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All things having to do with writing and researching history for the purpose of writing historical fantasy.

The Taiping Rebellion – Part II
Zhen Guofan

The Taiping Rebellion – Part II

The Taiping Rebellion should have ended the Manchu rule over China in 1860. But it didn't. The Qing Dynasty held on to power, through no effort on its part. Instead, the Qing retained power because other people helped it, specifically a Chinese official Zhen Goufan and the British government. Zhen Guofan In my previous post I talked about the battle of Battle of Palikao, in which an Anglo-French military expedition annihilated the elite Manchu-Mongol cavalry army just outside the walls of Beijing, killing 10,000 while losing less than 10 men. Following the battle, the Manchu Emperor, Xiangfeng, fled the capital secretly and holed up in an old hunting lodge 150 miles northeast of Beijing. He did nothing more for the rest of his short, miserable life. At this point, the…

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The Taiping Rebellion – Part 1
Beijing City Wall 1870

The Taiping Rebellion – Part 1

Recently, I have been reading about the civil war in China which lasted from 1850 till 1864. Professor Stephen R. Platt has written an important and very readable history of the later stages of the rebellion called Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom. The Taiping Rebellion plays an important role in the story of Qiao's Grand Courtyard and is one of the most important events in modern Chinese history. Beijing City Wall 1870 (close to what Nanjing looked like in 1860) In short, the Taiping rebellion started in the far south of China, fairly close to Hong Kong by a man named Hong Xiuquan, who, while he showed great promise as a scholar, failed to pass the Imperial exam after numerous attempts and despite his decades making a modest living as…

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Qiao’s Grand Courtyard – A Detailed Review
Qiao Grand Courtyard

Qiao’s Grand Courtyard – A Detailed Review

Chinese TV series, 2006 - Highly Recommended. 45 Episodes (about 34 hours total viewing time). Qiao's Grand Courtyard is a TV series broadcast on Chinese state TV in 2006. Americans can watch it using Amazon.com's Prime TV service (yes, it has subtitles in English). Like most Chinese stories, the TV series is based on a real person and real events, though some creative changes were made by the writer and director to make the story more entertaining.  Qiao Grand Courtyard, as it looks today Qiao Zhiyong, our hero, is the second son of a wealthy Chinese businessman from Shanxi Province. He lived in one of the largest family compounds near Pingyao (now called the Pingyao Ancient City). Qiao Zhiyong was born in 1818 and died in 1907. For much of…

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Current Reading – July 2020
Books from July 2020

Current Reading – July 2020

At the moment I'm reading: Books from July 2020 Professor D.K. Jordan's web pages on Chinese culture. Specifically I was looking at his section on Mourning Grades. The reason why, is because in the TV series Qiao's Grand Courtyard, the main character is shown performing a mourning ritual for his wife's dead father. Apparently you should do this, but the exact degree and type of such mourning is not spelled out. I will have more to say about Qiao's Grand Courtyard in a future post. Confucian Ritual Music of Korea by Song Hye-jin. If you spend time in the Joseon History Museum in Seoul, you will find the room devoted to the traditional instruments, played for centuries at the yearly events. This book gives a detailed description of what the…

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Why Russia Owns Vladivostok
Map of Eastern Siberia

Why Russia Owns Vladivostok

The Chinese signed very few treaties with other nations before the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1911. Generally, nations sent embassies to China and bowed down before the Son of Heaven, acknowledging the Chinese emperor as the most important ruler in the world, above all other national leaders. One of the very few treaties the Chinese signed with an equal nation, was the treaty of Nerchinsk, agreed to by the Qing under the Kangxi Emperor and the Russian Czar, Peter the Great in 1689. The two leaders did not meet, the agreement was made by two delegations with Jesuit priests acting as go-betweens and communicating in Latin. The border agreed to in 1689 was far north of the current border between Russia and China, specifically, the border was delineated…

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Interview at Liberty Island

My Interview at Liberty Island, by Tamara Wilhite. Liberty Island, a book publisher (see their site here) kindly asked me for an interview. Good questions. You can read it: An Interview with Colin Glassey. Thanks to Ms. Wilhite for taking the time to write this up.

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In Which the Author Reviews Classic Operas
Met Opera, NYC

In Which the Author Reviews Classic Operas

While I am not ignorant of opera in European culture, up until this year I have far more experience with American musicals. Opera struck me as old fashioned (true) and silly (sometimes true) and not important (totally wrong). Now, I believe that Opera was the most important form of art in Europe for more than 150 years, perhaps more than 200 years - from 1700 to 1900. The pinnacle of opera is found in the mid-1800s when Verdi and Wagner were composing. Wagner was considered the greatest artist of his age, from 1870 to 1940. Verdi was the most popular artist before and during Wagner’s time, and even today Verdi’s top ten are what you will see at any given opera house. With the enforced shut down of the state…

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The Purpose of Music in China

J.S.Bach - widely acclaimed as one of the greatest composers of music in the history of the world. I myself am very partial to his Brandenburg Concertos. For most people in the world today, music is... well its music. Something to listen to at any time, to suit your mood or to relax or to dance. Music, the notes, the instruments aren't about anything in particular - and I mean this quite seriously. Music today is just sounds, sometimes pleasing, sometimes odd, and in conjunction with the human voice, music can convey many emotions. But the music itself? It is what it is. Bach helped create this way of looking at music, though he was a composer for a major church for most of his life, his music was less…

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About writing The Flame Iris Temple
The Flame Iris Temple

About writing The Flame Iris Temple

I started plotting out the book in November of 2017, at the same time as my editor was working on “The Fire Sword”. I wrote the last scene in the book around January of 2018, while I was still working on a contract case at the law firm. The idea came to me as I was driving along a freeway in Oakland, California. At the time it struck me a deeply moving scene and I had to stop and write a brief outline as soon as I arrived at the parking garage. I thought "I've got at least one great scene in the book, there is hope!" I began the actual writing in March of 2018 and I nearly finished the battle in Flame Iris Temple by July when I…

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The Terrible Disease in China – 1330 to 1350
Red Turban Army

The Terrible Disease in China – 1330 to 1350

Most Americans and Europeans have heard of the Black Death which swept across Europe starting in 1347. However, most people have not heard that something very similar struck down millions in China during the same time period. The first half of the 1300s were a terrible time in China’s history. The Mongol conquest of China (finalized with the conquest of capital of the Song Dynasty in 1276) resulted in decades of mis-rule, brutal repression of popular discontent, famines, and civil unrest which ultimately resulted in a civil war that last for more than a decade. This terrible time finally ended with the victory of the Ming government over all its rivals and the establishment of a unified, and highly functional national government. Part of the reason for the popular unrest…

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