The Leshan Giant Buddha

Photo by Suchet Suwanmongko.

Photo by Suchet Suwanmongko.

The Leshan Giant Buddha, located near the city of Leshan in Sichuan Province, China, is a 233-foot (71-meter) tall stone statue built during the Tang Dynasty. It is carved out of a cliff face facing Mount Emei, lying at the confluence of three rivers that flow below his feet. It is the largest stone Buddha in the world and by far the tallest pre-modern statue in the world.

Construction was started in 713 under the leadership of Chinese monk named Haitong, who hoped that Buddha would calm the turbulent waters that plagued the shipping vessels traveling down the river. As it so happens, the mountain range in which the Leshan Giant Buddha is located was thought to be shaped like a slumbering Buddha when seen from the river, with the Leshan Giant Buddha now being at its heart.

However, the project stalled due to insufficient funding and the eventual death of Haitong. About 70 years later, an unnamed jiedushi (regional military commander) decided to sponsor the project, and construction was completed by Haitong’s disciples in 803.

As it turns out, constructing the massive statue resulted in so much stone being removed and deposited into the river below, that the currents were indeed altered by the statue, making the water safe for passing ships as Haitong intended.

In addition to being a marvel of design, the Leshan Giant Buddha is an impressive engineering feat, featuring a sophisticated drainage system carved into various places on the body to carry away rainwater and reduce weathering (hence why it is one of the few stone statues built in a wet environment to remain in fairly good condition). This ancient systems works to this day, although today the Buddha and its surrounding area is threatened by pollution more than anything (the government has promised to restore it).

The Leshan Giant Buddha, along with the Mount Emei area, was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.

The photo below demonstrates just how large and impressive this monument is.

Giant Leshan Buddha

Happy Women’s Equality Day

A good friend of mine reminded me of an anniversary I should have remembered: on this day in 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was passed, prohibiting any citizen from being denied the right to vote on the basis of sex. This was a culmination of the women’s suffrage movement in the United States, which for decades fought at both state and national levels to achieve the vote (indeed, the amendment had first been introduced by suffragist leaders Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton many years earlier in 1878).

Prior this amendment,  suffrage for women varied across the country, as the U.S. Constitution allows states to determine qualifications for voting. Since the nation’s independence, only New Jersey had allowed a limited form of women’s suffrage, which was revoked in 1807; the majority of states did not start granting some form of suffrage until the turn of the 20th century, not long before the Nineteenth Amendment was passed.

In 1971, Congresswoman Bella Abzug introduced legislation designating August 26 of each year as Women’s Equality Day; since then, every president has issued a public proclamation for the commemoration.

The full text of the resolution is as follows:

WHEREAS, the women of the United States have been treated as second-class citizens and have not been entitled the full rights and privileges, public or private, legal or institutional, which are available to male citizens of the United States; and [3]
WHEREAS, the women of the United States have united to assure that these rights and privileges are available to all citizens equally regardless of sex;
WHEREAS, the women of the United States have designated August 26, the anniversary date of the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, as symbol of the continued fight for equal rights: and 
WHEREAS, the women of United States are to be commended and supported in their organizations and activities,
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, that August 26 of each year is designated as “Women’s Equality Day,” and the President is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation annually in commemoration of that day in 1920, on which the women of America were first given the right to vote, and that day in 1970, on which a nationwide demonstration for women’s rights took place

The U.S. was among the earliest nations to allow women to vote, but not the very first. Several polities that were briefly or questionable independent had allowed women suffrage for a time, including the Corsican Republic (1755), the Pitcairn Islands(1838), the Isle of Man (1881), and Franceville (1889). Moreover, there were some localities within particular realms, such as in Sweden and Colonial America, as well as among Amerindian groups like the Iroquois, that allowed some form of political participation for women.

But to keep it simple, we will start with what most scholars consider to be the first country to grant women suffrage: New Zealand, then an autonomous British colony, which granted allowed women the right to vote in 1893. It was followed two years later by fellow self-governing British colony South Australia; when Australia was formed in 1901, it allowed female suffrage one year later.

