Features include interactive map, in-depth stories, and more.Download now. »
The week's top five must-sees,
delivered to your inbox.
LinkAsia | Oct 14
Author Jing Liu joins us via Skype to talk about the first installment of his three part history of China Understanding China through Comics. Jing...
If you don't like reading textbooks, there's a new way to learn about China's 5,000 year history. Chinese artist Jing Liu has just published volume 2 of his graphic novel, "Understanding China Through Comics." It takes us through 700 years of Chinese history starting from the year 220 AD. And to tell us more about it, we're joined today via Skype by the author himself. Jing Liu, thanks for coming on the show. Now, when you first started doing the research for your second volume, what surprised you the most about this period of Chinese history?
Jing Liu, Author, Understanding China Through Comics:
Well I have one observation that I'd like to share. To the Chinese, China's rise toward power in the 21st century is called "Great Restoration." But we learned from history, this rise is the result of embracing other cultures, not isolation or prejudice. I can give you one example. In the capital of the Tang dynasty -- Tang dynasty is considered as China's golden age -- in the capital, foreign residents reached 10 percent of the population, while today in Beijing, the percentage of foreign residents is less than half a percent. As you can see, the Tang capital is a much more international city.
You also call this period the "Age of Disunity." Why is that, and do you feel that the beliefs of this period still inform the Chinese worldview today?
The Age of Disunity, or Age of Division, is the most chaotic time in Chinese history, filled with civil wars and a foreign invasion. The Age of Division lasted about 400 years. When it ended, the Chinese intellectuals considered it a victory of Chinese culture, because their culture survived the destruction and united different people into one country, ending the wars. So this sense of cultural superiority still affects the Chinese people today.
Now this period also saw the introduction of new religious movements into China, such as Buddhism and Taoism, as well as a variety of cultural and administrative innovations. What were some of these innovations, and which ones are still present in modern day China?
One important innovation in China is this kind of political philosophy that is adaptive, flexible and practical. After the Age of Division, it's common to see a Taoist emperor lead Confucian officials to rule people who are mostly Buddhists. We can still see the similar flexibility today. For example, Communism and capitalism are enemies in the western world. But today's China is able to run both Communism and capitalism at the same time, in a society with many Confucian elements.
You also write that life for most ordinary Chinese during this time was pretty harsh. And even during the Tang dynasty, which you mentioned it was a golden age of China, you note that 80 percent of the population suffered. Why was that?
Well first of all, the rich and poor gap is not a China thing. It happens to a lot of countries. So the Tang dynasty had the same problem. One reason is that when a dynasty has a long peace, there will be more people. When there are too many people, they will compete for limited resources. In this competition, the great families that control the government obviously have the upper hand, and they operate a wide range of profitable businesses. So it's very easy for the rich to get richer, so the poor will get poorer.
Great, thanks so much for joining our show. Jing Liu is the author of "Understanding China Through Comics." You can learn more about him on our experts page on our website.