-From A Historical Aspect of China
(This blog post only represents personal opinions)
*Original Content, if reproduce, please indicate the source and this post’s link.*
Out of one occasion, I started paying attention to Li Ziqi in the second half of 2017. I’ve always liked the style of her video content, that’s why I’ve always paid attention to her. The reason I admire her is a bit different from the majority of her fans – instead of the delicious dishes shown in the video, the stunning vintage clothing’s, her poetic little courtyard, what attracts me more is the different elements of Chinese cultures expressed through her videos.
If we don’t look into about whether she has a strong team behind, or that she’s just so powerful herself, perhaps the majority of Chinese people share the same question with me in their mind – how could she rise so quickly in the highly competitive online world in China?
First of all, we know that she’s obviously a girl full of precious capabilities, and that she basically knows to do everything. Moreover, the lifestyle that she expresses in her videos reflects exactly what we have been doing traditionally in Chinese history. We have been living in a self-sufficient mode, and we have tried to make use of everything we could to avoid waste. This is the lifestyle and culture of a classic small-peasant economy in China. I am very much in favor of this recyclable lifestyle (this is also we call a “Sustainable Development” nowadays).
Industrial Revolution and China’s small-peasant economy
An industrial revolution implies an increase in efficiency, but also many drawbacks and problems that come later. Nowadays, a small-peasant economy is not a practical lifestyle for China, as such an economic mode is unable to feed such a huge population in this land(Although we have a modern-day Shennong—Yuan longping袁隆平).
We have been profiting off a high efficiency and an accumulation in wealth. There were no perfect systems back in our ancient times. In every dynasty, the value of the currency exchanged in the end becameunproportional to the production cost, which eventually led to an economic collapse. Through the merger of land, the upper class turned wealth into real estate, and they further exploited the value of social labor through tenant farming. The peasants at the lowest level of the society had to sell land to become tenants after the collapse of the currency.
The developmental patterns of our dynasties in the past –unification, ethnic fusion, rehabilitation, continuation and development of a small-peasant economy
The pursuit of efficiency and the accumulation of wealth are the irreversible process of the development of humankind. Frankly, the ancient Chinese economic model has been a successful one. Dong Zhongshu董仲舒 (179-104 BC) designed a set of doctrines called “Interactions between Heaven and Mankind天人感应说” to limit the imperial power and the emperor’s unlimited ambition and desires. The ancient Chinese emperors have led an increasingly miserable life after the Emperor Wu汉武帝 of the Han Dynasty (156-87 BC).
But any Emperors who were profligate and devoid of principles had a particularly short period in his rule. For example, during the “Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period五代十国 (907-979 AD)”, “Uprising of the Five Barbarians五胡乱华 (316-439 AD)”, most of the emperors were acting like maniacs, but their endings were unbelievably miserable. On the contrary, the emperors who ruled for a long time managed to restrain their own personal desires; they were compassionate when maintaining their own rule. This phenomenon had reached its peak during the Qing Dynasty 清朝(1636-1912 AD). Therefore, it makes perfect sense when you see the below description in a history book: the Emperor studied hard when he was little, he became a filial and obedient son and grandson when he grew up, and when he inherited the throne, he became overwhelmingly occupied.
In ancient China, the small-scale peasant economy was a self-sufficient one, and there wasn’t a lot of development in trade. There were also only a few specialties – porcelain, tea, white copper, silk, etc., If we put it in modern words, “people relied on technology to get rid of poverty, and they used to sell some small things for an extra income.” None of the dynasties regarded trade and export as the main means of living. Even if there were some trading activities, nobody really focused on it. The first person to open the Hexi Corridor was the famous General of Western Han Dynasty – HuoQubing霍去病 (140 – 117 BC). He did his expeditions in the west not for trading, but for military purposes, mainly to expel the XiongNu/Huns.
The economic model of ancient China was very stable. Emperor Qin 秦始皇 (259-210 BC) basically did the necessary (thumbs up to this handsome man), and he had unified the Yellow River Basin. Emperor Hanwu also unified the lower reaches of the Yangtze River Basin. In the end, the Emperor Wu of the Western Jin Dynasty, Sima Yan司马炎 (236-290 AD), ended the Three Kingdoms in 280. The entire territory of the Yangtze River was included under his rule. At the beginning of the Sui Dynasty, the Liaohe River Basin became the focus. In the era of Wu Zetian武则天 (624-705 AD) in the Tang Dynasty, Xu Maogong徐茂公 (594-669 AD) defeated Goguryeo and won theLiaohe River Basin(the northeastern part of China).