The first European country to introduce women’s suffrage was the Grand Duchy of Finland, then part of the Russian Empire, which elected the world’s first female members of parliament in 1907. Norway followed, granting full women’s suffrage in 1913. It was not until after the First World War that many European, Asian, and African countries allowed women to vote, including most of the Western Hemisphere. Several countries did not adopt such measures until the mid to late 20th century, including France in 1944, Italy in 1946, Greece in 1952 ,Switzerland in 1971, and Liechtenstein in 1984.

Among the most recent nations to join the trend are Namibia (1989), Samoa (1990), Qatar (1997), Bahrain (2002), Oman (2003), and finally the United Arab Emirates (2006, although suffrage is limited for men and women alike). Saudi Arabia remains the only country — unless you count Vatican City, the seat of the Papacy — where women cannot vote nor run for office, although it will presumably allow for both in 2015.

In any case, we have come a long way, even though voting is hardly the only area of concern for women’s rights. Check out this Atlantic article to see where women stand in various metric of well-being — from longevity to reproductive rights — across the world.

The Power of Stumbling Blocks

A stolperstein (German for “stumbling block”) describes one of several monuments created by German artist Gunter Demnig that commemorate a victim of the Holocaust. Stolpersteine are small, cobblestone-sized memorials for an individual victim of Nazism. The idea apparently arose from an old custom among non-Jewish Germans, who, upon stumbling over a protruding stone, would say, “There must be a Jew buried here.” A stolperstein is intended to similarly divert one’s attention. 

Demnig manufactures a concrete cube of four inches that he covers with a sheet of brass and stamps with the following details: the name, year of birth, and fate, if known. The stolperstein is then laid flush with the pavement or sidewalk in front of the last residence (or sometimes workplace) of the victim. The costs are covered covered by donations, collections, individual citizens, contemporary witnesses, school classes, or communities.

Stolperstein in Bonn for Ida Arensberg “Here lived Ida Arensberg. née Benjamin *1870 – deported 1942. Murdered in Theresienstadt on 18.9.1942″. Via Wikipedia.

As one historian noted: “It is not what is written [on the stolpersteine] which intrigues, because the inscription is insufficient to conjure a person. It is the emptiness, void, lack of information, the maw of the forgotten, which gives the monuments their power and lifts them from the banality of a statistic.” Simply seeing them in pictures, I can concur. 

Here are a few more examples, many of which can be found in cities across Europe — a grim reminder of the Holocaust’s scope and scale.

You can read more about these powerful artistic works here.
Featured Image -- 6045

The comprehensive, fully caffeinated guide to coffee at work

Eupraxsophy:

The perfect post to start a Monday with.

Originally posted on Quartz:

The cardinals who are gathered at the Vatican take a very important daily pause during their deliberations to choose a new pope.

“There’s a coffee break for about 30 minutes at a special buffet area in the front part of the audience hall,” the Rev. Thomas Rosica told CNN. “Cardinals have an opportunity to go down and mix and mingle.”

Whether you’re a prince of the church or a cubicle-dwelling drone, there seems to be an unbreakable bond between work and coffee: The boss provides the java and the java fuels the workers, keeping them revved up, connected, and toiling away at their given tasks.

Here’s everything you ever wanted to know about coffee at work, but were too over- or under-caffeinated to ask:

Surprise! Coffee keeps you alert

Caffeine, the most commonly consumed psychoactive drug in the world, is a stimulant. It blocks the adenosine receptors…

View original 646 more words

The Top Ten Ancient Greek Artwork

As the cradle of western civilization and one of the most advanced societies known to have ever existed in the ancient world, it is little surprise that the ancient Greeks excelled in one of the key marks of an advanced civilization: art and cultural expression. Courtesy of the BBC are ten works that are noteworthy for their innovation and impact both at the time and for centuries after. 
 

Fallen Warrior from Temple of Aphaia (c 480-470BC)

Sculpture of a fallen warrior from the temple of Aphaia at Aegina. Photograph: Print Collector/Getty Images.

