This past weekend was the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival. The Mid-Autumn Festival originated in ancient China, where it was observed that the movement of the moon had a close relationship with the changes of the seasons and agricultural production. In the Festival, they express their thanks to the moon and celebrate the harvest. On this holiday, family members gather to offer sacrifice to the moon, appreciate the bright full moon, eat moon cake, and reunite with family members. (Travelchinaguide.com)
The Chinese idiom "守株待兔“ (Shǒu Zhū Dài Tù) roughly translated means "To wait by a tree for a hare".
The story tells of a farmer long ago who worked in the fields. After working for a while, he soon became tired and went to rest against a tree. It was not long before a careless hare rammed into the tree, and died.
Upon seeing this, the farmer became very happy and took the hare home for his next meal. He realized that he didn't have to lift a finger to get a good meal, and he didn't have to work so hard to eat well.
Ever since that day, the farmer never worked again. He spent every day waiting underneath the tree for a careless hare, but never saw another hare. Even so, he continued to not work and wait under the tree for the rest of his life.
This idiom suggests that one should not depend on luck to become successful, and that hard work is required. Those who depend on chance and are lazy will not get what they need.
Remember that wonderful Nickelodeon crossover Jimmy Timmy Power Hour? Where Boy Genius Jimmy Neutron teams up with Timmy and his Fairly Oddparents to defeat made scientists/fairies/random enemies from taking over the world and enslaving humanity?
Well, that has absolutely nothing to do with what our topic here today, except for the fact that "Jimmy Kimmel" reminds me of "Jimmy Timmy."
So now, without further ado, our take on the Jimmy Kimmy--er, sorry, the Jimmy Kimmel--controversy.
By now, a large percentage of the Chinese demographic has been made aware of the Jimmy Kimmel “Killl all Chinese” controversy. For those who are still unaware of this issue, here is a quick summary: a child, apparently named Braxton, on Jimmy Kimmel’s show proclaimed that the solution for the United States to avoid paying their debt to the Chinese government would be to exterminate the people living in China, the Chinese population grew angry and demanded justice, with many protestors proclaiming Jimmy Kimmel to be akin to Adolf Hitler.
If you'd like to see the skit for yourself, the following YouTube video shows a low-quality clip of it. With Chinese subtitles, since this was taken by a Chinese show. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, ABC has already taken down all of the official copies of the skit and stopped it from ever rerunning after the reaction from the Asian community. The only reason I found this was because erasing something completely from the Internet nowadays is a feat second only to Hercules' labors, especially something that has received so much attention.
The complete lack of judgment on the part of Jimmy Kimmel and ABC in airing the segment is undeniable. But is the Chinese community's outraged protests the right way to go about it?
Let's look at the results. Jimmy Kimmel has apologized (insincerely). ABC has apologized (but only after backdating their apology, so again, insincerely). The Chinese government and United States government have gotten involved (to some degree). But the only major result from the protests? Jimmy Kimmel's show shooting up in its ratings.
So, really, what did the Asian community win?
Some might even say that this controversy has been blown out of proportion by the Chinese community. A formal apology from the host is reasonable, but demanding the is stretching it a little bit. It is understandable why these protesters feel that the U.S. media has been disrespectful to Chinese, but demanding that the many employees of the show lose their jobs simply due to a comment made by an unaware and ignorant child and the subsequent lack of judgment in airing the segment is an overreaction and a completely unreasonable demand. Not to mention, ABC and its parent company Disney are even more unlikely to fire Jimmy Kimmel after his sudden boost in ratings (viewers love controversy, after all. It's the first rule of business).
We need social change. There are definitely oversimplified stereotypes of East Asians in media (often portrayed as shy, quiet, nerdy, essentially an intelligent hive-mind) that underscore the general lack of respect toward the demographic, but this standalone case is not a platform for creating social change.
