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National Educational radio in cooperation with the Institute on man and science presents a series of talks drawn from the institute's annual conference held recently in Rensselaer Vale New York. The Institute on man and science is a nonprofit educational institution chartered by the New York State Board of Regents. The annual assembly of the institute is designed to focus attention on 20th century technology and human relationships resulting from its application. The speaker for this program is L. Carrington Goodrich research professor in Chinese history at Columbia University. His topic is some of China's contributions to world culture. Here now is Professor Goodrich a subject which I have taken and which I want to discuss with you today. I will only be a part of course of China's contributions. And the second thing I think I ought to
mention is that it will. Many of the contributions which I still touch on will perhaps not have covered the entire world. They would have covered more perhaps the eastern part of Asia rather than the whole Euro Asiatic continent. The contributions are coming forward. Not every day but every two or three years we learn new ones. So it is an almost inexhaustible supply of wealth which the European Mediterranean world has drawn from China. The map of China as you know shows that it has a very mountainous topography. The northern part has some great plains washed by the Yellow River and the Yellow River as you know
was perhaps the earliest home of the Chinese people the Chinese. Finally in the course of this millennia reach down down into the Yangtze Valley and then gradually spread further and further through the jungle land of South China until it covered the whole area up from what we think of as the great wall constituting a kind of boundary in the north down to find an island and other places in the south. The Chinese found it difficult perhaps as well as people on the other side of the euro Asiatic continent found it difficult to communicate over perhaps a long period of time except in the most cursory way. The mountains made it difficult to travel. The great waste lands of the Gobi and
Takoma Conn. were difficult to cross the ocean was privately barred to most people until perhaps the first millennium B.C. But in due course. One thing after another did come into China and Chinese goods and ideas and institutions went the other way. I shall not deal with a lot of the institutions because I think that's being covered by my colleagues who have either already spoken or are going to speak in the next two or three days. The first item which perhaps is worth mentioning. Not because of its influence on the rest of the world but because of its influence on the eastern part of Asia specifically on Korea Japan and Vietnam. The characters which you see are ones which
appear on ancient Oracle bones bones that were taken from these sceptically of animals such as the deer or the ox. They were also taken for divination purposes from tortoise shells from the scapular tortoises. We find ancient characters also bronzes in fact on any hard surface that would resist the ravages of time. Whatever was written on wood or similar perishable services have practically all disappeared one or two characters have been found on forestland. But these represent writing that was known around somewhere perhaps between fifteen hundred BCE and the year 1000. The characters have many of them a pictographic nature.
If you look at the numerical system you will see that the there is a general easy trance mission from one to two to three to four and then there's the shift five six six seven eight nine ten. I think it's fairly easy to understand. Five is more difficult and I don't know that anybody has ever explained that. But in combination with others they could easily make out the first moon the second moon the third moon the fourth moon and so on down to the tenth moon and then for the eleventh moon. As you see 11 would be 10 on top of the 1 but twelfth Moon 2 on top of a 10 or vice a versa. Ten on top of it too. The numbers could be elevated right through to the word 10000 which seems to represent a scorpion
scorpion or at least some sort of an insect with a great many legs. And this may have been a character chosen for its phonetic purposes. Here is an indication of how these characters have been gradually transformed over a period of some three thousand years. You have a rather naturalistic design of a fish and then as you come down through the millennia to the time of Christ or the Han Dynasty on down through the tang and the song and the Ming Dynasty to modern times you get something that doesn't look like a fish at all but through our knowledge of these very ancient characters and many of the characters that have been found in between we know the way that these were developed. I was interested in a piece in The New York Times a week or two ago in which it mentioned the fact that Japanese who have studied their children
have found that the study of the Chinese character which the Japanese took over as did the Koreans. The study of the Chinese character along with their other forms of writing has made it possible for them to speed up their acquisition of written the written language faster than the English speaking world can do. And the professor who has written this piece of research has argued that possibly this pictographic type of writing has something which the alphabetic does not. The alphabetic after all may have made the European languages very divisive. The very fact that we can spell out things in Russian or in Spanish or in French or in the Swedish may have been a hindrance to the building up of a one great European culture
rather than something comparable to what the Chinese have done. Bill it is the first cultivated plant which is known so far as we can tell from literate literature or and also from the archaeological discoveries of the last several decades. Millet is a very important plant and it is spread all over certain any Euro Asiatic world whether it actually began in China or not perhaps it's hard to say but certainly it's been known there for 4000 years. The view of the millet because I think it's something that we must remember that the Chinese have been constantly contributing as they himself have received contributions in the field of agriculture several years ago.
