Sunday, October 31, 2010

Ancient Winemaking Makes Resurgence in Southeast Turkey

A winery dating back to the third century,carved into a cave in Urgup in central Anatolia, Turkey (File Photo)
A winery dating back to the third century,carved into a cave in Urgup in central Anatolia, Turkey (File Photo)

Southeast Turkey is home to one of the oldest Christian civilizations in the world - the Assyrians who were among the first to convert to Christianity. Among their ancient traditions is making wine, in a way that has changed little since the time of the Roman Empire. But the region they live in is at the center of a bloody conflict between Kurdish rebels and the Turkish state, and most fled the region to Europe and the U.S. But in the town of Midyat in southeast Turkey a few people are keeping the winemaking tradition alive.

Assyrian Christian Yusuk Uluisik is crushing grapes by hand - a ritual that has not changed for centuries.

"From our fathers and grandfathers,  all the way back to the time of the Jesus, we are making wine in the same way. My family has been making wine here and drinking it for centuries," he explained. "Every year they produce two to three small barrels and put them indoors until they are ready. Then we drink two to three glasses with oily food."

Gradually the juice of the grapes pours out of the bottom of a stone pot and trickles down a stone trench where it is collected and then stored in large plastic containers to ferment.

Once he was one of hundreds of families making wine but now he is just one of a few left. Most departed to escape fighting between Kurdish rebels and the Turkish state during the 1980's and 90's.

"In the past there was little demand, he noted. "Maybe a few bottles at Christmas, to a few Christian families that were left. As everyone else had gone abroad to escape the fighting and for a better life.  But in the last five years there has been some kind of revival. There are many tourists visiting and we can't produce enough to meet the demand."
More tourists

The growing number of tourists visiting this ancient part of Turkey is a testament to the return of peace and growing prosperity.

"Assyrians used to live here. They used to make their prayers everything. As you can see the windows look to east," said Kaya Gulersan, the manager of a boutique hotel. "In the belief of Assyrians, the day of reincarnation, Jesus Christ rises from the east.  And that's why in a cemetery of the Assyrians they, have been buried sitting down not lying, therefore waiting for the day to come to greet Jesus."

The luxurious hotel opened a year ago. It is has been renovated into a grand Assyrian-style building, a reminder of past prosperity of Assyrian Christians which once made more up than 80 percent of the town's population.

Drinking a glass of locally-produced wine with Gulersan he explains the opportunity to discover one of Christianity's oldest communities is drawing people from around world and providing a small boom for wine makers like Yusuf.

"They come here to see the churches," he explained. "There is one here called Mor Gabria which is 1,600 years old. A few weeks ago I had 60 orthodox Greeks who feasted her. Next week some Italians. We have visitors from all nations. About two weeks we had a family, [the father] he left 25 to 26 years ago.  He brought his family.  He showed his children where he was born. They are returning more and more and there is a village here. Assyrian origin Swiss citizens, they are are building their own town here."
The town Gulersan is referring to is Kafkoy, about 40 kilometers away from Midyat .

Back to motherland

Kafkoy is a hive of activity. Abandoned in the 1990's by its inhabitants at the height of the conflict between the state and the PKK, it still shows the scars of that conflict. But five years ago, a few Assyrian families returned from Switzerland to bring the town back to life.

Yakup Demir was one of the first to come back.

"It was always in our mind to return back. We are people of this land. We are the oldest people of this land," he said. "We have been here almost 5,000 years. This is our land our motherland we belong here he said.  But, he says, the situation here didn't allow us to stay here or even visit. But the world is changing, Turkey is changing and even people around here are changing so we decided to return.
Warm memories

Walking around newly built houses of the growing community Demir explains memories of wine making remain strong along with plans to bring back the tradition.

He says you can see, all around are grape vines, they are all overgrown now, but this region is famous for the quality of grapes. He said he can remember as a child here making wine, the whole village would come together to make wine every year. He says we even made spirits with the grape seeds. But now we are planning to build a proper vineyard. 

As we walk through the village, we come across two Assyrian Christian visitors from Europe. They are arguing about whether it is the right time to move back.

Although the region here is at peace, fears remain of a return to a full scale conflict between the Kurdish rebels and the Turkish state as peace efforts falter. But, Demir says he is an optimist, proudly pointing to their rebuilt village, as his vindication, adding that he hopes in the near future this region will be famous more for its wine than conflict.

