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With impressive landscapes, pristine waters and colour-changing lakes,JiuzhaigouNational ParkinSichuanProvinceis one ofChina’s most popular natural destinations. But there’s a lesser known alternative, just off the beaten track.

In a neighbouring valley, adventurous travellers can get a close glimpse of some spectacular natural scenes, combined with enigmatic Tibetan culture. Let’s head down to the northern edge ofChina’sSichuanProvinceto take a closer look.

Jiuzhaigou, or “NineVillageValley”, isChina’s pioneering and most visited National Park.

Nestled between snow-capped mountains on the eastern slopes of the Tibetan Plateau, its far-flung location is proving no deterrent.

The highlight is the color-changing lakes of emeralds, turquoise and vivid blues, caused by the special geological conditions.

It’s these picturesque natural landscapes that are tempting tourists to the region.

Max Chiu & Elaine Hon, HK tourists, said, “We’ve been to lots of places. This is very colourful, and the lakes are beautiful. So that’s one reason why we decided to choose Jiuzhaigou for taking our wedding pictures.”

With tickets at nearly 50 US dollars, including the fee to be able to board the park buses, visiting is far from cheap.

Despite the cost, around two million tourists visit the park every year. Domestic tourists usually arrive in tour groups with tight schedules.

But in order to get closer to nature and enjoy a slice of real local Tibetan culture, one must go further into the mountains.

The hidden and unspoiled Zharu valley opens its doors for those willing to pay a small premium. Tours range from a one day walk and a visit to a small local museum, to a two or three day trek around the sacred Zhayizhaga mountain — a four and a half thousand meter colossus, and a destination for Buddhist pilgrims.

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Language: Korean and Han

Region: Buddhism

The largest concentration of Koreans is in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in eastern Jilin Province. Under its jurisdiction are the cities of Yanji and Tumen, and the counties of Yanji, Helong, Antu, Huichun, Wangqing and Dunhua, covering a total area of 41,500 sq. km.

The Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture is a beautiful, majestic land of high mountains and deep valleys. The land rises to 2,744 meters above sea level to the highest peak of the Changbai Mountains — White Head Summit. This is an extinct volcano, from the crater lake of which spring the Yalu and Tumen rivers, flowing south and north respectively, and forming the boundary with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the east.

The area is accessible nowadays by both road and rail, except for the mountain-locked Hunchun District. The prefecture has 1,600 km of railways and 3,700 km of highways and branch roads.

Another community of Koreans lives in the Changbai Korean Autonomous County in southeastern Jilin.

The area is one of China’s major sources of timber and forest products, including ginseng, marten pelts and deer antlers. It is also a habitat for many wild animals, including tigers.

Copper, lead, zinc and gold have been mined here since the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), and the area also has deposits of iron, antimony, phosphorus, graphite, quartz, limestone and oil shale.

Yanbian is also blessed with agricultural riches and is a major tobacco producer. It is famous for apples and pears, which have been exported since 1955.

The ancestors of the Korean ethnic group migrated from the Korean peninsula from about the late 17th century, mostly peasants fleeing from their oppressive feudal landlords. Especially following a severe famine in the northern part of Korea in 1869, they settled down in large numbers in what is now the Yanbian area. Another wave of migration took place in the early years of this century when Japan annexed Korea and drove many peasants off the land. The Japanese seizure of the Manchurian provinces further served to drive landless Koreans to settle in Northeast China.

The Koreans have their own spoken and written language, which is thought to belong to the Altaic family. Their alphabet is a simple, ingenious one, and the Koreans are very proud of it.

Customs

The traditional Korean dress is white, a symbol of simplicity and serenity. Men wear baggy trousers fastened at the ankles and a jacket which fastens on the right; sometimes they wear a high-crowned black horsehair hat. Women wear voluminous skirts and a tight jacket which reaches just below the armpits.

Their cuisine is very spicy and includes kimchi (pickled vegetables), cold noodles, sticky rice cakes and dog meat.

