History or His-story?

Shih Huang Ti , the emperor of Qin who united the warring factions of China over 2000 years ago, was a shrewd leader. He wanted to live forever, and thus sent Xu Fu  and 100 young boys and 100 young girls in search of the elixir that will give him eternal life.  Xu Fu was a smart person. he sailed with the boys and girls to a group of Islands then called Tong Yin, which we know by the name of Japan, and never returned.

Many Chinese believed  that the present Japanese might be the descendants of these groups of young boys and girls. Of course, I am no expert and I will leave this to archaeologists and anthropologists to argue it out.  What is certain is that there is a grave of Xu Fu in Japan, and many of these young boys and girls and their descendents must have cross-married the local, and there is definitely a relation in term of genetics between the Chinese people and the Japanese.

Shih Huang Ti’s dream of getting the elixir remained just a dream. We know that everyone dies and there is no exception. So ultimately Shih Huang Ti must have realised this fact of life too. So instead, he tried to consolidate his family’s hold on power, as  he knew that his son and grandsons, like many of the  second and third generations of aristocrats before, would not be as good or as ‘great’ as himself.

He also started a project never seen in human history at that time. He drafted millions of people, young and old,  men and women alike to build a wall that stretches thousands of miles across the northern border of his empire. The wall is reportedly the only human made structure that is visible from space. We know it by the name of Wan Li Chang Zeng or simply in English, The Great Wall (of  China).  Hundreds of thousands died building this. This wall served to protect China from the barbarians up north, and so he thought it would help to protect his family’s reign .

Another worry was the  intelligentsia. These were people who would always criticised him. How to make people obedient and loyal to him absolutely? He thought hard on this question being the clever man that he was.

What better way of trying to perpetuate his dynasty but to make all the people obedient fools? In those days, books were written on bamboo plates, and to gain knowledge was no simple feat. So there were not many educated people. But even though this group was small, the influence was great. The peasants would look up to these educated people as guiding lights, and their views, through words of mouth carried by these peasants and simple folks , would travel fast throughout the country– even though there were no phone lines and no internet.

Shih Huang Ti thought that if he could make all these intelligentsia disappear, there would be no more opponents to his rule or his dream of a perpetual dynasty for his descendants.

So began a mammoth task of rounding up these intelligentsia, especially those whose views were considered anti-Government. He also ordered that certain books be confiscated and burned..Those books which in his mind would be able to influence people to think and question his authority and his reign.

This was one of the black marks on his reign , even though he was the one who unified China and unified Chinese writings. The latter was a feat that was of utmost importance, because despite the different dialects being spoken all over CHina, the unified Chinese writings served as a common identification factor for people of CHina to remain as one people. It too had helped to nurture a homogenous culture .

The attempt to bury the intelligentsia and burn books was part of an attempt to rewrite history to suit  Shih Huang Ti’s interest. We all know that he failed and failed miserably, for not many years after his death, his dynasty came tumbling down, and Qin Dynasty was one of the shortest dynastic reign in the history of China (221 BC to 206 BC).

For those who are more philosophical, this is perhaps  a case of ‘Man proposes, God disposes’ – and in this simple saying , there is so much wisdom for the present politicians to learn. Any attempt to try to hide the  truth or any attempt to use unscrupulous methods to perpetuate one’s reign will fail miserably in the end..

In modern times, Hitler employed similar tactics in trying to consolidate his power. His propaganda machinery totally disregarded facts. The person in charge of propaganda, Joseph Goebbels,  famously said that “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.”

Of course, Germany failed and failed miserably, even though the failure had a lot to do with Hitler’s delusion of Grandiose.. But I suspect even Hitler had started believing the story painted by Goebbels and thus made many military as well as administrative blunders based on the false propaganda, and these blunders  cumulatively weakened the resources of Germany so much that Germany’s fate was doomed.

What I am trying to say is that over the period of human history, many attempts had been made to rewrite history or to to give out misinformation. Most of these attempts failed.

In Communist China, in the 50s and 60s, the failed Great Leap forward was initially touted as a great economic success, and the Cultural Revolution a great egalitarian experiment.  The gang of four, as we call them now, were described as the great compatriots to the Great Leader.

But with the passing of Mao and the arrest of the gang of Four, truth inevitably was uncovered and many victims of that egalitarian experiment,  like Deng Xiao Peng, were given back their rightful places in history.

Artificial re-writing of history will not last long. It may last only as long as the ruler who patronised such writings, but as some wise person  has so aptly pointed out, without peer review, history is only story that will be rebutted and rewritten and would not be accepted as the true recordings of actual events.

Those who never learn from History and try to write His-story instead  is bound to repeat the mistakes!


52 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. klm
    Dec 21, 2010 @ 10:53:02

    Dr. Hsu. I agree with the the idea that you are trying to get across. But I would argue against some of the points on Shih Huang Ti. These were points used by Confucians to argue on the evil personality of the person. I believe the tone behind these arguments were not right. Just as Shih Huang Ti killed many Confucians and burned their books, Confucians in later centuries try to paint Shih Huang Ti as an evil man and try to write him out of the history book.

    Who was right and who was wrong? The fact that there are still arguments today on what Shih Huang Ti did over 2,000 years ago, means that nothing cannot be written out of history even of one try to write it out of the book. The echo of history will remain, just as the echo of the Big Bang and the creation of the universe can still be heard today.


  2. Dr Hsu
    Dec 21, 2010 @ 11:25:49

    you have a point there.

