Jump to content
Chinese-forums.com
Learn Chinese in China

  • Why you should look around

    Since 2003, Chinese-forums.com has been helping people learn Chinese faster and get to China sooner. Our members can recommend beginner textbooks, help you out with obscure classical vocabulary, and tell you where to get the best street food in Xi'an. And we're friendly about it too. 

    Have a look at what's going on, or search for something specific. We hope you'll join us. 
Outofin

Chinese and history

Recommended Posts

Outofin

I think I'm at the risk of asking a silly question: do you think, compared to other people, the Chinese are more enthusiastic about history?

People often ask silly questions when they compare cultures. Such as, "We love our children, do you?" A flat "Yes of course" can effectively end the nonsenses question. So I think similarity between cultures should be assumed, while diffences have to be proved.

There are many countries that have long and rich history. Do other people watch and read as many TV shows and books about history as the Chinese do? If they don't, why?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Site Sponsors:
Pleco for iPhone / Android iPhone & Android Chinese dictionary: camera & hand- writing input, flashcards, audio.
Study Chinese in Kunming 1-1 classes, qualified teachers and unique teaching methods in the Spring City.
Learn Chinese Characters Learn 2289 Chinese Characters in 90 Days with a Unique Flash Card System.
Hacking Chinese Tips and strategies for how to learn Chinese more efficiently
Popup Chinese Translator Understand Chinese inside any Windows application, website or PDF.
Chinese Grammar Wiki All Chinese grammar, organised by level, all in one place.

avon0914

History is very important to us. And I think we should take history as a mirror.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
wushijiao
I think I'm at the risk of asking a silly question: do you think, compared to other people, the Chinese are more enthusiastic about history?

Absolutely.

Peter Hessler, in Oracle Bones (a book about how Chinese conceptions and narratives of history pervade modern identity), said something to the effect of "Chinese talk about history in a way that Americans talk about freedom and democracy: with a sense of sacredness and a sense of pride" (I'll find real quote later).

In America, the uniting factor in social life is the ideals that make up the republic and that are enshrined in the Constitution. People have vastly different concepts of what the ideals mean and how to interrupt them, but all agree on the basic principles. Therefore, debates are almost necessarily about the future, and how to live up to the ideals, and identifying where society has gone off track from them. This makes the US, in particular, a country mainly focused on the future and somewhat ideological. (For an interesting look at that, see this article). By extension, many American movies and films tend to be about the present or the future.

Obviously, in China, as in most countries or societies, the uniting factors tend to be more based on a shared history, or on linguistic or ethic grounds.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
gato

History serves as a nation/民族-building device ("nation" as in nationalism). Without the common accepted history and written language, the Chinese wouldn't be Chinese.

It's also entertainment, of course.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
renzhe
People have vastly different concepts of what the ideals mean and how to interrupt them

Ouch :D

To the original question: probably, but I don't think that the US is the proper measuring stick. You'd need a country with a really long history, where history is far more glorious than the present, and where the censorship apparatus makes filming things about the present much trickier than filming things about 1000 years ago.

China is quite unique in that respect.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Daan

To be honest, a lot of what is proclaimed as history is unadulterated nonsense that would not pass muster with objective academic historians. I have a book here that contains a map labelling the territory of the 南北朝 (420 - 589 CE) the People's Republic of China. Its author? The first President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guō Mòruò.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
gato
I have a book here that contains a map labelling the territory of the 南北朝 (420 - 589 CE) the People's Republic of China. Its author? The first President of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guō Mòruò.

Doh! I think I recommended that book to you. 8)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Daan

Haha, that's right :mrgreen: But it's certainly not the only book which contains doubtful ideas, unfortunately. I also have a book that argues the people of the Yangshao culture (5000 - 3000 BCE) were all communists, who were then violently repressed by other tribes. Of course, the CCP stepped in to make things right again.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
realmayo
You'd need a country with a really long history, where history is far more glorious than the present, and where the censorship apparatus makes filming things about the present much trickier than filming things about 1000 years ago.

China is quite unique in that respect.

Egypt? Don't know how tricky their censors are though. Iran? Iraq?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
gato
Egypt? Don't know how tricky their censors are though. Iran? Iraq?

