To Live as an Emperor of Han or as Commonfolk of Today?

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To Live as an Emperor of Han or as Commonfolk of Today?

Unread postby Kongde » Fri Mar 08, 2019 11:33 pm

So I propose a very valid question - and I suppose it depends on who you are as to your answer. It should be a fun question and I look forward to your responses. But I wonder, would you rather live as an emperor (or noble) of the Late Han/Jin dynasty time period, or would you rather be a common man of the modern era, today? The answer may seem obvious but I'd like to delve into a little bit deeper as to why you might not choose the "obvious" answer.

Many people would say they'd obviously choose to be a common man of today, and that most people today live better than any Emperor of ancient times. Perhaps this is true. But does simply having technology automatically equate to living better? There are some other factors to consider like medicine and access to clean water and the plentiful food we have available today, but allow me to put those worries to rest as an emperor. Also, to say you couldn't live without today's technology and medicine, let me remind you that it has really only been around for the past 100 years, or 2 generations or so. A lot of our grandparents lived without most the medicine and technology that was around - and they turned out quite okay I say!

As an emperor, you will receive the best treatment of the time (which might not always be the best or accurate, but if you were fortunate enough to receive the help of the likes of Hua Tuo, you might just be saved), you will also likely be the first to receive any food in the event of food shortages or water shortages. Anything you wish is your command, women, alcohol, entertainment, food, and water were all readily available to the emperor. The biggest downside would legitimately be the lack of medicine, but that wasn't to say you would die young either. Sun Quan lived to the ripe age of his 70s, and Hua Tuo the famous doctor of his time lived to be 96 or so years old. Point being is that ultimately, for the most part, as an emperor you would likely most always have access to clean water and plentiful food.

Policies were harsh certainly, but one could argue that it was justly although we know it to be abused and often non-involved family members are killed as well. I'm just trying to build a case for this time period, okay! :P I know the obvious answer is today is certainly better in most aspects.

So with all that being said, would you rather have today's technology and medicine and be content living as a common man as you are today likely, or would you rather be an emperor or even a Noble (without the responsibility of ruling the lands, just a rich man of the times with prestige and possibly fame or respect) of the time?

Hopefully this thread isn't too similar to the "What would you be if you were in the Three Kingdoms" thread - I think this asks a more different question.
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Re: To Live as an Emperor of Han or as Commonfolk of Today?

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Mon Mar 11, 2019 5:02 pm

Well I would literally be dead without modern medicine (as much as 3kingdoms was an era of medical advancement, it wasn't that far) so not much of a choice for me. We have longer lifespans then our grandparents becuase of advances in medicine and I would not want to live in their age for many reasons.

Food is yes, not an issue bar a Li Jue situation and actually would probably be, bar food hygiene issues, better. I would still prefer now, I would find the attitudes of the time restrictive and struggle with that (which could cause my death) so it would best that, though less wealthy, I have a modern life that keeps me alive and gives me the joys of technology that do so much to make my life better.
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Re: To Live as an Emperor of Han or as Commonfolk of Today?

Unread postby Kongde » Mon Mar 11, 2019 5:58 pm

Dong Zhou wrote:Well I would literally be dead without modern medicine (as much as 3kingdoms was an era of medical advancement, it wasn't that far) so not much of a choice for me. We have longer lifespans then our grandparents becuase of advances in medicine and I would not want to live in their age for many reasons.

Food is yes, not an issue bar a Li Jue situation and actually would probably be, bar food hygiene issues, better. I would still prefer now, I would find the attitudes of the time restrictive and struggle with that (which could cause my death) so it would best that, though less wealthy, I have a modern life that keeps me alive and gives me the joys of technology that do so much to make my life better.

This is very true and certainly great points. This is fair enough. As far as the lifespan, I've noticed quite frequently people can live in their 60s and beyond, it certainly didn't seem something taboo or uncommon. Huang Zhong was 75 yeas old, Hua Tuo was said to be ~96 years old, Cao Cao was ~64, Xun You and Xun Yu were both almost 60, and Zhang He was in his 60s and died from an arrow.

But I think it's hard to compare the two societies so much when a 1,700+ year gap exists, so we must compare it slightly more fairly for at their time. At the time, medicine was indeed improving on many fronts, and if the many patients Hua Tuo has saved are true accounts as I believe them to be, he is one of the first people I know of to properly diagnose tumors and not only that, but he could find the tumor and remove it surgically. As well as appendicitis. This man was a medical genius ahead of his time, and medical use for alcohol had been discovered around 300 BC, ~400 years later when Hua Tuo would be around. That is important because that was when we discovered alcohol had sterilization properties to prevent infections. I'm sure he also knew of this, so the worries of being surgically sanitary were actually quite doable.

