Chinese Nationalism Falls Back on Legendary Ancestor

“Huangling County, Shaanxi: More than 1,000 overseas
Chinese and representatives from 20 provinces and cities as well as more than
50,000 local people gathered yesterday in front of the Mausoleum of Huangdi to
offer their sacrifices to the emperor who is the legendary ancestor of the Chinese
nation.” (1)

These words appeared in an article in The China Daily,
on April 6th last year, the day after the traditional Qingming (Pure Brightness)
festival. This is the day when the Chinese honour the memory of their ancestors
and dead relatives, by going to clean their graves. Sometimes, following customs
tinged with popular religion, they may share a meal at the graveside, burn paper
money, and tell the departed souls about the main events befalling the clan over
the previous year. This particular festival is important among the many popular
celebrations which make up the Chinese calendar, not only because it provides
the occasion for each individual to display their filial piety (xiaoshun)
towards their deceased relatives, but also, and above all, because it is the occasion
when the clan draws its members together and reaffirms its solidarity around a
central ancestral figure.

In its report of the same gathering, The People’s
Daily
was more restrained, giving an attendance figure of only 10,000 at the
ceremony (2). In fact, this seems closer to the reality of the event, which I
was also there to witness. But both articles convey a misleading impression of
what happened on that day. They suggest that in that small township in northern
Shaanxi Province there was a kind of large scale communion, allowing overseas
Chinese to mingle with their compatriots from the interior. In fact, in the morning
there was a very official ceremony in the sanctuary, which was tightly sealed
off by the police. It was only attended by overseas Chinese and a few regional
and central government officials, who were invited by the Shaanxi authorities.
In the afternoon, by contrast, the sanctuary was opened to the large crowd who
had gathered around it, to allow them too to honour the memory of Huangdi.

Who was Huangdi?

Huangdi means Yellow (huang) Emperor (di).
He is one of the great mythical figures of ancient China. According to some records
(3), he lived in the Yellow River basin between 2697 and 2599 BC. Starting out
as the leader of a small tribe, he is said to have conquered the other tribes
in the central plain of northern China through a series of military campaigns,
laying the foundations of the first Chinese state. As a great inventor, he is
credited with beneficial innovations (4), for which his grateful people called
him “ancestor of human civilisation” (renwen shizu). Finally,
he is also held to be the ancestor of the Chinese race itself, all of whose members
are his direct descendants. This is attested by the way the Chinese call themselves
“descendants of the Emperors Huangdi and Yandi” (Yan-Huang zisun).
So the honorific title of “legendary ancestor” bestowed on him by the
Chinese press is worth exploring; this ancestor is not only the founder of a state,
but of a civilisation and a blood lineage. But it is in the little town of Huangling
that his sanctuary is to be found. Situated on the edge of the great loess plateaus
of northern Shaanxi, half way between the provincial capital, Xi’an, and
the former Communist headquarters at Yenan, Huangling’s only claim to fame
is the imperial sanctuary. It consists of two parts. There is the tomb itself,
at the top of a small mountain (Mount Qiao), and at its base there is the sanctuary.
In the latter, at every Qingming Festival for the last 20 years, an official
memorial ceremony has been held in honour of Huangdi. This cult was suppressed
during the Cultural Revolution and revived in 1979. During the early years of
the reform period, the event was relatively small, involving from two to four
thousand people until the mid-1980s. It grew in strength in the second half of
the decade, with six thousand participants in 1986 and ten thousand in 1988. The
Chinese Communist Party figures attending the ceremonies also become more important,
and certain top leaders passing through the area have stopped at Huangling to
pay their respects to Huangdi, including such people as Zhao Ziyang (5) in 1983,
Yao Yilin (6) in 1984, Tian Jiyun (7) in 1986, Hu Qiaomu (8) in 1987, Li Tieying
(9) in 1988, Li Ruihuan (10) in 1990 and 1994, and Liu Huaqing (11) in 1994. Another
sign of the rising importance of the cult of Huangdi in recent years is the “Foundation
for the Yellow Emperor’s Tomb” (Huangdiling jijinhui) which was
set up on the initiative of Li Ruihuan to collect funds from China and abroad
for the renovation of the sanctuary. The first phase, which began in 1992 and
was completed this year, cost 83 million yuan, and the second phase due to begin
soon has a budget of 70 million. At present, the foundation has received a total
of 38 million yuan, and the remaining costs have been contributed by the State
and various provinces. All these indications reveal the importance attached to
the cult of Huangdi by the regime. In addition, the tomb of Huangdi appears in
the list of the hundred places of national importance drawn up by the “campaign
for patriotic education” (12), which was launched by Peking after the repression
of the students’ movement in 1989.