Yanbian is fairly evenly populated, with villages set a few miles apart from each other and ranging in size from about a dozen households to several scores. The houses are built of wood with low-eav
ed tile or thatched roofs. They are heated by flues running under a raised platform in the main rooms, which serves as a bed and also a place to sit on. Shoes are removed before entering the house.

The Koreans are very fond of music. They sometimes sing and dance to the accompaniment of drums and flutes in the fields or on construction sites. Traditional festivals are celebrated heartily, especially the Lunar New Year, and the Mid-Autumn Festival. Other occasions for merriment are the 100th day after a baby’s birth and a person’s 60th birthday.

In the old days, men labored in the fields while women worked around the house. The eldest son became the head of the family upon the death or incapacitation of the father. Monogamy was practiced but early marriage and adoption of child brides and boys to carry on the family tree were common.

Cultural Progress

Culturally, the Koreans suffered worst of all the peoples enslaved by the Japanese; they were forced to speak the Japanese language and adopt Japanese surnames. But Japan’s attempt to destroy Korean culture came to naught in 1945, and there was a resurgence of cultural awareness among the Koreans.

Newspapers in the Korean language sprang up, including the Jilin Daily (later renamed the Yanbian Daily), Heilongjiang Daily and the Liaoning Daily. In 1947, the Yanbian Korean Publishing House was founded in Yanji, and the Yanbian People’s Radio went on the air. Special Korean programs are also aired by the Central People’s Broadcasting Station and the Heilongjiang People’s Broadcasting Station.

Particular attention was paid to education. In 1949, the Yanbian University was founded in Yanji. Other institutions of higher learning established during the early post-liberation period include the Yanbian Medical Institute, the Yanbian Amateur Agricultural University and a teachers college. Universal secondary education was realized as far back as 1958.

As a result, there are now large numbers of people of Korean origin at all levels of leadership in many areas of China, and at renowned educational institutions in China’s major cities. The Yanbian area is noted also for its culture and art troupes and cultural organizations. At the prefectural level, these include the United Association of Yanbian Culture and Art Workers and the Yanbian Branch of the Chinese Writers Association. The Yanbian song and dance, modern drama and theatrical companies are famous all over the country, and many Korean artists study at advanced institutes in other parts of China.

The Korean ethnic minority has set up an efficient network of health care centers and hospitals, including the Yanbian Hospital, a tuberculosis treatment center, an anti-epidemic hospital and a psychiatric sanatorium. The Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture boasts high standards of maternity, childcare and family planning, as well as an enviable record in the fight against endemic diseases.

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Adult size: weight 100-150kg , 150cm long, with a 10-15cm tail.

Cub: 1/900th the size of its mother

Diet: vegetarian, bamboos. each panda 12-38kg bamboos/day

Unique physical features: Broad, flat molar teeth;Enlarged wrist bone that functions as an opposable thumb

Habitation: Live mainly bamboo forests high in the mountains of western China. Most being distributed between the Qinling and Minshan Mountains.

Natural enemies and defences: Adult pandas have very few natural enemies. The few animals that will prey on pandas are: jackals, leopards, and yellow-throated marten. panda can protect itself as well as most other bears by using: Physical strength and Strong jaw muscles and large molar teeth

Physical Description: Broad, flat molar teeth; Enlarged wrist bone that functions as an opposable thumb; Adult size: weight 100-150kg , 150cm long, with a 10-15cm tail; Cub: 1/900th the size of its mother; Distinctive black and white coat.

Eating Habit: bamboo mainly, only about 1% of their diet is made up of other plants and meat.

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Of the 1,598,100 Bai people, 80 per cent live in concentrated communities in the Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan Province, southwest China. The rest are scattered in Xichang and Bijie in neighboring Sichuan and Guizhou provinces respectively.

The Bais speak a language related to the Yi branch of the Tibetan-Myanmese roup of the Chinese-Tibetan language family. The language contains a large number of Chinese words due to the Bais’ long contact with the majority Chinese ethnic group–Han.