But there are some things I see as a good thing. We had more people time, I feel with my personality type I may very well end up executed as well, but you have to also remember we can't go by who we are now. What made us us, is in huge part by what we are surrounded by growing up. Growing up being surrounded by technology and cars and people of 1,700 years later culture vs. ~150-420AD culture would change us in some fundamental ways, naturally. Perhaps we'd be more focused without all the distractions, perhaps friendships and loyalties really meant a lot more then (not that they do not exist today, but the culture around it I think has kind of changed), and I think I'd appreciate nature a lot more (which seems to be lacking today). I hope you can see where I am coming from here.
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Re: To Live as an Emperor of Han or as Commonfolk of Today?

Unread postby zirroxas » Tue Mar 12, 2019 5:16 pm

I couldn't do it.

For starters, the advancements in medicine are a lot more important than just extending your life a little through some better elder care. It also means we have access to things that make really common and very communicable diseases properly treatable. As far as infectious disease goes these days, most people living in developed nations only have to worry about a select few very rare diseases that could kill them. 2000 years ago, everything from the common cold to a staph infection could kill you. Infant mortality in modern times is somewhere around 5% globally (much lower in developed nations) while in the classical era, estimates range from 20-50%.

Yes, there were always going to be people who lived well into old age. Those who were strong and had good fortune. However, even if we restrict our search to the highest echelons of power, there's still a massive drop in life expectancy. The current sitting president of the United States is 72 years old. No Han emperor lived to see that age. Only four ever reached the age of 50. Of the nine proper emperors of Later Han, only three lived past the age of 30.

I'm a rather anxious person by default, and despite being used to unsanitary conditions thanks to growing up in the developing world, I still can't quite stomach the though of my life being held hostage by such statistics, especially when I'm well aware that the medical standards of the time are even worse than those I grew up with. Modern understandings of pathology are kind of necessary for me to have any faith in treatments I'm being provided, and lord forbid I get something downright untreatable with the medicine of the time like an autoimmune disease or cancer. Then of course, there's the likelihood that even if I beat the odds, a lot of my friends and loved ones wouldn't.

But the thing that kills it would be that I'd be bored out of my mind.

Maybe I'm just too much of a product of the age, but I can't imagine my personal, academic, or professional life without the wealth of information and entertainment that modern connectivity brings. I love flying, world travel, and meeting strangers from far off countries at the pub on Fridays. I deep dive into new subjects on engineering or history at the drop of a hat just because an internet article or random footnote in one of my books piqued my interest. I can do this all while on the bus or sitting for coffee thanks to the comforts of mobile connectivity, and start working on something else as soon as I'm done. By contrast, the academic debates discussed in the Han histories sound like everything I desperately tried to avoid in grad school.

I doubt it would do anything for me emotionally/spiritually either. I have no trouble getting quiet time to think and tune out wandering the streets of a bustling city or driving down the highway. My tastes in art are all over the place, so world connectivity is kind of necessary for that. I find many of the forms of entertainment from the classical era rather dull, especially poetry (blasphemous I know). Too much of my life's enjoyment is derived from the liberties and innovation brought about by modern free society, so the restrictive nature of imperial life would crush me.

TL;DR - I can't imagine anything I'd find particularly interesting about being Emperor of Han, and the Sword of Damocles hanging over my head from disease/conspiracy would just stress me out to the point of misery.
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Re: To Live as an Emperor of Han or as Commonfolk of Today?

Unread postby Zyzyfer » Thu Mar 14, 2019 9:21 am

Obviously it's fun to imagine on the surface being a high-ranking noble with everything at your fingertips, but it is not without its perils.

1. As mentioned, just plain living in that time is a bit like trying to beat Oregon Trail in one go. Well you are a noble so you get like 10 or 20 goes instead, but still.

2. If disease doesn't get you, the politics will. You can pull up a Wiki page on just about any figure from Chinese history and, with a few clicks, suddenly you are reading about yet another Zhao Gao. Even minor nobles seem to have had a penchant for getting into political intrigue.

