Tag Archive: China


Top 5 Wednesday” is a weekly event hosted by Sam from ”Thoughts on Tomes” where booktubers and bookbloggers list their top five bookish favorites. This week’s theme is favorite Non-canon ships, which means that before we get started let´s do a rundown of some terms people might not know about: Shipping (deprived from the word relationship) is, as wikipedia states: ”the desire by fans for two characters to be in a relationship, romantic or otherwise. It is considered a general term for fans’ emotional involvement with the ongoing development of a relationship in a work of fiction”. With ”canon” one is referring to the original authors confirmation, with ”non-canon” one is referring to imagined alternative scenarios by fans. In this post I will mention five couples I wish were canon, or that I wish could meet. Let´s get started.

1. Consuelo x Polleke (from the ”Polleke”-series by Guus Kuijer): This takes a fifth spot since, unlike the other ships on this list I´m not that enthusiastic about this pairing, however I do believe it would have been much more logical and interesting than the canon couple in the middle grade ”Polleke”-series (even if, yes, both girls are straight in the canon material). The ”Polleke”-pentalogy was funny, sad and dealt with a lot of heavy issues, such as drug abuse and forced marriages. Polleke is a twelve year old girl who likes to write poems, and often feels confused in a world where culture clashes are around every corner. In the series third book she befriends the Native Mexican refugee girl, 14- year old Consuelo, which the series implies fled Mexico after suffering rape at the hands of police. By befriending Consuelo, Polleke starts to become more sensitive and understanding, taking a huge step in empathy. Consuelo on the other hand is fiercely loyal to Polleke, even in cases where Pollekes boyfriend Mimoun is not. Their friendship is precious and the girls stick together through everything, more so than Polleke´s canon love interest. It is arguable possible that Polleke and Consuelo´s relationship would be more balanced and happier; Mimoun had shades of an emotional abuser, while on the other-hand Consuelo is always kind to Polleke. So if it may be humble suggested, Polleke should have left Mimoun for Consuelo.

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2. Harry Potter X Luna Lovegood (from the ”Harry Potter”-series by J.K. Rowling):

In the ”Unpopular opinion book tag”-post, I mentioned that I was never that convinced by Harry and Ginny´s love story; in fact the big love story of the series seemed to belong to Ron and Hermione instead, with Harry and Ginny´s relationship feeling very sudden and out of left field. Harry seemed in fact to be bonding much more with Luna Lovegood, the quirky side character introduced in ”Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”. Harry is a little confused by Luna’s odd behavior, but regardless is open-minded about her ideas, and most certainly warms up to her in a noticeable way. When he even takes her on a friendly ”date” in ”Harry Potter and the half-blooded prince” the pair turns out to have interesting chemistry and bounce of off each other in a sweet, cute kind of way. It would have also been an interesting turn of events had Harry fallen for Luna, since him marrying Ginny followed a traditional childhood romance formula. Luna, like Harry, had experienced death at an early age and like Harry, had a intriging persona. These two would have just been an awesome couple, compensating each other in a heartwarming way.

huna

3. Emilia (from ”Othello” by William Shakespeare) x Song (from ”M. Butterfly” by David Henry Hwang):

This is a crack/crossover ship, but nonetheless their is a sense that these characters might have gotten along had they ever met. Both are snarky and cynical, yet have clear ideas about what is ”right”. Both react to a grand form of prejudice, in Emilias case she feels anger towards a world where women are seen as inferior. Song on the other hand makes it no secret that he is disgusted with the west´s exotification of Eastern culture. Both characters also express these dislikes with sharp, memorable lines, and both face abuse in their own plays (albeit different kinds of abuse). If they ever met in a ”Once Upon a time”*-type of story, it is no doubt that these two would probably click, and have much to talk (i.e. rant) about together, all day long.

