Stele of Kai

Stele of Kai

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The 100 Most Important Events in Human History

For those who don’t have time to wade through the entire Timeline of Human History, I have created a list of the 100 most important events in human history by collecting and combining several lists of 10, 25, 50 or 100 “most important events” or “events that changed the world” from the Internet and combining them into one meta-list, which is presented below in chronological order. As with many such lists, the results are unlikely to win universal approval. For example, I find the list biased toward Western (in particular American) civilization and overly focused on war, religion and dead white men. There is also a bit of “comparing apples to oranges” because some of the important events happened in an instant and others occurred over many years or decades. Despite these caveats, I think it is safe to say that all the events listed here are important to understanding human history.

1. The Agricultural Revolution: Humans Domesticate Plants and Animals: c. 11,000-4,000 BCE
— c. 20,000 BCE: Earliest evidence of humans exerting some control over wild grain (Israel)
— c. 11,000 BCE: Planned cultivation and trait selection of rye (Syria) evidence of domestication of lentils, vetch, pistachios and almonds (Greece)
— c. 9,500 BCE: By this time, eight key crops (emmer wheat, einkorn wheat, barley, peas, lentils, bitter vetch, chickpeas and flax) have been domesticated in the Levant (Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Cyprus, Turkey)
— c. 9,100 BCE: Oldest known agricultural settlement, at Klimonas (Cyprus)
— c. 9,000 BCE: Domestication of sheep in several locations in central and southwest Asia
— c. 8,000 BCE: Farming is fully established along the Nile River by this time (Egypt) rice and millet are domesticated in China domestication of goats (Iran) domestication of pigs (Near East China Germany) domestication of maize and squash (Mexico)
— c. 7,000 BCE: Agriculture is well-established in Mesopotamia (Iraq) first evidence of agriculture in the Indus Valley (Pakistan, India) domestication of cattle in North Africa, India and Mesopotamia
— c. 6,000 BCE: First evidence of agriculture on the Iberian Peninsula (Spain, Portugal) domestication of chickens (India Southeast Asia) domestication of llamas (Peru)
— c. 5,500 BCE: Oldest known field systems, including stone walls (Ireland)
— c. 5,500 BCE: Farmers in Sumeria have developed large-scale intensive cultivation of land, mono-cropping, organized irrigation and a specialized agricultural labor force (Iraq)
— c. 5,000 BCE: Domestication of rice and sorghum in Africa’s Sahel region (Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Algeria, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, South Sudan, Eritrea, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Ethiopia)
— c. 4,000 BCE: Domestication of the horse (Ukraine Kazakhstan)
— c. 3,000 BCE: Earliest known use of the ox-drawn ard plow (Egypt)

2. T he First Cities Emerge in Mesopotamia: c. 4000-3000 BCE (Iraq)
— c. 5400 BCE: According to legend, the Sumerians create their first settlement in Mesopotamia at Eridu
— c. 4500 BCE: The Sumerian settlement of Uruk becomes the first city in Mesopotamia
— c. 2900 BCE: Uruk is the largest city in the world
— c. 2075 BCE: The Sumerian city of Lagash is the largest city in the world
— c. 2030 BCE: The Sumerian city of Ur is the largest city in the world

3. The First Wheeled Vehicles Appear in Mesopotamia, Eastern Europe and the Caucasus: c. 3500 BCE (Iraq, Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Romania)

The remains of the oldest existing wheel and axle, dating to 3000 BCE, were found in the Lubjlana marshes in Slovenia.

4. The First Writing Systems Appear in Mesopotamia (Cuneiform), Egypt (Hieroglyphics) and the Indus Valley (Indus Script): c. 3200 BCE

5. The Ancient Egyptians Build the Great Pyramid of Giza for Pharaoh Khufu: c. 2560 BCE (Egypt)

The Great Pyramid at Giza, Egypt was built as the tomb of Fourth Dynasty Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu.

6. The Origin and Development of Modern Alphabets: c. 1850-800 BCE (Egypt, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, Greece)
— c. 1850 BCE (or 1550 BCE): First evidence of the Proto-Sinaitic/Proto-Canaanite script, which gives rise to the Phoenician alphabet
— c. 1050 BCE: Development of the all-consonant Phoenician alphabet, which gives rise to the Semitic, Hebraic and Arabic scripts
— c. 800 BCE: The Greeks adapt the Phoenician alphabet by converting some of the letters to vowels the Greek alphabet gives rise to the Roman and Cryllic alphabets

The Phoenician alphabet and the alphabets derived from it.

7. Babylonian King Hammurabi Issues the Code of Hammurabi, One of the Earliest Legal Codes: c. 1754 BCE (Iraq)

The Code of Hammurabi is engraved on an eight-foot tall diorite stele, with a portrait of the king receiving the laws from Shamash, the sun god. It is now in the Louvre Museum in Paris.

8. As Knowledge of Iron Metallurgy Spreads, the Bronze Age Ends and the Iron Age Begins: c. 1200-500 BCE
— c. 3000-2700 BCE: First evidence of smelting iron ore to make wrought iron (Iraq, Syria)
— c. 1800-1200 BCE: Evidence of smelting iron ore to make wrought iron in India
— c. 1500-1200 BCE: The Hittites are working iron in bellows-aided furnaces (“bloomeries”) (Turkey)
— c. 1200 BCE: The Iron Age begins in the Ancient Near East (Iraq, Turkey, Iran, Syria, Egypt, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine) and India
— c. 800 BCE: The Iron Age begins in Central and Western Europe
— c. 500 BCE: The Iron Age begins in Northern Europe and China

9. The Rise of Ancient Greek Civilization: c. 800-336 BCE (Greece)
— c. 800 BCE: The Greek Dark Ages end and the Archaic Period begins the first Greek city-states emerge
— 776 BCE: Traditional date of first Olympic Games athletic competitions
— c. 595-575 BCE: Solon institutes wide-ranging constitutional reforms in Athens
— 490 BCE: The Greeks stop the first Persian invasion at the Battle of Marathon
— 480-479 BCE: Greek city-states (led by Athens and Sparta) repel the second Persian invasion at Salamis and Plataea Classical Period begins
— 461-429 BCE: Pericles leads Athens during a golden age of arts and culture
—– 458 BCE: The Oresteia, a trilogy of tragic plays by Aeschylus, is performed in Athens
—— 440 BCE: Herodotus writes The Histories, an account of the Greco-Persian wars
—— 432 BCE: Completion of the Parthenon on the Acropolis in Athens
—— 429 BCE: Oedipus Rex, a tragic play by Sophocles, is performed in Athens
— 404 BCE: Sparta defeats Athens, ending the Peloponnesian War
— 400 BCE: First articulation of the Hippocratic Oath for physicians
— 386 BCE: Plato opens the Academy in Athens
— 336 BCE: Aristotle opens the Lyceum in Athens

10. The Rise and Fall of Ancient Roman Civilization: c. 753 BCE – 476 CE (Italy)
— 753 BCE: Legendary date of founding of Rome
— 509 BCE: Legendary date of founding of the Roman Republic
— 202 BCE: Rome under Scipio Africanus defeats Carthage under Hannibal at the Battle of Zama to end the Second Punic War (Tunisia)
— 146 BCE: Roman armies destroy the city of Carthage at the end of the Third Punic War (Tunisia)
— 49 BCE: Julius Caesar and his army cross the Rubicon, starting Roman Civil War
— 44 BCE: Julius Caesar is assassinated in the Senate by Brutus, Cassius and others
— 31 BCE: Octavian defeats Mark Antony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium, ending the Roman civil wars (Greece)
— 27 BCE: The Senate makes Octavian (later called Augustus) Imperator, effectively ceding power to him and marking the beginning of the Roman Empire
— 27 BCE-180 CE: Pax Romana, a period of relative peace in the Roman Empire
— 9 CE: In the Battle of Teutoberg Forest, Germanic forces led by Arminius ambush and destroy three Roman legions led by Publius Quinctilius Varus (Germany)
— 312 CE: Constantine defeats rival Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge to become co-emperor
— 313 CE: Co-emperors Constantine and Licinius issue the Edict of Milan, which makes Christianity legal in the Roman Empire
— 390 CE: Theodosius the Great issues the Edict of Thessalonica, which makes Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire
— 395 CE: Death of Theodosius from this point, the Roman Empire is permanently divided between Eastern and Western portions
— 410 CE: Sack of Rome by the Visigoths under Alaric
— 476 CE: Flavius Odoacer leads a revolt that deposes Emperor Romulus Augustulus, marking the end of the Western Roman Empire

A map of the Roman Empire at its greatest extent, under Emperor Trajan.

11. The Life of the Buddha and Birth of Buddhism: c. 563-400 BCE (India)

12. The Life of Confucius and Birth of Confucianism: 551-479 BCE (China)

13. Alexander the Great Creates an Immense Empire: 336-323 BCE (Greece)
— 338 BCE: The Macedonians, led by King Philip II and his son Alexander, take Athens in the Battle of Chaeronea, giving Macedon power over all the Greek city-states
— 336 BCE: Upon the death of Philip II, Alexander becomes king of Macedon (Greece)
— 333 BCE: Alexander wins the Battle of Issus over Darius III of Persia (Turkey)
— 332 BCE: Alexander conquers Syria and Egypt
— 331 BCE: Alexander becomes ruler of the Persian Empire after defeating the Persians at the Battle of Gaugamela (Iraqi Kurdistan)
— 327 BCE: Alexander invades the Indian subcontinent (Pakistan)
— 323 BCE: Alexander dies at Babylon (Iraq)

Alexander the Great’s Empire at its peak.

