Episode Six The Fiery Phoenix
The legend of the fiery phoenix came to China from Egypt a long time ago.
As the fiery phoenix comes near the end of its life, it carries firewood piece by piece to build a stack and then peacefully sits on it. Shortly after, the fire from the sky lights up the firewood stack and a blaze rages up. From the fire comes a solemn and melancholy song, till the fiery phoenix is consumed to ashes.
Three days later, a brand-new phoenix springs out of the ashes. This is a resurrected life and a splendid re-birth.
Singing odes, the fiery phoenix flutters its wings and soars into the blue sky.
(Caption: Fiery Phoenix)
The roaring one hundred and fifty years since 1840, full of disasters and misfortunes, is an extraordinary period in the history of China.
The strong westerly wind came over in fire and smoke of gunpower. The Land of God, well sealed, but unable to withstand a slight breeze, immediately shook both inside and outside, clicked and clacked everywhere as if the frame supporting it had broken down. There were Taiping Rebellion, Westernization Movement, the Reformation, Boxer's Rebellion, May 4 Movement, Republicanism....
Unlike the Spring and Autumn Period, the Period of Warring States, Wei Jin South and North Dynasties, Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms in which there were only confused and purposeless mutual slaughters, mere change of dynasties, this period of one hundred and fifty years is full of celestial enlightenment, quests everywhere for the holy grail, and fundamental transmutations. Those sufferings and joy, despair and hope, the mournfulness and solemnity are exactly like the fiery phoenix sitting on a stack of firewood.
Li Hongzhang, Yan Fu, Guo Songtao and other people of insight and vision viewed this as a great earth-shaking change unprecedented in the last two thousand and five hundred years.
Almost all Chinese underestimated the depth and the breadth of this great earth-shaking change.
It was far more than a mere Westernization movement by Prince Gong and Zeng Guofan or an economic reform by Deng Xiaoping and Zhu Rongji. It was far more than a mere reformation by Emperor Guang Xu and Kang Youwei or a political reform by Hu Yaobang and Zhao Ziyang. It was far more than a mere merge between the East and the West or a collision between the two civilizations. In the past one hundred and fifty years, what China really faced was the calling of the heavenly Tao. It is clearly a baptism of the soul of the nation, a renaissance of a belief in the Land of God.
The lofty ancient Tao of three generations of Yao, Shun and Yu, the distant and indistinct light of the Tao from the heydays of Wenjing, Zhenguan and Kaiyuan, the holy legends of our ancestors, the immortal expectations of Lao Zi, the miraculous true scripture from the heaven of the West, will all suddenly see the light and mingle together.
The firewood has been stacked, the kindling flame has descended. Oh, China! Now you have no way to retreat. Tomorrow, you will resurrect from death!
(Caption: the Fiery Phoenix)
Hong Xiuquan, son of a peasant, came into contact with Christianity by chance in his early years. He located the God in the Bible that ruled the universe, the present and the past and praised Him in admiration: "looking up at the sky, I find that the sun, the moon, the stars, the thunders, the rain, the wind and the clouds are all the miracles of God. Looking down on earth, every mountain, every river and animal and plant, whether they fly in the sky or swim under the water, is a creation of God. They are easily seen and readily comprehended. It is a true God and every mortal in the universe should worship Him. In the distant ancient China, kings and their subjects were integrated in one and all of them worshipped God."
(Big captions with narration) Hong Xiu-quan founded "the God Worshippers' Society" and intended to build China into a "Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace."
This religion is very different from what the true Gospel preaches and was regarded by Western missionaries as a heresy. Nevertheless, for the first time, it combined Christian belief with the ancient Tao in this Land of God. Unlike the peasants' rebellions in the past, it was not a gathering of a group of heroic Robinhoods in the woods who "oppose only the corrupted officials, but not the emperor" nor was it a change of dynasties or kingdoms with the slogan "heaven of the white is dead and out of it comes the heaven of the yellow," nor did it promote an equalitarian society in which "the nobility and the pariah, the rich and the poor should all be equal."
Later, it was Hong Renxuan, who lived in Hong Kong with Western missionaries for many years, that pushed the idea of Heavenly Kingdom of Great Peace to maturity.
