There is no use denying the fact that every period of time could be characterized by a certain ideology and ethics peculiar to the people who live in the given epoch. Moreover, cultural peculiarities and mentality also have a great impact on the development of various points of view and the creation of a unique image of the world in which some values are appreciated more than some others. Various historical documents introduce us to the possibility to analyze the perspectives people had many years before and make a conclusion connected with the evolution of these values. Under these conditions, the analysis of the article Letter to Jen An could help us to recognize these peculiarities and understand what ideas connected with the human nature were peculiar to Ssu-ma Chien and how he proved their existence.
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Analyzing the given document, it is possible to say that Ssu-ma Chien is a bright representative of his age. Serving at the Emperors office, he has access to the most outstanding people of his age. That is why, he is able to analyze their behavior and motifs. Writing a response to his friend, Chien devotes a great deal of attention to the given sphere, cogitations about the peculiarities of human behavior and relations between various groups of people. The given paper helps us to understand the most important behavioral patterns peculiar to the given epoch and analyze them based on Ssu-ma Chiens ideas and attitudes.
It should be said that the given letter presents a reader Chiens cogitations about several important issues, such as moral, the image of a gentleman, the motifs of some actions and the role of an individual. However, the most important authors assumption is connected with the nature of human actions and relations. He admits the fact that when a person is strong and has a favorable position, he is respected by some other members of society, who are ready to help him/her or avoid conflicts. However, when a person fails, people do not miss the opportunity to make the failure even more painful. Moreover, the defeated person might lose the remnants of his/her dignity and ask even enemies for help, trying to survive. Describing the given situation, Chien provides the life of a tiger as a good example, suggesting the bright simile:
When the fierce tiger is in the depths of the mountain, all animals hold him with fear, but when he falls into a trap he waves his tail and begs for food: this is the end result of curtailing his dignity. (Chien 99)
The author wants to tell his friend that the status and position of a person determine his/her behavior and role in society. Only a strong person could save his/her face in case of failure and protect his dignity.
Moreover, cogitating about the results of his own decline, Ssu-ma Chien introduces the very important topic connected with the qualities peculiar to the real gentlemen. General Li Ling is taken as an ideal officer who is able to lead people and inspire them. Moreover, Chien describes him as “filial towards his parents, honest with colleagues, scrupulous about money, decent in his behavior, yielding in matters of precedence, moderate, and polite to others” (Chien 97).
All these qualities make Chien inspire this person and follow his actions. Li Ling is also admired by society as his army manages to defeat a great number of enemy troops. At this moment Li is appreciated and respected. However, being defeated because of the absence of reinforcement, Li Ling suffers from the change of attitude towards him in society. He is not a hero no more and everyone blames him.
Ssu-ma Chien outlines the given episode in order to give clear evidence to his words and ideas of the social status of a person and the attitude of society towards him. The person does not have the right to make a mistake as his/her enemies wait for it and will use it. Moreover, trying to protect Li Ling, Chien also fails. He is not able to provide clear evidence to restore the Lings image and is accused of “attempting to mislead the emperor” (Chien 98).
It should be said that the given letter could be taken as a good source that presents readers’ views of a person who lived in that period of time. However, it is also vital to keep in mind several important aspects while analyzing this document. First of all, one should remember that Ssu-ma Chiens judgments could be biased because he formulates his main ideas about the relations in a society resting on his own unsuccessful experience. Having obtained the post, he forgets about his friends. That is why, he does not have any right to count on their support or help. However, the example based on Li Lings life seems to be more credible and objective as he describes the feelings and emotions of other members of society. This brings us to the conclusion that Ssu-ma Chiens vision of the moral of that period of time reflects the real situation.
Chien, Ssu-ma. Letter to Jen An (Shao-Ch’ing). n.d. Web.