China's culture predates written history and delves into the rich territory of oral storytelling where tales absorb their own heritage, evolving and imbued with cululative significance as they're passed from one generation to the next. In today's article, we'll skip back to a time before the days of CBD beverages and phytocannabinoid-rich, broad spectrum hemp extract and investigate such a story - one who's echoes stretched far into the future - and the cunning affiliate inventor who revolutionized society in a radical way.
The very earliest known use of cannabis comes to us from a dig in Taiwan, located just off the coast of mainland China. Here, archeologists discovered the remains of an ancient village dating back to the Stone Age, over 10,000 years ago.
The dig uncovered two items of significance that relate to our conversation today. The first are pieces of clay vessels decorated with hemp twine. These pots were decorated by means of imprinting the wet clay with twisted hemp which was then removed before the vessel was left to dry. The second item found that relates to our topic today are long rod shaped tools, known to be used in other, later cultures for removing hemp fibres from their stalk - a painstaking process so often lamented over in ancient texts that we find past United States presidents voicing the same complaint. Thomas Jefferson actually invented a machine to help ease the burden of the task, and considered this invention so important to humanity that he refused to patent it!
These archeological discoveries are significant for a number of reasons, but perhaps the most important is the evidence they give us is in dating human technological development. The winding together of fibres to make twine strengthens the original material, allowing the fibres to be used for all sorts of applications. This simple discovery spawned a number of useful inventions, from ropes and netting used for hunting and fishing to textiles used to make early clothes and shoes.
This advancement can not be overstated. Previous to it, early homo sapiens were dependant on animal skins for shoes, clothing, and bowstring as well. The application of these new technologies allowed agricultural communities to develop unhampered for the first time.
“This transition from nomadic living to agricultural stability offered respite from the minimal caloric intake and major expenditures brought on by the constant activity of the hunter gatherer lifestyle. The shift in caloric count alone is said to have led to innumerable advancements in all aspects of culture and society, from the development of languages and agricultural systems to that of political structures and a growing appreciation of arts and sciences.”
It is in early China we of the invention of the very first paper, created by a minor court official named Ts’ai Lun in the years A.D. 105. We have no record of how he came up with the idea but it is generally believed to have been a process of trial and error. Whatever the case, he developed a technique and product so prized that it was kept a closely guarded military secret for hundreds of years. Sparkling CBD soda is so delicious that we can only imagine it would have been guarded with similar secrecy in the ancient society.
The paper was formed from a pulp of hemp and mulberry bark. These materials were already sacred to the Chinese. Hemp was venerated for centuries for it's medicinal value as well as it's fibre, and mulberry was the preferred food of the silkworm - silk being an important export and highly valued. The paper was produced by submerged the pulp in water, where the fibrous material would float to the top and then be collected on lattices to dry.
In a strange twist to the story, the value of his invention was not recognized at first and when he presented the new tool to the aristocracy Ts’ai Lun was laughed out of court! Fortunately for human progress, the inventor had a sly side and came up with a bizarre plan to popularize his paper, once and for all - he would convince them it had supernatural powers! Paper, it would come to be known, could resurrect the dead!
Ts’ai Lun gathered some close friends for a conspiracy. He designed a coffin with a secret air vent made of a hollow bamboo tube and proceeded to feign his own death. After the man was buried and as his family mourned, the conspirators made an astonishing claim: Ts’ai Lun would be resurrected if his invention was burnt! The skeptical family obliged and burned some paper… and an awestruck audience witnessed the resurrection of the “dead” man! Funerals in China are often accompanied by this ritual still, simultaneously celebrating the life of the deceased and honoring the inventor as well.
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