Paintings of “Along the River During the Qingming Festival”


By T.V. Antony Raj


The era of Song dynasty (宋朝) that succeeded the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period in Chinese history began in 960 and continued until 1279. There are two distinct periods in the Song dynasty  – Northern and Southern.

During the Northern Song (北宋) period from 960 to 1127, the dynasty controlled most of China proper with the northern city of Bianjing (now Kaifeng) as its capital.

During the Southern Song (南宋) period from 1127 to 1279, the Song dynasty lost control of northern China in the Jin–Song Wars to the Jurchen Jin dynasty.

The Song dynasty was the first in world history to issue national bank notes or true paper money, the first Chinese regime to establish a permanent navy, and the first to use gunpowder. It was during the Song dynasty that the Chinese found the true north using a compass.

The Qing Ming Shang He Tu (simplified Chinese: 清明上河图; traditional Chinese: 清明上河圖) or “Along the River During the Qingming Festival” is a scroll painting created by the famous Chinese painter Zhang Zeduan (1085 – 1145) alias Zheng Dao who lived during the transitional period from the Northern Song to the Southern Song and was instrumental in the early history of the Chinese landscape art style known as shan shui.

This painting considered the most renowned work among all Chinese paintings dubbed as “China’s Mona Lisa” has a theme of the worldly commotion and the festive spirit during the celebration of the Qingming Festival. It encapsulates the landscape of the capital, Bianjing, today’s Kaifeng and the life of its people.

This scroll painting is 9.76 inches (24.8 cm) in height and 17.35 feet (5.287 metres) long. It depicts the bustling and lively life and beautiful natural scenery on both sides of the river that meanders through Kaifeng, the capital of the Northern Song Dynasty during the Qingming Festival. The two main portions in the painting are the countryside and the market in the densely populated city. It has more than 170 trees, 30 buildings, 814 humans, 8 sedan chairs, over 60 horses and other animals, 20 vehicles, and 28 boats.

The painting reveals the lifestyle of all levels of the society from rich to poor in successive scenes and offers glimpses of the architecture and clothing of the Song period.

For centuries, the scroll painting was a pride of the personal imperial collections of the Chinese emperors.

Aisin-Gioro Puyi, the Last Emperor (Source - Japanese magazine 'Historical Photograph,' March 1934 issue published by Rekishi-Shasin Kai)
Aisin-Gioro Puyi, the Last Emperor (Source – Japanese magazine ‘Historical Photograph,’ March 1934 issue published by Rekishi-Shasin Kai)

The original Song dynasty painting “Along the River During the Qingming Festival” was a favorite of Puyi (February 7, 1906 – October 17, 1967), also known as Henry Pu Yi, the last Emperor of China and the twelfth and final ruler of the Qing dynasty. At the end of the Second Sino-Japanese War in 1945, he took it along with him when he left Beijing. It was then re-purchased and kept at the Palace Museum in the Forbidden City.

The following video describes how the original “Along the River During the Qingming Festival” painting showcased the best of life in the Song Dynasty – one of the golden ages of China.



Remakes of the painting

Revered as a work of art, the scroll painting “Along the River During the Qingming Festival” inspired the creation of several works of art during subsequent dynasties. Court artists made re-interpretive versions of the painting by reviving and updating the style of the original. Even though each of these later paintings follow the composition and the original theme, they differ in details and painting techniques.

The Yuan version
Zhao Mengfu (1254 - 1322)
Zhao Mengfu (1254 – 1322)

During the Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), Zhao Mengfu (1254–1322) made a remarkable remake of the original,

The Ming version

Another notable remake painted during the Ming dynasty (1368–1644) is 22 feet (6.7 metres) long and is longer than the original Song version.

Based on contemporary fashions and customs the Ming version replaced the scenery from the Song dynasty to that of the Ming dynasty with the costumes worn by the people updated and the styles of vehicles (boats and carts) changed.

The bridge scene in the original Qing Ming Shang He Tu painting - An oncoming boat is in danger of crashing into the bridge.
The bridge scene in the original Qing Ming Shang He Tu painting – An oncoming boat is in danger of crashing into the bridge.

In the original Song painting,  the crew of an oncoming boat have not yet fully lowered their sails and are in danger of crashing into wooden the bridge.

Men ashore guiding a boat by pulling ropes tied to it in the Ming version.
Men ashore guiding a boat by pulling ropes tied to it in the Ming version.

In the Ming version, a stone bridge with a taller arch replaced the Song wooden bridge, and men ashore guide the boat under the bridge by pulling ropes tied to it.

The Qing version

On January 15, 1737, the Qianlong Emperor received a present of a version painted by five Qing dynasty court painters (Chen Mu, Sun Hu, Jin Kun, Dai Hong and Cheng Zhidao). This Qing remake is much larger – 36 feet (11 metres) long and  1 ft 1.68 inches (35 cm) high – and has over 4,000 people in it.

