The Chinese Written Language



The Chinese very early saw that a sophisticated, loose and elegant style of writing was a clear sign  of intellectual prowess and ethical refinement.


The written language has changed very little from its origins more than three thousand years ago.  There are several characters here that are written the same way they are today.


All of the countries around China, Japan, Korea, Viet Nam, Singapore, saw her as the Middle Country, the giant in their midst, so that even today China may be written as the “center.” Center country.


See how the line is drawn through the center of the rectangle on the left?


There are other ways to write “China” but this is the one that is easiest and most often used.



“Sun” was originally drawn as a circle with a dot in the middle, and it evolved into this character.


And this is moon.

bright ming

Putting the sun and moon together made a brilliant light, so the meaning of this combination of sun and moon is “bright, enlightened” (ming).

ming coin

You can see the word “ming” on this coin.  The Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) was a brilliant time of exploration, new ideas.

bright mirror still water

This means “bright mirror still water.”  It is a four character summary of a Chinese Taoist text used for meditation in Zen Buddhism to suggest a calm and clear state of mind. The first character is ming which can be mei in Japanese. Meikyoo shisui.

kurosawa akira

When ming is used in Japanese as a given name, it can be pronounced Akira and it is the “first” name of director Kurosawa Akira.


This character ben is a pictograph of a tree with the root emphasized. It means root, origin, source.


When the root character is put together with the character for sun, it means Japan, the origin of the sun because to the Chinese Japan was to the east and so was the land of the rising sun. In Japanese these characters are pronounced Nihon.    Sun root.


Míng bái means “understand” or “clear.”  The second character means “white, bright, clear.”


This is how the character for woman evolved.


And this is child. See how her arms are stretched out?

good hao

The Chinese write woman and child together to mean good (hao).

hello ni hao

This is how you say “hello” in Chinese:  Ni hao.  You good?


If you put woman under a roof, the meaning is peace, tranquility.


If you put a child under a roof, the meaning is “letter,” because children learned their letters under a roof.


If you put a pig under a roof, the meaning is “family” or “home.”


Putting a woman next to a home is the Chinese way of writing “to marry a man.”

qi wife

A woman with a broom is a wife.


The character for tree or wood is very straightforward.

plum li

A child under a tree is how Chinese write “plum.”


This character plum is pronounced LI (lee). It is the second most common surname in China, but the most common surname on planet Earth, because we have many Lees here and they have many, many Lees there.


Two trees are a wood and three trees mean “forest.”

east dong

When you see the sun rise through a tree, that means “east.”


The Chinese have simplified their written language so that the character to the left above is how “east” is written today. Traditionalists like me regret the passing of the old beautiful ways, but we have to recognize that this makes life simpler for a billion plus people.  You do lose a sense of the etymology of the words, though. It is rather as if in English we would spell history histree thus losing the idea of “story.”


Tokyo means “east capital,” and the Japanese write it like this.

east capital

But the Chinese now write it like this.

dong east

You know what I mean? We lose a bit of history here.


“West” (xi) was originally a drawing of a nest because birds nest when the sun goes down.  This still looks a bit like a bird in a nest, doesn’t it?

mountain shang

“Mountain” is a drawing of a mountain. Shang. Shan.


There is a province in China called Shanxi. Now you know why it is called that.  Because it is a mountain in the west.


North   East   South   West

san yama

The Japanese pronounce mountain “san” and their beautiful mountain is called Fujisan.  ”Yama” is the native Japanese word for “mountain,” so they say Fujiyama or Fujisan, but never Fujiyamasan, as I said when I first went to Japan at age six. I was saying Mount Mount Fuji in effect. Rather like someone saying “We’re going to the El Sombrero tonight.”


When the Japanese adopted the Chinese writing there was trouble making a fit, because Chinese is an extremely analytical language and Japanese is as inflected as Latin, so the Japanese created no less than three different systems of writing so they could add endings and prefixes to Chinese words.

shan mountain

Adding to the complexity was the fact that the Japanese often adopted the Chinese word as well as the writing of it, so that there are many, many pairs like “yama” and “san” in Japanese. Almost every noun, it seems, has a native Japanese word and then a Chinese borrowed word for its name.

child zi

The character for child above is called zi in Chinese, as we have seen, but in Japanese it can be SHI, SU, ko, -go and most nouns have this many pronunciations.


This character, by the way, is the ending for women’s names which was very common until the advent of womens’ liberation. Women were called Yuriko, Yukiko, Hanako, Yoko, Chisuko, Tomiko, where the -ko was written with this character which means “child.” Now many women have dropped this -ko.  


My friend Yukiko made this beautiful flower arrangement.


This character for heart is a fairly accurate anatomical drawing of the heart and it is pronounced xin in Chinese. In Japanese the pronunciation is SHIN, close enough to xin. The native word in Japanese for heart is kokoro and -gokoro in combinations.


This is the old way of writing “love” in Chinese and the Japanese still write it this way. Note that heart is there in the middle of the character which is pronounced ai in Chinese.


In China they now write “love” this way, so it lost its heart.


Too bad.


Here are some “heart” words. This one is “think, recall,” pronounced SHI, omo(u) in Japanese.


“Bad, evil.”   Pronunced AKU, waru(i) in Japanese.




“Sad, sorrowful.”   Pronounced bei in Chinese and HI, kanashii in Japanese. The top part of this character means “not,” so not heart = sad.


Grass or herb can be written this way.  The line at the top of this character with two other lines through it is used in many words relating to plants. This is called “the grass radical.”


The character for young has the grass sign, probably because grass is spring and youth.


This kanji (kanji = han letter, Chinese letter) is gei which means “art(s),” especially the popular arts like music, weaving, origami, crafts.


A geisha is an art person.


This character also has the grass crown. This is “flower” which is KA or hana in Japanese. When I go to Hana on Maui, I always think of this character because there are so many flowers. The pronunciation is hua in Chinese. This was originally a man falling head over heels with the grass symbol added on top.


This is bamboo. Zhú.


Tea.  Chá. You probably know the word chai.  Same difference.



Cha iro is Japanese for tea color, brown.


At the top of this character is the “grass” radical and it is used to write this word: plant.

medicine grass music

This is the grass radical combined with the character for music which makes the word “medicine.” Grass (herb) and music to mean medicine gives an insight into the Chinese view of healing at the time this character was formulated.


The Chinese write “brave” or “hero” this way to imply that the person is in the jungle (grass component) in a large space.

ying kuo

Because the pronunciation is “ying” they use this character to write England.  Ying guó. Brave country.  England is a brave country, but the ideogram seems chosen more for its sound than for meaning.

mei koku

Characters are often chosen for their sounds, especially if they are complimentary.

mei guo ren

“America” is called mei koku (beautiful country) in Japan and mei guo in China because those names sound like “America.” Mei guo ren is an American, a beautiful country person.

Pa ris greatly desire village

“Paris” was often written in China with two characters that sound like Pa ri and mean “greatly desire village.”  There are a lot of puns and rebuses involved in writing of foreign names.


The character for “horse” evolved somewhat like this.


In Chinese this horse character is pronounced ma and in Japanese BA, uma.

Chinese Horse with script

Many of the characters for animals have four legs.

a run, gallop

This horse radical is used to write to run, to gallop.


This is a station, like a railway station or a bus station. It dates from when horses were the main mode of transportation. Pronunciation is EKI. This is a useful word to be able to read if you live in Japan.


This will give you some idea of the stroke order involved in making these characters. The order of drawing the strokes is very well established. Learning it, I believe, was what led me to become an artist.  The stroke order in Chinese writing is logical and well thought out.


In Chinese, fish have legs.  Well, they did before the Chinese Communists simplified the written language and did away with legs altogether, replacing them with a single stroke. The Japanese and the people of Taiwan still write the character for fish with the legs.


It evolved in something like this manner.

kingyo goldfish

In China now, “goldfish” is written like this. The character on the left means “gold.” The character on the right is how the Chinese write fish now. One stroke for the old four strokes. More efficient, more convenient, but something is lost.

year of the goldfish

This is the year of the goldfish.

person people

Person is written like this.


So mermaid or merman is written like this.  A person fish.


This is the character for eternity and it contains every kind of stroke used in Chinese calligraphy.

shiawase da

In Japanese for “I am happy,” you can say “Shiawase da.


The first character on the left is called by the Japanese KOO, saiwa(i), sachi or shiawa(se).  It means good fortune or happiness.


If you really want to express happiness, you write the character twice… double happiness.


You see this double happiness character everywhere, especially in San Francisco, because everyone wants to be doubly happy and fortunate.

double bonheur

Artists challenge themselves to see how loosely, elegantly and artistically they can make this word double happiness and yet still have it be understoo0d.


Can you still read the two happinesses here?


Of course this is a wonderful message for weddings and anniversaries because there are two characters for two people.  Looks a bit like kissing, doesn’t it?


My friend Peggy Pettigrew Stewart is a glass artist and she may want to consider using some variation of this beautiful image in her work.

two happy

Double your pleasure, double your fun, double your happiness everyone.


When characters were written on bones and bronze, double happiness looked like this.

jade double

Here it is in jade. Can you still read it?


And some modern silly versions.


We’ll see you next week?

doble felicidad






Hydromancy:   Divination by means of signs derived from water, its tides and ebbs.

a Don & Cathy

Don Graham and Cathy Richardson in Miami.

a train

Can I take this train to San Francisco?    Why would you want to?  It’s already going there.


He was a gyspsy. He had golden fingers, silver hands and crystal balls.


Paul Ryan:  Obama is not creating enough new jobs.      Obama: Hey, Paul, didn’t you just get a new job?


As you get older three things happen. The first is your memory goes, and I can’t remember the other two.


Artist to model:   Here comes my wife, quick, take off your clothes!






Life stands before us like an eternal spring with new and brilliant clothes.


“Maybe your other models let you kiss them,” she said.   “I’ve never tried to kiss a model before,” he swore.  ”Really? How many models have you had?  ”Four.  A jug, two apples and a vase.”


We’ve got a deeply flawed political system with an insane overreaching extremist element, with a Supreme Court that is completely loony.


