Han Han’s speech in Xiamen University: Why China cannot be a cultural power

| May 20th, 2010

Hello, everybody. It’s the second time I am in Xiamen, the air’s clean, no wonder everybody likes to walk.

Just now, when Mr. Deng mentioned something about patriotism, two lines came in my mind, not from me though, from others. The first one  is “patriotism is the last sanctuary for scumbags”, and the second one is “the real patriotism is to protect the country from any kinds of persecutions by the government”.

Today I’ve prepared for the speech, I brought a script, to restrain myself in case you guys get persecuted because of my irresponsible speech.

Here we go.

Leaders, teachers, and students: Hi. Do you know why  China couldn’t become a cultural power? Because in most of our speeches, “leaders” always come first, and our leaders are all illiterate. Moreover, they are scared of culture (or knowledge), but their job is to censor culture, so they can control culture. How can a country (controlled by these people) become a cultural power? What do you say, leaders?

Actually China has the potential to become a big cultural figure, let me tell you a story. I served as a chief editor for a magazine that couldn’t manage to publish until now. The constitution bestows us with the freedom of the press, on the other hand our laws bestow our leaders with the freedom of preventing you from exercising the freedom of the press. Something in the magazine couldn’t pass the censorship — there is a cartoon, about a man, who doesn’t wear any clothes—of course this is unbearable, because relevant laws and regulations specify that we can not put the private parts on public magazines, I understand this, so I cover the illegitimate part with a super big logo of the magazine. Suddenly publisher and people from the censoring team say it’s not okay either, they say “now you covered the middle part of the person, it is a parade to our party central committee (挡中央=covering the middle, 党中央=party central committee, both pronounce the same). My reaction was just like you guys – hit by thunder. I thought to myself, my friend, it would be so much better if you invest such brilliant imagination into literary and artistic creation instead of censoring.

The story tells us that people are full of imagination. Of course lots of things can only stay in our mind, we cannot carry them out, we cannot write about them, most of the time we cannot even talk about them. We bear too many restrains, this is a rated country (like rated movie), how can it be possible for a rated country to foster abundant culture? I am a comrade with rather few self-restrain, however when I write I still cannot help but keep in mind avoiding writing this policeman, this leader, this policy, this regulation, and this legislation; skipping many histories, Tibet, Xinjiang, demonstrations; not touching fads, pornography, boycotting, arts, but elegancy is what I am incapable of. I am really incapable of that field, I am not Yu Qiuyu (also writer).

The pieces I put on the net is rather free. Many screen writers I know, like Ning Caishen who writes play and some script writers for drama, they suffer a lot. I am thinking how a country with cultural environment like this can ever manage to become a cultural primacy. Unless there is only China, North Korea and Afghanistan left on the earth. North Korea is a cultural prohibited land, no question about that. Afghanistan cannot spare to manage culture when they are not clear about their own situation. Even so, there is writer who publish “The Kite Runner” , but regretfully the book isn’t published in Afghanistan either. I think it is not impossible for Afghanistan to exceed China once they clear their domestic mess.

We should not stick to the Four Classic Novels or those Confucius stuffs during our so-called international communication, we all know that,  it’s like the girl ask about your wealth in a blind date, and you say your ancestors are rich. It is useless. The making of the tragedy has nothing to do with you guys. Though saying has it that the route to North Korea is built by everybody’s silence. But on the one hand we are much stronger than North Korea, because we all know what it looks like; on the other hand, I believe most of you guys are not silent, you are just harmonized, that is all. In the history of China’s pornography extermination, I think most of you know – you are college students after all, though these contents are gone in nowadays textbooks—that Teresa Teng (邓丽君) and Liu Wen Cheng (刘文正) are pornographic, low and obscene, just because the number of people who listen to their music increase, later when the whole country are listening to them, they are immediately not low nor obscene. Only when we fight against cultural censorship, free phrases and words from the “blocked words base” except those of anti-humanity, could it be possible to make our country a cultural power. Even if your names and my name go into the base, I believe there is a ceiling in the shield words base and every time a new word goes in, it pushes closer to the ceiling and crashing the whole thing down.