The Undying Chinese
One of the many, many responses of the Chinese community (which include everything from picketing ABC, to boycotting its parent company Disney to signing a White House petition demanding a response from the federal government) to the Jimmy Kimmel was a short animation produced by Chinese netizen @抽屉新热榜, discussing why it is such a bad idea to kill the Chinese. It shows an interesting perspective through cartoons and statistics about Chinese history, and those who have, in reality, tried to kill all Chinese.
Image from Cultural China
In ancient times, there was a man named Wen Yu Ke (文与可). He was a great artist and loved to draw bamboo, so he planted bamboo in front of his house. He took good care of the bamboo, would always check on his bamboo, no matter what the weather was like outside.
One day, poet who greatly admired Wen Yu Ke's drawings wrote a poem about him. The poem contained the phrase, "与可画竹时，胸中有成竹“. This phrase is where the idiom "胸有成竹" (xiong you cheng zhu) originates, meaning that Wen Yu Ke had the image of the bamboo in his mind when he was drawing the bamboo. However, when people use this idiom, they do not mean the literal translation. Instead, the idiom is used to suggest that when someone does something, they are determined and have a solid plan for whatever they set out to do.
Read more about the idiom here.
A long time ago, there was a man who was walking by a house, and saw that there was a bell hanging above the door of the house. He wanted to steal the bell, but realized that if he touched it, the bell would ring. The bell was also too heavy to carry by himself. He thought that if he smashed the bell to pieces, he could carry it away.
However, he knew that if he smashed it, the bell would make a loud noise and attract attention. He reasoned that if he covered his ears, nobody would be able to hear the bell ring. He covered his ears, but as soon as he touched the bell, it rang and he was caught.
This idiom refers to people who believe they are clever, but in fact are only tricking themselves.
Read more about the idiom here.
I'll talk about dramas if I want to. --O.C. Koala
Okay, I confess.
I love Han dramas more than I should. I watch Han dramas more than should. And I obsess over them more than I should…by a lot.
My relationship with Han Dynasty historical dramas ("it's complicated," for any of you curious folks) began with the Han era drama Mei Ren Xin Ji (美人心计), or Schemes of a Beauty.
Beautiful Lies: Spoilers
Technically, I'm not spoiling that much, since the general outline of the drama is based on history that you can get off Wikipedia or Baidu (China's Wikipedia), but like I said, there are plot points in the drama that definitely did not really happen.
The drama (cover picture on left) begins with a dramatic procession following a lady into the castle walls of the Royal Palace (below). The actress Dai Chun Rong (戴春荣) played the part of Empress Lu Zhi (吕雉), wife of the first Han Emperor, Emperor Gaozu of Han (汉高祖 also known by his personal name of Liu Bang).
Note: I am using the Chinese style of naming, where the family name is first and the personal name is last. Liu Bang, for example, has the family name of Liu (刘) and the personal name of Bang (邦).
Remember when I talked about Da Ji (妲己) last time? (To jog your memory, she was the evil nine-tailed fox demon who brought about the ruin of the Shang Dynasty.) Lu Zhi is usually lumped in with Da Ji. They were respectively the most hated women on their times, and for very good reasons. Lu Zhi is probably most infamous for the fate of her former rival for Emperor Gaozu's affections, Consort Qi (戚夫人). They both had sons, and while Empress Lu's son was named Crown Prince, Emperor Gaozu had been considering demoting Lu Zhi's son in favor of Consort Qi's son before he died. This plus the fact that Emperor Gaozu favored Consort Qi more than Lu Zhi resulted in Lu Zhi hating Consort Qi with a burning passion.
And I mean with a BURNING passion. After Emperor Gaozu died, the now Dowager Empress Lu Zhi had Consort Qi humiliated…by cutting off all of her hands and feet and facial features. She also killed Consort Qi's son Liu Ruyi (刘如意), in spite of the fact that he had been sent far away from the capitol to his own principality by Emperor Gaozu, who feared Lu Zhi would do something like that out of jealousy after his death.
So after that description I'm sure you can imagine what happened in Schemes of a Beauty. Lu Zhi's first scene in that drama consisted of her manhandling a young boy--Liu Heng (刘恒), yet another son of Emperor Gaozu by Consort Bo (薄姬), yet another consort of Emperor Gaozu--and planning to kill him because he was growing up too quickly and therefore could become a problem to her own son's ascension to the throne.
