The 1962 Chinese Invasion
(c) Hindustan Times
At sunrise on October 20, 1962, China’s People’s Liberation Army invaded India with overwhelming force on two separate flanks – in the west in Ladakh, and in the east across the McMahon Line in the then North-East Frontier Agency. The Chinese aggression, and the defeat and humiliation it wreaked on an unprepared India, remain deeply embedded in the Indian psyche.
India was taken completely unawares by the invasion. This reflected political naivete on its part. It also bared a woefully flawed intelligence network that failed to pick up the movement of heavy artillery and other Chinese military activity along the Himalayan frontier in the months ahead. The invasion of India was carefully planned well in advance and came after extended military preparations, including the improvement of logistics and the movement of heavy artillery from opposite Taiwan to Tibet, where PLA had since its annexation maintained infantry troops in large numbers to suppress the local population without the need to induct heavy weaponry. That began to change by the spring of 1962, but Indian intelligence remained horrifically oblivious.
Read more: Challanely
Early in the morning of Feb. 17, 1979, Chinese artillery batteries and multiple rocket launchers opened fire all along the Vietnamese border with protracted barrages that shook the earth for miles around. Then 85,000 troops surged across the frontier in human-wave attacks like those China had used in Korea nearly three decades before. They were decimated: the well-dug-in Vietnamese cut down the Chinese troops with machine guns, while mines and booby traps did the rest. Horrified by their losses, the Chinese quickly replaced the general in charge of the invasion that was meant, in Beijing's words, to teach Vietnam a lesson, and concentrated their attack on neighboring provincial capitals. Using tanks and artillery, they quickly overran most of the desired towns: by March 5, after fierce house-to-house fighting, they captured the last one, Lang Son, across the border from Pingxiang. Then they began their withdrawal, proclaiming victory over the Cubans of the Orient, as Chinese propaganda had dubbed them. By China's own estimate, some 20,000 soldiers and civilians from both sides died in the 17-day war. Who learned the bigger lesson? The invasion demonstrated a contradiction that has forever bedeviled China's military and political leaders:
Read more: Time
By KOICHIRO ISHIDA/ Correspondent
FANGZHENG COUNTY, China--Amid all the rancor in China over Japan's war
responsibility, local historian Guo Xiangsheng comes across as a lone voice in
He is campaigning to preserve the memory of thousands of Japanese settlers
who died in China after the Imperial Japanese Army abandoned them in the chaotic
close of World War II.
The seeds of his quest lie in Japan's military occupation of northeastern
China. Many Japanese were sent there as farmers to raise productivity after
Tokyo established its Manchukuo puppet state in 1932.
Later, the settlers were dragooned to defend its northern borders against the
Soviet Red Army, which overran the region in August 1945.
The settlers were left to fend for themselves after the Japanese army
It is estimated that 5,000 Japanese settlers perished in Fangzheng county
alone in the immediate aftermath of Japan's surrender
From the Chinese perspective, the Japanese settlers were "invaders," says the
62-year-old Guo. On the other hand, they were left behind by the army that was
supposed to protect them.
For this reason, Guo wants Chinese to view the Japanese settlers in
Heilongjiang province, which includes Fangzheng county, as victims of the war
rather than as aggressors.
Read more at Asahi Simbun
- Selected Documents of the Boxer Rebellion
- Bibliography on the Boxer Rebellion
- Battle Streamer: China Relief Expedition 1900-1901
- Lieutenant Commander George H. Rose, USNR (1880-1932)
- Medal: China Relief Expedition
- Navy Medal of Honor: Boxer Rebellion 1900The origins of anti-Western attitudes in China are difficult to trace, but widespread dislike by the population at large goes back to at least the Opium War between Britain and China (1839-1842). These feelings worsened over the course of the 19th century as Western colonial powers, as well as Russia and Japan, negotiated for, leased, and even seized portions of the Chinese Empire. Following the 1895 Sino-Japanese War, several European powers secured territorial and commercial concessions from China, including the 1897 seizure of Kiaochow and Tsingtao by Imperial Germany. This intervention precipitated a new wave of even bolder efforts to force concessions from China, further exacerbating tensions.
Anti-foreign sentiment resulted in the rapid growth of a Chinese secret society (which had existed for centuries) known as the I Ho Ch'uan (Righteous Harmonious Fists), but referred to by the Westerners as `Boxers.' The Boxers called for the expulsion of the `foreign devils' and their Chinese Christian converts. The society stressed the ritualistic use of the martial arts and traditional Chinese weapons. Anti-foreign incidents, including the burning of homes and businesses, increased dramatically in 1898 and 1899, and was primarily directed at Chinese Christians. The number of killings by the Boxers continued to grow, and on 30 December 1899 included a British missionary. Western governments lodged strong protests with the Chinese Dowager Empress, Tzu Hsi. She responded on 11 January 1900, with a declaration that the Boxers represented a segment of Chinese society, and should not be labeled a criminal organization. Her unenthusiastic support for the Chinese Army's attempts at quelling the violence and the influence of Boxer sympathizers at the Imperial court, led Western governments to deploy military forces on the Chinese coast to protect their citizens and interests.