Emperor Qin秦始皇 had basically completed 75% of his work, as he’d set a model for economic development for China for thousands of years that followed; he had unified our characters and weights. This man had also gradually integrated the ideas of national integration into all Chinese ethnic groups. On the other hand, the greatness of Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty was to set an example for his future generations. After his son died, he began to reflect himself and found the truth to write the “Imperial Decree罪己诏”. After seeing his people suffering daily, he had determined to end all wars. When Sima Qian wrote the “Records of the Grand Historian史记”, he would at times blame Emperor Wu in person, who usuallylistened quietly without quarreling back. This emperor of wisdom was keen on collecting good advices for policies from every party. After defeating the Xiongnu, he began ending all fighting, maintaining peace, exploiting land, developing agriculture and bringing recovery to his people. Wu managed to sustain the Chinese civilization and make it last, also to preserve the best for the descendants of his people.
In the Tang Dynasty, after the defeat of Tujue/the Turk and their long-term invasion, the Emperor had started a revival and recovery policy. People had started adopting an open mind to things, which they never had before, and started learning about the technologies, cultures and lifestyle of the western areas. The integration of all ethnics had reached its historical peak, which was also a new high of the self-sufficient agricultural development in China.
Rural life under the small-peasant economy
” While picking asters’neath the Eastern fence，my gaze upon the Southern mountain rests—Tao Yuanming”;
“The plums are becoming golden yellow and the apricots are growing, the wheat flowers are all white, and the cabbage flowers are scarce. The days become longer, and the shadows of the fences are shorter as the sun goes up. No one passes by, only the butterflies with dragonflies which fly around the fences. — Fan Chengda”
“The fields on the hillside are lush with vegetation, and the water color in the paddy fields is shining with the sky. The cuckoo crowed in the misty drizzle. April in the countryside is the busiest time, just after the business with silkworm mulberry is finished before transplanting rice seedlings. — Weng Juan”
These beautiful poetically reflect the peasant life in ancient China. People had to work hard and they were poor, but they had a leisurely life. Although their rural life was seemingly simple and backwardness, it’s the birthplace of many craftsmen and technicians with a strong hands-on ability. It also contributed to several amazing creations and local cultures with specialties. Taoism, a native religion born in China, emphasizes that man and nature “depend on each other, they originate from and belong to the same place”. People living a rural life in ancient China took everything from nature and people made full use of natural resources. Then, they reward to the nature with what they’ve taken from the nature before.
For a few examples, such as cuttlefish – cuttlefish can be roasted, but it can be fried to become a delicious dish too. The meat on the cuttlefish can be used to be boiled into soup, and the cuttlefish soup has the effect for more breast milk production. Also, cuttlefish bone can be used as a medicine to stop bleeding and prevent ulcers. Taking citrus as an example, its skin can be used as a medicine, and the meat can be used as a dessert and a delicious dish. Then, let us look into donkeys(Oh! Those poor donkeys), they’re so full of potentials. Their meat can be made into a variety of delicious foods, such as a snack of Hejian, Hebei province that’s called donkey burger驴肉火烧. Their skin can turn into a well-known Chinese medicine, known as the Chinese gelatin阿胶. The hair on their tails can be used as a Taoist priest’s whisk (It’s their favorite item. Naturally, we know why Chinese Taoist priests are always chasing after a little donkey, and like riding on them. Perhaps they’re doing so for their little tails). The bones of donkeys can also be used as medicine.
-This is what makes a lot of foreign people shocked. Very often, they’d ask surprisingly, “how can you use that as a food ingredient?”
The self-sufficiency of the small-scale peasant economy has been deeply integrated into each generation of the Chinese people. And it seems that subconsciously, Chinese people in modern day all have a “rural dream”. Even in many modern big cities in China, you will find an interesting phenomenon. Whenever there is a vacant muddy land, whether it’s on your balcony or just a piece of land near your house, you’d find that what grows on it aren’t green plants like flowers and trees, butlots of cabbages, green onions and pepper.Indeed, this is a precious treasure that our ancestors have left us. They wanted us to learn making use of all thenatural resources that we’re blessed with.
Through her videos, Li Ziqi has just opened a small window for us to peak into the Chinese rural life. She has given us a taste of this “rural dream” that has been entwined in our hearts for thousands of years.