She then acted (because Lu Zhi if nothing else was a woman of action) by giving the boy's nurse--who by the way is the start of the made-up characters, played by Taiwanese actress Ruby Lin (林心如)--some poisonous rouge in the hopes that the nurse would accidentally poison her charge. But her plans fall apart, and the nurse flees along with her young daughter. Lu Zhi sends hit men after her to stop her from spreading rumors, and the nurse is forced to jump off a cliff. Her young daughter (the nurse's, not Lu Zhi's, though Lu Zhi also has a daughter) survives with the help of a kind couple, who were unfortunately murdered by the hit men not long after.
The nurse's daughter, Du Yunxi, befriends the now-orphaned daughter of her saviors, Nie Shen'er. They go to Yunxi's uncle's house for refuge, but Yunxi's malicious aunt persuades her husband to abandon Shen'er, saying that she is only a burden.
Fast forward several years, and Yunxi and Shen'er are both grown up, Yunxi as a hard-working girl in her uncle's household who is often bullied by her mean aunt and cousin, and Shen'er in a house of ill repute as a, well...
It seems that fate really has it out for Shen'er (played by Wang Li Kun (王丽坤), who also starred in some of my favorite WWII dramas!) and Yunxi (also played by Ruby Lin; normally, Chinese dramas transcend generations and mothers and daughters are played by the same actress…unless they are both adults at the same time and have scenes together, of course) because when they meet again, its right after Shen'er killed Yunxi's husband-to-be out of woman-scorned-jealousy and is now fleeing the authorities. Yunxi, who somehow remembers and recognizes Shen'er, is on her way to become a serving girl at the Royal Palace, and she persuades the head eunuch in charge of them to let Shen'er stay to replace another serving girl who had committed suicide.
In the palace, Yunxi quickly rises to favor with the youthful Empress Yan (张嫣), the child wife of Emperor Hui of Han (汉惠帝, and Lu Zhi's son), due to her kindness and cleverness. Shen'er, meanwhile, plots various plots on how to get the Emperor to notice her so that she can "fly to the top and become a phoenix" (飞上枝头变凤凰).
Hm. Awkward. That Chinese idiom doesn't really translate. In ancient China, the phoenix was the empress, while the dragon represented the emperor. To "fly to the top and become a phoenix" is to be noticed by the emperor and become one of his consorts, which was considered the ultimate honor.
Anyhow, Shen'er's plots accidentally make Lu Zhi aware of Yunxi's (and by extension Shen'er's) existence(s)…never a good thing. Fortunately for Yunxi, Lu Zhi is impressed with her resourcefulness and decides to keep her near the young Empress Yan in an attempt to help the Empress conceive (crazy, I know, but what's crazier is that Empress Yan was Emperor Hui's pseudo-niece, being the daughter of his sister's husband's concubine). This, naturally, makes Emperor Hui notice Yunxi and of course, they fall in love. On his side, anyway.
So things happen, but Yunxi and Shen'er remain happy BFFs until Lu Zhi realizes that her son has fallen in love with Yunxi and forces her to drink poison because she doesn't want him falling in love with anyone who is intelligent/of childbearing age. Except Yunxi doesn't actually die, because that would make the drama very boring if the female lead dies within the first few episodes. After being dosed with a sleeping potion, Yunxi (now under the fake name of Dou Yifang) is sent to the principality of Dai to spy on (who else?) Liu Heng, now the King of Dai.
Ahh! Fate! Destiny! I was so sure they would see each other and the drama would turn into a mushy-I-can't-believe-we-are-destined-by-the-stars-to-be-together-love-story but it didn't. So how exactly did Yunxi recognize Shen'er but not Liu Heng?
