Tuesday, October 17, 2006

anything national left?

Internet horribly slow today and I can't even link so instead here's edited highlights from a New Weekly article, via Danwei.org, questioning the reality of China's so-called national characteristics. Particularly interesting as Chinese identity is often presented as unwavering and monolithic ...

National Day, National Pastime, National Flavor...
by Xiao Feng / New Weekly


National Day: National Day has become a travel holiday. The solemn national consciousness of the past has been replaced by joyful consumerism. Using the long holiday for travel or shopping is the main theme of the day. If parades and putting up banners were patriotic in the past, then active consumption is patriotism today.

National Cuisine: The cuisine that Chinese culture has marketed to the world is how to eat differently. People have suggested setting up an International Eating Committee. "When you've sung your part, I take the stage" is what food is like today; no one can speak for a "National Cuisine." If you really want to find one, then perhaps hotpot is one national dish. But children and youth might rather suggest to you McDonald's or KFC.

National Medicine: National medicine, or zhong yao, is not the medicine of China, but rather the medicine of the mean. Essentially, illness is anything taken to excess. "Halls of national medicine" have started up chain stores. The resistance of Chinese medicine to standardization has caused it to be spurned by the international pharmaceutical world, and it has become a mark of wandering outsider doctors. Today, old Chinese doctors plaster ads throughout every street and alley advertising special sex cures.

National Performance: In the past it was the Spring Festival Evening Show, when 900 million of the billion citizens were watching. Now, the Show has dropped to a program for peasants (and our peasant brothers don't necessarily watch). When the three Super Girls PKed, they snatched up a majority of Chinese eyeballs.

National Flavor: Chinese flavor is not hanging up a few strings of hot peppers in the doorway; it's not the four treasures of the studio; it's not the four great inventions - none of these. The core of Chinese flavor is not readily expressed by these dead ideas. "What it is" is hard to say. I only know that cultural heritage isn't a day's work; it should be one generation teaching the next through example rather than preaching. If the previous generation themselves didn't amount to much, then what attraction is there to Chinese flavor?

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