Barbarians and the Wall

Went to see Mulan, the live action remake of Disney’s animated cartoon with Kiddo yesterday. There were two struck me about the movie. One is the shallow point that Gong Li looks fantastic and it’s hard to believe that she’s in her 50s. The other point that struck me is the fact that the “bad guys,” or the “Northern Invaders” led by the villainous Bori Khan, looked hell of a lot better than the Chinese. It was like these guys were dressed in black, could scale walls and while on horse back they could turn around and fire arrows. The Chinese by contrast could merely march in formation and follow orders and kept bleating on about duty of the empire, country, village, family and so on.

While the movie is clearly Disney’s creation, they did get one thing right about Chinese history – namely the fact that Chinese history is the story of the constant conflict between tightly controlled central authority and lone wolf units. Thanks to Confucius, the Chinese have had a mad obsession with strong central authority and while Confucius was not wrong in his suggestion that government be staffed by intelligent people there was one flaw in his entire philosophy. It worked on the assumption that there was a golden age of a wise and benevolent ruler who always acted in the best interest of the people and any good ruler worth his salt would model himself on the rulers of the past.

As a result, the people who were revered in Confucian society were those who worked to preserve the status quo and looked inwards to keeping the system running, namely bureaucrats and farmers. The people who went beyond their shores and had to mix with different people, thus being exposed to outside influences, namely merchants and soldiers were spat upon in Confucian society. The Chinese built a “GREAT” Wall at the cost of millions of lives to keep invader or outside influences out.

What was the result of this obsession with a mythical golden age and looking back to the past? For over a thousand years, the highly civilized Chinese empire had its buttocks kicked on the battle field by “barbarian” hoards like the Mongols and the Manchus. The Chinese only got rid of “barbarian” overlords once the said overlords discovered the finer things about Chinese civilization and became as soft and flabby and the Chinese. This pattern ended when the Chinese got wacked by the European powers and it turned out that the Europeans had at that stage advanced beyond anything the Chinese had.

While the Chinese had a strong state and a unifying culture that got everyone to look to the centre, that very state stifled innovation. The emperor was always right and the only way to succeed in society was to study hard (specifically ancient text) and not create anything new. Change was bad because it meant a deviation from anything in the past, which was always better. China, was the world’s largest economy and as an ancient civilization it was a highly innovative one. Then, they stopped innovating and stayed in the Middle Ages while the Europeans went through the Renaissance and Reformation.

The barbarians by contrast had to struggle to survive. In their environment, one had to look after one’s self. Kids grew up working with animals, hunting and gathering food. Rather than a state, they were a confederation of tribes or small units that came together for bigger things. Collaboration and competition were a part of life. You had to be tough in order to survive and you needed to know how to collaborate and compete.

While the “GREAT” Wall worked initially, the barbarians found a way around it and China did end up being ruled by them. What happened? The Mongols found a leader in the form of Genghis Khan to unify them and they got round the Wall. While Genghis Khan probably didn’t know his Chinese characters, he was actually an openminded thinker. After taking China, he discovered Chinese technology and used their siege machinery to very great effect in his further conquest. It only went wrong for Genghis Khan and his decedents when they got a wee bit too comfortable as “Emperors” in China and became like the Chinese.

Confucius probably had noble thoughts in what he said. However, the practice only encouraged insularity, which screwed China up to the modern age. For much of modern history, Chinese people only succeeded when they got out of China and moved to places like Hong Kong, Singapore, Taiwan and the Chinatowns of the West, where they got away from overwhelming central authority and had to be open to outside influences.

One might point out that China has grown its economy despite strong central government. It is true that companies like Sinopec, the Bank of China and so on are global behemoths, the real strength of the Chinese economy lies in small and innovative companies. These are the companies that you don’t hear about. These are the companies that do not have the comfort of easy loans from state banks or the protection of the communist party.