An official cult with a loaded past

But where exactly does this cult come from? In his Historical
Memoirs
the historian Sima Qian (145-86 BC) reports that his sovereign, the
Emperor Han Wudi, while passing through the region on his return from a military
campaign in the Ordos, held a ceremony to honour Huangdi on Mount Qiao in 110
BC. Thereafter, emperors of many dynasties, particularly the Sung, the Ming, and
the Qing, sent envoys to pay him similar homage. The temple dedicated to him at
the foot of Mount Qiao was built in the Sung dynasty, around 969-972 AD, and was
renovated on several subsequent occasions. The local monographs (xianzhi)
from the Huangling district mention seven imperial ceremonies held in Huangling
in the Ming dynasty, and 24 under the Qing.

Between the late nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries
the cult underwent a marked change. From being an instrument of imperial legitimation,
the cult of Huangdi became a means of rallying nationalist feeling. Thus the local
Huangling records mention that in the Autumn of 1908, three years before the fall
of the empire, the provincial section of the Brotherhood League (Tongmenghui)
sent 16 people to honour the tomb of Huangdi (13). A funeral address, whose purpose
is to inform the ancestors of the major events which have befallen his descendants,
was read on that occasion:

“Around the year 1644, the country was dismembered
like a criminal, the barbarians from Jianzhou (14) took advantage of our internal
disorder, the Tartar horsemen from the north swept down on our capital Peking,
plundered the emblems of our imperial ranks, sowed disorder in our [traditional]
vestments, occupied our land, and enslaved our people. Everywhere in the land
of the enlightened (15), everywhere in the regions of Liang (16), there spread
a fetid stench, and everywhere men of our culture prepared to submit to oppression.
[…] The soldiers with the banners have set up their garrisons, and everywhere
in the remnants of the realm of the Great Yu (17) are the Manchus. And even the
ten day massacres at Yangzhou (18), the three successive massacres at Jiading
(19), and the memory of two hundred years of evil fortune still cannot outweigh
the humiliation of the eighteen provinces. […] In addition, for several years
now, the nations of Europe and America have us in their sights, each one desiring
to control a part of our vast and beautiful land. The Manchu government of the
Qing gives free rein to its self-indulgence, with no care for the outrages borne
by the country. Being good men afflicted with deep sorrow, our hearts are full
of righteous indignation. […] All of us present here, filled with sincere
resolve, make a solemn oath before Heaven to fight with all our strength for the
restoration [of China]. […] Gathered together here for a single purpose,
and laying our plans in secret, we swear jointly to rid ourselves of these pillaging
Tartar scum and to restore our former customs.” (20)

To read this text is to understand that the cult of Huangdi
changed with the times. From being an instrument for legitimising the power of
the emperor, it became a tribune for the expression of the new Chinese nationalist
and revolutionary aspirations. After the establishment of the Republic in 1912,
this official cult was celebrated in three clearly distinct periods: the Sino-Japanese
war (1937-1945), the opening years of the People’s Republic (1952-1963),
and the period of the current reforms (since 1979). The second period was not
marked by any important celebrations, and the significance of the cult during
those years should not be overstated. The explanation is simple. The first period
was one of intense nationalist mobilisation to confront Japanese aggression, and
it was necessary to find a broad propaganda approach acceptable to communists
and Kuomintang nationalists alike. And the third period has been a time of rapid
social and economic transformation in China, as it changes from being a planned
economy under state control to a much more open system, in which the legimation
of the existing order by a socialist discourse no longer corresponds to reality.
This growing gap between the social and economic reality in the country and the
language of legitimation partly explains why the propaganda has fallen back onto
increasingly nationalist themes. By contrast, the middle period was heavily marked
by the powerful ideology of Maoism. This was still able to mobilise the population
and present a coherent vision of China and her place in the world, which probably
explains the slight attention paid by the government in those years to the cult
of Huangdi. There remain the two periods which offer favourable conditions for
analysing this cult: the Sino-Japanese war and the present reform period.

