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…From nearly the beginning of time it seems, China was ruled by emperors. And before that, what you might call “proto-emperors.” All-powerful at times, tangled in struggles for that power in other times. Emperors served the people right. Some of the time. When they didn''''t, problems arose. You see, when we talk about emperors “ruling” China, it''''s a bit misleading. There is always been a balance of power between the working class and the ruling class. Sometimes those classes were near each other. Other times, there were layers upon layers of people divided them. Traders, landlords, peasants, royalty. There were sometimes hundreds of classes to speak of. The tales of these people and their legacies went on to lay the groundwork in thought. They laid the foundation for the China we find today. But first, long before China had a name, there was only people and land. An area in fertile East Asia became the bedrock of China in ancient times. 4,000, 5,000 thousand years ago is what you often hear. But already the mainstream understanding is misleading. While Chinese civilization proper could be considered that old, in reality we know people were drawing symbols reminiscent of Chinese characters much, much earlier than that.

…彷佛几乎从时间的初始,中国就是由皇帝统治的。在那之前的,可以称之为“原帝王”。皇帝有时全权在握,有时为权力斗争。有时候皇帝会好好对待子民,当他们不这么做时,问题就出现了。你看,当我们谈论皇帝“统治”中国时,这个用词其实有点误导。农民阶级和统治阶级之间一直存在着一种权力制衡。有时,阶级之间离得很近;有时,人们把阶级层层分离。商人、地主、农民,皇族。有时候会有上百个阶级。这些人的故事和他们的遗产逐渐形成了中国人的思维方式。他们为我们今天所看到的中国奠定了基础。但首先,在中国有名字之前很久很久,那里只有人和土地。富饶的东亚地区自古就是中国的基石,你经常听到的是四五千年前,但是主流的理解已经有误导了。虽然中华文明本体可以被认为是古老的,但事实上,我们知道人们画中文象形文字比那要早得多。

Take a look at this image, It’s from 4 or 5 thousand years ago. But take a look at this one. The bottom image looks surprisingly similar to the Chinese character日, meaning the Sun. It''''s from over 8000 years ago, right inside the region of East Asia we now call China. That''''s how old the roots of China. So sometime before that, around 9 or 10 thousand years ago, people formed groups which became tribes, factions and eventually kingdoms. As states came and went, a small amount of stability created a new center. Among a constantly changing outer region, the inside became known as中国. That roughly meant the “middle Kingdom.” Contrary to popular belief, the name didn''''t suggest ancient Chinese consider themselves the center of the Earth. Or the center of Asia. And while for various periods of time some upper-class Chinese did consider themselves the most elite in the world, 中国 was never meant to reflect that idea. It was simply in reference to the center of the Kingdom itself, the heart of an ever-shifting region. A constant flux of borders and control. But the heartland created stability. Over the centuries it became one name for all the states together. As an American, I have a certain background and cultural history that I can identify with. The expansion of people across a vast and open area of North America. War with Native Americans. Slavery. Development, the Wild West. It''''s interesting to somehow identify with these things, even though no one on either side of my family was in America for nearly any of it. Somehow, the history of a nation becomes part of the culture of those who living in it, even if it technically has little to do with them. But being a Chinese person must be different, I tell myself. Because so many are indigenous, there''''s a long cultural chord connecting from belly buttons to ancestors’ graves. I fantasize sometimes about what it must feel like to look around and realize everyone in your family, and everyone in their families, and theirs, all the way up the line, lived in one country. Or at least one single area. That sense of shared blood and history forms a gravity between Chinese people, in my imagination. One moment there''''s no attraction between strangers. But in times of crisis, despair or desperation, the people for better or for worse become one. These are the types of dreams I have in the daytime. What a fascinating bond.





