Nov 052015
 

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On this date in 1872 Susan B. Anthony voted in the U.S. presidential election in defiance of law and was later arrested and fined $100.

Susan Brownell Anthony (February 15, 1820 – March 13, 1906) was a U.S. social reformer and feminist who played a pivotal role in the women’s suffrage movement. Born into a Quaker family committed to social equality, she collected anti-slavery petitions at the age of 17. In 1856, she became the New York state agent for the American Anti-Slavery Society.

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In 1851, she met Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who became her lifelong friend and co-worker in social reform activities, primarily in the field of women’s rights. In 1852, they founded the New York Women’s State Temperance Society after Anthony was prevented from speaking at a temperance conference because she was a woman. In 1863, they founded the Women’s Loyal National League, which conducted the largest petition drive in the nation’s history up to that time, collecting nearly 400,000 signatures in support of the abolition of slavery. In 1866, they initiated the American Equal Rights Association, which campaigned for equal rights for both women and African Americans. In 1868, they began publishing a women’s rights newspaper called The Revolution. In 1869, they founded the National Woman Suffrage Association as part of a split in the women’s movement. In 1890 the split was formally healed when their organization merged with the rival American Woman Suffrage Association to form the National American Woman Suffrage Association, with Anthony as its key force. In 1876, Anthony and Stanton began working with Matilda Joslyn Gage on what eventually grew into the six-volume History of Woman Suffrage. The interests of Anthony and Stanton diverged somewhat in later years, but the two remained close friends.

In May 1869, Anthony, Stanton and others formed the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA). After the formation of the NWSA, Anthony dedicated herself fully to the organization and to women’s suffrage. She did not draw a salary from either it or its successor, the NAWSA, but on the contrary used her lecture fees to fund those organizations. There was no national office, the mailing address being simply that of one of the officers.

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That Anthony had remained unmarried gave her an important business advantage in this work. A married woman at that time had the legal status of feme covert, which, among other things, excluded her from signing contracts (her husband could do that for her, if he chose). As Anthony had no husband, she was a feme sole and could freely sign contracts for convention halls, printed materials, etc. With the press treating her as a celebrity, she proved to be a major draw as a speaker. Over her career she estimated that she averaged 75 to 100 speeches per year. Travel conditions in the earlier days were sometimes appalling. Once she gave a speech from the top of a billiard table. On another occasion her train was snowbound for days, and she survived on crackers and dried fish.

Both Anthony and Stanton joined the lecture circuit about 1870, usually traveling from mid-autumn to spring. The timing was right because the nation was beginning to discuss women’s suffrage as a serious matter. Occasionally they traveled together but most often not. Lecture bureaus scheduled their tours and handled the travel arrangements, which generally involved traveling during the day and speaking at night, sometimes for weeks at a time, including weekends. Their lectures brought new recruits into the movement who strengthened suffrage organizations at the local, state and national levels. Their journeys during that decade covered a distance that was unmatched by any other reformer or politician. Anthony’s other suffrage work included organizing national conventions, lobbying Congress and state legislatures, and participating in a seemingly endless series of state suffrage campaigns.

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A special opportunity arose in 1876 when the U.S. celebrated its 100th birthday as an independent country. The NWSA asked permission to present a Declaration of Rights for Women at the official ceremony in Philadelphia, but was refused. Undaunted, five women, headed by Anthony, walked on to the platform during the ceremony and handed their Declaration to the startled official in charge. As they left, they handed out copies of it to the crowd. Spotting an unoccupied bandstand outside the hall, Anthony mounted it and read the Declaration to a large crowd. Afterwards she invited everyone to a NWSA convention at the nearby Unitarian church where speakers like Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton awaited them.

The work of all segments of the women’s suffrage movement began to show clear results. Women won the right to vote in Wyoming in 1869 and in Utah in 1870. Her lectures in Washington and four other states led directly to invitations for her to address the state legislatures there.