While in the original Song version, the leftmost side contains images of the busy city, the leftmost third of this Qing version depicts life within the palace, with buildings and people appearing refined and elegant. Most people within the castle are women along with some well-dressed officials.

The Qianlong Emperor in his study, painting by Giuseppe Castiglione, (1688 - 1766).
The Qianlong Emperor in his study, painting by Giuseppe Castiglione, (1688 – 1766).


In April 1742, a poem composed by the Qianlong Emperor was added to the rightmost end of the Qing remake.  The poem reads as follows:

蜀錦裝金壁   – A wall of gold has been mounted on Shu brocade.
吳工聚碎金   – Craftsmen from Wu collect spare change
謳歌萬井富 – To pay tribute to the abundance of a myriad of families.
城闕九重深  – The watchtowers of the city rise to great heights.
盛事誠觀止  – The bustling scene is truly impressive.
遺踪借探尋 – It is a chance to explore vestiges of bygone days.
當時誇豫大 – At that time, people marveled at the size of Yu,
此日歎徽欽 – And now, we lament the fates of Hui and Qin.

In 1949, the National Palace Museum in Taipei received the Qing version along with many other artifacts.

Over the centuries, many affluent Chinese treasured the original Qingming scroll. Eventually, it returned to public ownership.

The original Song dynasty painting now kept at the Palace Museum in the Forbidden City and the Qing version in the Taipei Palace Museum, are both considered national treasures and are exhibited every few years for brief periods.

The following video with narration in Chinese shows the different versions of the remakes of the “Along the River During the Qingming Festival” but uses the Ming version to explain the life of the Chinese then, in the near past, and now.



Digital version

Logo of Shanghai World Expo 2010.

From May 1 to October 31, 2010, China hosted Expo 2010, a major World Expo,  officially known as the Expo 2010 Shanghai China in the tradition of international fairs and expositions.

A 3D animated, viewer-interactive digital version of the original “Along the River During the Qingming Festival” titled “River of Wisdom“, screened for three months was the primary exhibit at the China Pavilion. This elaborate computer animated mural about 30 times the size of the original scroll had moving characters and objects that made the painting come to life. It presented the scene in a four-minute day to night cycles. Those who reserved in advance had to queue up to two hours to see the 3D animated version.

After the Expo, the digital version was on display at the AsiaWorld–Expo in Hong Kong from November 9 to 29, 2010; at the Macau Dome in Macau from March 25 to April 14, 2011; and at the Expo Dome in Taipei, Taiwan from July 1 to September 4, 2011.

From December 7, 2011, to February 6, 2012, a digital reproduction was exhibited at the Singapore Expo titled “A Moving Masterpiece: The Song Dynasty As Living Art“.






Discovering the Real Togetherness


By T.V. Antony Raj


To become a true global citizen, one must abandon all notions of ‘otherness’ and instead embrace ‘togetherness’.
― Suzy Kassem (American writer, film director, philosopher, author, and poet of Egyptian heritage.)


Internet technology helps us stay connected with people living anywhere around the world, but the ability to speak face-to-face with ease has declined and, in fact, is dysfunctional severing kinship and physical interaction with those around us.


Texting while driving (Source:
Texting while driving (Source:


Now, with mobiles, people have replaced lively phone calls by texting mnemonic-like nonsensical internet slang words with little substance oblivious to what is happening around them. This indeed is an alarming trend.

This video shows how some simple actions can provide the impetus to bring about the joy in togetherness.




Did Albert Einstein Really Say That?


By T.V. Antony Raj




With the advent of the internet, we are now able to interact freely with people living anywhere around the world, but, the ability to speak face-to-face with ease has declined and, in fact, is dysfunctional.  Now, with mobiles, people have replaced lively phone calls by texting mnemonic-like nonsensical internet slang words with little substance. This indeed is an alarming trend.

I came across the following two humorous images on Facebook that illustrate the fact that in the 1980s and before there was a free and cordial interaction between people, but now, they are ignoring one another by texting the whole day long oblivious to their surroundings.


Einstein's fake quote - 2 (Source


Einstein's fake quote


The caption for these images assert that Albert Einstein said:

I fear the day technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.

The above quote also appears often on social media in the following form:

It has become appallingly clear that our technology has surpassed our humanity.

Often I find predictions such as these passed around on the internet unabashedly that are often misleading, out of context, or sometimes completely fabricated.

People love to put words into the mouth of William Shakespeare, Adolf Hitler, Napoleon Bonaparte, Louis Pasteur, Albert Einstein, and many others. They presume that by attributing fabricated quotes to these famous people, their fabricated sayings will automatically become infallible. Our patriotic Indians, the proud Tamilians in particular, use late Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, former president of India as their scapegoat to dole out fabricated quotes.

