Friday, 12 October 2012

Don't Shoot The Messenger

There is a book written by Sima Qian, over 2,000 yrs ago in China, it was entitled "Records of the Grand Historian" -this opus covered the  recounted Chinese history from the time of the 'Yellow Emperor' (traditionally dated around 2600 BC) until his own time around 109 to 91 BC. This was about 170 yrs before Plutarch wrote his "Lives of the Roman Emperors" in the West. It was a critique of the then current emperor, by using examples from the past: in effect teaching the present by retelling the past.

Sima Qian - Grand Historian

This is always always a touchy way of telling your local dictator that they need to reform .... look at the way Shakespeare sailed close to the wind, by portraying some earlier Kings in less than a flattering light in his 'historical' plays, and which Elizabeth I of England would have seen. As a Tudor, she may have agreed about the previous royal house, but not been very keen on suggestions that lèse majesté could be freely insulted.

So how more so in China, where emperors and empresses have usually had a court full of those pandering to their ego's, divine or otherwise - in fact they cut off his balls for suggesting that the emperor was wrong to punish a general who lost a battle. Even now, two thousand years after this first historian of the truth suffered such a big loss, the current regime of 'red emperors' is no less keen to have only its version of 'the truth' portrayed. Its national museum, regales visitors with the triumphs of 90 yrs of socialism, while skipping over the failures (Mao and the famines,corruption and nepotism on an industrial scale etc) .... they are even touchy about some faults of past emperors, when the failure has too obvious a parallel with the present. e.g. Emperor Zhu,  the first Ming emperor, developed homicidal paranoia and .... Chairman Mao Tse-Tung exhibited similar tendencies.

When deputy mayor of Peking Wu Han, was also a historian wrote about the first Ming emperor ... the communist regime recognised the analogy, and for criticising the present by writing about the past, Wu Han was arrested. He died in prison in 1969

Wu Han - Historian - Died in Prison 1969
  ..... history is a dangerous thing.

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