By spring 1900, Boxer violence was virtually unchecked by Chinese authorities. On 30 May, the foreign ministers at Peking (today known as Beijing, but at the time referred to as Pekin) called for troops to protect the legations at Peking. Four hundred and thirty Sailors and Marines (including fifty-six Americans from USS Oregon and USS Newark) from eight countries arrived at the legations on 31 May and 4 June. On 9 June, the Boxers began attacking foreign property in Peking, and the senior foreign minister, Great Britain's Sir Claude MacDonald, requested a sizable relief force just before the telegraph lines were cut.Read moe at The Boxer Rebellion and the U.S. Navy
In this feature documentary, Oscar®-nominated filmmaker Shuibo Wang (Sunrise Over Tiananmen Square) aims his camera at the astonishing story of 21 American soldiers who opted to stay in China after the Korean War ended in 1954. Back home in the United States, McCarthyism was at its height and many Americans believed these men were brainwashed by Chinese communists. But what really happened? Using never-before-seen footage from the Chinese camps and interviews with former PoWs and their families, They Chose China tells the fascinating stories of these forgotten American dissidents.
Uploaded by freespeechtv on Dec 20, 2011
You are supposedly fighting for the freedom of the Vietnamese, but what kind of freedom do you have at home, sitting in the back of the bus, being barred from restaurants, stores and certain neighborhoods, and being denied the right to vote. ... Go home and fight for equality in America.
The Adventurer-Writer who Chronicled Asian Wars, Confronted Racism—and Saw the Future
He stood among the Japanese soldiers wearing a weather-beaten visored cap over his short, dark hair and a rough hewn jacket covering his broad soldiers, a cigarette angling away from his square jaw and a camera dangling from his gloved hand. As they studied documents, the Japanese troops contrasted with Jack London in their box hats and high collared uniforms. A photographer present immortalized London looking like the adventurer and writer that he was, one drawn to the battle like a missionary to his calling, who skillfully recorded the machinations of great powers while sympathizing with the underdogs who struggled to survive.
Jack London (1876-1916), easily the most popular American writer a century ago, is still praised for his Yukon novels and short stories such as The Call of the Wild, White Fang and To Build a Fire. However, his visits to Japan, Korea and Manchuria; his factual, hard hitting coverage of the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05); his astute short stories about Sino-Japanese competition; his prophetic essays predicting the rise of the Pacific Rim, and his call for respect and constructive interaction between Americans and Asians over "yellow peril" hysteria are undeservedly forgotten. These salient aspects of London's life deserve to be remembered and respected. They evidence his keen intelligence, painfully accurate vision of the future and the progressive and humane values that are still needed to bridge the East and West.
London negotiates passage with a Japanese officer in Korea during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05. I explained that I was going to Chemulpo. “In a moment,” said the interpreter. I showed my ticket, my passport, my card, my credentials; and always and invariably came the answer, “In a moment.” Also the interpreter stated that he was very sorry. He stated this many times. He made special trips upstairs to tell me that he was very sorry.
The Yellow Peril Threatens the West?
Today the term “The Yellow Peril” — but not necessarily the fears and fantasies that it engenders — has gone out of fashion. But in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Westerners' dreams about the "superiority" of their civilization competed with their nightmares of Oriental hordes swarming from the East to engulf the advanced West. This was a popular theme in the day's literature and journalism, which London knew well. The term “Yellow Peril” supposedly derives from German Kaiser Wilhelm II's warning following Japan’s defeat of China in 1895 in the first Sino-Japanese War. The expression initially referred to Tokyo’s sudden rise as a military and industrial power in the late nineteenth century. Soon, however, its more sinister meaning was broadly applied to all of Asia. “The Yellow Peril” highlighted diverse Western fears including the supposed threat of a military invasion from Asia, competition to the white labor force from Asian workers, the alleged moral degeneracy of Asian people and the spectre of the genetic mixing of Anglo-Saxons with Asians.1
Many writers and journalists in the early 1900s wielded an unflattering pen when writing about Asians, boasting of Anglo-Saxon superiority over the “yellow and brown” Asians. The Hearst newspapers stridently warned of the “yellow peril”. So did noted British novelist M. P. Shiel in his short story serial, The Yellow Danger. One finds similar views in Kipling’s poem “The White Man’s Burden” and in some of his stories and novels.
The Russo-Japanese War saw Japan alter the world balance of power that the West once dominated, triggering viceral fears of a yellow peril
Read more at Voices Education Project
A Chinese poet and a revolutionary, Qiu Jin was born in 1875 into a moderately wealthy family. While growing up she enjoyed riding horses and playing with swords. She also liked to read. Her family insisted that she receive good education and she was able to socialize with other well-educated people.
