Posted by Joel Martinsen on Tuesday, June 5, 2007 at 11:58 AM
On Saturday, novelist Han Han was inspired by the death of Politburo member Huang Ju to muse about the practice of lowering flags to half-mast for national tragedies.
On his Bullog blog, the piece appeared in a second version titled "Sina administrators, is there anything wrong with this post?" His technique for masking Huang Ju's name to avoid Sina's censors was noted with approval in his blog's comments.
China's flag is too unbendingby Han Han
Today I saw the news that system filtered words passed away, with no further comment. This led me to think of when I was in middle-school when he was a leader in Shanghai and I heard his name every day.
But this brought to mind the fact that our country only lowers flags to half-mast when national filtered words pass away. It seems that the flag is never lowered for civilian matters, no matter how big. I've basically never seen a flag at half-mast. One time at school the flag was raised to half mast where one of the pulleys got stuck, but that was a half-mast raising, not a half-mast lowering. Looking over other people who all live in an abyss of suffering in exploitative capitalist countries, whenever there are serious casualties among the people, they will all lower flags to half mast to pay their respects. Of course, you could take this to be merely a show, but aren't Chinese people lovers of formulaic writing? I hope that one day China can also do a bit of formality for the people.
Of course, we must be strict and scientific, and draw up a head-count. For example, major accidents that kill more than one hundred people could have flags lowered to half mast to pay respects. In our country, this number would definitely be set quite high, at least ten times higher than other less sophisticated countries — first, this would demonstrate that our half-mast flags are of finer quality than the half-masts of other countries, and second, according to current safety conditions for manufacturing and traffic, if the head-count is set too low, the national flag would probably never have a chance to go all the way up.
Because flags have never been lowered to half-mast for the general public, it's possible that the government would find this hard to accept on an emotional level. I have a Chinese-style solution: flagpoles could be doubled in height. This would satisfy both parties, and at half-mast the flag would be at a normal height. There's another advantage to this: it could go a long way to satisfying our countrymen's pitiful sense of national vanity — I'm sorry, that should be national pride. They play their national anthem once and their flag has reached the top; our national flagpole is long and our people ride high — the national anthem must be played twice before the flag gets to the top.
Of course, I still hope that the day never comes that the flag is lowered to half mast for the people. What a major accident that would be, at least two 747s colliding.
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Jobs in China
Henry on The Eurasian Face
Caroline W on Big in China
Michael on Julia Lovell on translating Lu Xun's complete fiction: "His is an angry, searing vision of China"
Brandon K. on Clueless academic takes on popular fantasy novels
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The Eurasian Face : Blacksmith Books, a publishing house in Hong Kong, is behind The Eurasian Face, a collection of photographs by Kirsteen Zimmern. Below is an excerpt from the series:
Big in China: An adapted excerpt from Big In China: My Unlikely Adventures Raising A Family, Playing The Blues and Becoming A Star in China, just published this month. Author Alan Paul tells the story of arriving in Beijing as a trailing spouse, starting a blues band, raising kids and trying to make sense of China.
Pallavi Aiyar's Chinese Whiskers: Pallavi Aiyar's first novel, Chinese Whiskers, a modern fable set in contemporary Beijing, will be published in January 2011. Aiyar currently lives in Brussels where she writes about Europe for the Business Standard. Below she gives permissions for an excerpt.
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+ Korean history doesn't fly on Chinese TV screens (2007.09): SARFT puts the kibbosh on Korean historical dramas.
+ Religion and government in an uneasy mix (2008.03): Phoenix Weekly (凤凰周刊) article from October, 2007, on government influence on religious practice in Tibet.
+ David Moser on Mao impersonators (2004.10): I first became aware of this phenomenon in 1992 when I turned on a Beijing TV variety show and was jolted by the sight of "Mao Zedong" and "Zhou Enlai" playing a game of ping pong. They both gave short, rousing speeches, and then were reverently interviewed by the emcee, who thanked them profusely for taking time off from their governmental duties to appear on the show.