China: Freethinking young writer takes on the cultural establishment

With the majority of China's artists and intellectuals having been silenced or executed earlier this century, what does that say about that generation's thinkers who are still around today? Han Han (韩寒), perhaps the one post-eighties writer most read by those under thirty, gave birth to a huge controversy earlier this month when he published a post on his blog which took aim at and showed no mercy to three prominent middle-aged contemporary artists: painter Chen Yifei (陈逸飞), film-maker Chen Kaige (陈凯歌) and fellow blogger-writer Yu Qiuyu (余秋雨), with Yu known to many for having been part of an eleven-member team of writers commissioned by the Gang of Four during the Cultural Revolution.

Han Han (��)

Was this an attack borne out of contempt for past crimes colluded with? Grumblings a young non-comformist and anti-traditional writer coming into his own? Or just the way some youth talk to elders in pseudo-Confucius modern China?


In late May Han Han blogged about reading an article online written by fellow blogger Yu Qiuyu mourning the death of Shanghai artist Chen Yifei, first thinking it was written by Chen Kaige (whose ex-wife, Chen Hong (陈红)—later seen speaking out angrily against Han Han—was set to star in Chen Yifei's upcoming movie) and then called it a joke.

Here's the offending post [zh]:

三个中年男人

Three middle-aged men

陈逸飞去年忙拍电影,鞠躬尽瘁,这点我非常钦佩。他死后有记者打电话给我,记者说,陈逸飞死了,你怎么看待。我当时不知道这消息,很吃惊,问怎么死的,记者说,拍电影太累,生病。
我沉默半天,说,为自己喜欢的东西死了总是还有欣慰。只是,陈红真可怜啊,这么年轻就要自己带着两个孩子。
然后电话那头也沉默了数秒。我就挂了。过了两天我看了报纸才知道,我乱点了鸳鸯谱。

Chen Yifei worked like mad last year in shooting his film, something I strongly admire. After his death a reporter phoned and asked for my thoughts. At the time I hadn't heard the news and quite taken aback, asked how he died. Worked himself to death, the reporter said. I was silent for a bit then said one should be happy to die for what one likes. Only, poor Chen Hong; So young and has to take care of the two kids. Then the phone went quiet for a few seconds so I hung up. Two days later I saw the newspaper and saw I had gotten the marriages confused.

不知道为什么,我脑子里,余秋雨,陈凯歌,陈逸飞都长一个样。人也一个样。以至我经常把他们搞混。
有人说,他们是大师(我怀疑是自己放出风去的),这点我从来不相信。我觉得一个大师要够有人格魅力,而这是他们三个最缺乏的。坦率的说,我不喜欢这三个人,他们身上有太多中国中年男人的无趣,不坦诚,精明狡猾,缺乏想象力和没有幽默感。他们都沉迷在自己弄出来的巨大概念里过家家。他们三个人所做的概念,全是冲着一个字去的,就是“伟”,现在多少已经达到了“伟”他兄弟的境界,就是“伪”“猥”“痿”,可以说,大师就差一口气,全国人民都着急。

I don't know why but Yu Qiuyu, Chen Kaige and Chen Yifei all look the same to me. They're the same people. That's why I often get them mixed up. Some say they're masters (I suspect they themselves put that one out), but I've never believed this. I think a master should at least have a charming personality, which these three lack. To be frank, I don't like the three of them. They bear too many marks of the middle-aged Chinese man: dishonest, tricky and sly, lacking imagination and having no sense of humor. They all wallow and play in their lofty self-created concepts. All the ideas put out by the three of them revolve around one word: “great.” [wei/伟] And where they've become “great” is in being “fake” [wei/伪], “obscene” [wei/猥] and “impotent” [wei/痿].

当然,这样的人多了,很多也为我所喜欢,为什么我这么不喜欢他们呢,我觉得,主要是我不喜欢他们的长相。包括余秋雨的发型。大师绝对可以不修边幅,他们绝对属于没修好边幅。这理由自然很肤浅,但,不喜欢一个人的长相,这有啥办法呢。我也没妨碍着大家喜欢,比如很多比年轻的美女们。但我就是不喜欢他们的腔调。

Of course, there are many people like this, many of whom I like. So why don't I like these three? I think the main reason is I don't like the way they look. Including Yu Qiuyu's hairdo. Masters can let themselves go, but these three absolutely don't count as having let themselves go. This reason naturally quite superficial. But, if I don't like someone's looks what else can I do? My looks haven't stopped people from liking me, all the young ladies for example. I just don't like their looks.

