I was doing research for a post the other night and as a result, wound up reading up on Chinese poetry (both modern and classical). Of course, because of the inevitable black hole internetting brings, I also read up on Chinese history, a bunch of wars, linguistics, and took a detour to reading up on Sino-Korean characters.
But as I was researching, I felt myself getting sadder and sadder. I could literally feel the melancholy creep into my emotions. I distracted myself as much as possible and a piece that should have taken an hour to write took over four.
This is not a unique occurrence.
Whenever I read even a broad overview of Chinese history, I always feel a peculiar mix of grief and fury on multiple levels. My thoughts are somewhat scattered and not well organized, but all the same, I would appreciate the space to process.
Mostly, it reminds me so much of what was lost – both to me as a person of Chinese descent and on a high level of China willfully destroying its past.
Am I the only one?
On the personal level, I feel so adrift and overwhelmed when reminded of my people’s rich, brutal, and tragic history – especially since there are 5,000 years of history and dynasties and language for me to hurdle over.
I feel lost and disconnected from my people. I’m still angry that our American schools summed up 5,000 years of Chinese history with a half page blurb in a World History textbook. Plus, any histories or books I would be able to read and understand would likely be written by some old white dude.
Nothing inherently wrong with white dudes.
I’m just tired of my history (and others’ histories) being collected and interpreted by white dudes. I feel grateful that they were curious enough and valued my culture and history enough to learn and then share about it. I feel resentful that I even have to feel grateful for these scraps – that there are no indigenous accounts I can read without their help.
I feel secondhand humiliation and dissipated (and some times, not so dissipated) hate when I read about how China was treated by Britain and Europe and Japan. I feel anguish and hopelessness when I read about how China treated (and still treats) its own people and willfully erased its own past.
How can a people have a future if you kill from whence you came?
The sense of powerlessness and fury and shame and despair – all over sweeping events that occurred millenia, centuries, decades, and years ago.Whenever I read Chinese history, I feel a peculiar mix of grief & fury. It reminds me so much of what was lost to me as a person of Chinese descent living in America.
I wonder, if this is how I feel as a second generation Asian American about my people’s histories, how much more acutely do First Nations and descendants of enslaved Africans feel when they are constantly confronted with how much the US tries to erase and whitewash their stories.
The same question I asked of China applies to America. How can our people have a future if we kill from whence we came?
And as with all things, I think of our mortality – especially that of nations and powers and principalities.
How swiftly the tides of time turn us all into dust.
How paradoxically our finite time is both more meaningful and meaningless due to its temporality.
‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings;
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’
It’s enough to drive me back into the warm, cozy arms of BTS.