Category Archives: confucianism

Indiginization

Ok…so while I am getting ready to discuss post-modern Japanese societal trends in the Otaku world next week, I have another project that has also captured my imagination. I’ve been helping prepare the He Qi exhibit coming to Saint Louis at Concordia Seminary in mid-October. Since it’s to be housed in the Concordia Historical Institute, we wanted to see what kind of artifacts were on had that might enhance the He Qi exhibit and give some more background on China and its encounter with Christianity. Take a look:

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The posters included in this video are examples of how the Christian message was portrayed in China in 1926-1928. The Christian message of the new self and the new man is shown on the first poster, where one man, on the right, is wearing tattered clothes with all sorts of evil things and sinful behaviors written on them. On the left is a man wearing new clothes that are radiant and covered in clean characters that denote Christian virtues and outcomes of the Christian life, such as love, (It is interesting that 愛 [ai], love, and 仁 [ren], the Confucian value that equates to lovingkindness or “human-hearted compassion” are combined in one of the circles–right over the heart of the man) joy, patience, peace, etc. Between the two men is a cross, and at the foot of the cross is the discarded clothing representing the old self of the joyful man wearing the new clothes.

In the second poster, a man is hard at work in the fields. Except, instead of farming the soil, he is raking earthly possessions and all sorts of junk. A heavenly hand is proffering a crown, and the text on the poster says, “A raised (crowned) head is a blessing/wealth” accompanied by the text “Set your mind on heavenly things, do not set your mind on earthly things.” It is striking to see familiar Christian messages wearing indigenous Chinese clothes in such a folk-art style.

Historically, this was a period of transition from the republican government under Sun Yat-Sen’s leadership (he died in 1925) to the new government of the Guomindang, lead by Chiang Kai-Shek. Communists were soon to be on the run as GMD forces attacked them and pushed them out in 1927. By 1928, China was “unified” nominally under Chiang’s regime. This was still a period of uncertainty and turmoil…yet the Christian presence was there, sharing the peaceful message…the same message that He Qi wants to share with the world today.

Good articles on Adbusters

Roland Kelts has written a new article on Adbusters called “The Soul of Japan.” Kelts discusses the nature of Japanese popular culture, and connects some intriguing dots: Japan, being conquered by the USA, then officially occupied, followed up by years of US forces being present throughout Japan, has made Japan have a “little brother” complex, not allowing social maturation. He quotes Murakami Ryu, Murakami Haruki, and Murakami Takashi – the three big famous Murakamis (unrelated) with good effect.

Specifically pointed is Murakami Takashi’s point that because Japan lost the war, was completely firebombed, and twice atom bombed, then lost the divine status of the emperor; moreover, in a Confucian context: they lost their national father, they began to express their loss and underlying discontent in subcultural media, like manga, anime, and the like.

picture-1Another good article by Kelts at Adbusters.org speaks to the Japanese aesthetic of negative space, links Hello Kitty’s 17 lines to the success of minimalism, then talks to the attitudes surrounding garbage disposal and recycling, and how keeping the streets and planet clean fit into that matrix.

Japanese attitudes on trash have changed in the past 15 or so years. In 1994, we were burning almost all of our trash in the back-yard behind my small homestay family’s house in Gunma-ken. By 1997, it still had not caught on, but by 2000, recycling bins were popping up everywhere.

Funny thing is, anything you throw out, Japanese can tell how you live. If I threw out a pair of red boxer shorts, people would see them in the transparent bags that are used for showing which trash is which.

Growing up in NYC, we had red garbage cans for commingled recyclables by the late ’80’s with “curbside recycling.” It was fun and new, and always cool to think about the help to the environment. Sad thing was when you forgot, if a garbage cop found something in your regular trash, you’d get a ticket. The law took away our joy…and then when we learned that most of it wound up in a landfill anyway, we were sadly disillusioned. Still, the red trash cans were cool. Those who got them from the city later, had blue cans with white lids…they just weren’t as cool.