Video for next week

Published on Author Mike

Please watch the three part “Heart of the Dragon” series. The total length is just under an hour. For those into classic technology – do any of you actually have a videocassette player? – Leyburn has the entire series in VHS (Call number: Video DS799.23 .H42 1985 Tape 7).

Here are the YouTube links to Part I, Part II and Part III. In addition I have written a viewing guide, which you can find HERE as a pdf file.

2 Responses to Video for next week

  1. After reading the Heart of the Dragon viewing guide and implementing my own preconceived notions about Chinese life and communism in general, I was convinced I’d be watching a largely negative documentary. Admittedly, I’ve never taken a course in Chinese history, and I know very little about the country. But I was impressed by the pride, tradition, and strong culture of the Maoping commune and its people.

    Education in American history has led me to believe that communism is an inherently terrible government structure, with a single dictator in control of all of its country’s activity and ruling with an iron fist. Communism is also characterized by a lack of incentives on the part of workers due to even distribution of all resources and wealth. This was not the case in Maoping. First, the leader of the local commune doesn’t want to be seen as a powerful political leader, but as a helpful father figure. And while land is distributed evenly throughout the village according to family size, each family is entitled to its own harvest—a system that strengthens working incentives. Furthermore, there is a capitalist component to Maoping. Each family is granted a plot of land on which they can harvest food other than grains—such as chickens or vegetables—to sell on the side. This allowed some Maoping villagers to be consumers rather than simply subsistence farmers.

    And while the agricultural, communist structure of Maoping almost ensures that its villagers will not be rich, this does not seem to affect their quality of life. 4 of 5 villagers are considered peasants—but in Chinese the word means “farm people” and does not have a negative connotation. These peasants seek only security and a quiet life, things they seem to be receiving. Furthermore, the communal aspect of Maoping has led to the establishment of rich culture and tradition. Villagers think of themselves not as individuals, but as members of a family or clan. They are, therefore, willing to work together. For example, when a family needs to build a home, friends fellow villagers are eager to help. Another example is the ability of the state, brigade and villagers to work together to ensure the education of the village children.

    We tend to study economics as a way of determining how “rich” or “poor” different economies are—at the town, state or country level. While the income of Maoping villagers is just below the national average, they are content and happy. They are constantly surrounded by family—perhaps the most important aspect of Chinese life. Both men and women are proud of the work they do—Mrs. Hu has a smile on her face when she describes that she cooks six meals a day every day. Overall, the Heart of the Dragon is evidence of how a communal life is not always inherently bad, especially when it helps establish strong culture and traditions for people who seek little in life besides a good home, a close family, and food to eat.

    • As you are starting to sense, the textbook depictions of China are wide of the mark. Similarly, high school textbooks also contain our own version of propaganda, presenting “straw man” depictions of economies other than our own, “even distribution of …” was a dream of Marx, but the bits I’ve read indicate even to him it was a utopian vision and not what would occur under socialism, another archetype though one about which he wrote about in more practical terms.

      But don’t be too sure that “peasant” doesn’t have a negative connotation in China! See the film Qiu Ju (PL2840.Y763 C55 1993, Leyburn-Level 1-VHS) for nice depictions of the reception of peasants in the city.