In the book "New Thoughts on Government," Hong Renxuan said: the old rules and the ugly habits of China belong to the lowest order; appliances made with Western science and technology belong to no more than the middle order; while the treasure of the highest order is the belief in God who renders justice in punishment and benevolence in forgiveness. Once one believes in God, he will abstain from carnal pleasures and shun bawdiness. His life becomes orderly and disciplined. He gets rid of evilness in his heart and values the soul. Stupidity is dissolved while talent and virtues are held as treasures.
The depth of this knowledge really exceeded what the Chinese at that time, including leaders of the Taiping rebellion could comprehend.
Liang Yancheng Interview
The so-called strategy of “learning from the west in order to subdue the west” by the advocators of the Self-strengthening movement, was proposed by Wei Yuan, a very discerning person. Yet this saying is a paradox, as it meant to learn from the west first and then to defeat the west. From the beginning it lacked a modest learning mind. How can you constantly think of defeating your teacher while you are learning from your teacher? It is not right. How can you really learn in this way? This conflicting paradox became a common karma in modern Chinese history, a common fate, a common state. One was locked inside and could not escape from it. It may also be a common original sin, a sinful state from which no one can escape. Later developments in China all followed the same path, “learning from the west in order to subdue the west”. They learn from the west in order to defeat it.
(Large captions with narration) After Taiping Rebellion was defeated, the reforms in China suddenly receded to the lowest order.
Keeping customs and ethics untouched, and aiming only at strong ships and fierce cannons was the core of the Westernization Movement. Building factories, railroads, studying abroad and foreign languages, attracting investment, seeking technology, and there was a craze everywhere for things foreign. The naval force suddenly became the 7th largest in the world.
Yet, a sea battle in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-1895 became the sea burial of the Westernization Movement.
The annihilation of the North Sea Fleet, the loss of the Northeast and Shandong Province were not a result of lack of manpower, but of moral degeneration and political corruption. Disobeying of orders by the officers and the soldiers, prostitution, drugs, mutinies and the sumptuous celebration of Empress Dowager Ci Xi's 60th birthday by the Qing court took away the military expenses that would have otherwise been spent on cannon balls, led to the fact that there were altogether only three cannon balls on Zhenyuan and Dingyuan, the two main battleships of the North Sea Fleet!
(Large caption with narration) The failure of the Westernization Movement stirred up the reform on a deeper level.
As early as in the beginning of the Westernization Movement, Guo Songtao, the first diplomat from China, pointed out: the countries in the West are established with both primary ingredients and the secondary ingredients. The primary ingredients are their government and churches, and their secondary ingredients are the business and trade system. Even if Kings Yao and Shun were born today, the system of the West must be adopted in a hurry without a single day's delay!
In 1895, several thousand test takers of the imperial examination who assembled in Beijing elected Kang Youwei to submit a petition to Emperor Guang Xu and to ask him to follow the example of Japan's Meiji Restoration. The petition, somehow, did not reach Guang Xu. Three years later, when the 29-year-old Guang Xu read "The Fall of Finland" by Kang Youwei, he could not help bursting into tears and hurriedly asked for Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao for an interview.
In the next one hundred and three days, Guang Xu issued a series of imperial edicts for reforms. Unexpectedly, it met oppositions from both inside and outside the imperial court, from both high-level and low-level officials. Empress Dowager Ci Xi imprisoned Guang Xu and executed Tang Citong and five other men. Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao hurriedly fled the country.
This was the short-lived One-Hundred-Day Reformation. Following Shang Yang, Wang Anshi and Zhang Juzheng, this was another unforgettable reform tragedy.
(Large captions with narration) The failure of One-Hundred-Day Reformation did not bring about a deeper introspection. Instead, it resulted in a mad counterattack.
The bigwigs of the Qing court that strangled the reform, cherished a dark design of using the Boxers to support the Qing and exterminate the foreigners. Empress Dowager Ci Xi personally granted an interview to Cao Futian, the head of the Boxers. Even the crown prince was dressed all over like a Boxer. What followed were the raging riots: railroads were dug out, electric wires were destroyed, foreign-style houses were burned, foreigners were killed and "alien religions" were wiped out. More than two hundred missionaries and twenty thousand Christians in Northeast China were murdered.