1937 and 1997: two moments of Chinese nationalism 60
years apart

In order to bring out the distinguishing features of the
cult of Huangdi, I have chosen to present the funeral eulogies read out on the
eve of the Sino-Japanese war (see the insert: Funeral eulogies from 1937) and
on the eve of the return of Hong Kong to China (see the insert: Funeral eulogy
from 1997). There are three separate eulogies for 1937 because the second “united
front” pact between the CCP and the KMT had been agreed during the previous
year after the “Xi’an incident” in order to fight against the Japanese
invasion. So in that year, the ceremony in honour of Huangdi was held jointly
by the two parties, together with a representative from the national government.
But the most interesting point is the way in which the texts from 1937 and 1997
correspond to each other, across the intervening 60 years, and pick up certain
similar themes.

The first of these themes is the challenge from outside:
the Japanese threat in the first instance, and globalisation in the second. Mao
and Zhu De describe the Japanese as “powerful neighbours [who] have turned
from the knowledge of virtue” and “brandish a whip” to humiliate
and enslave the Chinese. The eulogies from the KMT and the Nanking government
allude in more measured and indirect terms to the current situation of the country.
The Nationalist party invokes “the infamous Chi You” (21) who came to
spread disorder; and the central government only mentions the “sickly vapours
which bring disasters”. But the challenge facing China nowadays is the far
less threatening one of economic integration into the international system. The
1997 eulogy from the Party does not mention globalisation explicitly, but talks
about contemporary “challenges”. For those who follow Chinese current
affairs, however, it is obvious that this relatively vague expression corresponds
to very real and important social, economic, political, and cultural problems.
The reform of the state enterprises threatens to throw a considerable marginalised
section of the population onto the street. This is accompanied by large internal
population movements, the withdrawal of the state from many areas of responsibility,
the rapid growth of inequality and corresponding criminality, mental disorientation
in a too rapidly changing world etc. The opening up of China, and her entry into
the turbulence of the globalising economy, have certainly confronted her with
very demanding “challenges”.

The second theme is closely linked to the first, and concerns
the need for Chinese unity to confront the challenges facing the country. In 1937,
both communists and nationalists appealed to this higher unity: “the different
parties and sections of the people must resolutely unite…” and further
on: “the masses in their countless numbers will fight with a single will…”
proclaim Mao and Zhu De. For its part, the KMT talked of the alliance of princes
coming together to “swear allegiance [to Huangdi]”, and the President
of the Republic, Lin Sen (22), praised Huangdi for “completing the unification
of the country”. He elaborates further by imagining a lesson being given
to the present by the mythical ancestor: “Silently you point the way to our
countrymen: a single heart, a single virtuous resolve”. Nowadays, the unity
of the nation figures no less prominently on the government’s agenda. The
1997 eulogy alludes to Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the Chinese Diaspora. The fine old
formula: “Blood is thicker than water, and brothers share deep feelings”
clearly refers to Taiwan, separated from the Mainland by the Taiwan strait. Moreover,
the (re)unification of the two sides of the strait is called “an irreversible
movement of history”. The eulogy is even more explicit on the subject of
Hong Kong, three months before its return: “Today we bring comfort to our
founding ancestor: Hong Kong is about to return to the motherland”. As for
the Chinese Diaspora, this issue appears under the term “Chinese from the
four oceans”. And again, just as in 1937, the unity of the nation is destined
to strengthen it, for the issue is the “aspiration to power” and the
“development of the zhonghua nation”.

