China for Physicists

China has money. China is hungry for science and technology. China thus will host and support many international conferences for physicists. Is the money the only item we can expect from China?

Yellow River and the Cradle of Chinese Civilization

The Yellow River flows from China's west and reaches the north of the Shandong Peninsula (south-east of Beijing), and then dumps its water to the Yellow Sea. The River passes through a flat land in the central land of China. This region has its own Chinese name difficult to pronounce, but the area is around the city of Xian, 2000 km south-west of Beijing and 300 north-west of Shanghai. We shall call this area the Xian region.

The Earliest Dynasties and Feudalism

Food container during the Bronze era. Photo taken at the National Museum of China (Beijing).
  1. Xia Dynasty (2070 -- 1600 BC). The earliest dynasty in China. Many tribes came to the Xian region through the waterways provided by the Yellow River and its branches. They started constructing communities. They attempted to communicate by drawing pictures. They became Chinese characters. As for the common language, singing played the major roles. This is the reason why spoken Chinese still has tones.

    People with different backgrounds had to live together. They therefore started the concept of harmony which plays the major role in the Chinese philosophy of Taoism.

  2. Shang Dynasty (1600 -- 1046 BC). Chinese started developing metal tools. They found out how to extract bronze from raw minerals. With the bronze tools they could develop their farm fields more effectively.

  3. Zhou Dynasty (1046 -- 771) developed organized farming. Thus, they were able to develop feudalism, and the king was the feudal lord.

Spring-Autumn and Warlords Periods (771 -- 221 BC)

Qin and Han Dynasties

It was a great honor for me to have a photo with the first Emperor in history.
In 221 BC, there was a strong man who unified China. His influence extended all the ways to Hong Kong. He is known to us as Emperor Qin or Chin, and China is named after him. His "Abang" palace was so big that its northern and souther ends had different weathers. His grave site was recently recently discovered, and is not far from the city of Xian. He became the emperor 200 years before Julius Caesar attempted to become an emperor.

  1. Emperor Chin started building the Great Wall.

  2. He was a strong man and disliked criticisms from scholars. He burnt all the books and buried all the scholars alive. Before this event, Chinese fortune telling was very accurate. It is inaccurate these days, because all those good books were lost then.

  3. Emperor Chin did not want to die, and sent a group of people to find a medicine which would keep him alive forever. Many people believe those people went to Japan and never went back.

  4. Although strong, Emperor Chin did not have any governing rules or ideology. Everybody had to please him. Thus his empire collapsed soon after he died.
After Qin, the Han Dynasty emerged. The dynasty's ruling principle was Confucianism. You will be OK if you act according to what Confucius says. Thanks to this social order, the dynasty lasted for four hundred years.

Han's territory extending toward Central Asia. Han was in control of the east-west trade route. This map is from Wikipedia.

Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius who organized his mission to China.

  1. The early (west) Han started in 2006 BC and lasted until 25 BC, but was interrupted due to quarrels among the royal family. The later (east) Han lasted from 25 BC to 220 AD.

  2. The Chinese identity as the cultured people was established during this dynasty. Even these days, Chinese take seriously whether a person has a Han ancestry or not. If yes, you are a proper Chinese called Han Chinese. Otherwise, you are not. Chinese still take this distinction seriously. This is the reason why there are still regional conflicts in China.

  3. During this peaceful period, Chinese invented many good things for them. In 105, the Chinese scientist named Tsai Lun invented the paper on which we can write. This invention allowed Chinese to write many poems and stories. This also allowed them to draw and paint pictures. They could draw pictures before building houses. They also could paint beautiful women. Thus the development of arts and literature continued.

  4. Also during this period, Chinese invented Tofu, which is becoming popular in the Western world these days.

  5. The Han Dynasty was able to expand its territory to the northeastern region now called Manchuria, and also toward Central Asia. China established regular trade routes toward Syria and Turkey.

  6. In 166 AD, the Han Emperor received a mission from Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius (called Andun in Chinese history). Antoninus died in 161 AD, but it could have taken more than five years to reach Rome to China. Those Romans could have come to Syria first and spent some years to arrange a transportation to China (This is my guess). For other stories, go to the Wikipedia page on this subject.

Transitional Period

  1. Han got divided into three kingdoms. This period lasted less than 80 years, but left many interesting war stories.

  2. The country got divided into many more kingdoms and warlords, and the period of confusion lasted until 581 AD. When there is a lack of the central authority, northern barbarians come in and participate in the Chinese affairs. During this process, the barbarians became absorbed into Chinese culture, and they become Chinese.

Sui (581 -- 618) and Tang (618 -- 907) Dynasties

In 581 AD, the Sui Dynasty unified China into one country, but did not last too long. It ended in 618.

In 618 AD, the Tang Dynasty inherited the Sui Dynasty.