There is a tragic pathos to this mighty sculpture of a dying hero from a temple on the Greek island of Aegina. Tragedy is a Greek concept. The tragedies of Sophocles, Euripides and Aeschylus are still performed. This statue shows a strong man fallen, heroic to his last breath.

The Pergamon altar (180-160BC)

Pergamon Altar. Athena against the giant Alcyoneus.

Pergamon Altar. Athena against the giant Alcyoneus. Photograph: Phas/UIG via Getty Images.

Classical Greek art changed rapidly as Greece itself went through wars and imperial transformations. In what is called the Hellenistic age it became much more emotional, sensual and even sensationalist. The furious sculptures on the Pergamon altar – which can be seen in its own museum in Berlin – are full of passion and psychological drama.

The Riace bronzes (460-420BC)

One of the two Riace bronzes: the Warrior

One of the two Riace bronzes: the Warrior Photograph: Alinari Archives/Alinari via Getty Images.

These tremendous statues found in the sea off southern Italy in 1972 are important because so few original Greek bronze statues survive. Most of the classical nudes in museums were carved in marble in the Roman era, as reproductions of such rare, and now largely lost, originals. Here we see the true majesty of Greek art in its classical age, which occurred in the fifth-century BC.

Goddesses from the east pediment of the Parthenon (c 438-432BC)

Three goddesses from east pediment of the Parthenon

Three goddesses from east pediment of the Parthenon. Photograph: ©The Trustees of the British Museum.

Sitting and reclining in graceful unison, these goddesses carved in marble for the Parthenon in Athens are among the most beautiful and mysterious images of the human form ever created. Incredibly, the artist makes the draperies that cover their bodies as real and richly textured as similar garments painted by Leonardo da Vinci a millennium later – and who didn’t have to produce his illusions in stone. These are dream goddesses.

Marble metope from the Parthenon (c 447-438BC)

Metope from Parthenon, battle between Centaurs and Lapiths

Metope from Parthenon, battle between Centaurs and Lapiths. Photograph: DEA/G Nimatallah/De Agostini/Getty Images.

Violence is a favourite theme of ancient Greek artists. Reared on the myth of the Trojan war and experiencing the reality of wars with Persia and between Greek cities, classical artists found new ways to show conflict. This human fighting a centaur, carved for the Parthenon in Athens, is astonishingly real in its detail and dynamic energy.

God from the sea, Zeus or Poseidon (c 470BC)

A bronze sculpture of the god Zeus, or possibly Poseidon

A bronze sculpture of the god Zeus, or possibly Poseidon Photograph: Archive Photos/Getty Images.

This majestic bronze, found in the sea off Greece, conveys the magic of Greek mythology. The god – probably Zeus, lord of Olympus himself – is caught in the act of hurling a thunderbolt. His body is charged with divine power, and yet, it is a human body, neither colossal nor ethereal but the mirror of ourselves. The Greek gods are human, all too human, and their petty squabbles cause wars and sorrow in the world.

The Siren vase (480-470BC)

The Siren Vase

The Siren vase. Photograph: © Trustees of the British Museum.

In Homer’s Odyssey, one of the founding epics of Greek literature, Odysseus longs to hear the seductive yet dangerous song of the sirens that lure sailors to their deaths. So all his crew plug their ears, and Odysseus has himself lashed to the mast. This powerful painting captures the tension as Odysseus strains at his bonds, his whole body agonised, his head raised in rapt listening.

The Motya charioteer (c 350BC)

The Motya Charioteer

The Motya charioteer. Photograph: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images.

This is one of the most startling Greek statues to survive, and highly revealing about the erotic charge of the Greek nude. This youth is not technically nude, but wears a tight-fitting garment that instead of hiding his body, heightens every contour. Greek statues are portraits of human beauty that are meant to be arousing as well as noble. This athlete poses in sensual triumph.

The Dionysus Cup by Exekias (c 540BC)

The Dionysus Cup by Exekias. Photograph: Matthias Kabel / Wikimedia.