    How we view history can actually be quite subjective. Like Cao Cao of the Three Kingdom. Many viewed him as unscrupulous and shrewd.

    He had a saying ” rather than letting others betray him, it is better for him to be the one who betrays others”. But looking at history of that time. He was able to conquer the different “Zu Hou”(War-lords) and brought some peace and good administration to the parts ruled by his figure-head emperor (though his son finally overthrew the Han and founded the Wei Dynasty). Cao Cao was a learned person, able to write good poems, had good administrative skills, and mastered sound military strategy .

    Many would view him as a great leader.

    But if we use morality principles to measure him, he fell short on many aspects. So, if we disregard morality, and view the end results only, he is certainly a great leader, like Shih Huang Ti. The end justifies the means used, as the saying goes. But for those who are fans of Chinese opera and those who view morality as an integral part of a good rule, then perhaps Cao Cao as well as Shih Huang Ti had fallen short… I suspect that is why Chinese opera likes to paint white face and black face to signify the good and bad guys.. It is part of the confucian way of reaching out to the lay public, that a good leader must have certain morality standard.

    That is of course very subjective. Some see morality as most important, but some would argue as long as the cat catches mice, it does not matter whether it is white or black..The way we see history is actually influenced by this subjective perception.

    Deng had put in force policies that change the lives of hundreds of millions of people for the better. So some argued that he was right to suppress the students demo in Tian An Men. They argued that these hundreds of millions would not be what they are today without the peace brought by the suppression of student demo at that time..

    Similarly, without Shih Huang Ti unifying China, there would be many more years of wars and millions more would have suffered. Perhaps today there would be 20 nations in mainland China. So in that aspect, he did do a lot of good. But he could have been even better if only he had practiced a more humane rule.

    In fact, many politicians would see dictatorial rules as the only way to bring a poor country out of poverty and chaos before democracy can be practiced.

    South korea would not be today without the dictatorial rule of Park , Taiwan Chiang QingKuo, and HOng KOng the colonial rule. It is really debatable. For the proponent of this, the sufferings of a few would be justified for the gain in better livings of the majority..

    But for those who believe in morality, they would argue that if only if everyone has good moral will there be a utopia of sort coming into play. If there is morality, then there would not be evil rules and thus there is no need to have any more ‘means’ to justify the ‘end’.

    The period during Tang Dynasty known as ” Zeng Kuan Zhi Zi” is the best example of a morality rule. During at period, people were of very high moral standard, so much so doors can be left open and things can be dropped on the streets without any thefts or robbery.. Chinaa was at its zenith too.. But the emperor who made all these possible was Lee Shi Min who himself killed and jailed his brothers in the infamous coup known as “Xuan Wu Men” incident.


  3. BH Toh
    Dec 21, 2010 @ 11:56:52

    Dr Hsu

    Thank you for hsaring your thoughts.


  4. CYC
    Dec 21, 2010 @ 12:19:13

    Do we need history lesson in Malaysia when we already have an efficient newspaper by the name of Utusan ? It even put Kim Jong Il’s propaganda machinery or APCO to shame. Cheers !


  5. Dr Hsu
    Dec 21, 2010 @ 12:27:00

    I am all for learning history which is vetted by peers, but not His-Story which tells only one sided story, His Story.

    The latter is an attempt at indoctrination, but as i have written above, indoctrination only lasts as long as the indoctrinator.


  6. klm
    Dec 21, 2010 @ 12:33:07

    Dr. Hsu. What about the period in the Qin state when Shang Yang was the Prime Minister. He introduced harsh laws to maintain law and order. It was said that during this time, even if a gold coin was dropped in the street, no one would pick it up. Isn’t this the same as the Tang’s ” Zeng Kuan Zhi Zi” period.

    Should we paint the leader with a black face if he had to kill some people to make things happen. What is the point of morality in a leader if it leads to people’s suffering.


  7. Dr Hsu
    Dec 21, 2010 @ 12:52:30

    Shang Yang was one of the representations of Fa Jia , who advocated the use of law to maintain peace in society..In a way, he used laws to enforce morality on the people, which is not unlike the present death sentence as a deterrent for capital crime. In a way, what all these people are trying to do is to impose morality on the people , even though they may not practice morality themselves.. That is why politicians are always double standards. One standard on the people, one standard for themselves..Even with Lee Shi Min of the Zeng Kuan Zhi zi period, his killings of his brothers would not gain approval of Confucianists , the central teaching of which is compassion.

    So that is why I have ceded that you have a very valid point in your argument. That is why things we view now and things our posterity views one hundred years later maybe very different. At the time of Tian An Men incident, many people were aghast at Deng, but now, many people think differently seeing how the peace that Deng brought about with suppression has resulted in so many hundreds of millions people improving their lives, not only in China, but in many parts of the world too. Without China, the consumers in other parts of the world would not have cheap but reliable goods to use.


  8. JDsg
    Dec 21, 2010 @ 13:58:33

    First off, I like your new blog template; this is the first time I’ve seen it and it’s very nice. (I normally read your blog through Google Reader, which doesn’t show templates.)

    I agree with the general thesis of your post. The sad thing is that the U.S., where I’m from, is suffering from “his-story,” which has gained a great deal of popularity among the conservatives.


  9. CYC
    Dec 21, 2010 @ 14:34:05

    Wikileaks will eventually balance up the distortion of his-story if it be allowed to continue operation. But will the power that be allow Assange to continue ? They will punish him in the name of upholding the rule of law. They did what is “morally” correct against someone who try to expose what is “morally” incorrect. So, which side of his-story do we subscribe to ? I am confused.

