Lift Not the Painted Veil
Americans have very little contact with Chinese culture except through
the Chinese fast food, China Towns, and what they see on the media. The
major sources come from Hollywood which has been treating Chinese as
ethnic “others” for over a century. As a result, the real Chinese are
veiled by putting them into stereotypes. In 2006, Edward Norton, a film
producer said that he wanted to “lift the veil” and then took part in
the movie The Painted Veil.
Based on the classic novel by W. Somerset Maugham, The Painted Veil is a love story set in the background of China in 1920s. Kitty (played by Naomi Watts), a frivolous young English woman, marries intelligent, shy and dull doctor Walter Fane (played by Edward Norton) for all the wrong reasons and relocates to Shanghai with him. When he discovers her adultery with a British diplomat, he decides to take revenge and punishment by forcing her to accompany him to fight a cholera epidemic in a remote Chinese village. In the place of breathtaking beauty plagued by the tangible horror of death, the two people slowly discover the ability to forgive and love each other at the end. Although the movie makes some efforts in depicting a certain round Chinese character free of stereotype, it still falls into cliché when treating other Chinese people.
Different from the impression that Chinese cannot speak English; the main Chinese character Colonel Yu can speak fluent foreign languages. When Walter talks about the water pollution for the first time, he thinks that Yu cannot speak English and tries to explain in broken Chinese. Ironically, Yu responds him in fluent English with native accent: “Yes, I understand, Dr. Fane. I received my military training in Moscow. If you don’t like English, we can speak Russian.” Yu’s statement embarrasses Walter by criticizing blatantly his prejudice. It also ironically responds to the Hollywood deeply-rooted prejudice that Chinese cannot speak English.
Apart from this, Colonel Yu is smart enough to gain deep insight into the current social situation. He criticizes those in control of China, saying that: “These men are like animals. They have no vision. They only have hunger and strength. Men like this have held the real power in China since I was young, but that time is coming to an end; there is no place for them in the new China.” When he talks about westerners in China, he clearly distinguishes those with a kind purpose from the invaders, and treats them with different attitude. Besides that, he is a person of great capacity to solve problems. For example, Yu accompanies Walter to the warlord for help. Walter gets infuriated upon the rejection and asks Yu to translate a pungent satire. Instead of doing so, Yu tactfully makes the warlord the target of attack and successfully persuades him. With a good master of foreign language, deep insight and capacity to solve problems, Colonel Yu is a positive refreshing Chinese image in the movie free of any Asian stereotype. However, it is a pity that the anti-stereotype character has little chance to expose on the screen, and the treatment of other Chinese people in the movie falls into fixed type.
The first stereotype is the image of peasants who are demonized to be savage, superstitious, and holding pungent anti-western sentiment. Firstly, there are lots of disgusting and frightening portrayal of skinny Chinese sick and dying from cholera which makes people nearly vomit at the first sight. However, when Walter is infected, he dies in a much more graceful way than the local peasants. Since they are all human beings and all infected from the same disease, why their ways of dying differentiate so much? Secondly, the local peasants are described as superstitious uneducated. They beat drums and sing dreadful spirit songs to frighten off the spirit of death. They have no idea of the irrigation system designed to relieve them of infected well water. What’s more impressive in this movie is that the rural peasants hold pungent hatred toward westerners. When Walter walks across the town to investigate the pollution source, villagers stand by the street and shout “imperialist pig” at him. There is also a scene that some young men chase after Kitty as she is carried through the streets on a palanquin. She tries to flee, but runs into another angry mob and then tries darting down an alley, only to find herself cornered. The facial expressions of the local people are resentful and horrifying. After all, the Chinese peasants are described as horrifying, dreadful, superstitious and a threat to the white. Besides the demonization of common peasants, the stereotypical image of Chinese servants also appears in the movie.
The Chinese people are generally assigned to minor roles as quiet and dutiful servant or bodyguard. When Kitty reached the remote village, she is given an old female servant and a young dim-witted bodyguard. They are submissive and compliant enough to fulfill their obligation of serving the whites. Take the bodyguard for example, when Kitty is mobbed in the street by large crowds of young people, the bodyguard shot the gun for warning and let Kitty to leave, while risking himself at the angry mob. Subordinate and dutiful as they are, they are always standing at the corner and playing extremely insignificant roles. Their total exposure on the screen amounts to less than 2 minutes. Compare to them, the movie spends a little longer time when portraying the image of Chinese young woman which falls into another fixed type.
