NetEase BBS does Shaolin
Posted on by Lyn Jeffery
A view on kungfu from Virtual China: how can we resist? Chinese netizens weigh in on photos from a recent performance of Shaolin monks in San Francisco on March 12. There are a few pictures from the performance plus a series of other stills from unknown sources. What are Chinese saying about the marketing of something seen as quintessentially “Chinese”? Commentators fall in several camps:
- (the majority of comments) those who are proud of Chinese kungfu and enjoy the photos. “Chinese kungfu is number one in the world!” “Amazing!”
- Quite a few ultra-nationalists who see Shaolin as yet another example of China’s superiority over Japan, the United States, or Taiwan. “So Chinese kungfu is real, let’s give those foreigners a scare.” “This’ll open the eyes of the Americans” [美国佬: term for “Americans,” sometimes used in a derogatory way].
- Skeptics who doubt the authenticity of the photos. “It’s definitely fake–these are photos from the movies,” and “Are they really that good?”
- A few who are dismayed at the commercialization abroad of the famed Shaolin martial arts. “This must have really shocked the Americans… [But] Shaolin’s roots are in China, so shouldn’t they first perform more widely here? …This seems a little like selling our national heritage for profit.”
- A few who always seem to be represented in BBS comments, who use nearly any topic to talk about how Chinese society is going downhill. “I just wish we had a China where people were loyal to their own professions. Monks would be monks. Soldiers would be soldiers. But in today’s society…there’s too much change. It’s not like the old days.”
7 comments on “NetEase BBS does Shaolin”
As an American, I find some comments confusing:
*** This’ll open the eyes of the Americans ***
*** This must have really shocked the Americans ***
Is there some belief in China that 1) Americans look down on Chinese culture; or that 2) Americans are unfamiliar with Shaolin Kung Fu?
Americans are generally in awe of Chinese culture and have a great familiarity with Shaolin Kung Fu.
I’m pretty sure there are more kung fu schools in the U.S. than anywhere else outside China. Bruce Lee has near deity status here. One of the most popular TV series in American history was called “Kung Fu.”
It’s Communism and Maoism that we look down on and despise. And that’s another thing we and the Chinese also agree on (a recent survey showed that only China has a larger percentage of citizens than the United States who think capitalism is the best economic system).
Can someone explain the context of these comments? I don’t get it.
Mike, thanks for the comments. The translated BBS comments are pretty revealing of some common Chinese atttitudes. Yes, in fact some people in China do think that Americans look down on China. Especially with the rise of the current president (I’m not trying to make a political statement here, just to reflect what I hear in China). There’s the sense among some of the Chinese public that the US is arrogant and believes itself to be superior. Therefore, any exchange gets cast as a chance to “show” how great China is.
There’s also a lot of history behind this point of view, that goes way beyond George Bush and has to do with many Chinese people’s understanding of their country’s political and economic trajectory over the past 100-200 years. Read a good history of 19th and 20th century China (I suggest “The Search for Modern China” by Jonathan Spence) and it will be clearer.
I’m very aware of the history.
Are you saying that attitudes and perceptions that inform public opinion in China are based on events centuries old rather than the present?
*** There’s the sense among some of the Chinese public that the US is arrogant and believes itself to be superior. ***
The US believes itself to be superior, yes. To everyone. Not just the Chinese.
Everyone believes their own country to be superior, don’t they?
The nice thing about America’s superiority complex is that it’s not racial. We’re the only country that I’m aware of that believes our superiority is derived from the *ideas* our country was founded on and nothing else.
What’s wrong with that?
That superiority complex has nothing to do with the fact that Americans generally think Chinese people, culture, history and — especially! — martial arts are truly awe inspiring.
I think that Chinese views of the present are, in fact, shaped by historical events that happened 100 or more years ago. There’s a common feeling that China was bullied by foreign powers starting around the mid-19th century, and has only in the past few decades started to come back into its own. It’s a story that sort of sits in the back of many people’s minds.
That’s why you find comments such as the ones I translated, on many BBS forums, in many different contexts.
Wow. That’s interesting. So there are a huge number of people in China who are concerned about the opinions of people who have been dead for centuries.
So two hundred years from now people will be reacting to the opinions of people living now?
Not really sure how that works.
Mike, are being deliberately obtuse?
Of course peoples’ opinions are shaped by events of the past. To suggest otherwise would be ridiculous.
thanks the inspirations