All Human Deeds Are In God’s Eyes
By Jin Zhong
Translated by Isabella Lam
Open Magazine’s office receives quite a few visitors. In April, a mainland visitor told me a rumor of “volcanoes erupting in 2008,” but I laughed it off. To my surprise, a magnitude 8 earthquake, the deadliest and strongest earthquake since 1976, actually hit Sichuan the very next month. This bolt from the blue turned the world of mortals into a living Hell, shocking the nation and the rest of the globe. In two weeks, the number of victims approached 100,000. Adding insult to injury, aftershocks have continued to plague Sichuan. The whole world is lamenting the misery caused.
After the deadly disaster, some claimed it was a “warning from Heaven,” and such remarks quickly circulated in the press. Recently, Sharon Stone, the internationally-renowned American actress, came under heavy criticism for suggesting at the Cannes Film Festival that the Sichuan earthquake might be karma for China’s suppression of Tibet. Chinese people tend to associate serious natural disasters with human deeds. Many saw the 1976 Tangshan earthquake and Jilin meteor shower as omens from Heaven. In that year, coincidently, the tyrant Mao Zedong passed away and China embarked on its era of great change. Some call this superstition, but it has long been a habit of thought among Chinese. Historical records show emperors attributing natural disasters and wars to punishment from Heaven. As emperors were regarded as the sons of God, peasants staged uprisings in the name of God, and those who disobeyed God’s decree would be punished. Even emperors themselves had to announce an “edict of repentance” and worship at the Temple of Heaven or declare an amnesty to pray for God’s forgiveness. Dong Zhongshu, famed scholar in the Han Dynasty, had a theory of “Telepathy between Human and Nature.” According to his theory, natural disasters occur as a warning from Heaven before a country embarks on an unjust act. If the country does not reexamine itself and mend its ways, unusual phenomena will appear to frighten it. If it still does not change, it will soon fall into ruin.
It is truly pitiful that in China’s bygone eras, unlimited imperial power and undeveloped science and technology deprived the people of power and knowledge, and forced them to resort to mysterious omens and prophecies from Heaven. Even today, with our advanced technology that has allowed human being to reach the moon, the worship, respect and fear of gods and Buddha is still common among the nations of both the East and the West. It is an organic component of contemporary philosophy. Praying for God’s blessing has genuine and beneficial value anywhere around the world. Hong Kong people always say, “All human deeds are in God’s eyes,” meaning that nobody can escape the judgment of Heaven; the wicked can never escape punishment, and the virtuous will ultimately be rewarded. China has an old proverb with a similar meaning.
However, nearly 60 years of rule under the Communist Party has completely overthrown the traditional values of Chinese society. The Party promoted man’s triumph over nature, instilling the people with the concepts that “dyed-in-the-wool materialists have nothing to fear” and “rebellion is justified,” which resulted in the chaotic and disastrous Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution that destroyed tens of millions of lives. “I will never write an edict of repentance!” Mao said, and his brutality outstripped that of any feudal emperor. Since Mao never suffered retribution, his successors have fearlessly held the reins of power and have done what they wanted without fearing God’s punishment. In the past six decades, they have never apologized to our people, or flown the flag at half mast for the people’s suffering.
Today, while we approve of Beijing flying the flag at half mast to mourn the victims of the Sichuan earthquake and allowing the media to report the latest situation of the disaster, we should not forget to criticize its faults in the calamity, such as rejecting assistance from other countries in the critical first 72 hours, as well as the deaths of thousands of innocent students due to the collapse of school buildings, the ignoring of earthquake forecasts from experts inside and outside of China, and the outmoded and ineffectual rescue methods employed. We must hope that the leaders in Beijing will take notice of this warning from Heaven by returning political power to the people and reforming a political system that goes against the will of both God and the people.