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Post-Renaissance London and Venice: a Political Comparison

June 28th, 2010 Comments off

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The political scene of post-Renaissance Venice starkly contrasted with that of London, reflecting great differences between each city’s level of economic and social stability. Although each city possessed its own underlying economic history and set of social circumstances, they still shared many common practices.

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The true earmark of the Venetian political system was its unique and amazingly efficient government setting it apart from other European cities but showing close ties to that of London in occasional practices. The Doge, the head of state in Venice, acted as a figurehead, a constitutional monarch whose only real power rested in personal influence upon the more powerful government officials. Much like the government of England, the actual governing was done by a group of patricians twenty five years of age or older, in a political grouping known as the Great Council. This system mirrors the constitutional monarchy of England under King James I and Charles I when Parliament began to make claims of constitutional power unthinkable in the days of the Tudor kings. Religious issues constantly placed the Stuart monarchs into conflict with Parliament because of their theory of absolute monarchy. The ideology of an absolute monarchy suggests that not only the king be the political sovereign, but he also dominate the economic and religious lives of those he rules. However, following the collection of money by the king without Parliament’s approval led to the Petition of Rights in 1628, placing the Parliament in a once more powerful position.

Both the Great Council and Parliament consisted of wealthy nobles, although Venetian politicians also lived by the profits of their shipping industry as well as that of the government, possessing great powers over the state. The Great Council appointed other officials including the Senators, the “Ten Men”, the Procurators of Venice’s patron saint, St. Mark, the Justices, and a College of Sages.

Unlike the Parliament of London, the Great Council of Venice, namely the “Ten Men” elected for one-year terms, dealt with morals, public decency, rebels, and foreign enemies. Venice had eleven trial courts and two used solely for appeals, reaching a verdict not by juries but by government officials. However, each of the accused was given a counselor, many centuries before this legal practice became common in London. From their work coined as miscellaneous, the Ten chose three as leaders, serving alternately for one month each. Other departments had a head for one day. The official was quarantined until his term was over, thus keeping the people entirely unpolitical. Venetian leaders had been trained since boyhood so that they could take office effectively upon reaching proper age, proving that the Venetian took their political system far more seriously than those of England did. Perhaps one reason for this is that in England at this time of Glorious Revolution, Parliament, and not inheritance or divine right, would determine the succession to the throne, so that no one man was entirely sure of his political station until chosen.

Internal and international conflicts, which each city was engaged in, further influenced the contrasting views of each political system but revealed similarities in their practices. To keep peace in their city, the Venetian government set up a corps of Ambassadors, but was also contending against four strong, neighboring powers, including that of the pope. The eastern outpost of Venice had been lost to a pirate crew following a twenty five-year war. Besides several less significant conflicts taking place in Venice, the world was focused on the events taking place in England at the time.

Although Venice remained relatively peaceful in comparison to the other city-states of its time, London erupted into civil war.

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Post-Renaissance London and Venice: a Political Comparison (Part 2)

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Religious and political confrontation in England continued into a seven-year bloodshed, while Venice remained adamantly Catholic. With the war in France having ended and King Louis XIV having fallen dead, the long drawn out treaty of 1714 forecasted a rather peaceful time for the English government. Having been involved in the anti-French coalition included with Holland, Brandenburg, Portugal and Savoy, the British were given the land possesses of Canada from the French and the Gibraltar by the Spanish, also contracted into supplying African slaves to South America for thirty years. However, the French and the Scots continued to be a problem in England in 1715 when London was convinced of possibly invasion. Following the Glorious Revolution placing William of Orange and his wife, Mary on the throne, an attempt at restoring England failed, thus making London even more volatile. Conflicts in the New World colonial possessions of England, including Bacon’s rebellion against the government of Virginia demanded much of England’s political attention also. Though the severity and frequency of conflicts in both Venice and London differed, both cities witnessed instability in their government brought upon by outside and internal forces.

Venice and London both prospered greatly economically under their political leadership when it remained stable, though in somewhat contrasting ways. Venice, a lagoon built as a shelter for refugees from north Italy when it was overrun by Germanic invaders, grew because of these early settlers into a center of trade and was by 1400, the center of importation along the channel for luxury items to north and west Europe. Even after Portugal had found an ocean route to the east, Venice retained its monopoly, exemplifying the envy, which Portugal had so possessed for Venice’s prosperity. To keep the economy strong, inspectors of weights and measures and those of the Mint, censors of shop signs and taverns, wage setters and tax leviers, and marine officials were closely regulated.

The gold ducat of Venice was the “Euro” of its day, being circulated all over Europe at par. To make Venice’s taxation the lightest in Europe, a public debt was created and in the mid-sixteenth century, the first state bank was founded. In England, a mercantilist system of trading was created during the “triangle” trade with the New World colonies. In this system, New England bought Caribbean molasses and West African slaves to sell to Indian sugar growers in the west. It was not until the English decided to tax the molasses that the economy began to wobble, thus creating political unrest in the colonies.

In London investors tried to convince the chief minister, Harley, to restore public credit upon viewing the successes of other nations. This announced desire led many other companies to go public, financed by shares anyone could buy. Although this was an excellent idea upon inception, these companies quickly went bankrupt, as their primary goal was only to return huge profits. Parliament further punished those who had profited from these businesses, often arresting and fining these corrupt investors. Although as London worked towards a successful, strong economy, Venice remained a strong economic world power, despite facing impeding decline.

