The King of Masks and its fundamentals
While discussing the major theme of a Chinese film The King of Masks directed by Wu Tianming, it is necessary to consider some basic issues concerning the plot of the production. First of all, it must be pointed out that The King of Masks can be regarded as a kind of mythic film, which highlights the subordinate position of women to men. However, the relationship between two genders seems to be the secondary theme Wu Tianming wanted his viewers to become familiar with.
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The most important point, which cannot be neglected, is that the film gives viewers an opportunity to trace back some important aspects of China’s history. Thus, one is to keep in mind that the major themes the director wanted to depict in his production are considered to be the Confucian value of filiality and the underpopulation of women. As far as both issues are closely interdependent, there is a need to consider them in detail.
The importance of Confucianism
When speaking about Confucian values, one is to keep in mind that there are three essential elements, Confucian teaching is based in. These include filial piety, humaneness and ritual. Generally, it should be noted that Confucianism is mostly associated with an important system of ethics.
Taking into account the fact that Confucianism appeared in China, one can probably make a conclusion that the director of The King of Masks wanted to depict one of the most important aspect of one of the most Confucianized society in the world. In other words, it seems to be obvious that the film reflects important aspects of the history of China.
Too complicated relations between Wang and the girl show us that acting in a Confucian manner is extremely important in social interactions. It is evident that one of the main characters Wang deeply respects various traditions of his nation as well as ethical norms of Confucianism.
Of course, he does not want people accept him as uncivilized man without any principles and self-perfection. Kevin Dodd is of the opinion that “Confucianism has always had a strongly hierarchical vision of society, but it has protected this from authoritarian ossification by stressing, inter alia, reciprocity and self cultivation” (8-9).
For this reason, one can probably conclude that the film director highlights the internal conflict the main character experiences: on the one hand, Wang wants to observe the norms Confucianism states; on the other hand, there are many contradictions concerning Wang’s desire to be an obedient person and his desire to accept the girl and to give her an opportunity to study his art.
Moral obligations vs. personal feelings
Of course, one can probably state that the conflict between a person’s moral obligations in relation to society and his or her feelings cannot be regarded as a new theme; however, one is to keep in mind that Tianming’s depiction is based not on imaginary values, but ancient authentic ones. Moreover, nobody will deny the fact that Confucian morality is considered to be one of the most important aspects of philosophy.
As far as philosophical questions are difficult to disclose, one can suppose that the philosophical points of The King of Masks are difficult to analyze. Taking into consideration the fact that Tianming’s production combines history, a person’s moral obligations concerning society and personal attitudes, it becomes obvious that the film causes ambiguous viewpoints. To my mind, it is wrong to state that film is good or bad.
For instance, I still cannot understand whether I like the film or no. Thus, on the one hand, I cannot ignore the contributions of Confucianism in history development; on the other hand, some norms of Confucian teaching are too strict, especially while speaking about the role of genders.
The problem of gender inequality
I suppose that the problem of gender inequality is extremely important; moreover, when discussing Chinese attitude towards women, most of people who live in the modern world will be really shocked. Thus, “Chun-Fang Yu describes the condition of women in China in light of this story’s development as intrinsically linked through their bodies with the “uncleanness” and “pollution” of menstruation, sexual intercourse, childbirth, and death” (Dodd 3).
However, males have been always respected. I can probably make a conclusion that for some people who belong to Chinese society the attitude towards women can be regarded as a norm; however, I can also state that in China the problem of gender inequality exists, because film directors show us the complexity of some historical aspects through their productions, because people speak about the problem. On the other hand, the film can be also regarded as the so-called introductory course concerning China’s history, but I think that The King of Masks must be analyzed deeper.
A systematic ideology, which is related to the position of women, is recognized to be one of the key themes of the film. When analyzing the interdependence between Confucianism and gender roles, one can conclude that traditional Confucian values can be criticized.
In other words, Confucian values must be revalued. In my opinion, a modernized evaluation of traditional Confucian norms seems to be one of the most appropriate ways, which is to be used, in order to avoid a conflict between a person’s moral obligations and his or her internal feelings.
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Confucianism and its contradictions
Dodd states that “The screenwriter Wei Minglun and director Wu Tianming are resetting or contemporizing the Buddhist Miao-shan myth in order to highlight therein the Confucian value of filial piety, which is central to the original story anyway” (12). It is obvious that the director of the film wanted to draw viewers’ attention to some other Confucian values, but not those ones, which seem to form the structure of the kind of teaching.
As far as people are mostly familiar with the basic principles of Confucian teaching, Wu Tianming provided viewers with an opportunity to notice other values Confucianism includes. These involve sympathy and responsibility. While analyzing the conflict the main character experiences, one can notice that the basic principles of Confucianism are at variance with its secondary values. For this reason, traditional Confucianism cannot be regarded as an appropriate ethical and philosophical system. In other words, it should be modernized.
A Chinese film The King of Masks directed by Wu Tianming reflects complex philosophical questions. Certain contradictions concerning Confucianism and its principles form the major theme of the film. Generally, it is necessary to point out that the director highlights the problem of gender inequality in the light of a well-known ethical-sociopolitical teaching.
The King of Masks gives viewers an opportunity not only to analyze pros and cons of Confucianism, but also to consider the aspects of the kind of teaching through a modernized system of values perception.
Dodd, Kevin. King of Masks: The Myth of Miao-shan and the Empowerment of Women, 2012. Web.