Western travelers will likely wonder why these gold platings were scraped off in water vessels throughout Forbidden City. This is the last visible hint in Forbidden City that still remains today of the European invaders.
The Yuanmingyuan (another location) remains in complete ruins as a reminder to the Chinese people. Each time some auction house in the West sells some Chinese relics for some hundreds of millions of USD also reminds me of these robbers. Below is a quote from Victor Hugo of the atrocity:
Two robbers breaking into a museum, devastating, looting and burning, leaving laughing hand-in-hand with their bags full of treasures; one of the robbers is called France and the other Britain.
and look at where france and britain are today
It is a sad history for China and drove China to bankruptcy. The ruins are a reminder/lesson we will not repeat history and at the same time we do not want to be invaders. The old summer palace is huge and it took 3 days/nights to burn it down. The loots, treasures of China, can be seen in museums in Britain and France while the furniture/treasures in Forbidden City in Taiwan. They could be destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. How ironic?
The Brits debated sending battle ships to China to protect their opium trade when they did not have better to trade for the silk, porcelain, tea… Imagine that drugs were pushed by a nation. China ignored the advanced weapons/battle ships as a result of the industrial revolutions.
Mao is right that we need weapons and hopefully to protect ourselves instead of for invasion.
It only takes for a weak China for this past atrocity to likely repeat again. The Chinese people should never ever forget that. Look at Britain and France bombing Libya today.
Chinese people living abroad seem to remember the insult better than those inside the country for some reason.
I don’t think I follow you.
On your use of “insult,” you are completely off in your choice of word. Imagine your home invaded and some members of your family killed. Your family heirloom then taken. You call that “insult?” That is revisionist bullshit.
Chinese abroad remembering this atrocity better? I am not so sure. One thing certain is that the Chinese in the West know how little the Brits and the French and some other know of their ancestors ugly past.
Agree. Wrong word. (problem of lack of vocabulary)
Burning, killing, raping, robbing, pillaging, … That’s what I meant.
Otto Kerner says
Do you spend a lot of time mournfully remembering the British and French diplomats who were tortured and killed after being arrested during peace negotiations (which is what the burning of the Summer Palace was a direct response to) or the massacre of foreigners and Chinese Christians by the Yihuetuans? Maybe it’s easier for you to remember an atrocity when it was committed against your own group? 内外有别。
“peace negotiations”? For what exactly?
A war already waged on China to maintain the opium trade? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Opium_War#Continuation_of_the_war
Hmmm… If this is your idea of “peace negotiations”, then your notion of “peace” is rather disproportional and was already looting China!
I felt compelled to quote myself again:
You are a revisionist jerk. And thanks for spilling your ugly gut for people to see.
Otto, you’re right on the surface, but deep down, the Brits wanted to enforce the opium trade. Same excuse for the Japs invading China or Hitler starting WW2. Many other examples abound in most wars in the world. If you do not really understand/study history, you will be misled. Dumb nationalism is just dumb.
@tc, I had been to the museums in Britain and France and I could identify the loots easily. Egyptians ask the world museums to return the loots. So should the Chinese.
Otto Kerner says
Obviously, you don’t understand about peace negotiations. They happen during a war. They happen regardless of who is right and who is wrong. Everyone involved in the fighting is trying to kill the other side, but they make an agreement not to kill the specific people involved in the talks while the talks are still going on. The Qing government violated that agreement in the most barbaric possible way during the Second Opium War. It doesn’t mean that “Qing is bad, England and France are good”, and it doesn’t mean that “China is at fault for the Second Opium War”, and it doesn’t even mean that “the Second Opium War is neutral, with no victim and no aggressor”. It just means that everyone does good things and bad things. I choose not to feel sorry for poor, poor China because it has had times of good fortune and times of bad fortune, it has wronged others and it has been wronged.
The word “revisionist” is not an insult.
What I wonder is whether you and raventhorn will ever take a moment to look at the fact that all of your responses to me are kneejerk. You never engage with me, you just get another chance to vent your spleen. Why is that?
