Japan defiles China’s cultural treasure

With a friqqin’ video game very loosely based on an 18th-century book that I strongly suspect most of the incensed young men have never read, if they’ve even heard of it. No matter; eyeballs bulge, arteries pop and tempers flare as those magic ingredients come together: glorious Chinese culture + evil Japanese defilers.

A JAPANESE adult computer game based extremely loosely on a classic is getting a thorough pasting on Chinese bogs as being literary blasphemy.

According to ZD Net, “Slaves of the Red Mansion” is a fantasy game about girls sold into sexual slavery and has been branded a bawdy version of “Dream of the Red Chamber” penned by Qing dynasty (1644-1911) author Cao Xueqin.

The Chongqing Economic Times said that the main character, a young girl called Lin Daiyu, was closely modelled on the novel’s heroine. Chinese boggers say that turning “Dream of the Red Chamber” into a lewd game besmirches a treasure of Chinese literature, and desecrates Chinese culture.

There are calls for the game maker to halt production and to apologise to the Chinese people.

However, one has to wonder how much of this opposition is real and if it is anti-Japanese blogging engineered by China’s masters. China is always keen to remind Japan of its war crimes against the country. The Communist Youth League, which is sort of like the Young Conservatives of Beijing, have been involved in campaigns to educate youth of Japan’s pre-World War II invasion of China.

Same old same old. It’s just so interesting (read, disturbing) to see how the slightest spark – usually imagined, not real – can set the same old game into motion again. Same script, different players. And about the anti-Japanese bloggers perhaps being “engineered by China’s masters” – I strongly doubt it. Influenced by the masters, definitely, in that the young people are subject to the anti-Japanese rhetoric on a continual basis. But the masters don’t have to engineer reactions like this. They’ve already programmed the machinery. You drop the quarter in (with the latest trivial rumor of Japanese desecration of China), and the dancing chicken starts to strut around as always. These bloggers are full of blind rage, and they embrace any excuse to release it. It feels good, it keeps the nationalistic fires burning, and as long as it’s contained and doesn’t get too much outside attention it’s just fine with the masters. They can just sit back and smile.

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Richard Burger is the author of Behind the Red Door: Sex in China, an exploration of China's sexual revolution and its clash with traditional Chinese values.

The Discussion: 9 Comments

I agree with Richard here. According to the SCMP, BEFORE this year’s historic August 15 anniversary, the Chinese government instructed the Mainland press to NOT cover any possible Yasukuni Shrine visit by Koizumi. Far from trying to fan the flames, I think it should be clear by now that the government is trying to stifle anti-Japanese sentiment because of fears it will spiral out of control.

I suspect that the Chinese and Japanese governments have secretly reached an understanding about the Shrine visits, which is why Abe has refused to commit publicly as to whether or not he will visit as Prime Minister.

But Richard — I’m certain those young men have at least heard of Dream of the Red Chamber (Hong Lou Meng, 红楼梦). Along with Journey to the West (西游记) or Romance of the Three Kingdoms (三国演义), it’s one of those novels that EVERY Chinese knows about. These three — along with Water Margin — have also been endlessly adapted into comics, cartoons, TV shows, movies, and computer games, especially by the Japanese. I don’t know about Hong Lou Meng, but at least Three Kingdoms is still widely _read_ by boys throughout Asia because of all the exciting military tales in it.

Dream of the Red Chamber was made into one of CCTV’s most successful TV series ever, and just recently a controversy has arisen because they’ve started casting for a remake by having Star Search like talent contests. So EVERYBODY knows about it.

September 30, 2006 @ 5:16 am | Comment

Thanks for that information, Danfired, point taken.

September 30, 2006 @ 9:54 am | Comment

I have to concur with Danfried. Dream of the Red Chamber is about as well-known as Huck Finn or Tom Sawyer (and probably more widely read within among the Chinese, as compared to comparable American classics by the general populace U.S.).

September 30, 2006 @ 4:17 pm | Comment

No self respecting computer game playing Chinese homeboy will ever admit to reading Dream of the Red Chamber; but it is true that even this demographic cannot help but KNOW about the novel.

