『百家講壇』(“Lecture Room”) is a very good series, where lecturers talk about history (historical events, people, canonical texts).
What’s interesting is how some of the topics may be interpreted to fit today’s situation. In Professor 韓昇(Han, Sheng) of 復旦大學(FuhTan University) presents his lecture on 唐太宗 李世民 (Emperor Taizong of Tang Dynasty, Li, Shi-min):
In contrasting the 唐朝(Tang Dynasty) to the 隋朝(Sui Dynasty), Professor Han notes how even though the Sui was very rich, they constantly had one big campaign followed by another, which never gave people a chance to take a catch their breath. Every campaign (construction or military) required a lot of money. The taxation on the people became too much to bear, but the Emperor Yang of Sui kept pushing for the projects in hopes that the people would understand, because everything was an investment towards the future. They didn’t, and it helped pave the way for a new dynasty to replace them. You can also make allegories to China’s search to improve it’s living conditions, by getting rich and opening up economically, but in turn destroying its own environment.
We need to be very careful of giving such allegories though. 吳晗(Wu, Han)wrote a play called 『海瑞罷官』(“Hai, Rui’s Dismissal”) about a 明朝 (Ming Dynasty) official, 海瑞(Hai, Rui) –not to be mistaken for a basketball player with the same name. In short the story goes: “Emperor dismisses 海瑞(Hai, Rui) for speaking his mind, going out of his way to impeach the emperor. Sentenced to death.” The significance of this play, was that 姚文元(Yao, Wen-Yuan), a member of the 四人幫(Gang of Four), linked the play to 毛澤東(Mao, Ze-dong)‘s dismissal of 彭德懷(Peng, De-Huai). This led a campaign of terror against the support of Mao’s decision for the dismissal (and every other decision he made), versus those “counter-revolutionaries” who dared to think otherwise. This is what we now know as the 『文化大革命』(“Cultural Revolution”).