Geography BS

Galloping eastwards: the glamour of the fertile Pannonia

While still recovering from the hectic but fruitful new year trip in Czech Republic, Hungary, and Serbia, I decided it’s time for me to write something down about this interesting trip before the memory gets blurry. The followings are some of my personal trivial observation from the trip.

We went through Brno, Czech Republic, Budapest, Hungary, Novi Sad, Serbia, and finally Belgrade, Serbia in two weeks. Eastern Europe always appeared mysterious to me because of its turbulent history and unique culture. Waves and waves of steppe nomads came and settled down there, Huns, Slavs, Avars, Magyars, Turks etc. The region with the then-most incredibly heterogeneous demography now become THE most homogeneous countries in Europe (the last one being the secession of Yugoslavia). The fertile Pannonian basin and its surroundings was intricately divided among so many different borders. For example, it is one hour drive from Brno, Czech to Vienna, Austria, and to Bratislava, Slovakia. But you could barely see the trace of any former country and culture once you cross the border, even the villages are ethnically divided in a tidy manner along the border. My land lives my people.

Moravia from the peep of Brno:

You have to give credits to the Czech people, for they have, after all, retained their distinguishing Slavic language and traditions under thousand years of Germanic dominion. One could say the same thing to Slovakia and their Magyar masters, to a lesser extent. Anyway, Czech in Moravia probably tried everything they could to dissociate themselves with the Germans, but old obelisks have still been inscribed in Germans and the Mendel’s garden still stays behind the same old church. The influence of Germany of course does not stop at the stage of mere historical monuments. After the fall of iron curtain, Germany becomes the de facto suzerain of this country. Germans came and bought their industry and made everyone work for them. Germany to Czechs are like the United States to Latinos, people speak way more German than their poor Anglicky in this landlocked country of 10 million souls. It is interesting to see that a lot of people still live in the communist project apartments that were built at least 20 years ago. This is actually the common thing shared by all the countries I visited in this trip, something I, as a Chinese, would not really be unfamiliar. Brno was not touristic at all, unlike Prague. I really like the city because of this. But I guess also unlike Prague, there is a sense of depression among the people, as they do not seem to be happy with the situation, low wage, few employment opportunities, little casinos at the corner of every street. Typical Eastern Europe under the wingspan of EU. But at least people are well behaved and the food and drinks are cheap and of good quality. May their politicians be wise enough to keep the cheap Koruna instead of the shitty Euro.

Budapest, Magyarország

Budapest is a gorgeous pearl on the Danube River. It has a glorious past but a disheartening present. Though German is still a popular languages among the Magyars, more and more young people could speak some decent English, way better than their Czech neighbors. Once going out of the old town for tourists, the scenery changed totally. There are old project apartments, rusty rail lines and mindless graffiti all over. People still prefer to stay in the past as I understood. Everyone there could easily recited their 150 years of fighting against the evil Turks and victorious defend against the Mongols, even the hipster girls (to my surprise they do have a lot blondes) on the street would point out to a foreigner on the street: “We have fought 150 years against the Turks, now you said our language sounds like Turkisk?!” To them Turks never conquered Hungary, they just flashed off and went to Vienna. Whatever makes them happy out of the current shitty economic situation. Pity I didn’t stay long there, I would be more interested to get to know more about their unique language and yummy goulash.

Serbia: from Novi Sad to Belgrade

How do I start with Serbia. Hmm… It has excellent food and wonderful women. I was told not to bring up any conversations regarding the past with the locals. I did as I was told. I now regretted that I didn’t try harder. Probably I’d get a punch on the face, but it is definitely worth knowing. Either way, the country itself is even a bit less developed than Hungary. Czech -> Hungary -> Serbia. Three different levels, one looks more underdeveloped than another. You could still see a great deal of old Yugo cars driving on the dusty roads. I assume the economic situation could not be better than that of Hungary. On the road to Novi Sad from the northern border we crossed a little town. The only English billboard on the road belongs to an English learning school. The slogan of that advertisement was unforgettable: “School of English: Money is Coming”.