As long as I can lift a microphone, then I’ll still do it.


When it comes down to the music, it’s just you and the microphone. It’s not you and the record execs.




I’d rather regret the things I’ve done than regret the things I haven’t done.

auto portrait

Wes Wilson’s self portrait?


I’m not funny. What I am is brave.

aeft handed


Luck to me is something else: Hard work.


If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it. The more things you do, the more you can do.


It’s a helluva start, being able to recognize what makes you happy.


Writing briefly takes far more time than writing at length.



I’m sure that many people must feel this way:  I don’t listen to my music or look at photographs of me.  It’s just too painful.


Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you’re missing by going so fast. You also miss the sense of where you’re going and why,


I was thinking about how people seem to read the Bible a whole lot more as they get older.  They are not young and energetic enough to get in trouble anymore, so they think they may as well start cramming for that final exam.


If you’re going to do something, make it right and make it as good as you can. Don’t waste anybody’s time, especially your own.



Not only do I not know what the problems are, I wouldn’t even know how to solve the problems if I did know.


The ability to delude yourself may be an important survival tool.


One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor.   (True story.)


When I see the Ten Most Wanted list at the Post Office, I always think, hey, if we’d made them feel wanted earlier, they wouldn’t be wanted now.


In cartoons, the person on the left speaks first.

polly chris

To have a liberal temperament is a kind of  advantage, To be able to understand that someone you disagree with is not a terrible person but just somebody with whom you disagree.


You’re only given a slight dose of madness. You mustn’t lose it.


I prefer highs and lows to an even keel. Moderation has never been my strong point.


Billionaires are quoted as if the fact that they are billionaires gives them some kind of wisdom.


Comedy should be about attacking the powerful – the politicians, the Trumps, the blowhards. We shouldn’t be attacking the vulnerable.


I’m too old to die young and too young to grow up.


I don’t like doing it. I like having done it.


I don’t know any jokes.  I wish I did.


If it’s the Psychic Channel, why do they need a phone number?


Other than the law of gravity, laws have never really worked out for me.


I feel awkward at parties.   Maybe you’re supposed to feel awkward at parties.



Brave doesn’t mean you’re not afraid.   Brave means you’re afraid but you go ahead anyway.




I am probably a pseudo-intellectual.


Kim Nomad Anthea sidiropoulos

Once in his life, every man is entitled to fall madly in love with a gorgeous redhead.


Money can’t buy poverty.


I have to do something that is interesting, or else I am lost.


Women and humor are linked very closely.


Weather forecast for tonight:   Dark.


I have proved to my own satisfaction that I am a little crazier than I think.


I always wanted to be Ray Charles.


Sexual harassment at work… is it a problem for the self-employed?


I’m reading a book.   You know, it’s kind of like a web log, only longer.


When I have clarified and exhausted a subject, I turn away from it and go into darkness again.


Is it really that important?  I mean, it’s just rock and roll.  It’s not like it’s sub atomic physics or something.


The idea of having Australians upset at me is just awful.


I’ve only been talented about seventy-four percent of the time.


I had a normal childhood.  Maybe too normal.


Music, like most things, is about listening to other people.


Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.


The very existence of assault rifles proves that some time, somewhere, someone said, “Hey, I want those people over there to be dead, but I’m just not close enough to get the job done.”


My feet are all right, I guess. Kind of ordinary, but OK.


Women are interesting, not for the way they relate to men, but for the way they relate to each other.


I’m mostly an improviser.


She had charisma as a child but got over it by the time she grew up.



Start each day off with a smile and get it over with.


I cook with wine.  Sometimes I even add it to the food.


The best cure for insomnia is to get a lot of sleep.



A rich person is nothing but a poor person with money.


Some things are better than sex, and some things are worse than sex, but nothing is quite like sex. Especially sex in all of its true glory, as seen on sites such as so regularly.


Horse sense is what keeps horses from betting on people.


I absolutely realize that a celebrity spokesperson is not ideal.


The glass is always half empty.  And cracked.  I think I just chipped my tooth on it.


Let’s be very honest about what this is about. It’s not about bashing Democrats, it’s not about taxes, they have no idea what the Boston tea party was about, they don’t know their history at all. They don’t even know how to spell. This is about hating that a black man is in the White House.


Self-esteem comes from what you think of you, not what other people think of you.


I live in Brooklyn.


I think serial monogamy says it all.


To me, there is no greater act of courage than being the one who kisses first.

bhil's note

Mr. Putin, send us these three, and we’ll send you these three.


My family’s menu consisted of two choices:  take it or leave it.


The pen is mightier than the sword, and a lot easier to write with.


I’m a liberal inside a liberal’s body.


I’ve had a few arguments with people, but I never carry a grudge because I can’t remember anything.


Some of the funniest people I know are not screwed up in the head.


Golf is more fun than walking through a strip mall naked, but not by much.


I’ve learned sometimes you just have to take the bad from people.


Many jokes state an otherwise unpalatable truth.


If I can get a sanitized version of reality, I’ll take it.


I don’t understand why, in entertainment, the hours are as long as they are. It seems like everything takes forever, and no one can tell you why exactly.  And don’t get me started on sound checks.


I have only one real hobby… my wife.


If you could understand Morse code, a tap dancer would drive you crazy.


Adyson Graham

I’m a big believer in luck. The harder you work, the luckier you get.

narada lynn

I first fell in love with music when I was a little boy. When I first heard music, I felt the beauty in it. Then, being able to tap along on a table top and box was great, but my favorite thing to do was to watch records spin. I would almost get hypnotized by it. These things are what drew me in initially.


Rice is great if you’re really hungry and want to eat two thousand of something.


I’m a walker. I enjoy walking, which I think psychologically expresses my feelings of wanting liberation without exerting myself too much.


I used to do drugs. I still do drugs. But I used to, too.


Always go to the bathroom when you have a chance.


When I was a child, every book was a children’s book.


Not a day of my life passes without someone saying “Janis Joplin.”   That’s not bad.



I like being an old rock musician.  It’s like being an old soccer player.  I’m in the museums and that’s nice, but I’m no longer the person in the limelight, on the spot, doing that thing.


Turkey is the only country on two continents.



I think comedy comes from a low sense of self esteem, and I certainly have that.


I haven’t slept for ten days, because that would be too long.


You look just like you.


Tracey Ullman, Carol Burnett, Gilda Radner, Lily Tomlin… champions.



There are no black people in Afghanistan, so how will they know who to shoot at?


Fettucini alfredo is macaroni and cheese for adults.


I spent a large part of my youth in Asia and Europe where the history comes from.


If there is a god, her plan is a lot like not having a plan.


School doesn’t end when it ends. School is forever.


No matter how old you are there’s always something good to look forward to.


Realizing that no matter what success you’ve achieved, you can still make enemies makes you humble.



Life is a novel. You write a lot of it and someone else writes a lot of it, but you get to write the ending all by yourself.


As far as I’m concerned, ‘whom’ is a word that was invented to make everyone sound like a butler.

Aunt  Bea

Oh, no, it’s just Aunt Bea.     (Cathy Richardson’s way of singing, “Oh, no, it just can’t be” in I Need A Man To Love.)


Believe in yourself and try not to take anything personally.


I know this woman and her eyes are far more beautiful even than they are in this photograph.


Women aren’t as mere as they used to be.


Marriage is nature’s way of keeping us from fighting with strangers.


We’ve all made mistakes that are similar in just trying to get by or make some money or feel good about ourselves.


Nice to see fresh faces on the political scene in this country.


Banks have a new image. Now you have ‘a friend,’ your friendly banker. If the banks are so friendly, how come mine sold my mortgage to someone else to avoid having to comply with a foreclosure law?


A lot of people believe what other people say.


I don’t think anyone steals anything, but we all borrow.



Every war is won and lost.  Someone else’s pain and joy are as important as your own.


Everyone responds to kindness.

Sam Jersey Boy drawing

See you next week?


The Baroque


The age of the Baroque (1600-1750) was the Roman Catholic Church’s response to the Protestant Reformation which had happened in the century before.


The Reformation was a hard, biting, burning, purifying time of extreme measures, necessary, salutary in some aspects, but very difficult to live through.


The Reformationists burned books and monasteries and smashed statues and other “idolatrous” objects, scraping all of the art, ornamentation, fun and frivolity out of their religion.


In response to this dour, severe, doctrinal era, the Church embarked on a program of restoration, a new way of living that became known as the Counter Reformation.


The purpose of the Counter Reformation was aimed at remedying some of the abuses challenged by the Protestants earlier in the 16th century.


The Baroque which grew out of the Counter Reformation was an age of exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted detail to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur in sculpture, painting, architecture, literature, dance and music.


The style began around 1600 in Rome and spread to most of Europe.


Concilium Tridentinum, the Council of Trent, who met in Trento, Italy,  between December 13, 1545, and December 4, 1563 in twenty-five sessions for three periods. was an embodiment of the ideals of the Counter Reformation and was considered to be one of the Church’s most important councils.


Trento was  then the capital of the Prince Bishopric of Trent of the Holy Roman Empire.


The popularity and success of the Baroque style was initiated by the Catholic Church which had decided at the Council of Trent, in response to the arid, purifying doctines of the Reformation, that the arts should communicate religious themes in direct and emotional involvement straight into the hearts of the common people.

Pope Paul III Tiziano

The aristocracy cooperated with this goal because they saw the dramatic style of Baroque architecture and art as a means of impressing visitors and expressing triumphant power and control.  Tiziano (Titian) did this portrait of Pope Paul III (Paulus PP III), who was born Alessandro Farnese.


Baroque palaces are built around an entrance of courts, grand staircases and reception rooms of increasing opulence.

Baroque pearls

The term baroque, by the way, comes from the Portuguese word barroco, meaning misshapen pearl.  These misshapen pearls are beautifully dramatic in their irregularity.


These are still called baroque pearls today. The era is named for the pearl and not the other way round.


In the Baroque period, the Roman Church realized the power that art could have to inspire and, therefore, she became preoccupied with extravagance and display. There was a stagey, theatrical quality to the works in the Baroque which were often highly emotional and done in mixed media.  Much Baroque sculpture added extra-sculptural elements, concealed lighting, or water fountains, or fused sculpture and architecture to create a transformative experience for the viewer.

