Vietnamese and Chinese Movies about Royalty
From Confucian Cosmology to Ecological Politics
Keywords:Confucian cosmology, historical movies on royalty, ecological politics, “the Unity of Heaven and Man”, “Rectification of Names”, “Virtue of Loving Life”
Since 2002, with the enormously successful release of the movie Hero by Zhang Yimou, we have been witnessing the resurrection of the royal theme in contemporary East Asian cinema, and the return of Confucian cosmology as its philosophical foundation. In this paper, I focus on Vietnamese films which represent royal subjects and court life, like Heroes of the Tay Son Dynasty (Tây Sơn hào kiệt; Lý Hùng, Lý Huỳnh, and Phượng Hoàng; 2010), Blood Letter (Thiên mệnh anh hùng, Victor Vũ, 2012), and Tam Cam The Untold Story (Tấm Cám chuyện chưa kể, Ngô Thanh Vân, 2016); and Chinese films, like Hero (英雄, Zhang Yimou, 2002), The Banquet (夜宴, Feng Xiaogang, 2006), and Red Cliff (赤壁, John Woo, 2008). Firstly and most importantly, my essay examines how the cosmic and environmental elements in such movies are manipulated to advocate some particular political discourse as a kind of ecological politics. From this analysis, I analyse and explain the similarities in how the filmmakers in Vietnam and China establish the stereotypes of power and legitimacy of authority utilizing and transforming the Confucian spiritual cosmology. I also try to clarify the difference between the two cinemas in how they express the concepts “the Unity of Heaven and Man” (tianren heyi), “Rectification of Names” (zhengming), and “Virtue of Loving Life” (haosheng) in their political implications. Finally, I will discuss the layers of meaning and visual narratives by analysing the characters and social contexts of the films to reaffirm the varying degrees of influence of Confucian tradition on contemporary forms of cultural and political practices.
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