Thursday, January 20, 2011

Great moments in history, part 1...

Courtesy of Julia Lovell's hilarious and nuanced history, The Great Wall: China Against the World:

After Wang [a eunuch tutor with great hold over the previous emperor]'s death in battle, officials took a terrible revenge on Ma Shun, one of Wang's surviving eunuch lieutenants at court. In an extraordinary scene, unprecedented and unrepeated in Chinese political history, a bloody fistfight broke out at an imperial audience when, unable to restrain his hatred of his eunuch rivals any longer, a censor rushed at Ma, wrestled him to the ground and bit him. Other officials immediately abandoned all sense of decorum and leapt into the scrum. Lacking in conventional arms, the struggle was brutishly drawn out with improvised bludgeons: officials eventually blinded and battered the eunuch to death with his own boots [Emphasis mine]. The nervous new emperor tried to escape the bloody fray by tiptoeing out of the audience chamber, until the new minister of war grabbed him back by his robe, forcing him to condone this spontaneous execution scene. (199)

Let me add, that Ma Shun's superior basically caused the massacre of an entire Chinese army because he didn't want soldiers marching through his own property and then forced them to delay after a valiant rear-guard defense against a Mongol horde.... because he was afraid he had lost his luggage.

Truth is definitely stranger than fiction.
The Great Wall: China Against the World, 1000 BC-AD 2000