Connect with us

China Arts & Entertainment

Old Teacher-Student Traditions in Modern Times: The Fight Between Guo Degang & Cao Yunjin

Avatar

Published

on

The recent public falling-out between famous Chinese comic dialogue actors Guo Degang and his pupil Cao Yunjin has got Chinese netizens talking about traditional teacher-student relations in modern-day China.

Recently, the argument between two famous comic dialogue (xiangsheng) actors Guo Degang (@郭德纲) and his student Cao Yunjin (@曹云金) has drawn much attention on Chinese social media. The 30-year-old Cao accused his 43-year-old teacher of exploiting him while serving an apprenticeship.

aaaCao Yunjin and his teacher Guo Degang.

Guo Degang is one of China’s richest celebrities and biggest ‘crosstalk’ star. Xiangsheng (相声) or crosstalk is a traditional Chinese comedic performance that involves a dialogue between two performers, using rich language and many puns.

On August 31, Guo accused two of his students, Cao Yunjin and He Yunwei, of disobeying and betraying him as their teacher. Guo also announced that he would “cleanse his courtyard” and expel the two “astonishingly shameless students” from his xiangsheng school. He even accused Cao of “betraying his teacher for gold”.

 

“Students were hindered in personal growth because of the devoutness and loyalty that was expected of them.”

 

Five days after Guo’s announcement, his former student Cao Yunjin responded that Guo should not “morally kidnap” his students, but instead give them more freedom to pursue their personal careers. It soon became clear that teacher Guo had a very different perspective on his student’s future than the students themselves.

In an article published on Sina Weibo, Cao writes that as a student of Guo, he was paid only a small portion of his performing income. He also accused him of unfair demands in doing housework and sharing the rent.

He further claimed that his personal further development was hindered by his teacher. Although he also expressed his respect and gratitude to Guo, he said that students were hindered in personal growth because of the devoutness and loyalty that was expected of them.

On Sina Weibo, the hashtag “#Guo Degang Cleans Out His Courtyard” (#郭德纲清理门户) attracted 490 million views within a few days.

 

“Who is a master one day, will be a father for always.”

 

Apart from Guo and Cao’s popularity as Xiangsheng actors, the breach between the two mainly drew wide attention because it brings traditional ideas about the teacher-student relationship in modern society up for discussion.

Similar to apprenticeship in Europe, many trades in China are transmitted to younger generations through individual or small scale teaching. In China, this holds especially true for the business of art and entertainment. Famous Peking Opera actor Mei Lanfang (梅兰芳), for example, had many students under his own opera “Mei School” (梅派).

meilanfangOpera actor Mei Lanfang was both a performer and a teacher.

One Chinese expression says that “who is a master one day, will be a father for always,” (一日为师,终身为父) – it is emblematic for how Chinese teacher-student were traditionally perceived to also involve some sort of filial piety.

Not only is a student often considered a part of the family, his role also entails moral obligations towards the teacher; respect him, obey him, and fulfil a son’s duty towards him. Traditionally, honoring the teacher was seen as a dominant aspect within apprenticeship.

 

“Even your own son will rebel if you control and supress him too much.”

 

It is within the context of this kind of traditional intimate teacher-student relationship that Guo accused his student of failing moral obligations. But for Cao Yunjin, who was born in the post-1980s, his relation with Guo was more professional, and simply entailed learning a trade to establish a future career.

In his blog, Cao mentioned that one of the reasons for the conflict between him and his teacher was that he was trying to find a middle ground with Guo, as he made him act in of two of his films with little or no payment. “Honestly,” Cao writes: “I don’t even know how I can survive if I don’t have income.”

He also said he wanted to develop his own career “and give a better life to my mother”, but claimed this was seen as “betrayal” by Guo.

On Weibo, many netizens support Cao. In a survey under the hashtag #郭德纲清理门户, 52.3% of the 230,000 participants sympathise with Cao. These netizens argue that teacher-student relations should adjust to modern society, and place more emphasis on individual interests and encouraging independence.

“It is true that a one-day teacher is a lifetime father”, writes one netizen, “but even your own son will rebel if you control and suppress him too much”.