4. Louhi (from ”The Kalevala” by Elias Lönnrot) x Cao Cao (from ”The Romance of the three kingdoms” by Luo Guanzhong)

Another crack/crossover ship, but also more of a ”dark ship”, since both Louhi and Cao Cao are villains. Louhi is the dreaded ruler from the north who does not hesitate to kill off men she deems unworthy of her daughters hand, Cao Cao is an ambitious but ill tempered man who while seeking power causes a lot of deaths. While clearly not good people, what is interesting is that while both characters are clearly evil, their ”evilness” is also in different ways exaggerated. In Louhi´s case, in ”The Kalevala” she is portrayed as a ruthless person but most of the time it seems like the protagonist are causing her more harm than vice versa. Cao Cao on the other hand is based on a real ruler, who modern historians claim was a fairly decent ruler by the times standard. So while I do ship these two in a villainous, dark way, I often imagine them as slightly (just slightly) toned-down villains who help each other out in climbing the ladder to greater power, scheming together how to outsmart everyone else. Both are real fighters, and together would probably be unstoppable, which appeals to lovers of a more twisted power couple.

caocao

5. Moomintroll x Gnorke (from ”The Moomins”-series by Tove Jansson):

I mentioned in a previous post that Moomintroll, one of the main characters in the Moomin franchise, was shown in the original novels as being one of the first to be able to reach to Gnorke, the scary but harmless creature that roams Moominvalley. While in the original novels Moomintroll only has a sort-of friendship with her, the japanese animated show from 1990´s did confirm that Gnorke had a one-sided crush on Moomintroll, which his friends and girlfriend tease him about. To me, this ship works for two reasons: 1. the novels are vague on the ages, so Gnorke and Moomintroll can be imagined as nearly equal aged, and 2. Moomintroll´s kind-hearted nature and willingness to help Gnorke while Gnorke in canon is clearly overjoyed by the contact leads to an interesting dynamic. Gnorke is the hopeless, odd individual in need of comfort; Moomintroll is a loving person who sees beyond what is told to him. As a couple, not only could one explore themes of loneliness and comfort and response, but also what it means that Moomintroll can go so against what he´s been taught. It has the potential for angst, fluff, a real roller-coaster of a relationship. Alas, this will forever only be in fans wildest dreams.

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Fan art by Sildesalaten

That´s my top 5 non-canon literary ships, comment below and tell me some of yours!

* Once Upon a Time is an American fairy tale-retelling dramatic television series that premiered on October 23, 2011, on ABC. The show takes place in the fictional seaside town of Storybrooke, Maine, whose residents are characters from various fairy tales transported to the “real world” town and robbed of their real memories by a powerful curse. – Wikipedia

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Yiyun Li is a Chinese-American writer who has made a name for herself with short story collections and novels. She won an award for her short story collection “A Thousand years of Good prayer” and made her Scandinavian breakthrough with the novel “The Vacurents”. Moving to the US when she was 18 years old, with the intent to continue her studies in science fields, Yiyun Li discovered her love of literature there instead. Ms. Li has stated that a good practice for aspiring writers is to read at least one classic novel per year. And even if this story has no real importance to this blog post, I can´t help but mention this endearing story: when Ms. Li was visiting Stockholm´s International writer’s scene in 2013, she mentioned that while growing up her mother was a complete tiger mum. After explaining to the Swedish audience what this meant, the interviewer asked if she was a tiger mum to her children. Ms. Li replied: “Oh no, I´m too easy going. I´m more of a chicken mum; I let my kids run free and make their own path”.

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In “A Thousand years of Good prayers” Yiyun Li casts Chinese people as the majority of her protagonists (and one Mongolian person), a modus operandi in her fiction writing. This ethnicity though is greatly varied, as it is with the lived experience of any group. Some of them are people that live in the more rural sides of China, some have immigrated to the United States (one story features a gay man who has sought out asylum in the US) and some live in the large cities of China. The stories touch on many different issues such as disability, estrange families, the stigma of supposedly having lost ones virginity before marriage, and being disillusioned by corrupt politics. The running theme is Chinese culture, society, the personal and family dynamics. While I enjoyed many of the stories, one stood out to me due to a particularly interesting subject matter. The story “Son” is about a mother-son relationship where the son is an atheist and his mother has just converted to Christianity, and is a bit too enthusiastic about her new found beliefs.