Germans along with their language are clearly not on Serbian’s favor list. Instead, lots of young people speak very good English. In the streets of Novi Sad and Belgrade there are English signs for tourists everywhere, something I didn’t expect at all in Serbia. The two cities are pretty much alike. Both on the Danube river, on the same street you could easily recognize which building was built before the communist era, which was built by the communist, and which was built after the communist (plus some rubble from NATO bombing they deliberately keep). A little bit nondescript, but who am I to judge when China fucked up all old cities in the past 50 years? One interesting observation about the society there is that it appeared to me that there is a tendency among the people to get rid of the trembling past and embrace the  “promising future” with the West, which is quite disappointing for me. New signs and commercials are more likely to be written in Latin alphabets instead of Cyrillic; American style shopping malls were erected in the city with glamorous merchandises that lull people to buy. I was wearing a random shirt in a bar in Novi Sad and the logo was immediately spotted by the young Serbian girls around me. It was the first time I got noticed because of what I wear in the bar since I came to Europe. This somehow reminds me of Hong Kong, and the very reason I left that place… I thought Serbia could be immune to the suicidal cult of western liberalism but I was wrong. The country is leaning itself unconditionally towards the hand of the West. And the only nationalistic group turns to be the red-neck jogging pants gang on the street. This is something extremely lamenting.

But once again, who am I to judge? Those places all have wonderful people, excellent food and very cheap way of living compared to the West. If I could move there sometime, I wouldn’t really hesitate and even would learn their language. I do, however, hope their civilization could revive, emotionally though.

Balkan colosseum

In a colosseum gladiators were forced to fight each other or against some wild beast for the entertainment of the crowd. In Balkan, former-Yugoslavia in particular, different ethnic groups were exactly reenacting the colosseum show after 2000 years, only this time we watch the whole thing through the news program of our TV channel.

Of course there’s one big brother behind the whole show: The Western governments (or Germany in particular). Look at the political burlesque in Bosnia first. What’s the point of maintaining the country if Serbs and Bosnians, presumably share the comparable demographic size living in different regions with little overlapping settlements, never want each other in the first place? As expected, the pseudo-nationhood of Bosnia and Herzegovina never really works. If not for the carrot and the stick of the European Commission, BH wouldn’t exist in the first place (probably the term Bosnian either).

Then the stage shifts southward to Kosovo. It’s hard to convince me that the West is merely stupid and ignorant to interfere in a region that’s already messed up for decades in hope of solving those problems at once. I mean, there must be some other reasons other than a leftist scam. The situation in Kosovo is 10 times more screwed than that of Bosnia. The Albanian gangsterism is not something driven by the atrocity of Serbs in Balkan. It always has been there for years. NATO came, Serbs retreated. The next thing you know Albanian mafia runs the “country” now. If you say it’s a darn leftist scam. Then all right. Based on the principle of self-determinism, Albanians could probably get some kind of leftist legitimacy for the secession. But the implementation of the leftist principle seems to stop there, as apparently the northern Kosovo, which still remains predominantly Serbs demographically, is not allowed to rule by themselves and break away from Albanians Kosovo to join Serbia (They wouldn’t hesitate if they are allowed for a referendum). By leftist standards they are the minorities in Kosovo and therefore should be specially favored. Instead, NATO did everything they could to help the Albanians assert their authority over the Northern Serbs, over and over again. You expect the Serbs would just lay down and let them ravage over?

The most ridiculous part is, while EU find it extremely annoying to deal with the Serbs minorities in Kosovo, they simply turned shitface on Belgrade, blackmailing them if they dare to support their brothers down south they’d be forever banned from the possibility to join the mighty European Union. Well, eurocrats like to use this trick on Serbia. But do the eurocrats themselves really believe that one day Serbia would be part of the impeccable European Union (after their painful eastward expansion and economic crunch)? Unlikely. As far as I concern, they just want to nibble Serbia to the last straw, stripping off their privilege in Balkan after the fall of iron curtain. But then it leads to another question, why is EU so persistent in disintegrating the region just to screw up the Serbs? You don’t expect to tell me they do that just for the sake of many minority groups there so that they could be free from the Serbian despotism? The West never really considered Yugoslavia a major threat back in the days anyway. There must be another explanation about what they are really after in the region.

The good old days?

IQ geography in China

In one of my previous articles I briefly mentioned about the global distribution of IQ level by country. Aside from European-whites, Eastern Asians also have exceptionally high IQ level on average.

IQ by Country

The Chinese, with a population of 1.3 billion (91% Han Chinese), have a very high IQ average of 105. But little is known for the IQ level in different regions of China, whereas geographically and demographically it is simply too vast to ignore the regional discrepancy within the country itself. After an amateur scavenger hunt on the internet I actually did find some Chinese source about the IQ geography in China.

