What is honor and who is considered honorable?
This paper will analyze the concepts of honor in Chinese society as demonstrated in the movies The Emperor and the Assassin (2000), Farewell My Concubine (2005), and The Great ConquerorÆs Concubine (1998), as well as in readings from the texts, Chinese Civilization: A Sourcebook (1993) and The Cambridge Illustrated History of China (1996), both by Patricia Buckley Ebrey. The paper will first address the definition of a true hero as compared to what makes a successful ruler. It will then discuss how honor is defined and demonstrated in the movie, Farewell My Concubine. Finally, it will further examine the role of women in Chinese society and how honor is defined for them within those roles.
Heroes are normally defined as people who are endowed with great courage, strength, and nobility of purpose, and who are celebrated for their bold exploits and for risking or sacrificing their lives for a great cause (American Heritage Dictionary www.yourdictionary.com). Add the term ôhonorableö to this definition and it covers most of the characteristics of a heroic character as defined in Chinese thought as well. To rule or govern, however, requires a different set of skills that includes administration, management, supervising, and otherwise running a kingdom (American Heritage Dictionary www.yourdictionary.com). While there can be honor in the just governing of a kingdom, this does not always include heroic deeds, unless perhaps in times of dire need.
As the movies The Emperor and the Assassin, and The Great ConquerorÆs Concubine illustrate, however, the role of hero and ruler may be much more complex when considered before the backdrop of Chinese history. In these movies, the heroic journey for the characters was riddled with many obstacles, was often a type of spiritual journey, and many times included the heroes down fall physically, mentally, or spiritually. For example, in...