On May 24, 1900, Ci Xi ordered the Qing's Imperial force to assist the Boxers in their final assault on the foreign legation quarters in East Jiaomin Lane. On the 25th, Ci Xi declared war on all the countries it had diplomatic relations with.
At first, the foreign powers did not believe their own ears. When the news was finally confirmed, they were all startled. A little over a month later, the allied forces from eight countries seized Beijing and Ci Xi fled the capital city. Though Ci Xi played the drama of "New Administration" lasting several years, yet after all, the Qing's heyday had run out of steam. Only its name remained.
The next streak of celestial light shone on a man, who even today walks in the forefront in this Land of God and who initiated the most fundamental reform. He is Sun Yat-sen.
In his early years, Sun Yat-sen studied at a Christian high school in Honolulu and later was baptized in a Congregational church in Hong Kong.
In 1894, after his advice to Li Hongzhang became fruitless, Sun immediately founded Revive China Society which he expanded to United League ten years later. He was elected prime minister of the United League.
Sun Yat-sen proclaimed himself "Hong Xiuquan the Second" and took the heart of Jesus as his own heart and governed according to the law of God. He said: what is the purpose of man's evolution? It is what Confucius said: "When the great Tao rules the earth, everybody works for the good of all." This echoes what Jesus taught: "I hope the will of God rules the earth, just as it rules in the heaven."
Sun Yat-sen said: to China, it's not "walking on a rough road when knowing there is an easy one", but "walking on the easy road when knowing there is a rough one." The deep-rooted problem in the past three thousand years is that the Chinese have never grasped the real truth. They have been worshipping those who do not deserve worshipping and have never worshipped those who deserve worshipping. When they are so ignorant of the Tao, how could they talk about practicing it? Therefore, the foundation of a country should originate from the heart. The old should be got rid of in favor of the new and people must know God.
When Wang Jingwei and Cai Yuanpei and other members of Kuomintang vehemently opposed Christianity, Sun Yat-sen admonished the church repeatedly: "Never become a tool of the imperialists." In the meantime, he emphasized that arguments could only make the truth of Christianity clearer. He solemnly declared: Not only am I a Christian, all my relatives, both inside and outside the immediate family, young and old, are all Christians. We also have a family worship. In the meantime, he remarked with an especially clear mind: the separation of the church and the state is a common practice in the civilized countries. Only when it is free from political entanglement can the church achieve its original purpose of truthfulness, benevolence and beauty.
On October 10, 1911, Wuchang rebellion was successful and Sun Yat-sen was elected provisional president of the Republic of China. He soon issued a series of decrees to develop the economy, practice the democracy and reform the culture.
Besieged by Yuan Shikai, Sun Yat-sen considered the overall situation, endured humiliation and bore a heavy burden by resigning his presidency for the sake of the general good. He then devoted himself to the cause of economic construction.
When Yuan Shikai strangled the Republic and conspired about restoration of the monarchy, Sun Yat-sen came out again and three times launched the Constitution-Upholding Northern Expedition.
On February, 22, 1925, Sun Yat-sen died of an illness in Beijing. He said in his will: I was a Christian and fought with the devil for forty years. If you want to struggle, you should all the more believe in God. He went on saying: even when I'm dying, I still want to let people know that I am a Christian.
This was a true Christian, a man of high integrity and personality who glorifies God and benefits man. This was a true Christian who swore to devote his life to the Land of God that worships God.
Till today, Sun Yat-sen is the only giant in history who is held in high esteem by the Chinese on both sides of the Taiwan Strait that are sworn enemies to each other.
However, Sun Yat-sen "the Hong Xiuquan the Second," one hundred times more mature than Hong Xiuquan, could not establish himself in his own time because he was too advanced and too profound. Yet, the name of Sun Yat-sen will certainly glow with heavenly splendor with the great restoration of the ancient Tao in this Land of God.
(Large caption with narration) Out of the marriage of absolutism of the East to Marxism of the West came out a freak of Mao Zedong's socialism.
As early as 1914, there was already a popular discussion that "democracy and republicanism do not suit China."
