Great Men of Shanxi: Duke Wen of Jin

October 7, 2008

Readers:

As usual, a long time has passed since I last had the pleasure of lecturing to the unwashed internet masses about the comings and goings of your favorite warlord.  And as usual, I am not to blame.  Where to start?  All three of the Song sisters have been drunk dialing my Taiyuan palace.  It seems they have no idea how expensive it is to operate a working phone system out here in Shanxi–and in the middle of a war to boot!  I might just have to raise taxes on noodles to pay for their inane blabbering.  Meanwhile, all across my territory I face the constant threat of the further disintegration of political unity. Fucking peasants.

As such, I have lately been thinking about another great man of Shanxi, one who knew how to keep peasants in line.  Previously I introduced you to Judge Dee, a Shanxi native that raised the art of torturing “suspects” to an art form, and a kinky art form at that.  Today I would like to introduce you to one of the earliest Shanxi greats, a powerful statesman known to history as Duke Wen of Jin (晉文公):

Duke Wen is also known as Double Ears (重耳), but I just call him a kick-ass hegemon.  You see, Duke Wen lived during the Spring and Autumn era, when all of China was fragmenting into all of these pathetically tiny states.  He was the ruler of Jin, which being located in what today’s Shanxi, was clearly the most awesome of the states.  But was he content with being ruler of Jin?  Not quite.  He would expand his armies and then expand his state, bringing in lesser states to make Jin even more awesome.  He eventually became one of the “5 Hegemons,” rising to a position of supreme power and holding together the Zhou order.  Truly a role model for all of us.  Or at least for those of us who are rulers from Shanxi.

There are plenty of great stories about Duke Wen, including a funny tale where he accidentally ate his friend’s thigh.  But my favorite tale is as follows: When he was a young buck on the rise, he had to take shelter in the state of Chu.  As a sign of his gratitude, he promised the ruler of Chu that if the two states went to war in the future, he would retreat a distance of a three day march, and only then fight.  Sure enough, after Duke Wen was in control of Jin, war with Chu came, and true to his word he retreated.  But after seeing that Chu still wanted a showdown, he used his retreat to lure the Chu troops to press thier attack in a reckless fashion.  The result was a bunch of dead Chu nobles.  I sometimes wonder what it would be like to kill nobles instead of peasants.  Anyway, to be a man of honor, and yet still find ways to trick your opponent and then kill them?  A great man indeed.

YXS


Top Ten Chinese Thinkers: #10 Sun Zhongshan

May 8, 2007

Loyal Readers,

After my recent comments on Kongzi, many of my fans wrote in asking for guidance. If Kongzi was unworthy of emulation, who might they turn to? In this light, I have decided to countdown the 10 greatest Chinese thinkers. These are the men whose minds helped shaped generations–not just in China but across the globe. And to be fair, I do respect Kongzi–I just don’t think he is the best model for the modern age. So he will probably turn up somewhere on this list. But first, we start with my #10 selection:

SYS

Sun Zhongshan, also known as Sun Yat-sen

Some might question my choice to put old Sun at the bottom of this list. Is he not, after all, the “Father of the Chinese Revolution”? In a word, no. Now, I joined Sun’s Tongmenghui way back in the day, back when we were all in Japan pounding sake and visiting Tokyo’s red light district (FYI your boy Sun could not hold his booze and had a few fetishes that even surprised the Japanese). So I am very much qualified to pass judgment on Sun Zhongshan, or Sonny as I called him.

You see, he had the most amazing ability to repeatedly fail–he was the original “cut and runner.” Every time he tried to overthrow those stinking Manchus, he would fail. Except he would never be there to face punishment, as he would be hiding out in HK. And when we finally brought down the Qing, where was he? Colorado, just where he was needed. What a joke. You know who the real Father of Chinese Revolution is? That’s right, Yan Xishan. But Stillwell, in a conversation with Fairbank, once drunkenly called me the “Stepchild of the Chinese Revolution” and I have yet to escape this stigma. Is it fair? No, but I live with it–we all have our crosses I guess.

So, final analysis of Sun Zhongshan….

Pro:

1. Married a woman young enough to be his daughter.

2. 3 Principles of the People (uninspired and never implemented, but hey it was something).

Con:

1. Best skills: Retreating and avoiding conflicts

2. Possibly married a Soviet Agent in Song Qingling

3. Created the conditions for decades of civil war

It is number 2 on the con list that really gets me. I mean, if you are going to deliver your nation to the Red Menace, at least do it via a Eastern European redhead named Natasha. That is the classy way to go about these things. So sorry Sonny, you barely make the list at #10.