Monday, July 4, 2011

Fearlessness and Song Jiang - China's Green Lantern

“All Men Are Brothers” is a Chinese serial TV drama based on the classical Chinese literature entitled “Water Margin”. It was directed by Kuk Kwok-leung. It tells of a group of bandits during the Song dynasty, when the palace officials are corrupt and the emperor is almost useless. The bandits were headed by a man named Song Jiang, and they were based at a place called Liangshan. Like the monk in the other great classicical novel "Pilgrimage to the West", the character of Song Jiang was based on a real person also by the name of Song Jiang. He has over 100 leaders to assist him. Even though they are called “bandits” by the palace, their main intention was only to fight the corrupt and evil officers, and never to over-throw the emperor. Their role was very much like that of their counterpart in England’s Sherwood Forest, i.e. Robin Hood. And in comic-dom, they practically fought for “truth, justice and freedom”, the Liangshan way. In Song Jiang’s mind, he was only thinking of how to win back the emperor’s pardon and return to either serving the Emperor or to return to civilian life. He was not interested in being regarded as a bandit forever.

I am not here to tell you the entire story. Rather I want to focus on Song Jiang’s noble character. He was someone I really admire – not because he was unquestioningly loyal to the useless emperor, but rather for his steadfast stand on his Confucian principles of righteousness and honour. Even knowing that he was given a chalice full of poisonous tea, he gratefully drank it so as to gain the emperor’s trust that he was indeed a nobleman. And that he and the rest of his clansmen are righteous people, and not bandits. He practically single-handedly guided and transformed his group of bandits into gods worshipped by millions of Chinese from his time till the present day. Indeed, he was honoured with a grand statue and temple in Liangshan that still stands today. So were his other 108 warrior leaders. Their names were also inscribed on plagues in the temple. So, if you wonder how others could become worshipped as gods, and have such a wish to be a god after you die, look no further than Song Jiang. If you can follow his exemplary character and benefit people in the way he had, you will surely be a god and be highly regarded for generations after generations. There is no question about it. In Chinese literature, culture and heroes, he stands tall, much like Kuan Kong, and if there is anyone from China that qualifies to be Green Lantern, the one who is fearless, it should be Song Jiang. Hal Jordon is nowhere the man that Song Jiang was said to be. I really have a lot of respect for a person like him. His clansmen respect him in much the same way, and perhaps more. They were willing to die for him and even die together with him. That was how strong their brotherhood was. Nowadays, there is no such loyalty anymore. You see people questioning their leaders daily and are not united in pursuit of a common goal. Anyone willing to sacrifice themselves for their bosses? Hardly any nowadays. People are so opinionated now that they challenge everything the boss says. Everybody thinks they are smarter. But of course, blind obedience, especially to foolish or corrupt bosses will only make you look more foolish. So, blind loyalty is not to be encouraged either. But if you have a man or guru like Song Jiang, he is worth dying for and to be led by the nose. For he can do no wrong …as the saying goes. More than loyalty, it is also a lovely story about fighting corruption, something that most modern day society can relate to. There is also the truth of karma to realise. All the killings, be it by the good guys or the bad ones, result in karma in one way or another. Song Jiang was no exception. But he accepted his karma, and considering the situation he was in, I think that he had made the correct choices. Sometimes, we are left if limited choices and it is not always that we could have our hands clean of committing any negative karma. A lot of times, we have to make choices of either committing this bad karma or that bad karma. You need to make your choices and live with the consequences. So, choose wisely.
So, if you have not seen the Chinese series, do see it. But I am not sure if they have English sub-titles. Check it out. Here is a picture of Song Jiang in the TV series and the poster as above, while on the right is the 2011 movie "Green Lantern" starring Ryan Reynolds, which is more a fantasy story than real. He really reminds me of the qualities of a bodhisattva, one of which is fearlessness. However, real bodhisattvas fear committing evil. Not every fear should be shunned in that sense. Song Jiang, for example, feared corruption more than he feared death. He was the real Green Lantern of China. Even though "Water Margin" had been produced into countless movies and TV series such as the Shaw Brothers' "Water Margin" and another series called "Outlaws of the Marsh", this is yet another remarkable piece of work by the Chinese serial drama producers. I highly recommend it. For more information on Song Jiang, refer to Wikipedia. I hope you like my comments on this TV series and relating it to the movie "Green Lantern", which is based on the DC comic character. Go watch both.

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