The Grange, a large advocacy group for farmers, officially supported women’s suffrage as early as 1885. The Women’s Christian Temperance Union, the largest women’s organization in the country, also supported suffrage.

Anthony’s commitment to the movement, her spartan lifestyle, and the fact that she did not seek personal financial gain, made her an effective fund-raiser and won her the admiration of many who did not agree with her goals. As her reputation grew, her working and travel conditions improved. She sometimes had the use of the private railroad car of Jane Stanford, a sympathizer whose husband owned a major railroad. While lobbying and preparing for the annual suffrage conventions in Washington, she was provided with a free suite of rooms in the Riggs Hotel, whose owners supported her work. To ensure continuity, Anthony trained a group of younger activists, who were known as her “nieces,” to assume leadership roles within the organization. Two of them, Carrie Chapman Catt and Anna Howard Shaw, served as presidents of the NAWSA after Anthony retired from that position.

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The NWSA convention of 1871 adopted a strategy of urging women to attempt to vote, and then, after being turned away, to file suits in federal courts demanding that their right to vote be recognized. The legal basis for the challenge would be the recently adopted Fourteenth Amendment. Section 1 of that amendment reads, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Anthony and nearly fifty other women in Rochester attempted to vote in the presidential election of 1872. Fifteen of them convinced the election inspectors to allow them to cast ballots, but the others were turned back. There had been earlier cases of women attempting to vote, and even some cases of success, but the reaction of the authorities had been muted. When Anthony voted, however, the reaction was different, and her case became a national controversy. Anthony was arrested on November 18, 1872, by a U.S. Deputy Marshal and charged with illegally voting. The other fourteen women were also arrested but released pending the outcome of Anthony’s trial.

Anthony spoke in all 29 towns and villages of Monroe County, New York, where her trial was to be held, asking “Is it a Crime for a U.S. Citizen to Vote?” She said the Fourteenth Amendment gave her that right, proclaiming, “We no longer petition legislature or Congress to give us the right to vote, but appeal to women everywhere to exercise their too long neglected ‘citizen’s right'”. Her speech was printed in its entirety in one of the Rochester daily newspapers, which further spread her message to potential jurors.

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Worried that Anthony’s speeches would influence the jury, the district attorney arranged for the trial to be moved to the federal circuit court, which would soon sit in neighboring Ontario County. Anthony responded by speaking in every village in that county also before the trial began. Responsibility for that federal circuit was in the hands of Justice Ward Hunt, who had recently been appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Hunt had never served as a trial judge; originally a politician, he had begun his judicial career by being elected to the New York Court of Appeals.

Anthony’s trial was a major step in the transition of the women’s rights movement into the women’s suffrage movement. The trial began on June 17, 1873, and was closely followed by the national press. The New York Times caught the tone of the proceedings by reporting that, “It was conceded that the defendant was, on the 5th November, 1872, a woman.”

Following a rule of common law at that time which prevented criminal defendants in federal courts from testifying, Hunt refused to allow Anthony to speak until the verdict had been delivered. On the second day of the trial, after both sides had presented their cases, Justice Hunt delivered his opinion, which he had put in writing. In the most controversial aspect of the trial, Hunt directed the jury to deliver a guilty verdict.

On the third day of the trial, Hunt asked Anthony whether she had anything to say. She responded with “the most famous speech in the history of the agitation for woman suffrage”, according to Ann D. Gordon, a historian of the women’s movement. Repeatedly ignoring the judge’s order to stop talking and sit down, she protested what she called “this high-handed outrage upon my citizen’s rights … you have trampled under foot every vital principle of our government. My natural rights, my civil rights, my political rights, my judicial rights, are all alike ignored.”

She castigated Justice Hunt for denying her a trial by jury, but stated that even if he had allowed the jury to discuss the case, she still would have been denied a trial by a jury of her peers because women were not allowed to be jurors. When Justice Hunt sentenced Anthony to pay a fine of $100, she responded, “I shall never pay a dollar of your unjust penalty”, and she never did. If Hunt had ordered her to be imprisoned until she paid the fine, Anthony could have appealed her case to the Supreme Court. Hunt instead announced he would not order her taken into custody, closing off that legal avenue.

