February 9, 2013

"The conventional view of Chinese history is that of alternating periods of political unity and disunity..."

"... with China occasionally being dominated by steppe peoples, most of whom were in turn assimilated into the Han Chinese population. Cultural and political influences from many parts of Asia, carried by successive waves of immigration, expansion, and cultural assimilation, are part of the modern culture of China."

Today's "History of" country is China, a country with so much history, it makes my "History of" project — in which we go in alphabetical order and read the Wikipedia page for the "History of" each of the 206 countries in the world — more absurd than usual. I've devised a few strategies for getting through these posts. Maybe go for the picture that appeals to me....



I could pick a sentence or so that seems to embody as much of the story as possible (above) or pull something out that seems distant and strange yet compelling...
In the 8th century BC, power became decentralized during the Spring and Autumn period, named after the influential Spring and Autumn Annals.... The Spring and Autumn Period is marked by a falling apart of the central Zhou power. In each of the hundreds of states that eventually arose, local strongmen held most of the political power and continued their subservience to the Zhou kings in name only. Some local leaders even started using royal titles for themselves. China now consisted of hundreds of states, some of them only as large as a village with a fort.

The Hundred Schools of Thought of Chinese philosophy blossomed during this period, and such influential intellectual movements as Confucianism, Taoism, Legalism and Mohism were founded, partly in response to the changing political world.
There are other strategies....

39 comments:

Lew Lipshitz said...

So, more of the same old, same old...it figures!

Chuck Currie said...

The educational system I grew up in was, I think, overly focused on the history of Egypt and Mesopotamia, and rarely even mentioned China or Russia - other than during duck and cover bomb drills.

China was always a topic of conversation at our dinner table - don't you know children are starving in China? now finish your dinner.

I had no idea where or what Vietnam was until I was sent there.

Cheers

edutcher said...

Interesting that Red China holds the world record for extermination at 66 mil in the Cultural Revolution, but all we still hear about is how many people (Godwin Alert)* killed and how bad it was under Chiang Kai-Shek.

* Al is a piker at about 14 mil, and Joe only has 40 mil on his belt. You have to throw in the 30 or so mil killed by Tojo&Co to even get close.

edutcher said...

Chuck Currie said...

The educational system I grew up in was, I think, overly focused on the history of Egypt and Mesopotamia, and rarely even mentioned China or Russia - other than during duck and cover bomb drills.

China was always a topic of conversation at our dinner table - don't you know children are starving in China? now finish your dinner.

I had no idea where or what Vietnam was until I was sent there.


That's because it was part of French Indo-China. Didn't you look at the map in Joggerfee class?

The Drill SGT said...

China has esteem issues that will ultimately become a world wide problem.

Though, an ancient world civilization, they feel they haven't gotten respect from the World, since the Europeans arrived in the 160's.

a large chip on shoulder.

Combined with a racist cultural ethic, pan-sinoism is a problem throughout the Pacific.

chickelit said...

Today's "History of" country is China, a country with so much history, it makes my "History of" project — in which we go in alphabetical order and read the Wikipedia page for the "History of" each of the 206 countries in the world — more absurd than usual.

I can sympathize. I started a blog post series of the chemical elements from 1 to 118, trying to bring in my own experience with each one, and, lacking that, bringing together something cool about each one. Elements like carbon and iron were just too much for one shot.

chickelit said...

If you don't like what China is, or fear what it may become, stop buying their stuff.

edutcher said...

PS I was wondering where the China went.

Must have been a rough day yesterday.

The Drill SGT said...

China has esteem issues that will ultimately become a world wide problem.

Though, an ancient world civilization, they feel they haven't gotten respect from the World, since the Europeans arrived in the 160's.

a large chip on shoulder.


Sounds like a certain country post Great War

William said...

I slogged through a history of China some time back. It's not just that there's thousands of years of it, but all the names sound like nonsense syllables in a skat song.....Some of the history sounded like fairy tales. One of the concubines became a number one wife and mother of the next emperor. She got all mean girl on some of the other conks who didn't treat her nice when she was a nobody. She the hands and feet of one girl amputated. Further, the girl's eyes were blinded and she was made to live with pigs in a sty. That's the only thing I can remember about the book.

Ann Althouse said...

