Chapter 7: The most vicious is woman’s heart – Part 3

What is intriguing to observe, though, is how much demonic energy women can arouse when under competition among each other. Here again, history and arts abound with exam­ples and stories:

Two women plac’d together makes cold weather.

William Shakespeare, Henry VIII

There is nothing a woman enjoys so much as victory over another woman.

Christopher Hampton / Choderlos de Laclos, Dangerous Liaisons (film adaptation)

In this context, one woman that could be remembered as the mother of all hellcats is Agrip­pina the Younger. No less than 10 murders or executions can be charged to her account, including that of one rival for the Roman Emperor Claudius’ hand (before their marriage), one noblewoman (because Claudius had commented on her beauty), and the mother of her long-time enemy Valeria Messalina (quite a hellish personage herself)[1]. Memorable psychological feuds are also compellingly described, respectively interpreted in The Witches of Eastwick (by John Updike), Carrie (by Stephen King), ZHANG Yimou’s Raise the Red Lantern (大红灯笼高高挂, Dà Hóng Dēnglóng Gāogāo Guà), Working Girl, or in the television series Dynasty. If readers look around or think about their own past, they might also find examples of cat-fights they have witnessed.

It does initially appear quite surprising or counter-intuitive that women would feel compe­titive, envious, even distrustful of each other. After all, females have been oppressed by men for thousands of years. So with the advent of feminism, becoming conscious of the dange­rous illusions of patriarchy, they should appreciate the necessity and the benefits of protec­ting each other. Given the traditional social pressures to be a “good girl”, and women’s innate gentleness and generosity, camaraderie and support should come without effort, one would think. But the opposite is often the case, even if many will not admit it openly. In spite of the romanticisation of values such as female solidarity, friendship, “Girl Power”, sis­terhood, etc. the apparent intimacy is nothing but a façade. Sentiments like bitterness, anger, or resent­ment towards female fellows remain more the rule than the exception, indicating a clear undercurrent of aggression, meanness, and negativity that is tormenting the entire gender. According to a survey carried out in the United States, 88 percent of the respondents felt some kind of darkness lurking beneath the surface of their friendships. Furthermore, 88 percent, respectively 85 percent of the same women claimed that they had experienced “palpable emotional wounding”, respectively suffered “serious, life-altering knocks” at the hands of their female friends or other women.[2] Another US study esta­blished that 90 per­cent of the 500 surveyed individuals acknowledged they were or had been envious of other women in their lives, while for 65 percent the indirect object of their bitter­ness had been their own sister or best friend. Adding insult to injury in quite a literal sense, 25 per­cent declared that they had stolen a friend’s husband, boyfriend, lover or job. Inver­sely, 80 percent, respec­tively 40 percent, of the interviewees reported having been the vic­tims of another female’s jealousy, respectively theft of partner or employment.[3]


Notes

[1]    Not to mention the poisoning of Claudius himself, and of another husband. Notice that Agrippina the Younger is none other than the mater of Emperor Nero, one of the most sanguinary figures in History.

[2]    Cited in: Valen (2010)

[3]    Cited in: Barash (2006)

Chapter 7: The most vicious is woman’s heart – Part 2

The Marquise de Merteuil in Choderlos de Laclos’ The Dangerous Liaisons personifies another breed of fiendish women. With her razor sharp, cool and calculating mind, she is quite different from the hot-tempered, sometimes hysterical, vixens or harpies commonly depicted in novels or films. The deep corruption of her soul comes to light through different immoral conducts fuelled by hatred, jealousy, and the thirst for vengeance. The list begins with a suggestion to her pen friend and ex-fancy man, the Vicomte de Valmont, to corrupt a young girl, freshly released from a convent, promised to Merteuil’s recent lover who pre­viously deserted her. She reiterates a similar proposal with another lady, underwritten with the offer to Valmont that she (Merteuil) will spend the night with him if he succeeds in sedu­cing and bedding that lady, the Présidente de Tourvel. Things turn sour when a green-eyed Marquise persuades him to discard Tourvel, meanwhile breaking her word and revo­king her lewd promise. A glamorous, sensualist and narcissistic seductress, she is constantly animated by a red-hot and ravenous passion that drives her to abandon herself to vice. All her actions are marked by the determination to dominate, ingratiate and humiliate everyone around her, men and women alike. The way she lives her debauchery is not a game like it is the case for Valmont. Instead, she sees it is a means to gain equivalence with men. Further­more, she despises anything related to love as it allows males to take control and exercise power over females – all expressions of her feminist streak. Nonetheless, her corres­pon­dence with Valmont is overrun with hedonism: The sensation of superiority, the delight to let others suffer, and last but not least, the consummation of her boundless aphrodisia.