Despite obvious differences between the monarchy, councils of government, political stage and economy of Venice and London, both city-states made advancements that would further shape the principles in which their modern government acts on. Both facing much of the same European conflicts and struggles, they differ in the ways they react and respond, following the guidelines their cultures and governments set forth.

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William Shakespeare’s Commentary on Female Political Rulers through the Character of Lady Macbeth

June 28th, 2010 Comments off

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The authorship of William Shakespeare frequently places the ultimate power in the hands of female protagonists, and in doing so, implicitly suggests that women’s involvement in politics at the sovereign level represents a danger to society at large. To gain credibility as an autonomous leader, or the means behind the “puppeting” of a male in power, each female character must be stripped of every ounce of femininity, just as was the case in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. In his characters, particularly Lady Macbeth, Shakespeare explores gender anxieties; in his plot, he embraces conflict and turmoil stemming from this anxiety, and in his play’s resolution, he bestows power back into a patriarchal system, satisfying the desires of the people for governmental stability. It is through the evolution of Lady Macbeth’s nature that Shakespeare offers an indirect commentary of his time concerning female leadership capabilities.

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The control of Lady Macbeth throughout the play, first possessing a strong grip upon her husband but diminishing as he becomes increasingly independent, reflects the social circumstances and governmental situation of the time of its composition. Lady Macbeth can be viewed as an allegorical Queen Elizabeth I of England, holding vast amounts of power because she does not embody the typical characterization of aristocratic women. The suicide of Lady Macbeth, which renders to the reestablishment of a patriarchal monarchial system, mimics the transition, although bloodless, from Queen Elizabeth I to James VI of Scotland, her chosen successor, reinstalling the line of male sovereignty. Written between the years 1605 and 1606 to be performed before King James VI shortly after the death of Queen Elizabeth in March of 1603, the story of Macbeth along with the characterization of its leading lady offers a celebration to the restoration of male-dominated normalcy in Renaissance England.

The instability of the Tudor monarchy, plagued by events preceding the coronation of Queen Elizabeth, is presumed to be a result of female rule and thus is inherently dangerous for the state. The belief that a woman can not effectively lead a nation into war, exercise power over male subjects, or become wed without transferring her power to her husband and to his family all produce anxiety regarding the ability of women to rule and thus left it a culture yearning for the stability represented by a king, not a queen. To cure this insurgent hesitance and to express confidently the needed attributes to occupy power, Queen Elizabeth, much like her counterpart, Lady Macbeth, could not act in a womanly manner. The “Virgin Queen” as Elizabeth I was dubbed, resulting from her desire to strip herself of feminine sexuality, could nevertheless escape her femininity because of her appearance and the bias that existed against women in power at the time. Through the examination of the political attitudes against the late Queen of England, one can identify the parallels that Shakespeare conveyed through his character, Lady Macbeth.

Lady Macbeth possesses unbridled ambition and an insatiable hunger for power, typical male sentiments which are deemed unladylike when compared to the traditional characterization and role of women. Women during this era are expected to be quiet and opinion-less in speech, gentle individuals who watch over home and servants, functioning to primarily please their husbands. This idea is further concurred by Joan Klein in her essay entitled “Lady Macbeth: ‘Infirm of Purpose,” as a result from Eve’s original seduction of Adam, all “women were bound by nature and law to obey their husbands as well as their God,” distinguishing Lady Macbeth as an oddity (168). Instead of fitting this mold, Lady Macbeth operates as the manipulative character in this play, pushing to obtain great power for personal gain through her husband’s lethal deeds. Following the slaughter of Cawdor in battle, Macbeth becomes alarmed when he learns that King Duncan’s son, Malcolm, not himself for his heroic actions, will be the next heir to the throne. After this meeting, Macbeth composes a letter to his wife, informing her of his resentment, and quickly she learns that King Duncan will be paying a royal visit to their castle, Inverness. To hasten the prophecy outlined in her husband’s letter, one that proclaims Macbeth will first be named Thane of Cawdor and then king, Lady Macbeth devises a plan to murder the King. Through the derision of her husband’s weakness, and the brilliancy of her plan, which seems to be fated by destiny, Lady Macbeth convinces Macbeth to commit regicide against a king he once followed. Such manipulation of events and the greed, which drew her to seek out to kill the king, are ultimately characteristics are typical of a man, rather than a woman. With this ploy, Lady Macbeth assumes the absolute power of the state, behaving as if she is to not be held accountable and deserves no blame. Her disruption of political stability stems from her own ambition, and it is this ambition that makes her standout as unnatural for her gender.

