January 22, 2016

"People say the turtle’s death is bad luck, and a way for the gods to show that something’s about to happen."

"If I were to discuss the political implications of this, the government would think I was trying to destabilize it. But everyone thinks this is bad luck for the government."

Said Nguyen Thien Hung, the caretaker of the Vu Thach Buddhist temple, near the lake in Hanoi where the sacred, mythic, 360-pound turtle Cu Rua lived.
In the 15th century, the legend says, a nationalist hero borrowed a magic sword — possibly from a dragon king — wielded it to drive out occupying Chinese forces, and returned it to a turtle that surfaced in Hoan Kiem Lake, the “Lake of the Returned Sword,” in central Hanoi.... Thanks to the legend of the lake, the turtle is Vietnam’s clearest symbol of resistance to Chinese aggression....

19 comments:

buwaya puti said...

I am inclined to see this as a portent.
It may seem silly, but the situation fits the portent.
The Chinese are threatening everyone, and their economy has hit the rocks, and the government can no longer hide it with financial chicanery. The temptation to find foreign enemies is powerful. Very similar things happened as a result of the Great Depression, the hostile turn of Japanese foreign policy was a direct result of that.
Things are getting scary out in East Asia.
It feeling a bit like the 1930s.

raf said...

So. Is it no longer "turtles all the way down"?

Ignorance is Bliss said...

People say the turtle’s death is bad luck

I suspect the turtle would agree.

LarsPorsena said...

It's going to take a huge turtle to keep the Chinese off their Spratlys and Paracels.

Hagar said...

In the old days, the Chinese empire consisted of China proper, surrounded by either ocean or a ring of vassal states, except for Japan. The vassal states were obliged to more or less behave themselves and send a delegation to Peking (or wherever the capital then was) for the New Year to make the kow-tow and deliver a suitable present, but the imperial government otherwise did not interfere much with the internal affairs of the vassal states.

The Communists are different; they demand total obedience from everybody within the boundaries of the empire, even the outermost boundaries, so that China now rubs directly up against other empires and peoples, not just Japan, and relations are getting tense all around the periphery.

AllenS said...

One thing about the turtles' death is apparent, and that is the turtle needs to be disposed of quickly, or it will stink like 360 pounds of crazy.

Roughcoat said...

The hostile turn taken by Japanese foreign policy started well before the onset of the Great Depression. It was not the result of the Depression. It was the result of an insatiable lust by a militarized nation to dominate Asia. Hence the long history of Japanese aggression and meddling in Korea; the seizure of the Bonin Islands in the mid-late 19th Century; the Sino-Japanese War 1894-95; the seizure of Formosa in 1895; the Russo-Japanese War 1904-05; Japanese territorial aggression in Manchuria, Mongolia, Siberia and North China during and after the Russian Civil War; the seizure of former German territories in the Pacific after World War I.

Ann Althouse said...

"I suspect the turtle would agree."

The dead don't care.

Big Mike said...

You mean all we had to do to win the war 50 years ago was blow up a turtle???

mikee said...

Terry Pratchett, were he still alive, would be the proper person to ask about the significance of this event.

Bob Boyd said...

raf said...
So. Is it no longer "turtles all the way down"

No, it's still turtles all the way down. There's just one less turtle in the stack.
But it's a really high stack.

J. Farmer said...

Lived in southeast Asia for a number of years. The societies are obsessed with omens and superstitions regarding luck.

CWJ said...

Romano/Celtic legend meets Southeast Asian legend. Arthur defeats the Saxon invaders with an enchanted sword that is returned to a "Watery Tart"* in a lake upon his death. Vietnamese dude defeats the Chinese invaders with an enchanted sword that is returned to a mythic turtle in a lake. The coincidence is amazing.

* - Python version.

Paco Wové said...

"...it's still turtles all the way down. There's just one less turtle in the stack."

∞ - 1

furious_a said...

The vassal states were obliged to more or less behave themselves and send a delegation to Peking...

I've heard that the Mandarin word for "ambassador" translates roughly as "tribute bearer".

Hagar said...

That is quite likely.
The Chinese emperor ruled "All under Heaven" in the Chinese view, and in the world they knew all envoys came from tribute paying vassal states.
They knew there was a world beyond theirs, since the wares on the "Silk Road" had to go somewhere, and they occasionally heard rumors of "foreign barbarians" - other than the Japanese - making trouble along the coasts, but saw no official representatives of foreign states until the late 18th, and really the 19th, century.

buwaya said...

"The hostile turn taken by Japanese foreign policy started well before the onset of the Great Depression."

The expansionist turn came with the territory of being an imperial power.
As far as that went the Japanese were following international norms as far as most nations were concerned. They played by gentlemen's rules, if opportunistically. Not different from any other imperial power.
The tossing out of all desire to be constrained by international norms came with the depression. That's when the government was taken over by the militarist clique, when the Washington Naval treaties were abrogated, the Navy dropped its British friendship/compatriot relationship, when they started pressuring the other international enclaves in China, etc.

wildswan said...

Is the stock market our 350 turtle? That dies and comes back to life in a random cycle?

Or do we intermittently kill off political parties - like the Whigs - when a sacrifice to change is needed? Yes, I mean the Democrats.

Or are we slowly sacrificing the slime-stream print media? formerly known as main stream but new figures on 2015 paper subscriptions indicate terminal irrelevance so that rather than Main-stream they are a small slow trickle, too slow to clear the accumulation of dirt. Well, a business model that is based on insulting 50 % of your possible customers every day in every way is bound to turn turtle one day.

buwaya said...

"Is the stock market our 350 turtle?"
No.
A 350 year old turtle is much less volatile than the stock market. If it is a portent, it is of a much more significant disaster as disasters with portents go.
This turtle survived Chinese invasions, Thai invasions, civil wars, sundry revolts, fallen dynasties, French conquest, Communist revolution, B52 bombers, millions of war-dead.
So, the omen is for something worse than any of that.