More classical archetypes of shrew females can be found for example in literary works such as Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (nasty aunt, cousins, teacher, etc.), L’Enfant by Jules Valles (despicable mother), Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (tormenting housekeeper), or One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey (tyrannical nurse). Finally, notable films also recount stories where the main antagonist is a female, for example, All about Eve (dupli­ci­tous admirer), Fatal Attraction (maniac lover), or The Devil Wears Prada (perni­cious boss).

Yet whoever believes that viragos or other harridans only exist in fiction should be taught differently. History itself tells us how ruthless, monstrous or vicious women can be. How could one ever forget the atrocities associated with rulers such as Queen Mary I (who ordered the so-called Marian Persecutions against religious reformers, Protestants, and other dissenters, which cost her the epithet “Bloody Mary”), Queen Elizabeth I (who had count­less Catholics murdered in Ireland and England, instructed piracy, and involved her country into slave trading), Queen Ranavalona I of Madagascar (who persecuted and tried to exter­minate the Christian population in her kingdom), Empress Dowager Cixi (慈禧太后, Cíxǐ Tàihòu, a rigid and arrogant despot who is commonly made responsible for the fall of the Qing dynasty, which lasted from 1644 to 1912, and thus the end of Imperial China), Irma Grese (a particularly dedicated and cruel guard at Nazi concentration camps, accused of maltreating, arbitrarily shooting and selecting prisoners for the gas chamber), or Jiāng Qīng (江青, MAO Zedong’s fourth and last wife, who is regarded as the driving force that propelled the Cultural Revolution).

One could object that utilising queens and other sovereigns to illustrate the perversity of women is rather unfair. Such criticism is certainly not unjustified, considering the excep­tional character of the authority position (monarchy, totalitarianism, etc.) they possessed and of the environmental conditions (wars, revolutions, religious tensions, etc.) they had to rule under. Individuals with such influence and obligations cannot possibly be conceived as repre­sentative of an entire gender, nor could their function be compared with the traditional gender roles. Moreover, the past and the present prove that men are equally capable of perpetrating similar massacres, if not worse. The point here, however, is to show that mischief knows no sex. Given the circumstances, women may be just as prone to corruption (by power, greed, ideology, etc.) as men, in spite of their natural fostering, caring and loving dispositions.

Chapter 7: The most vicious is woman’s heart

最毒妇人心
zuì dú fù rén xīn

The previous two chapters already set a rather foul flavour on how men view and treat women. Alas, this section is not going to bring about any betterment. On the contrary, this locution[1] is in all likelihood one of the most misogynistic in the entire collection. It is regu­larly brought as a catch-all phrase for everything truly evil males see in the opposite sex, inclu­ding malice, malignancy, malevolence, maleficence, and so forth. An equivalent Chi­nese proverb casting a similar bad light on manhood specifically cannot be found, at least not any that carries such a degree of virulence. Some readers might be offended or at least will not agree with the idea verbalised here. Yet it has to be included in the develop­ment of the discourse, not only as a way to demonstrate how disdainful certain human beings, or even entire civilisations can be, but also because it contains a few valuable insights about the beha­viour and tactics used by women in the mating game.

Since the dawn of time, a lot of effort has been expended to make women look bad in one way or another.[2] In the Chinese language, for example, numerous words denoting sins and other forms of bad things, deeds or characteristics comprise the character for “female” or “woman” (女, nǚ) as radical. For instance, the adjectives “evil” or “bewitching” as well as their embodied forms “demon” or “goblin” are written as 妖 (yāo), an amalgamation of 女 and 夭 (ǎo). Similarly, “to flatter” (in both positive and negative senses), 媚 (mèi), is com­po­sed of 女 and 眉 (méi), while “to envy” or “to be jealous”, 嫉妒 (jí dù), combines 女 and 疾 (jí, which interestingly, means “disease” or “illness”) on one hand plus 女 and 户 (hù) on the other. The most extreme illustration is provided with the term for “wicked”, “trea­cherous”, “traitor” or “rape”, which in Traditional Chinese is graphically spelt like a “tri­ple female”, i.e., 姦 (jiān; 奸in Simplified Chinese).

In addition, countless quotes from philosophers and poets across epochs and cultures testify to a literary “woman-bashing” as it was popular among many scholars for several centuries. Here a few specimens:

What mighty woes

To thy imperial race from woman rose.