17 bernini ludovica

The intent was to overwhelm viewers, catch their attention, and make them want to see more. This is Ludovica by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, one of the greatest sculptors of all time, whose talents were perfectly suited to the Baroque.


Entering a Baroque church where visual space, music and ceremony were combined inspired the loyalty of congregations.


The bigger and more beautiful the space, the more people wanted to enter it.

Santa Caterina Palermo

Complex geometry, curving and intricate stairway arrangements and large-scale sculptural ornamentation offered a sense of movement and mystery within the Baroque palace of worship.


It was the reverence for the church that provided funding for more and more building projects which, in turn, brought even more worshipers into the city –as many as five times the permanent population during a Holy Year.


With this boom in tourism, a continuing job opportunity arose for the citizens of Rome.


The construction industry soon became the largest employer in the city.

Jean-Philippe Rameau

Music filled these churches. The term “baroque” was, in fact, first applied to music. It was a perjorative term at first, as most labels are. An anonymous writer in the Mercure de France (May 1734) noted that the opera of Jean-Philippe Rameau, Hippolyte et Aricie, was “du barocque,” was endless dissonance, constantly changing in key and meter, and was a pastiche of every compositional device.  You know? What people always say about new music.


One hundred and fifty years, from 1600 to 1750, our Baroque period, is a long time in the history of music, however, and there has been much difficulty about  giving the same label to Monteverdi’s music and to Händel’s or to Henry Purcell’s.


The Church, in her zeal to appeal to the common people, wanted music that was simpler in texture than the polyphony of the Renaissance, so there was a need for a melody and accompaniment instead. The music of the Baroque, ornamented though it be, is basically a melody with chords supporting that melody.


The Florentine Camerata was a group of humanists, musicians, poets and intellectuals in late Renaissance Florence who gathered under the patronage of Count Giovanni de’Bardi to discuss the arts, especially music and drama.


Their ideal was a classical musical drama that valued discourse and oration, and they deplored their contemporaries’ use of polyphony and instrumental music, discussing such ancient Greek music devices as monody, which consisted of a solo singing accompanied by a kithara.


The working out of this ideal, including Jacopo Peri’s Dafne (1597), considered to be the first opera, inspired Baroque music.


Ironic that a simple ideal of singing to the accompaniment of a stringed instrument spurred the growth of such a baroque form as opera.


Jacopo Peri’s L’Euridice was performed as part of the Marie de’Medici and Henri IV wedding celebrations in 1600.

Louis XIV Antoine Coysevox

Louis XIV personified the age of absolutism (L’état, c’est moi.) and his style of palace and manners became the model for the rest of Europe. The realities of rising church and state patronage created the demand for organized public music such as chamber music.


There was a gradual institutionalization of forms and norms, particularly in opera. As with literature, the printing press and trade created an expanded international audience for music.


The middle Baroque period in Italy saw the emergence of the cantata, oratorio, and opera during the 1630s, the bel canto style, one of the most important contributions to the development of Baroque, which was a new concept of melody and harmony that elevated the status of the music to one of equality with the words.


The florid, coloratura monody of the early Baroque gave way to a simpler, more polished melodic style, usually in a ternary rhythm.


These melodies were built from short ideas often based on stylized dance patterns drawn from the sarabande or the courante, the gigue, the pavane.


This harmonic simplification ushered in the recitative and the aria. The most important innovators of this style were the Romans Luigi Rossi and Giacomo Carissimi, who were primarily composers of cantatas and oratorios.


Jean-Baptiste Lully (Giovanni Battista Lulli) was a court composer, born in Firenze (Florence), to a family of millers. He used to say that a Franciscan friar gave him his first music lessons and taught him guitar. He also learned to play the violin.


In 1646, dressed as harlequin during Mardi Gras and amusing bystanders with his clowning and his violin, the boy attracted the attention of Roger de Lorraine, chevalier de Guise, who was returning to France and was looking for someone to converse in Italian with his niece, Mademoiselle de Montpensier. Guise took the boy to Paris, where the fourteen year-old entered Mademoiselle’s service and from 1647 to 1652 he served as her “chamber boy” (garçon de chambre).


Lully’s talents as a guitarist, violinist, and dancer quickly won him the nicknames “Baptiste“, and “le grand baladin” (great street-artist).


He did indeed grow into a great artist, and he collaborated with Molière on a series of comédie-ballets, and used this success to become the sole composer of operas for the king.


Lully knew what le roi Louis wanted, which explains his rapid shift to church music when the mood at court became more devout. His thirteen completed lyric tragedies are based on libretti that focus on the conflicts between the public and private life of the monarch.

arcangelo corelli

Lully’s near contemporary, Arcangelo Correlli, improved musical technique by insisting on better intonation.  The style of execution introduced by Corelli and preserved by his pupils was of vital importance for the development of violin playing. It has been said that the paths of all of the famous violinist-composers of 18th and 19th centuries Italy led to Arcangelo Corelli who was their “iconic point of reference” and he created a beautiful flow of melody in purely instrumental music, such as the concerto grosso.


Lully was the man at court, but Corelli published widely and had his music performed all over Europe.


The concerto grosso is built on strong contrasts— sections alternate between those played by the full orchestra, and those played by a smaller group.


There were sharp jumps between loud and soft.  Fast sections and slow sections were juxtaposed against each other.

antonio vivialdi

Antonio Vivaldi studied with Corelli and later composed hundreds of works based on Corelli’s trio sonatas and concerti.


Meanwhile in England, Henry Purcell produced a profusion of music and was deservedly popular in his lifetime. Purcell was a fluid composer, able to shift from simple anthems and useful music such as marches, to grandly scored vocal music and music for the stage. He was very prolific and was also one of the first great keyboard composers, whose work still has influence and presence. I played many of his pieces on the guitar and still love them. When I was 18, I used to go to a place called The Old Spaghetti Factory in North Beach on Sunday nights and listen to a small ensemble conducted by Donald Pippin play Purcell’s music.

dietrich buxtehude

Dietrich Buxtehude was not a creature of court but he a was church musician, holding the posts of organist and Werkmeister at the Marienkirche at Lübeck. He organized and directed a concert series known as the Abendmusiken, which included performances of sacred dramatic works regarded by his contemporaries as the equivalent of operas.


Johann Sebastian Bach was, of course, the towering figure of Baroque music.  During his life, he was better known as a teacher, administrator and performer than composer, being less famous than either Handel or Georg Philipp Telemann.


In 1723 Bach settled at the post he was associated with for virtually the rest of his life: cantor and director of music for Leipzig. His varied experience allowed him to become the town’s leader of music both secular and sacred, teacher of its musicians.


Bach composed a church cantata for every Sunday and holiday of the year. He also created the St. John Passion, the St. Matthew passion, the Christmas Oratorio and the Mass in B minor, works that seem to be divine.


Bach expanded the depths and the outer limits of the Baroque homophonic and polyphonic forms. He used every contrapuntal device possible and every acceptable means of creating webs of harmony with the chorale. His fugues, preludes and toccatas for organ, and the baroque concerto forms, have become fundamental in both performance and theoretical technique. He summed it all up and brought it forward.


These are all composers whose music I was playing in various recorder ensembles at the time that we began Big Brother and the Holding Company.


Georg Philipp Telemann was a particular favorite.  He was almost completely self taught and he had backed into a career in music.


In complete contradistinction to Bach, Telemann’s personal life was always troubled: his first wife died only a few months after their marriage, and his second wife had extramarital affairs and accumulated a large gambling debt before leaving him.


Telemann was one of the most prolific composers in history and was considered by his contemporaries to be one of the leading German composers. He remained at the forefront of all new musical tendencies and his music is an important link between the late Baroque and early Classical styles. Like Händel, Telemann knew everybody and did everything. Bach was his friend, but so was everyone.


Have you ever looked at a painting or a sculpture from before the age of photography and wondered if the subject really looked like that?  One way to verify such a question is to look at a depiction of a person by two different artists. Here is Giuliano Finelli’s portrait of Cardinal Scipione Borghese.

bernini scipio

And here is Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s depiction of the same man. Uncannily similar, aren’t they?  The bust above (Finelli’s) seems to depict a man who is more tired. His gaze is below eye level. Bernini’s portrait is more jaunty. Even the cardinal’s hat is at attention.

giuliano finelli

Finelli had worked in Bernini’s studio.


He was the “detail man,” perhaps more fascinated with dress and ornamentation than his mentor.

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Bernini’s virtuosity in carving marble and his ability to create figures that combine the physical and the spiritual make him one of the most important figures in the history of sculpture.


The Protestant Reformation (16th century) brought an almost total stop to religious sculpture in much of Northern Europe.  It was literally an iconoclastic age. Statues were smashed and church decorations were pulled apart.  Fundamentalism run rampant, as we see in our own time.


Partly in direct reaction to this iconoclasm, sculpture was deemed as important in the Baroque as it was in the late Middle Ages.  In the 18th century much sculpture continued on Baroque lines. The Fontana di Trevi was only completed in 1762 from a design by Bernini (1598–1680).  His architecture, sculpture and fountains are examples of the highly charged characteristics of Baroque style. The sculpture was cut deep in the Baroque to give a dramatic light and shadow effect.

man falling

Groups of figures spiraled around an empty central vortex, or reached outwards into the surrounding space.

bernini fontana 030

There were often multiple ideal viewing angles, and  a general continuation of the Renaissance move away from the relief to sculpture created in the round, and designed to be placed in the middle of a large space.


Even when he was actually doing a relief, Bernini made his subject virtually jump out of the frame. Notice how deeply the cuts are made in the piece, which gives an illusion of depth and heightens the emotion. The folds in the clothing are harmonized and have a personality of their own.

balthasar permoser-marsyas

Artists saw themselves as in the classical tradition, but admired the more “vulgar” Hellenistic and later Roman sculpture, rather than the more stately “Classical” styles.