Whoa, I do not understand how you read that into my comment. Of course the British empire had ulterior motives. Obviously, they wouldn’t be in China without some kind of reason for being there, and, since we’re talking about an army and an empire, it was probably something shady. We can assume that without even knowing the specifics. The Qing’s barbaric violation of civilized diplomatic norms for negotiations took place during a conflict that was already going on, and we know they didn’t start that conflict, because they were weak at that point. Everyone has a deep motive and an explanation for what they do. Britain invades China supposedly to “maintain peace and free trade”. Japan invades China supposedly to “unify Asia against Western imperialists”. China invades Tibet supposedly to “free the serfs”. The burning of the Summer Palace as a specific act was nevertheless taken as a direct response to a specific act by the Qing, even though it all fits into a larger story.
Charles Liu says
You mean the Chinese had right to burn down Washington DC, after US bombing of the Chinese embassy and killing three Chinese diplomats?
Or is such asymetrical response completely unjustifable?
What Otto Kerner means: doesn’t matter who started this war, what the English and French (with some American help) were doing there in the first place, whether it’s unjust or not; you have no right to kill our people.
Ergo, the burning and sacking are justified. Libya now is like Opium Wars 2.0
Dear kerner, You consider it is as a peace nego. while western nations invade into china, the rage behaves is just resemblance to lots of invaders break through into your house and looting, rape your wife or daughters, fire your house after that you show up and have a nego. with them. and want so-called peace.
I don’t consider your “peace” negotiation any more “peaceful” than the retribution that followed it, which you seek now to justify.
Qing government’s brutality is no justification for the looting, raping and pillaging that followed, the scale of which paled in comparison.
And for your note, if the Chinese now seek to remember that Atrocity, we are not using it as justification for future revenge, in contrast to your justification of the OBVIOUS past Western brutality.
Is the Chinese remembrance of the past atrocity obstructing your attempts to forget history? Too bad.
Speaking of Kneejerk,
Why do you bother to justify the burning of the Summer Palace, (and decry our rememberance), with Qing government’s atrocity? (Generalized version of it any ways).
I frankly don’t see anything in your logic, other than your “kneejerk” revisionism.
You want to “engage”? OK, what is your point?
That we remember history wrong? That we are ignoring the killing of the foreigners by the Qing government? Or who started the Opium War?
OK, fine, let us Chinese remember the burning, looting, the pillaging of Beijing and the Opium Wars, on the account of the hundreds of Western diplomats who died pushing drug trade/”peace” on China.
Boy, I don’t know which of us is more petty.
Or perhaps it is the fact that the West is doing more or less the same things in other countries now?!
(Don’t like historical parallel/comparisons, eh?)
You’re blinded by your biases. If you’re using your parents’ PC, please log off and return to your homework. Imagine if the Mexicans come to US and enforce the opium trade in US. If you think it is justified, please talk to your parents. If you’re an adult, please talk to a psychiatrist as you need a lot of help.
Many here have confused the 2 wars, one is the 2nd Opium War and the other is the Box Rebellion — they were 4 decades apart. The Forbidden City wasn’t sacked and looted in the 2nd Opium War. However, the Summer Palace was burned down after the 2nd Opium War.
Actually the 2nd Opium War was practically over more than a year ago — the unequal treaty of Tianjin was already signed. Qing already admitted its defeat. What prompted all the events in question was actually due to that the British insisted of sailing its naval ships from Tianjin to Beijing, which by itself was certainly not covered by the treaty of Tianjin or a part of any civilized norms, diplomatic or otherwise. The “peace negotiation” started long after the British started the unprovoked aggression again.
The late Qing was a slow-motion chain of disasters in dealing with foreign powers. Its core issue was not able to recognize the inadequacy of its own military strength, until way too late. The Mongolian cavalry might be better than those who guarded Guangzhou a few years ago, but they were still no match of the invaders’ guns and navy. It should’ve sucked it up and let the British ships in, in the meantime, improved its own military technologies. But Qing was not nearly as wise as early Han in dealing with threatening foreign powers.