Dionysus, god of wine and madness, sails on his boat, surrounded by dolphins, in this delightful painting. Part of the fascination of Greek art is that its themes were taken up by artists down the centuries, as the myths of this culture were constantly being rediscovered. So this image of Dionysus can be compared with later portrayals of the wine god by Titian, Michelangelo, or Cy Twombly.

Mask of Agamemnon (1550-1500BC)

Agamemnon, king of Mycenae. Gold funerary mask

Agamemnon, king of Mycenae. Gold funerary mask. Photograph: Universalimagesgroup/Getty Images.

When the enthusiastic, romantically minded archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann discovered this golden mask at Mycenae in 1876, he had no doubt that it must be the death mask of Agamemnon himself, the king who led the Greeks in the Trojan war, only to be assassinated on his homecoming. Of course there’s no proof of that, but it is one of the most compelling faces in art.

The World’s Friendliest Cities

According to the annual Readers’ Choice Survey conducted by luxury travel and lifestyle magazine Condé Nast Traveler, the following are the world’s friendliest cities:

11 (tie). Salzburg, Austria

11 (tie). Budapest, Hungary

9 (tie). Seville, Spain

9 (tie). Savannah, Georgia, U.S.

8. Cape Town, South Africa

7. Siem Reap, Cambodia

5 (tie). Sydney, Australia

5 (tie). Dublin, Ireland

4. Charleston, South Carolina, U.S.

3. Victoria, BC, Canada

1 (tie). Melbourne, Australia

1 (tie). Auckland, New Zealand

You can read the consensus review for each selection in the first hyperlink of this post (although the site was acting a bit wonky for me, hence why I could not reproduce the details here). Respondents allegedly based their choices on a range of factors, although CN notes that the survey is ultimately subjective. It appears most of the top cities tended to share a valuable combination of hospitality, beauty, great amenities, and overall character (unique, historically rich, etc).

Additionally, the majority of friendly cities are medium-sized, temperate in climate, and fairly wealthy (which is reflected by good infrastructure, low crime, lots of public attractions and spaces, etc). This is especially true of Australia and New Zealand, whose cities were dual winners for being warm and welcoming places (they also tend to rank high in indexes of livability, although interestingly, there is little correlation between quality of life and friendliness to outsiders, perhaps because the priorities and focuses of residents and visitors differ).

Siem Reap, hardly as well known as the other contenders, also stands out for being a relatively poor place in a poor country; however, it is apparently a well-established and popular resort-town that recently ranked as the world’s fourth-best city for tourists, so it is clearly a hidden gem of sorts. Budapest did a good job of giving lie to the stereotype of dour and unfriendly eastern Europeans, while Savannah and Charleston seem to confirm the endurance and appeal of southern hospitality.

Anyway, aside from the most pleasant places to visit,  respondents also selected the least friendliest ones:

10. Nassau, Bahamas

9. Monte Carlo, Monaco

8. Milan, Italy

7. Frankfurt, Germany

6. Beijing, China

5. Marseilles, France

4. Paris, France

3. Moscow, Russia

2. Cannes, France

1. Johannesburg, South Africa

An interesting mix of cities across the world, although France stands out with a plurality of three spots, including two among the top five. As with the previous list, this is all based on an aggregate of factors beside the hospitality of residents: for example, Beijing was given bad marks for its “terrible pollution” and “dirty streets and hideous traffic”, while Johannesburg made the list (despite being “one of the most beautiful” cities in the world) for its crime and staggering inequality.

Overall, however, it seems that most of the cities that ranked as unfriendly did have an attitude problem:  Marseilles was described as “threatening”, Monaco as “overcrowded and ostentatious”,  Frankfurt as “rude”, and Paris as “cold and aloof” (which in fairness can be said of many cities its size).

You can read the original summaries and judge the fairness of these assessments yourself, although those of you who are familiar with these locations in any way are more than welcomed to share your two cents. My own traveling experience is sadly limited, and none of the places I have been too (such as Orlando, Florida or Prague, Czech Republic) made either cut.

