Chinese Film Culture and History Series: “China in the Classics” (English subtitles), as explained by Dr. Quan Le. China Rising Radio Sinoland 211108

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By Jeff J. Brown

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Note before starting: Baba Beijing is really working hard at promoting Chinese soft power around the world. Culture and history are a big part of that, which China has in spades, going back 5,000 years. CGTN (China Global Television Network is being used as a high-quality vehicle for part of these efforts. Others include major motion pictures, which I just reported on (https://chinarising.puntopress.com/2021/10/26/lets-compare-chinese-headlines-to-the-wests-its-like-looking-at-the-world-from-two-different-universes-china-rising-radio-sinoland-211026/), as well as adding English subtitles to many classic Chinese films and more recent TV movie series, which have been presented here with Dr. Quan Le (https://chinarising.puntopress.com/search/?q=Chinese%20Film).  

 The “Art of War by Sun Zi” was just released today, so I suspect there will be others in the future. The Chinese people’s historical and cultural reservoir is virtually infinite.  

 Where possible, I am including the books in Epub, Mobi and HTML, for your reading pleasure. Two of the five are massive, multi-volume texts, with thousands of pages and are not available online except in Mandarin, in China. 

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Article 

 Five quite remarkable productions appear on CGTN (China Global TV Network) lately under the general name “China in the Classics”, or more fully,

China in the Records & Canons or China in the Classics is : 典 籍 里 的 中 国 (Dian3 Ji2 Li3 de Zhong1 Guo2) 

1- THE BOOK OF DOCUMENTS / SHUJING 

       It is one of the Five Chinese Classics. The 6th on music, Yue Jing, is lost. A more comprehensive list will name 13 Classics, the Five fundamental ones + Eight.  

      The Five are: Shujing (The Book of Documents) 

                          Shijing (The Book of Poetry) 

                          Yijing (The Book of Change) 

                           Yi Li & Zhou Li (Rituals. Education. Epistemological pathway. Behavior. Discovery of the inner & outer universes) 

                            Chun Qiu (Spring & Autumn) 

                                 History & Philosophy book written by Confucius (551 BCE-479 BCE) 

The Book of Documents 尚 书 (Shang1 Shu1) transmitted by Fu Sheng (268 BCE-178 BCE). The extant Book of Documents has 58 chapters (篇, pian4). The one transmitted by Fu Sheng 28. The Shang Shu’s documents storytelling time framework is from the XXIV century BCE to the VII century BCE. The collection starts with Yao Dian 尧 典 Yao2 Dian3 (The Canon of Yao, 2356 BCE-2255 BCE) and ends with Qin Shi 秦 誓 Qin2 Shi4 (The speech of Duke Mu of Qin, ruled from 659 BCE to 621 BCE).

More than half of all the texts concerns the Zhou Dynasty (1046 BCE to 256 BCE).

Scientific philological studies show that the oldest texts of this collection are from the XI century BCE, meaning     the beginning of the Zhou Dynasty (1046 BCE-256 BCE). The rest are later creations from the X century BCE to as late as the III century BCE.  Especially scholars from the Spring & Autumn Era (770 BCE-453 BCE) & the Warring States Era (453 BCE-221 BCE) wanted to have a synthesis of what happened in the previous two millenia. It’s quite astonishing that in spite of inevitable errors in that kind of endeavor, later archaeological researches will confirm mostly their writings, same for the Han Dynasty Historian Sima Qian (145 BCE to 86 BCE) statements and Magnus Opus 使 记 (Shi3 Ji4) Records of The Grand Historian, in 130 chapters (70 biographies, 30 chapters on the Noble Houses, 12 Basic Annals of the major dynasties and principalities, 10 Tables on chronology & genealogy and 8 treatises). The main explanation for me is the strong annalistic tradition of the Zhou Royal Court and later, of the many princely courts of the politically independent states.

The four major epochs treated in the Book of Documents are :

1-三 皇 五 帝 (San1 Huang2 Wu3 Di4) : THE 3 AUGUSTS & 5 EMPERORS

Chinese traditional historiography & history gave this name to the millennium from 3000 BCE to 2070 BCE.

Archaeological discoveries belonging to that time frame are labeled Longshan Culture artefacts 龙 山 文 化 Long2 Shan1 Wen2 Hua4 : The Longshan Culture : The Dragon’s Mountain Culture.

