毋忘在莒(Pinyin: Wu Wang Zai Ju) is a famous Chinese idiom (成語, Pinyin: Cheng Yu). It is sort of like the Latin idiom left in the European language. Most are derived from some ancient classic literature and most have a vivid story that usually is followed by an implication that could be generalized for a broader extrapolated definition. This particular one is derived from the good old Spring and Autumn period (772BC to 403BC) and the Warring States period right after (403BC to 221BC). Unlike most Chinese idioms, 毋忘在莒 strangely has actually two stories of origin, which gave this idiom two different meanings, though somewhat related to each other.
The first story of origin came from the early Spring and Autumn period. The story goes when The Duke Huan of Qi, the first super power emerged since the demise of Zhou King’s power over vast amount of feudal lords in China in the Eastern state of Qi, took shelter in the state of Ju when he was persecuted in a bloody coup by his uncle. Later on another coup took place over Qi’s court and he got to become the Duke of Qi and started building up the state with reform and dedication. Years passed on since his days as a helpless young heir in the state of Ju, he started to really enjoy the good old Duke’s life. One day he was holding a banquet and asked everybody to drink together with him. Everybody did so except one guy. The guy is named Bao Shuya, who was the one saved his ass and took him to Ju as a political asylum seeker and later on helped him regain his lordship. Duke’s displeased and asked why he’s not drinking. Loyal as he was, he went straight, “My lord, haven’t you forgotten the old humble days in Ju when you are enjoying drinks all the time?” There came the idiom, which literally means “do not forget what happened in the State of Ju”. This story was consolidated into this 4-character idiom and has the original meaning of not forgetting the humble past and in a place like China where the history is considered the backbone of its civilization (all through Chinese history except Yuan, Qing and post-Qing era emperors or powerful warlords would use the claim of history as his casus-belli for wars and the right to govern), it later gets the meaning to remind people never forget about history when you want to do or claim something.
The second story of origin came almost 400 years later, when the Duke of Qi title was usurped by the local aristocratic family of Tian. In 284BC State of Qi was fucked big time by the awesome general Yue Yi from the State of Yan. Qi was on the verge of complete obliteration by Yan and its allies, only leaving two cities Jimo and Ju (the original State of Ju was annexed by Qi and later became part of Qi) intact from the enemy’s aggression. But history didn’t let Qi just disappear like this, a brilliant general Tian Dan managed the mission impossible and started gaining momentum from these two remaining cities and spent the next 5 years to recover virtually all the lost land. Hence comes this idiom and be bestowed the meaning of irredentism, the drive for irredentism. Chiang Kai-shek was a big fan of this meaning and carved this idiom everywhere and named lots of places in Taiwan after the state of Ju, hoping one day he might be the magical Tian Dan to recover the mainland China, which of course never happen.
Those two meanings are very much related to each other. Often time you claim for irredentism based on historical rights: this piece of land was farmed by my people and still the people there are my people and I shall grab it back! or my people used to govern over this piece of land and now I share resume the legacy of my ancestor and take over the land! The former case might be more familiar in European history whereas the later are more seen in Chinese history and the Jews. Those concepts exist way before the introduction of modern nationalism, but the problem surface when the historic claim don’t match with the “lost land” you deem to recover. Like Ruthenian’s claim over Crimea, or Argentinian’s claim over Falklands Island.
But that is of course from the bigoted point of view from us third party observers. Imagine you are from a fucked up country or belonging to a fucked up ethnicity that has very shitty history of glory or power both in the past and present being, what you gotta do to justify your fucked up irredentism? Only one way, re-define your idea of the State of Ju. The Republic of Macedonia believe firmly that their historic claim is directly inherent from Alexander the Great from the Kingdom of Macedon. Hence they built up the world’s biggest Alexsander the Great’s statue in their glorious capital Skopje. You think Greece was the one who got pissed the most? Think about the Bulgarians. The Serbs got lucky to exert governance over the land briefly, but it was the Bulgarian who actually live off this ancient semi-barbarian land of Macedon long since the Bulgars fucked the Thracian and the Byzantine Greeks. Of course such things are blurred out together with the notion of Bulgaria in their universal textbook since 20 years ago. And nowadays young peeps in Skopje only thinks everything comes from Macedonia, period.
Then you got another new kid on the block, the so-called Ukrainian but in fact Ruthenian. Being a member of eastern Slav means your history is deeply mingled with the Russians, Orthodox and such. And that is a dead sin for a new country like Ukraine since 1991. As part of thoughtpolice campaign, the textbook has been deliberately altered since the ealry 90s so that the notion of Ukrainian people suddenly stand out as the poor victims of the evil Poles, Lithuanians, Tartars, and most recently the Muscovites. Then you got the notion that Russians are Finno-Uralic Rus-wannabe with absolutely no rights for the claim of the very historical and cultural center of the glorious Kievan Rus. And then, it becomes the common sense for the young generation in Kiev and specially in Lviv. So you got a revolution based solely on the generation of this whacked idea and bang, what’s not good for Russian must be good for the American! Just like how NATO fucked Serbians in Krajina and Kosovo, Ukraine is a noble notion, hence the notion of out-of-blue “Ukrainian nationalism”.
There are so many examples that history got interpreted in a fucked up way by small newly-born counties dying to create their nationalism myth. You got Korea, Slovakia and those wannabes like Galicia, Islas Malvinas, and the most irriating to me personally, Taiwan and so on. Actually those little kids could flirt with nationalism as much as they want, just please don’t tweak the history and go straightforward like “I hate Muscovite accent and I want only Ruthenian!”, or “I hate Mandarin speaking and hail the Cantonese!”. I would have been much more sympathetic to that casus belli. After all, history claim is a sham. Since nowadays you can’t perform the scorch earth of thorough forcible migration like the Post WWII Eastern Europe, local authority becomes the king. If they are taught to speak Ruthenian, then they are Ukrainians. If you little Chechen rat wants Emir of Chechnya, I’ve got machine guns so make a wise choice! If you speak Mandarin and want Chinese pigs out of Taiwan, well, I won’t go there for sure.