Lu Xun was one of the most renowned and revered Chinese authors of his time. His ability to affect his readers and make them think about societal problems set him apart from other writers. Many of his works use various literary devices to affect his readers. In this essay I will compare the different writing styles and literary devices used in “Medicine” and “A Madman’s Diary,” both written by Lu Xun. First, I will compare the perspective from which the stories were written and how this affects the reader. I will also compare the object of Lu Xun is criticism in these two different works, as well as what methods and symbolism he uses in his criticism. I will also discuss how the reader is affected by each story, as well as what message is sent to the reader. Through this analysis, we can understand the logic and methods employed by this ingenious writer to help improve Chinese society.
In “A Madman’s Diary” we are first shown the story from the perspective of a friend of the Madman. This perspective gives us some background about the madman, letting us know the man who wrote the diary was considered crazy, but this perspective also gives us a bit of bias concerning into the story. Then the author switches to the perspective of the madman; the Madman’s gives us a first person account, which allows us to see the inner thoughts of his mind, but we don’t know if everything he thinks is true. He blames society for eating people, although everyone denies this. The story also ends in the madman’s first person perspective, showing us his personal opinions on society until the end. This unique perspective from a madman makes us aware of some of the more unfavorable aspects in traditional Chinese society that even intellectuals would deny. Only through this madman’s perspective can we clearly see the truth of society, unencumbered by other people’s opinions. At the end of his diary, the madman tells us, “I have been living in this place where for four thousand years they have been eating human flesh,” (Lu 18). This kind of thought, showing some of the unfavorable aspects of Chinese society, can only come from a madman who is worried about everyone trying to eat him. Using a madman’s perspective to criticize society was an ingenious literary device employed by Lu Xun to accentuate the problems in traditional Chinese society.
These two stories both employ very different perspectives that work to bring the reader to a different conclusion and opinion about society. However both of these stories change perspectives through the story, giving us a different opinion about the events before and after they unfold. The first story starts out in third person but only shows Lao Quan’s life, and then the viewpoint at the end shows a grieving mother in third person, which gives us a unique perspective of how we should really feel toward the fallen martyr. However, in “A Madman’s Diary” the perspective changes from the first person perspective of an intellectual to the first person perspective of a madman, which more directly criticizes society. The changes of perspective throughout both of these stories give power to and reinforce the satire and irony that Lu Xun is trying to portray.
In “A Madman’s Diary” Lu Xun’s uses a madman and the practice of eating people as symbolism for the contemporary problems with traditional China. The practice of people eating one another can be taken to symbolize the many traditions that are hindering China’s progress in the modern world. Also, the madman seems to represent intellectuals in China who understand the faults of Chinese society. In the story, the madman asks his brother, “‘Is it right because things have always been like that?’ ‘I refuse to discuss these things with you. Anyway, you shouldn’t talk about it. Whoever talks about these things is in the wrong!’” Here we can see the elder brother, who seems to be a representation of traditional Chinese intellectuals, refuse to question Chinese traditions, and rebukes his brother for questioning them. From this passage we can see the clash between modernist Chinese intellectuals and those intellectuals who wish to cling to the ancient Chinese systems and ideas.
The madman seems to stand as a symbol of those who push for social reform and change in traditional China. Ann Huss also gives this insight concerning the madman, “The madman… is the model for the Western, independent self. He is the archetypal romantic cure for the disease called tradition,” (Huss 386). From this commentary we can see that the madman not only represents revolution, but also represents western thoughts and ideas. Many of the ideas for the reforming the Chinese traditional system would never have come about without the influence of western thoughts and ideas. The madman seems to embody Lu Xun and other intellectuals who have left China to study abroad and have experienced the advantages of western culture. Through this story, Lu Xun creatively expresses what positive aspects of western culture he has seen abroad and the changes that China should make in its traditional society.