看看这张图片,那是四五千年前的。但是看看这个,图片最下面的部分看起来惊人的类似于汉字的“日”,意思是“太阳”。那是八千多年前的,就在我们现在称为中国的东亚地区。中国的根便是如此古老。所以在那之前的某个时候,大约九千到一万年前,人们形成了群体,之后再渐渐形成了部落、派别,最终形成了王国。随着国家的更迭,少量的稳定创造了一个新的中心。当外部区域不断变化,中间的就被称为了“中国”。大致意思是“中央王国”。与普遍的看法相反,这个名字并不意味着古代中国人认为自己是地球的中心。虽然在不同的时期,一些上层阶级的中国人确实认为自己是世界上最精英的人群。“中国”一词从来不是意图反映这个想法。它仅仅是指王国的中心,一个不断变化的地区的中心。一个边界和控制不断变化的地区。但中心地带创造了稳定。几个世纪以来,中国成了所有地区的统称。作为美国人,我有一定的背景和文化历史认知。像是人口在北美广阔开放的地区的扩张,与印第安人的战争,奴隶制,发展,西大荒等。在某种程度上认同这些事情是很有趣的,尽管那时候我的祖先几乎都还没到美国过。不知何故,一个国家的历史会成为当下居民文化的一部分,即使从严格意义上讲与他们无关。但我告诉自己,作为中国人肯定是不一样的。因为很多人都是土著,所以从肚脐眼到祖先的坟墓都有着漫长的文化共鸣。我有时会幻想,当你环顾四周,意识到你的长辈,他们的长辈,祖祖辈辈都生活在同一个国家,或至少在同一个地区,这种感觉一定很奇妙。在我的想象中,这种血缘和历史的共通感,在中国人之间形成了一种引力。这一刻陌生人之间没有吸引力,但在危机、绝望的下一刻,无论好坏,人们都会团结起来。这些就是我常做的白日梦。多么迷人的联系啊。

The people were never much empowered on the whole. Nearly every single person in China in all of its history has done one thing. Agricultural work. If you somehow could communicate randomly with a Chinese person throughout the past, the chances are overwhelming that you would be talking to a farmer. A worker. A peasant. Emperors knew enough to know that the people were the true power. The force of the country. They were the body of China. Look at these men. They have no names. No one knows them anymore. But they and the billions like them use the land to make food. Prosperity. Wealth. Power. One common theme we see throughout all of China''''s history is rebellion and revolt. Often led by one of those very same farmers. And just as often, the goal and promise was land reform. Give the land to the people. Take it from the rich and return it to the rightful owners, they said. Thousands of years before socialism or communism existed, the Chinese were pioneers in the politics of stripping property from the rich to provide for the poor. But the Chinese weren''''t always alone. Some of the earliest European visitors to China came around the time of the Qin dynasty. For perspective, this was about ten United States’ life spans ago. And it''''s around that period foreign languages began referring to 中国 as however their closest way to pronounce Qin was.

总的来说,人民从未被赋予太多权力。在中国历史上,几乎所有人都做过一件事,那就是——农业劳动。如果你能以某种方式随意地与一个过去的中国人交流,那么你与一个农民、工人、乡下人交谈的几率是压倒性的高。皇帝们深知人民才是真正的力量,是国家的力量。他们是中国的主体。看看这些人,他们没有名字,如今也没人认识他们了。但是他们和数十亿像他们一样的人,用土地创造食物、繁荣、财富,权力。纵观中国历史,一个共同的主题就是反叛。通常由这些农民中的一个来领导,且通常,目标和承诺都是土地改革。把土地还给人民。他们说,把土地从富人手中拿走,物归原主。在社会主义出现之前的几千年里,中国人是夺取富人财产以供养穷人的政治先驱。但中国人并不总是孤独的。最早一批来中国的欧洲人大约在秦朝的时候。对比来看,这大约是美国10倍历史更久之前,也是在那个时期外语开始用最接近秦的发音来表达中国。



This image is a map from knowledge gained around that time. While it doesn''''t focus on China, you can clearly see that China had been reached by the West. Foreigners develop their words for China from Qin. For example, Kina, Cina and so on. That evolved in English to be “China.” So, technically speaking, today we’re actually calling their country the name of an ancient dynasty-the Qin dynasty. That dynasty, by the way, didn''''t even last 20 years, but managed to be extremely influential on future dynasties. Some examples of foreigners? This Greek soldier found his way to Xinjiang, in West China, around the time we saw our first Western maps with China on them. Around 200 BC. Here we see a Westerner and some Koreans in China before 1000. And let''''s not forget the legendary travels of Marco Polo, around the 13th century. This is a tombstone for an early European living in China, who died in the 14th century. Foreigners came for trade, for exploration, or for conquest. Like this ancient Jew trader who came in the Tang dynasty.

