Author: Historical Nonfiction

Name tags (in Korean: hopae) were, at times, legally required for all adult males under the Joseon government. First introduced in 1413 by King Taejong they were apparently modeled after a similar system under the contemporary Yuan Dynasty. Hopae were required on and off until the early 1600s, usually when the government saw the need to control internal migration. The tags are made of wood or horn, and showed the man’s name plus other required identification. Some also included rank and permissions.

These particular tags belonged to soldiers. They list the soldiers’ name, year of birth, year of entering service, position, and place of residence/troop. The last two on the right were for two brothers, both cannoneers (別破陣).


Obscure engravings on animal bones from the site of Lingjing in Henan Province suggest that early hominins who lived there 125,000 years ago may have had more advanced cognitive abilities than once believed. The mysterious markings proved to have been etched into the bone. The bone was then rubbed with red ochre powder to make the markings more visible. It is unknown why they made these marks, or what they represent.

From 1914 to 2005. Or, from World War I through the Invasion of Iraq

James Buchanan was born in 1791. He was the 15th president of the United States, and his two immediate predecessors were both born after 1800 (13th president Millard Fillmore in 1800, 14th president Franklin Pierce in 1804). Buchanan is the only US president whose century-of-birth preceded that of the president before him.

The land ceded was relatively small. Still, it was a big change for the people living there! They woke up one day and were suddenly French citizens

Since 1219, Estonia was ruled at various times by Danish, Swedish, German, and Russian governments. It declared independence after World War I, but that only lasted until 1940 when it was occupied by the Soviet Union. Estonia has only been an independent nation since 1991.

That means that since 1219, Estonia has been independent for exactly 50 years out of 800!

Technically, the Taiwan Republic was the first independent republic in Asia. The Republic of Formosa was established on May 25th, 1895. However, on May 29th, 1895, a Japanese military force of over 12,000 soldiers landed in Northern Taiwan and turned Taiwan into a Japanese colony.

Did you know that Christ the Redeemer, the iconic statue that looms over Rio de Janeiro, was finished in 1931? The 130-foot reinforced concrete-and-soapstone statue sits atop the peak of the 700-meter (2,300 ft) Corcovado mountain in the Tijuca Forest National Park.

The statue cost approximately US$250,000 to build. That’s 3.5 million in today’s dollars. It was built mainly on donations, too. So thank goodness the project was started in 1922, giving them plenty of time to raise donations before the Great Depression hit!

Rāgarāja, also known as Aizen-Myōō, one of the five Wisdom Kings of Buddhist tradition. He has a fearsome appearance, all red, with a third eye and flaming wild hair.

Japan, Kamakura-Nambokuchô period, 1300s.

Portrait of a woman (potentially Mary Magdalene) by Lucas Cranach the Elder. 

The artist used contradictory symbolism in this painting, making identification a little difficult. Her hair is loose, signalling an unmarried virgin, but her direct gaze was inappropriate for an unmarried woman of a respectable family. Lucas Cranach the Elder was a great German artist painting for 16th-century aristocratic patrons. His paintings had to be respectable, able to be hung in the most eminent homes. That leaves the most likely subject the biblical Mary Magdalene, who was supposedly once a prostitute before converting.

Courtesy of the Walters Art Museum