余秋雨老师前一阵子可以经常在电视里看见,他总是在考察模特的修养,问穿着三点式的模特一些比如“1和2有什么区别”之类的问题。但是奇怪的是,无论什么场合,余秋雨老师总是感觉他洗脸从来不用毛巾,而是用油条。余老师当时《文化苦旅》出来的时候,我还特喜欢看,觉得写的好。当时我初二,还模仿他的文笔,写作文的时候经常“凝视着这块前朝的板儿砖,多少年的文化在我心中吐呐”。后来看到他不少照片,我说,这人怎么有点油头粉面的啊,怎么搁都和那些淳朴的风景不协调。后来余杰逼着余秋雨忏悔,但那阵子我忘了自己正忙一什么事,完全不知道内情,凭借着想象,我觉得这两人都姓余,岁数差不多差了两轮,小的又逼着老的要忏悔,该不是余秋雨不认余杰这个儿子。我当时就向朋友发表乌龙意见,说,余杰不错,又有才华,我要是余秋雨,就认了,虽然父亲没有培养,但是还是有遗传。。。。。。这事充分证明我是一个肤浅的人。后来就只能在电视上看见余老师了。

A while back Teacher Yu Qiuyu could often be seen on television raving about some model's upbringing, asking the skimpily-dressed model questions like ‘what's the difference between 1 and 2?’ But the weirdest thing is, no matter in what situation, one always feels Teacher Yu Qiuyu washes his face not with towels but sticks of fried dough [implication of feminine appearance or character]. When Teacher Yu's book ‘Culture's Travails‘ came out, I rather enjoyed reading it, felt it was written rather well. I was a junior in high school at the time and still imitiating his writing style. Later I saw a number of his photos and thought, ‘how could he be such a pretty-boy? How he stand out so strongly from these simple backgrounds? Then later Yu Jie (余杰) compelled Yu Qiuyu to confess. I forget what I was up to at the time, because I had no idea and can only imagine how it went. Of these two people both surnamed Yu, the difference in age is almost two generations, and the younger Yu even compelled the older to confess. Yu Qiuyu shouldn't dismiss this son Yu Jie. At the time I made the unethical suggestion to some friends that Yu Jie's not bad, has talent even. If I were Yu Qiuyu I would have listened to him. Although my parents didn't raise me, they still passed down some…….this case just goes to show how superficial I am. From then on I only saw Teacher Yu on television.

The last two paragraphs go on with some serious mocking of Chen Kaige, Chen Hong, Zhang Yimou (张艺谋), Yu Qiuyu and Chen Yifei, finishing off a post that has already received over 6,700 comments and nearly 360,000 pageviews, par for the course on this young iconoclast's blog.

Yu Qiuyu has two blogs [zh], but no mention of the dispute can be found on either, although a google search suggests one was published and later erased. It might have been this letter [zh] found on Liu Yihan's blog, which the blogger insists was written by Yu himself: ‘Han Han, you're a money-grubbing thug,’ in response to the above post:

韩寒同志:

Comrade Han Han,

你好,首先请原谅我用同志这个词,此同志非彼同志,彼同志非此同志,同志和同志的意思是不一样的。我之所以用同志这个词,是想让你意识到我是非常郑重地口吻正告你的。

Hello. First off please forgive me for using this word comrade [euphemism for gay]. That comrade this comrade is not, nor is this comrade that comrade. Comrade and comrade don't mean the same thing. I use this word comrade to make you realize just how stern my serious warning to you is.

首先,我要告诉你骂人是不对的,骂人为什么不对,因为骂人容易让别人生气,而一生气就容易得高血压,而一旦得高血压就容易引发中风和心肌梗塞,而一旦中风和心肌梗塞就容易死,韩寒,你要知道你现在是在害命啊。

First off, I want to tell you that insulting people is wrong. Why is insulting people wrong? Because insulting people can easily anger other people who, once angry, can easily get high blood pressure. And getting high blood pressure easily leads to strokes and heart disease; getting strokes and heart disease leads easily to death. Han Han, you should know that you are now life-threatening.

再次,你不仅害命,你还想谋财,根据上海某报刊的传言,你要出新唱片了,所以你是为了扩大唱片的发行而借我进行炒做,你为了谋财而对我进行陷害,于心何忍。照孙悦妹妹的话说,你的快乐是建立在别人的痛苦之上的。

Again, not only are you life-threatening, but money-grubbing as well. According to one Shanghai newspaper, you want to put out a new CD as well. That's why you set out to fry me, for wider CD distribution. In order to grab some money you heartlessly set out to frame me. According to little sister Sun Yue (孙悦), your happiness is built upon the pain of others.

韩寒,我怎么也想不通,你怎么就对我进行人身攻击呢,我想我们还是蛮有缘分的嘛。

Han Han, why am I unable to figure out why you would seek to attack me? I think we have are bound by fate.

