An Uprising: Empire of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)

Zhu Yuanzhang, the peasant leader responsible for many victories during the Mongol invasion, was crowned Emperor and established the Ming Dynasty in 1368, which lasted for three centuries, until 1644.  The capital city, Nanjing, was founded and later relocated north to Beijing.  Economic development in the south flourished with entrepreneurs who cultivated farms for maize and sweet potato while industries seized opportunities with mining and textiles, which also led to the completion of the Great Wall.  Silver played a huge part in international trade with Europe and Japan, by replacing paper banknotes and copper coins.  This influenced the merchant class, and the gentry at times borrowed money from rich merchants to fund civil projects. The reflection of this was a vibrant, urban population.[1]

Arts such as poetry, painting, music, and drama developed.  “Painters recruited by the Ming court were instructed to return to didactic and realistic representation, in emulation of the styles of the earlier Southern Song (1127–1279) Imperial Painting Academy. Large-scale landscapes, flower-and-bird compositions, and figural narratives were particularly favored as images that would glorify the new dynasty and convey its benevolence, virtue, and majesty.” (The Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), 2000-2012)[2]

The Ming left an impression on the world.  “Ming- which means ‘bright’ in Chinese was an appropriate name for a dynasty whose 276 years of rule were marked by stability, economic growth, and a dramatic flourishing f the arts.”[3]  Since learning, knowledge, and art was highly respected, the era was well documented. Geography was no exception and well-written records were maintained. The Chinese started the tradition of geographical documentation in the fifth century BC and by the time of the Ming Dynasty it was quite advanced. In addition, the printing technology of allowed the existence of detailed and descriptive maps and books. Many of these survived and have given us much knowledge about the Ming geographers and cartographers.[4]


[1] Dat Nguyen, “Ming Dynasty of China,” Culture-4-Travel, (Nguyen, 2008),

[2] “Ming Dynasty (1368-1644),” The Metropolitan Museum of Art, accessed September 19, 2012,

[3] “Power and Glory: Court Arts of China’s Ming Dynasty,” accessed September 19, 2012,

[4] “Ming Dynasty Geography,” Total History, accessed September 19, 2012,


The Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). (2000-2012). Retrieved September 19, 2012, from The Metropolitan Museum of Art:

Power and Glory: Court Arts of China’s Ming Dynasty. (2008, June 27). Power and Glory: Court Arts of China’s Ming Dynasty. San Fransisco, CA: Asian Art Museum.

Ming Dynasty Geography. (n.d.). Retrieved September 19, 2012, from Total History:

Nguyen, D. (2008). Ming Dynasty of China. Retrieved September 19, 2012, from Culture-4-Travel:

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An Individual Representation of Circumstance

The Aesthetic Autobiography: Testing the Theories

“The starting point for all systems of aesthetics must be the personal experience of a peculiar emotion.” (1)  Emotion: The driving force behind motivation, positive or negative.  When artists like van Gogh, Banksy, and Warhol create something, the emotions anger, love, and hope may go into that piece.  There have been biographies and studies of almost each and every artist, but unless we can go back in time to personally ask what there were feeling, we can only guess.  Even then, the way we process emotions is different than everyone else.

Visiting the Mint Museum in Uptown Charlotte, North Carolina, I attended the Fairytales, Fantasy, and Fear exhibit.  Upon entering, you walk under a canopy of paper-mache and plastic trees that immediately set the tone.  Feeling like I’m a princess in an alternate world I move through room after room of childhood memories.  Red Riding Hood with an evil wolf-like twist, Alice and the mischievous Cheshire cat, remnants of the wicked witch, and my sister’s favorite, Cinderella’s Wedding Cake.  The cake itself isn’t like any other cake; it has many layers each filled to the brim with emotional goodies, including bits and pieces from other works of art.

Art doesn’t have to be in a museum though.  You can find it in everyday life.  Rolls of the waves, formation of a patch of trees, the body of a sports car, are all works of art.  Being more of a mountain person, I enjoy the gentle chirping of the birds, scamper of squirrels, and hum of the stream running alongside me as I ascend towards the top of a trail.  It’s my own personal soundtrack and gps.  The even more impressive masterpiece is the waterfall itself.  A recent trip to Brevard County, NC, left me breathless.  The Land of Waterfalls, it’s called.  I choose Gorges State Park as my primary destination and after the almost grueling 90 minute hike I reached the falls and couldn’t have been happier.

