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February 02, 2005

Comments

Mycroft

Geography would suggest otherwise. The northern Chinese plain is just too flat and contiguous and self-contained. Eventually, it'd be dominated by a single state, and that state would have had the power to expand into southern China. The Qin had the distinction of being the first, but they were far from the only dynasty to bring all of China under their rule.

Historically, disunity has not been a guarantee of scientific or cultural progress per se. India was plenty disunified for most of its history. Whatever it was that caused Western Europe to leap ahead of the rest of the world in the last millenium, I'm afraid it can't be explained so easily.

Jason Soon

Like all art, Hero is amenable to a wide range of interpretation. I went into it already having read about this 'fascist' interpretation posed by someone in the blogosphere but it seemed to me that it could just as well have been amenable to a pro 'rule of law' vs Hobbesian anarchy interpretation (feudalism can degenerate into Hobbesnian anarchy too). The fascist interpretation more easily comes to mind given the country it was made in and the obvious political connotations.

Abiola Lapite

"Geography would suggest otherwise. The northern Chinese plain is just too flat and contiguous and self-contained. Eventually, it'd be dominated by a single state, and that state would have had the power to expand into southern China. The Qin had the distinction of being the first, but they were far from the only dynasty to bring all of China under their rule."

I'm not talking about whether it was an inevitability that China would be united or not, but whether it was a good thing for Chinese civilization in the long run.

"Historically, disunity has not been a guarantee of scientific or cultural progress per se. India was plenty disunified for most of its history. Whatever it was that caused Western Europe to leap ahead of the rest of the world in the last millenium, I'm afraid it can't be explained so easily."

China's own history goes against your thesis. Chinese intellectual thinking was at its most diverse and robust precisely in the Warring States period.

"it seemed to me that it could just as well have been amenable to a pro 'rule of law' vs Hobbesian anarchy interpretation (feudalism can degenerate into Hobbesnian anarchy too)."

I find that hard to swallow, given the highly selective view of history it offered - it showed no trace of the wanton massacres of entire communities and prisoners of war or persecution of intellectuals that made Chin Shi Huangdi so hated - as well as the epilogue quoting heavily from Machiavelli about how good ends justify the most wicked means.

"The fascist interpretation more easily comes to mind given the country it was made in and the obvious political connotations."

Well, the overt political support given to the movie by the Communist Party, from approbation by top officials to the volunteering of PLA soldiers as extras, suggests that this reading is far and away the most likely one. The CCP wouldn't have hesitated a single moment to ban the production if it smelt the trace of subversion in it - instead it celebrated it as what good moviemaking was about.

Kenji

You haven't seen a Communist propagandist film until you have seen "Shaolin Kung Fu," a hilarious 1994 documentary starring Jet Li (it's almost as bad as one of those absurd footages from North Korea that try to show how amazing its soldiers are and how beautiful its women are)! It makes you appreciate the subtleties of "Hero" is. If you want a Chinese equivalent of "Triumph of the Will," I would say this is it.

Shai

I remember reading zhang zimou's tribute to kurosawa a couple years back:

https://www.time.com/time/asia/asia/magazine/1999/990823/kurosawa1.html

including this paragraph:

"Just a few weeks ago, I was having a discussion with my crew on an action film we are making. We conceived a scene in which several people told their stories from different perspectives, and we realized, "Hey, that's Rashomon." I counsel my colleagues to resist the temptation to imitate Kurosawa blindly; it is impossible to surpass him. But such a strong and lingering impact on filmmakers is very hard to resist."

I was a little bit dissapointed of what became of that idea.

Muninn

Nice entry Abiola, I agree with you entirely. Actually I wrote a review of this movie back in 2003 when I got to see a pirated version of it out of China:

https://muninn.net/blog/2003/05/hero.html

I think you will see I had similar views and in keeping with Shai's comment, I made some mention of Kurosawa's Rashomon and Kagemusha.

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