"I can sympathize. I started a blog post series of the chemical elements from 1 to 118, trying to bring in my own experience with each one, and, lacking that, bringing together something cool about each one. Elements like carbon and iron were just too much for one shot."

You should read "Uncle Tungsten" by Oliver Sacks. (You probably have.)

ironrailsironweights said...

China's size and different climate zones makes it largely pointless for me to discuss snowfall.

Peter

chickelit said...

You should read "Uncle Tungsten" by Oliver Sacks. (You probably have.)

I have. And Primo Levi's "The Periodic Table." Wonderful stories!

Lydia said...

You know what's really weird about China? It has only one time zone. Should really have about five, I think.

The Drill SGT said...

Fluorine. Now there is a Bad Boy, destined for problems with authority...

Basta! said...

What do you call a fat Chink?

A Chunk.

Ba-da-boom.

chickelit said...

@Drill SGT: Fluorine Gave Uranium Wings

Basta! said...

And let us not overlook their great skill as mediators, as when Pyramis found he could communicate with Thisbe through a Chink in the wall.

Nichevo said...

Peter, snowfall? I felt sure you would go straight for the short and curlies. IYKWIM, AITYD.

chickelit said...

One of the most positive and optimistic portrayals of China I recall was in "30 Seconds Over Tokyo" (1944); specifically the treatment of the downed pilots in mainland China.

It's interesting that people here don't have much to say about the country despite its importance. Remember Jason (the commenter)? IIRC, he traveled there frequently on business and had many interesting observations. My own opinions tend towards the negative, based on personal experience e.g., here. And many of the ethnic Chinese I know are actually from Hong Kong.

traditionalguy said...

The Nationalists under Chang Kai Shek were our ally against Japan. Today we protect their descendants on Taiwan.

Stalin's man Mao won the Revolution upsetting FDR's plan to include China as an equal with the Big four on the United Nations Security Counsel.

Today the size of China's military is currently growing past the size of the shrinking US Military under the Obama Decline.

The US nuclear umbrella is needed more now than ever before. So it figures that Obama wants it eliminated.

Foobarista said...

Any discussion of Chinese history, however brief, can't skip over the Taiping Rebellion, which is the second deadliest war in human history after WWII.

It also had numerous elements that you see in modern China: interplay with the West (the TR was led by a guy who thought he was Jesus' little brother sent as a new Prophet), old, creaky intellectualism of the ancien regime, technology, and a lot of foreshadowing of Mao (who admired Hong Xiuquan, the TR leader).

Foobarista said...

@traditionalguy, the irony is that CKS actually was "Stalin's man". Stalin thought Mao would lose and CKS was more "politically reliable" as far as Stalin was concerned.

There was a very brief honeymoon between Stalin and Mao after the Korean War, but it was done very quickly, and by the time Khrushchev came to power, China and the USSR were effectively enemies.

Had the US been more in-tune with what was going on, the "Nixon going to China" could have happened 10+ years earlier.

Lydia said...

The Drill SGT said...
China has esteem issues that will ultimately become a world wide problem.

Though, an ancient world civilization, they feel they haven't gotten respect from the World, since the Europeans arrived in the 160's.


There's a fairly recent book, The Man from Beijing, that deals with this feeling of lack of respect plus a very strong resentment and desire for revenge for past offenses committed against them.

Not sure how accurate it is, though, because it was written by Henning Mankell (mostly known for his Wallander books), who is at heart a Swedish Maoist.

wyo sis said...

All that history, all those philosophies, and it's almost completely oppressive. I'm not a fan of Eastern philosophies for that reason.

YoungHegelian said...

The most dangerous thing about the modern Chinese government that never gets mentioned in the papers: the People's Liberation Army has gone to ground. The PLA doesn't talk to any outsiders anymore. Not the Americans, not the Russians, not the E.U. Nobody. The US had more liaisons with the Red Army at the height of the Cold War than we do with the PLA now.

No one knows why. No one's sure if the PLA is still really under Party control. They think the answer is yes, but every now and then something like the 2007 satellite shoot down occurs. This was noteworthy because Pres. Hu Jintao was out of the country when it occurred and when he was pelted with questions about it at a press conference, it was clear that he had no idea that the launch had taken place.

pm317 said...