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The narration follows the Son´s perspective. It is his thoughts that the reader gets to know intimately, and his loving, but frustrated, feelings towards his elderly, widowed mother.  The son is, on top of their different relations to religious belief, gay and has never come out to his mother. He has always wanted to be more of a dutiful son and not disappoint her. His closeted state related to his sexuality makes sense in the context of growing up in the 1980´s China, as homosexuality was illegal in the country until 1997 and considered a mental illness until 2001. His mother, enmeshed in the societal beliefs of the culture, has grown up with this conservative view on sexuality, and the son deems that his mother would especially condemn him now with added incentive of her new found religion.

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While the son hasn’t come out as gay to his mother, he has always been open about being an atheist. When the story begins, Li gives you the sense that this repudiation of religion is accepted by the mother until the advent of her recent conversion. Due to her new found faith, the mother is now quite insistent on converting her son as well, to which he responds more and more angrily as time goes on. While on the surface the son would come off as a stereotypical angry atheist, the story takes a deeper look behind what is fueling his angry reaction towards his mother. While he is trying to be dutiful and kind son, his mother is testing his patience by continually pushing her beliefs on him. On top of this, his mother´s behavior seems more than false to him, since he still holds resentment for her burning his bible when he was twelve years old – something the mother claims the father had forced her into.

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By balancing the son’s cynicism with the mothers naivety, the story asks hard moral questions. It is left to the reader to decide whether the mother was at fault for her behavior in her sons tween years, are if she is telling the truth. This antagonism between son and mother, hypocrisy and honesty, is for grounded in a scene where it is revealed that the mother pays two street children that (it is heavily implied) are clearly being exploited by an adult ringleader. The son sees them as cheating his mother, the mother sees possible conversion candidates, and the reader is questioned to regard the moral direction of two adults and their reply to child exploitation. Li shows us both characters motives and asks the reader if this was the right response or not. The reader is placed in a morally grey zone, motivating a consideration of our own beliefs and consequent actions.

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“Mother and son” by Hu Yongkai

Through the son´s point of view the reader also gets to see the story of his first crush at twelve, where he fell for a fellow schoolmate who it seemed returned his affections, but due to the intolerant environment neither one of them really wanted to admit the situation. Through just a few sentences Ms. Li paints a bittersweet tale of childhood wonder and first love, that was trapped in not being able to be confirmed but still cherished.

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The son´s atheism and cynicism however are the real star of this story. Usually writers would have these points of views be a straw argument, but the sons skeptical approach is often proven to have legitimacy. He points out that the so-called “catholic” church his mother attends is run by the government, which means that it is more than likely a place where sermon is full of propaganda. He wonders how his mother can easily defend herself for being previously strongly opposed to Christianity, and now strongly for it. He believes that people are feeble about their beliefs, that people are mostly fair weather believers, fickle in what they preach, and hypocritical in their actions, whether it be motivated by religion, culture, or politics. This narration is enjoyable not only because it embodies strong character building, but also because here we have a fair depiction of skepticism which yields a moral grappling with consistent ethical actions. What the son stands for gestates an indeterminate validity, whether we agree or not.

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What many atheist feel

“Son” shows us an atheist protagonist who is more than just an atheist, and not one without reason in an irrational world. Plus, his non-belief has only become an issue due to his mothers’ persistence in bringing it up.

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Traditional word for “Son” in Mandarin

 

A fine tale of family and lack of belief. “Son” by Yiyun Li is superb.

(This is a guest post written by Shujie, a Chinese political activist, torture survivor and refugee. Shujie is a proud socialist and pro-feminist, fighting for democracy, worker´s rights and women´s rigths. He has worked on articles about enviremental issues andhas done many translations of political articles. He currently lives in Sweden after fleeing China due to political issues).

“The state-sponsored media campaign about ´leftover´ women is part of a broad resurgence of gender inequality in post-socialist China, particularly over the past decade and a half of market reforms.” – Leta Hong Fincher

Leta Hong Fincher grew up in a bilingual envirement, learning both English and Mandarin in the US. The family visited China frequently throughout her childhood summers from the years 1970-1980. Starting from the end of the ´90s, Ms. Fincher worked as a China-based journalist for several American news agencies until 2003.

Her acclaid book, “Leftover Women: The Resurgence Of Gender Inequality In China”, is the result of two and half years of dedicated research, which Ms. Fincher started upon in 2010 along with her final studies in sociology at Tsinghua University in Beijing.

