Dynasty Founders and Murderers. From Roman Empire to Manchu Empire
(55th Meeting, 2012)
In world history the foundation of a dynasty – i.e. a new empire – is not seldom accompanied by acts of violence. The struggle for supremacy over a tribe or a territory often took place inside the emerging family and culminated in fraticide. In European history the best known example is the myth of Romulus and Remus and the foundation of Rome. In East Asia a similar event took place at the beginning of the 17th century, when the Manchu khan Nurhaci killed his younger brother Šurhaci (and his eldest son Cuyen) in order to become the undisputed ruler of the growing Manchu khanate which, under his successor Hung Taiji, became the Qing dynasty. One of the essential differences between Roman and Manchu empire-foundation is found in its historiographical treatment: Romulus’ fratricide became a myth and is found in all historical works devoted to ancient Rome. Nurhaci’s fratricide (and filicide), on the contrary, is carefully removed from all Manchu sources – the best example being given in the censura of the Jiu Manzhou dang during the compilation of the Manwen laodang. No traces of Nurhaci’s actions as a murderer is found in official sources, and what we know about these events – is based on hearsay and private Chinese and Korean sources. Nurhaci, as a “divine ruler” (enduringge ejen) could not be a murderer in official Qing historiography.