Rome rose in power,
and many times it raised its whip.
They killed 500,000,
the city walls circled in blood…
I personally come to see the ruins of the temple,
the Chinese should beware of the present state of the Jews.
Their precious treasures have been taken to Rome,
the aching hearts are difficult to forget.
Kang sees the history of the Jewish people as a warning to the Chinese. After an intensely nationalistic uprising at Masada, the state of the ancient Israelites was destroyed and the Jewish people limped on only as a diaspora. For Kang, the fate of the Jews foreshadowed the fate of China. The Jews had come to believe in their magnificence and were unwilling to look beyond their borders and recognize that the world around them was changing. They were too enamored with nationalism to recognize the threat of a growing Rome.
The Wailing Wall, where Jewish men pray around the dilapidated remains of a once-great temple built by Solomon, embodies the threats of nationalism. Kang has already seen China’s imperial treasures scattered throughout Western museums, just as happened with the Jews. Kang worried that nationalism might continue to blind China to the threat that outsiders — both their military strength but also their ideas — might pose to the integrity of the Chinese state.
Reading about China’s Wolf Warrior Diplomacy, I have been thinking a great deal about Kang Youwei. What makes China stronger: turning toward nationalism, or learning from the rest of the world? It is not hard to guess how Kang would have answered.