这幅图是用那时的知识描绘出的地图。虽然它的关注点不是中国,但你可以清楚地看到,西方已经接触到了中国。外国人对中国的描述是从秦开始的。例如,Kina,Cina等等。随后在英语中逐渐演变成“China”。所以,严格来讲,我们今天实际上是在用一个古老朝代的名字来称呼他们的国家——秦朝。顺便说句,那个朝代甚至都没有持续20年,但却对未来的朝代产生了巨大的影响。外国人的一些例子?这个希腊士兵找到了去中国西部新疆的路,大约是在我们第一次看到西方地图上有中国的时候。公元前200年左右。这里我们看到公元1000年前在中国的西方人和韩国人。然后我们别忘了13世纪马可波罗的传奇之旅。这是一位生活在中国的早期欧洲人的墓碑,他死于14世纪。外国人来这里为了贸易、探险或征服。比如这个在唐朝时期来到中国的犹太商人。





They even came to spread their ideology to China. But more on that later. It''''s important to reiterate that at almost no time in China''''s ancient history did it ever consider itself what we would call a “country,” exactly. This is a very interesting thing, when you really think about it. China was a group of states, held together by a central authority. States often had their own militias, and local governance. Time and time again when the central power failed, China fractured and put itself back together again, often in a new shape. Land reforms, anti-corruption campaigns and purging of the old regimes were common. And more often than not, these purges involved significant overlap in rule. That mean war. Lots and lots of wars. In addition to the problems of vastness China''''s rulers faced, there was another issue. It’s one that many people overlook or under-appreciate to this day. Often China is described as a super-nation of subnations. But there''''s a real, down-to-earth backbone to that. You see, there’s a primary language for the people of china, and in each town or city, another language for the locals. For millennia, rulers struggled to keep these states together, a painstaking task made much more difficult by the language barrier. That has been the majority of effort the Chinese dynasties unification and stability as a unified what we would call today-country.

他们甚至为了传播意识形态来到中国。但这点稍后再详细讲。需要重申的是,在中国古代历史上,它从未认为自己是我们所说的“国家”。当你真的去思考一下的时候,你会发现这是一件非常有趣的事情。古代中国是一个国家集团,由一个中央权威机构维系在一起。各地通常都有自己的民兵和地方政府。中央政权一次又一次地失败,中国因此分裂,之后又重新统一起来。而且常常是以新的形式。土地改革、反腐运动、旧政权的清洗都很常见。通常情况下,这些清洗涉及到统治上的重叠,这意味着战争。很多很多的战争。除了中国统治者面临的问题之外,还有另一个问题。直到今天,它仍被许多人忽视或低估。古代中国经常被描述为由子国家组成的超级国家。但它有一个真正的、脚踏实地的支柱。你看,中国人有一种主要语言,而在每个城镇,当地人有另一种语言。数千年来,统治者们努力维持国家的统一,但由于语言障碍,这项艰巨的任务变得更加困难。这就是中国各朝代的主要努力方向,作为一个统一的国家的统一和稳定,也就是我们今天称之为的国家。