In both of these stories, the author Lu Xun uses irony and symbolism to convey his criticism of society. The symbolisms of eating blood to cure someone and the symbolism of eating people are both very similar; not only do they both involve consuming human flesh, but they also represent the foolish and backward traditions that so many Chinese people cling to. This seems to be a theme throughout many of Lu Xun’s works. The young martyr and the Madman also both symbolize revolutionaries in China that are rejected by the cold society around them. Although these stories both use similar symbolism, it seems that the symbolism used in “A Madman’s Diary” is more direct and easier to understand. The madman seems to repeat over and over that people are eating blood, whereas in “Medicine” people don’t really question the tradition, and it is left up to the reader to understand that eating a person’s blood to cure illness is a foolish traditional belief. Only at the end of the story are we directly shown that the martyr was mistreated. Although both of these stories accomplish the purpose of using symbolism to criticize society, it seems the “A Madman’s Diary” was more direct and thus more effective in delivering this message.
In “Diary of a Madman” the reader is affected by the strange perspective of a madman, and his claims that everyone around him is eating people. To see the story unfold from a madman’s perspective may be discomforting for some readers because they don’t know if they can trust anything that he says. Also the theme of eating of human beings is probably also unsettling for many readers. In the story it reads, “My brother had just taken over charge of the house when our sister died, and he may well have used her flesh in our rice and dishes, making us eat it unwittingly,” ( Lu 18). This imagery may be horrifying for some readers, which is precisely Lu Xun’s goal; he wasn’t to shock his readers into contemplating the problems in China. Another emotion that Lu Xun evokes in his readers is that of empathy; the madman is persecuted by everyone, even though we can see he is trying to do the right thing. The reader is naturally left to feel sorry for the madman because he is only standing up for what is right.
In both of these stories, the reader is shown frightening images of blood and people eating other people. However, in both stories we are left to feel compassion for the madman and the young martyr because they have been persecuted. The stories in these works awaken feelings of compassion and disgust, and these emotions are the basis for our wanting to change society and see things from another perspective. Although the readers may initially be disgusted by the imagery in these two stories, they are awakened to the problems in Chinese society that are described by the author.
Hsia, Chih. A History of Modern Chinese Fiction. 3rd ed. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1999. 54. Print.
Huss, Ann. "The Madman That Was Ah Q: Tradition and Modernity in Lu Xun's Fiction." The Columbia Companion to Modern East Asian Literature. New York: Columbia UP, 2013. 385-394. Print.
The Chinese Language
Cultural anthropology in China is directly related to the study of Chinese language. Chinese culture has an intricate and complicated history. One of the fundamental influences on Chinese culture is the Chinese language itself. From an anthropological perspective, Chinese language plays a huge part in Chinese practices and traditions. Chinese is one of the hardest languages for westerners to learn, because it uses tones, and does not use an alphabetical writing system. In this essay, I will discuss the many aspects of the Chinese language and its modern importance worldwide. I will first discuss the phonology, tones, and pronunciation of the language. Then I will discuss special grammatical patterns of Chinese. Also I will address differences between the several distinct dialects of Chinese. Furthermore, I will address the different writing systems of Chinese and their origins. I will also discuss the modern vernacular Chinese as well as ancient literary Chinese and their differences. Finally I will discuss the use of Chinese Globally. Chinese is a difficult language for many westerners to grasp, but despite being a hard language, Chinese is one of the most important languages in the world and will only grow in importance as China becomes a greater factor in the global economy, just as we discussed in class. In this paper I will discuss the many aspects of the Chinese language in detail, make sense of its many nuances, and also relate these aspects to the principles of Chinese culture as touched upon in class.
The pronunciation of Chinese words has had a long history, and has slowly changed over time, just as the culture of Chinese has gradually changed. Words in Chinese are made up mainly by three parts: an initial consonant sound, a final sound, and one of the five tones (Ross 3). In Mandarin Chinese, each word begins with an initial sound, which is a consonant, but this initial may be absent in certain words. Every word ends in a vowel sound, or final. There are 37 finals in the Mandarin Chinese language (Li 3). There are some sounds in Mandarin that do not exist in English, and some sounds in English that do not appear in Mandarin. Pronunciation and accent also vary from region to region. In Taiwan, Mandarin is pronounced sometimes without the h in the sounds sh ch and zh. In northern dialects, sometimes w is pronounced as v. Also in the northern accent, there is the use of er yin 儿音, or placing the character 儿er after many words. This does not occur very much however in southern China. Also there is slightly different vocabulary in mainland China and other areas, because of slight differences in the standardized mandarin used by the PRC, ROC, and Singapore. For instance laji垃圾 is pronounced laji in China while it is pronounced le se in Taiwan. These differences in pronunciation of Mandarin over different areas of the Chinese speaking world also reflect a slightly different culture in each of these regions.
