[FOUNTAIN]Fighting the historical warWhen Zhang Yimou’s “Hero” was released in 2002, the Chinese authorities gave the film unprecedented backing. Illegal DVD production was controlled and party leaders attended the premiere, a boon for the movie. Why did the Chinese government give its full support? “Hero” is a movie about Emperor Qin Shi Huang and a group of assassins. One of the assassins approached within 10 steps of the emperor, but didn’t murder him. He was impressed by the emperor, who devoted himself to stabilizing the empire. The mention of the grand cause of the world under heaven thrilled the Han people.
The son of God ruled the “tian xia,” or all under heaven. However, the people of Western Zhou included the lands outside the dominion of the emperor in the “all under heaven” category. It was a concept of hegemony. The “under heaven” came to refer to the Chinese-oriented world order. The all under heaven concept dissolved, however, in the late Qing Dynasty. The Qing Dynasty lost its power as the center of East Asia after the Opium War. In 1879, the Ryukyu Kingdom became the first tributary state to succeed the sphere of the Qing Empire, turning into Okinawa of Japan. Vietnam, Myanmar and Laos fell away as well. In 1897, the Joseon Dynasty changed the name of its country to Daehan and the king professed himself an emperor, completing the dissolution of “under heaven.”
The Communist Party of China dominated the continent in 1949 but was faced with an identity crisis. How could it embrace 56 different ethnic groups? By including different ethnic groups such as the Manchus as a sub-classification of Zhonghua minzu, the Communist Party formed an equation that China was a multi-ethnic unified nation.
The theory of the multi-ethnic unified nation argues that all the ethnic groups that had historically been active in the present-day territory of China are all Zhonghua minzu, and that their historic activities and dynasties were part of Chinese history. It turns the history of Goguryeo into the history of China. The Chinese government’s various projects, including the Northeast Asia Project, are attempts to justify the theory of the multi-ethnic unified nation. It smacks of the restoration of the “tianxia” philosophy, that all the people and lands under heaven belong to the son of heaven. The multi-ethnic unified nation is said to be a modern modification of the “under heaven” philosophy.
China has begun to reveal its inner workings in recent years as it became increasingly powerful. In order to win the “war of histories,” Korea must grow stronger. After all, history has always been written by the powerful.
by You Sang-chul
The writer is the Asia news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.