Posted by Joel Martinsen on Monday, May 14, 2007 at 11:34 AM
In an effort to profit from cultural tourism, Xixinan Village in Huangshan, Anhui Province, invested 20 million yuan to construct a park featuring ruins from the Ming dynasty novel Jin Ping Mei
. The village claims to be the setting for the novel, which is infamous for its depictions of the sexual escapades of womanizer Ximen Qing, who Huangshan scholars say was a fictionalized portrait of Xixinan salt merchant Wu Tianxing.
The local government was criticized when the project was first announced for catering to low tastes. Reports from the May Golden Week revealed that tourist numbers fell far short of expectation, commentators have once again come out to speculate on why the project was doomed to failure.
· Dazhong Daily points out the impropriety of using the word "ruins" in the park's name:
Actually, taking advantage of cultural resources to undertake tourism development is nothing new; many localities have set out on similar projects. But their tourism projects are centered around the spirit of classical Chinese culture and provide people with healthy, positive information.
These so-called ruins are fundamentally fictional. What are "ruins"? The Modern Chinese Dictionary defines the word as a place containing destroyed architectural structures that are relatively old. They took fictional scenes from a literary work for development purposes, they hauled out citations to prove that the stories in Jin Ping Mei occurred there and featured local people, and they are crowing that they are "the home of Ximen Qing." Are they taking on this none-too-lustrous label because their local tourism resources are so impoverished that they've been forced to attach themselves to Jin Ping Mei? I'm afraid not. In the opinion of this writer, it's just a ploy to use the sex culture trumpeted in Jin Ping Mei to make money.
· Beijing Youth Daily, Zhang Tianwei discusses the tenuous connection between Xixinan and the novel:
Jin Ping Mei is a "masterpiece" from Chinese history; its reputation has always been a source of controversy. However, it has basically been settled that it can be praised for its value as vernacular literature and its worth as a literary source for the details about common life. Its tireless, uninhibited descriptions of sexuality and the vulgar tastes of the author revealed therein were given an uncontested verdict by history. But now, acknowledged "pornography" has been drawn into a fierce contest between Huangshan in Anhui and Yanggu and Linqing in Shandong, each trying to "naturalize" Ximeng Qing; those areas have constructed, or are still in the process of constructing, the Jin Ping Mei Cultural Tourism District, the Jin Ping Mei Cultural Street, and the Jin Ping Mei Ruins Park.
Huangshan's Jin Ping Mei Ruins Park differs from the two Shandong locations in that there is nothing in Jin Ping Mei that directly concerns Anhui, so naturalizing Ximen Qing as an Anhui resident was an involved process. News reports said local Huangshan "scholars" hit the books hard for ten years before finally "proving" that Jin Ping Mei took place in Xixinan, Huangshan, Anhui....But because Jin Ping Mei had a poor reputation back then, it was perhaps "disdained by the local public opinion at the time," so the author did not disclose that fact. Who would have expected that as the world changed and the climate shifted, "disdain" would become today's admiration, and "scholars" would spend ten years worth of work to win back a half-measure of respect for "the home of Ximen Qing."
It's somewhat disappointing that the descendants of "Great Official Ximen Qing" feel ungrateful toward the local government and those "scholars"; the thirty-something generation descendant of Wu Tianxing, who was painstakingly proven to be the "original Ximen Qing," persists in denying that his ancestor had any connection to Ximen Qing and Pan Jinlian; instead, he calls this result "an insult to the Wu family and its ancestors." Obviously, common people have not lost their common sense of shame; it is only certain people who think that they are carrying out their responsibility to revitalize the economy for whom common sense, reason, and normal behavior have given way for people in dignified positions who lack any sense of shame to go off on flights of fancy.
Unlike the reports from a Beijing newspaper that said the park "opened to a cool reception," before the May Golden Week, a local paper reported "Jin Ping Mei Ruins Park has Explosive Opening." Not only did daily tourist traffic reach 700 people, "it had been booked until the end of May." The local media is in the service of the local economy, and performed its duty to the utmost by manufacturing a trend in the days before the Golden Week. Only, so-called "truth" was obscured and confused. However, in this particular case, the "truth" of whether it was hot or cold does not matter much. "Cold" would serve them right, but "hot" is not necessarily a good thing. Imagine if, every day, there were lines of tourists made up as Ximen Qing walking beneath the windows of Pan Jinlian, waiting for the fortune to be struck by a bamboo pole. How awful would that be?