Homer, The Odyssey (Alexander Pope’s translation)

There is no worse evil than a bad woman; and nothing has ever been produced better than a good one.

Euripides, Melanippe

Let man fear woman when she hateth: for man in his innermost soul is merely evil; woman, however, is mean.[3]

Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

For the female of the species is more deadly than the male.

Rudyard Kipling, The Female of the Species

Fairy tales, plays, or novels also make use of the stereotypical evil woman. One only needs to recall that many famous bedtime stories – those children get to listen to the most often – depict females (queens, witches, stepmothers, sisters, etc.) as the main villain.[4] Likewise, some of the fiercest and darkest characters in classical literature are women, as for example William Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth. Not only does she incite her husband to commit regicide, but the methods she employs are particularly heinous and manipulative. Although she cannot be considered as the originator of the idea, she is the one to plot the crime, and then naggingly encourages Macbeth to execute the murder. However, it is not before she challenges his manhood (by instructing him that he will only be a man in her eyes if he kills King Duncan) that he finally does. Critics have argued that Lady Macbeth does nothing but suppress her own feminine traits and instincts (e.g., empathy, nurturance, and fragility) and trade them against masculine ones, such as ambition, mercilessness, and the resolute pursuit of power. Nevertheless, despite her repeated striving to adopt a male mentality, her uncons­cious, yet unmistakable, femininity bubbles to the surface at regular intervals.


Notes

[1] The expression itself is quoted from a tale in Líng Méngchū’s (凌濛初) collection of short stories Slapping the Table in Amazement, also known as Amazing Tales (Series II, Volume 10, in Chinese: 二刻拍案惊奇, èr kè pāi àn jīng qí, 卷十 赵五虎合计挑家衅 莫大郎立地散神奸, juàn shí, zhào wǔ hǔ hé jì tiǎo jiā xìn, mò dà láng lì dì sàn shén jiān). Written in vernacular Chinese and employing vivid, straightforward descriptions of characters, the plots typically revolve around women’s fate, their miserable existence, their daring pursuit of genuine love and happiness, or their implications in legal disputes. The phrase used here offers a testimony of what social relationships among women in a polygamous society may have looked like at that time.

[2]    Notice that this section does not mention any references from religious texts. This omission is deliberate.

[3]    Original: “Der Mann fürchte sich vor dem Weibe, wenn es hasst: denn der Mann ist im Grunde der Seele nur böse, das Weib aber ist dort schlecht.”

[4]    This is, for instance, the case in Alice in Wonderland, Cinderella, Hansel & Gretel, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, The Hundred and One Dalmatians, The Little Mermaid, The Snow Queen, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, etc.

Chapter 6: A honeyed mouth hides a daggered heart – Part 3

The plan of action that only the most ruthless cads use (and that requires the highest level of sophistication) involves the exaggeration of their good faith. In their endeavour to beguile women, they appear to be civilised and genteel than they are in reality, display more consi­deration and thoughtfulness than they usually do, and pretend to be more soft or com­pro­mising than they actually. The reason why this ruse works so well on women is because such demonstration of candour, openness, and forthrightness carries the message that the man is not looking for an ephemeral love story, but is rather seeking to settle down with a permanent mate. The willingness to act himself and to communicate his feelings to her in a direct and outspoken fashion – these are just the signals a woman needs in order to appraise a prospective partner’s characteristics so that she can feel confident about his intentions.[1]

Another standard manoeuvre playboys like to utilise is the amplification of their emotional commitment towards the woman they desire. The modus operandi is quite simple: By expres­sing feelings of involvement and intimacy or by uttering formulae like “I love you”, “I miss you”, “I want to spend the rest of my life with you”, etc. they intend to excite their prey’s sensations, thereby boosting the probability of sexual intercourse. Although men do not necessarily have to go so far in their choice of words, the calculation is likely to pay off, because the illusion is totally in line with both women’s expectation to gain access to his assets (exclusively, if possible) and their ideal of the integration of sex, romance and love. It is therefore not surprising to see that many people have tried this twist. In a survey among college students, 71 percent of the male admitted that had “exaggerated the depth of their feelings for a woman in order to have sex with her” (versus only 39 percent of the women asked). But even this number seems to be low compared to the 97 percent of women who declared to have been the object of that same tactic (i.e., that “a man had ever deceived them by his exaggeration of the depth of his feelings in order to have sex with her”) at the hands of men.[2]