In our class discussion we talked about how the spread of western religion throughout China. In the 17th century it was hard for westerners to spread Christian religion in China because the Chinese language is so hard to learn. One reason for this difficulty in the language was the use of tones; tones are some of the most difficult aspects of the Chinese language for westerners to grasp. They are the subtle variation of pitch in the pronunciation for each word in Chinese, similar to the emphasis we use in the sounds of the English language. Tonal languages are common throughout Southeast Asia.
In Mandarin Chinese there are five tones, and even more in southern dialects. These tones are not variable according to emotion, they are always the same. The first tone carries a flat pitch, while the second tone is a rising tone which gets higher in pitch from the start to end of a word. The third tone is a low tone; it is also a falling and rising tone. The fourth tone is a falling tone, which falls sharply, much like an angry shout in English. The fifth tone is a neutral tone, which is said quickly without much emphasis, like a slightly falling first tone. Mastering these tones is a crucial aspect in mastering the Chinese language. Many westerners have trouble with this because tones are something completely foreign to them. Along with every word that one must memorize, one must also memorize the tone of that new word. This must have surely been a stumbling block for many early missionaries trying to spread Christianity throughout China.
This language is also known as Shanghaies; it is mainly spoken in Zhejiang, Shanghai, and Jiangsu. The Wu dialect has roughly 80 million speakers, making it the 2nd most spoken Chinese dialect behind Mandarin. It is the most different and unintelligible compared to all the other Chinese dialects. However, like Mandarin it also has five tones. It also has the largest vowel quality of any language in the world, with over 20 vowel qualities (Ager). Wu is also important to historical linguists because it carries many of the sounds of ancient Chinese.
Min is the third most common dialect in China, with over 70 million native speakers. (Nordhoff) This language is spoken in Fujian, Taiwan and Hainan. Taiwanese is also considered to be a sub-dialect of Min. It has 7 tones, and many of its sounds are much different than Mandarin. Min can be expressed in written form by Chinese characters, but it also includes its own set of special characters for words not directly transferrable to Mandarin. A romanization for this dialect was created by missionaries in the 19th century, although this form of writing is rarely used.
This dialect is also known as Cantonese, spoken in Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Guangdong and Guangxi. This dialect also has many native speakers, with roughly 60 million native speakers just in China. Cantonese pronunciation is very different than Mandarin, and uses 9 tones, the most tones of any of the Chinese dialects (Ager). This language has been especially preserved in Honk Kong and Macau where it became their official language while the rest of China adopted Mandarin. However, standardized Mandarin and simplified characters are becoming more and more common in these places because of the influence of the Chinese government in the past few years.
Xiang, also known as Hunanese, is spoken mainly in Hunan, but also Guanxi, Sichuan and Shaanxi. Xiang has been influenced by Mandarin and Gan through time, making it different than the other three dialects. Nearly 38 million people use Hunanese as their native language (Ager). During the Han dynasty, the people in Hunan spoke southern Chu language, which is believed to be what we know as the modern Xiang language today.
Gan, or Jiangxinese, is spoken in Hunan, Hubei, Anhui, and Fujian. Most of these are in the lower reaches of the Gan River valley. Roughly 31 million people speak this dialect as a native language. It has 7 tones, two of which are entering tones (Ager). Many words in Gan come from ancient Chinese; because of this Gan also uses many more particles than other dialects, which enhances the ability to express meaning and emotion in a sentence. Speakers of Gan originally came from northern China, but this language has also been influenced through time by southern dialects.
Hakka is spoken by isolated groups in Guangdong, Fujian, Taiwan, and other places in southeastern China. It has roughly 30 million native speakers. The writing system for this dialect consists of an official romanization of its sounds. This language also utilizes 6 tones (Ager). The Hakka people are travelling people, and have moved themselves into separate isolated groups throughout China, which has helped this language to grow and develop overtime. This dialect is also very closely related to Gan, which has been discussed above. This language also has many sub-dialects, of which the Meixian dialect is considered the standard Hakka dialect by the Chinese government.