Some who come across such quotes on the social media copy them and post them without verifying whether they were in fact said by such personalities.

In this instance, someone credited Albert Einstein with these concocted quotes without any compunction whatsoever and others have copied them blindly. Even is guilty of propagating this fake quote.

Brian C. Rosenberg, the 16th president of Macalester College, the institution that proudly boasts Kofi Annan amongst its alumni, inadvertently uses this fabricated quote whenever he talks about the scourge of the social media.

The Quote Investigator points out that there is no absolute evidence to prove that Albert Einstein ever said this.

The quote(s) in question was in fact derived from the 1995 movie “Powder“.  Near the end of the film, there is a dialogue between Powder played by Sean Patrick Flanery and a character named Donald Ripley, a physics teacher, played by Jeff Goldblum.

Donald Ripley: It has become appallingly clear that our technology has surpassed our humanity.

Powder: Albert Einstein.

Donald Ripley: When I look at you, I have hope that maybe one day our humanity will surpass our technology.

So here we have it. Movies are a compelling source for apocryphal quotations.

It is true that Albert Einstein’s concern about the fate of the world and its people in the face of nuclear weapons was genuine. In 1946, he cautioned about the dangers of the new nuclear age. He, in fact, made a famous statement that was thematically analogous with the words expressed in the movie.

On May 25, 1946, The New York Times reported that Einstein “issued a personal appeal yesterday by telegram to several hundred prominent Americans”. Here is an excerpt:

Our world faces a crisis as yet unperceived by those possessing power to make great decisions for good or evil. The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.



The Elderly Hindi Typist of Lucknow and His Typewriter


By T.V. Antony Raj


Ashutosh Tripathi
Ashutosh Tripathi, Journalist.


Young Ashutosh Tripathi wanted to join the army, but his parents would not allow it. So, in 2011, he opted for journalism. Soon he realized that he was in the worst profession as some people who had taken to journalism as a career were earning as low as ₹ 2000 per month. However, some seniors encouraged him and said that someday he will feel glad that he chose the media, the fourth pillar of democracy, as his vocation.

Saturday, October 10, 2015, proved to be the lucky day for the news hungry Ashutosh. In the morning, while having breakfast at an eatery near the General Post Office (GPO) in Lucknow, he saw police sub-inspector Pradeep Kumar violating traffic rules by riding a motorbike on the bicycle track. He then saw the police officer kick a milk container of a vendor selling tea on the pavement. The budding journalist thought the action of the policeman was newsworthy.

When the sub-inspector started threatening the vendors and others plying their trade on the pavement outside the GPO and ordered them to leave, Ashutosh started clicking his camera for he wanted to expose the  brutality of the Lucknow Police.


Sub-InspectorPradeep Kumar kicking the typewriter (Photo: Ashutosh Tripathi)
Sub-InspectorPradeep Kumar kicking the typewriter (Photo: Ashutosh Tripathi)


While everyone left, the 65-year-old Kishan Kumar, a frail typist who has been doing Hindi typing outside the General Post Office for the past 35 years was slow to leave. The irate police officer kicked the old man’s typewriter.


Sub-InspectorPradeep Kumar smashing the typewriter into the ground (Photo: Ashutosh Tripathi)
Sub-InspectorPradeep Kumar smashing the typewriter into the ground (Photo: Ashutosh Tripathi)


With tears flowing down his cheeks, the elderly man collected the parts of his typewriter and tried to put them together. The sub-inspector then snatched the typewriter from the poor man who then with folded hands besieged the officer to spare his machine. But the arrogant policeman threw it on the road smashing it.


Kishan Kumar picking up the parts of the damaged typewriter (Photo - Ashutosh Tripathi)
Kishan Kumar picking up the parts of the damaged typewriter (Photo – Ashutosh Tripathi).


Sobbing, with tears hiding his sight, the old typist started collecting the pieces of his mangled typewriter.

When the sub-inspector saw Ashutosh taking photos of the incident he objected and ordered him to delete them. Ashutosh was bold and interjected. He asked the police officer how he could do this to an elderly citizen. The sub-inspector told him not to teach him but to do his job.


Pradeep Kumar, the Police Officer who damaged Kishan Kumar's typewriter (Photo - Ashutosh Tripathi)


As Ashutosh continued taking photos, the stubborn sub-inspector told Ashutosh that he could show the photos to anyone and even posed for him.

Ashutosh comforted the sobbing elderly typist who told him the machine was completely damaged and it was the source of his income.

Ashutosh Tripathi wrote the story for the newspaper Dainik Bhaskar where he worked. He also shared the story on Facebook hoping someone might take note of the incident and get the typewriter of the old man repaired.

After a while when Ashutosh logged into Facebook he saw his story had gone viral. Ashutosh’s brother tweeted the photos on Twitter which many celebrities retweeted.