It’s nice to be comfortable and its nice to stick in your comfort zone. It is nice to keep outside influences – out and not to mix with people who are different. However, Chinese history has shown that when this is carried to an extreme, you end up getting your arse kicked whenever you face any form of challenge. Chinese history has shown that you should never look back to a past or that government, even with one with bureaucrats with good degrees will keep you in comfort forever. Better go out into the world and face challenges. It will toughen you up and who knows, it will probably make you an arse kicker instead of someone who has his arse handed to him.

 

Tang Li

*Although I’ve been based mainly in Singapore for nearly two decades, I’ve had the privilege of being able meet people who have crossed borders and cultures. I’ve befriended ministers and ambassadors and worked on projects involving a former head of state. Yet, at the same time, I’ve had the privilege of befriending migrant labourers and former convicts. All of them have a story to tell. All of them add to the fabric of life. I hope to express the stories that inspire us to create life as it should be.

 

 

yyy
SPONSORED ADVERTISEMENT
Loading...

18 Responses to “Barbarians and the Wall”

  • Remove Liew Mun Leong:

    Straits Times: Temasek says CAG chairman Liew Mun Leong contributed much to S’pore, cautions against jumping to judgment over case involving ex-maid

    There is a saying in investment banking. You are only as good as your “last deal”. Based on this Liew Mun Leong is only as good as his “last deal” which is his dealing with his ex-maid. If the maid was illegally deploy he has to be held accountable.

    What Liew Mun Leong contributed before is really irrelevant. It does not give him a “free pass” for what he did subsequently. That is why criminals are sent to jail They were likely good before they committed a crime.

    Liw Mun Leong should also not get a “free pass” because he is Ho Ching’s friend.

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
  • CCS talking cock again:

    S’pore remains open to top global talent as it transforms its economy amid Covid-19: Chan Chun Sing

    CCS should explain how somebody earning only around $4,500 a month can be considered “top global talent”.

    Foreigners earning less that $9,000 per month with less that 5 years experience at a senior level is too junior to add value to Singapore. They are just “cheap” foreign workers because they are exempted from CPF.

    If CCS find a real “top global talent” he should give this person his job because he (CCS) is definitely not talent. He is just a exam-smart civil servant who got a free-ride to the top because of his family connections.

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
  • Free Rider Singaporeans:

    Dear Tang Li, you said :Better go out into the world and face challenges. It will toughen you up and who knows, it will probably make you an a$$e kicker instead of someone who has his a$$e handed to him.
    ==================================================================
    Yes, I strongly agreed with you and Those who thumb me down are 99.999% free rider who never donate to help Andrew.

    But, Hard Truth is Free Rider Singaporeans cannot stand up to challenges.

    Hard Truth:
    1. Free rider Singaporeans cheat to pass exam using 10 years series Cheat Sheet just like what the Americans do.

    Microsoft Certification Exam Dumps
    https://www.exam-labs.com/vendor/Microsoft

    2. Free rider Singaporeans is unemployable is because they are lazy, unmotivated, uncreative, uninnovative, untalented except cheat to pass exam.

    3. Free rider Singaporeans always wait for solution to deliver to them on a plate.

    4. Free rider Singaporeans always hide behind monikers and whine instead of stepping out to build connection in community.

    Free rider Singaporeans are so shameless that they even setup a website to promote cheating.

    https://www.kiasuparents.com/kiasu/

    Free rider Singaporeans are 10 years series cheater…Cheaters can never stand up to challenges except continue cheating ….

    GE2024.PAP.Guarantee.Win.Again
    Majullah $PAP$ $PAP$ Huat$ Huat$ Huat$
    Lazy Singaporeans must be Cheaper, Better, Faster

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
  • Ho Ching is a "free-rider":

    Straits Times: Temasek’s 1-year shareholder return turns negative, more uncertainty ahead with Covid-19

    Temasek’s shareholders’ returns in 2008-2010 were also negative because Ho Ching lost BILLIONS when invested Temasek’s money in Merrill Lynch and Barclays.

    In fact, the billions she put into Merrill Lynch was all quickly paid out as bonuses to senior staff. It did not save the company and was acquired for almost nothing by Bank of America.

