China: An History of Shared Human Existence

This year in the History of Modern China class, we have narrowed our understanding of history into two ideas. the first is what Hegel might call a quest to understand human existence, and the second, as according to Desmond Morton, sees history as a shared human experience.

If this is the case, that history can be qualified by what both Hegel and Morton offer, how does your inquiry into Modern Chinese history help us understand either or both our existence on this planet and how we might conceptualize our shared human experience?

Can you use examples from news articles in recent weeks to help you argue your case? What specific events, movements and people might be fodder for your claims? Read the following article and watch the film from this Aljazera article to help you:

16 thoughts on “China: An History of Shared Human Existence

  1. In my opinion through Chinese history we have learned a lot about our shared experiences and the existence of human kind on this planet. In class this year we had the reoccurring theme of the only thing we take away from this planet is what we know and our experience. In my opinion the experience of Chinese history and from the Qing dynasty to the CCP, it’s shaped the experiences for us all. Learning about the collapse of the Qing dynasty made us realize how the country of China functioned and how it continued to function which is very important to know because China is a super power now. Learning about the experience of China’s growth showed a little bit as well about our human existence. It showed how humans in China specifically created Society, the adversity they faced, and the ways they evolved. Our human experience in my opinion is to learn about things, learning about Chinese history added onto my experience and my existence onto this planet. Our existence on this planet is more than sometimes we are exposed to. Something I learned this year was that in China the cultural revolution is unspoken of. In the western world we talk a lot about it because it was an experience we shared together on this planet. It showed me that sometimes we neglect to talk about our experiences, and what we have shared. Through Chinese history I wouldn’t have realized that, but after all learning about that showed me how important our experience is. It showed how an experience created by anyone can affect everyone. That’s why we do history, to learn about experiences that we have shared, and experiences that show our existence.

    • Over the course of this year in our History of Modern China course I have been able to further understand why I exist in this world. Causes and consequences of events like the Cultural Revolution have left a mark on the planet I live in and have showed me why I am alive in the position I am in. This quest to further understand the historical perspective of a Person who lived through a historically significant event help me understand myself. A victim of the Cultural Revolution who described the time they spent with the Red Guards written by Aljazeera helps me understand how lucky I am to be a Canadian citizen. In all my experience to learn helped me understand why I am where I am.

  2. Throughout the course “History of Modern China” we have somewhat focused on the human existence on this planet. We have learned how to indentify the five historical thinking skills and many have realized that they are actually useful in just about everything we learn. We can all use them for the following years when we are learning about history and the doing of History. Just about everything we learned about this year helped us come to realization that it was a great experience. Learning about all the struggles China had gone through by just trying to modernize and be in power was crazy. After learning about all the evil people that were in China and took power was extraordinary. The reason it is so significant is because they are known to be the best at almost everything in the world to this day, with the most advanced technology. It was very crucial to learn about the Chinese people’s existence on this planet and we all learned a lot. Being in this course also helped me understand my existence on this planet because I took away so many important skills I will use later on in life and throughout my existence on this planet. After learning about all the significant and important events in Chinese history, it will forever stay with me while my existence on the planet. This is why all the historical thinking skills are so important in human existence.

  3. I believe that our existence on this planet together is only one of the many stepping stones that you need to understand our existence on this planet, and to even begin to conceptualize the shared human experience. Learning about things that aren’t 100% relevant all of the time, but had huge historical significance is also a stepping stone. The journey of being a global citizen is also the journey to being aware of the shared human experience. You could say that the two are interconnected. I believe that the more you learn about things that aren’t always affecting you, the more you being to understand the existence of us on the planet. Many people neglect the fact that conceptualizing the shared human experience will be able to help them understand the meaning of many things. Us learning about the history of modern China will help us in understanding the human existence. We have learned that the 50th anniversary of the cultural revolution is around this time, but no one wants to celebrate it. The Revolution was when China reverted to “the middle ages” As said by Aljazeera in their article titled Cultural Revolution: Anniversary China wants to forget. Through this and other things that I have learned about China this year, the carelessness people show towards events that clearly should be spoken about is evident. This only helps me achieve the ideas to conceptualize and begin to understand our existence and the experience together as humans.