1)我生活在上海,而你生在上海。
2)我是最出名的中年作家,而你是最出名的青年作家。
3)我的第一本书名为《文化苦旅》,你的第一书名为《三重门》,我为百姓叫苦,你为百姓喊重,我们可是同样代表了人民的心声和利益的,我们本是同道中人,何必如此纠缠不清。说到这个事情,更让我生气的是余杰,我也姓余,他也姓余,我们本是一家,何必呢。不过一家也不一样的嘛,鲁迅和周作人也是一家,可志向就不一样了,不一样所以走到两条路去了。可我们志向可完全一样啊。所以你不该攻击我。

1) I live in Shanghai, and so do you.
2) I'm the most famous middle-aged writer, and you are the most famous young adult writer.
3) My first book was called ‘Culture's Travails‘ and yours ‘Three Doors‘. I suffer for the masses, and you shout for them. In this way we both represent the people's thoughts and interests. We're both on the same road; there's no need to make this messy. As for this situation, what angers me the most is Yu Jie. I'm surnamed Yu, he's surnamed Yu. We're from the same family. There's no need. Although, every family is different. Lu Xun and Zhou Zuoren are also from the same family, but their ideals were different. Different, that's why they went down two different roads. But our ideals are completely the same. That's why you should not attack me.

韩寒,你想一想,从三个方面的哪个方面看看,你骂我都是不对的。
关于你对我的一些看法和问题,我不得不做一些说明。
1)说我不是大师,那你就大错特错了,我可是大学的教师的,所谓大师者,大学教师也。这个你都不懂么。
2)至于我为什么老问那些大学生和青年1和2的区别,我想你该明白的,我们大学教出来的学生差不多也就知道这些问题的,所谓物极必反。按照有关调查和杨振宁哥的话说,我们的大学是世界上一流的大学的,把学生大学生都成神了,物极必反了,所以他们现在只要知道1和2的区别就是很合格的大学生了。你问其他的他们不知道啊.
3)至于我为什么不修边幅,哎,韩寒啊,你难道不知道,我大部分的稿费都捐给希望工程了。我是没钱修边幅了啊。希望你也能和我一样,把大部分稿费捐给希望工程。

Han Han, you think about it. Looking at this from three different perspectives, your insulting of me was all wrong. Regarding some opinions and reservations you may have of me, I can't help but speak up.
1) To say I'm not a ‘master,’ you couldn't be more wrong. I'm a university professor, a so-called great one. Do you understand none of this?
2) As for why I always ask those university students and young adults the difference between 1 and 2, I think you should understand. Almost all the students coming from our university know these questions; the so-called reversing of things grown extreme. According to the related investigation and Franklin Yang, our university is one of the top-ranking universities in the world, turning students into gods. Things reverse when grown too extreme, that's why now only if they know the difference between 1 and 2 are they then suitable university students. If you ask others they won't know!
3) As for why I let myself go, sigh, Han Han, as if you don't know. Most of my writing income goes toward Project Hope. I let myself go because I don't have money! Hope you can be like me, put most of your writing income towards Project Hope.

韩寒,很不好意思,对你的问题,我只能这样回答。

Han Han, very sorry about your questions. I can only answer as such.

愿一切好。

Hope all's well.

Not so many comments, but more captivating on the whole. Here are some random quotes from other bloggers: [zh]
1975

说心里话,心里对韩寒的这个论调很看不上。先不说他拿已经故去的人取笑,这行为本身就让人不齿。还说余秋雨是用油条洗脸……拿人家的相貌取笑也是我所厌恶的。最最悲哀的是,在这种可笑、浅薄的论调下,还有不少他的拥趸者。

To speak my mind, I don't get Han Han's argument. Not to mention that he mocks the dead, this behavior is downright despicable. He even says Yu Qiuyu uses fried dough strips to wash his face? Mocking someone based on their appearance is something I abhor. The saddest part of all this is that this kind of joking, with its flimsy arguments, applies to his supporters as well.

Stanford

其实我不反对它发表看法和言论,”权威”也有错时,毛泽东不也做错过吗?但它最起码得尊重自己吧。

Actually I don't mind this published views and sayings. “Authority” also makes mistakes from time to time. Didn't Mao Zedong make mistakes too? But he at least ought to respect himself.

Bluesky424

上次开骂,我是一边倒地站在姓韩这小子一边,这次,却着实让人为难了。支持姓韩这小子吧,他骂的三人中有两个我听着都不顺耳。反对姓韩这小子吧,他对余秋雨余老师的刻薄又实在说到了我心上,余老师干的事跟他的脸一样的恶心,披着文化的皮,天天在电视上跟明星们争镜头。

Last time he went off at the mouth, I stood on the side of this brat surnamed Han. This time, it's not so easy. To support this Han brat? I've heard nasty stuff about two of the three people he insulted. Disagree with this Han brat? The causticity with which he takes on Teacher Yu Qiuyu actually resonates with me. What Teacher Yu has done is just as disgusting as his face. Peels away the skin of culture, struggling everyday with celebrities on television.

Whest

文化交流是可以,互相切磋也是可以的,但是,将本来是好事的交流切磋变成一种侮辱,甚至是人身攻击,这未免有些令人不齿。中国自古以来就有文人相轻的传统,这一点看来就连思想新潮的韩寒同学也不能免俗。……

Cultural exchange is fine, mutually comparing notes is fine, but to take something like exchanging which was a good thing to begin with and turn it into a kind of humiliation and a personal attack, this is a little too despicable. From ancient times until now, Chinese writers have had their own tradition. Appears to be something even a new tide thinker like Han Han can't avoid…

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