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Recently, a non-binding bill was proposed to make Chinese history compulsory in senior secondary schools. It was passed after an amendment to delete the word “compulsory” and make the subject a mandatory learning experience. As there are already four compulsory subjects in senior secondary schools in Hong Kong, leaving no room for more, the outcome of the discussion has been expected.
However, it came with an unexpected twist. Legislator Stanley Ng Chau-pei, concurrently a member of the Executive Council and president of the pro-Beijing Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions, argued for the importance of Chinese history by demonizing Western history. He said that the history of ancient Greece and Rome was “fabricated” and that the modern history of the West was “extremely evil” because it was full of wars and invasions.
Ng’s comment caused a public outcry. Instead of reconsidering his aggressive arguments, he continued to fire at the history of the West in a Facebook post, saying that ancient Greek history was “only invented after the Renaissance; before that, there was not a single text about the existence of ancient Greece, let alone any narratives or historical records.”
I have made two video commentaries on Ng’s unscrupulous remarks, but I was convinced by a friend about the idea of elaborating textually. Accordingly, I paid a special visit to the British Museum, which has a rich collection of ancient Greek artefacts, to gain some inspiration.
Today China sees participating in and organizing the Olympic Games as a symbol of great power, and I am not sure whether Ng knows that the Games are a tradition developed in ancient Greece.
The history of the ancient Olympic Games was certainly not a fabrication; historians know that for the thousand years from 776 BC to 395AD, people regularly flocked to Olympia in western Greece to join this joyous event. Admittedly, the Games were mythical in the sense that they were held to honor Zeus, the supreme god of Greek mythology.
However, there was enough historical evidence for historians to write confidently when certain events were introduced: pentathlon (discus, jump, javelin, running, and wrestling) in 708BC, boxing in 688BC, race-in-armour in 520BC, and more. Pottery paintings show athletes training, competing, and winning prizes; one shows a boxer beaten by his opponent and bleeding severely from his nose.
If Ng insists that all ancient Greek history is fabricated, will he suggest that China should not participate in and host the Olympic Games again, so as to say no to “fake history” with determination?
Unlike today, ancient Greek athletes played naked. Romans perceived nakedness as shameful, but the Greeks saw it differently: nudity was a sign of moral virtue among male citizens. Athletes who stood naked before their peers were thought to be in “the uniform of righteous.” Therefore, ancient Greece was rich in naked statues, portraying ideal types of beauty. The British Museum has an excellent Greek sculpture collection, which Ng will benefit from if he bothers to visit.
Another significant exhibit in the Museum is the 75-meter frieze sculpture of the Temple of Parthenon, whose imitation can be found as early as the fifth century BC. Even the British Museum adopted the Greek Revival style, reflecting the cultural link between ancient Greece and the modern world.
No sensible person can ignore the above-mentioned well-founded history. Why does Ng need to subvert Western history? It can be traced to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, an event that marked the rise of China to the Chinese, after which the Chinese made many attempts to showcase their accomplishments and belittle the West.
Gradually, there was a campaign to promote the idea of “fake Western history,” one-sidedly stressing China’s uninterrupted tradition of history writing and inventing a fabricated Western history to shape their story of “the rise of the East and the fall of the West.”
Ng’s outrageous remark on ancient Greece is a quote from a mainland Chinese book entitled A Study of the Fabricated History of Greece, in which the author claims that the history of ancient Greece is all a matter of fabrication.
Ng’s attitude to the West made him a modern Boxer, only this time, he adopted a more civilian approach, not to resort to blatant violence and murder but denounce the history of the West. It is regretful that the legislature of an international city can degenerate into a platform for promoting such a Red Guard-styled struggle theory.
Ng’s eccentricity looks like a replay of a joke from the Cultural Revolution in which ignorance overwhelmed common sense: a mathematics journal received a manuscript in which the author used the symbol ∞ (infinity). The uneducated editor said mockingly, “how can we accept this if it dares to put the number eight sideways?”
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.