Book cover for "Leftover Women"

Book cover for “Leftover Women”

Hong Fincher had began to take notice of the so-called “Leftover women” phenomenon in China. Growing both curious and concerned to what this meant for the women of China, she began to investigate. Following her research, she interviewed many high-educated women in the end of their 20s, who described themselves as in a hurry to get married, even though they considered their fiancés very lacking of any positive traits. As a result of becoming a wife, many previously economically stable, independent women were drained of economical and financial independence after they made their marital promises.

Hong Fincher discovered that despite having no interest in their fiancée and rightfully worrying what marriage would do to their economy, many women still reluctantly married to escape the stigma of being a “leftover-woman”, a term which is has been prevalent in Chinese media since 2007. According to Hong Fincher, the CCP’s (Chinese Communist Party) claimed feminist-based “All-China Women Federation” defined the term “leftover” women as a single, unmarried woman older than 27. This term is sometimes also branded on women as young as 25.

One article that was published on many Chinese sites and newspapers, including “All-China Women Federation” website, claimed that numerous women were overly critical of their partners, and when they finally express interest in marriage, the men who are of similar age and have similar education are no longer available.

Ms. Leta Hong Fincher

Ms. Leta Hong Fincher

In response to this accusation, Hong Fincher points out that the country’s gender imbalance can be seen in the birth ratios: in 2008 121 boys were born and only 100 girls were born, which is a mark of the results from the countries one-child policy. In the Chinese culture it is tradition to prefer a son instead of a daughter. This leads to many women being forced to abort girl-fetuses. Or that, in some extreme causes, parents outright abandone new-born baby girls (causing them to die of hunger or lack of warmth).

Hong Fincher revealed that the motivation behind the “leftover” women media campaign was to motivate marriage to keep a social stability. The government believes too many unmarried men is a threat to stability. (Here it can be pointed out that the Government sees the men´s need for a wife as more important over women´s reproductive rights).

Another reason that Hong Fincher could see as an explanation for the sexist campaigns is that the lack of marriage was, to the government’s anxiety, supposedly effecting the countries population planning policy. This policy was designed for not only to control the quantity but also the quality of the Chinese population. Therefore the regime wanted the “high quality” women to get married and birth out “the best” children for the state.

One of the many propaganda posters used for the "Leftover women" campaign

One of the many propaganda posters used for the “Leftover women” campaign

One myth that is wide spread among Chinese people is that babies will be born with more disabilities and defects if the mother is over the age of 28, although no scientific research supports this belief. Many women that were interviewed by Hong Fincher were warned by their doctors not to have children “too late” since their baby would be “less than perfect” if they chose to give birth at the ages 28 and older. (The Chinese society has, as many cultures do, deep-seated ableist prejudices)
Furthermore Ms. Hong Fincher shows the mechanism between the housing market and the promotion of marriage between 20-30s male and female: “According to sales professionals, gang xu demand[rigid demand] comes largely from urban consumers experiencing the following life events: (1) marriage; (2) pregnancy and birth of the first child; (3) a child starting school.”

The idea of a rigid demand (gang xu) is constructed by the state so that they may control the property market; “it won’t become too hot or too cold”, as Ms. Hong Fincher writes.

According to Hong Fincher, the demand for residential real estate is kept high in these ways:
at one side, if I may quote her once again: “state-owned property development companies do not lower their prices significantly”. The new house buying policies in cities are often biased. For instance in big cities such as Shanghai, the real estate sellers discriminate against unmarried home buyers . On the other hand, as Ms. Fincher writes once more: “ property development companies collaborate with state media and matchmaking industries to reinforce the norm that couples need to buy a home when they get married…state media and real-estate advertisements perpetuate the myth that Chinese women will refuse to marry a man unless he owns a home”.

Hong Fincher also notes that the government probably wants to maintain high housing prices, so most of the middle-class home buyers must work under inhuman and overly-consuming conditions just to earn money for basic living. This results in the Chinese population having no time to reflect on their political and social situation and rights, especially the younger generation that are pressured into marriage and to buy a home the same minute they finish their university studies. A subtle and devious way to keep people under control.

