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Some Chinese cultural bashing??


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#1 Sparhawk

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 10:11 AM

Hi all,


I have a few Google News alerts set up on certain Chinese related topics. Today I received this article:

The highest in man is reason, but not in China. The Chinese mind is not given to abstract thinking. Nor was it very creative. In art or poetry, there is very little evidence of creativity. Naturally, the Chinese intellectual life was inferior to that of Greece and India. There is, however, profuse ornamentation and imitation of nature but no imagination. The Chinese were not curious about life after death or about immortality. “Not yet understanding life, how can you understand death?” asks Confucius. It was Buddhism which introduced ideas about life after death in China. The Chinese characterised the shaving of head and burning of the dead as uncivilised.

Click text for full article.

Edited by Sparhawk, 29 December 2007 - 10:12 AM.

Luis

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#2 fireball

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 12:31 PM

:rolleyes:

People want to believe many things especially their own ignorant thoughts. ;) I have seen Chinese equivalents of this regarding the Westerners and other non-Chinese. :rolleyes: Sigh!

#3 kaiselin

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 01:17 PM

Hi all,


I have a few Google News alerts set up on certain Chinese related topics. Today I received this article:


Click text for full article.


Sounds like that article was written by someone who did not take the time to learn about China.
Even if they did, they obviously could not remove themselves from their opinion that their own culture was the only way, and were unable to open up their eyes to another way of thinking.
It always upsets me when I see this sort of closed mindedness.

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#4 tung2sai

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 01:43 PM

I have to agree with the other CHF members. The person who wrote this obviously did not study Chinese history or
culture(s) and most likely did not seriously study the history and culture(s) of the two civilizations he/she is praising about.
Sometimes, you just have to ignore those type of statements and move on.
There's this funny Chinese proverb or idiom I've heard regarding people who make such statements. Something along the lines of "One can think highly of him/herself without knowing that many are secretly laughing at him/her".
Another was like "don't where a big hat and if you don't have a big head".

The statement from Confucius regarding life and death is common in other cultures, and it is quite reasonable. Death is going to occur, it's something natural, like how we need to eat and sleep. Why put a lot of energy and thoughts into something you can not return from, when you do not understand or appreciate the fact you are still alive?

Edited by tung2sai, 29 December 2007 - 01:44 PM.


#5 historylover

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 05:16 PM

This is more a reflection of the writer's own beliefs than the subject matter he is commenting on. Creativity is obviously important to the writer, but defined by his terms only with the usual culprit of selective evidence.

So are the Chinese not concerned with life-after-death? The numerous grave goods sites since the beginning of the Chinese Bronze Age say otherwise. Furthermore, virtually every people group on the face of the earth has some thought on this.

This article seems to be from an Indian cultural site. Note it is one article and not necessarily a reflection of those who participates in that site. There seems to be a prejuduce from a specific group that the Chinese are uncreative and lack abstract thought while they possess superior creativity. Such a view has been presented in other sites.

You'll find this superiority complex everywhere (Stormfront, Chinese, Korean or whatever nationalists etc.), and one just has to ignore it.

Edited by historylover, 29 December 2007 - 05:27 PM.


#6 fcharton

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 05:44 PM

Right, here's the full article, for those who don't like to click on links... Out of context, the paragraph seems like cultural bashing, but in context, it is different. Please read it before you indulge in yet another 'ah those foreigners!' (I don't really mind, but it never bring interesting topics)

Personally, I find the description a bit conventional, and sometimes slightly simplistic, but it is not cultural bashing. A more than decent introduction to one facet of ancient chinese thought, if you ask me.

Francois


http://www.organiser...p...216&page=40

Man in Chinese life and thought
By M.S.N. Menon

Man was at the centre of Chinese life and thought. Not God. The Chinese had little interest in anything speculative and metaphysical. They were utterly practical. Change was at the heart of Chinese thought. (I Ching—Book of change was central to Chinese thinking.)

Religion sat lightly on the Chinese. Ancestor worship was universal. While the emperor had his special God, the masses worshipped the spirits. The spirits accepted the people's offerings, listened to their prayers and sent down rewards and punishments. In short, they controlled the destiny of the Chinese.

Confucius, the greatest Chinese sage, advocated practical life. He expected the citizen to be active, hard-working, engaged in devotion to their ancestors and the state. There was no place for a contemplative life in Confucianism. Filial piety was the principal virtue. The still mind of the sage is a mirror of heaven and earth—so went a saying. But the Chinese sage did not renounce life. He took an active part in the life of society. Salvation was the least on his mind. Which explains why even the emperor worshipped Confucius. The Chinese opposed all forms of asceticism.

