My motherland, right or wrong? (2)

08:27, January 28, 2011      

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The politicization of Lang Lang's golden oldie reflects more on the mentality of some Chinese, who are accustomed to expressing themselves indirectly. If you want to criticize someone but cannot do it openly, you may have to resort to overtones, undertones and various figures of speech. Chinese literary critics and historians have made it an art to pick apart ancient masterpieces and decipher whatever codes may be embedded in them. For these people, there is no coincidence or over-interpretation. Every little gesture must be deliberate and conveys something deeper.

As President Hu's trip was one of goodwill, the last thing the Chinese government wanted, I would figure, was a reminder of past hostilities between the two countries. Had whoever who vetted the performance list known the history of the number, it may not have made the cut. But there is no guarantee that those who do the vetting are armed with such encyclopedic knowledge. In this country, we have produced a cornucopia of tales of black humor from such ignorance.

Sometimes, ignorance is good for broadening the appeal of popular songs.

The Chinese national anthem is a militant marching song. But who knows it is from a 1935 Shanghai-produced film. Almost all movies from the 1930s provided direct or indirect references to the Japanese invasion of China's northeast that started in 1931. But now, the cause people died for in the lyrics, has become an abstract.

It is easy to paint certain songs with the colors you want and push them one way or another. Many of the "Old Shanghai" ditties were banned in New China because they were taken to be unpatriotic. The thinking went, how can you pine for your lover and be tender while living in an occupied land? The sin is even greater when ballads like When Will My Man Be Back Again? seem to take the position of a saloon entertainer who could have Japanese among her clients. As a result, even the composer of the melody was persecuted.

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