Situated on the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau, the Bai area is crisscrossed with rivers, of which the major ones are the Lancang, the Nujiang and the Jinsha. The river valleys, dense forests and vast tracts of land form a beautiful landscape and provide an abundance of crops and fruits. The area round Lake Erhai in the autonomous prefecture is blessed with a mild climate and fertile land yielding two crops a year. Here, the main crops are rice, winter wheat, beans, millet, cotton, rape, sugar-cane and tobacco. The forests have valuable stocks of timber, herbs of medicinal value and rare animals. Mt. Diancang by Lake Erhai contains a rich deposit of the famous Yunnan marble, which is basically pure white with veins of red, light blue, green and milky yellow. It is treasured as building material as well as for carving.

Origins and History

Archaeological finds from Canger and Haimenkou show that the Erhai area was inhabited as early as the Neolithic Age, and artifacts of that period indicate that the people of the region used stone tools, engaged in farming, livestock rearing, fishing and hunting, and dwelt in caves. Possibly, they began to use bronze knives and swords and other metal tools about 2,000 years ago.

The people in the Erhai area developed closer ties with the Han majority in inland provinces in the Qin (221-207 B.C.) and Han (206 B.C.-A.D. 220) dynasties. In 109 B.C. the Western Han Dynasty set up county administrations and moved a large number of Han people to this border area. These people brought more advanced production techniques and iron tools, contributing to the economic development of the area. During the Sui (581-618) and Tang (618-907) dynasties, the farming there had reached a level close to that of the central plains.

Bai aristocrats backed by the Tang court unified the people of the Erhai area and established the Nanzhao regime of Yis and Bais. Its first chief, Piluoge, was granted the title of King of Yunnan by a Tang emperor.

Slaves were used to do heavy labor, while “free” peasants were subject to heavy taxation and forced to render various services including conscription into the army. Some of them, who lost their land, were made slaves.

The Nanzhao regime lasted for 250 years. During that period of time, while maintaining a good relationship with the central government, the rulers cruelly oppressed the slaves and mercilessly plundered other ethnic nationalities through warfare. Productivity was thus seriously harmed. This caused slave rebellions and uprisings. Nanzhao’s power came to an end in the year 902. Then a regime based on a feudal lord system, known as the Kingdom of Dali, was established. The kingdom adopted a series of measures such as abolishing exorbitant taxes and removing conservative ministers. As a result, social productivity was restored.

The kingdom lasted for over 300 years (937-1253) as a tributary to the Song Dynasty (960-1279) court. It sent war-horses, handicrafts and precious medicines to the court, and in return received science and technology, as well as books in the Han language. Economic and cultural exchanges with the Hans contributed greatly to the development of this border area.

The kingdom was conquered by the Mongols in the 13th century, and Yuan Dynasty (1206-1368) rule was established there. The Mongols designated Yunnan a province while establishing Dali and Heqing as prefectures. In order to strengthen their control over Dali, the Yuan rulers offered former chieftains official posts and granted their families hereditary privileges. Though land was mainly concentrated in the hands of the local aristocracy at that time, the feudal lord system began to give way to a landlord system.

The Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) took power from the Yuan rulers in 1381. The Ming court removed local chieftains and replaced them with court officials. This kind of reform resulted in the weakening of the political and economic privileges of the local lords, brought freedom to the slaves and raised the enthusiasm of the peasants for farming. Those Bais and Hans who had emigrated were encouraged to return, while Hans from other areas were persuaded to settle there. This measure accelerated the development of the landlord economy of Bai society.

In addition to the continuation of the Ming policy of dispatching officials from the central government, the Qing (1644-1911) court also appointed local officials and chieftains to rule over the Bais.

Some Bai people in remote areas still suffered feudal exploitation and oppression at the time of liberation.

