If one looks at any “Top 100” or whatnot lists of most influential or most incredible people, you begin to realize just how many white faces there are. Abraham Lincoln, Queen Elizabeth, Pope John Paul II, Henry VIII, Shakespeare, Francis Bacon, Francis Drake, Francis of Assisi (a lot of Francis’s) but very few non-European, or even non-male figures. In large part because history is told by the victor, the White Male history that is told does seem to reinforce itself as time goes on. Well, here at Hemlock Scholar the plan is to change that. This will probably become a regular thing, focusing on different cultures and different professions, telling the stories about the influential men and women who are not white, male, and generally bearded.
Yi Sun-sin: Korea’s Naval Genius
Born in 1545, Yi was not a son of royalty. He was a skilled leader from a young age, making him an excellent choice for military. In 1576 he is said to have passed the military examination, impressing the judges with his swordsmanship and archery, he was sent to the northern border to defend against bandits. After several years of successful campaigns against the Jurchens, Yi Sun-sin was rewarded with an appointment to the Left Jeolla Province. Within a short time, he rocketed up the ranks, becoming the commander of the Naval District, at which point he set about reinforcing the navy of the area in 1591. Credited with resurrecting plans to build turtle ships (Korean heavy warships, armed to the teeth, possibly armor plated) he created a small fleet of advanced fighters just as relations with Japan began to sour. in 1592, Japanese ships launched to strike at Korea, where they harried the Koreans for nearly a decade. The Battle of Myeongnyang is considered to be Yi’s greatest victory, occurring on October 26th, 1597, the battle began when Yi’s troops spotted over 200 Japanese warships flowing past them. When Yi’s ships gave chase, the Japanese fleet turned and Yi found himself facing 133 warships and some 200 or more support ships with 13 of his Turtle ships. Outnumbered 10 to 1, Yi’s fleet sank 31 Japanese ships before the Japanese retreated in the face of the slaughter. Yi lost no ships of his own, and suffered only a handful of casualties.
Zhuge Liang: Bluffing like a Boss
During the Three Kingdoms era of Chinese history, the Wei, Shu, and Wu states warred against one another for supremacy. It is the origin of some of China’s most revered heroes and the home to a grand number of epic tales. One of those stories focuses on Zhuge Liang, known as Kongming Wolong (Wolong literally means Sleeping Dragon. Metal. I know) when he was a general of the Shu army. In the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, a famous story about the era that melts legend, history and folklore together, Liang was attempting to take a Wei city, when nearby Shu forces lost to a Wei army and left Liang open to attack from the Wei army that would be bearing down on him. The Wolong came up with a plan to avoid being destroyed, and he holed up in a small town nearby, he ordered the gates to be open and his small force hidden. When the Wei commander came upon Liang’s position, he found the gates open and Liang sitting above the gate playing a small string instrument calmly watching them. The Wei general commanded overwhelming troop superiority in the situation and would have splattered Liang’s small force if he had entered. Liang had a reputation for never taking risks, so the Wei general declared the empty city must be an ambush and he retreated, allowing Liang to escape unscathed.
Hopefully y’all learned something new, something cool or something different, it doesn’t have to all be European history, there are stories everywhere!
Citations, so they’re all from Wikipedia; it was a long week, sue me:
Wolong. It’s Chinese for “Balls of Steel”: