so. do you consider china’s age 4000? wouldn’t he consider himself 5000 yrs old tho (like, not as a defined age for him as a person, but as the nation ‘china’) bc don’t nations’ views of things depend on their people’s thinking? and like chinese consider our country to be 5000, unlike westerners, so ...
i’ve always headcanoned that his earliest memories are kind of murky and he’s not able to pin down a definitive date. to reflect how long ago it is, and the very fact that we in the present also still have a lot of questions about that time. the idea i very much like is that his earliest memories are connected to the yellow river. the cradle of chinese civilisation, simultaneously an embodiment of life and death; responsible for the fertile silt that enabled our ancestors to farm on its banks, but also the destructive floods that killed so many throughout history.
i think being around 4000 is a reasonable figure he might subscribe to because of the Xia dynasty, now estimated to have existed around 2070 BCE. but i definitely like to keep a sense of ambiguity because before the xia-shang-zhou project commissioned by the govt (which came up with that estimate), there were debates about this and different figures tossed around. there’s also a gigantic can of worms about china as a concept being fluid throughout history, arguments about whether the dynastic cycle conceptualisation kind of distorts the actual nature of chinese history (china not always even being china as we understand it today etc). all these historiographical issues? maybe there doesn’t have to be a straight-out answer because our understanding of chinese history (like all history) is continually changing—being revised and rewritten, as we develop new approaches and make other discoveries.
i certainly do think he likes the idea of being Old. prestige and all. seniority means wisdom and commanding respect in the confucian hierarchy. the whole sense of being an old empire who survived for so long while many of his counterparts returned to dust. so 5000 is also a claim he might make, especially if he links himself to the huaxia tribes, or considering the traditional stories about the yellow emperor’s reign.