So I hope our workers in the press, our students and teachers, every one who loves and engages in culture including every webmaster can make an effort to decrease the amount of censorship and relieve words and webs that are blocked. I also hope that our leaders – mind that these leaders are different from you guys – and our government can be confident enough to let go the culture. I know that our leaders like to export our culture, this is a sign of a powerful country, but the thing is, the available cultures are too humble to go outside. When our writers write, they are self-censoring every second, how can any presentable works be possible when they are born under such environment? In the whole world, you castrate all of the works like news reports and present them to the foreigners, hoping it would sell, are foreigners aliens to you?

Whether China is a economic strong player I don’t know, no conclusion can be drawn until the our real estates crashes; but if a country grows big in culture, then it is a powerful country in real sense, and I see no risk of crashing ever for a country like this.
Let me come back to the blocked words base, the more entries it has, the weak the country’s culture becomes. But our government can justify themselves, they tell you it is to protect our teenagers, to maintain society stableness. Culture is boundless, so they have the right to block any information and culture that harm our teens and sabotage society stableness. If you nod to this, then someday sooner or later when you are accusing about your mistreatment, you will find yourself blocked with the charge of sabotaging society stableness. In the end, whoever poses threats to the administrating party or their benefits will be condemned with the charges of harming teenagers and sabotaging society stableness.

If we become supporters of the Green Dam Project at that time, we will find culture is not the only thing dying. So guys, we can not let this day come, otherwise we will all become jokes on the e-history-book our grand children receive from satellites.

Thank you all.

20100520-hanhan-01

About Han Han:

High school drop-out; writer; hottest blogger on Sina; car racer; recently he was nominated for the 2010 TIME  top 100 most influential leaders, artists, innovators and icons and poll has him ranked at #12!

I translated one of Han Han’s post, Han Feng is a good cadre in China, and 97% surveyed agree.

45 Comments | Leave a comment | Comment feed

  1. b-real says:

    Who does this guy drive for. He should be careful they might not allow this guy to drive anymore. I totally agree with him but he’s gotta watch. They are not going to be able to use him anymore for international or domestic occasions as simple as this.

  2. GuoBao says:

    Uh oh. Han Han taking it up a notch. Let’s hope he doesn’t overestimate his popularity with the young generations since it’s probably the only thing keeping him from being truly harmonized at this point. Recently he’s made a bit of foreign fame as the “young, rebellious, handsome voice” but if history teaches us anything it would be that when it comes to easing up on internal dissent or holding on to foreign respect the latter always loses out.

    It’s quite a step from being a blogger of occasional social issues to publicly speaking about them at universities although China hasn’t got the same Western tradition of university students being the spearhead of society transformers.

    • AlleyCat says:

      Whilst human rights activists like Liu Xiaobo recently have been sentenced to eleven years imprisonment and two years deprivation of political rights, this blogger has had several hundred million hits in recent years. The authorities must be well aware of his domestic popularity. If they were indeed foolish enough to shut him up, I suppose there would be more at stake than just losing foreign respect.

    • Handle says:

      “China hasn’t got the same Western tradition of university students being the spearhead of society transformers.”

      Well, it didn’t work out too well a couple of decades ago

  3. cc says:

    Great speech that was well said, with a good dose of wit. I’m forwarding this on.

  4. Neirda says:

    This news is old, the speech has already been delivered long ago.
    Nonetheless true.

    • How long ago? As for Han Han himself… … one should remember the story of Sir William Flinders Petrie or of Emperor Norton I (a.k.a. Joshua Abraham Norton).

      If the man is considered a “nut” by the public at large – the powers to be will merely keep the “nut” from physically hurting anyone – all the while thinking that the “nut” provides an outlet of amusement for the public at large, and nothing more.

      • King Tubby says:

        Had to google Norton. My kind of monarch. As for blog boy hh. About as challenging as a paper cup and with zero writing skills.

        • althea says:

          This is exactly why HH refuses to have his books translate in other languages as “the essence is lost through translation”. This English translation of his speech does him no justice.

  5. Londonmay says:

    Love this guy! He has a critical sense and a good grasp on how things really are… one of the very few sad to say

  6. Neirda says:

    Matthew A. Sawtell :
    Found it ! Feb 2010, same speech http://www.rue89.com/chinatown/2010/02/04/pourquoi-la-chine-nest-pas-un-grand-pays-de-culture-par-han-han-136848

    You’ll have to trust me though, sorry it’s in french :/

    • It’s okay – my French may be “very rusty novice” – but I get the gist. But then again, given that he is still around – makes me tend to believe he is at “nut” status.