Otto was right in the sense that slicing people to death, no matter what the circumstances, is barbaric. If an unfortunate choice is forced upon me, I would certainly take having a humanitarian bomb dropping on my head over being sliced to death. But in a moral sense, I fail to see how a civilization is necessarily civilized in making such a huge distinction between the two.
Personally I’ve found all the back and forth ridiculous. I am OK with the looted art pieces being displaced in some foreign museums or auctioned off, but I am also perfectly OK with on a future day Chinese burning down London and Paris.
“Otto was right in the sense that slicing people to death, no matter what the circumstances, is barbaric.”
Certainly it was barbaric, and no one would bother to justify it here. Except Otto is using that to say that somehow our memories are faulty (or that the burning of the Summer Palace was justified in some fashion).
Let’s just get the matter straight:
(1) Opium trade: Wrong
(2) torture of diplomats: Wrong
(3) Burning, looting, raping, pillaging of civilians in retaliation: BIG WRONG!
I’m certainly NOT OK with a future day Chinese burning down London or Paris, or any other city.
(Which only points to the duplicity of the current Western civilization that continues to do “humanitarian bombings” in other countries.)
And as I look into the “kneejerking” crystal ball, I predict Otto to predictably drawing some BS analogy about Tibet again.
So, I will preemptively say, Cultural Revolution, also Wrong. Nothing to do with Sovereignty issue.
Tiu Fu Fong says
I can’t see where Otto actually claims that the killing of diplomats justified what was done to the Summer Palace. Instead, his posts appear to argue that both events were atrocities. At best, you could accuse him of moral equivalency (which is debatable), but I can’t see how you can read his posts and rationally argue that he is saying the killing of diplomats justified the destruciton of the Summer Palace.
In any case, I tend to think what wasn’t pillaged by the European powers during the Opium Wars and Boxer Rebellion would have been at great risk of being melted down as scrap during the Great Leap Forward or destroyed as examples of the 四旧 during the Cultural Revolution.
That said, it’s questionable whether the multiple Chinese revolutions of the last century would ever have happened the way they did if the Europeans and Japanese had not so severely weakened the Qing. To be clear, I’m not arguing that the Europeans or Japanese should be praised for their self-serving actions.
Otto Kerner says
Wow, there are a lot of comments replying to things I didn’t say. Not so much for things I did say. Some of the later comments are actually starting to be pretty reasonable, even if they are phrased as replies to something I supposedly said (and Tiu Fu Fong’s comment has no such defect). I’m particularly disappointed to see TonyP4, putatively a funny guy and at least a jovial personality, resorting to usenet style flaming in place of having arguments to make.
My point was never to argue that burning down the Old Summer Palace was justified (when I said that it was a direct response, I meant exactly that — I was talking about the stated motivations of the people who did it). My point was to ask: do you remember all the history, or just the parts of it that fit into the storyline you have in mind? For an example of the latter, I often think of western Free Tibet activists (and the news sources that love them) talking about the “invasion of Tibet in 1959”. But, as those who are informed on the subject know, Tibet was invaded in 1951. 1951-1959 was the period of tense cooperation prior to the uprising and it suppression in 1959. But, “period of tense cooperation” doesn’t fit the story people like to tell about Tibet, so they are inclined to just forget about it.
yinyang is right in principle that China a weak China is more likely to suffer outside attacks in the future than a strong China is. It normally goes without saying that it is better to be strong than to be weak. However, his tone of, “My enemies are just waiting for me to show a moment of weakness so they can fall on me!” borders on the paranoid. Like Tom Petty puts it, “It don’t really matter to me. Everyone’s had to fight to be free, but you don’t have to live like a refugee.”
Maybe if the people of the various countries can work together to build a more stable, peaceful, and just world (baby steps, baby steps), then weak nations in the future won’t have to worry so much about being bullied by strong ones.
“My point was to ask: do you remember all the history, or just the parts of it that fit into the storyline you have in mind?”
As I said already, you are questioning if our memory is faulty.
As I predicted, you are drawing a BS Tibet analogy with this, Predictably.
(1) I don’t have time to give you the ENTIRE history of the World. I happen to prioritize mentioning of historical ATROCITIES, according to the amount of ATROCIOUSNESS.
