Monday, March 30, 2009

China's last eunuch spills secrets

China's last eunuch
Jia Yinghua
Sun Yaoting and his biographer, Jia Yinghua. In his final years, Sun was recognized as a rare living repository of history.

By Emma Graham-Harrison

16 Mar 09 BEIJING (Reuters) - Only two memories brought tears to Sun Yaoting's eyes in old age -- the day his father cut off his genitals, and the day his family threw away the pickled remains that should have made him a whole man again at death.

China's last eunuch was tormented and impoverished in youth, punished in revolutionary China for his role as the "Emperor's slave" but finally feted and valued, largely for outlasting his peers to become a unique relic, a piece of "living history."

He had stories of the tortuous rituals of the Forbidden City, Emperor Pu Yi's last moments there and the troubled puppet court run by the Japanese during the 1930s. He escaped back to the heart of a civil war, became a Communist official and then a target of radical leftists before being finally left in peace.

This turbulent life has been recorded in the "The Last Eunuch of China" by amateur historian Jia Yinghua, who over years of friendship drew out of Sun the secrets that were too painful or intimate to spill to prying journalists or state archivists.

He died in 1996, in an old temple that had become his home, and his biography was finally published in English this year.

It unveils formerly taboo subjects like the sex life of eunuchs and the emperor they served, the agonizing castrations often done at home and also often lethal, and the incontinence and shame that came with the promise of great power.

"He was conflicted over whether to tell the secrets of the emperor," said Jia, adding that Sun preserved a loyalty to the old system because he had dedicated so much of his life to it.

"I was the only person he trusted. He did not even confide in his family, after they threw away his 'treasure,'" Jia added, using traditional eunuchs' slang for their preserved genitals.

They were discarded during the chaotic 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, when having anything from the "old society" could put lives at risk.

"He only cried about two things; when telling me about the castration and about the loss of his 'treasure'," said Jia, who works as an energy bureaucrat, but devotes all his spare time to chronicling the dying days of Imperial China after a childhood enthralled by the eunuchs and princes who were his neighbors.

Over years of painstaking research, he has gleaned arcane details about every aspect of palace life, along with secrets about the emperor's sexuality and cruelty that would look at home on the front page of tabloid newspapers.

For centuries in China, the only men from outside the imperial family who were allowed into the Forbidden City's private quarters were castrated ones. They effectively swapped their reproductive organs for a hope of exclusive access to the emperor that made some into rich and influential politicians.

Sun's impoverished family set him on this painful, risky path in hopes that he might one day be able to crush a bullying village landlord who stole their fields and burned their house.

His desperate father performed the castration on the bed of their mud-walled home, with no anesthetic and only oil-soaked paper as a bandage. A goose quill was inserted in Sun's urethra to prevent it getting blocked as the wound healed.

He was unconscious for three days and could barely move for two months. When he finally rose from his bed, history played the first of a series of cruel tricks on him -- he discovered the emperor he hoped to serve had abdicated several weeks earlier.

"He had a very tragic life. He had thought it was worthwhile for his father, but the sacrifice was in vain," Jia said, in a house stacked with old books, newspapers and photos.

"He was very smart and shrewd. If the empire had not fallen there is a high chance he would have become powerful," Jia added.

The young ex-emperor was eventually allowed to stay in the palace and Sun had risen to become an attendant to the empress when the imperial family were unceremoniously booted out of the Forbidden City, ending centuries of tradition and Sun's dreams.

"He was castrated, then the emperor abdicated. He made it into the Forbidden City then Pu Yi was evicted. He followed him north and then the puppet regime collapsed. He felt life had played a joke at his expense," Jia said.

Many eunuchs fled with palace treasures, but Sun took a crop of memories and a nose for political survival that turned out to be better tools for surviving years of civil war and ideological turbulence that followed.

"He never became rich, he never became powerful, but he became very rich in experience and secrets," Jia said.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Green Roads

Not bad right? It's on trial for a small stretch at Tampines. What other recycled materials can be used to make roads?

