In recent days, I had some (too many) debates on line with people who challenged Chinese history in various different ways. From the claim of 5000 years of history, to Chinese historical claims on territories.
I thought to ask myself, why such hostility toward Chinese history? Was I that wrong about Chinese history?
As it turns out, I wasn’t. I knew more about Chinese history than most non-Chinese. That’s my identity and my culture. I’m proud of that.
Then, it hit me. My “Chinese-ness” is in my sense of my history as a Chinese person. Without my history, I would not be much of a Chinese. Without Chinese history, China wouldn’t be much of China. It would just be another region with forgotten traditions.
And that would expose China (the region) to take over and foreign influence.
And that’s the REAL reason behind the dispute over history. History is often written by victors. To destroy another, Empires have to resort to destroy their history (sack their temples, burn their records, etc.). Enslaved and Oppressed are often robbed of their history, which robs them of their identity.
“Assimilation” of the Conquered, begins with destruction of identity and history. African Americans and the Native Americans are oppressed minorities, unable to stand up for themselves, because precisely they were robbed of their history and their identity.
So it is, we Chinese and China are under the assault on our history, by the West, to rob us of our history and our identity.
(1) Our “5000 years of history” is mocked as mere “myth”.
I do not deny that there are myths and legends in our history. Does that make it less of a history? Then what of Jewish History? Or Christian Biblical history?
Would the Westerners dare to mock Jewish History or Christian Biblical history as mere “myth”??
See, that’s the other thing: China’s stories fill our memories. Thus, China is less dominated by Religions. Whereas Europeans lost much of their attachments to their “stories”, and Religions’ stories came to fill their void.
(2) Chinese historical claims to territories are mocked as “ridiculous”.
Then whose historical claims are valid? All territorial claims are based upon some history.
Again, what makes my history ridiculous, while others’s history “valid”?
Chinese have maps dating back further than others with names and locations of islands and marking oceans where Chinese fished and sought shelter. Why should such things be discounted and mocked, while treaties of illegal annexations and underhanded deals are accepted?
The thing is, Chinese historians have debated about Chinese history for centuries. There are many different interpretations of events. It’s not monolithic interpretation of history. But for Westerners, they never see that, and they still believe that somehow the West faces up to its past atrocities better.
Well, I’m still waiting for an official apology on the Chinese Exclusion Act (and the British brutal crackdowns in HK of the past). So, no, the West does not own up to history that well.
So why the mockery of Chinese history?
Because it is but a step to destroy the Chinese identity, just as the West has done before to others with their history.
Consider this: the Western tradition of “assimilation” was often religious conversion and “westernization” of many non-Western people, from the Native American tribes to African slaves.
Yet, when the African Americans have lost their native history, and then sought to build their own. Their “urban cultural” identity is now mocked and villainized as “Gangster culture”, tied to stereotypical propensity for violence and crime. 1 US politician even go so far as to accuse the Urban American Black culture as “unwilling to work”.
Likewise, we see other cultures and other histories under assault in Europe. Muslims, Africans, Immigrants, Gypsies, etc., all get portrayed and mocked for similar things, high crime, laziness, etc.
This is how the West has historically tried to destroy non-Western cultures and history, and it still goes on. It is in essence, the continuation of Imperialism into mainstream Western society. They don’t consider it “racism”, but in effect, it is so obviously racism.
Thus, for Chinese people, we must realize that the West harbors anything but contempt for Chinese culture and history, and realize that only Chinese people can uphold the survival of our Chinese culture and history. This is our identity.
Learn this from the Jewish people. Through all those years of persecution without a homeland, they survived as a people because they held onto their culture and history. That too is a reminder for us that we must do no less.