2- 夏 THE XIA DYNASTY (2070 BCE to 1600 BCE)

There are no written artefacts for this dynasty. Archaeological excavations produced many discoveries of artefacts called Erlitou culture 二里头 文 化 (Er2 Li3 Tou2 Wen2 Hua4) cultural relics. Strictly speaking, those relics are from a Bronze Age urban society in Henan from 1900 BCE to 1500 BCE.Chinese historians identified those remains with the Xia dynasty because there is a perfect correspondence with the detailed information given by the traditional historiography.

Those relics have been discovered by Xu Xusheng near Luoyang, Henan province in 1959. In general, archaeological work in China is not done blindly because the traditional documents indicate where to look for what you want to search. Luck plays a role obviously, since the discovery of the famous Terracotta Warriors from the First Emperor’s Mausoleum was made by a peasant in 1974 while working in his field or the discovery of Fu Hao’s Mausoleum, Fu Hao being the favorite and outstanding consort (general, strategist and religious leader) of King Wuding of the Shang dynasty.

3- 商 殷 THE SHANG-YIN DYNASTY or simply THE SHANG DYNASTY (1600 BCE to 1046 BCE)

We have written artefacts from this dynasty. Archaeological findings are called Erligang culture 二 里 岗 文 化 (Er4 Li3 Gang3 Wen2 Hua4) relics for the Bronze Age urban society of the XVI century BCE. It’s the so-called Shang Zhengzhou City discovered in 1951 located in the present-day Zhengzhou city of Henan Povince. There is a later archaeological phase called Yinxu 殷 墟 (Yin1Xu1) meaning the Ruins of Yin. Yinxu is near modern Anyang City situated in the north of Henan province. Yinxu is the remains of the last City of the Shang dynasty called in the Oracle Bones Inscriptions Da Yi Shang 大 邑 商 (Da4 Yi4 Shang1).

The excavations concerning this phase were done under the direction of Li Ji, a member of Academia Sinica, in the 1930s. Many tombs’ objects including dazzling bronze vessels have been studied but the most precious are of course the Oracle Bones Inscriptions.

4- 周 THE ZHOU DYNASTY (1046 BCE-256 BCE)

The Western Zhou dynasty (1046 BCE-770 BCE).They truly ruled from their western Capital Cities : ZongZhou (the Ceremonial Capital City at the heart of their homeland at the foot of Mount Qi) and the bigger Feng-Hao (administrative & military Capital City, Fengjing being on the west bank of the Feng River & Haojing on the east bank). The Eastern Zhou Dynasty (770 BCE-256 BCE). They became religious & ceremonial figures without political power except inside their small eastern Royal Domain around present day Luoyang City. Their eastern Capital City (hence the name Eastern Zhou Dynasty) was formed by Jiaru & Wangcheng.

They suffered in 770 BCE a crushing defeat at the hand of a coalition made of northwestern tribes and disgruntled feudal lords, hence the considerable loss of power and authority forcing them to relocate to the east, away from the northwestern tribes. The Lord of Qin having escorted successfully King Ping (ruled from 770 BCE to 720 BCE) to the safe abode of his Eastern Capital City, the defeated sovereign knew how to be gracious even in woes. He granted to the Lord of Qin the lost western Royal Domain if he manages somehow to expel the disheveled barbarians. The Lord of Qin, Duke Xiang,has been totally victorious and was the illustrious ancestor of the First Emperor of China.

The first phase is called the Spring & Autumn Era / 春 秋 Chun1 Qiu1  (770 BCE-453 BCE).

The Zhou Kings lost true political power but retained enough prestige to be still perceived as cultural models and managed to impose to the feudal lords their pretention as arbiters of political life in the Chinese world. They also offered an universally accepted code of conduct at war and in society for the gentlemen living in the Chinese (Hua Xia 华 夏 Hua2 Xia4 meaning The Splendid Civilized Ones) cultural sphere.

The 2nd is called the Warring States Era / 战 国 时 代 Zhan4 Guo2 Shi2 Dai4 (453 BCE-221 BCE).

The Zhou practically lost all prestige and in 325 BCE, all feudal lords proclaimed themselves kings except for the southern Chu State since their sovereign already crossed that line 4 centuries before. Warfare is a more and more violent affair, also more systematic in organization, logistics, tactics and strategy. It was also a very vibrant era for the development of high value artistic & intellectual life.

The Qin principality, under the rule of the great grand-father of the First Emperor, King ZhaoXiang (r. 306 BCE-250 BCE), conquered the small domain of the Zhou Royal House in 256 BCE. In 249 BCE, the minor branch of the Lords of Zhou was annihilated, the 800 years Royal House of Zhou thus vanished from this world… Sic transit gloria mundi…

Between 256 BCE and 221 BCE, there was not even a nominal ruler for the whole Chinese world. But it was obvious for the astute observer that Qin will capture ” the Deer of the Empire” and it happened in 221 BCE. King Zheng of Qin became the First August Emperor of Qin/China.  一 统 天下 (Yi Tong2 Tian1 Xia4) : Unification of All Under Heaven, also understood as Unification of The World. For the “Chinese” of the time, “China” was the World.