Alas, in 755 AD, there was a military revolt against Tang's ruling family. It is known as An Lushan's revolt. An Lushan was one of the Emperor's most trusted generals stationed in the north-eastern area of Tang's territory. He had an ambition of become the emperor by overthrowing the government in Chang-An. For that purpose, he established a special relation with the Emperor's closest woman, namely Yang Guifei. She gave all the government secrets to An Lushan.

Transitional Period

  1. The Tang Dynasty collapsed in 907 AD, and the country got divided into five kingdoms. Some run by the Tang's ruling class, and some by barbarian tribes.

  2. The confusion lasted until until the Tang people and the invading barbarians reached an agreement.

Song Dynasties (907 -- 1207)

Transitional Period and Yuan Dynasty (1271 -- 1368)

Ming Dynasty (1368 -- 1636)

Transitional Period

Qing Dynasty (1644 -- 1911)

One of the buildings in the Forbidden City. A Manchurian name was added to the Chinese name (top).
I am standing in front of Emperor Qianglong's poem praising the moon at the entrance to the Lugo bridge in Beijing.

China plates produced during the Qing era. These plates set the stage for the French porcelain industry. If you do not trust me, go to a French store for dinner plates and compare them with this photo, taken at the National Museum in Beijing. The photo is fuzzy because these items were in a glass cage.

Transitional Period

    Sun Yat-Sen (idealist),
    Chiang Kai-Shek (military man).
  1. Sun Yatzen was an American-educated medical doctor. He thought China could become like the United States. He became the first president of a new country called "Republic of China" in 1911. With the supports from those who had the same idea, he formed a political party called Kuomintang (Chinese Nationalist Party). He played the central role during the post-Qing era, until his death in 1925.

  2. At the same time, in Beijing, Yuan Shikai arrested Qing's boy emperor and claimed he was Qing's new emperor, but his throne lasted only three months. China's north was again a battleground of warlords. Yet, the Kuomintang government did not have enough military resources to extend its influence to Beijing.

  3. After Sun died in 1925, Chiang Kai-Shek became the president. He was a military man of some degree, and he chose Nanjing as the capital city of his republic. He then started a speedy military advance toward the north. Seeing Chiang's impressive performance, the warlords in the north decided to submit themselves to Chiang's Kuomintang government. Chiang's China covered the entire territory of China.

  4. Chiang was quick to establish a friendly relation with Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union, and received a bulk of military supplies from him. He used those Soviet-made weapons to suppress the communists in his own country.

  5. In 1921, Chinese communists held its secret meeting in Shanghai while the country was under the Kuomintang (nationalist) regime. This group then surfaced as the agricultural reformers. They then penetrated into the Chinese army and was able to control one of the major units called the 8th regional army stationed in Jiangxi province (south of Hangzhu).

    Long March by Chinese communists from Jiangxi to Yenan (north of Xian).

    Former Japanese military
    headquarters in Shenyang. This city is known to Japanese as "Manshu Hoten."

  6. Alarmed by the communist activity, Chiang Kai-Shek's Kuomintang regime started arresting those communists. With the Soviet-suppled weapons, Chiang was ready to destroy the communist base in the Jiangsi province. The communists had to run away from Jiangxi to Yenan (north of Xian) through the mountain terrains where Chiang's influence could not reach. They had to walk without supplies. Many people died.

    This is known as the Long March of 1934-35. The leader of this long march was a young communist named Mao Zedong. In Yenan, the communists started consolidating their position.

  7. Grand Coalition against Japan (1937 -- 1945). When Japan started a full-scale invasion of China in 1937, the communists proposed a grand coalition of all military factions in China against Japan. Chiang was initially against the proposal, but was forced to accept the proposal.

  8. The United States welcomed this coalition, and supplied weapons to Chiang's headquarters in Chungking, through the Burmese route. Mao maintained his liaison office in Chungking in order to maintain contacts with the United States. However, Chiang's army did not put up any fights against Japan, but was only interested in suppressing communists.

    On the other hand, the communists staged guerrilla wars against Japanese army units. In so doing, they developed the technique of capturing weapons from the enemy side. They captured weapons from the Japanese army and stole American-made weapons from Chiang's nationalist army.

    The tide was turning toward the communists, and there were small and large-scale defections from Chiang's army to Mao's "People's Liberation Army."

    George Marshall and Mao Zedong
    in Yenan (1945).

  9. Marshall Mission to China (1945-47). Alarmed by the prospect of a civil war after the coalition against the Japanese invasion, the United States sent a mission headed by General George Marshall to arrange a peaceful union of the Chiang's nationalist government and the communist group headed by Mao. He went to Yenan to see Mao, and received a positive response from him.