At the age of twenty-one Qiu Jin was married to an older man. He had a more conventional outlook on life than she did and she felt stifled in this relationship. She left her husband in 1903 and went to study in Japan where she was vocal in her support for women's rights and pressed for improved access to education for women. To provide female role models, she wrote articles about historical Chinese women.
In 1906 she returned to China and started publishing a women's magazine in which she encouraged women to gain financial independence through education and training in various prefessions. She encouraged women to resist oppression by their families and by the government. At the time it was still customary for women in China to have their feet bound at the age of five. The result of this practice was that the feet were small but crippled. Women's freedom of movement was severely restricted and left them dependent on other people. Such helpless women were, however, more desired as wives, so their families continued the practice to protect their daughters' future security.
Qiu Jin felt that a better future for women lay under a Western-type government instead of the corrupt Manchu government that was in power at the time. She joined forces with her male cousin Hsu Hsi-lin and together they worked to unite many secret revolutionary societies to work together for the overthrow of the Manchu government. On July 6, 1907 Hsu Hsi-lin was caught by the authorities before a scheduled uprising. He confessed his involvement under interrogation and was executed. Immediately after, on July 12, the government troops arrested Qiu Jin at the school for girls, where she was a principal. She refused to admit her involvement in the plot, but they found incriminating documents and she was beheaded. Qiu Jin was acknowleged immediately as a heroine and a martyr who died fighting enemies of the Chinese people and she became a symbol of women's independence.
Source: Distinguished Women of Past and Present, contributed by Danuta Bois, 1997; http://www.distinguishedwomen.com/biographies/qiujin.html
Herstory. Women Who Changed the World, edited by Ruth Ashby and Deborah Gore Ohrn, Viking, 1995. Qiu Jin profile by Lynn Reese.
While Qiu Jin (秋瑾) is mainly remembered in the West as revolutionary and feminist, one aspect of her life that gets overlooked is her poetry and essays. Having received an exceptional education in classical literature, reflected in her writing of more traditional poetry (shi and ci) Qiu composed verse with a wide range of metaphors and allusions; mixing classical mythology along with revolutionary rhetoric.
Read more at Voices
A veteran pilot once explained the "CBI* takeoff" to newcomers: "If you can see the end of the runway through the rain and mist, then a takeoff is expected."
Following the invasion of China in 1937, Japanese forces succeeded in controlling virtually all of China's Pacific coast, and large parts of the interior — giving the Japanese Navy command of all ocean approaches. In the spring of 1942, Japanese units overran Burma (on India's northern border), cutting off the last significant land routes that supplied the struggling armies of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek in China.
The United States and its allies needed to keep China in the war because its forces preoccupied hundreds of thousands of Japanese troops. Holding that valuable Chinese turf permitted the Allies to attack Axis powers in the European theater, at the same time building a necessary launch site for an Allied attack on Japan's home islands. However, that grand strategy could only work if China and allied troops could be routinely supplied.
In April 1942, pilots started flying the "Hump," and continued missions until 1945, when the Burma Road was reopened. The dangerous 530-mile long passage over the Himalayan Mountains took its toll. Nearly 1,000 men and 600 Air Transport Command (ATC) planes were lost over the hump by the end of China-Burma-India Theater (CBI) operations. In addition, China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC) lost 38 planes and 88 airmen.
First to fly the hump
During the 1930s, the CNAC had pioneered air routes over the Himalayas. CNAC operated with the support of the Chinese government and the expertise of Pan American Airways. CNAC became a contractor to operate air cargo services between India and China, although it was clear that far more capacity was needed. Accordingly, the 10th Air Force, based in India, took responsibility for substantial air cargo flights and began operations over the hump in April 1942.
In October 1942, General of the Air Force Henry H. "Hap" Arnold decided to put the ATC in command of all hump operations, and 10th Air Force units on hump assignments were transferred to the ATC in December. The ATC, with authority to handle all airlift requirements in the theater of operations, brought its special experience to sort out the problems in air transportation and cargo flying.
Read more at U.S. History
Retired Sep. 30, 1957. Died Feb. 27, 2006.
Robert Lee Scott was born in Macon, Ga., in 1908. He graduated from the U.S. Military Academy in 1932, completed pilot training at Kelly Field, Texas, in October 1933 and was assigned to Mitchel Field, N.Y. Like other air officers, Scott flew the air mail in 1934, commanded a pursuit squadron in Panama and helped instruct other pilots at bases in Texas and California.
After World War II began, he went to Task Force Aquila in February 1942 to the China-Burma-India Theater where he pioneered in air activities. Within a month he was executive and operations officer of the Assam-Burma-China Ferry Command, forerunner of the famous Air Transport Command and Hump efforts from India to China.
