Tuesday, June 12, 2007

I Like Chinese

...But the Chinese don't.


A couple things I found fantastic about this article. First off, the Chinese complain that they were "confused by the character's sudden appearance in the movie." Really? That was the part that confused you? You were cool with the surrealist rock crabs, but Chow Yun Fat threw you? I mean, don't get me wrong. It's a confusing movie. I imagine it's twice as confusing if your crazy-ass country banned the entire goddamn second movie.

But more importantly, let's get to this: The part they censored from the movie was the part where Chow Yun Fat recites poetry.

That's right. The Chinese government is afraid of Ancient Chinese poetry. And you know what? In some perverse way, I think that's fantastic.

Can you imagine living in a country where poetry is considered dangerous? Can you imagine a place so bottled up with internal discord that the sound of a thousand year old poem could ignite even a small fragment of the populace? Where the government lived in fear of a poet eloquent enough to catalyze its carefully herded citizens into some kind of thought or action?

"Don't let the kids hear Li Bai - there'll be anarchy!"

The world we live in is a different place. Our poets and artists criticize the government a lot more directly than dead ol' Li Bai ever could. We read William S. Burroughs in college. Michael Moore is allowed to walk free. We have a massive class of rabble-rousers, malcontents, protesters, artists and general pain in the asses... and they're all completely powerless.

Maybe if the people of China really managed to get their hands on that forbidden poetry, it wouldn't do a goddamn thing. Probably, the censorship office could take a permanent vacation, and nothing would change. Probably, the tanks could have stayed home during Tiananmen Square and nothing would have happened.

But it's nice to imagine that that isn't true, that somewhere in the hearts of China's billion people there is something more honorable than what we have, a vast sleeping dragon that needs only hear the sweet words of a long-dead poet to bring it to life.


(After note: No, I don't remember (and can't find a transcript or translation of) the scene where he recites the poem either, but at least I went ahead and wikipediad Li Bai for you.

Nothing in his description sounds too awful revolutionary, but he does sound like a bad influence on China's impressionable youth, and all around swell guy:

"Li Bai is best known for the extravagant imagination and striking Taoist imagery in his poetry, as well as for his great love for liquor." My kind of guy.

But yeah, go to the wikipedia page, if only to read the poem at the end.)

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