Saturday, March 28, 2009

SS3.2.2 Transport & Population Policies

Topic: Governance in Singapore
Essential Question: How are the principles of good governance practised in Singapore?

Understanding Goals:
How have the principles of governance helped shaped the management of traffic flow in Singapore?
1. Measures to manage traffic flow
  • ALS & Electronic Road Pricing
  • Park & Ride Scheme
  • Vehicle Quota System
  • Which do you think is the most effective measure in controlling traffic flow in Singapore?
  • What are the principles of governance behind each of these measures?
Understanding Goals: How have the principles of governance helped shaped population policies in Singapore?

Preview: What were the problems of population planning in Singapore?
  • Post-war baby boom + better healthcare/nutrition = longer life-expectancy = ageing population = high dependency ratio
  • Education = Social-economic mobility = late marriages/singlehood = low fertility rate
1. Measures to promote population growth
  • Incentives to promote larger families
  • Foreign Talent schemes
  • Pro-family policies
  • What are some implications of the fall in replacement level of births in Singapore?
  • How successful are Singapore's population policies in solving this problem?

Thursday, March 26, 2009

WH4.2.2 Pacific War Revision

We are reverting to World History this week onwards. We will revisit the Militarist Japan - War in the Pacific chapter. This is the schedule.

Content revision
4D: 30 Mar 09 (Mon) 1430 - 1600
4F: 26 Mar 09 (Thu) 0900-1045

Pacific War CA1.2 Test
4D: 31 Mar 09 (Tue) 1120 -1200
4F: 31 Mar 09 (Tue) 1305 - 1415

  • Militarist Japan/War in the Pacific worksheet (if you have lost it)
31 Mar 09 is an important day
  • Submit assignment on 4 SEQs & links for Strategies to Sustain Development. Read for more information here.
  • Bring notebook for checking. To have completed up to Social Studies Book 4 Chapter 2.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

4 Types of SEQs

How many types of SEQs are there? Here are some samples of the 4 Types of SEQs taken from past year questions.

Certified atomic bomb survivor

March 25, 2009
Japanese man proves he survived both atomic bombs

TOKYO - JAPAN has certified a 93-year-old man as the first known survivor of both US atomic bombings in World War II, in the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Tsutomu Yamaguchi was in Hiroshima when an American plane dropped an atomic bomb on Aug 6, 1945.

He survived with serious burns and returned to his hometown of Nagasaki, where the second bomb was dropped three days later.

Mr Yamaguchi had already been certified a 'hibakusha' or radiation survivor of the Nagasaki bombing but was officially confirmed this week as having lived through Hiroshima too.

'I just wanted to clarify the horror only a double atomic bomb survivor could understand,' Mr Yamaguchi told reporters.

'I hope to hand over the horror of atomic bombs and the importance of peace to our next generations.' -- AFP

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

SS4.2.1 Sustainable Development

Topic: Strategies for Sustainable Development
How can Singapore sustain her economic development without compromising our living environment?

Understanding Goals:
1. What are the SEQ types?

2. How can SEQs be constructed from this chapter?

1. SEQ Test: Using the 4-SEQ Types, construct 4 SEQs using information from the section of this chapter that outlines the strategies to sustain Singapore's development.
2. For each SEQ constructed, write the link sentence(s).
3. A sample of the 4 SEQ types can be downloaded here.

1. Review of Wal-mart SBQ & 3 Gorges Dam SBQ.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

What's this Credit Crisis?

Many reports have likened the current credit crisis as the Great Recession. Some even compare it with the Great Depression. What is this credit crisis?
The Crisis of Credit Visualized from Jonathan Jarvis on Vimeo.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Mass Migration

In this age of enhanced communication, improvements in transportation and growing knowledge about opportunities around the globe, people can move about to ease some of the disparities brought about by globalisation. Who is moving and where are they going?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

How you can help sustain our development

In the textbook, several strategies at the policy level have been identified in order for Singapore to sustain her development. What else can we do in our daily routines at an individual level? Here are some suggestions. We must not take our lifestyles for granted.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Solar Energy as Alternative Energy

In the section on efficient management of resources, one of the sustainable energy sources is solar energy. Do you know who solar energy works?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Hunt for Irish terrorists who shot UK troops

Real IRA claims responsibility as violence reignites in N. Ireland

ANTRIM (NORTHERN IRELAND): - Police in Northern Ireland were hunting gunmen from the Real IRA yesterday after the republican splinter group said it killed two British soldiers in the worst attack in the province for over a decade.

