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This exercise is from English, Economics & Management, a book which  is an adaptation by Prof Rajiva Wijesinha of the original volume by Gartney and Stroup that presented basic economic principles simply. The principles are essentially liberal, but their universality will be clear in the context of the development of social and economic theories all over the world in the last few decades. 

I am grateful to Michael Walker of the Canadian Fraser Institute for encouraging me to use this text for English Teaching. The book should be used in conjunction with A Handbook of English Grammar (Foundation Books, Cambridge University Press, India). The full text of English, Economics & Management, as well as other  English books and materials that can be downloaded to enhance your English knowledge, can be found on the website of the Liberal Party of Sri Lanka. 

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Voluntary exchange is productive because it promotes social cooperation and helps us get  more of what we want. However, exchange is also costly. The time, effort, and other resources necessary to search out, negotiate, and conclude an exchange are called transaction costs. Transaction costs are an obstacle to the creation of wealth. They limit both our productive capacity and the realization of gains from mutually advantageous trading.

Transaction costs are sometimes high because of physical obstacles, such as oceans, rivers, marshes, and mountains. In these cases, investment in roads and improvements in transportation and communications can reduce the costs. In other instances, transaction costs may be high because of man-made obstacles, such as taxes, licensing requirements, government regulations, price controls, tariffs, or quotas. But regardless of whether the road-blocks are physical or man-made, high transaction costs reduce the potential gains from trade. Conversely, reductions in transaction costs increase the gains from trade and thereby promote economic progress.

People who provide trading partners with information and services that help them arrange trades and make better choices are providing something valuable. Such specialists or middle-men include real estate agents, stockbrokers, automobile dealers, publishers of classified ads, and a wide variety of merchants. Often, people believe that middlemen are unnecessary—that they merely increase the price of goods without providing benefits to either the buyer or the seller. Once we recognize that transaction costs are an obstacle to trade, it is easy to see that this view is wrong.

Consider the grocer who, in essence, provides middleman services that make it cheaper and more convenient for producers and consumers of food products to deal with each other. Think of the time and effort that would be involved in preparing even a single meal if shoppers had to deal directly with farmers when buying fruits or vegetables, or with fishermen if they wanted to serve fish.

Grocers make these contacts for consumers, arrange for the transport and sell all the items in a convenient shopping location, and maintain reliable inventories. The services of grocers and other middlemen reduce transaction costs and make it easier for potential buyers and sellers to realize gains from trade. These services increase the volume of trade and thereby promote economic progress.

Questions

Grammar and Sentence Structure

  1. Rewrite the first three paragraphs in the past tense. Remember that you do not need to change the tense of verbs that are used in apposition.
  2. Identify the main verbs of every clause in the first three paragraphs, ie the verbs of which you changed the tense. Also identify the complements of the linking verbs and the objects of the transitive verbs.
  3. Identify the relative clauses in the third and fourth paragraphs, and the pronouns that link them to other clauses. To what do those pronouns refer?
  4. Identify the prepositions in the last two paragraphs and use them in sentences of your own.

Vocabulary

  1. Give in your own words the meanings of the highlighted words. Find nouns and verbs related to these (more than one each where possible), and use them in sentences of your own.
  2. Find five nouns in this passage that are used as adjectives. Find verbs related to at least three of these and use them in sentences of your own.
  3. Find words that are similar in meaning to the italicized verbs. Find nouns that are related to these and use them in sentences of your own.

Comprehension

  1. What are the two types of transaction costs mentioned? How can these be reduced?
  2. How do middlemen reduce transaction costs?
  3. Can you think of how you have benefited recently from the services of a middleman, apart from a grocer?

This exercise is from English, Economics & Management, a book which  is an adaptation by Prof Rajiva Wijesinha of the original volume by Gartney and Stroup that presented basic economic principles simply. The principles are essentially liberal, but their universality will be clear in the context of the development of social and economic theories all over the world in the last few decades. 

