Your Opinion about French Revolution

The recent events in France brought my interest to this country. Just as what I always believed, “seek first to understand before seek to be understood”, I started to read about the history of France, especially during the French Revolution around the year of 1793.

The chaos in the 10 years in France is so interesting to me since it seems very similar to me as the Culture Revolution in China in 1970s. In history book (my history score in middle-school is not so good), I remember all kinds of praises to the French Revolution, and concluded that it is such an important event in the history of man-kind, and the “revolution” is a great success. But my recent reading didn’t suggest that way.

So, my dear knowledgeable readers, what do you know about the French Revolution? What is your thoughts about the 10 years? I just feel that Chinese and French history are similar enough (for this period of time) for both side to join hands to do some reflection together.

P.S. I am reading piece of Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert, and also found out something similar to China.

13 Comments

  1. You might want to check out this book, written by Chinese and for Chinese: http://www.douban.com/subject/1001885/

    Although I agreed that the Spanish’s Civil War, French’s Revolution and China’s culture revolution all share some similar traits, it’s only part of human’s nature when constraints or balances are broken. Every country has some moments like that.

    Btw, one of my personal favorite is the french movie festival in China every year in mid of Apr. Based on my limited knowledge gleaned here and there, French people tends to be more lay-back and hard-to-‘manage’ than Chinese people.

    Just my $0.02.

    Alex

  2. @Alex Dong, I am reading the book by Lin Da. It is the pretty calmed and “negative” reflection of the event. I love it a lot. That is the starting point of my research about the French Revolution.

  3. You may want to read “On Revolution” by Hannah Arendt. I think some of her books were translated and published in China… not sure about this one though.

  4. I’m not going to comment about the possible similarities between the French revolution and the Chinese cultural revolution. This topic is way too complex for me and I don’t know much about the Chinese one anyway.

    In fact I just wanted to say how admirable I think it is to react the way you do (“seek first to understand before seek to be understood”)… Clearly you’re a wise person Jian Shuo Wang.

    And since I’m here I’d like to share something I’d like more people to remember of; In 2004, special celebrations of the Chinese New Year occured in Paris… During 5 days, even the Eiffel tower was illuminated in red to remind everybody of China! See this page about most of the special illuminations of the tower :

    http://www.tour-eiffel.fr/teiffel/fr/documentation/dossiers/page/illuminations.html

    This one is less “official” but shows bigger pics:

    http://www.broguiere.com/rouge/

    A last one:

    http://photoenligne.free.fr/ParisVII/TourEiffel/N4486.jpg

    It reminds me of the time I was studying and dreaming of coming in China someday… I thought I could enjoy this friendly relationship between our countries, and 4 years later, this is still what I was thinking as I was flying to Shanghai, so excited but so scared about being about to begin my first real job in China.

    A few months after, I feel very uncomfortable when people ask me where I’m from and I don’t even know if our young company will survive these “troubles”… Sad.

  5. Paris reader

    May 7, 2008 at 5:43 am

    If you want to have a glimpse of the French spirit before the Revolution, watch “Ridicule”, a quite enjoyable French movie, which depicts some of our (good and also bad) features. But if you want to understand this country’s present state, May 68 is more important than the Revolution, for its effects on our society are more important . Then you will discover many of the Leaders of May 68 were inspired by Mao! Therefore it is easier to understand why some French are more uncomfortable with present China than other Europeans: the Cultural Revolution was then seen as a revolutionnary model, but 40 years later we know the truth about maoism. It is quite stunning to see that some of the most vehement China contempters in France were former maoists. In the sixties they had a idealized image of China. Now it is just the opposite, as if they tried to make up for their past blindness. Still, despite what is said on the internet, France is the European country where China has most assets, with the largest Chinese community (450,000 or 500, 000) and Chinese is the fastest expanding foreign language (with several Confucius Institutes being set up), and it has a very strong cultural impact.

  6. I’m not going to comment about the possible similarities between the French revolution and the Chinese cultural revolution. This topic is way too complex for me and I don’t know much about the Chinese one anyway.

    In fact I just wanted to say how admirable I think it is to react the way you do (“seek first to understand before seek to be understood”)… Clearly you’re a wise person Jian Shuo Wang.

    Now since I’m here I’d like to share something I’d like more people to remember of; In 2004, special celebrations of the Chinese New Year occured in Paris… During 5 days, even the Eiffel tower was illuminated in red to remind everybody of China! See this page about most of the special illuminations of the tower :

    http://www.tour-eiffel.fr/teiffel/fr/documentation/dossiers/page/illuminations.html

    This one is less “official” but shows bigger pics:

    http://www.broguiere.com/rouge/

    A last one:

    http://photoenligne.free.fr/ParisVII/TourEiffel/N4486.jpg

    It reminds me of the time I was studying and dreaming of coming in China someday… I thought I could enjoy this friendly relationship between our countries, and 4 years later, this is still what I was thinking as I was flying to Shanghai, so excited about being about to begin my first real job in China.