Either way, Lu Zhi didn't trust Yunxi/Yifang or her loyalty enough, so she a spy to spy on Yunxi/Yifang, so she wasn't exactly in any position to fall in love with Liu Heng (really sad 'cause he loved her). Lu Zhi also kept Shen'er back in the capital with her as a hostage, plus the aunt of the girl she sent to spy on Yunxi/Yifang, Mo Xueyuan (莫雪鸢, played by Yang Mi), who doubled as a bodyguard due to her crazy fighting skills. But true love conquers all, and Yifang (as I will heretofore call her) and Liu Heng prevail in spite of all of the obstacles (read: Lu Zhi and her schemes). Xueyuan also becomes true friends with Yifang and helps her send fake reports to Lu Zhi (schemes of beauties…hint, hint). Plus Xueyuan falls in love with Zhou Yafu (played by Mickey He), a general under Liu Heng.
Their story ends in the tragedy, but they also had some awesome fighting scenes and plus I don't think that Xueyuan was real though Zhou Yafu was so--
I'm getting off topic.
Back to the drama. Fast forward through a lot more, and Emperor Hui dies (read: leaves the palace with everyone thinking him dead) and everyone rebels against Lu Zhi, and in the end of the chaos, Liu Heng, King of Dai, becomes Emperor Wen of Han.
Unfortunately, Shen'er survived the death of Lu Zhi and the chaos that followed and somehow finagles her way bak into the Royal Palace, where she is welcomed by Yifang. But what Yifang doesn't know is that Shen'er has lost all of her morals (though you could argue she never had any…after all she started her adult life by committing murder...) and Shen'er eventually ends up as Emperor Wen's consort.
In actual life, Emperor Wen did have a Consort Shen, but I'm pretty sure she wasn't as evil as the Shen'er in the drama. I'm also pretty sure that Consort Shen did not have the complicated backstory with the Empress Dou (Yifang's title) but then again, Chinese dramas = rewrite of history, more or less.
Blah, blah, blah, Shen'er eventually is killed after her evil schemes push Yifang a bit too far (more specifically: Shen'er kills Xueyuan and Yifang decides she's had enough), Emperor Wen of Han dies a little later and his and Yifang's son Liu Qi takes over as Emperor Jing of Han. And here's where the screenwriters really begin to take creative license: Emperor Jing falls in love with Shen'er daughter, who is now called Wang Zhi.
See, during the chaos at the end of Lu Zhi's life, Shen'er got mixed up with one of Lu Zhi's nephews called Lu Lu and they had a daughter who was taken away in the chaos by Xueyuan's aunt and raised away from the palace ignorant of her true parentage.
So some more blah, blah in the next generation, the most exciting of which involved Emperor Jing's favored Consort Li manipulating his Empress Bo into trying to kill Consort Wang. In the end, Consort Li is discovered, and Consort Wang's son is made Crown Prince. Emperor Jing dies, and Consort Wang's son Liu Che ascends as Emperor Wu of Han. Finally, we see young girl who just enters the palace; her name is Wei Zifu, and she is future Empress Wei, wife of Emperor Wu.
And it all ends.
But it doesn't!
Beautiful Lies: The Prequel
Because it wasn't enough for Yu Zheng (producer of Schemes of a Beauty) to stick with one Han drama, we got another one that was supposed to act as a prequel, relating the lives and stories of Lu Zhi and Emperor Gaozu.
Actually, on second thought, we got two prequels that were exactly the same except for the actors. And I mean exactly the same. The plot. The love triangle. Even the lines the actors used were the same.
The first one is called Mei Gui Jiang Hu (玫瑰江湖, or Rose of the Rivers and Lakes, literally, though jianghu also refers to the world of martial artists in Chinese culture).
One of the promo covers is on the left. Starring Wallace Chung and Huo Siyan (shown) who play the roles that represent, well, we'll get to there. Huo Siyan plays Lu Zhi (young) and she really does bear a resembles to the Lu Zhi in Schemes of a Beauty.
I can't say much about this because I've only seen the first episode, but let's just say that it included a ridiculously weird plot line that was compounded by the fact that Yu Zheng tried to write about the Han Dynasty set in the twentieth century, so instead of emperors, we have drug lords and gang bosses.
