Since ancient times, there have been legends of heroic men, with (perhaps) less-than-heroic reputations behind the scenes—mainly thanks to their contemporaneous historians, like Herodotus and Sima Qian (司马迁). Sima Qian lauded the noble qualities of ruthless men in his famous records, including “Biographies of Heroes” (《游侠列传》) and “Biographies of Assassins” (《刺客列传》), part of what we now know as his “Historical Records” (《史记》).
To Sima Qian, the noblest qualities a man could have (the records are less laudatory about women) were ascetic and chivalrous notions such as “To keep one’s promise” (一诺千金 yí nuò qiān jīn), “To live without regrets” (杀身不悔 shā shēnbù huǐ), “To face danger and save the weak”(救危济困 jiù wēi jì kùn), “To seek nothing in return” (不图报答 bù tú bào dá) and “To serve one’s country with unreserved loyalty” (精忠报国 jīng zhōng bào guó).
These have all become viewed as a code of conduct as legendary and ageless as the Knights of King Arthur. In this episode, Chinese experts explain how such ethos came to play a wide-ranging historical role in Chinese society.
Loyal Blood of Heroes-Part 1
Loyal Blood of Heroes-Part 2