The highest in man is reason, but not in China. The Chinese mind is not given to abstract thinking. Nor was it very creative. In art or poetry, there is very little evidence of creativity. Naturally, the Chinese intellectual life was inferior to that of Greece and India. There is, however, profuse ornamentation and imitation of nature but no imagination.

The Chinese were not curious about life after death or about immortality. "Not yet understanding life, how can you understand death?" asks Confucius. It was Buddhism which introduced ideas about life after death in China. The Chinese characterised the shaving of head and burning of the dead as uncivilised.

Confucius spent his life in the service of the state. He established a conservative society and created conditions for its long life. He insisted on a moral order. But China's morality was not derived from God.

China had another face: That of militarism. For every Confucius with his moral order, China produced a Shang Yang, the philosopher of militarism (4th c BC) Shang Yang was popular with Mao Tse-tung and the Chinese ruling class. He believed wars were inevitable and wanted the state to be prepared for war.

On the nature of man, the Chinese had different thoughts. Some thought man was good, others thought he was evil. Mencius, disciple of Confucius, thought that evil was for want of cultivation of the mind. So, man is the cause of his downfall.

According to Taoists, happiness is achieved when one is in harmony with nature. Happiness comes out spontaneously. Benevolence is the key word of Chinese ethics. The honesty of a Chinese merchant was proverbial. The Chinese rejected the Christian doctrine of "original sin."

Haun Tzu (298-238 BC) says that man is born with hatred and envy. Human nature is thus evil, he says. He produced the "Legalists", who in turn produced draconian laws to contain the evil in man. Others said that man is a mixture of good and evil, like Yin and Yang.

To Confucius, it was the individual who was important. To Taoists, society was more important. A good society depended on the moral consciousness of the individual. Wealth was never the criterion for social ranking. Soldiers were seldom honoured. The emperor did not carry a sword. The Chinese held virtue and wisdom supreme.

Toism, Buddhism and Confucianism dominated China's religious life. In its spiritual and ethical life, China was greatly influenced by India, the "Western heaven". Mencius had said that all men become Yao and Shun (ideal Chinese sages). Reminds one of the Buddhist view that all men can become Bodhisatvas.

Neo-Confucians philosopher Chang Tsai says that in the original state of being, which he called the "Great Vacuity" (Shunyata)—a Buddhist concept—there was no form and no evil. But when it assumed forms, differentiation followed. He says reality is one, but it differentiates itself into many (a Vedic concept).

Harmony with nature is the essence of the Taoist teaching. Many doctrines came out of this belief. "Be a companion with nature", Taoists say. It is a kind of union with God.

For everything in man, there is a corresponding aspect in nature. In other words, man is a microcosm of the macro-cosm. They influence each other.

With their monopolistic right to interpret nature, the Confucians controlled their superstitious rulers. There was no divine right of kings in China. The raison d'etre of a good government was the good of the people.


Edited by fcharton, 29 December 2007 - 05:48 PM.


#7 tung2sai

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 06:13 PM

Right, here's the full article, for those who don't like to click on links... Out of context, the paragraph seems like cultural bashing, but in context, it is different. Please read it before you indulge in yet another 'ah those foreigners!' (I don't really mind, but it never bring interesting topics)

Personally, I find the description a bit conventional, and sometimes slightly simplistic, but it is not cultural bashing. A more than decent introduction to one facet of ancient chinese thought, if you ask me.

Francois


http://www.organiser...p...216&page=40



I'm gonna have to agree with you. It is quite simplistic, on the other hand, it does appear a bit like cultural bashing. Just the statement of how the art and poetry has little creativity or how the intellectual life is inferior seems to indicate some form of negative criticism.
I mean, that's how it appears to me, it might be different for others.

Edited by tung2sai, 29 December 2007 - 06:14 PM.


#8 Sparhawk

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 07:41 PM

Right, here's the full article, for those who don't like to click on links... Out of context, the paragraph seems like cultural bashing, but in context, it is different. Please read it before you indulge in yet another 'ah those foreigners!' (I don't really mind, but it never bring interesting topics)


Well, I did read the whole article before posting it for comments and I did find it to be quite biased. Quotations, and links to the whole article, are provided not to infringe upon the copyright of the author/site. On the other hand, it seems to me that disliking clicking links and browsing the web to reach a site like CHF, for example, are incompatible affairs. However, I do agree that forming an opinion based only on the quoted text can be misguided.

I'm glad somebody found something positive about it where I could not. It shows a very open mind.

