Guide A Thousand Pieces of Gold: Growing Up Through Chinas Proverbs

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These book-burning ceremonies were solemn occasions resembling high- mass at a Catholic cathedral, with music and incense. Candidates who had successfully passed the Imperial Examination were the only ones allowed to participate. They would prostrate themselves in worship and pray to Heaven until all the paper had been reduced to ashes. On their way out, they would further show their respect by placing a donation into a separate red box labeled yi zi qian jing one written word is worth a thousand pieces of gold. It is not a view shared by Adeline Yen Mah who regards the written word as worth more than A thousand pieces of gold, the title of her latest book.

As she explains, the reason the Chinese think in metaphors is because the language is pictorial and not phonetic.


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Thinking in metaphors is a form of lateral thinking. Yen Mah painstaking research and conclusive writing enables her intriguingly to draw together the threads of China First Emperor, of Chairman Mao Zedong and of her own life.

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The result is a rare cloth of gold. The book shows us how Chinese history is dominated by family ties, close friendships and personal commitments up to, and beyond, Mao. He was called by his friends qi huo ke ju precious commodity worth cherishing. They deified Mao to such an extent that he made himself an unassailable, and unforgettable, leader.


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As such leaders are wont to do. So it was with the First Emperor. Legalism, the supposed rule of current law, opposed Confucianism, the rule of precedent and the wisdom of ancestors. A major flaw at the time put the Emperor outside the law. He was thus able to create rules for his own survival rather than for the benefit of his people.

The flow of talent into the Qin State caused so much resentment that the native population persuaded the King to expel all non-Qin scholar officials.

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Like the Greek historian-traveler Herodotus, with whom he has often been compared, Sima Qian apparently also traveled far and wide; he reached the Kundong Mountains of Gansu Province in the west, the battlegrounds of Julu in Hebei Province in the north, Confucius's birth-place of Qufu in Shandong Province in the east, and the Yangtze River in the south. While lying on his deathbed in B. Three years later he finally assembled enough material to begin the laborious writing process. In those days paper had not yet been invented. Characters were written with a brush or carved vertically with a knife onto narrow strips of bamboo or wood.

He began writing in B. At that time China was frequently troubled by raids from nomadic tribes called Xiongnu or Huns living in the desert areas northwest of China present-day Mongolia. In retaliation, Emperor Wu would dispatch military expeditions into the desert to harass them.

In 99 B.

Vastly outnumbered, Li Ling was defeated and finally surrendered after he ran out of food and arrows. On hearing this, Emperor Wu became furious.

Chinese proverbs

In the case of defeat, the monarch expected his military ocers either to die in battle or to commit suicide and avoid capture. Surrendering to the enemy was considered cowardly and despicable.


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He proposed punishing Li Ling by confiscating his property and imposing death sentences on his family members to the third degree parents, siblings and wife, and children. Sima Qian, who knew and admired Li Ling, tried to defend him in court. By doing so, he enraged Emperor Wu even further.

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The monarch cast Sima Qian into prison for daring to speak up on behalf of a "traitor" who had surrendered to the enemy. Then, a year later, he accused the historian of trying to deceive the ruler and sentenced him to death. In those days it was possible for disgraced ocials either to buy their way out of their death penalty or to voluntarily submit to castration.