Zhu Da (1626-1705), often known as Ba Da Shan Ren (八大山人/Pa Ta Shan Jen), had a most remarkable, yet somewhat melancholy life. As a descendent Ming royalty, his life was threatened from an early age as the Manchu invasions and the installation of their Qing Dynasty made retaining any kinship to the defunct Ming Dynasty a dangerous proposition. Indeed, in the early years of Qing rule, those who might even potentially contest the right of Manchu rule were actively sought out or assassination. It was for this reason, to escape persecution, that Zhu Da cast off his filial lineage to join a monastic Buddhist order. Moreover, anecdotes regarding his behavior show that he was incredibly eccentric in his conduct and bearing. It is said that for very long periods he would say nothing, only laughing, smiling and nodding when he needed to communicate. Whether this was evidence of his extreme mental duress or simply a mask of madness to avert the eyes of the authorities is difficult to determine: neither is likely to be the entire truth.
The Life and Times of Mao Ze Dong (毛澤東/Ma Tse Tung)
ln modern Chinese history no character is more controversial, or more recognizable, than Chairman Mao (毛主席/Mao Chu Hsi). Born in relative obscurity in the province of Hunan, 1893, Mao would come to personally shape the course of Chinese history in the 20th century. His early life saw him as a student-cum-revolutionary who hid in the mountains with a small but growing cadre of Communists. With the onset of the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945), the two Chinese factions, one Communist and lead by Mao, one Nationalist and lead by Chiang Kai Shek, were pitted against a common enemy. The defeat of the Japanese, however, was only one hurdle that China would face in its emergence as a modern state. Almost immediately, the Nationalist and Communist factions set about to determine which would rule China. In the end, Mao and his Communists were successful, forcing the Nationalists out of mainland China; they fled to Taiwan.