Chinese civilization is among the world's oldest civilizations. In antiquity, it ranks among the river-valley civilizations of the Indus Valley in the Indian subcontinent, that of Sumeria in the Tigris-Euphrates area of Mesopotamia in what is now Iraq, and further south-west, along the Nile River, the grand Ancient Egyptian civilization of the Pharaohs.
This culture of the "black-haired people" might well have originated in the North China flood-plains of the Huanghe or Yellow River, the mighty stream dyed yellow from the wind-blown loess topsoil from central Asia. Or perhaps it first took root further south, in the valley of the great Changjiang or what westerners used to call the Yangtze Kiang flowing from yonder lofty Tibet plateau, downwards and eastwards through the Three Gorges and other rocky canyons to the blue East China Sea.
Yet today, one feels entitled to ask: "Where is Sumeria of old?" Nothing but dusty ruins in a blazing desert and broken clay tablets with enigmatic wedge-shaped writing, and other archaeological remains dispersed amidst museums in the West.
Utu the Sumerian sun-god, the god of truth, is depicted on a clay tablet that just lies passively, impotently in a western house of ancient wonders. A composite clay tablet text recalls a Sumerian king Shulgi questioning: "What is the use of writing words without truth?" Seems so naive a poser - yet still prodding us today to search our own souls - after being buried and forgotten in the ground and sands of Sumeria for millennia on end until painstakingly extracted and rescued by archaeologists from the rubbish dumps of history.
And what of the Indus Valley civilization in today's India or Pakistan? Ruins of ancient city walls and buildings with still-undeciphered script to tantalize and puzzle future generations, including our own.
And Ancient Egypt? True, the egoistic man-made pyramidal mountains and ancient religious temples with their massive cylindrical pillars remain to stun and awe visitors and travellers, both ancient and modern. The Sphinx man-lion still largely remains intact and sighted, level on the ground, still with stark Negroid facial features, after 40 centuries. On papyrus texts and tomb walls are vividly-coloured images of large-eyed Ma'at, the plumed goddess of Truth, and truth depicted in hieroglyphs as a pillar base or anvil, a young woman squatting, or an ostrich feather against which a person's heart would be weighed in a Last Judgment of the human soul after death - as it was so believed.
But today, no one practices Ancient Egyptian religion or customs, not even the Christian Copts who are their direct lineal descendants. Almost nobody speaks Coptic still, even within that community.
Across the Mediterranean, to the north, among westerners, the Greeks today largely use the same alphabet from alpha to omega, dating from the time of the supposed Homer. But they were christianized long ago, and Zeus, Neptune, Jupiter and other gods and goddesses that were believed to reside on Mount Olympus are no more served and honoured. Temples with fallen fluted columns remain mute horizontal testimony to the grandeur of better former days.
Set against such a backdrop, Chinese civilization seems so triumphant, yet still so very ancient, from so long ago. It seems to be so, for it was continuous. There was never any prolonged period of Dark Age as in the west. But apart from seeming to be, for some, the world's oldest living civilization, for all one knows, Chinese civilization might well even be actually THE world's oldest civilization.
To be continued ...
| Truth Ltd | Email Robert Goh: zhenli (at) zhenli.net | 19/02/15