  4. Over the duration of this course I learned many new ideas and ways to do history. The things that sticks with me the most and best exemplifies our shared experience is the idea of cause and consequence. Everything in history is caused by something and has effects that will no doubt cause something else. Where would we be today without our past. From the fall of Rome to the acts of union in 1707 history has shaped our western World. History shoes all places, that is something we as humans all share. Where would China be without the 1911 revolution, the great leap forward or the cultural revolution? Perhaps a better place, but that’s not the point. When something goes wrong the Levant, it’s not only them who have to deal with it. When there is a drought in Syria, we have more anti western terrorists. We face consequences as well. We need to accept this if we are going to mineralize the blow. Similar to our histories, we as humans all face consequences for our actions and all our actions have causes. This will all posses and need to deal with in order to move forward functionally.

  5. Hi, this is David Hu.
    My studies of Modern Chinese History has helped me conceptualize our shared human experience. It helped me realize that we are all humans and we all do the same things. On the other side of the world, Chinese people struggle with day to day things just like I do. Their country as a whole had issues and things that needed to be resolved, just like ours did. Even now, China was a big problem with climate change and global warming. However, as humans living on the same planet, global warming and climate change is just as big as a problem for us as it is for China. Modern Chinese History has helped me realize that history is history no matter where it happens. History that happens across the world is still history that will come to affect me and my country.

    In the specific case of the cultural revolution, its important to note that just because one person from a group did something bad, it doesn’t make the whole group mad. Mao in particular was a bad apple and he stained China. His cultural revolution gave China a bad look but it doesn’t mean everyone who was forced to participate in it are bad people.

  6. It’s not everyday that you will come across an average individual who believes that China’s role in history can: “help us understand either or both our existence on this planet and how we might conceptualize our shared human experience.” However, after a school year of examining Chinese history, I am now cautiously aware that there is more to Chinese history than pokemon and huge carbon emissions. Odd Arne Westad argues that, “with the significance that the country has already achieved in international affairs, we ignore the topography that made them only at our peril.” China has a long and dark history filled with unfortunate foreign encounters, shortsighted policy and violence. Today, China stands as the second largest economy in the world, and it’s projected that it won’t be long before they are the largest. I would argue that the reason they were able to become so successful is because of Mao Zedong’s death in 1976. After Mao’s death, leaders used techniques learned from past encounters with British, Japanese etc. to modernize. Today we can use what we know from Chinese history to learn from the past. For example, we know that the main reason for the fall of the Qing dynasty was a lack of modernization. As a community we have to realize that we are never good enough. If we don’t continue to change eventually we will be stuck in the past. An example of a way we can modernize is moving past gas powered cars, and towards something better for the environment. Anyways, the History of China is a shared experience because it’s something that we can learn from.

  7. I study history because I believe that it can help me shape the decisions I make today. Humans take life for granted. History allows us to actually study the lives of past people and learn from their mistakes and successes. We always complain about not knowing what to do, not knowing our purpose, and not knowing what the future will hold for us. Through history, we can make educated guesses on how our own lives will take shape based on our actions, by looking at the actions and results of people in the past.

    The plights of the people that came before us can help to remind us that our lives are very short and very fragile. They can end at any second. The achievements of the people of the past remind us that even though we are tiny and insignificant, if we are determined and passionate, we can make changes in our lives and the lives of the people around us. If we can wake up and realize that we have one short life, maybe we all can make use of our lives and not waste them. Maybe we can all use our lives to their full potentials, whatever that means to each individual.

    My studies in this year’s history of Modern China course have done exactly this for me. Every single child that died in the countless wars and rebellions was a human being with a consciousness. Fundamentally, I am no different from any of those children, yet I get to live while their lives were cut short. On the other hand, no one thought the Northern Expedition would work. Most of the politicians of the time strongly believed that Sun Yat-sen’s idea would fall flat on its face. Even though Sun Yat-sen died before his expedition could be executed, Chiang Kai-shek carried it out for him. And it worked beautifully. That just goes to show, no matter what the people around you say, no matter how hard they try to put you down, you have to be true to yourself, or you will never know whether or not you are capable of success.

    I could go on for pages about all the life lessons I learned from studying a few centuries of Chinese history in 9 short months. But what about more recent events?

    Aljazeera explains how on the 50th anniversary of the Cultural Revolution, the Chinese government still has little to say on the matter and seems to refuse to come to terms with the horrors of the past. Here, we can even learn something from silence.The Communist party, more specifically Mao Zedong, was responsible for the slaughter and humiliation of at least 1.5 million people, yet there are no events, no memorials, and no apologies to remember and atone for the senseless murders. From this I take away that it is difficult to strike a balance between morals and pride, two things that a majority of human beings seem to be born into. The pride of the government makes it difficult for them to take a step back and realize that they aren’t perfect. It makes it impossible for them to properly respect the people and families that suffered, and give them more than a stiff and vague statement declaring the Cultural Revolution as a mistake. We all know it was a mistake.

