井底之蛙

1/9/2006

Raise high the flag, whatever it stands for

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 11:33 pm

Asian Harmony

This is a Japan/Manchukuo propaganda poster showing the harmony between the Chinese, Japanese, and Manchurians. I found it on the Hoover website and am using on my East Asian History syllabus for the Spring. (You need a nice Pan-Asian image for that.) I like the image because it is kids, which neatly sidesteps the question of why the Chinese and the Manchurian have abandoned their native loyalties. It’s also hard to envision trying a 6-year old as a war criminal.

The thing that struck me is that Chinese (the one on the right) is holding the old 5-Color flag. This was declared the flag of the Republic after the 1911 revolution. Sun Yat-sen was never happy about this, since he preferred the Shining Sun flag (the current flag of the R.O.C. on Taiwan.) He was turned down on the grounds that Shining Sun was too closely tied to his party and gave the impression that the Republic was a party-state (which is of course why Sun liked it.) In 1921 Sun’s Guangzhou government declared the Shining Sun flag the official flag of the Republic, and after the Northern Expedition this was accepted by everyone.1

Or was it? The Japanese apparently did not. Did they never accept the Shining Sun flag as the symbol of China? Or did they drop this recognition after 1931 or something? Or was the 5-Color flag just a symbol of the Chinese race to them, and they still recognized the Shining Sun as the symbol of the Nanjing state? The imagery is actually sort of odd, since the 5 colors in the Five Color flag were originally held to represent the 5 nationalities of China (Han, Manchu, Mongol, Tibetan and Hui.) Not many Tibetans in Manchukuo, so were the colors in the Manchukuo flag supposed to stand for something other than ethnicity? This site suggests that the four colors on the Manchuguo flag stood for red (bravery), blue (justice), white (purity) and black (determination), but it gives no references.

1Above from Harrison The Making of the Republican Citizen

Cantonese is Dying! (in L.A.)

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 11:32 pm

A not-too well informed article from the L.A. Times lamenting the decline of lively, slang-filled Cantonese in favor of the polite and dignified Mandarin. Obviously written by someone who has never been to Beijing. Or Tianjin. Or a lot of other places. No doubt a lot of Cantonese speakers do regard the school-ish Mandarin they know as dull, but the analysis is not very strong in the article. The article blames the Mainland government for pushing Mandarin, although the focus is on Chinese in America, where the pushing is obviously of a different sort. Part of what is happening of course is that the new waves of immigrants coming to the U.S. are as likely to be Mandarin speakers as not. 20 years ago my Mandarin was almost useless in American Chinatowns (Actually, 20 years ago my Mandarin was almost useless anywhere.) Now I almost never hear Cantonese. The interesting thing to me is the difference between today and the survival of Cantonese (and Fujianese, etc.) in the past.

Mandarin obviously works better if you have a community of lots of Chinese from different places, which is more likely now with cheaper transport and closer contacts with China. (One of the people learning Mandarin in the article was doing so to be able to speak to his grandkids in China.) The strange thing is that for a very long time Cantonese worked just fine to hold together business networks and families and such. Now if you insist on staying in the Cantonese ghetto you are sacrificing a lot, and people are leaving.

Why the change? Part of it I suppose is velocity. People moving around a lot more and communicating cheaper and quicker make it harder for a minority dialect to maintain its kingdom. Part of it is probably a political change. Hong Kong is no longer the gateway to China in the same way it was, nor are the Cantonese particularly likely to be the interpreters of the West to China. China is all open now, and Canton no longer has a special position.

I suspect part of it is that family and provincial ties are also less important than they were in 1906. The idea of continuing your Chinese studies in school is no longer just fillial piety for Asian Americans, and of course that means Mandarin. Is there anything else driving this? I know the Singapore government has been pushing Mandarin for a long time. What’s happening in Australia? Even better, what is happening in Indonesia, where acting like a trans-national Chinese might not be a good idea.

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