Akhilesh Yadav, chief minister of Uttar Pradesh state, took note of this incident and ordered the suspension of the sub-inspector. He offered financial help for Kishan Kumar and gave orders to replace the damaged typewriter.


Mr. Rajesh Pandey, SSP and Mr. Raj Shekhar, the District Magistrate of Lucknow presenting a new typewriter to Kishan Kumar
Mr. Rajesh Pandey, SSP and Mr. Raj Shekhar, the District Magistrate of Lucknow presenting a new typewriter to Kishan Kumar.


Mr. Rajesh Pandey, SSP and Mr. Raj Shekhar, the District Magistrate of Lucknow met Kishan in person and tendered an apology for the police officer’s misbehaviour. They also presented him a new typewriter.

On Monday, two days after the incident, Kishan Kumar was threatened over the phone. The caller said that he had done a “bad thing”. After the threat call, the police have provided the necessary security to Kishan Kumar and are probing the threat call.



“End of the Beginning” by David Phelps


By T.V. Antony Raj


“Forget what you have heard about Jesus if it doesn’t begin and end with love.” – Davis Phelps


David Phelps
David Phelps


David Norris Phelps, an American Christian music vocalist, songwriter and vocal arranger, is best known for singing tenor in the Gaither Vocal Band (GVB), an American southern gospel vocal group, named after its founder and leader Bill Gaither.

The GVB emerged in the early 1980s recording contemporary Christian music. Later it became known for its southern gospel. Bill Gaither leads the group with passion and his genuine desire to bring meaning to the music which the group sings.

The lineup of the GVB changes often. Besides Bill Gaither, singers with the longest tenure in the band include  Michael English (1985–94, 2009–13), Mark Lowry (1988–2001, 2009–13), Guy Penrod (1995–2008), David Phelps (1997-2004, 2009-present) and Wes Hampton (2005-present).


Adam Crabb, Todd Suttles, David Phelps, Bill Gaither, and Wes Hampton (Source:
Adam Crabb, Todd Suttles, David Phelps, Bill Gaither, and Wes Hampton (Source:


As of February 2014, the lineup consists of Bill Gaither, David Phelps, Wes Hampton, Adam Crabb, and Todd Suttles.

All the members of GVB are all talented artists and are authentic men of faith. Known worldwide for their vocal power, innovative harmonies, they are instruments of God to carry the message of hope, grace and redemption.

Today, with over 30 years of history, the GVB, has an award-winning legacy of excellence for the harmony of those male voices: vocals, baritone, bass, and tenor.


David Phelps (Source:
David Phelps (Source:


David Phelps started his professional career at GVB in 1996. He remained at GVB as a tenor for eight years from 1996 to 2004. In 2004, he left the group to realize the biggest dream of his life: to develop his solo career. In early 2009, after recording seven albums, he returned to the GVB.

In 2002, Gaither Homecoming Video featured David Phelps in God Bless America, which featured his solo “End of the Beginning“.

A top reviewer declared: “You can’t go wrong with a Phelps piece!!



End Of The Beginning
Words & music by David Phelps

I was taking a trip on a plane the other day, just wishin’ that I could get out.
When the man next to me saw the book in my hand and asked me what it was about.
So I settled back in my seat. “A best-seller,” I said, “a hist’ry and a myst’ry in one.”
Then I opened up the book and began to read from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John…

He was born of a virgin one holy night in the little town of Bethlehem.
Angels gathered ’round Him underneath the star singing praises to the great I AM.

He walked on the water, healed The lame, and made the blind to see again.
And for the first time here on earth we learned that God could be a friend.
And though He never, ever did a single thing wrong, the angry crowd chose Him.
And then He walked down the road and died on the cross and that was the end…of the beginning.”

“That’s not a new book, that’s a Bible,” he said, “And I’ve heard it all before.
I’ve tried religion, it’s shame and guilt, and I don’t need it anymore.
It’s superstation, made-up tales, just to help the weak to survive.”
“Let me read it again,” I said, “But listen closely. This is gonna change your life.”

“He was born of a virgin one holy night in the little town of Bethlehem.
Angels gathered ’round Him underneath the star singing praises to the great I AM.

He walked on the water, healed the lame, and made the blind to see again.
And for the first time here on earth we learned that God could be a friend.
And though He never, ever did a single thing wrong, the angry crowd chose Him. And then He walked down the road and died on the cross and that was the end…of the beginning.”

“The end of the beginning?” he said with a smile. “What more
could there be? He’s dead. You said they hung Him, put nails in
His hands and a crown of thorns on His head.” I said, “I’ll read it
again, but this time there’s more.