    Ho Ching got “cold feet” after investing in Barclays. Fearing the bank would be nationalized she sold out losing BILLIONS. The Qatar sovereign wealth fund also investment in Barclays but it did not sell out. It hanged on and when it subsequently sold its investment in the UK bank it made a profit of $300m.

    Ho Ching continues to get a “free-ride” at Temasek because she is not held accountable for her bad investments. she and her husband are the most expensive free-riders in the country.

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
  • Free Rider Singaporeans:

    Tang Li said :The people who went beyond their shores and had to mix with different people, thus being exposed to outside influences, namely merchants and soldiers were spat upon in Confucian society.
    ============================================
    Dear Tang Li,
    You are right, Confucius teaching is inward, closed mindedness civilization.

    Never never learn or get near Confucius teaching. It is against progress.

    Please support America Donald Trump effort to shutdown all Confucius school孔子学院 worldwide, including Singapore.

    https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2020/aug/13/trump-administration-confucius-institute-is-arm-of/

    Only British Council or American Council be allowed to operate worldwide.

    GE2024.PAP.Guarantee.Win.Again
    Majullah $PAP$ $PAP$ Huat$ Huat$ Huat$
    Lazy Singaporeans must be Cheaper, Better, Faster

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
  • Sojoürner:

    I know this is outside the frame of reference from which the writer speaks, but this convention is merely a convention of his own making. In fact, there is no distinction between political boundaries and ownership boundaries. Land is a fixed factor resource and more for you means less for me. The entire world is defined by property rights and property rights have and always will be enforced. Otherwise, the better part of humanity would simply cease to exist, and even then we would end up right back where we started from.

    The Chinese border walls (there were many, some more than a thousand years older than the Great Wall) often did block nomadic tribes, although it is true that they failed when their defenders allowed the invaders to pass.It provides a somewhat more nuanced and balanced perspective. Walls, because they were largely effective prior to gunpowder, were common throughout world history and allowed the transformation of communities that gave rise to civilization. Pity so much history is being distorted by politics now.

    The key question is whether the walls made a difference. Would the Chinese have been better off not bothering? A visitation from the Mongol horde was not a pleasant experience by the way. The city of Kiev was razed and its people slaughtered. Hungary also suffered huge depredations and a significant loss of its population. So did China–until they built a higher and stronger wall after the expulsion of the Yuan dynasty. Scare quotes or not, there are such things as marauding barbarians and walls have sometimes kept them out.

    Looking forward (rather than to the past), we know that the world’s population will continue to dramatically increase and that the pain and suffering we’re seeing today with countless masses of depraved humanity will likewise get worse and worse. We’ve more than demonstrated that we’re completely incapable of addressing the problem of rampant over-population in any rational way, so the only recourse the more stable nations have is to aggressively protect their own communities, starting right here in our Singapore.

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
  • Ali Baba & his Faulty Theses:

    (RE: Thanks to Confucius, the Chinese have had a mad obsession with strong central authority and while Confucius was not wrong in his suggestion that government be staffed by intelligent people there was one flaw in his entire philosophy. It worked on the assumption that there was a golden age of a wise and benevolent ruler who always acted in the best interest of the people and any good ruler worth his salt would model himself on the rulers of the past.)

    Anyone who has seriuosly studied Confucius’ teachings understand that his prime advocacy was for the presumed leader of any grouping of people to be “authoritative” rather than “authoritarian”; and the social order to which he aspired is to be one based on “excellence” rather than on “compulsion”.

    Confucian teaching rests on three essential values: Filial piety, humaneness, and customary propriety (ritual).

    If the multifarious monarchs of China had piggybacked on the state scholar system for the sake of keeping public order and dominance over the sheeples in their kingdoms, these emperors certainly in many cases were not subjecting themselves to the Confucian ideal of the virtuous and cultured gentleman.

    “Do not do unto others what you do not want done to yourself.”

    “Virtue is more to man than either water or fire. I have seen men die from treading onto water and into fire, but I have never seen a man die from treading the course of virtue.”