I am grateful to Michael Walker of the Canadian Fraser Institute for encouraging me to use this text for English Teaching. The book should be used in conjunction with A Handbook of English Grammar (Foundation Books, Cambridge University Press, India). The full text of English, Economics & Management, as well as other  English books and materials that can be downloaded to enhance your English knowledge, can be found on the website of the Liberal Party of Sri Lanka. 

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Mutual gain is the foundation of trade. Parties agree to an exchange because they anticipate that it will improve their well-being. The motivation for market exchange is summed up in the phrase, “If you do something good for me, I will do something good for you.” Trade is productive; it permits each of the trading partners to get more of what they want.

There are three major reasons why trade is productive—why it increases the wealth of people. First, trade channels goods and services to those who value them most. A good or service does not have value just because it exists. Material things are not wealth until they are in the hands of someone who values them. The preferences, knowledge, and goals of people vary widely. Thus, a good that is virtually worthless to one may be a precious gem to another.

For example, a highly technical book on electronics that is of no value to an art collector may be worth thousands of rupees to an engineer. Similarly, a painting that is unappreciated by an engineer may be an object of great value to an art collector. Therefore, a voluntary exchange that moves the electronics book to the engineer and the painting to the art collector will increase the value of both goods. At the same time, the exchange will increase the wealth of both trading partners and the nation because it moves goods from people who value them less to people who value them more.

Second, exchange permits trading partners to gain from specializing in the production of those things they do best. Specialization allows us to expand total output. A group of individuals, regions, or nations will be able to produce a larger output when each specializes in the production of goods and services it can provide at a low cost, and uses their sales revenue to trade for desired goods it can provide only at a high cost. Economists refer to this principle as the law of comparative advantage.

In many ways, gains from trade and specialization are common sense. Examples abound. Trade permits a skilled carpenter to specialize in the production of frame housing while trading the earnings from housing sales to purchase food, clothing, automobiles, and thousands of other goods that the carpenter is not so skilled at producing. Similarly, trade allows Canadian farmers to specialize in the production of wheat and use the revenue from wheat sales to buy Brazilian coffee, a commodity that the Canadians could produce only at a high cost. Simultaneously, it is cheaper for Brazilians to use their resources to grow coffee and use the revenue from this to buy what they need.            

Modern production of a good like a pencil or an automobile often involves specialization, division of labour, large-scale production methods, and the cooperation of literally tens of thousands of people. Gains from these sources of production are dependent upon exchange.

Third, voluntary exchange permits us to realize gains derived from cooperative effort, division of labour, and the adoption of large-scale production methods. In the absence of exchange, productive activity would be limited to the individual household. Self-sufficiency and small-scale production would be the rule. Exchange permits us to have a much wider market for our output, and thus enables us to separate production processes into a series of specific operations in order to plan for large production runs. Such actions often lead to enormous increases in output per worker.

Adam Smith, the “father of economics,” stressed the importance of gains from the division of labour more than 200 years ago. Observing the operation of a pin manufacturer, Smith noted that the production of the pins was broken into “about eighteen distinct operations,” each performed by specific workers. When the workers each specialized in a productive function, they were able to produce 4,800 pins per worker each day. Without specialization and division of labour, Smith doubted an individual worker would have been able to produce even 20 pins per day.

Specialization permits individuals to take advantage of the diversity in their abilities and skills. It also enables employers to assign tasks to the workers who are more able to accomplish them. Even more importantly, the division of labour lets us adopt complex, large-scale production techniques unthinkable for an individual household. Without exchange, however, the gains from these would be lost.

 Questions

 Grammar and Sentence Structure

  1. Rewrite the last paragraph in the past tense, and the one before the last paragraph in the present tense, leaving out the time marker in the first sentence.
  2. Identify to what the italicized pronouns in the fourth and last paragraphs refer.
  3. Identify the prepositions in the first three paragraphs and use them in sentences of your own.
  4. Identify the sentences in the last three paragraphs and say whether they are compound or complex. Are there any sentences, here or elsewhere in the passage, that use relative pronouns? Divide them into simple sentences.