    We deem it as a sign of progress in everything that gets complicated and confused. That is the trend we are in now.


  10. CYC
    Dec 21, 2010 @ 14:41:55

    Those who found their heavenly abode in higher up earlier would normally have their name carved out in History book earlier too. So, a piece of History has its value equal or more than life.


  11. lkt56
    Dec 21, 2010 @ 17:00:22

    Dr. Hsu,
    I like your article. History should be objective and not be used to achieve one’s narrow aims. I hope the government will come to its senses. Concerning the point of using morality to judge a leader I would say that it can be very subjective. However I truly like the Chinese idea of “Tian Ming” or Heaven’s mandate wherein it is postulated that an emperor’s right to rule over the people is granted by heaven. However this right is given not without condition: The emperor must use this authority given to him to do good for his people. If he fails to observe this condition, this mandate will be withdrawn. Perhaps that is why the Qin dynasty lasted for only a short period. In present day Malaysia we see the government doing things that are not for the benefit of the people. Perhaps their mandate will be withdrawn as well… Let us wait and see if PR wins the challenge in the GE.


  12. Rhan
    Dec 21, 2010 @ 18:18:32

    Actually klm perspective reflects an interesting understanding of history. Shih Huang Ti is not the one that wrote his own history, it was written mostly by Ru Sheng (儒生) or Confucianism follower that become the pillar of China government administration and bureaucracy. And how SHT treated Ru Sheng is manifested by how history were ‘recorded’.

    Shih Huang Ti notorious act include 梵书坑儒.
    1) Burned books – what books were burned and why? Read 钱穆 version.
    2) Intelligentsias disappear – If I recall correctly, he bury 460 Ru Sheng, mostly are cheaters.
    3) When Qin conquered six states that were with different culture, SHT must find ways to integrate or allow the flourish of one. Multiculturalism was not really the fashionable trend then. Still wonder why we have no issue to read a diverse of pre-Qin ideology and technical book? So SHT is not that stupid after all.

    We notice there is much criticism against CR as compare to GLF, why? Because Deng faction mostly involved in GLF planning and execution, unlike CR, they were victims. Point is, self critical is hard to find.

    Not trying to conclude what is right or wrong, just an alternative view.


  13. petestop
    Dec 21, 2010 @ 19:10:53

    Slowly but surely the same thing is happening here.

    Nowadays, Yap Ah Loy is no longer the one that first opened and developed Kuala Lumpur.

    If Dr M would have it, you guys can no longer learn Chinese at school, thus will not even know the history of Shih Huang Ti.


    Our history books are being rewritten and now 39% is about Islamic Civilisation instead, and various downplay of contributions to Malaysia by the non-Malays.

    Many of the old road names in Penang are but replaced by some obscure personality name, particularly of one race only.

    At least in Penang now you get the names of many old roads, written in their original form, be it Arabic, Tamil, Chinese or Malay.

    Do we want another 50 years of erasing of our hardwork building this nation, only to be replaced by Ketuanan Melayu ??

    This is what BeEnd is all about, and why we must kick them out.


  14. mycuntree
    Dec 21, 2010 @ 21:27:20

    What the present UMNO/BN government is trying to do is pretty obvious. As in almost everything else, they are trying to wipe out in the history of Malaysia what they perceived to be the contributions of non “Malays” and non-muslims. There is nothing subtle about it any longer. Right thinking Malaysians must oppose such devious attempts by the present government to impose their biased and hypocritical views of what is the real and actual history of this country.


  15. Rhan
    Dec 21, 2010 @ 23:52:19

    “South korea would not be today without the dictatorial rule of Park , Taiwan Chiang QingKuo, and HOng KOng the colonial rule.”

    And all of them are moving toward less authoritarian and more democratic, Taiwan even become one of the most democratic and freedom country of the world. I don’t see their leaders disparage others, or talk in a manner that make one into believing that their citizen are all idiot or with juvenile mental, but still able to preserve a dynamic economy that establish many well-known brand name with a variety of product, and not only bread!!

    ‘Tian Ming’ hmmm…let them collapse one by one, start with 4 state, follow by EM and the southern region. The storm will cross over to the other side of causeway, finally.


  16. Rhan
    Dec 22, 2010 @ 10:36:20

    “Should we paint the leader with a black face if he had to kill some people to make things happen.”

    Chinese emphasize morality and value system when writing history, therefore the first impression while reading China history pertaining to personality is good, or bad. We shall strive to be more balance and see thing from different perspective. Having said that, I think there is nothing wrong to state our opinion and stance.

    Tang Taizong killed his brothers in the incident of Xuanwu (玄武門之變) but his greatness is like what Hsu wrote, Reign of Zhenguan (貞觀之治), google 魏徵.

    Jiang Jingguo relaxed government controls.

    See the difference if we make a comparison with you know who?

    Of course, we shall 盖棺论定.


  17. klm
    Dec 22, 2010 @ 11:37:29

    The reason my perspective on Chinese history is different from many people is because I do not come from a Chinese school background. Hence, I do not have the Confucian bias on Shih Huang Ti. The Shih Huang Ti story is a good example of how hate and despise changed the perception of history. Findings in the 2oth century s changing the perception of Shih Huang Ti.

    The govt can twist his-story for its purpose. But it cannot hide the truth.


