Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Dwarf Pirates

I was pretty stunned by this photo (from EastSouthWestNorth):

This giant poster is in--you guessed it--China, and if you know characters through Japanese you might not recognize the first two in this slogan ("倭寇入常,天理不容"). They are "wo1kou4," a derogatory term for Japanese. EastSouthWestNorth translates the entire thing as "To let the Japanese bandits enter the UN Security Council is not permitted by natural (heavenly) principles," but most Chinese speakers understand "wokou" to mean something more like "dwarf pirates" since the first character is the "person" radical and the character for "short."The term originally referred to pirate bands that conducted raids on the Chinese and Korean coasts beginning in the 16th century (which, by the way, consisted of Japanese, Chinese, and Korean sailors).

Call me naive, but it's pretty stunning to see something like this displayed in this fashion. Azuma was right in his comment on my post about Japanese "nationalism": In Japan, you might see such an inflammatory message on the side of a nutcase's sound truck, but never hanging from the side of a building like this. I am being persuaded--Japanese nationalism doesn't even come close to the "instrumentalized" Chinese version.


Matt said...

Hey, I posted about that first character here:

Is it really theorised that the "wa" in "Land of Wa" was originally a Japanese sound? I always thought it was from Chinese and the 和 meaning was applied to it later by Japanese folks casting around for a positive way to write it.

amida said...

I was thinking I read that in Borders of Chinese Civilization but upon double-checking I have found it's not there. I probably got that backwards so I removed it from the post.

Now that you mention it, I read that post when you posted it. I think I stumbled upon No-sword while searching for something about Musashi.

Azuma said...

What saddens me the most of all is that I can't see how Japan can win this fight. The wounded pride of defeated China demands revenge, and as she rises and Japan sinks, I can't see what can stop her. And in a better world, whatever the past, the angry nationalism of a police state shouldn't emerge victorious against a peaceful, and pacifist, free nation. And of course, since revenge usually feeds more than it satisfies, the Chinese victory in Japanese humiliation can only whet their appetite, and who knows what then?

I wish the collective Japanese memory of WWII wasn't that of a mutual conflict where Japan was the greatest vicitim and suffered most. But when a Chinese blogger, one of the supposedly educated elite, leaders of the future, writes how Zhang Ziyi has so shamed the nation by having screen sex with a Japanese man she should be cut to mutilated bits, it's hard not to get depressed and hope againt hope against the victory of his nation.

IbaDaiRon said...

Any of you ever read a book called Chung Kuo by a David Wingrove? (Not well written, so can't recommend; first in a series I never read more of.) Set two or three hundred years in the future in a world where China Rules. And not in the cool sense.

Pity it's still too soon to book passage off-world. The future's so blight I gotta wear Last Emperor shades!

Matt said...

Man, that same blogger must have been absolutely livid when she had screen sex with a guy who was both Japanese AND Taiwanese, in Lovers. (or was that what they were talking about? i assumed it was a Geisha thing)

amida said...

I think in the demented mind of the Chinese ubernationalist, Taiwanese are OK--it's just that the "Chen Shui-bian clique" has kept them separated from the Motherland or something like that. And I bet it slips their minds that Takeshi is half-Japanese.

By the way, outside of Japan, that film was called House of Flying Daggers, but Chinese films in Japan need, um, special English names because, uh, Kanji, um, well... huh?

By the way, this brings me to Amida's First Law of the Internet: Nothing on the Internet is representative of anything except the Internet. That's especially the case for stuff about China. We don't know who posted it, why they posted it, etc.

Azuma said...

I had forgotten that about Lovers, Though my guess is they accepted him as Chinese and forgot the rest. Haha. Or maybe they forgave it because it was made by Zhang Yimou, who seems to have turned a little more nationalist in his old age, at least from Hero.

And as for it being representative of only itself, nah, I think you had it right to start with. It was hung on a building, and from everything I know, surely represents what most people who read it there think anyway. Even six months in Beijing was enough to make it plain to me how disliked Japan is there. That's what was so nice about Taiwan. Chinese people who like Japan, a glimmer of cultural peace. Too bad it's not likely to last.

amida said...

No, no--I meant the blogger's comments, not the photo. I am not going to make apologies for the idiots who hung up that banner. I take Chinese vitriol found on the web with a big grain of salt, as I do with many things online. Every extremist opinion is over-represented online. Crazy people get worked up more and post more.

Japan is a hot button in Taiwan, too. Japanese rule is looked upon fondly by some "ethnic Taiwanese," while many of the "mainlanders" (who came over with the KMT in the late 40s) and their offspring hate the Japanese just as the Chinese do. Aborigines tend to get on the KMT anti-Japan bandwagon due to the treatment they got under the Japanese. Just recently, members of the Taiwan Solidarity Union, an extremist Green (pro-independence ) group, sent their leader to pay respects at Yasukuni Jinja. That was followed by a protest there led by a politically Blue aborigine legislator (I forget if she was KMT or PFP). They were kept on their bus by Japanese policemen outside of the shrine, and I'll be damned if some of them didn't jump screaming and shouting from the bus windows. I am not a fan of their politics but I had to admire them for that.

(I am sympathetic to the Greens, but I have to say that the TSU Yasukuni trip was a pretty disgusting display.)

Tim May said...

IbaDaiRon:«Any of you ever read a book called Chung Kuo by a David Wingrove?»

I read the entire ten(?)-book series, and I can tell you you made the right decision to stop at one. In the final volume the key to the plot turns out to have been giant space spiders.