If you are a pregnant woman wanting to know the gender of your baby, – see below, to the cup of tea you will need after the delivery, the Chinese have a lot to answer for during the seven millennium of history their civilization has spanned. The Chinese Birth calendar that predicts the sex of a child shows that they do have a lighter side but in more recent years it has been the number of children born to a Chinese family that took the headlines.

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There was a time when the opinion of the world didn’t matter to the Chinese. Its communist regime steadfast in its oppressive behaviour towards its people immortalized in the photo of a protester standing in front of a tank during the Tianamen Square demonstrations in 1989 was indicative of the regimes disregard for world opinion. Its similar behaviour in Tibet and Nepal has caused outrage and dismay amongst most right thinking people. So it is somewhat of a surprise that as we move towards the summer Olympics of 2008 that are to be held in Beijing that we find the government of China working so hard to distance its actions from the atmosphere surrounding the games.

Many will say that since being awarded the games much has changed in the Chinese republic and this would be true. The emergence of China as the largest, fastest growing economy and leader in manufacturing is true. The economic explosion triggered following the handing back of Hong Kong by the British government in 1997 has seen areas of China expand China’s silk road economic belt, not only in economic terms but also in wealth for a limited numbers of its people. The awarding of the games could be said to have been the carrot to the Chinese government to continue on its road of more openness and freedom for its people.

China however, has always been ruled by an iron fist and as the longest surviving civilization the world has ever seen, it could be said that this control is in fact a reason for its longevity. Sima Qian dated the history of the country to 2800 B.C. and in the millennia leading to the establishment of the Peoples Republic of China under Chairman Mao Tse Tung in 1949 the country was ruled by hereditary Emperors under various dynasties.

With such a long history, it is not surprising that many inventions have come from the Chinese. The advancement of its culture, epitomized by the army of Terracotta warriors discovered near the Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor which dates to 209-210 B.C. is just one example of how far ahead the Chinese had advanced ahead of other civilizations. A courtier, Ts’ai-Lun is credited in 105 A.D. with the invention of paper. The name, paper, came later from a derivative of the Egyptian Papyrus, a method of drying stem section of the papyrus plant to create a writing surface.

Over the centuries the Chinese are also accredited with inventions such as the compass, gunpowder, silk and as an Englishman I am unable to cite Chinese achievements without mentioning tea. Its origins believed to date from around 5000 B.C. under the reign of an emperor called Shen Nung. The emperor, a scientist himself, whose edicts included the boiling of all drinking water, discovered tea by accident. The story goes that he was visiting a province under his reign when some leaves from a nearby bush fell into the pot where the drinking water was being boiled, creating a brown coloured infusion. As a scientist, the emperor was intrigued and drank some of the infusion. He declared it refreshing, and the rest, as they say, is history!

On a lighter note, the discovery in the tomb of a 14 century emperor, of a birth calendar is supposedly able to predict the gender of a newborn baby based on the month of conception and the age of the mother to be. It just goes to show that if a civilization lasts long enough, it will try its hand at anything!

So as we look forward to the Olympics of 2008, we can but marvel at the achievements of a long and proud nation and hope that the interaction of the world in a global experience based in its country, will guide its leaders to think more kindly on its people and their needs.

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