Vocabulary

  1. Work out from their context the meanings of the highlighted words, and use them in sentences of your own.
  2. Divide the words that are underlined into nouns and adjectives. Find words that mean the opposite of these (nouns for nouns and adjectives for adjectives), and use them in sentences of your own.
  3. Find words or phrases in this passage that are used to convey meanings similar to the following – Give, allows, do, move, differ, great, separate, emphasized, difference, looking at

Comprehension

  1. What are the three reasons given for trade being productive? Explain each reason in your own words.
  2. Identify the examples given for each of the above reasons and provide other examples for each of these. Can you think of examples that suggest a different viewpoint to that of the writer?
  3. Give examples of specialization and division of labour from your own experience at home or where you have studied.

 

This exercise is from English, Economics & Management, a book which  is an adaptation by Prof Rajiva Wijesinha of the original volume by Gartney and Stroup that presented basic economic principles simply. The principles are essentially liberal, but their universality will be clear in the context of the development of social and economic theories all over the world in the last few decades. 

I am grateful to Michael Walker of the Canadian Fraser Institute for encouraging me to use this text for English Teaching. The book should be used in conjunction with A Handbook of English Grammar (Foundation Books, Cambridge University Press, India). The full text of English, Economics & Management, as well as other  English books and materials that can be downloaded to enhance your English knowledge, can be found on the website of the Liberal Party of Sri Lanka. 

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Scarcity, the fact that things are in limited supply, constrains us, that is it places limits on us. One of the most important facts of life on our planet is that productive resources are limited. However, human desires for goods and services are virtually unlimited. Since we cannot have as much of everything as we would like, we are forced to choose among alternatives.

When resources are used to produce good A, say a shopping centre, that action takes resources away from the production of other goods that are also desired. The shopping centre is then the highest valued from the set of goods that could have been produced and consumed for the required cost. The others now must be sacrificed, because the required resources were used instead to produce the shopping centre. The use of resources to produce one thing reduces their availability to produce other things. Thus, the use of scarce resources always involves a cost. To use a common English saying, there is no such thing as a free lunch.

Costs play an extremely important function. They help us balance our desire for more of a good against our desire for more of other goods that could be produced instead. If we do not consider these costs, we will end up using scarce resources to produce the wrong things—goods that we do not value as much as other things that we might have produced.

In a market economy, consumer demand and producer costs perform this balancing function. In essence, the demand for a product is the voice of consumers instructing firms to produce a good. In order to produce the good, however, resources must be taken away from their alternative uses—primarily the production of other goods. Producers incur costs when they take resources away from the production of other goods. These costs, what the producers give up, can be represented as the voice of consumers saying that other goods that could be produced with the resources are also desired. Producers have to choose which goods to produce. Naturally they will be strongly inclined, or have a strong incentive, to supply those goods that can be sold for as much or more than their production costs. This is another way of saying that producers will tend to supply those goods that consumers value most relative to their production costs.

Of course, a good can be provided free to an individual or group if others foot the bill. But this merely shifts the costs; it does not reduce them. Politicians often speak of ‘free education’, ‘free medical care’, or ‘free housing’. This terminology is deceptive. None of these things are free. Scarce resources are required to produce each of them. For example, the buildings, labour, and other resources used to produce schooling could be used instead to produce more food, recreation, entertainment, or other goods.

The cost of the schooling is in fact the value of those goods that must now be given up because the resources required for their production were instead used to produce schooling. Governments may be able to shift costs, but they cannot avoid them. The concept that ‘scarce resources have a cost’ applies to all things.

With the passage of time, of course, we may be able to discover better ways of doing things and improve our knowledge about how to transform scarce resources into desired goods and services. Clearly, this has happened over the years. During the last 250 years, we have been able to relax the grip of scarcity and improve our quality of life. However, this does not change the fundamental point—we still confront the reality of scarcity. The use of more labour, machines, and natural resources to produce one good forces us to give up other goods that might otherwise have been produced.

