China bans "fake historic tourism"; Monkey King vows revenge

Culture | by David Perry
Posted: July 15th, 2010 | Updated: August 9th, 2011 | Comments
Monkey King United Press International reports that China has banned "fake historic tourism!" Phew! Anyway, after shaking off the huge blast of cognitive dissonance that came with a moment's consideration of what that might actually mean in a country with such a massive state-mandated memory hole, we took a look at the details and asked what, if anything, this news might mean to tourists in China. (Surely it's not, say, an under-the-radar politburo stealth signal preceding the announcement of the construction of a '80s Student Movement Museum to be built opposite Mao's Mausoleum.) The UPI report, along with all other reports on the matter, is quite vague on what exactly might fall under the ban:
The Chinese government has banned the use of "negative historical figures or literary works" to boost tourism, a new decree says. The Ministry of Culture and the state Administration of Cultural Heritage also said places cannot claim to be the birthplaces or hometowns of characters from fiction or legend, Xinhua, the official government news agency, said. The decree also bans the construction of fake historic buildings.

"Negative historical figures," eh? Well, we're clearly missing a lot of nuance and context from the UPI report, which only mentions the Three Kingdoms-period warlord Cao Cao and the fabulously fictional Monkey King as reference points—but, reading between the lines, there might not be much in the way of nuance here.

If you'll pardon us while we don our totally legit professional Sinologist's hat (presently a nice knockoff Nike Tiger Woods cap), it sounds like a "ban" issued 1) to save face all around with respect to a couple of provincial squabbles regarding who gets to claim rights to being the birthplace the Monkey King, and 2) to put a usefully vague ban on the books that can be applied as needed in the future to achieve the overarching goal of 3) enforcing all-important "harmony" in the world's most populous nation by keeping "history" under the strict jurisdiction of the Party.

As for Cao Cao, he was real and, it appears, so is his tomb, which wasHenan province's city of Anyang, much to the delight of the local tourist industry—nice timing, really, considering that the dramatic story of Cao Cao and his rivals received a nice boost in public awareness with John Woo's two-part Three Kingdoms epic film, Red Cliff.

The Monkey King on the other hand, turns out not to have actually been born near Taiyuan in Loufan, Shanxi or in Jiangxi province—too bad for both places, because the push to create a Chinese-made cinematic 3D Money King film spectacular is on, meaning a new wave of Monkey King-mania is likely on its way—perhaps at a global scale.

Anyway, upshot for tourists in China: None, beyond, we hope, a bit of mild amusement. Upshot for China: Beijing risks provoking the wrath of the Monkey King, which generally isn't recommended if the historical record is any guide.

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