The third stereotype reflected in the movie is Deputy Commissioner’s beguiling Chinese mistress Wan Si who is mysterious and sexually appealing to white man. When Kitty runs into Wellington’s house, she encounters Wan Si and gets frightened. Wan Si is naked, squatting on the ground and talking to the mouse. This behavior is awkward and mysterious, out of the comprehension of Westerners. Besides her strange behavior, she is sexually appealing and always passionate to make love. She appears on the screen four times, and three times she is naked which suggests that she has just had sex. There is a more direct scene that Kitty spies on Waddington and Wan Si in bed. They lie on their sides, face to face, with the woman’s hands on the man's bare back. She notices that Kitty is looking in, but ignores her and go back to making love with the man. This white-male-Asian-female couple conforms to the lasting stereotype of Chinese women as sexual appealing to the whites.
Does Edward Norton accomplish his wish to “lift the veil”? I suppose the answer is no. With dreadful peasants, dutiful servants, and Chinese woman paired off with white men, this movie reinforces the Chinese stereotype deeply rooted in American’s minds. Although there appears a refreshing Chinese character Colonel Yu, the veil of Chinese stereotype is still covered, not lifted.
Chinese is in no way pure now, after having been influenced by English. For instance, Chinese doesn't show tense by changing the form of verbs, but by relying on auxiliaries such as 着，了，过. With the translation of the western books and movies introduced to China back in the 1900s, many inaccurate translations involve annoying 着，了，过. It has damaged the language for ordinary people and writers, of which both are not immune to adding those auxiliaries in their conversation and writing. They do this even when it’s not necessary. Thus，it's not uncommon to read some news with lots of 了 in one sentence in contemporary China.
Although, we have different culture background, from my view, young people are same all around the world, we cannot differentiate as we have different physical appearance or the continent we live in. We have same hobbies, we both like social media, meet new people, watch movies, play computer games and so on. I like to make foreign friends and you can share your ideas with them, this is a very happy thing xD.
If I were you, I would love to be a gardener rather than the last emperor, or a figurehead.
Even worse, students prefer English to Chinese when at school because they believe Chinese as their mother tongue is too easy to learn. They work hard to learn English as their native language worsens without their knowledge. The ministry of education has to reduce English test total points in CEE(College entrance examination) to bring down the fever. Authorities in Beijing, for example, have cut the scores to 100 from 150.
Nancy（USA）:Young Chinese people look up to western culture whereas young Americans or people from European countries don’t necessarily look up to Chinese culture.Westerners may find it interesting but I think their general outlook is influenced by stereotypes and what they see in mainstream media and pop culture.Though this doesn’t apply to all western young people, it describes the population’s general outlook and their views throughout history .
Chinese emperor and eunuches were speaking English in Forbidden City...A funny foreign movie, but also a thought-provoking one, especially when I'm a student major in history.
Since the first Confucius Institute opened in 2004，an increasing number of foreigners have become interested in Chinese language. Chinese fever has since gripped the world. Against the backdrop of burgeoning Chinese learning worldwide，what about Chinese itself in the homeland?
I have many foreign friends in my school and they come from different countries. Helping people is my couple of tea. Sometimes I will help them practicing Chinese and we would hang out together and I would to be their guide.It is not easy to explain that people from different countries hold various point of views for this issue. Therefore, I have inquired the opinion from some international students. As you can see the following is the list of the questioners collection:
Dear Puyi, Do you really want to be a gardener? Don't you want to be the emperor again?
Chinese has been compromised by English.
2.Reputationof the individual is very important in China.If an action will humiliate someone or ruin a reputation, it is avoided.In West, reputations come and go overnight and in the end usually does not matter.
Things are always like this. The whole world had changed. Most of the people in this country believed they would be better, but others thought history were playing tricks on them...
Chinese language has witnessed this nation's ups and downs despite being corrupted. It has thrived with enormous vitality. It will continue to, I believe, overcome what's in its way by absorbing the good and discarding the dross. Long live Chinese!
In my opinion，I think this question need to be more specific,differences in terms of what？ Life,culture,thinking,working style etc. I will give some example about several aspects.
Actually I cried again...when I saw Puyi was walking in the Forbidden City again. He was a humpbacked old man, and it was already in People Republic of China. He might remember he was playing with his little mouse right here in 1910s, also he was jumping again and again in his Emperor's big golden seat.