Two men armed with assault rifles opened fire from a car on four soldiers collecting pizzas at the gates of Massereene Barracks in Antrim, 25km north-west of Belfast, said Police Chief Superintendent Derek Williamson.

He said at least one gunman then got out of the car and shot the soldiers, as well as the two delivery men, again at close range. Four people were wounded, one of them critically.

A caller to the Dublin-based newspaper Sunday Tribune, using recognised code words, claimed responsibility for the Saturday shooting in the name of the South Antrim brigade of the Real IRA.

'He said he made, and the Real IRA made, no apology for targeting British soldiers while they remained what he called occupying the north of Ireland,' said Ms Suzanne Breen, a Tribune journalist.

The two slain soldiers, Cengiz Azimkar, 21, and Mark Quinsey, 23, belonged to the 38 Engineer Regiment, and had been due to fly to Afghanistan just hours after the attack.

Northern Ireland had been a hotbed of sectarian violence between Catholic nationalists - led by the Irish Republican Army and its political wing Sinn Fein - and Protestant unionists loyal to the British crown for three decades, until 1998 when the two sides signed a pact agreeing to share power. Some 3,700 people have been killed in the violence.

A group of die-hard republicans broke away from the now-defunct IRA in 1997, calling themselves Real IRA. They carried out the deadliest single bombing of Northern Ireland's decades-long sectarian 'Troubles' in the market town of Omagh in August 1998, killing 29 people.

Northern Ireland's former foes turned coalition government vowed the latest killings would not plunge the territory of 1.8 million people into a new cycle of violence.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein said on Sunday: 'I was a member of the IRA, but that war is over now. The people responsible for last night's incident are clearly signalling that they want to resume or restart that war. Well, I deny their right to do that.'

First Minister Peter Robinson, of the Protestant Democratic Unionists, added that the killers had 'no prospect of success in their campaign'.

The shooting followed a police warning last week that the threat from IRA splinter groups was again high.

The Real IRA, which lay low after the Omagh attack, has resurfaced in recent years. They claimed responsibility for shooting two policemen in 2007 in attacks seen as designed to dissuade Catholics from joining the police service.

At the end of January, police defused a 140kg car bomb left by dissident republicans in a Northern Irish village.

After last Saturday's attack, police found the attackers' suspected getaway vehicle abandoned in the nearby town of Randalstown. No arrests were reported.


Monday, March 09, 2009

Auschwitz is 'a type of beer'

March 9, 2009

LONDON - HUNDREDS of British school children believe Auschwitz is the name of a beer, religious festival or type of bread instead of the infamous Nazi death camp, a survey revealed on Monday.

More than 1000 high school students aged between 11 and 16 were asked what they knew about Auschwitz, where about 1.3 million people died during World War II.

Ten per cent said they were unsure, while eight per cent believed Auschwitz was a country bordering Germany, two per cent said it was a beer, another two per cent said a religious festival and one per cent said a type of bread.

Six in 10 students also had no idea about Hitler's Final Solution - a plan to exterminate all Jews - with a fifth saying they thought it was the name of peace talks to end the war.

Ninety seven per cent, however, were able to identify Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler from a photograph.

The London Jewish Cultural Centre, which commissioned the survey to mark the DVD release of WWII drama The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas, said the results indicated that thousands of British students lacked an understanding of the Holocaust.

