Monday, April 25, 2011

The skit of the First Emperor of China

Magnet geography: Qin by trudeau
Magnet geography: Qin, a photo by trudeau on Flickr.

An afternoon with the First Emperor of China

Wang, the chief eunuch of the palace:
All rise, in the year 200 BC, for the entrance of the First Emperor in his capital of Xi'an!

Huang Chi: He has succeeded in defeating all 6 of his antagonistic
neighbors. First he defeated the Wu, then the Pu, next the Lu, then
he also took care of the Xiu. . . .

Li Po: Yes, those were bloody but glorious victories, but I understand that there were also
two assassination attempts.

Ming Wei: Yes, in one assassination the felon, who was a friend of the
emperor's family, concealed a golden short sword under his coat. In
his attempt to impale the emperor, the assassin missed and plunged his
blade into a woman who was to be the assassin's future wife. Needless
to say, that wedding was called off. In fact, the girl managed to
mortally stab her betrothed groom with a silver dagger before she lost

Cheng Ha: Enough of these trivial adventures. War is an expensive
proposition. Is he going to bankrupt the empire as Louis XIV will do
later in history?

Wang: Perhaps. Yet it seems he has stimulated the economy effectively by
standardizing the script of the written language of Chinese. He has
also moved to standardize the wagons and roads, allowing businesses on
the road to the capital to generate a lot of wealth. He has even
standardized the length of a Roman Candle fire stick and the distance to be
reached by a flaming Bottle Rocket.

Li: I want to hear more about the assassinations. Tell me more, my good fellow.

Ming: In the second attempt upon the emperor's life his 18th concubine
brought the emperor his new-born 78th daughter for the Imperial
blessing. When he leaned over the examine the child, whose name was
Wie-wie, his concubine grasped a nearby lamp and swung it with
terrifying swiftness at the divine head. But the chief palace eunuch
stepped between them and accidentally took the powerful blow. The girl suffered, believe me.
She was thrown off the highest wall of the castle to her death on the
rocks below.

Li: That reminds me: what of the enormous wall the emperor is having built on the northern frontier? Aren't numerous workmen dying there because of the difficulty of construction?

Ming: Shh. Do not mention this rumor again. The bodies of the many dead coolies are simply thrown into the rubble between the exterior walls. The emperor believes that no one knows of these deaths.

Wang: Hear ye! Today the First Emperor will hear the case of the writings of Confucius and of the Confucian scholars and their books.

Huang: Confucius writes that all Chinese must be respectful and loyal to their families, their communities and their king. Is there anything wrong in that teaching?

Wang: No. Citizens must live that way. But Confucian writing also commands the emperor to respect the rights of commoners. This our Emperor cannot agree with.

Li Po: Wikipedia says that Confucius, "Supported the idea of government by an all-powerful sage, ruling as an Emperor, but his ideas contained a number of elements to limit the power of rulers. He argued that using language with truth, and honesty was of paramount importance. Even in facial expression, truth must always be represented."

Wang: Our divine emperor must never be questioned thusly. There is a solution, if I may humbly offer this idea. The emperor, in fact, likes this idea very much.

Wang continues: We will ask the people to gather and bring to the town squares all the books by Confucius. They will be told that the army will pay people an honorarium for each Confucian book to be placed in the square. Once the books have been displayed the army will douse the books with a flammable liquid and the books will be burned. The authors of books about Confucian teaching will be burned at the stake.

Fear will consume the minds of the people. Fear will guide their obedience to the First of All Rulers.

Qin Shi Huang: Pardon me, gentlemen, for interrupting your extensive palace chat of this afternoon. Your discussions have been held privately. And I noticed that you did not invite me to your dialogue. Thus your loving emperor can imagine only that you have been discussing, what? An appropriate gift for your master? Well, perhaps not. Judging from the fear I see in your eyes I believe that a conspiracy was being born this afternoon.

And if there is anything that disturbs me, it is the idea that my men are suspect. I cannot abide this worry and doubt. Are you good men and true?

Li and Ming: Indeed, sire! We honor you totally. Please accept our humblest apologies for making you upset.

Qin: Worry not. I see that you may be, indeed, innocent of my worst fears. Yet I must keep my subjects aware of my power. The palace guard and all my generals must fear me with fullest abandon. Therefore I must put you to death this afternoon. My guards! Quickly! These men must be executed before the hour is done. They were my trusted advisors. Yet our paths have diverged. Behead them both. Place their heads upon pikes so that they will be displayed at the Northern gates to Xi'an. The First Emperor has spoken.