The Qin Dynasty was important because it introduced a form of government that will last for the next 21 centuries but the dynasty itself lasted 15 years (221 BCE-206 BCE). The 4 centuries Han dynasty (206 BCE to 220 CE) will transmit the cultural legacy of the Zhou Kings (1046 BCE-770 BCE & 770 BCE-256 BCE).

So, we can understand the emotions in the dramatized reconstitution showing Chao Cuo 晁 错 (Chao4 Cuo4) (200 BCE-154 BCE) commissioned by Emperor Wen (r.180 BCE-157 BCE) of the Han dynasty to visit & request from the venerable Fu Sheng 伏 生 (268 BCE-178 BCE), meticulous guardian of the Book of Documents, for a copy of it destined to the Imperial Library.

 

 
 

2- THE ANALECTS BY CONFUCIUS 

and his school 

     KONG (Family name) QIU (given name) 

     ZHONG NI (courtesy name) 

     KONG FU ZI means Noble Master Kong, the latinized form is: CONFUCIUS  

      The Analects or Selected Sayings (Lunyu) is a small 20-chapter book. 

      It has been created from 479 BCE (Confucius’ death) to 249 BCE (the year the principality of Lu has been destroyed. Confucius was born there and his school first developed in Lu). 

     Chapters 1 & 2 are general introductory chapters written long after or edited many times after Confucius’ death. 

      Chapters 3 to 7 are the most reliable when dealing with Confucius’s time because written in the years following Master Kong’s death in 479 BCE. 

     Chapter 7 gives us a moving portrait of Confucius in flesh. Chapter 10 is an idealized portrait of the Sage or of any Sage. 

      Chapter 8 & 9 have been most probably influenced by Zengzi’s (505 BCE- 436 BCE) disciples. Zengzi was a first-generation disciple of Confucius. Zengzi will teach Confucius’ grand-son, Kong Ji (481 BCE-401 BCE) aka Zisi/Master Si. 

       Chapters 1 to 10 are called the Upper Text because more reliable when concerning the 6th & 5th centuries BCE. 

        Chapters 11 to 20 are called the Lower Text. 

        Confucius’ offspring still exist nowadays. They are at the 83rd or 84th generation counting from Master Kong.  

         Master Kong was from a minor branch of the Ducal House of Song. The Ducal House of Song is itself a minor branch of the Royal House of Shang-Yin ruling from 1600 BCE to 1046 BCE. 

So, it is a 36-century-old family. 

         The Analects/Lun Yu/Selected Sayings are part of The Four Books: Lun Yu, Mencius, Zhong Yong (Doctrine of the Mean) written by Confucius’ grand-son, Zisi (481 BCE-401 BCE) and Da Xue (Great Learning) by Zengzi (505 BCE- 436 BCE) 

       MENCIUS is called The Second Sage in China. 

      According to tradition, 372 BCE to 289 BCE 

      According to modern research,  

                                       384 BCE to 305/301? BCE 

      Anyway, he lived 24 centuries ago. 

 He was famous for stating: ” The People are the most important, the Country/State second and  

the Sovereign last.” 

      His eponymous 14-chapter book is on philosophy, psychology, history, geopolitics 

and gives a quite interesting epistemological roadmap in chapter 13 or 7A. 

           The Classics (the five fundamental ones + 8) and the Four Books are the closest equivalent of the Bible for China and East Asia. 

 

  Here is the book for your reading pleasure, 

 Epub and Mobi: https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/10056

Online reading (HTML): The Project Gutenberg eBook of Chinese Literature Comprising the Analects of Confucius, the Sayings of Mencius, the Shi-King, the Travels of Fâ-Hien, and the Sorrows of Han, by Confucius et al. 

 

 

 

3- RECORDS OF THE GRAND HISTORIAN/SHIJI 

    SHIJI written by Sima Qian (145 BCE-86 BCE) 

         It is a daunting masterpiece composed by no less than 525 500 characters divided into 130 chapters: 70 chapters in the category Liezhuan (ranked biographies/glorious biographies), 30 chapters in Shijia (Noble Houses), 12 chapters in Benji (Basic Annals), 10 chapters in Biao (Tables on chronology & genealogy) and 8 chapters in the category Shu (Treatises/Monographs) dealing with music, rituals, calendar, astronomy, financial administration, rivers’ management etc. 