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William Shakespeare’s Commentary on Female Political Rulers through the Character of Lady Macbeth (Part 2)

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To gain credibility in her abilities and in the confidence that although she is a woman, she is capable of hungering for such power and seizing this power from others, Lady Macbeth must remove all aspects of femininity from herself. If the lady wishes to sway others into believing that she is perfectly competent of exercising leadership, she feels that the spirits must literally deprive her of femininity, thicken her blood, and halt her ability to weep openly. She begs these specters to strip away the attributes that make her a woman in crying out, “Come, you spirits That tend on mortal thoughts, unsex me here, And fill me, from the crown to the toe, top full Of direct cruelty. ” (I, v, 41-44). She desires for her blood congeal so that she can no longer be harmed by her own guilty conscious, “Make thick my blood, Stop up the access and passage to remorse, That no compunctious visiting of nature Shake my fell purpose nor keep peace between The effects and it! ” (I, v, 44-48). If Lady Macbeth is able to halt any inhibitions of guilt that may result from any of her deeds, she can consider herself more of a man, as men do go out into battle and kill without inflicting their souls with compunction. She then begs that the physical characteristics that make her a woman be removed, “Come to my woman’s breasts, And take my milk for gall, your murthering ministers wherever in your sightless substances You wait on nature’s mischief. ” (I, v, 48-51). When Lady Macbeth desires to be “unsexed” in both emotional and physical terms, her words reveal the noted discordance between the supposed archetype of feminine nature and political ambition. Despite this, Klein suggests, “[She] is never able to separate herself completely from womankind – unlike her husband, who ultimately becomes less and worse than a man,” (169). Shakespeare must de-feminize Lady Macbeth to some extent to give her ambitions credibility and, therefore, maintain in the minds of the audience that she as a character to be taken seriously.

  Through the bullying and chastising of her husband, Lady Macbeth drives Macbeth to dismiss his own fears, which ultimately leads to his own downfall.   Shakespeare transforms the longing of Lady Macbeth into that of a masculine nature and by doing so, through her actions and words, places Macbeth in a passive role.   The playwright allows Lady Macbeth to dominate her husband to show that such reversal of sexual relations is also a reversal of political order, reflecting the issues of female involvement in the government and the aptitude possessed by women to reign over men as a monarch.   Throughout the first portion of the play it can be noted that Macbeth is continuously forced to assert his manliness to his wife, first in writing a letter to her from the battlefield hailing his accomplishments and then by murdering King Duncan.   The initial probing exposes a more feminine side of Macbeth, one of doubt and hesitation, when he asks, "If we fail? " (I, vii, 58).   Lady Macbeth replies sharply, "We fail? But screw your courage to the sticking-place And we’ll not fail. " (I, vii, 59-61), attempting to assuage his fears.   Lady Macbeth continuously berates her husband for his lack of conviction, deeming him a weak man who can easily be exploited.   She becomes angered when Macbeth determines that he will not claim the crown by treacherous means, "If chance will have me king, why, chance may crown me Without my stir. " (I, iii, 143-144).   Although a man well versed in the sentiments of the battlefield, having hunted down traitor Macdonwald and "unseamed him from the nave to the chaps and fixed his head upon our battlements," Macbeth is plagued by the insistence of a guilty conscious.   Lady Macbeth proceeds to mock him because of his apparent remorse following the murder of King Duncan saying, "My hands are of your color [blood], but I shame To wear a heart so white. " (II, ii, 62-63).   Lady Macbeth finishes the deed of her husband herself, considering him not manly enough to go back and place the bloody daggers in the dead monarch’s bedchamber.   It is through the frequent insults and stabs against his manhood, that Shakespeare brings to light what a strong personality that Lady Macbeth possesses, one strong enough to assume the masculine role of acquisition of power. Upon asking the spirits to unsex her otherwise feminine emotional state and body to gain standing as a power-craving individual, Lady Macbeth acknowledges the single trait that still separates her from masculinity, at least in her mind, the ability to bear children. To remove this capacity would eliminate every aspect which would be considered womanly and, therefore, leave her a neutral ruler, unable to be influenced by the prospect of having children, which was condemned a weakness by the society.

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William Shakespeare’s Commentary on Female Political Rulers through the Character of Lady Macbeth (Part 3)

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The disgust Lady Macbeth holds for any child who originates from her flesh can be noted in, “I have given suck, and know How tender ‘tis to love the babe that milks me: I would, while it was smiling in my face, Heave pluck’d my nipple from his boneless gums, And dash’d the brains out, had I so sworn as you Have done to this. ” (I, vi, 54-59). This astonishing revelation also reflects the manner in which she treats those she judges more vulnerable than herself, both man and child alike, influencing them to do horrific crimes for her personal gain. To distance herself from every preconceived notion regarding womanhood, Lady Macbeth has chosen to remain a “barren scepter”, (II, i, 62) denying herself the right to give birth in exchange for a masculine mystique, which allows her the power she is searching to gain. Macbeth, on the other hand, insists that she bear an heir to the throne if he is to occupy it, taking a more practical, parental role a compared to his wife. “Bring forth men-children only! ” he proclaims, “For thy undaunted mettle should compare Nothing but males. ” (I, vii, 72-74). The allusions made to the childlessness and the demands for a son to ascend the throne in this marriage can be found echoing in the minds of the first audience following the death of Queen Elizabeth, who died without hereditary heir. Devoid of the capacity or desire of neither Queen Elizabeth nor Lady Macbeth to yield children, each female ruler in the position of power maintains her credibility as a leader through a masculine form and nature.

