Written By You-Sheng Li ( June 2012)
In spite of vast differences between Western and Chinese cultural traditions, the history of their fiction writing as a distinctive art went along similar evolutionary pathways. Paul S. Ropp gives a detailed comparison of Western and Chinese fiction.  He says, “As fiction became more sophisticated and self-conscious in both cultures it also evolved from an earlier tendency to endorse wholeheartedly the society’s common values and moved instead to a more ironic stance that questioned or criticized the dominant values of the civilization… The most strikingly are the parallels from the sixteenth through the early nineteenth centuries when the novel in both cultures became increasingly autobiographical and increasing serious in the exploration of social, moral, and philosophical problems.” The word “autobiographical” is understood as drawing directly from the author’s own experience, and his characters are usually real people he knew in his life.
Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer has all those newly developed characteristics: 1) autobiographical, 2) criticizing the dominant values of the civilization, and 3) exploring psychological and philosophical dilemmas in our life with an ironic humorous tone. Furthermore, this novel created for the first time in literature a hero who was a pariah or outcast and rebelled against the prevailing traditions.
Tom Sawyer describes family life in a village from a juvenile view. Villages, families, and children are all relatively close to human nature or the primary society. It will be interesting to compare this novel with similar Chinese novels and compare Twain’s town with the town where I lived in the 1950s under the new light of the genetically coded primary society and the man-made secondary society. Western society even in an isolated village was much more secondary while the Chinese village as well as urban societies was more primary as a society, since Mediterranean civilizations started with secondary societies and Chinese civilization started with primary societies. [7,8]
History records what can be described in words, and only literature opens a window allowing us to peep into the unspoken part of history, the psychological soul of man. The creation and popularity of a novel during a particular time tells what occupies the collective conscious mind, if we divide our consciousness or mind into socially shared part and individually private part. This essay thus forms an essential part of putting the history of Confucianism in a new perspective.
originated in ancient
(2) Primary and Secondary Societies and Their Differences
All human societies can be divided into the genetically coded primary society and the man-made secondary society. The definition of and the distinction between the primary society and the secondary society can be refined by examining the way in which they are contrary to each other: One was man-made, the other, hereditary. It is thus not difficult at all delineating the major differences between the two by deduction from the definition with reference to ancient tribal and modern societies.
differences include: 1) the former primary society is based on genetics, and
human nature and instinct are enough to keep it harmonious and functional while
the latter secondary society is man-made to serve its goal, and has an ideology
or value system with a social structure to support that goal. 2) Dictated by
genetics, the former has only one type while the latter has limitless possible
types. Social stratification and institutionalized violence such as police and
army are often necessary to keep the latter stable in its present type
and restrain its members from seeking other types of society. As a result, the
former does not need a forceful authority while the latter does. 3) The former
is a psychological/emotional whole because of the subconscious social bond
related to face-to-face interaction while the latter relies on a uniform
ideology and goal. The religious culture is animism and remains part of the
former society while the latter often has organized religions with different
belief systems. 4) Language is mainly for psychological/emotional exchange and
carries aesthetic value in the former while language is mainly for
communication or exchange of information, insights, opinion, and so on in the
latter. 5) Subjective consciousness is present in both but only the latter
allows its members to become men of their own making. 6) The philosophy of life
or world view is different: The former is able to view the physical world, the
social world, and the inner world of human minds from a relaxed mind while
dictated by the social ideology; the latter has a focused view. In fact, war
and competition forced people to focus on each other. European visual artists
created only human figures until the 17th and 18th centuries
Such a list can be easily extended.
Unlike other classifications of human societies that focus on cumulative gradual changes other than human nature, the division of human societies into two levels, genetically coded and man-made, focuses on the underlying transformation or a jump, which fits well into the multi-level operation of the universe (Table 1).
Table 1. The Universal Evolutionary Pathways
1. Physical World
Atoms and electrons
Matters and objects
Stars and planets
Organs and limbs
Subconscious or aesthetic
Conscious: rational thinking systems and spirituality
There are impassable gaps between those levels in Table 1. In a way, tissues are the primary society of cells and organs are the secondary society of cells. Normally, cells cannot leave their tissues to reach the organ level. Although humans build secondary societies, our history also suggests an impassable gap between the two levels of society.