Culture and Folklore

Over the centuries, the Bais have created a science and culture of their own. Agriculture was dominant in the Erhai area as early as the Neolithic Age. People then knew how to dig ditches for irrigation. During the Nanzhao regime, they began the cultivation of rice, wheat, broomcorn, millet and several other crops, and built the Cangshan water-conservancy project which could bring water to tens of thousands of hectares of land. To their credit are inventions and advances in meteorology, astronomy, calendar, architecture, medical science, literature, music, dancing, carving and painting. Among the representative works of the Bai people are Transit Star Catalogue for Time Determination by the Ming Dynasty scholar Zhou Silian, Collection of Secret Prescriptions by Chen Dongtian and Tested Prescriptions by Li Xingwei. These classics recorded and summarized in detail the valuable experience of the Bai people in astronomy and medicine.

The superb architectural skill of the Bai people is represented by the three pagodas at the Chongsheng Temple in Dali. Built during the Tang Dynasty, the 16-storey main tower is 60 meters high and still stands erect after more than 1,000 years. It bears a resemblance to the Dayan Pagoda (Wild Goose) in Xi’an, an ancient Chinese capital city in today’s Shaanxi Province. Figurines in the Shibaoshan Grottoes in Jianchuan County are lifelike, possessing both the common features of figure creation in China and the unique features of the Bai artists. The architectural group in the Jizushan Temple, with bow-shaped crossbeams, bracket-inserted columns, and gargoyles representing people, flowers and birds created with the open carving method, shows the excellent workmanship of the Bai people. The Bais also have high attainments in lacquerware.

They have created a wealth of literary works reflecting their life, work, and struggles against nature and oppression. The epic, Genesis, sings the praises of the communal life of Bai primitive society. Some poems by Bai poets have been included in the Complete Poems of Tang Dynasty. The History of the Bais, Anecdotes of Nanzhao and Kingdoms of Southwest China are among the best historical works written by Bai historians. They provide important data for the study of the history of the Erhai area.

The Bai people are good singers and dancers. The “Lion Dance,” created during the Nanzhao regime, was appreciated in the central plains during the Tang Dynasty. Bai opera, known as chuichui, is an art form combining folk music and dancing. It has also absorbed some of the characteristics of Han operas.

The famous painting depicting the Resurgence of the Nanzhao was created in 899 A.D. by Bai painters Zhang Shun and Wang Fengzong. This masterpiece was stolen by foreign imperialists in 900 from Beijing.

Customs and Habits

The Bais are Buddhists and worshippers of “communal god.” Dotted with monasteries and temples, Dali has been known as a “Scented Wonderland.” Abbots who held huge amount of land and other property in the past were big landlords and usurers. The ordinary people were heavily burdened by this caste and by religious activities which required sacrifices of cattle and other valuables.

Monogamous families have been the basic social cells of the Bais, with a very few people who practiced polygamy. Parents live with their unmarried children, but only in big landlord families did four generations live together. Before the founding of the People?¡¥s Republic of China in 1949, matches between young men and young women of the same surname or clan were not permitted, while marriages between cousins were encouraged, and were arranged by the parents. High bride prices caused many poor families to fall into debt. Women were discriminated against, and only men had the right to inherit family property. But all such feudal practices and customs have been fading away since 1949. Young people now enjoy the freedom to choose their lovers.

The “March Fair,” which falls between March 15 and 20 of the lunar calendar, is a grand festival of the Bais. It is celebrated every year at the foot of the Diancang Hill to the west of Dali city. It is a fair and an occasion for sporting contests and theatrical performances. People gather there to enjoy dances, horse racing and other games. June 25 is the “Torch Festival.” On that day, torches are lit everywhere to usher in a bumper harvest and to bless the people with good health and fortune. Streamers bearing auspicious words are hung in doorways and at village entrances alongside the flaming torches. Villagers, holding aloft torches, walk around in the fields to drive insects away.

New Life

Democratic reform and socialist transformation proceeded in the Bai areas in much the same way as in the Han inhabited areas, but the reforms were carried out in a more gradual manner in those areas with vestiges of pre-capitalist economic organization. Cooperatives were set up to boost production on the basis of abolishing class exploitation and the remnants of primitive communalism.

The Dali Bai Autonomous Prefecture was founded in November 1956 after the completion of the democratic reform and socialist transformation.