And I believe that this is true: His death wasn’t the end but the beginning of life that’s completed in you.
Don’t you see, He did all this for you…”

“He was born of a virgin one holy night in the little town of Bethlehem. All the angels singing praises to the great I AM.
He walked on the water, healed the lame, and made the blind to see.
And for the first time here on earth, did you know that God could be a friend?
And though He never, ever did a single thing wrong, He was the one the crowd chose.
And then He walked and He died, but three days later, three days later, three days later…
He rose! Three days later He rose!

You see, He came, He lived, and He died, but that was the end of the beginning.



The Giant Atlas Moth


By T.V. Antony Raj


Giant Atlas Moth (Source:
Giant Atlas Moth (Source:


The family Saturniidae, known as saturniids, include the largest species of moths.  They belong to the order Lepidoptera, with an estimated 2,300 described species worldwide. The saturniids include such Lepidoptera as the Atlas moth (Attacus atlas), the polyphemus moth (Antheraea polyphemus) also known as the giant Silkmoth, the imperial moth (Eacles imperialis), and the regal moth (Citheronia regalis) also called the royal walnut moth.

While the saturniids are lightweights compared to other insects, they can grow to some impressive sizes. The adult saturniids are large in size, with their heavy bodies covered in hairlike scales and lobed wings. The hind wings overlap the forewings, giving the effect of an unbroken wing surface. They have small heads with reduced mouth parts. Some species are often colored bright, which may mislead first-time observers to refer to them as butterflies. Female are larger and weigh more than the males. In general, the males have a larger, broader antennae.

Today, I came across the above video of an Atlas moth, found in the tropical and subtropical forests of Southeast Asia and the Malay archipelago.

Atlas moths have large wingspans about 10 inches across (25cm). A record specimen of the tropical Atlas moth from Java measured 10.3 inches (262 mm), with a surface area of 62 square inches (400 square cm).

While skimming the internet, I came across the following lines in Chinese:

– 蛇頭蛾, 三義

Bùzhī héshí chuāng biān fēi lái zhè zhī bùsùzhīkè
zhǎnkāi de chìbǎng xiàng shì shuāng tóu shé
xǐhuān de rén huòxǔ juédé tā hěn měi
cóngxiǎo jiù duì é lèi jìng’éryuǎnzhī dì zìjǐ
què zhǐ gǎn mī zhuó yǎnjīng bù gǎn zhèngshì ne
– shétóu é, sānyì

I do not know when the window flew only uninvited guest
Spread wings like a two-headed snake
Like people may think it is beautiful
I grew up on the moths themselves at arm’s length
But only dared to squint afraid to face it
– Snakeheads moth, Sanyi

Though the name Atlas moths derived from either the Titan of Greek mythology for their gigantic size or their map-like wing patterns seems appropriate, the Chinese name 蛇頭蛾 (shétóu é) meaning “snakeheads moth” is more pertinent in referring to the  outer tips of the  spread wings  that look like a two-headed snake.

Though the name Atlas moths derived from either the Titan of Greek mythology for their gigantic size or their map-like wing patterns seems appropriate, the Chinese name 蛇頭蛾 (shétóu é) meaning “snakeheads moth” is more pertinent in referring to the outer tips of the wings that look like the head of a snake.

Life Cycle of the Atlas moth

The Atlas moths are wobbly fliers. After emerging from the cocoon, the female does not stray far from her discarded cocoon. She seeks a perch conducive for the air currents to carry the strong pheromones released by her. The male Atlas moths sensing the pheromones with the chemoreceptors located on their large feathery antennae home in on the sexually passive female.


After mating, the female Atlas moth lays many spherical eggs about 2.5 mm in diameter on the undersides of leaves.

Larval stage

About two weeks later, dusty-green caterpillars adorned with fleshy spines along their backs covered in a waxy white substance hatch from the eggs.

Giant Atlas moth caterpillars (Source:
Giant Atlas moth caterpillars (Source:

The caterpillars feed voraciously on the foliage of certain citrus trees. Alternative recorded foodplants include leaves of apple, ash, cherry, lilac, plum, willows, and other evergreen trees.

Pupal stage

On reaching a length of about 4.5 inches (115 mm), the caterpillars pupate within a papery cocoon interwoven into desiccated leaves. The adult moths emerge after about four weeks.

Imago – the adult stage

After spending about a month in their cocoons, Atlas Moths emerge as beautiful, sexually mature winged creatures. Unfortunately, this imago stage is short-lived and the moths die within a week or two after spreading their wings.

The following video shows in detail the development of the Atlas Moths: the hatched larvae from eggs, the various stages of the caterpillar, molting,  pupating, and the emergence of the adult Atlas moth.

The cocoons of the Atlas Moths serve as purses in Taiwan.

Some sericulturists in India cultivate Atlas moths for their silk. Unlike the silk produced by the Silkworm moth (Bombyx mori), the brown, wool-like silk secretes as broken strands from the cocoons of the Atlas moth. This silk known as fagara silk seems to have greater durability.





A Plethora of Refugees in Europe


By T.V. Antony Raj.