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The U.S. Supreme Court in 1875 put an end to the strategy of trying to achieve women’s suffrage through the court system by ruling in Minor v. Happersett that “the Constitution of the United States does not confer the right of suffrage upon anyone”. The NWSA decided to pursue the far more difficult strategy of campaigning for a constitutional amendment to guarantee voting rights for women.

In 1878, Anthony and Stanton arranged for Congress to be presented with an amendment giving women the right to vote. Popularly known as the Anthony Amendment and introduced by Sen. Aaron A. Sargent (R-CA), it became the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920. Unfortunately Anthony died before it was enacted.

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Anthony worked internationally for women’s rights, playing a key role in creating the International Council of Women, which is still active. She also helped to bring about the World’s Congress of Representative Women at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.

When she first began campaigning for women’s rights, Anthony was harshly ridiculed and accused of trying to destroy the institution of marriage. Public perception of her changed radically during her lifetime, however. Her 80th birthday was celebrated in the White House at the invitation of President William McKinley.

It is said in several places that Anthony’s favorite food was shrimp, but without specifics. However, we have this quote directly from her in reply to a query from a group of female college students about recipes for her favorite foods to include in their newspaper.

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Dear Junior Girls: My favorite cake is the old-fashioned sponge, made of eggs, the whites lashed to a stiff froth, the yolks beaten thoroughly with cups of pulverized sugar, a pinch of salt, a slight flavor of almond. Into these stir __ cups of flour – first a little flour, then a little of the white froth – and pour and pour the foaming batter into a dish with a bit of white buttered paper in the bottom. Clap into a rightly tempered oven as quickly as possible and take out exactly at the proper minute, when it is baked just enough to hold itself up to its highest and best estate. Then don’t cut, but break it carefully, and the golden sponge is fit for the gods . . .

Well, the dickens is to pay – I can not find the old cook book – so just put in any good sponge cake recipe for me, and then add: “It matters not how good the recipe or the ingredients may be, the cake will not be good unless there is a lot of common sense mixed in with the stir of the spoon.

In consequence, I suggest the same. Find a good sponge cake recipe and prepare it with common sense !!

May 192015
 

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Today is the conventionally celebrated birthday (1881) of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, a Turkish army officer, revolutionary, and the first President of Turkey. He is credited with being the founder of the Republic of Turkey. His surname, Atatürk (“Father of the Turks”), was granted to him in 1934 and forbidden to any other person by the Turkish parliament. Atatürk was a military officer during World War I. Following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in World War I, he led the Turkish National Movement in the Turkish War of Independence. Having established a provisional government in Ankara, he defeated the forces sent by the Allies. His military campaigns led to victory in the Turkish War of Independence. Atatürk then embarked upon a program of political, economic, and cultural reforms, seeking to transform the former Ottoman Empire into a modern and secular nation-state. Under his leadership, thousands of new schools were built, primary education was made free and compulsory, and women were given equal civil and political rights, while the burden of taxation on peasants was reduced. His government also carried out an extensive policy of “Turkification” (modernizing whilst retaining unique Turkish cultural values). The principles of Atatürk’s reforms, upon which modern Turkey was established, are referred to as “Kemalism.”

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Atatürk’s reforms have been the subject of numerous works, and are still a matter of intense debate in the modern political climate. His basic ideological stance was that Turkey needed to emulate the Western secular states in terms of science, education, and so forth, whilst maintaining an underlying sense that Turkey, like all states, had unique qualities that should be preserved and treasured: a delicate balancing act that in general he managed to pull off. Obviously he encountered immense opposition from traditionalists whose vested interests were at stake, but there is no question that he was a masterful politician and tactician in navigating these troubled waters.   Turkey is now a modern secular state in large part because of Atatürk’s sweeping reforms. Rather than go into them all in detail, I am going to focus on his attitude towards women in society which in many respects was more enlightened than that of Western nations of his day.