2.8 Southern Dialects vs. Mandarin
In class, we discussed the modernization of China and the many cultural changes that China has gone through in the last century. Part of this modernization has been promoting Mandarin as the standard dialect throughout China. The northern Mandarin dialect was chosen as the national language by Chiang Kai-shek in the early 19th century, and has continued to be the standard language taught in schools and used in government documents in China ever since. Because of this, many of the other dialects are now being slowly forgotten by the younger generations. However, recent movements have been made to preserve native dialects as a heritage (Jacka 146). Northern Mandarin is the standard language of China and has been a lingua-franca for many years. Southern dialects tend to be more numerous and varied because of the many migrations of the Chinese people from northern to southern China. The immigrants from many different periods of China remained fairly isolated in the south of China, creating varied and changed forms of the standard northern language of their time. Now many of these dialects are looked down upon as inferior to Mandarin. However, from our class textbook we know that many Chinese dialects such as Shanghaies and Cantonese are looked upon as elite dialects because of the economic power of the regions where these dialects are spoken (Jacka 146).
3.1 Basic Structure
The basic grammatical structure of Mandarin is difficult to categorize because of its many different variations. On the most basic level, a sentence starts with a subject, is preceded by a verb, and ends with an object. Time words also always come before the verb. These rules are not always true, but work most of the time. Words in Mandarin consist of one or two syllables or morphemes (Ross 3). Sometimes one morpheme is sufficient to convey the meaning of a word. Two syllables add emphasis and clarity to the language, and can change a single morpheme into a completely different word (Li 28).
3.2 Contextual Grammar
As we discussed in class, the concept of Li shows respect and courtesy to others in society. This concept is especially apparent in terms of the Chinese grammar. Mandarin is known as a contextual language, which means that one must understand the surrounding conversation or context of the word to understand the full meaning, and many times words cannot stand on their own. This is important when showing courtesy or politeness to a person of higher social status. When a single phrase is taken out of context, it can have many different interpretations, especially if one is using only spoken Chinese to communicate. One example of this is pronoun substitution and simplicity. When a pronoun has already been mentioned in context, it doesn’t have to be mentioned again. If someone’s name is mentioned, then their name doesn’t have to be mentioned again in context, and one can just say verbs. This can also happen with to object words if they are the subject. This is somewhat similar to spoken English, but in Chinese it is used much more extensively.
Many situations in Chinese are understood in context, like time, verbs, and pronouns. Because there is no past tense, the use of time must be always understood in context. Once a time word is made known in a conversation, then it is understood that the rest of the conversation is talking about that period of time, unless specified otherwise. There is no past tense in Chinese; however this aspect of the language is made up by particles that tell us the aspect in context of what is being talked about. This aspect part of Chinese can also be very difficult to grasp for westerners, because much of Chinese words by themselves cannot be taken apart like English; the meaning of the words depends on the context in which they are placed. The main aspectual particle is le 了. Le了 does not mean past tense, as many beginning Chinese learners mistakenly think. Le 了 represents many different things, like that an action is completed, ongoing, just happened, or that what has been said the situation at hand (Li 213). There are over seven ways that the particle le了 can affect a sentence to change its meaning, such as when events are quantified, when events are specific, when verbs have bounded meanings, or if there are events immediately following the described situation.
The Chinese people have developed unique forms of communication and speech different than anywhere in the world. Unlike English and Latin based languages, Chinese has no conjugation. This lack of past or future tense is made up by for by the use of particles. Also, because Mandarin is a tonal language, sometimes it is hard to express emotions fully. Final particles help to add more emotion and feelings that the tones sometimes take away. These exclamatory particles act like an exclamation point, but they also play other roles. One of these particles is le 了, which emphasizes that a situation is contrary to what has been expected. Other particles represent different emotions such as surprise, softening of emotions, confusion, or a sudden realization. The particle ma 吗 is also used to show that the phrase is a question, because this cannot be conveyed accurately by intonation. There are hundreds of other particles used in the Chinese language, such as possessive particles, but I will not discuss them thoroughly in this paper.
