Secession of the West
Prosperity of the West is not the result of a strong centralized power or ideology. In contrast, it is by chance which made them to be free from such power or ideology.
Secession of the West was the beginning of the golden age of Western culture. Technology of printing enabled the mass dissemination of information. Such dissemination contributed to the secession of the West, setting them free from the control of monotheism, paving road to Reformation and religious wars.
From religious perspective, Europe was weakened. A united Europe under monotheism no longer existed. Catholics and Protestants were fighting with each other. The united Europe under the monotheism of Christianity came to an end after one thousand years of history.
Europe used to share the same language: Latin. Latin became the common language for Europe with the expansion of the Roman Empire. It was the official language of many European countries. However, starting from the 9th century, Latin became localized by mixing with the local dialects to form “Latin languages”. Many modern languages in southern Europe belong to this language family.
Nevertheless, Latin was still the common language for quite a long period of time. Local dialects were regarded as secondary and vulgar languages. In such period of unification, was Europe a powerful continent? Just the opposite, such age of unification was the Dark Ages of Europe.
Even English was deeply influenced by Latin.
Secessions as a result of religious wars led to rise of local languages. People started to recognize the local differences, they no longer differentiate the others from Christians versus pagans. Local languages gained importance and led to the rise of literature written in local languages.
The change from the culture of monotheism to the rise of different cultures was an important milestone in European cultural history. Of course, there were still international languages, such as Spanish, French, but they were less powerful than Latin. A seceded Europe entered into a golden age in culture. Europe was free from a central power, the seceded states were not great powers compared to those in East Asia (even Japan). Culture, knowledge, technology and institutional systems made great achievements and breakthroughs. The end result was the age of colonialism and Industrial Revolution.
People in the East always misunderstand that the prosperity of Europe was just because Europeans were quicker to colonize and develop industries than they did. However, they fail to understand that Reformation and Renaissance were the starting points of the rise of Europe. Both of them were the movements against the hegemony of a united language and a centralized power.
Europe before Reformation was like an awkward club, which could mobilize Crusaders to expeditions; Europe after Reformation can mobilize Crusaders no more, but it transformed like a Swiss army knife, containing various agile knives with different directions of development. Sometimes they fight each other to gain more, and to become more diversified. Finally, it proved that Christianity did not decline, but became a dominant religion in the world.
In contrast, those countries which seemed more unified lost their vitality. Their social reforms and development became stagnated, or even paralyzed. Centralized collective power didn’t grow strong; quite the opposite, it became obese and weak.
Let’s say Christianity as a monotheism aimed to unite the European by Christianizing them. So imagine now all the Europeans believe in the same religion. Does it mean there will be no secessions and religious wars?
The reality is, though they believe in the same religion, conflicts of interest will still lead to the effects mentioned above. Some will claim their beliefs as legitimate, others are heresy and to persecute them; some will try to reinterpret the beliefs; some may be similar to the case of England: though their belief was almost the same as the Catholics, the source of power was from Anglican Church.
Thirty Years’ War was a war among Christians. It was not the Crusades targeting Muslims. During the war, some participants, such as France and England, cooperated with Muslims in different extents, despite the difference in religion.
From this perspective, these Christians quite fitted the Chinese idioms: “being experts in internal strife” or lack of cohesiveness (In Chinese language context, lack of cohesiveness implies weakness). So why what we witnessed today was not the decline of Christian civilization, but Chinese and Islamic civilizations instead?
Using Chinese perspective to analyze this period of history, it was a chaotic period with many states fighting with each other, yet this chaotic era made great achievements in technology and culture.
The Chinese civilization today is still at the stage between medieval to modern times. The West has passed through the Renaissance and Reformation which reshaped the value systems of the past. For us, we are still trapped in the old values. It is no better even for Hong Kong and Taiwan.
The importance of a correct historical view to cultural development
In a country where historical study thrives, its countrymen will never rest to dig out historical facts.
When people come to know the facts, there will be more conflicts. For example, we have no idea where were we come from. But after the discovery, I come to know that your father killed me but my mother robbed your mother’s property. This leads to conflicts.
These unearthed conflicts once hidden before, however, must lead to solution of the conflicts. Maybe some get relocated, some get died, or some reached certain kind of compensation or agreements. No matter what the solution is, the main point is that we cannot simply treat it as nothing happened.
Once the conflict is solved, people who could not live together either separate or reconcile. This helps to bond up the relationship among the people.
Civilization is like a human body, it eats and excretes. The excretion of a civilization is history. The longer the constipation lasts, the harder the process of excretion will take. Of course it brings pain, but the body gets healthier after the pain.
A society which does not take a serious attitude to study its own history is like a body suffering from constipation. Those dirty things never disappear; they just remain in the body and become toxic.
In Qing Dynasty, those historians never dared to challenge the Manchurian masters of their massacres to the Han Chinese. They just ignored the facts and talked something of no relevance. What they did were making researches on immaterial things. Qing Dynasty has been regarded by some as the period with the thriving of historical study, which is not a truth. Thriving of historical study does not depend on the quantity of research, but the quality.
Difference between Chinese and European History
The difference is simple.
European history is a history which England persuaded Europe to accept secession is normality; Chinese history is a history which Japan was persuaded to accept unification is normality.
Nationalism rose in Europe as Europe took the English pill; Japan aspired to conquer China as Japan took the Chinese cyanide.