Han Xin :
Han Xin lived a childhood in destitution as his father died early. He was despised by those around him as he often relied on others for his meals. He had a keen interest in military strategy and spent his time studying military treatises and practising sword techniques. Once, when he was suffering from hunger, he met a woman who provided him with food. He promised to repay her for her kindness after he had made great achievements in life, but was scorned by her. On another occasion, a hooligan saw Han Xin carrying a sword and challenged him to either kill him or crawl through between his legs. Han Xin knew that he was at a disadvantage because his opponent was much stronger and bigger than him, hence instead of responding to the taunts, he meekly crawled through between the hooligan`s legs and was laughed at. Several years later, after becoming the King of Chu, Han Xin returned to his home town and found the woman who fed him and rewarded her with 1,000 taels of gold. Han Xin also found the hooligan and instead of taking revenge, he appointed the hooligan as a zhongwei ; equivalent to a present-day lieutenant). He said, “This man is a hero. Do you think I could not have killed him when he humiliated me? I would not become famous even if I killed him then. Hence, I endured the humiliation to preserve my life for making great achievements in future.” Han Xin is best remembered as a brilliant military leader for the strategies and tactics he employed in warfare, some of which became the origins of certain Chinese idioms. In recognition of Han Xin`s contributions, Liu Bang conferred the titles of “King of Qi” on him in 203 BC and “King of Chu” in the following year. However, Liu Bang feared Han Xin`s growing influence and gradually reduced his authority, demoting him to “Marquis of Huaiyin” in late 202 BC. In 196 BC, Han Xin was accused of participating in a rebellion and lured into a trap and executed on Empress Lü Zhi`s orders. For more information go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Han_Xin
Ming Pottery Roof Tiles / Liuli Wa :
According to traditional Chinese belief, roofs are platforms of communication between the words of the living and spirit realms. Consequently they were decorated to ward off evil and to act as a magnet for blessings and good fortune. Marco Polo was struck by the visual effect of these brightly coloured tiles, remarking while describing Khubilai Khan`s palace at Dadu (modern day Beijing) The roof is all ablaze with scarlet and green and blue and yellow and all the colours that are, so brilliant varnished that it glitters like crystal and the sparkle of it can be seen from far away. The Chinese had made ceramic tiles from early times but it was the Ming dynasty that saw the largest period of production, much of this was based in Shanxi Province at small family run kilns that passed down from generation to generation. Glazed tile-work is known in China as Liuli Wa, literally `roof-tile of glass`, a term dating back to the Tang Dynasty (618-906) although Tang tiles are now very rare. The soft earthenware used to make Ming tiles varies but often is uneven in its constitution with lots of grog. The tiles were mould made with a large amount of hand working, giving a completely hand-made look with lots of sharp detail and undercutting. They were lead glaze and low fired which means the glaze often runs. There were two basic colour schemes used Sancai (greens,yellows and browns) and the darker palette of Fahau (turquoise, blue and purple). The dating of Chinese glazed tiles, which were made over a long period of time with little change, is difficult. Knowing when the building they came from was build doesn`t help as tiles, exposed to the elements, needed replacing from time to time and so a building might contain tiles made over several centuries. However an approximate chronology can be understood, and with the study tile construction replacements can be identified as being different to the genuine Ming examples.