Politeness and manners, or Li, like we discussed in class, is a key aspect of spoken Chinese. This principle is accentuated through the use of context to convey good feelings, such as the practice of pronoun deletion, which means not repeating your own personal pronoun too many times, especially if it can be understood from the context. So many words in Mandarin have the same or similar pronunciation, that the pronunciation of many words must be understood in context. But using context is not always foolproof, and can be confusing; for instance in Taiwan I often saw people that had to explain exactly what character they were saying in order for the sentence to make sense, but this does not happen often. Also this contextual part of Chinese helps to confirm the role-relationship aspect of Chinese culture. For instance, it is impolite to repeat your own personal pronoun too many times, and also it is impolite to repeat personal pronouns of those in a higher social status than yourself. This aspect of Chinese grammar directly coincides with the role-relationship and Li principles of Chinese culture that we discussed in class.
Characters are an integral part of Chinese culture as well as other Asian cultures that have been influenced by China. Chinese characters are logo-syllabic, meaning they represent one syllable or morpheme. Characters are also pictographs that can represent physical objects, abstract notions, or similar pronunciations. Strictly speaking, Chinese Characters represent the sounds of spoken Chinese, and don’t have special meaning beyond sound. One character may comprise a word or it may be part of a polysyllabic word of two morphemes or more. To become literate in Chinese, one must memorize many characters, about 4,000. However, there are tens of thousands of Chinese characters known to exist. This can be especially difficult to master, and becoming literate in Chinese can take a considerably longer time than learning a language that uses an alphabetical writing system. Because of this, some scholars have created alphabets based on roman letters to represent Chinese words, to make it easier to memorize these characters. Characters have gone over many changes through the ages, for instance now there are two different types of character systems, simplified and traditional; I will explain the differences between these systems later in this paper. Chinese writing systems have been an integral part of historical culture and still play a crucial role in Chinese society today.
As for writing Characters, it is a time honored art form in China. Because there are so many Chinese characters that are aesthetically created, writing Chinese has become one of the most popular forms of art in China. Traditionally, characters are written with a brush and black ink onto rice paper. There are many forms and styles for writing these characters and creating Chinese calligraphy. Each character has a stroke order, which means that characters must be written from left to right and from top to bottom, with few variations. Historically Chinese characters were written vertically right to left. But nowadays many different types of writing are accepted; characters can be written in any direction, horizontally or vertically, left to right or right to left, as they can be read correctly. Chinese characters are truly an integral part of traditional Chinese culture and art.
4.2 The History of Chinese Characters
Chinese characters have a long and intricate history which has impacted Chinese thinking and culture for centuries. The origins of characters date back to the 6th century B.C. However the first confirmed source of modern characters was discovered in the Shang dynasty in the second century B.C. (Wang). These were oracle bones, which were characters carved in tortoise shells. When the oracle bones were burned, cracks would form run over the characters and reveal a mystery. After this, Characters were made into bronze script. These bronze script characters were less angular and slightly different than the oracle bone script. In the early Chinese dynasties, many different types of scripts or characters were formed, which were all somewhat similar. Many different Chinese states or factions made their own form of script during the same period of time. Characters were finally standardized throughout China during the Qin dynasty. The characters that we use today are very similar to the characters that were standardized in the Qin dynasty. After the Qin dynasty, each succeeding dynasty also changed the standard characters a little over time (Wang). Because of this, by examining the subtle differences between characters, we can know what dynasty they were written in. The changes of Chinese characters overtime also reflect the changes of culture and traditions in China throughout history.
4.3 Traditional Characters
From our class readings and textbook, we know that modern China is going through many changes, and some parts of traditional culture are slowly being lost. One aspect of this loss of cultural tradition the gradual underuse of traditional characters; traditional characters are a controversial subject now in many contemporary parts of China (Jacka 146). These older characters form a writing system that does not include the simplified characters that have been used after 1946. It includes the standard characters of the Qing dynasty and previous dynasties. Traditional characters are also used as standard writing system for Taiwan, Honk Kong, and Macau. Traditional characters take longer to write than simplified characters because they require more strokes. However, they are overall considered to be prettier, hold more meaning, and are easier to read. They are easier to read because the characters are much more different from one another than in the simplified system, which helps the reader to more easily differentiate between characters. Many Chinese online newspapers now show both kinds of character systems. Because of the influence of China in Honk Kong and Macau, many people are worried they will lose their traditional Chinese character heritage. Currently there is an ongoing debate as to whether traditional or simplified characters are more effective.