My Chinese connection is the student I graduated. He sends me a thank you email every Thanksgiving. How nice is that!

pm317 said...

All that history, all those philosophies, and it's almost completely oppressive.

Wait till this country has that long a history..

Chuck Currie said...

CKS was a stooge. He was nominally our ally, but rarely committed the equipment and material we gave him to fighting the Japanese, saving it for his battle with Mao, and then botched that.

Cheers

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Clyde said...

百花齐放,百家争鸣

"Let a hundred flowers bloom; let a hundred schools of thought contend."

-- Mao Zedong

Clyde said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nini said...

Some analysts are of the opinion that the U.S.A is the only one that can be considered a REAL superpower (economically and militarily). And because you have the resources your country leads the world in so many areas, technology, science, etc. Like the chicken and the egg case, your country attracts the best people in the world, (although sometimes you also attract the worst type of people).

Now before I continue with my comments, please do not clobbered me verbally because I mean no ill wish for your great country, as you all should remember that all civilizations fall in time. And I only want to talk about what experts are talking about.

Analysts are predicting that 2 decades from now due to the economic and political reforms China has achieved and still trying to achieve, the centre of gravity of economic activities of the world will be in China and as such will surpass the economy of the U.S. to be a potential superpower. It is currently the second largest economy in the world taking over Japan. Whether China will pursue aggressively to become a military power, analysts are not so confident to predict. Maybe the title of superpower will lie soley with the U.S.

So yes, great civilizations fall in time, China had it’s golden age and might again resurrect to become a most prominent nation.

Anyway, I don’t know if prof Ann posted this today because she knew it's Chinese New Year today or it’s just a strange coincidence. I'm not Chinese, still ....

Happy Chinese New Year, everyone!

YoungHegelian said...

@Nini,

I might be tempted to agree with you om China's rise to superpower status if Chinese history were not replete with times were China could have stepped to the fore as a major power among nations, but always, for some reason failed to do so (e.g. the age of Chinese overseas exploration in the 15th century).

It seems as if China is just more than enough to handle for the Chinese, and they balk at taking on more when the chance arrives.

They are the Middle Kingdom, and their vision has been turned always inward. I see no reason for that to change.

wyo sis said...

pm317
The history of the world is amazingly oppressive and the history of North America is probably no exception.

The political philosophies behind our Constitution have provided over 200 years of peace and prosperity for US citizens. (with the exception of a Civil War) That's a reason to preserve those good ideas. I'm grateful to live here even in its decline.

Wouldn't you think we could learn to get it right and keep it?

Methadras said...

The more china changes the more it stays the same.

traditionalguy said...

The WWII Chinese Nationalists were used by the USA as our B-29 base to bomb Japan. That only got the Japs to attack with a huge offensive to overrun the Nationalist Army that had no US supplied weapons to stop them; and into that void Mao's Red Army occupied that area of China easily because the Nationalist Army had been thieves and looter while there.

In any event, the B-29s were being moved to bases in Saipan and Tinian where Nimitz could protect them so that we did not need the Nationalists as an ally anymore, even to tie down the Japanese Army by that stage of the Pacific War.

Steve Koch said...

Another strategy would be to slow down and look at the countries in more depth.

Rusty said...

One thing to remember about China is that it has always thought of itself as the center of the world.Their leaders have always thought that the rest of the world exists only to learn from China's example and to pay it tribute.

Mitch H. said...

@traditionalguy, the irony is that CKS actually was "Stalin's man". Stalin thought Mao would lose and CKS was more "politically reliable" as far as Stalin was concerned.

Well, that's a bit of an exaggeration. Chiang Kai Shek and the rest of the Kuomintang were a fascist party, which means that the Soviets had brief periods of cooperation separated by vast oceans of hostility. Mostly in the 1920s, if I remember correctly, which the Soviets used to thoroughly infiltrate and compromise the Kuomintang with sleeper agents and fellow travellers. Those sleepers were a large part of why China went so easily Red after the end of WWII: many of the generals of Chiang's regime were either compromised or actually cooperating with the Communists.

China has way too much history to be easily discussed like this. Unlike a lot of our "History of" subjects, they're writers of history themselves, and thus are exceedingly well documented, if in a fashion which is very much subjective rather than classically objective history. In China, winners definitely write the histories.