井底之蛙

7/16/2006

We’re not in Hebei anymore, Toto

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 2:21 pm

A Chinese Peasant

Pearl Buck has been getting a good deal more attention in China of late. Part of it is no doubt the fact that she wrote about China and won the Nobel Prize, but also because attitudes towards “friends of China” are changing. Buck was persona non grata in the Maoist period. She was also not all that popular with Chinese before 1949. Attempts to film The Good Earth in China were met with constant trouble. Authorities were unhappy that there would be scenes with a water buffalo, as this would make China look medeival. In the end all of the film shot in China was vandalized and the scenes had to be re-shot in the U.S. A lot of the criticisms seem typical of what Chinese intellectuals said about Buck. I somewhere reading a Chinese author who claimed that Buck’s picture of China was nonsense because she only talked to ignorant peasants rather than real Chinese i.e. educated people. Pearl Buck, in turn, thought that the real China had almost nothing to do with “the ice-pure pages of her wisdom literature…the teachings of sages and philosophers, put away safely into volumes and reverenced devoutly by a few hermit scholars and abstractly through hearsay by the multitudes, is China as she sees herself and as she wishes the world to see her, China in her decorous best, China as she is quoted and above all as she likes to quote herself, well-regulated, emotionally disciplined, the superior man”1 She rejected this China and wrote about the “real” China Both she and her opponents drew a razor-sharp line between elite and popular culture and located the “real” China on one side of it. (more…)

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