22 June 2012

Rave at the wall

Qu Yuan 屈原

Qu Yuan of the Kingdom of Chu was an upright official who worked tirelessly for the common people of his kingdom, and ended up proposing and defending an alliance between Chu and its neighbours to withstand the growing, overpowering hegemony of the Kingdom of Qin (whose ruler would go on to unite China under a single brutal, authoritarian and blessedly short-lived rule). Slandered by jealous, greedy and vengeful fellow-officials in Chu, he was exiled for his troubles and eventually committed drowned himself in the Miluo River in protest after Chu was conquered by Qin. An honest and faithful official who is revered by history as a patriot and whose holiday, the Dragon Boat Festival 端午節, is celebrated in Korea, Japan, Burma, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia and the Overseas Chinese Communities as well as on the Mainland, he is unfortunately without equals today. Equally unfortunately, we know precisely why. Any official who nowadays dares to rave at the wall, to challenge corruption within the party apparatus in any visible or politically inconvenient way, is removed through political theatre, through slander and through carefully orchestrated transmission of rumours.

During this Dragon Boat Festival, please remember Qu Yuan’s legacy. A more humane system of government, peopled with more humane officials, ought to be fought for, even if it went unrealised then and goes unrealised now.

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