The data I found came from a website that offers self IQ tests for the Chinese netizens. Information such as age, geographical location were collected for the correlation purpose for the test result. The original statistics could be found here (in Chinese). I have constructed a series of simple diagrams for the IQ level by province in China (with the amount of participants in each province), as follows:

IQ by province in China (excluding Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau) typo: Tianjian should be Tianjin (mistake in excel)

Number of participants by province (in total 63636)

There are 63,636 participants who took the IQ test on this website from all 31 provinces in mainland China. The mean IQ level of all participants is 106. This is more or less close to the figure given in Lynn’s IQ and Wealth of Nations. Considering the skewed effect of having more participants from regions with apparently higher IQ (e.g. Beijing, Shanghai, etc.), the average IQ level from the test might be slightly deviated from the actual average IQ level of China. Nevertheless, it could still give us a general idea of the IQ geography in China.

IQ level by Province (the darker color means higher IQ average)

There’s a lot to be drawn from the IQ level by province data in China. From a simple glimpse of this IQ map of China, it is evident that the highest IQ level concentrates in the Central Eastern coast of China (around Shanghai, traditionally called Jiangnan). This region in China is famous for its beautiful nature, nature resources, and most importantly, talented intellectuals and traders. This region also happens to be the locomotive of China’s soaring economy. Interestingly, 5 out of 8 Chinese Nobel prize winners (except for the lame peace award which literally means nothing but a leftist scam) come from this particular region of China.

Besides Jiangnan region, high IQ level was also observed in economic strongholds such as Beijing and Guangdong. Those regions surely attracts more smart people than elsewhere in China.

The exceptionally high IQ level of Gansu, a northwestern underdeveloped province in China, could result from the skewed sampling in the study (merely 612 participants claimed to be from Gansu). It is possible that those participants might misrepresent the actual IQ level in Gansu (given that most of Gansu still struggles from poverty and environmental hardship).

Central-south China has a relatively high IQ level (including Hunan, the province I am from). This region is known for its fertile land and mild climate. This region is considered the core of China proper with extensive historical sedimentation that nurtures the rise of Chinese civilization. (off the topic: Hunan is know for its ferocious political and military figures in modern China!).

The relatively low IQ level regions in China largely overlap with the geographical region that has high minority populations with harsh geographical and climatic environment. It is unclear, however, about the role of ethnicity profiles in this observation. This study contains no data about the ethnicity of the participants. Hence, it is inconclusive to say that minorities have a lower IQ tendency compared to Han Chinese in this study, though it is probably the case in reality (from other parameters to judge high IQ level such as level of agricultural productivity, civilization etc).

Overall, this data at least shows us a general impression on the IQ level in different provinces of China. Hopefully there are more studies available for such topic in the future.

The Golden Triangle

I don’t know how popular the term “The Golden Triangle (TGT)” is in the West. Back in Asia, it is a well-known name that only associates with drugs, opium, and drug cartels. For those who have little clue on what is The Golden Triangle, it is a special term for a geographical region in the humid Southeast Asia, more specifically the upstream Mekong valley where Thai, Burmese, and Lao borders triangularly meet each other. The geographical remoteness and complicated terrains of the The Golden Triangle have made it difficult for the outreach of governments’ influence in the past. These area was historically linked to drug lords and desperadoes aimed with military weaponry. In general, it was a total danger zone.

The reason I brought this up was because recently I read a terrifying piece of news that two Chinese cargo ship were hijacked, purged and loaded with drugs on the Mekong river in this region by the drug cartels who later clashed with the Thai authority. All cargo ship crew were killed in an execution style (12 dead, 1 missing, all Chinese). I was overwhelmingly astonished when I first read this. Two ship hijacked first and then executed everyone on board, what an appalling atrocity! This immediately reminds me of another post I wrote about the deeds of the drug cartel in the Amazons. Only those people could do such thing nowadays.

Then again, I was also shocked that it did take place in this part of the region. As dangerous as TGT used to be, in recent years Lao and Thai governments have actually put up with a lot of efforts in exerting their authority in their parts of the Golden Triangle (The Burmese part is still sort of a forbidden zone like the old TGT). Opium plantations have been significantly reduced in those areas. There has actually been a bit of economic booming in the region, after the opening of the Kunming-Bangkok highway which crosses straight in this area. I was particular familiar with this part of the world as I was personally involved in a research project that allowed me to live there (Lao part of the TGT) with the locals alone for 3 months back in 2008. I remember the whole place, as much primitive as it is, was full of businessmen from China and Thailand who rushed to Northern Laos looking for either rubber plantations or goods trading. With the laid-back mentality of the locals, it is really hard for me to believe that the drug cartels are debuting a comeback after so many years in such an unbelievably high profile. This definitely has to do with something or someone from Burma, as it is the only remaining political vacuum in the region. When I was in Bokeo, Laos I heard a lot about the women/children trafficking and casino scam in the region, mostly on the other side of Mekong River in Burma. I even met some of those tough guys. But there was never anything even remotely related to the drug business from what I heard back then, not to mention the level of mercilessness in this execution.

