Inglorious Chinese Basterds

Wait – it’s the author of this article in the Global Times that draws the comparison of an outrageous show for kids at the Summer Palace with Quentin Tarantino’s film. And the analogy is spot-on. This is wild and crazy stuff.

The lotus flowers are in bloom at the Old Summer Palace, a magnificent royal compound destroyed twice by foreigners, in 1860 and 1900.

This catastrophic loss to the world’s cultural heritage occurred more than a century ago, but the ruins loom large as a central symbol of China’s humiliation at the hands of Westerners.

I saw first-hand an example of how this sense of indignity and outrage is kept alive during a stroll on a summer evening, when I stopped and watched the shadow puppet show The Legend of Yuanmingyuan.

….Watching the show, I was confused by what was happening before me. In battle after battle, Chinese soldiers and villagers used martial arts and tricks to defeat the buffoonish French and British invaders.

The foreigners got hatchets in the face, spears in the eye, and bayoneted repeatedly while lying helpless on the ground. Wily Chinese fighters jumped into the air, causing foreign troops to accidentally kill each other… I was wondering if I had stumbled upon China’s answer to Inglourious Basterds, the Quentin Tarantino revenge fantasy in which a group of Jews scalp dozens of Nazis and then kill Hitler.

The delightful show has an obvious intent: to generate in impressionable children as much rage against foreigners as possible.

In The Legend of Yuanmingyuan, the foreigners’ only motivation is greed and spite. When they first enter a Chinese village near the start of the show, a soldier says, “Let’s steal everything.” His commander replies, “Stop it. We shouldn’t act in haste because Chinese people are smart. You don’t know how smart they can be.”

To the laughter of the children and adults in the audience, the solders mispronounce the names of their own countries, for example, saying they are from the country of “Epilepsy” rather than the near-homonym Great Britain.

During one comical scene, soldiers fight over the loot from the Old Summer Palace, staggering like drunkards with their heavy load. The soldiers, played by real pint-sized actors on stage, are so venal that they reach off the stage into the crowd to find even more things to steal, grabbing at audience member’s mobile phones. One foolish soldier, intent on stealing everything that isn’t screwed down, burns his hands trying to steal one of the stage’s footlights….

One of the most disturbing things about watching this spectacle was seeing little people teaching little people how to hate. At the end of the show, the children in the audience were invited onstage to pose with the actors. To my surprise, it was announced that the performers were not children at all, but adults suffering from dwarfism, with an average age of 22 and an average height of 1.26 meters (4 feet). Their particular form of dwarfism makes them resemble children.

…[A spokesman] called the show “very good patriotic education,” and added, without a trace of irony, “It’s a pity that no one knows the history in detail.”

Kudos to the Global Times for running a piece that makes this look like the cheapest, most vulgar and nauseating propaganda. As the writer points out, the park’s Chinese and English web sites have very different copy. The hysteria and anti-foreign sentiments somehow got airburshed out of the English translation.

We really do have to give the writer credit:

Hatred, like forgiveness, can be taught, and hanging on to hurt and outrage is the central message of this show.

To be sure, a clear-eyed look at the history surrounding the Old Summer Palace and the collapse of the Qing Dynasty offers many lessons in arrogance, barbarism, and how regimes rise and fall from power. These lessons are valuable today.

But these lessons were far from the caricatures of history I witnessed in this show. Beyond the looting and destruction of the palace by foreigners amid war as the Qing emperor fled, there was little in the way of history. This puppet show, of course, is hardly unique, but instead a very normal example of the methods by which past hurts are nurtured for purposes that have nothing to do with understanding the past and everything to do with fueling nationalism.

The looting of the Summer Palace is one of those third-rail topics that I learned long ago to avoid at all costs. It’s one where I’m tempted to use the “b” word (it rhymes with “train quash”), and this show confirms it’s justified. The looting was a shameful thing. But to carry that much anger in their breasts nearly a century and a half after the fact is bizarre. But it’s not bizarre – it’s cultivated at a young age when kids are at their most impressionable, and it perpetuates the stereotype of victimhood and keeps it fresh and raw. A friend of mine once talked about it to me with tears in her eyes, as if it happened last week. I just listened, knowing there was nothing I could say except that I understand and sympathize.

The Discussion: 168 Comments

“We in the west apparently care about the Tibetan/Uyghur cultural “assimilation” yet don’t bat an eyelid at local Chinese cultural destruction – and destruction in which no western nation has even got a fingernail in, never mind the hand.”

I agree that the local culture is always worth preserving, but many European languages like for instance Gaul, Celtiberian languages, etc have long died out.

So in that sense Chinese people should feel fortunate.

August 5, 2010 @ 9:17 am | Comment

“I agree that the local culture is always worth preserving, but many European languages like for instance Gaul, Celtiberian languages, etc have long died out.”
If you go back that far, then even the Chinese people would be weeping over their losses…. but yes, eve now, in Europe, languages are dying. Irish, Welsh, Gaelic, Breton, Basque in France, German in Italy. There are, however, insentives to preserve the languages (though how effective those are is moot). We have Welsh TV, Gaelic television, Sud Tirolers have their radio stations and newspapers, etc, etc. I read that this is not the case in China (one example – as far as I know there are no radio or television stations in Shanghaiese or Nantongese (despite the latter being a heritage dialect, as my brother in law tells me – here’s more on it
Ultimately, though, it needs groundroot support. Catalans are strong and there’s not too much danger of that disappearing. Gaelic is, on the other hand….not as supported. Neither is Cornish (pretty much a dead language today). Speaking to some friends of my wife, conversation turned to whether I’d be getting my daughters to learn Chinese. I said yes…and included that maybe they should learn Shanghaiese as well. One of the friends then remarked that Shanghaiese was pointless – a dead end, in his words – and my girls should just learn Mandarin. I didn’t know what to say to that. Seemed rather sad that diversity is so easily culled.
And all that is before we even think of writing – wife has found out she suffers from this

I am writing this as one who has forgotten to speak Portuguese (it was my first language) and who, despite having an Austrian mother, can barely string a German sentence together (and what I can is delivered in the thickest Tirolean dialect ;-))

August 5, 2010 @ 9:46 am | Comment

Dude, you are sharing too much. Your daughter, your wife, your mother tongue… it’s getting creepy.