    • On the other hand, Chiang Kai-Shek was totally against the government that would allow communists in the cabinet. Instead, Chiang demanded military aids from the United States to eliminate the communists in the north.

    • To make things worse, against Marshall's advice, Chiang sent two best-equipped divisions of his army to Manchuria to secure the northeastern region. This resulted in diluting the defense of the capital city of Nanjing.

    • George Marshall gave up his hope for a coalition government, came back to Washington in January of 1947 to become the secretary of state. He continued to be in charge of the U.S. policy toward China. He came to the conclusion that the United States could not do anything to save Chiang's Kuomintang government.

    • In 1949, Dean Acheson succeeded Marshal as the secretary of state. He edited a book called "China White Paper," consisting of all relevant documents on the Sino-American relations during the period 1944-49. I have a copy of this book.

    Mao's People's Liberation Army entering Beijing in 1949.

  10. Civil War (1946 -- 1949). Even though the communists enjoyed popular supports, it was not an easy job for Mao to deal with Chiang's well-equipped army. His People's Liberation Army had to rely on captured weapons. people. Mao's army had to stage bitter battles against Chiang's army in the northern provinces, before entering Beijing in January of 1949.

    • After defeating Chiang's army in northern provinces, Mao's Peoples Liberation Army quickly moved toward Chiang's capital city of Nanjing. Nanjing was defenseless because Chiang's best troops were in Manchuria and were eliminated by Mao's army.

    • Mao's army reached the Yangtze River in 1949, and Chiang's Kuomintang government moved its capital to Guangzhou. Chiang proposed a negotiated settlement, but Mao came up with solutions unacceptable to Chiang. While the negotiation was dragging on, Mao assembled one million soldiers on the shore of the Yangtze River north of Nanjing. Chiang did not have enough strength to defend Nanjing, because his best army units were in Manchuria and were eliminated earlier.

    • Mao then ordered those one million soldiers to cross the River at once with whatever means available to them. They used small and large boats, wooden doors, wooden rafts, and whatever that can float. Yes, they had to face gun fires from the opposite side, but they were only minor disturbances.

      Monuments at the River-crossing Museum in Nanjing. (top). Statues of the river-crossing committee members.
      Deng Xiaoping is second from left.
      I saw this scene from Walter Cronkite's TV program in 1961, but never again. I went to the River-crossing point when I went to Nanjing in April of 2013. There is a museum dedicated to this final chapter of the Chinese civil war. I took some photos.

      • These monuments tell Mao's troops did not have motor boats. Tall monuments are for sails boats, and short ones are for whatever that can float.

      • These are the statues of the staff members who planned and executed the river-crossing operation. I was very happy to see one name familiar to me and to all. He was Deng Xiaping (second from left).

      • This is another monument at the one of the busy traffic circles in the city. The river-crossing museum is at an isolated place and it is very difficult to reach.

    • This YuTube depicts the river-crossing operation. The background music is the March of the People's Liberation Army, composed by a Korean musician.
    • Another YuTube for the March, with the composer's name.

    • After this, the communist army swiftly captured Shanghai and went on toward Guangzhou. Chiang Kei-Shek had to flee to Sichuan and then to Taiwan.

Communist China (1949 -- now)

    Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai in Beijing (1949.10.1). Mao is proclaiming the inauguration of the government of the People's Republic of China.

    Eisenhower and Chiang Kai-Sek in 1960. Eisenhower went to Taiwan during his 1960 Asian trip.

    Chinese Red Guards during Mao's Cultural Revolution.

    Mao Zedong greets Richard Nixon
    in 1972.
  1. In 1949, China became unified under the communist regime headed by Mao Zedong.

    The British government was quick to recognize Beijing's communist regime as the legitimate government of China, and was able to maintain the British interest in Hong Kong.

  2. On the other hand, to the United States, Chiang Kai-Shek's Kuomintang group in Taiwan remained as the sole government of China including the mainland.

    • During the Korean war (1950 -- 53), China sent "volunteers" to Korea to fight against American troops. Neither side won the war. This was the cause of the animosity between the two countries for years to come.

    • The United States continued supporting Chiang's Kuomintang regime, and provided a treaty in 1954 to defend Taiwan against military attacks from "Red China." Here is a 1960 photo of Dwight Eisenhower with Chiang Kai-Shek in Taiwan. Eisenhower was the president of the United States from 1963 to 1961.

  3. In 1964, China conducted the first nuclear test. China's enlightened communists thought their country was secure militarily, and decided to pursue an open-door policy toward the West.

    • However, this approach did not sit well with Mao's revolutionary goals: to throw out all Western influences. This is known as Mao's Cultural Revolution. In realty, it was Mao's move to get rid of his political opponents from the communist party.

