I need to rant. I was hoping I could hold my tongue on the issue, because I know what I’m about to say will only go towards stirring even the most moderate Chinese nationalist into fenqing-edness.
But I can’t do it. This comment was the last straw.
The looted treasures from Summer Palace are legal to put into auction, so why not a pirate movies?
– Comment by From Tornto[sic]
This was in justification of the rampant DVD piracy in China, and in particular about the recent theft of X-Men Origins and its subsequent distribution in Chinese DVD shops.
I’m entirely fucking tired of this “looting of the Summer Palace” argument. The Haiyantang water-fountain sculptures are no more modern China’s than France’s, England’s or Fiji’s.
China, at the time, was ruled by foreign invaders — the Manchu — and the Haiyantang fountain was created for the Manchu emperor, Qianlong (1711-1799)1, and owned by him/them.
The French and the English destroyed and looted the ruling Manchu’s summer gardens. Han Chinese seem to love this “Century of Humiliation” argument and painting themselves as the victims of Western imperialism, but their humiliation started long before 1860 and from nations much closer to home.
Or does national humiliation only count if the conqueror’s skin is white? Wait, no, then we wouldn’t have all the undying anger towards the Japanese and their imperialistic cruelties.
Maybe then it is only relevent if the culture that conquored them has now been near-fully assimilated into Han culture — a la a good number of The Steppe nations?
So, if the Manchu’s clearly saw themselves as outside conquerors who were looking at maintaining land-right legitimacy based on heredity to the Mongol-ruled Yuan Dynasty (another group of foreign invaders) and not the Han-led Ming Dynasty, and the Han Chinese clearly saw the Qing as outside colonizers at least as late as the 1911 revolution that overthrew them; how then can modern China claim ownership to things taken by “imperialistic invaders” that were owned and created by “outside colonizers” with a straight face?
Now, I’m not saying I agree with or want to white wash the terribly brutal, oppressive and manipulative things European powers did over 300 years of colonial expansionism. Nor do I agree that treasures of historical importance should be sold to the highest bidder and kept in private collections.
Additionally, I completely support the return of the brass zodiac heads to Beijing. Not, however, because China has any “right” to them, but because it’s the right thing to do. This isn’t a property issue, it is a moral issue and must be dealt with, successfully or not, on moral grounds.
It is most DEFINITELY NOT a means to justify blind nationalistic fervor, the furtherance of propaganda-based “history”, nor the theft of intellectual property (indeed, from people who had no part in the sacking of the Old Summer Palace) as some sort of “get back”.
1 I understand there is debate over Qianlong being half Han Chinese. There is no argument however that he identified himself as Manchu, and that China was ruled by Manchu’s at the time the Old Summer Palace was sacked by the English and the French.