From the unearthed skeletons, one may see how healthy the ancient people were by measuring their heights and the numbers of teeth they had lost. A study shows a clear decreasing trend of human health in history: On average, adults lost 2.2 teeth in 30,000 BC, 3.5 teeth in 6,500 BC, and 6.6 teeth during the Roman Period. The average height of adult males was 177 cm thirty thousand years ago, 165 cm ten thousand years ago, and 175 cm for American males in the 1960s.  According to Chen (1979), the Chinese population suddenly dropped more than half for at least ten times between 221 BC and 1911 when the secondary society was established.  There was no single such drop recorded from 2200 BC to 476 BC when the ancient Chinese super state of primary societies was in place.
From Twain’s novel, we
can see all its characters have different surnames unless they are from the
same family. In contrast, my hometown consisted of various areas or
neighbourhoods that were peopled by different clans. For example, my clan of
300 members had the same surname and lived in an area that has its own village
name. Those clans were essentially nearly or quasi-primary societies until the
late 1950s. Members of the same clan interacted with each other face-to-face on
a daily basis. As there is no forceful authority in a primary society, there
were only occasional meetings of the whole clan, at most once a year. To attend
such a meeting, each family usually sent their representative, an adult male or
female or even a child. If all members were encouraged to attend, the meeting
had to provide free food and drink. The whole
The Chinese communists
collectivised all peasants in 1956. My hometown formed a so-called agricultural
cooperation with more than a dozen teams. It literally meant that the
Communists were then able to motivate the whole town for a simple purpose like
Instead of clans, the
Since a clan would not
normally allow any of its members to starve to death, entirely pariahs or
outcasts were much less common in the Chinese countryside though they became
more with the process of modernization and urbanization. Huck (Huckleberry
Finn) is such a pariah. Tom has a family but he joins Huck for almost all his
adventures in the novel. None of their adventures were family-based. On the
other hand, the
When I was a child, there was a popular tale which was apparently based on facts. The tale so goes, in the long winter, peasants usually had two meals per day, one around and the other at . Such an arrangement aimed to save food during the idle winter. To keep his children in bed before , a father hang a caged duck instead of a rooster at their door, telling the children, “We get up only after this bird calls at dawn.” When the children wanted to get up in the morning, the father tried to keep them in bed saying. “The ‘rooster’ has not called yet.” Please notice that the Chinese peasants were frugal but not starving. Chinese peasants apparently preferred to stay quietly within themselves instead of adventuring at the secondary society level.
As a result, the
In a generous prayer
during a sermon, the minister pleaded for the country, for the
(4) Tom Sawyer and its Matched Chinese Novels
Here I selected three Chinese
fictions as being most comparable to Mark Twain’s Tom Sayers, and here I call
them the matched. The third of the
three is a short story published in 1936, and its communist influence is
evident. This study is concentrated on the first two novels, A Dream in the
Red Mansion and The True Story of Ah Q, which were published around
1791 and 1921 respectively. In combination, the two novels meet well the three
characteristics listed above. The first protagonist or hero in the first novel,
a juvenile, comes from an aristocratic family of a few hundreds, including the service
people, which was similar in a way to Tom Sawyer who lives with his family in a
small town. The hero in the second novel was a pariah in a village but an adult.
The third was a juvenile outcast in the coast city,
The first magazine for
children appeared in 1886 in
The inclusion of novels before and after Chinese fiction writing was opened to Western influence allows us to see the original way of Chinese fiction writing and see how a Westernized Chinese writer would address the same issue in literature.
(5) The Ideology
1) The Two Levels of Society and Ideology: Peter Kropotkin observed that “Throughout the history of our civilization, two traditions, two opposed tendencies have been in conflict: the Roman tradition and the popular tradition, the imperial tradition and the federalist tradition, the authoritarian and the libertarian tradition.”  Tom Sawyer so represents the libertarian tradition to rebel against the authoritarian tradition.