    “Go before the people with yourself as example, and be laborious as to their affairs.”

    One who presumes to pronounce judgement on any of the universal sages of humanity ought to first do much homework before submitting his PhD for mass consumption. So AhLi, what does your mentality make of this?:-

    “A ruler makes use of the majority and neglects the minority, and so he does not devote himself to virtue but to law.”
    (Han Fei Tzu)

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
  • xoxo:

    Great Wall of China?
    Thats history.
    Now,we have MIGHTY WALL OF USA/MEXICO.
    Everyone is tired of quack-globalisation.

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
  • Sojoürner:

    Cont’d…

    That Confucius is the only Chinese philosopher whose name one seem to be able to think of, coupled with mistaken beliefs that: a) his thought failed to lead to any subsequent “discourse,” and b) that Chinese philosophers didn’t engage in “openness” and “discourse” with each other, is proof positive of the failure of Western education. So many important quests for philosophical understanding are tragically curtailed by an Eurocentric perspective.

    For a start, one might try reading “Hundred Schools of Thought.” It will give you a hint of the richness and complexity of Chinese philosophy and how its scholars engaged each others’ thought across centuries, during the Golden Age of Chinese philosophy. Two other famous philosophers in the classical Confucian tradition I can think of are Mencius and Xunzi. They certainly had very different takes on the world than Confucius or each other.That was the path of intellectual stultification and provincialism, as so many other Chinese understood.

    Confucianism (Ru Jiao, or the Doctrine of Scholars in Chinese — it was the Jesuits who decided it all came down to one guy). There is no better example of a long-running philosophical conversation than Ru Jiao (although there may be equally good ones). The fact that a person who clearly knows something about philosophy doesn’t know this perfectly illustrates the author’s point

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
  • Great Asia:

    Tang Li,

    You’re a shallow banana who get to know Chinese cultures through the lens of angmoh monkeys.

    Ha ha ha!

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
  • DeLorean:

    Remove Liew Mun Leong:
    Straits Times: Temasek says CAG chairman Liew Mun Leong contributed much to S’pore, cautions against jumping to judgment over case involving ex-maid

    There is a saying in investment banking. You are only as good as your “last deal”. Based on this Liew Mun Leong is only as good as his “last deal” which is his dealing with his ex-maid. If the maid was illegally deploy he has to be held accountable.

    What Liew Mun Leong contributed before is really irrelevant. It does not give him a “free pass” for what he did subsequently. That is why criminals are sent to jail They were likely good before they committed a crime.

    Liw Mun Leong should also not get a “free pass” because he is Ho Ching’s friend.

    Liew Mun Leong did not contribute for free. He was amply rewarded. He was no philanthropist either.
    All this is irrelevant. His family was exploitative and conniving. The AGC needs to uncover the facts.
    The facts should determine the outcome.

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
  • Anaylize The Unanalyzable:

    I’m afraid our education system is designed to produce unthinking, assembly line, obedient “robots”.

    You see this in schools, uniform groups, army, work culture. People always must be deferent to authority and not act unless permitted. So little wonder why you have lots of unthinking, unmotivated, uncreative people?

    Those who demonstrated an ability to think – without being taught how by JCs and universities. These are normally the 1st class Honours students cheery picked for scholarships and top civil servic e jobs.

    But majority are assembly line robots. Ready to obey without question.

    Free Rider Singaporeans:
    Dear Tang Li, you said :Better go out into the world and face challenges. It will toughen you up and who knows, it will probably make you an a$$e kicker instead of someone who has his a$$e handed to him.
    ==================================================================
    Yes, I strongly agreed with you and Those who thumb me down are 99.999% free rider who never donate to help Andrew.

    But, Hard Truth is Free Rider Singaporeans cannot stand up to challenges.


    Hard Truth:
    1. Free rider Singaporeans
    cheat to pass exam using 10 years series Cheat Sheet just like what the Americans do.

    Microsoft Certification Exam Dumps
    https://www.exam-labs.com/vendor/Microsoft

    2. Free rider Singaporeans is unemployable is because they are lazy, unmotivated, uncreative, uninnovative, untalented except cheat to pass exam.