  18. CYC
    Dec 22, 2010 @ 12:01:00

    Wishing everyone a happy Winter Solstice (冬至). A day to reflect upon how we should co-exist with nature.

    人法地, 地法天, 天法道, 道法自然。 This is the how mankind interacts with nature in a natural order as per DaoDeJing. But some may disagree and more incline to believe 人定胜天. What is your take.


  19. lkt56
    Dec 22, 2010 @ 12:09:08

    A rare and interesting discussion going on and I am enjoying it. I think historians should not write history with any particular bias and more importantly should not judge an event or person or government. They should just present the facts and let people draw their own conclusions. That will be the ideal situation.

    History serves to prepare us from committing actions that may result in unintended outcomes. Therefore it is important not to distort history in order that we can derive benefit from the lessons it presents.

    Does writing His-story serve the present day government any good? The answer is NO simply because in the this day of communication and information technology, they can never keep the people ignorant. Teaching our school children His-story instead of history? Come on, get out of your delusion that kids of today are naive.


  20. CYC
    Dec 22, 2010 @ 12:24:30

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year too ! A new beginning and new hope.


  21. Rhan
    Dec 22, 2010 @ 13:46:45

    Maybe Hsu know below lyric well since he is “half” Singaporean . It is one of my favorite during my schooling day, about history.

    如果秦始皇燒書都燒完 我不必讀到三點半
    如果周公真的忙著治天下 何必不斷催我入夢鄉
    三閭大夫不投汨羅江 賣粽子老王生活怎麼辦
    如果楚霸王當年不到烏江 隔壁班劉邦不會這麼囂張
    西施不浣紗 昭君不和番 現代的古典美人做何打算
    如果劉備哭不出諸葛亮 會不會鬧出一陣劇本荒
    只看過薛丁山 偏要考安祿山 知道馮寶寶她演過楊玉環
    若非十二金牌將岳飛來調返 今天還吃不吃到油條香
    我吃過月餅當然知道朱元璋 吃榴槤知道鄭和下西洋
    胡金銓的戲裡聽過東西廠 看金庸小說知道袁崇煥
    只嘆林則徐燒鴉片燒不完 西太后偏偏相信義和團
    珍妃不該嫁給那個光緒皇 幾千年等到一個孫中山
    萬里長城長 沒有歷史長 考試題目比那絲路還彎
    五胡亂華亂 我的腦筋更亂 心情比那個八國聯軍慌
    多少年的改變已經很習慣 多少次革命總是革不完
    謝天謝地近代史老師講不完 下一代歷史考試不敢想像


  22. klm
    Dec 22, 2010 @ 14:57:27

    Yeah! Happy sweet dumplings day.


  23. Dr Hsu
    Dec 22, 2010 @ 16:03:14


    I am a Malaysian true and true and not half Singaporean. I studied my MBBs degree there yes, yet I came back to serve Malaysia despite getting the Asean Scholarship from Sin Government.. there are certain things that I admire there, just like there are many things i admire in HK, AUstralia, and Malaysia… But Home is home and home sweet home..


  24. Dr Hsu
    Dec 22, 2010 @ 16:07:43

    The purpose of writing this post is that I am against attempts to force students to study His STory rather than History. To have a lopsided history book is a form of indoctrination.


  25. CYC
    Dec 22, 2010 @ 16:37:07

    Indoctrination is the standard prescription to nurture obedient and idiotic citizens. This medicine has a lasting effect and not easily diluted or neutralized by any other drugs. Doctors hate it but politicians love it. MCA will mix it with sweet dumplings for the innocent to taste it so that they be intoxicated. Its indeed a happy occasion for the power intoxicated lot. So, go fire the prono doc and scholar koh who remained in egalitarian silence. Forget about the Royal His-storian KKK.


  26. Rhan
    Dec 22, 2010 @ 16:44:10

    Hsu, seem like you are the very smart type, I recall you did mention that your kids is all top student, what about your sibling and their child? Do you think this has anything to do with genetic or rather, family values that emphasize education? Did you parents force you to study hard and did you push your kids?

    Hope you don’t mind, I am curious.


  27. Rhan
    Dec 22, 2010 @ 17:24:17

    klm, “北方饺子 南方汤圆” loosely translate as “Northern Dumpling, Southern Tang Yuan” I think most Malaysian take Tang Yuan, but I am still not very clear about the difference between 饺子, 水饺 and 馄饨.

    You don’t read Chinese and you watch Han Wu Da Ti? Interesting.


  28. Nick
    Dec 22, 2010 @ 18:24:48

    Dr. Hsu, I am in awe of your general knowledge, and your intelligence is not confined only to medical science but history, politics, music and arts and understanding of the human species. No wonder I keep coming back to your blog. Very addictive. Really enjoy reading your thought-provoking piece. May I take this opportunity to wish you and your family a very peaceful and God Blessed Christmas. Enjoy tucking in the stuffed roast turkey and puddings. Cheers!!


  29. klm
    Dec 22, 2010 @ 18:47:30

    Rhan. I have an interest in ancient Chinese wars and strategies. Hence Qin Shih Huang Ti and Han Wu Di amongst other. These two emperors had large scale military expeditions in those ancient times. It is interesting to note these two emperors had the ability to recruit and use talents to get to their objectives. These two emperors did not go to any battlefield unlike many others. They had the ability to conjure large visions and plan the execution of these visions and get the right people to carry them out. These were extraordinary abilities highly valued in CEOs today.