“Angel No. 4”, 2006, by Cui Xiuwen

“Angel No. 4”, 2006, by Cui Xiuwen

Hong Fincher points out that middle-class activism tend to resolve around “NIMBY”, which stands for “not-in-my-back-yard” environmental concerns, such as to protest the construction of a chemical plantation that might pollute the neighborhood. However middle-class activisms among homeowners have not yet shown any serious potential for collective action that challenges the central government’s totalitarian rule. These activists are not concerned, for instance, with the lands poor or the lands oppressed minorities (such as the Tibetans or Uigur).

The world famous Sociologist Jean-Louis Rocca explains that homeowners in cities tend to support the one-party state and usually believe that engaging into politics is dangerous both to themselves and the Chinese society. Their motto tends to be: “China does not need a change in political regime. It needs stability.” Moreover, Hong Fincher says that aspiring home buyers in their twenties and early thirties tend not to show opposition to the state because of the “pursuit of money for a deposit on a new home saps much of their time and energy”. (It should be noted here that other journalist have stated that the Chinese do infact show a sense of dislike and distrust with their government, but accept it out of fear and the despairing idea that no other type of rule is possible.)

Ms. Hong Fincher elaborates: “Rather than causing political instability, high property prices and the norm of middle-class home ownership(home ownership is at 85% in China) might actually promote social stability by forcing young Chinese to focus on saving money to buy into the propertied class rather than agitating for social change.”

"Tattoo II", by Qiu Zhijie

“Tattoo II”, by Qiu Zhijie

Ms. Hong Fincher reports that the status of women in China has gotten horrible worse over the years and wealth inequality between men and women is the biggest form of wealth inequality that exist in todays China.

Most of the homes are owned only by the husband even though most of the women also have contributed to the home in different ways, Hong Fincher states. According to the nationwide “Third Survey” on the Situation of women, 51.7% married men are the sole owner of the home.

The problem lies in that when a women wants a divorce, she is at high risk at losing her entire apartment. According to a new interpretation of the Chinese martial law since 2011, it is stated that if the marital home is only written in the man’s name, the man gets everything automatically once a divorce is settled. Although many women contribute to housing in different ways, such as paying a part of the down payment or mortgage, they usually lack the documents to show their involvement. The Situation is even worse for housewives and stay-at-home moms who do unpaid housework.

Therefore, many women have difficulty to escape from their unhappy marriages, even in cases such as domestic violence. Many women are worried about losing child custody to the abusive husband and afraid that they will have nowhere to live if they end the marriage. In sort: abused women are forced to stay with their abuser to avoid homelessness.

A particularly heartbreaking example is when a woman was murdered by her husband in 2009. The woman had previously reported her husband’s behavior to the police eight times. The man was convicted only six and half years in prison for the abuse of his spouse. Women who report abuse to policemen are often ignored and left into the hands of their abusers.

Hong Fincher also describes women who resist the authoritarian state, at both collective and individual level.

One person Hong Fincher interviewed was Li Maizi, who was 24-year-old when the book was being written. Ms. Li is a feminist activist and openly lesbian. In the small space for activism in China her group organized many public activities such as “performance art” to protest gender discrimination. For example, they organised the famous “Occupy Men’s Toilets” campaign in Guangdong in 2011, where they were calling on local governments to provide more public toilets for women and in the same year she and other young women dressed in white wedding gowns splattered with red, blood-like paint to highlight the domestic violence issue.

Another famous activist is Ye Haiyan, whose blogger name is “Hooligan Sparrow”. She is a long time campaigner for women’s rights, especially in high-lighting issues around sex workers. After she protested against the cover ups of a officials and headmasters history of sexual abuse towards young girls, she was arrested and made homeless.

Ms. Fincher explains that since there is almost no space for independent women’s movements, many activist work in some NGOs registered by the government and work with agencies such as the All-China Women’s Federation. Many such NGOs are lobbying for legislation for domestic violence, according to her.

However, Hong Fincher observed that Li Maizi and many other radical feminists choose to work outside of the system.