At the request of Generalissmo Chiang Kai-Shek he was named commander of the Flying Tigers, formed by General Claire Chennault, and also became fighter commanding officer of the China Air Task Force, later to become the 14th Air Force.
He flew 388 combat missions in 925 hours from July 1942 to October 1943, shooting down 13 enemy aircraft to become one of the earliest aces of the war/
Read more at U.S. AIR fORCE
As it had for millenia, success in nineteenth century China lay in a cushy civil service job, obtainable only through a series of tests of horrifying difficulty. Most men with ambition took and failed at least one in their life. Hong Xiuquan was one such social climber: he took the exams in 1827, 1836, 1837, and 1843, all to no avail. Hong was so upset with his third failure in 1837 that he fell ill for several days and had a strange, beatific vision. In it elderly women washed the filth off his body, wizened men replaced his dirty internal organs with brand spanking new ones, and he met grandiose-looking people claiming to be his relatives.
Hong discarded the episode as a case of the pink elephants and, in 1843, he re-took and re-flunked the exam. After his fourth and final failure he wandered home and happened upon a Chinese translation of the Bible. It immediately became clear to Hong that the grandiose relatives in his dream were none other than the Judeo-Christian God and Jesus Christ, making Hong Christ's younger brother. Hong seized this new divine identity, unofficially baptized himself, and scurried about evangelizing. Before long, he needed more than the verses contained in his text to continue his work. In Dragon by the Tail, John Paton Davies Jr. details the proceedings for us:
In search of further guidance, Hong spent two months with an American Baptist missionary, the Reverend Issachar Jacox Roberts, receiving scriptural instruction. Leaving before he was ready for baptism -- on which score the Reverend Mr. Roberts was quite right -- Hong returned to his native place near Canton. There he and his followers, now calling themselves God Worshipers, made themselves socially unacceptable by smashing idols and Hong lost his position as schoolmaster.
In Resistance, Chaos and Control in China, Robert P. Weller gives a little more detail:
[Hong's movement] typically destroyed popular temples and desecrated the god images, often by tearing off their beards... While Hong may well have seen this as a bold blow at the heart of popular idolatry and superstition, god destruction was in fact always a perfectly plausible option within popular religious practice.
At the time, deities were plentiful and the existence of a few extra ones didn't cause any commotion. The god-worshiper relationship in China was a reciprocal one: if your particular god didn't bother to respond to your prayers, you had no obligation to continue worshiping him. Hence, all sorts of acts that might appear heretical to the outsider were quite acceptable. "Impotent deities might be broken to bits, burnt, or set floating down the river by angry crowds."
Hong had a couple of favorite targets and managed to swell his own ranks by hitting them. At the local King Gan temple, Hong ordered his followers to "dig out the eyes of the demon, cut off its beard, trample its hat, tear its embroidered dragon gown to shreds, turn its body upside down, and cut off its arms." While Hong no doubt felt such denouncement of false deities furthered Christianity, Gan's followers shrugged and picked up the pieces. They did not, as Hong hoped, abandon King Gan; they simply acknowledged the brute force of Hong's own god and continued in their own pagan worship.
Read more at History House
HONG KONG — Julia Lovell’s book tour for “The Opium War” sailed along the historic path of the conflict itself.
A view of a street in Canton, a major site of hostilities during the Opium War.
The author Julia Lovell discussing her new book on the conflict and why that 19th-century event still holds so much weight in 21st-century China.
The book was introduced last month in Hong Kong, a city whose modern history began when it was handed to Britain after China’s defeat in the first Opium War in 1842, marking the start of 155 years as a prosperous crown colony.
Fourteen years after returning to Beijing’s control, the city still bears the hallmarks of that conflict.
The convention center where the Hong Kong Book Fair attracted 950,000 visitors sits on a harbor still dedicated to Queen Victoria, the reigning monarch during the Opium War. The labyrinthine streets around the SoHo district are still named after Lord Elgin, a high commissioner to China; Sir George Staunton, who worked for the British East India Company; and Henry Pottinger, the colony’s first British governor.
“This is where the story starts,” Ms. Lovell said.
Her Hong Kong hotel suite had a view of Jardine’s Lookout, which commemorates William Jardine, an opium agent and one of the founders of the powerful trading company known today as Jardine Matheson Holdings. “Hong Kong’s origins are steeped in opium,” Ms. Lovell said. “For better or for worse, Hong Kong would not be what it is today without the Opium Wars.”
Her tour continued onto Singapore and India, also former colonies whose modern histories were entwined in the violent drug trade.
“The Opium War: Drugs, Dreams and the Making of China,” which will be released by Picador in Britain in September, is more than just a history. It examines why the 19th-century conflict still holds so much weight in 21st-century China, while it is regarded as little more than a textbook chapter in other places it touched, like Hong Kong, Singapore, India and Britain. By looking at the conflict from a contemporary viewpoint, “The Opium War” offers insight into an Asian superpower still uneasy with its trade relations with the West.