    • Zhou Enlai's ideology was basically pro-Western, but he remained on Mao's side throughout the Cultural Revolution. In so doing, he was able to eliminate all of his rivals among the pro-Western politicians. Zhou emerged as the most powerful figure after the Cultural Revolution. He was ready to invite to China the president of the United States.

  4. In 1972, Richard Nixon visited China, and China started an open-door policy toward the United States. Chinese students started going to the United States for PhD degrees.

  5. In 1978, the United States formally recognized Beijing's communist regime as the legitimate government of China. Taiwan's UN Security Council seat was replaced by Beijing's communist government. This transition took place very quietly.

  6. China's open-door policy led many young Chinese to believe China could have an American-style political system. In 1989, they gathered in Beijing and demanded an immediate reform, but their communist government brutally suppressed them. This is known as the Tian-Anmin Square incident. This incident raised a human-rights issue in the United States.

  7. During the election campaign of 1992, Bill Clinton promised not to trade with China until the tangible improvement in human rights in China. In 1994, Clinton broke his campaign promise and allowed the trades with China. Clinton's broken promise did not become his political liability, because the economic necessity was too strong.

Dynamics of Chinese History

When civilized Chinese set up a dynasty, northern barbarians come down and destroy the dynasty. However, those barbarians become integrated into Chinese culture. They become civilized Chinese.
The history of China consists of a series of dynasties. One dynasty disappears and a new dynasty comes in. There is then a transitional period between the two dynasties. This is the most important aspect of the history. The transition happens because

  1. The ruling class of one dynasty becomes separated from the farmers, and the farmers revolt. The central administration becomes weak.

  2. When the central authority is weak, northern barbarians invade and try to run the country. However, those barbarians become integrated into the Chinese main stream, and they become Chinese. They all claim to be "Han" Chinese.

  3. During the 19th and 20th centuries, China was invaded by Western powers and Western ideologies. After the Opium War of 1840-42, Britain established a firm foothold in China and ruled the district of Hong Kong until 1997. France also established an interest in China in 1884. The Beijing Hotel near the Tian-Anmin Square started as a French hotel called "Hotel de Pekin" right after the Sino-French war of 1883-4. In 1931, Japanese established their puppet regime in Manchu, and started a massive military invasion of China in 1937.

Traditional money god, and Shanghai's IFC (idol for money and wealth).
Shanghai's IFC leads you to believe in money, while the Aya Sofia in Constantinople led people to believe in Jesus for 1100 years.
We all know how the Chinese people dealt with those military adventures. These days, China is one of the three military superpowers in the world.

In addition, there were two ideological invasions from the West. One is communism, and the other is capitalism. The question is how these foreign ideologies are being absorbed into Chinese own culture.

  • Like all human races, Chinese have the tradition of worshipping idols. Among the many idols, their god of money is still thriving. Go to a respectable Chinese restaurant. You will see a small alter for the god of money and wealth. The alter decoration includes models of circular Chinese coins with square holes in the middle.

  • I do not know anyone who became rich by worshipping this money god. However, in recent years, Chinese created another idol along this direction. Look at Shanghai's IFC (International Financial Center). You will be led to believe in money. Look at the Aya Sofia Cathedral of Istanbul built in the 6th century. Everybody was led to believe in Jesus at that time.

  • China's Mao Zedong regarded himself as a Marxist who pointed out labor is equivalent to money, just like Einstein who established the mass-energy relation. Thus, Mao attempted to transform China's vast labor resources into money, and ordered every Chinese family to build a backyard steel mill. This idea did not work out.

  • Zhou Enlai and other enlightened Chinese leaders came up with the idea that Mao's back yard could be in Western consumerism. In this way, China was quite successful in transforming their money god from restaurant decorations to Shanghai's IFC.

  • In the Western world, it is important to argue about communism or capitalism. However, from the Chinese point of view, they are not relevant variables. Chinese have their money god, and both ideologies got absorbed into their traditional value.

    This young lady is working for one of the major banks in Hong Kong. When I asked her whether she wants to marry a rich man or a smart man, she said "smart man." She said there are many smart physicists working in her financial world.

  • Important Question. Is the money everything to Chinese? Not to every Chinese. I was sitting next to
    • this young Chinese lady on an airport express train in Hong Kong (August 2011). She is working for one of the major banks in Hong Kong as a financial analyst. I asked her whether she wants to marry a rich man or a smart man. She said "smart man." She said there are many physicists working in the financial industry, and they are all smart. She was born in Shandong Province (south-east of Beijing), studied in Singapore, and speaks fluent English. Physicists have their place in China.

  • This is also the trend in the United States. Many physicists are working for Wall-Street firms. I hope those physicists will come up with a correct theory of money which can make accurate economic forecasts.

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copyright@2013 by Y. S. Kim. Photos are taken by Y. S. Kim or from the public domain, unless otherwise specified.

How did I talk to Einstein?