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An-Lushan's revolt


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Dear Angelina,


Even eunuchs had hearts, felt joy, love and loyalty, delighted in the beautiful world around them, and often willingly sacrificed their lives for the Emperors they esteemed and served unselfishly.


The past should not be glorified,no, but rather deeply appreciated for all the positive, wonderful ideas and creations it has bequeathed to us.


As for An Lushan, he never changed at all. He was born a ravenous wolf, and died one. An's "loyalty" to the Tang was a cynical, carefully devised pretense at devotion and diligent dedication to the Emperor, who loved him as a son. There was no love on An's part, however: this was a sentiment of which he was incapable, unless we take self-love into consideration.


No, An Lushan alone did not provoke the decline of the Tang Empire. It had already begun to degenerate years before An appeared on the scene. Who was to blame for this decline? The love-struck Emperor Xuanzong, in part, for his neglect of affairs of state. But Xuanzong was far from being evil and corrupt like An. Lady Yang herself was not a smirking Helen of Troy who gazed complacently from her window at the destruction taking place all around her. She and Xuanzong were simply two misplaced, star-crossed lovers who had been born too soon in time, in a society which would not forgive weakness or negligence in rulers. Had they lived in the twentieth century, the Prime Minister and his staff would have taken charge of all official business, leaving the Emperor and his beloved to enjoy their dreamy idylls.


If golden ages exist at all, Angelina, they dwell in that noblest part of man which beholds only the true gold in the midst of base metal. Every age, in my opinion, has something of gold to give us.

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Dear Altair,


Thank you for your very keen observations and comments.


Ancient Chinese rulers, at first glance, may indeed seem to be monolithic, invincible pillars of strength and immense power. But as you indicate...and as the most realistic of the ancient Chinese chronicles demonstrate as well...these Sons of Heaven were indeed very human, with numerous sterling virtues but also undeniable faults, doubts and fears, weaknesses and inadequacies. These mighty/fragile emperors lived behind curtains of stiff burocracy, court etiquette and puritan codes which hardly allowed them to lead normal sentimental or emotional lives. They were constantly surrounded by retainers whose "loyalty" could change into conspiracy and treason, from one moment to another. Xuanzong was one of the few Chinese sovereigns who attempted to break free from this suffocating control over his life. From the time he met the enchanting Lady Yang, Xuanzong was determined to dedicate himself body, heart and soul to the tender pleasures of love. He neglected the frontiers and imperial security to such a point that murmurs of rebellion began to be heard all along the northern and western borders of China, where other ethnic groups such as East Iranians and Turkic tribes dwelled; even the more loyalist south and east began to show signs of discontent and unrest. It is perfectly true that An Lushan took advantage of the growing dissention, in order to further his own dynastic aims. When the moment was ripe, he grasped it, slashing the tenuous thread of false loyalty which had linked him to Tang, to the ill-fated Xuanzong and Yang Guifei. The rest of the story is well known. It remains as one of the most dramatic, stirring and tragic episodes in China's long history.

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Guy Gavriel Kay wrote a couple of books on this,  namely Under Heaven and River of Stars.

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What did he say about 岳飞?Was he a hero as much as An Shi was a villain? A lot of things get romanticized, but there might be some truth in it.

Let's see what Guy Gavriel Kay says.

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Dear Shanlung, Dear Angelina,


Thank you for these titles.I would be very interested in reading them, if I can find them here in Italy.


Some time ago, I read "The Court of the Lion", by Eleanor Cooney. This huge historical novel (about 900 pages in one edition, if I remember correctly!), deals with Emperor Xuanzong, Lady Yang Guifei and the meteoric career of An Lushan. The characterization of the protagonists is truly brilliant: they are portrayed as real, believable human beings, with all their virtues and faults. Tang China comes alive again in this well-researched novel. Reading it, we can almost feel the cool morning breeze in Chang'an, can almost scent the sweet exotic perfumes of that long-ago era.


Perhaps the most significant aspect of "The Court of the Lion" is that it does NOT glorify or overly romanticize anyone. The author sympathizes with both Xuanzong and Lady Yang, but is careful to point out their faults and weaknesses. She recognizes that An Lushan is a brutal, immoral villain, yet does not hesitate to show us his better moments, when he could laugh like a carefree child, woo (with sincerity) Lady Yang's sister, or nostalgically remember his deceased mother.


The overall impression of this novel is a vast panorama of Tang China, stressing the humanity and brilliance of its people.

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Dear Angelina,


I am curious to know what this novel is. Please let me know...Could you possibly be referring to the Tale of Genji? In this novel, Genji's father, the Emperor of Japan, was critically compared to Xuanzong because he, also, was ignoring official duties (as he was totally besotted by his young mistress).

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