First drawn in 1935, Hu Line illustrates persistent demographic split – how Beijing deals with it will determine the country's future.
- In 1935, demographer Hu Huanyong drew a line across a map of China.
- The 'Hu Line' illustrated a remarkable divide in China's population distribution.
- That divide remains relevant, not just for China's present but also for its future.
Consequential feature<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTY5OTQxOC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNTk3ODY0OX0.8-1X8cQiYysVBCN8rHZOAN70tW-TCvhQTjeSwZVqnmY/img.jpg?width=980" id="daaf6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="bcfc6ba1b3b3723fa0fb613987f83777" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="A woman stands on an embankment of the Amur river, with Chinese town of Heihe seen in the background, in the Russian far-eastern town of Blagoveshchensk, on August 17, 2020. (Photo by Dimitar DILKOFF / AFP) (Photo by DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP via Getty Images)" data-width="1024" data-height="683" />
A bather in Blagoveshchensk, on the Russian bank of the Amur. Across the river: the Chinese city of Heihe.
Credit: Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP via Getty Images<p>The Hu Line is arguably the most consequential feature of China's geography, with demographic, economic, cultural, and political implications for the country's past, present, and future. Yet you won't find it on any official map of China, nor on the actual terrain of the People's Republic itself.</p><p>There are no monuments at its endpoints: not in Heihe in the north, just an icy swim across the Amur from Blagoveshchensk, in Russia's Far East; nor in Tengchong, the subtropical southern city set among the hills rolling into Myanmar. Nor indeed anywhere on the 2,330-mile (3,750-km) diagonal that connects both dots. The Hu Line is as invisible as it is imaginary.</p><p>Yet the point that the Hu Line makes is as relevant as when it was first imagined. Back in 1935, a Chinese demographer called Hu Huanyong used a hand-drawn map of the line to illustrate his article on 'The Distribution of China's Population' in the Chinese Journal of Geography.</p><p>The point of the article, and of the map: China's population is distributed unevenly, and not just a little, but a lot. Like, <em>a lot</em>.</p><ul><li>The area to the west of the line comprised 64 percent of China's territory but contained only 4 percent of the country's population.</li><li>Inversely, 96 percent of the Chinese lived east of the 'geo-demographic demarcation line', as Hu called it, on just 36 percent of the land.</li></ul><p>Much has changed in China in the intervening near-century. The weak post-imperial republic is now a highly centralized world power. Its population has nearly tripled, from around 500 million to almost 1.4 billion. But the fundamentals of the imbalance have remained virtually the same.</p><p>Even if China's territory has not: in 1946, China recognized the independence of Mongolia, shrinking the area west of the Hu Line. Still, in 2015, the distribution was as follows:</p><ul><li>West of the line, 6 percent of the population on 57 percent of the territory (average population density: 39.6 inhabitants per square mile (15.3/km2).</li><li>East of the line, 94 percent of the population on 43 percent of the territory (average population density: 815.3 inhabitants per square mile (314.8/km2).</li></ul>
Persistent dichotomy<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTY5OTQyMC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MDYzMjQwMH0.U6WZlL_YLrj2UWK54XMEszoVri9pW1rCN0k4Tp6uHD8/img.png?width=980" id="263c5" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="aca8cef9b29d250688bdb0c574339c7e" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1500" data-height="1176" />
Hu Huanyong's original hand-drawn map of China, showing population density and the now-famous line (enhanced for visibility).