With almost 100 pages of maps, notes, timelines and footnotes, “The Opium War” moves along with a quick pace and simple language. Parts are even dryly humorous in describing the absurdities of war: There was no lack of greed, racist stereotyping, bureaucratic bumbling, infighting and aggression on both sides. There are also about 50 photographs and illustrations, showing everything from opium dens (in both China and London) to depictions of China in Western pop culture, like a 1932 publicity poster with the actor Boris Karloff playing the character Fu Manchu in yellow-face.
Read more at The New York Times
A little Japanese boy can be seen dressed-up in Japan's imperial military uniform at the Yasukuni Shrine. He was visiting the Yasukuni Shrine march, which honours wartime leaders convicted by an Allied tribunal as war criminals, along with millions of war dead, on the 62nd anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War Two:
Visitors release doves at Yasukuni Shrine on the 62nd anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War Two. The shrine honours wartime leaders convicted as war criminals, along with millions of war dead:
A woman wearing a Japanese army cap and carrying a banner saying 'kamikaze', a word used to describe suicide attacks by Japanese pilots during World War Two, visits the Yasukuni Shrine on the 62nd anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War Two. The Yasukuni Shrine honours wartime leaders convicted by an Allied tribunal as war criminals, along with millions of war dead:
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, right, leaves after delivering a speech as Emperor Akihito, left, and Empress Michiko look on in the background during a memorial service for the nation's war dead at the Budokan martial arts hall, marking the 62nd anniversary of the end of World War II:
The origin of Yasukuni Shrine is Shokonsha established at Kudan in Tokyo in the second year of the Meiji era (1869) by the will of the Emperor Meiji. In 1879, it was renamed Yasukuni Shrine.
When the Emperor Meiji visited Tokyo Shokonsha for the first time on January 27 in 1874, he composed a poem; "I assure those of you who fought and died for your country that your names will live forever at this shrine in Musashino". As can be seen in this poem, Yasukuni Shrine was established to commemorate and honor the achievement of those who dedicated their precious lives for their country. The name "Yasukuni," given by the Emperor Meiji represents wishes for preserving peace of the nation.
Currently, more than 2,466,000 divinities are enshrined here at Yasukuni Shrine. These are souls of men who made ultimate sacrifice for their nation since 1853 during national crisis such as the Boshin War, the Seinan War, the Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese wars, World War I, the Manchurian Incident, the China Incident and the Greater East Asian War (World War II). These people, regardless of their rank or social standing, are considered to be completely equal and worshipped as venerable divinities of Yasukuni.
Japanese people believe that their respect to and awe of the deceased is best expressed by treating the dead in the same manner as they were alive. Hence, at Yasukuni Shrine, rituals to offer meals and to dedicate words of appreciation to the dead are repeated every day. And, twice every year－in the spring and autumn－major rituals are conducted, on which occasion offerings from His Majesty the Emperor are dedicated to them, and also attended by members of the imperial family.
Thus, Yasukuni Shrine has deep relationship with the Japanese imperial family. Also, five million people visit the shrine every year since it is known as a central institution for commemorating those who died in wars.
Japan still maintains the culture and tradition of respecting and worshipping the deceased. The Japanese have long believed that spirits of the deceased remain eternally on earth and guard their descendants. Even in today�s Japan，people consider their ancestors as their �guardian deities,� and thus as an object of worshipping because such traditional way of thinking along with the belief of Shinto is still inherited.
In addition to this, Japanese people have respected and worshipped spirits of those who made prominent contribution to regional and national communities－not only to family communities as such. Yasukuni Shrine is an example which represents such genuine Japanese culture.
Yasukuni Shrine is a place to commemorate in a manner of Shinto, a traditional Japanese faith and a place for all the Japanese to show their appreciation and respect to those who died to protect their country. The spirits of these deceased are the object of worship at Yasukuni Shrine. Therefore, the shrine has completely different nature from that of tombs where bodies or bones of fallen soldiers are buried.
Having never released horse saddles or left chariots, I painstakingly worked out;
Till the reckoning of disaster did I find out that it was not easy to simply die.
For 300 years, the foot-steps of my motherland had been staggering;
Along the road of 8000 li distance were scenes of hardship-stricken mourning populace.
In the sobre autumn winds, I, a minister in solitude, was in tears beside my treasured sword;
With the sun setting, I now stand by the campaigning flag on the generalissimo's altar;
Dusts of war are still floating over all seas, with no sign of settling down.
Gentlemen, please not look upon the developments of our country as a disinterested bystander.
David W. Tschanz
Thirteenth century Cairo glistened jewel-like on the banks of the Nile. The winter of 1260 had given way to spring and the first touch of the coming summer heat hung in the air. Most of the city's inhabitants went about their daily business unaware that anything special was happening. A few other gossiped, gesturing towards the Sultan's palace and speculating on the meaning behind the strange envoy that now had the attention of Sultan Saif Al-Din Qutuz and his generals.
