The Flâneur

Miscellany > Calendrical Quiz > May

In these days of globalisation, some members of the board of directors at Fairpak 2007 have decided that the competition may be in danger of becoming somewhat Euro-centric. The time has, therefore, arrived for us to branch out and embrace all those worlds that await our attentions. So, let's take a trip to Elsewhere. In addition, since the month of May not only regales us with cherry blossom but also hosts our CEO's birthday, it has been selected as the Fairpak Bumper Bonus Month of 2007, which, in practical terms means: more questions, more points available and more pix, but, less time at the bar - unless you, as some imaginative types in that great city of Liverpool have already started doing, use the Fairpack Competition as an additional element in the pub quiz down at the Philharmonic. Now that our CEO has gone off with CDS Sir Jock Stirrup to shoot tigers in the Altai for a month or so, the research team have finally managed to take hold of the reins. While the cat's away n'aw that.


To the Hellenes Maia was worshipped as the Goddess of the Fields. Indeed, even to those unconscionable chauvinists the Romans, her equivalent, Bona Dea, had associations with the vessel, fertility and all that classical feminine mystery stuff. However, following a simple anagrammatical shift in the name of the month (come on folks, we are only dealing with three letters here), and a short hop to the Levant, we encounter quite a different celestial spectre altogether. Hint: think tubers!

1 Who was this god?

2 What was he the bringer of?

3 What was his Hellenic equivalent?

4 What is his Christian or Islamic equivalent?

5 Which god would you have been a follower of if our tuber friend were a member of your pantheon?

So, now the journey commences. From the Levant to the Orient. Communication, that's the trick!

There now follows the 'BBC Six O'Clock News Shag-Me-Quick-Dumbed-Down-Propaganda-Content-But-Polished-Presentation' extra question.

6 It took humankind thousands of years to come up with these childlike, graffitiesque doodles across the map of Asia, but what on Earth do they represent?
(Two words - excluding the definite article)

Apparently, according to the Chinese, the first to introduce this exercise in combining classical Dadaism with Cartography was one Wu Di, an esteemed emperor of the Han Dynasty. Being a Chinese Emperor of some repute, he was clearly in a position, with a mere click of his toenails, to send out his minions with their paint and brushes to scribe lines across both desert and mountain. But, why did he do it?

7 What did he need?

8 What did he need them for?
(Note the use of the plural here, could this be a clue?)

But, let's place Wu Di to one side. After all, in reality, the only thing he ever really came up with was a system of how to tax what was already in existence long before he had even been born.

Later, during the Tang Dynasty, these squiggles across the map brought about massive interchange in the fields of materials (animal, plant and mineral based), inventions and philosophy. Indeed, the significance of the above portrayed ramblings across Asia upon the people of China cannot be underplayed. Proof of this is that the Chinese (notoriously xenophobic at the best of times) even added a couple of new surnames to their rather resticted list of one hundred - so impressed were they by the inventiveness of these outsiders.

The newcomers:

9 If your Chinese name was Kang, of what extraction were you?

10 If your Chinese name was An, where did you hail from?

Amongst many other fascinating additions to Chinese high society, representatives of these two groups introduced not only Middle Eastern and Central Asian cuisine and couture but also one of the most remarkably insightful and accommodating items known to humankind. The Tang Chinese used to refer to this indispensible and functional piece of interior architecture (which seems to have begun its journey eastwards in Byzantium) as 'The Barbarian Bed'.

11 What exactly was 'The Barbarian Bed'?

New sports also appealed to the Tang, such as the one popular in this square (prior to its being converted into a park with fountains to go) in central Iran.

12 Where is this?

13 What sport was played in this square?

Enough now of such matters. Let's talk POWER! Despite the many historical upheavals along the various routes on our map above, most local aristos usually knew which side their bread was buttered. Some 350 odd years after the Tang, however, came a development that none of the parochial rulers on the planet stretching from the Yellow to the Red Sea had expected, or could cope with. And along with this came a woman who, without question, was, and still remains, the most powerful lady to have existed, ever! No member of 'the fairer sex' has ever succeeded her in terms of her Machiavellian political nous and the number of cavalry divisions that she commanded. Not only that, but she was a Christian who was loved by Muslims and Buddhists alike throughout Asia because of her religious tolerance and the fact that she frequently bankrolled their projects - whichever creed they followed.

14 Who was she, this daughter-in-law of the first Great Khan, wife of the Great Universal Ruler's youngest son, and mother of the most powerful emperor China has ever known?
(Here's a portrait of her to help you)

15 Which dynasty did her son establish in China?

16 What was his name?

17 What was her father-in-law's name prior to his becoming 'The Great Universal Leader?

Thence came the Ming. Where the previous shower had found naval matters somewhat challenging, the Ming had no such difficulties. With ships the size of Nelson's Victory at a time when most of Europe was pootling about in boats little bigger than Drake's Golden Hind, the Chinese sailed as far as The Persian Gulf, East Africa and The Red Sea.

18 Name the Ming Dynasty Admiral who achieved this.

However, the Europeans eventually caught up, took them a while (couple of hundred years, or so), but they got there in the end. When they finally did, pretty much everything began going by sea. The Chinese stuck their heads in the sand, and the East India Company got down to business. Once they'd got to grips with India, the Brits scanned the horizon for further opportunities, and guess what they saw? The Chinese, quite understandably, were none too happy with all this attention aiming in their direction, and made their views plain. The Brits saw things a bit differently. In order to break into the Chinese market, London tried to flood China with the benefits of this (illustration A) particular member of the plant kingdom in the 1830s:

Illustration A

Illustration B

19 What is plant A (Latin only)?

The Chinese, misguidedly, figured that they had a secret biological weapon up their sleeves, and attempted - with dismal failure - to impose an embargo on the export of another plant (illustration B) in order to curtail the activities of Queen Victoria's drug dealers, who had been hanging around outside their primary schools.

20 What is plant B (Latin or common English term), and why did the Chinese reckon that it might win the day for them?
(2 points for this question)

And so onwards to the Great End Game.

"I have been in love many times, but Asia remained my bride."

21 Who said the above?
(Here is a clue. Scene: the Taklamakan 1894)

22 The locomotives of trade across Asia for over two thousand years. What are these beasts of burden (two words) surrounding their dead owners?

23 What encampment is this a depiction of?

24 Name the company that recently bought out MG/Rover.

(1 mark for each numbered question, unless otherwise stated - question 20 - , plus 4 points for fastest finger first. Total: 29 points).

In all likelihood the CEO will be back again next month, so, assuming we don't all get the sack, things will probably return to normal.

The Answers

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