Those who denounce the secondary society seek an alternative life by freeing their spirit while those who denounce the primary society either rebel or leave. Those two opposed traditions represent two directions towards different types of the secondary society. There are numerous models for a secondary society to conform to. In a fight or competition for voting, people tend to group into two opposed camps. With the primary society that has only one type, whoever denounces the society has to leave. If he is lucky, he can find another primary society to join. That was what happened to ancient primitive tribal people:
civilization started with a super state functioning as police to keep peace
among local powers, Chinese people were able to live in primary or
quasi-primary societies until the Axial Age when the philosophical foundation
was laid down for the next two and half millennia. As a result,
2) Emotional Expression: Both Chinese and Western writers describe emotion in an exaggerated way. In A Dream in the Red Mansion, the author often goes into lengthy details about how a master searches every corner of her heart in order to treat her slave girl well in order to ensure her own peace of mind. In contrast, when Tom and Becky finally came back, the whole village all woke up to show their love for the two kids. When the Chinese hero Baoyu made a major mistake that had brought serious trouble to his father and received a whipping and his beloved girl came to see him afterwards: She is barely able to hold back her tears from eyes swollen like two peaches, and says, “You change, please!” And then she leaves. Tom’s and Huck’s adventure shows an emotional expression of liberty, and so their adventure is idealized with exaggeration so that both its successes and dramatic twists are unbelievable, and this forms the humour of the novel. Taoist religion aims at making its adherents godly immortals. When the Chinese hero Baoyu finally became a monk, he, with a Taoist and Buddhist at each side, moves in the air and disappears before his father’s eyes. This kind of exaggeration is only seen in fairy tales in the West.
3) Materialistic and Aesthetic Adventures: Tom Sawyer depicts the adventures of Tom Sawyer and his juvenile friends. As children’s play functions as preparation for their adult life, so those adventures serve only as miniature precursors of the adventurous adult life in a secondary society. In modern society, many enjoy their life as an adventure, and our advanced global society provides a safe and accommodating environment. Here we call such goal-oriented adventure, materialistic adventure while spiritual adventure of the mind is referred to as aesthetic adventure.
It is understandable
that a materialistic adventurous lifestyle prevails in the West but much less
In the first matched Chinese novel, A Dream in the Red Mansion, a female character Wangxifeng, who manages a large family of a few hundred and looks down on all the males in front her, may be called materialistically adventurous and spiritually similar to Tom Sawyer. The novel describes her as being ignorant and stubborn with wrong ideas (chimi) and she finally meets her tragic end. The novel uses her as a negative stereotype to denounce the secular world. In a Chinese way, the whole novel is the hero’s adventurous story. It starts with an ancient myth: Once the sky was broken, Goddess, whose name is interpreted by many scholars as female sex organ, used a huge pile of rocks to mend the sky. After finishing her job, she had a left over piece of rock. This piece of useless rock reincarnates and becomes the hero, who is the beloved son of the richest and noblest family on earth. He is obsessed with the idea of denouncing the cultural tradition of this large bureaucratic family and eventually becomes a Buddhist monk. It is a Taoist idea that life on earth is a mistake and any truly libertarian will seek freedom outside this secondary society. Males predominated in prominent positions in both Western and Chinese society, and so is in Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Fin but not in this Chinese novel where all the males are peripheral, ridiculous, nasty characters. In the hero’s mind, the ideal life is idling around with a playful interest in poetry, arts, and intellectual discussion of spirituality while both Tom and Huck illustrate an ideal life by their purely materialistic pursuit while showing no interest in either literature or arts. Tom was interested only in the adventurous side while reading novels and stories.
History is itself an adventure of humankind. In the West, materialistic adventure took the form of escalating war and ended with the Second World War. In Chinese history, aesthetic adventure ended periodically with collapses and revolutions. A thorough survey of all emperors, 611 in total, in Chinese history found that emperors were the most unlucky subpopulation. As high as 45% of them met unnatural deaths; and their life spans averaged 35 years while that of the general population was 57 years, after infant deaths were excluded. Due to lack of security and increased stress, a high proportion of emperors showed symptoms of psychological and mental disorders.  In a way, Chinese history restricted its chaotic disorder of the secondary society within the government but spread out occasionally to engulf the whole country in chaos. Western history spread out a similar disorder all over the society but dealt with it seriously to provide an improving social environment for materialistic adventure.
(6) Further Comparison of Tom Sawyer with its Matched Chinese Novels
1) The Shadowy
Due to the ancient Chinese super state of primary societies and its influence on subsequent history, Chinese society was organized into different levels:
The Emperor and his clan + Intellectuals, Quasi-primary society
Government officials and their candidates, Secondary society
Villages, Quasi-primary society
In the above model, the three levels were literally three different worlds with impassable gaps between. The life of a clan, a family, or an individual might be affected by the society at a higher level in a mysterious way beyond reason. Ordinary people like my mother and grandmother might adapt to the influence from above the same way as to climate change.  Both novelists and their readers were intellectuals who fell unfortunately into those gaps of mystery.