4.4 Simplified Characters
As we learned from the readings concerning modern China, China is becoming progressively standardized in education (Jacka 146). Simplified Characters are a critical part of the standardization of contemporary Chinese education. They are a system of writing characters that uses most of the traditional characters but at the same time simplifies some of the common radicals found in these characters. The simplified system also uses fewer Characters than in the traditional system, as multiple characters in traditional Chinese system were combined into one character. This writing system was standardized by the Chinese government in the 1950’s and 60’s to increase literacy (Li). The main idea behind simplified characters is that they are easier to learn, and also faster to write, which makes it easier for the children and others in China to learn Chinese characters and become literate. Because they are easier and faster to write, communication and economics in China should therefore increase in speed and productivity.
4.5 Other Chinese Writing Systems
Although Chinese characters have been accepted as the writing system for China for thousands of years, they still carry drawbacks; because of this many new systems of expressing words have also been invented. These other systems of expressing the sounds of Chinese have been implemented at various times and are especially useful for Chinese dialects and for westerners learning Chinese. However the Chinese traditionally used the “Fanqie” system to learn the sounds of Chinese; the “Fanqie” system requires learning the sounds of some Chinese characters and employing them to learn new characters. But the “Fanqie” system was hard for westerners to grasp. Many of the first westerners that entered China instead used roman letters to represent Chinese pronunciation, which was a much more effective way for westerners to learn the sounds of Chinese. During the Chinese Cultural Revolution and after the Communists took power in China, these other systems of writing were considered to replace Chinese characters as the standard written form of Chinese. Here I will discuss the romanization of Chinese and also “Fanqie,” two different but well known ways to represent the Chinese language.
As we discussed in class, many early missionaries had trouble learning the sounds of Chinese. Many of them created romanization of Chinese sounds in order to learn Chinese more effectively. Romanization of Chinese means taking Roman or Latin letters and using them to represent Chinese sounds. This is not an exact science, and some romanization systems are better than others in regard to the representation of these sounds. Beginning with the earliest missionaries that entered China, westerners have devised romanization systems to represent Chinese sounds and words. The very first romanization system was made in 1617 by the first westerner to set foot in China, Matteo Ricci (Yang). However, for nearly two centuries after him, westerners were forbidden to enter China, and so there was no improvement in romanization during that time. After him, many others followed with their own romanization systems.
Some have proposed to use the current standard romanization for Mandarin or “Hanyu Pinyin” to replace Chinese characters as a writing system. However, so many sounds are the same in Chinese which often causes confusion as to what word exactly is trying to be expressed. This is because Chinese is a highly contextual language; there would be much confusion as to which word is being expressed, sometimes it is hard to tell exactly which meaning is being expressed for certain Chinese sounds. Sometimes there are ten or more characters that represent the same pronunciation and tone. For this reason, using a romanization system to represent the entire Chinese language is impractical. Having a character system gives more meaning to Chinese literature and eliminates a great amount of ambiguity. However “Hanyu Pinyin” is the standard romanization used by China today (Alan). It is also still used extensively used today by the Chinese people and by westerners now to learn the sounds of characters. It is also the standard for the vast majority of many foreign Chinese-learning textbooks. Westerners have come a long way since the first missionaries coming to China, and now business and cultural transactions between China and the west are almost infinitely more effective.
The Chinese also understood that learning Chinese characters was not easy, but they invented their own methods for learning the sounds of the thousands of Chinese characters. “Fanqie” is the traditional system for learning the sounds of Chinese characters. This is done by using two characters in Chinese that show the pronunciation of the new character. All the sounds of Chinese characters are represented by the a few simple characters that one must learn. Sun Yan of the state of Wei was the first man to invent this system of learning the sounds of Chinese characters in 200 A.D. (Casacchia). In this system, the first character represents the consonant or initial of the new character, while the second character represents the tone and final, or vowel, of the new character. This is a more ancient form learning characters, one which was also hard for westerners to pick up. One of the major setbacks with this system is that some basic knowledge of characters is required before one can use this system, so it is impractical for use by westerners who have just started to learn Chinese. However, this system is more suited for an intermediate or advanced learner, or a native speaker of Chinese.