“as far as I know there are no radio or television stations in Shanghaiese or Nantongese”

There are Shanghainese radios out there.

August 5, 2010 @ 10:59 am | Comment

“Dude, you are sharing too much. Your daughter, your wife, your mother tongue… it’s getting creepy”
Dud, get a life. And thanks for the Shanghaiese radio info – that’s good to know 🙂

August 5, 2010 @ 11:04 am | Comment

“Nothing China has ever done in her thousands of years of history compares to the what England did to India or France to Algeria and Vietnam among others.”

That’s a pretty loaded, ignorant comment. China is big country with a long history of constant warfare between various ethnic factions and millions upon millions of deaths, just like European powers of old, the Roman Empire, the Persian Empire and all other major powers throughout history, Chinese history is a litany of wars, with peasants and soldiers getting chucked into the meat grinder.

Chinese emperors worked 3 million peasant laborers to death just to build a small northern segment of the Grand Canal. China’s history is complicated and violent, just like any other great ancient power’s. What’s important is that we learn from our histories.

Sure, let’s not be victims of foreign powers, let’s be sovereign, but let’s instill hate and paranoia in our children? How about let’s teach them critical thinking instead? Just a thought…

August 5, 2010 @ 11:18 am | Comment

Thanks for the excellent comment, Stephan.

August 5, 2010 @ 11:31 am | Comment

Re China and foreigners – might explain Hypo’s fascination with “foreigners” married to Chinese women…,0

Do you know the bloke, Richard? Anyone? Is it truthful?

August 5, 2010 @ 11:42 am | Comment

This comment by “FREEDA” is right on the spot:

“American male dating a Chinese girl is much more controversial. It happens quite frequently, of course, but it seems the government doesn’t want to encourage it”

your right.
and how frequent does it happen that chinese males date american girls?
do you see it on american tv? seems like the media here doesnt encourage it either.

the different is, you have to whinge just like a little ***”

August 6, 2010 @ 8:18 am | Comment

Dude, interracial marriage is interracial marriage. Why is it a big deal wrt the race of the male and the race of the female? Have you moved on to some male chauvinist/misogynistic kick these days?

August 6, 2010 @ 12:49 pm | Comment

It depends. Interracial marriage has, for example, exterminated many indigenous peoples all around the world. You can’t be so optimistic and assume any marriages, interracial or not, are “sacred”- a lot of what drives white males to “marry” Chinese women is a racial domination fetish, what she gets in return is $$$$

August 6, 2010 @ 1:39 pm | Comment

Race – so last century 😉 Heck, at one stage, we shared a mum and a dad…
“We show that Neandertals shared more genetic variants with present-day humans in Eurasia than with present-day humans in sub-Saharan Africa, suggesting that gene flow from Neandertals into the ancestors of non-Africans occurred before the divergence of Eurasian groups from each other.”

August 6, 2010 @ 4:52 pm | Comment

Using little people to show how truly little they are inside

August 6, 2010 @ 11:42 pm | Comment

“Heck, at one stage, we shared a mum and a dad…”

We shared ancestors with fish once too

August 7, 2010 @ 5:39 am | Comment

By merp,
For that, your concerns for “indigenous people” are juvenile and disingenuous.

August 7, 2010 @ 9:15 am | Comment

“a lot of what drives white males to “marry” Chinese women is a racial domination fetish, what she gets in return is $$$$”
—for one of the few times in my life, words fail me.

August 7, 2010 @ 11:09 am | Comment

@Mike – Interesting link, I too was once a reality show contestant on Jiangsu television. It was a song competition ala Pop Idol, but the voting was rigged, I’m not bitter, I promise . . . .

@Jeff – Antiques Roadshow plays in prime-time on BBC 1, the most widely watched channel in the UK, and has been hosted both Angela Rippon and Michael Aspel, who are both household names. I suppose not knowing that much about the UK is excusable in someone who has never visited there (as I guess you haven’t, for give me if you have), but it seems you are under the impression that the United States is “the west”.

August 7, 2010 @ 11:39 am | Comment

“For that, your concerns for “indigenous people” are juvenile and disingenuous.”

Adequate to describe faux “progressive” moral outrage. Don’t hide behind political correctness when defending the status quo, which is special treatment for white people everywhere. Chinese women aren’t “yours” to “take” as you please.

“—for one of the few times in my life, words fail me.”

Because you don’t want to address the simple truth, which is that interracial “marriages” are overwhelmingly based in exploitation and a high degree of racism and social injustice.

So which of the following do you think can be held up as evidence of multiracial utopia:

– Viking men with Celtic women
– Roman men with “barbarian” women
– White males and Native American, Indian (from India) females
– Japanese men and comfort women

Deny it all you want but the historic and indeed genetic records show that interracial marriage and violent genocide are two main demographic weapons. If you really think even a majority of Chinese/Korean/Thai/Central American/Mexican women marry white men for love and not status and money, you may as well believe that all men ignore looks totally when seeking partners as well.

August 7, 2010 @ 4:12 pm | Comment

You forgot the making of today’s Chinese people over history.

August 8, 2010 @ 5:34 pm | Comment

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