For many years after
Mao the former national leader’s death,
statue were believed to have the magic power to protect people from natural
disaster. Most drivers had a Mao’s statue in front of their seat in hope that
Mao would protect them in case of traffic accidents. There was no comparable
superstition developed in the
The first matched Chinese novel describes the life of a large family of government officials. Those officials themselves formed a typical secondary society, but their clans and family might live in a quasi-primary society. Since literature reflects the ideal life and world of the author and the people, this Chinese novel’s family life was typically a primary society, built on emotional and aesthetic value rather than a uniform goal. This novel’s main theme is to condemn the secondary society and its value and praise the primary society and its value. In this novel, every male character is bad while every female is elegant but suffers a miserable end as the world is muddled up by males. During Confucius’ time, the separation of the man’s outside world and the woman’s inside world was largely in place. Such a separation was still visible more than two thousand years later in this novel. The large family of a few hundred was totally managed by women. Furthermore, the male head of the family was deemed to be an unpractical man lacking knowledge in dealing with secular affairs.
The higher level above
this family was the emperor and his court, who were
apparently a different world of mystery and awe. Once someone was called into
the palace, the whole family were sitting awake until full of fear about what misfortune might fall
upon them but finally learnt good news instead. Their daughter was a concubine
of the emperor, and they were not allowed to see her for years. When the
daughter came to visit her home for the first time, she wept with tears
streaming down her face, saying, “You have sent me to a world where I cannot
see anybody, waiting for years to get this occasion. Why do we female
companions and sweethearts get together today doing nothing by shedding tears?”
The whole novel foreshadows and describes the inevitable declined trend of the
family, which is in a way similar to the inescapable fate in the ancient Greek.
The ancient Greek tragedy illustrates the unfortunate nature of civilized life
on earth, and it focuses on the experience of the human as an individual, which
is the result of uncontrollable fate. This Chinese novel focuses on the family
and the primary society, and the social tragedy is spelt out by a mysterious
force from above. Both Tom Sawyer and this Chinese novel were partially
autobiographical, and in real history, this Chinese author’s autocratic family
suffered dramatically when
The hero in the third matched Chinese novel was a child who lived in the largest commercialized city as a pariah. He apparently lacked the worriless free comfort Huck Finn enjoyed. He literally lived on mercy of a society above him. He dug into the garbage outside the buildings of rich people for discarded food, and also begged pennies from misses and laddies there. Policemen were responsible for driving him away though everybody had the right to do so. He also often received a heavy kick on his buttocks as a reward. He did not have any sense what going on in the upper class while the whole society knew nothing about his life. Only under Communist influence, such an urban outcast was put in spot by the author and reminding, he can join the patriotic revolutionary movement as well.
The second matched Chinese novel describes an outcast peasant named Ah Q. He lived a life similar to Huck Finn but he lived in a small local temple and had to do odd jobs for other villagers to feed himself. He had no family and relatives. In place of Tom’s and Huck’s adventure of the independent selves, Ah Q was looked down by other villagers and had to rely on his technique of spiritual victory: After being beaten up by others, he felt better by saying to himself in his heart, “I have been beaten by my sons.”
The novel clearly shows
the different meanings of life between the village and the world of the
government officials: The two levels of society equal human tissues and organs,
and there is an impassable gap between them. One night a landlord was robbed by
a group of bandits. The government could not find those bandits but arrested Ah
Q instead, saying the government eventually got the one responsible for a
robbery. It must be pointed out that such administrative tricks are not
uncommon at all in
2) Outcasts, Robbers, and Peasant Uprisings: Let’s here call Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, and all the heroes or protagonists of the three most comparable Chinese fictions outcasts, as they denounce the mainstream culture and live at the periphery of their society with unacceptable behavior. They are one step away from real robbers who are outlaws. Since fiction is addressed to the public, the author does not want to offend the society by narrating how to break laws but may nevertheless express such a wish metaphorically. For example, Tom and Huck dug holes into a house to help a captured black man to escape only because this man had been freed by his master already. The author apparently wished to break the law to free slaves but avoid offending the public. Therefore the following discussion is not concerned with the possible robbery behaviour and its illegality in those fictions, though the distinction between outcasts and robbers would blur away if those fictions were considered as real happenings in a real world.
