1. The strange big rock
Synopsis: Li Siguang, the most famous geologist in China, was of Mongolian descent. He founded a branch of geology called geomechanics, which deals with the stresses and strains on the earth's crust. Li’s theories made great contribution to China's oil reconnaissance and survey, as well as earthquake forecasting. He proved China had had Quaternary Period glaciers, in contrast to academic conclusions at the time.
Audio text: 《奇怪的大石头》课文朗读
2. Contemporary Shennongshi
Synopsis: Yuan Longping came up with the idea of hybridising rice for the first time in the world in 1960s. Since then, Yuan’s achievements in breeding high-yield hybrid rice substantially increased China's grain output: 50% of China's total rice cultivation fields grow hybrid rice, adding 300 billion kgs to the country's grain output. China is now able to feed its population of 1.2 billion with limited cultivated land.
Significance: Shennongshi (Shennong or theYan Emperor) and the Yellow Emperor are regarded as the ancestors of all the Chinese Han people. For a Chinese scientist, being crowned as Contemporary Shennongshi is the highest possible praise.
Alternative text 1: 《袁隆平的“寻梦园”》 作者:曲志红 朱冬菊 李斌 鄂教版初中语文七年级上册第12课
Audio text: 《农业的变化真大》课文朗读
3. Yang Zhenning winning the Nobel Prize
Synopsis: This text starts with Yang Zhenning (Chen Ning Yang or CN Yang) winning the 1957 Nobel Prize in Physics, with Li Zhengdao (Tsung-Dao Lee), then describes Yang’s life — his childhood and youth in China, his educational experience in China and America, his Nobel-winning discovery in physics and his contribution to scientific exchange between America and China.
4. Deng Jiaxian
Synopsis: Nobel Prize Winner Yang Zhenning wrote this article in memory of his classmate Deng Jiaxian, who was the founding father of China's A-Bomb and H-Bomb. China was one of the five original weapon states before the landmark international Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons entered into force in 1970. China wants to make nuclear energy the foundation of its power-generation system in the next 10–20 years. At the time of writing, China has 14 nuclear power reactors in operation, at least 25 under construction, and more planned. Australia has the world's largest uranium reserves, with 23% of the total.
Original text: Yang Zhenning 杨振宁 2004, Deng Jiaxian in the eyes of his good friend Yang Zhenning 杨振宁眼中的同窗好友邓稼先 , viewed 14 October 2011,
Alternative text 1: Deng Jiaxian’s road of life 《邓稼先的人生之路》
Advice for teachers: Some topics for reflection arising from these texts are suggested below.
- What is Yang’s logic of nuclear deterrence?
- What do you make of Yang’s opinion that the 100 years of Chinese humiliation gave military legitimacy to China’s “need” for a nuclear deterrent?
- What role should China and Australia play in nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, as well as the adoption of sustainable nuclear energy?
5. Zhang Heng
Significance: Zhang Heng (78–139 AD) was what we would call a “Renaissance man” — inventor, astronomer, mathematician, artist, geographer and cartographer, poet, scholar and public servant. His achievements included various applications of mechanics and gears and invention of a seismometer to measure ground movements, such as earthquakes. Zhang also had a somewhat controversial career in the civil service, and was a highly regarded poet.
Audio text (mp3 format): 《张衡》课文朗读
Alternative text: 《张衡和他的地动仪》
6. Zu Chongzi
Significance: Zu Chongzi was a mathematician and astronomer who lived in the 400s. Among his many achievements, he developed highly accurate calculations with applications to calendars and the most accurate rational approximation for pi (π).
Audio text (mp3 format): 《祖冲之》课文朗读
7. Cai Lun invented paper
Alternative text: 《蔡伦》 语文A版一年级下册第八单元第30课
8. Movable type printing (inventor Bi Sheng)
Text: 《活字印刷术》 《中文》教材第八册第八课阅读
9. Hua Tuo and anaesthetics
Significance: Hua Tuo (late 100s) was a doctor: the first person on record to develop and use anaesthetics during surgery. However, he was executed by Cao Cao (ruler of the Cao Wei kingdom), and most of his medical innovations were lost.
Alternative text: 《第一个发明麻醉剂的人》 沪教版第八册第十二课
10. Li Shizhen’s overnight stay at an ancient temple
Significance: Li Shizhen, a herbalist and acupuncturist, lived in the 1500s. His reference work on medicine, which organised and categorised all the available published medical knowledge, as well as his own work, remained a foundational work for Chinese traditional medicine until the 1960s.
11. Zhan Tianyou
Significance: Zhan Tianyou was chief engineer on the first railway constructed in China without foreign help: the Imperial Beijing–Zhangjiakou (Peking–Kalgan) railway. Over the course of his career he not only worked on the design of many of the major railways, but also set up technical standards for China’s rail system.
Text: 《詹天佑》 人教版课标本第十一册第５课 浙教版第十二册第２０课 冀教版第十册第２５课 语文Ｓ版第十一册第１７课 苏教版第十一册第２０课 人教版第十二册第７课 北师大版第十二册第７课 语文Ａ版第十一册第３课 鲁教版第九册第５课 沪教版第九册第３７课
12. Qian Xuesen
Significance: Qian Xuesen, is widely regarded as the father of China’s space program. In the 1940s he worked in the US space program, but lost his security clearance in 1950 because of suspected communist leanings. Qian was detained for several years, but returned to China in 1955.
Link: Refer to the Social Sciences area of study, unit Half the Sky, item 4.
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