The article was also too quick to dismis Chinese misgivings about the depiction of a rising sun in a Japanese computer game version of Journey to the West. Considering that the sun always sets in the west, the same direction in which the Buddhist disciples are heading in search of the diamond sutra of India, the depiction of a rising sun in ‘Journey to the West’ is astronomically inaccurate if nothing else. The significance of a rising sun cannot be lost to either the Japanese creators of the game or the Chinese players.

October 1, 2006 @ 6:15 am | Comment

Now, if they made one about the jin ping mei (金瓶梅)…

October 1, 2006 @ 8:07 am | Comment

“young conservatives of Beijing” that is a bit too much.

October 1, 2006 @ 11:32 pm | Comment

J — Yeah, I remember being told a while back about Jin Ping Mei and thinking to myself that “pornographic” during the Qing dynasty probably just meant that marriageable boys and girls were allowed within 50 meters of one another without chaperones. Then I read a bit of it, and yeeeeow . That and 肉蒲团 (“The Carnal Prayer-Mat”), which I think is also available in English translation. Now that was pornography.

Mind you, 红楼梦 A Dream of Red Mansions certainly does have a few racy bits, albeit coyly alluded to — like the bit in chapter 5 where Baoyu gets sex tips from the Fairy Disenchantment and makes it with the fairy page 兼美 Combined Virtues. (“She finished speaking, then gabe Baoyu secret instructions in the ‘art of clouds and rain,’ then pushed him into the room and closed the door. Baoyu busied himself with following her instructions, whereupon followed that which transpires between boys and girls — which need not be described here.”) Or, for the Japanese yaoi fans, there’s the bit in Chapter 9 when one of the older boys at Baoyu’s school is accused of having a thing for catamites.

October 2, 2006 @ 4:12 pm | Comment

Brendan is correct. ‘Dream of the Red Chamber” is a sacred classic, but it’s not that long ago that it was also considered “dirty lit”. Oblique and not-so-oblique references to masturbation, sex (of both the hetero and homosexual variety) abound, and if I remember correctly there’s even toilet humour worked in there somewhere. So believe me, beneath her prim and proper attire this grand old dame of the canon has soiled bloomers on, and probably would not mind her virtue being “besmirched” in this way. (Especially not when considering the commentary the novel makes about women and their status in their world.)

(And hey, I’m *always* for bawdy and lowbrow interpretations of classics! Porn+literature = a match made in heaven.)

And Danfried is overstating how widely-read Romance of the Three Kingdoms is, I think. Do most kids in the West voluntarily read “The Iliad”? I mean, I’m sure Three Kingdoms was quite the thriller in its time (in the same way that Carlyle’s “The French Revolution” was, in its time), but now? Nah. I doubt it. The kids may know all the stories (thanks to its popularization by tv serials and mangas), but I doubt the majority have read the original text, ADD-afflicted as they are.

October 2, 2006 @ 5:35 pm | Comment

Nausicaa — you’re probably dead-on about actual readership of 三国. Certainly plenty of Chinese people of my age who’ve heard that I read 红楼梦 looked at me funny and asked what on earth I did that for.

Also, there’s scads (scats?) of toilet humor in A Dream of Red Mansions — the part where Jia Rui has a chamberpot dumped on him during his letch-oid pursuits of Wang Xifeng is the first instance to come to mind, and I remember reading somewhere that one of the riddle poems later in the book has “a turd” as one of its possible interpretations.

Plus, now that I think of it, isn’t there an oblique ‘sex slavery” thread in 红楼梦 to begin with? Yinglian, for instance — she’s bought as a servant, but then ends up fobbing off her pervo master’s advances, and then there’s Baoyu’s maid Hua Xiren, whom the book explicitly describes at one point as “being given to serve Baoyu in all ways including this.”

The irony of all of this, for those who haven’t read the book, is that the author says in his preface that he considers all the women he knows to be his superiors, and has his avatar in the book, Jia Baoyu, say repeatedly that “boys are made of mud, and girls are made of water.”

October 2, 2006 @ 6:00 pm | Comment

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