Confucius, Laozi Statues Unveiled in Russia

Statues of ancient Chinese philosophers Confucius and Laozi were unveiled at the Ethno Village of Russia's Kaluga Region west of Moscow.
Chinese Ambassador to Russia Li Hui attended the ceremony hosted by Russia's international charity foundation "Dialogue of Cultures -- United World" on Saturday, together with over 300 Russians and Chinese, including Governor of Kaluga Region Anatoly Artamonov.
Li thanked all relevant parties' efforts for the unveiling ceremony as well as for promoting cultural exchanges between China and Russia.
The two ancient philosophers as representatives of Confucianism and Taoism, he said, were not only important figures for Chinese culture that upheld harmony for over 2,000 years, but also "bright pearls" in the treasure of world civilizations.
The Chinese diplomat believed the settlement of the two statues in the Ethno Village has just opened another window for Russian people to know about Chinese culture.
Li also voiced hope that an increasing share of "China factor" could emerge at the Ethno Village, boosting it into a major platform for Russian people to understand China and her culture.
After the successful staging of reciprocal national years and language years between China and Russia, said Li, the bilateral tourism would be further advanced.
Artamonov congratulated the inauguration of the statues of Confucius and Laozi, while hailing Chinese people as one of the greatest among the world.
With the rapid development of China, said Artamonov, Chinese culture has correspondingly been become more and more influential, and currently cultural exchanges between Russia and China were steadily deepening along with the comprehensive development of bilateral friendly ties.
Confucius and Laozi as the outstanding symbols of Chinese culture, their statues that settled in the Kaluga Region would indubitably receive hearty welcome from locals and people all across Russia, said the governor.
Vladimir Gusev, first deputy chairman of the economic policy committee of Russia's Federation Council, Ruslan Bairamov, president of the "Dialogue of Cultures -- United World" foundation, as well as representatives from the Institutes of Fareastern Studies and Oriental Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, Russian Academy of Natural Sciences and China Confucius Foundation all extended their congratulations to the unveiling of the statues.
Li along with other guests also toured around the Ethno Village, during which he dedicated the inscription of "Enhancing Sino- Russian cultural exchanges, Deepening Sino-Russian peoples' traditional friendship" to the Chinese Pavilion at the ethnic street of the village.
Invested and constructed by the "Dialogue of Cultures -- United World" foundation, the 49-hectare Ethno Village in the Borovsky district of the Kaluga Region will see the establishment of a total of 52 cultural sites for different countries across the globe, including that of China.

EU Ambassador: Shanghai Expo improves China's soft power

The Shanghai World Expo is a great investment in education for all citizens, has achieved great success and greatly improves China's soft power, said Serge Abou, E.U. Ambassador to China, when interviewed by reporters for China News Service recently.

The Shanghai Expo made a breakthrough in the number of exhibitors, visitors and organizers and has undoubtedly promoted the development of China-E.U. ties, which also proves Shanghai is a city with international attractiveness, Abou said.

Abou said the Shanghai World Expo has had a huge impact on China in three aspects.

First, it allowed ordinary Chinese people to know about the world's civilizations and development in a short time. The Expo opened a window for Chinese people, and they learned specific knowledge about most of the countries worldwide through the Expo.

Second, the Expo is an excellent investment in education, and it will be one of the biggest intangible assets. Abou said all the visitors to the Expo have been deeply educated under the theme "Better City, Better Life." They have learned how to solve the problem of urban pollution, how to reduce energy consumption and how to develop more environmentally-friendly technology. It is a valuable intellectual investment, he said.

Abou said that he had paid visits to the poor areas of western China and found some people do not easily understand concepts such as clean energy and zero carbon emissions. But through the Expo they can learn a lot of relevant information, which will be helpful when selecting the mode of economic development in some areas.

Third, the Expo enhanced China's international image and Shanghai's international reputation. In the eyes of ordinary Europeans, Shanghai has the Western legacy of the last century and modern, progressive and fashionable features. The Expo will attract more investors and visitors.

This year marks the 35 anniversary of the establishment of China-E.U. diplomatic ties, Abou said, and China-E.U. ties have never been so rich and deep. As the world ushers in a multi-polar era, in which China and the European Union are both important, enhancing mutual understanding of is becoming increasingly vital.

