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Did Mao Zedong Really say this?

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Post 19 Oct 2014, 05:34
“What’s so unusual about Emperor Shih Huang of the China Dynasty? He had buried alive 460 scholars only, but we have buried alive 46,000 scholars.”

I find this odd, because he himself was an intellectual and a teacher. So did he really say this, and if so, what was the background behind it?
Post 20 Oct 2014, 04:45
On Google Books this quote appears in such authoritative publications as a pamphlet put out by the World Anti-Communist League (a front group of the Chiang Kai-shek government on Taiwan) and in a book by R. J. Rummel, who is not a very reliable source on many things.
Post 21 Oct 2014, 17:36
There is a high chance that Mao Zedong actually said that quote.

"He (Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China) only buried alive 460 scholars, while we buried 46,000. In our suppression of the counterrevolutionaries, did we not kill some counterrevolutionary intellectuals? I once debated with the democratic people: You accuse us of acting like Qin Shi Huang, but you are wrong; we surpass him 100 times". (Mao's First Speech to the Party Congress, May 17, 1958)

Imperial Chinese historians often said that Qin Shi Huang was a tyrant and this is the image that most people thought about him. Maybe Qin Shi Huang is not a benevolent king, but we must consider his actions in that specific era, not based on our current condition (just like how the capitalist historians always talk about Medieval Europe like a Dark Age, while glorifying the actual Roman Dark Age).

Also about the word "tyrant", it is not a coincidence that most kings and rulers whom the Ancient Greeks considered tyrants were actually people who side with the "ignorant commoners" to oppose the nobles and aristocrats. Who write the history? Of course it is the historian. And which class those historians belong to? Mostly the ruling class. Therefore, it is the high chance that most "tyrants" labeled by historians are actually people who were revolutionary for their time.

The tale about burying scholars are quite simple. The "scholars" were not actually scholars. Qin Shi Huang always valued the scholars, even who had opposing ideas with him (for example, the Confucianists). The buried "scholars" were alchemists, who were tasked with making the immortality potion for the king. Shi Huang rewarded those people lavishly, but they do not make anything but lies, some had escaped, some even talked bad about the king from behind. Fed up with those faked "scholars", he put all of them into trial (those cowards even denounced each other in hope of escape death) and after that sentence all to death by burying. What a lousy story...

In real history, most the political enemy of Qin Shi Huang were the ancient nobility "class" (descendant of priest-kings). They oppose the new landlord class which came from commoners, who flourished under the laws of Qin Kingdom. Qin Shi Huang really hated those nobility the most which was strange for a person who had noble bloodline (maybe because of his captivity childhood in an enemy kingdom), so he supported the new landlord class to execute terror against the old nobility and change the old society order. So when Mao Zedong said about burying scholars, he meant burying counter-revolutionary scholars.

But it is ironical that the later (landlord) historians treated him as a tyrant, just like the capitalist historians who condemned Robespierre.
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