937 to be specific. I was in Leningrad and I visited the professor of Chinese at the University of Leningrad and he said what would you like to do tonight. After we had various other affairs on our minds and I said I'd like to hear so-and-so lecture this evening I understand that he's going to talk on a subject dear to his heart having to do with his own experiments on. The origin of food plants where we went and after the lecture was over he said where are you headed for. And I said I'm headed for China I was going cross Siberia. And he said Oh if I could only go to China China is the center of one third of the cultivated plants of the world. And it's not only cultivated plants but also plants such as flowers and bushes. Many of those that we have here on are used in seaboard came originally from China.
The shun is a musical instrument also with the ancient history and it's an important instrument because not only is it popular to the Chinese and not only to the Chinese but the people all over the eastern Asiatic world. My wife and I several years ago were in Burma and Bangkok and we found in those places in their museums many examples of the shown now in the 18th century a Russian. Musician first discovered the show and worked on it and his ideas were transferred to another man in Germany and finally to Paris and by the early 1900s the several instruments were born. The harmonica and finally the American pipe organ all based on the same
basic idea of the show. And in this piece of sculpture we you will see an example of it shown and other instruments the harp which comes from outside the flute. And I think over here you will see an example of the show. Now other items of interest is the work on bells. Here is a bell which was produced in the Sean Dynasty period from about fourteen hundred BCE down to eleven hundred B.C. and they were used in their temple worship possibly also in the palaces. And in recent years the Chinese have found a whole clusters of bells which seem to have been graduated from I don't know whether it was one part of the OC Dave to the other or what.
But it's very interesting to notice that when these are played and when they're carefully examined they seem to show no hint of any chipping away to bring them into tune with the next in line. Now this kind of thing this exact tuning of a bell doesn't seem to have taken place in England shall we say until two thousand years later perhaps around the eleventh century or so. As you all know so is perhaps one of the two or three best known of China's contributions to the rest of the world. Its age is also lost in time. Silt has been found in the song dynasties sites of the 14th and 13th century B.C. they must be the knowledge of silk must go back much earlier. There are legends and myths about the Celts which
are known to every boy and girl in China at least in the older days. Here's a piece of silk which shows a woman and some sort of fantastic bird. This is perhaps the oldest painting that is yet to be found in China except little sketches found on pieces of pottery of the period of say one thousand or eleven hundred B.C.. This dates from period about fourth century before our era and I think you will admit that the very slight delineation of the garb of the woman is an example of rather extraordinary skill at a period of two thousand four hundred years ago. Now the chopstick is not something that I think one ordinarily thinks of as a
as a real contribution but I think if you have lived in different parts of the world you will appreciate that the use of. A utensil of this sort rather than eating with one's hands is an achievement. I just enjoyed a curry dinner and I like Indian food. And we lived for a year in India. But I must confess that I didn't care to eat with my hands and so my experience with China having a pair of chopsticks always at hand is has proved to me that this is a really a great instrument. It's an instrument that's useful not only for people at table but very much so in the kitchen as well. Handling hot things and cooking utensils. The
Chinese like every other people fought with knives fought with spears with how birds with bows and arrows. Many of these things have been found and they have a wide distribution way across Asia. The crossbow is something which the Chinese seem to have been uniquely responsible for. This is an example of one that is now in one of the museums in Paris. Another one like it has been found in Korea and it belongs I think to the Japanese. The crossbow was a great instrument for the Chinese in defending themselves and attacking their enemies beginning it also around the fourth and third centuries before our era. The crossbow lock an example of which you see is a rather unusual mechanism and the reason why perhaps the