3. And yeah, even the emperor wasn't safe from plotting. Plenty of stories of betrayal there.

4. Human life at that time in history had far less value than today. That would kind of suck.

5. I also have a feeling that the possible acceptable scope for one's personal opinions on societal matters would be far narrower. People with opinions that went against the grain (like say the 7 Sages of the Bamboo Grove) even now, to me anyway, tend to be viewed with suspicion. The window for any eccentricity feels quite small for the past, from my perspective.
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Re: To Live as an Emperor of Han or as Commonfolk of Today?

Unread postby Kongde » Thu Mar 14, 2019 3:20 pm

Zyzyfer wrote:Obviously it's fun to imagine on the surface being a high-ranking noble with everything at your fingertips, but it is not without its perils.

1. As mentioned, just plain living in that time is a bit like trying to beat Oregon Trail in one go. Well you are a noble so you get like 10 or 20 goes instead, but still.

2. If disease doesn't get you, the politics will. You can pull up a Wiki page on just about any figure from Chinese history and, with a few clicks, suddenly you are reading about yet another Zhao Gao. Even minor nobles seem to have had a penchant for getting into political intrigue.

3. And yeah, even the emperor wasn't safe from plotting. Plenty of stories of betrayal there.

4. Human life at that time in history had far less value than today. That would kind of suck.

5. I also have a feeling that the possible acceptable scope for one's personal opinions on societal matters would be far narrower. People with opinions that went against the grain (like say the 7 Sages of the Bamboo Grove) even now, to me anyway, tend to be viewed with suspicion. The window for any eccentricity feels quite small for the past, from my perspective.


2. I suppose this may be more admiration than anything, but I did admire how resolute they seem to be about death and how firm they stand to their ideals even at the risk of said death. Obviously this is not to be spoken for all, but i certainly feel it was more common, naturally.

3. Certainly not but does every important figure not suffer from that in some way? It isnt as bad as it once was, but even our Presidents of today are not totally free from assassination attempts. Many fail but some have not.

4. In general, seemingly it did. But now, certain counties and time periods were more forgiving and lenient than others. Also, as emperor, you could likely change that yourself to some degree to at least lessen punishment severity.

5. Oh absolutely, many advisors were executed simply for stating their mind, but they usually would be executed so by the emperor or higher up. With you being the emperor, you have full control over that. You can actively decide to not execute advisors simply for speaking their mind, for example. And that certainly would not have been taboo at the time, as some warlords did not do this (or at least as much unless it was some severe slandering, but even in some instances of that they are still spared). But honestly, as a common man of the time, when survival was more important, how important was having controversial opinions? And while you won't necessarily get punished anymore for thinking controversial things today, you likely would not be treated too well either and held with suspicion.

As far as medicine goes from above poster, perhaps I was fortunate enough (knock on wood) to not have any serious medical problems at or around birth, but I've always been one to avoid doctors. The last time I saw one I was a mere kid. I do not think much would have changed for me up to this point. I've also the belief that oversanitization is self harming because it weakens your immune system and also simultaneously often gets rid of good bacteria as well. Those who are less sanitary (not necessarily a slob or anything, just not over washing or a germaphobe) I believe tend to have stronger immune systems at they build up resilience and good guy bacteria isnt constantly being destroyed. Anyways, aside from vaccinations (which I admit do give quite an edge), I've yet to have a need to ever see a doctor.

As far as boredom goes, I quite believe the boredom would cause me to be much more productive with my time. I believe if I was a noble at least, I'd be a writer and dedicate most my time to it. I'd also love to read . It actually almost sounds awesome to be forced to have little to do but read.

Also, I'd like to remind everyone that it's also very possible the same personality you have now wont end up being the same 1700+ years ago. Your personality is in part decided by your upbringing and how you were raised and your environment. I would also like it to be known that I'm simply playing devil's advocate here.
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Re: To Live as an Emperor of Han or as Commonfolk of Today?

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Thu Mar 14, 2019 6:11 pm

Kongde wrote:This is very true and certainly great points. This is fair enough. As far as the lifespan, I've noticed quite frequently people can live in their 60s and beyond, it certainly didn't seem something taboo or uncommon. Huang Zhong was 75 yeas old, Hua Tuo was said to be ~96 years old, Cao Cao was ~64, Xun You and Xun Yu were both almost 60, and Zhang He was in his 60s and died from an arrow.

