Selected Modern Chinese Essays: My Great Indignation

By Tang Tao

I like to read about stirring events in history and hear of heroic personages.

Nevertheless, I have no liking at all for Caesar the autocrat and Columbus the adventurer. These two so-called heroes are in fact utterly worthless. “Ignorant” as the mobs in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar may seem, there stands by Caesar’s side, however, a real man named Brutus. I like the declaration made by Cinna when Caesar falls:

Liberty! Freedom! Tyranny is dead!

Run hence, proclaim, cry it about the streets.

My heart has so far been throbbing in sympathy with those of Brutus, Cinna and the like. For thousands of years, so have been the hearts of “ignorant” mobs under tyrannical rule.

All-powerful as he seemed, Caesar was after all frailty itself.

Columbus was known for his avarice, ruthlessness and insidiousness as characteristic of a conqueror. He maltreated the aborigines, traded in black slaves, committed genocide and used hounds to hunt down living beings. As a so-called brave hero, he was entirely devoid of uprightness and breadth of mind. If the discovery of the new continent is something deserving our praises, I would rather eulogize the sea wind of the Atlantic Ocean. Even if Columbus had died in the cradle, America would have been discovered by man all the same.

In my opinion, Columbus was nothing but an acrobatic clown with his nose brightly painted. Believing in the theory that the earth is round and fascinated by Marco Polo’s book of travels, he attempted to sail west to reach the Orient. At first he took Cuba and Haiti successively for Japan, then he took Honduras for India and Cuba for China. In the evening, seeing a flock of penguins move slowly on the beach, he mistook them for a group of Chinese priests saying evening prayers in the moonlight.

The sublime evening scene failed to sober him up.

Unfortunately, since the end of the 19th century, the world has witnessed the sudden emergence of certain villains far more ferocious than even Caesar or Columbus. That has filled me with indescribable burning hatred.

Caesar was despotic, but he performed outstanding military exploits in conquering Gaul and defeating Pompey. Columbus was brutal, but he was brave enough to go into the barbarous wilderness in defiance of dangers and hardships. Now, the above-mentioned certain villains have stopped at no evil only to seize a handful of empty towns and railway lines. Driven by terror and suspicion, they go on firing at common people and bayoneting women and children. The cold-blooded atrocities they are perpetrating betrays nothing but their deep-seated base cowardice.

Caesar is no more, but he is remembered for his brilliant military exploits. Columbus is no more, but he is remembered for his great courage. When yamato-damashii is rooted out, what will it have left behind? I cannot tell you enough how indignant I am.