(2) Frankly, you WERE justifying the burning of the Summer Palace, with “Do you spend a lot of time mournfully remembering the British and French diplomats who were tortured and killed after being arrested during peace negotiations (which is what the burning of the Summer Palace was a direct response to) or the massacre of foreigners and Chinese Christians by the Yihuetuans? Maybe it’s easier for you to remember an atrocity when it was committed against your own group? 内外有别.”
Ie. your comment boils down to, why are you mourning the burning of the Summer Palace, you should remember that the Chinese caused it.
(3) Your history of Tibet is equally revisionist, as you only bother to remember from 1951 on. Sovereignty is determined by the whole history, far more than the scale of individual atrocities.
If you want to compare the severity of atrocities, and remember them all, by all means.
If you want to talk about sovereignty, you don’t get to have partial memories. There was NO independent Tibet pre-1951, that’s historical fact.
(4) I knew you were going for Tibet, you are so PREDICTABLY knee-jerking/twitching.
(5) you last 2 paragraphs sound like the moral equivacation of a man out of touch with reality.
Maybe if the People of the West can actually “democratically” show some sanity and stop their governments from bombing other countries, then may be you might have a point.
“Work together”? “Peace”?
“I was talking about the stated motivations of the people who did it”.
You are talking about cause and effect – something you should understand well as a supporter/believer in Dalai Lama – and the chain of events that led to the torching of a cultural heritage.
The deaths were gruesome, but the caveat is: what were they doing there in the first place, setting very harsh terms for “peace”?
Your racist claim about `feeling for your own group’ is a cheap and low blow.
It is possible to feel sorry for the thousands of German women raped by Soviet soldiers in the advance upon Berlin, because these women had nothing to do with the Nazi invasion of Russia.
It is possible for Chinese to feel sorry for the Japanese vi ctims of the nuclear attacks, but measured against the agonies they visited on China, their suffering might seem much less.
One can empathize with the individual families of Western soldiers killed in Afghanistan, but really, they should ask their goverments: why are they doing there, shooting women and children?
Sympathy for victims is determined by the circumstances, not by race.
I doubt there is constant daily paranoia about getting invaded again. China will become increasingly diverse, with a plurality of voices.
The remnants of imperialist Western invasion are reminders that, for all the conflicting views, Chinese society is united by a common history and should not be weakened again by infighting.
@Tiu Fu Fong
Without China being totally defeated, humiliated and more importantly financially plundered in the 19th century, chances are in that parallel universe there wouldn’t be all the subsequent revolutions including the communist revolution. Mao himself would have gotten a better education, and might have been actually quite a cultural preservation advocate. A personal note is, in that parallel universe, I wouldn’t have been born given how a series of historical events had to happen in a specific order for my grandparents and parents to meet.
In this universe, Chinese wanted to destroy some of those ancient artifacts because in their mind, it stood for what brought them defeat, humiliation and plundering.
Otto Kerner says
raventhorn, the only thing I said about Tibet in my most recent post was to critique some of the rhetoric used by some overseas Free Tibet activists. I thought you would appreciate it.
Tiu Fu Fong says
@jxie @jxie I don’t want to cause a tangent off into speculative alternate histories, but I think China would have seen revolutions in any case, with a strong likelihood that there would have been a communist revolution. Nationalism/self-determination was a strong theme globally in the early 20th century and China itself had a long history of simmering resentment at the Qing plus uprisings (eg Taiping). With the increase in communications/connectivity and flow of ideas across China, coordinated Han rebellion against the Qing would, in my view, have been almost certain. From the perspective of modern China, I think the actions of the European powers and Japan hastened the progress of revolutions, but we probably would have had the same result without them, although it would have taken a few decades more. As between Nationalists and Communists (and any third direction China could have gone), the CCP’s socialist path was one that I think (a) had the most appeal for the vast majority of the Chinese people and (b) would have delivered the best results for the Chinese people.
(apologies if this double posts – I submitted this earlier but it did not appear)
Jxie wrote “Mao himself would have gotten a better education, and might have been actually quite a cultural preservation advocate.”