Literacy in ancient China was synonymous with raising ones status in society. Many scholars and students would study long hours so they could pass the national exam and become a government official. Even though literary Chinese was different from spoken Chinese, the ancient Chinese was based on grammar and not necessarily sounds or exact pronunciation. Because Chinese is not an alphabetical writing system, as it can be pronounced differently in many different dialects. This form has been used for over 2000 years, and has influenced Chinese culture for centuries. In ancient China, only the learned intellectuals could understand this ancient Chinese, leaving a disparity between rich and poor and the learned and unlearned. People would spend their whole lives learning characters and this grammar so that they could become a government official and increase their social status.
This disparity between the literate and illiterate caused by classical Chinese is the reason that in the May Fourth Movement many scholars pushed so hard to do away with the old writing system and institute a vernacular system, which is what is used today in modern China. Classical Chinese is still taught in schools and has an influence on the language, but is not the official written Chinese like it was before 1900. More information can be expressed with this language while using fewer characters; this is because all words are one character only. There are no multi-syllable words in this language. Many idioms and phrases used frequently in Chinese speech and literary works today come from classical Chinese. Classical Chinese still has a relatively large influence in modern society and culture.
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The Shijing is an ancient collection of 305 poems that makes up the basis for ancient Chinese poetry. The poems deal with four types of different situations, namely the eulogy, formal matters, rites, and dance. The more elegant poetry was used for courtly affairs, but there was also poetry for folk songs, that were meant to incite emotion in the common man as well.
These poems were originally set to a musical score. The songs and poetry were originally meant to praise the ancient Zhou kings' and they were performed at temples and in courts. Later they were used to express personal emotions of I love, lust, sadness and other emotions to appeal to the neglected voices of the people. Because the songs were so influential in the courts, Confucius said that if you didn't know the songs, then you didn't know how to speak.
The poems usually consisted of a Xing, which is a repeated phrase throughout the poem that helped to give the poem a theme or tone. The poems also consisted of stock phrases that made up the building blocks of the poem, much like homers epics. Scholars have found that there are many similarities between epic Greek and Chinese poetry.
Many critics believe these poems connected man and nature, and that they also held ethical and moral values within them. Others say they were associated with rituals, while yet others think they were put only with music. Since the musical accompaniment of the poems was lost overtime, many scholars studied the morals and allegories within the Shijing. Scholars have noticed stock phrases in the Shijing, which are repeated phrases over and over throught. These phrases were originally thought to be plagiarism, but later scholars such as Lord Parry understood that they are essential parts of poetry, which include formulas, formula systems, and themes. Because of this, we are led to believe that these poems were originally transmitted orally before they were transcribed, because these formulas allow for more easy memorization and delivery for the speaker. Also because of the poems were written in meter, we can assume that they were probably set to music. Overall, the Shijing is a impactful and insightful part of Chinese culture, that no doubt helped to shape and add flavor to ancient and modern China.
To Live Review
To Live was a wonderful movie which exemplified many aspects of Chinese culture. It also portrayed many themes about life and perseverance that we can all learn from as well. Many of the examples of Chinese culture appeared in the film, such as burial ritual, the wife's loyalty to the husband, Guanxi, Ganqing, patriarchal order, and the social hierarchy of China. Also, the themes of redemption, as well as repentance, family ties, and perseverance were prevalent throughout the film. In this paper, I will discuss these themes and concepts from the film and how they help us to better understand the Chinese culture and mindset.
In the film, we saw a few examples of Chinese burial ritual. When the grandfather died, they erected the carved stone with his name, representing his spirit. Also when the son died they had a funeral which included the ritual of burning money, food, and paper objects, so that the son could adjust better in the afterlife. They also set out dumplings, his favorite food, so that he could eat them in the afterlife. His death was especially sad because he was their only son; he was meant to carry on his patriarchal family line that would otherwise stop with his father. Also the mom played her role well during the funeral ritual by being the principle mourner and crying more than anyone. This film showed us a unique and personal perspective on Chinese funeral rites that can sometimes seem strange to foreigners.