It is worth noting in passing how often this concern with
unity is expressed in territorial terms: in 1937, the communists invoked the Ryuku
islands, Taiwan, Korea, and northeastern China (Yan, Ji, and the Liaodong peninsula);
in 1997 it was Taiwan and Hong Kong. And this brings us to the third major underlying
theme of these eulogies: the restoration of past glory and the forging of the
present moment as a link in the unbroken chain of Chinese continuity. It is striking
how insistently these texts, from 1937 and 1997 alike, bring up the theme of fitting
into the long timespan of Chinese history. The idea of an uninterrupted chain
of generations going right back to Huangdi is to be found in three of the four
texts: “Illustrious founding ancestor… your countless descendants have
never ceased to offer you sacrifices… ” (CCP 1937); “When we look
at the succession of generations, we can see how it leads right back into the
chaos of the beginning” (KMT 1937); “Striding forward, we take our place
in the continuity of history ….. ” and “May our consciences be clear
in the sight of our ancestors, and may we hand down the fruits of our deeds to
our descendants” (CCP 1997). Linked with this theme of continuity is that
of restoring China to her former glory. Both nationalists and communists claim
to be part of a timeless heritage ans the inheritors of an empire that must be
restored and protected. In 1937 Mao and Zhu De speak of “traitors… who
have surrendered land to our enemies” and proclaim their goal of restoring
to China her “mountains and rivers”. And in 1997, the governor of Shaanxi
speaks of “reviving the glorious rule of Eastern civilisation…”
If these eulogies are to be taken literally, the restoration of Chinese civilisation
would seem to be inseparable from re-establishing her imperial territory. Territoriality
identified with civilisation is an explosive mixture in a major power which is
still nostalgic for its imperial past, and is quite capable of seeing the reconquest
of some of its neighbours as steps towards its recovery.

A fourth theme, and certainly a more problematic one, introduces
a wild card into the pack: namely, the definition of the Chinese nation. Leaving
aside the eulogy composed by the Nanking government in 1937, the three others
use different terms for the Chinese nation. So, the eulogy from the KMT executive
committee praises Huangdi for having set up a frontier between the Chinese (Hua)
(23) and the barbarians “for ever”. The role of Huangdi as blood ancestor
is likewise mentioned in this eulogy. Even more significant is the use of the
term zulei whose most common translation is “race, species, common
stock” (24). It is useful to recall here that, following the arrival of Western
sciences in China in the late nineteenth century (particularly the pseudo-science
of social Darwinism), terminology with an inherently racist bias became relatively
common (25).

The 1937 communist party eulogy begins with a reference
to Huangdi as ancestor by blood lineage: “Illustrious founding ancestor,
who are the fount of our hua nation…”, a reference later reinforced
by the term “descendants”. So it is a question of a bloodline taken
to be real, in the biological sense. The hua nation as a whole constitutes
Huangdi’s posterity, as the founding father of a clan is linked to his descendants.
But what is this hua nation? Chow Kai-wing points out that for Zhang Binglin
“the three terms, Hua, Xia, and Han denoted different aspects
of the ‘Chinese’. Hua refers to territoriality, whereas Xia
and Han refer to ‘race’.” (26) But is it really as clear
cut as that? The term hanjian occurs later, and complicates matters because,
although it is used in the general sense of “traitor”, the actual context
reminds us that its component characters taken separately mean “traitor to
the han nation”. In these eulogies, the term hua seems to refer
more to a group with shared lineage than to a territorial entity. In these texts
from 1937, hua always refers to people, not land. As for han, it
clearly stands for an ethnic group; it is never used to refer to a geographical
entity.

What about the eulogy from the same communist party sixty
years later? The idea that Huangdi is the founder of the blood lineage of the
nation is still there, but the nation is now called by three different names:
the huaxia nation, the hua nation, and the zhonghua nation.
In this particular context, it seems that hua is an abbreviated form of
huaxia, but zhonghua, on the other hand, is a completely new term.
The term huaxia has not changed much, as it clearly still refers to an
ethnic group, not to a territorial entity. But zhonghua is more problematic,
because zhong (middle, centre) is obviously a spatial term. Following the
official terminology of the Peking regime, zhonghua would here refer to
the Chinese nation (zhonghua minzu) which includes all the 56 national
minorities in the People’s Republic. By itself the term zhonghua should
be understood as a geographical entity, and zhonghua minzu should be translated
as “all the nationalities within the territory of the People’s Republic
of China (Zhonghua Renmin Gongheguo)”.