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The Yalu River used to be called Ba Water, and was given the present name in the Tang Dynasty (618-907) for its crystal-clear water and winding its way in the shape of a duck head. It lies between China and North Korea as a boundary river, starting from Baitou Mountain, the highest peak of Changbai Mountains on the border of the two countries in the southeast of Jilin Province in China and running southwestward into the sea at Donggou County in Dandong City of Liaoning Province. It runs for 795 kilometers, and covers an area of about 400 square kilometers. Along its banks, there are five famous resorts, namely the Shuifeng Lake, the Taiping Bay, the Tiger Mountain, the Grand Bridge and the East Port. The Yalu River was selected to be a key national resort in 1988.

The Yalu River runs through the wet region of temperate zone. It receives precipitation of 870 mm annually, and the distribution increases as it flows downstream. Every year when ice starts thawing, there will be spring flood. It is cool and humid across the whole region. Major plants are maples, Korean pines, birches, and oaks especially in downstream. There are also many wild animals. The river does not have much sand so the water is very clear. The Yalu River freezes in the winter and there are many beaches and rapid waters in the upper and middle reaches so transportation is frustrated. However, below the Shuifeng Reservoir, transportation is available and the largest port is Dandong City.

The Yalu River features beautiful scenery. Green water winds through many islands and forest-covered mountains. Birds can be seen everywhere and historical relics can be found along both banks. The 940-meter iron bridge across the Yalu River linking Dandong City and Sinuijuin North Korea was built in 1937 and was renamed the Friendship Bridge of China and North Korea in October 1990 under an agreement of two countries. On the bridge, people can enjoy many famous scenes, including the two cities on both ends. The Yalu Bridge is an important pass between China and North Korea, and also a major scenic spot.

Part 1 The origin of Changbai Mountain

Every river is made up of droplets of water. The Yalu River is no exception. In ancient times, the Yau River was called the Mazi River. The Book of Han says that the Mazi River converged with the Yantan River in the northwest and joined the sea in the southwest. The name of Yalu was used from the mid-8th Century onwards.

Part 2 The mighty Yalu River

The Yalu River runs all the way from Changbai Muntain to the southeast. After 795km, it mingles with the vast Yellow Sea at 124.9°E, 39.49°N. Four cascade hydroelectric power plants have been built across the main body of the Yalu River. In order of the flow of the current, they are the Yunfeng, Weiyuan, Shuifeng and Taipingwan power plants.

Part 3 Time and tide

The Yalu River possesses not only a magnificent landscape but also a long and rich cultural history. From the remains of ancient human activities to the cultural legacy of various ethnic groups, the socio-cultural changes have been embedded in this surging river. As we lean down and gently brush away the dust of the past to piece together the fragmented memories.

Part 4 The setting sun

On May 3, 1943,scores of soldiers and policemen suddenly appeared in the streets of Andong. Pedestrians were dispersed and shops were closed down by force. An important person would arrive in Andong.He was the emperor of Manchukuo Aisin-Gioro Puyi. With Japan´s support, the puppet regime of Manchukuo had survived for 11 years.

Part 5 Lives along the river

When the sun rises form behind the mountain, a new day starts for the people that live along the Yalu River. The Changbai Korean Autonomoous County is the first county on the China-side. The winding river separates it from Korea´s Hyesan City.

Part 6 Rushing to the sea

This bridge connects Changbai County in China and Hyesan in the Democratic People´s Republic of Korea. It was the first bridge across the Yalu River. China refers to it as the Changbai Bridge, and the DPRK calls it the Hyesan Bridge. It is known by the international community as the border bridge between Changbai and Hyesan.

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Beijing has both excellent and classical architecture but few distinguished modern buildings. Now such world famous architects as Ram Koolhass, de Meuron, Paul Andrew and PTW Architects are to display their skills here. With the speeding up of China´s urbanization and the challenging concept of the 2008 Olympic Games, almost all famous design consortiums from around the world have found that China is one of the few countries which provides not only imaginary space but also abundant funds for modern architecture today. Therefore, Ram Koolhass´s “door”, Herzog and de Meuron´s “bird-nest”, Paul Andrew´s “eggshell” and PTW Architects´ “water cube” are just a small part of the skills displayed by famous architects in China.