Another concept thatthat showed up in the film was the loyalty of Chinese wives to their husband’s family, as well as Chinese marriage ritual. Even though the wife hated what her husband was doing by gambling, she stuck with him. Then, even after leaving him for a short time, she came back to her husband and his mother because of the loyalty she had for the traditional Chinese family system. Also in the restaurant, she had to endure her husbands’ scolding and direct commands and not speak back, even though her husband was being foolish and was going to ruin the family; it exemplified the male dominant role that existed in traditional China. Then, when the daughter was married, there was a traditional matchmaker that set up the couple for the parents. Although the wedding lacked many traditional elements because of the great leap forward, the couple still wore the color red and there was a big procession for them. Also, the daughter cried and was sad because she was leaving her family to stay with her husband. Throughout the film, we could see the loyalty of wives to their husbands under the traditional Chinese social system.
Some other concepts that appeared in the film was the concepts of guanxi and ganqing. An example, of this was when the husband went back to the man to whom he had lost the house; the man, because of their past relationship and for feeling bad for gaining the house, gave him back a box of puppets. With this box of puppets the husband was then able to earn money. Also we saw guanxi take effect during the war when the three men stayed together and helped each other because of the prior relationship they had by being from the same village. Yet another example of this was when the district leader killed the son; because of his prior guanxi with the parents, the district leader felt bad and vowed to repay them, all the way to the end of his life. From watching the movie, it is easy to understand that guanxi and ganqing are integral parts of Chinese society.
The film also showed us examples of the patriarchal order of Chinese society. The husband lived with his father in the same house at the beginning in of the film; his wife had moved away from her husband's family. Although she kind of went against this system when she left her husband, she did come back after her son was born, because her son belonged to his father. Also when the daughter was married, she left her parents to be with her husband, because she became a part of his parent’s lineage. We can see from this movie that the patriarchal family system was a prevalent part of Chinese society.
We also saw the many different social rankings and roles in Chinese society represented in the film. The men seemed to be above women in all cases. Because if his wealth, at first the husband was looked well upon. But later he was looked down upon because his social status had changed. The man who had won the bets was not friends with him like before; they couldn't even joke with each other. Also the husband was very humble and used formal words with him because he was of a higher social class. The elderly were treated with respect as well throughout the film. The traditional Chinese social system seems to convey that age and wealth heighten one’s social ranking.
In the film we could see a constant theme of redemption throughout. At the beginning, the husband had a terrible gambling problem and lost everything, including his wife for a while. But he spent the rest of the film trying to redeem himself; he quit gambling and tried to live an honest life. Because of this, his wife came back to him and he was able to get his family back. He also tried to redeem himself by working as a puppeteer and making some money back and also when he joined the army which helped his status and position in society. Also the wife had some redemption when she came back to her husband, because she wanted to have a happy quiet peaceful life. She also tried to work for the family to bring them out of poverty. Another example of redemption was when the man who killed their son tried desperately to make up for what he had done by offering the family gifts and money, until finally they forgave him. This film gives us hope that no matter what happens in life, we can, with time, make things better.
In To Live, the theme of family togetherness was also a major theme in the movie. The film went beyond simply stating the man and his wife should be together because that of the way the society was set up, but we could see that the husband and wife truly love each other, are happy together, and want to stay together. We first saw this when the wife left the husband and how sad he was; he didn't want to be with any other woman. Also, the son still took care of his mother in their poverty. The wife also came back because she knew they had to be a family, and she wanted a happy family life. Also when the husband went out to war, all he could think of was his family, if they were oaky, and how happy he was with them. Then, when the daughter was married, she still came back and visited them often, even though she was part of her husband’s family. This film helped us see that despite the government and social issues that people faced, families were still the most important part of society in China.
Overall, this film exemplified and showed many themes of its own. We were able to see into the Chinese human heart through the themes of family ties, redemption, repentance, and perseverance in the film. Also we were able to apply the concepts we learned in class by identifying them in the film, with concepts of Chinese burial ritual, the subservient wife, patriarchal order, guanxi, and social hierarchy. To Live truly taught us about life and what living in Chinese society was like during the early twentieth century.
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