    If we choose to, we can learn a lot from history, be it through events that happened 100 years ago or 1 month ago. This is the most precious gift history can give humans, the ability to reflect on the species as a whole and then apply that knowledge to oneself.

  8. The course “The History of Modern China” helped me learn that history is shared human experience, and that it helps us to understand our existence on this planet. From the course I have learned why history is a shared experience. While the events we learn about may have happened in the past they still have long lasting effects which even reach today. To understand our experience today and why things are the way they are we need to understand how they got there. A specific event which backs this up is how Britain was trying to fix their relationship with China. Without knowledge of the past I would not know why Britian is doing this. We gain a deeper understand of our current experience by learning about the experiences of the past. Using our understanding of experiences and utilizing our historical thinking we can attempt to come up with a reason for our human existence. We already analyze the patterns and mistakes of the past in hopes of finding why we are here. History both allows us to get a deeper understanding of out current experiences as well as help us grasp at the meaning of our existence.

  9. Modern Chinese History was less about the actual material we learned in class, and more about the understanding of how to correctly analyze, and use the knowledge of history. This much is clear by simply looking at what we’ve accomplished this year. Instead of writing tests and filling out worksheets, we’ve used the concepts of how to do history to create things such as 3d models, podcasts, maps, and even a book. We’ve realized how important the doing of history is as a skill, both to understand ourselves, current events, and how to prepare for the future. Given this, I do agree that history helps us to understand our existence. Knowing the reasons why people in the past did the things they did, and understanding exactly what they did, can explain how the world is today. As evidence, lets analyze the CCP’s condemning of the cultural revolution in the Al Jazeera article. The CCP recently stated that the cultural revolution was a negative event, and even now refuses to use the term revolution, as that word is synonymous with Mao’s failed program. The more recent CCP is trying to avoid the past mistakes of their party, and is in a sense pandering to the people who were affected by it. This current event only obtains value when the events of the cultural revolution are analyzed, like we did in class. Learning about how the cultural revolution caused large amounts of harm across China with its aggressive policies caused this article to have meaning for me. It explained why I should care about this article. That is the power of learning history. Learning about the past, made this recent article have value in my eyes. Understanding not just why we exist, but also why everything else on this planet exists and has value is an invaluable skill, one that is taught through the doing of history. So yes, as Hagel stated, history is the quest to understand human existence, but I think it’s more than that. I believe that history extends to both why we are here, and what should we do from here. Learning about the past can be very satisfying, but applying it to make the best decisions for the future is where historical knowledge gains true merit in my eyes.

    Thanks for the year, Mr. Henderson.

  10. After a year of interpreting and studying about Modern Chinese history, I agree with both Hegel and Desmond Morton’s definition of history. But I think more could be added to their definition after a year of carefully studying history using the 6 historical thinking concepts.
    I think not all recorded history reveals the true human existence nor does it reflect the shared human experiences. In fact, I think a lot of the recorded history reflects the opposite (at least in terms of China’s history). Historians have altered the true history of our past to make a better reputation for their country.
    I’ve learned that historian often uses presentism to interpret past events in terms of modern values and concepts. A prime example can be taken from the article “Cultural Revolution: Anniversary China wants to forget”. Some historians, especially the westerners have interpreted the Cultural Revolution as something horrible. 1.5 million lives were lost and they’ve framed Mao as a “killer”, they even compared Mao to Hitler! Many of the historians also said that “The Cultural Revolution was really a phase in which China almost went back to the Middle Ages.” But in China, they’ve dedicated an anniversary to this event as if it was ok to celebrate the loss of 1.5 million lives. As a person who’d actually lived in China, I was told to look up to Mao and worship him like a god, he was supposed to be the hero of our country. No one revealed Mao’s horrible actions during the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. History was altered and covered up by Chinese historians. Because it was covered up and altered, the real human experience and human existence were not presented truthfully.
    In conclusion, while studying history and writing, it is very important to avoid presentism. So our future generations can have a better understanding of us.