Between empire and nation

But, going beyond details of textual analysis, this brief
outline allows us to focus our attention on several key points concerning the
reality of contemporary China, whose status is in the balance between nation and
empire. In all the texts there is a constant reference to external threats, whether
in the form of Japanese invasion or globalisation. This external menace, real
or imagined, gives rise to the same internal strategic response: national salvation
through unity. This all-inclusive mobilisation is a strategy supported by a deep
underlying Chinese way of thinking: the omnipresent binary opposition between
the exterior (wai), felt to be unknown, hostile, and potentially dangerous,
and the interior (nei) which is reassuring, trustworthy, and supportive.
And the cults in honour of Huangdi seem to provide both the occasion and the means
to symbolise, strengthen, or even create, this internal unity. But, are these
cults a channel through which the various central government agencies claim legitimacy
for their authority, or is it rather a question of the return a particular discourse,
together with the renewed power of a long enfeebled empire? Or else, on a more
banal level, are we just witnessing a huge tourist promotion exercise, along with
the creation of personal networks (the famous guanxi) around a consensual
figure, in order to involve the overseas Chinese? The cults of Huangdi include
all of these things, and no doubt many other things besides. But one thing is
certain: these texts provide the key to the way in which the government thinks
of the Chinese nation. And such a conception of the nation as unitary, and primordial,
in biological and even racial terms, certainly augures ill for the other denizens
of the empire, and for those bold enough to seek emancipation from it!

But, for the moment the ceremony is over, and the only
echoes among the cypresses on Mount Qiao are the twelve chimes of the bell, symbolising
the 120 million descendants of Huangdi, and the 34 drum rolls, representing the
34 provinces (27) of their territory…

Funeral eulogies from 1937

Eulogy by the communist party

Oh, illustrious founding ancestor, who are the fount of
our hua nation, your countless descendants have never ceased to offer you
sacrifices on this noble sacred mountain by the boundless river. Through your
farseeing and deep understanding, you throw light on the distant deserts. To you
is owed the fulfilment of the great achievements which are now proudly arising
in the East.

But the vicissitudes of worldly fortune have brought China
to face obstacles and decline. For several thousand years our powerful neighbours
have turned from the knowledge of virtue. The Ryuku islands and Taiwan have been
defenseless, and Korea is in ruins. The Liaodong peninsula, Yan (1), and Ji (2),
all swarm with traitors to the hua nation (3)! They have surrendered land
to our enemies, but how could these ever be satisfied? They brandish a whip, and
we are their humiliated slaves. Oh, virtuous ancestor, who fought bravely at Zhuolu
(4) and brought peace to your land, how could your descendants be so cowardly
as to let this vast realm fall into decay? The East is waiting for a weakling
to be decisive (5), while our mountains and rivers are covered with swords and
boots, and lives are sacrificed for the country. In recent years the struggle
has more than once been bitter, but let us [again] prepare to meet the barbarian
swindlers. They have not yet been wiped out, so how can a [peaceful] hearth be
built?

The different parties and sections of the people must resolutely
unite, whether they are military or civilian, rich or poor. The organisation of
the whole nation for war, into a mass of 400 million determined to fight to the
last: that is the best road to the salvation of the country. Our political system
must assume the face of a democratic Republic. Then the masses in their countless
numbers will fight with a single will, and such a fight can only end in victory.
Let us recover our mountains and rivers; let us defend the sovereignty of our
nation! We swear never to forget these struggles and goals. Let us lay our plans
and organise our troops. We have come to inform our glorious ancestor of this;
may its reality be reflected in high Heaven as it is on the sovereign earth of
China. We humbly hope that our offerings will find favour.

Mao Zedong,

President of the Soviet government of China

Zhu De, Commander in chief of the Red Army of Popular
Resistance against Japan.