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Ottoman practice discouraged social interaction between men and women in keeping with Islamic practice of male and female segregation. Atatürk began developing social reforms very early, as is evident in his personal journal. He and his staff discussed issues like abolishing the veiling of women and the integration of women into the outside world. The clue on how he was planning to tackle the issue is stated in his journal from November 1915;

Social change can come by (1) educating capable mothers who are knowledgeable about life; (2) giving freedom to women; (3) a man can change his morals, thoughts, and feelings by leading a common life with a woman; as there is an inborn tendency towards the attraction of mutual affection.

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Atatürk needed a new civil code to establish his second major step of giving freedom to women. The first part was the education of girls and was established with the unification of education. On 4 October 1926, the new Turkish civil code passed. It was modeled after the Swiss Civil Code. Under the new code, women gained equality with men in such matters as inheritance and divorce. Mustafa Kemal did not consider gender a factor in social organization. According to his view, society marched towards its goal with men and women united. He believed that it was scientifically impossible for him to achieve social transformation if the gender separation continued as in Ottoman times. During a meeting he declared:

To the women: Win for us the battle of education and you will do yet more for your country than we have been able to do. It is to you that I appeal.

To the men: If henceforward the women do not share in the social life of the nation, we shall never attain to our full development. We shall remain irremediably backward, incapable of treating on equal terms with the civilizations of the West.

Atatürk promoted modern teaching methods at the primary education level, and Dewey took a place of honor. Dewey presented a paradigmatic set of recommendations designed for developing societies that are moving towards modernity in his “Report and Recommendation for the Turkish educational system.” Atatürk was interested in adult education for the goal of forming a skill base in the country. Turkish women were taught not only child care, dress-making and household management, but also skills needed to join the economy outside the home. Turkish education became a state-supervised system, which was designed to create a skill base for the social and economic progress of the country. His “unified” education program was designed to educate responsible citizens as well as useful and appreciated members of society. Turkish education became an integrative system, aimed to alleviate poverty and used female education to establish gender equality.

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On 5 December 1934, Turkey moved to grant full political rights to women, before several other European nations. The equal rights of women in marriage had already been established in the earlier Turkish civil code. Women’s place in Mustafa Kemal’s cultural reforms was best expressed in the civic book prepared under his supervision. It said that

There is no logical explanation for the political disenfranchisement of women. Any hesitation and negative mentality on this subject is nothing more than a fading social phenomenon of the past. …Women must have the right to vote and to be elected; because democracy dictates that, because there are interests that women must defend, and because there are social duties that women must perform.

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In the 1935 Turkish elections there were 18 female MPs out of a total of 395 representatives, compared to 9 out of 615 members of the British House of Commons and 6 out of 435 in the US House of Representatives.

Kemal Atatürk is commemorated by many memorials throughout Turkey, such as the Atatürk International Airport in Istanbul, the Atatürk Bridge over the Golden Horn (Haliç), the Atatürk Dam, and Atatürk Stadium. Atatürk statues have been erected in all Turkish cities by Turkish Government, and most towns have their own memorial to him. His face and name are seen and heard everywhere in Turkey; his portrait can be seen in all public buildings, in all schools and classrooms, on all school books, on all Turkish lira banknotes, and in the homes of many Turkish families. At the exact time of his death, on every 10 November, at 09:05 am, most vehicles and people in the country’s streets pause for one minute in remembrance.

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Turkish cuisine is a rich and eclectic mix – the heritage of Ottoman cuisine, which can be described as a fusion and refinement of Central Asian, Caucasian, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and Balkan cuisines. Many dishes and specialties, such as kebabs, Turkish delight, baklava, and dolmas (stuffed vine leaves), are known worldwide (and also claimed by other cultures as their own). Here’s my version of a classic dish served both as a home breakfast (or other meal) and as street food – menemen. It is essentially scrambled or poached eggs in a tomato and bell pepper sauce. I prefer the poached egg variety.

