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  • The Children Tree November 18, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    The Children Tree

    There are some rare accounts from the middle ages (though not from antiquity?) of trees that are alive. The following comes from the great eighth-century Chinese geographer Du You. Du You is talking here of the Dashi, the Chinese word for the Arabs, that have just started to come onto the horizon with the Islamic […]

    The Pleasure of He Who Longs to Cross the Horizons November 12, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Medieval
    The Pleasure of He Who Longs to Cross the Horizons

    A good book title should be like a good wine. It sits on your tongue and then spreads and then evokes… And there can be no genre of scholarly writing that evokes better than geography and travel literature the discoveries of those who, to respectfully rephrase one of the titles below, dared the horizon. Beach […]

    Immortal Meals 16#: Stalin Meets China September 24, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary
    Immortal Meals 16#: Stalin Meets China

    An immortal meal from 30 July 1949,* which took place at Stalin’s dacha in Kuntsevo. Present were Stalin himself, several politburo members and a number of the leaders (minus Mao) of the Chinese communist party, including Liu Shaoqi (obit 1969) . The reception is interesting from several points of view: a) because rarely have so many mass […]

    A Westerner in Early Medieval China? September 5, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    A Westerner in Early Medieval China?

    Here is a story that has come out of the Chinese media in the last few days and that has been little noticed in the west, certainly it has been little discussed. The reports are unsatisfactory in all kinds of ways. But the bare bones of information includes the following: in M1401, an early medieval […]

    Ancient Chinese Automata August 14, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Ancient Chinese Automata

    There are a series of early texts that describe automata, small mechanical toys that allegedly operated in antiquity and that carried out wonders. The most famous is perhaps Archytas of Tarentum’s work with mechanical birds (another post another day). He is said to have created, credibly enough, a mechanical pigeon in the fifth century B.C., […]

    Giraffes in Medieval China June 4, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Giraffes in Medieval China

    The giraffe, it is hardly necessary to say, is not indigenous to China. Yet from at least the thirteenth century, rumours began to travel back to the Middle Kingdom about a strange, long-necked creature in the west. This beast, sometimes called by the medieval Chinese the Camel-Ox, aroused only moderate interest: did Chinese travellers in […]

    11 Burning Libraries: Book Lovers Beware April 29, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient, Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    11 Burning Libraries: Book Lovers Beware

    This blog has pioneered a series of burning libraries: books that didn’t make it (23 to date)… But what about real burning libraries? Libraries that, at some point in Antiquity or the Middle Ages, were gutted by fire, accidental or deliberate. I have included here a list of eleven devastatingly bad ‘burning libraries’ or ‘burning […]

    Did the Greeks Build the Terracotta Army? March 19, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Did the Greeks Build the Terracotta Army?

    We’ve fluttered before around the interesting work of Lukas Nickel (see link at bottom of this page), alleging contacts between Greece and China in the early centuries B.C. In a recent article (‘The First Emperor and sculpture in China’) in the Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies LN suggests that there was […]

    A French Crusader and A Chinese Sword? February 3, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    A French Crusader and A Chinese Sword?

    Little is known of Jean d’Alluye’s life. He belonged to the nobility of central France and he travelled to the Holy Land as a crusader in 1241 coming home three years later, 1244. Given that it will have taken him many months to get to Outremer and many months to return this was a relatively […]

    The Dragon’s Tail! A Continent or a Ghost? January 24, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval, Modern
    The Dragon's Tail! A Continent or a Ghost?

    La cola del dragón (the Tail of the Dragon), was a book published in 1990 by Paul Gallez (obit 2007), a Belgian/Argentinean historian. In this book Gallez alleged that a map by Martellus (obit 1496), dating to 1489 showed South America. If you are trying to understand why this should matter read the last sentence again: […]

    Zeus in China? January 12, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Ancient
    Zeus in China?

    This blog has pioneered the scientific reporting of contacts between distant civilisations with our wrong place tag. Today strangehistory offers up a particularly satisfying hint of Greek culture penetrating China in the Hellenic period (crudely fourth century to first century AD) based on the work of sinologist and WANW in the making Lukas Nickel and […]

    Chinese Dragons Head West January 3, 2014

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Medieval
    Chinese Dragons Head West

    Dragons have long been part of the mythic corpus of Europe, Asia and Africa and, if you include the various Amerindian Giant Serpents, the Americas as well. However, different cultures celebrated or reviled dragons in different ways and a dragon from Sweden with a breath that reaked of ragnarok and a wingless dragon from China […]

    Chinese Pied Pipers? November 8, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern
    Chinese Pied Pipers?

    Beach ran into this weird little text in the depth of the archives of a book quoting a book quoting a book. It is dated to 1820 but reported almost sixty years later in a discussion of horse whispering (a recent obsession on this blog). It does not appear in any newspaper database that we […]

    The Magic of Monkey August 2, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite, Contemporary
    The Magic of Monkey

      Monkey (aka Monkey Magic) was a Japanese series originally broadcast in two seasons: 1978/1979 and 1979/1980: there are 52 episodes. It was based on the famous Chinese novel describing Xuangzang’s journey to India with four guardians: a pig god, a monkey god, a fish god (think undine with skull bracelet) and a dragon who […]

    The Wessel Coins #3: Kilwa and its Sultanate July 27, 2013

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Medieval, Modern
    The Wessel Coins #3: Kilwa and its Sultanate

      Kilwa (or Quiloa as it was often called in European sources) was a small almost-tidal island off the coast of Tanzania. ‘Almost tidal’ because in its early history there was allegedly a causeway and even in later centuries it was possible to wade to Kilwa at low tide. The city of Kilwa was a […]

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