14. Unification of China under Emperor Qin Shi Huang, Who Begins Building The Great Wall: 221-206 BCE

45. The Birth of the Modern Calendar: 45 BCE (Italy)
— 45 BCE: Reforms made to the Roman calendar under Julius Caesar create the Julian Calendar, with 365 days in a year divided into 12 months and a leap year every four years (Italy)
— 1582: Due to inaccuracies resulting from the Julian Calendar, Pope Gregory XIII issues the Gregorian Calendar, which reduces the number of leap years (Italy)

16. The Life of Jesus and the Birth of Christianity: c. 4 BCE-70 CE (Israel)
— c. 4 BCE: Birth of Jesus
— c. 29 CE: Crucifixion of Jesus
— c. 50 CE: Paul’s First Letter to the Thessalonians is the earliest known Christian text

17. The Life of Muhammad and the Birth of Islam: 570-630 CE (Saudi Arabia)
— 570 CE: Muhammad is born in Mecca
— 622 CE: Muhammad leads the Hejira from Mecca to Medina
— 632 CE: The Qu’ran is completed Muhammad dies

18. The Franks, Led by Charles Martel, Defeat a Umayyad Caliphate Army under Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi at the Battle of Tours-Poitiers, Halting the Muslim Advance into Western Europe: 732 CE (France)

19. Pope Leo III Crowns Charlemagne, Carolingian King of the Franks and the Lombards, as the First Holy Roman Emperor: 800 CE (France, Germany)

Charlemagne’s Holy Roman Empire.

20. The Invention of Gunpowder and its Use in Weaponry: c. 800-1300 (China)
— c. 800: Chinese alchemists seeking an elixir of life produce gunpowder instead
— c. 904: First reference to the use of fire arrows (gunpowder-fueled projectiles) in warfare
— c. 1000: By this time, fire arrows, fire lances and rocket arrows are commonly used by Chinese armies
— c. 1110: First reference to a fireworks display using gunpowder-fueled rockets
— c. 1130: Bombs and cannons fueled by gunpowder have appeared in China by this time
— c. 1240: Knowledge of gunpowder spreads to the Middle East
— c. 1258: First evidence of gunpowder use in India
— c. 1300: By this time, gunpowder use has spread throughout Europe

21. Norse Explorers Discover and Colonize New Lands in the North Atlantic: c. 870-1000 CE (Iceland, Greenland, US)
— c. 870: Norse explorers discover and colonize Iceland
— c. 986: Erik the Red and settlers from Iceland and Norway establish a colony on the west coast of Greenland
— c. 1000: Leif Erikson establishes a short-lived settlement at Vinland in North America (Canada)
— c. 1510: By this time, the Norse settlements in Greenland have been abandoned

22. Norman Conquest of England:
1066 CE (UK)
— 9/28/1066: William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy, crosses the English Channel and lands at Pevensey
— 10/14/1066: William defeats Anglo-Saxon King Harold II, who is killed at the Battle of Hastings
— 12/25/1066: After taking London, William is crowned King of England at Westminster Abbey

23. The First University Is Established, at Bologna: 1088 CE (Italy)

24. The First Crusade: 1095-1099 (France, Turkey, Syria, Palestine, Israel)
— 1095 CE: Pope Urban II calls on Christians to drive the Muslims out of the Holy Land by force (France)
— 1096 CE: The untrained mobs of the People’s Crusade march toward Jerusalem, massacring Jews across Europe, but are slaughtered by the Turks before they reach their goal
— 1097 CE: The armies of the Princes’ Crusade gather outside Constantinople and march to the Levant (Turkey)
— 1098 CE: Crusader states are established at Edessa and Antioch (Syria, Turkey)
— 1099 CE: After a siege, the Crusaders enter Jerusalem, kill many of its Muslim and Jewish inhabitants, and establish the Kingdom of Jerusalem (Israel/Palestine)

25. King Suryavarman II of the Khmer Empire Builds Angkor Wat Originally Dedicated to the Hindu God Vishnu, It Became a Buddhist Temple by the End of the 12th Century: c. 1150 CE (Cambodia)

A view of the Angkor Wat temple complex.

26. Shogun Minamato no Yorimoto Overthrows the Taira Emperor, Establishing the Kamakura Shogunate Start of 675 Years of Shogunate Rule in Japan: 1192 CE

27. Genghis Khan Establishes a Vast Mongol Empire, Which Is Expanded After His Death: 1206-1260 (Central Asia, China)
— 1206: Mongolian leader Temujin defeats his rivals and receives the title Genghis Khan, Universal Ruler of the Mongols (Mongolia)
— 1215: Genghis Khan captures the capital of the Jin Dynasty (China)
— 1221: The Mongols defeat the Khwarezmid Empire and take over Persia (Iran, Afghanistan)
— 1227: Death of Genghis Khan in battle against the Western Xia Dynasty (China)
— 1241: The Mongols defeat an army of Poles and Moravians at the Battle of Liegnitz (Poland)
— 1258: The Mongols capture and destroy Baghdad, capital of the Islamic Abbasid Caliphate (Iraq)
— 1260: The victory of the Islamic Mamluks over the Mongols at the Battle of Ain Jalut signals the waning of the Mongol Empire (Israel/Palestine)

The Mongol Empire during the life of Genghis Khan.

28. English Nobles Force King John to Sign the Magna Charta Restricting His Powers: 1215 (UK)

29. Europe Hears Tales of the Far East From Marco Polo: 1271-1300 (Italy Asia)
— 1271-1295: Venetian merchant Marco Polo travels through Asia with his father and uncle, probably going as far as China
— c. 1299: While in prison, Marco Polo relates stories of his travels to cellmate Rustichello da Pisa (Italy)
— c. 1300: Rustichello da Pisa publishes his version of Marco Polo’s stories as Book of the Marvels of the World

30. The Rise and Fall of the Aztec Civilization: 1325-1521 (Mexico)
— 1325: The nomadic Mexica people found the city of Tenochtitlan on an island in Lake Texacoco (traditional date)
— 1428: A Triple Alliance is formed between Tenochtitlan, Texcoco and Tlacopan
— 1487: For the dedication of the Templo Mayor, Aztec Emperor Ahuitzotl sacrifices 20,000 prisoners of war to the Aztec war god Huitzilopochtli
— 1519: Tenochtitlan has an estimated population of 200,000-300,000, making it one of the largest cities in the world, when Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés arrives in November and meets with Aztec ruler Montezuma
— 1521: With the aid of local enemies of the Aztecs (including the Texcoco), the Spanish conquer Tenochtitlan and the Aztec Empire

A map of the Aztec Empire just before the Spanish invasion.

31. The Black Death (Bubonic Plague) Devastates Europe, Killing One-Third of the Population: 1347-1348 (Europe)

32. The Renaissance: A Rediscovery of Classical Knowledge Brings About Innovations and Achievements in Arts and Culture: c. 1350-1600 (Italy, Europe)
— c. 1350: The Renaissance begins in Florence (Italy)
— c. 1410-1420: Florentine artist and architect Filippo Brunelleschi sets out the rules of linear perspective
— 1435: Leon Battista Alberti publishes Della Pittura, a treatise on painting
— c. 1436: Brunelleschi completes the dome of the Florence Cathedral
— 1452: Sculptor Lorenzo Ghiberti completes the East Doors of the Florence Baptistery, known as the Gates of Paradise
— c. 1486: Sandro Botticelli paints The Birth of Venus
— 1501: Michelangelo completes his sculpture of David
— c. 1504: Leonardo da Vinci paints the Mona Lisa
— 1508-1512: Michelangelo paints the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome
— 1513: Niccolò Machiavelli writes The Prince, a treatise on politics

A portion of the frescoes painted by Michelangelo on the Sistine Chapel ceiling, with the Creation of Man in the center.

33. The Inca People Create an Empire: 1438-1533 (Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, Colombia)
— 1438: Formation of the Incan Empire
— 1476: The Incas defeat the Chimu civilization (Peru)
— 1532: Spanish Conquistador Francisco Pizarro and 150 men set up a meeting with Incan ruler Atahualpa at Cajamarca, but instead take him captive and slaughter his 4,000 unarmed attendants

The growth of the Incan Empire.

34. Johannes Gutenberg Invents a Printing Press Using Movable Metal Type and Oil-Based Ink, Bringing Inexpensive Printing of Books and Papers to the West: 1440-1455 (Germany)
— 1040: Bi Sheng invents movable type printing, but the technology does not travel to the West (China)
— 1377: Jikji, the earliest known printed book made with metal movable type, is printed in Korea
— c. 1455: The Gutenberg Bible is Gutenberg’s first mass-produced book

35. The Ottoman Turks Take Constantinople, Marking the Fall of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire: 1453 (Turkey)

36. Christopher Columbus Arrives in the West Indies and Claims the Land for Spain European Conquest of the Americas Begins: 1492 (The Bahamas)

A map of the four voyages Columbus made to the Americas between 1492 and 1504.