  11. Modern Chinese History helps us understand our existence on earth by helping us learn how the great country came to be. It helps us learn how they ended up in the present, what challenges they faced, who were their allies and who were their enemies. Using the six historical thinking skills, I learned that it is a great way to gather the important information for assignments and learning about history. Historical significance is a big thing for history, because we have to actually notice the event for it actually to be a part of history. History tells us about shared experience, what was the same and what was different between the two experiences. Learning about Chinese history has been a great and interesting experience because it gave me a background on why China is what it is today. I learned that Chinese History likes to dismiss certain events that make them look bad, such as things they’d like to forget such as the June 4th incident where many protested and lost their lives. We can search up this particular event online in Canada and it will show up but events like these are completely blocked off by Communist government in China. China’s government chooses not to acknowledge the Cultural Revolution where many died. I learned that even though climate change isn’t that big of a deal here in Canada, but it is still a big deal in China that also contributes to their pollution. This helps me conceptualize and understand just one part of the world’s history and point of view.

    Sabrina Wong

  12. (Jereka)
    My comment wouldn’t post so I need to write this again (in one minute)

    In Chinese history this year we learned the historical thinking skills that really help us understand history as well as our world today. It’s important to understand other histories like China’s because we may have to face issues like people in China did. As a human being we must understand other human beings, and this will only contribute to our shared human experience. History is everything that has happened and is happening right now. History pertains to everyone, and can only benefit our existence. If we understand others, we can begin to understand and explain how we exist currently, and perhaps even find our own meanings of existence. Chinese history has shown me that everything changes, and will change. Countries will continue to evolve, as will societies. To understand our current lives we must try to understand the lives before us.

  13. In my opinion Chinese History played a perfect rule both as a quest to understand human existence and as a shared human experience. The Great Leap Forward incident occurred in 1948 – 1951 was an example of that. Mao at the time was eager to develop, which blind him from the basic rules of society. He ignored the ways financial system works in society, and established people’s communes, which changed and messed up the whole financial system. He failed to understand that markets have their own ways to run, and ignoring their roles only made things worse. The consequences of this misleading were horrible. There were famines everywhere, and over 18 million people died. We can learn from the event that there are certain rules for human existence, and we have to pay respect to those objective laws in nature. Before making changes to the structure to the society, we need to look at the rules in human existence first. Human are changing their moves, are learning from this human experience, to try not create the same consequences as Great Leap Forward did.

  14. I believe that we are all an interconnected complex web of of emotions and experiences that make the story of our lives. Some of these stories are told in a broader sense and contextualize the events that place over a large period of time. These stories are the histories we learn as from our parents, in school, through the news, from colleagues, and etc. See, we are all interconnected and sharing experiences. We are the people that make history. It is often ridiculous to think that one person can start a revolution and change the world but didn’t Sun Yet-sen do exactly that? He believed in a republic China and through the 1911 Revolution China did a complete 180 degree turn. It went from being under dynastic rule to the Republic of China.

    I may not know why or how we exist but I do know that our existence is what drives the world forward into innovation and oftentimes failure. We are what change it through our experiences. Many times we are affected by past experience and we share common experiences with others. The Cultural Revolution was a shared experience for the members of the Red Guard who truly believed that they should eradicate the Communist government of intellectuals and the elderly.

    Looking back in history we can focus on specific people like Hong Xiquan who had his own personal experiences and existence of Earth or we can look at the Taiping Rebellion which caused around 20 millions deaths and affected all of China. It’s all about perspective and who’s story we are looking at.

    Looking at Modern Chinese History helped me learn that there is more that has affected the world other than just the World Wars and Canadian History. I learned that the events that happened in China also affected me and that I have a shared experience with these people. I was able to come out of this protected bubble and see another side to story for which I had non judgement for. We learn about Canadian history at a young age and often form the perspectives of our teachers or the textbook. Now that I am older and have learned the historical thinking concepts I can form my own judgements and Chinese history was a fresh slate for me since I had no clue exactly what China was going into the course. Now I have come out learning so much more than I had intended.

  15. In Modern Chinese History this year, we learned about the doing of history and how to be a better historian using the 6 historical thinking skills. History is the study of the past. Understanding how people’s life were like the past and how it impacted us today and it is also a shared human experience. This year in Chinese History, we learned about what China was like the past and what they did to shape China into what it is like today, a big and powerful country. Learning about the past can really help us understand why we act the way we do now. For example, Mao Zedong made some really foolish planning which caused China to fall into a hopeless hole. By learning what Mao did, it can make sure we won’t make the same mistakes again. We learn from our mistakes and by learning history we learn about what happened in the past and what can we do differently to make our home a better place. Chinese history really helped me to become a better historian and it taught me a lot about my home town and what they did to get to where they are today.

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