Eulogy by the nationalist party

When we look at the succession of generations, we can see
how it leads right back to the chaos of the beginning. Heaven laid down the beginnings
in primeval times, but men then lacked the institutions of a nation. You, our
[ancestor] Huangdi, received the mandate of Heaven, mounted the throne of the
heaven-ordained empire, and governed over the people. You first set up institutions,
and established the arts and professions. The tributary princes respected you
and came to swear allegiance. You established the calendar to allow the organised
division of time, you invented writing to enable the composition of the annals,
but you also invented houses and palaces, clothes and vestments, and through these
works of art you reached perfection.

As for the infamous Chi You (6), you prevented him from
sowing confusion. Then you summarily punished him for high treason, and you separated
the Chinese (hua) from the barbarians for ever. Filled with admiration,
we gaze upon your exploits which, like an immense protective shelter, stretch
in all directions. Thanks to Heaven’s favour, you are the founder of a line
which is multiplying and developing. We receive and conserve in our memory your
gifts and intentions, and [towards you] the feeling of the people remains strong.
Protect our race (7), for as our ancestral soul we trust in you.

Keeping this dew of the springtime in our memory [we announce
that] the ceremony is reaching its end. We are now preparing the tables and sacrificial
goblets: come down and accept them, we implore you in the hope that they will
find favour.

The executive committee of the Chinese nationalist party
(Kuomintang).

Eulogy by the national government

Oh, emperor who gave order to the universe and the ten
thousand beings in it, your benefits cover every sea and continent. You bring
help to the people in times of difficulty. You strengthen the foundations of the
State with ramparts of metal and moats of boiling water. At Zhuolu you laid low
the troops of the feudal princes and at Peiye you completed the unification of
the country. By military might you put an end to chaos and disaster, and through
your achievements you ushered in an era of great peace.

At present we are still enjoying the benefits of your lofty
virtue. And today, divine one, at the dawn of the Pure Brightness festival, we
have observed again the ancient ceremonies in your honour. The sanctuary of the
imperial tomb is inundated with deep green, as striking as a forest of raised
weapons. The [ceremonial] pavillion is ablaze with light, as though to welcome
the ritual “Gateway of the clouds” music (8).

The desires of your pure soul, residing in Heaven, are
reflected in our absolute sincerity. Silently you point the way to our countrymen:
a single heart, a single virtuous resolve. You cause the sickly vapours which
bring disaster to vanish, and in their place you bring beneficent harmony. In
your life you passed through all the stages to achieve a virtuous old age. The
people trust and respect the benefits which you bestowed. We have arranged this
ceremony with a pure heart, and we humbly hope that the scent of our sacrifices
will find favour with you.

Lin Sen, President of the Republic

1. Yan: one of the seven main kingdoms in the
warring states period (453-221 BC), it included present-day Peking, Tientsin,
and the northern parts of Hebei and Liaoning.

2. Ji: this may refer to a region covering western
Hebei, Shanxi, northern Henan, and a part of Manchuria, or else it may simply
be the former name for Hebei province.

3. Hanjian: currently used to mean “traitor”
or “traitor to China”, but literally it means “traitor to the han
nation”.

4. Zhuolu: according to legend, the place where
Huangdi defeated Chi You and unified the country. It is in the north of modern
Hebei province.

5. An allusion to Chiang Kai-shek’s hesitations
in these terms does not seem likely, especially when an alliance between the KMT
and the CCP was being sought. Could it be an allusion to the Western powers which
only entered the war in 1941?

6. Chi You: tribal chieftain at the time of Huangdi.
Their enmity is said to have led to the battle in the plain of Zhuolu, and the
defeat of Chi You.

7. “zulei” in the original Chinese.

8. This was one of the six ritual dances with
music under the Zhou dynasty, known as the “Great chapter of the gateway
of the clouds” (yunmen dajuan). The music, used for the upbringing
of the younger brothers and sons of ministers under the Zhou, was reputedly composed
at the time of Huangdi.

