Han Horse

I went to a meeting of a local Chinese-American relations committee last night, and I briefly mentioned my book, specifically alluding to the careful documentation of the emperors’ sex lives during the Han Dynasty. As I finished, I noticed the Chinese man next to me scribbling with a pen on a paper napkin. “Han Dynasty,” he said to me, and handed me the napkin. Unfortunately I couldn’t stay for the end of the meeting and slipped out before I could ask him to explain it to me. In any case, the drawing was so beautiful I had to post it here. Remember, he created it in about three minutes. (Click to enlarge.)

This is another open thread and I’m closing the last one. Finally.


Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 65 Comments


If you want to look at the historical record, see the top five in the wiki page on total deaths by war, three of them are Chinese.

These war death numbers can be way off, and I wouldn’t draw any conclusions just yet. For instance, the Iraqi war had happened right in front of us in the last decade. You have death figures ranging from low 100k to 1.2 million. If we get the death figure of a very recent event off by a factor of 10, imagine the accuracy of death estimates in wars 100s or even 1000+ years ago.

There are 2 types of methodologies in estimating death figures. One is by adding up all the known and reasonably known death figures, which in the case of the Iraqi war came out as some 100K; the other is by demographic projection, which came out as high as 1.2 million. The demographic projection number likely is way over-counted for some good reasons: 1. the accuracy of the demographic data especially the data after the war was started can be dubious; 2. refuges, and those who had hidden from the authority would be counted as deaths.

Only because historically China had meticulously kept voluminous records including national and regional populations, such war death estimations can be even had to begin with, unlike in most other places, most of the times. On top of it, China has always been populous, which tends to skew the total death number when there was a systemic failure.

A common line often uttered is that Mao killed more Chinese during the GLF than the Japanese did in the WW2. People don’t seem to realize the former (deaths attributed to Mao) was all based on demographic projection up to about 20 years ago, which for a host of reasons can be over-counted by a factor of at least 10.

A curious coincidence is that at 1.2 million deaths, it constitutes of 5.4% of the pre-war Iraqi population; at 5.4% of the Chinese population in 1958, it would be 35 million. 30 million was once a breath-taking height first reached by Judith Banister after she used some strange methodologies to revise the official Chinese demographic data. However lately it’s free for all, and demographic data be damned. The latest inflated number that I know of is at 50 million. Well between 50 million and 650 million, i.e. Mao killed all Chinese in the GLF, there should be enough room to publish more books and garner more grants for more propaganda research.

January 13, 2013 @ 3:26 am | Comment

@ohwhatafeeling. Mr Toyota slogan.

While is is hard to disagree with your facts, I have the very definite feeling that you are one of those smug ….. who will be driving around on Australia day with those silly bloody national flags flying from the roof.

Obnoxious display of smug chauvinism.

All those things you mentioned didn’t magically appear. They were products of political processes over time.

In fact, you sound so smug you have to be an American.

January 13, 2013 @ 4:13 am | Comment

Your utter failure to understand his blatant “satire” proves some of my points. ohwhatafeeling is your typical entitled white male in Asia who is angry that he isn’t being treated like a god. Short version.

January 13, 2013 @ 5:19 am | Comment


Neither comparison you make is adequate. The Holocaust’s sole design was the segregation and systematic destruction of an entire people, planned and executed by all levels of government and society, while the author is commenting on the Japanese army’s hideous overreaction, mindless slaughter, and lack of awareness in response to elements opposed to its occupation. Since the Japanese had large numbers of Chinese citizens fighting on its side and intended to make its occupation permanent, this was, in fact, poor COIN practice. It was also atrocious, as the author clearly states.

First, you fail to realize the Holocaust was more than just an ethnically charged slaughter. The Holocaust was a cold-blooded attempt to depopulate entire countries (Poland, Ukraine, Western Russia) to increase the amount of raw materials and farmland–lebensraum–available to a Grossdeutschland. Six of the twelve million deaths from the Holocaust were tied to those policies.

Second, you fail to realize Japan wanted to completely “Japan-ify” Korea and China during its period of occupation, and viewed China and Korea merely as resource zones to be pacified and cleared of people in a way not unlike the Nazis.

Third, by divorcing the discussion of COIN practice from its underlying immoral ends, the author completely misses the point–COIN never works if pursued for an immoral end, and it should not work. By selectively omitting those ends, the author is first being selectively illogical, and second, whitewashing a guilt that Japan should bear until it fully dismantles the Japanese Navy, Chrysanthemum Throne, and Yasukuni Shrine, and other institutions and symbols of its immoral, imperialist, and genocidal ambitions.

January 13, 2013 @ 5:59 am | Comment

t_co, you are wrong about what the Holocaust was, and seem to be conflating it with with other German programs. Wikipedia correctly defines it as:

the mass murder or genocide of approximately six million Jews during World War II, a programme of systematic state-sponsored murder by Nazi Germany, led by Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party, throughout German-occupied territory.[3][4] Of the nine million Jews who had resided in Europe before the Holocaust, approximately two-thirds were killed.[5] Over one million Jewish children were killed in the Holocaust, as were approximately two million Jewish women and three million Jewish men.