Pondering on such things really creep me out. I guess I would feel lucky that I did not encounter or even hear of such things when I was there. Now two things are going to happen there: 1. There is going to be another governmental sweep in the region in attempt to exterminate the drug lords. This time they might actually have to reply on Burma as well; 2. Since China has already heavily invested in the region, it would demand armed presence in the trade route.

Drug cartels are vicious venom that would poison the whole region. The upstream Mekong valley is a marvelous place. It is actually one of favor places among all the places I have been to. I certainly don’t hope the laid-back lifestyle and beautiful and quiet Mekong river be broken into gunshots and blood again. (I showed here some of the pictures I took during my stay in the Golden Triangle region. And this is where the atrocity took place…)

A little hut on the hill in Northern Laos, in which i had lunch and dozed a while

The Mekong was calm and beautiful

Lao border at the Mekong is a joke, but people are laid-back anyway

Belgian Awkwardness: Historical Roots

I’ve always wanted to write an article about Belgium. Now that I just got back from Brussels, it is the perfect time to write something about this strange country.

The Belgian government has been vacant for quite some time. This is a well-known fact. A country without a national government for so long, yet the country is not in total anarchy. You can find it nowhere but Belgium. The country hasn’t had a formal government since last June in 2010, making the longest record for a country without a government, seconded by Iraq (only 249 days). Northern Dutch-speaking Flemish just can not resolve in peace with their Southern French-speaking Walloon buddies, albeit literally being the same nationality. That looks quite strange in a modern country like Belgium at first glance. But to look a step further, I’d say it’s rather pretty predictable that things would turn out to be not working in Belgium. This political complexity goes back centuries. We should had foreseen it coming long time ago.

Since the demise of Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD, Low Countries (including the geographical region of current Belgium) was closely associated with theFranks, the Germanic people who invaded and ruled France after the Romans. To this day, Dutch language (including Flemish Dutch) is the closest living language to the long-gone Old Frankish, which perished in France as a result of cultural assimilation to the much higher Roman culture (read the development of French language for more details here). Dutch, as a living relative to the Old Frankish, survived in Flanders and the Netherlands. Historically this was often explained as one of the profound impact ofTreaty of Verdun in 843AD among the grandsons of Charlemagne, which demarcated the Scheldt River as the border between the West and Middle Francia, what later became the territory of France and Holy Roman Empire, respectively. One could speculate that under different political influence, Northern Belgium retained their Germanic trace within the Holy Roman Empire dominion in the Medieval age, which defined the modern Flanders; whereas the South held strong ties with France, who went through the gradual assimilation  process into the Latin culture, which the Romans have brough upon Gallia since the Caesar’s Gallic Conquest in 51BC.

Belgium, along with the rest of Low Countries, began to flourish in trade with the prominence of Hanseatic League in early Medieval age around 13-14th century (mostly feud states). Since 1405AD, Flanders and later roughly the whole Belgium have been annexed into the Duchy of Burgundy via the classic way in medieval Europe politics: royal marriage. Likewise, Duchy of Burgundy was partially annexed by the legendary House of Habsburg out of a marriage, in which Belgium was transferred to the dominion of Austrian Habsburg, Spanish Habsburg, and later Austrian Habsburg again (don’t even get me start how messy the European history is)…