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Menemen

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, sliced
1 red or green pepper, halved deseeded and sliced
1-2 red chiles, deseeded and sliced
400g can chopped tomatoes
1-2 tsp caster sugar (optional)
4 eggs
1 small bunch parsley, roughly chopped
6 tbsp thick, creamy yogurt
2 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed, and finely minced

Instructions

Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet (I use my trusty cast iron version) over medium-high heat. Sauté the onions, pepper, and chiles and cook until they soften but do not take on color. Add the tomatoes and sugar (if used) and stir will with a wooden spoon. mixing well. Simmer until the liquid has reduced and the sauce thickens. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Make 4 pockets in the tomato mixture and crack the eggs into them. Cover the pan and cook the eggs over a low heat until the whites are set, but the yolks are still runny.

Meanwhile, beat the yogurt with the garlic and season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the menemen with parsley and serve from the frying pan with a tablespoon or so of the garlic yogurt.

Jun 182014
 

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On this date in 618 Li Yuan became Emperor Gaozu of Tang, initiating three centuries of Tang Dynasty rule over China. Under the failing Sui dynasty, Li Yuan was the governor in the area of modern-day Shanxi, and was based in Taiyuan. In 615, Li Yuan was assigned to garrison Longxi. He gained military and administrative experience by dealing with the incursions of Göktürks from the north. Li Yuan was also able to gather support from these successes and, with the disintegration of the Sui dynasty in July 617, Li Yuan – urged on by his second son Li Shimin (the eventual Emperor Taizong) – rose in rebellion. Using the title of “Great Chancellor” (大丞相), Li Yuan installed a puppet child emperor, Emperor Gong, but eventually removed him altogether and established the Tang Dynasty in 618 as Emperor. His son and successor Li Shimin honored him as Gaozu (“high founder”) after his death.

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Emperor Gaozu’s reign was focused on uniting the empire under the Tang see map). Aided by Li Shimin, whom he created the Prince of Qin, he defeated all the other contenders, including Li Gui, Dou Jiande, Wang Shichong, Xue Rengao and Liu Wuzhou. By 628, the Tang Dynasty had succeeded in uniting all of China. On the home front, he recognized the early successes forged by Emperor Wen of Sui and strove to emulate most of Emperor Wen’s policies, including the equal distribution of land amongst his people. He also lowered taxes. He abandoned the harsh system of law established by Emperor Yang of Sui as well as reforming the judicial system. These acts of reform paved the way for the reign of Emperor Taizong, which ultimately pushed Tang to the height of its power, and a cultural golden age.

In 626, Li Shimin, in a dispute with his brothers Li Jiancheng, the Crown Prince, and Li Yuanji, the Prince of Qi, ambushed Li Jiancheng and Li Yuanji at Xuanwu Gate, killing them. Fearful of what Li Shimin might do next, Emperor Gaozu passed the throne to him and became Taishang Huang (retired emperor). He died in 635.

Both the Sui and Tang Dynasties turned away from the more feudal culture of the preceding Northern Dynasties, in favor of staunch civil Confucianism. The governmental system was supported by a large class of Confucian intellectuals selected through either civil service examinations or recommendations. In the Tang period, Daoism and Buddhism reigned as core ideologies as well, and played a large role in people’s daily lives, as did indigenous folk religion.

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The Tang capital of Chang’an was the largest city in the world at its time, the population of the city wards and its suburban countryside reaching 2 million inhabitants. Chang’an was very cosmopolitan, with residents from Persia, Central Asia, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Tibet, India, and other places. With widely open access to China via the Silk Road, many foreign settlers were able to move east to China; the city of Chang’an itself had about 25,000 foreigners living there. At first under the Tang, foreign men could marry Chinese women, but they were required to remain in China. Eventually segregation laws were passed requiring foreigners to wear their ethnic dress at all times, and forbidding marriage with Chinese women.

