How mindset of the Hans changed after the Manchu conquest of China
January 4, 2007 12:15am CST
have often looked at the writings of Han, Tang, Sung and Ming Chinese writers and feel that they were very free-spirited and confident of their relationship with non-Hans (e.g. Poet Li Po was not a Han but nobody noticed his ethnicity down the centuries in the way that Americans are sensitive and prone to identify black writers like Frederick Douglass). This spirit was no longer there during and after Qing rule. In other words, the mindset of Hans changed after the Manchu conquest of China. They became less confident and more tentative in their interactions with non-Hans. In regards to the difference between the Chinese mindset before, during and after the Qing Dynasty, there has been no psychological studies on the topic and I am here using retrospective analysis based on the content of Chinese novels before and after Qing rule. The Qings ruled China so long that they themselves became totally absorbed into Chinese culture, so much so that their own language and folklores have either been lost or fell into disuse sometime during the 267 years when they ruled over China. I guess the reason they could rule China so long (longer than the period that the U.S. has been a sovereign nation since the Declaration of Independence from Britain in 1776) was because they had metamorphosed into Han Chinese (who constituted more than 92 percent of the population today and even higher before 1949) stock and barrel during their rule in China. However, they way they went about doing it was through pacification programs (Hwaiyou policy) as well as brute force. At the beginning of their reign they relied more on the latter mode. During one of their campaigns they killed more than 800,000 citizens of Yangzhou (city where Jiang Zemin was born) within ten days of capturing the city and after a siege of seven days. I have a suspicion that the Japanese high command aped the Manchus' brutal methods at the Nanjing Massacre in December, 1937. This high-pressure rule (symbolized by their forcing the Hans to wear pigtails at the back of their heads) essentially 'mangled' the personality of Han Chinese for 267 years, making them accept minority rule more readily than if the Manchus had never come to China. They probably reasoned that China is a nation that cannot be defeated culturally. Invaders can come in but they cannot get out without becoming Chinese in the process. So many of them put up only token resistence when foreign troops came into China, whether it was the Opium War, the joint French-British invasion of 1860 (resulting in the destruction of Yuanmingyuan), or the initial phase of the Japanese invasion. That's why whenever Chinese soldiers under the control of Chiang Kaishek did put up fierce resistence like during the battle fought by KMT's 29th Army Corps near Siping Warehouse near Shanghai under the command of General Xie Jinyuan, it was front page news -- it was so scarce. Mao was able to change that attitude through political doctrination of his troops. That's why his troops were able to defeat eight million better-equipped KMT troops in the Hwaihai military campaigns leading to the 1949 victory, and went on to fight the Americans to a standstill in the Korean War of 1950-3. He was able to show the world that the Chinese could fight very well if properly motivated. However, old habits inculcated by the Manchus had not disappeared even after nearly a century after their fall. With China getting into a commodity-based economy the old slavish mentality began to raise their heads again, as is shown in my discussion on the topic of the English language. Although you can always say that this is due to the uneven payscale lopsidedly in favor of those who know the English language well and is only transient in nature, preventive measures should be in place well before the problem gets seriously out of hand. The first step in this direction should be the banning of all-English schools in the nation for Chinese citizens and the re-allocation of funds from English to vocational schools.