37. Portuguese Explorer Vasco da Gama Finds a Sea Route from Europe to India, Allowing Portugal To Create a Trading Empire: 1498

38. Spanish and English Explorers Returning to Europe Bring Back New World Foods, Including Tomatoes, Potatoes, Corn (Maize), Squash and Cacao: 1500-1600

39. The Slave Trade: Enslaved African People Are Brought to the Americas: 1502-1619 (US, Haiti, Dominican Republic)
— 1502: Spaniard Juan de Córdoba sends one of his African slaves from Spain to Hispaniola (Haiti, Dominican Republic)
— 1510: King Ferdinand of Spain authorizes a shipment of 50 African slaves to be sent to Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic)
— 1619: A Dutch ship brings 20 African slaves to the British colony in Jamestown, Virginia (US)

40. Martin Luther Sends his 95 Theses to the Archbishop of Mainz, Marking the Start of the Protestant Reformation: 1517 (Germany)

41. Suleiman the Magnificent Rules Ottoman Empire During Period of Great Expansion: 1520-1566 (Turkey)

42. Ferdinand Magellan’s Expedition Is the First to Circumnavigates the Globe, Although Magellan Is Killed in the Philippines and Does Not Complete the Voyage: 1522

43. Polish Scientist Nicolaus Copernicus’s On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres Shows that the Movement of Heavenly Bodies Is Best Explained By a Heliocentric Model (That Is, the Earth Revolves Around the Sun, and Not the Other Way Around): 1543

44. England under Queen Elizabeth I Repels a Spanish Invasion by Defeating the Spanish Armada: 1588 (UK)

45. William Shakespeare Writes Hamlet: 1599-1601 (UK)

46. English Colonists Establish Their First Permanent Settlement in the New World at Jamestown, Virginia: 1607 (US)

47. Galileo Galilei Publishes The Starry Messenger, Which Announces a Series of Astronomical Discoveries Made Using a Home-Made Telescope: 1609-1610 (Italy)

48. England Undergoes A Civil War: 1642-1660
— 1642: After years of conflict, relations between King Charles I and Parliament break down and civil war begins
— 1645: The Parliamentary army wins a decisive victory over Charles at the Battle of Naseby
— 1646: Charles surrenders to the Scots, who turn him over to the English
— 1649: Charles is tried and convicted of treason, then beheaded
— 1653: Oliver Cromwell declares himself Lord Protector of England
— 1658: Oliver Cromwell dies his son Richard becomes Lord Protector
— 1660: Charles II, son of Charles I, returns to England from France and restores the monarchy

49. Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan Builds the Taj Mahal, a Mausoleum for his Favorite Wife, Mumtaz Mahal: 1632-1653 (India)

50. The Power of Steam is Harnessed in the Steam Engine: 1663-1801 (UK)
— 1663: Edward Somerset invents the first steam pump
— 1698: Thomas Savery designs an improved steam pump to pump water from mines
— 1705-1733: Thomas Newcomen invents the atmospheric engine, a more powerful steam pump, and teams up with Savery to build and distribute the machines
— 1765: James Watt invents a steam engine with a separate condenser that is five times more efficient than earlier versions
— 1776: Watt teams up with Matthew Boulton to build their first commercial steam engine
— 1799: Richard Trevithick builds a high-pressure steam engine
— 1801: Oliver Evans builds the first high-pressure steam engine in the US

51. The Holy Roman Empire, the Hapsburg Monarchy and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth Join Forces to Defeat the Ottoman Turks at the Battle of Vienna, Halting Ottoman Expansion into Western Europe: 1683 (Austria)

52. Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica Explains Universal Laws of Motion and Gravitation That Provide a Foundation for the Science of Physics Until Einstein: 1687 (UK)

53. Innovations in the British Textile Industry Spark the Industrial Revolution: 1733-1785
— 1733: John Kay patents the flying shuttle
— 1764: James Hargreaves invents the spinning Jenny
— 1767: Richard Awkwright invents the water frame
— 1775-1779: Samuel Crompton invents the spinning mule
— 1785: Edward Cartwright invents the power loom
— 1793: Eli Whitney invents the cotton gin (US)

54. The Boston Tea Party: American Colonists Protest New British Taxes by Throwing Tea in Boston Harbor: 12/16/1773 (US)

55. The American Revolution: 1775-1783 (US)
— 4/19/1775: The Battles of Lexington and Concord
— 7/4/1776: America Issues its Declaration of Independence from Great Britain
— 1777: British General John Burgoyne, surrounded and unreinforced, surrenders his entire army to the Americans at the Battle of Saratoga
— 1778: France signs a treaty of alliance with the US
— 1781: British General Cornwallis surrenders to George Washington, effectively ending the American Revolutionary War
— 1783: The Treaty of Paris officially ends the war between the US and Great Britain

56. The French Revolution: 1789-1799 (France)
— 6/20/1789: The Tennis Court Oath: Members of the Third Estate (the National Assembly) vow to stay together until they produce a new constitution for France
— 7/14/1789: Parisian revolutionaries storm the Bastille prison, a symbol of the monarchy’s abuse of power
— 8/26/1789: Declaration of the Rights of Man
— 1792: Wars between Revolutionary France and European powers begin
— 1/21/1793: King Louis XVI is beheaded
— 4/6/1793: The Committee of Public Safety takes control, exercises dictatorial powers
— 1795: The Directory is inaugurated

57. The Medical Revolution: 1796-1885 (UK US France)
— 1796: Edward Jenner uses live cowpox virus to create the first vaccine, for smallpox (UK)
— 1842: Crawford Long uses ether as an anesthetic in surgery for the first time in Georgia. but does not publish his results until 1849 (US)
— 1846: William Morton uses ether as an anesthetic in surgery in Massachusetts and receives credit for the discovery (US)
— 1860-1864: Louis Pasteur’s experiments prove the germ theory of disease (France)
— 1882: Robert Koch shows that a specific bacillus causes a specific disease (Germany)
— 1885: Pasteur is the first to use weakened virus to make a vaccine, for rabies (France)

58. The Birth of Rail Transport: 1802-1830 (UK)
— 1804: Richard Trevithick’s early steam locomotive pulls a train with 10 tons of iron and 70 passengers nine miles Merthyr Tydfil, to Abercynon in Wales
— 1812: Matthew Murray builds the Salamanca, the first commercially-successful steam locomotive, and runs it on the Middleton Railway in Leeds
— 1813: Christopher Blackett and William Hedley build Puffing Billy, a steam locomotive, and run it on the Wylam Colliery Railway
— 1814: George Stephenson improves on earlier designs with the Blücher
— 1825: The Stockton & Darlington Railway, the first public steam railway, opens Stephenson drives his locomotive the Locomotion nine miles in two hours hauling an 80-ton load
— 1829: Stephenson’s new locomotive, the Rocket, wins the Rainhill Trials, a steam railway competition in Lancashire
— 1830: Opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway, the first railway to rely exclusively on steam-powered trains

An 1862 photo of the early steam locomotive Puffing Billy.

59. Enslaved People in the French colony of Saint-Domingue, Having Fought a Successful Revolution, Establish the New Nation of Haiti: 1804

60. The Napoleonic Wars: 1799-1815 (France, Europe)
— 1799: Having successfully won many battles, General Napoleon Bonaparte is named First Consul of France and assumes sweeping powers
— 1804: Napoleon becomes Emperor of the new French Empire
— 1805: The French fleet loses to the British and Spanish, led by Admiral Horatio Nelson in the Battle of Trafalgar (Spain)
— 1812: During the French invasion of Russia, Napoleon wins the Battle of Borodino and takes Moscow, but must eventually retreat after huge losses resulting both from Russian troops and the Russian winter (Russia)
— 1813: Napoleon’s forces suffer a major defeat at the Battle of Leipzig against a coalition of Russian, Prussian, Austrian and Swedish armies (Germany)
— 1814: Napoleon abdicates and is exiled to the Mediterranean island of Elba (Italy)
— 1815: Napoleon escapes from Elba and raises an army, but is defeated by British and Prussian Armies Led by the Duke of Wellington and Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher at the Battle of Waterloo (Belgium)
— 1815: Napoleon is exiled to the southern Atlantic island of St. Helena, off the coast of Africa

61. The End of the African Slave Trade and Abolition of Slavery: 1807-1888 (UK, US, Mexico, Brazil)
— 1807: The United Kingdom abolishes the slave trade
— 1808: The United States bans the importation of slaves
— 1824: Mexico abolishes slavery
— 1833: Slavery is abolished in the British Empire
— 1836: The Republic of Texas declares independence from Mexico and reinstates slavery
— 1865: The Thirteenth Amendment to the American Constitution abolishes slavery (US)
— 1888: Brazil abolishes slavery

The official medallion of the British Anti-Slavery Society.

62. Spain’s Colonies in Central and South America Fight for and Win Independence
: 1817-1825
— 1817: José de San Martín defeats Chilean royalists at the Battle of Chacabuco, and enters Santiago, Chile
— 1819: The forces of Simón Bolívar defeat the Spanish at the Battle of Boyacá, which leads to the independence of New Granada (Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, and Venezuela)
— 1819: The Congress of Angostura creates Gran Colombia and Simón Bolívar is elected its president (Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Panama, Peru, Guyana, Brazil)
— 1821: Bolívar’s win at the Battle of Carabobo guarantees the independence of Venezuela
— 1824: The Battle of Ayacucho ends the Spanish presence in Peru

63. The Invention of the Telegraph Revolutionizes Communication: 1832-1840
— 1832: Pavel Schilling creates an electromagnetic telegraph (Estonia)
— 1833: Carl Friedrich Gauss and Wilhelm Weber build the first electromagnetic telegraph used for regular communication (Germany)
— 1836: David Alter invents the first American electric telegraph
— 1837: William Cooke and Charles Wheatstone (UK), Edward Davy (US) and Samuel Morse (US) all independently develop commercial electrical telegraphs, but Morse’s system, with his Morse code, quickly spreads through the US
— 1840: American Alfred Vail improves Morse code

64. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels Publish The Communist Manifesto, Which Explains History in Terms of Class Struggle and Proposes That Workers Unite and Overthrow Capitalism
: 1848 (UK)

65. Charles Darwin publishes On the Origin of Species, which Proves that Natural Selection is the Mechanism of Biological Evolution: 1859 (UK)

A first edition copy of Darwin’s Origin of Species.