Anyway, some pivotal information here from this ultra-twisting history: Soon after Philip II of Habsburg, King of Spain inherited the Low Countries (known as Seventeen Provinces) from his father  Charles V of Habsburg, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and King of Spain in 1556AD, protestants in Low Countries (then as sort of loose fiefdom confederation), also known as Spanish Netherlands, began to revolt against their Catholic Spanish lord in the north in 1568. This resulted in the consolidation of the loose linkage among seven northern provinces in the Low Countries, a.k.a the foundation of a new nation: The Netherlands (that’s why the nation’s name is a plural form). This was later known as the Eighty Years War (combined with the more infamous Thirty Years War in the end). After the war, Spanish Habsburg was able to maintain control in what was then called “Southern Netherlands”, which was roughly the geographical region of modern Belgium. Southern Netherlands were mostly Catholic (even in Flanders!) at the time and sided with the Catholic Spanish for such crazy wars among Protestant and Catholic. So Belgium in general parted with the Netherlands proper mainly because of the religious difference stemmed in the 16th century. As a result, Netherlands proper was able to consolidate their Germanic heritage from its own newly-established government; whereas Belgium was still under foreign dominion and susceptible to foreign influence, especially France. In 1581, the foundation of Ducth Republic in the North marked the separation of history of Belgium (Southern Netherlands) and Netherlands proper (Northern Netherlands). The term “the Netherlands” became the specific term for The Northern Seven Provinces ever since.

When the Dutch Republic in the north was swamped in defending their precious independence from Catholic powers all over Europe, Belgium (then Spanish Netherlands) was not a land of peace either. The French Bourbon, especially the great Louis XIV, had longed for the rich land of Spanish Netherlands. Consequentially the French in the 17th century had initiated several military campaigns in this region. That was a real messed-up time for Europe, constantly wars among every nation, especially in Low Countries. Wars after wars, years after years. War of DevolutionFranco-Dutch WarWar of the ReunionsNine-Years War… In 1713AD Belgium along with Luxembourg were transferred to Austrian Habsburg after the War of the Spanish Succession, marking the pause of French aggression in this region. Meanwhile, it was a great time for the French culture to spread handsomely in the Southern Netherlands. Nobles all over Europe were proud to speak French rather than their own language. Southern Netherlands, like other European regions, was no exception, especially in Wallonia.

Politically, the concept of Belgium as an independent sovereignty debuted briefly in 1790. The short-lived United States of Belgium was founded as a discontent to Austria’s political reform in Southern Netherlands. Belgian states wanted to maintain their decentralized political system, both the Dutch speaking Flanders and the French speaking Wallonia. It is noted that the concept of modern nationalism, that is one country one major ethnicity one major language, the basis of modern state, was not the fashion for the sovereignty in Europe until 19th century or even early 20th century. Medieval Europe was always about the kinship of the nobility. It has absolutely nothing to do with the ethnicity, the language the region possesses. In the case of Low Countries, the decentralized loose confederation of many fiefdoms had existed since early Medieval Age and they intended to keep it that way at the time. This is the basis why United States of Belgium could be created at the time, as both Flanders and Wallonia just wanted to get rid of Austrian centralization reform and remain the medieval political system. Though the independence was short-lived after a quick repression of the Austrian troops, the concept of a united Belgium remained, or rather the concept of the continuation of the loose decentralized confederation remained.

Later on the messy history continued. Right after the French Revolution in 1789AD, Southern Netherlands revolted against Austrian Habsburg again. As the same time the French started to hassle this important crossroad once again. The French army, under the First French Republic, invaded Austrian Netherlands and successfully annexed it into France. That was a time of constant upheaval and frequent change. On one hand France was going through a drastic period of enlightenment, when the idea of modern state, the concept of being French in France, started to emerge rapidly. This had greatly facilitated the penetration of French language in Belgium, which was then occupied by France. Nobles in Belgium at the time were mostly from the South and speaking French instead of Dutch at the time, which became the major force in the Belgium Revolution against the later Dutch governance in 1830AD. On the other hand, Belgium was inspired by the French Revolution and remained strongly of his own will of independence. All Belgians, regardless of the language they use, saw the hope to strive for a united sovereignty to protect themselves from foreign power. Any attempt from the outside that aims to alter the decentralized political tradition of the Southern Netherlands (Northern Netherlands broke the tradition themselves when fighting against the Spanish over 200 years ago) would meet with fierce resistance in Belgium. The French themselves, were no exception as the unfavorable foreign power in Belgium. The forcible suppression of the use of Dutch language over French (French nationalization process), particularly in Flanders, sparked the Peasants’ War in 1798AD. Though France managed to repress the revolt, the awareness of language identity, a key concept for modern nationalism, was spreading quickly at the time, particularly the modern Flemish movement for their Dutch-speaking identity.

