Altruism and Personal Loyalty
When someone mentions xia, the first thing that comes to mind is that they usually carry a sword and chivalric. Xia, the special historical character in China, has unique faith and intention about life. In the book, The Chinese Knight-Errant,
James Liu indicates eight ideals based on traditional historical sources: altruism, justice, individual freedom, personal loyalty, courage, truthfulness and mutual faith, fame and generosity. On the other hand, the movie Hero, directed by Zhang Yimou, shows the same understanding with James Liu ’s argument. Hero confirms some points that James Liu made, such as altruism and personal loyalty.
Altruism is the most significant aspect in the film and confirms James Liu’s perspective. “They habitually help the poor and the distressed, and often risked their own lives to save others”(4). First of all, in the movie, Broken Sword and Nameless give a good example of altruism. Broken Sword, an assassin, gives up revenge in order to let the Qin king unity tianxia. After, he persuades Nameless not assassinate the Qin king, because the king is the only way to save the world and save the people of the monarch. Even if Nameless decides to kill the Qin king, he has realized that the deeper meaning of tianxia since coming in the final moment of success. Nameless also give up the aim of revenge and even sacrifice himself for tianxia. Whether Broken Sword or nameless, they have abandoned the "little me", abandoned to take revenge, but the purpose goes to save more people from miseries and war. This is a traditional Chinese martial arts culture of the ancient spiritual connotation-- altruism.
Second, even if Flying Snow has always insisted to assassinate the Qin king, she is willing to sacrifice herself for the Zhao country. Flying Snow’s example is also a support of altruism in James Liu’s book.
Last but not least, the Qin king is an absolute hero and also brings the benefit to all of people --- altruism. He puts an end to the war, leads people to peace, and unifies country. The Qin king rages war against other nation states. He knew only war could bring peace. He sacrifices countless lives to save so many more. Qin unites all other nation states, for the first time, which means tianxia in this movie. He brought peace to the land and the people.
Another ideal in James Liu’s book is personal loyalty. As Liu writes, “Even when a knight died for a prince, it was not out of a sense of loyalty such as a subject owed his sovereign, but such as one man owed another who ’appreciated him’”(5). The film also confirms this aspect. Xia would even risk his life for those who really understand him. For instance, Long Sky has great trust in Nameless; even let his fate to be controlled by Nameless. It is a great friendship! Between friends, family, country and the world common people, Nameless had a mind to make a choice, just because this decision, and it is the decision of the "hero" of this title.
The final scene is very impressive. Nameless hold a sword that the Qin king gives to him, and ultimately gives up is righteous . The real righteousness is beyond the hatred of the country, beyond the ordinary promise, beyond the fame brought prestige. Just like, at the highest level of the sword, it is not to kill. Being the intelligent xia, he has really understood life and death, meaning the country and home. At the mean time, the Qin king is relieved and feels happy because he knows Broken Sword and Nameless are really understood him. He is not alone anymore. Although the Qin king intends to let Nameless go, but in order to maintain the country's statutes, he has to bear the pain killed him. Eventually, he cries for Nameless, a true friend. Although Nameless and Broken Sword died, they are not loser; they are hero, because they make the Qin king stronger.
Zhang Yimou’s movie could confirm James Liu’s argument about xia. From Broken Sword, Nameless, Flying Snow and the Qin king, those characters in the film, we can see they have altruism and personal loyalty characteristics of xia, which James Liu claims.
Comments: The basic problem is that you assume that there is only one type of altruism. A closer reading of James Liu might show that the traditional xia sense of altruism is not what you assume. Further, a reading of Lan’s article on the ideal of tianxia will give you better insight into what Zhang was intending in his movie. Further, you need a better conclusion. This one just recycles the thesis. You need to point the reader in a new direction. Think bigger! What do movies do? Can they change traditions or are they only for eating popcorn? AAD
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Liu, J.Y. The Chinese Knight-Errant. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul. 1967. Print.
Zhang, Yimou, dir. Hero. Perf. Jet Li, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Maggie Cheung. Miramax, 2002. DVD