Like I said, I only watched a bit. But that doesn't matter, because I watched the other prequel (which has the exact same storyline!) a little more. It's called Wang De Nu Ren (王的女人), or Beauties of the Emperor (was there not one ugly woman in China's imperial past?). Starring Ming Dao (明道), Yuan "Mabel" Shanshan (袁姗姗), and Joe Chen (陈乔恩).
Wang De Nu Ren is essentially a reenactment of Mei Gui Jiang Hu except the setting is in ancient China instead of semi-modern China, so things made a teensy-weensy more sense.
I say a teensy-weensy because Yu Zheng made Lu Zhi (played by Joe Chen) still in a love triangle with her historical husband Liu Bang (Emperor Gaozu of Han) and….wait for it…Xiang Yu, King of Chu.
(For those of you who don't know, Xiang Yu was Liu Bang's greatest contender for the position of emperor after the fall of the Qin Dynasty. And he never so much as met Lu Zhi. Plus he had more than enough wives of his own. There's actually a famous Chinese play turned into a movie that describes the end of Xiang Yu and his wife Consort Yu at the end of their lives.)
Worst of all, Yu Zheng had to change the names of all of the main characters (Lu Zhi, Liu Bang, Xiang Yu, etc) because apparently you can't rework history to this extent on national television. So now we end up with Lu Le (Lu Zhi), Hai Tian (Liu Bang), and Yun Kuang (Xiang Yu). The only one with a semi-real name was Yu Miaoge (Consort Yu), because I didn't know her actual name at the time, so I could accept imagining it as Miaoge. But it turned out that Yu Miaoge and Lu Zhi were pseudo-sisters/BFFs (like Shen'er and Yifang/Yunxi in Schemes of a Beauty).
Gah! In retrospect, I liked Mei Gui Jiang Hu better. At least you could imagine that it was a story instead of a bad reworking of Chinese history that makes no sense whatsoever.
Plus, in Beauties of an Emperor the love triangle between Lu Zhi-Liu Bang-Xiang Yu was complicated by the fact that Xiang Yu had a love triangle of his own: with Yu Miaoge and Liu Zhi. Absolutely hated that.
I really don't get why Yu Zheng seems like Yuan Shanshan and Joe Chen being on opposite sides of a love triangle, or why he likes for the guy in the triangle to choose Yuan Shanshan every…single…time…sorry, rambling again, but if you ever watch Swordman [sic] you'll get what I'm saying.
Below: Joe Chen (left), Yuan Shanshan (right)
Beauty of Lies: The Sequel
Obviously, the Han Dynasty didn't end with Emperor Wu. So what happened after? Well, curious fans-of-Chinese-history-and/or-Chinese-dramas, you'll get your question answered next summer by the new drama Da Han Qing Yuan Zhi Yun Zhong Ge (大汉清远之云中歌). Also known by the official translation of Love From the Yunge Desert. Not sure if I got that official translation correct, and I don't care enough to recheck. I hate the new title Yu Zheng is giving it anyways.
In case you were wondering, this new drama will also be produced by Yu Zheng.
It's based off a romance novel by Chinese author Tong Hua called Yun Zhong Ge, which means Song in the Clouds (very nice title! Yu Zheng, you should keep it for the drama!). Song in the Clouds is about Yun Ge (the protagonist, whose name literally means Cloud Song) and her love triangle (never a romance without a love triangle…sigh) which includes Emperor Zhao of Han and this other guy called Meng Jue. And sort of Liu Bingyi.
Emperor Zhao, historically, was the youngest son of Emperor Wu. He became emperor at eight years old, after Emperor Wu killed: his Empress Wei Zifu, their son the Crown Prince Liu Ju, the entire family of Liu Ju, the entire family of Wei Zifu, and Emperor Zhao's own mother as well (for fear she would turn out like Lu Zhi. That old lady might have been long dead by then, but she was still fresh in the minds of everyone).
