This paper aims to tackle not only the story of Ling-Ling on her journey on Yuan Tsung-Chen’s “The Dragon’s Village”, but it also aims to discuss Maoism, Communism as well as the traditional Chinese society. China had been greatly influenced by the conservative traits of Confucianism. Although I greatly admire Confucius and his way of thinking I somehow couldn’t help but resent the way his teaching put women under the rule of men. Mencius even claimed that women should be subordinated by men all her life (by her father, husband, and son).
It is true that we shouldn’t judge a culture in terms of our own because one’s culture is very diverse to that of another and thus it is not really fair to judge a culture completely different from yours. However, I simply cannot help but detest the way women had been treated from the past centuries. Anyhow, in traditional Chinese, there is a belief that the men should govern the world outside their home while the female should run their house.
Thus, the men should provide the bread for the family while the women should make sure that the house is acceptable for her husband and her family. During the Tang and Song dynasty, women are expected to do foot binding because fashion required that women should have very small feet. The entrance of Ming dynasty, on the other hand banned widows from remarrying wherein such is not the case for the widowers. During the time of Mao however, he promoted gender equality because he believed that women should have equal rights with their male counterparts.
Yuan Tsung Chen had been famous for her work “The Dragon’s Village”, because the work embodies some of the experiences she experienced during her lifetime particularly when she left her husband and son in order to share the experiences of the people from a distant province in the north. The greatest ordeal Yuan Tsung Chen has had to face is the hard works on the field as well as the pang of hunger she have had to endure. This particular experience is embodied on her work “The Dragon’s Village”. The main character, from “The Dragon’s village”, is a teen from a middle class family.
She had been very jubilant when she got herself a job as a librarian on Peking. Ling-Ling supported the Communist government because she herself believes on the benefits land reform would have on the people. Although the “The Dragon’s Village” had been a fictional book it did not fail to amaze me by the author’s brilliance in putting some historical facts within it. Maoism and the Cultural Revolution played a huge part on this particular work especially in embodying the kind of lives peasants have had during that time.
As I have mentioned earlier the author made use of her own experiences in order to better her book and thus, just like Yuan Tsung-Chen, Ling-Ling did not really had an experience of poverty until she joined the peasants on her way of finding herself. Ling-Ling had gotten tired of living the good life and thus she joined the revolution which fought for land reform. The main struggle Ling-Ling have had is that the peasants from the Dragon’s Village are full of superstitions and thus they refuses to let go of old norms and traditions.
Since the land reform is brought about by some people’s wish to better the lives of the peasant’s it is no surprise that one would conclude that they would welcome the ideology of Communism. However, such had not been the case on “The Dragon’s Village”. One of the greatest events during the course of the People’s Republic of China is during the time of the Cultural Revolution. Many changes had been wrought during the years of the Cultural Revolution which promoted chaos as well as political anarchy.
The person behind the said revolution is no other than the great Mao Zedong himself, chairman of the Communist Party of China, which (as the name implies) showed great faith on Communism. Communism aims to liberate the proletariats from the abuse they suffered under the bourgeoisies. Maoism came from the name of the great Mao Zedong. Maoism is the tenet that led the people of China to organize them selves into fighting and changing the old system. Mao made use of the term destruction rather than revolution.
Whereas Marx made use of the term revolution as the main thought behind his tenet Mao himself, preferred the term destruction. When Mao led the Cultural Revolution he said that in order for that particular revolution to succeed, destruction is necessary and the people have no other choice but to obliterate the old system of production and the people should not let themselves be tied up with tradition. This similar ideology is present on Thomas Kuhn’s work “the paradigm shift”.
According to Kuhn the old paradigm which would be replaced by a new one should be destroyed completely in order for the new paradigm to succeed because the main reason why the old one ought to be replace is that it is no longer sufficient to answer the questions of their time and thus a call for a new paradigm is necessary. The old paradigm is not compatible with the new one thus the one needs to be obliterated. The main reason why I included Kuhn here is because his ideology is very similar to that of Mao Zedong’s idea of completely obliterating a system in order for the new one to work properly.
However, like all great man Mao Zedong also has his drawback and that is his lack of information as well as experience on the field of economics. According to Mao the main rationale of the Cultural Revolution is the entire destruction and the proposal of new customs and the like. As mentioned in the book “The Dragon’s Village”, the people refused to get away from their old norms, cultures and traditions. That particular hardship did not occur on the book alone, for in the real life many also refuses to break away from the culture they have embraced ever since they were young.
Just try to imagine yourself and the society you have had since the day you’ve been born. You have lived under certain sets of beliefs, dogmas and traditions believing that you have to conform to everything it says because it is the right thing to do. Then one day, someone come on your doorstep condemning the set of traditions you have and proposing an alternative which that stranger believes to be right. What would you have yourself do? Would you embrace that man and his ideology with open arms? I guess not.
That is no wonder that all great and new ideas are received with hostility or indifference. Another example of this came from a scientific discovery. Before, all human kind believes that the Earth is the center of everything and everything revolves around us. Does the same belief apply to us today? No. And should you ask and wonder why, it is all thanks to the great Copernicus. During his time Copernicus had been laughed at, scorned and even condemned by his society simply on the basis that he has proposed the heliocentric theory that the Earth is not the center of the universe.
Rather than the Earth he suggested that the sun is the one on the center of the universe and that the Earth, along with the other planets, revolves around its axis. The church as well as the society rejected and condemned his theory but he persevered and now we have proved that Copernicus is indeed right. I have made use of the above example in order to show how people refuse to get away from traditions, from their norms or from their culture. We find it hard to let go of the things we’ve been used to.
Sometimes it is merely because of stubbornness, however, most of the time, it is because we are afraid of change, especially of changes acquired radically. There’s a certain security in boxing ourselves on our traditions and thus when a new ideology is being proposed we refuse to accept it. And it is mainly for this reason why some of the people (even the peasants) during the time of Mao Zedong are hard put to let go of their traditions in exchange for a new one. This is a very common phenomenon and it is no small wonder than Yuan-Tsung Chen put this particular event on her book.
Another particular aspect discussed on the “The Dragon’s Village” is the patriarchal society. Even up to now we are still living in a society where patriarchy is dominant. But as compared to the way our predecessors lived, we are now living in a place where women are almost equal to that of men. Whereas our predecessors lived in a society completely dominated by males and where it is considered inappropriate for a woman to speak her mind, today such a phenomenon no longer occurs, or if it does such things are very minimal.
As I have mentioned earlier “The Dragon’s Village” portrayed how the lives of the peasants are during the time of its author. It also portrayed how women lived restrictedly during those times. The women have to be meek at all times and they are not allowed to speak their minds. Women are allowed very little privileges during those times and it is present on the work force. However, such is not the case in this modern society we are living in.
Women are now allowed to study the course they want to take and majority of the women are also present on the work force. The restrictions set on women during Yuan-Tsung Chen’s time are reflected on Guan Ling-Ling’s journey on the said book. Ling-Ling is torn between the idealism of Communism and by her old traditions. She had experienced many conflicting emotions which she would have to deal with if she is to succeed on her journey. Mao is to be remembered as the one who ideals equality and thus he proposed equality between the two sexes.
And this ideal is basically present on the book as well. To summarize, the happenings during the time of Yuan-Tsung Chen had been the greatest motivating factor which urged her to write the “The Dragon’s Village”. Communism has played a great deal on the development of the story and thus the book had been arguably one of the greatest historical fictions ever made.
Chen, Yuan-Tsung. The Dragon’s Village: An Autobiographical Novel of Revolutionary China: Penguin USA, 1981.