Welcome to the World Wide Web Home page of Road to East Asia
Written by students of FC1750.06
at Founders College, York University
Vol.2, no. 1 November, 1996
If Liu Binyan and the fictional character Glasses from The Bus Stop bumped into each other on a street corner somewhere, chances are that both would believe that Fate had been involved in their meeting. However, it would soon be clear that Fate could not make them become soul-mates, or even good friends. The two men differ in the ways they talk about life, in their ability to act on the issues they speak about, and in their vision of a new China.
Glasses in Gao Xingjian's The Bus Stop is a short-sighted pseudo-intellectual who recognizes his plight but has no vision and consequently no incentive to emancipate himself from oppression. His mastery of the English language is equivalent to that of an ill-trained parrot. Liu Binyan, on the other hand, is a prophetic revolutionary, fighting to realize his vision of a liberated China, free from mental as well as physical coercion.
"Every nation has the government it deserves," says Joseph De Maistre. Citizens who do not fight for their rights by standing up to their government are doomed to live in a country where freedom does not exist and where the needs of its people are not met. For instance, Gao Xingjian in his play The Bus Stop portrays a young woman who represents the disillusioned masses of China complying quietly with Beijing's rulings and abandoning themselves to fate. Unless action is taken against human rights violations, the Chinese people will continue to live unhappily in an undemocratic society.
II. New trend in Chinese poetry
The Misty poets, who represent an important trend in modern Chinese literature, explore personal emotions rather than explicitly censure political pressures. In exile or in their homeland, they cherish individuality and dream of a better future. While Bei Dao addresses profound universal questions, Shu Ting expresses tender feelings and grief and Gu Cheng depicts a story-book paradise on earth. Despite a common ambiguity in their message, each writes in a distinctive different style, expressing his or her impression of society.
Misty poetry, often written in a confessional style, depicts emotions to which young readers can relate. Their concerns vary from personal sorrows to musing over life itself or the awe-inspiring universe. Known for their art of indirection, Bei Dao, Gu Cheng, and Shu Ting depart from political propaganda of communist literature to write about human sentiments.
III. Of fate and human bondage
In the gothic novel Frankenstein (1818), Mary Shelley portrays a monster who takes matters into his own hands and liberates himself from the limitations imposed on human beings. He either has defied the laws of nature or challenges what we know of it. Working with corpses as Frankenstein's creator does, Xi Xi's narrator can actually learn something from this ruthless brute.
The narrator in "A Girl Like Me,"who seems to be obsessed with her inability to make a positive change in life, is a make-up artist for the deceased. Liu Binyan--one of China's leading dissident writers--claims that "whatever I did, I was pushed to it by the tide" in A Higher Kind of Loyalty. Are they two of a kind, helpless to alter the course of their lives as decided by fate?
The theme of alienation recurs in most contemporary works of literature and philosophy. The three primary types of alienation that figure prominently in Xi Xi's short story "A Girl Like Me" are man's insignificance in the face of the decision-makers in the world; the separation of man from God, nature, society, and himself or herself; as well as the emptiness of a seemingly pointless existence. The narrator in this tale, who works as a make-up artist in a funeral home, feels rejected by society and helpless to reverse the course of her life.
IV. On wings of love
If anyone has a just cause to feel despair for himself and animosity towards the world, it would be Dai Houying's He Jingfu, a victim of unrequited love, social outcast, and political scapegoat. However, rather than indulging in self-pity and acquiescing to fate, he finds hope in despair and love in hate, and uses the past "as a gauge against the future." Although an idealist he may be, He Jingfu precipitates social and political changes in China, advocates freedom and believes that an "ideal world isn't so far from the real world."
Against all odds, He Jingu in Dai Houying's Stones of the Wall strives to humanize communism. His efforts, partly motivated by his feelings for a woman he loves, stem from a need to work out individually an answer to the problems in a totalitarian state rather than to reform China's administration.
It is often said that love is what makes the world go around. The narrator in Xi Xi's "A Girl Like Me" stakes her hope for happiness on an amorous relationship with Xia, but ironically she does not display any passion for everyone and blames fate for a life devoid of friendship and affection. Her view on predestined human conduct, however, is in contradiction to what she says about other characters in the story.
The narrator in Xi Xi's "A Girl Like Me," blessed with a beautiful personality, coos and feels for people. Dedicated to her work among the dead in a funeral home, she is sure that her boyfriend, Xia, will abandon her in fear and never return. Let's hope that this is not true of a man whose name means "never-ending summer" and who brings her flowers and says "Hello. Happy Sunday!".
Illustrations by Julie Shim
Visitors: since Jan. 24, 1996