Response to a Telling of History


Dear Editor:

I read the latest issue of Western Friend with great interest and edification. I am a Professor Emeritus of Chinese Language, Literature, and History from the City University of New York and could not help noting a number of inaccuracies in Mr. Strickland’s account of East Asian history.

Mr. Strickland states: “During Chosen’s beginnings in the late 1500s, the Ming Dynasty (rulers of China who were Manchu people). . . “ In fact, it was the succeeding dynasty, the Qing (Ch’ing), who were Manchu and ruled from 1644-1911. He further asserts that “. . . China was not unified or stable with its present boundaries until 1949.” In fact, most of the approximately twenty historical dynasties over the past three millennia lasted several centuries, and the last dynasty, the Qing, ruled for longer than the age of our own republic and occupied a territory larger than that of the present People’s Republic.

Are these errors likely to provoke an international incident or require arbitration in the World Court in The Hague? No. After all, how many know-it-all sinologists can you count in your readership?

The recent publication of The Chicago Guide to Fact-Checking highlights renewed interest in journalism as “the first draft of history” and increasing awareness of “fake news.” Of course, there’s still some controversy over whether it’s the author or publisher who ultimately bears responsibility for accuracy, but that comes down to deep pockets or qualified volunteers.

On a lighter note, in retirement, and in my current role as freelance translator and editor, I find that Western Friend’s line and copy editing standards exceed those of The New York Times and New Yorker magazine, where I often spot errors in the punctuation of appositives and restrictive and non-restrictive clauses. If the publication you oversee were not so impeccably punctuated, I would offer my services as volunteer copy editor and proof-reader. Keep up the good work.

– Doug Wile, Appleseed Monthly Meeting, Sebastopol, CA (PYM)

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