    I am now reading up on Jiang Tai Gong aka Jiang Ziya’s Liu Tao ((六韬) and been trying to get people to explain the historical aspect of the teachings. Anyone? 🙂

    I found that there many Westerners are now studying the ancient Chinese wisdoms and lessons from history. If we Chinese do not make an attempt to learn these, in time to come these knowledge will be found elsewhere. Obviously, we cannot expect to learn these from Malaysian history books.


  30. Dr Hsu
    Dec 22, 2010 @ 18:48:32

    thanks for the greetings. I wish to wish you and all other readers Merry Christmas too.

    This blog is what it is because of people like you, Nick, and without the input of the readers, it will not be interesting.. In fact, I really treasure the virtual friendship that the readers have built up… There is also a very civil way of exchanging opinion, and we all learn from the excellent input by all the readers…

    The education that we received are quite broad based, and hence we know a little bit of history , geography, science and so on..I am sure people like you have very broad perspective as well as general knowledge too. Nowadays, the syllabus is too narrow in scope, for example , history centered on certain civilisation to the extent that other history are neglected.. But we must realise Malaysia is not the centre of the world, we need to learn history of other countries and regions and civilisation and religions too, in order to be able to move among others and compete among others.

    Sorry for airing out my discontent… Let us just put aside all these and enjoy the festive season and the coming New Year.. Cheers!!


  31. A true Malaysian
    Dec 23, 2010 @ 00:27:05

    Marvelous piece of China history lesson, I really thank you for that.

    Well, during school days, History is a bored subject to many of us. More so if we study the subject purely based on text books approved by the Ministry of Education. The end result was that we returned back the History to our teachers immediately after sitting for the examinations. That’s to say, we were actually memories History and not ‘study’ per se. Of course, we still can remember the famous characters like Parameswara, Hang Li Poh, Hang Tuah, Hang Jebat, Yap Ah Loi. Apart of their names, few people really realised the ‘significance’ of such personnel to Malaysia now. Worse, His-Story plays significantly to wipe of the pre-Islamic part of our history, which form an influential part of Malay and Peranakan cultures.

    But, with the advent of internet where information travels fast and conveniently accessed by a click of mouse, a touch of our fingers (for iPhone and iPad users), recording of a country’s history does not just confine to the local historians, but cross borders intellectuals.

    Well, time will tell how different history written locally and externally, and it will be interesting to see how people write history concerning Mahathir in time to come.

    As it is, more detailed story about 513, and out of sudden, we felt being cheated by His-story, not History that it should be.


  32. disgusted
    Dec 23, 2010 @ 00:43:00

    With the older generation of professional-veteran “HISTORIANS” retiring, the new generations of “HIS-STORIANS” will take over. As Chinese says, “No head, add tail” stories of history or like the prison cell story. The first cell prisoner reported he saw a rat, but the His-story of the 10th cell shouted, “An elephant here!”. Good Luck to the new generation. I am glad I will be “going, gone, gone” history because I am old.


  33. Dr Hsu
    Dec 23, 2010 @ 11:41:06

    Jiang Ziya’s Liu Tao ((六韬) is very ancient Chinese War Strategy. Jiang ZiYa ‘s actual name is Jiang Shang, and he was called Jiang TaiGong (Great Grand Father Jiang) as a mark of respect, because by the time he was made a minister and helped Zhou Wen Huang to overthrow Shang Zou (a tyrant) , he was already 80 years old.

    Liu Tao is best translated as the six teachings of Jiang. It is often mentioned together with another war strategy book called Shan Lie (三略), which is translated literraly as the ‘three strategies’. Shan Lie is believed to be written by Huang Shi Gong ( who was portrayed in folklore as the old man who threw his shoe from a bridge into the bank of the river below and asked a young man Chang liang to pick it up. Chang Liang being a person who respected the elderly, obeyed without question and went to pick up the shoe and helped Huang to wear it. Huang gave his book of war strategy to Chang liang , who then helped Liu Pang to overthrew Qin Dynasty and became the first emperor of Han Dynasty as Han Kao Zu.. )

    Both the Liu tao (Six teachings) and Shan Lie ( three strategies) were war strategy books and both contained ancient Chinese wisdom as well.

    It is to be noted that the ‘First Teaching’ in the ‘Six Teachings’ is the Wen tao 文韬(Civil teaching). Thus in order to learn war strategy and be a good general, One must be able to administer the civil laws well (good governance).. without a strong civil and obedient society, no war strategy can succeed.. Thus one must learn to be a good and compassionate administrator to govern well the society as well as the army.. Without which the army cannot be strong and cannot function well to carry out the other teachings..

    It is indeed wise teaching. Looking at the present society, where there is not much good governance and so much corruption, you cannot hope to have a strong army or a strong police force.. You cannot expect a good education system.. There is loss of excellence and mediocrity has taken over.. There is simply no Wen Tao in our society, and any wonder why everything is going down the drain?

    To have good governance, the governor must first win the heart of the people by being compassionate (仁之所在,天下归之), and must have good moral (德之所在,天下归之). Compassion and Morality are thus the key to good governance, which is the pre-requisite of a strong army.. After which the rest of the teachings can be applied, namely
    # Military Teaching, 武韬
    # Dragon Teaching, 龙韬
    # Tiger Teaching, 虎韬
    # Leopard Teaching, 豹韬
    # Hound Teaching, 犬韬

    That is my very basic understanding of Liu Tao Shan Lie. Pls correct me if i am wrong..