    A few months after, I feel very uncomfortable when people ask me where I’m from and I don’t even know if our young company will survive these “troubles”… Sad.

  7. I totally agree with Damien about french revolution and may 68. French revolution is a classes revolution where poor people are opposed to rich.

    But may 68 is considered as an intellectual revolution. It’s a revolution where french people share some mind liberty aspirations. The moto was something like “it ‘s not allowed to prohibit”.

    These events are some kind of what happened during tian anmen square protests in 1989.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiananmen_Square_protests_of_1989

  8. I’m very disappointed to see so many Chinese trying to dig up something dirty from the French history in the last 1-2 weeks.

    I am NOT saying you are such a case.

    But it did make an impression to me, slogans like “Jeanne d’Arc is a filthy whore” or “Napoléon is a pervert” which have been in the Chinese cyber-space or even on the streets.

    And now you dig around French history too.

    I can’t understand this hatred towards the French. Yes, they had several protests against the Chinese policy. Yes, they had a security breach which lead to a big embarrassment.

    This made the French more despised than the Japanese who have robbed, murdered and raped the Chinese so many times.

    Does that make any sense?

    At least to me – no. Sarkozi made an official apology to China. The president of the French olympic committee went to China and officially apologised to Jin Jing herself. French business high-ranking managers claimed they had nothing to do with those protesters. The President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso went to China shortly afterwards to ensure the Chinese president for the umptienth time that the EU regards Tibet as a part of China and that they would not support any change of the current boundaries.

    And yet, the Chinese public opinion was not changed and little was done to soften the tone. It became a matter of pride and patriotism in China to resent the nasty French that “want to see China divided”.

    It seems to me that some Chinese just need to hate someone for the sake of it.

    I was in France last summer; there’re quite a lot of Chinese in Paris. They seemed pretty happy. Of course I haven’t spoken to a hundred people, I’m just talking about those who I met. They faced no racial prejudice, at least not more than in the rest of Europe. In many parts of France Chinese language is taught in schools and well-respected. (Well, if you ask my opinion about it, French don’t speak good Chinese, but it’s another story…) And, as a whole, there’s much interest about the culture of China, the medicine and the people.

    However all that simply didn’t matter. Most French people don’t even have any idea of how much their “rating” has fallen in China. Simply because they feel as if they haven’t done anything wrong.

    Yes, there was an accident and they apologised.

    So, why bring the old story again?

    I’m sorry, maybe I was off-topic… I hope you don’t boycott Bulgarian products because of it (I just made you look at the map didn’t I?)

  9. The two Revolutions the French and Cultural were reactions to events in the country but thats about all they had in common. The French Revolution was a reaction to extremely poor practices by the French ruling class. If you study China’s history you will see numerous times where popular uprisings dethroned an Emperor because the leadership was disasterous and abused the people while bankrupting the country. The 1949 revolution in China was similiar in that regard.

    The Cultural Revolution was actually a counter revolution against liberal policies and the communist party that Mao believed was out of control. The net result was ten years of Chaos and a confirmation that the policies that the cultural revolution was unleashed on were in fact the correct ones that once fully implemented created the China that exists today. It was not a movement to create freedom or demoracy it was in fact the reverse. There is an excellent video series called ” China 100 years of revolution” documenting the history of China in the 29th century.

    The thing to note about the French Revolution is it accomplished absolutely nothing but lead to mass suffering for France and Europe over the following thirty years. The french revolution did not create democracy or greater freedom. It led to the rise of Napoleon and a replacement by the King with a Dictator that plunged Europe into 20 years of war killing countless millions of people. Napoleon was replaced back by the King. France did not actually see a democracy till the fall of Napoleon III in 1870 almost a hundred years after the revolution. It took WWI to actually end most of the old european monarchies.

    As for mitko’s comments. The Olympics are intended to be a politically neutral event to celebrate the best in sports and bring people closer together. There have been protests in many countries about Tibet but the governments in those countries maintained control of the events and allowed the torch to pass on. Watching french citizens attack a women in a wheel chair to disrupt an event that is supposed to be politically neutral rightfully should anger the Chinese people and vilify the individuals involved. The incident did little to help the cause of Tibet and much to damage the prestige of the French in China for their inability to control things. An apology is the least they could have offered.

  10. The two Revolutions the French and Cultural were reactions to events in the country but thats about all they had in common. The French Revolution was a reaction to extremely poor practices by the French ruling class. If you study China’s history you will see numerous times where popular uprisings dethroned an Emperor because the leadership was disasterous and abused the people while bankrupting the country. The 1949 revolution in China was similiar in that regard.

    The Cultural Revolution was actually a counter revolution against liberal policies and the communist party that Mao believed was out of control. The net result was ten years of Chaos and a confirmation that the policies that the cultural revolution was unleashed on were in fact the correct ones that once fully implemented created the China that exists today. It was not a movement to create freedom or demoracy it was in fact the reverse. There is an excellent video series called ” China 100 years of revolution” documenting the history of China in the 29th century.