Europe has a population of 740 million of which 500 million are in the European Union (EU). According to the European Union border agency the plethora of refugees entering Europe had increased over the past 10 months. More than 150,000 refugees entered the EU in August 2015 increasing the total influx of refugees to more than half a million for the year 2015.

Although this amount of refugees is not large enough to construe it as an invasion or being over-run when compared to the population of Europe, the European leaders were slow to respond. Dimitris Avramopoulos, the EU migration commissioner has called it “the worst refugee crisis facing Europe since World War II.


Europes refugee crisis (Source:
Europes refugee crisis (Source:


For many refugees fleeing the Syrian civil war and the abominable ISIS, the Greek islands have been the gateway to enter the European Union.  This year alone, more than 259,000 refugees entered Greece by boat via Turkey. The arrival of about 88,000 refugees in the Greek islands in August 2015 was the largest so far, an eleven-fold increase compared to the same month a year ago.  Almost 75% percent of the refugees seeking asylum were Syrians.

The Schengen Area

Six founding members: Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and West Germany created the European Economic Community (EEC) by the Treaty of Rome in 1957. This regional organization aimed to bring about economic integration between its member states, including a common market and customs union.

When the ten member states of the then EEC were not able to reach a consensus on the abolition of border controls, five of its members signed The Schengen Agreement on June 14, 1985, paving the way to the creation of Europe’s borderless Schengen Area. The treaty signed near the town of Schengen in Luxembourg was not implemented in full until 1995.

The Schengen Agreement proposed the gradual abolition of border checks and allow vehicles to cross the common borders of the signatories of the treaty without stopping. It permitted residents in the border areas to cross the borders away from fixed checkpoints.

In 1990, the Schengen Convention supplemented the Schengen Agreement by proposing the abolition of internal border controls and a common visa policy. For most purposes, the Schengen Area with a common visa policy functions as a single country for international travel purposes. The Schengen Agreement and the rules adopted under it were quite separate from the EU structures.

Map of Schengen Area (Source:
Map of Schengen Area (Source:


The Schengen Area now comprises 26 European countries. These member states have strengthened their external border controls with non-Schengen states. Out of the current 28 European Union member states, 22 are participants in the Schengen Area.

Countries comprising The Schengen Area
State Area (km²) Population
Austria 83,871 8,414,638
Belgium 30,528 11,007,020
Czech Republic 78,866 10,535,811
Denmark (excluding Greenland
and the Faroe Islands)
43,094 5,564,219
Estonia 45,338 1,340,194
Finland (Including Åland Islands) 338,145 5,391,700
France (mainland and Corsica only) 551,695 63,929,000
Germany 357,050 81,799,600
Greece 131,990 10,815,197
Hungary 93,030 9,979,000
Iceland 103,000 318,452
Italy 301,318 60,681,514
Latvia 64,589 2,245,357
Liechtenstein 160 36,010
Lithuania 65,300 3,207,060
Luxembourg 2,586 511,840
Malta 316 417,608
Netherlands (excluding Aruba,
Curaçao,  Sint Maarten
and the Caribbean Netherlands)



Norway (excluding Svalbard) 385,155 5,063,709
Poland 312,683 38,186,860
Portugal (Including Madeira and Azores) 92,391 10,647,763
Slovakia 49,037 5,440,078
Slovenia 20,273 2,048,951
Spain (with special provisions for
Ceuta and Melilla)
506,030 46,030,109
Sweden 449,964 9,415,570
 Switzerland 41,285 7,866,500
Schengen Area 4,189,111 417,597,460



Currently, the Schengen Area has an area of 1,617,4245 square miles (4,189,111 square kilometers) and a population of over 400 million people.

Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, and Romania are four of the six EU members that do not form part of the Schengen Area, are legally obliged and wish to join the Area. The other two, the United Kingdom, and Ireland, maintain opt-outs.

Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland have signed the Schengen Agreement even though they are member states of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) and are not in the EU.

The three European microstates, the Vatican, Monaco, and San Marino do not have border controls with the Schengen countries that surround them. Though considered as de facto within the Schengen Area they have not officially signed documents that make them part of the Schengen Area.

The influx of refugees


Since many Eastern European countries are guarding their borders in the face of the influx of refugees, the distribution of refugees among the 28-member EU is somewhat skewed. According to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC), EU countries received more than 437,000 asylum applications from January 2015 to July 2015. Germany received the most applications, followed by Hungary, Sweden, Italy and France.

The migrants from African countries enter the EU through Italy and Spain. Many of those who enter Italy apply for asylum on landing there. Some try to cross into France.


A group of migrants gathering near a line of trucks on the motorway that leads to the Channel Tunnel terminal in Calais, northern France. (Source:
A group of migrants gathering near a line of trucks on the motorway that leads to the Channel Tunnel terminal in Calais, northern France. (Source:


From France, a few try to enter the United Kingdom by perilous means such as getting smuggled in containers through the Eurotunnel from Calais, northern France.

