Study the past”, Confucius said, “if you would define the future.”
But moviegoers now have further opportunity to study Confucius himself, in a new film about the great sage that is released next week. And the purists aren’t too happy, having seen some of the trailers for the film.
Confucius is played by Hong Kong action-star Chow Yun-fat. He speaks in a modern style, seems to know kung-fu and is even partial to a little flirting with the ladies.
One particular scene shows Nan-zi, a beauty with a mixed history, welcoming him to her room. Played by popular mainland actress Zhou Xun, Nan-zi asks the philosopher: “Can you love a woman with a bad reputation like me?”
Confucian followers are annoyed, accusing the movie of misleading audiences into thinking that the philosopher was romantically linked to a woman of loose morals.
Kong Jian, who claims to be a 75th generation direct descendant of Confucius, has taken matters further, demanding that the film’s producers take action, says Sohu.com.
“Your recent trailer contains scenes that are obviously against history and ruin Confucius’ image as a sage,” Kong claimed in a letter. “Your film should respect history, not sacrifice Confucius’ reputation for your commercial pursuit.”
Kong is demanding that the film’s producers delete the scenes involving Nan-zi and base the script much more directly on The Analects (Confucius’ best-known work). He is threatening legal action if they do not comply.
The film’s screenwriter, Chen Han, has responded robustly, insisting that other inspirational figures (Jesus and Buddha are mentioned) also underwent temptation in the wilderness. But they overcame it, reinforcing their divine nature. So for Han, in illustrating Nan-zi’s seduction of Confucius, he is actually emphasising “the classical chapter that highlights Confucius’s sage-hood.”
The film’s director, Hu Mei, also defends her work: “Confucius is a man who appreciates woman as other men do.” And besides, the relationship between the two is based on respect, she adds hastily.
The film is being launched in a period in which study of Confucianism continues to enjoy something of a comeback. This follows a lengthy period during the Cultural Revolution in which it was banned altogether.
In fact, the philosopher may even be commemorated with a new holiday, according to the South China Morning Post. It says that Hong Kong is considering shortening the three-day Easter holiday by a day to make space for a celebration of Confucius’ birthday in August each year.
The proposal is being campaigned for by the Confucian Academy in Hong Kong. “There is a holiday for Qu Yuan (a Chinese scholar from the Warring States period, who is commemorated in the Duanwu or Dragon Boat Festival). Why shouldn’t there be one for Confucius?” says Tong Yan-lai, the academy’s president.
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