    Another war strategist, the famous Tsu tse, also mentioned that the best way to win a war is not to fight battles, but to win the hearts of the enemies.. So you can see, ancient wisdom always stresses on winning the hearts of the people..

    A good leader must have both Wen Tao (good civil governance) and Wu lie (good war strategy)文韬武略。Looking at the present batch of leaders , few can live up to this billing. The last great one was perhaps
    Deng Xiao Peng ( or to lesser extent Zhou En Lai)who was a capable war strategist as well as a good rule.. My idol Winston Churchill was a good war leader but not a good civil administrator, but i admire him for rallying the world against Germany when all seemed lost after the fall of France and after the Dunkirk Withdrawal..


  34. Dr Hsu
    Dec 23, 2010 @ 12:18:10

    To further apply the Teaching of Wen Tao,, you can spend billions of dollars to buy the most advanced weapons, but without a good administration, what will happen is that you will have war planes with missing engines, submarines which cannot submerge.. Sounds familiar?

    Iraq in SH’s time had one of the biggest infantry forces in the world, but without a good administration to back it, it could not even last a week in battle..


  35. klm
    Dec 23, 2010 @ 12:19:45

    Dr. Hsu. You have put it in a simple and easy to understand way. What you say is quite true. I thought the record said Jiang SiYa’s name was Lu Shang.

    I am trying to put it into historical context.

    King Wen of Zhou was trying to take over the Yin (Shang). King Zhou of Yin was depicted as a cruel and debauched king. To gain the high ground, Zhou was positioned as state ruled with Compassion and Morality. Able administration of the civil laws and fair and equitable taxation turned Zhou into a strong state. The basic strategy of Jiang Tai Gong was to weaken the Shang state by offering an alternative that was better.

    These attributes helped changed the allegiance of many of Shang’s vassals and ministers as well. The push factor being the cruel Shang Zou and the pull factor the benevolence of Wen Wang. With this, Shang was weakened from within. When King Wu of Zhou invaded the Shang’s capital, the Shang’s army just collapsed. It seemed that the Zhou’s army of 50,000 men routed the Shang’s army of 700,000 men within a day, and with light casualties. The battle of Maye was a classic battle with superior strategies, with barely a fight.

    The concept of Mandate from Heaven was articulated at this time. To me, rather than being a mandate form heaven, this term meant the voluntary transfer of allegiance from the people from one king to another.

    In the modern world, the Mandate from Heaven come from the ballot box.


  36. klm
    Dec 23, 2010 @ 12:23:13

    BTW. Anybody interested in reading Tai Gong’s teaching go to this site
    http://www.chinese-wiki.com/Tai_Gong_Six_Teachings. It has it in English, modern Chinese and ancient Chinese. It is fascinating reading.


  37. Dr Hsu
    Dec 23, 2010 @ 12:33:58

    Ya, His real surname is Jiang, but since one of his ancestors helped Xia Yeu to solve the great flood problems of ancient China, the ancestor was given land and right to govern at a place called Lui.

    Just like Robin hood of Nottingham, His family was thus known as Jiang family of Lui, and thus the name Lui got stuck..He was thus also known as Lui Shang, meaning the Jiang Shang of Lui. (姜姓、呂氏– 氏 also means belonging to )


  38. klm
    Dec 23, 2010 @ 12:41:51

    Ah!. This is one part I missed. Thanks.


  39. Dr Hsu
    Dec 23, 2010 @ 13:17:11

    This comment is in response to a reader’s (called Curious) comment posted in Race politcis and Brain Drain. I think it is more apt for me to reply him here. I will also post his comment here for easy following:

    Dec 23, 2010 @ 12:33:25 [Edit]

    On reading all the comments posted here, I noticed that we have a lively bunch of commentators who greatly care about the fate and future of Malaysia.

    My only question for the great ideas and ideals put forward is on execution. I assume that most here would agree that meritocracy is the only way forward for Malaysia to prosper and compete in the future. My personal view is that any reforms towards making a better Malaysia for one and all would depend on a long term, multi-generational commitment towards bettering education, be it through a review of acceptance policies to universities, stronger teaching faculty and facilities, meritocractic scholarship provision, etc.

    However producing the world’s finest graduates would be pointless if there is no where for them to go. Hence a simultaneous improvement in the job prospects through attraction of FDI, creation and focus on key industries for development has to be achieved at the same time.

    Coming back to my question then, given the present state of education, policies, stakeholders and government, how would you change the present educational system in order to create a better Malaysia?

    Presupposing that whomever is in power had the will and backing to implement, what strategy would you decide on and more importantly, how would you go about executing that strategy? What time frame are we looking at? Basing the reforms on a platform of meritocracy is a good start, but that’s merely the endpoint of where we would like to see Malaysia. The journey to that end is the real question.]

    My reply to him:

    The answer perhaps is in the ancient wisdom that klm has mentioned. The 6 Teachings, the first of which is Good civil governance..

    To have good governance, there must be minimal corruption,. Hong Kong realised it in 1970s when they set up an ICAC which is totally independent..

    Confucian teachings have it that to be a good leader, one must prepare oneself first, then the family. Only with a strong foundation fro the family should one come out and help to administer the country. This is essential .. If a 30 year old person becomes a full time politician without a strong foundation for his family, he will be tempted to be corrupt.. And our system stress so much of the Youth wing, to have people join politics when they have not even be financially stable, that may be part of the reason of having so many corrupt politicians and so on..And only when you have a good administration , can you then conquer the neighbouring states and unify the world.. ( I am talking in the context of the Warring States) 修身,齐家,治国,平天下..