Once Lady Macbeth succeeds in convincing Macbeth to undertake the unspeakably horrendous act of murdering King Duncan, her domineering nature can no longer keep him under her spell. Macbeth realizes his strengths stemming from the initial regicide and no longer needs her to fuel his ambition. As in all of human nature, a manipulative mind must have a weak soul by which to prey on, but once this soul loses its inhibitions and gains independence, the manipulative mind shall crumble. Admitting to having killed the guards of the king’s chamber, Macbeth breaks free from the original plan devised by his wife and thus emerges out of her scheme a self-sufficient figure, causing Lady Macbeth to faint in disbelief. While Lady Macbeth is seen to be reexamining the events of the previous murder, Macbeth looks ahead, anticipating the next murder, that of Banquo, which he has not informed his wife of yet. Gradually Macbeth distances his mind from the grip of Lady Macbeth, tasting the spoils of victory independently, and then actively seeking them out, ending the lives of Banquo and Macduff’s wife and children, securing that his wife have no place in the masculine acts of treason and revenge. Upon ascending the throne, “he, the man, so fully commands Lady Macbeth that he allows her no share in his new business. No longer his accomplice, she loses her role as housekeeper. ” (Klein, 175). Once Macbeth realizes his strength and no longer needs her or is in awe of her, Lady Macbeth, stricken and without an object to carry out her manipulation through, falls into periods of madness and sleepwalking. She becomes obsessed with removing the blood from her hands, as to her they appear stained, signifying a personal trial underway upon her soul. Lacking an individual to bestow upon her evil intentions and to achieve her ambitions, Lady Macbeth is forced to turn the evilness upon herself, eventually culminating into suicide as a result of relentless guilt. After losing the power of manipulation over her husband, Lady Macbeth loses her rank in the political institution of the monarchy and, therefore, ultimately ceases to exist, without the control.

The anxieties of gender role manifested in Shakespeare’s Macbeth decisively present that even such a powerful character as Lady Macbeth, or Queen Elizabeth herself, can not overcome the traditions of a patriarchal system through acceptable means. In the conclusion, Malcolm, son of Duncan, is restored to the throne and thus re-establishing normalcy in the line of succession, as deemed appropriate by the British people during Shakespeare’s time. Through the allegorical representation of the political ethos of Renaissance England, Shakespeare examines and resolutely determines that positive involvement of women within the political structure is not feasible, as demonstrated by the evolution of his character, Lady Macbeth.

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History of Chinese Cuisine (Part 1)

June 28th, 2010 Comments off

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Both ancient and modern Chinese societies have held knowledge of refined cooking skills in the highest esteem, and so thus, it is through examination of the earliest diets and most contemporary lavish feasts that one may gain an appreciation and true understanding of the culture. Food as an international language can provide valuable clues to the history and customs of any region and by drawing parallels between the Chinese cuisine of antiquity and that of modern times, the evolution of a society may be evaluated. At a time when most civilizations regarded foods simply in terms of survival, the Chinese had begun to develop an intricate system of preparation, service and consumption. In fact so important was the art of cooking that according to K. C. Chang, I Yin, a prime minister of the Shang Dynasty and formerly celebrated chef, initiated his expansive political career through the strength of his culinary prowess. (Hom, 21). By inspection of the regional flavors in Chinese cuisine today as compared with the ancient diet, the influences of both eastern and western cultures to the art of food preparation, and the progression from herbal remedies to seasonings for foods, one can gain learn much about the evolution of the Chinese way of life.

Over the many centuries comprising China’s history, each area of China has developed its own distinctive customs, culture, and character. Because of climate and the resulting limited crop availability, each section has adapted its own food and cooking style. Although basic cooking techniques remain similar throughout the country, each region features special ingredients and seasonings. A traditional Chinese family meal consists of four main dishes: meat or poultry, fish or seafood, a vegetable, and soup all over the country. Despite varying flavors, the menu always includes a basic staple dish of rice, steamed breads, pancakes, or noodles. The similarities in Chinese cuisine in each region end at this point, as the tastes and ingredients diverge to create a much-diversified menu.

In general, there are four main “schools” of Chinese cooking, the Cantonese method of the southern region, the Peking or Mandarin style from the north, Shanghai cooking on the east coast, and the Szechuan variety of cooking in inland China. The northern school associated with the city of Canton and southern China has evolved a unique history and has become the most familiar with Westerners because most of those who immigrated to Europe and the Americas during the nineteenth century originated from Canton. Canton was an ancient trading port and the home of many wealthy Chinese merchants and foreigners. Resulting from this varying culture and proximity to other lands via trade, unusual delicacies were introduced including frogs’ legs, snakes, turtles, and dogs. This region is subtropical with a humid climate, possessing an extended year-round growing season. The favorable climate denotes this area as primarily an agricultural region with vegetables and fruits such as bananas, pineapples, oranges, and lychees remaining abundant. Dim sun is prepared elsewhere in China, but it is in Canton that these “dot the heart” treats, including pastries, dumplings, soups, breads, cake, and noodles were most distinguished. The Cantonese slightly undercook their food to accentuate natural flavorings in steaming, blanching, barbecuing, roasting, and simmering. (Yu, 8).

The Peking or Mandarin style encompassing Peking, the northern provinces of Shandong, Hebei, and Shanxis as well as Mongolia, is arguably the most eclectic area of China. The climate for this region varies extremely as the plains covering majority of the land are beaten with cold Siberian winds during the winter and hot breezes from the Gobi desert in the summer. Shandong grows vast amounts of wheat, barley, millet, corn, and soybeans, however, as it has a suitable temperate climate. Because of the somewhat cooler climate, wheat rather than rice became the primary staple crop, and meals often partially consist of steamed breads, pancakes, and noodles. Palace chefs of Peking introduced new ingredients to suit the ruling monarchs, creating new dishes, which are still widely served today. Many beef and lamb dishes are present in the Mandarin diet, as Moslems in the north would not eat pork for religious reasons.

On the eastern coast where Shanghai cooking dominates, dishes are strongly flavored with soy sauce and sugar also including a wide variety of seafood from the nearby Pacific Ocean. A subtropical climate with warm, wet summers and cool winters provide a year-round growing season. Wheat, barely, rice, corn, sweet potatoes, soybeans, bamboo shoots, beans, melons, gourds, squashes, and leafy vegetables have become a vital part of the eastern Chinese diet. The Yangtse River provides freshwater crabs, shrimp, and carp inland. Shaohsing wine, soy sauce, and Chinkiang vinegar are each unique to this region. (Yu, 8).

The final region, inland China distinguished by the Szechuan style of cooking, produces hot, spicy dishes. In the providences of Sichuan and Hunana, the climate is comprised of warm, humid summers and mild winters, allowing subtropical fruits to thrive such as oranges, tangerines, and kumquats. Dried ingredients such as black mushrooms, wood ears, and silver tree ears in addition to the red chili peppers were used along with peppercorns, garlic, onions, dried tangerine peel, and gingerroot, make for a spicy cuisine. Flavoring and condiments create an intricate blending of hot, sour and sweet tastes in the western Chinese diet. (Yu, 9).

The ancient Chinese diet was relatively indistinctive early on, both bland in taste and in texture before the influence of the cookery of different cultures. Unlike the diverse and exceedingly tasty food served in the various regions of China today, early menus consisted of dishes lacking in flavor from spices and foreign vegetables. Despite the seemingly unvarying meals of the early Chinese people, many of the staple foods in modern China were as important to their ancient ancestors. Archaeologists have uncovered farming tools and pots containing grains of rice that date back to 5000BC. (Hom, 21). Flour milling, introduced into the Chinese diet during 206 BC, would later evolve into noodle making. (Wellman). In addition to the agrarian food derived from the earth in the ancient Chinese diet, wild beasts and seafood caught comprised the savory, yet very bland diet.

As the Chinese culture evolved and diversified, so did its everyday and imperial cuisine. For thousands of years, the Chinese empire undertook extensive land development including constructing vast irrigation, flood control, and water transport facilities to assist with agriculture. During the Han Dynasty (200BC – 220AD), Chinese agricultural advancements greatly increased production. Low taxes, land distribution, and public projects in as well as the dissemination of agricultural knowledge aided in the rising prosperity of Chinese agriculture. (Hom, 66). The Southern Song Dynasty (1126 – 1279AD) was famous for the refinements it brought to Chinese imperial cuisine. (Hom, 67). During this time, a huge influx of Buddhist influence introduced many delicious vegetarian meals. Often times meals of the emperor would consist of thirty courses composed of nearly one hundred dishes. An official taster, an eunuch, sampled each of the emperor’s dishes first to test for poisons before the monarch was able to consume his meal. (Hom, 68). The middle class also adapted its own culinary style, adopting a hybrid of wealthy settings with simpler, more balanced dishes. The late ancient Chinese cuisine had become altered greatly over the country’s two thousand year history, even more so with the introduction of new fruits, vegetables, and spices from far away lands.

Many of the “traditional” Chinese dishes have been adopted from foreign sources either partially with the contribution of new ingredients or completely with innovative new tastes. Because the country has many natural barriers including the Pacific Ocean, desert, and mountains as well as the man-made Great Wall from the Bohai Sea to the Gobi desert, it seems that China was relatively sealed off from the outside world from any “barbarians” for many centuries. However, this great civilization was very accessible for other cultures through trade, although on China’s own terms. Somewhat dependent on the outside world for livestock, produce, seafood, spices, poultry, rice, wine, and wheat, China became a central location for the convergence of many diverse oriental cuisines with the construction Silk Road, built in the third century AD during the Han Dynasty. During the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 AD), grapes, spinach, lettuce, figs, sugar beets, leeles, and shallots, as well as pine nuts, almonds, and pistachios were introduced from the near East. Hom, 51). During this dynasty, traders from many areas and nations including Japan, Korea, Arabia, India, and Persia delivered their goods and traded for many rich products in China, leaving behind facets of their own cultures, especially new foods. The growing influence of Buddhism, which had traveled via the Silk Road from India and Nepal, and its emphasis on vegetarianism led to innovative uses of wheat products in the form of dumplings and fried dough strips. The Mongols introduced yogurt, game, goat, mutton, and the mare’s milk derivative, Koumiss upon taking over China in 1279 AD. (Hom, 53) Despite the radical invasion of Mongolian leader, Kublai Khan, the Chinese menu remained unchanged for the most part throughout the occupation. The earliest western influences arrived from southern Europe during the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644). (Hom, 54). New World foods including peanuts, sweet potatoes, and corn were introduced by the Portuguese and Spanish explorers when traveling from the New World to India, China, and the Philippines in the early sixteenth century. (Hom, 54). Through Chinese traders who initially left China but then later returned, squash, tomatoes, and chili peppers were brought from the Americas approximately one hundred years ago. (Hom, 51). With the contribution of foods from various countries over thousands of years, the Chinese cuisine has culminated into a diverse sampling of many cultures from around the world.