The Baroque period had a distinctly popular aspect.  The eyelashes in this sculpture appear to be glued on.  Mixed media again.

carav rest on the flight into Egypt

Baroque painting is often identified with Absolutism, the Counter Reformation and the Catholic Revival, but it only began that way.  The existence of important Baroque art and architecture in non-absolutist and Protestant states throughout Western Europe underscores its widespread popularity.


Baroque artists chose the most dramatic point, the moment when the action was occurring. In the Renaissance, Michelangelo shows his David thoughtful and composed before battle with Goliath, but Bernini’s David is caught in the act of hurling the stone at the giant.


Baroque art was meant to evoke drama, emotion and passion instead of the calm rationality that had been prized during the Renaissance.

matthew Caravaggio

Baroque painters understood what Robert Crumb calls “the power of black.” Caravaggio painted directly from life and dramatically lit his figures against a dark background.  We used to call this “nightclub lighting.”  Here is Caravaggio’s depiction of the calling of Matthew, who was a tax collector, to come and follow Jesus.

matthew Hendrik Terbrugghen

And here is Hendrik Terbrugghen’s painting of the same subject.

artemisia gentilleschi 1620

Artemisia Gentilleschi’s beautiful paint it black version of Judith and Holofernes.


Rembrandt, who perhaps best caught the emotions of the soul as they play out on the face, also used the power of black, the chiaroscuro, in his work.

Giovanni Baglione sacred and profane love

Sacred and Profane Love by Giovanni Baglione is a truly remarkable painting, isn’t it?  I’m going to copy this one of these days.


The Council of Trent (Concilium Tridentinum 1545–63), in which the Roman Catholic Church answered many questions of internal reform raised by both Protestants and by those who had remained inside the Church, addressed the representational arts in a short and somewhat oblique passage in its decrees and demanded that painting and sculpture in church contexts should depict their subjects clearly and powerfully.


This return toward to a populist conception of the function of ecclesiastical art drove the innovations of Caravaggio and the Carracci brothers, all of whom were working (and competing for commissions) in Rome around 1600, although unlike the Carracci, Caravaggio was criticised for lack of decorum in his work.

Annibale, Ludovico, Agostino Carracci, Bolognese School

Annibale, Ludovico and Agostino Carracci.

Aelbert Cuyp 1620-1691

Significantly, in the Protestant countries, genres like still life, landscape and paintings of everyday life were more important.  There wasn’t a lot of work for religious painters.


I love this virtuoso style of painting used in the depiction of ordinary life.

Diego Velázquez

This is a Spanish version of everyday life, Diego Velázquez’ Old Woman Frying Eggs.

Jan Lievens

Jan Lievens who reminds me of Frans Hals.


And Hals’ portrait of Willem Heythuijsen (1634).

duke of lema rubens

Peter Paul Rubens’ almost lubricious painting of a horse.

Tancred_and_ErminiaNicolas Poussin

Nicolas Poussin was the leading painter of the classical French Baroque style, although he spent most of his working life in Rome. His work is characterized by clarity, logic, and order. Poussin likes line more than color.

salvator rosa silence is better

Salvator Rosa is off in some beautiful mystic place by himself. Silence is better than talk, says his placard.

Caspar Netscher (Dutch Baroque Era Painter, c 1635-1684) Young Woman

Caspar Netscher, a Dutch artist, knows how to paint a pretty woman.


And two “surrealist” works, this one by Rembrandt van Rijn.

Jan Steen the world turned upside down

And this by Jan Steen, The World Turned Upside Down.


On 1 January 1660, Samuel Pepys began to keep a diary. He recorded his daily life for almost ten years. The women he pursued, his friends and his dealings are all laid out. His diary reveals his jealousies, insecurities, trivial concerns, and his fractious relationship with his wife. It is an important account of London in the 1660s and probably the best diary in the English language. The Baroque time in England is known as the Restoration because of the reinstatement of King Charles II to the throne, so I am not completely sure that any of these people would be considered “Baroque,” even though their lifespans fall within the period 1600 – 1750.


Two of my favorite people ever, James Boswell and Samuel Johnson, were born in the Baroque era, and much of Boswell’s work is Baroque and beyond. Many of the episodes he narrates are as scary, outré, melodramatic, passionate and emotional as any Baroque painting or sculpture, only they are real life and told in a style that is as precise and vivid as Bernini’s or Bach’s.


Boswell’s journals are amazing, real and in three dimension. He puts you there.  His Life of Samuel Johnson is the greatest biography in English and maybe in any language. I read it over and over and always find something new and worthwhile in it.

fanny burney

Virginia Woolf called Fanny Burney “the mother of English fiction,” and is she ever. She wrote four novels that are as good or better than anyone else’s and her narration of her mastectomy is probably more Baroque than anything you would want to read. It is a searing document, honest and terrifying. Madame d’Arblay, as she was known in later life, came from a noted family of musicians and her observations on music are most interesting.


Restoration literature includes both Paradise Lost and the Earl of Rochester’s Sodom, the high spirited sexual comedy of The Country Wife and the moral wisdom of Pilgrim’s Progress, so this time in England doesn’t always fit well with the Baroque period on the Continent.


John Locke wrote his Two Treatises on Government at this time which also saw the founding of the Royal Society and the chemstry, the experiments and holy meditations of Robert Boyle.


John Dryden, who practically invented literary criticism, is seen as dominating the literary life of Restoration England to such a point that the period came to be known in literary circles as the Age of Dryden. Not incidentally, newspapers and coffeehouses came into being at this time.


The official break in literary culture caused by censorship and radically moralist standards under that savage group of fundamentalists, Cromwell’s Puritans, created a gap in literary tradition, allowing a seemingly fresh start for all forms of literature after the Restoration.


During the Interregnum, the royalist forces attached to the court of Charles I went into exile with the twenty-year-old Charles II, and saw for themselves the Baroque arts of continental Europe.


Hortense Mancini, Duchess of Mazarin,  arrived at the court of Charles II, in September of 1675, upon his invitation. She was well known as a patron of literature and the fine arts.


Nell Gwynne, “pretty, witty Nell,” as Samuel Pepys called her, had a comedic talent and a shrewd understanding of her time. Pepys puts these words in Nell’s mouth:  ” ‘I was but one man’s whore, though I was brought up in a bawdy-house to fill strong waters to the guests; and you are a whore to three or four, though a Presbyter’s praying daughter!’ which was very pretty.”


Aphra Behn was not only the first professional female novelist, but she may be among the first professional novelists of either sex in England. Behn’s most famous novel was Oroonoko in 1688. This was a biography of an entirely fictional African king who had been enslaved in Suriname, where Behn had actually lived. She explores slavery and gender in a racy way. Vita Sackville-West called Behn “an inhabitant of Grub Street with the best of them.”


The most famous plays of the early Restoration period are the unsentimental or “hard” comedies of Dryden, William Wycherley, and George Etherege, which  celebrate an aristocratic lifestyle of unremitting sexual intrigue and conquest.


The term Augustan literature derives from authors of the 1720s and 1730s, who responded to a term that George I used for himself.


While George I meant the title to reflect his might, the literary people instead saw in the term a reflection of Rome’s transition from rough and ready literature to the highly political and highly polished literature during the time of Caesar Augustus, Imperator Caesar Divi F. Augustus (Caius Octavius).


Because of the aptness of such a  metaphore, the period from 1689 – 1750 was called “the Augustan Age” by critics throughout the 18th century, including Voltaire and Oliver Goldsmith, who “wrote like an angel, but talked like Poor Poll,” in the words of Samuel Johnson.


This was the time when the English novel developed into a major art form. Daniel Defoe, who had been a journalist writing criminal lives for the press, began to write fictional criminal lives in books like Roxana and Moll Flanders.


Defoe also wrote a fictional treatment of the travels of Alexander Selkirk called Robinson Crusoe (1719).

Jonathan Swift’s prose style is unmannered and direct, with a clarity that few contemporaries matched. He was a profound skeptic about the modern world, but he was similarly profoundly distrustful of nostalgia. He saw in history a record of lies and vanity, and he saw in the present a madness of vanity and lies. I read Gulliver’s Travels when I was ten and was amazed at Swift’s prose style. There is such a sensible precision to it that is perfect for making the unreal real as he did in that book.


Swift believed that Christian values were essential, but these values had to be muscular and assertive and developed by constant rejection of smooth talking marketers and bogus preachers. In A Tale of A Tub, Swift detailed his skeptical analysis of the claims of the modern world.


After his “exile” to Ireland, Swift reluctantly began defending the Irish people from the predations of English colonialism.  A Modest Proposal and The Drapier Letters actually provoked riots and arrests.  Swift, who otherwise had no love for Irish Catholics was outraged by the English abuses and barbarity he saw around him.


An effect of the Licensing Act was to cause more than one aspiring playwright to switch over to writing novels. Henry Fielding began to write prose satire and novels after his plays could not pass the censors.


The pious Samuel Richardson had produced a novel intended to counter the deleterious effects of the new novel in his Pamela, or Virtue Rewarded (1740). Henry Fielding attacked the absurdity of Richardson’s book with two of his own works, Joseph Andrews and Shamela, and then countered Richardson’s Clarissa with Tom Jones. 


Laurence Sterne attempted a Swiftian novel, Tristram Shandy, which has always eluded me somehow, although I can see/feel that it is a very original work, much more adventurous and creative than Swift, but never really my cup of tea.  I took it as a cock and bull story.


Meanwhile, across the Channel and to the south, a Spanish Jesuit, Baltasar Gracián y Morales, S.J. (January 8, 1601 – December 6, 1658) was  the most representative writer of the Spanish Baroque literary style known as Conceptismo, of which he was the most important theoretician. His Agudeza y arte de ingenio (Wit and the Art of Inventiveness) is a poetic rendering of the conceptist style.


Gracián is now best known for the Oráculo manual y arte de prudencia, which was written in 1637.


The book is a collection of 300 maxims (aforísmos), each with a commentary, on various topics giving advice and guidance on how to live fully, advance socially, and be a better person.


A bad manner spoils everything, even reason and justice: a good one supplies everything, gilds a No, sweetens a truth, and adds a touch of beauty to old age itself.


The wise does at once what the fool does at last.