But the situation was different than Europeans experienced. This makes up the first in a very long line of fundamental differences in Chinese history from European history. We are already, as of this coming point, breaking away from the intuition of westerners. You see, written Chinese has no alphabet, instead originally relying on imagery to convey meaning. That''''s quite useful in the sense of spreading the written word. It''''s easy for multiple tribes to understand the same image. But a downside of not having an alphabet is pronunciation is not exported with the image. You cannot “spell out” Chinese. If you don''''t know a character, you simply cannot know it without someone else telling you the meaning. And however they pronounce it is how you will think it''''s pronounced. In combination with the fact that the vast majority of people on Earth were uneducated throughout history, a very wide range of pronunciations evolved in China. Even though a written character might be similar or even identical, the pronunciations at hand numbered in the dozens, hundreds or thousands. Regions developed their own dialects. Each city had their own. And then, each town. Some dialects grew to languages, with more branches growing in turn. Even now, cities right next to each other often have different ways of pronouncing words in their traditional dialects. Throughout history, and here''''s the point, this helped maintain rifts between regions, and a constant pressure against the ruling class, which usually couldn''''t speak the language of most people in China. Think about that. The normal, absolutely common situation in China would be that no one anywhere could actually speak to everyone. The remains of this ancient fact still live in rural China today. What an amazingly powerful problem to try to overcome. How do you rule a region or regions in which no single person can speak a language everyone else can understand? Their answer was to do it in writing. Chinese writing was used heavily over the ages. Carving turtle shells led to inventions like the paper-making process or movable type. It was extremely important for leadership in China to have the ability to write. States combined and split over the generations. Ethnicities blended together, languages blended. Cultures collided and blended and collided again. Chinese people found their identities in those powerful dynasties of the past and carried many traditions forward. Most empires were closely associated with the race in power. Racial tension was a major factor in conflicts as far back as we have record.

Religion started in China as basic beliefs in an afterlife. Later, major ideas converge into what might be best described as Chinese traditionalism. Belief in the spirits of ancestors fostered a culture in which looking backwards was encouraged. Remembering one''''s elders and what their lives were like has been part of Chinese culture from the early beginnings. Religion has also played a major factor in conflicts of the past. But it’s this looking backwards that interests me more. I never cared about history as a young man. But in speaking with Chinese people, I was often quite surprised by how much he or she knew about the past. And it’s this sense of looking in the rear view mirror that has kept China…Chinese. This is one thing I really feel missing from my own American culture. We are often so progressive and desperate for change that we dismiss the past as all bad. This looking back is a valuable, sometimes difficult activity. Collectively as a species, our pasts are quite painful. But perhaps no modern country’s past as painful as China''''s. Certainly none much more painful. Eventually, in the process of bringing traditions forward, gods emerged. But, Interestingly, while direct beliefs in those gods declined, beliefs based on those gods survived. The Chinese people have often viewed the world as having an undercurrent of causality. Some call it superstition, but I don''''t really agree with that characterization. It''''s more like a basic skeptical view. They''''ve always had the motivations of the universe in question. And that''''s had many effects on the culture; one of which is the belief in the Mandate of Heaven. Originally based on interpretation of a deity''''s wishes, the belief outlived much of the faith in the deity. This is how Chinese belief systems have ultimately worked-utility and practicality is what reigns supreme in the end. The actual deity takes a back seat to the prayers the deity can answer. And over time, each God vanished, leaving behind their most useful traditions and tenants. The Mandate of Heaven is a simple concept of distilled for western minds. The rulers of China could only remain so if they pleased the gods. What pleased the gods was taking care of the people responsibly. When the rulers failed in that duty, they would inevitably be replaced through famine or plague. Earthquakes. Rebellions or war. Anything and everything that could happen, would happen. This concept is a crucial element of the historical Chinese psyche. Overthrowing a government or emperor could only work if the Mandate of Heaven was won first. This instilled an interesting necessity to many revolutions. Before an uprising, before an empire changes hands, the agitators must be sufficiently indoctrinated. They must extensively believe not only that they reigning empire has lost the Mandate of Heaven, but that they have gained it. And even the modern Chinese judgment of past rulers is different than I expected it to be. Some cultures in the world view the qualifications for leadership to be moral alignment. That is to say, the hope is that each leader should be a better moral person than the previous one. More polite, or more Christian, or more righteous. But Chinese people tend to reflect on leaders’ performance by the standard of how good their rule was for the people. And thus, the specific morality of the ruling class has never been as important as the efficacy of the reign. An immoral tyrant who overall did good for the people is nearly always preferred over a moral “nice guy,” who did little actual good. Some eras had formal state religions, or belief systems.