But I think it's hard to compare the two societies so much when a 1,700+ year gap exists, so we must compare it slightly more fairly for at their time. At the time, medicine was indeed improving on many fronts, and if the many patients Hua Tuo has saved are true accounts as I believe them to be, he is one of the first people I know of to properly diagnose tumors and not only that, but he could find the tumor and remove it surgically. As well as appendicitis. This man was a medical genius ahead of his time, and medical use for alcohol had been discovered around 300 BC, ~400 years later when Hua Tuo would be around. That is important because that was when we discovered alcohol had sterilization properties to prevent infections. I'm sure he also knew of this, so the worries of being surgically sanitary were actually quite doable.

But there are some things I see as a good thing. We had more people time, I feel with my personality type I may very well end up executed as well, but you have to also remember we can't go by who we are now. What made us us, is in huge part by what we are surrounded by growing up. Growing up being surrounded by technology and cars and people of 1,700 years later culture vs. ~150-420AD culture would change us in some fundamental ways, naturally. Perhaps we'd be more focused without all the distractions, perhaps friendships and loyalties really meant a lot more then (not that they do not exist today, but the culture around it I think has kind of changed), and I think I'd appreciate nature a lot more (which seems to be lacking today). I hope you can see where I am coming from here.


Hua Tuo was certainly not ahead of his time, he was one of the doctors that pushed forward medical understanding of the era but the others get forgotten becuase Hua Tuo felt saving lives was beneath him and got himself killed.

It was an era of great medical advancement but also of epidemics, drinking excrement as a cure for poison, where ideas for long life including sleeping upside down and drinking urine, were Liu Bei (pain in stomach spreading) and Yuan Shao (coughing up blood) deaths are put down to their emotional state and with no idea of the signals their pain and blood was sending. As others say, the long lives are outliers.

Sure there is certainly a case for that I would be more rigid and intolerant due to the times I was in. I think your wrong on the nature one, people still write poetry, take photo's and so on there is considerable effort to save planet and awareness of animal rights then there was done. On personal relationships? I think that is more the way we do it has differed and the way society was structured required it but maybe not always in a healthy way.

Even if I agreed on the personal relationships being more key then now, that isn't really going to work with the Emperor idea. There would always be a barrier between you, as the Son of Heaven, and the vast majority of those you know by rank, by power dynamics and so on.

2. I suppose this may be more admiration than anything, but I did admire how resolute they seem to be about death and how firm they stand to their ideals even at the risk of said death. Obviously this is not to be spoken for all, but i certainly feel it was more common, naturally.


I suspect Zy more refers to failed powerplays leading to death rather then idealism.

5. Oh absolutely, many advisors were executed simply for stating their mind, but they usually would be executed so by the emperor or higher up. With you being the emperor, you have full control over that. You can actively decide to not execute advisors simply for speaking their mind, for example. And that certainly would not have been taboo at the time, as some warlords did not do this (or at least as much unless it was some severe slandering, but even in some instances of that they are still spared). But honestly, as a common man of the time, when survival was more important, how important was having controversial opinions? And while you won't necessarily get punished anymore for thinking controversial things today, you likely would not be treated too well either and held with suspicion.


Zy was referring to the bigotry of the era I believe, that those who had different philosophical beliefs were not viewed with welcome arms. Emperor's could do limited to change that situation but Emperors who did so or deviated from the norm were not popular.

As far as boredom goes, I quite believe the boredom would cause me to be much more productive with my time. I believe if I was a noble at least, I'd be a writer and dedicate most my time to it. I'd also love to read . It actually almost sounds awesome to be forced to have little to do but read.


Try it during next power-black out. Or do a week of nothing (bar the necessities) of reading. Being forced to do something due to lack of options gets annoying when you can't do something else. Even if you enjoy it
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Re: To Live as an Emperor of Han or as Commonfolk of Today?

Unread postby zirroxas » Thu Mar 14, 2019 6:23 pm

Dong Zhou wrote:Try it during next power-black out. Or do a week of nothing (bar the necessities) of reading. Being forced to do something due to lack of options gets annoying when you can't do something else. Even if you enjoy it


Add on top of the fact that your pool of reading material would be rather limited (in both subject and perspective) and the rate of new entries into that pool would be rather anemic.

It'd be like having nothing to read your entire life but Victorian era romances written exclusively by a dozen or so middle-aged London socialites and maybe the occasional rewrite of a "traditional" story by a retired MP whose convinced he's Tolkien.

And poetry, but the less I have to say about that, the better.
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Re: To Live as an Emperor of Han or as Commonfolk of Today?

Unread postby Kongde » Thu Mar 14, 2019 6:52 pm

All fair points. It truly is better to live as commonfolk of today than to be an emperor of the Han or even less out of the spotlight as a noble, you have certainly convinced me of that without a doubt.

