Damn not dead, no damn dead

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If history is a river, what influences its flow direction?


In 959 ad, when chairong, the emperor of the Later Zhou Dynasty, was preparing to forge ahead in Youzhou, a sudden disease quickly took the life of the young emperor who was going to unify the world, and quietly rewritten the established historical process.

Because history cannot assume that for a thousand years, many historians can only attribute chairong’s death to “destiny”.

According to historical records, Chai Rong passed by a place on his way to the northern expedition to the Liao state. He was asked about the place name of the local people. They answered him that this place was called “sick dragon terrace”. Chairong was silent after hearing this. His condition worsened and he died a month later. Only 39 years old.


portrait of chairong, Emperor Shizong of the Later Zhou Dynasty.

A place name in the form of prophecy embeds a fatalistic view that can not be explained by historians’ pen between questions and answers. Even Wang Fuzhi, a great scholar in the late Ming and early Qing Dynasties, lamented that chairong was a figure who could have established an empire of the Han and Tang Dynasties, but he was defeated by disease and stopped forever. This is “heaven”. What will happen to history if the Central Plains is determined in a “false year”?

By implication, there would be no later Zhao and Song dynasties.

Any small historical variable can lead to great changes in the past we know.

When I talk about this example, I actually want to say that we should not be too superstitious about the laws of history. The power of historical contingency may be stronger than the law of history.

Believers in the historical law always emphasize that in the face of the unified historical trend, even if there is no Qinshihuang, there will be zhaoshihuang and chushihuang… But they can never prove that if it is not Qinshihuang, but zhaoshihuang or chushihuang who opened the imperial era, will the next dynasty still follow the historical track of “Qin Dynasty”?

Every inch of difference makes a thousand miles of error. A little difference at the beginning will form a great deviation with the passage of time, not to mention changing a person directly. After all, history is created by man, not by law.


Like Chai Rong, he died when he didn’t deserve to die. It often happens in history. To borrow Zhugeliang’s words, this phenomenon is called “the collapse of the middle road before starting a business”.

In 395 A.D., a great war broke out in a place called shenhepi.

The decisive battle between Hou Yan (Murong tribe) and the Northern Wei (Tuoba tribe), both established by the Xianbei nationality, ended unexpectedly here: as the suzerain state, Hou Yan’s army led by crown prince murongbao was defeated miserably by the affiliated state, the Northern Wei Dynasty. Hou Yan was captured forty or fifty thousand people, and all of them were killed by the Northern Wei Dynasty.

The next year, the 71 year old emperor of Houyan, murongchui, took revenge. Upon hearing the news, the king of Wei Tuoba wanted to pack up and escape.

However, when Murong Chui marched to Canhe PI, he saw the battlefield a year ago, and there was a mountain of human remains, so he arranged to pay tribute to the dead soldiers. The father and brother of the dead cried for a while, and the army mourned. This situation and scene made Murong Chui vomit blood with sorrow and anger. His condition became worse all the way, so he had to return to his teacher. Died of illness on the way.

A generation of God of war came to a sad end. He once led the Murong family back to the peak, but he could not escape the destiny of history. The battle between Yan and Wei came to an end. The Northern Wei Dynasty was basically invincible in the north, and it was only a matter of time before half of China was unified.

If Murong Chui lived twoorthree more years, the battle between Yan and Wei might be the winner.


the fictional Murong Fu in Jin Yong’s novels brings a little shadow of the Murong family’s restoration of the country. Figure source / Baidu Encyclopedia

Another example is yuwentai, who died at the age of 50. However, he had seen the future of China’s great unification and set up the basic system of Guanzhong standard for the prospect of China’s great unification. Twenty five years after his death, when he would be 75 years old if he were alive, the Sui Dynasty established and completed his unfinished great cause of reunification. If he is not dead, should he contribute to the established historical process, or what new historical variables will be generated?

Another example is zhaokuangyin. If he did not die in the mystery of the sound of axes and the shadow of candles, would his ability to carry out the Northern Expedition and his plan to move the capital have a strong impact on the subsequent historical fortunes of the Song Dynasty? History is closely linked, just like the butterfly effect. Can the difficulty of Jingkang be avoided?

These are storms that only exist in the minds of history readers, but when they think of them, they are soul stirring.


On the contrary, other people in history did not die when they died. As a result, there was a bloodbath, pushing the great rivers and mountains and personal reputation to the cliff. This phenomenon can be called “Wang Mang’s dilemma”, because Bai Juyi once seriously talked about the problem of being damned but not dead in a poem, and specifically mentioned Wang Mang:

“Duke Zhou was afraid of rumors. Wang Mang humbly did not usurp the time. Xiang Shi died at the beginning of his life. Who knows whether it is true or false?”

Wang Mang paid attention to his moral character from the beginning, and created a human design. It can be said that he was quite successful, so that when Emperor AI of the Han Dynasty removed him from his position, officials and people all over the world complained for him. However, after he usurped the Han Dynasty and became self reliant, his investment in the previous decades was labeled as hypocrisy, dummy, sophistication and so on, which could not be washed away. If Wang Mang died at the age of 53 instead of 68, and before but not after he became emperor, how would future generations evaluate him?



portrait of Wang Mang.