66. The American Civil War
: 1860-1865
— 1860: Election of Republican Abraham Lincoln as U.S. President leads southern states to secede
— February 1861: Seven southern states form the Confederate States of America
— 4/12/1861: Confederate soldiers fire on the Union garrison at Ft. Sumter in Charleston Bay (South Carolina)
— 1861: Following the commencement of hostilities, four more states join the Confederacy
— 1/1/1863: The Emancipation Proclamation frees slaves in rebel areas
— 7/1-3/1863: The Union victory at the Battle of Gettysburg is the turning point of the war in favor of the Union (Pennsylvania)
— 4/9/1865: Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrenders the Army of Virginia to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House (Virginia)
— 4/15/1865: Assassination of Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth (Washington, D.C.)
— 4/26/1865: Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston surrenders the Army of Tennessee to Union General General William T. Sherman (North Carolina)

67. The Meiji Restoration: Tokugawa Yoshinobu Abdicates to Emperor Meiji, Ending Shogun Rule in Japan: 1867 CE

68: Opening of the Suez Canal Linking the Mediterranean and the Red Sea: 1869 (Egypt)

69. Alexander Graham Bell Patents the Telephone: 1876 (US)

70. European Powers Colonize Africa: 1880s (Europe, Africa)
— 1830: France invades and colonizes Algeria
— 1884-1885: At the Berlin Conference, European leaders divide up Africa
1885: King Leopold of Belgium establishes the Congo Free State as a private corporate colony (Democratic Republic of Congo)
1895: France establishes French West Africa, a consolidation of eight French colonial territories (Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, French Guinea, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Benin, Niger)
1908: Belgium annexes the Congo Free State
1910: France establishes French Equatorial Africa from its central African colonies (Chad, Central African Republic, Cameroon, Republic of the Congo, Gabon)
1912: Italy forms the colony of Italian Libya from colonies taken from the Ottoman Empire

A map showing the colonization of Africa by European powers.

71. The Suffrage Movement: Women Fight For the Right to Vote
: 1893-1928
1848: The Declaration of Sentiments, written by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and signed at the Women’s Rights Convention in Seneca Falls, NY, calls for giving women the right to vote (US)
1872: Susan B. Anthony is arrested when she votes in the presidential election (US)
1893: The self-governing colony of New Zealand grants suffrage to women Colorado becomes first US state to grant full voting rights to women
1903: Australia is the first sovereign nation to grant women the right to vote
1906: The Grand Duchy of Finland, part of the Russian Empire, becomes the first country to give women both the right to vote and to run for office
1920: 19th Amendment to the US Constitution grants women the right to vote
1922: Women obtain full voting rights in Ireland
1928: Women in the UK obtain full voting rights
1946: The nations of Cameroon, Kenya, Romania and Venezuela grant women the right to vote
2005: The Kuwaiti Parliament grants women the right to vote and run in elections
2015: Saudi Arabia grants women the right to vote and run for office

72. The Invention of Radio: 1879-1901
— 1872: James Clerk Maxwell establishes the mathematical basis for propagating electromagnetic waves through space (Scotland)
— 1879: David E. Hughes may be the first to intentionally send a radio signal through space using his spark-gap transmitter (Wales/US)
— 1880: Alexander Graham Bell and Charles Sumner (US) invent the photophone, a wireless telephone that transmits sound on a beam of light
— 1885: Thomas Edison (US) invents a method of electric wireless communication between ships at sea
— 1886: Heinrich Hertz (Germany) conclusively demonstrates the transmission of electromagnetic waves through space to a receiver
— 1890: Édouard Branly (France) improves the receiver device
— 1893: Nikola Tesla (Serbia/US) develops a wireless lighting device
— 1894: Sir Oliver Lodge (UK) improves Branly’s receiver and demonstrates a radio transmission Jagadish Chandra Bose (India) demonstrate transmission of radio waves over distance
— 1895: After reading Lodge’s and Tesla’s papers, Guglielmo Marconi (Italy) builds a series of radio devices, including one that can transmit radio waves 1.5 miles Alexander Popov (Russia) demonstrates a radio transmission
— 1896: Marconi moves to England and shows his device to Sir William Preece at the British Telegraph Service
— 1897: Marconi patents his device and starts his own wireless business, which establishes radio stations at various locations
— 1898: Tesla demonstrates a remote controlled boat
— 1899: Marconi sends radio waves across the English Channel Bose develops an improved transmitter and receiver Ferdinand Braun invents the closed circuit system and increases the distance that signals can carry
— 1900: Roberto Landell de Moura (Brazil) invents a radio that can transmit a human voice a distance of eight kilometers
— 1901: Marconi claims to send the first transatlantic radio message
— 1906: Reginald Fessenden makes the the first AM radio broadcast from Ocean Bluff-Brant Rock, Massachusetts (US)

73. The Discovery of X-Rays: 1895
1875: Researchers first noticed a new type of ray emanating from experimental discharge tubes called Crookes tubes
1886: Ivan Pulyui (Ukraine/Germany) discovered that sealed photographic plates darkened when exposed to Crookes tubes
1887: Nikola Tesla (Serbia/US) begins experimenting with the new rays
1891: Fernando Sanford (US) generates and detects the new rays
1895: Wilhelm Röntgen (Germany) begin studying x-rays and announces their existence (giving them the name ‘x-rays’) in a scientific paper Röntgen identifies medical use of x-rays
1896: Thomas Edison (US) invents the flouroscope for x-ray examinations John Hall-Edwards (UK) is the first physician to use x-rays under clinical conditions
1913: William D. Coolidge (US) invents the Coolidge tube to generate x-rays, replacing the cold cathode tubes used previously

One of the first x-ray photographs was made by Wilhelm Röntgen of his wife Bertha’s hand, showing her wedding ring.

74. Orville & Wilbur Wright Fly the First Heavier-than-Air Powered Aircraft:
12/17/1903 (US)

The Wright Brothers’ first powered flight, December, 1903.

75. After Defeating Russia in the Russo-Japanese War, Japan Is Recognized as a World Power
: 1904-1905

76. Albert Einstein’s Annus Mirabilis: 1905 (Switzerland)
— 6/9/1905: Paper explaining the photoelectric effect by means of quanta
— 7/18/1905: Paper explaining Brownian motion provides evidence of atoms
— 9/26/1905: Einstein publishes the special theory of relativity
— 11/21/1905: Einstein shows the equivalence of energy and matter (E = mc 2 )

A photograph of Albert Einstein in about 1905, when he was working in the Swiss Patent Office.

77. World War I:
1914-1918 (Europe, Asia, Africa)
— 6/28/1914: Assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo triggers war
— 5/7/1915: A German U-boat sinks the Lusitania
— 1916: Battle of Verdun Battle of the Somme
— June 1917: The US enters the war
— December 1917: Russia leaves the war makes major concessions in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
— 11/9/1918: German Kaiser Wilhelm abdicates
— 11/11/1918: An armistice ends the fighting
— 1919: The Treaty of Versailles redraws the map of Europe and imposes harsh terms on Germany

78. The Russian Revolution
: 1917-1922
— February and March 1917: The February Revolution: Massive uprisings lead to the abdication of Tsar Nicholas II a provisional government is established under Prince Georgy Lvov
— September 1917: The Directorate rules Russia under Alexander Kerensky
— October 1917: The October Revolution: Lenin and the Bolsheviks overthrow Kerensky’s government and establish the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, the first socialist state
— 1918-1922: Russian Civil War between Communists (Reds) and their opponents (Whites)
— 1922: 15 republics are united in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR)

Lenin speaks to a crowd in 1917.

79. A Global Influenza Epidemic Kills 20 Million People:

80. The Invention of Television: 1925-1929
— 1925: Early television transmissions by John Logie Baird (Scotland), Charles Francis Jenkins (US), Bell Labs (US), Kenjiro Takayanagi (Japan) and Leon Theremin (USSR)
— 1926: Advances in TV transmission demonstrated by Baird and Kálmán Tihanyi (Hungary)
— 1927: Philo T. Farnsworth (US) patents first complete electronic television system Herbert Ives and Frank Gray at Bell Labs (US) demonstrate a better quality images than prior systems
— 1928: Jenkins receives the first television station license
— 1929: Zworykin demonstrates both transmission and reception of images in an electronic system Farnsworth transmits live human images

81. Global Depression Follows Crash of US Stock Market: 1929-1940 (US Europe Asia)
— October 1929: US stock market crashes
— 1930-1931: Widespread bank failures in US and Europe
— November 1932: US elects Franklin Delano Roosevelt as president
— 1933-1934: FDR proposes and Congress passes New Deal legislation

82. The Rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis: 1920-1939 (Germany)
— 1920: Hitler forms the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nazis)
— 11/8/1923: Hitler and the Nazis attempt to overthrow the government of Bavaria in the failed Beer Hall Putsch
— 1925: After being released from prison, Hitler publishes Mein Kampf
— 1928-1932: Nazi Party candidates win increasingly larger portion of the popular vote, but never a majority
— 1/30/1933: Hitler is appointed Chancellor of Germany
— 1933-1934: Hitler consolidates power becomes dictator
— 1935: Nuremberg Laws strip Jews of German citizenship
— 1936: German troops reoccupy the Rhineland Germany forms Axis alliances with Italy and Japan
— 3/14/1938: The Anschluss: Germany invades and occupies Austria
— 9/30/1938: In the Munich Agreement, Western European democracies allow Hitler to occupy the Sudetenland
— 11/9/1938: Kristallnacht: Jewish shops and synagogues are destroyed
— 3/15/1939: Hitler invades and occupies Czechoslovakia

Adolf Hitler and Hermann Goering wave to a torchlight parade in honor of Hitler’s appointment as chancellor.