Beauty and folly are generally companions.


The sole advantage of power is that you can do more good.


Be content to act and leave the talking to others.


Things do not pass for what they are, but for what they seem.  Most things are judged by their jackets.


Friendship multiplies the good in life and divides the evil.


After the Renaissance which was the classical period of restraint and grace, the Baroque was twisted, emotional and extreme. The Baroque was the Hellenistic period of our time.

Ingres Portraits 4

After the Baroque came a short period of return to the classical ideal, Neoclassicism, which was a mostly French and rather short lived pastiche of Renaissance values which evolved into the Academic style of the 19th century.


After that, le déluge: impressionism, surrealism, Expressionism, the 20th century, Abstract Art, Pop Art.

Qui Legit Regit

Who reads, rules.

BBHC laminate sam


Aloft and Alow

BBHC Deutsch

Aloft and Alow

Nina Sophia

I’m happy to be alive, I’m happy to be who I am.


We just know inside that we’re queens. And these are the crowns we wear.

flute 7000 bce.gif

These flutes are about seven thousand years old.  The holes are in the same place where they are on woodwinds today.


The tallest building in the world is now in Dubai, the biggest factory in the world is in China, the largest oil refinery is in India, the largest investment fund in the world is in Abu Dhabi, the largest Ferris wheel in the world is in Singapore.

BBHC first poster Jan 66

One of my favorite times in life is after we’ve played the gig and we are driving home, tired and happy and contented. Soft conversation and companionship.


I’ve been imitated so well I’ve heard people copy my mistakes.


It’s better to die on your feet than to live on your knees, but neither one is a really a good time.


To read too many books is harmful?    Typical of something Mao Zedong would say.


You can have everything you want in life if you just help other people get what they want.

billie ella

Two people are inside us, the artist and the technician. You’re born an artist and then you have to grow the technician.


I cannot tell you how happy and in love with everything I am.

Sam Darby Donnie

I play music with good people so I can be inspired and so that I can inspire them.


So, are you praying to the Jewish Jesus, the baby Jesus in golden fleece diapers, the bilingual Mexican Jesús, the grown up Jesus or the ninja Jesus?


When virtue and modesty enlighten her charms, the luster of a beautiful woman is brighter than the stars of heaven, and the influence of her power it is in vain to resist. Akhenaton


God said to the angels, “I am going to create a beautiful land watered by a silvery river, with trees full of delicious dates, and I shall call this land Egypt. ” And the angels said, “Lord, don’t you think this is a little unfair to the rest of the world?”   And God said, “Just wait till you see whom I am giving them for neighbors.”


If paper beats rock, rock beats scissors and scissors beats paper, what beats everyone?   A redhead.


You feel touched and honored and alive when you give to someone.


Learning is exciting and it keeps you young.

tom cher

Happiness doesn’t come from applause. Happiness comes from believing that you have done something good and meaningful.

Lynn Asher

Why did the blonde smile in a lightning storm?  Because she knew that god was taking her photograph.


Are you not thinking what I’m not thinking?


Humility may be the mother of all the other virtues.


Or is it courage?  Is courage the mother of all virtues?  Hard to say.  What do you think?


Or gratitude?  Is gratitude the mother of all virtues?

John Sinclair

You have to be very courageous sometimes to have a positive attitude, because many foolish people assume that anyone with a positive attitude is naïve, uneducated, stupid, and there are a lot of foolish people, many of them rich and powerful.


I am comfortable telling people what my opinions are, but I have absolutely no need to convert them.  À chacun son goût.   I hope I am quoting that correctly. De gustibus non disputandum.  To each his own.  Suum cuique.  Whatever works for you.


I’ve never felt that I needed a lot of attention, but, then, I’ve never been to a psychiatrist either, so what do I know?


Better to be wise than smart.


You have to keep on living, even if it kills you.


If we all followed the Book of Leviticus, half the people in the United States would be executed tomorrow.


If there were a god, what would she think about the phrase, “holy war in the holy land?”

Lynn gamba

Doctor, I’ve been bitten on the leg by a werewolf!     Did you put anything on it?     No, he seemed to like it as it was.


Geek alert:   Calculus and alcohol don’t mix.     Don’t drink and derive.


Why did the tomato blush?    She saw the salad dressing.


How’s your millinery business going?   Oh, it’s sew, sew.     Berthe Morissot.


Did you hear about my favorite actress who just severed all her connections?   With her knife?     No, Witherspoon.


They were going to let her into Harvard, but she spelled Yale with a Six.

Elise corner

Elise corner.

Elise gold

Bachelors have consciences. Married men have wives.         Samuel Johnson


Why does Snoop Doggy carry an umbrella?      Fo’drizzle.


Hey… are you Jamaican? Because, JAMAICAN me crazy!


I was always too mature for my age – and not very happy. I had no young friends.  I wish I could go back to those days. If I could only live it all again, how I would play and enjoy the other girls. What a fool I was.        Maria Callas


Her surname is Shure. She said, “Do you think people know it?”  and I said, “Are you kidding? To musicians it’s like Coca-Cola or Frigidaire or Kleenex. The thing you have to worry about is that it will become so generic that you will lose the copyright.”


Shurely there must be things that you can do with a voice other than stand in front of a microphone and sing.

Kate Ko Samui

Kate Russo in Ko Samui, Thailand, playing some standards on the piano.


Cat says, “I would like a Bombay….  Martini,”  and the bartender says, “Why the long pause?” and she says, “Oh, I don’t know,  I’m just built that way.”


Better be wronged than wrong, better be cheated than cheat.


In my family tree, depending on which day it is, I’m either the bark or the sap.


We can’t add days to our lives, but we can add life to our days.


The more corrupt the country, the more laws it will have.

Cathy David Morgan

What do guitar players and a terrorists have in common?   They both destroy bridges.


I worked hard. Anyone who works as hard as I did can achieve the same results.   J.S. Bach


It’s far easier to sing to 250,000 people than it is to sing to 25.


When I sing, I feel like when you’re first in love. It’s more than sex. It’s that point two people can get to they call love, when you really touch someone for the first time, but it’s gigantic, multiplied by the whole audience. I feel chills.


Be quick to pardon, quick to forgive, offer your hand as long as you live.


Being happy at home is the best happiness.

Bonnie Glenfarg

True friends, like Brutus, will stab you in the front.

Bonnie Glenfarg a

We were in Glenfarg, eastern Scotland, between Edinburgh and Perth, in 2006 with our family Carla Piliwale, Edd Hart, Barbara Joy Langer, Barry Melton, Jerry Donohue… that was a good time.


All my life I have read the books I wanted to read, with very little direction and purpose.  It has worked for me, but I don’t know that I would recommend it to anyone else.


You will never meet a rich person who tries to convince you that having a lot of money will make your life easier.


People in general are kind but not really just.


Everyday meet someone new, a new idea, a new beginning, a new direction.


Self confidence and ability usually go together.

Glenfarg map

To spend life with a beautiful, happy woman, is anything better?


Women naturally have so much power that for a long time every law and custom sought to subjugate them.  In fact, this is still the case, but it’s never going to work, I’ll tell you that right now.


Have you ever walked into a magnificent library and thought, “Oh, my god, I will never read a fraction of these books.”  It’s rather like standing on the coast of the Pacific Ocean.


Sarah with her daughter Adyson in the wilds of Florida.


If a great tragedy happens to you, it might be worth considering how much a greater tragedy you have escaped.


Let each be happy in her own way, for what better way is there?

map Glenfarg

When you choose to be a musician, an actor, a poet, you are going against the odds.  As Ruth Gordon said, Success is a refusal to face facts.


Somehow we were given life.   Now it is up to us to live life well.


We all have to die.  Is that a tragedy?  Is it a comedy?  It’s OK with me.  Living forever could be, well, a little repetitious, even for the most creative mind.


I always have that secret hope that somehow I am not completely ridiculous in the eyes of women.


Don’t stand back and think how scary it is.    Grab the bull by the horns, not the tail.

How you treat those who are “less” than you… animals, children, the homeless, is the measure of your character.

Piliwale Road Maui

Nothing is so good to see as the happiness of one’s wife.


When you lie in bed at night and you think of all those things from so long ago, things that you wish you could call back and improve, the chance is now. Be a better person now and pay it back. Pay it back ever so slowly. If you live long enough, maybe you can pay it back enough and forgive yourself.


Life is a big Otis Elevator.  Some are going up, some are going down, some just get on to take a ride and have a look around.


If you really love what someone else has done, say so, and then you join in the beauty of it.


Music is the art of mixing pleasure with truth.


Pass quickly through your sadness.  Don’t give it any power.

Sam Grass Valley

Don’t think too much about a new project. Begin it. Do it.


Men are loud and full of bluster.   Women take care of life and give it luster.


There is no such thing as a wrong note.


Women always know where things are… unless we’re talking about car keys.


Being poor is no disgrace, but it is a very inconvenient place.


A good marriage is as much about friendship as it is about love.


If you really want to remember something, try to forget it.


If you believe that people are generally kind and honest, then you are probably kind and honest.


Life is short. Read the best books you can find. Leave the trashy ones far behind.


Doing what you love is labor without weariness.


You can never be great by imitating. The best you can do is get very close to your model but you will never be better than your model by imitating.


Perhaps better to imitate many models and pull together a style of your own.

Claudia Sam

I hate zoos for the same reason that I hate jails.


If you lie to someone, you hurt yourself more than you do the person who hears the lie.


If you really want to remember something, pay attention to it, think about it, note all of its peculiarities.  Sing it.


Another good measure of a person is what she would do if she knew she were never going to get caught.

lib and cher

Do your utmost to find your way into a world of beauty.


If you go into politics you must learn the art of entering a room and knowing who is for you and who is against you.  Great way to live, right?


I watch Fox News the way I would watch The Three Stooges or some buffoon program like The Gong Show. How ridiculous are they going to be this time?  In twenty years, mark my words, if they run this stuff on TV it is going to look far more ridiculous than the most corny aspects of, say, I Love Lucy or The Honeymooners.  But just as entertaining.


Immortality… it just seems to go on forever.