Many Syrians try to reach Italy from Greece while others head to Austria via Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Slovenia.

Most refugees try to reach the Schengen Area. From there, they move into Hungary through Macedonia and Serbia. Also, some refugees from Turkey reach Hungary via Bulgaria and Romania. The popular route to enter the Schengen zone is through Norway, by way of Russia and Lebanon.

From Hungary, most refugees continue their journey to richer countries such as Germany and Sweden that have liberal immigration policies.



Ivory and Ebony: Innocence in perfect harmony…


By T.V. Antony Raj


Ivory and Ebony -Innocence in perfect harmony (Source: Facebook/The Eyes of Children around the World)
Ivory and Ebony -Innocence in perfect harmony (Source: Facebook/The Eyes of Children around the World)


On the Facebook page “The Eyes of Children around the World” I saw this beautiful picture that has captured the innocence of children.

This photograph taken by an unknown photographer brings out the fact that children have no notion about colour. Let us hope that is not a fleeting moment in the lives of these two beautiful children.

Adults should strive to inculcate in their children love, compassion, and be tolerance towards others of different hues and not bejaded by a few opinionated people around them.

Let this picture be the world we and our future generations ought to build and live in.


Do Soft Drinks Contain Pesticide?


By T.V. Antony Raj


People just fall prey to attractive images carrying false information on Facebook and other social media. They, in turn, copy those images and become accessories to propagating the untruths.


Pesticide in soft drinks?
Pesticide in soft drinks?


For example, the above image I came across on Facebook today. The caption in Tamil says:

The amount of pesticides in the soft drinks you consume.

I have my doubts about this post. I don’t think these soft drinks have pesticide in them as depicted in the image.

But some soft drinks do have harmful chemicals that may impair our health.

Within the European Union and Switzerland, substances used as food additives are coded with E numbers. The “E” stands for “Europe”. The E numbers on food labels are common throughout the European Union.

Benzoic acid and sodium benzoate

Benzoic acid and sodium benzoate are widely used as food preservatives, with E numbers E210 and E211 respectively.

Benzoic acid (Source - Wikipedia)
Benzoic acid (Source – Wikipedia)


Benzoic acid (E210) has the chemical Formula C7H6O2 (or C6H5COOH). It is a simple aromatic carboxylic acid. It is a colorless crystalline solid and occurs in nature at low levels in apples, cinnamon, ripe cloves, cranberries, greengage plums, and prunes.


Sodium Benzoate (Source - Wikipedia)
Sodium Benzoate (Source – Wikipedia)

Sodium benzoate (E211) has the chemical formula NaC7H5O2. It is the sodium salt of benzoic acid and exists in this form when dissolved in water.

Most soft drinks have added sodium benzoate in permissible amounts that act as a preservative which are in most cases harmless.

However, it is advisable to drop from your diet all benzoates if you have any health problems, especially if you are suffering from: any Cancer, any autoimmune disease or disorder, skin diseases & disorders like: psoriasis, eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, acne, folliculitis, KP, any Intestinal disorders like Ulcerative Colitis, constipation, Crohns Disease, IBD, IBS, Candida, SIBO, body odour,  Allergies, Asthma, etc.

Acids in soft drinks

All citrus flavoured and grape flavoured soft drinks have organic acids found in nature to provide the characteristic fruity tang. The citrus flavoured soft drinks contain citric acid (E330) and grape flavoured soft drinks have tartaric acid (E334)..

Citric acid (Source - Wikipedia)
Citric acid (Source – Wikipedia)


Tartaric acid (Source - Wikipedia)
Tartaric acid (Source – Wikipedia)
Phosphoric acid

According to many studies, what is harmful is phosphoric acid added to cola drinks.

It is true that Phosphorus-containing substances occur (0.1%-0.5%) in foods such as milk, meat, poultry, fish, nuts, and egg yolks. But phosphoric acid per se is harmful.

Phosphoric acid (Source - Wikipedia)
Phosphoric acid (Source – Wikipedia)


Phosphoric acid is a mineral (inorganic) acid having the chemical formula H3PO4. It is also known as E338, orthophosphoric acid, and phosphoric (V) acid. It is a clear, colorless, odorless liquid with a syrupy consistency.

Food-grade phosphoric acid is a mass-produced chemical. It is available in large quantities at a low price.

Studies on phosphoric acid

Due to the use of phosphoric acid, cola is actually more acidic than lemon juice or vinegar! The vast amount of sugar acts to mask and balance the acidity.

In some epidemiological studies, phosphoric acid, used in many cola drinks has been linked to chronic kidney disease and lower bone density. A study by the Epidemiology Branch of the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, concludes that drinking two or more colas per day doubled the risk of chronic kidney disease.