宗教在中国起源于人们对来生的基本信仰。后来,主要的思想都集中在所谓的中国传统主义上。对祖先精神的信仰培育了一种鼓励向后看的文化。缅怀长辈从一开始就是中国文化的一部分。宗教在过去的冲突中也发挥了重要的作用。但是这种向后看的文化更让我感兴趣。我年轻时从不关心历史,但在与中国人交谈时,我常常惊讶于他们对过去的了解之多。正是这种从后视镜里看过去的感觉让中国…有中国味。这是我从自己的美国文化中真正感到缺失的东西。我们常常是如此进步,如此渴望改变,以至于我们认为过去都是糟糕的。这种回头看是一种有价值的,有时是困难的活动。作为一个物种,我们整体的过去是比较痛苦的,但也许没有一个现代国家的过去像中国的过去那样痛苦。肯定没有比中国的过去还痛苦得多的。最终,在推进传统的过程中,神出现了。但有趣的是,虽然对这些神的直接信仰减轻了,但基于这些神的信仰却幸存了下来。中国人常常认为世界上存在着一种潜在的因果关系。有人说这是迷信,但我不同意这种说法。它更像是一种基本的怀疑论观点。他们总是对宇宙的动机存有疑问。这对文化产生了很多影响。其中之一是对天命的信仰。最初是基于对神灵的愿望的解释。这种信仰本身比对神灵的信仰更长久。这就是中国信仰体系的最终运作方式——效用和实用性才是最终的主导。真正的神灵退居二线,主导的是向神灵的祈祷。随着时间的推移,所有神灵都消失了,留下了他们最有用的传统和信条。对西方人来说,天命是一个简单的概念。中国的统治者只有取悦神明才能维持统治。能取悦神明的是负责地照顾百姓。当统治者未能履行这一职责时,他们将不可避免地因饥荒、瘟疫、地震、叛乱或战争而被取代。任何可能发生的事,都会发生。这个概念是中国历史心理的一个重要元素。只有先赢得天命,推翻一个政府或皇帝才能奏效。这给许多革命注入了一种有趣的必然性。在起义之前,在帝国易手之前,煽动者必须被充分灌输思想。他们必须深刻地相信,不仅统治帝国失去了天命,他们还获得了天命。甚至现代中国人对过去统治者的评价也和我想象的不同。世界上的一些文化认为统治的资质是道德品质。也就是说,希望每个统治者都是比前任更有道德的人。更有礼貌,更信奉基督教,更正义。但是中国人倾向于用统治者的统治对人民有多好来衡量他们的表现。因此,统治阶级的特定道德品质从未像他们统治的效果那样重要。一个不道德的暴君总体上为人民做了好事,几乎总是比一个道德上的“好人”更受欢迎,而“好人”实际上做的好事可能很少。有些时代有正式的国家宗教或信仰体系。



In most of the world international relations were generally placeable on a range of all-out war to peaceful ally. Choose any two countries and you’ll usually find their relationships on that spectrum. China could never negotiate or trade with another nation; that would be to admit equality. Instead of trade was the concept of tribute. Some areas we now consider countries were for much of their existence in many ways part of China. Or at the very least, deeply connected to China in ways that go beyond what we think of as alliances. They gave huge tributary donations to China, which sometimes offered protections in return, or gifts, or nothing at all. Gifts were how two-way trade often worked. Offer up tribute and receive A gift back from the self-declared superior empire. Vietnam, Japan, Korea, Thailand are some examples of formerly tributaries. It''''s interesting to see how Chinese culture blends in to make significant contributions to each of these countries even today. Most of the time they weren’t formally part of China, but one could be forgiven for thinking that they were. That''''s how close tributaries could be. China was the father of the tributary nations. That''''s important to understand. Though the ruling class might have viewed the empire as the most supreme government in the world, it was rife with internal issues. Famine, disease and tragedy struck an unimaginable number of people in China over the last several thousand years. Throughout most of recorded history, China has been estimated to have experienced an average of one famine per year. Movement of food through the country has always been an issue. Weather, wars, insects, floods. Death and suffering has always been with china. And there was an almost unimaginable amount of people. That''''s the thing. Many people underestimate China’s sheer size.