There have been two great accidents in my life. One was the trolley, and the other was Diego. Diego was by far the worst.


I don’t like to go to the movies to see violence or some kind of spy thing with all kinds of information you have to assimilate to understand the plot.  First of all, it’s almost always the kind of information you want nothing to do with in your real life. Shady, murky, power without purpose, might without meaning, machinelike and without soul.

Pamela des Barres 68450-5

I want a film that is going to entertain me, yes, but I also want that film to make me a better person.


The future comes quickly, and, before you know it, it’s the past.


Are you reading this in the bedroom?


Passionate love?  When you figure out how to make that last, let me know.  Otherwise, it’s a spiritual love, work, companionship, respect for the other, kindness.


We’re all going to die, so how do you want to live?


I’m not asking what the future has in store, I just take each day as a gift and enjoy it.


Praise is like chewing gum.  Enjoy it but don’t swallow it.


Stay on an even keel, be sharp, be wise, be real.


Nothing lasts… not even unhappiness.


Write something and then try to take as many words out of it as you can and still retain the meaning.




You learn most about yourself in hard times.


When it’s an uphill climb, stay calm, stay level in your mind.


Good health, a good conscience and a comfortable house, every now and then a delicious mouse.


A garden and friends and books… I have everything I need.


Experience is as a good a name as any for our mistakes.


Even while striving, stay calm and keep driving.


Don’t say good things about someone unless you mean them, and, if you mean them, say them all the time and loudly.


I’m so smart that I often don’t understand a word I’m saying.


People are wrong when they say pop music is not what it used to be. It is what it used to be. That is what’s wrong with it.


It is discouraging how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit.


Power without probity is pernicious.


Strength without scruple is sick.


Success is being able to do for a living that which makes you happy.


I never thought I would spend my life doing something fun.  Of course I never thought at all.


Inside I am still a geek, and maybe outside too.


You can do something great not by force, or even by talent, but simply by keeping at it.


It’s hard to fake creativity and humor.


All of us should be very thankful that life is unfair.


I like it when my avocations become my vocations.


I’ll go through life either in first class or in third, but never in second.


I read my favorite books over and over. I have probably read Boswell’s Life of Johnson ten times. And it’s not a little book in any sense.


There is a lot of craft behind comedy, but if comedy is done right, you never see the craft.


You can ask me almost anything and I will answer you as best I can.


I bet people never asked Edgar Varèse, “Hey, do you ever think of doing funny music?”


I try to do what is real, not ideal.


I travel so much that I love to be at home.


There are always two or three or four sides to every story.


What’s interesting about the process of playing music is how often you have no idea what you’re doing.


There’s a hidden link between absolute discipline and absolute freedom.


The old days were the old days and they were great days, but now is now.


If you practice a bit, you can be whatever kind of person you choose, so choose well.


Wit or pleasantry or humor is always to be encouraged… even puns.


People always think that performers are extraverts which is almost never the case in my experience.


Never go anywhere where you have to wear brown shoes.


I couldn’t wait for success, so I’ve gone ahead without it.


Finding fame later in life is much healthier.


If you ever see me in a social setting wearing any kind of sportswear, you’ll know I’m in trouble.


I’m not a royal family watcher… not really a watcher of any kind of celebrity, come to think of it.


It makes me happy when musicians get rich, because the odds against it are so great.



It’s a good thing I brought my library card, because I am checking you out.


I find it hard to relax around any man who’s got the second button on his shirt undone.


What do Alexander the Great and Sam the Ham have in common?     Their middle names.


I rarely leave my house.


I don’t want to associate myself with any specific group of politicians.


I did pick up a guitar once, but the strings hurt my fingers so I put it down again.


I’ve always been in the right place at the right time.  I put myself there.


When she started to play, Steinway came down personally and rubbed his name off the piano.


I’m Jewish, but I’m totally not.


Nothing is impossible. Some things are just less likely than others.


Of course there is other intelligent life in the universe, probably on hundreds, if not millions of planets. They are all so far away, however, that we may never find them. Space is immense. That’s a good name for it. Space.


I love to play with great guitar players.  Great guitar players make everything better.


I love criticism just so long as it’s unqualified praise.

BBHC Quicksilver Longshoreman's 26 July 1966

I’ve become a really honest person since I was a child, but I do have some overdue library fines.


Elise vogue

We’ll see you next week.


Sam Andrew

Monterey jazz

Big Brother and the Holding Company


Tools: part two

These are some of my tools:


When I go on the road with Big Brother and the Holding Company I take a set of pencils along and sketch in the mornings.

Winsor & Newton

Winsor & Newton brushes, although I’ll use anything that feels right, even a twig torn off a tree, which I have used many times.

JJ Hummingbird feathers

A Gibson Hummingbird guitar that Janis gave me. I use it for jazz mostly. It has a beautiful singing treble and a big throated bass.


Jim Dunlop guitar pick, two millimeters thick. Takes a lot to wear one out.

Sam Andrew Kristina Kopriva

Gibson Les Paul, easy to play, good sustain, shhh, can you hear it?

Sam buscard face

Paul Reed Smith gave me this guitar. I love it.


I have several of these snail-like tuners. They cost about $ 20 apiece. I can put two or three in my pocket. They replace a tuner that I used, but did not own, in the 1960s. It was a Hammond Strobo-Con and it sold for about $ 450 in 1960s money ($ 4,500 today?). It was larger than a shoebox, it had pretty purple lights and it was really an oscilloscope.


Shortly after the oscilloscope experience came a tuner that you could plug into the amp and it would emit a constant and annoying A 440. We used that for a while. We were a string band, like a string quartet, so our tuning wandered, did it ever.

Tone Controls - Mesa Boogie Subway Rocket

Mesa Boogie Subway Rocket, tiny and terrific.


I have other tools: Books, books under the couch, on the floor, on my desk, in the bathroom, some even in bookcases, on the kitchen table, in the car, in my bag, on my night table, in the bed, under the bed, in the closet, everywhere.


And let’s not forget this computer. It’s organic.


There are two stages of prehistory, the Paleolithic which began about two million years ago, and then the Neolithic which took hold in the Near East (Mesopotamia) about 10,000 BCE.

paleolithic era tools_only_pic

The tools of the Paleolithic were very basic, of course, and mostly used for food gathering.


Neolithic tools were much more complex stone instruments used for agriculture and building.


Homo Sapiens was first in evidence about 500,000 years ago and before that there was Homo Erectus, a very successful tool making species which arose about two million years ago, who learned to make fire.

homo erectus

Homo Erectus


Homo Habilis (handy man), the first species of human being, coexisted with hominids such as Paranthropus and Australopithecus afarensis (Lucy).


Making tools and teaching the making of tools to others is practiced in all human societies.


In the Upper Paleolithic, about 30,000 years ago, people began to make bows and arrows and spear throwers. They domesticated the wolf.


They made beautiful paintings on the walls of caves like Chauvet.


Paintings with as developed a sense of perspective, shading and drama as we can make today, and they did them 35,000 years ago.


They did their painting in the dark. Well, maybe they used a hollowed out stone, poured in some animal fat and made a wick out of hemp or some other fiber. That’s not that much light, though, there underground far from the cave’s mouth. Seventy of these lamps, in all shapes and sizes, were found on the floor of Lascaux.


Neanderthals, who had bigger brains than we do, but who were not as tall, took care of their old and infirm and they buried their dead.


There was even something of a cult of the dead in the Middle Paleolithic (100,000 – 50,000 years ago).


Neanderthals were most likely absorbed into Homo Sapiens populations such as the Cro-Magnons.


Around 10,000 BCE, a surprising thing happened. In different parts of the world, parts that had no way of communicating with each other, people began to hit on the idea of growing their food and domesticating animals. In the Near East, India, Africa, North Asia, Southeast Asia, and Central and South America this Neolithic Revolution fundamentally changed peoples’ lives.


This Revolution took two different roads: one went from gathering food to growing it, to plowing the fields.


The other path out of the Paleolithic went from hunting to herding and led to pastoral nomadism.


Where there was enough water, particularly in great river areas, agriculture prevailed.

old yurt scene mongolia

Where the land was too dry for farming, people kept herds of animals and led a nomadic life. Finding timberland for sale was not as easy as it is today either.


Mongols, Bedouins, the Sami (Lapp) people who still follow the reindeer, the people in the New World who domesticated llamas, all are examples of people who descended from hunters, not gatherers.


The people who settled in the great river valleys, the Nile, Mesopotamia (which means “in the middle of rivers”), the Indus-Ganges valley, the Yellow River valley, the Ohio Mississippi valley planted crops, were stable from year to year, formulated laws and customs and social classes, built cities, invented writing systems.


Civilization is all about water.


The Romans settled by the Tiber in the center of Italy.


They were the master engineers of the ancient world.


Technology is the world of farming, weaving, potting, building, transporting, healing, governing and, let’s not forget, glassmaking.


Glass objects have been recovered across the Roman Empire in domestic, industrial and funerary contexts. Glass was used mainly in vessels, although mosaic tiles and window glass were also produced. This is beach sand, the main ingredient in Roman glass.


Roman glass production developed from late Greek technical traditions, and was about the making of intensely colored cast glass vessels.


During the 1st century CE there was rapid technical growth in glassmaking and glass blowing. Colorless or ‘aqua’ glasses were important at this time.

roman glass

Production of raw glass was begun in one place and finished in another, and by the end of the 1st century CE large scale manufacturing resulted in the establishment of glass as a commonly available material in the Roman world, from everyday glass to technically very difficult specialized types of luxury products, which must have been very expensive.


At the beginning of the 1st century CE there was still no Latin word for glass. Vitrum came to be used and is the word that passed down into the Romance languages.


Glassmaking was a relatively minor craft during the Republican period (6th to 1st centuries BCE), although, during the early decades of the 1st century CE the quantity and diversity of glass vessels available increased dramatically.


This was a direct result of the massive growth of the Roman influence at the end of the Republican period, the Pax Romana that followed the decades of civil war, and the stability that occurred under Augustus.