Between 1996 and 2001, a total of 1672 women and 1148 men took part in a study using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. To collect dietary information, the study used a food frequency questionnaire with specific questions about the number of servings of cola and other carbonated beverages.  It also differentiated between regular, caffeine-free, and diet drinks.

The results, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition provide evidence to support the theory that women who consume cola daily have lower bone density. Though the total phosphorus intake was not significantly higher in daily cola consumers than in nonconsumers, the calcium-to-phosphorus ratios were lower.

However, in  1998, a study titled “Increased incidence of fractures in middle-aged and elderly men with low intakes of phosphorus and zinc” published in Osteoporosis international: a journal established as result of cooperation between the European Foundation for Osteoporosis and the National Osteoporosis Foundation of the USA 8 (4): 333–340, suggests that insufficient intake of phosphorus leads to lower bone density. The study does not examine the effect of phosphoric acid, which binds with magnesium and calcium in the digestive tract to form salts that are not absorbed, but rather studies general phosphorus intake.

In 2001, a study by R. P. Heaney and K. Rafferty titled “Carbonated beverages and urinary calcium excretion” published in The American journal of clinical nutrition 74 (3): 343–347 states that using calcium-balance methods they found no impact of carbonated soft drinks containing phosphoric acid on calcium excretion.

The authors conducted their study among 20 to 40-year-old women who drank three or more cups (680 ml) of a carbonated soft drink per day. The effect of various soft drinks (with caffeine and without; with phosphoric acid and with citric acid), water, and milk on the calcium balance was compared in the study.

Heaney and Rafferty found that, relative to water, only milk and the two caffeine-containing soft drinks increased urinary calcium. The calcium loss associated with the consumption of caffeinated soft drinks was about equal to that found previously for caffeine alone. Phosphoric acid without caffeine had no impact on urine calcium, and did not increase the loss of urinary calcium related to caffeine.

Because studies have shown that the effect of caffeine is compensated for by reduced calcium losses later in the day, the authors  concluded that the net effect of carbonated beverages—including those with caffeine and phosphoric acid—is negligible, and that the skeletal effects of carbonated soft drink consumption are likely due to dietary milk displacement.

Other chemicals such as caffeine (also a significant component of popular common cola drinks) were also suspected as possible contributors to low bone density, due to the known effect of caffeine on calciuria.

Remove rust with phosphoric acid

By the way, phosphoric acid can be used to remove rust from articles.

The following video shows a person removing rust using Coca-Cola. Many prefer the Diet Coke instead of regular Coke because the former is not sticky like the latter.


Two Cows in Political Isms …


By T.V. Antony Raj


In the ancient days to convey their viewpoint across to their listeners orators used metaphors, similes, and analogies. Now, to explain complex ideas we use simple and humorous images and share them using the internet.

Yo have two coves

The various anecdotes that start with the saying “You have two cows …” refer to a form of political satire. They involve variations of a scenario, where eponymous cows are used to demonstrate the functioning of some political systems.

A column titled “The Class in Political Isms” in The Chicago Daily Tribune of December 3, 1938, attributes a version involving socialism, communism, fascism and New Dealism to an address by Silas Strawn to the Economic Club of Chicago on November 29, 1935.

A Canadian writer and journalist Bill Sherk mentions that such satirical snippets circulated throughout the United States since around 1936 under the title “Parable of the Isms”.

In the collection of humour in “Vox Lycei 1939-1940” compiled by the Lisgar Alumni Association the following snippet appears on page 71 :


Socialism: You have two cows. You give one to your neighbour.

Communism: You have two cows. You give both cows to the Government which lets you buy part of it back.

American New Deal: You have two cows. The Government shoots one cow, buys the milk from the other cow and pours it down the sewer.

Nazism: You have two cows. The Government shoots you and takes the cows and sells the milk.

Capitalism: You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull.

Social Credit: You ‘shoot the bull’.

As early as 1944, the humour of this type attracted the attention of scholars in the United States. An article in The Modern Language Journal lists the following classical ones some of which are similar to those in “Vox Lycei 1939-1940” :


Socialism: You have two cows. The government takes one and gives it to your neighbour.


Communism: You have two cows. You give them to the government, and the government then gives you some milk.


Fascism: You have two cows. You give them to the government, and the government then sells you some milk.

Traditional Capitalism

Capitalism: You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull.

In the late 1960s, comedian Pat Paulsen on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour appended this comment to capitalism: “…Then put both of them in your wife’s name and declare bankruptcy.”  Later on, he used this material as an element of his satirical US presidential campaign in 1968 and was included it on his 1968 comedy album “Pat Paulsen for President“.


Nazism: You have two cows. The government takes both and shoots you.

To these, we can add Bureaucratism:



And also:
Venture capitalism





of what comes to my mind.


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