83. Revolution in China: 1911-1949
— 1911: The Xinhai Revolution overthrows the Qing dynasty
— 1912: The Republic of China is established
— 1927: Civil war breaks out between the Communists and the Nationalists
— 1934-1935: The Long March
— 1937-1945: During the Sino-Japanese War, Communists and Nationalists join forces to fight their common enemy, Japan
— 1945: Civil war resumes
— 1949: After defeating the Kuomintang, Chinese Communists under Mao Tse Tung proclaim the People’s Republic of China Chiang Kai-Shek retreats to Taiwan

84. World War II: 1939-1945 (US, Europe, Asia, Africa)
— 9/1/1939: Germany invades Poland, triggering WW II
— 12/7/1941: Japanese surprise attack on US fleet at Pearl Harbor US enters war
— 1/20/1942: The Final Solution: At the Wannsee Conference, Nazis make plans to exterminate the Jews (Germany)
— 1942-1943: Defeat of German armies by the USSR in the Battle of Stalingrad marks a turning point in the war (Russia)
— 6/6/1944: Allied Armies Invade Nazi-Occupied France at Normandy on D-Day (France)
— 5/8/1945: Nazi Germany surrenders unconditionally to the Allies
— 8/6, 9/1945: US drops atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, leading to Japanese surrender

85. The United Nations Is Formed: 1945-1946 (Europe, N. & S. America, Asia, Africa, Australia)
— 10/24/1945: UN Charter takes effect, with 51 member nations
— 1/10/1946: First meeting of General Assembly (UK)

The first meeting of the UN General Assembly took place in London, UK on January 10, 1946.

86. The Digital Revolution: The Invention of the Digital Electric Computer
— 1833: Charles Babbage designs the Difference Machine but does not build it (UK)
— 1939: John V. Atanasoff and Clifford E. Berry create the Atanasoff-Berry Computer (US)
— 1940: George Stibitz and his team demonstrate the Complex Number Calculator
— 1941: Konrad Zuse creates the Z3 computer (Germany)
— 1943: Max Newman, Tommy Flowers and others build the Mk I Colossus (UK)
— 1944: The Mk II Colossus the Harvard Mark I begins operation (US)
— 1945: Konrad Zuse develops the Z4 John Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert create ENIAC (US)
— 1958: Invention of the integrated circuit (microchip) (US)
— 1965: Olivetti introduces the Programma 101, the first commercially produced personal desktop computer (Italy)

87. After Long Struggle, India Obtains Its Independence from the UK: 1947

88. The Cold War:
1945-1989 (US, Russia, Europe)
— 3/5/1946: Winston Churchill Gives “Iron Curtain” Speech (US)
— 1948-1949: US and UK overcome Berlin Blockade by USSR through the Berlin Airlift
— 1961: Building of the Berlin Wall between East and West Berlin (Germany)

89. The Discovery of the Double Helical Structure of DNA: 1953 (UK)

90. U.S. Civil Rights Movement: 1954-1968 (US)
— 5/17/1954: The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Brown v. Board of Education that segregated education is unconstitutional
— 12/1/1955: Rosa Parks refuses to sit in the back of the bus, sparking Montgomery bus boycott
— 1957: President Eisenhower sends US troops to protect black students attending Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas
— 1960: First lunch counter protest in Greensboro, North Carolina
— 8/28/1963: Martin Luther King, Jr. leads march on Washington, makes “I Have a Dream” speech
— 9/15/1963: Four black girls killed in bombing of church in Birmingham, Alabama
— 7/2/1964: President Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act
— 2/21/1965: Assassination of Malcolm X
— 3/7/1965: Protest march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama
— 8/6/1965: President Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act
— 4/4/1968: Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. delivers his “I Have a Dream” speech at the 1963 March on Washington.

91. The Vietnam War: 1955-1975 (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos)
— 1954: After the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu ends French rule in Indochina, Vietnam is divided into North and South Vietnam
— 1955: North Vietnam begins guerrilla attacks on South Vietnam
— 1960: North Vietnam backs formation of the Viet Cong, which begins civil war in South Vietnam
— 1961: US President Kennedy sends military personnel and equipment to aid South Vietnam against the Viet Cong
— 1963: The US backs a violent coup in South Vietnam that results in the death of President Ngo Dinh Diem
— 1964: Congress authorizes the US to intervene in the war through the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution
— 1965: First US combat troops land at Da Nang
— 1967: By this time, 500,000 American troops are stationed in Vietnam anti-war protests erupt throughout US
— 1968: The Tet Offensive, a combined assault by Viet Cong and North Vietnamese troops, is a turning point in the war later in the year, US soldiers commit the Mai Lai massacre
— 1969: Death of North Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh
— 1970: US bombing of Cambodia revealed, sparking wave of protests and Kent State shootings
— 1971: The New York Times publishes the leaked Pentagon Papers
— 1973: The Paris Peace Accords end US involvement in the war
— 1975: Saigon falls, South Vietnam surrenders and Vietnam is unified as a single nation

92. Soviet Union Launches Sputnik, First Man-Made Satellite: 10/4/1957 (Russia)

93. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration Approves the First Contraceptive Pill: 5/9/1960 (US)

94. Yuri Gagarin Becomes the First Man in Space: 1961 (Russia)

95. U.S. President John F. Kennedy Is Assassinated in Dallas, Texas: 11/22/1963 (US)

96. Apollo 11 Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin Land on the Moon and Walk on its Surface: 7/20-21/1969 (US, Moon)

Buzz Aldrin on the Moon is a 1969 photograph by Neil Armstrong.

97. The Birth of the Internet: 1965-1995 (US)
— 1965: Lawrence G. Roberts and Thomas Merrill create the first wide-area computer network
— 1967: Roberts publishes a plan for the ARPANET
— 1968: Frank Heart’s team at Bolt Beranek and Newman builds packet switches called Interface Message Processors (IMPs)
— September 1969: BBN installs the first IMP at UCLA, creating the first node Doug Engelbart’s Stanford Research Institute (SRI) provided the second node
— October 1969: The first message is sent between UCLA and SRI
— December 1969: Four computers are linked in the ARPANET
— 1970: S. Crocker and his Network Working Group finish the ARPANET’s initial host-to-host protocol, the Network Control Protocol (NCP)
— 1971: The Merit Network and Tymnet networks become operational
— 1973: The first trans-Atlantic transmission occurs, to University College of London
— 1974: The International Telecommunication Union develops X.25 packet switching network standards
— 1977: Dennis Hayes and Dale Heatherington invent the PC modem
— 1978: The first online bulletin board
— 1979: Usenet and CompuServe are launched
— 1981: The National Science Foundation (NSF) creates CSNET and links it to ARPANET
— 1983: ARPANET computers switch from the NCP protocol to the TCP/IP protocol
— 1985: The first dot-com domain name is registered
— 1986: NSF creates NSFNET, which is linked with ARPANET
— 1988: Internet Relay Chat is introduced
— 1989: America Online (AOL) is launched
— 1990: ARPANET is decommissioned in favor of NSFNET
— 1995: NSFNET is decommissioned and replaced by networks operated by several commercial Internet service providers

98. The Cold War Ends: 1989-1991 (Europe, Russia)
— 11/9/1989: Opening of gates between East and West Berlin demolition of Berlin Wall begins (Germany)
— 1989-1990: Fall of Communist governments in Eastern Europe
— 1990: Reunification of Germany
— 12/26/1991: Soviet Union is dissolved

Harvard Tercentenary Stele

This slender marble slab, or stele, was presented to Harvard in 1936 as a gift from Chinese alumni on the occasion of the University&rsquos tercentenary. The inscription commemorates the founding of Harvard College in 1636 and celebrates the importance of culture and learning both in the United States and in China. The full Chinese text, 370 words long, is presented on the accompanying panel, together with an English translation the original calligraphy, in kaishu 楷书 style, is that of the famous scholar-diplomat Hu Shi 胡適 (1891-1962), who took part in the ceremonies as the representative of Peking University and received an honorary degree.

The photograph shows the stele&rsquos appearance shortly after it was erected on this site, just to the west of Widener Library and close to Boylston Hall, the imposing granite building on your right as you face the stele. This was the first home of the Harvard-Yenching Institute, established in 1928, and the Department of Far Eastern Languages and Civilizations, formed in 1937. Both the Institute and the Department (now the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations) moved to their present location at 2 Divinity Avenue in 1957, but the stele &ndash which, together with its elaborately carved tortoise base, weighs some twenty tons &ndash remains in the Yard, testimony to the University&rsquos enduring commitment to international education and its long engagement with the study of the wider world.

The erection of stone monuments to memorialize important events or individuals has a very long history in China, dating back over two millennia. Many are mounted on the back of just this sort of creature, called a bixi 赑屃 in Chinese. This particular stone served first to honor a prominent official during the Qing dynasty, Song-yun 松筠 (1752-1835). In 1810, when he had just been named to serve as governor-general of the two provinces of Jiangsu and Jiangxi, the Jiaqing emperor 嘉慶 (r. 1796-1820) ordered the stone placed in the courtyard of the governor-general&rsquos offices in the city of Nanjing. The original inscription praised Song-yun for his honesty and dedicated service to the empire. That inscription is preserved in local histories, but is gone from the stele itself, replaced by the inscription you now see.

