Friday, July 17, 2009

China’s Landmarks Offer a Glimpse at its History

By Devin Beliveau
Staff Columnist
(Editor’s note: This article is the 2nd article in a 3-part series about staff columnist Devin Beliveau’s recent 12-day trip to China.)
On the 4th of July, The United States of America turned 233 years old. Our country, however, is but an infant when compared to the 4,000 years of recorded history in China. China is a country accustomed to making history too, from the invention of gunpowder and the compass, to the grand spectacle of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. The following are but a few noteworthy events in the long turbulent history of China, including how some of the country’s notable landmarks developed and contributed to that history.
In the US we have a history of Presidents. In China it is a history of all-powerful emperors. And these emperors were not elected to power, but instead gained control by defeating the previous emperor’s forces on the battlefield. With a new emperor often came a new dynasty, which was a succession of hereditary rulers, similar to the British Monarchy style of handing power over to the next oldest son or daughter.
One of the most impressive legacies left by the Ming and Qing (pronounced Ching) Dynasties is the awe-inspiring Forbidden City. Located in the center of the capital city of Beijing, the Forbidden City was the home to the emperor. Walking through the imperial grounds, which stretch for several city blocks and feature hundreds of buildings, this palace makes the American White House seem downright puny.
The Forbidden City got its name because almost no one was allowed in, and inside it is clear that security was a priority of the emperor. It is built like a fortress, complete with a wide moat and huge wall surrounding the whole complex. There are no trees within these walls since they could be potential hiding places for assassins. The foundation of the entire palace was built several layers thick to prevent enemies from tunneling in from underneath.
Inside the walls of the Forbidden City, the emperor was revered (and feared) as a god. He had an exclusive walkway on which he was carried from the entrance to his throne. Anyone else who dared touch the walkway suffered the loss of his legs. The emperor usually surrounded himself with a number of concubines, women who had the honor of satisfying any and all of the emperor’s desires of the flesh. He also had a large number of eunuchs, high-ranking personal assistants who were castrated so the emperor’s personal concubines would not tempt them.
Perhaps the only relic of Chinese history more impressive than the Forbidden City in sheer scale is the Great Wall of China. Stretching about 4,000 miles, it was built over a period of 100 years by millions of workers in an effort to keep invading northern tribes out of China. The fact that it remains largely intact in 2009 is a testament to the quality of its construction, and one of the reasons it has been labeled one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It is certainly a once-in-a-lifetime experience to see this monolith firsthand.
Modern 20th century Chinese history, following the age of the emperors, brought violence and instability. In the 1930s, imperialist Japan, China’s island neighbor, was looking to expand. On September 18, 1931, the Japanese military staged an attack on its own soldiers at a train station in the northern Chinese city of Shenyang, and blamed China. This was used as a pretext to invade. The Japanese army quickly devastated northern China, and then set up a puppet government called Manchuria, from which the Japanese ruled for the next 14 years. Widespread murder, torture and rape were used to keep the Chinese frightened and to ensure obedience to Japanese soldiers during this tragic time in Chinese history. The Japanese then used Manchuria as the base from which to launch an invasion on all of eastern China in the lead-up to WWII. Hatred towards the Japanese is still alive in northern China today because of this occupation.
Resistance to the Japanese occupation grew in the late 1930s. Both General Chiang Kai-shek’s nationalist army-in-exile, and Mao Zedong’s emerging Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) army of guerilla fighters increased attacks on the Japanese, finally driving them out in 1944. This unfortunately still did not mean peace for China, as a civil war soon broke out between the nationalists and communists over who would control post-WWII China.
After a bloody 3-year civil war, the communists were victorious, and Mao established the People’s Republic of China in 1949. For the next 27 years Mao ruled a communist country like a dictator. From the mass starvation that followed his failed Great Leap Forward (a policy of rapid industrialization), to the lawlessness and violence brought by his Cultural Revolution (Mao’s attempt at redefining Chinese values to prioritize the agricultural class), China under Mao was an unstable existence. He is credited, however, with uniting China’s provinces as never before, and with improving the quality of life for large numbers of agricultural peasants. As his CCP is still in control, Mao’s painting still today hangs prominently over the entrance to the Forbidden City.
As China has opened up to the world more since Mao’s death, and slowly adopted more market-oriented economic policies, millions of Chinese have come out of poverty. However, the CCP still exerts considerable control over the lives of the Chinese people, as evidenced by its “one child policy” which attempts to prevent the overcrowding of the world’s most populous nation. The future now looks bright for the “world’s next superpower,” but its turbulent history teaches us that certainly anything can happen.
Photo caption: Emperor’s exclusive walkway leading to his throne in the heart of The Forbidden City in Beijing. (Devin Beliveau photo)