· Liaoning Evening News gives the developers a back-handed compliment:
As a scenic layout that does not involve sexual content or the relationship between the sexes, the Jin Ping Mei Ruins Park does not live up to its name. The distinguishing characteristic of language and art is the indirectness of its images; still, to protect social order, public morality, and ethical standards, the literary work Jin Ping Mei has had its publication restricted by the government since it first appeared. But the Huangshan municipal government has gone and resurrected the scenes contained in the novel; rather than "cultural promotion," making those images concrete should be termed profaning its spirit.
...Traditionally reserved and circumspect, Chinese tourists will be repulsed and discomfited by the sensitive scenes at the Jin Ping Mei Ruins Park. It is not easy for parents and children, brothers and sisters, and normal mixed-sex friends to visit the park together, and this will greatly reduce the park's visitor pool.
Were the government and its investors unaware of the conspicuous risk of this investment? No, a local government official said: operational performance is not the government's problem. What the government officials are concerned about is how big a number they can put on the investment, and the extravagant engineering project that will shine on their administrative records. As for whether the project is good or bad, that has nothing to do with their personal interests. So are investors the idiots who didn't count on the consequences? Actually, they calculated even more cleverly than the officials. They took advantage of the officials' thirst for profit to make use of the power of the government, using a small amount of investment as bait to take out an immense loan from the bank with the project as collateral, and then acquired the rights to a wide tract of land for a very low price. They've run circles around this "capitalist game."
· Yangcheng Online: Yang Jinxi comments on the local government's brazen pursuit of profit:
The Jin Ping Mei Ruins Park in Xixinan Village had planned to open during the May Golden Week last year but was shut down; this year it loudly announced that it was open for business during Golden Week. Shut down but not closed - the determination of the Jin Ping Mei Ruins Park to settle in Xixinan Village is apparent, as is the strength of its resistance to the call to shut it down. Whence such determination and strength? The government, obviously, playing at being "Wang Po".*
With Jin Ping Mei as a "money tree," can the local government look only to money and simply drop the social ethics and morality it ought to respect? Obviously the government has shirked its duties....Reportedly, there are more than 5000 scenic spots of all sizes in Huangshan, the majority of which are unexploited. By neglecting its own strengths to do up a fictional Jin Ping Mei Ruins Park, the local government is really putting the cart before the horse.
Also worth considering is the fact that the Jin Ping Mei Ruins Park in Xixinan, Huangshan, was called to a halt before it planned to begin operations during the May Golden Week last year. Why did it not close down? Evidently the moral standards for development of tourism lack an effective means of enforcement. There ought to be legal and systemic restrictions on tourism development. Development of unhealthy cultural tourism that concerns sex, violence, or gambling must be stopped. Violators should be resolutely punished.
In conclusion, the local government should not be a "Wang Po" for the Jin Ping Mei Ruins Park; it should not fail at its duty to respect social ethics and morality by letting the Park ruin the appetite of tourists who come to Huangshan.
Even in book form, Jin Ping Mei is still a sensitive subject:
The Tongzhou Court found that in August, 2006, Beijing Hengda Printing Company took a printing job for 6200 copies of Jin Ping Mei and other books without first obtaining a printing commission certification. The books were seized. After inspection by the Municipal Press and Publication Bureau, the books were found to be illegal publications.
The Tongzhou Court determined that Beijing Hengda Printing Company illegally printed publications for material gain, disrupting the market. The situation is serious; its actions constitute illegal business operation.
The company was fined 10,000 yuan, and the company representative was given a suspended six-month prison term.
Note: 王婆, a melon seller from Xixia who ended up in Kaifeng to avoid border wars, boasting loudly about the quality of his melons "because people in the interior don't know about them - if I don't shout, they won't buy." The phrase 自卖自夸, or "toot one's own horn," was attached to this story.
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