Source: Yao Minjie & He Bingwu (Eds.), Huangdi
jiwenji
(Compilation of eulogies to the Yellow Emperor), Xi’an, Sanqin
chubanshe, 1996, pp. 43-47.

The 1997 Eulogy of Huangdi

Xuanyuan Huangdi, of deep understanding and brilliant wisdom.
You protect the people from flood and fire, you cultivate virtue and develop perfection
in the arts of war. You have handed down to your descendants a world of clear
rivers and pure sea. You raised silkworms, built chariots and ships, established
the rules of music, and invented clothes and vestments. You devised the calendar
to make the seasons profitable to agriculture. You were the first to formulate
the characters of writing to spread civilisation through education. You supported
the wise and promoted the virtuous, bringing inspiration to the masses. You grasped
the nature of change, thus bringing essential things under control. As we look
back over past millennia, we reach the time of primal universal chaos. Then was
the arrival of our ancestor fortunate, for you laid the basis of civilisation,
and brilliantly established the rites. You covered the world like rivers and streams,
and matched the splendour of the sun and the moon.

The great constellations turn, and under their sway the
vicissitudes of the world succeed each other, month after month, year after year.
We humbly receive the customs and traditions handed down since your time, our
ancestor, and we continue the cultivation of the fine virtues of the huaxia [nation].
Holding fast to morality, caring for our reputation and integrity, fearing no
hard tasks, we aspire with all our strength to power. Striding forward, we take
our place in the continuity [of history], which is sometimes cause for rejoicing
and sometimes for bitter lament. At present the huaxia [nation] is conducting
its policy of reform and openness. Our sciences are flourishing, and our industries
are prosperous. The mountains and rivers grow beautiful, and our leading lights
excel [in numerous domains]. On the eve of the new century, we continue the policy
of openness. Let us advance to meet all challenges, for time will not wait for
us. Let us hold our mission close to our hearts, and shoulder our heavy responsibilities.
Let us dedicate ourselves to the hard task without bending. May our consciences
be clear in the sight of our ancestors, and may we hand down the fruits of our
deeds to our descendants. And may we revive the glorious rule of Eastern civilisation,
and stand like a tree in the forest of the nations of the world.

The founthead of Chinese civilisation is distant, and the
flow of its river is long (1). And it is here, through this very spot, that the
veins of the Huaxia dragon run (2). And all the Hua descendants
are the sons and grandsons of Huangdi. Blood is thicker than water (3), and brothers
share deep feelings. The idea of “one country, two systems” is clear-sighted.
[Today] we bring comfort to our founding ancestor: Hong Kong is about to return
[to the motherland]. As for the reunification of the two shores [of the Taiwan
strait], that is an irreversible movement of history. And in the development of
the zhonghua [nation], [the Chinese from] the four oceans share the same
heart.

In a spirit of ancestral veneration, your descendants have
come here to show their respect and clean your tomb according to our unbroken
tradition established over thousands of years. Today it is again the Ching Ming
festival. The light rain which is falling augures well. On the sacred land of
Mount Qiao, five-thousand years old cypresses are green against the sky, and in
the land of the enlightened (4), a torrent of spring is shaking the earth by its
arrival. Standing here, gazing at the heavens and letting my imagination roam,
a song in your honour comes to my mind:

Xuanyuan, my ancestor, man and intellect regard you
with respect,

Your bounty, springing from virtue, spreads afar and
fills the eight horizons.

A thousand Autumns and ten thousand generations; the
earth outlasts memory and heaven is immense. [Now] the ceremony is over, and I
humbly hope that my offering has found favour!

Cheng Andong

Governor of Shaanxi province

1. This echoes the text in Jiang Zemin’s
own hand, on the column in the main courtyard of the temple of Xuanyuan Huangdi
in Huangling.

2. The veins of the dragon: a reference to geomancy
(fengshui) which is concerned, among other things, with determining the
position of the veins of the dragon in order to capture their beneficial influence
(qi).

3. An allusion to the water in the straits of
Taiwan which, in the regime’s parlance, separates the members of the same
family.

4. The land of the enlightened: China.

Source: Shaanxi ribao (Shaanxi Daily),
April 6th 1997.

Back to top