"I am happy to see that through the Expo, both the Chinese media and the public have had more understanding and good impressions of the European Union," Abou said. "The best investment is investment in people, and I hope the two countries seize the opportunities to continue to strengthen non-governmental exchanges, promote tourism, education and economic and trade exchanges."

The Neolithic Revolution and the Birth of Civilization

  • Introduction


  • The history of civilizations comprises only a tiny fraction of the time that the genus Homo has inhabited the earth. Civilized societies those that relied on sedentary agriculture, developed social stratification and economic specialization, and created population densities sufficient to support urban life have existed for the last 9,000 years. In order to understand civilizations, it is necessary to look at prehistorical precedents for human development in the Paleolithic and Neolithic Ages. The rise of sedentary agricultural communities during the Neolithic is one of the first great transformations of human society.

  • Human Life in the Era of Hunters and Gatherers

    1. Introduction
    2. Homo sapiens, one of a number of human-like species, was able to achieve biological dominance over its rivals and to spread over much of the earth by 10,000 B.C.E. The success of Homo sapiens was in part due to manual dexterity that permitted the production of tools enhancing the physical capabilities of early humans and to intelligence that allowed the development of spoken language enabling groups of humans to engage in cooperative behavior. Paleolithic Culture One of the earliest cultural traditions of Homo sapiens was the use of fire for cooking, curing animal hides, making weapons, and as a source of heat and light. By the late Paleolithic, human groups practiced mixed hunting and gathering. The surviving technology of this period consists of stone tools, the earliest of which date back more than two million years. Later Paleolithic human culture also featured artistic elements. The most impressive early works of art were cave paintings that may have had religious significance. It is also possible that these early works of art were primitive calendars or counting systems. The Spread of Human Culture Fire and the use of tools made it possible for humans to spread beyond Africa. By 12,000 B.C.E. human societies spread to Europe, Asia, North America, South America, and Australia. Human Society and Daily Life at the end of the Paleolithic Era While most human societies at the end of the Paleolithic period migrated in pursuit of game, some groups were more sedentary. More stable groups harvested wild grains that grew in profusion near their settlements, and some of these societies progressed to true farming by domesticating plants and animals. Some of these groups subsequently reverted to hunting and gathering, suggesting that humans developed different strategies that produced sufficient quantities of food. Only those groups that adopted agriculture proved capable of producing civilizations. Hunting and gathering groups were limited to about 30 people and required extensive amounts of territory to support themselves. Migratory groups tended to live in the open rather than in caves and probably developed a sense of territoriality over the lands that produced their food. Labor was organized by gender males were responsible for hunting and protection of the group, while females gathered food from plants. Settling Down: Dead Ends and Transitions Between 8000 and 5000 B.C.E. some hunting-gathering groups developed more intensive techniques that permitted them to establish more sedentary settlements. In what is now central Russia, for example, groups were able to hunt wooly mammoths and supplement meat supplies with intensive gathering. The establishment of sedentary communities allowed intensive hunting and gathering groups to establish social stratification and commerce with other similar groups. An even more specialized society associated with the Natufian complex of the Middle East depended on the intensive gathering of wild grasses primarily barley and wheat. Natufian society was stratified and probably matrilocal and matrilineal. Despite the development of intensive gathering and sophisticated storage of grains, Natufian society did not create any technological innovations. The dependence of Natufian society on regional grasses left them vulnerable to changes in the climate. Due to desiccation of the region, Natufian communities disappeared around 9000 B.C.E. A Precarious ExistenceWhether grouped in small bands of nomadic hunters and gatherers or more densely clustered in intensive hunting and gathering groups, life for all Homo sapiens remained precarious. With limited technology and vulnerable to alterations in the migratory patterns of prey or climatic alterations that created changes in the ecosystems on which they depended, all human communities experienced the constant threat of extinction.

