When the PRC was founded in 1949, it called itself New China — as in the name of the Xinhua press agency, the New China Press Agency. A intriguing 2013 blog posting argued that “The Qing Dynasty was not a Chinese Dynasty” 清元朝并非是中国朝代, noting that Sun Yatsen (Sun Zhongshan) wrote in his “Three People’s Principles” that that China has been politically obliterated twice in its thousands of years of history. Once time by the Yuan (Mongol) Dynasty and the second time by the Qing (Manchu) Dynasty.
Thinking about the continuities and discontinuities in Chinese history and the perspectives behind one or the other view is intriguing and naturally politically sensitive. There are other. For example was Deng’s Opening and Reform a refounding of the PRC? How much continuity is there between the first thirty years of PRC history and the decades since the end of the Cultural Revolution and the start of Opening and Reform? Many countries think fondly of the time when they expanded to their greatest territorial extent at the expense of their neighbors. Can those historical glories of predecessor states form the basis of a territorial claim today?
I summary translated a few excerpts.
In 2004, a professor from Ulaan Bataar University in Mongolia commented on Chinese anti-Japanese sentiment at the Asian Games. “The Chinese take the great achievements of Mongolia and our Mongolian ancestors in conquering them as the achievements of their ancestors and national heros. They take the time when we colonized them as the most glorious period in their history. The Chinese are a people who do seem to have an idiotic kind of logic, what right do they have to criticize your country’s (Japan’s) view of history? What right do they have to criticize your national heros, those so-called grade A war criminals who invaded them?
Lu Xun in his “Random Notes” wrote how as a child he learned of the great heros and dynasties of Chinese history and how at 20 he heard that “our Da Qing” conquered Europe and that was the most glorious period of Chinese history. When he turned 25, he that the “most glorious period of Chinese history” was when the Mongols invaded and made us their lackeys. Later I learned that the Mongols first conquered eastern Europe and only later conquered China. But he conquered Russia first. So really it should be the Russians saying “When our Genghis Khan conquered China, it was the most glorious period of our history”
鲁迅在《随便翻翻》中说过 ： “幼小时候，我知道中国在‘盘古氏开辟天地’之后，有三皇五帝….. 宋朝，元朝，明朝，‘我大清’。到二十岁，又听说‘我们’的成吉思汗征服欧洲，是我们最阔气的时代。到二十五岁，才知道所谓这‘我们最阔气的时代’，其实是蒙古人征服了中国，我们做了奴才。直到今年（指1934年-引者）八月里，因为要查一点故事，翻了三部蒙古史，这才明白蒙古人的征服‘斡罗思’，侵入匈、奥，还在征服全中国之前，那时的成吉思还不是我们的汗，倒是俄人被奴的资格比我们老，应该他们说‘ 我们的成吉思汗征服中国，是我们最阔气的时代’的。 ”
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