In addition, Hong Fincher describes many women who struggle individually. For example, Hong Fincher interviewed a domestic violence survivor Kim Lee who immigrated from the states and married a famous entrepreneur, Li Yang. Even though she is an American, she still had to fight for several years before she got a result from the court. She received support and thanks from many anonymous Chinese women who live with domestic violence, which gave her the strength to continue, despite the constant threats by many other people, including a incident where a man walked up to her in the subway, spat in her face and screamed: “American bitch! Hope he beats you to death next time!”.

Interestingly, Hong Fincher sees many simularities between feminists and Chinese revolutions. During the bourgeois revolution in China which overthrow the Chinese empire in 1911, the famous feminist revolutionary Qiu Jin advocated for gender equality. In the May Fourth Movement, the women’s emancipation became one of the goals for the revolution. After the CCP gained power, the women’s position had been promoted considerably. But unfortunately these promotions have become merely lip service.

Qiu Jin

Qiu Jin

For instance many of these statements are mere mansplaining, i.e. they are often done without taking into consideration what the women of China are asking for. One problem that Ms. Hong Fincher forgets to mention is that these male bourgeois revolutionaries usually stand at a nationalist point of view, meaning that they merely see that China “needs” modern women to improve Chinese population’s qualities, which were inherited by the CCP. Ever since the CCP came into power, they also wanted to free women’s labour force. Hong Fincher describes how the women are ordered to work equally as men in the Great Leap Forward in spite of the fact that women still had to take care of the family and do all of the housework. Many women were forced to leave their infants at home when they went to work, which gave them lifetime traumas.

Chinese University students dressed as battered wives hold banners in front of an office of China’s Civil Affairs department, where local people register for marriage, in protest of domestic violence.

Chinese University students dressed as battered wives hold banners in front of an office of China’s Civil Affairs department, where local people register for marriage, in protest of domestic violence.

But that is not all. Ms. Hong Fincher also illustrates a vivid image the situation and struggles for the LGBTQ community in China and the transformation of the woman’s status since 1000 years ago.

It is an extremely well-detailed, layered and thought-provoking book. It gives a much needed insight into the lives of Chinese women, letting their voices be heard and their woes be expressed. It pulls at the readers heartstrings and educates the readers mind, and should absolutely be read by anyone interested in the situation for today´s women of China. I applaud Ms. Hong Fincher and her fine book!

It must be agreed with her that the women of China, as all other women of the world, must continue their long and hard battle to equality and emancipation. This fight must be fought by the Chinese women themselves; male allies in China must show solidarity to the brave women’s work. It would also help to use a certain intersectional view within the Chinese feminist movement, one that includes also highlighting the poor women’s, the jailed female political activist, the minorities and also the Tibetan women´s issues as well. At the same time others social justice, human rights and democratic movements should also take part in the feminist movement and take a stand against sexism including sexism within these movements. An economic Social transformation is also needed to provide the foundation of the woman’s liberation such as free public day care and fair, humane jobs for both men and women. To me, there is no feminism without socialism. And there is no socialism without feminism. Will Chinese feminist activists reach their goal of overcoming the oppression of the authoritarian government in China? We’ll see.

So, here´s some articles worth looking at on this subject, ending with two quotes from Jung Chang, the chinese-born writer of “Wild Swans”.

Here´s an informal essay of activist who are persecuted for trying to bring attention to the aftermath of the massacre. (If it looks blank, just scroll down.)

Go here to watch the famous incident of the brave tankman.

Sophia Richardson says: “China, the world remembers Tiananmen Square Massacfre”.

Ma Jian, the chinese author of “Stick out your tongue”, writes about his personal account on the Massacre.

Chinese Activist Hu Jia also recalls his personal experience at the Massacre.

“The tanks and the people”, another essay from a chinese writer, Liao Yiwu. He´s in exile and currently lives in Germany.

“I think because of their terrible past, particularly this century, the Chinese have come to accept cruelty more than many other people, which is something I feel very unhappy about” – Jung Chang

“What has marked Chinese society is its level of cruelty, not just revolutions and wars. We ought to reject it totally, otherwise in another upheaval there will be further cruelty” – Jung Chang

It has been 25 years, and still the slaughtered students haven´t been recognized by the chinese government nor have the massacres survivors and families gotten justice. Let´s speak up of this injustice!

Take care/ Maaretta