 Questions

 Grammar and Sentence Structure

  1. Identify the nouns and adjectives in the last three paragraphs. Use five of each of them in sentences of your own to bring out their meaning.
  2. Rewrite the first paragraph in the past tense.
  3. Identify the pronouns in the first three paragraphs and say to what each of them refers.
  4. Identify the prepositions in the last three paragraphs and use them in sentences of your own.
  5. Divide the sentences here that are combined with conjunctions into separate sentences.
  6. Using conjunctions, join three pairs of simple sentences in this passage.

Vocabulary

  1. In groups, work out from their context the meanings of the highlighted words, and use them in sentences of your own.
  2. Find words or phrases in the last five paragraphs of this passage that are used to convey meanings similar to the following – Rare, wanted, compels, think of, move, relaxation, face, pay, change, loosen,

Use both the words or phrases in the passage, as well as those given here, in sentences of your own.

Comprehension

  1. Summarize the main argument of this passage in not more than five sentences.
  2. Give arguments for and against the point the writer makes about ‘free’ education.
This exercise is from English, Economics & Management, a book which  is an adaptation by Prof Rajiva Wijesinha of the original volume by Gartney and Stroup that presented basic economic principles simply. The principles are essentially liberal, but their universality will be clear in the context of the development of social and economic theories all over the world in the last few decades. 

 

I am grateful to Michael Walker of the Canadian Fraser Institute for encouraging me to use this text for English Teaching. The book should be used in conjunction with A Handbook of English Grammar (Foundation Books, Cambridge University Press, India). The full text of English, Economics & Management, as well as other  English books and materials that can be downloaded to enhance your English knowledge, can be found on the website of the Liberal Party of Sri Lanka. 

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Economists believe that changes in incentives influence human behaviour in a manner we can foretell. Benefits and costs that affect us influence our choices. If any choice gives us more benefits, we are more likely to choose it. Conversely, if a choice costs us more, we are less likely to choose it.

This basic belief of economics is a powerful tool because we can apply it widely. Incentives affect behaviour in almost all aspects of our lives, ranging from what we buy, what we decide to do at home, how we choose our governments.

When we buy things, the basic economic belief is that, if the price of something increases, consumers will buy less of it; producers, on the other hand, will supply more of it since the price increase makes it more profitable for them to produce the good. Both buyers and sellers respond to incentives. Market prices will bring their actions into a balance. If the amount which people want to buy is more than the amount sellers are willing to provide, the price will rise. The higher price will discourage consumption and encourage more production of the good or service. This will bring the amount demanded and the amount supplied into balance.

Alternatively, if consumers do not wish to buy the current output of a good, stocks will accumulate and there will be downward pressure on the price. In turn, the lower price will encourage consumption and slow down production until the amount demanded by consumers once again balances the production of the good. Markets work because both buyers and sellers alter their behaviour according to changes in incentives.

Of course, this process does not work immediately. It will take time for buyers to respond fully to a change in price. In the same way, it will take time for producers to produce more in response to a price increase or to reduce production if price declines. Still, the effect is clear – market prices will coordinate the actions of both buyers and sellers and will bring them into harmony.

The response of buyers and sellers to the higher petrol prices of the 1970s in America illustrated the importance of incentives. As petrol prices rose, consumers cut down on less necessary trips and tried to travel together in cars. Gradually, they changed to smaller, more fuel-efficient cars in order to reduce the amount of petrol they used. At the same time, petrol suppliers increased their drilling to find new wells, they used a water flooding technique to get more oil from existing wells, and they also looked more intensely for new oil fields. By the early 1980s, this combination of factors put downward pressure on the price of crude oil.

Incentives also influence political choices. The person who shops in a market is the same person who shops among political alternatives. In most cases, voters are more likely to support political candidates and policies that provide them with a greater amount of personal benefits. Conversely, they will tend to oppose political programmes where the personal costs are high in relation to the benefits provided.

The basic view of economics—that incentives matter—applies as much in socialism as it does under capitalism. For example, in the former Soviet Union, managers and employees of glass plants were at one time rewarded according to the tons of sheet glass produced. Not surprisingly, most plants produced sheet glass so thick that you could hardly see through it. The rules were changed so that the managers were rewarded according to the square meters of glass produced. The results were predictable. Under the new rules, Soviet firms produced glass so thin that it was easily broken. You can see then that changes in incentives influence actions under all forms of economic organization.