Romans and other contemporary people didn't pick it up was because they didn't understand the mechanism of the lock. And of the trigger. We know however that it must've been used widely over Asia in the second and first centuries BCE when the Chinese were making their great marches across the talk from the Khan desert over the pommy years and into the region we call Afghanistan and Iran because one was found not long ago in in the region now known as Pakistan and it's in the museum in one of the museums in that country. The. Another thing that I think the Chinese are well known for is lacquer lacquer is something that they must have experimented experimented with from the sap of the treat and found that by surfacing that certain pieces of wood with it they could
also apply paintings to the surface. This dates as well from the third century or so before our era. And it gives us a picture too of certain scenes showing that painting was done not only on Ansel but on lacquer and doubtless on other subjects and other materials which have perished in a dish from the Han Dynasty Rup the second and for centuries before our era up there countless numbers of these examples of Chinas skill with Lacker the Russians found in a tomb up near a woman Baltar used to be called know and will ah. About 1014 a dish with some characters on it and the Japanese almost at the same time found another dish
in a tomb in Northern Korea where the Chinese had been for three centuries beginning around one hundred eight B.C. and lasting on down to 3rd century A.D. and when notes were compared to the script that was on one of these dishes and on the other they found that one was dated to be C and the other was dated for a date and the names of the makers on it borked at least the names of two of the same people and came from the far distant province of Sichuan way in west China. So lacquer made its way into Mongolia and right across into Afghanistan and into the Syria region which the Russians have been excavating with such skill over the last decade or more. Football is something you wouldn't expect I think. Here is a stone
which shows two rather what shall I say secondary figures and another was really having a ball. The game of football apparently developed. We're not certain of this but it the first mention as in connection with military activity the soldiers were taught how to play and this was one form of their exercise. The story goes that a certain Chinese general by the name of what your being who died in a hundred seventeen B.C. found himself in the desert on a way to attack the ship or the hunted peoples in the northwest and the. There was a lack of food. I think perhaps a lack of other things and the same for a while as all the soldiers were going to mutiny. So he got some of his.
Confidence together and ask them to hew out a football field in the area and put a ball in the midst of the soldiers and tell them to go ahead and play. This apparently destroyed the beauty and spirit of the soldiers that day it's as I say for around one hundred twenty B.C. The game continued. Here you find it in a very polite form the Emperor's Sharan zone who reigned in the eighth century of our era seems to be having a time with some of his courtiers. The most unlikely part of the palace porch. Another one of the great contributions of the Chinese to the foodstuffs of the world and not only food stuffs but also to the making of carburetors and Lord knows what is the soybean. I think that Benjamin Franklin is credited with having learned about the
soybean when he was our minister in Paris and sent samples of it to this country but it didn't catch on a tall. It wasn't until Mr. Henry Ford saw some uses of it that it was transported to this country in great quantities and planted in our fields. And now one of the things that strikes my family every so often is the announcement over the radio that wheat is sell and sell and soybeans are mixed or something of the sort. It's become an important part of the stock market jargon. You heard L. Carrington Goodrich research professor in Chinese history at Columbia University as he spoke on the topic. Some of China's contributions to world culture. Professor Goodrich spoke at the annual conference of the Institute on man and science held in Rensselaer Vale New York on our next program Professor TC Joe of Michigan Technological University.
The Institute on Man and Science
China Contributions to World Cultur
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Institute on Man and Science
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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For series info, see Item 3566. This prog.: Some of China's Contributions to World Culture. L. Carrington Goodrich, Research Professor in Chinese History, Columbia U.
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Chicago: “The Institute on Man and Science; China Contributions to World Cultur,” 1968-12-03, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 1, 2023,
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