Religion serves the purpose of nation-building (region building?) and entertainment/national pastime in those countries that history/costume dramas serves in China. Hehe.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
renzhe

Egyptians actually learn a lot about their history in school. Still, I don't think that today's Egyptians identify with the pharaonic Egyptians to the same extent that the Chinese identify with the Tang dynasty, for example.

Anyway, for most people in these countries, Islam is a large part of their current cultural identity, and that came relatively late in the game and presented a break with many aspects of the old cultures. So it's still somewhat different.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
chrix

the Roman Empire and the Middle Ages can be quite popular for some Westerners too :wink:

But I was talking with a forum member about this the other day and he told me that he asked some Chinese people in his office to name the First Emperor and they mostly all weren't sure about this, let alone the name of any other important emperor in Chinese history.

So absent reliable statistics, I'd be very cautious with overgeneralisations.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Outofin

I'm mainly thinking about common people's interest in history. Traditionally, entertainments were pingshu and operas. They're all about the past. (I assume this is a norm for all people?) Now history dramas take a significant portion on TV. Fantasy novels are rarely about future, but overwhelmingly based on history, such as wuxia novels, and 穿越 (pass-through) novels written by numerous amateur writers. These all have keen creators and audience.

America doesn't have a long history. But still, 200 years generated enough good stories. I personally like dramatized real people and stories very much. But when I turn on TV, Roosevelt , Eisenhower, Lincoln... they are *never* there.

I wonder how it is like in countries like Greece, Italy, Iran, India, Egypt. (Not sure about Egypt. I think the people living in Egypt today are a different people from old Egyptians. The old Egyptians had been overrun by Arabs long time ago.)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
jbradfor

chrix, you bring up a good point. However, I think there is a difference between having a shared cultural identity based (in part) on history, and actually knowing any facts about said history. In fact, I would argue in terms of generating a shared cultural identity based on history, the less people actually know, the better. Fiction can be much more compelling, everyone can be made to look like a hero, and a lot less ambiguous.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
chrix

But jbradfor, the West has an identity based on shared history too, as I mentioned Rome and you could add Greece, and the historical background to Judaism and Christianity, and then the national histories of the respective countries, and some shared moments of major European history (Napoleon etc.) and of course the history of America. Most Westerners might not know the details either but it underlies the Western culture as well....

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
gato

History used to be a major part of entertainment in the West, too. Shakespeare wrote a few plays about kings and princes.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
wushijiao
America doesn't have a long history. But still, 200 years generated enough good stories. I personally like dramatized real people and stories very much. But when I turn on TV, Roosevelt , Eisenhower, Lincoln... they are *never* there.

I'm pretty sure they recently made a TV series about John Adams, right? Personally, I love the movies "Nixon", "Path to War" (about LBJ), and "13 Days" (about Kennedy). But generally speaking, I agree that the American output of historically-based drama pales in comparison to China, especially in the TV format.

I think part of the problem for Americans is that it's somewhat hard to identify with the issues and culture of anything more than 30 or 40 years ago.

On the other hand, Westerns were an incredibly popular genre that, arguably, had a role to play that not dissimilar to court dramas or CCP-fighting-the-Japanese dramas in China today. Both genres (through setting the fictional and historic stories in these backgrounds) served to subtly legitimize a political act, taking of indigenous territory by force on the one hand, and a "benevolent" authoritarian regime on the other.

Another explanation could be that there are just a lot more stories in Chinese society from history. There's probably a bigger popular demand to see these stories made into fictionalized dramas than there is in the West (or at least the US). For example, making movies out of historical stories turned out to be the most successful formula for the Shanghai movie industry in the 1930's.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
gato

Taiwan doesn't produce that many historical dramas, whether on TV or in the movies, so it may not be a Chinese cultural thing in general. Or maybe the focus on history is part of the Chinese culture under traditional non-democratic circumstances, to steer attention away from present conditions, mostly. But most people most of the time are more concerned with the present than the past, and when the media is more free to produce more and better content based on the present, the consumer's taste will shift, as well.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
chrix

Taiwan does produce historical dramas, but mostly related to Taiwanese history. I also think that the Taiwan TV market would be smaller but I actually don't know any concrete figures...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
gato
Taiwan does produce historical dramas, but mostly related to Taiwanese history.

Less than mainland, though, relatively speaking.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and select your username and password later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Click here to reply. Select text to quote.

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


×
×
  • Create New...