Credit: Chinese Journal of Geography (1935) – public domain.<p>Why is this demographic dichotomy so persistent? In two words: climate and terrain. East of the line, the land is flatter and wetter, meaning it's easier to farm, hence easier to produce enough food for an ever-larger population. West of the line: deserts, mountains, and plateaus. Much harsher terrain with a drier climate to boot, making it much harder to sustain large amounts of people.</p><p>And where the people are, all the rest follows. East of the line is virtually all of China's infrastructure and economy. At night, satellites see the area to the east twinkle with lantern-like strings of light, while the west is a blanket of near total darkness, only occasionally pierced by signs of life. In China's 'Wild West', per-capita GDP is 15 percent lower on average than in the industrious east.</p><p>An additional factor typifies China's population divide: while the country overall is ethnically very homogenous – 92 percent are Han Chinese – most of the 8 percent that make up China's ethnic minorities live west of the line. This is notably the case in Tibet and Xinjiang, two nominally autonomous regions with non-Han ethnic majorities.</p><p>This combination of economic and ethnic imbalances means the Hu Line is not just a persistent quirk, but a potential problem – at least from Beijing's perspective. Culturally and geographically distant from the country's east, Tibetans and Uyghurs have registered strong opposition to China's centralizing tendencies, often resulting in heavy-handed repression. <br></p>
Long-term strategy<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTY5OTQzMC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMjI2MDM5Nn0.snaVUeTX38-YjR567pzTOSOUKBh320wrSD6mat90R-M/img.jpg?width=980" id="ce6bf" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="daeae9f5179eb1de69fd641c3fb5d1cf" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="TENGCHONG COUNTY, CHINA - MARCH 12: (CHINA OUT) A woman knits a sweater aside a street at Heshun Township on March 12, 2006 in Tengchong County of Yunnan Province, China. Heshun, the remote town on China's southern border, once had very close contacts with the outside world. Since ancient times, it has been a trade center due to neighboring Myanmar famous for jade. As many overseas Chinese ancestors lived in 600-year-old Heshun, almost every resident in the town has friends and relatives abroad. (Photo by China Photos/Getty Images)" data-width="1024" data-height="689" />
Street view in Tengchong, on China's border with Myanmar.
Credit: China Photos/Getty Images<p>But repression is not the central government's long-term strategy. Its plan is to pacify by progress. China's 'Manifest Destiny' has a name. In 1999, Jiang Zemin, then Secretary-General of the Chinese Communist Party, launched the 'Develop the West' campaign. The idea behind the slogan retains its political currency. In the last decade, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has repeatedly urged the country to "break through" the Hu Line, in order to modernize China's western half.</p><p><span></span>The development strategy has an economic angle – adding industry and infrastructure to raise the region's per-capita GDP to the nation's average. But the locals fear that progress will bring population change: an influx of enough internal migrants from the east to tip the local ethnic balance to their disadvantage.</p><p><span></span>China's ethnic minorities are officially recognized and enjoy certain rights; however, if they become minorities in their own regions, those will mean little more than the right to perform folklore songs and dances. The Soviets were past masters in this technique.</p><p>Will China follow the same path? That question will be answered if and when the Hu Line fades from relevance, by how much of the west's ethnic diversity will have been sacrificed for economic progress.</p><p><strong>Strange Maps #1071</strong><br></p><p><em>Got a strange map? Let me know at </em><a href="mailto:email@example.com">firstname.lastname@example.org</a><em>.</em><br></p>
From Ramses II to Alexander the Great, these leaders helped shaped the world we know today.
- We often dismiss ancient history and the people in it as too long past to be noteworthy.
- Some early rulers were so iconic that their names and works passed into legend and influenced others for centuries.
- Every person on this list contributed to the world you live in today.
Hammurabi (1810– c. 1750 BCE)<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTU1MTIyOC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MDgwNDUyMn0.9puBBqxNRed1QawIkrJJTxHW8Z11V_Q1pSepNIzU2Rk/img.jpg?width=980" id="eb167" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2c400887e944888d3c255fda30cb32be" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="576" data-height="324" />
Hammurabi (left) meets the God of Justice on the pillar laying out his laws.