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The Tang period was a golden age of Chinese literature and art. There are over 48,900 poems written by around 2,200 Tang authors that have survived until modern times. Skill in the composition of poetry was required for those wishing to pass imperial examinations. Poetry was also heavily competitive; poetry contests amongst guests at banquets and courtiers were common. Poetry styles that were popular in the Tang included gushi and jintishi, with the renowned poet Li Bai (701–762) famous for the former style, and poets like Wang Wei (701–761) and Cui Hao (704–754) famous for their use of the latter. Jintishi poetry, or regulated verse, is in the form of eight-line stanzas of seven characters per line with a fixed pattern of tones that required the second and third couplets to be antithetical (all of which is lost in translation to other languages).

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The Classical Prose Movement was spurred on in large part by the writings of Tang authors Liu Zongyuan (773–819) and Han Yu (768–824). This new prose style broke away from the poetic, or ‘piantiwen’ style, begun in the Han dynasty. Although writers of the Classical Prose Movement imitated ‘piantiwen’, they criticized it for its often vague content and lack of colloquial language, focusing more on clarity and precision to make their writing more direct.

Short story fiction and tales were also popular during the Tang, one of the more famous ones being Yingying’s Biography by Yuan Zhen (779–831), which was widely circulated in his own time and by the Yuan dynasty (1279–1368) became the basis for plays in Chinese opera. Love tales were exceptionally popular, following a basic plot design of quick passion, inescapable societal pressure leading to the abandonment of romance, followed by a period of melancholy. Unlike Western classics such as Romeo and Juliet, love always bows to social pressure.

There were extensive encyclopedias published in the Tang era on a variety of subjects. The Yiwen Leiju encyclopedia was compiled in 624 by the chief editor Ouyang Xun (557–641) as well as Linghu Defen (582–666) and Chen Shuda (d. 635). The encyclopedia Treatise on Astrology of the Kaiyuan Era was completed in 729 by Gautama Siddha (fl. 8th century), an ethnic Indian astronomer, astrologer, and scholar born in the capital Chang’an.

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Chinese geographers such as Jia Dan wrote accurate descriptions of places far abroad. In his work written between 785 and 805, he described the sea route going into the mouth of the Persian Gulf, and that the medieval Iranians (whom he called the people of Luo-He-Yi) had erected ‘ornamental pillars’ in the sea that acted as lighthouse beacons for ships that might go astray. Confirming Jia’s reports about lighthouses in the Persian Gulf, Arabic writers a century after Jia wrote of the same structures, writers such as al-Mas’udi and al-Muqaddasi. The Tang dynasty Chinese diplomat Wang Xuance traveled to Magadha (modern northeastern India) during the 7th century. Afterwards he wrote the book Zhang Tianzhu Guotu (Illustrated Accounts of Central India), which included a wealth of geographical information.

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Women’s social rights and social status during the Tang era were notably liberal-minded for the period, although urban women of elite status benefited the most. There were many women in the Tang era who gained religious authority by taking vows as Daoist priestesses. The owners of the bordellos in the North Hamlet of the capital Chang’an acquired considerable wealth and power. Their high-class courtesans, who probably influenced the development of Japanese geishas, were well respected. They were known as great singers and poets, supervised banquets and feasts, knew the rules to all the drinking games, and were trained to have impeccable table manners. Although they were renowned for their polite behavior, the courtesans were known to dominate the conversation amongst elite men, and were not afraid to openly castigate or criticize prominent male guests who talked too much or too loudly, boasted too much of their accomplishments, or had in some way ruined dinner for everyone by rude behavior (on one occasion a courtesan even beat up a drunken man who had insulted her). When singing to entertain guests, courtesans not only composed the lyrics to their own songs, but they popularized a new form of lyrical verse by singing lines written by various renowned and famous men in Chinese history.

