The pace of my writing has slowed to a crawl. The reason is that I'm doing a lot of research and want to get things sorted about before I press forward.
Specifically, I've been digging into Chinese religion and philosophy because I think these are vital reasons for the historically poor performance of their military. Faith can inspire otherwise mediocre troops to incredible feats of heroism.
Conversely, massive armies can simply collapse if they lose confidence in their cause.
I just finished the Analects of Confucius, which I found quite interesting. This collection of short sayings is part of the foundation of Chinese culture. The book is relatively short, somewhat repetitive, and is essentially a set of short vignettes or one sentence statements about moral problems, what constitutes virtue and how the world should work.
Approaching it from a Catholic perspective, it seems very heavy on outward forms, and while it contains a version of the Golden Rule, this sentiment is surrounded by a lot of ethically troubling ideas.
First and foremost, it is elitist to the core, and takes for granted that rulers are just inherently better than the common people. True, it admonishes the ruling class to care for them, makes a point about working for the good of humanity, but there's no imperative attached to this.
To put it another way, salvation (such as it is), is generated within oneself, not achieved by divine grace. The gods are owed rituals, sacrifices and all must be done very properly with respect and formality. If not, calamities can result.
However, there is also a notion of "destiny," which means that even noble and good people can die without warning because Heaven has decreed that fate for them. One can never prevail against fate.
This is where fortune-telling comes into play. This is also a large part of traditional Chinese culture, and if one can know one's destiny, it obviously is helpful (certainly where life insurance is concerned).
Honestly, it reminds me very much Calvinism, with the "gentleman scholar" assuming the role of the Elect. The vast majority of Chinese have no hope of joining this class, and those that are privileged with literacy and leisure time are obviously chosen by fate to be above everyone else. That is their destiny.
So it is that while Confucius urges humility and benevolence to the poor, they are also expected to obey their betters, who - just as the Calvinists believe - are singled out by Heaven with unique blessings.
This surely helped create the attitude that Europeans described as "fatalism," a sense among the Chinese elite that events were beyond their effective control. It also helped breed a certain degree of selfishness: "I'm living properly, doing everything as the Master described, so my conscience is clear."
Next up is the Tao Te Ching, which I've read before, but I'm sure my perspective will be different.