Best,
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#9 Yang Zongbao

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 07:54 PM

I believe that whatever the intents of this article, its poor research lends little credibility, with its sweeping claims drawn from single, out of context statements. The article itself is fairly boring in construction--claim and inadequate evidence for the claim, and very little stands out as true and in depth "analysis".
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#10 fcharton

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 08:02 PM

I think the main theme of the article, ie that Confucius puts Man at the centre (which is not quite true, actually, he shares a part in a Trinity, which also includes Earth and Heaven...), that his teaching is very practical, and not specially religious, is not that bad. The point on militarism/legalism as the other side of chinese thought is also typical. You'd find both in serious sources.

I said it was simplistic, because many of these ideas have been debated recently. For instance, the idea that Confucius didn't care about transcendance, because of one comment in the Annalects (which were compiled, from various sources, several centuries after his death), has been debated a lot.

As for the comment on creativity and art, I don't know. One point I'd like to mention, though, is that chinese art and poetry, for some reason, doesn't travel well.

Francois

#11 Sparhawk

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 08:40 PM

As for the comment on creativity and art, I don't know. One point I'd like to mention, though, is that chinese art and poetry, for some reason, doesn't travel well.


Ah, an interesting point of view. If we part from the premise that art and poetry --and for that I mean every kind and representation thereof-- is in the eye-of-the-beholder and that the admiration of it is an acquired taste, yes, I have to agree that some of those representations will not agree with everyone. Under that light, all art and poetry is subject of discrimination of some sort, good and bad, and most art and poetry doesn't "travel well" outside of its cultural context. This is hardly particular of Chinese art and/or poetry but applies to all cultural frameworks.


I'm glad this is so, by the way. It shows that the so called "globalization" hasn't conquered all hearts and souls and that some distinct and closed cultural contexts are alive and well... :D
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#12 fcharton

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Posted 29 December 2007 - 09:15 PM

Ah, an interesting point of view. If we part from the premise that art and poetry --and for that I mean every kind and representation thereof-- is in the eye-of-the-beholder and that the admiration of it is an acquired taste, yes, I have to agree that some of those representations will not agree with everyone. Under that light, all art and poetry is subject of discrimination of some sort, good and bad, and most art and poetry doesn't "travel well" outside of its cultural context. This is hardly particular of Chinese art and/or poetry but applies to all cultural frameworks.


This is true, but there are degrees. For instance, German music, Italian opera, travel very well (and no, none of those two countries were, ever, big colonial powers). English classical music or painting, on the other hand, mostly appeal to the British...

This is also true of individuals, Cervantes, Shakespeare, Russian and French 19th century authors appeal to a very wide public, even though they wrote long ago, in very alien societies.

Now, if we look at Asia, Chinese philosophers (mainly Laozi, Zhuangzi and Confucius) export very well (I know a western member of this very forum who went as far as study ancient chinese out of love for the Daoists, and without any prior background). Japanese modern novels and poetry export relatively well (and I would say that balinese gamelan exports well too, as it managed to influence european composers of the 19th century), but chinese novels and poetry are not well known at all. I think it is because they are more "culturally laden", ie need some prior knowledge to be appreciated (whereas you don't need to be a 19th russian noble, or a 16th spanish knight, to feel some affinity with Anna Karenina or Don Quixote)

I'm glad this is so, by the way. It shows that the so called "globalization" hasn't conquered all hearts and souls and that some distinct and closed cultural contexts are alive and well... :D


I heartily agree. Culture doesn't globalise (well except if you consider Britney Spears culture) and this is a good thing !

Francois

#13 tung2sai

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Posted 30 December 2007 - 06:00 AM

I was thinking a lot about this and I just want to express some of my thoughts about it.

I think what really bother me about the article was just how it mentions about certain cultural aspects lacking creativity. How does one judge those type of topics?
Especially for certain aspects like art, literature or poetry? They can be very subjective.
Even from people among the same culture and society, you can have two people looking at an art piece with very different opinions. One person can see beauty and meaning from looking at an organized of ink on a canvas, but to another person no matter how much it can explained to that work of art, he/she can not see anymore than a set of ink on a canvas. I don't think it's quite fair to make judgements regarding what appeals to the senses of each individual.


On the issue of creativity, every human being is capable of it. Some try to define it as abstract thinking, an expression of the mind, the ability to organize and improvise, making something new, originality, etc. In fact, try to look up the word creativity and see how complex it is for people to define it, even among professionals in the psychology field.
Writing a book, designing an engine, building fences, breaking the ice among a group of people, maintaining relationships, trying to stay safe, improving yourself or trying to be kind and charitable, nearly every activity in life requires some creativity.

Either way, humans have that ability to believe, think, go beyond their conditions and can tap into that creative spark that is inherent in all of us. It's up to us to decide how to use it.
It makes me a little uneasy when I see statements made by anyone regarding another culture or people(s) as lacking in creativity. It is a very powerful, natural tool people from all backgrounds have, even animals have that to a certain degree.
It may sound extremist, but to say that a culture, aspect of it or the people in it as lacking in creativity, it's almost saying that they are not alive at all. I think the expression of creativity could be considered as a basic human right.