    Perhaps for those who can read Chinese, I will post here an article which I wrote many years ago in Chinese:(For those who
    don’t read Chinese, the above paragraph represents the essence of this article).

    我国自独立以来,硬体建设方面处理的很好,许多设施,不逊于先进国家。经济发展方面也不 落人后。唯独软体尤其是人文方面,有欠理想。所谓人文,包含了政治管理,教育,思想灌输,社会道德观念等等。君不见如今为官者,往往有贪污或滥权的,不但不以“民”为本,还把“民”当着敲诈剥削的对象。 作为人民的“你”和“我”,也好不了哪里去。在这金钱挂帅,追求物质享受的社会里,你我之中,有很多人已失去了基本道德价值观念。这些人文方面的欠缺,对我国欲成为先进发展国的理想,将会成为一项阻碍。

    《礼记·大学》有言,“欲治其国者,先齐其家;欲齐其家者,先修其身,身修而后家齐,家齐而后国治,国治而后天下平,”。换言之,自身的品德提高了,家庭才会整顿好。家庭整顿好了,然后国家才能治理好。国家治理好了,推而广之,才能使天下太平。身修之后,足以为一家的模范,这样家庭便自然而然地会治理好。在家齐的基础上,国治与天下太平也不是难事了。即全从自身做起,从而推己及人,以道德真诚的力量、教化的力量去影响他人,感化他人,进而达到最高的治平政治理想。诚意正心,是用功修身的人所必经的自修阶段。而齐家、治国、平天下,则是身修之后所产生的良好效果。所以在“修,齐 ,治,平“四环里, 修身是最关键的一环。

    修身,即是进修自己的品德,以达到完善人品操行,用俗语来说,就是做一个有人格的人。修身,是一种终身的培练,以求达到“富贵不能淫,贫贱不能移,威武不能屈”的境界。但我认为,要灌输这种观念,应从学校教育尤其是中小学校开始。中小学里, 应教导基本的儒家思想。儒家的中心点, 在于一个“仁“字。仁,是二人之间的相对关系和态度,扩意解释,包含了慈爱和儒学里的四维 “礼,义,廉,耻”。




  40. Dr Hsu
    Dec 23, 2010 @ 14:05:55


    I recall from my memory this folklore . You might have already known ..

    Zhou Wen Huang was the ruler of land in the West, in the Dynasty known as Yin Shang (or Shang). One day, Wen Huang ( he was considered then a Lord of a land, a sort of a vassal state) and one of his sons (not Wu Huang), went to pay tribute to Shang Zou (the tyrant). Shang Zou arrested Wen Huang and kept him in house arrest.

    One day, a servant brought a bowl of soup for Wen Huang to eat, saying that it was from Shang ZOu. Wen Huang instantly knew that the meat balls in the soup was his son’s meat, but in order to show Shang Zou that he was not the compassinate guy that others had labelled him, he drank and ate the meat ball.

    Shang Zou’s guard towards Wen Huang lessened after this incident, thinking that a person who could eat his own son’s meat could not go far.. SO he released wen Huang back to West Zhou.

    Wen Huang and his other son (Wu Huang) went searching for capable strategist to help them to raise a army .. One day, they came to the bank of a lake and saw an old man fishing with a fishing rod.. There was no hook , however, at the tip of the rod, and only a straight needle. Wen Huang asked the old man (Jiang ZiYa) why he used a straight needle and not a hook. Jiang’s answer was that ‘ whoever is willing will come, whoever is not willing will not come).. Indirectly, he was telling wen huang that those who treasure his(jiang’s) ability will come to him, no matter what. In the end, Wen Huang appointed Jiang as Tai Shi (Teacher) and Jiang helped to train an army and govern the country so well that what you have mentioned above happened..Jiang was believed to be around 83 years old then…

    This is just a story, a folklore of sort.. A myth , you can say. Just to share with you and others.


  41. lkt56
    Dec 23, 2010 @ 14:40:27

    The ancient Chinese truly believe that mandate of heaven means divine mandate from heaven to rule over your fellow man. That is why the emperor who is considered to the the son of heaven, ‘tian zi’, can rule over his fellow man.

    They even construct the temple of heaven (in Beijing) larger than their own abode, the ‘forbidden city’ because of this reverence for heaven.


  42. Dr Hsu
    Dec 23, 2010 @ 14:54:29


    The ancient people worshipped their emperor. There is a saying that ” if the king wants you to die, you must die”. And dying for the emperor was considered glorious. The order of respect for the people is as followed:(天地君亲师)


    Apart from Heaven and Earth ,(which were considered the realm of Gods and hence out of bound) which the people had no influence other than offering prayers, the emperor was the most important person.. More than even one’s parents..

    With these teachings and peer influence, most emperors were able to practice absolute power. The relative few emperors that were overthrown were real lousy ones whose rules resulted in governance so bad, that people had no other choice but to rebel. In those instances, the emperors were thought to have lost the mandate of heaven as bad rulers, and thus new mandate could be seeked by others.

    The same thing happened in Japan and ancient Korea, where the emperor was worshipped like God. In a way, even in Thailand, the lay people really revere King. They literally kneel before him..

    When people grew up in such a milieu, they would inevitably believe that the emperor was Son of God..