In the palace, Qutuz shifted uneasily in his chair and beheld the four men before him with a mixture of hatred and justifiable anxiety. The emissaries represented the Mongol prince Hulegu Khan and they laid before Qutuz a letter. It was not written in the tone by which one head of state normally addressed another:
From the King of Kings of the East and West, the Great Khan. To Qutuz the Mamluk, who fled to escape our swords. You should think of what happened to other countries ... and submit to us. You have heard how we have conquered a vast empire and have purified the earth of the disorders that tainted it. We have conquered vast areas, massacring all the people. You cannot escape from the terror of our armies. Where can you flee? What road will you use to escape us? Our horses are swift, our arrows sharp, our swords like thunderbolts, our hearts as hard as the mountains, our soldiers as numerous as the sand. Fortresses will not detain us, nor arms stop us. Your prayers to God will not avail against us. We are not moved by tears nor touched by lamentations. Only those who beg our protection will be safe. Hasten your reply before the fire of war is kindled ... Resist and you will suffer the most terrible catastrophes. We will shatter your mosques and reveal the weakness of your God and then we will kill your children and your old men together. At present you are the only enemy against whom we have to march.
The Mongol ambassadors and Qutuz considered one another for long moments.Then Qutuz withdrew, commanding his Mamluk generals to follow him. The Mongols merely smiled.
The impromptu council of war was a somber affair as Qutuz's principal officers recounted the sober facts of the Mongol advance Qutuz reflected on the situation. A proud, decisive man he was not used to being addressed in terms of a coldly arrogant ultimatum. But he was also a realist, to his generals he admitted the Mamluks were probably no match for the Mongols. The commanders agreed and recommended capitulating to the Mongol demands.
But Qutuz's own opinion differed. The Sultan had come to power by knowing how and when to act. Observing the dissolute and vapid character of the 15 year old Ayubbid Sultan Nur al-Din Ali ibn Aibak in the face of the Mongol threat, Qutuz had deposed him the previous October. "Egypt needs a warrior as its king," he explained. To submit now would be an act of cowardice and treachery. He would not surrender, he defiantly told them. "If no one else will come I will go and fight the Tatars alone."
He barked out orders to his guards, who promptly seized the envoys. The Mongols, he knew, considered ambassadors to be untouchable. They treated those sent to them with utmost respect and expected theirs to be treated the same. To harm one they considered an act of unforgivable treachery. Qutuz commanded the ambassadors be cut in half at the waist, then decapitated and their heads placed on Cairo's great Zuwila Gate. The Mamluks were now bloodily and irrevocably committed to war with the Mongols.
Read more at StrategyPage
Between 1971 and 1985, Igor de Rachewiltz published his translation of The Secret History of the Mongols (henceforth SHM) in eleven volumes of Papers on Far Eastern History. In addition to being a much easier read than the King James English used in Francis W. Cleaves’ translation (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1982), it was accompanied by extensive footnotes commenting not only on the translation but also various aspects of Mongolian culture. While several other translations of the Secret History have emerged, none equaled Rachewiltz’s translation in terms of annotation or in the quality of the translation, although some approached it.
Unfortunately, using Rachewiltz’s original translation was often unwieldy due to it being published in 11 installments over a span of 14 years. Even for those who copied it and kept it in one volume or a folder, there was still the problem of ensuring a correct citation of proper volume and year. Thus it is not only with great pleasure, but also great relief to announce the publication of Igor de Rachewiltz’s translation of The Secret History of the Mongolsin Brill’s Inner Asian Library series.
Rachewiltz’s new edition of The Secret History of the Mongols is a substantial addition to the scholarship of the Mongol Empire, not only in terms of finally being published in a book format, but also the improvements to the translation. Consisting of 1347 pages in addition to 127 pages of front matter, it is truly a monumental work.
This edition, begun in 1987, includes an even smoother translation than previous editions and made a few passages more lucid than previously had been the case. Thus, without question, this translation of The Secret History of the Mongols remains the best, not only in terms of quality of translation, but also in terms of readability for the non-specialist. Yet, the improved translation is only the tip of the iceberg.
The introduction alone is a boon to the historiography of the Mongol Empire. In addition to discussing the origins and history behind SHM, Rachewiltz discusses the sizeable scholarship which has emerged on SHM, including not only other translations but studies on the work and its role in folklore, historical studies, as well as literature. Indeed, the introduction alone would have been a worthy monograph and a substantial contribution to scholarship.
