deceased to rest in glory.” The French settlements of Le Lavandou (in 2000), Cugnaux (in 2007), and Sarpourenx (in 2008) have all outlawed death because of limited capacity in local cemeteries. The Sarpourenx ordinance added: “Offenders will be severely punished.” In 2005 Roberto Pereira, mayor of the Brazilian town of Biritiba Mirim, proposed a ban on death because the local cemetery had reached its capacity -- although he was unsuccessful.    

The Iroquois Confederacy

It is long, but it is good. I promise. The Iroquois Confederacy, or as they called themselves, the Hodenosaunee, were an important pre-Columbian society and government. In fact, their democratic system had strong influence on today's US Constitution. But it was also a family-based system. Which is definitely NOT what today's US government is based on.

Sexism In The Symphony

Augusta Holmes (1847 - 1903) was the first woman to have an opera premiered in Paris. But the composer was so overlooked, thanks to her gender, that it was the 1990s before her work began being recorded. That's 90 years after she died!

The First Animated Film Was Argentinian

Argentine Quirino Cristiani created the very first animated film in the world, El Apóstol, in 1917. The film was 70 minutes long and had over 58,000 frames. It was a political satire, and well-received, but a fire unfortunately destroyed the only known copy. Today El Apóstol is considered a lost film.

Modern Japanese Vase Tells A Medieval Story

Around the year 950 CE, the Japanese emperor was contemplating cutting down an ancient plum tree, which had recently died. The emperor changed his mind after receiving an anonymous poem. "Since my lord commands, what can I do but obey; but the nightingales, when they ask about their nests-- whatever can I tell them?"   This vase, made in 1904 by Miyagawa Kozan, commemorates that story. You can see the character for "nightingale" perched daintily on the blue plum branch. The character (and all the other characters) is not painted on, but colored clay inserted into the cutout wall of the vessel. They probably couldn't do that in 950!

The Cascading Mills of Folon and Picon

  The mills of Folon and Picon are a collection of 60 mills located on the slopes of Monte Campo do Couto, in the Spanish municipality of El Rosal, in the autonomous community of Galicia. The mills follow, one after the other down the slopes, all powered by the same water. The mills ground corn and wheat, and processed linen and wool, starting probably in the 1600s. None are still in operation. But they remain preserved, a piece of El Rosal's heritage.     The mills are built in two groups, as you can see in the pictures. The first group are the Folón Mills, 36 mills located on the slope of Folón over a stream which is also called Folón. Really inventive naming here, folks! The second group are the Picon Mills, 24 mills located nearby over the stream also called Picon.

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    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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