But as far as the last statement,
Try it during next power-black out. Or do a week of nothing (bar the necessities) of reading. Being forced to do something due to lack of options gets annoying when you can't do something else. Even if you enjoy it

If all you ever knew were books, games of sorts like physical activity games or board games (could somebody possibly elaborate on what other kind of games they had to play with at the time? I'm very interested to know while we're on that topic), and entertainment from music (you had the Zither, for example, which you could also play in your spare time), then I don't think you'd be too frustrated, from talking to your family and friends, to writing and reading, to entertainment like swordplay, and I don't see what would stop you from just going out wherever on a journey or walk, it seems like there would be enough to keep you mostly from being too bored. I'm sure there must have been social community-style things to do, gatherings of sorts as well. I don't think it's as dull as you may be led to believe, just different from what we are used to as forms of entertainment. Perhaps I am wrong, certainly is possible as I am no expert in this subject matter.

I have been without power for an actual week, and worse it was in the midst of summer in the worst of the blazing heat. Water was gone almost everywhere so we had to resort to melting ice for water. I must say I didn't mind all the reading, but it's just more tempting to watching videos as they are much more stimulated to me when given the option. But had I never known that was an option, I think reading would suffice just fine. Although it was just a week, a lot of the time was just spent talking to the family, the time didn't seem to be agonizingly slow and I don't think it was too unenjoyable to just read, especially in the topics I was interested in. Now it is true that access to the works would be a little more difficult, but I imagine as a noble, you won't have much trouble getting your hands on such things.
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Re: To Live as an Emperor of Han or as Commonfolk of Today?

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Fri Mar 15, 2019 5:42 pm

Possible past times I'm aware of: Literary (study, writing texts, poetry, music, not much of novels), sports (hunting, falcon, football though I suspect that was not considered suitable for a emperor), Go chess, music, watching dancers rather then dancing, pleasures of the flesh like food, architecture if your an emperor (expect those to be opposed), pleasure parks if your an emperor, sightseeing, ritual/ceremony (tough luck if not your sort of thing on that one though), social stuff (meeting with friends, drinks/banquets, discussions but this is also linked work). However gentry will demand all of these be done in moderation and one suspects ideally never for pleasure parks (since that allows you to get away from them) and will want your reading to be of appropriate things. I would guess a Zither would be ok

from talking to your family and friends, to writing and reading, to entertainment like swordplay, and I don't see what would stop you from just going out wherever on a journey or walk
an add social community idea

Being Emperor puts a limit on the first, not sure you can do swordplay and yeah, you can't go on a walk as would be a nightmare for everyone. Your going to be inside your palace bar events or planned trips (pleasure parks were partly about getting away from your court for a few days as much as the parks) to tour areas or rituals or to your parks. If just noble, you probably might not be 100% approved on sword play but yes rest is fine

You were talking about " It actually almost sounds awesome to be forced to have little to do but read." If we are talking about general enjoyment, I don't mean to paint it as a horrific horror of boredom but notably some Kings of Wei and Han got very very bored when restricted to "entrainment" and estate management. It would be restrictive (even just the types of books one can read) and in some ways, similar to pre radio days with more restrictions. One would also note that such lifestyles get abandoned very quickly generally when TV's come in, there may be an element of a lot of hobbies were less enjoyment (as well as the simpler just not as fun) but better then the alternatives of nothing.

Generally I pick modern day due to technology and medicine, I know there are downsides to the modern day (less on social though) and we aren't an englightened society and there are things we have lost from the past (some without needing such a trade off) but I tend to go with last 100 years when thinking on that.

I have been without power for an actual week, and worse it was in the midst of summer in the worst of the blazing heat. Water was gone almost everywhere so we had to resort to melting ice for water. I must say I didn't mind all the reading, but it's just more tempting to watching videos as they are much more stimulated to me when given the option. But had I never known that was an option, I think reading would suffice just fine. Although it was just a week, a lot of the time was just spent talking to the family, the time didn't seem to be agonizingly slow and I don't think it was too unenjoyable to just read, especially in the topics I was interested in. Now it is true that access to the works would be a little more difficult, but I imagine as a noble, you won't have much trouble getting your hands on such things.


Sounds horrible, sorry you had that. I find any hobby if "only thing on offer" (including videos), I get frustrated even if I love it.

In terms of what works you could get, easy enough if socially approved but could be an issue if it fell out of the classics and approved texts.
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