Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Mount Penglai, mythical isle of the immortals

Penglai, Hourai
Mount Penglai (Japanese pronunciation 'Hourai'), or Penglai Island, is an isle from Chinese mythology. According to Shan Hai Jing ("Anthology of the Mountains and Seas"), an ancient book dating back to the Warring States era : "Penglai Mountain stands in the midst of the sea." Penglai is also mentioned in the Taoist classic Liezi (dating back to the Spring-Autumn/Warring States eras) as one of the 5 mythical islands of the Bohai Sea.

The popular legend of "The 8 Immortals Crossing the Ocean" was also set on Penglai Island.

Source: Baidu entry on Penglai Mountain

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Zhuge Liang, husband of the inventor Huang Yueying

Zhuge Liang, Kong Ming
Zhuge Liang (181-234 CE), courtesy name Kongming, was a Shu Kingdom politician and military strategist during China's Three Kingdoms era. He is the putative inventor of the sky lantern, aka the Kongming lantern. (Sky lanterns were appropriated by Disney in the 2010 animated film Tangled.)

His wife Huang Yueying, an inventor of automata, was behind of one of Kongming's best known technological innovations, "wooden ox and flowing horse", a military transport used to supply the Shu Army. According to "The Corpus of Zhuge, Marquis of Zhongwu", compiled by by Zhang Shu of the Qing Dynasty:
"When Lord Zhuge dwelled in Longzhong, some visitors arrived. He asked his wife Lady Huang to make noodles. The noodles were ready within a very short time. The Marquis marvelled at his wife's speed, and later observed her work in secret. He saw multiple wooden people cutting noodles and milling flour at the speed of flight. He then supplicated his wife to teach her craft to him. Later he adapted her techniques to create the wooden ox and flowing horse."1
Similar accounts exist in the the Ming Dynasty work "Anthology of Zhuge of Zhongwu", and the 1709 "Compendium of Zhuge, Marquis of Wu."1