Since ancient times, Japanese philosophers have pondered basic, unanswerable questions about their natural environment. The early Japanese believed that the world around them was inhabited by gods and spirits, from streaks of mist obscuring jagged mountain peaks to water cascading over secluded waterfalls. Almost every aspect of Japan's stunning natural beauty evoked a sense of awe and wonder among its people.
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Huitzilopochtl, God of the Sun, was the Aztec principal god. He had an insatiable appetite for blood. Under his urging, the Aztecs rose from a band of primitive farmers to become the bloodiest civilization of the early Americas. Many Central America cultures indulged in human sacrifice. The Aztec practiced it on an industrial scale, sacrificing tens of thousands of victims each year.
In the wake of Columbus' historic voyage in 1492, expeditions, especially from Imperial Spain, swarmed into Aztec territory. They came in search of gold and souls gold to enrich the coffers of the Spanish king (and their own), and heathen souls to rescue for Christianity. Within a generation, America's ancient civilizations were crushed. Both the Aztec and Inca Empires collapsed after campaigns lasting just a couple of years. How did they fall so fast? Historians suggest many causes.
Transcendentalism is a very formal word that describes a very simple idea. People, men and women equally, have knowledge about themselves and the world around them that "transcends" or goes beyond what they can see, hear, taste, touch or feel.
Like the American economy, American art and literature flourished during the Gilded Age. The new millionaires desired greatly to furnish their mansions with beautiful things. Consequently, patronage for the American arts was at a higher level than any previous era. Painters depicted a realistic look at the glories and hardships of this new age. Writers used their pens to illustrate life at its best and its worst. The net result was an American Renaissance of arts and letters.
They were called the Lost Generation. America's most talented writers of the 1920s were completely disillusioned by the world and alienated by the changes in modern America. The ghastly horrors of trench warfare were a testament to human inhumanity. The ability of the human race to destroy itself had never been more evident. The materialism sparked by the Roaring Twenties left many intellectuals empty. Surely there was more to life than middle-class conformity, they pined.
Democracy. Philosophy. Sculpture. Dramatic tragedies. The Olympic Games. Many of the fundamental elements of Western culture first arose more than 2000 years ago in ancient Greece.
Greek dramas typically dealt with important issues of the day, posed tough questions, and educated theatergoers. Attendance at dramas was considered such a valuable experience that sometimes the government would pay for the tickets.
2,500 years ago, most humans were concerned with providing food and protection for their families and little else. Most of them were ruled by kings or pharaohs who had supreme decision-making power. The Athenian democracy encouraged countless innovative thoughts among its citizens.
Powerful kingdoms, beautiful sculpture, complex trade, tremendous wealth, centers for advanced learning all are hallmarks of African civilization on the eve of the age of exploration. Hardly living up to the "dark continent" label given by European adventurers, Africa's cultural heritage runs deep. The empires of Ghana, Mali, and Songhay are some of the greatest the world has ever known. Timbuktu, arguably the world's oldest university, was the intellectual center of its age.
When immigrants reach a new land, their old ways die hard. This has been the case with most immigrant groups to the New World. The language, customs, values, religious beliefs, and artistic forms they bring across the Atlantic are reshaped by the new realities of America and, in turn, add to its fabric. The rich traditions of Africa combined with the British colonial experience created a new ethnicity the African American.
The New World was only a small piece of a struggle for global domination between England and France. During the 1600s, France was the dominant power on the European continent, emerging victorious from the Thirty Years War. Louis XIV, the Sun King, built a palace at Versailles that made him the envy of every European monarch. French language, art, and literature prevailed on the continent. England, meanwhile, was in the throes of the only civil war in its history. As the century drew to a close, however, England was ready to start settling the New World.
The 6th century B.C.E. was an amazing time of philosophical growth for ancient China. It was during that time that the two most influential spiritual leaders native to China, Confucius and Lao-tzu, are thought to have lived and taught. The philosophies that they practiced, Taoism and Confucianism, existed simultaneously in dynastic China, attracting countless numbers of followers over the past 2,500 years. The fascination of both the Eastern and Western worlds with these two legendary figures and the philosophies that they created remains strong.
This site explores how Adeline Hornbek, single mother of four, defied traditional gender roles to become the owner of a successful ranch under the Homestead Act.
Photo of a Aerial view of a complex of Long Island highways that provide access to New York City (1946)
In this unit, students will become familiar with fables and trickster tales from different cultural traditions and will see how stories change when transferred orally between generations and cultures. They will learn how both types of folktales employ various animals in different ways to portray human strengths and weaknesses and to pass down wisdom from one generation to the next. Use the following lessons to introduce students to world folklore and to explore how folktales convey the perspectives of different world cultures.
Alcatraz is home to one of the world's most infamous prisons. From the 1930s to 1960s, Alcatraz was the premier maximum security prison, housing inmates such as Al Capone and George Machine Gun Kelly. Before the prison was created, the island was home to American Indians. Today, it is one of San Francisco's most prominent tourist attractions.
SPARK tails artists Jim Denevan and Cris Drury as they create large earth works. This Educator Guide is about the history and tradition of artists making work in and about the natural environment.