For the sake of livelihood, these white collars seem to have the very need to speak the mixed language. Every corner of society, however, has seen changes. People need haircutting all the time. However, when entering a barber shop, they no longer call the barber Shifu(a qualified worker as distinct from an apprentice). Instead, barbers all have English names like Mr. John, Mr. Robert, Mr. Bob and the like. It's sort of strange in a Chinese barbershop that you ask “Mr. John” rather than “Shifu” to cut your hair. But who knows? Maybe this is a growing new trend.
3.Pressure and freedom.Chinese young people face too many pressures from family and society. Western young people are enjoying their school time and social activities while Chinese young people are worried about their future life. Chinese parents put a ton of pressure on young people’s relationships and tell them when should they get married. They also told young people what they need to do instead of letting young people do what they want.
But Puyi, different from the other "last emperor"s of other dynasties, was the only one who was used by the foreigners, especially Japanese. Japanese Teno wanted to control the Manchouria(Northeast of China), he used Puyi as an figurehead.
It seems to have become a standard that you must have an English name if you work in a multinational cooperation. When talking to each other, they speak Chinese mixed up with some English words. I often hear conversations like these among white collars when I take the subway: " 我明天有个meeting，今天得OT赶完PPT才能go home" which means I'm having a meeting tomorrow so I have to work overtime to get my presentation finished before going home. Well, that sounds, I guess, fancier and more professional.
4.Traditional culture.The Chinese youth recognize their traditions while West is more declined towards modernization. For instance Once a year, all members of a family visit the gravesites of each ancestor and pay their respects.Honoring ancestors is very important in Chinese culture.This is in direct contrast to mostwestern youth who rarely know where the majority of their ancestors are laid to rest.
He said, "I'm a gardener."
Dylan(Canada）:The most obvious one to me is that Chinese youth have a higher level of respect for their parents than the youth of many western countries,I also suspect that Chinese youth treat romantic relationships while in their 20s more seriously, while westerners tend to wait until their 30s.
In 1960s, a young man asked him "who are you".
Globalization has brought about the need for English. Never before has China become so intertwined with the outside world. The nation imports a lot of technology from other countries. Homes are packed with electronics which has English on them. Children watch American or British TV shows.
Naveed(UK）：The biggest difference the youth of China and West is the value. Chinese people are very rigid in their values while in west values are not taken very seriously.
Puyi was the last Emperor of China. He had many characteristics similar with other "last emperor"s in each dynasty of ancient China. They were usually very young when they were put reigning. They lived luxuriously with thier countless women and they didn't know anything about their suffering people who were ready to revolt...
Cameron(New Zealand）:Chinese people are maybe more obedient and less independent,Because they live with family more and are used to obeying their rules,But in western counties people usually move out younger and live on their own after 18.
Although he was a reactionary in our text books, I believe he was innocent. He's just a boy who was isolated from the troublous world, living in the palace with his butterfly and little mouse. Japanese Teno was using him bcz he was the emperor of Qing. He shouldn't be punished as an individual. He's also a worshipful life, a good man.
Barry(Italy):Chinese youth places high values on the morals of their people.Marriage is not encouraged until the late twenties.The Western culture is much more relaxed and some couldeven argue that there needs to be more moral emphasize.
4.Politeness.Being sensitive to another person’s needs is very important in Chinese culture and also in youth.It is expected that you will respect the other person and treat them well.Their needs are met at each encounter.I think Wset p people are very upfront in their manner of speaking. This may often cause a lot of misunderstanding or sometimes even hurt the feelings of some Chinese people especially if they are very sensitive. People in the West are encouraged to defend their ideas which may even lead to a confrontation or debate for the purpose of getting the other person to agree with their way of thinking. Some Chinese people would simply nod on your opinion even if they don’t really agree with what you are saying. They do this to respect and honor others’opinions.
1.Individual.Young Chinese will look at himself as part of the society rather than an individual. Their friends and family have a great role in their life. In west individuality is considered as a power. In WestOne’s personal goals and motives are more prioritized over collective ones. This culture is believed to encourage individuals to be more ambitious and they use it to drive individuals to succeed. They also put a focus on being different and making a difference. Chinese youth, on the other hand, base their decisions on how they will be perceived by those around them. They will first consider how their decisions will affect their family, colleagues and friends.
本文由影视影评发布，转载请注明来源：Lift Not the Painted Veil