    The thing to note about the French Revolution is it accomplished absolutely nothing but lead to mass suffering for France and Europe over the following thirty years. The french revolution did not create democracy or greater freedom. It led to the rise of Napoleon and a replacement by the King with a Dictator that plunged Europe into 20 years of war killing countless millions of people. Napoleon was replaced back by the King. France did not actually see a democracy till the fall of Napoleon III in 1870 almost a hundred years after the revolution. It took WWI to actually end most of the old european monarchies.

    As for mitko’s comments. The Olympics are intended to be a politically neutral event to celebrate the best in sports and bring people closer together. There have been protests in many countries about Tibet but the governments in those countries maintained control of the events and allowed the torch to pass on. Watching french citizens attack a women in a wheel chair to disrupt an event that is supposed to be politically neutral rightfully should anger the Chinese people and vilify the individuals involved. The incident did little to help the cause of Tibet and much to damage the prestige of the French in China for their inability to control things. An apology is the least they could have offered.

  11. “The French Revolution was a reaction to extremely poor practices by the French ruling class”. Unfortunately poor practices by the ruling class elsewhere in Europe were also quite common, and it does not help much understand this event. Several explanations are more generally admitted:

    _the financial crisis which affected the kingdom.

    _revolts caused by the winter’s hardships.

    _the political and cultural influence of the “Lumières” philosophers, among which Voltaire, Rousseau, Montesquieu, Diderot and Locke.

    _the exhaustion of the absolute monarchy, with a week king and an increasingly powerful “Tiers Etat” lead by the bourgeoisie.

    So French Revolution should not be studied for what it accomplished, as it is a complex period and History does not consist in allowing good and bad points, but for the way it definitely changed the face of Europe. The privileges of aristocrats where abolished, the principle of separated powers advocated by Montesquieu was established, public servants were appointed after taking an exam (previously they had to pay for it). This system of exam was first advocated by voltaire, inspired himself by the description of the chinese system by the jesuites. What we call a democracy could not exist at that time, even in a political laboratory like the USA (because of slavery). Furthermore the whole Europe waged a war against the new republic. But the premises of capitalism in France were built with the abolition of “corporations”, which restricted the right to work in a industry, and the opening of borders between provinces. The revolution was a complex event. It aimed at setting up a cult of Reason, though the revolutionnaries did not understand this word in the same way. Some were liberal (before Adam Smith, there was le Quesnay and Say), some could be categorized as “leftists” , eg Robespierre. The real gap was between advocates of a bourgeois regime and those who wanted to eradicate the Church, the monarchy (and Louis XVI helped them by trying to flee), propriety.

    The metric system is also a legacy of the Revolution, along with the set up of many schools and factories. Massacres where perpetrated, but despite the way Hollywood films portrays this revolution the aristocrats were not the main victims: 4000 of them where executed during “la Terreur”, but massacres in Lyon or other large cities and also the Vendée war were far more cruel and caused death among ordinary people or peasants. So at war inside and outside the country became a warring state, which explains why Napoleon could so easily inherit of France. Although the Revolution abolished slavery the law was never implemented and it took 50 years to be so. To say that the Revolution was cruel and caused war is true, but the monarchy was far more cruel and war, for Louis XIV, Louis XV and Louis XVI, was more like a passtime than a necessity. While many aristocrats fled France, it did not exceed the number of “protestants” who fled France after Louis XIV revocated the Edit of Nantes.

    The problem does not lie in the freedom (although the “Declaration des droits de l’homme et du citoyen” made legitimate individual freedom)granted by the political regime, but in the fact that it set the basis for the modern state. the “Code napoleon” was in this respect a great step towards a modern state based on a written law, applying equally to everyone. Is the revolution responsible for Napoleon and the Napoleonic wars? This question has still to be answered, and the best specialists of this period do not agree.

    “France did not actually see a democracy till the fall of Napoleon III in 1870 almost a hundred years after the revolution”: not exactly; before the 3rd republic there was a second, which helped Napoleon III be elected. Although it was very short, it saw the abolition of slavery and a short period of what could be called “democracy”. Had French Revolution not happened, the history of Europe and the world for sure would have been different. For the best? Who can tell? The relation with the Cultural Revolution? Crisis and periods of chaos always reveal both the ugliest and the best face of man. Isn’it it true for other countries?

  12. Great Post Lavoisier!!!

    you really know your subject about French revolution.

  13. At the time of financial crises we need to come together united and try to solve the problems which are responsible for such a hazard. We need to overcome it. It is meant to bring calm to the population and markets and display government strength and stability. As a large number of people spend their money in movies, making films, sports, nowadays even many clubs offer top gambling offers where people lose a large sum of money there in such stuffs which should be minimized as the world is going through a phase where a little wastage of money could be matter of remorse.

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