Ethnic Chinese writer criticises ‘fake culture forced on Mongolians’ in hit film, ‘Wolf Totem’

Guo Xuebo claims film, released at Lunar New Year showing folk traditions, rituals and lives of the ethnic Mongolian nomads and their bond with wolves, distorts the truth

An ethnic Mongolian writer has criticised a hit new film, released in the mainland on the first day of the Lunar New Year, claiming that it distorts the truth and is based on a “fake culture forced on Mongolians [by the author]”.
Wolf Totem, based on a 2004 semi-autobiographical Chinese novel of the same name by Zhang Rong – the pen name of Lu Jiamin – describes the experiences of a young Han student, played by Feng Shaofeng, who is sent to teach in the countryside of Inner Mongolia in 1967, during the Cultural Revolution.
During his days with local shepherds, the student starts to learn about the folk traditions, rituals and lives of the ethnic Mongolian nomads, as well as their bond with wolves, which is threatened by local officials.
Wolves are greedy, selfish, cold and cruel, and advocating the spirit of wolves is [a kind of] fascist thought that goes against humanity
The book also praises the teamwork and competitive spirit of ethnic Mongolians, as well as their freedom, independence and respect for nature.
However, Guo Xuebo, a member of China Writers’ Association, said on his weibo microblog last Wednesday that wolves had never been a totem for Mongolians.
He said the new film depicted “a fake culture that has been forced on Mongolians [by the author]”.
The film had already generated ticket sales of more than 300 million yuan (about HK$380 million) by yesterday lunchtime, news portal reported.
His 1997 film, Seven Years in Tibet, starring Brad Pitt – about an Austrian mountaineer’s experiences in Tibet from 1944 to ’51, including teaching the young 14th Dalai Lama – was condemned by the Chinese government, and led to Pitt and the director being banned from entering China.
Annaud, who has since been welcomed back by the Chinese authorities, has also directed The Name of the Rose, starring Sean Connery, Enemy at the Gates, starring Jude Law and Joseph Fiennes, and The Lover, starring Tony Leung and Jane March.
“Wolves have never been the totem of Mongolians, and there’s no record of any wolf totem in any Mongolian literature and history,” Guo wrote in the microblog,
“Wolf is the natural enemy in Mongolian lives, and wolves have no team spirit and often fight with each other.
“Wolves are greedy, selfish, cold and cruel, and advocating the spirit of wolves is [a kind of] fascist thought that goes against humanity,” Guo wrote. “We reserve the legal rights to safeguard the history of our ancestors and our ethnic culture.”
Guo also said that a senior ethnic Mongolian writer had complained about the book when it was first published, but “our voices were so weak comparing with the interest group formed by the Wolf Totem”.
The film, as well as the book – one of the mainland’s best-selling novels – have both raised eyebrows on the mainland.
Lu, previously a low-profile writer from Beijing, was arrested during the Tiananmen bloody crackdown of 1989.
In an interview with Southern Weekly, Lu said his experiences – witnessing the destruction of the grasslands in Inner Mongolia by Han farmers – had aroused in him the need for self-examination into the weaknesses of the nation.
He said the Han people could learn valuable lessons from wolves about their “teamwork and friendship, their spirit to pursue independence and their indomitable will”.

Source:South China Morning Post


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