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Where does history start

My friend wanted to read some history, and asked me, where should I start?

I said you start to look at it from the end of the Qing Dynasty, the history before the end of the Qing Dynasty is of no use, you can completely ignore it and don’t have to pay attention to the history of those thousands of years.

She was puzzled. It was said that someone told her to read history comprehensively, and it is best to read it all the way from the Spring and Autumn Period to the Qin, Han, Tang and Song Dynasties.

I told her that most of history is useless and has no value for attention. The Tang Dynasty paid attention to the success or failure of the Sui Dynasty, and the Ming Dynasty paid attention to the rise and fall of the Song Dynasty, without any progress. Every time I walked along history, and finally walked back.

These histories are just how the reasons for doomed failure are repeated, how to repeat the inevitably wrong choices, there is only repeated rise and fall, and no progress is made. Such a long history is meaningless.

Scrolling through the past of the dynasties, almost all have the same cause and effect, and the ending is almost in the style of Xianglin’s wife: “I’m so stupid… I should have known…”

This is true for most of the history for thousands of years, so there is no reading value.

But it was different at the end of the Qing Dynasty. In the end of the Qing Dynasty, there were many progressive changes in China, including telegraphs, railways, factories, and ships. These advances are not the result of paying attention to history, but the result of paying attention to the world.

Finally, the fall of the Manchu Qing was not overthrown by the peasant uprisings like the Qin and Ming dynasties, nor was it replaced like the previous dynasties. The Manchu and Qing was abdicated, and it is the only regime of different models that has been transferred so far in Chinese history.

Why did our history change like this in the late Qing Dynasty? Why was the Manchu Qing not replaced by another imperial power like in previous history? Because at that time China had already seen the outside world, and its contact with the outside world changed the history of China in the late Qing Dynasty. Let the late Qing Dynasty take a step outward in the cycle of history.

In 1644, the Manchu dynasty carried a butcher knife into the Central Plains. By 1906, the Manchu dynasty had begun preparations for constitutionalism. Although it was not successful, such a span was the first time in all dynasties.

Regarding the general trend of Chinese history, Du Mu of the Tang Dynasty had already summed it up when he was 23 years old: “Qin people have no time to mourn themselves, and later generations mourn; later generations mourn and ignore it, and later generations mourn again. Later generations too.” Why hasn’t there been any improvement for more than a thousand years? Because before the end of the Qing Dynasty there was only internal history, I hadn’t seen the external world, and I hadn’t encountered progress in contrast.

I told my friends: From the Qin, Han, Wei and Jin to the Tang, Song and Ming and Qing Dynasties, every time we reopen history, the way we reopen it is internal. What we can see is the repetitive past, and we can’t see any meaning of progress. Only the historical process of the late Qing Dynasty was a combination of internal and external, as Li Hongzhang called “a major change unseen in three thousand years”, this change was opened from the outside.

Our previous history was all internal changes, and we followed internal laws. Just like Du Mu said, it has been turning over and over again, and there is not much reference value, so reading this part of history is a waste of time.

However, from the end of the Qing Dynasty to the Republic of China, the opening method of Chinese history changed for the first time, and it did not go back like the previous dynasties.

Later, Yuan Shikai was about to become emperor and wanted to follow that internal law. As a result, so many people opposed him. After Yuan Shikai’s death, Zhang Xun wanted to invite Man Qing back again, and no one paid him any attention. The way of opening history in the late Qing Dynasty was different, and the result was also different.

In the more than one hundred years after the end of the Qing Dynasty, Chinese history has undergone several restarts, from being influenced by Japan to being influenced by Soviet Russia, from the war with the United States in 1950 to the establishment of diplomatic relations with the United States in 1979. Different influences from the external world have different ways of opening history.

The same is true for today’s development, and it will be so tomorrow.

Therefore, I think that reading history should start from the end of Qing Dynasty.

The history before the end of the Qing Dynasty was really idle, and it was fine to read it, or not to read it.

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