In the last chapter, Huck is bored of civilized life and wants to leave his guardian. Tom persuaded him to stay in order to qualify for a membership in the gang of robbers. According to Tom, a robber is high-toned. “In most countries they’re awful high up in the nobility---dukes and such.” Tom required all gang members “to swear to stand by one another, and never tell the gang’s secrets, even if you’re chopped all to flinders, and kill anybody and all his family that hurts one of the gang.” (p198-99)
Chuang Tzu who lived around 369-286 BC wrote down a detailed account of Robber Chi. When his gang members asked whether robbers have their own Tao or principle, Robber Chi answered, “What profession is there which does not have its own principles? A robber in his recklessness comes to the conclusion that there are valuables deposited inside a house that makes it worth breaking in, and it shows his sagacity. As a robber, he is the first to enter, and this shows his bravery. He is the last to quit and come out, and this shows his righteousness. He knows whether the robbery may be attempted or not, and this shows his wisdom. He makes an equal division of the plunder among all gang members, and this shows his human-heartedness. Without all these five qualities, no one in the world has ever been able to become a great robber.”
With such a high-toned personality
and principle, a robber can certainly organize thousands into a powerful and
well disciplined army and conquer a vast land. He then becomes a king, a more
respectful title. So Tom Sawyer said, “In most countries they’re awful high up in the nobility---dukes and
such.” In other words, kings are great robbers while robbers are those who are not
as big as kings. It is applicable to ancient
According to Chuang Tzu, Confucius once tried to persuade Robber Chi to change his behavior. The reader has to keep in mind that such a story was likely based on legends that prevailed after Confucius’ death and thus not very reliable, though it is still valuable to illustrate certain aspects of Confucianism. Robber Chi had nine thousand bandits gathered under his leadership. Confucius told him, with his ability and achievement, he could become a king respected by the whole society if he could accept his teachings. Robber Chi rejected Confucius’ suggestion, saying, “If you talk about gods and spirits, I must admit that I know nothing about them. If you talk about humanity, I will tell you my understanding of the situation we humans are all facing: The eyes wish to look on beauty; the ears want to hear music; the mouth wants to enjoy flavors; the will and desire want to be gratified. The greatest longevity man can reach is a hundred years; a medium is eighty years; and the lowest, only sixty. Apart from sickness, bereavement, mourning, anxieties, and worries, the time when one can smile or laugh is only four or five days per month. Heaven and earth have no limit of duration but man’s life has its limit. With our limited life and body against the background of a limitless universe, our individual existence is as brief as the passing of a crevice by a fast running horse. Those who cannot gratify their will and natural desires, and nourish their destined longevity, are all unacquainted with the Tao of life.”
What Robber Chi said is not much different from what Tom said about their gang of robbers. To gratify one’s will, either adventure or materialistic pursuit, is the utmost goal. It is okay to kill one and his whole family in order to keep a secret or to enjoy a man’s liver after it is deliciously cooked, as long as it is within the moral codes of the gang of robbers. Both Mark Twain and Chuang Tzu praised or at least approved such cruel non-civil behaviors but to avoid offending the reader, neither Mark Twain nor Chuang Tzu failed to mention whether such things happened afterwards, let alone describing them in detail.
Both Tom Sawyer and its sequel Huckleberry Finn show clearly that Tom and Huck wished to become robbers and considered robbers are among the great men of the world. In fact they lived near and had some kind of relationship with robbers and rapscallions such as Injun, the King and his duke. Their adventures miraculously avoided any disasters and ended with a great fortune, which may suggest robbery. In summary, the outcasts of the Western secondary society who challenge the mainstream cultural values still have their own life and their own dream. Both Tom and Huck eventually earned understanding, love, and respect from characters of the mainstream society. None of the heroes in the three matched Chinese fictions did so.
As mentioned above, in
the primary society, whoever denounces the society has to leave. If he is
lucky, he will find another primary society to join. Since the imperial
Therefore, in the West, those outcasts or rogues live their own lives in their own choice. In Chinese history, the society would not allow those outcasts to share the same social esteem as others. They either became bandits or robbers who lived inside mountains or joined the peasant uprising.
According to the Confucian principle, a conqueror has to set up a state for the conquered to live and worship their ancestors. Thus the Chinese conqueror could not sell the conquered people as slaves as the ancient Greeks did. Compared to the Western history, the gap between a Confucian conqueror king and a real robber among the mountains was much bigger in Chinese history. It left a much more room for the Chinese robbers to develop, and they could become much bigger than the Western robbers. Furthermore, in a content of various local powers fighting each other, a robber who has his own principle like Robber Chi has advantage over those who adhere to Confucian principle.