Inversely, women’s knowledge of a man’s prior commitment is commonly recognised as being a main impediment in the seduction process. Any indication that his resources may already be allocated elsewhere (i.e., to another female or to her children) interferes with his capability to attract partners, even free-and-easy ones. With women having a clear prefe­rence for long-term engagements, marital obligations, in particular, become liabilities in the hunt for casual sex and obviously weaken his charm and desirability as a mate. Most men are fully aware of this detail, so married regulars of single bars normally ensure, as a matter of precaution, to remove their wedding rings before entering the premises. In the same spirit, it was established that the single most effective technique among men to deni­grate competitors and to make these less attractive to women, was to tell everyone that a rival already had a serious girlfriend.[3]

Given the pressures and built-in urges to procreate, it appears, from an evolutionary per­spective, that men have no choice but to falsely inflate their resources and amplify other requi­red traits. This has lead anthropologists to think that natural selection provided an advantage to men who were particularly skilled at misleading women and tempting them into sexual intercourse. In the face of so much knavery and perfidy, females developed their own protective devices designed for detecting deception. And so they adapted to this task and became very good at spotting male lies and overstatements, which now enables them to discover insincerity and penetrate any disguise. It has indeed been established that women have evolved a great sensitivity to lies. They do that by sensing subtle behavioural irregu­la­rities, noticing the fastest dart of an eye, or spotting contradictions when the spoken mes­sage of their interlocutor does not match the expression in his glance. Therefore, male rea­ders out there should make no mistake: Thanks to the millennia-long training of their brain, women are true experts in reading faces, interpreting the tone of voice, decoding non-verbal gestures, assessing emotional nuance, and so on.[4] Today it is no exaggeration to say that the probability for a man of being caught lying when he is just trying to score with a girl is fairly high – even if she does not want to admit it (to) herself. But this is another story.

And as things happen in the game of evolution, the match between men and women does not end here. While females brought forth advanced deception detection skills, they exerted strong pressure on men to become slicker and better pretenders. And thus keeps going the co-evolutionary upgrade, with each incremental enhancement in one sex bringing about a reciprocal mutation (in psychological terms) in the other. Adaptation after adaptation, men and women mutually assist each other in sharpening their deceptive faculty on the one hand and their counter-deceptive senses and intelligence on the other.[5] The very existence of the present book offers the best proof that the biological arms build-up between men and women still persists. As long as the collision of both genders’ sexual strategies is not resol­ved, there are excellent reasons to believe that this arms race will continue to be fought out at full strength for the sake of human progress.

 

Related proverbs and citations:

狗嘴里吐不出象牙

gǒu zuǐ lǐ tǔ bù chū xiàng yá

A dog’s mouth emits no ivory.

Look not for musk in dog’s kennel. An enemy’s mouth seldom speaks well. A filthy mouth cannot utter decent language.

黄鼠狼给鸡拜年没安好心

huáng shŭ láng gĕi jī bài nián méi ān hăo xīn

Not for nothing does a weasel pay a New Year visit to a chick.

Not with the best intentions.

过河拆桥

guò hé chāi qiáo

Dismantle the bridge after crossing it. Remove the bridge after crossing the river.

Be ungrateful and leave one’s benefactor in the lurch. Cast somebody aside when he has served one’s purpose. Discard one’s helpers after their help is made use of.

醉翁之意不在酒

zuì wēng zhī yì bú zài jiǔ

The drunken gentleman’s desire is not about the wine.

Kissing the baby for the nurse.

To have ulterior motives.

麻杆打狼—两头怕

má gǎn dǎ láng—liǎng tóu pà

Fight a wolf with a flex stalk.

Refers to situations where each party is fearful of the other.

男人靠得住, 母猪会上树

nán rén kào de zhù, mŭ zhū huì shàng shù

Reliable men are as rare as flying pigs.

用人不疑,疑人不用

yòng rén bù yí, yí rén bù yòng

Don’t suspect someone you employ, but if one is suspicious, don’t employ him.

I trust those who are of use to me.

上梁不正下梁歪

shàng liáng bú zhèng xià liáng wāi

If the upper beam is not straight, the lower ones will go aslant.

A crooked stick will have a crooked shadow. A fish rots from the head down.

If a leader sets a bad example, it will be followed by his subordinates.