Public domain<p> Hammurabi was the king of Babylon who conquered all who opposed him and ruled with a code of laws assuring uniformity in <a href="https://www.biography.com/political-figure/hammurabi" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">justice</a>. While his laws are not the oldest surviving ones and are not particularly good, they are among the earliest examples of a constitution known to man with an influence that is difficult to overstate.</p><p>After spending the early part of his reign strengthening Babylon's walls and expanding the temples, <a href="https://www.ancient.eu/hammurabi/" target="_blank">Hammurabi</a> took advantage of regional political intrigue and shifting alliances to conquer all of southern Mesopotamia—which came to be known as Babylonia—and forced the other power in the area, Assyria, to pay tribute.</p><p>He is most famous for his code of <a href="https://www.ancient.eu/article/68/hammurabis-code-babylonian-law-set-in-stone/" target="_blank">laws</a>. The code, famously preserved on a monolith shaped like an index finger, shows Hammurabi receiving the law from the God of Justice. It goes on to describe 282 situations and prescribes legal action for each. It includes clauses for the presumption of innocence, the opportunity for both parties in a case to present evidence, and is the first known example of the eternally famous dictum: "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth."</p><p>Despite the attempts of the code to ensure equality, the harsh punishments are scaled based on who harms whom. A property-owning man would be punished less harshly than a slave, for <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Code_of_Hammurabi" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">example</a>.</p><p>Despite the disintegration of his empire after his death, his laws largely remained enforced at the local level and went on to influence the Romans, who wouldn't barrow the idea of making the law publicly available until much later.</p>
Hatshepsut (1507–1458 BCE)<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTU1MTI2MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNTU0MDAzNH0.wWZxhD7fE6sqCtrtApTwJxwRiKOStPxCeKvenul4sp4/img.jpg?width=980" id="65375" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="980e074e86228dde98f3ef0289b851c2" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="750" data-height="422" />
Credit: Postdlf, CC BY-SA 3.0,<p> The second woman confirmed to rule as pharaoh and by far the most consequential, <a href="https://www.ancient.eu/hatshepsut/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Hatshepsut</a> had to overcome laws and traditions technically barring women from the role.</p><p>The wife, daughter, and sister of a king, Hatshepsut was also technically the wife of a God. Upon the death of her brother-husband, the pharaoh Thutmose II, Hatshepsut used her political cunning, regal background, and religious power to assume the title of pharaoh alongside her young son Thutmose III.</p><p>Like any good pharaoh, she embarked on a vast building campaign to legitimize her rule. No previous ruler (and perhaps only a few after) oversaw such an extensive series of building projects. Their vast scale suggests the country was particularly prosperous at this time.</p><p>Among these projects was her tomb, the extremely impressive <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mortuary_Temple_of_Hatshepsut" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Djeser-Djeseru</a>.</p><p>Trade routes that had been disrupted prior to her reign were reestablished. This process included an expedition to the mysterious and wealthy <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Land_of_Punt" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Land of Punt.</a> She also found the time to send military expositions to neighboring states. These ventures assured the prosperity which would define the 18<sup>th</sup> dynasty.</p><p> As with many pharaohs, there were attempts to erase any trace of Hatshepsut from the historical record. While these failed, they did cause some trouble for archaeologists a few thousand years later, who struggled to determine why some hieroglyphs referred to a queen.</p>
Ramses II (1303 BCE – 1213 BCE)<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTU1MTI2OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NTY3NDQ1MX0.HGhQ81pbetIuY_ZhFSR1-VT2yFYV52BqlKK8MS1h4Qs/img.jpg?width=980" id="233df" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cbb677d5ba983fc15f06ab3ab63013c5" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1920" data-height="1080" />
The man himself- mummified, of course.
Public domain<p> Known to the Greeks, lovers of romantic poetry, and Alan Moore fans as Ozymandias, Ramses was one of the greatest rulers of Egypt, a country with enough great rulers to make that quite the achievement. </p><p> Like other great Egyptian rulers, Ramses' reign featured monumental construction projects. Unlike most of his predecessors, his projects were on a scale not seen since the building of the Pyramids.</p><p>He built the new capital of <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pi-Ramesses" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Pi-Ramesses</a>, a dazzling city and military base with which he kept an eye on his holdings in Canaan. Several massive temple structures, including the famous <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abu_Simbel_temples" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Abu Simbel temples</a>, were dedicated at this time and featured colossal images, often of himself. He also ordered his artists to carve words and images deeper into stone than had been done previously to make them easier to see and harder to remove.</p><p>On the whole, his reign is considered by many art historians to be the high point of Ancient Egyptian culture. </p><p>Known as a great military leader, Ramses personally led his armies in Libya, Nubia, and Canaan. While his war with the Hittites didn't go quite as well as his propaganda claimed, it did lead to the first peace treaty in human history.