In October, 1917, a cannon fire from the Soviet Revolution brought Marxism to China. The Soviet Union immediately abolished the unequal treaties the Czars had forced upon China. In contrast, the Western Powers discriminated against China, a victor in World War II. This suddenly triggered the anti-imperialist and patriotic "May 4 Movement."
All of a sudden, Soviet socialism became a popular topic of discussion and the Western capitalism was relegated to the dungeon of disgust.
In the eye of new-era youth at the time, Mr. De and Mr. Sci (Democracy and Science from the West) were represented by nothing more than Marxism.
In 1919, Kuomintang was formally founded that aimed at establishing a capitalist China. In 1921, the Chinese Communist Party was founded that aimed at establishing a socialist China.
Chen Duxiu, though not a Christian, praised Jesus as the Gospel for the poor, a bugle of love, a main dynamic force of the Western civilization. To him, Jesus far excels Confucianism. Therefore, this general secretary of the Communist Party was able to cooperate with Sun Yat-sen and started from capitalism with an eventual goal of changing China to a socialist country.
The pity is the successors of these two parties were not so broad-minded and kind-hearted. Chiang Kai-shek was not Sun Yat-sen and Ma Zedong was not Chen Duxiu. The two sides cooperated again and again, yet they each harbored an ulterior motive against the other. They periodically plunged into wars with each other and then held peace talks, until the Communist Party had taken full advantage of all the factors of winning a war: favorable climate, geographical location and support of the people. It fattened itself during the anti-Japanese War and won the support of the people with land reforms. In the meantime, it obtained assistance from the Soviet Union, and hid the truth from America.
In 1946 when Chiang Kai-shek tried to wipe out the communists at one blow, the United States tried to persuade the two parties to coexist and establish a democratic system of government similar to that in America.
Oh, America! Perhaps even till today, you have not figured out what China is and what Chinese are. Having lived for generations after generations in the sea-blue civilization of Christian belief and democracy, you can never understand the earth-yellow implication of two thousand and five hundred years of humanistic absolutism. Two absolutists could not possibly coexist on this piece of yellow earth, nor could the 1.2 billion people coexist here, if there were not a great dictator---God of men.
The two parties of Kuomintang and the Communist Party fought for three years. There was 1.71 million deaths on the Kuomintang's side and 1.5 million deaths on the Communists' side. A total of 3.21 million Chinese people perished.
The Chinese communists proudly claimed: "this great victory should be attributed to the revolutionary spirit of daring to fight and the ingenious art of good at fighting of Mao Zedong and other old-generation revolutionaries."
On October 1, 1949, Mao Zedong stood on the gate tower of Tian An Men and shouted: from now on, the Chinese people have stood up!
In the past two thousand and five hundred years, this was another dream realized in the Land of God to be able to rule the whole known world.
What was deplorable is that this great victory of Marxism did not turn out to be a victory in reforming the old and the decayed customs of China. Instead, it was a victory of catering to these old and the decayed customs.
Marx's theory of proletarian dictatorship catered perfectly well to the two thousand and five hundred years of tradition of man's rule, dictatorship and autocracy.
Marx's materialist epistemology catered perfectly well to the two thousand and five hundred years of atheist cultural tradition.
Marx's theory of class struggle catered perfectly well to the two thousand and five hundred years of hatred brewed in mutual slaughters and life-and-death struggles.
The public ownership and planned economy expounded by Marx catered perfectly well to the mentality of grand unification in which "all the world is the emperor's land and all the people are the emperor's subjects."
At the end of 1944, Huang Yanpei, a candidate who passed the provincial imperial examination in the previous Qing Dynasty, asked Mao Zedong during his visit to Yanan: various dynasties in the history of China so far have all seen a rapid rise and a rapid fall. How do you get out of this law of short cycles? Mao Zedong answered: I'll depend on democracy!
Today, this answer has become a relentless irony. Doubtlessly, the freak of Mao Zedong's socialism is no more than an instinctive continuation of the powerful historical inertia accumulated over the past two thousand and five hundred years. It killed a new life that had been stirring up in the last one hundred and fifty years and is a great retrogression from Sun Yat-sen, Chen Duxiu and even as far as the Westernization Movement and Reformation.
