Historical revisionism does not go unnoticed in China

Heated debates have sprung up throughout China's online community surrounding a new historical drama on China Central Television (CCTV) which, many charge, leaves out some important facts and revises others.

The 37-episode program, which debuted on March 27, focuses on the life of 17th-century Chinese general Shi Lang—officially considered a national hero honored for reuniting China and Taiwan, but whose defection to the mainland's Manchu-led Qing dynasty in 1646 leaves many viewing him as a traitor who sold out his country and directly responsible for bringing an end to the remnants of the Ming dynasty in Taiwan.

While the majority of such discussions have been concentrated on bulletin boards, the debate has carried over to blogs as well.

The Fat New Viewpoint blogger sets the tone in the introduction to his post Speaking to the widely broadcasted falsehood and harm in the Shi Lang affair:


I couldn't help but groan when watching Great General Shi Lang and seeing how shameless some people can get. History, it seems, must be changed like this for The Party whenever The Party needs to use it. Each and every one of the the characters, those from both sides of the strait, seem like they've all received party education; even the villain speaks exactly like Chen Shuibian. Although, as soon as it debuted, the program unintentionally led many people to equate the Chinese Communist Party with the Manchu Qing regime, and Taiwan as the Chinese nation's legitimate center. One netfriend said it splendidly: The Party has once again smashed the shit bucket on its own forehead. Who knows which [idiot] reviewed this in a meeting, it's just like [2003]'s Moving Toward the Republic (another TV drama which was quickly banned).

At Danyan's Hexun blog a lengthy discussion follows his post “I really want to shut CCTV's mouth.” First a look at Danyan's thoughts:


The purpose of broadcasting Shi lang's story is not hard to see: that is, to let people understand. But there's just one problem: this person is not suited to be shown as an important figure and exalted.


To begin with, from the perspective of the Han people, Shi Lang was nothing but a Manchu Qing lackey. To say he was a traitor doesn't even come close.


For example, Shi Lang, in his essay ‘The Imperative of Solving the Border Problems‘—written to Kang Xi in his sixth year as emperor—wrote, “we are such a glorious heaven-sent dynasty, deserving of the obeisance of thousands of other nations, how can we allow this pile of smouldering ashes to flame up and cause us to worry?”


Who's a pile of smouldering ashes? Whose pile of smouldering ashes? Who's a heaven-sent dynasty? Whose heaven-sent dynasty?


In July, 1651, this guy rolled over to the Manchu Qing side. At that time the Southern Ming dynasty was still in power, Zheng Chenggong was still there, Taiwan was still in the hands of the Dutch, and the Manchu Qing dynasty was still far from conquering the whole of China.


Literature from the Qing dynasty says conflicts arose from this Sir Shi Lang's unwillingness to see Zheng Chenggong's army going around seizing female villagers, and that Zheng retaliated to the loss of his most closely-trusted general by slaying Shi Lang's father and brother. Anyhow, from within that Han camp so full of ugliness and evil, with a “Great Qing, here I come,” comrade Shi Lang thus resolutely and determinedly gave up the Ming dynasty for the Qing.

这条恶狗紧跟着就参加了对南中国的大举征伐,六年后就升任同安总兵,再过一年又升任福建 水师提督,他的刀下,应该没少流同族人的鲜血吧?!

This cur quickly took his place in leading a large-scale military strike against southern China and six years later was appointed general for Tong An [district in Fujian province's capitol of Xiamen], and a year later to navy prefect for Fujian. Surely the lifeblood of more than a few of his kin has flowed beneath his sword?!


Shi Lang, it seems, is quite the fanatic when it comes to military attacks.


There was never a consensus within the Qing dynasty to attack and wipe out the Zheng family. Kang Xi himself hoped all along to negotiate. Shi Lang alone persisted in sending troops out, and following Kang Xi's naming of him ‘General Who Maintains Peace on the Seas’ Shi Lang continued his reckless attacks on Taiwan. Twice within five months time he dispatched troops, who because of the climate all gave up and returned.


In Kang Xi's seventh year, the Manchu Qing dynasty began to reconsider collaboration with the traitors and issued an order to disband Fujian's naval forces, burn down all warships, and for all the capitulated generals to return to their homes or else be sent to develop the provinces.

And a recent response from Danyan reader Snow Mountain Hunter:


1. This television program's point of view is absolutely consistent with the majority of people on the mainland. Consider: the reunification of Taiwan cannot be negotiated or won through lip service as seen with the Qing government at the time. That era's history is a one-sided mirror.


Political power can only be won with weapons. Even if some of Taiwan's people hope for reunification, political power there is still held by a minority ruling class. Just take a look at Taiwan's last presidential election and you can see. A lot of people don't agree—even suspect that Chen Shuibian's two bullets were fake, and even took took the street to protest. Then what did we see? Chen Shuibian and them sent out hordes of police who used batons, high-pressure water hoses, tear gas, assault…against the common people! In the end, didn't those pitiful people have no choice but to give up? Even until now, isn't Chen Shuibian such a sight? Overseas Chinese also cried out for a long time, but not even a scratch on the heads of Chen Shuibian, Li Denghui and Lu Xiulian.


As for the ruling powers in Taiwan, the mainland must have Shi Lang's do-or-die bravery and resolve, if national reunification is ever to be achieved. That's just how Shi Lang was then and today we must also prove history right one more time!


The mainland's military strength is ready today, with our weapons serving as both backup and as the future's bargaining chip. Ideally, reunification could be achieved peacefully, without having to resort to war, but if it does come to that it'll be pacification or nothing, just like when Hainan island was liberated. Now when you look at Hainan island, does it look anything like the big headache that Taiwan is today?


National reunification is a great cause, but not everybody cares about greatness. At this time, there must be military strength as backing.


2. No matter what sort of negative effects this television drama Great General Shi Lang might have, if you're just going to run off at the mouth and not do anything about it, you might as well look at the facts. What you haven't seen are the spotchecks in many places that provide genuine responses, in which positive feedback accounts for over 80%. This not only represents the voices and opinions of the majority of people but also goes to show just how well the program was filmed, much better than artsy-fartsy shows like The Spring Cheers up Piggy [a character in the Chinese novel Journey to the West] whose costs were in the tens of millions! It's just like voting; whether you consent or not, in the end you still have to accept reality.


3. After all, Great General Shi Lang is just a television show, not a history textbook—but even history books change with the times. If us common folk have fun and take it easy while watching, but at the same time learn a little bit about historical accounts, it is not exactly treason and heresy. With the way you want to politicize all of this, you come off appearing to me less democratic even than the communist party!


If you're so smart why don't you film something better? Don't just sit there shooting off at the mouth. Just last week I complained that there's been nothing good on television lately, how difficult it is to find anything entertaining, and even there people have started bickering again……


  • K. Wu

    “Then what did we see? Chen Shuibian and them sent out hordes of police who used batons, high-pressure water hoses, tear gas, assault…against the common people! In the end, didn’t those pitiful people have no choice but to give up?”

    I wish this is true. But President Chen did not do this and KMT is still creating troubles in Taiwan.

  • […] Also take the recently controversial TV series “Shiliang the General” for example. Even the stupids can know that this series is specially prepared for the political situation in Taiwan Strait. Some people post on BBS to vote on the “most disgusting lines” in this series, and the champion goes to this one: “One girl who would be killed by the Qing soldier soon said “”compare with the days of living with separation from the mainland China, I would rather die“. […]

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