</p><p>During the Bronze Age Collapse, a period when most Mediterranean civilizations fell, Ramses was able to make Egypt one of two major civilizations to avoid failure and destruction at the hands of the mysterious "Sea Peoples" by defeating them in battle and securing the Egyptian borders. Without his leadership, Egypt may have suffered the same dark age as its neighbors and the world the poorer for it. </p><p> His reign was so long—he lived to be 96—that many Egyptians feared the end of the world at the time of his <a href="https://www.ancient.eu/Ramesses_II/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">death</a>. Nine later pharaohs would take his name in tribute to his legacy.</p><p>In addition to his impact in popular culture hinted at above, he is also frequently used as the pharaoh in film adaptions of the Exodus story, though there is no archaeological or historical evidence confirming such an event or that he was in charge when it happened.</p>
The Duke of Zhou (11th Century BCE)<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTU1MTI3Mi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMjIwMTk0NH0.vsZobnrMYrN_zOXbE9GhVJjma8HM7XhawpU3I4HveT4/img.jpg?width=980" id="10ad7" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="632094861f6173e596c1fe520a6bc5a4" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="693" data-height="390" />
The Grand Old Duke of Zhou
Pericles (495 – 429 BCE)<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTU1MTI3Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0Mzg1MDU2OH0.6YPLkkRucI37fzG92F5wkHcmh7AVO9s9GhLlpq5zp_U/img.jpg?width=980" id="6d55c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="87e6fcc14c4c0ea124017d734fc0bec2" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1187" data-height="668" />
Public domain<p> The only member on this list to not rule as a king, <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/culture/people/reference/pericles/" target="_blank">Pericles</a> was a general and the first citizen of Athens. While his command of the Assembly was firm enough that some commentators declared Athens "in name a democracy but, in fact, governed by its first citizen."</p><p>While he was only ever elected as a general, Pericles was the leading member of the democratic faction of Athens for much of his life and dominated the political scene. After taking the reins of power, he oversaw the expansion of democratic rights, the issuing of salaries to those serving in government offices, the giving of land to the poor, and the creation of pensions for war widows.</p><p>This time span, known as the <a href="https://www.ancient.eu/pericles/" target="_blank">Age of Pericles</a>, is considered the golden age of Athenian culture, when many playwrights, artists, sculptors, and philosophers were in Athens doing their finest work. It is this era that made Athens the leading city of ancient Greece. </p><p>His most famous act was technically one of embezzlement. He convinced the Athenians to use the treasury of the Delian League, a group of Greek city-states united for defense under Athenian guidance, to build a massive temple complex to replace an older temple for Athena. That complex, the Parthenon, remains a symbol of Ancient Greece and its golden era.</p><p>With his considerable oratorical skill, Pericles was able to maintain majorities in the Assembly even in the face of organized opposition. His famous "<a href="https://www.thoughtco.com/pericles-funeral-oration-thucydides-version-111998" target="_blank">Funeral Oration</a>" remains a landmark speech in the history of democratic leadership.</p>
Alexander the Great (356 – 323 BCE)<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTU1MTI4Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NjA1NzYxOH0.sJAE18ZyxsFPPCyeWj6lczb09wUBLXx8iimCixHh50w/img.jpg?width=980" id="62bef" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8ac98c7af7e6f3939ca20d95a3643086" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1920" data-height="1080" />
Public domain<p> No discussion of great rulers of the ancient world is complete without a reference to <a href="https://www.ancient.eu/Alexander_the_Great/" target="_blank">Alexander</a>. The son of the king of Macedonia, a Greek-speaking kingdom just north of what the Greeks considered the civilized world, Alexander took control of his father's kingdom and leadership of the Greek world after the old king was conveniently assassinated.</p><p>After becoming king and assuring the cooperation of the other Greek states, Alexander set out to conquer Persia, the neighboring empire which stretched from Egypt to India. After ten years of campaigning, in which he never lost a battle, Alexander conquered Persia, attempted to invade India, and laid out plans for a cosmopolitan empire blending eastern and western cultures <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/alexander-great/" target="_blank">together</a>. </p><p> He died at age 33 of a <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/culture/people/reference/alexander-the-great/" target="_blank">mysterious illness</a> before he could do so. His empire was then split up among his generals. </p><p>His conquests ushered in the Hellenistic period and made Athenian Greek the Lingua Franca of the eastern Mediterranean world. Greek ideas on art, culture, city planning, and education spread into new areas and fused with local ideas. This all but assured the primacy of Greek culture over all others in that part of the world and would guarantee its endurance even long after Rome conquered most of the Hellenistic kingdoms that sprung up after Alexander's death. </p>
Qin Shi Huang (259 – 210 BC)<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTU1MTI5Mi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NTYxMDIxNn0.rTUFe4uIL6C4lKngJntfPIlqYYbHP7uGazcRovyRGbY/img.jpg?width=980" id="a1224" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="27f78ebae48a7e7192c8a917945a1960" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1732" data-height="974" />