How the stele moved from Nanjing to Cambridge is an interesting story. The gift was the brainchild of Fred Sze &rsquo18, a prominent banker and president of the Harvard Club of Shanghai in the 1930s. With advance knowledge of the ceremonies to be held to celebrate Harvard&rsquos 300th anniversary, Sze approached Dr. Liu Ruiheng &rsquo09, MD &rsquo13, president of the Harvard Club of Nanking (Nanjing). Liu was one of Harvard&rsquos most distinguished Chinese alumni. Among the first Chinese to graduate from the College, and also the first Chinese graduate of the Harvard Medical School, he directed the Peking Union Medical College for many years, where he performed operations on such prominent figures as Sun Yatsen 孫中山 and Liang Qichao 梁啟超. Liu was also the founder of China&rsquos first modern public health system.

The two men went to the President of the Republic of China, Chiang Kai-shek 蔣中正, with their idea to repurpose the stele for a gift to their alma mater. As the old governor-general&rsquos offices then served as the presidential palace, it was necessary to obtain Chiang&rsquos permission. Over one thousand Chinese alumni contributed funds for the purchase, carving, and transportation of the stele, which arrived in Harvard Yard in time for the Tercentenary in fall 1936, when Sze and Liu together formally presented it to the University as the representative of Chinese alumni at the ceremonies.

After several decades, the inscription on the stele has faded in many places, and the stone has suffered from acid rain. To protect it from further degradation, the University wraps the monument in a sturdy cover during the winter months. In 2012, a 3D scan of the monument was made by specialists from the Peabody Museum, which can be accessed opens in a new window online here.

300th Anniversary Stele

Culture is the lifeblood of a nation. It is by virtue of its culture that a nation arises, but truly it is due to learning that a culture flourishes. Intellectuals with deep knowledge and far-sighted vision understand that in establishing a solid foundation for their nation, the utmost priority must be given to the enhancement of learning. In the beginning, learning is an arduous undertaking, yet once it has grown and expanded, it can contribute to the enhancement of culture for centuries. That this is indeed the case is amply confirmed by the example of Harvard University in the United States of America.

Three hundred years ago, Mr. John Harvard left England for America to teach in Boston. The college that was established in Cambridge was later named after him. Resplendent in its conception and with a full array of subjects of study, the university fostered generations of talented individuals and thus became a world-renowned center of learning. Its glorious history even rivals that of the United States. Mr. Harvard&rsquos contribution of deep knowledge and far-sighted vision to the nation&rsquos culture is truly great.

Our nation symbolizes an ancient culture of the East, but time irrevocably moves forward and the world evolves, constantly undergoing renewal and change. Those committed to learning once again have studied overseas to deepen their knowledge and self-understanding. During the past thirty years, nearly one thousand of our countrymen have returned home upon completion of their studies at Harvard University to serve the nation and society. This is truly marvelous!

On this, the occasion of the tercentenary of the founding of our alma mater, we show our gratitude for the nurturing and inspiration we received here. Henceforth, we hope to witness the further enlargement and expansion of an ever-increasing cultural interchange between our two countries, enabling the prosperity of the nation to follow the path of advanced learning. Of this ideal we shall remain ever mindful.

Erected respectfully by all the Chinese alumni of Harvard University, September 1936

Original translation by Ruiheng Liu 1909, MD 1913
Revised translation by Weiming Tu and Mark Elliott


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Khafre, also spelled Khafra, Greek Chephren, (flourished 26th century bce ), fourth king of the 4th dynasty (c. 2575–c. 2465 bce ) of ancient Egypt and builder of the second of the three Pyramids of Giza.

Khafre was the son of King Khufu and succeeded the short-lived Redjedef, probably his elder brother. He married his sister Khamerernebti, Meresankh III, and perhaps two other queens. Although many of his relatives were hastily buried in cheap tombs, his own pyramid was almost as vast as the Great Pyramid of his father. Khafre’s valley temple, linked to the pyramid by a causeway, was constructed of great monolithic blocks of granite and contained remarkable statues of the king carved from diorite taken from a remote quarry in the Nubian Desert. Near the causeway is located the Great Sphinx (see sphinx), which many consider to bear Khafre’s features.

The Wise Khan

Once more exhibiting his respect for Chinese culture, and eschewing the custom of his predecessors to rule with an iron fist, Kublai Khan moved the capital of the empire from Karakorum to Dadu, in what is now modern-day Beijing, and ruled through an administrative structure more in keeping with local tradition. Though not without its problems, Kublai Khan’s rule was distinguished by its improvements in infrastructure, religious tolerance, use of paper money as the primary means of exchange and trade਎xpansion with the West.

He also introduced a new social structure that divided the population into four classes: The Mongolian aristocracy and a foreign merchant class were both exempt from taxation and enjoyed special privileges, while the northern and southern Chinese bore most of the empire&aposs economic burden and were compelled to do much of the manual labor.

Between the paws of the six-story Great Sphinx in Giza, a slab of hieroglyphs tells the story of how King Thutmose IV dreamed his destiny.

The eight-foot Dream Stela was erected in 1401 B.C., 1,000 years after the Great Sphinx. Age has left the bottom third of the text unreadable.

Under the leadership of Harvard Semitic Museum curator Adam Aja, students created a reproduction of the monument, following a cast that dates to the 1840s. The work is now on display on the museum’s second floor. As an accompaniment, visitors can access an augmented-reality app that sheds light on the Sphinx throughout history.

Extension School student Caitlin Stone was one of 12 students who spent hours last fall poring over two molds Aja brought back from KU Leuven, a university in Belgium, which owns one of a group of mid-19th-century replicas.

“I just love casting,” said Stone, who is working on a master’s in museum studies. “It’s what got me interested in working with Adam. And the added element of the app is amazing in action.”

Aja concocted a blue urethane resin for his team to use in the project. The process demanded intense focus. Students from the College, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and the Division of Continuing Education had between seven and 10 minutes to “paint” the poured resin into the molds’ tiny crevices.

Aja reminded students to “even out.”

“We don’t want clear brushstrokes,” he said. “Curing time is 10 minutes from mixing time to application. After that, the veneer will layer thicker.”

Students work quickly to paint resin into molds made from a cast of the ancient Egyptian monument.

Idabelle Paterson, a gap-year student who will start at Harvard in the fall, worked on the project as part of a three-month internship with the museum.

“It’s a great opportunity to learn how the cast process works and it’s an interesting glimpse into what museum life is like. The fact that we are able to re-create what the stela really looks like is incredible. It’s an invaluable experience.”

Peter Der Manuelian, Philip J. King Professor of Egyptology and director of the museum, said that the sunk relief was a first for the exhibit spaces.

“We don’t have anything like this,” he said. “It grew out of Adam’s expertise in developing Mesopotamian resin relief casts. His thinking as both archaeologist and museum curator gave it the right balance. It has to catch the light to really show how impressive it was intended to look.”

The reproduction was installed in March. More than 300 students from Manuelian’s course “Pyramid Schemes: The Archaeological History of Ancient Egypt” tested the augmented reality app, which displays an overlay of clear hieroglyphs on the slab as well as translations of several sections.

When Kushi Mallikarjun ’19 clicked on the Sphinx icon, the towering creature appeared, visible in different eras (Old Kingdom, New Kingdom, and now) in 360 degrees.

“The Dream Stela and the augmented reality made me feel like I was actually traveling back thousands of years,” said Mallikarjun. “The fact that I could move the phone and see different parts of Giza made me feel present at the site. The augmented reality also provided a translation of the entire stela, which was really cool since normally I would have very little clue as to what it says. It was a great learning experience and makes the younger generation more interested in archaeology and ancient civilizations.”

The J. Paul Getty Museum

This image is available for download, without charge, under the Getty's Open Content Program.

Grave Stele of Herophanta and Posideos

Unknown 151.4 × 57 × 11.5 cm (59 5/8 × 22 7/16 × 4 1/2 in.) 71.AA.288

Open Content images tend to be large in file-size. To avoid potential data charges from your carrier, we recommend making sure your device is connected to a Wi-Fi network before downloading.

Not currently on view

Object Details


Grave Stele of Herophanta and Posideos


Smyrna, Turkey (Place Found)

Object Number:

151.4 × 57 × 11.5 cm (59 5/8 × 22 7/16 × 4 1/2 in.)


Inscription: Ο ΔΗΜΟΣ (in laurel wreath at left) ΠΟΣΙΔΕΟΝ ΔΗΜΟΚΛΕΙΟΥΣ (below recessed panel at left). Ο ΔΗΜΟΣ (in laurel wreath at right) ΗEPΟΦΑΝΤΑΝ ΤΙΜΩΝΟΣ (below recessed panel at right) ("The People [Demos], for (or: in honour of) Posideos, [son] of Demokles. The People [Demos], for (or: in honor of) Herophanta, [daughter] of Timon".)

Alternate Title:

Gravestone of a Prominent Family (Display Title)

Object Type:
Object Description

The Greek city of Smyrna, on the coast of modern Turkey, honored prominent citizens at their death by erecting monuments. The form of a stele , or grave marker, with figures set in a shallow naiskos topped by honorific wreathes and an architectural pediment is typical of the monuments made at Smyrna.