Glassblowing, a major new technique in glass production which had been introduced during the 1st century CE. allowed glass workers to produce vessels with considerably thinner walls, decreasing the amount of glass needed for each vessel. Glass blowing was also considerably quicker than other techniques, and vessels required considerably less finishing, representing a further saving in time, raw material and equipment.


Although earlier techniques dominated during the early Augustan and Julio-Claudian periods, by the middle to late 1st century CE these techniques had been largely abandoned in favor of blowing the glass into shape.


Glassblowing is a glass forming technique which was invented by the Phoenicians around 50 BCE somewhere along the Syro-Palestinian coast.

Roman Glass Factory

The concentration of natron, which acts as a flux in glass, is slightly lower in blown vessels than those manufactured by casting. Lower concentration of natron allowed the glass to be stiffer for blowing.


The gaffer (glass blower) slowly blows into the tube and inflates the parison, the glass bubble. As it expands, the parison loses heat and becomes solid.


This is one of those beautiful changes in nature where a liquid suddenly becomes solid and is thus frozen forever. Amber, where sap becomes a jewel is one example. Using plaster of Paris where the whole mixture heats and suddenly becomes solid is another. Watching a drop of water almost fall from the eave of a house and then suddenly become solid ice is an example. In ceramics, the artist works with the watery clay which at one point becomes solid and will stay that way forever, which is an alchemy in itself. All of this change from a liquid impermanence to a solid forever lasting is so interesting to watch.


The two major methods of glassblowing are free-blowing and mold-blowing. Free-blowing involves the blowing of short puffs of air into a molten portion of glass (the gather) which has been spooled at one end of the blowpipe. This has the effect of forming an elastic skin on the interior of the glass blob that matches the exterior skin caused by the removal of heat from the furnace. The glassworker can then quickly inflate the molten glass to a coherent blob and work it into a desired shape.


Mold-blowing was an alternate glassblowing method that came after the invention of free-blowing, during the first part of the second quarter of the 1st century CE. A glob of molten glass is placed on the end of the blowpipe, and is then inflated into a wooden or metal carved mold. In this way, the shape and the texture of the bubble of glass is determined by the design on the interior of the mold rather than the skill of the glassworker, although it takes a great deal of skill just to blow this glass into that mold.


Single-piece mold and multi-piece mold were frequently used to produce mold-blown vessels. A single-piece mold allows the finished glass object to be removed in one movement by pulling it upwards from the mold. This method is for producing tableware and utilitarian vessels for storage and transportation.


A multi-piece mold is made in paneled mold segments that join together, thus permitting the development of more sophisticated surface modeling, texture and design.


This piece was blown in a three-part mold decorated with the foliage relief frieze of four vertical plants. After the discovery of mold-blown techniques during the Roman era, glass vessels were created and signed by individual makers, such as Ennion, and their superb works were appreciated by the buying public.


Ennion was one of the most prominent glassworkers from Phoenicia (Lebanon). He was renowned for producing the multi-paneled mold-blown glass vessels that were complex in their shapes, arrangement and decorative motifs.


Ennion signed this piece. The complexity of designs of these mold-blown glass vessels documented the sophistication of the glassworkers in the eastern regions of the Roman Empire.


Mold-blown glass vessels manufactured by the workshops of Ennion and other contemporary glassworkers such as Jason, Nikon, Aristeas, and Meges, constitutes some of the earliest evidence of glassblowing found in the eastern territories.


One of the main glassblowing centers of the Roman period was established in Colonia Agrippinensis (Köln Cologne) on the Rhine in the late 1st century BCE. Stone base molds and terracotta base molds were discovered from these Rhineland workshops, suggesting the adoption and the application of mold-blowing technique by the glassworkers.


Diatret glass from Köln would usually comprise a colorless glass cup, set in a cage of brightly colored strands of glass. The cage cup (Greek diatreton, also vas diatretum, plural diatreta, or “reticulated cup”) is a type of luxury vessel, found from about the 4th century CE. It is the pinnacle of Roman achievement in glassmaking.


Blown flagons and blown jars decorated with ribbing, as well as blown perfume bottles with letters CCAA or CCA which stand for Colonia Claudia Agrippinensis were also produced in Köln.


What generated the money to buy these luxuries? Mostly, it was the land, agriculture and the plow (plough). Some of the main parts of the plow are: 1. the handle c. the share (this is the part that digs into the earth). The coulter (4) looks like a knife and coulter means knife. It is the iron knifelike object that first breaks the soil so that the share can turn the earth over. 3. looks like a moldboard (mouldboard) which will turn the soil that the share has delved into, turn it and make it ready to receive the seed.


There is an old saying for peace, “beating our swords into plowshares.”


The sole (or slade) is the part of the plow that is flat and lies along the ground to make the furrow wider. Here a man is pouring seed into a funnel that will lead to the sole so that plowing and sowing can be done at the same time. This is a seed drill.


In the first century BCE, Virgil wrote about the Roman plow (plough) with an iron plowshare. “From its youth up, in the woods, the elm is bent by main force and trained for a plow stock, taking the form of a crooked plow: to suit this a beam is shaped stretching eight feet in front, while behind are attached two mold boards resting on the slade (or sole piece) with a double ridge.” This image shows the handles, the plowshare and the coulter in front of the share, and a wheel, the whole being pulled by a team of oxen.


In both Egypt and Mesopotamia the plow was little more than a forked branch dragged through the soil by a pair of oxen. The plowman held the two branches of the fork as handles and the junction was sharpened to a point which eventually became the share. A single pointed piece of timber formed a share and sole (B & C below). The share cut the soil and the sole pushed it aside to make a deeper and wider furrow.


The plow or plough was invented somewhere around 6,000 BCE once man started using animal power. In Mesopotamia (Iraq) and Indus Valley (Pakistan-India) man first harnessed the ox to the plow. The first plow is called the ARD. Part C is the sole of the plow. It helped to smooth the soil.


In English, as in other Germanic languages, the plow was traditionally known by other names, e.g. Old English sulh, Old High German medela, geiza, huohili, and Old Norse arðr (Swedish årder), all presumably referring to the scratch plow (ard).


The current word plow comes from Old Norse plógr, but it appears relatively late (it is not attested in Gothic), and is thought to be a loanword from one of the north Italic languages. Words with the same root appeared with related meanings: in Raetic plaumorati “wheeled heavy plow” (Pliny), and in Latin plaustrum “farm cart”, pl?strum, pl?stellum “cart”, and pl?xenum, pl?ximum “cart box”. The word must have originally referred to the wheeled heavy plow which was known in Roman northwestern Europe by the 5th century CE, and which today has evolved into other names like garden wagon or heavy duty wagon, bit still utilised for similar things.


The domestication of oxen in Mesopotamia perhaps as early as the 6th millennium BCE provided the draft power necessary to develop the larger, animal-drawn true ard. The earliest was the bow ard, which consists of a draft-pole (or beam) pierced by a thinner vertical pointed stick called the head (or body), with one end being the stilt (handle) and the other a share (cutting blade) that was dragged through the topsoil to cut a shallow furrow ideal for most cereal crops in that part of the world.


The ard does not clear new land well, so hoes or mattocks must be used to pull up grass and undergrowth, and a hand-held, coulter-like ristle could be used to cut deeper furrows ahead of the share.


Because the ard leaves a strip of undisturbed earth between the furrows, the fields are often cross-ploughed lengthwise and across, and this tends to form squarish fields (Celtic fields). The ard is best suited for loamy or sandy soils which are naturally fertilized by annual flooding, as in the Nile delta or in Mesopotamia, and to a lesser extent any other cereal-growing region with light or thin soil.

plow parts

By the late Iron Age ards in Europe were commonly fitted with coulters which is the knifelike piece of metal that cuts a thin line in the soil to make it easier for the share, the tip of the large metal piece behind it to enter the soil. Couteau is French for knife as is Italian coltello. The rest of the metal behind the share is the moldboard which turns the soil over and makes a good furrow.

roman coulter

This is a coulter from a Roman plow. The coulter dug its sharp nose into the muck and slime of the earth before the plowshare arrived. Do you know any Coulters? Do they fit their name? I know one Coulter, and this is the perfect name for her.


By the third century BCE the Chinese were using malleable cast iron plowshares called kuan which had a central ridge ending in a sharp point for soil cutting, and wings which threw the soil off the share and away from the plow.


The frame plow was the government recommended instrument and even literati urged this plow on agriculturalists. There was an adjustable strut which exactly set the plowing depth by changing the space between the blade and the beam.


Government and private foundries for casting iron farming tools were widespread in China. Iron was so common that ordinary people had iron cooking pots.


The moldboard, the twisted piece of the plow above the share, turns the plowed clods gently to one side so they don’t gum up the works.


This was used on the square framed turn plow that could turn heavier soils and virgin land. By the first century BCE these plowshares reached a width of over six inches.


Chinese plows were imported into Holland by Dutch sailors in the 17th century CE, and later Dutch plowmen were hired to drain the fens of East Anglia, so their “Rotherham” plows were adopted by the English. This design was then taken to America where, in the 19th century, steel frames were adopted. There was no single more important tool in the agricultural revolution.


Horses live on the steppes and grassy plains, so there were very few in Mesopotamia or Egypt. Oxen were probably the first draft animals in these regions. Notice that the yoke is tied to their horns rather than placed over the shoulders. This was the inefficient and even cruel earliest form of the yoke. The Chinese were the only people in ancient civilizations who designed an efficient draft animal harness.

Horse- Early Ox and Throat-and-girth

In the west, the throat and girth harness was used, an absurd arrangement that choked the horse as soon as she exerted herself. Animals so harnessed could only pull a very light load.

Horse Transition to the Breast-strap

In about the fourth century BCE, the Chinese put the harness across the animal’s chest, and later over the shoulders which put the weight of the load on the chest and collar bones. This is the trace harness. The pull is on the skeleton of the draft animal instead of on its throat.


This understanding of the efficiency of dragging a heavy weight may have come from the fact that humans did a lot of the heavy lifting and pulling in the Chinese culture (such as with barge pulling along canals) and humans can talk back and describe how the harnesses would actually feel.


The collar harness is the most efficient means of pulling something. A horse with a collar harness can easily pull a ton and a half. With the choking throat and girth harness, TWO horses can pull about half a ton.