Interestingly, after the downfall of Napoleon in Waterloo, Belgium in 1815AD, Belgium was engulfed by the United Kingdom of the Netherlands at the Congress of Vienna. This was actually the first time that all Low Countries (including Luxembourg) stood as a single independent sovereignty in history. However, after many years of resisting foreign power, Belgians no long saw themselves as part of Netherlands identity. Dutch was promoted as official and administrative language over French. The united kingdom was governed by a Protestant king at the time. These two facts very much touched the nerves of Belgian nobles, mostly French speaking from the south, and the Catholic clergy that remained influential in Belgium. So there began the Belgian Revolution in 1830AD against their “northern buddies”. It is noted that Flanders at the time was highly reluctant to side with the French-speakers and even the Catholic clergymen. The language identity for the first time overran their religious identity (Flanders being mostly Catholic) in the Belgian Revolution. However, it was again the French, who wanted Belgium so badly for so long, aided and supported the revolution against the Dutch and subdued the Flemish to subordinate in this revolution. At the same time, European powers were scared that France would annex Belgium again, which could impose profound threat to them (with the memory of Napoleon War still fresh). They soon found a German noble to be inaugurated as the king of Belgium in 1831. Nine years later, 1839AD, the Treaty of London was signed between Belgium and the Netherlands, which granted the independence of the Kingdom of Belgium.

The mistrust that snowballed over the years (Flanders to French influence and Walloon to Dutch influence) escalated even further after the establishment of the Kingdom of Belgium. Flanders, in particular, was repressed and persecuted for their Dutch-speaking heritage. The newly established Belgian government was mostly controlled by the French-speaking Walloons and intended to go through a radical modern nationalization process. Eradicating the Germanic trace of Flemish population and enforcing one language (French) for Belgium was one of the key objectives for the then Belgian government. French was set as the only official language in the newly founded kingdom. Investments were heavily favored over Wallonia. Flanders, once a prosperous region, was heavily repressed culturally, economically and politically. One obvious example is that the Dutch version of Belgian Constitution did not exist until 1967AD, over 130 year years after its French version! Such mistreatment against the Flemish have greatly facilitated the growth of Flemish nationalism over French-speaking Walloon’s governance (instead of smothering Flemish identity). The tension between Flemish and Walloon went all the way through 20th century up to now. It is no surprise that after so many years of mistreatment Flanders want out of the Walloon-dominating Belgian political realm, especially when Flanders is doing much much better than Wallonia economically.

Belgium, from being the southern part of Low Countries, went through a long period of foreign occupation until its own independence. However, its independence is rather an assurance of the continuation of their decentralized feud-state confederation system. Modern nationalism in Belgium, under the odd years of various foreign occupation, did not manage to evolve a unified “Belgian” identity over the years. With the failed attempt to enforce a single language in the former city state alliance, nationalism emerged separately: the identity of Dutch-speaking Flemish first under French occupation in late 18th century; and the identity of French-speaking Walloon exerted under the Belgian Revolution against the Dutch in early 19th century. The concern over religious difference, which separated them from the Netherlands in the first place, was submerged by the Dutch and French language/culture conflict which fermented a distinguishable cultural and political dichotomy domestically (especially after years of systematic suppression of Flemish culture in Belgium). This is very odd for the development of a modern state. With the “minority” culture/language being over 50% of the total population in Belgium and its total economical superiority over majority region in the past decades, it’s a miracle that Walloon-dominant Belgian government could retain power for so long. I would not be surprised to see the failure of current Belgian political system albeit its constant reforms. In the current situation, Flanders has the advantages of almost every parameter over Wallonia. The autonomy, a trick to tame the restless minority in a modern state, clearly would not fulfill Flanders’ growing confidence and appetite. Based on its historical roots, since there’s never a single identity in the first place plus there is years of language/cultural ongoing tension, the partition would not be a drastic move to foresee, especially from Flemish point of view. After all, the existence of Belgium is a total awkwardness of a failed attempt towards a modern state. This is, however, nothing unique only to Belgium. Such examples could also be found in the dissolution of former Czechoslovakia and former Yugoslavia.

Belgian Coat of Arms, see how complicated it is?

Great Ming Amalgamated Map

This is the oldest world map that has been well preserved in one piece in China, dating back to 14th century, early Ming dynasty. Africa, Europe, Arabia are disproportionally represented in the west part of the map.

More details: See Da Ming Hun Yi Tu in wikipedia

P.S. I will be on a trip away for a week. The blogging progress has been significantly slowed down these days. I have so many unfinished drafts for the time being, and will definitely finish them after I get back.

The deserted Great Wall of China in Hebei