First, my apologies for the late coming of this article, in light of rushed midterms and reorganization of information from a bad case of writer’s block/laziness.
In this post, I will attempt to explain in more detail over previous comments and questions made in this blog over the organization of the Restoration Movement. Since there were questions posed in previous comments, I will answer them in Q&A format first.
I will admit that as a lutenist (guqinist, if I may) I am definitely no professional critic of national policies or commentator of world politics. However, over the entire month (4 weeks) of preparing this article and its various revisions I am hopeful that other ethnic Chinese and fellow members of our global village understand that the baseline of understanding an ethnicity is its unseparable and untarnishable heritage, cultural or genetic.
Q: “…I think is important now is to have a proper learned society dedicated to the research and promotion of Hanfu that can act as an authority … there is no reason why such a society based on Hanfu not be created…” – Charlie Tsua
A: It is difficult enough to organize a movement online and have opinions stay together (refer to my post on the movement’s history), but to organize a proper society in the PRC (a government that does not officially support or deny the movement, but certain media censorate officials are desperately countering it) would be the same as creating a target for opponents to the rise of Han Culture in general to fire upon in the name of “Han Chauvinism”. The proof? Major Chinese television networks have been broadcasting dramas representing the Qing period almost exclusively since 2005, such as <Kangxi Weifu Shifangji 康熙微服私訪記>, a fictitious series depicting the Manchu ruler dressed as a commoner and the comedies of travelling south for vacation, has already finished its fifth season and is heading to a sixth while other series depicting Ming and ROC are partially censored or rejected; and the much debated CCTV <Lecture Room 百家講壇> has deliberately cut opportunity for Prof. Mao Peiqi 毛佩綺’s lectures of Ming history for continual runs and reruns of Yan Chongnian 閻崇年’s controversial lectures on Qing dynastic history. More about Yan will be discussed later in this post.
Given that even non-profit NGOs have to be registered as private corporations in this state, private tutelages and culture promotion groups have no choice but to privatize, which in turn greatly limits their scope and outreach to whatever their own capital resources can achieve. In short, it is simply not possible for a recognized ‘learned society’ be formed other than by the current resources found online, such as 漢網 Hanminzu.com or the Daming Yiguan Forums 大明衣冠論壇.
Q: Taken from Charlie’s Facebook rant:
“Take for example the Hanfu movement which is trying to revive the ancient form of dress so that it would be like what the kimono is to the Japanese in status (some would go even further and make it everyday wear). Now, the sole argument they keep coming up with is the Queue Order in which 400 or so years ago, the Ming dynasty collapsed after the Manchurians invaded and they made us wear their clothes and plait our hair in pigtails, etc. This is now latched onto like a hawk’s claw and it seems that all the proponents of the cause spout this ancient grudge to persuade the public to the cause. Now, you can see the flaw in this. The whole thing happend ages ago and it is devoid of any modernity or interest to the public at large. Over-emphasising on this long dead justification of wearing Hanfu is frankly ludicrious and the public is of course not having any of it. The point being that you cannot persude the public to wear Hanfu by dragging out old injustices that have no relevance in today’s society, you can only persude them on a cultural and modernic level. The crap some of the proponents spout out reminds me of the bloody BNP and it just pisses me off. It almost made me feel ashamed to wear Hanfu or associate myself with this movement which is no longer about preserving culture but now about flag waving slogan screaming ulterior motived ideological and fascist racial superiority delusional bullshit to the point of being motivated into burning my Hanfu and rejecting the whole movement’s fundamental cause (which now seems to be all about Han superiority over the Manchurians instead of revival of something potentially worthwhile) in protest. ”
A: Historians like to use historical roots to debate their points, and most people would fail to see the relation with the present due to its temporal distance from the present. Knowing Charlie as a well-read and intelligent young scholar, he is quite beyond this simple fact. His major concern is in the temporal disconnect with our current Chinese and world issues in the arguments presented by the Huaxia and Hanfu restoration movements. It is important to perhaps re-emphasize that we rationalize the Queue Order of 1645 to be the historical root of the loss of Han Chinese clothing tradition, as well as the attribution of taboo in wearing it by commoners. The restorationists aren’t just disgusted at the history, they are disgusted at the fact that in China today, Chinese clothing are somehow automatically redirected to something else when they see one – Daoist or Buddhist clergy, cosplay or dressing up for TV/stage shooting, or those “gosh-darned young ones who know no better than to blindly pursue the beauty of other cultures”, namely of Korea and Japan – anything but even the faint possibility of the clothing being their own. Alongside other cultural instances such as the “UNESCO Duanwu/Tano’o Incident”, the PRC’s “River Elegy 河殤” anti-tradition propaganda, and the much-woed birth control policy that limits all Han Chinese to one offspring (hence effectively lowering not just total population, but deliberately raise the balance of 50-some other minorities), the Han Chinese are feeling that not only the world and their government, but even their own children (eventually themselves) at odds with their own identity – what does it mean to be Han Chinese, when the only description that you are given is that you are the only ones without a history or appearance? If saying that one can empathasize with their anxiety and anger in others’ oppression of letting the Han Chinese find and maintain their own heritage is only superficial, then try to think of the Huaxia restoration movement as an alterative for the Chinese to find their own ground to stand, and suggest a new modernity that does not view Eastern tradition as a “soysauce vat of feudalistic malpractice” (Bo Yang). Unlike the Falun Gong, which points its spearhead at the PRC government as the source of all oppressions and loss of heritage, hence seeking its destruction to its bitterest end, the Huaxia Restoration Movement seeks to peacefully seek a new path for the Han Chinese for greater rights in cultural and human living rights.