In appreciating nature as a work of art, we need to consider how it can be so.  How we feel about things like art, work, relationships, and even ourselves determines how we evaluate the world around us.  If we classify a Mini Cooper as a work of art, a way of transportation, or an adult-sized toy, then we can say a valley in South Dakota filled with wildflowers is a self-portrait of Mother Nature.  “Experience occurs continuously, because the interaction of live creature and environing conditions is involved in the very process of living.” (2)  Imagine yourself in a museum looking at that wedding cake.  You see the delicate trees and tiny paper chains draping across each layer.  Now imagine you’re in that field of flowers, can you see the same delicate lines in the trees and how effortlessly the leaves reach for the sun or float towards the ground.


“There are two kinds of beauty: free beauty or beauty which is merely dependent.” (3)  The flowers are free beauty; you do not have to pay for them, unless you go to the store and purchase a specific bouquet.  You can step right outside your home and appreciate art.  There is no easy way to define art.  One must classify it into a subgroup because to gather a group of flowers and some earth and arrange them in a frame would be entirely possible, it just wouldn’t be very easy.  “Let us suppose a group of people who do in fact respond to just the things we would offer as paradigms: to fields of daffodils, to minerals, to peacocks, to glowing iridescent things that appear to house their own light and elicit from these people, as they might from us, the almost involuntary expression “How beautiful!”” (4)

(1-4) Bell, Dewey, et al. Aesthetics: A Reader in Philosophy of the Arts. New Jersey, Goldblatt, Brown, 2011

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Saga of a Skyrim Addict

Okay so, I’ve been playing Skyrim on and off since November.  I decided Halo CEA was my priority that week, until all my friends were talking about what they were doing in-game.  So I raced to the only remaining Blockbuster within an hour radius of Charlotte and picked it up for the price of a monthly game pass – $8.99.  To my dismay that store closed its doors a month and-a-half later.  By then sweet rolls and arrows consumed my thoughts and I HAD to own the game.  Having played Oblivion and being a Halo gamer, I am used to a certain difficulty.  (No. MW3 is not harder than Halo.)  I say this so one doesn’t assume I’m Red chasing after bunnies and foxes.  I am the Dovahkiin.

My level 39 Nord, is a warrior, rouge, mage, in that order.  I haven’t statted anything 100% because I’ve leveled a few chosen things, Two-handed, Archery, Sneak, Lock picking, and Magic- Frost.  Speech, One-handed, Enchant, and Alchemy are things I’ve worked on here and there.  I have a companion/girlfriend Aranea, from the Shrine of Azura, but I think it’s time to trade her in for a newer model.  Brelyna from the College of Winterhold is cute, when she’s not turning you into a bear, goat, or dog.

To get to my point of this, I will start an ‘Adventures in Skyrim’ type post.

March 19, 2012 –

Tonight I was playing the role of Explorer, just sprinting and shouting my merry way across the moon-lite valleys of northern Tamriel. I’m currently involved with two quests, Discerning the Transmundane and Alduin’s Wall.  So, I’m somewhere near Karthspire, just minding my own beeswax, when I hear a growl and see a shadow move in hindsight.  It didn’t sound like a sabre cat but then I see the balls of lightning Aranea threw at a bear chasing me down that fell just in front on me.  Looting the coat and claws, I move on up the mountain towards an undiscovered area.  Sprinting over the hilltop, (this time) a sabre jumps out over some rocks, I quickly turn and shoot an arrow in his back while she shocks him a bit. It all happened so fast, playing Halo has prepared me for anything.

March 20, 2012 –

Fast traveled to Alftand and there’s already a dragon attacking some lowly soul, so I immediately crouch down and scoot closer for better view.  Turns out the dragon is fucking with a giant I named, Ted.  Ted and the dragon are staring each other down when the dragon suddenly blows ice in Ted’s face.  Ted looks at the dragon and just bashes him over the head. As the dragon takes off, Ted is swinging his club after him and I swear I could hear him yelling, “damn dragon!”

March 23, 2012 –

Blackreach… Whoa. That’s all I have to say about that.

