Han Han's Speech At Xiamen University: <The So-called Grand Cultural Nation> (02/02/2010)
This is my second time in Xiamen. The weather here is great. No wonder people like to go outside and stroll. Hmmm ... I just heard Teacher Deng spoke about certain issues on nationalism. I was reminded of a couple of sayings which I came across them previously. They are other people's words, not mine. The first saying is, "Nationalism is the last refuge of scoundrels." The second sentence is, "True patriotism is to protect this country so that it will not suffer any harm."
For today's talk, I have brought along a written speech in order to constrain myself. Mainly, I don't want you to suffer any harm because I may stray all over the place. Let me begin.
Dear leaders, dear teachers, dear students, how are you? Do you know why China cannot become a grand cultural nation? It is because most of the time when we speak, we put "Dear leaders" first and those leaders are uncultured. Not only that, for they are also afraid of culture, they censor culture and they control culture. So how can such a nation become a grand cultural nation? Dear leaders, what do you say?
Actually, China has the potential to become a grand cultural nation. Let me tell you a story. I am the chief editor of a magazine which has yet to be published. The Constitution states that every citizen has the freedom to publish, but the law also says that the leaders has the freedom not to let you publish. This magazine encountered certain problems during the review process. There is a cartoon drawing. In it, there is a man without clothes -- of course, this is unacceptable because the law says that we cannot exhibit the private parts in a publicly available magazine. I agree with that and I don't have a problem with it. Therefore, I intentionally created an extra-large magazine logo to place at the illegal spot of the cartoon. But unexpectedly, the publisher and the censor told us that this was unacceptable too -- when you cover up the middle part of a person, you are referring to the "Party Central" (note: "party" is a homonym for "block/shield" and "central" can mean either "center" or "middle"). My reaction was like yours -- I was awed and shocked. I thought to myself, "Friend, it would be so wonderful if you could put your awe-inspiring imagination into literary creation instead of literary censorship."
I use this story to tell you that everybody has good imagination. Yet we can only imagine many things but we cannot do them, we cannot write about them and we cannot even talk about them in many situations. We have too many restrictions. This is a restricted country. How can a restricted country produce a rich and abundant culture? I am a comrade who has few restrictions. But when I write, I cannot help but think: I can't write about the police, I can't write about the leaders, I can't write about government policies, I can't write about the system, I can't write about the judiciary, I can't write about many pieces of history, I cannot write about Tibet, I cannot write about Xinjiang, I cannot write about assemblies, I cannot write about demonstration marches, I cannot write about pornography, I cannot write about censorship, I cannot write about art. I am unable to write anything elegant. I am really incapable of writing anything elegant because I am not Yu Qiuyu.
Internet essays have more room. Many friends who write scripts. I know some friends who write scripts (such as Ning Caishen's theatre scripts) and others who write movie scripts. They suffer a lot. Under such a cultural environment, I wonder how can China be a grand cultural nation. Maybe if the world is reduced down to China, North Korea and Afghanistan. Everybody knows that culture is out of bounds in North Korea. In Afghanistan, the situation with the nation is still unclear so they can't be bothered with culture for now. Even so, they have a writer who wrote <The Kite Chaser>, which unfortunately was not published in Afghanistan. I think that once Afghanistan sorts itself out, it may possibly surpass China.
In our so-called international exchanges, we cannot keep bringing out the Four Great Works or the sayings of Confucius and Mencius. We know that this is like a conversation during a marriage interview. The girl's side asks you if you are rich and you reply that your ancestors eighteen generations ago were very rich. That won't help you now. We did not cause this tragedy, even though it is said that the road to North Korea is paved by the silence of everybody. On one hand, we are better than North Korea because we know what it is like there. On the other hand, I think that many of you present today are not silent -- it is just that we are being harmonized.
In the history of the war against pornography in China, many fellow students are aware (even though these facts have been disappeared from the teaching materials) that Teresa Deng and Liu Wenzheng were pornographic, vulgar and indecent once up a time. When too many people listened to them sing, they became pornographic, vulgar and indecent. But when every Chinese person listened to them sing, they were no longer pornographic, vulgar or indecent anymore. If we all oppose cultural censorship so that the the only words left in the database of banned words are anti-human ones, we can create a grand cultural nation. It does not matter if my name or yours get added into the database. I believe that the database has a maximum capacity and every additional word will accelerate its destruction.
I hope that our news media workers, our students, our teachers, our cultural workers and our cultural lovers will try our best to reduce the censorship, and our leaders (who are not the same as our parents) and our government may have sufficient self-confidence to become more open. I know that our leaders like to export our culture because this is a sign of a strong nation. But I feel that our present culture is not exportable. In this creative environment, all writers/workers are constantly censoring themselves. How can any respectable work be produced in this environment? Around the world, you attempt to export Chinese culture by offering works that have been castrated like <Network News> to foreigners. Do you think these foreigners are aliens from outer space? On the issue of whether China has truly risen up economically, I think we should wait until the real estate industry collapses because we cannot tell right now. But if a nation truly rises up culturally, it will be a strong nation and it will never have any fear of collapsing.
Finally, I want to return to the database of banned words. The more words are in that database, the weaker the culture of that nation will be. But our government gives you plenty of explanations. They tell you that this is being done to protect young people and to maintain social stability. Culture is free, so they have the right to censor any information or culture that may endanger young people or destroy social stability. But if you agree with that, then sooner or later that when you complain about what happened to you one day, they will censor you because you are destroying social stability. Any opinion that is disadvantageous to the ruling class or their interests destroys social stability and endangers young people. If we had put up with the Green Dam software back then, we would have Green Dam operating now. When that time comes, we will not just be looking at the demise of culture. So fellow students, we cannot let this day arrive. Otherwise, we will be the laughing stock in the electronic history books that our grandchildren will receive via satellite many years from now.
Thank you, everybody.