 

 Here is the book for your reading pleasure, 

 Epub and Mobi:

https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/24226

Read online: https://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/24226/pg24226.html  

 Note: you can use a translator for the Chinese. 

 

 

 

4- THE COMPENDIUM OF MATERIA MEDICA or BEN CAO GANG MU 

        by Li Shizhen (1518-1593) 

 One of the most advanced medical reference books from period, listing nearly 2,000 plants, flowers and other natural sources to mix and match, to treat thousands of illnesses, injuries and diseases. Li studied over 800 previously published medical reference books to create this massive, 53-volume set. 

 

 

5- THE ART OF WAR or SUN ZI BING FA 

        by Sun Zi (544 BCE – 496 BCE) 

There are 2 Masters Sun. They both wrote a book called 孙 子 宾 法 (Sun1 Zi3 Bin1 Fa3), meaning

Master’s Sun Art of War. The one written by Sun Wu is the famous one.

Sun Bin (386 BCE-316 BCE) worked for King Hui of Liang (ruled 369 BCE-319 BCE). Liang is also

and better known as Wei 魏 not to be confused with the smaller Wey 衞. The same King Hui of Liang had memorable conversations with Mencius (372 BCE-289 BCE) that have been recorded in the eponymous book of the Second Confucian Sage.

Sun Wu was born in 544 BCE and worked for King Helü of Wu (ruled 514 BCE-496 BCE) and was the director general of the campaign against the southern state of Chu culminating in the battle of Boju in 504 BCE. That event was a prefiguration to the more advanced art of warfare deploying itself fully 2 generations later in the Warring States Era (453 BCE- 221 BCE) and culminating with the creation of the First Chinese Empire in 221 BCE. The Chinese Empire will renew itself over 21 centuries, re-invigorating itself through the endeavors and dreams of 10 Major Dynasties and some lesser Noble Houses.

I often think of  the present Communist Party of China as the Red Dynasty, even if the supreme rule is not anymore the privilege of one family. But I see it as a positive evolution , the Red Dynasty doesn’t have to be a pale copy of its glorious predecessors but has to re-invent itself in accordance to the needs of our times. What the CPC has in common with the past rulers is the Mandate of Heaven :

the sacred duty of its members is to guarantee safety, order, food and education for the Chinese people. Their responsibilities include the Chinese civilisation’s rejuvenation and prepare the Chinese Nation to go into the future with substantiated & legitimate confidence.

The Art of War by Master Sun is likely the most well-known Chinese classic, among military and common people alike, all over the world. Unlike Western military strategists, who revel in the glory and gore of fighting, Sun Zi’s first rule of war is to avoid it all costs and if war must be engaged, to spare the lives of as many soldiers and civilians alike, including the enemy! His most famous dictum is,

 When in doubt or all else fails, retreat! 

 

 Here is the book for your reading pleasure, 

 Epub and Mobi: https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/132

 Read online (HTML): https://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/132/pg132-images.html

 

 

 

  ! Quan 

 

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Why and How China works: With a Mirror to Our Own History


ABOUT JEFF BROWN

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JEFF J. BROWN, Editor, China Rising, and Senior Editor & China Correspondent, Dispatch from Beijing, The Greanville Post

Jeff J. Brown is a geopolitical analyst, journalist, lecturer and the author of The China Trilogy. It consists of 44 Days Backpacking in China – The Middle Kingdom in the 21st Century, with the United States, Europe and the Fate of the World in Its Looking Glass (2013); Punto Press released China Rising – Capitalist Roads, Socialist Destinations (2016); and BIG Red Book on China (2020). As well, he published a textbook, Doctor WriteRead’s Treasure Trove to Great English (2015). Jeff is a Senior Editor & China Correspondent for The Greanville Post, where he keeps a column, Dispatch from Beijing and is a Global Opinion Leader at 21st Century. He also writes a column for The Saker, called the Moscow-Beijing Express. Jeff writes, interviews and podcasts on his own program, China Rising Radio Sinoland, which is also available on YouTubeStitcher Radio, iTunes, Ivoox and RUvid. Guests have included Ramsey Clark, James Bradley, Moti Nissani, Godfree Roberts, Hiroyuki Hamada, The Saker and many others. [/su_spoiler]

Jeff can be reached at China Rising, jeff@brownlanglois.com, Facebook, Twitter, Wechat (+86-19806711824/Mr_Professor_Brown, and Line/Signal/Telegram/Whatsapp: +33-612458821.

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