“Kidnapping people with morality is immoral in itself”, another netizen writes: “And don’t forget that Cao did pay tuition. Guo is just a teacher, nothing more”.

 

“A country has its laws and a family has its rules.”

 

But there are also people who defend the traditional teacher-student relationship. Many argue that Cao owes his career completely to Guo, and that he should be grateful for that: “A country has its laws and a family has its rules”, says one netizen, “These rules may be outdated, but you should obey them all the same since you joined the trade on your own will.”

No matter who gets more support, Guo and Cao’s split brings forward a dilemma of China’s modern-day xiangsheng industry: teachers may want to preserve the traditional filial responsibilities of students; but the students, often from a younger generation, expect a business-like contract with their teacher.

The Guo-Cao affair might be an indication that in a rapidly modernising China, it is only a matter of time before more cracks will start appearing in the performing art’s old tradition of honoring the teacher as the dominant factor in education.

-By Diandian Guo, edited by Manya Koetse

©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

[showad block=1]

image_print

Diandian Guo is a China-born Master student of transdisciplinary and global society, politics & culture at the University of Groningen with a special interest for new media in China. She has a BA in International Relations from Beijing Foreign Language University, and is specialized in China's cultural memory.

Advertisement
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

China Arts & Entertainment

Famous Chinese Nursery Song “One Penny” Inflates to “One Yuan”

One penny becomes one yuan in this children’s song. What’s next – changing it to QR codes?

Manya Koetse

Published

on

Famous Chinese children’s song “One Penny” (一分钱) has changed its penny to a Chinese yuan ($0.15).

The lyrics to the song are now published online and in children’s books with the different lyrics, Chinese news platform City Bulletin (@都市快报) reports on Weibo.

The altered text in a children’s book.

The classic song, in translation, says:

I found a penny on the street,
And handed it over to Uncle Policeman.
The Uncle Policeman took the penny,
And nodded his head at me.
I happily said: “Uncle, goodbye!

The song, by Chinese composer Pan Zhensheng (潘振声), is known throughout China. It came out in 1963.

Apparently, in present-day China, nobody would go through so much hassle for a penny anymore, and so the text was altered (although it is very doubtful people would go through the trouble for one yuan either).

The penny coin (0.01) in renminbi was first issued in 1957, and is somewhat rare to come across these days. “It’s probably even worth more than one yuan now,” some netizens argue.

Chinese media report that composer Pan Zhensheng said the song is just an innocent children’s song, and that it should not be affected by price inflation. Sina News also quoted the composer in saying that changing the text is “not respectful.”

Although some Chinese netizens think the change in the song is just normal modern development, others do not agree at all. In Hangzhou, some say, all you can find on the streets nowadays is QR codes rather than coins. Surely the song should not incorporate those new developments either?

Some commenters on Weibo say the song would never be realistic in China’s current cashless society anyway: “Kids nowadays are not finding cash money at all anymore!”

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. Please note that your comment below will need to be manually approved if you’re a first-time poster here.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

image_print
Continue Reading

Chinese TV Dramas

Controversy over Scene in Anti-Japanese War Drama Featuring Black U.S. Soldier and Chinese Nurse

Some scenes from this anti-Japanese war drama have angered Chinese netizens over ‘historical nihilism.’

Manya Koetse

Published

on

A black soldier comes to China from afar during WWII and falls in love with a Chinese villager who sacrifices her life for him. This war drama is sensationalizing the Sino-Japanese War in the wrong way, many netizens say.

“I love you, I love China,” a black man tells a Chinese woman in a clip of an anti-Japanese war drama that has gone viral on Chinese social media over the past few days (watch clip in embedded tweet below).

The scene is set on a mountain, where the man and woman hold hands when she tells him to flee from the “Japanese devils.” She repeats: “Remember: love me, love China.”

The love scene takes a dramatic turn when the two get ambushed by the Japanese army. The Chinese woman immediately pushes the man off the mountain to bring him to safety. While she cries out “love me, love China” she is attacked by Japanese soldiers and dies.

