[FOUNTAIN]Winning heaven’s favor

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[FOUNTAIN]Winning heaven’s favor

In 99 B.C., General Li Ling of the Han Dynasty went to fight an 80,000-strong Xiongnu army with only 5,000 troops. The outnumbered Han army was defeated and General Li was taken captive. Emperor Han Wudi was furious and ordered the wife and children of General Li be killed. While the other ministers criticized General Li for having surrendered, Sima Qian alone defended him. He argued that General Li fought bravely despite the small size of his army and Li Quangli should be punished instead for failing to send reinforcements. Li Quangli was a brother of the emperor’s favorite concubine. The emperor was displeased with Sima Qian’s defense, and he was castrated as a punishment for defending Li Ling. It was the “Li Ling Affair.”
Sima Qian overcame his tragedy by writing “Shiji,” or the “Records of the Great Scribe.” However, he must not have completely swallowed his frustration. The first chapter of Liezhuan in Shiji deals with Bo Yi and Shu Qi. He appealed his case of being cruelly punished for advocating a just cause by comparing himself to Bo Yi and Shu Qi. He wrote, “Heaven does not have personal interests so is always on the side of the good. Bo Yi and Shu Qi were good men, but they died of starvation. Confucius said that only Yen Yuan truly loved learning among his 70 disciples. However, Yen Yuan had always been very poor and could not even eat enough of rough food, such as rice husks or wine lees. He also died young. If heaven is generous to the good, how could this happen?”
Sima Qian roared with anger, “In the last days of the Spring and Autumn Period, a bandit killed innocent people every day and ate the victims’ livers. He committed all kinds of cruelty, but enjoyed a long life. Does heaven favor right or wrong?”
Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso is an expert in making insulting remarks. He has said that Koreans changed their names into Japanese voluntarily during the Japanese occupation and that it was fortunate the Korean War broke out when Japan was economically struggling. He remained quiet for a while after becoming foreign minister, but then began speaking again. Mr. Aso said there are only two countries on earth, namely Korea and China, that try to make political capital of the Yasukuni Shrine visits so Japan shouldn’t mind much. Mr. Aso’s father requisitioned over 10,000 Koreans during the colonial era and expanded Aso Mining Co. His grandfather on his mother’s side has called Koreans “the bugs in the stomach.” Making insulting remarks and behaving badly must be a family legacy, but the family seems to be prominent in Japan. Does heaven favor right or wrong?


by You Sang-chul

The writer is the Asia news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.
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