I do feel there are three big caveats to take into account when going over this list: one mentioned earlier is subjectivity — what is rude or cold behavior to some people may seem perfectly normal or even polite to others, depending both on one’s own personality and the sociocultural norms in which they were raised.

This leads to the next issue: the backgrounds of these respondents plays a role in how they interact with, and are perceived by, the cities they visit. Given the target demographic of this high-end, American-based magazine, I imagine most respondents represent a rather limited socioeconomic and cultural group that may have differing experiences in certain areas than people of other groups (would speakers of French or another Romance language feel the same coldness from Paris as those who do not know the language? Would someone who is used to living in big, polluted cities find Beijing so objectionable?)

Finally, a lot of these assessments are based on ultimately limited sample sizes. I do not just mean the number of respondents — although that, too, applies — but how much they experienced, how long they were there, and how often they have gone. Perhaps I missed this factor in looking through the criteria of those participating in the survey, but who is to say they got a good picture of the city they are visiting? Where you go within the city, when you visit, and even how you travel through it all influence one’s experience and overall impression.

As a resident of Miami, I can tell you that sticking to Miami Beach is very different from visiting the duller suburban areas or experiencing the grinding poverty of peripheral areas).

Still, this is nonetheless an interesting pair of lists to look at or consider, although I would much prefer to see these cities and judge them each for myself!

Source: CNN

Parenting Habits From Around The World

Globalization has allowed us to discover and learn more about all sorts of previously unknown ideas and concepts, and parenting is certainly no exception. Cultures across the planet have wildly different approaches to raising or education children, some of which may shock Americans — although the feeling is often mutual.

NPR has gathered an interesting collection of general parenting trends from around the world, some of which may catch on here, while others would be unthinkable. It is interesting to consider how and why certain societies adopt the parenting norms that they do. How each generation is raised has a tremendous impact on overall values and attitudes, and those parenting methods are in turn influenced by all sorts of other external factors (climate, geographic, prevailing economic conditions, etc).

Ponder this while taking a look at the following.

1. In Norway, kids nap outside even in subzero temperatures

In Norway, childhood is very institutionalized. When a kid turns one year old, he or she starts going to Barnehage (Norwegian for “children’s garden”), which is basically state-subsidized day care.

Parents pay a few hundred dollars a month and their kids are taken care of from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Toddlers spend a ton of time outside at Barnehage, even in extremely cold temperatures. It’s not uncommon to see kids bundled up outside during a Scandinavian winter, taking a nap in their strollers.

Even with the obvious benefits provided by the government in Norway, some parents complain about the lack of creativity in people’s approaches to parenting.

One American mother adjusting to raising kids in Norway wrote:

“There’s a sense that there’s just one right way to do things. And everyone does it that way. In America there are different parenting styles — co-sleeping, attachment parenting, etc. Here there is just one way, more or less: all kids go to bed at 7, all attend the same style of preschool, all wear boots, all eat the same lunch … that’s the Norwegian way.”

2. Vietnamese moms train their babies to pee on command

Here’s a good one. In Vietnam, parents train their babies to pee on command. Kind of like Pavlov with his salivating dogs. Except this is moms with peeing babies. The Chinese do it too, apparently. Parents start by noticing when their baby starts peeing and making a little whistle sound. Soon enough, the baby starts to associate the whistle with peeing and voila!

Think this sounds a little odd? Or a little like someone is conflating a kid with a pet schnauzer? Well, researchers say Vietnamese babies are usually out of diapers by 9 months. What do you think now?

3. Traditionally, Kisii people in Kenya avoid looking their babies in the eye

Kisii, or Gussii, moms in Kenya carry their babies everywhere, but they don’t indulge a baby’s cooing. Rather, when their babies start babbling, moms avert their eyes.

It’s likely to sound harsh to a Western sensibility, but within the context of Kisii culture, it makes more sense. Eye contact is an act bestowed with a lot of power. It’s like saying, “You’re in charge,” which isn’t the message parents want to send their kids. Researchers say Kisii kids are less attention-seeking as a result.