    I suspect ancient philosophers agreed to this “mandate of Heaven ” thing because in those days and times, only with the absolute power could a place be governed well, to have people obey you and to have people following rules and laws. Otherwise, there might be chaos all the time, and people would try to be kings themselves.. This is of course my simplistic views.

    Mao the egalitarian believed that power emanates from the barrels of the guns, and it may have changed the Chinese views of mandate of Heaven forever..


  43. CYC
    Dec 23, 2010 @ 15:22:50

    Dr Hsu,

    Thank you for sharing with us Liu Tao and Shan Lih. This is something I really haven’t touch on before.


    Really respect your passion on learning the ancient Chinese wisdom through wikipedia. That is a marvelous effort that outshone us in whatsoever manner. I found another 老师。So, KongFuzi is right to say 三人行,必有我师。


  44. A true Malaysian
    Dec 23, 2010 @ 15:28:33

    Dr. Hsu,

    You deserve a place in Parliament.

    Is MCLM knocking on your door?


  45. Dr Hsu
    Dec 23, 2010 @ 16:05:40


    YOu need to have a ‘mandate of heaven’ or be unscrupulous enough to manufacture one, or be a total obedient sycophant to contest… I have no ambition and thus have no mandate of heaven, hahaha..

    MCLM will have ore than enough good and moral guys to contest.. My worry is that power changes a person, and i have seen so many cases of people change after becoming MPs and so on…


  46. A true Malaysian
    Dec 23, 2010 @ 17:19:54

    Hahaha!!!! What a waste. But, I am full of hope with MCLM.

    Come back to the topic of this post, I came across a young guy saying that he is alright for a Prime Minister who is a suspected murderer or even a murderer. His reason being, according to history, many of the great leaders were murderer themselves.

    I got a shock in hearing this. How can, I keep asking myself this. Whose fault really for our education system to produce such a youngster, and I am not surprised many of today’s youngsters thinking the same way like this young chap.

    Looking at the history of China, in particular, Hsi Huang Ti, he was great, no doubt about it, but he could be greater than great if he had high morality. Just look at Chi Yuan, people has fond memory of him till today.

    Discounting ‘morality’ in achieving something is a short-cut to success, and the success will definitely be a ‘short-lived’ one, as the cycle of immoral or evil will keep coming back.

    It is for this reason that I am having high hope on MCLM, never mind if only one or two succeeded in becoming MP. We really need credible, principled, good people to reverse the perception that politicians are dirty or politics is a dirty game.

    Dr. Hsu, I still believe you do not need mandate of heaven here, grab the offer if MCLM knocking on your door.


  47. lkt56
    Dec 23, 2010 @ 17:22:39

    Dr. Hsu,
    Jokes aside, I am a firm believer in this doctrine of: mandate of heaven which is so simple:

    1) You think you have the mandate, go ahead and challenge the incumbent. If you win you know that you have the mandate.
    2) If you do not use this mandate to do good for your people, you lose your mandate. Someone else challenges you and you will pose power.

    BN has probably lost or is about to lose their mandate due the abuses and corruption that is going on in the administration. If Anwar Ibrahim has the mandate I have no doubt that he will win the next GE.


  48. wassup
    Dec 23, 2010 @ 17:48:56

    All these goes to proof one thing, that the chinese, since ancient times, without other race, is very capable of destroying itself.

    Don’t blame Barisan, MIC or UMNO. Among all the so called chinese based parties we tried to maul each other. Pathetic and embarrassing.

    Even on the road we tried to outdo each other. Some willing to die for a place in front.

    Its time for us to unite and support each other and proof all these so called emperor wrong.


  49. klm
    Dec 24, 2010 @ 00:03:05

    lkt56. You do have a point on the matter of Heaven Mandate. The idea of Heaven Mandate is the equivalent to the idea of destiny in western term.
    History tells us that some of the great men in the past believed they were born to fulfill a destiny, to create and rule an empire in the case of Alexander the Great or Genghis Khan. These people had this incessant drive in them to achieve a lifelong goal. In this sense, perhaps the Mandate of Heaven is true.
    Heaven had put the drive into certain people to lead and rule.


  50. aca
    Dec 26, 2010 @ 10:00:08

    UMNO’s version?

    Chinese caused the collapse of the Melaka Sultanate with the provision of 4 junks to the portugese. Independence was obtained solely by the efforts of UMNO. UMNO was the only nationalist party that fought against the communist who are mainly chinese and won.

    Darn, what else UMNO. I have no choice but will pull out my children from national school two years from now before they are brainwashed with UMNO version of history. Enough of racism from UMNO.


  51. petestop
    Dec 30, 2010 @ 07:08:40

  52. Dr Hsu
    Dec 30, 2010 @ 10:48:48

    Thanks for the link.
    The perception among many people is that it is His_story that is being pushed and indoctrinated.
    the end results, more students may steer away from the National Stream and study in either the Chinese Independent schools or private schools, and this would dig a hole in the pockets of many of the parents sending their children to such schools. But these parents may have no choice because educating their children PROPERLY is utmost in most people’s minds.

    Talking of unity, this will not help in uniting the people, but more for political self interest. I will ask the Minister of Unity what he is doing about this in the next meeting. Unity is not about learning skewed history.

    PM has been talking about moderation, but I have written a post ” If only he walks the talk”.https://hsudarren.wordpress.com/?s=if+only+he+walks+the+talk

    I think the top leaders are not walking the talks


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