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Technology during the Tang period advanced considerably, based on the work of former eras. Clockwork and timekeeping developed rapidly. Tang engineer, astronomer, and monk Yi Xing (683–727) invented the world’s first clockwork escapement mechanism in 725. He used this mechanism in conjunction with a clepsydra (water flow) clock and waterwheel to power a rotating armillary sphere to astronomical observations. Yi Xing’s device also had a mechanically timed bell that was struck automatically every hour, and a drum that was struck automatically every quarter hour. Yi Xing’s astronomical clock and water-powered armillary sphere became well known throughout the country, since students attempting to pass the imperial examinations by 730 had to write an essay on the device as an exam requirement. However, the most common type of public and palace timekeeping device was the inflow clepsydra. Its design was improved c. 610 by the Sui-dynasty engineers Geng Xun and Yuwen Kai. They provided a steelyard balance that allowed seasonal adjustment in the pressure head of the compensating tank and could then control the rate of flow for different lengths of day and night.

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Woodblock printing made the written word available to vastly greater audiences. One of the world’s oldest surviving printed documents is a miniature Buddhist dharani sutra unearthed at Xi’an in 1974 and dated roughly from 650 to 670. The Diamond Sutra is the first full-length book printed at regular size, complete with illustrations embedded with the text and dated precisely to 868. Among the earliest documents to be printed were Buddhist texts as well as calendars, the latter essential for calculating and marking which days were auspicious and which days were not. With so many books coming into circulation for the general public, literacy rates improved, which meant the lower classes were able to obtain cheaper sources of study. Therefore, there were more lower-class people taking, and passing, the Imperial Examinations by the later Song dynasty. Although the later Bi Sheng’s movable type printing in the 11th century was innovative for his period, woodblock printing that had become widespread in the Tang era would remain the dominant printing type in China until the more advanced printing press from Europe became widely accepted and used in East Asia. The first use of the playing card during the Tang dynasty was an auxiliary invention of the new age of printing.

Since the Han dynasty (202 BC – 220 AD), the Chinese had drilled deep boreholes to transport natural gas from bamboo pipelines to stoves where cast iron evaporation pans boiled brine to extract salt. During the Tang dynasty, a gazetteer of Sichuan province stated that at one of these 182 m (600 ft) ‘fire wells,’ natural gas was stored in portable bamboo tubes which could be carried for considerable distances and still produce a flame.

The inventor Ding Huan (fl. 180 AD) of the Han dynasty invented a rotary fan for air conditioning, with seven wheels 3 m (10 ft) in diameter and manually powered. In 747, Emperor Xuanzong had a “Cool Hall” built in the imperial palace, which the Tang Yulin (???) describes as having water-powered fan wheels for air conditioning as well as rising jet streams of water from fountains.

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During the earlier Southern and Northern Dynasties (420–589), and perhaps even earlier, tea drinking became popular in southern China. Tea was viewed then as both a beverage for pleasure and as medicinal. During the Tang dynasty, tea became synonymous with everything sophisticated in society. The Tang poet Lu Tong (790–835) devoted most of his poetry to his love of tea. The 8th-century author Lu Yu (known as the “Sage of Tea”) wrote a treatise on the art of drinking tea, called the Classic of Tea (Cháj?ng).

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In ancient times, the Chinese had codified the five most basic foodstuffs known as the “five grains” – sesamum, legumes, wheat, panicled millet, and glutinous millet. The Ming dynasty encyclopedist Song Yingxing (1587–1666) noted that rice was not counted amongst the five grains from ancient times because its cultivation was not fully developed in China until the 2nd millennium BCE. I guess the concept of “ancient” is relative!

During the Tang era, the most common vegetable cooking ingredients in addition to those already listed were barley, garlic, turnips, soybeans, pears, apricots, peaches, apples, pomegranates, jujubes, rhubarb, hazelnuts, pine nuts, chestnuts, walnuts, yams, and taro. Various meats included pork, chicken, lamb (especially preferred in the north), sea otter, bear (which was hard to get, but there were recipes for steamed, boiled, and marinated bear), and even Bactrian camels. In the south along the coast protein from seafood was the most common. Recipes include jellyfish with cinnamon, Sichuan pepper, cardamom, and ginger, as well as oysters with wine, fried squid with ginger and vinegar, horseshoe crabs and red crabs, shrimp, and pufferfish, which the Chinese called ‘river piglet.’ Some foods were off-limits; the Tang court encouraged people not to eat beef (since the bull was a valuable draft animal), and from 831 to 833 Emperor Wenzong of Tang even banned the slaughter of cattle based on his Buddhist beliefs.