It estimated that among Britain's 4.5 million 11- to 16-year-olds, 90,000 believed Auschwitz was a drink and 45,000 thought it was a type of bread. -- AAP


May this never happen to us.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Singapore Economy in 2009

Some reflection questions:
1. Can you think of any downsides to the measures suggested in the textbook for sustaining Singapore's development?
2. Can you think of any other measures that Singapore can adopt to sustain our development?

Saturday, March 07, 2009

SS4.1.10 Sustaining Development

Topic: Sustaining Development in Singapore
Enquiry Question: How can Singapore sustain our economic development?

Assessment: Who benefits from globalisation?
1. Review answers to Wal-mart SBQ.

Understanding goals: How can Singapore sustain our economic development?
1. Diversify the Economy
2. Nurturing SMEs
3. Venturing Abroad
4. Expanding Economic Cooperation
5. Managing Resources Efficiently:
  • Promoting entrepreneurship-enhance technical knowledge
  • Promoting lifelong learning-improving employability
  • Attracting foreign talents
  • Managing the environment: manage limited land resources, cooperate with regional/international organisations, enhance public education
Performance: What kinds of SEQs can be constructed from this section of the topic?

WH3.1.10 Hitler in Power

Topic: Hitler in Power
Essential Question: Did Hitler bring more harm than good?

Review: How did Hitler rule German?
  • Economic self-sufficiency through militarisation & rearmament
  • Social control through education, propaganda & police state
  • Facist discrimination through anti-Semitism, concentration camps & Holocaust
1. Watch Road to Treblinka/Schlinder's List/Auschwitz
2. Review the events (click image below) that led to the rise of Nazi dictatorship. How did the need for strong leadership lead to a rule of terror? Which event do you think was the turning point for Germany in the rise of authoritarianism?
1. SBQ Comparison on Kristalnacht (worksheet can be downloaded here)

Friday, March 06, 2009

Time and Tide: 5 Years behind the Three Gorges Dam

In the textbook, the Three Gorges Dam is featured as an example of the environmental impact of globalisation-development.

Here are some wonderful photos that chronicle the effects of the building of the Three Gorges Dam from 2003-08.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Sec 4 CA1 Suggested Answers

You can download the suggested answer the Sec 4 CA1 ASEAN-Terrorism SEQ here.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

WH3.1.9 Hitler in Power

Topic: Hitler in Power
Essential Question: Did Hitler bring more harm than good?

Review: Was the rise of Hitler inevitable?
1. Complete worksheet on the Rise of Hitler (1929-1933)

Understanding goals:
1. How did Hitler consolidate his power after 1933?
  • Elimination of Communists through Reichstag Fire
  • Suspension of democracy through Enabling Act
  • Extermination of opponents through Night of Long Knives
  • Winning support of military through Autarky
2. How did Hitler rule German?
  • Economic self-sufficiency through militarisation & rearmament
  • Social control through education, propaganda & police state
  • Facist discrimination through anti-Semitism, concentration camps & Holocaust
1. Watch Road to Treblinka/Schlinder's List
2. Who is to be blamed?

SS4.1.9 Case Study of Wal-Mart

Topic: Sustaining Singapore's Development

Review: How has globalisation been beneficial for Singapore?
1. Plugging into the driving forces of globalisation:
  • Growth of trade and services
  • Movement of people and talents
  • Flow of capital
  • Transfer of technology
2. Reaping the benefits of economic development
  • Economic impact
  • Social impact
  • Environmental impact
Understanding Goals: Who benefits from globalisation: DCs, LDCs or TNCs?

1. Watch Big-box Mart/Did you know?
2. Attempt SBQ on Wal-Mart

Review of CA1: Juggling Data, (Time + Test) Demands & Desired Outcomes.

Impact of Water Use

The impact of globalisation is not limited to food and commodities prices. With the accelerated urbanisation, increase in disposable income, improvements in standard of living come a "care-less" "I-can-pay-so-why-should-I-bother" attitude. Amongst the many limited resources we take for granted, perhaps the most mis-used is water. There are many in the world with no access to clean water. Let's treat our water as a valuable. Do not waste water.