This stele honored Herophanta, who was a priestess of Demeter , the goddess of fertility, and her husband Posideos. Herophanta stands to the right of the large central torch, a symbol of Demeter, while her husband and two children stand on the left. Her husband Posideos is shown as a cultivated man, in a pose used earlier to depict philosophers and oraters. The inscriptions name both individuals: "The demos honors Posideos, son of Demokleios" and "The demos honors Herophanta, daughter of Timon."

This monument is unusual, because unlike most civic stelai, it includes not only Herophanta but also her family. By the 100s B.C., when this stele was made, the family emphasis found on earlier gravestones had largely disappeared and was replaced by figures that stand frontally like statues without interacting.


Found: Smyrna, Turkey (first recorded in Lucas 1720)

After 1848/by 1872

William Lowther, 2nd earl of Lonsdale, English, 1787 - 1872 (Lowther Castle, Cumbria, England), by inheritance to his heirs, 1872.

1872 - 1876

Henry Lowther, 3rd Earl of Lonsdale, 1818 - 1876, by inheritance to his heirs, 1876.

1876 - 1882

St George Henry Lowther, 4th Earl of Lonsdale, 1855 - 1882, by inheritance to his heirs, 1882.

1882 - 1944

Hugh Cecil Lowther, 5th Earl of Lonsdale, 1857 - 1944, by inheritance to his heirs, 1944.

1944 - 1953

Lancelot Edward Lowther, 6th Earl of Lonsdale, 1867 - 1953, by inheritance to his heirs, 1953.

1953 - 1969

James Hugh William Lowther, 7th earl of Lonsdale, 1922 - 2006 (Lowther Castle, Cumbria, England) [sold, Sotheby's, London, July 1, 1969, lot 134, to Royal Athena Galleries.]

1969 - 1971

Royal Athena Galleries (New York, New York), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1971.

Selected Works from the Ancient Art Collection of the John Paul Getty Museum, Malibu, California, (May 29 to July 10, 1971)

Lucas, Paul. Voyage du sieur Paul Lucas au Levant. Amsterdam: 1720, vol. I, p. 152, ill.

Muratorio, Ludovico. Novus thesaurus veterum inscriptionum in praecipuis earumdem collectionibus hactenus praetermissarum collectore Ludovico Antonio Muratorio. (Milan: n.p., 1740), Vol. 2, DVIII, no. 2.

Pococke, Richard. Inscriptionum Antiquarum Græc. Et Latin. Liber: Accedit, Numismatum Ptolemæorum, Imperatorum, Augustarum, Et Cæsarum, in Ægypto Cusorum, e Scriniis Britannicis, Catalogus. (London: n.p., 1752), p. 23, no. 16.

Boeckhuis, Augustus, et al., eds. Corpus Inscriptionum Graecarum. Berlin: 1828-1877, Vol. II. no. 3245.

Michaelis, Adolf. "Die Privatsammlungen antiker Bildwerke in England." Archaeologische Zeitung 32 (1875), p. 43, no. 19.

Michaelis, Adolf Theodor Friedrich. Ancient Marbles in Great Britain (Cambridge: University Press, 1882), p. 495, no. 52.

Arndt, Paul, and Walther Amelung. Photographische Einzelaufnahmen antiker Sculpturen (Munich: Verlagsanstalt für Kunst und Wissenschaft, 1893-1940), no. 3083.

Sotheby's, London. Sale cat., July 1, 1969, p. 71, lot 134, ill.

Selected Works from the Ancient Art Collection of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu, California, exh. cat. (University Park: The Pennsylvania State University College of Arts and Architecture, 1971), no. 8.

Vermeule, Cornelius, and Norman Neuerberg. Catalogue of the Ancient Art in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1973), pp. 15-16, no. 29.

Pfuhl, Ernst, and Hans Möbius. Die ostgriechischen Grabreliefs. (Mainz: Von Zabern, 1977), no. 529 pl. 82.

Frel, Jiří. Antiquities in the J. Paul Getty Museum: A Checklist Sculpture I: Greek Originals (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1979), p. 23, no. 89.

Petzl, Georg, ed. Die Inschriften von Smyrna. Vol. I, Grabschriften, postume Ehrungen, Grabepigramme (Bonn: Habelt, 1982), p. 32, no. 103.

Mantis, Alexandros. Provlemata tes eikonographias ton hiereion kai ton hiereon sten archaia Hellenike techne. (Thessaloniki: n.p., 1983), pp. 127-8, no. 27, pl 42b.

Butz, Patricia. Exequial paleographics: A catalogue of the later inscriptions in Greek on the funerary stones of the J. Paul Getty Museum. MA thesis. (University of Southern California, 1987), pp. 14, 20, 59-72, pl. III, sheet 3, fig. 1.

Mantis, Alexandros. Provlemata tes eikonographias ton hiereion kai ton hiereon sten archaia Hellenike techne. (Athens: Ekdosē tou Tameiou Archaiologikōn Porōn kai Apallotriōseōn, 1990), p. 101, no. S7, plate 45b.

Schmidt, Stefan. Hellenistische Grabreliefs: Typologische und Chronologische Beobachtungen. (Köln: Bohlau, 1991), pp. 15, 17, 89, 138 no. 617, fig. 21.

Zanker, Paul. "The Hellenistic grave stelai from Smyrna : identity and self-image in the polis. In Images and ideologies: self-definition in the Hellenistic world, Anthony Bulloch et al., eds. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), pp. 214n5, 217n18, 218n22, 226n66.

Ridgway, B. S. "Part Three: Response." In Images and ideologies: self-definition in the Hellenistic world, Anthony Bulloch et al., eds. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), p. 236.

Bodel, John, and Stephen Tracy. Greek and Latin Inscriptions in the USA: A Checklist (New York: American Academy in Rome, 1997), p. 9.

Grossman, Janet Burnett. Looking at Greek and Roman Sculpture in Stone (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2003), pp. 85, ill.

Sanchez, Bielman. "Bilder (fast) ohne Worte. Die griechischen Grabstelen für Priesterinnen." In Images and gender: contributions to the hermeneutics of reading ancient art. Schroer, Silvia, ed. (Fribourg: Academic Press, 2006), p. 360, no. 7, pl. 28,2.

Puddu, Manuela. "I ritratti delle stele funerarie di Smirne (II. sec. A.C.) Consapevole strumento di autopropaganda." In Imago: studi di iconografia antica. Angiolillo, Simonetta, Giuman, Marco, eds. (Cagliari, 2007), p. 234, fig. 7.

Klöckner, Anja. "Dienerinnen der Demeter? Zu einer Gruppe von Grabreliefs aus Smyrna." In Cities and Priests. Horster, Marietta and Klöckner, Anja, eds. (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2013), pp. 303-334, no. 8, fig. 14.

Schipporeit, Sven Th. Kulte und Heiligtümer der Demeter und Kore in Ionien. Byzas 16. (Istanbul: Ege Yayinlari, 2013), no. R1 0.

Pollack, Deborah C. Visual Art and the Urban Evolution of the New South (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2015), p. 313n206.

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Ouyang Xun (Chinese: 歐陽詢 Wade–Giles: Ouyang Hsun) (557–641), courtesy name Xinben (信本), was a Confucian scholar and calligrapher of the early Tang Dynasty. Chinese Calligrapher, Politician, one of the Four Great Calligraphers of Early Tang Dynasty (Chu Suiliang 褚遂良, Yu Shinan虞世南, Xue Ji薛稷),He was born in Hunan, Changsha, to a family of government officials and died in modern Anhui province, to a family of government officials and died in modern Anhui province.the Founder of Ou Style

Ouyang Xun's calligraphy, largely kaishu(regular script), was known for its rigorous and grand strokes as well as its unique order and structure, and was called "Ou Style" by later generations. His kai shu works include Jiuchenggong Liquan Ming, and the most famous kingship works are Mengdian Tie and Zhanghan Tie. Besides being an expert in kasha and kingship, Ouyang also wrote excellent lishu(official script).

Several of his kasha works were seen as the best of theTang Dynasty. As the later generations found out, his kaishu had a certain order or formula in both its strokes and structure, which was easy for a novice to learn.

As early as in theSui Dynasty, Ouyangs calligraphy was widely known, and by the Tang Dynasty, as both the man and his calligraphy got older, had attained a high degree of perfection. However, Ouyang was not content with the achievements and continued practicing.

One day, during an outing with his friends, Ouyang came upon a stele inscribed by Suo Jing (a famous calligrapher of the Jin Dynasty), and felt the inscription was really mediocre after several look at it. However, upon second thought, he believed there must be something outstanding about the stele, since Suo was hailed as a great calligrapher. With this idea in mind, He stood for a long while in front of the stele, had a careful look into it and discovered the sparkling points about it. He went on to explore the stele for another three days, and finally realized the secret of using awriting brush, hence further perfecting his calligraphy.

He was a talented student who read widely in the classics. He served under the Sui Dynasty in 611 as Imperial Doctor. He served under the Tang Dynasty as censor and scholar at the Hongwen Academy. There he taught calligraphy. He was a principal contributor to the Yiwen Leiju.

He became the Imperial Calligrapher and inscribed several major imperial steles. He was considered a cultured scholar and a government official. Along with Yu Shinan and Chu Suiliang he became known as one of the Four Great Calligraphers of the Early Tang Dynasty.