4. Danish parents leave their kids on the curb while they go shopping

In Denmark, writes Mei-Ling Hopgood in How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm, “children are frequently left outside to get frisk luft, or fresh air — something parents think is essential for health and hearty development — while caregivers dine and shop.”

As you might imagine, this idea sends shivers down the spines of many parents in the United States. In New York, a couple (one of whom was Danish) was arrested for leaving their child outside a BBQ restaurant while they went inside to eat.

“I was just in Denmark and that’s exactly what they do,” Mariom Adler, a New Yorker out walking with her 2-year-old son, told the New York Times. “We would see babies all over unattended. We were stunned, frankly. But Denmark also struck us as exceptionally civilized.”

5. In the Polynesian Islands, children take care of children

We’re not talking any old big brother baby-sitting little sister here. We’re talking organized kid collective.

Hopgood writes in her book that adults take the lead in caring for babies in Polynesia, but as soon as a child can walk, he or she is turned over to the care of other children.

“Preschool-aged children learned to calm babies,” she wrote, “and toddlers became self-reliant because they were taught that that was the only way they could hang out with the big kids.”

Jane and James Ritchie, a husband-and-wife anthropology team, observed a similar phenomenon over decades in New Zealand and the Polynesian Islands. But they don’t think it would fly in the United States.

“Indeed in Western societies, the degree of child caretaking that seems to apply in most of Polynesia would probably be regarded as child neglect and viewed with some horror,” they wrote in Growing Up in Polynesia.

6. Japanese parents let their kids go out by themselves

Parents in Japan allow their kids a lot of independence after a certain age. It isn’t uncommon for 7-year-olds and even 4-year-olds to ride the subway by themselves.

Christine Gross-Loh, author of Parenting Without Borders, lives in Japan for part of each year, and when she’s there she lets her kids run errands without her, taking the subway and wandering around town as they may. But she wouldn’t dare do the same back in the United States.

“If I let them out on their own like that in the U.S., I wouldn’t just get strange looks,” she told TED. “Somebody would call Child Protective Services.”

7. Spanish kids stay up late!

Spanish families are focused on the social and interpersonal aspects of child development, according to Sara Harkness, a professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Connecticut.

The idea of a child going to bed at 6:30 p.m. is totally alien to Spanish parents, Harkness told TED.

“They were horrified at the concept,” she said. “Their kids were going to bed at 10 p.m.” so they could participate in family life in the evenings. The same is true in Argentina, according to Hopgood.

8. Aka pygmy fathers win the award

For the Aka people in central Africa, the male and female roles are virtually interchangeable. While the women hunt, the men mind the children. And vice versa.

Therein lies the rub, according to professor Barry Hewlett, an American anthropologist. “There’s a level of flexibility that’s virtually unknown in our society,” Hewlett told The Guardian. “Aka fathers will slip into roles usually occupied by mothers without a second thought and without, more importantly, any loss of status — there’s no stigma involved in the different jobs.”

This flexibility, apparently, extends to men suckling their children. Ever wonder why men have nipples? That’s why.

9. French kids eat everything

Set mealtimes; no snacking whatsoever; the expectation that if you try something enough times, you’ll like it. These are among the “food rules” in France that are taken as given. The result is French kids who eat what adults eat, from foie gras to stinky cheese. Tell that to my nephew.

Of course, it goes without saying that most of these are just generalizations: not every Argentinian parent lets their kids stay up very late, nor do all French parents have such a liberal attitude towards what their children eat. Individual and subcultural nuances doubtless exist.

But perhaps like many other globalizing trends, we may start to see the development of trans-cultural approaches and standards. Just as cuisines, art styles, and consumer trends have emerged across the planet, so too will certain parenting ideas.

Then again, as I noted earlier, child rearing is a fundamental characteristic of a given society, and thus not something that can be transcribed nor altered so easily. Granted, the pace of globalization continues to accelerate, challenging all sorts of established cultural norms and concepts. Only time will tell, but in the meantime it is interesting to learn about — and learn from — how our fellow humans practice this vital social institution.