3) Rapscallions and Kings/Emperors: Cheating: In the sequel, Huckleberry Finn said: “As far as I can make out, all kings are mostly rapscallions.” It impressed me when I read it, since the Chinese have similar notions and sayings. One says, “Since the ancient time, emperors and kings have mostly been rapscallions.” How did those people reach the same consensus about their kings and emperors while they lived in quite different social environments? Did they mean the same or something different by the word, “rapscallions”? To answer those questions, we have to explore the whole issue thoroughly.
Louis XIV of
Discussing the psychological effects imposed on people by moving from the primary to the secondary society, I wrote: “Fear lets people worship heroes who are actually the same as they are but hold important positions in the secondary society. Apathy and indifference leave loopholes for cheating. It is materially beneficial to pretend to be someone bigger and higher but hypocrisy is harmful to the soul and deadly to spirituality. Hypocrisy is a deviation from naturalness and simplicity, and deviation from the Tao. No luxury is enjoyable if it is consumed in front of other fellow beings of less privilege. Ostentation and luxury are a disease exclusive to the secondary society.” 
In Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, the deviational behaviour or so-called adventures of their main characters are described in a humorous tone. A major part of the humour comes from cheating: a detailed lengthy description of the cheating and the cheated always fascinates and amuses the reader. This major part of the American novels becomes almost invisible in their matched Chinese fictions, since Chinese cheating takes a different form.
A Dream in the Red Mansion’s protagonist, hero Baoyu, has two lovers: One represents the ideal personality of the primary society and the other, the ideal of the secondary society. The former expressed her true emotions so freely that she scorned others and spoke sarcastically, hurting others, while the latter was typically a nice person in every social situation. To readers nowadays, the latter is a good-hearted nice lady, but the hero preferred the former while his family preferred the latter. Only after the former died young, the family cheated the hero and had him and the latter married. After finding out, he walked out of his marriage and became a monk. The main theme of the novel is to praise the fully expressed human emotion and condemn the secondary society. A good-hearted person who is nice to everyone is considered as a cheater. As a Christian value, good-heartedness was admired in Tom Sawyer. Those who denounce a primary society have their footing outside society since there is only one type of the primary society while those who denounce a secondary society can still live in society, since a secondary society can be driven by its members towards different types.
On the other hand, the hero in the third Chinese fiction cheated all the time but nobody blamed him. He had the right to cheat to fill up his empty stomach. So cheating was seen as part of his normal life. So were the niggers in Tom Sawyer, who said, “Niggers always cheat. I have never seen a nigger who does not cheat.”
Lu Hsu’s Ah Q cheated himself in order to cope with the unfriendly social environment. He imagined himself as the winner even when he met with a humiliating disaster. The government executed Ah Q as the scapegoat for an unsolved case of robbery. It is shameless cheating but nobody knew it and cared about it. Ah Q considered his execution as part of normal human life and took it as an occasion to show off in front of hundreds of spectators, who all came far away to enjoy the scene: The execution itself was the final proof of Ah’ Q’s guilt, the spectators said. In Tom Sawyer, spectators came for a funeral of a shameless murder Injun and got the same satisfaction as watching a hanging.
It is beyond doubt that
there is much less cheating in a primary society than in a secondary society.
With the society in the imperial
As the above model shows, the government officials and their intellectual candidates lived in a typical secondary society. Another important Chinese novel The Scholars which appeared during the 1750s is well matched with Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn if we consider cheating as a literary theme. Instead of a protagonist and his adventures, The Scholar gives a panorama of various scholars linked loosely together by time and occasional connections. But the humorous effect of elaborating detailed description of cheating is exactly the same. So cheating prevailed at the second level of the above model or among the bureaucrats and their intellectual candidates in Chinese history while it presented in the whole Western society. Of course cheating here was the psychologically well felt one and so it entered to the landmarked literature. The cheating mentioned above in the three Chinese matched fictions was not well felt by or even remained unknown to the society.