Although I don't believe the article intended it to sound that way, but I've heard and read a lot how people try to be judgemental regardingn these issues in other people(s) and cultures. I'm also aware that it is talking about aspects of Chinese thinking which others have mentioned.

Everyone is unique and we are all interconnected in some way. There's no need to lose your own self-identity and conform to the forces around you. The other posts already mentioned how it's a good thing a culture doesn't globalize.

Here's two examples. I sense a lot of fascination regarding Chinese inventions in the past influencing the modern world, and I have read a ton of debate about it. My opinion regarding that is that I'm not surprised if many were originated in China or were developed independently. It also doesn't shock me if the Chinese in the past had learn something from others outside their domain. Why would it matter in the long run?
There's no need for the Chinese culture to prove something to others, like they're creative or glorious because of what they invented. It is still unique in it's own right. If these innovations have that potential to make an impact on people's lives, then it's not going to matter whether they can export their culture or not. The other societies will simply absorbed it and interpret it in their own words, like how Buddhism was to Chinese culture. No one owes anybody for those type of things. Regardless of the culture, anything created by humans still means that it can be used by any humans.

The other example I want to use is to show how interconnected we are, and how it is a bit pointless to argue over who influence who. I don't know how others view their countries, but I'm aware in the US how much appeal the music here has all over the world. I don't know how to describe it, because it's not entirely western, and there is so much influence from the interaction with cultures from the African continent. There were many other influences, but overall it does not matter to us here. It's music, created by humans and it will appeal to whoever likes it.


I hope all this doesn't sound too weird, and I know that everyone has their own interests to appreciate their own unique culture. I just want to express my thoughts and feelings regarding the notion how so and so lacks creativity, because I've seen that type of judgemental attitude too much elsewhere.

#14 TMPikachu

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Posted 04 January 2008 - 04:35 AM

d****, it's really ridiculous to say Chinese are uncreative or not influential with their works
Posted Image
Posted Image
Posted Image
I don't even have to name these for y'all to know what they are. (and the third image will make sense when you read this post)


In context, it is bashing the culture within an article that doesn't aim to be racist, but is just ignorant at points, or lacks respect.
The article's from an Indian guy? Well, maybe he's letting nationalistic feelings get in his way. And it's only on a website, so no formal publication

The accusation of Chinese being uncreative is one of the big old stereotypes, so ingrained that even some Asians are lead to believe it
Like for example, 1700's French enlightenment era writer Voltaire once wrote:

There reigns in Asia a servile spirit, which they have never been able to shake off, and it is impossible to find in all the histories of that country a single passage which discovers a freedom of spirit; we shall never see anything there but the excess of slavery.


It's pretty hard to shake off ignorance. Outright racism, yeah, that's easier to spot. Ignorance just seeps in here and there. Or people just don't care if there's no great social pressure to care. Some people are so sure that they are unbiased liberal minded people that they would rather argue "of course I'm not a racist!" and attack the 'accuser'. For example: a very popular radio show, Don & Mike, defended the use of chinese on air, and then made fun of the caller who complained with engrish accents. Like say, if the radio show said Black instead, no way they would be on the air today.
I think people tend to learn specific 'rules' (ex: 'it is wrong to call someone Black') than 'values' (it is wrong to slur people by ethnicity)

Seeing how black culture and such is handled in America is an interesting analogy, best documented and most successful civil rights movement involving race I'd say. Though maybe non Americans don't relate to it as much.

also, lots of Chinese things are better known as being Japanese.
Like sayin' tofu instead of 'doh fu'
Or, to the frustration of our Arms and Armor posters, the technique of differential heat treatment for sword making

or simply marketing. Related to what I just said, Japan in the last 100 years has had more open contact with the west than China. Tons of little American kids know Guan Yu from the Koei Playstation 2 game Dynasty Warriors.

though I'd say the BIGGEST area Chinese creativity shines in, and has influenced the world, is fight choreography in cinema. It's in our culture, wuxia novels, martial arts. Kung Fu movies were a big import in the 70's and changed the face of Hollywood action. Japan's Manga and Anime, famous for its action is also influenced by Chinese artists.
Chinese fight choreographers are pretty much the best in the world. Look at the Matrix, check when the credits roll, who did the fight choreography :)

Edited by TMPikachu, 04 January 2008 - 05:18 AM.

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#15 polar_zen

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Posted 04 January 2008 - 03:43 PM

Posted Image


Are you sure this painting is Chinese? It looks very Japanese.

Edited by polar_zen, 04 January 2008 - 03:44 PM.

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