Demon Eaters and Possessed Tools

As we slide into the Year of the Earth Pig, Robert Lamb and Joe McCormick turn to the legend of the demon slayer Zhōng Kuí and follow a procession of spirits across the sea to Japan, where discarded tools spark spirit possessions, not joy. Sorry, Marie Kondo.

From the Vault: A Taste of MSG

In this episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind, Robert Lamb and Joe McCormick explore the history and science of MSG and explore just why we demonized it for so long. (Originally published Aug. 30, 2016) 

I Ching: The Book of Changes

The Book of Changes stands as one of the most important divination texts in human history -- and a foundational text of Chinese culture in general. In this episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind, Robert Lamb and Joe McCormick discuss the I Ching. How does it work? How does it relate to other divination traditions and why do humans, concerned with uncertainty, turn to randomness generators?

The Chinese Typewriter (with Tom Mullaney)

Where the technolingustic systems of the west meet the non-alphabetic written characters of the east, the Chinese typewriter emerges. It’s a story of technological innovation, linguistic imperialism and China’s 19th and 20th century struggle over national identity. Join Robert and Joe as they chat with Thomas S. Mullaney about his book 'The Chinese Typewriter: A History.'

Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor

You’ve seen the photos of the famed terracotta warriors, but no one in over 2200 years has glimpsed inside the tomb of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China. It’s a chamber where rivers of mercury trace the empire’s form beneath a ceiling starscape of precious stones. We know where it is, yet it remains just outside of our scientific reach. In this episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind, Robert and Joe explore the first emperor’s life and afterlife. Plus Anney and Lauren from FoodStuff drop by to discuss their episode on lunar new year foods.

The Buddha is a Mountain

One of the largest historical statues in the world, China’s Lèshān Grand Buddha has overlooked the Dàdù river for 1200 years. Carved from the side of a mountain, this serene titan is a testament to human artistry and the Anthropocene Epoch. Join Robert and Joe for a discussion of the Buddha’s history, meaning and the overarching theme of humanity’s remaking of the natural world.

Jade Immortality: Burial Armor of the Han Dynasty

Chinese aristocracy of the Western Han Dynasty embarked on their journey into the afterlife within garments of stone -- luxurious suits of jade armor entailing thousands of individual plates sewn together with gold, silver or silk. In this episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind, Robert and Christian explore this ancient funeral custom and both the scientific and superstitious qualities of jade.

Chinese Immortality: Elixirs and Enlightened Beings

From deathless beheaded warriors and sacrificial heroines to mystical hermits, Chinese mythology is rich with tales of the undying. After all, the notion of immortality is as old as recorded history, so it makes sense to find a diverse, uniquely Chinese take on the trope. In this episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind, join Robert and Joe as they contemplate tales and traditions from Taoist sorcery, alchemy and Chinese folktales.

Chinese Zodiac: Superstition, Economics & Destiny

As we celebrate Chinese New Year and enter the year of the fire rooster, join Robert and Joe for an encore Stuff to Blow Your Mind exploration of the Chinese zodiac and some interesting studies related to its impact on birth rates, economics and individual destiny. As always, you can take astrology with a grain of salt, but the impact on human behavior and culture is undeniable.

Only Child Syndrome: Brats, Myths and Little Emperors

What sort of behavior, personality and life can we expect from an only child? A lot of cultural expectations persist about the singleton, from the spoiled Veruca Salt of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” to the “little emperors” who rose up in the wake of China’s One Child Policy. But what’s the truth of the matter? Robert and Christian explore in this episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind.