Vietnamese and Chinese Movies about Royalty

From Confucian Cosmology to Ecological Politics

  • Cam-Giang Hoang Vietnam National University, University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Hanoi, Vietnam
Keywords: Confucian cosmology, historical movies on royalty, ecological politics, “the Unity of Heaven and Man”, “Rectification of Names”, “Virtue of Loving Life”

Abstract

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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References

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FILMS

Cận, Đức Mậu, and Tạ Huy Cường. 2011. Lý Công Uẩn: đường tới thành Thăng Long (Ly Cong Uan: The Road to Thang Long Citadel). Vietnam: Trường Thành Media and Vietnam Television.

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Đào, Bá Sơn. 2010. Long Thành cầm giả ca (The Musician at Thang Long). Vietnam: Trẻ Studio.

Đinh, Thái Thụy. 2015. Mỹ nhân (The Nymph). Vietnam: Giải Phóng Studio.

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Kim, Sung-hoon. 2018. Chang-gwol 창궐 (Rampant). South Korea: Leeyang Film, Rear Window and VAST Entertainment & Media/ Next Entertainment World.

Yee, Jae-Gyu. 2014. Yeoglin 역린 (The Fatal Encounter). South Korea: Good Choice Cut Pictures/ Lotte Entertainment.

Lee, Joon-ik. 2005. Wang-ui namja 왕의 남자 (The King and the Clown). South Korea: Cineworld and Eagle Pictures/ Cinema Service and CJ Entertainment.

Lưu, Trọng Ninh. 2010. Khát vọng Thăng Long (The Prince and the Pagoda Boy). Vietnam: Kỷ Nguyên Sáng Company.

Lý, Hùng, Lý Huỳnh, and Phượng Hoàng. 2010. Tây Sơn hào kiệt (Heroes of the Tay Son Dynasty). Vietnam: Lý Huỳnh studio and Thanh Niên Films/Lý Huỳnh Studio.

Ngô, Thanh Vân. 2016. Tấm Cám chuyện chưa kể (Tam Cam: The Untold Story). Vietnam: VAA Productions and BHD/ BHD.

Nguyễn, Đức Long. 2016. Triều đại Quang Trung - Nguyễn Huệ (Quang Trung: Nguyễn Huệ Dynasty). Vietnam: Việt Long Studio.

Nguyễn, Hoàng Long. 2018. Hoàng đế Quang Trung - bước ra từ lịch sử (Emperor Quang Trung from History). Vietnam: Vietnam Televison.

Phan, Đăng Di. 2010. Bi, đừng sợ! (Bi, don’t Be Afraid!). Vietnam, France, Germany: Acrobates Films, ARTE France Cinema, Vietnam Media Corp & Vietnam Studio, TR9 Film.

Phùng, Văn Hà. 2017. Người anh hùng áo vải (The Hero in Plain Clothing). Vietnam: Vietnam Animation Studio.

Vũ, Victor. 2012. Thiên mệnh anh hung (Blood Letter). Vietnam: Phuong Nam Films, Saiga Films and Thanh Niên Films/Phuong Nam Films and Saiga Films.

Woo, John. 2008-2009. Chibi 赤壁 (Red Cliff 1, 2). China: Beijing Film Studio, China Film Group, and Lion Rock Productions/ Chengtian Entertainment.

Yoon, Sung-sik, and Cha Young-hoon. 2014. Wang-ui eolgul 왕의 얼굴 (The King’s Face). South Korea: KBS Media/ Korean Broadcasting System.

Yasuo, Tsuruhashi. 2011. Genjimonogatari Sennen no nazo 源氏物語 千年の謎 (Tale of Genji: A Thousand Year of Enigma). Japan: Kadokawa Pictures, Tokyo Broadcasting System, Toho, Chubu-Nippon Broadcasting, J Storm, Mainichi Broadcasting System, RKB Mainichi Broadcasting, Mainichi Shimbun/ Toho.

Zhang, Yimou. 1992. Qiu Ju da guansi 秋菊打官司 (The Story of Qiu Ju). China: Sil-Metropole Organisation and Youth Film Studio of Beijing Film Academy/ Sony Pictures Classics.

–––. 1994. Huozhe 活著 (To Live). China: Shanghai Film Studio and ERA International/ The Samuel Goldwyn Company.

–––. 2000. Wo de fuqin muqin 我的父亲母亲 (The Road Home). China: Sony Pictures Classics, Columbia Pictures Film Production Asia, and Guangxi Film Studio/Beijing New Picture Distribution Co. production. /Beijing New Picture, Distribution Company (HK), and Sony Pictures Classics.

–––. 2002. Yingxiong 英雄 (Hero). China: Sil-Metropole Organisation, CFCC, Elite Group Enterprises, Zhang Yimou Studio, and Beijing New Picture Film/ Miramax Films and Beijing New Picture Film.

–––. 2006. Man cheng jin dai huangjin jia 满城尽带黄金甲 (Curse of the Golden Flower). China: Edko Film/ Sony Pictures Classics.

–––. 2016. Changcheng 长城 (The Great Wall). China: Legendary East, Atlas Entertainmen, China Film Group, and Le Vision Pictures/ Universal Pictures and China Film Group.

Zhang, Yimou, and Yang Fengliang. 1990. Ju Dou 菊豆 (Daisy). China and Japan: China Film Co-Production Corporation, China Film Export and Import Corp, Tokuma Shoten, and Tokuma Communications/ Daiei.

Published
2020-05-20
How to Cite
HoangC.-G. (2020). Vietnamese and Chinese Movies about Royalty. Asian Studies, 8(2), 135-162. https://doi.org/10.4312/as.2020.8.2.135-162