 

Part1 Paul Andrew and His Design of the National Center for the Performing Arts

On September 25, 2007, the curtain of the NCPA was raised for the first time. It was fortunate for people to sit watching shows on this day because it took 49 years to build it. Why was the NCPA constructed and why did it take so long to be built? What challenges did the designers and builders have to face? French architect Paul Andrew, after an arduous selection process, won the bid for the design of the NCPA in July 1999.

 

Part2 Herzog,De Meuron and the National Stadium

Feb. 6, 2008 was the Chinese New Year´s Eve. In the Olympic Par k located in northeast Beijing, a huge building was decorated with red lights, attracting many people to take photos. In fact, since 2006 this building has attracted people around the world to take photos. It is unusual for a building to attract such attention and welcome during the construction period. People gave it a vivid nickname- “Bird´s Nest”.

 

Part3 PTW and the Water Cube

In 2006, the US magazine Popular Science listed the world´s best architecture for the year. After looking at 100 examples worldwide, the judges steeled on Beijing´s National Aquatic Center, or Water Cube, which was ranked No. 1. Sitting across from the Bird´s Nest, the main venue, the Water Cube looks like a crystal iceberg. This blue cube and the Bird´s Nest are the centerpieces of the Olympic Park. They reflect the traditional Chinese concept of a round heaven and square earth.

 

Part4 Norman Foster and terminal 3

In 2007, the British newspaper The Times, listed the ten most ambitious architecture projects in the world, including T3 of the Beijing Capital International Airport(BCIA). The terminal is 3km long and 1km wide and covers an area of nearly 1 million m2. As one of the largest terminals in the world, it can handle all types of civilian aircrafts, including the Airbus A380, the biggest plane in the world. T3 was designed by eminent British architect Norman Foster, who named his work the “People Palace.”

Part5 Rem Koolhaas and the new CCTV headquarters

In Beijing, among many skyscrapers in the CBD one building stands out. It is unconventional structure with two inward tilted towers connected by a huge v-shaped girder, forming a unique circular structure that sharply contrasts to other buildings. That is the main building of the new CCTV Headquarters under construction. What kind of building is it? Where does its peculiar shape come from? Are the tilted-towers safe? All these questions are related to a Dutchman named Rem Koolhaas, a world famous architect known for his cutting-edge thinking and critical views toward European traditional architecture.

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The ongoing exhibition on the development of China’s comics and animation industry shows a lot of animation works from recent years. But few of them have made much of an impact on the international stage. Instead, water-ink animation films made in 1960s and 70s are still regarded as the high-water mark of Chinese animation. Why doesn’t modern animation measure up to these old classics?

China may be producing more animation than ever before, but people still look back to the old water-ink films as a golden age.

“Little Tadpole Looks for Mamma” was China’s first water-ink animation. Its inspiration came from the fish and shrimp figures drawn by the legendary painter Qi Baishi. The movie won a lot of international awards and the period saw a number of classics including Cricket Fighting by Ji Gong and Fishing Child. But high quality didn’t come with high quantity, and the output was low back in those years.

Cai Zhijun, executive deputy secretary-genreal of China Animation Assoc., said, “The yearly output of animation films in those years was about 10 or 20 minutes, and audiences had few choices. But in recent years, the yearly output has exceeded two million minutes.”

It takes one to two years to produce a water-ink movie. These complicated and time-consuming production techniques were gradually abandoned by the modern animation industry, as higher profits became top priority.

Cai Zhijun said, “Some animations may be great works, but they can’t be further developed. For an animation film, screening the picture is not enough. The derivative products are more important.”

The film itself accounts for only one third of the total profits from an animated production. Derived products make up a much larger part. Advanced technology reduced the cost and time of the animation process, and this meant the end of water-ink animation films. But as far as many animation fans are concerned, water-ink is still the high point of Chinese animation. If this level of artistic quality could be made commercially viable, it could mark the beginning of a new chapter in the industry’s development.

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Children with heavy school bags are facing a higher risk of back pain, a latest study revealed.

A team of Spanish researches reported that the link was found in more than 1,400 school children aged between 12 and 17 in Northern Galicia, Spain, according to a report on the British journal Archives of Disease in Childhood.

The pupils were split into four groups based on the weight of their bags. Those in the group with the heaviest bags had a 50-percent higher risk of back pain, and a 42-percent higher risk of back pathology, compared with the group with the lightest bags.

A common back pathology in pupils is scoliosis, which is an abnormal curvature of the spine.

“The results obtained have strong implications,” co-author of the study, Professor Alberto Ruano, of the Unviersity of Santiago de Compostel in Spain said in the journal.

“We strongly encourage the medical and educational community to start advising parents and school children about the risk posed by heavy school bags and the fact that this risk can be easily reduced,” he added.

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Yao Ming retired from the Chinese national basketball team Monday at an unprecedented farewell ceremony held by the Chinese sports governing body, and was highly praised by State Councilor Liu Yandong.

Liu Yandong received Yao at the Great Hall of the People and invited him to a dinner after the meeting. Liu praised Yao as one of the outstanding representatives of the Chinese athletes of the new era.

She said, “Yao Ming’s success wins high praises and respects from the international basketball world, and helps the world know more about China. He is a model of the youth.”

Liu also wanted Yao to chase higher goal and use his fame to promote the development of the Chinese sports after he retired.

Yao, 31, announced his retirement from the Houston Rockets of the National Basketball Association (NBA) in front of billions of Chinese fans on July 20 in Shanghai.

This time at the closed-door ceremony that only invited media were allowed in, Yao received a series of top awards and greetings from his old-time teammates, coaches and friends.

In Shanghai, Yao refused to clarify whether he would compete at the 2012 London Olympic Games for China. But Monday’s ceremony officially called an end of Yao’s day as a basketball player.

Xiao Tian, deputy director of the Genenral Administration of Sports of China, awarded the Olympic Order in Gold of the Chinese Olympic Committee (COC) to Yao.

Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), was the other person who received the award without winning a gold medal at the Olympic Games.

Xiao Tian said, “Yao Ming receives overwhelming respects and love from fans around the world not because of his 2.26-meter height, but because of outstanding personality and the high goal of his career. I hope all the Chinese athletes should learn from Yao Ming.”

Yao also received an unprecedented retiring jersey of the Chinese men’s national team, an award which was set up for him.

Xin Lancheng, the director of the Chinese Basketball Administration Center, said, “Yao Ming is the most outstanding basketball identity in the history of the New China. He is the glorious model of the Chinese basketball players. He leaves to the Chinese basketball the priceless wealth, which will be cherished and inherited by a new generation of the Chinese basketball.”

Yao had attended three Olympic Games in 2000, 2004 and 2008 since he was selected into the national team in 1998. He was the first foreign player that was drafted by the NBA as the No 1 overall pick when he was chosen by the Rockets in 2002, and was voted as a member of the first team of the NBA All-Star for eight times.

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Mount Songshan is located in Dengfeng County in Henan Province in central China. With Taishi and Shaoshi peaks, this very famous mountain in the Central Plains towers magnificently, with the Yellow River to the north and the Yingshui River to the south.

The God of Mount Songshan was given the title “Middle Heaven King” by Empress Wu Zetian of the Tang Dynasty (618-907). Unlike the ancient emperors, who always conferred titles on Mount Taishan, Empress Wu Zetian visited Mount Songshan and gave it the title of “Divine Mountain”. She also renamed the counties in which Mount Songshan was located, changing the name of Songyang County to Dengfeng (conferring titles) and the name of Yangcheng to Gaocheng (success) to indicate that she had successfully conferred a title on Mount Songshan and had the country under her control. In 1982, a roll of gold strips was found in a crack between rocks on the top of Junji Peak. It was shown to have been thrown by Empress Wu Zetian when she was worshiping the God of Mount Songshan. At 36.3 cm long and weighing 247 g, this valuable cultural relic is inscribed with 63 characters written in double strokes.