Some opponents of this view have said that this sort of economic analysis only helps to explain the actions of selfish and greedy people. But this is not correct. People act for a variety of reasons, some selfish and some humanitarian. The basic idea of economics mentioned above applies to both these types of reason. The choices of all people will be influenced by changes in personal costs and benefits. For example, both the selfish person and the less selfish one will be more likely to try to rescue a small child in trouble in a shallow stream than in a roaring river. Similarly, both are more likely to give a needy person their old clothes rather than new ones. Incentives influence the choices of both.

 Questions

Grammar and Sentence Structure

  1. Identify the nouns and adjectives in paragraphs four to six. Use five of each of them in sentences of your own to bring out their meaning.
  2. Rewrite paragraph five in the present tense and paragraph six in the past tense.
  3. Identify the pronouns in the third paragraph and say to what each of them refers.
  4. Identify the prepositions in the last paragraph and use them in sentences of your own.

Vocabulary

  1. In groups, work out from their context the meanings of the highlighted words, and use them in sentences of your own.
  2. Find words or phrases in the last five paragraphs of this passage that are used to convey meanings similar to the following -Affected, In the same way, Different choices, Goes down, Little by little, could easily be guessed, Reduced, Method, React, With greater concern.
  3. Use both the words or phrases in the passage, as well as those given here, in sentences of your own.
  4. Form verbs from the italicized nouns and use them in sentences of your own.

 Comprehension

  1. What is the point of the examples given in the one before the last paragraph? If you were in charge of glass production in the former Soviet Union, what would you have decided to do?
  2. What is the point of the examples given in the last paragraph? Do you agree with this?
  3. Summarize the main argument of this passage in not more than five sentences.

This is an extract from the Reading Materials in English that are available in the English and Education section of the website of the Liberal Party of Sri Lanka, www.liberalparty-srilanka.org

  

The entire text of Historic Buildings by Goolbai Gunasekara, covering twelve famous constructions, is now available on that website

The White House, Washington DC

 

No two buildings can be less alike than the Kremlin of Russia and the White House of the United States of America. The Kremlin is an old and rather romantic building. The White House is comparatively new. The Kremlin is huge. The White House is small when compared to the massive Russian Presidential residence

The two buildings are the homes of two of the most powerful men in the modern world. Until the breakup of the USSR the Russian President was as greatly respected, or feared, as the American President. Today, however, there is no doubt that the President of America is the single most powerful man in the world and the White House is probably the building that is presented most often in the media

George Washington

Almost all American presidents have lived in the White House. Strangely enough the first president, George Washington, did not do so for the simple reason that it had not yet been built. But it was he who planned a Presidential Building with the city planner Pierre L’Enfant at what is now 1600, Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington DC. He visualized a planned city with a Presidential House in the center. 

Nine architects competed to design it. John Hoban won and construction began in 1792. John Adams was the first President to live in the brand new White House but it was not given this name in the beginning. At first it was simply called ‘The President’s House’. It is the private residence of the President but it is the only private residence of a Head of State that is open to the public free of charge. 

This has sometimes led to problems. In 1829 President Jackson welcomed visitors on the 4th of July, which is the date of American Independence. Over 20,000 callers went through the White House that day and the poor President had to flee to a nearby hotel to escape the mob. Bathtubs were filled outside on the lawn with orange juice and whisky to persuade the crowd to leave the White House. 

Read the rest of this entry »

This is an extract from the Reading Materials in English that are available in the English and Education section of the website of the Liberal Party of  Sri Lanka, www.liberalparty-srilanka.org

The entire text of Historic Buildings by Goolbai Gunasekara, covering twelve famous constructions, is now available on that website.

Kremlin - Saint Basil's Cathedral

Whenever we think of the Kremlin we think of Russia. It is in the very heart of Moscow. The Kremlin buildings have grown along with the Russian State and they are indissolubly linked with the history of the country.

The Kremlin is situated on the Moskva river on the high left bank. The first time the Kremlin was mentioned was around 1475 when the architect Aristotele Fioravanti was invited by Czar Ivan III to plan the overall architecture of its walls and towers.

