30 77% 24% 3mph NNW bar30.04 falls windchill28 Imbolc
Waning Crescent of the Winter Moon
Got a package today from Mary in Singapore. It came with many, many stamps bearing the picture of the large golden tree squirrel. Looks like a lemur to me. She sent a wonderful anthology of contemporary Asian art and, as has become her habit, knowing my interest in cinema, the largest grossing Asia movie for 2007. And a red water buffalo wallet with Chinghis Khan on the front. The only one in my neighborhood.
Having kin in Southeast Asia makes it feel less foreign, less faraway. It also means I get a ground level view of events there like the tsunami and the political unrest in Thailand for example. It is a privilege to have this window on these Asian cultures and one I cherish.
Today I will finish Hero, the Jet Li wu shu feature about the assassin and Qin Shi Huang Di. It is one of two recent Chinese movies dealing with the king of Qin, Shi Huang Di, who unified the six warring states at the end of the eastern Zhou dynasty. He has a peculiar position in Chinese history, since he is seen as the father of a unified China, but also as a tyrant and a destroyer of cultural treasures. In the interest of a common language and culture for a unified China he is said to have burned all the books he could get his hands on at the time.
He then decreed a common script and common laws, using the political philosophy of Han Fei-Zi. Han Fei-Zi was a political thinker whose general type of thought became known as Legalism since it elevated a strict system of laws and punishment even above the ruler. His political philosophy reminded me most of Machiavelli’s Prince, but I may not understand them either of them very well. In my view they both see themselves as realists, preferring the pragmatic to the ideal, the functional to the just. In this sense neither of them are as villianous as history has cast them; they might be seen as situational relativists, creating a system of governance that works for the times, not for all time.
Hero and The Emperor and the Assassin both portray Qin Shi Huang Di as a clever, courageous and intelligent ruler. Both also portray him as relentless, paranoid and unyielding. In Hero the focus is on the Jet Li character, Nameless, the prefect of a Qin ten mile square area. In the Emperor and the Assassin the focus is on the king himself and his lover from the stater of Zhao, where they both grew up. They are very different movies with, I think, very different intentions, but both present an interesting take on this controversial man, the first Emperor of China.