According to Daoism (Taoism), among the abodes of immortals and ideal places for self-cultivation, Mount Songshan is the sixth of the 36 Lesser Grotto Heavens. Among the many remnants of Daoism, the earliest was left by Crown Prince Jin, son of King Ling of Zhou (r.571-545 BC), who was taken to Mount Songshan by a Daoist called Master Fuqiu. Today, there is Fuqiu Peak in the eastern part of Mount Songshan, and Prince Jin Peak in the western part. The Sui (581-618) and Tang dynasties saw Daoism flourish on Mount Songshan. Many noted Daoists lived and cultivated themselves there, such as Pan Shizheng, Sima Chengzhen, and Li Hanguang, founding masters of the High Purity sect. Daoism on Mount Songshan gradually declined during the Ming and Qing dynasties.

There used to be many Daoist palaces and monasteries on Mount Songshan but today only Zhongyue Temple still remains.

Zhongyue Temple is located at the southern foothills of Mount Songshan’s Taishi Peak. It was first built in the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC) and originally known as Taishi Temple. Today’s temple buildings, covering an area of more than 100,000 sq. m, were rebuilt during Emperor Qianlong’s reign in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). The axis, a flagged pathway 700 m long, extends from the front Zhonghua Gate in the south to the rear gate of Yushu Tower in the north. The east and west wings of the temple consist of the buildings, each having a small separate courtyard. The temple has a reputation as a home of relics with 330 old cypresses, 100 stone steles, sacred ding tripods, and iron warriors.

To the rear of Tianzhong Pavilion is a cypress grove arranged in an orderly fashion. In the courtyard inside Chongsheng Gate stand two quadrangular pavilions, one on the east side and the other on the west. The western pavilion houses a stele with no inscription, so it is called Inscriptionless Stele Pavilion. The eastern pavilion, called Ancient Divine Storehouse Pavilion, is surrounded by four august-looking iron warriors, each more than 2.5 m in height. It is said that they are monuments depicting the four Daoists who joined the army to fight against Jin invaders during the Song Dynasty (960-1279). The story goes that, during the last years of the Northern Song Dynasty, the army of the Kingdom of Jin invaded from the north. On hearing the news, four strapping Daoists from Zhongyue Temple could not concentrate on their self-cultivation. They left the temple and joined the troops of General Yue Fei. They distinguished themselves on the battlefield and laid down their lives in battle.

North from Tiantai Terrace is a walkway shaped like a ribbon hanging down and with carvings of a coiled dragon, two dragons playing with a pearl, and a flock of cranes playing among lotus flowers. This leads to steps up to a three-m-high stone platform before the visitor reaches Zhongyue Temple’s main hall, Junji Hall. It is the largest building on Mount Songshan. The hall is nine bays across and five bays deep. It has a yellow double-eaved glazed-tile roof with a Chinese hipped roof on top of that. The rafters, bucket arches, beams, crossbeams and ceiling are all covered with Hexi palatial architecture paintings of the highest class from the Qing Dynasty. The ceiling is decorated with a flying dragon, and the floor is paved with polished dark blue flagstones. A statue of the Great Emperor of the Sacred Mountain of the Center stands five m tall at the shrine, flanked by statues of his valiant generals Fang Bi and Fang Xiang holding battle-axes. In the 14th year of the Ming Emperor Chongzhen’s reign (1641), the hall was destroyed in a fire. It was rebuilt in the 10th year of the Qing Emperor Shunzhi’s reign (1653). In 1941, it was damaged as a result of bombings by Japanese invaders. Since the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949, the hall has been repaired many times.

At the southern foot of Mount Songshan, there are several palaces where emperors could live during temporary stays there. They include Huanggai (Yellow Canopy) Pavilion, which gives a full view of the tranquil and beautiful Zhongyue Temple.