Hero Born Q5: Cultural differences

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Another couple of differences in this book when compared to Western tropes concern age and gender.

The gender roles in this book are fairly "traditional" with women relegated to passive roles of wives and mothers, with widows expected not to remarry. (This is quite different in contemporary wuxia TV dramas, which often feature active, dynamic women.)

Age is treated differently in China, with older people not only respected for their wisdom, but often also higher-skilled and therefore better martial artists. That's different from Western ideals, where youth is a clear correlate with physical prowess.

What do you think of these differences? What other cultural differences did you spot?

Comments

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    Agreed about the gender roles -in She Who Became the Sun the female protagonist only gets anywhere at all because she assumes her brother's identity and the prophecy which had been spoken over him - as a girl, she did not merit any prophecy at all. (In passing, in the sample that I read, I wasn't able to understand how she managed to survive several years in an otherwise all-male monastery receiving training, when they had communal baths, toilets and what have you, still less what happened when she reached puberty and all the associated biological changes). And yes, female protagonists in contemporary dramas are far more active - Michelle Yeoh has made a good career out of this!

    I thoroughly approve of the wise-and-skilled-older-person trope :) which over here only really appears in proverbs such as "old age and trickery will always overcome youth and enthusiasm".

    Other differences - I liked the general social acceptance of these itinerant folk, and the implication that they would be doing "good deeds" in exchange for food and lodging. That was a clear contrast between say the Taoist practitioners for whom service was an important habit, and the official soldiers and administrators who were mostly on the take - this latter is a theme which you would equally find here in the West, for example in the Robin Hood tales.

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    Yes, there was a distinction drawn between righteous people and the corrupt government, and a strong flavour that "a fish rots from the head." If the emperor is unfit or illegitimate, all levels of the state end up self-serving.

    The other thing I should have mentioned was the various ways that honour/face/reputation was saved by making apologies or empty concessions while still doing what you wanted and the other person should (but didn't feel the need to) prevent.

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    @NeilNjae said:
    Yes, there was a distinction drawn between righteous people and the corrupt government, and a strong flavour that "a fish rots from the head." If the emperor is unfit or illegitimate, all levels of the state end up self-serving.

    This came out in the small amount I read of She Who Became the Sun, where a famine in the land as a whole was attributed to the corruption and weakness of the emperor in particular and therefore the government he had set up.

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    I thought there were plenty of active dynamic women. In fact, among the martial artists, it seemed like the women were as respected as the men, and I don’t recall anyone saying someone couldn’t be a martial artist because they were a women. In western stories, women fighters would always have to be proving why they belong.

    Also, I think there’s a big ‘turning expectations on their head’ them. A three-foot tall warrior? He won’t be good. But Ah, put him on a horse! Cripples can fight? But boy can they. And of course there are the freaks, who don’t follow conventional styles but are nevertheless competent. I don’t think we had a drunken master in this book, but that’s another common one. The Musashi book also liked to teach not to judge a book by its cover.

    So in order to have a heroic theme of breaking expectations, we must of course have a society that has expectations.
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    @Apocryphal said:
    I thought there were plenty of active dynamic women. In fact, among the martial artists, it seemed like the women were as respected as the men, and I don’t recall anyone saying someone couldn’t be a martial artist because they were a women. In western stories, women fighters would always have to be proving why they belong.

    Exactly! There were plenty of women who became part of the wulin world. There were fewer of them than men, but their skills were equivalent to those of the men.

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