Today the countdown takes on two of the greatest minds to ever grace the Middle Kingdom. I could not decide which figure was more worthy of your emulation, so it is a tie. And yes, I know that this means this list will technically be a “top eleven” list, but guess what? Part of being me is making the rules up as I go along. Get used to it.
We start with the man who inspired the countdown:
Kongzi, aka Confucius
Now Confucius-lovers like that crazy woman Yu Dan are probably plotting my execution. At least when the deed is done they will carry out the funeral rites in a manner that can only be described as perfect. Here is what I said back then:
“Anyway, once again my Chinese brothers and sisters are turning to Kongzi to give their lives meaning. Seems some chick (a chick!) wrote a book about how Kongzi has so much to teach us. What a joke. Now, Kongzi was not as big of a sexist as some make him out to be. It was my boy Zhu Xi who really put women in their place. That place, BTW, is nei-leave the wai to us men. Still, I have to believe that Kongzi would agree that women authors should stick with cookbooks. One of my wives thinks that I am just hating. Yeah, you know what? It does hurt that this chick has a best seller while my masterpiece, Yan Xishan: Using Warlord Wisdom to Achieve Personal Perfection in Ten Steps has yet to break into double digit sales.
But really, I am just not into Kongzi. He is always going on and on about correct ritual practice. Clear case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)-this fool needs serious medication. As my subjects know, I am more of a freewheeling, boozing, gambling, whoring type of leader. Until Kongzi develops the correct ritual practice for doing shots of fenjiu with Mongolian hookers, he can stay the hell out of my HQ.”
I still stand by this interpretation of Kongzi. For all his influence, he was too anal about ritual for my liking. Perhaps it is only fair that he shares the #4 spot with one of my personal heroes:
Yuan Shikai-now here is a man a warlord such as myself can truly admire. Sure, he is hated for betraying both the Qing court and the new Republic, but he taught me that in these crazy days, you always gotta look out for #1. I still remember the last words he ever told me: “When you need five Mexican silver dollars, don’t ask for three. Ask for ten.” Now you tell me readers, what the hell did Kongzi ever say that contains so much wisdom? Besides, in actuality my boy Shikai was not the cause of the downfall of the Republic. That regime was weak and destined to fail. You know why everyone hates Yuan Shikai? Because every story needs a bad guy. Same reason everyone is always hating on me.
I could go on and on about YSK. He helped send me to Japan for my military training. His reorganization of the Beiyang army helped lay the foundations for the warlord era, which has been a great time for warlords such as myself. He made the connections between military rule and political power self-evident. He made killing peasants fashionable again when he put down the Boxer Uprising in Shandong. And of course he had the highly annoying Song Jiaoren assassinated, a move that set off a chain of events that put him in power of all of China. That he had it done at the train station–on the platform!–as Song was about to come to Beiping, well that is pure genius.
As much as YXS respects YSK, there is a reason he can rise no higher than Kongzi on this list. You see, in 1915 he attempted to have himself declared emperor of a new dynasty. Even worse, he had the most ridiculous emperor name-Hongxian, or “glorious constitution.” One of my favorite Beiping consorts once told me he paid extra if she would call him Hongxian in the sack-that kind of always grossed me out. That and the fact I was sharing women with one of my mentors.
I should note that some of my subjects have begged me to declare myself emperor and revive the empire, and I would be lying if I have not considered this option on a few occasions. But I don’t think I could ever go through with it. To be frank, I prefer my women to yell out my military rank when I do my thing.