But poor Emperor Zhao dies early in life (sixteen, I think?), and succeeding him was his great-nephew, the grandson of the dead former Crown Prince Liu Ju, Liu Bingyi, who was known as Emperor Xuan of Han. Liu Bingyi had a very eventful youth after his grandfather Liu Ju was killed for treason against Emperor Wu and he himself went from royalty to commoner to royalty again.
I am paradoxically super excited for Yun Zhong Ge, movie-version. I'm not entirely sure why…oh well. Just keeping my fingers crossed that its as good as Schemes of a Beauty and Yuan 33 doesn't get switched in at the last minute.
Next time: Time Travel: Confusing Us with Confucius
"China is history" --Frank Capra, The Battle of China (1944)
Chinese's four thousand years and many, many dynasties are the bane of many an AP World History student. (If that sounds like you, you might want to check out the YouTube video here which has an easy-to-remember song that names the main Chinese dynasties). But remember, you're not the only ones who have struggled with them--at the very, you didn't have to live them.
According to American textbooks, the first Chinese dynasty was the Shang Dynasty. According to Chinese oral tradition, that was actually the second dynasty. The first was called Xia, but because there has been so little written evidence from that period, most Western historians are skeptical of its existence. And even earlier, there was pre-dynasty period. What happened in this period was the whole Yellow River Civilization events--people learned to farm, to live together in societies, etc. There were also two important people called Huang Di and Yan Di (no relation, by the way), who were the leaders of the Yellow River Civilization societies. Whatever they did ('cause I'm not entirely sure what, but it was great!) was so significant that even today, Chinese people call themselves "the descendants of Yan and Huang."
Next came the Xia. Unfortunately, I also know very little about the Xia Dynasty (blame it on my American education), let's advance straight to the Shang Dynasty. Now, I know something about this from reading a very ancient and incomprehensible Chinese history book called Shi Ji (according to Google, this translates into Records of the Grand Historian, which sounds awfully pretentious and horribly long, so I will continue to call it Shi Ji), which was written by Sima Qian, an important Chinese historian. The penultimate Shang Emperor had two sons (maybe more, but these two were the important ones). One of them was called Wei Ziqi, who was elder but was unfortunately born of a concubine, so he was technically ineligible to succeed his father. Why?
I will explain this.
To Succeed at Succeeding: All About the Chinese Succession
As you may be able to tell from "Dynastic Struggles," China's dynasties struggled--a lot. The throne of the emperor was hereditary, passed down from father to son, so long as angry peasants and discontent lords didn't decide to overthrow them. Unfortunately, this happened a lot, and led to the installation of a many a new dynasty.
There were also periods of extreme decentralization where many states fought each other for power. Nowadays, these periods are known by names such as "Warring States Period," "Three Kingdoms Period," and "Five Kingdoms and Ten States Period." Pretty obvious as to what the state of China (no pun intended) during those years were like. I will discuss these periods more in depth when we get to them.
Internal dynastic struggles were another mainstay of the succession problems. Emperors tended to face one of two problems: no sons, or too many sons. Some lucky ones had the perfect number of sons, but those were few and far in between, and besides, the combination of ambitious courtiers, ambitious generals, and ambitious eunuchs ensured that even then there would be little peace.
If the emperor had too many sons, the taizi, or crown prince, was supposed to inherit. Sadly (for the crown princes), this was not always the case, because he wasn't always chosen for his brains. Instead, the two criteria tended to be di and zhang. Di refers to the status of his mother; a son born of the first wife is born of di, a son born of a concubine or a lesser wife is born of shu. Technically, sons born of shu aren't supposed to be the main heir. The other criterium, zhang refers to the order of birth. This is sort of like primogeniture, except with polygamy, which, of course, complicates the whole thing.
Back to the Shang
Going back to the Shang Dynasty and Wei Ziqi, we see that Wei Ziqi had a younger brother who was born of their father's first wife. So Wei Ziqi, who was faithful and good, let his younger brother become king.