This edition of The Secret History of the Mongols includes a series of photographs as well as two maps and a genealogical table of Chinggis Khan. One map is of modern Mongolia with its present day boundaries. However, as it is meant to depict Mongolia in 1200, the names of the various tribes of Mongolia and the neighboring realms have also been included. This is particularly useful for illustrating the localities of the tribes as well as many of the locations mentioned in SHMin a modern context. The second map is one of Eurasia in the thirteenth century. In addition to the names of the various regions, Rachewiltz has also included geographic names and those of various ethnicities used by the Mongols. Hence for Tibet, Rachewiltz has included Töböt, Sarta’ul for Khwârazm, and Bolar for the Volga Bulgars, etc.
As SHM has been rather arbitrarily divided into chapters, Rachewiltz has included a summary of the chapters. The summary is particularly useful; in addition to being a summation of the events of the chapter, Rachewiltz also succinctly summarizes the paragraphs (or verses if one may) comprising that chapter. Thus one now has a quick reference to guide one’s research. Finally, a chapter and paragraph concordance has been provided listing the paragraphs included in each chapter. It should be noted that the SHM was translated from Chinese texts. These were used to teach Chinese to translate Mongolian during the Ming period, with the Mongolian language represented phonetically through Chinese characters. In some manuscripts, SHM was divided into 12 chapters with others with 15 chapters. Prof. Rachewiltz has used the 12 chapter division of the 177 paragraphs for his organization of The Secret History of the Mongols.
The translation itself consists of 220 pages. The commentary on the translation is much more expansive, spanning 823 pages. While the text of the translation alters slightly from his previous translation, the commentary is, as one would suspect, much more comprehensive than Rachewiltz’s prior translation. Indeed, his discussion of the chapters, Rachewiltz cites the arguments and thoughts of other scholars. While competent and confident in his own translation, Rachewiltz is realistic in that he brings forth other possible interpretations of vague or problematic paragraphs. As such, the commentary is not so much a commentary on SHM but rather a compendium of research of the work.
Because racism in the age of imperialism is most commonly associated with “white supremacism” (and the smug rhetoric of a “white man’s burden”), this explosive outburst of Japanese condescension toward China and the Chinese seems all the more stunning. In the Western hierarchy of race, so-called Orientals or Asiatics or Mongoloids were lumped together—below the superior Caucasians and above the “Negroid.” In their inimitable way, the Japanese promoted these stereotypes where the Chinese were concerned, even while trying to demonstrate their own identity with the Caucasians.
What made this even more disconcerting was the intimate overlay of race and culture in the case of Japan and China. No non-Chinese society was more indebted to China. Japan’s written language, its great traditions of Buddhism and Confucianism, vast portions of its finest achievements in art and architecture—all came from China. In an abrupt phrase familiar to all literate Japanese, even in the Meiji period, China and Japan were culturally as close as “lips and teeth.”
But that, of course, was the point—and what made this outburst of anti-Chinese sentiment a very peculiar sort of racism on the part of the Japanese. The Chinese were contemptible because they were deemed inept. At the same time, however, “China” was symbolic and self-referential. “China,” that is, stood for “Asia.’ It stood for “the past.” It stood for outmoded “traditional values.” It stood for “weakness” vis-à-vis the Western powers. It stood, coming even closer to home, for “evil customs of the past” that Japanese leaders ever since the Meiji Restoration argued had to be eradicated within Japan itself if their nation—and Asia as a whole—were to survive in a dog-eat-dog modern world.
“Old” China was the Anti-West, the Anti-Modern (a notion China’s own Communist leaders would later embrace with a vengeance themselves). As a consequence, while the corpses were unmistakably and brutally Chinese, they stood for a great deal more as well.
To return to Fukuzawa’s famous phrase, killing Chinese amounted to “throwing off Asia” in every conceivable way. This was seen to be essential to Japan’s security, its very survival. It was deemed progressive. It amounted, when all was said and done, to embracing a “modern” kind of hybridization. Where the old Japan had been distinguished by enormous indebtedness to traditional Chinese culture, the new Japan would be distinguished by wholesale borrowing from the modern West.
At the same time, of course—as is true of nationalism everywhere—it was necessary to think oneself unique. In the Japanese case, this was accomplished by “reinventing” the mystique surrounding the throne and imperial family. It was not coincidental that the war against China coincided with the consolidation of a modern emperor system under the new constitution of 1890.
From the Japanese perspective, the denigration of the Chinese that permeates the Sino-Japanese War prints was really secondary to the obverse side of this triumphal new nationalism. It was secondary, that is, to the story of the surpassing discipline and self-sacrifice of Japanese from every level of society. That is why many of the most memorable war prints do not depict the enemy at all, but rather focus on the Japanese alone. Sometimes they are simply battling raw nature (the fierce blizzards and turbulent seas), sometimes simply shown in control of the powerful machinery of modern warfare. Always there is a celebration of brave men engaged in a noble mission—throwing themselves against an ominous, threatening, but also thrillingly challenging and alluring world.