  • Agriculture and the Origins of Civilization: The Neolithic Revolution

    1. Introduction
    2. Beginning around 8000 B.C.E., many human cultures became increasingly dependent on cultivated crops and domesticated animals to secure their supply of food. By 7000 B.C.E. sedentary agriculture was able to support towns such as Jericho and Catal Huyuk with populations of more than 1,000. By 3500 B.C.E. the first civilizations appeared in the Middle East. While no one knows for certain what conditions caused the shift from hunting and gathering to sedentary agriculture, changes in the climate may have been significant factors. It is also probable that increases in human population prompted changes in food production.
    3. The Domestication of Plants and Animals
    4. The first plants domesticated were the wild grains, barley and wheat, that were common in many regions of the Middle East. The transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture took place slowly. Only as additional crops were added to the agricultural system did societies diminish efforts to hunt and gather. Early agriculturalists may have continued a semi-nomadic lifestyle. At approximately the same time as the domestication of wild grains, agricultural societies also began to domesticate animals. Dogs, sheep, goats, and pigs were among the first animals domesticated around 8500 B.C.E. Cattle, more aggressive and faster than the other animals, were added to the agricultural system around 6500 B.C.E. Domesticated animals improved the supplies of available protein, provided hides and wool for clothing materials, and increased the manuring of agricultural land.
    5. The Spread of Neolithic Revolution
    6. The greater effort expended in agricultural systems made the shift to sedentary communities impractical for many groups. Hunting and gathering societies and agricultural communities continued to coexist. Some groups practiced pastoralism based on dependence on domesticated animals. Pastoral societies often thrive in semiarid regions incapable of supporting large populations of farmers. Pastoral societies were often strongly militarized. During the period of the Neolithic revolution (8000-5000 B.C.E.), agricultural techniques of production spread from the Middle East to other areas of the globe where the climate permitted. The cultivation of wheat and barley expanded from the Middle East to India and Europe. From Egypt the cultivation of grain crops spread southward along the Nile. Africa south of the Sahara desert developed an independent agricultural system around 2000 B.C.E. based on root and tree crops. In China, Neolithic agricultural societies developed a separate system of crops based on millet. Somewhat later, farmers of Southeast Asia began to cultivate rice. American agricultural systems featured maize, manioc, and sweet potatoes. The Transform of Material Life With the shift toward sedentary communities typical of the Neolithic revolution, the human population rapidly expanded. Villages and cultivated fields became the dominant features of human society. The development of sedentary settlements accelerated the pace of technological development. Many of these innovations were directly connected to agriculture, including plows, implements, techniques of seed selection, and irrigation. The development of better tools led to better housing and systems for storage of grain. More dependable food supplies and better housing created conditions conducive to population growth.
    7. Social Differentiation
    8. The production of food surpluses allowed social differentiation and economic specialization. Some people were freed from the processes associated with the production of food to make other commodities such as cloth, pottery, and leather goods. Economic specialization led to social stratification and the creation of elite classes of rulers. Regional economic specialization often centered on commodities indigenous to the region in which the community was located. In order to provide an equitable distribution of goods, trade was established among regions featuring different goods. Social stratification in early agricultural communities was limited. Property may have been held by all members of communities in common. The position of women in agricultural communities may have declined. Men took over the critical tasks of agriculture and began to monopolize the use of the new tools.

  • The First Towns: Seedbeds of Civilization

    1. Introduction
    2. By 7000 B.C.E. agricultural productivity was sufficient to support large communities including many nonagriculturalists. In larger communities numbering in the thousands, social stratification increased and trade became critical to the communities' survival. Two of the earliest of these large communities were located at Jericho in Palestine and Catal Huyuk in Turkey. Although few in number and isolated from surrounding villages and nomadic peoples, the earliest urban centers accelerated the pace of change and made major contributions to the technological revolution of the fourth millennium B.C.E. Jericho Jericho's site was favored by access to water. The site extended to more than ten acres by 7000 B.C.E. The later city consisted of many domestic dwellings built of brick and some religious shrines. The huge wall surrounded the entire settlement. Although Jericho was primarily an agricultural community, there is substantial evidence of both trade and hunting. The residents of Jericho traded their local supplies of salt, sulfur, and pitch for goods from Turkey, the Sinai, and the Red Sea. Structures at Jericho reveal substantial social and economic stratification and the existence of a governing elite.
    3. Catal Huyuk
    4. Founded in 7000 B.C.E., Catal Huyuk was larger than Jericho and included a more diversified population. Houses were standardized throughout the community and served as fortifications as well as residences. Standardization implies a stronger ruling elite at Catal Huyuk than at Jericho. Numerous religious shrines also suggest a powerful priesthood. The economy of Catal Huyuk was more diverse than that of Jericho. Pastoralism and domesticated animals were more widely used. Trade in a variety of goods was widespread. Artifacts also suggest the existence of a skilled population of craftsmen making obsidian objects.

  • Conclusion: The Watershed of the Fourth Millenium B. C. E.

  • Although not yet major urban centers, such as those associated with early civilizations, Catal Huyuk and Jericho established patterns of standardization and fortification that would eventually be found in the greater cities of Sumer and Egypt. Economic specialization and social stratification proved critical to the development of technological innovation in the fourth millennium B.C.E.
    During the thousand years after 4000 B.C.E. the shift from stone tools to bronze took place. The development of writing made record-keeping and trading more effective. Most of this new technology was limited to Eurasia and Africa. The isolation of the Americas prevented the dissemination of many technological advances. Isolation of the Americas also made the people of those continents vulnerable to diseases of the Old World.

    Friday, October 29, 2010

    India at the Shanghai World Expo 2010 and its significance in Sino - Indian Relations

    In the midst of the concrete and steel jungle that is the Shanghai World Expo, stands the Indian Pavilion, the 'greenest' of them all, built entirely of environment-friendly materials, showcasing India's unique brand of Culture, History and Soft Power and offering an unprecedented opportunity to further improve Sino-Indian relations and India's Soft Power in China.

    The Expo has finally come to China. A largely forgotten event in most parts of the world, it has been rejuvenated, on a scale in which no other country could even dream of. A record number of 192 countries and 50 organizations have registered, the highest in the Expo's history. Most people hadn't even heard of the expo before it came to China.
    The verdict is clear - The Expo needed China as much as China needed the Expo.
    It has been described by the Chinese government as "a great gathering of world civilizations",  and is an excellent opportunity to improve ties between two of the oldest - India and China.
    The Indian pavilion
    The Indian Pavilion is a massive stupa (pronounced stuup, with an slightly elongated u), resembling specifically the Sanchi Stupa built during the Maurya Dynasty (322-185 BC) by King Ashoka (pronounced  Ashok).

    In what is one of the greatest examples the diversity and plurality of Indian history and culture, the dome is shaped like the Taj Mahal Mausoleum (which, commissioned by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan and completed in 1653, is one of the seven wonders of the world) and the inspiration of its design comes from the Sanchi Stupa (which was completed in the third century BCE and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site).
    Taj Mahal
    Sanchi Stupa

    The Indian Pavilion

    As the world moves towards urbanization, the idea behind the Indian pavilion successfully blends the concepts of sustainable ecological development with modern technology and town planning - which is accentuated by the theme - Cities of Harmony.
    And what better model than ancient India, where the Indus Valley Civilization (3300–1300 BCE), whose cities, most notably - Harappa and Mohen-jo-daro, reached a level of urban planning and technological sophistication which was unparalleled during the time. As a matter of fact, the sheer brilliance and superiority of those prehistoric cities would put Mumbai to shame, whose streets flood every couple of years due to heavy rains and poor town planning coupled with inefficient drainage systems, not to mention 55% of the city's population living in slums! (In the words of India's Environment and Forests Minister, Jairam Ramesh, if there is a Noble Prize for filth, India will win it!)
    The Indian Pavilion is built entirely of bamboo and other environment friendly materials like solar panels, windmills,  plants, water cascade and earthen tiles; and is the 'greenest' and most eco-friendly pavilion at the expo. Over 60,000 saplings, including many herbal medicinal plants, have been used in the roofing panels, which also collect rainwater for use in the pavilion. Over 30 kms of bamboo (which came from eastern Chinese forests) has gone into its construction. It is in fact the world's largest Bamboo Dome - 35 meters wide and 18 meters tall, and contains an interlaced network of more than 500 pieces of 20 meter-length rods of bamboo.
    Completely rewriting China's architecture rulebook, it will be spared demolition unlike the other pavilions (excluding China's), dismantled and then reconstructed in Wushi, Zhejiang Province. The Indian architects had to prepare the first ever bamboo construction plans and code and then get the Chinese to approve it before proceeding.  
    According to the official website:
    The concept and theme of India Pavilion will revolve around journey of Indian cities from ancient times to medieval period to modern India. This journey is full of glorious peaks and downs in the medieval period. The concept of urban planning was known to India as back as the times of Mohan Jo daro and Hadappa (dating back to 2000-3000 B.C. Circa), the twin cities that were discovered by British archaeologists. These cities had well laid out streets at right angles, underground drainage and water supply system with common public areas.
    As urban life spread among Indian people, we find cities with specific sectors, which were known as Mohallahs, where people belonging to a specific guild or trade used to live, such as, Kapda Bazaar (cloth market) where textile merchants had their shops and living quarters; Sarafa Bazaar (jewelery market) where all jewellers had their shops and living quarters, Katras (grain and eatables market) and so on. New urban centres were set up by Mughal emperors spanning throughout India based on specialized trade and services on the lines of modern Special Economic Zones, e.g., Varanasi became known for silk and silk embroidery; Mysore for special silk and sandlewood work; Calicut for muslin cloth and jewelery; Moradabad for brassware; Aligarh for locks; Agra for footwear and marble works etc. During the medieval period also, ambitious kings planned ambitious cities, such as, Jaipur, which was laid in a very scientific manner with entire city being painted in one colour for which it is still known as ‘Pink City’.

