China’s Tumultuous 100 Years
The Last Dynasty
Bogged down by corruption and ineptitude, the Qing royal court had to make one concession after another to placate foreign powers. A once proud nation, China was humiliated. The incompetence of the Qing rulers ultimately led to their downfall, ushering in one hundred years of turmoil and seismic upheavals in China. Towards the end of the Qing Dynasty, it became clear that it also signaled the end of 4,000 years of dynastic rule in China.
The Boxer Rebellion
The nation’s humiliation exploded into violent convulsions. In 1900, an uprising of peasants and Kung Fu fighters joined hands to overthrow the Qing government and to expel Westerners from Peking, nation’s capital known as Beijing today. A coalition of 20,000 international forces from eight nations marched into Peking to defeat the uprising. The rebellious movement became known as the Boxer Rebellion.
The Opium Wars
There was great demand in Britain and the West for tea, silk, and porcelain from China, but there was little demand in China for Western goods. To offset the trade deficits, the British resorted to importing opium from India into China. Worried about the corrosive effect of opium on society, the Qing government confronted the British merchants in Canton to stop the opium trade. The conflict led to two Opium Wars. The first one was fought between China and Britain. The second one was Britain and France against China. The West won both wars and gained trading privileges and territorial concessions from the Qing imperial court.
Yellow Flower Mound Uprising
The fervor of overthrowing the Qing government reached the overseas Chinese community in Malaya (today’s Malaysia and Singapore). They provided money to fund a bold mission. In 1911, one hundred like-minded revolutionaries launched an attack on the residence of the Qing Viceroy of Canton. Most of them were young people from various social backgrounds – teachers, students, journalists, writers, and overseas Chinese. They knew their mission would be suicidal, but they went ahead with it anyway as martyrs. Outnumbered by the Qing imperial army, most of them were killed. The uprising ignited the resolve for revolution across the nation.
The New Republic
After the fall of the Qing Dynasty, the Republic of China was formed in 1912 by Dr. Sun Yatsen and the Nationalist Party, known as Kuomingtang (KMT). The nascent Republic was off to a rough start, rocked by ongoing military conflicts with local warlords who wanted to carve out territories to entrench their positions. To keep the new Republic on life support, Sun reluctantly sought financial and military aid from the Soviet Union. In return, he had to accept the Chinese Communist Party (CPP) into the KMT.
After the untimely passing of Sun Yatsen due to cancer, Generalissimo Chiang Kaishek became the new head of the KMT. Chiang saw the CPP as an existential threat to the new Republic. In 1927, he ordered a violent purge of the communists in Shanghai. Thousands of CCP members were killed, marking open hostility between the KMT and CPP.
The Chinese Civil War
The Shanghai Massacre was the ominous prelude to more purging and violent revenge killings that spread to other parts of China. An all-out Civil War between the KMT and CCP ensued. For a brief window of cooperation, a truce took place between the two parties when Japan launched a full-scale invasion of Northern China in 1937. But the truce did not last long. The Chinese Civil War dragged on for years until 1949 when Mao Zedong and the CCP won the control of China decisively over the KMT.
For centuries being regarded as the Middle Kingdom, China saw itself as the center of the world with its highly developed civilization. The Industrial Revolution of the 18th century enabled the West to build up its military power. The inertia of its past glory kept the Middle Kingdom from making bold and necessary changes. China fell behind.
After being humiliated by Western powers, imperial Japan set out to modernize its economy and industrial complex, thus enabling the island nation to strengthen its military might. Seeking raw materials to fuel its growing industries, Japan invaded Manchuria of Northern China in 1931. The success of conquering Manchuria emboldened Japan to launch a full-scale assault on China in 1937 with the goal to subjugate the people of the Middle Kingdom. Life and death struggles broke out between China and Japan. The loss of life, particularly in China, was enormous. Over 300,000 civilians in Nanking were slaughtered by the Japanese imperial army. The brutal killings became known as the rape of Nanking. Alarmed by the brutality of the Japanese military, the United States imposed economic sanctions on Japan. Japan decided to launch a surprise attack on the American naval base in Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, hoping to fatally weaken America’s navy. It backfired on Japan by drawing America and Western Allies into the Asia conflict.
The Japanese war reached its final phase when the United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japan, destroying Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In 1945, Japan officially surrendered to the Allied forces.
The Inhumanity of War – Shimmering Across Time
The human toll caused by the Chinse Civil War and the Japanese War is incalculable. During this turbulent period, China saw a mass exodus of its people fleeing their war-torn homeland in search of safer havens elsewhere. Much of the migration outflow was dispersed throughout Southeast Asia. Shimmering Across Time by Mak Ming is the story of one prominent family in Canton whose enormous wealth and high social standing could not shield them from this troubling time. The Yius were forced to leave their beloved palatial home to keep one step ahead of the seismic upheavals unfolding around them. Through their gut-wrenching struggles, the author takes the readers onto a journey full of twists and turns before reaching a place of hope where friendship and love endure. The ultimate power of the story lies at the intersection of humanity, faith, and the miraculous.
Even though the story is fictional, the author has painted a highly realistic picture of that time period. It puts the readers alongside with the characters in their journey. Their happiness and sorrow become highly personal as if the characters and readers were going through the ups and downs of life together. This remarkable novel is expected to be well received by people who have an interest in China, Vietnam, and Laos. For those around the globe who have left their motherland to seek a better life elsewhere, the story will likely resonate with them.
This heartwarming historical novel is available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle editions. Readers will be in for a treat by picking up a copy of Shimmering Across Time.