Facts speak louder than eloquence. After forty years, yes, it was only forty years, the Communist Party that had shortly before achieved a victory had to admit shyly that socialism had failed. Deng Xiaoping had no other choice but reinitiate the Westernization Movement. He was luckier than Prince Yixin. In the brand-new and excellent environment both at home and abroad, he succeeded. People immediately expect Jiang Zemin or others to go with the tide of history and replay the drama of Reformation.
Nowadays, the communists are quietly making up the missed lesson from its founder Chen Duxiu, a lesson in "Right Opportunism."
Looking deeper, through hundreds of millions of greedy, sinful and crafty hearts, through the barren desert of the soul, you can easily see Sun Yat-sen standing tall in the distance and beckoning to the Chinese nation from a higher realm, representing a deeper reform and a great bliss.
(Large caption with narration) The foundation of a country is built on the consent of the heart. To get rid of the old and welcome the new, one must get to know God.
We should worship the one who deserves worshipping and should not worship the one who does not deserve worshipping.
After being house-arrested by Chiang Kai-shek for twenty-years, Zhang Xueliang, the famous man who house-arrested Chiang Kai-shek for 18 days in the Xian Incident, finally recognized the great Tao and was led to God.
Zhang Xueliang Interview
I was not a Christian in the past, I was a military man. Now I am, and can be called a docile Christian. The most important thing for a Christian is to have a real faith in your heart. To believe in God is to entrust in him everything. He will be close to us, if we are close to him. Only when you have faith in him will you get to really know him. God deserves our praises.
Does the home return of the soul of this legendary centenarian forebode the spiritual fate of this old nation that he has loved all his life?
The water of Yellow River comes from the sea and goes back to sea. The Tao of this Land of God comes from the heaven and goes back to heaven.
History repeats itself, but always repeats itself at a higher and higher level. After Sun Yat-sen fell, China climbed again toward him, step by step. There is no way to retreat. She has to rush forward, walk forward or crawl forward. Though the first few steps seem far away from the heavenly God, yet, doubtlessly, this is a great way that leads to the heavenly God, that was created in the distant ancient time and ends in the future and whose momentum nobody can stop.
As China ambitiously steps into the 21st century, no one would deny that the opening-up and the transmutation since 1840 are a good thing to do, though they were a good thing accompanied by misery and humiliation.
This earth-shaking change was not chosen by the Chinese themselves. With reluctance and resentment, they were forced into this change without any other choice. Neither was it a kindness of the Westerners. Behind the gunboats of the West were merely a bunch of greedy businessmen and bullying politicians.
Call it a fate or call it the trend of the times. The force that has for the past two centuries stirred China came neither from China nor the West, but was the grand will of God and the holy push and the glorious reappearance of the ancient Tao of the Land of God.
The heavenly fire has descended. The firewood has been lit up and the raging blaze is burning up. Phoenix, dance your graceful dance and sing to your heart's content!
Yes, the fiery phoenix. Your beautiful plumes will be burned out; your skin, flesh and bones will turn into ashes. Yet, dance your graceful dance and sing to your heart's content!
This is not your day of flying, but a day to burn you, temper you and bury you. This is your day of excruciating pains, miserable cries and death. Yet, dance your graceful dance and sing to your heart's content!
Fiery phoenix, fiery phoenix,
Dying in fire and singing in fire,
From the outer heaven comes a long song,
that sings the Yellow River and the Yangtze to tears,
and sings the sun and the moon to tears.
Fiery phoenix, fiery phoenix,
Dying in fire and singing in fire,
From the outer heaven comes a long song,
that sings alive Confucius, Mencius, Lao Zi and Zhuang Zi,
and sings alive Kings Yao, Shun, Yan and Huang
Ah, the heavenly fire, the heavenly song, the heavenly Tao and the heavenly light.
In the azure blue sky is my beautiful home,
and the fiery phoenix of the Land of God!
(The animation is accompanied by a bold, unconstrained Tibetan-style soprano: the territory of China is in flame and turns into a phoenix that soars into the blue sky, crosses over the Yellow River and the Yangtze. It flies through the sun and the moon. The madding crowds and the lonely kings all look up at her while she dances a graceful dance. People on earth all start to sing and dance. The ancient scholars also start to dance. The phoenix soars into the blue sky, turns into a colorful rainbow astride the Land of God.)