Public domain<p> The first emperor to unite China and the initiator of several ideas later rulers would emulate, <a href="https://www.ancient.eu/Shi_Huangdi/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Qin Shi Huang</a> technically ended what is thought of as ancient Chinese history and ushered in the imperial era.</p><p> After becoming king of one of the seven warring kingdoms during the aptly named "warring states period," he united the seven under his rule through a brutal military conquest. Assuming the title of Emperor of China, he abolished feudalism, redrew the administrative maps, and replaced hereditary officials with ones selected for their merits.</p><p>He then began an extensive public works campaign, which included building the first iteration of the Great Wall and a canal linking the Yangtze and Pearl Rivers. His government also found the time to build extensive roadways, reform the coinage, and redistribute land to the <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/culture/people/reference/qin-shi-huangdi/" target="_blank">peasants</a>. </p><p>Qin Shi Huang also had a dark side. He famously burned the imperial library and all of its texts, which made him, or the legalistic philosophy his government followed, look bad. The flourishing of ideas that defined warring states era philosophy ended during his <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Qin_Shi_Huang" target="_blank">rule</a>, though the ideas he sought to suppress, including Confucianism, merely went underground. </p><p>Toward the end of his life, the emperor began a search for immortality elixirs. It is believed that some of these elixirs contained mercury, which may have hastened his death. His tomb is the home of the famous terracotta army in Xian.</p>
Boudica (died in 60 or 61 CE)<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTU1MTMxNC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxODEzOTE1NX0.EKWkd4qZo8lP7d5fP3VKLOcxfPWbDsMRqQ5rQW92iA0/img.jpg?width=980" id="9751a" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1087a83691ffc6ea61d8d4d6a564585d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1920" data-height="1080" />
Boudica's statue in London, the city she burned.
Credit: Paul Walter - Boudica statue, Westminster, CC BY 2.0,<p> Boudica was the queen of the Celtic Iceni tribe, famed for leading her people in revolt against the Romans. While she was defeated, her victories still inspire those fighting for freedom two thousand years later. </p><p>Her late husband had willed his petty kingdom to both Rome and his daughters in hopes that this arrangement would assure some form of independence. The Romans instead moved in and brutally suppressed the population. Appealed by this betrayal, <a href="https://www.ancient.eu/Boudicca/" target="_blank">Boudica</a> led the Iceni and their neighbors in rebellion.</p><p>Their first stop was Colchester, which they systematically demolished. When the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legio_IX_Hispana" target="_blank">9<sup>th</sup> legion</a> was sent to put down her rebellion, she led her troops in battle against them. The 9<sup>th</sup> was almost completely annihilated, with only a few officers and horsemen escaping.</p><p>Her army advanced, burning Roman settlements in their wake. Roman officials fled as the city of Londinium, now known as London, was wiped off the map.</p><p>It was shortly after this that the Romans counterattacked with a large force somewhere outside of modern London. Boudica, having expressed her desire to win or die as a freewoman, led the rebels from her chariot and perished alongside them.</p><p>She is unique among the members of this list for being better known as a symbol of the fight against oppression than for the constructive elements of her reign. Her image returned to prominence during the English renaissance when England, led by Elizabeth I, faced invasion. The following centuries only added to her <a href="https://www.historytoday.com/miscellanies/queen-boudica-life-legend" target="_blank">fame</a>.</p><p> Today, statues of Boudica can be found in several prominent locations in London.</p>
Trajan (53-117 CE)<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTU1MTMyNy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzODczODczM30.R9sis8byQGPsRSGuNDwLEwwNAbyGII2UhTONawAbklc/img.jpg?width=980" id="7b714" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f008adc45eb5cc1be46affbd09732628" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="2368" data-height="1332" />
Credit: Marco Almbauer - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,<p> The second of the "Five Good Emperors," <a href="https://www.ancient.eu/trajan/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Trajan</a> expanded Roman territory to its greatest extent, stretching from Scotland to Kuwait. Between his military successes and domestic policies, the Roman Senate found it proper to declare Trajan Optimus Princeps- the greatest ruler.</p><p>Adopted by a childless emperor as an adult, <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/trajan/" target="_blank">Trajan</a> was the first Roman emperor to not be born in Italy. Coming to power during an era of relative prosperity, Trajan spent much of his time on public works projects and warfare. </p><p>On the domestic <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trajan" target="_blank">front</a>, he rebuilt the road system which Rome is so famous for, gave the city of Rome—now home to a million people—a new forum and lovely column, financed vast infrastructure projects, and granted pardons to those persecuted under the reign of Domitian a few years prior.</p><p> On the battlefield, he led the legions in three large wars. These ended in the conquest of modern Romania, Armenia, Iraq, and Kuwait. In celebration of the Romanian conquest, he put on a festival featuring 10,000 gladiators. </p>
Pacal the Great (603 – 683 CE)<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTU1MTMzMi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTI5Njk1Mn0.9vfNyQYaQF7Suu6mw494QrsaP3YuUfsvo04T9yuzNyg/img.jpg?width=980" id="bd5dd" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="bce857f69b9057c2179ff5c2f92a8d01" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1920" data-height="1080" />
The jade death mask of Pacal.