Big mistake. This brother is known as King Zhou of Shang, and he is now infamous for being one of the worst and emperors in Chinese history. In fact, there is a whole fantasy story (known as Feng Shen Yan Yi, or Investiture of the Gods) that details his fall, which was supposedly engineered by Chinese deities. King Zhou's favorite concubine, Da Ji, is also pretty infamous, and has the added insult of being called the reason for King Zhou's downward spiral into corruption. According to legend and Investiture of the Gods, Da Ji wasn't even human; she was an evil, nine-tailed fox sprite sent to seduce King Zhou to the dark side. She was also cruel and bloodthirsty and made King Zhou kill his other concubines, thereby upsetting all of his lords, many of whom were related to those concubines.
A nine-tailed fox. In Chinese lore, certain animals could transform into humans after years of practicing magic.
Back to real history: King Zhou of Shang was defeated, eventually, by King Wu of Zhou (no relation to King Zhou, in fact, King Zhou killed King Wu's father and brother), and Wu founded the Zhou Dynasty, which is the third Chinese dynasty. Technically, the Zhou Dynasty is divided into Western Zhou and Eastern Zhou, but who's counting?
Fun Fact: the Zhou Dynasty was the longest of the Chinese dynasties, lasting a whole eight hundred years. Putting it in context, if Columbus established a dynasty when he "discovered" the Americas, and it still ruled today--that is how long the Zhou Dynasty lasted.
Another story: King You of the Western Zhou had a beautiful concubine named Bao Shi. To make her smile, he lit the fires that signaled to his vassal lords that he was in danger, and whenever they would rush over to help him, she would laugh at them. After doing this several times to amuse her, King You's vassals got tired of being made fools of…and unfortunately for King You, one day, when he really was being attacked, he tried to light the fires and no one came to his rescue...
After the Zhou, there was a brief period of decentralization and division in China known as the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period. This was ended by the man who united China: Qin Shi Huang, of Terracotta Army fame, who was the first ruler of the Qin Dynasty. He not only united China geographically, but he also unified the language system, the money, the measurement system, and all those other systems necessary to create a real, unified county.
There is a famous story in China (recorded in, you guessed it, Shi Ji) called "Jing Ke attacks King of Qin." Jing Ke pretended to be a diplomat (or actually I think he really was one, just one with an ulterior motive in mind) and he was presenting a scroll with a map of his master's lands to Qin Shi Huang as a gesture of allegiance. However, while presenting it, he pulled out a dagger that he had hid inside the scroll and attempted to kill Qin Shi Huang to prevent him from taking over Jing Ke's homeland. Qin Shi Huang dodged it, and Jing Ke died instead. Like everything else in Chinese history, this has been dramatized by modern Chinese writers and filmmakers. There was a funny parody of this on the Chinese New Year's Show that can be found here.
Sadly for Qin Shi Huang, his dynasty didn't last long. See, his son wasn't exactly cut out for emperor-ship, so when Qin Shi Huang died, well, you know. Someone else took over.
This led to another brief period of anarchy before the Han Dynasty took over…
Next up: Deeply Dramatic: The Han Dynasty and its TV Counterpart
Like this? Hate this? Comment below to give us feedback on how we can best tailor our "Dynastic Struggles" to best teach you about Chinese history!
Picture of Pangu, ancestor of humankind. (Image via orientaldiscovery.com)
The story of 开天辟地 (kāi tiān pì dì) is a story of the creation of world, when heaven and earth broke apart. Chinese legend tells of a time when the sky and the earth were once fused together as one. The world as a whole was an egg, or a 鸡蛋 (jí dàn) in Chinese. After thousands of years, Pangu, the creator of the world, broke the egg. The light eregg white became the sky and the heavier egg yolk the earth. Pangu lifted the sky and kept the earth and sky separated. Everyday, he would grow a little bit taller, until the sky became very high up. Once Pangu realized his task of 开天辟地 (kāi tiān pì dì) was completed, he passed away.
When he died, his body became the five most famous mountains in China: Mt. Song, Mt. Tai, Mt. Heng (in Hunan province), Mt. Hua, and Mt. Heng (in Shanxi province).
This legend inspired the idiom 开天辟地, which refers to the formation of heaven and earth.
Read the story in Chinese here, and the English version here.