PSA: Your Default Narrative Settings Are Not Apolitical

Originally posted on shattersnipe: malcontent & rainbows:

Victorian Women SmokingImage taken from tumblr.

Recently, SFF author Tansy Rayner Roberts wrote an excellent post debunking the idea that women did nothing interesting or useful throughout history, and that trying to write fictional stories based on this premise of feminine insignificance is therefore both inaccurate and offensive. To quote:

“History is not a long series of centuries in which men did all the interesting/important things and women stayed home and twiddled their thumbs in between pushing out babies, making soup and dying in childbirth.

History is actually a long series of centuries of men writing down what they thought was important and interesting, and FORGETTING TO WRITE ABOUT WOMEN. It’s also a long series of centuries of women’s work and women’s writing being actively denigrated by men. Writings were destroyed, contributions were downplayed, and women were actively oppressed against, absolutely.

But the forgetting part is vitally important. Most historians and…

View original 2,546 more words

Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red

To mark the centenary of the First World War, tens of thousands of blood-red ceramic poppies will be planted around the Tower of London, each representing a life lost in the bloody four-year conflict.

The installation called ‘Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red’ was created by artist Paul Cummins and set designer Tom Piper with the help of a team of around 8,000 dedicated volunteers. Planting began on August 5, the start of the war, and will continue until November 11, Armistice Day (also known as Remembrance Day), which marks the end of the war.

By then, the iconic monument will have 888,246 poppies, a somber reflection of the staggering death toll. Both British and Commonwealth soldiers are represented, including around 74,000 troops from the Indian subcontinent who gave their lives to the empire.

At barely 120,000 or so poppies as of this post, it already looks sobering:

Blood Swept Lands And Seas Of Red, Tower of London. Between 5th August (start of the war) and 11th November (Remembrance Day), there will be a poppy planted for each death. Blood Swept Lands And Seas Of Red, Tower of London Blood Swept Lands And Seas Of Red, Tower of London III Blood Swept Lands And Seas Of Red, Tower of London IV

It is hard to imagine that each poppy represents a single human life, an individual with a name, identity, dreams, ideas, fears, loved ones. To think that all this is but a fraction of the over 16 million people who died, nearly half of whom were civilians (I can only imagined the scale of this project if it entailed all those lives.

The poppy became a symbol of remembrance in Britain during the First World War, inspired by a 1915 poem called “In Flanders Field” by Canadian Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, which recalled the fragile flower melding with the dead in Flanders, Belgium (the site of many horrific battles).

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

The ceramic poppies do an excellent job of visualizing just how many individuals died in this senseless conflict. Each took three days to make and were put up for public sale; after the last poppy is planted in November, the small sculptures will be sent to buyers and the proceeds will go to British charities such as the Royal Legion and Help for Heroes, which serve British veterans.

Source: The Independent

The Pakistan Monument

In honor of yesterday being Pakistan’s Independence Day (1947), I am sharing the lovely Pakistan Monument, a national monument finished in 2007 and located in the capital, Islamabad.

Following a competition involving many renowned architects, Arif Masood’s concept was chosen for the final design: the shape of a blooming flower representing Pakistan’s progress as a rapidly developing country, which each petal representing a province or territory. 

Intended to reflect the culture and civilization of the country, the inside of each petal depicts the story of the Pakistan Independence Movement, as well as aspects of the country’s ancient history. The central platform is a five-point star surrounded by a body of water; the metallic crescent that also surrounds the star is inscribed with quotes and poems by prominent independence leaders.

Cleverly, the monument is designed to look like a star and crescent moon from the air, which are the symbols on Pakistan’s flag (I had a hard time finding a good photo, but you can sort of make it out here I think).

The Pakistan Monument looks especially stunning at night. It seems like a very serene place to visit and unwind in. 

To all my readers from Pakistan, I hope you had a great independence day celebration!