From foreign trade by land and sea the Chinese acquired peaches from Samarkand, date palms, pistachios, and figs from Persia, pine seeds and ginseng roots from Korea, and mangoes from Southeast Asia. There was a great demand for sugar in the Tang era. During the reign of Harsha (c. 606–647) in North India, Indian envoys to Tang China brought two sugar specialists who successfully taught the Chinese how to cultivate sugarcane and produce sugar.

Methods of food preservation were important, and practiced throughout China. The common people used simple methods of preservation, such as digging deep ditches and trenches to contain brined and fermented foods. The emperor had large ice pits located in the parks in and around Chang’an for preserving food, while the wealthy and elite had their own smaller ice pits. Each year the emperor had laborers carve 1000 blocks of ice from frozen creeks in mountain valleys, each block with the dimension of 3 ft (0.91 m) by 3 ft by 3½ ft (1.06 m). There were many frozen delicacies enjoyed during the summer, especially chilled melon.

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Here I give you Dong’an chicken (東安子雞) from the town of Dong’an in Hunan province. It is one of the signature dishes of Hunan cuisine. Recipes date back to the Tang Dynasty. Dong’an style chicken is unusual in that it uses parboiled chicken along with hot peppers, and spices, stir fried in vegetable oil and vinegar. Be sure not to overcook the chicken during the parboil stage, or it will be tough. A wok is preferable for this, but a good cast iron skillet works well enough. The chief problem for Western cooks is not having gas burners that are hot enough to reach desirable temperatures for proper stir frying.

Dong’an Chicken

chicken stock
¾ inch piece fresh ginger, unpeeled
3 scallions
1 fresh hot red pepper
3 dried peppers (optional)
2 tbsp Shaoxing wine
2 tbsp clear rice vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
4 tbsp lard or vegetable oil
½ tsp Sichuan pepper oil or ½ tsp whole Sichuan pepper
¾ tsp potato flour, mixed with 2 teaspoons cold water
salt
1 chicken (about 2 ¾ lbs)

Instructions

Rinse the chicken and remove the skin. Bring the stock to a boil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add the chicken and return the liquid to a boil, skimming the surface as necessary. Crush half the ginger and one scallion with the flat side of a cleaver or heavy object, then add to the pan with the chicken. Reduce the heat and poach the chicken for 10 minutes. Remove the chicken from the cooking liquid and allow it to cool; reserve the cooking liquid. The chicken should be about three-quarters cooked.

Remove the flesh from the carcass and cut into bite-sized strips, along the grain of the meat.

Cut the fresh hot pepper in half lengthwise and discard the seeds and pith. Then cut it into very fine slivers. Peel the remaining ginger and cut it into slices and then slivers. Cut the green parts off the remaining 2 scallions into slivers.

Heat the wok over a high flame until smoke rises, then add the oil and swirl it around. When the oil is warming up but before it is smoking hot, add the fresh hot peppers and ginger, along with the dried chilies and Sichuan pepper, if using, and stir-fry until fragrant, taking care that the seasonings do not take on color.

Add the chicken and continue to stir fry. Splash the Shaoxing wine around the edges of the chicken. Add the vinegar, Sichuan pepper oil, if using, and salt to taste. Add up to ½ cup of the chicken poaching liquid (if the chicken is very juicy no additional liquid will be necessary), bring to a boil and then turn the heat down a little and simmer briefly to allow the flavors to penetrate the chicken, spooning the liquid over it.

Add the potato flour mixture to the liquid and stir as the sauce thickens. Throw in the scallion greens and stir a few times. Remove from heat and stir in the sesame oil.

Serve immediately with steamed rice.

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http://www.learnchineseez.com ]