The Holocaust was an ethnically-charged slaughter. It had nothing to do with minerals or oil or land. It was enforced with ferocity in France and all other Nazi-conquered geographies where it offered no resources or economic benefits at all, and indeed it took a big chunk of the German economy to facilitate the Holocaust, resources that became increasingly precious as the war dragged on, costing the Germans far more than it gave back. The Holocaust as a term refers specifically to the slaughter of the Jews, and for no rational reason other than their being Jews. It does not refer to the 12 million deaths of all those who were slaughtered in the camps or by death squads, but to the approximately 6 million Jews. Repeat, from Wikipedia, the Holocaust “was the mass murder or genocide of approximately six million Jews during World War II.”

January 13, 2013 @ 7:17 am | Comment

@Jxie, I appreciate that the figures can be way off. That wiki list is actually ranked according to the lowest estimate. Cookie was claiming that the Chinese are less inclined to murder. The historical record does not support this.

@CM, good to see you are no longer claiming that western Europeans are more predisposed to murder than the Chinese.
The historical record just shows, obviously, that as bloody wars were going on else where around the world, they were also going on in China. I think we are done.

January 13, 2013 @ 9:00 am | Comment

@CM, good to see you are no longer claiming that western Europeans are more predisposed to murder than the Chinese.

Nope. They are certainly more predisposed to crime. You meant to say “some Western European countries have lower homicide rates than China”. I highly doubt this is true of a weighted average but I’ll let you off the hook.

The historical record just shows, obviously, that as bloody wars were going on else where around the world, they were also going on in China. I think we are done.

See jxie’s post on why this statement is nonsense. Yes, you are done.

January 13, 2013 @ 3:28 pm | Comment

Cookie monster and King tubby

Wow. Settle pettle.

I said I live in a Australia and I like Australia. I enjoy it more than China.

Didn’t know that offended you so much.

Sorry to inform you my hardworking bloggers but I can’t fit into your stereotypes and prejudices but points for imagination.

Short version of king tubby and cookie monster replies:

Americans are smug, Australians are ignorant bogans and white males in Asia are entitled twats with god complexes.

That’s why I can’t take you guys seriously.

“People get the governments they deserve” – Thomas Jefferson

Richard – Pardon the humour but the article was tongue in cheek. Just wanted to show the end of that slippery slope.

January 13, 2013 @ 10:18 pm | Comment

That drawing is quite pretty.

I love the immediacy and lively feeling of Chinese art. A lot of traditional western art I’ve seen lacks that sort of feeling.

Like how a Chinese character can’t be partially rubbed out or edited. It must be written from start to finish in one movement, no editing. Like a live music show. You’ll only ever get one like it.

The fact it’s on a napkin demonstrates that essence really well.

January 13, 2013 @ 10:23 pm | Comment


‘I highly doubt this is true’

I have referred to the data on intentional homicide several times. Check out the wiki page (list of countries by intentional homicide rate). The average rates for China and western Europe are the same (1.0).

By ‘nonsense’ do you refute the fact that bloody wars were going on in China when they

January 14, 2013 @ 8:25 am | Comment

…..Were going on else where around the world?

January 14, 2013 @ 8:27 am | Comment

@Mr Toyota slogan.

I wrote. “All those things you mentioned didn’t magically appear. They were products of political processes over time”.

Yes, people do get the government they deserve.

We probably have very close postcodes.

However, if you drive your unthinking rah rah nationalism through my suburb, I will set the dogs on you.

January 14, 2013 @ 5:03 pm | Comment

Wow. First personal attacks. Now threats. Over the internet? Was your intention to scare me?

Intelligent comments usually don’t include these aforementioned debating techniques. As you know, that’s usually bogan territory.

I like Australia more also for my kids + basic facts about Australia = unthinking nationalism?

Here, I’ll put it up again

“I like Australia.”

“I lived in China for ten years and I enjoyed it. But when I compare the two, especially taking into consideration a family, Australia wins, no competition. That’s just my opinion.”

I’ll reword it for you to make it easier>

~ My wife and I lived in China for a long time, got to know it very well and I liked it, but now we have a family, we like living in Australia more, mainly for the sake of our kids. ~

There. You can lay that straw man down. He’s tired and it’s 49 degrees out there. 🙂

January 14, 2013 @ 8:05 pm | Comment

BTW I’m vehemently critical of my government and you don’t have to hate your country to be critical of it. Recognise what’s good about it. Recognise what’s wrong with it. In a weird way I learnt that from China.

I’d love to rant about how much I hate how the government screws things up here and how so many Australians just roll over and take it but it’s best not to get me started and this isn’t Canberra duck.

And I can’t say I really care about your opinion of me either but I do agree with your quote-

“All those things you mentioned didn’t magically appear. They were products of political processes over time.”

My quote was in agreeance with yours. People make those processes happen through making themselves heard.

Maybe if I was single I would probably still be in China. I made a lot of friends and good memories there and I did enjoy my job. But alas I’m not, hence I’m here in Ozlandia.

I’m sorry I’m not the guy you want to be angry with. He’s living in Punchbowl on welfare with his second de facto wife and 7 kids.

Seriously, chill out mate. 🙂

January 14, 2013 @ 8:05 pm | Comment

I’m sending this thread to Thread Heaven. Thanks for participating, and special thanks to all who shared their knowledge of the Han horse.

January 16, 2013 @ 7:58 am | Comment

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.