Thus Gekkō, who often reveled in particularly grisly combat details, devoted one print to a serene depiction of “Officers and Men Worshipping the Rising Sun While Encamped in the Mountains of Port Arthur.” (That the sun rose in the east, the direction of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, intensified the ideological implications of such worship.) Another Gekkō offering focuses on the solitary figure of “Engineer Superior Private Onoguchi Tokuji, Defying Death,” and yet another on “the Famous Death-Defying Seven from the Warship Yaeyama” rowing through high waves.
[2000.154] Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
“Picture of the Second Army’s Assault on Jinzhoucheng: Engineer Superior Private Onoguchi Tokuji, Defying Death, Places Explosives and Blasts the Gate of the Enemy Fort” by Ogata Gekkō, 1895
[2000.407] Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
“Illustration of the Death-Defying Squad of Captain Osawa and Seven Others from the Crew of the Warship Yaeyama Pushing Forward in Rongcheng Bay” by Ogata Gekkō, 1895
[2000.408a-c] Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Read more and view woodblock prints at MIT VISUAL
Devil in the Details
by Utagawa Kokunimasa, October 1894 (detail)
[2000.380.07] Sharf Collection, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
When all was said and done, denigration ruled the day when it came to portraying the Chinese foe. As the prints so graphically reveal, moreover, such disdain frequently carried both a harsh racist charge and an undisguised edge of pure sadism. The devil, as always, is in the details. The Chinese are slashed with swords; skewered with bayonets (often run through from behind, as in Kiyochika’s showing); shot at close range; beaten down with rifle butts; strangled; crushed with boulders; pounded with oars while floundering in the sea. They tumble off cliffs and warships like tiny rag dolls. In one print, a civilian caught in battle lies crumpled on the ground with a still-open parasol on his corpse, conspicuous once again by his gaudy and (in Japanese eyes) outlandish clothing.
It is particularly sobering to keep in mind that this was not on-the-scene “realism.” The woodblock artists worked largely out of their own imaginations, tailoring this to news reports from the front. They were commercial artists catering to a popular audience, and this was the war Japanese wished to see.
Admiral Ding Juchang, the Chinese generals on their horses, the occasional battlefield enemies treated as just as human as the Japanese are exceptions that prove the rule. The prototypical Chinese is grotesque. His face is contorted, his body twisted and often turned topsy-turvy, his demeanor in most cases abject. Battlefield scenes routinely include cringing foe pleading for their lives—even while making clear that the emperor’s stalwart heroes should and would pay no heed to such cowardice. The braided queue becomes, in and of itself, a mark of backwardness and inferiority; in more than a few battle scenes, Japanese stalwarts grasp this while dispatching their victim. (Pulling Chinese men by their “pigtail” was also a favorite image among American and English cartoonists until the overthrow of the Manchu dynasty in 1911, after which this hairstyle was no longer mandatory for ethnic Chinese males.)
Chinese prisoners of war, usually bound with thick rope, also drew attention. Ōkura Kōtō imagined “Captain Higuchi” (lionized for picking up a Chinese child on the battlefield) confronting three such captured Chinese—a particularly suggestive scene, combining as it did denigration of the “old” China with chivalrously rescuing “young” (or future) China, and all this in front of a piece of heavy artillery. Toshihide and others similarly dwelled on Chinese officers kneeling in supplication before their captors.
Kokunimasa offered a harsh “Illustration of the Decapitation of Violent Chinese Soldiers” that included a lengthy inscription. The benevolence and justice of the Japanese army, this text explained, equaled and even surpassed that of the civilized Western nations. By contrast, the barbarity of the Chinese was such that some prisoners attacked their guards. As a warning, the Japanese—as depicted in the print—had beheaded as many as 38 rebellious prisoners in front of other captured Chinese. The Rising Sun military flag still fluttered in one panel of Kokunimasa’s print; the stalwart cavalry officer still surveyed the scene; the executioner still struck the familiar heroic pose with upraised sword. The subject itself, however, and severed heads on the ground, made this an unusually frightful scene.
The derision of the Chinese that permeates these prints found expression in other sectors of popular Japanese culture. The scholar Donald Keene, for example, has documented how popular prose, poems, and songs of the war years took similar delight in lampooning the “pumpkin-headed” Chinese and making jokes about their slaughter. (It was around this time that the pejorative Japanese epithets chanchan and chankoro became popular, amounting to a counterpart to the English-language slur “chink.”)
Even today, over a century later, this contempt remains shocking. Simply as racial stereotyping alone, it was as disdainful of the Chinese as anything that can be found in anti-“Oriental” racism in the United States and Europe at the time—as if the process of “Westernization” had entailed, for Japanese, adopting the white man’s imagery while excluding themselves from it. This poisonous seed, already planted in violence in 1894–95, would burst into full atrocious flower four decades later, when the emperor’s soldiers and sailors once again launched war against China. Ironically, the Japanese propaganda that accompanied that later war involved throwing off “the West” and embracing “Pan-Asianism”—but that is another story.
Go to MIT VVISUALS to view the woodblock prints.