But this does not mean that the Kremlin was being built for the first time. There had been an earlier Kremlin built of white stone in the shape of a triangle. The triangle of the new walls repeated the old triangle. The old buildings and the new ones eventually became a distinctive architectural ensemble.

Kremlin and Red Square, Moscow - a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The Kremlin consists of many buildings, both secular and religious. There are lovely churches like the Cathedral of Archangel Michael. There was also the old Patriarchal Palace which is now a museum. What many see as the central building of the Kremlin, the Great Palace, was built in 1838 under the direction of Konstantin Thon. To build this magnificent edifice old Kremlin buildings were torn down. The old palaces of the Czar gave way to the new one.

The Kremlin is huge. It is not possible to describe every section of it. It is enough though to say that it is of exceptional historical and engineering interest. It is also most artistic.

A 17th-century hall in the Terem Palace, as painted in the 1840s.

Read the rest of this entry »

This is an extract from the Reading Materials in English that are available in the English and Education section of the website of the Liberal Party of  Sri Lanka, www.liberalparty-srilanka.org

The entire text of Historic Buildings by Goolbai Gunasekara, covering twelve famous constructions, is now available on that website.

The Taj Mahal

Everybody knows the story of the Taj Mahal. One of the great Moghul Emperors of India, Shah Jehan, built it when his beloved wife died. He ruled over almost all of India from 1628 to 1658 AD. His love for his wife is a romantic story that is like a fairy tale.

Babur, a great Mongol king, conquered India in 1526 and established the Moghul Dynasty (Moghul refers to the Mongol conquerors of India). The first four emperors developed their power and set up a system of Government that included all Indians, Hindus and Muslims. Among them was Akbar, one of the truly great monarchs of all time. By the time Shah Jehan became emperor he could turn his mind more fully to cultural activities too.

Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan

Mumtaz Mahal and Shah Jahan

Emperor Shah Jehan was a handsome man. He looked every inch a Prince. His wife, Mumtaz Mahal, was half Persian and was one of the loveliest women at the Moghul Court. ‘She had long black hair, delicate eyebrows and skin like a lily.’ wrote one poet. But more than her beauty, Mumtaz Mahal was a very good woman. She was an excellent wife and mother. She was kind and helped hundreds of women in distress. She was loved by all and most of all by her husband.

Shah Jehan used to travel round his Empire a great deal. Mumtaz Mahal always went with him, taking her three daughters and four sons with her. In fact each of her four sons was born while she was on a military campaign with the Emperor. Read the rest of this entry »

This is an extract from the Reading Materials in English that are available in the English and Education section of the website of the Liberal Party of  Sri Lanka, www.liberalparty-srilanka.org

The entire text of Historic Buildings by Goolbai Gunasekara, covering twelve famous constructions, is now available on that website.

St. Peter's Basilica

The first place a tourist in Rome wishes to visit is usually St Peter’s Cathedral. It is the largest church in the world and certainly the most famous.

The site of the church has a story behind it. It is believed that St. Peter, Jesus Christ’s chief disciple who is said to have been the first Bishop of Rome, was martyred and buried around 64 BC on the very spot where St Peter’s Cathedral now stands. It was therefore considered holy ground even before anything was built on it.

In 319 AD the Emperor Constantine built the original basilica there. It lasted over a thousand years. But in the 15th century the Popes, as the Bishops of Rome were called when they established themselves as the heads of the Catholic Church, left Rome and lived at Avignon in France. There was a split in the Catholic Church and many old churches were badly neglected. St. Peter’s was particularly affected so Pope Nicholas V began a new construction when the Papacy came back to Rome.

There were many quarrels over the building of St. Peter’s, but finally the architect Bramante was employed. He is one of the most famous Renaissance names but he was accused of embezzling funds and was sacked. Then a series of equally famous architects were brought in over the years. Read the rest of this entry »

This is an extract from the Reading Materials in English that are available in the English and Education section of the website of the Liberal Party of  Sri Lanka, www.liberalparty-srilanka.org

The entire text of Historic Buildings by Goolbai Gunasekara, covering twelve famous constructions, is now available on that website.