    The highlights of the pavilion include the 'Tree of Life' carving by the Sidi Saiyyed Mosque in Ahmedabad, a 'Zero-Chemical Area', which displays many energy efficient technologies, a traditional 'Indian Market' or Bazaar, and a Holographic projection showcasing India's evolution from the Indus Valley days to modern times.
    And in the Urban Best practices Area (UBPA), which offers a platform for different countries to propose their solutions to the urban issues from different perspectivestwo role models from India — one from Ahmedabad and the other from Pondicherry — are being showcased with 34 others as experiments in improving urban life. The Ahmedabad initiative is focused on clean and green economic development, while Pondicherry focuses on heritage preservation along with economic growth.

    The Indian pavilion also features authentic Indian cuisine, Indian cultural programmes, including dances (some of which are so diverse and different from the others that I'm quite sure some people will wonder whether they are from the same country!), and of course - India's latest soft power export - Bollywood. The organizers have roped in 50 performers, backed by a team of film technicians and choreographers to act out 40 years of classic moments in Indian cinema. And Yoga (pronounced Yog) - the single most popular aspect of Indian culture and soft power abroad - is also on the cards.

    Where's India's other achievement?
    While all this should certainly be applauded, what is surprising is that a presentation of the other aspect that India is known for around the word - its IT prowess - is nowhere to be seen. A combination of culture, environment friendly urban planning and India's IT and software industry prowess would have been a great and unique combination. Not to mention the fact that this is one of the few advantages which India has over China.

    Strengthening  Sino - Indian Relations and India's Soft Power
    As the two most populous countries in the world and rising powers, India and China have a responsibility to maintain healthy relations, not only towards themselves but also towards the whole world. And the expo offers an excellent opportunity for India to increase the people-to-people contact between these two countries and awareness about Indian culture in China.

    The India pavilion has become one of the most popular spots at the expo with an average of 25,000 visitors every day.
    The huge line of visitors queued up to get inside the Indian pavilion as seen above speaks for itself.

    Many countries are increasingly realizing that Soft Power can be a very effective tool for increasing their influence, especially countries with rich histories and cultures like India and China. They have a lot to export in that direction; and can use Soft Power very effectively to project an image. Pavan Varma, the head of the Indian Council on Cultural Relations, has argued that “Culturally, India is a superpower.”
    Unlike China, India has lacked the initiative and aggression to effectively use Soft Power as an instrument of Foreign Policy.  For example, while the Chinese government has established 295 Confucius Institutes in 78 countries, the Indian Equivalent - Indian Cultural Institutes - number only 20. Most of India's Soft Power abroad is promulgated through private individuals and enterprises, like Bollywood, and the so-called 'Indian Gurus', like Deepak Chopra.
    This year is the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between two countries. In China, interest in Indian culture and History is on the rise.
    The Indian President, Pratibha Patil, on a recent visit to China, unveiled the first Indian Style Buddhist Temple in Luoyang in Henan province after a gap of 1900 years, when two Indian monks Kashyapamatanga and Dharmaratna helped establish the first Buddhist shrine. This temple was at the same site as the White Horse Temple, built in 68 AD, the first Buddhist Temple in China,  and is  part of an India-China Cultural cooperation initiative. She also unveiled a statue of poet and Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore in the heart of old-town Shanghai, which the poet visited in the 1920s and left a strong influence on a whole generation of Chinese intellectuals and writers.
    Tourism is another important aspect which has been neglected. In 2008, Chinese arrivals to India made up less than 2 per cent of the total number of foreign travelers. India's lack of adequate infrastructure, a lack of awareness about Indian Tourism among common Chinese are just two of the many problems which are at the heart of the asymmetrical tourist flow. With China slated to become the  world's fourth-largest source of outbound tourists by 2020, it is a market which India, like any other country, cannot afford to take lightly.
    Hence, the Shanghai World Expo becomes all the more important and it is an opportunity that simply could not be ignored. The Indian government has taken an unprecedented advantage of this situation, by not only showcasing India's Soft Power through its unique culture and history, but also various green initiatives coupled with technology and urban planning, a pavilion built entirely with environment friendly materials and with zero carbon emissions which is a welcome change amidst the steel and concrete jungle of the expo - an endeavor which has the potential to drastically strengthen Sino-Indian Relations like no other.

    Hinduism and India

    In Javidnama, the first station on Moon is the cave of the sage from ancient India, Vishvamitra. He is immersed in meditation when Rumi and Iqbal arrive there and a light "which could even illuminate shadows" is filling up the cave.

    Opening his eyes, Vishvamitra holds a conversation with Rumi and Iqbal, asks nine brief questions to Iqbal and then offers nine "sayings".

    It is obvious that Vishvamitra is intended to be the icon of rational-intuitive intelligence, and by implication associating the highest manifestation of this kind of intelligence with the Indian genius.

    Also, this placement seems to be correcting the error which some Western scholars had introduced by placing Hinduism under the umbrella category of "religion." Hindus scholars have often argued that Hinduism is different from other world religions and predates them. It is remarkable that the Indian sage is the first apparition on the Sphere of Moon: unmistakably, the cave of Vishvamitra is a sort of "initiation" rite for Iqbal in his journey towards the Ultimate Reality, and comes much before the tablets of prophets.

    In his conversation with Iqbal, Vishvamitra mentions an angel whom he saw looking towards the planet earth from a dune on the Moon. The angel foretold the impending independence of the East and said, "It is the moment of rejoicing for the angels of the Divine Throne when a nation opens its eyes from slumber."

    Interestingly, this speech by an angel in Javidnama foreshadows the famous "freedom at midnight" speech delivered by Nehru on the precise moment when India finally won independence several years later. Even more interestingly, Nehru is mentioned in Javidnama itself (although not in this chapter but in Chapter 7 in a conversation held in Paradise). Since Nehru is generally supposed to have been familiar with Javidnama, an interesting question comes to mind: did the influence of the angel's speech creep into his freedom speech even unconsciously? The possibility does not appear outlandish if we remember that in the same inaugural session of the Indian parliament, Iqbal's famous poem "Saray jahan say achha" was also sung as a national song.

    Freedom, then is seems to be one of the two important forces which seem to have been working in Iqbal's India according to Javidnama. The other force was the ideal of territorial nationalism borrowed from Western imperialism (as we shall see in 6. Christianity and the West).

    Tuesday, Wednesday, Next Monday **Be Sure to Bring Things Fall Apart**

    I will not be in school on either Tuesday or Wednesday of this week. Please make the most of the periods with the substitute to review the material you have read on the scramble for Africa, as well as the effects of and response to the scramble among the native peoples of Africa. The activities I have provided for the subs are exactly the same as those I had planned to teach myself-- these are not simply time-fillers.

    ***Be sure to bring the book Things Fall Apart to class on Wednesday***

    See handout #26 for information on Monday's Africa Test. This test WILL COUNT for the 1st quarter, so it provides a chance for some of you to boost your grade significantly.

    As always, you can contact me via email or by commenting on this blog. Comments will go directly to my email but have the added benefit of being available to everyone in the class-- any questions you have are probably questions someone else has, too.

    Sunday, October 24, 2010

    Building a civilization to the test conflicts

    Building a civilization to the test conflicts, wars and time, this is the challenge set by the Civilization series. On the eve of its 20th anniversary, the renowned Sid Meier mark its 5th edition.
    During these two decades, Civilization has built a solid reputation among players. A large community has rallied around the various iterations and the fifth iteration brings, as usual, its share of changes that make them nervous fans of the series.
    For the uninitiated, Civilization is a strategy game is playing in turn. In the manner of a chess game, each player makes a series of actions before handing over to the enemy so that he can do the same. Before you even start a game, the player has the ability to configure several parameters; including the size and configuration of the terrain, the number of players (including the city-states), the time when the party starts, the civilization that it will play, etc.. Of course, several preset modes allow the player to start a game quickly.