Many claimed that Mao resent intellectual because of his low self esteem for being not having good education, however whenever I read what were written by Mao, I notice he is pretty knowledgeable and his understanding of history, philosophy and Chinese culture is relatively better than most, include perhaps one that went through a proper education path. Is there a possibility that if one have deep understanding of own culture, he is more likely to reject and advocate changes? Many Chinese from that era use to believe Chinese culture is the root cause of weakness. Another instance is, one that reject Guoxue (国学）would be one that learned the subject well, most intellectual from the May Forth movement period seem to believe Guoxue is useless.
“the only thing I said about Tibet in my most recent post was to critique some of the rhetoric used by some overseas Free Tibet activists. I thought you would appreciate it.”
Your “critique” of others is filled with your own kneejerk revisionism.
You wanted us to remember not just some portions of history? How about you try remembering a bit more of history of Tibet than just from 1951 onward? (So you added 8-9 years to the “Free Tibet Activists” version of history, Wow, so much better?! NOT!)
Why is it that every time you talk about history, you always leave out a huge chunk, usually near the beginning?? Ie. you talk about torture of foreign diplomats, as the “what the burning of the Summer Palace was a direct response to”, but you leave out 2 opium wars before that; you talk about Tibet from 1951, but not the centuries before that.
I will tell you why. Because you have a typical Western habit of “escalation”.
It’s not racial, it’s just your habit, you were brought up on that.
You wanted to talk about “peace” and work together, I will tell you that it is not possible, with Western nations’ habit of escalation in history.
Look at the burning of the Summer Palace, West escalates violence, as if 2 Wars of Opium trade was not enough punishment on China for any supposed barbarity of the Qing Chinese government. No, 1000’s had to die to make a point.
Look at West today, the West don’t even have border disputes with any of the countries that it is bombing and occupying. For what? Empty notions of rights. So, 1000’s have to die to make another point.
Face the facts, it’s in your habit to escalate things into violence, on flimsiest excuses and blowing them out of proportion in response.
Your own verbal “point” is exemplary of that habit of escalation, you don’t look at the whole history in proportions, you escalate and blow up issues. Tibet’s history get narrowed down by you into a window of a decade or so to escalate it into a full blown issue of “sovereignty” and “invasion”.
The West’s habit is still today sowing chaos and destruction disproportionally in the world.
It does so directly by bombs and occupation, and indirectly by inciting others to escalate into “revolutions” and violence.
This much has not changed in the history of the West.
*Do not bother to make any more irrational “points” with your disproportional revisionist kneejerk examination of short chunks of history.
Frankly, you are just being predictably and habitually tiresome.
@Tiu Fu Fong, there certainly isn’t just one correct answer in this sort of historical what-ifs. Faced the same pressure as China from the West, yet Japan didn’t have any revolutions. Its monarchy eventually turned into a mostly ceremonial role. It surely did have communist influence in the early 1900s, and yet it didn’t take a strong hold in Japan unlike in China, which I attribute to its population being better educated, and enjoying overall more fulfilling lives, which could be partially explained by the fact that Japan didn’t have to pay up all those war indemnities like China did.
If the Qing system was more functional, it should’ve seen its military deficiencies after the 1st Opium War. The war indemnity for the 1st Opium War was about 2% of the face value of those for the 1st Sino-Japanese War and the Box Rebellion combined (actually less than 1% given the accrued interest payments for the latter). In other words, the defeat of the 1st Opium War might be humiliating, but it was hardly debilitating as the later wars. Qing had ample time to shape up, and choose some wiser policies. For instance, it shouldn’t burn the foreign-owned opium shipments, but rather it should just levy a higher tax on the opium operations.
@Rhan, you wouldn’t get to a position like Mao’s with a low self esteem. He was educated until 13 in a village school, which more or less was like home schooling. Much later he went to an OK school in Changsha, which was roughly comparable to today’s secondary school, for 5 years and didn’t graduate until he was in his mid-20s. A couple of things were missing in his education: 1. No formal education in modern science, i.e. math, physics, chemistry, etc. 2. Unlike Zhou Enlai, Deng Xiaoping and a handful other revolutionaries, he didn’t get the scholarship to further his study aboard and at the very least get to see the outside world.
