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Power, wealth do not change nature of life
(China Daily)
Updated: 2007-07-14 06:53

It was rare for emperors to live long lives in ancient Chinese dynasties. Some emperors were later found to have poisoned themselves to early deaths after hiring quack doctors to make certain medicines, which they believed would keep them young forever, but proved to be fatal.

They, as emperors, considered themselves tianzi (sons of the Heaven), and had limitless power, thousands of concubines and absolute freedom to have their needs met and desires satisfied.

As a result, they considered their lives more worthy than their subjects and cherished the dream of keeping themselves alive permanently. Ironically, they would have lived much longer had they been ordinary folks.

Nowadays, quite powerful or wealthy people are not silly enough to follow the examples of those emperors or kings. But some of them hold perceptions similar to those of ancient celebrities.

For example, some wealthy people in China squander their money on such delicacies as shark fins, snakes, monkey heads and other endangered animals. They believe the more money they spend on the food they eat, the more healthy they will likely become.

The stupidity of this logic is that the price of a food is directly connected with its nutritious value. But that is hardly the case. In reality, the price of food is dependent on how rare it is. Such dishes made of shark fin, esculent swift's nests, hedgehog fungus, rare snakes, monkey heads or pangolins are prohibitively expensive simply because they are quite rare and hard to get.

Such stupidity can sometimes go so far as to squander money on some food simply because the food has a peculiar name. A kind of algae plants called facai, the same pronunciation of the Chinese phrase of "strike it rich" used to be very popular with quite wealthy people in fancy restaurants because they liked its name and believed eating such food would likely bring them more chances of making money.

It is none of our business what kind of food that millionaires or billionaires prefer to eat. It is their freedom to be ripped off by restaurants that offer them a dish for hundreds or thousands of yuan. It is their right to choose to eat delicacies that may cause damage to their health in the long run.

But if their preference for a particular item of food has an impact on the fate of a particular animal or the environment, such a preference is problematic.

A recent survey indicates that the number of sharks in the world is in rapid decline and some particular types of sharks are even on the verge of extinction because they have been overfished in recent years to meet increasing demand for dishes made of shark fin.

We still remember how the craze to collect facai caused serious soil erosion and desertification to the grasslands in northern China. The State Council had to issue urgent documents to ban the collection of such plants.

The fashion of eating snakes is said to be one of the major reasons why the rapid decline of snakes in paddy fields has resulted in the multiplication of rodents. The result has been disastrous damage to crops in southern China.

I've read some reports that the content of mercury in shark fins is high enough to affect the health of those who often eat them.

This reminds me of alchemy in ancient times. It was just the pills of immortality from alchemy that killed some of the emperors. And the content of mercury was also high in such pills.

In this sense, those who often eat dishes or soups made of shark fin are poisoning themselves with the same substance as some of the emperors.

Some nutritionists also suggest that many of the expensive foods made of rare animals are not necessarily more nutritious than the ordinary meat we usually eat.

Then why do wealthy people choose to eat those things?

It may be because they are the few who can afford such expensive food, which has added to their sense of complacency and pride because they never think twice before ordering such dishes. Eating such rare animals, in this sense, has become a matter of vanity rather than he need for necessary nutrition.

If this is the case, those wealthy people who choose to eat rare delicacies to satisfy their vanity are less wise than those emperors who poisoned themselves to death. Their unreasonable consumption has contributed to the environmental or ecological problems of the entire world.

Behind these perceptions are the misconception that the emperors and millionaires or billionaires believe their supreme power or fortune can make a difference to the nature of their lives. At least they hope so.

But except for materialistic changes supreme power or great fortune can bring about, nothing can change the nature of life. None of the efforts to make life immortal has ever succeeded at anytime, anywhere - and it never will.

So leading one's life as it is is the best way to enjoy life, however powerful or wealthy a person is.

(China Daily 07/14/2007 page4)