1. Lively writing with some nice telling details for each period.

    However he seems to have misheard one of the stories about the founding of the Han dynasty.

    “It wasn’t long before the [Qin]dynasty fell apart, helped in part by a revolution started by a soldier who, when faced with execution because he was going to be late delivering a group of new draftees (it had been very rainy and the roads had turned to mud), convinced his conscripts to rebel with him (they faced execution as well). And while they eventually were caught and duly executed, the revolution they started ended up destroying the old dynasty and set the stage for the Han.”

    I think the original tale involves the (non-executed) founder of the Han dynasty himself, Gaozu:

    高祖以亭长为县送徒郦山,徒多道亡。自度比至皆亡之。到丰西泽中,止饮,夜乃解纵所送徒。曰:”公等皆去,吾亦从此逝矣!” 徒中壮士愿从者十余人。

    ‘Gaozu, in his role as [minor official], was moving conscripts on behalf of Pei County towards Li Shan. Many had already escaped en route, and he reckoned there wouldn’t be any left by the time he arrived. When they got to Fengxize they stopped and had a drink. That night Gaozu released all the conscripts, saying: “Off you go then chaps, I’m going to leg it too!” Among the conscripts there were a dozen toughs who wanted to follow him.’


    “[Buddhism in China] also changed somewhat from the Indian original, which, as far as I know, is not practiced anymore anywhere in the world.”

    Well, I think practitioners of Theravada Buddhism do their best.

    “..the Emperor is the Son of Heaven and has the Mandate of Heaven to rule, [therefore] there is no such thing as legitimate dissent and thus no concept of ‘loyal opposition’.”

    Loyal opposition in exile was a Confucian ideal (eg. the idolisation of Qu Yuan).
    Is the treatment of dissent with exile so strange in world history that we can say say “the Chinese had no real sense of ‘loyal opposition’, whereas other civilisations had enlightened kings who tolerated dissent at court”?

    Aren’t ‘legitimate dissent’ and ‘loyal opposition’ democratic ideals?

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