BTW, Mao is an underrated poet. In my mind, his best work was “沁园春•长沙”, written in his early 30s. The poem to me is among the top 10 best Chinese poems ever.
“It’s not racial, it’s your habit, you were brought up on that”. Am trying to figure out this Raventhorn-ism.
It probably just means what it means. But it sounds something like Mahathir Mohamed who uses racial politics habitually as his platform but, hey, the man is just expressing himself.
He’s become sort of role model to a whole generation of half-assed politicians who feel entitled to slur other communities with ethnic insults such as disloyal/ungrateful/parasitic/conniving/passengers in a country many have lived in for generations.
But when called on it, they will always claim they are misquoted/misinterpreted, everyone is over-reacting, etc. Sounds familiar.
But since Herr Kerner claims that his remarks were in a puckish spirit that even the jovial Tony P4 could not grasp, Herr Kerner should be given the benefit of the doubt.
So, in the same humorous vein, I ask Herr Kerner for his address as I plan to send him
a present: a set of jewelled Dragon Lady nail shields, looted from the Forbidden City by Kaiser’s troops.
I am sure Herr Kerner will find somewhere useful to put them – and not necessarily a display shelf. Ouch. LOL!
Looks like FOARP has taken an interest on comment 18.
Here was a comment I posted on his blog earlier today.
Just to clarify,
1. I am also perfectly OK with all the foreign invasions of China from the Opium Wars and on, or for that matter, from Conquistadors to Trail of Tears. Those were history. Without all of those, I wouldn’t have been born, or raised and educated the ways they were, or had the romantic encounters that have shaped my life.
If you look at the whole human history, it’s full of stronger people overpowering weaker people (but nobody remains strong forever). Granted, there are the civilized ways and the barbaric ways. For example, when Americans and Russians raced to Berlin at the end of the WW2, Soviet soldiers raped women on the way — that’s barbaric; American soldiers romantically involved European women with gifts of nylon stockings and chocolate — that’s civilized.
Other than hoping for the stronger ones are civilized, a weaker one also needs sensitivity and sensibility. Qing lacked both. If you ask me, in this day and age, keeping the looted arts in your museums or auctioning them off lacks them also.
2. I certainly didn’t advocate future Chinese to burn down London or Paris, let alone killing millions. Heck, when I made that statement, I merely made an observation as if I was a bystander.
Thanks for the clarification. Judging by your past writings, I knew your words were taken out of context.
I wrote the following a while ago, but history is history and nothing has been changed so far.
Thanks for the link to a nice post.
Good article. You should keep that around for distribution, because as Samuel Huntington once wrote:
History is bound to repeat if present day people do not know the past.
We might approach TonyP4 about reposting / crossposting that here – as a follow up to your post.
My stuffs are free for distribution and have no copyright. Please feel free to do whatever you need to.
Most of the newer stuffs will be on investing from another site and I’m including them to my blog when necessary.
I tried to update several posts I wrote on China, but basically there are not a lot of changes and most current events are predictable.
Thank you, TonyP4. Will work your materials in.
Again, most of the articles on China are free for your site to use whatever you may want. Eventually I may write an ebook on investing just in case, so I just want to keep those articles separate. However, you can distribute them as long as you do not use the investment articles for the same purpose. Some belong to both China and investing.
It is my honor for you to distribute my articles. My purpose is sharing our common interests.
English is not my native language, so you will find a lot of errors in my posts.
The is a saying:
” IF YOU WANT PEACE, PREPARE FOR WAR”!!!
Thus China must have a military more powerful then any other country, to prevent other countries to attack China!
China ignored the industrial revolution in the west and the advanced weapons and battle ships. Manchurian had great emperors until then. They’re ignorant and still enjoyed the past glory.
A related topic: http://tonyp4idea.blogspot.com/2011/03/why-us-so-rich-and-china-so-poor.html