    3. Free rider Singaporeans always wait for solution to deliver to them on a plate.

    4. Free rider Singaporeans always hide behind monikers and whine instead of stepping out to build connection in community.

    Free rider Singaporeans are so shameless that they even setup a website to promote cheating.

    https://www.kiasuparents.com/kiasu/

    Free rider Singaporeans are 10 years series cheater…Cheaters can never stand up to challenges except continue cheating ….

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
  • going into a loop:

    //As a result, the people who were revered in Confucian society were those who worked to preserve the status quo and looked inwards to keeping the system running, namely bureaucrats and farmers.//

    every system just like any good programming line going into a loop has its own usefulness of the day / year / decades ???

    just that certain system (controlled by some cabal of like minded people) wants others to change to suit their needs BUT would not do otherwise for the other side even changing situation or time calls for it ??? and this system will perpetuate for a long time (sometimes going into decades / centuries) until it collapses on its own weight ?

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
  • pap lying S$m grubbers:

    pap liew mun leong has done what is clear as day wrong.

    fixing of a low wage maid.

    out come pap temasick singing praises about the same pap liew mun leong.

    liew mun leong has fixed a low wage maid. he must be jailed for the offence, since the low wage maid is harmed, the pap spf is harmed, the pap court judge is harmed.

    so how come pap temasick can say liew mun leong is ok because he is making good S$m from pap owned companies? can even say liew mun leong is a people builder?

    our mom is 80+. worked whole life as a construction worker. YET has adopted children and never fixed anyone in her 80+ years.

    is our mom is a better Singaporean or his pap liew mun leong going to escape jail for his evil fixing of a low wage maid.

    well, in pap island run by pap ownself enrich ownself S$m folks, hard to say. they would tell my mom, if ever she needed pap help, to get off their eLite uNcaring fAce and yet will do all it can to ensure pap liew mun leong gets the INSIDE 200m is not within 200m final verdict.

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
  • I am confused:

    Free Rider Singaporeans:
    Tang Li said :The people who went beyond their shores and had to mix with different people, thus being exposed to outside influences, namely merchants and soldiers were spat upon in Confucian society.
    ============================================
    Dear Tang Li,
    You are right, Confucius teaching is inward, closed mindedness civilization.

    Never never learn or get near Confucius teaching. It is against progress.

    Please support America Donald Trump effort to shutdown all Confucius school孔子学院 worldwide, including Singapore.

    https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2020/aug/13/trump-administration-confucius-institute-is-arm-of/

    Only British Council or American Council be allowed to operate worldwide.

    GE2024.PAP.Guarantee.Win.Again
    Majullah $PAP$ $PAP$ Huat$ Huat$ Huat$
    Lazy Singaporeans must be Cheaper, Better, Faster

    Who is Confucius?

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
  • Bad Boy:

    If Confucius teaching’s that good, China wont have so many hit and run car accidents.

    Sometime a china car hit someone then stop ahead pausing a few seconds , reverse and run over victims a few times ensuring his or her demise before escaping or reporting to the police.

    And all these red bean , tan Kl , great asia , ….doctor chan ? , would have settle techie’s problem long ago.

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
  • Bad Boy:

    网曝湖南一男子因婚恋纠纷杀害3人后跳楼

    https://www.youtube.com/embed/RVV62npeR2k

    GD Star Rating
    loading...
  • PRC Insurgents:

    I heard from young friends the movie’s a let down. Action also disappointing.

    Casting – Why Liu Yi Fei?

    This lady acting skill 10 years also never break through.

    Probably to appeal China’s audience ?

    GD Star Rating
    loading...

Leave a Reply

 characters available


Scroll Down For More Interesting Stuff


Member Services
Self-SupportMembers LoginSelf-Support
Sponsored Advertisement
Search On TR Emeritus
Sponsored Advertisement
Announcement
Advertisements
Visitors Statistic
Latest Statistic
Advertisement

UA-67043412-1