My China Obsession

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When we were told our journalism in-depth project was on Chinese-Johannesburg, I was like this

sheer excitement
sheer excitement

because I grew up obsessed with Chinese culture – and by culture I mean Chinese cinematography. My group’s topic is “culture and community” and I imagined I was ahead of the crew because I had seen “Once upon a time in China” a million times. The movie portrays the growing influence and presence of Westerners and foreigners in China . Wong Fei -Hung, the hero, is a martial arts expert that single-handedly defeats the “evil imperialists”.
Set in 19th century China, the movie explores Chinese tradition, culture and history.

I learned about Chinese burial practices. What stood out the most for me were people wearing white clothes at funerals, not black. I found it strange that the colour white depicted death in Chinese culture. I was also surprised by the connections between the African culture and Chinese culture in terms of their respect for ancestors and the importance of lineage.

The movie also explored China’s integration with the British and French culture. Fei-Hung challenges the perceived “superiority” of the British and French cultures, norms and traditions. He goes as far as telling his followers they can beat the Westerners riffles and gun powder by using good’ol martial arts, and they won! The director may have been bias in this regard.

So I think it is fair to say that I have watched every movie Jet Li has starred in. My favourite, to date, is the bodyguard from Beijing. Allan , played by Jet Li, is one of the most promising members of an elite corporation of international bodyguards based in China. This corporation is identical to the Chinese Red Army. Allan is hired by a wealthy Hong Kong businessman, to protect his girlfriend Michelle, who is the only surviving witness to a mob murder.

Things come to a climax when Wong, the lead assassin and his group of assassins storm the penthouse and start a gunfight. Jet Li displays one of the most spectacular form of martial arts. I begged by parents to let me join martial arts and I would practice every chance I got. Things became weird when i discovered the differences between tai-chi and kung-fu. I was eight, living in a township, there were no tai-chi classes. I was broken.

I also learned about the Terracotta Army from my “extensive knowledge” of Chinese movies. This particular movie focused on four art thieves who were captured by the Chinese Red Army and were given an ultimatum – execution by a fire squad or track down the evil sorcerer who plans to wake the The Terracotta Army and destroy the world. They picked the second option.

The Terracotta Army is a collection of terracotta sculptures depicting the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China. He became famous for unifying the warring states into what is now China, and for becoming the country’s first emperor. He is remembered for instigating the building of the Great Wall of China, and the fanatical fear of death and an obsessive quest for the secret of immortality. This craze for life and the fear of death ultimately gave us the legacy of the terracotta warriors, a form of funerary art buried with the emperor in 210–209 BC and whose purpose was to protect the emperor in his afterlife.

I learned about the underground tattoo world from a movie called Dragon from Russia. Yao Long and May Yip are orphans who live in Russia with their adoptive family. Through the years, the two fall in love and promise that they will be together forever. When Yao witnesses a murder being committed by an assassin, he is captured and brainwashed by a mysterious cult of assassins call themselves “800 Dragons”. Yao becomes the perfect assassin for the 800 Dragons.
Every member has a tattoo that links him to the 800 Dragons, an underground warrior cult that has existed for generation. Each tattoo is immaculately drawn and is traced back to the BC when the cult was formed.

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