  7. nicodemus says:

    Hey I love hearing more than one side of the issue. Good luck Han Han, I hope you don’t need it.

  8. Joshua says:

    I like this guy. He sure is brave. Someday the Chinese will be free to speak their minds.

    “Free trade and illegal immigrant are code words for easy access to slave labor.”

  9. mell says:

    Hello,

    It is not takes understanding.
    Patience. I see the writers point that China could not be cultural leader and thus ‘the’ leader. To say this is just one man saying this. China strives to have many democratic principles – the western Nation become more controlled(Absolute Power corrupts absolutely). It is happening here in the west power leads to corruption and Greed is among one of the worst things a democracy can teach the world as a lesson. Shame on all the Monetary Greed. It is not Glorious to become rish. I disagree. It is Glorious to be Free.

    China must struggle with the other people who are now being forced into submission into Debt slavery all over the world – Only working together can people overcome the bad feeling, but most important the Bad Governments.

    Mell

    Patience.at hate each other. Hatred can be overcome, it thedre are too many people on both sides of the world th

  10. stevelaudig says:

    Okay let’s think this through. This guy’s most notable skill is driving a car, fast, oftentimes in circles. Like that is an important thing. And now he’s opining on culture and politics and economics. I hope you don’t mind if I change the channel but it seems to me that he is just smart enough to drive a car well and just dumb enough to think it is important. Celebrities don’t really know very much. Just watch Jeopardy when they allow the celebs to participate.

    • dtgibson says:

      So who else is going to talk about these subjects so openly, the government? I think that han han is one of the most important figures in chinese society today because he is speaking his mind, and criticising the government…something you don’t see to often in chinese society. further more, most of what he says makes sense. maybe he’s not an expert, but his growing popularity is a tribute to what he has to say, which clearly strikes a chord with many chinese netizens

    • Uber says:

      Celebrities are the same as regular people and there are regular people who know things so it seems to stand to reason that some celebrities do too. The guy is just stating his opinion, it’s not some philosophical statement about the meaning of life, the only difference between him and any guy on the street is he’s famous so he can publicly state an opinion that many share but aren’t allowed to state publicly.

      People who insult celebrities for stating their opinions have always confused me, Hanhan never claimed to be smarter or better or anything, he’s just stating his opinion and it seems many agree.

    • althea says:

      Get the facts straight before you judge him. HH first came to prominence as a best-selling author, he has published several books and numerous essays. His first book Trible Door is the best selling novel in Chinese publishing history. Regardless of how you feel about him, this guy deserves some respect. He’s brave, sarcastic and dares to speak out the truth. He’s changing the minds of a lot of young people in China.

  11. Iain says:

    One of the best examples of China’s cultural poverty is Gao Xinjiang. He’s the only Chinese author to have won a Nobel for literature, but almost nobody in China has heard of him. And this in an intensely patriotic country, where you become rich and famous if you win an Olympic gold for curling.

    Love the line about China’s ‘5000 years’ of culture being like “the girl [who] ask about your wealth in a blind date, and you say your ancestors are rich. It is useless.”

    • Lol says:

      Gao Xingjian (not Xinjiang) is a French citizen whose works were critical of the Chinese government and was subsequently banned in China, which was probably the only reason he even got the prize.

      • Iain says:

        Gao *Xingjian* (高行健) was born in Jiangxi and left China at the age of 47. He still writes entirely in Chinese and much of his work is not overtly political. The fact that he is banned is kind of the point.

  12. I’ve been seeking almost everywhere for this kind of info… I’m sure happy anyone truly has the best solution to such a easy question. You’ve zero idea the amount of online websites We have gone to during the last hours. Many thanks for that information

  13. DH says:

    A true hero who risks himself for the sake of his country.

  14. Pigeons says:

    Electromagnetic weapons victims alliance, military espionage equipment laser polygraph, do electronic weapons, also known as “brain-controlled weapon” against innocent people in wanton violation of civil control, ultrasonic harassment, torture, hope that the international human rights concerns.

  15. Poster says:

    Interesting … there are actually chinese men who can think and speak and look intelligent …

  16. victor ribeiro says:

    You must bear in mind that China is under siege

  17. stevelaudig says:

    “China hasn’t got the same Western tradition of university students being the spearhead of society transformers.” This is a factually false statement and indicates the speaker is unfamiliar with both his own country’s history and the history of the West.