Community Reviews

Time for my first review! I didn&rsquot start writing my own reviews because a lot has been told about most of the WHSs by fellow WH lovers, and there&rsquos really not much to add. Great job, guys! However, judging from the only reviews on Lushan by Els and Stanislaw, I suspect that most people might have missed the highlights of this site, and feel obliged to share my experience with it. Hopefully it will give you an alternative perspective of this great mountain that has become an integral part of Chinese culture over 2,000 years of history.

First, some background information. The name of Lushan was first used in Shiji (Records of the Grand Historian) around 94 BC, to describe the shape of the mountain as dwelling of the immortals. Since then, countless literary works have depicted and praised this mountain, and many architecture and inscriptions have been added to it. If there was tourism in ancient China, Lushan would have been a top 5 destination. Lushan served briefly as the summer capital of Republic of China in the 1930s and witnessed several important conferences of the Chinese Communist Party in the second half of the 20th century.

Before we start, I need to point out that tourism in Lushan is rather poorly administered and causes quite some confusion even for Chinese visitors. If you arrive by train, you should get off at the station of Jiujiang instead of the station of Lushan (a typical complexity caused by the division of administrative regions in China). Most of the sites mentioned in Lushan&rsquos OUV synthesis are outside its main tourist area, which is probably why many people failed to understand its importance. You might enjoy hiking in the main area, but Lushan has much more to offer than some 20th century Chinese political anecdotes. Unfortunately, most people never found out about that because there&rsquos little information.

I spent two days in Lushan, but I never set foot in the main tourist area. It sounds weird, but I absolutely had no interest in the love story of Chiang Kai-shek or the details of CCP politics. So, I decided to explore the sites that embody traditional Chinese culture on the periphery of Lushan.

On the first day, in order to reach the remote Guanyin Bridge, I went with a tourist group on a bus. We first spent the morning climbing the Five Old Men Peak through the east entrance of Lushan. If you get in through the main entrance and head east, you will also arrive at the Five Old Men Peak, but it may take an entire day and a huge amount of energy. Then we arrived at the tourist area of the Guanyin Bridge. There you can see the Five Old Men Peak and the Grand Hanyang Peak, highest peak of Lushan, in opposite directions. It is worth mentioning that visitors are prohibited to enter most parts of the Lushan National Park, including the Grand Hanyang Peak, for the protection of the ecosystem, so you can only look at it from afar. There are also two small villas previously owned by Chiang Kai-shek in the tourist area, which is enough for me to get a sense of it.

But let&rsquos talk about the Guanyin Bridge. What an architectural wonder! This stone arch bridge was built in 1014 in the Northern Song dynasty, one of the oldest of its kind in China. It&rsquos made of 107 pieces of granite, but what&rsquos astonishing is that every piece is connected to each other by mortise and tenon joints, which is traditionally applied to wooden structures. Basically, the masons grinded 107 stones each weighing tons into huge parts and assembled them together. It&rsquos hard to imagine how they achieved it without any machine power. Also interesting to think how primary material (wood vs stone) changes structure from an architectural perspective.

On the second day, I went on my own by bus and first visited Xiufeng (literally the Beautiful Peak), where the famous Lushan Waterfall is. There&rsquos another waterfall on the Five Old Men Peak that&rsquos much more popular among visitors, but this one on Xiufeng is of greater cultural value. It is the theme of a household Chinese poem by Li Bai, one of the greatest Chinese poets ever, by the title of Viewing the Waterfall at Lushan:

Sunlight streaming on Incense Stone kindles a violet smoke:

Far off I watch the waterfall plunge to the long river,

Flying waters descending straight three thousand feet,

Till I think the Milky Way has tumbled from the ninth height of Heaven.

As I ascended the carved stairs, the waterfall jumped into sight. It was exactly how it was described in the poem some 1,300 year ago, a straight stream of water falling right off the cliff. It was always nice to feel connected to your ancestors and share the same experience with them. The waterfall eventually drains into the Poyang lake, the largest fresh waterbody in China, which can be viewed on top of the peak.

Xiufeng also holds some of the most important inscriptions in Lushan. At the foot of the peak lies the works of Yan Zhenqing, a contemporary of Li Bai and one of the most influential Chinese calligraphers ever. The stele recorded the An-Shi Rebellion in the Tang dynasty, a historical turning point in Chinese history, and it narrowly escaped destruction in the Sino-Japanese War. Other inscriptions by Mi Fu and Wang Yangming, both cultural celebrities from different dynasties, can also be found there.

The second stop of the day was the White Deer Cave Academy, the most prominent one of the Four Great Academies of China. It was established in 940, and welcomed the arrival of Zhu Xi, leading scholar of Neo-Confucianism, in 1179 in the Northern Song dynasty. It was his instructions and reformations here at the White Deer Cave that fundamentally changed traditional Chinese education. Although much of it was a modern reconstruction, you could still feel the tranquility of the environment and the atmosphere for learning here.

My final stops were the West Grove Pagoda and the East Grove Temple complex, located close to each other but away from the property area of Lushan. They were also a historical part of the Lushan culture, but perished through time only to be rebuilt recently.

That&rsquos pretty much about it. Not much info I can provide on transportation though, as there never is any written timetable and you really have to ask local people for directions. Anyway, you can always find these sites on Google Maps. Hope this will help future visitors to appreciate Lushan!

Kaifeng Torah Scroll

This Torah scroll is part of the literary corpus produced by the Jewish community in Kaifeng, China. A Torah scroll is comprised of the Five Books of Moses and is the most sacred ritual object in Judaism. It is traditionally read aloud in synagogue services. This scroll is incomplete and ends abruptly at Leviticus 18:19.[1] It is seventy-two feet long and is comprised of thirty-seven alum-tawed goat skin panels.[2] The panels are sewn together with silk thread, a Chinese material, rather than sinew, which is traditionally used to sew Torah scrolls. The text is written in black inks and is organized into columns. This scroll was donated to the American Bible Society in 1868 by Dr. Samuel Wells Williams, who would later serve as the society’s ninth President from 1881-84.[3]

Although the existence of a Jewish community in Kaifeng was unknown to westerners until the early seventeenth-century,[4] steles found in the Kaifeng synagogue indicate that Jewish migration to China spanned anywhere from Zhou Dynasty (1066-256 BCE), to the Song Dynasty (960-1279 CE). Most scholars believe that the primary wave of Jewish migration to Kaifeng occurred during the Song dynasty, when Kaifeng became an imperial capital city in China.[5]

Williams acquired the scroll while he was working as an administrative assistant and translator for the American Legation to China in Beijing.[6] In the nineteenth-century, Christian missionaries and Bible scholars were interested in acquiring Chinese Torah scrolls because they falsely believed that these scrolls might be the oldest extant copies of the Torah and contain Christological verses which were later removed.[7] Williams was able to buy the scroll from two Kaifeng Jews, who had journeyed to Beijing with the intent of selling three of their community’s Torah scrolls.[8]

By 1868, at the time of Williams’ purchase, the Jewish community of Kaifeng had undergone a serious religious and
economic decline. Records from visiting missionaries indicate that the community members had been without a rabbi for fifty or so years and were unable to read the Hebrew text of the scrolls.[9] Most of the Kaifeng Jews were extremely impoverished and had strong financial motivations to sell the scrolls, which they could no longer read, to interested Christian missionaries and scholars.[10]

According to the 1663 synagogue stele, the synagogue and its Torah scrolls were severely damaged during a 1642 Yellow River Flood, orchestrated by the Imperial governor of Kaifeng as a way to weaken rebel forces.[11] The rabbi was able to collate the salvaged skins into one complete Torah scroll, which is referred to on the stele as the Scroll of Moses.[12] Over the course of the next twenty-one years, the community embarked on a major project to recopy the thirteen Torah scrolls which had been lost in the flood, from the Scroll of Moses.

The Torah scroll displays clear signs of water damage and subsequent repairs.[13] The fact that the scroll is incomplete is likely due to the flood the missing skins were either lost or too damaged to attempt to repair. Text has been traced over in areas where the calligraphy was washed out during flooding. Several newly prepared panels were sewn in to restore areas damaged during the flooding. Thus, the majority of this scroll is made up of “older” stained and grey-ish skins which survived the flood. These skins date anywhere from the twelfth to fifteenth-century and are written in a Persian or Yemenite Hebrew calligraphic script.[14] The “newer” skins appear as patched-in columns. The newer skins are clean and white and written in the same Chinese Hebrew calligraphic style seen in the other post-flood rewritten Torah scrolls.[15]

The fact this scroll is incomplete poses a conundrum for scholars. According to Jewish law, a Torah scroll can only be considered ritually fit for use in synagogue services if it is complete.[16] American Bible Society acquisition records indicate that this scroll was already incomplete in 1868 and there is little reason to believe that the scroll could have deteriorated so greatly between 1663 and 1868.[17] Some scholars believe that this scroll should not be counted as one of the thirteen scrolls, but rather, would have been stored in the community’s genizah or storage space for damaged holy texts.[18] On the other hand, it is plausible that this scroll could be counted as one of the thirteen, for we do not know how well versed the Kaifeng Jewish community would have been in Jewish law.

The many interesting questions presented by this object are part of the research and analysis undertaken during the planning stages of its conservation. The conservation treatment will undertake to repair the many large cracks that have opened on the panels due to deteriorations of the skins from the 1642 flood, as well as the scroll’s inconsistent storage environment over the past 360 years.

[1] Pollak, Michael, Torah Scroll of the Chinese Jews, Dallas: Bridwell Library, Southern Methodist University, 1975, pp. 56.

Watch the video: Official Dedication of the Memorial Stele for Mildred Harnack-Fish at JLU