The horse collar in China dates from sometime between the fourth and the first centuries BCE. This is a thousand years before its appearance in Europe.


A member of the equid family that did thrive in the desert areas of Mesopotamia was the onager, one of the largest species of Asiatic wild ass and also one of the fastest; adults have been known to reach speeds of over 40 miles per hour. This equid is now an endangered species.


Onagers were once abundant throughout China, Mongolia, and the Middle East, but it is estimated that only 600-700 now remain in just two protected areas of Iran.


When the yoke was improved by putting it across the shoulders of the animals, it became possible to use the onager as a draft animal. The yoke was a cross member to a single draft pole, which meant that there had a be a pair of animals, or sometimes even four.


The plow in Crete had only a single handle which gave the plowman a free hand with which to goad his oxen or onagers.


This type of plow may have been imported from Greece or Anatolia.


The plow with a share and sole was probably invented somewhere to the north of Mesopotamia since it was designed to dig deeper into the soil and so to make a better furrow for the seed. In the light soils of Mesopotamia and Egypt the older type of plow was sufficient because it didn’t matter in that light soil that the seed was shallowly planted.

Plough of Amaethon son of Don

Farther north, a plow that wouldn’t plant the seed deeply was useless, since a longer germination time was required. This new type of plow with share and flat, wide sole appeared in Mesopotamia a bit before 1000 BCE, but didn’t reach Egypt until nearly a thousand years later.


China had so many advantages over the west for so long and none more than in the design of the plow. For thousands of years millions of farmers in the west plowed the earth in a style that was so inefficient, so exhausting, so wasteful that it is heartbreaking to contemplate the long millennia of what may be humanity’s single greatest waste of time and energy. This character means “man.” The upper part is a field and the lower means a sword or knife and thus “force,” so a man is one who labors in the field.


One of the many ironies of history is that when the Chinese plow was finally brought to Europe and copied (about 1650 CE), there was an agricultural revolution which led directly to the industrial revolution and then to the predominance of the West over China.


The simplest and most widespread form of plow is called an “ard, which had a shallow plowshare, as we have seen, and is often preferred in windy areas with thin, dry soil.


Triangular stone plowshares have been found in China which date from 4,000 – 5,000 BCE, and they show that the Chinese used draft animals to pull plows as far back as the neolithic.

gulf of tonkin

Bronze plowshares from around 1,600 BCE have been found in Tonkin. China traded with this area at that time, and, indeed, still does today.


The first iron plows in the world were Chinese and they date from about 500 BCE. They were either solid iron or iron over wood, and were attached to the plow proper in a better way than in the west.


One of the major developments of the ancient Chinese agriculture was the use of the iron moldboard plows. Though probably first developed in the 4th century BCE and promoted by the central government, they were popular and common by the Han Dynasty. A major invention was the adjustable strut which, by altering the distance of the blade and the beam, could precisely set the depth of the plow. This technology did not reach England and Holland until the 17th century, sparking an abundance of food which, as noted above, was a necessary prerequisite for the industrial revolution.

lamp 2nd cent bce

The Han Dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE) of China, which corresponds roughly with the Roman period of dominance in the west, witnessed some of the most significant advancements in premodern Chinese science and technology, some of the most significant advancements anywhere on the planet at any time. Remember those ceramic lamps in the west? Here is a Chinese lamp from about the same time.


There were great innovations in metallurgy in China. The Han period saw the development of steel and wrought iron by use of the finery forge and puddling process.


Drilling deep boreholes into the earth, the Chinese used not only derricks to lift brine up to the surface to be boiled into salt, but also set up bamboo-crafted pipeline systems which brought natural gas as fuel to the furnaces.


It only takes a moment’s thought about the all too clear superiority of Chinese technology to the west for so many thousands of years to ask a question that Joseph Needham asked maybe as early as the 1930s. Why, given this millennia advantage in science, did China simply stop developing somewhere about the time of the western Renaissance? What happened? This is the famous Chinese question, and one could ask it equally about the Indian and the Arab cultures. They were so far ahead when we were in the “Dark Ages,” what happened? Why did they stop? I have never heard a really satisfactory answer to this question. Is there some kind of internal clock that governs the evolution of cultures, and, if so, what time is it in the west?


Joseph Needham (1900–1995) did his work at Cambridge University and was author of a masterpiece, Science and Civilisation in China, a monumental work in 24 volumes. Doctor Needham noted that the “Han time (especially the Later Han) was one of the relatively important periods as regards the history of science in China,” and, he may well have added, the history of science for all of humanity.


Smelting techniques in the Han time were enhanced with inventions such as water wheel powered bellows. The resulting widespread distribution of iron tools facilitated the growth of agriculture.


For tilling the soil and planting straight rows of crops, the improved heavy-moldboard plow with three iron plowshares and sturdy multiple-tube iron seed drill were invented in the Han, which greatly enhanced production yields and thus sustained population growth.


The method of supplying irrigation ditches with water was improved with the invention of the mechanical chain pump powered by the rotation of a waterwheel or draft animals or human power, which could transport irrigation water up to elevated terrains.


The waterwheel was also used for operating trip hammers in pounding grain


and in rotating the metal rings of the mechanical-driven astronomical armillary sphere representing the celestial sphere around the Earth.


The Han Chinese had hemp-bound bamboo scrolls for writing, which were already better than anything we had in the west, yet by the 2nd century CE they had invented the papermaking process which created a writing medium that was both cheap and easy to produce.


Before the Han period people scratched characters on shells and bones and on bronzeware.


The material dictated the shape of the writing.


The Eastern Han court eunuch Cai Lun created a process in 105 CE where mulberry tree bark, hemp, old linens, and fish nets were boiled together to make a pulp that was pounded, stirred in water, and then dunked with a wooden sieve containing a reed mat that was shaken, dried, and bleached into sheets of paper.

868 ce earliest printed book

The world’s first printed book is the Diamond Sutra (868 CE).


The invention of the wheelbarrow in China aided in the hauling of heavy loads.


There are wheelbarrow designs in China that we still have not exploited, tools that are capable of transporting a thousand pounds of material by one person.


The junk and stern-mounted steering rudder enabled the Chinese to venture out of calmer waters of interior lakes and rivers and into the open sea.

grid map

The invention of the grid reference for maps and the relief map allowed the Chinese to better navigate their terrain. There were some Chinese maps that were only a grid and the names of places were simply placed on the grid with no background whatsoever. No color, no details, no nothing except for the grid which was enough.


Chinese medicine used new herbal remedies to cure illnesses, calisthenics for the maintenance of physical condition, and regulated diets for avoidance of disease. The first traces of therapeutic activities in China date from the Shang dynasty (14th–11th centuries BCE). Joseph Needham speculated that acupuncture might have originated in the Shang dynasty, but most historians now make a distinction between medical lancing, bloodletting, and acupuncture in the narrower sense of using metal needles to treat illnesses by stimulating specific points along circulation channels (“meridians”) in accordance with theories related to the circulation of Qi. The earliest Chinese evidence for acupuncture in this sense dates to the second or first century BCE.


It is probably worth mentioning here that our man from the Italian/Austrian Ötztal, Ötzi, had a number of tattoos that don’t seem to be decorative, but seem to coordinate with acupuncture points that the Chinese were studying. Ötzi lived 5,300 years ago near Bolzano, Italy. There is so much that we don’t know. It’s rather exciting. Did early Europeans have any notion of acupuncture? Ötzi’s “tattoos,” which were pin pricks accented by the charcoal on the bone points, seem to suggest that they did.


Authorities in the Chinese capital were warned ahead of time of the direction of sudden earthquakes with the invention of the seismograph that was tripped by a vibration-sensitive pendulum device. In 132 AD, Zhang Heng, a great scientist in the Eastern Han Dynasty, invented the seismograph – the earliest instrument in the world for forecasting and reporting the movement of an earthquake.


The instrument is decorated with tortoises, birds, dragons, toads and other animal images. If there was an earthquake, the copper ball inside the seismograph dropped out from the mouth of one dragon and fell right into the mouth of the toad below. (There are eight dragons representing eight directions.) From the falling direction of the ball, one could judge where an earthquake might be happening.


In ancient Chinese philosophy, the dragon symbolizes Yang, while the toad symbolizes Yin. Thus, it constitutes the dialectic relationship between Yin and Yang, upwards and downwards, and movement and stillness. How accurate were these instruments? Who can tell? It might be better to listen to the animals out in the yard. (The Chinese did this too.)


Han-era Chinese advances in mathematics include the discovery of square roots, cube roots, the Pythagorean theorem, Gaussian elimination, the Horner scheme, improved calculations of pi, and negative numbers. Remember that the Han era coincides rather closely with the height of Roman civilization. Can you imagine doing this kind of mathematics with Roman numerals, with no place made for the zero?


The Han-era Chinese also employed several types of bridges to cross waterways and deep gorges, such as beam bridges, arch bridges, simple suspension bridges, and pontoon bridges. Many of them are still being used.


The bureaucracy in China, which was unimaginably strong and ubiquitous, at first aided and initiated the growth of science and technology. In fact, it was often bureaucrats themselves who were inventors, or at least instigators and promoters of new technologies, but later officials actively prevented change and innovation.


The slowing down of the amazing Chinese advance of civilization happened about the same time as the protestant reformation in the west, which, in loosening the hold of the Church on scientific inquiry (as in the case of Galileo), spurred the development of technological advance and ushered in the agricultural and industrial revolutions which have lasted for three and a half centuries now (1650-2000 CE). The 21st century may see a new flowering of Chinese science. It is difficult to tell at this point whether the Chinese people are going to move from Communism to a new kind of secularism which will foster a reëxamination of ideas and values in China, or whether a totalitarian spirit aided by information technologies will stifle any new growth.


Evidently people are beginning to invent again in China in the arts and in the sciences because of new prosperity and new confidence.

Shanghai 1

China is showing that it only took a short nap and is now awakening after a brief three and a half century siesta. Her history is measured in millennia. Ours in centuries. Maybe there is no Chinese question. Maybe it has already being answered.


We’ll see you next week.