Potala Palace - Lhasa, Tibet

Tibet has been isolated from the world for a long time. The capital city is Lhasa and it used to be called ‘The Forbidden City’ because travelers and strangers were not welcomed. Tibet used to be under the rule of the Dalai Lama who was the head of the Buddhist religion as it was practised in Tibet.

Tibet is situated high up in the great range of Himalayan mountains that lie to the north of India. It is to the south west of China, and China claims that Tibet has always been a part of China. However it had its own independent Government for a long time and, though it came under Chinese domination at various times during the last millennium, the Dalai Lama and his predecessors always had a different system of rule from that of the Chinese Emperor in Beijing.

The young Dalai Lama aged 22

In the 20th century, after being dominated for over a hundred years by foreign powers, China began to reassert itself. A revolution in 1911 swept away the Emperor, but this was followed by many years of internal struggle. In the 1930s Japan took over much of the eastern coast, which was the political and economic center of China. The Nationalist government and the Communist party that was challenging it came together to oppose Japan but, when the Japanese were finally expelled with Western assistance at the end of the Second World War, the Civil War in China resumed.

Finally, in 1949, the Communist Party under Mao Ze Dong chased the Nationalist party leader Chiang Kai Shek, and his government, to Taiwan, an island a couple of hundred miles off the east of China. Then, in 1950, the Communist government sent an army of invasion into Tibet. The Dalai Lama, who was very young then, fled to India nine years later, after an unsuccessful revolt by the Tibetan people against the Chinese forces. Since then he has headed a government in exile in a place called Dharmasala in Northern India. Read the rest of this entry »

This is an extract from the Reading Materials in English that are available in the English and Education section of the website of the Liberal Party of  Sri Lanka, www.liberalparty-srilanka.org

The entire text of Historic Buildings by Goolbai Gunasekara, covering twelve famous constructions, is now available on that website.

The Alhambra in Granada, Spain

The Alhambra is in Granada, Spain. It is situated on a hill overlooking the city and it is one of the most famous examples of Moorish architecture. The Moors conquered Spain in the 8th century AD and ruled it for over 700 years. They brought Islam to a Christian country but they did not force the people to be Muslims. Instead they set about building beautiful palaces and great mosques. They were sophisticated and elegant and, under the Moors, Spain reached a high stage of development in Art, Architecture, Medicine, Science and Law.

The Alhambra was begun in the 10th century and gradually evolved into being a fortress, a palace and a Court. Alhambra means ‘Red Castle’ and the red bricks that were used in certain sections probably gave it this name.

"Honeycomb," "stalactite," or "mocárabe" vaulting in the Hall of the Abencerrajes

In the Alhambra lived the Emirs or Kings of Granada. They made it into the most marvellous of Moorish palaces. European Kings would see it and be rendered speechless by the beauty of its many halls and the stunning visual impact of the decorated walls.

The Muslim religion does not allow human figures to be depicted in art so Muslim artists turned to geometric designs and floral patterns, which they combined with such glorious effect that they have held the imagination of visitors for centuries. Moorish artists also made good use of calligraphy in their designs for decoration.

Court of Lions

The most famous tourist attraction today is the Court of the Lions. Moors loved gardens. As they came from desert lands they also loved water. Being great engineers they diverted water from the hills to feed the city of Granada, and in the Alhambra there are huge pools with many fountains spraying water to create the illusion of coolness. There are also deep canals carrying water to planned gardens. The Moors considered that gardens were an extension of Paradise on earth and the gardens of the Alhambra are truly like Paradise.

In 1829 the writer Washington Irving, an American, visited Spain. He got permission from the Governor of Granada to stay in a tiny apartment in the now deserted Alhambra palace. He was enchanted. To him the Alhambra was the epitome of refinement and elegance. A British writer Samuel Butler said

‘The Moors believe Granada lies

Directly under Paradise.’ Read the rest of this entry »

Rajiva Wijesinha

August 2017
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