Notes

[1]    Buss (2003), pp. 103-105

[2]    Cited in: Buss (2003), p. 154

[3]    Cited in: Buss (2003), p. 106

[4]    Brizendine (2006), pp. 65, 119

[5]    Buss (2000), pp. 44-46

Chapter 6: A honeyed mouth hides a daggered heart – Part 2

Such preferences, choices and behaviours represent age-old instincts, and, as such, have not been installed in us accidentally. They are in effect the result of the human brain’s wiring, a process that started much earlier than our civilisation as we know it today. It is precisely this neurological set-up that coerces us to have the same aspirations and predilections as our ancestors. In other words, males and females of the 21st century are conditioned to seek exactly what their forefathers and foremothers sought – at least when it comes to mating strategies, and related issues such as relationships, love, sex, etc. Although this may sound outrageous and instigate the most ardent indignation among many people, the fact of the matter is that men continue to want as much sex as possible with as many different women as possible, at any time, in any place, under almost any circumstance. The origins and purpose of such impulses are rather straightforward: Since the dawn of man, males have been programmed to perpetuate our species, which they need to (be able to) do that without regard to drawbacks and dangers. They had to be ready to go whenever and wherever a coupling opportunity came up, even in the presence of potential enemies. By the same token, they could not afford to be easily distracted but had to keep their eye on the ball. Under such conditions, the whole contest did not leave much room for courting, foreplay or gentle stroking – much to the defeat of their partners.

Indeed, this markedly physical and brute conception of sex is in complete dissonance with women’s needs. Unlike men, their role was not only to procreate but also to nurture the off­spring, protect and raise them. Accordingly, their primary drive was to be guardians and care­takers, which also reflected on their own desires. In view of all the love and devo­tion they provide to their progeny, and given the physical sacrifices and hardships they have to undergo during pregnancy, delivery and mothering, it is only normal that they would expect similar compassion and attention from the man partly responsible for all this trouble. As their lust is closely linked to their emotions in general, their willingness to sleep with a man will depend not least on his skills and promises in this respect. At this junction, it is noteworthy to mention that all the new freedoms women now enjoy may have altered many aspects of sexual behaviour, but did certainly not obliterate the differences in how men and women express, explore, and live their own sexualities. Neither the increasing of their eco­nomic independence, the equality they obtained in many areas, nor the partial legalisation of abortion, the availability of effective and convenient contraceptives, etc. – none of these deve­lopments managed to let women re-define their criteria for evaluating good sex. Admit­tedly, more and more women pursue promiscuous lifestyles, whilst eroticism and sexuality are omnipresent and openly discussed in the media. But such motivations usually stem from curiosity and the wish to experiment with different partners in different situations in order to find out what they really like and dislike. However, the exposure to images of fornication and lures of free love have not deterred them from their deep primary dream to recombine sex with emotions. What was true for troglodytes 100,000 years ago is still true for 21st century housewives (desperate or not), successful businesswomen, female celebrities, etc. In other words, the common idea that a woman’s sex drive is stronger than that of her mother, grandmother or any of ancestors thousands of years ago could not be further from the truth.[1],[2]

Under such an omen, clashes are bound to occur. But while it seems reasonable to accept our mutual incompatibility yet trying our best to reconcile differences, problems are not infrequently exacerbated by the misleading behaviour of some men. The number of famous philanderers is countless, but a man does don’t have to be as productive as Casanova, Don Juan, or the 2nd Earl of Rochester, nor as unscrupulous as Lothario, the Vicomte de Valmont, or an incubus to fall into that category. The objective of such bounders are just as stark as clear: Seduction and abandonment. By feigning honourable values such as passion, courtesy and generosity, they entice women into thinking that they are interested in starting a relationship when they are absolutely not. They mimic what women look for in a husband, for instance, benevolence, concern and long-term devotion, but in fact what they are after are brief sexual liaisons solely.

Their seduction tricks are quite elementary. The simplest one is to overemphasise ones wealth, respectively the ability to generate it. A typical Corinthian will spend money very easily, inviting his target to posh restaurants, greasing her palm with expensive gifts, or otherwise channelling resources to her. In principle, this is an absolutely legitimate and accep­table tactic. In many species, males do show off their potential for investment in order to draw mates’ attention. They will provide food and the female can foresee what she is getting. Problems emerge when the males first inseminate the female but are then unwilling to deliver what they promised or advertised. Or worse, when they take back the food after the copulation is complete, as it happens with some male insects, who employ the same resource to court several females. This sounds like an extreme case of sexual chicanery, but how many women have been dumped by a rascal after they jazzed for the first time, which, incidentally, happened after he took her to a nice bistro or cooked for her at home? And what about those wolves who use designer clothes or flashy sports cars to lure round-eyed ladies into their lair?