Public domain<p> A Mayan king whose 68-year rule is the fifth-longest reign in history, <a href="https://www.ancient.eu/Kinich_Janaab_Pacal/" target="_blank">Pacal</a> turned a minor city-state into a powerhouse and built some of the great Mayan temples. Known as <a href="https://www.ancient.eu/Kinich_Janaab_Pacal/" target="_blank"> K'inich Janabb' Pakal i</a>n his own language, his rule was one of the high points of the<a href="https://www.ancient.eu/Maya_Civilization/" target="_blank"> Mayan civilization.</a> <br></p><p>Coming to power at age 12 after a period of regency under a mother who would later serve as his chief advisor, Pacal legitimized his rule with a series of massive building projects. These included the great Temple of the Inscriptions in his capital of Palenque, which would later serve as his tomb. He also forged alliances with other Mayan rulers that would bring Palenque to prominence.</p><p>His capital city, while a smaller Mayan urban center, features some of the finest artwork that civilization is known to have produced. The majority of the city has not been fully discovered, and what archaeological wonders lie waiting in the jungle is anyone's guess.</p>
Answering the question of who you are is not an easy task. Let's unpack what culture, philosophy, and neuroscience have to say.
- Who am I? It's a question that humans have grappled with since the dawn of time, and most of us are no closer to an answer.
- Trying to pin down what makes you you depends on which school of thought you prescribe to. Some argue that the self is an illusion, while others believe that finding one's "true self" is about sincerity and authenticity.
- In this video, author Gish Jen, Harvard professor Michael Puett, psychotherapist Mark Epstein, and neuroscientist Sam Harris discuss three layers of the self, looking through the lens of culture, philosophy, and neuroscience.
A study of the Mosuo women, known for their matriarchy, suggests that gender roles can influence our health outcomes.
- An isolated ethnic group in China maintains a matriarchal society, much to the benefit of their health.
- The Mosuo women were not only healthier than women living under patriarchy, but were healthier than the men too.
- The findings support the idea that having a degree of autonomy and resource control is good for your health
The Kingdom of Women<p> The <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/photography/proof/2017/08/portraits-of-chinese-Mosuo-matriarchs/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Mosuo</a> people are an ethnic group that lives in the Yunnan and Sichuan regions of China, next door to Tibet. Long isolated from other parts of China—and insulated against the occasional upheavals that impacted other cultures—they continue to maintain cultural institutions commonly described as matriarchal or matrilineal. </p><p>Children take the name of their mother's family, who they live with all their lives. Households are run by matriarchs, often the grandmother, and inheritance goes from mother to <a href="https://www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/rough/2005/07/introduction_tolinks.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">daughter</a>. The matriarch makes all major household decisions, including financial ones, and women do work often doled out to men in other cultures. <br> <br> They are also known to practice a unique form of marriage known as a "<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mosuo" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">walking marriage</a>." In this system, a couple decides to carry on a relationship by mutual consent. They do not live together, remaining in the homes of their respective families. The man, instead, "walks" over to the woman's house for romantic rendezvous. Men have to return home by sunrise. </p><p> The relationship is carried on for as long as both parties want but carries no social or economic obligations. It is ended at any time with little difficulty. Many people often confuse this with <a href="https://www.npr.org/sections/parallels/2016/11/26/501012446/the-place-in-china-where-the-women-lead" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">promiscuity</a>, but most anthropologists report it as a kind of serial monogamy, and many relationships that take this form are long term. Any children resulting from these marriages are raised by the mother's family, though the father may play a role as agreed upon by all involved. Typically, the child's uncles will play the role of father figure. </p><p> It is worth noting that men do have some power in this society; they are in charge of all things death-related, including funerals and the killing of animals. They also have some political <a href="http://public.gettysburg.edu/~dperry/Class%20Readings%20Scanned%20Documents/Intro/Yuan.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">power</a>, though women often have most of it. <br> <br> Cases like these are common among matriarchal societies, with men retaining some measure of control over their lives even if they aren't at the top often unknown to women in patriarchal societies. A variety of sources indicate that the men in this society, who are well aware of the alternatives, are often content with their situation. Mosuo villages with patrilineal traditions also exist.</p><p>Even with these caveats, it is fair to say that the women of the Mosuo are highly autonomous and have a long history of personal freedom beyond that which is known to women in many other cultures. </p>