在世界上大多数地方,从战争到和平盟友的国际关系通常是可替代的。随便选两个国家,你通常会发现他们的关系就在这个范围内。当时中国不可能与另一个国家谈判或贸易。因为那就是承认平等。进攻的概念代替了贸易。我们现在称之为国家的一些地区在历史上大多数时候,在很大程度上都是中国的一部分,或者至少,与中国的紧密联系超出了我们所认为的同盟。他们向中国大量的进行朝贡,而中国有时会提供保护,礼物,或什么都不提供。礼物是双边贸易通常运作的方式。献上贡品,然后从这个自称为超级帝国的国家得到一份礼物。越南、日本、韩国,泰国都是以前的藩属国。有趣的是,即使在今天,也会看到中国文化如何融入这些国家,为这些国家做的重要贡献。大多数时候,他们并不是中国正式的一部分,但如果你认为他们是,也是可以理解的。藩属国便是如此得紧密。中国是藩属国的父国,理解这一点很重要。虽然统治阶级可能认为王朝是世界上最至高无上的政府,但它充满了内部问题。在过去的几千年里,饥荒、疾病和悲剧袭击了无数的中国人。在有记载的历史中,古代中国估计平均每年都要经历一次饥荒。食物在全国的流动供给一直是个问题。天气、战争、虫灾、洪水,死亡和苦难一直伴随着中国。且古代中国的人数多得难以想象。这是关键。许多人低估了中国的庞大规模。



In 500 BC, it already had more people than Australia has today. By 400 BC, it had passed the modern population of Canada. Today''''s British population was surpassed around 750 AD. The boundaries shifted, and with it the census areas, but over time China grew to be massive. During some periods, one in every 8 people in the world were Chinese. In other periods, that number was more like one in every three. Count up all the romance stories of the past. All the arguments. All the families and the interactions by people. A large portion of those were Chinese people. Everything humans have experienced has been experienced in China. By 1405, the Ming’s navy was larger than all of Europe’s navies combined. The enormous Navy sailed not for conquest, but for tribute visits and gifting trade. Though many Chinese believed the Earth was square-shaped, 28,000 men traveled the seas in a heavily armed military formation. Central Asia, Africa, the Middle East. Southeast Asia. China''''s powerful Navy flexed its muscles to all nearby countries. While it did occasionally interfere with local politics or daily life, in seven major voyages, China never sought to colonize. China was worried about china. And maybe it should have stayed that way, because a single encounter with a foreign nation set into motion a series of fateful events. These events would eventually lead to the near total destruction of the entire super-nation, the end of the empire, and the deaths of countless millions of people. Though this episode seems like the beginning, it''''s only the background of the story. Next, we will discuss the beginning of the end of china. And then we''''ll start the real story-it’s rebirth…

在公元前500年,它的人口已经超过了今天的澳大利亚。到公元前400年,它的人口已经超过了今天的加拿大。大约在公元750年左右人口超过了今天的英国。疆界在改变,人口普查区域也随之改变。但随着时间的推移,中国变得越来越庞大。在某些时期,世界上每八个人中就有一个是中国人。在某些时期,这个比例超过三分之一。把过去所有的爱情故事都加起来,所有的争吵,所有的家庭和人们的互动,其中很大一部分都是中国人。人类所经历的一切都在中国经历过。到1405年,明朝的海军规模已经超过了欧洲各国海军的总和。庞大的海军航行不是为了征服,而是为了考察藩属国和礼物贸易。尽管当时许多中国人认为地球是方的,但2.8万人组成全副武装的军事编队在海上航行。中亚、非洲、中东、东南亚,中国强大的海军向周边国家展示了自己的实力。虽然它偶尔会干涉当地政治或日常生活,但在其次主要的航行中,中国从未寻求殖民。中国只关心中国。也许它应该保持这种状态,因为与外国的一次邂逅就引发了一系列重大事件,这些事件最终将导致整个超级王朝几乎完全毁灭。帝国的终结,以及无数人的死亡。虽然这一集看起来像是开始,但它只是故事的背景,接下来我们会讨论古代中国毁灭的开始,然后我们会开始真正的故事——中国的重生…