Notes

[1]    Pease / Pease (2009), pp. 47-49

[2]    Townsend (1998), p. 16

Chapter 6: A honeyed mouth hides a daggered heart

口蜜腹剑
kǒu mì fù jiàn

Two of the previous chapters highlighted and elucidated the differences between human male and female sex drives. Given the profound discrepancies in natural states of arousal, triggers, fantasies, motivations, etc. it appears only natural that collisions would emerge, especially when the two protagonists, for example, a husband and his wife, are not aware of these. Women blame men for being “like animals”, for wanting “only one thing”, or for treating them as “sex objects”, while men will accuse women “never to take the initiative” or to “offer sex only in exchange for other favours”. For some, such words constitute an alibi for various sexist jokes or books, but one has to recognise that these can also lead to some more serious symptoms of indisposition between the sexes, involving general feelings of hypocrisy, double-dealing, or outright manipulation. This section takes a closer look at such deceitful behaviours from males and discusses how females are coping with these. The proverb chosen is commonly invoked in a context of personal subterfuge, business fraud, or diplomatic bluff,[1] but it can certainly also be applied in the case of gender conflicts. Depen­ding on the nature or intensity of the contention and on how vicious the scoundrel(s) need to be portrayed, one can also use the following translations: A honey tongue; a heart of gall; a cruel heart under the cover of sugar-coated words; a mouth that praises and a hand that kills; give somebody sweet talk when there’s hatred in the heart; have honey on one’s lips and murder in one’s heart; with peace on one’s tongue and guns in one’s pocket; beware of the kiss of death…

As exemplified above, there are several aspects of sexuality in which men and women differ significantly. First of all, men generally have a much higher sex drive than most women. Not only do they think about sex much more often (according to a study at the Kinsey Institute 37 percent of them do so every 30 minutes, compared to only 11 percent of women[2]), they are also much quicker in getting aroused and in making the decision to have intercourse with someone. In this regard, a study from 1996 determined that women found it acceptable to become intimate with a new partner after about 15 to 18 dates, while men were less patient to close up with the second sex after 9 to 11 encounters.[3] Furthermore, men expect more bodily interaction in casual meetings with women as a general rule and are more or less always ready to have a go at it. This impulse is no more than the psycho­logical answer to the inherent requirement to diversify one’s chances and maximise the num­ber of mates, and therefore of potential children. In the race for genetic survival, time is noo­kie. The fewer time males allow to elapse before the next coitus, the more females they can tread. Therefore, men have the best incentive in the world to hurry up and not to waste time before consummating a new relationship.

Another major point of distinctness is related to how males and females are stimulated: Through their eyes for the former (explaining the universal popularity of pornography) and through their ears for the latter (hence the proverbial premonition against “honeyed words”). This phenomenon is also partly connected to the fact that men display a stronger desire for sexual diversity, whereas women attach great importance to feelings, spiritual connection, emotional involvement, or, ideally, love.


Notes

[1] This locution can be retraced to Sīmǎ Guāng (司马光), historian, scholar, and high chancellor of the Song dynasty (AD 960–1279). The sovereign of that time, Emperor Yīngzōng of Sòng (宋英宗), commissioned him with the compilation of a universal history of China, now known as the Zīzhì Tōngjiàn (资治通鉴, literally: “Comprehensive Mirror in Aid of Governance”. The reference work makes mention of an official of the Tang dynasty (618–690 and 705–907 AD), Lǐ Línfǔ (李林甫), who served as a chancellor for 18 years (734–752) – one of the longest terms around that time. Infamous for his flattery of the emperor and his skill in the political scene, his name became a synonym of treachery and perfidy. His jealousy of any potential political challengers was as notorious as his schemes to cut off routes for his rivals (which included, among others, the circulation of false accusations against other officials). Owing to this reputation, Lǐ Línfǔ exemplifies the hypocrisy that was common practice in the imperial court, where scholars were stabbing one another in the back, while keeping a smile on their faces: “尤忌文学之士,或阳与之善,啖以甘言而阴陷之。世谓李林 甫’口有蜜,腹有剑’。” (yóu jì wén xué zhī shì, huò yáng yǔ zhī shàn, dàn yǐ gān yán ér yīn xiàn zhī. shì wèi lǐ lín fǔ ‘kǒu yǒu mì, fù yǒu jiàn’).

[2]    Cited in: Pease / Pease (1999), p. 223

[3]    Cited in: Pines (2005), p. 97