Medical considerations of matriarchy<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/5PMxxtUq5dc" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p> Most of you will know that women tend to outlive men. Fewer of you will know that women tend to have higher morbidity than men do in spite of this. </p><p> Two manifestations of this are that women tend to have higher blood pressure than men after reaching post-reproductive age and that women of all ages tend to experience more inflammation than men. Both of these are important markers of long-term health and are commonly associated with other serious conditions. </p><p> While these issues have often been calked up to biology, a team of researchers led by Adam Reynolds of the University of New Mexico set out to see if they also existed in Mosuo society. The team recorded health measures in Mosuo individuals living in either a matrilineal or patrilineal society and compared them using statistical methods. The <a href="https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/11/10/2014403117" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">findings</a> have been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.<br> <br> Levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a biomarker that can indicate the presence of inflammation, were measured in the blood of 371 Mosuo participants. A mere 3.6 percent of the women living in the matriarchal areas were found to suffer from high inflammation levels unrelated to other conditions. In the patrilineal communities, the prevalence of chronic inflammation in women was 8.3 percent.<br> <br> Blood pressure tests showed similar results after nearly a thousand people were tested. Of the women living in matrilineal areas, only 25.6 percent had hypertension. A third of women in the comparison areas had the condition.</p><p>In a surprising find, not only did the Mosuo women living in the areas where they have control over their lives enjoy lower rates of these conditions than other women, they are healthier than their men as well. Mosuo men living in the matriarchal areas tested for high levels of CRP at double the rate of the women. They also had more hypertension, though the rate was only a slightly higher 27.8 percent.<br> <br> Now, the men don't suddenly all have high blood pressure because they don't run everything. They have high blood pressure at a rate of only one percent higher than those from the patrilineal culture. If there is an adverse health effect for them caused by living in a matriarchal society, it isn't much of one. </p>
It turns out autonomy might be good for you<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KmZoXQ0noDA" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p> Speaking to <a href="https://www.inverse.com/mind-body/mosuo-matriarchy-womens-health-gender-roles" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Inverse</a>, senior author Siobhán Mary Mattison explained their interpretation of the findings:<br> <br> "Women in these matrilineal communities have a great deal of autonomy in decision-making and excellent social support. Given that women tend to be at greater risk of chronic disease worldwide, the fact that they actually do better than men in this realm of health is telling." <br> <br> The other authors of the study agree. They conclude that:</p><p> "Our data provide partial support for the hypothesis that the effect of matriliny on women's health is associated with increased autonomy and resource control... While patriliny has been linked to reduced autonomy and resource access for women, we demonstrate that these inequalities can have tangible biological effects that contribute to gender disparities in health."<br> <br> They further note that being head of the household is inversely associated with elevated CRP levels, suggesting that autonomy grants a "protective" effect against inflammation. Lastly, they suggest that the impact of culture, resource control, and autonomy on health all be given further study to capitalize on these findings. </p><p> These interpretations would be in line with other findings that suggest racism, which similarly limits human autonomy, is terrible for people's health. The stresses of racism are linked to babies with low birth weight, heart <a href="https://www.npr.org/2017/10/28/560444290/racism-is-literally-bad-for-your-health" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">disease</a>, and poorer health <a href="https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/racism-is-literally-bad-for-our-health/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">outcomes</a>. </p><p> While a study on a single, small, isolated group of people isn't going to be the final word on the subject, it does point towards the idea that our health is impacted by our culture and the limitations it puts on us. As we consider ways to improve the world and better understand ourselves, this study and the example of the Mosuo more generally, must be remembered. </p>
What would happen if you tripled the US population? Matthew Yglesias and moderator Charles Duhigg explore the idea on Big Think Live.
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