April 1, 2012 –

Played with a friend today, which was nice to game with a fellow human being.  Brady is spending his time roaming the lands instead of doing quests.  As I played his rogue, I joked that he’s going to find every location by the time he starts the quests.  I only lasted a few minutes before dying to a mammoth due to my sword being inadequate.  He asked why I thought I could defeat a mammoth with a sword anyway.  My answer: Because I’m awesome.  I am all about the greatsword with magic as a backup, while he sticks to the shadows and didn’t even know about the candlelight spell.  I play this way in every game, being the warrior, running up and slashing enemies, possibly dying ALOT.  It does give an advantage to others in my party, being a distraction.

My other friend Neal, has a way about manipulating the system, for everything.  He played up to level 30, learned the schematics, and started over doing only side quests, gaining rare and unique weapons and armor, and doesn’t even have to fight dragons mid-quest!  This aspect excited me as I am a Skyrim hoarder, and, I am working to curb that habit.  At last count I had over 300 tankards, 60 dragon scales and bones, 90 pieces of dinnerware and goblets, some 25 furs, and I am always picking up any item of 100 gold or more so I can sell it; or learn the enchantment.  It got so bad I glitched the game and had a hard time loading it.

**Update April 4, 2012  Today I did a cave quest that had many tankards and bones, I left them all.

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Charlotte is a ‘Fit Community’

If you’ve seen the road signs, we are considered a ‘Fit Community’, but looking around one might disagree.  The world is finally addressing the concern of obesity and how it starts in our childhood.  Out of my friends, I’m the one who embraces exercise the most, (a special thanks to my parents for keeping me active in sports).

Aside from the usual effects of endorphins, you can feel refreshed, productive, energized, not to mention healthy.  Discovering a new park or path in the woods is exciting.  The downfall is that with all the construction Charlotte is undergoing, our ‘Nature Preserves’ are just that, something to protect.  It’s said that a habit forms when it’s repeated for 30 days.  So I urge you reader, get out, do something, WebMD says all we need is 20-30 minutes five times a week.

Flowering trees at Reedy Creek Park

Finding the time among our busy schedules is the difficult part.  Since our weather has taken a turn for the beautiful and summer came early this year, we have more daylight.  While vitamin D is good, we also need to get the blood pumping.  Instead of just lounging on that boat, swim a few laps, make a contest out of it.  If you can’t make it to a trail or the heat is a problem, take a nice walk around the block at dusk or, like I used to do, force yourself to finish the day positively by walking the dog.  Determination is key.  Those with offices overlooking the skyline, when you take your smoke break, walk, jog, or run if your suit allows it.  A lap or two around the parking lot while you’re out there is a good way to start a healthier habit by using a familiar one.

Obesity is a serious problem and it doesn’t help that we conveniently live two minutes from a fried chicken joint.  We only have one body, one life, let’s treat ourselves with the respect we deserve.  Let’s be selfish.

To help you, here are some websites to help you start and maintain a healthier, better you.

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A Gaston County Hike

On a recent day off, a few friends and I visited Crowder’s Mountain State Park in Gaston County, North Carolina.  It’s a 30-minute drive from Charlotte and is located right off I-85 S.  There are two main trails to choose from and we did the Tower Trail which took us a little over an hour going at a steady pace.  The trail itself has some strenuous points so I suggest this only if you’re up to the challenge.

The day we went it was 80 degrees, in February!  The blue skies gave you a view of Uptown Charlotte in the distance.   I decided to explore while my party rested at the top, taking in the gorgeous views, and found a way up to the rocky bluff and down into a little, secluded nook.   I strongly urge readers to be careful if you decide to do the same.  Other hikers brought dogs and small children up over the rocks so I would classify this trail as family friendly.  There is also a way up the side to the tower if you’d like to do some rock climbing.

There was a narrow set of stairs which leads to a wonderful downhill trail that was enjoyable to run especially with the breeze.  You could also opt to go down the same trail you came up.  It definitely brought on an appetite so make sure to pack water and food like trail mix or an energy bar.  The restrooms are adjacent to the parking lot and the only trash cans and recycle bins are at the entrance so please dispose of your waste there.

I was surprised to find such a great trail for Gaston County and highly recommend this if you’re looking for a day-hike.

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