May we live in interesting times

01 Jan

May you live in interesting times ~reported to be an ancient Chinese curse, first English use was by Fredrick R. Coudert in a letter to Sir Austen Chamberlain, who informed Coudert that the saying “we live in an interesting age” was similar to an ancient Chinese curse.  This letter was written in 1936.  Hughe Knatchbull-Hugessen was also informed in 1936 before he left England for China that the Chinese had this curse.  While this was brought to light in the English speaking world, there is no evidence in China that this is indeed a curse used on one’s enemy.

It’s an interesting phrase and one that seems to be steeped in myth and used widely in Western popular culture, as the phrase has shown up in everything from Terry Pratchet’s Discworld to Star Trek: Voyage to Magnum P.I.  But it’s very apt in some ways.

We are living in interesting times.  It’s not just 2012, it’s been something that’s been happening for the past 10 years.  I find it similar in some regard to the revolutions that have taken place where people have risen up and thrown out an oppressive government.  That we’ve seen with such things as the Arab Spring.  Oh, and just a note, Occupy Wall Street was not the United States version of the Arab Spring.  That was against corporations.  If you want to find a western comparison to the Arab Spring, look no further than First Nations Chief Theresa Spence’s hunger strike as she demands a meeting with Stephen Harper over the conditions at Attawapiskat.  Attawapiskat isn’t alone.  There are other First Nation reserve that are dealing with intolerable, third world like conditions.  But we’re enlightened in Canada, and we don’t like to see that we’re treating Canadian citizens in such a manner.  So we don’t hear about it until it gets to the point where Spence has taken things into her own hands.

She’s not alone, as she’s received support from First Nation people not only across Canada, but across North America.  It’s created a series of Idle No More rallies from every corner of Canada, and even places in the United States.  And Harper’s refusal to meet with Spence puts a huge black mark on the earlier apology that the Canadian government made to First Nation people.  Naturally, detractors are saying that Spence’s hunger strike isn’t as bad as all that, as many believe she’s being fed and even drinking Boost, which is classed as a meal replacement.  Others say that the books for Attawapiskat should be opened, obviously thinking that there has been nefarious dealings by the tribal council that has gone to the mistreatment of their own people.

All of Spence’s detractors are using age old racism as a part of their argument.  But, I’m sure they have “Indian friends”, so they can’t be racist now can they.

Hopefully, in this new year, there will be some sort of meeting held and things can move forward to ensure that First Nation people across Canada are treated with the utmost respect and as equal citizens.  Because currently they are not being treated as such by this government.

Two more years until the next election.  Two more years, and maybe, just maybe, the Conservative Party of Canada can go the way of the dinosaurs they actually are.


Posted by on January 1, 2013 in Life, randomness


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

3 responses to “May we live in interesting times

  1. Janet Williams

    January 2, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    May you live in interesting times — Interestingly, I could not find any Chinese reference to this phrase being from Chinese. I’ve done some research, and so far, no Chinese scholar has ever proved that this phrase comes from Chinese. It’s believed that this ‘Chinese curse’ is a fallacy, and this mistake has been treated as ‘ancient golden Chinese saying’ by many western writers. Most Chinese people are baffled by this reference as there has been no academic proof of this.

    In the Chinese version of this book: Interesting times by Eric Hobsbawm, the translator couldn’t confirm this Chinese origin either.

    For many scholars, they think the sentiment in this ‘curse’ could possibly refer to another known Chinese expression, “I would rather be a dog in peaceful times, then live as a man (woman) in turbulent times. ” 宁为太平狗,不做乱世人。 (p/s: Dog — In the Chinese culture, dogs’ status is low.)

    If you however find the source of the ‘curse’, I’d be delighted to know.

  2. Tim

    January 2, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    As I stated in the article, the only references I could find were from two Englishmen who referenced it about China, which came about in 1936. I believe that it’s origins being a Chinese curse or saying are a complete myth. Because at present there is no evidence that it is Chinese in origin.

  3. Janet Williams

    January 2, 2013 at 5:32 pm

    I agree. As there is no proof, I wonder why so many writers are still quoting this and assumed this quote is from China. One theory is that it would make their writing look more ‘exotic’ if they use an ancient phrase.

    Perhaps one day someone would really find the reference to solve this mystery.

    All the best to you.


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