There are many people who fall into the “Wang Mang dilemma” in history.

If liuche, Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty, had died four years earlier, there would have been no evil in history. Liu Ju would not have been a Prince Li. He could have repaired the loss of civilian power caused by his father’s years of war, and future generations would not have fallen into a dispute over the polarized evaluation of Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty;

If Xiao Yan, the emperor of Liang Wu died a year earlier, there would be no chaos between Hou and Jing in history, and he would not be starved to death at a large age. Future generations would only remember his literary, political and martial arts skills, not his awkward ending;

If Emperor Xuanzong Li Longji had died six years earlier, he would not have experienced the darkest years of his life and lost all his love, freedom and power; If he had died earlier, 15 years earlier, there would not have been an Shi rebellion in history, and future generations would only remember the heyday of Kaiyuan;


It is undeniable that the charm of history lies in that it can only assume, not repeat.

If history is a river, we know that it is these great people who have their lives and lives that have affected its direction, but no one can change what has happened. And this is precisely the paradoxical beauty of history, just like Venus with a broken arm: only with a broken arm can there be infinite imagination.


Therefore, paying attention to people in history, especially those influential people, is of great benefit to us to understand the truth of history. This is the main reason why AI Gongzi decided to rewrite the history of emperors, generals and ministers in his new book 38 ways to live.


120 years ago, Liang Qichao denounced the Twenty-Four Histories as the genealogy of emperors, generals and ministers. Since then, the history of emperors, generals and ministers has been somewhat marginalized by the history circle. However, if you know the background of Liang Qichao’s words and his speaking style, you will know that this is a drastic change of the times, so it is necessary for him to say such radical and out of context words.

In fact, we should pay attention to the long period, structure and perspective of history, but we should not abandon the “Genealogy of emperors and generals”. Liang Qichao himself knew this, so he wrote not only the history of nation formation, academic history, ideological evolution and other deep history, but also the biography of Wang Anshi, yuan Chonghuan, Li Hongzhang and other emperors and generals.

In the field of popular history, the interpretation of emperors, generals and ministers still stays in a series of stereotypes, such as Machiavellian, black and false. It seems that every character is made up of good and bad modules. The more you read, the more you doubt your IQ.

Labelling is the most taboo in history. Once it is affixed, the fresh human nature will disappear.

Throughout the ages, human nature is the most complex. The only thing we can determine is the shortest information on someone else’s tombstone – name and year of birth and death, that’s all. Between life and death, there are countless sides, like a mirror cross checking.

What the book “38 living methods of emperors and generals” hopes to do is to strip away prejudices, tear down labels, rebuild the richness of each historical life, and restore diverse and complex details as much as possible. We don’t even dare to draw a conclusion about any of the preachers in our works. We just want to reach a relatively accurate historical situation with a slightly cold touch. Although we still have moral laws in our hearts, we are always onlookers on the lives of others.

In this book, the historical IP that we look on coldly includes the first line emperors such as Qinshihuang, Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty, Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty, zhaokuangyin and Zhu Yuanzhang, as well as the second and third line emperors such as Zhao Tuo, Fu Jian, Gao Huan, yuwentai, Emperor Xuanzong of the Tang Dynasty and Jiaqing; There are not only top stream generals such as xie’an, Li Jing, fanzhongyan and Wen Tianxiang, but also small stream figures such as zhouyafu, sunchengzong, zhanghuangyan and Liu Chunlin. Everyone has certain representativeness, which constitutes a relatively complete historical ecological system.


Since 2017, Mr. AI’s team (formerly pseudonym: Aijun) has always adhered to the writing method of news features and continued to output historical popular science articles with temperature, depth and logic. More than five years have passed, and now we have entered a small harvest period. “38 living methods of emperors and generals” is also the second new book launched this year.

The authors of this book are zhenghuanjian, wurunkai and chenenfa, all of whom are the lead writers of Mr. AI’s team.

Zhenghuanjian is a master of Arts from Huazhong University of science and technology and a former senior reporter of Southern Metropolis Daily. He has published millions of words in newspapers and magazines and co authored “torrent: 30-year migration history of Chinese migrant workers”.

Wurunkai is a master of history of Nanjing University. He has co edited an eight volume collection of historical materials on the Nanjing Massacre – a list of compatriots killed. He has published many historical papers in studies on the war of resistance against Japan (Beijing), the 21st century (Hong Kong) and the history monthly (Taiwan).

Chenenfa is a rising star in literary and historical writing, and he has published many articles in magazines such as “sharing the same boat”, “all walks of life”, “literary and historical world” and “youth digest”.


Since April, this book has been on trial sale on major platforms. We have also seen some feedback from third-party platforms. Some people have taken the lead and some are surprised.

After all, most people go to the end of their lives with only a whimper, but they leave a loud noise.

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