During the process of writing this article, several events can describe the general stage of recognition of Chinese culture and opinion among the Chinese themselves.
On September 23, in a reception for the oncoming 2008 China Open, international tennis players presented themselves in costumes of the traditional Chinese (some cite Han dynasty), but the influence was not wide-spread.
Meanwhile on October 6, Ma Ying-Jeou (Ma Yingjiu) paid homage to Confucius using Zhou standards and 8-row of dancers (signifying respect to the Emperor or a leader of a nation), while dressed in a Magua. Aside from the political implications, some netizens (especially that of Hanminzu.com) noted how strange it was to have cross-collared clothing on the ritual members, but Mr. Ma walked in from the centre gate wearing a distinctly different kind of robe, buttoned at the front. To most Chinese, it may seem normal, as they treat the uniform on the ritual people as a period dress (namely, of some long-dead past).
And just one day previous, on October 6 in Wuxi, Jiangsu Province, the CCTV-Lecture Room star lecturer Yan Chongnian was slapped in the face in a book-signing by Huang Haiqing 黃海清, or Dahanzhifeng (大漢之風, DH) mentioned in my previous article on Hanfu promotion in Shanghai. Although many expressed concern and some denounced Huang for using violence against a 73-year old scholar, more agreed with the fact that Lecture Room has become a breeding ground for “academic stars” than a place of question and mutual discourse, and Yan’s controversial views on Qing history has infuriated many readers and netizens on his flawed historiographical views. Huang’s actions were not particularly spontaneous, however: he claims that over the past year, he has questioned Yan over various public instances on his historiographical accuracy, and Yan has even claimed that “I would be happy to discuss this with you after the session for three hours” but never got actualized – out of frustration that civilian and netizen collaborative research have no channel of expressing their results, especially if it is to question or counter institutional research or Party policy: This study and discourse was beyond just textbooks, it is a matter of setting values of right and wrong, justice and turncoating, according to a response written by Huang after his release from detention.
It is also interesting to note that all attempts by Yan to promote his essays outside of China have been flatly rejected by Western scholarship. Yan himself has also denied to the accusations of publically stating various anti-humane statements, such as “the literary inquisition of Yongzheng was indeed not good, but it was necessary and has a positive effect on Qing rule” (Lanzhou Daily Inteveriew, published Oct.25 2005), and “[Manchurian culture as grazing-hunting society] have conflicts with the agrarian Han culture, and the Ten Days of Yangzhou was but a perfect representation of such cultures.” (Lecture at Changjiang Meilian Dajiangtan, day 12, argument 3)
I will skip the further detailing of Yan’s statements that are the target of the accusations, as one can find further reading below (but take some of these with a grain of salt, as they are somewhat partial to Yan’s age rather than the incident):
http://www.hanminzu.com/bbs/dispbbs.asp?boardID=171&ID=235453&page=1 (ZH-CN, Huang engages in a net dialogue answering questions on the incident on Tianya BBS. Also note that several of the pro-Yan arguments by denying “false” accusations have also been verified as true)
In conclusion, the Huaxia Restoration Movement and its subsidiary Hanfu Movement are only fitting in our time as a counter-movement to the official Party-driven direction to whitewash dynastic history as pretense to a “Great Zhonghua Minzu coming together”, in that cultural identity and heritage are being eliminated and replaced with a shallow facade of modernity. Moreover, as the Han are the majority of the state, they are pressured to concede in various ways to other minorities in-country as well as the global stage, as if to appease the rights and political struggles left over from history with other nations and countries, hence fearing the repeat of the iconic split that is Yugoslavia and Kosovo.