Old York’s Decorator Show House
Welcomes Visitors This Weekend

By Larry Favinger
Staff Columnist
The historic McIntire Farm on Cider Hill Road is ready to welcome visitors as the 20th Decorator Show House of the Old York Historical Society. The house opens to the public on July 18 and will be open through Aug. 5, sporting the design ideas and creation of more than 20 decorators from around New England. Each room in the old New England Farm House is a creation in and of itself within guidelines established by the home’s owners.
The Show House will be open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursdays to 7 p.m. and Sundays from 1 to 4 p.m. It is closed on Tuesdays. On-site parking is available, admission is $20.
Anne Cowenhoven of Accent and Design of York did the design for and decoration of the dining room. This is the 18th show house in which she had been involved. Ms. Cowenhoven is a supporter of Old York and sees this as one way to give back to the organization. Her children went through Old York’s programs as they were growing up.
She said she decided early to “accent the woodwork” in the room and to generally “enhance the architecture” of the structure.
The room features a mural of the marshes of the York River painted by Judy Dibble of Brookwood Designs in Contoocook, N.H., and the furnishings reinforce the pastels of that mural.
The rooms in the homestead are numerous and smaller that those in recent decorator homes, adding to the challenge for the designers. The rooms are, Ms. Cowenhoven said, “a picture of New England Maine” farmhouses.
The family room in the house, the creation of Valerie Jorgensen of V. Jorgensen Design of Wells, was nothing but bare wall and insulation when work began but has been transformed into a cozy area with windows on the marsh, a flat screen television, a Bose sound system and more. From the start, Ms. Jorgensen’s idea was to “make it casual, a spot for relaxation.”
Those aiding Ms. Jorgensen in her work included Chris Cowenhoven, who did the wall board, and J.N electric of York. There was no power in the room when the project began.
The McIntire Homestead, which has been in the same family for over 300 years, includes access to the York River, woodlands, salt marsh, bog areas and many pastures.
Diane Hughes of Diane Hughes Interiors of Rye. N.H., did the small first floor reading room, the only room in the home with a working fireplace. It is a reading room, not a library, she said, as there is no room for a bookcase. A painting of horses and the fire place set the theme for the room, reflecting that it is, after all, an old New England farmhouse.
The master bedroom and balcony is the work of Nicole LaBranche Yee of NY Interiors of New England and the San Francisco Bay Area. When Ms. Yee first saw the room she said her reaction was, “wow, look at that view” of the river across a meadow. “The design was driven by that view,” she said. The room is, she said, unconventional, but “in this case it was the answer.” Done in cream and black, it is focused on the huge picture windows with a balcony outside them.
The hallway to the second floor features the photographic artistry of Jay Goldsmith of Portsmouth, N.H., in a series of platinum/palladium photographs taken in the vicinity of the show house itself.
Other decorators involved with the project include Charles C. Hugo Landscape Design of South Berwick, for the dooryard garden.
Also, Atlantic Design Center of Eldredge Lumber and Hardware of York, farmer’s porch; Annie K. Designs of York, powder room; Duquette & Company, York, living room; Joyce Jordan Interiors, Hampton Falls, N.H., Savannah’s Room.
F.D. Hodge Interiors of Boston, Marjorie’s room along with the kitchen and pantry; Andrea Maher Interior Design of Wells, Charlotte Rose’s nursery; Fiona’s Porch of York, Frankie’s room; Renaissance Interiors of North Reading, Mass., secret hideaway; Boehm Graham of Bedford, N.H., sitting room. Diane Hughes Interiors of Rye, N.H., mudroom; Finn Mar Tens Design of Beverly Farms, Mass., the trophy room; and Stoney Brook Landscaping of York, barn patio.
There will be a boutique and art show in the barn as well as touring of the numerous rooms in the house itself.
The Decorator Show House is the largest fund-raiser of the year for Old York, according to Carol Coles, the project’s chairwoman.
Photo caption: Family room decorated by V. Jorgensen Design of Wells. (Courtesy photo)

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard to get New Commander

The Naval Sea Systems Command announced recently the selection of Capt. Bryant Fuller as the next commander of Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. The change of command will occur this fall.
Portsmouth Naval Shipyard’s primary mission has been the overhaul, repair and modernization of Los Angeles Class submarines. Maintenance workload for Los Angeles Class submarines has declined as the Engineered Refueling Overhauls for this class come to an end. Future workload for the shipyard is with Virginia Class submarines. Portsmouth Naval Shipyard has been designated the Ship Availability Planning and Engineering Center for the new Virginia Class submarines and will execute its first Virginia class availability in Oct. 2010. Changing the commander at this time will provide continuous leadership to the shipyard during this transitional timeframe and allow the shipyard to finish the on going planning and execute that first Virginia Class availability with the same Shipyard Commander.
Fuller, a native of Tennessee currently is the Operations Officer at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility. He has served in a variety of engineering and combat systems billets, including Ship Repair Officer as a Supervisor of Shipbuilding, and as an Assistant Project Superintendent and Project Superintendent for multiple submarine projects at Puget Sound and Portsmouth Naval Shipyards.
Fuller received his Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering for the University of Tennessee in 1984 and his Masters in Mechanical Engineering from in the Naval Postgraduate School in 1991.
Portsmouth Naval Shipyard provides the U.S. Navy’s nuclear powered submarine fleet with quality overhaul work in a safe, timely and affordable manner and remains a vital element of the Navy’s submarine maintenance industrial base. The change of command will occur this fall.