The most prominent flavors in Chinese food are created by a careful mix of seasonings comprised of gingerroot, scallions, garlic, star anise, and red pepper, some of which have been introduced by other cultures and were used in ancient times as herbal remedies. In seasoning their meals, Chinese chefs believe that harmony and balance must be obtained by everything in life, including food. Each food is classified as either hot (Yang), denoting that it has a stimulating effect on oneself, or cold (Yin), implying a calming, quieting effect. Seasonings were originally paired with foods to neutralize their effects on the body. Gingerroots are served in soups, pickled in a sweet and sour dressing, and sprinkled on top of dishes as a garnish. In a stronger, more mature version of the herb, gingerroot is used to remove strong tastes, mainly in seafood. Garlic is used liberally in many Chinese dishes, as are scallions. The white portion of the scallion is usually used as flavoring and the greens for garnish. Star anise, a seasoning with a licorice-like flavor is used primarily in marinades and in braised dishes and stews. (Hom, 96). The most common flavorings include gingerroots, scallions, garlic, and star anise, all of which were originally used as herbal remedies in ancient times.

The seasonings made of herbs in modern Chinese cuisine were in fact first used in ancient times for medicinal purposes. Herbal remedies were time-tested for effectiveness and safety for generations not just a few years or decades as is done today through human trial instead of animal testing. Over many years, the toxic properties and side effects were noted in each herbal treatment, and most of those that were proved too harmful were discarded. The Shennong Herbal (Shen Nong Ben Cao) introduced in 200 BC, is currently considered the oldest Chinese herbal guide. This record contains a listing for three hundred sixty five herbal combinations, one hundred twenty considered non-toxic, one hundred twenty considered mildly toxic, and one hundred twenty five toxic. Garlic, scientifically known as Allium Sativum and called da suan by the Chinese is cultivated world wide for use as a condiment and as an herbal cure. According to Li Shizhen, garlic was introduced about two thousand years ago during the Han Dynasty. Garlic is used to treat bacterial dysentery, amebic dysentery, enteritis, sores, carbuncles, common cold, whooping cough, internal parasites, pulmonary tuberculosis, bellyache, nosebleeds, and snake and insect bites. The northern Chinese employ garlic quite frequently, but those in the south tend to avoid it because of its odor. Gingerroot is another herb found in both Chinese cookbooks and herbal guidebooks. Gingerroot is believed to have originated from the Pacific islands and is now grown mostly in China, India, Jamaica, and Nigeria. In ancient medicine, gingerroot was first introduced at least two thousand years ago as described in the Shennong Herbal. Traditionally, gingerroot has been considered to have warming, diaphoretic, anti-nausea, and anti-emetic properties. Its most common uses include the common cold, nausea, vomiting, wheezing, coughing, nasal congestion, abdominal distention, and diarrhea. The most widespread ancient gingerroot treatment was to remedy motion sickness. A small piece of gingerroot is eaten during a boat or car ride to serve this purpose. Star anise, also a popular Chinese seasoning, first became popular as an herbal treatment. Termed ba jia hui xiang, meaning “eight-horned fennel” in Chinese, it is most frequently grown in the southern providences of Guangxi, Guangdons, and Yunnan. Star anise has been used in Chinese for many centuries, but it was not until the sixteenth century that its usage was first recorded. It was first employed to warm internal organs, particularly the heart, kidney, bladder, and small intestines, as well as for pain relief. Additionally, star anise was used to treat vomiting, lumbago due to kidney deficiency, and abdominal pain due to hernia. (Leung, 9-18). Seasonings in early Chinese cuisine were first introduced and utilized as ancient herbal remedies, many of which are still in use today.

Through the exploration of Chinese diet both past and present, the nature and progression of Chinese civilization is revealed. From the initial publication of the “Li Chi”, the most extensive handbook describing social behavior ever complied back in the Han Dynasty (Hom, 22), to the modern Chinese cookbook, one observes the great importance placed upon cooking traditions by the Chinese people, as the country and populace have evolved over nearly two thousand years.

Works Cited

Chinese Cuisine.

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History of Chinese Cuisine (Part 2)

June 28th, 2010 Comments off

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4 Jan. 2002. Cuisine Net: Diner’s Digest. 17 Feb. 2002

<http://www. cuisinenet. com/digest/region/china/index. shtml>.

History of Chinese Cooking. 10 Oct. 2001. Cooking Together. 17 Feb. 2002

<http://www. cookingtogether. com/history. html>

Hom, Ken. The Taste of China. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1990.

Leung, Albert Y. Chinese Herbal Remedies. New York: Universe, 1984.

Low, Jennie. Chopsticks, Cleaver, and Wok: Homestyle Chinese Cooking. San

Francisco: Chronicle, 1987.