4) Rapscallions and
Kings/Emperors: Chinese Chess and Historical Anecdotes: The International game of chess was said to have
As in the game of chess, the Chinese emperor could not move freely as Western kings and queens because of those impassable gaps between different levels of society as shown in the above model. Although those gaps were more social and psychological than physical, they were real. Both the first emperor of the Chin dynasty and the Wu emperor of the Han dynasty were as ambitious as Louis XIV in making their country a super power, so they acted as freely as Western kings or queens. One of those two emperors brought the country to collapse and the other reduced the population by half. To glance over the various man-made constructs dominating the landscape today, we know we owe our predecessors a lot to have a society where individuals can relatively freely pursue their ambitions.
In Chinese chess, soldiers move, one square at a time, and so do the generals, the equivalents of Western kings and queens, but the former move over the whole board while the latter, within four squares. Could a Chinese soldier replace their king or emperor? This happened in Chinese history with the tossing-over-a-pancake revolution when the upper and the lower classes exchanged their places extensively, a form of revolution that was never seen in the West. To understand this, the following anecdotes will be helpful.
Like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn that broadened the theme of subsequent American novels, The Scholars started a new fiction writing, so-called denouncing novels. Instead of ridiculing scholars, those novels expose the negative side of the whole society. The following story was likely based facts:
During the late reign of the Ching dynasty (1644-1911), some robbers appeared in the
western mountainous area of
All reports to the emperor were traditionally
written in strict format and left space for the emperor to write his order in
red ink. Of course the emperor only read part of those reports and issue orders
on a few. When the last emperor of
The story shows the close
association of robbers and soldiers in Chinese history. A popular Chinese
proverb says, “A good piece of iron will not be made into nails while a good
man will not become a soldier.” In ancient
Rapscallions would be a proper name for them, and they eventually formed the basis for the government in Chinese history, at least in the view of most Chinese peasants according to the above quoted proverb.
An ordinary Chinese
peasant had two sons: One works hard while the other does not. The father said
to the lazy one, “See what a household of wealth has your brother got compared
to yours.” When a peasant uprising broke out, as a response, many, including
this lazy son, stood up against the government all over
Those rapscallion emperors had a problem trusting their rapscallion comrades. So they saw all rapscallions have the potential of replacing them. They killed many of those who had fought battles beside him.
Although kings and emperors were a dangerous profession in both Western and Chinese history especially during their early time, but I tend to think that in the West, this profession might be psychologically less depressing as they played a much more active role in their society. Therefore, Louis XIV pretended to be great in front of his painter and his people, he might well have felt great too. Only people like Huckleberry Finn might have considered him as a rapscallion in a hypocritical costume. Chinese emperors’ portraits usually stayed inside the palace and were not intended to impress people. During the imperial phase of Chinese history, the emperor was well sheltered by the gaps between the different levels of the above model society. Since the Chinese neither developed the social mechanisms to balance and control power nor facilitated a safe social environment at the secondary society level for individuals to materialize their ambitions. Most Chinese emperors might not have felt as great as Louis XIV did.
The original Chinese word for “rapscallions” is wulai, a trust-unworthy man of no principles. In other words, a robber who lets go his principles becomes king or emperor. In a total anarchy the most ruthless will win and the slightest hesitation of moral instinct will be fatal.  As described in Huckleberry Finn, the two rapscallions, the king and the duke, went to the uninformed village to cheat those villagers. It alludes that some kings and their dukes ruled their states like rapscallions. But different states of better rulers were allowed to coexist beside them. In other words, kings or emperors ruled their people like a rapscallion by cheating in the West while the emperor in Chinese history could be in fact a rapscallion himself. At least, that is exactly what Huckleberry Fin thinks of Western kings and what Chinese peasants thought of their emperors in history.
 Paul S. Ropp
(1990): The Distinctive Art of Chinese Fiction. In P. S. Ropp ed, Heritage of China,
 Chi Ke (1983): Western art
 Marvin Harris (1977): Cannibals and Kings.
 Chen Ping (1979): The single agriculture economy of peasants is the root cause of stagnant Chinese history of poverty and tumults. Guangmingridbao, Nov. 16, 1979.(In Chinese)
 Peter Kropotkin (1912): Modern Science and Anarchism, 1912.
Quoted from: Gordon
Yang, Jianyu (1989): The Emperors in Chinese History. Shanghai: Shanghai Cultural Publishing House. (In Chinese)
You-Sheng Li (2010): The
You-Sheng Li (2005): An New Interpretation of Chinese
Taoist Philosophy: An Anthropological/Psychological View.
You-Sheng Li (2009): Book Review: War and State Formation in Ancient