  18. Mao Zedong says:

    google: confucius. dead for 2500 years

    google: hanzi characters 5000-50000 characters. life only 50-80 for 50000 characters. bury hanzi

    google: famines civil war in 1949.

    google: jiang zemin picking his nose in public. true.
    sick man of asia

    century of shame

    army-tanks run over citizen

    truth… we all know the truth

    china needs the truth before it can a modern nation

  19. jesse says:

    The ONLY way humans will ever have a logical, healthy and morally good society is to end government as we know it.

    No group of people (the state) has the right to use violence to force others to pay for it.

    A voluntary society is the only only only way forward. To speak of anything else is pissing in the wind, wasting time and an implicit support of the status quo.

  20. Koreansentry says:

    China is lucky to have a person like Han Han, he’s a man with great intelligence and humanity.

  21. anonymous says:

    Well said. I like this mindful man.

  22. hu jintao says:

    confucius: dead for 2000-3000 year snow.

    hanzi: 50,000 block-writing

    famines death of 30 million in the 1950s 1960s. is this a Nation that will be a cultural power??

  23. Lee says:

    China used to have a very strong cultural pride and a belief in it. However it has now eroded to such a degree that Chinese people have even up the most recognisable part of their culture, their names. They now adopt Western names and pretend that they don’t have original Chinese names. As long as this cultural cringe is present, Chinese culture will not thrive in the future. To be ashamed of your Chinese name is to be ashamed of your past and your culture.

    • Robert Wayne says:

      It has nothing to do with Chinese people giving themselves western names. China’s lack of culture comes from the fact that it has a communist govt. intent on stopping any and all freedoms of speech, religion and culture. And unfortunately, the U.S. is sliding downward in this direction too.

  24. MAO ZEDONG says:

    TRUTH WILL SET CHINA FREE.

    TRUTH WILL SET WORLD FREE.

    china mised the scinentific-age.. inustrial-age and did Not invent the computer, cell phone or INTERNET Web or put a Man on the Moon.

    confucius: dead for 2000 years.

    block-writing: BEAST-wrtiting..

    Emperor PUYI: 1911-1949
    Civil War in 1949…
    Famines in 1950s 1960s.

    china.. is this the true-world power.. wil this be a cultural-power when there is No food to eat.
    Truth will set china Free…
    Truth will set World Free.

  25. yang mu says:

    For the English translation, in the end of the seventh paragraph you made a mistake.

    The original speech goes: “…… 低俗不能写,但是高雅我又写不来。” It is not “…… 艺术不能写,但是高雅我又写不来。”

    Your English translation is: “… not touching … arts, but elegancy is what I am incapable of.” It is wrong.

    The correct English translation should be: “… not touching … inelegancy, but elegancy is what I am incapable of.”

    In Chinese the pronunciation of “arts” (yishu) is similar to “inelegancy” (sisu).

  26. CONFUCIUS says:

    YAHOO SEARCH
    GOOGLE SEARCH
    INTERNET SEARCH:

    All you have to do is look at Writing sytem. (Reading and Writing). who invented Hanzi??? where did Hanzi come from?

    Rote-Memorization in school: computer / digital age / information: computers-internet have Digital Memoy… Computers have Digital memory..

    Sick man of asia / century of shame./ civil war in 1949:

    Look to future/ look to the truth…. truth will set china Free Free Free.

  27. Adrian says:

    The Chinese communist govermenet is old and out dated in my opinion. Get with the program and wake up!

  28. Katniss says:

    Im not that good at Chinese
    Please transfer it to pinyin
    Cus I need to bring it in Monday
    Waaa

  29. voiceofhomer says:

    Can anybody tell if the BBC or this Han Han wrote these words in this story?

    I know the BBC has said most of the somethings after 1997, and is still waiting for China’s real estates crashes, free the blocked words base, free Tibet, activists at sabotaging society stableness and changing of China’s regime.

    And I know one thing for sure, Chinese culture in the west is not acceptable, Amerikan propaganda in the movies and/or on TV shows and ads don’t allow it.

  30. Crystal says:

    Similar to Garry Kasparov – a former chess world champion who is constantly challenging the Russian leadership, but due to his international fame is not “harmonized” yet.

  31. beowulf says:

    With the big difference that most Russians can´t stand Kasparov. He is only popular in Europe and the US. More Liu Xiaobo than Han Han.

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