Wellman, Jos. History of Cooking: Evolution of Cooking from B. C. up to and Including

the 7th century A. D. . Tallyrand’s Culinary Fare. 17 Feb. 2002

<http//www. geocities. com/NapaValley/6454/history. html>

Yu, Ling. Cooking the Chinese Way. Minneapolis: Lerner, 1982.

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The Role of Hubris in Oedipus the King and Oedipus at Colonus

June 24th, 2010 Comments off

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The role of hubris, a theme commonly present throughout the works of Sophocles and particularly evident in Oedipus the King and Oedipus at Colonus, not only exalts the Greek nationalism present at the date of composition but dictates the course of the story, evolving as its tragic hero works through his fated anguish. Hubris, defined as exaggerated pride or self-confidence, is the earmark character trait of Oedipus and perhaps Creon. However, it is the abandonment of his sanctimonious nature that distinguishes Oedipus as a true hero. The theme of the evolution and role in the downfall of men by this overly zealous pride may be traced throughout Oedipus the King and Oedipus at Colonus, as it is only by his radical reversal of mind-set that one may deem Oedipus a hero.

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In the opening scene of the first play in the trilogy, Oedipus the King, Sophocles depicts Oedipus as a man of great stature, ruling his lands justly but hints at his own catastrophic fate condemned by his overly arrogant conduct. Initially, Oedipus exhibits intelligence, love and concern for his subjects, and deep-rooted wisdom, upholding a reputation of high moral standards. His wisdom, however, becomes self-righteous, his arrogance becoming very clear on the eighth line of his opening monologue, “Here I am – myself – you all know me, the world knows my fame: I am Oedipus. ” (159). The irony of this statement rests behind the notion that Oedipus’s fame will be known and surpass the ages, but it is his complacent nature that will not allow him to realize this fate already set for him. Viewed as a pillar of strength, Oedipus has a penetrating way of looking at people, judging them so as to keep them below him in his mind. Upon sending Creon, his third in command, to hear the prophecy of Apollo’s oracle, Oedipus remains so confident in his distance from the cause of the terrible hardships of Thebes that he commands Creon to speak of the oracle to the crowd gathered. King Oedipus accuses this man, Creon, of conspiring with Tiresias, the blind prophet, to seize power soon after this messenger returns, becoming jealous and fearful that anyone might begin to take hold of his glory. He then vows to find Laius’s killer to purify the city of its evil presence, but only with intentions of making himself look better. Oedipus places the burden of truth in locating this murderer in saying, “I’ll start again – I’ll bring it all to light myself! ” (167), imposing the idea that only he possesses the wit to find the real killer. In the opening of Oedipus the King, Oedipus appears very cocky and self-righteous, but it is not known until later how this build up of pride was generated.

In the next few scenes it is manifested that Oedipus has a right to claim a certain degree of pride for his accomplishments, but has taken this beyond a reasonable level, even placing himself at a level only succeeded by the gods, showing defiance towards them. He kills a man in the street on his flight out of Corinth, citing his rationale as being one of self-defense. Although this may seem to be an appropriate explanation, it is learned that the entourage accompanying this traveler was in no way harmful. One could conclude that Oedipus slaughtered the traveler he encountered, later identified as King Laius, his own father, for the power that it provided him internally. After killing this man, Oedipus enters into the city of Thebes, solving the riddle of the Sphinx, a monster who guards the gates of the city, and by doing so, ensures the fate of the city. The citizens of Thebes reward their hero with the title of king and give him the hand of the recently widowed queen Iocaste in marriage. Correctly solving the riddle of the Sphinx brings about an important self-confidence in Oedipus, later moving him to the notion that he can solve the mystery of who killed the king. This immense pride in his own intellectual capacity, however, leads to certain doom as he discovers that although he has been too stubborn up until this point to believe anyone who dare hold a conflicting viewpoint, he has fallen into the trap of the gods by attempting to outwit them. It had been prophesied that Laius and Iocaste would give birth to a child who would grow up to murder his father and marry his mother. Fearing the possibility of this prophecy coming true, Laius and Iocaste chained their son to the mountainside, leaving him alone to die. He, of course, was saved by a nearby shepherd and brought to the household of Polybos and Merope, the sovereigns of Corinth, where he was raised as if he were their own son. Once Oedipus had learned of this prophecy, he foolishly assumed that the parents he was fated to kill were Polybos and Merope, and thus fled Corinth to avoid this ill-willed destiny. Vainly Oedipus had supposed that he had outwitted the gods altogether because he had left what he had thought to be his homeland and was not in contact with his mother and father any longer. He is so full of personal hubris that he actually believes as cited that he has succeeded in escaping his fate. It is by defying the gods and trying to escape his fate that he walks directly into it. By enveloping pride fueled with actual, admirable accomplishments, Oedipus condemns himself to suffering a most unpleasant fortune.

Oedipus the King closes leaving a pitiful man helpless and broken down by his suffering, completely void of his former hubris once his disasterouw destiny has been revealed.

