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February 28, 2004

The 50-Year Communist Assault on 5000 Years of Chinese Culture


by Sascha Matuszak

It's ironic that the Mainland demands only patriots may rule in Hong Kong and Taiwan patriots meaning real Chinese and not bastardized versions corrupted by Western interference; Chinese who support the Party.

5000 years of culture is a term used often here to describe the confusion that often arises when West meets East on the Mainland, but 50 years of destruction is a term not often heard.

The damage done to Han culture, the culture supposedly representing the vast majority of Mainland Chinese over the past few decades is immeasurable. Tourists coming to China have to seek out the villages of the Yi, Qiang, Bai, Naxi and Dong minorities to get a glimpse of what China was before the Party and its excesses did best to erase those 5000 years.

Or they can go to Hong Kong and Taiwan, where the old written language and Chinese Buddhist rites Wu Shu and Feng Shui are alive and prospering.

In these renegade tracts of the Motherland, the poets, monks and masters escaped the fates of their Mainland compatriots who, in the 60s and 70s, were crushed under the heels of Red Guard Zealots and now, in the modern era, are reduced to sagging shambles awaiting the wrecking ball.

Kill All the Hutongs

The demise of Beijing's hutongs has been slow and painful, with forced relocations laced with greed driving the process. The Seaboard cities have exported their lust for mega-plexes to the western cities, with huge real estate conglomerates WanDa and YiDa from Dalian leading the way. WanDa specializes in huge department store buildings and housing complexes they just signed a huge contract with Warner Bros. to introduce massive cinemas to Chinese audiences.

YiDa is launching a campaign to gain the rights to promote 21st Century's real estate practices throughout China they started last year in Chengdu http://www.c21chengdu.com.cn, and now they are looking to expand. YiDa's marketing manager, Owen Chen, says his company realizes the need for culture in a modern society he outlined the Group's plans to build a complex of buildings fusing IT and Taoism in the Taoist QingCheng Mountains north of Chengdu.

"We must leave something for our children," he said. "These cement boxes just don't cut it."

But Old Chengdu is virtually dead. The last remnants of what once a cultural capital are locked in a battle for their lives with the local government, who is more interested in a candy-coated refurbishing of the area than in the 1000 years of culture and history the neighborhood represents. And while the old city is under siege and rampant construction and development turns the city's waterways into cesspools, the Chengdu Government wanders around in dreamland.

The old parts of any large city in China are going or gone. Hong Kong's super-modern skyline draws visitors away from the islands and New Territories were the modern and the ancient co-exist and Han culture is visible.

If one were to take photos of the skylines of  Shenzhen, Taiyuan and Chengdu, there would be no discernible difference. And there would be no old city to offset the sterility.

Where Are All the Kung Fu Masters?

Wu Shu on the mainland is in a dismal state. All the great masters left for Hong Kong and abroad during the war on ancient China waged by the Communist Party. Now, if one wants to study classical styles, Australia and the US offer better schools for common students than China proper.

On the Mainland, Wu Shu has degenerated into crude fighting styles used by soldiers and cops to beat down migrant workers when they fail to produce legal documents. The few masters that do exist live off of the money their students make as security guards. Traditional Wu Shu was always a guarded secret in China, and now that secret is going to the grave with the old masters due to a lack of students.

In remote towns like Hanyuan, tourist towns like Dali in Yunnan and the glorified Shaolin Temples, masters are still to be found and a revival is happening, but if it were not for those anti-government traitors who fled the Mainland in 1949, classical Chinese Wu Shu would have all but disappeared.

Business First, Culture Later

The lust for riches is strong in China. Every endeavor is met with a pragmatic, "does it pay the rent?"

Musicians in Chongqing, a city with migrant workers swarming all over the buildings and bridges, speak reverently of making a difference and bringing meaning to the music the Mainland produces now. They scoff at Wang Fei, Liu De Hua, Zhang Bo Zhi and other Chinese pop stars that are adored by the masses.

A huge market has popped up for burned CDs from anywhere but China French trance, English disco, Dub, Indian break-beat anything to feed the appetites of the musicians here. But every one of these artists engages in CD swapping in their free-time most days are spent producing "Business Music" to stay alive.

Fu Qiang, a music aficionado who owns hundreds of CDs just began a business selling CDs with accompanying videos to the discos and bars of Chongqing and Chengdu. But the CDs he sells through his business are remixed dance tracks from the discos of the 1980s in London.

"This music is all crap, but they love it in the discos and I need to eat."

Beijing's "patriots" would aim to crush the spirit of Hong Kong and Taiwan, just as the Red Bandits tried to crush 5000 years of culture on the Mainland.

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  • Sascha Matuszak is a freelance writer living in Chengdu.

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