    Lovers of changes are also very well served since an astronomical amount of parameters can be edited via the configuration files. These famous “mods” can then be shared with the rest of the community, and at the same interface of the game With this abundance of options, each party is unique and offers a different challenge to each of them .
    In general, the game begins at the ancient era when the player has only a few units to build its first city and start exploring the territory and resources nearby. First innovation, the square tiles have been replaced by hexagons.
    The impact is not only aesthetic (as it gives a more natural look to the field) but also strategic, since each tile is now in contact with six sides instead of four. In addition, the graphics engine has been completely revised and offers superb levels extensive and detailed within the guts of a good level of realism of the series.
    One of the peculiarities of Civilization, and probably one of the reasons for its success, is that the game provides several ways to win a game. Of course, it is possible to annihilate the enemy to claim victory, but, as in reality, war has a price and not dominate the world of force is not a simple matter. However, compared with the previous titles, everything has been simplified since it is now that capture the capitals of each of the opponents to achieve victory through domination.
    Other rules of combat have been adjusted: it is no longer possible to stack multiple units fighting on the same tile, which has the effect of making the battles more realistic (by forcing the player to attack on several fronts ). In addition, cities can now defend themselves.
    Other conditions include victories to win the conquest of space (that is to say, be the first player to launch a rocket into orbit), obtaining a diplomatic victory (by obtaining a sufficient number of votes at the UN) , obtaining a cultural domination or finish with the most points when the party reached the year 2050. Although the gameplay is similar between the 18 civilizations available, each with units and characteristics of their own.
    For example, some will be better equipped to fight early in the game while others will have their units appear in the tougher end of the game. Others may extend their territory and quickly build new cities, while some will have an advantage in maintaining a smaller territory.
    In addition to supporting up to 12 players, Civilization V introduces the concept of city-states. These neutral towns dot the area, can grow, but will not create additional cities. Relations with these city-states are simpler than the computer controlled civilizations.
    Basically, you can destroy you or make allies with gifts. Once an alliance, the player receives their aid if attacked, but they share their resources with the nation (provided they are connected via a trade route to its cities). The addition of these city-states is welcome and adds a new strategic dimension to the parties.
    Regarding relations with other civilizations, again, the game has a more refined interface. To undertake a process of negotiation with one of them, it takes only select items that the player wants to game then to propose a deal. For example, negotiate free passage on the territory of another nation can engage in turn open its borders or provide some resources for a number of laps.
    For newcomers, advisers suggest actions to be taken to support them in achieving certain goals. For example, a diplomatic adviser to the player may indicate that another civilization lacks a resource that he possesses in abundance, with a market that nation could play in the player’s advantage. If these advisors guide the player stepping in the early rounds, they will fade gradually over time. A questionable design choice, since it is in the middle and end of the game that the whole becomes more complex and valuable advice on actions to take can actually save the player.
    While in most cases, the interface is simple and intuitive, it happens that some features are missing roughly clarity. For example, strategically sensible to give an overview of the land, resources and units, this much information at once that the result is rather difficult to digest. Occasionally it also happens that it is difficult to know why the production of a city lies not live up to our expectations, then it is very simple to obtain similar information ( ex. why our nation is happy).
    Civilization V would not be complete without a multiplayer component. As a solo part, participants in a match, each representing civilizations involved. To impose too much downtime for the players, each nation makes its actions simultaneously.
    As a single game can last dozens of hours, you can save a match and again later (with or without the original players). The implementation of the multiplayer mode is not without flaw, as it is currently difficult to join the games online because of various connection issues, and because few players populate the servers. In addition, the game does not fashion “hot seat”, where multiple players can compete on the same computer. According to latest information, this mode would be added later with a patch. Civilization V, like its predecessors is a game immensely complex, and address each of these facets in a single criticism is impossible.
    So I will summarize this latest iteration as well: the game incorporates every ingredient that made a success of previous titles and adds just enough new features to continue to carry the franchise forward. The greater openness to the community of “modders” risk to please and ensure the longevity of the series for years to come. Featuring a catchy style and offering parts that can extend over several tens of hours, the lifetime of the game is practically endless. Admittedly, the multiplayer portion lack of finish, but hopefully that time will heal things.