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The Role of Hubris in Oedipus the King and Oedipus at Colonus (Part 2)

June 24th, 2010 Comments off

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Ashamed and unable to live with such guilt pressing upon her soul, Oedipus’s wife and mother, Iocaste hangs herself. Oedipus, feeling this same variety of shame and disgrace, instead blinds himself so that he may not have to see those who he has harmed as a consequence of impending fate and so that he may also face a proper punishment for his deeds in incest. In responding to the news born by the prophets, Oedipus feels that he has now become a man of misfortune instead of luck in stating, “My destiny, my dark power, what a leap you made! ” (238). He prays to the gods, demonstrating his own acceptance of his fate to those immortal and omnipotent, humbly asking for mercy upon his tortured soul. This is a radical change from his previous overly self-confident attitude in that he use to believed that he could overcome any obstacle alone but now admits that fate rests in the hands of the gods. Abolishing the formerly overbearing hubris that he once possessed, Oedipus exits humbly out of Thebes a pitiful demoralized creature upon having been stripped of his political power and blinding himself.

After spending much time out of the grasp of society grieving the outcome of his own fate, Oedipus finally owns up to the actual role he has played in his fate by formerly pompous attitude, and makes a decisive effort to bring some good about his newly found self-realization in the play Oedipus at Colonus. Oedipus is to be commended for pursing the truth to the end with respect to the fate of himself and his city, choosing to endure in the face of certain defeat and revealing the true nature of suffering. Upon stumbling into a field outside of Colonus with his daughter, Antigone, by his side, he asks for sanctuary for he is tired and desires a place to die peacefully. Theseus, the king of this unknown land, grants the poor wretched soul this luxury, revealing his knowledge of Oedipus’s past. Soon a new prophecy of the gods is being foretold which excites Theseus and deems Oedipus more desirable to have residing in his kingdom. This prediction discloses that whatever city has the grave of Oedipus will be assured of eternal prosperity forever. It is here that one can fully appreciate the humbled level that Oedipus has lowered himself down to, having relinquished all of his selfish pride for further self-glorification. Instead of killing himself as his wife had done in the previous play, Oedipus blinded himself so that he would be punished but will not be given the luxury of killing himself to end the pain. He knows that he must not die before he atones for some of his sins by saving a deserved city, Colonus, stating, “I will reach my goal, my haven where I will find the grounds of the Awesome Goddess and make their home my home. There I will round the last turn in the torment of my life” (289).

The role of hubris dictates the path which the story follows as its tragic hero manipulates his own fate through his arrogance and evolves as he works through his fated anguish in both Oedipus the King and Oedipus at Colonus. Oedipus, after careful analysis, can be deemed a tragic hero in the end because he overcomes his error in judgment, his own personal exaggerated pride, through suffering the consequences of his deeds. Sparked by the actualization of his true identity and ignited by the damnation of Thebean society which sends him into exile, the original self-righteous and smug attitude of Oedipus is burnt away, setting him apart from those ultimately hubristic in spirit.

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Feminism in Ancient Greek Philosophy and Drama (Part 3)

June 24th, 2010 Comments off

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To discount the obvious physical differences in men and women that prevent women from becoming as effective warriors, Plato insists that the fairer sex should not be at the forefront of battles, but still allowed to participate in war. Through Socrates, Plato also vows that women should participate in athletic events and gymnastic competitions, despite the required nudity, as men will get used to the concept of naked women contestants over time. At the beginning of Book V, Adelmantus points out to Socrates that the wives and children will be held in common by Guardians, effectively saying that women are able to be Guardians just as well as the men. From Plato’s Apology, the statement “…. and I think that they were a dishonor to the state and that any stranger coming in would say then that the most eminent men of Athens, to whom the Athenians themselves give honor and command, are no better than women. ”, can provide a double edged sword of meaning, but taken into account his previously declared attitude of women’s equality in power, one must assume that he is not trying to demean women, but instead provide them with honor that is due to all of society, regardless of gender. Plato claims that all members of similar social status, regardless of gender, should be provided with equal standards of living with no private ownership of anything, and also maintains that the ruling class of any given culture should be made up of male and female “true” philosophers from the Gold class. Pizan cites a law professor’s daughter’s innate capacity to comprehend legal topics and lecture to students in her father’s absence as evidence of the true capabilities of women. God endowed women with the gift of speech, and that of weeping and sewing, all of which must be utilized to the best of each woman’s ability. Each philosopher has his or her own ideals of how women should perform in society, regardless of how they feel concerning equality of the sexes.

It is remarkable that arguments were made by ancient philosophers, who were willing to go against common stereotypes of women and seek out a truer knowledge of equality in biological makeup and societal roles. Through the duties of Lysistrata and her followers in the absences of their husbands, women were able to gain more independence and self-sufficiency, which is comparable to the large steps that women made in the workforce and with women’s rights following World War II. With the seeds of equality so firmly planted by Plato, Aristophanes, Bingen, and Pizan, one would assume that advancements in equal right would have been made sooner than the twentieth century; however, most feminist movements and similar undercurrents in literature were squashed during the Middle Ages in Europe. Attitudes similar to those of ancient Greeks are still a reality in the world today in Afghanistan and other Muslim countries where women are oppressed. Despite the strides that such ancient philosophers were able to achieve in their time, even if only through publication, the fact that it took centuries to affect change reveals a fundamental rift in western societies between man and woman that needs not only reason, but also experience to overcome.

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