The scene comes from a 2016 TV drama titled The Great Rescue of The Flying Tigers (飞虎队大营救). The drama tells the story of Japanese soldiers chasing surviving members of a Flying Tigers aircraft after they shot it down. Various soldiers and army staff on the Chinese side try to rescue the fighters from the hands of the Japanese.

The drama’s portrayal of a romance between the foreign soldier and a Chinese woman, on the side of the Communist Eighth Route Army, has stirred controversy on Weibo this week.

“The director is retarded, this is historical nihilism,” one Weibo blogger writes.

Hundreds of netizens also criticize the drama’s director and screenwriters: “This is not even funny, what kind of scriptwriter comes up with this trash? This should be thoroughly investigated.”

The Flying Tigers (飞虎队) were a group of US fighter pilots who went to China during the final three years of the Second Sino-Japanese War to fight the Japanese invaders and defend China.

Flying Tigers.

The people behind the Flying Tigers belonged to the organization of the American Volunteer Group (AVG), who came together in 1941 to strengthen the Chinese Air Force.

In the now controversial TV drama The Great Rescue of The Flying Tigers, the black soldier is ‘Carl’ (Cedric Beugre), a surviving member of the Flying Tigers aircraft shut down by Japanese forces. The Chinese woman is ‘Xinghua,’ a female nurse who sacrifices her own life to save Carl.

The dialogues between Carl and Xinghua are pretty simple and at times almost ridiculous. While Xinghua does not speak a word of English and appears clueless, Carl is depicted as a stubborn, crude and somewhat silly character, who also seems to understand very little of what is happening around him and does all he can to be with his Xinghua after a brief meeting in the Chinese base camp (also see this scene or here).

On Chinese social media, the drama is critiqued for being a so-called ‘divine Anti-Japanese drama’ (抗日神剧): Chinese war dramas that sensationalize the history of the war by making up unrealistic and overly dramatic or funny scenes and storylines.

In 2015, China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television (SAPPRFT) announced a limit on these kinds of TV dramas that sensationalize the history of war, and in doing so ‘misrepresent history’ and ‘disrespect’ the Chinese soldiers who fought to defend the nation (read more).

TV series focusing on war are part of China’s every day (prime time) TV schedules. These Chinese war dramas are called “Anti-Japanese War Dramas” (抗日电视剧), literally referring to the period of ‘resisting Japan’ during WWII (in China, the 1937-1945 war is called The War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression 中国抗日战争).

The 40-episode series The Great Rescue of the Flying Tigers was aired by Yunnan City Channel but is also available online. Since there are countless reruns of Anti-Japanese war dramas on Chinese tv, it is possible that some viewers only now viewed the 2016 drama for the first time.

Some netizens call this a “new kind of fantasy war drama”, summarizing: “A black man comes from far away to China to fight Japan, falls in love with a Chinese nurse who sacrifices her own life for him and yells ‘Love me love China’ before she dies.”

Many on social media call the script “idiotic,” others question if black soldiers ever joined the Flying Tigers in the first place.

There seems to be more to the controversy than sensationalizing history alone though – relationships between foreign men and Chinese women, especially black men and Chinese women, are often met with prejudice and racism on Chinese social media. Mixing such a narrative in a drama about the Second Sino-Japanese war makes it all the more controversial.

Some see the narrative of the love between a foreign soldier and a Chinese woman as a way of ‘beautifying’ the war and ‘adoring everything that’s foreign.’

“This is not respecting history at all!”, one among hundreds of commenters says.

In the TV drama, the sentence “Love me, Love China” does have some extra meaning in the end. Although Xinghua sacrifices her life for Carl in episode 19, he eventually chooses to fight side by side against the Japanese ‘devils’ with the Chinese army, keeping his promise to “love China” like he loved Xinghua.

By Manya Koetse , with contributions from Miranda Barnes

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. Please note that your comment below will need to be manually approved if you’re a first-time poster here.

©2019 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

image_print
Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Support What’s on Weibo

If you enjoy What’s on Weibo and support the way we report the latest trends in China, you could consider becoming a What's on Weibo patron:
Donate

Facebook

Instagram

Advertisement

Contribute

Got any tips? Suggestions? Or want to become a contributor? Email us as at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Popular Reads