by Victor Naoumov
Chinese houses were made out of bamboo, brick, and paper. In the construction of a house, the first thing that was built was the bamboo frame. Bamboo sticks were dug directly into the ground, without any foundation, about three yards apart. Once the frame was ready, the roof, the most pricy part of the house, was built. The walls were often made out of brick, that came all the way up to the...waist. And above that was an empty space, so the Chinese could enjoy the wonderful coolness of the evening.35
Due to the simple construction process, the houses could be built in one day, if necessary. Some homes could even be lifted by several strong men and carried to another, somewhat more suitable, place. Rich houses were usually one story and poor houses were, suprisingly, several stories high. There was terrible overcrouwding. Seven people could live in one room. The rats were raging. Such a situation was due to the size of the cities. Often, hundreds of thousands of people were squeezed into a small area. Hangchoi, for example, was located on a thin strip of land between a river and a lake. Fishermen lived right on their boats. Really poor people slept on the streets in the "specially designated areas". The government had ordered to build many extra houses to host the passing merchants and victims of disasters, like fires or flooding.
Many people in the Tang Empire had silk farms. Silk was made out of the silk moth's cocoon. When silk moth caterpillar hatches from its egg, it is fed with leaves. The catterpilar has a nice life! It is fed so much that it becomes fat. Very fat, and still growing. Unlike humans, the catterpilar has a fattness limit. When it reaches it, it makes a cocoon around itself and becomes a larva. That is what the farmer waits for! He takes the lavra and dips it into an acid. The poor moth is destroyed, but the cocoon remains. The cocoon is then divided into tiny silk "hairs", which are then combined to make threads. Out of silk, the Chinese could make all the things Europeans made out of cotton: clothes, bed covering, decorations, and even posters!36
In the Tang Dynasty, people were, just like today, mostly farmers. In the North, they grev barley, wheat, and hemp, while the Southern provinces of the Empire were the perfect place for rice farming. The hills and the rivers were used to create terraces filled with water. Rice needs a lot of water to grow. There was an interesting tradition about inheritance. When a farmer died, his land was equally divided among all his sons. A Chinese family had often many children, and during each generation the pieces of land a farmer owned became smaller and smaller. Soon, every farmer owned such a small piece of land that they were not able to pay taxes, and that remained unchanged for centuries. The large army needed to hold together the giant Empire stretching from present Korea to India consumed too much resources, which ultimately led to the fall of the Tang Dynasty.35
Near the big cities, it was very profitable to grow trees. Wood was always high in demand. The houses were made from cheap bamboo, but the furniture and firewood were made out of...well, wood. Chinese furniture was simple. A low table, a pair of simple chairs. Chinese traders are probably the most famous of that time. They had organized large caravans to bring silk, porcelain, and other exotic goods from China to the Arabian countries and further to Europe. Silk was the most mysterious material of all time. Europeans were ready to die, just let them know the secret of silk. Who would've thought that such a beautiful fabric is made by silk worms! There is more about the life of merchants in the Silk Road section.
One of the favorite Chinese games of all time is kite flying. During the Tang Dynasty rule, the heavy silk kites were replaced with paper kites. The lightweight paper kites were fun to fly. On some days the whole sky was filled with kites of all colors! There was a game with kites, called sending messages to gods. To play, you need a kite and a piece of paper. You launch the kite as high into the sky as possible. Then you make a cut on the paper about three fourths deep. You place the paper on the string of the kite and let it go. Under the wind's pressure, the paper piece goes up the string toward the kite. The challenge is to make it go all the way up. The most advanced players had the end of the string filled with paper!
Music was another favorite activity. Chinese had created many unique instuments and had even made up their own music theory.36