Proposal to Present Lien Fang Yu and Zhang Yimou with a “Travel Award”

|China

The people of Taiwan all know Lien Fangyu. This is because she is the wife of Lien Chan, former Chairman of the Kuomintang. In April last year, the people of mainland China came to know this woman of extraordinary qualities through her “journey of peace” to mainland China as part of a delegation led by Lien Chan.

Soon after Lien Chan’s visit came to an end, Lien Fangyu’s lengthy account of her journey, A Half-Century of Encounters: Journeys of Peace on Both Sides of the Taiwan Strait, was published. Both she and her husband are famous, so this special visit to the mainland came under the spotlight. As someone with political links, it may be difficult to separate Lien Fangyu’s book from politics, but its predominant features are far removed from politics. She depicted the activities, words and deeds of the politicians whom she accompanied on the visit and wrote about both her immediate and subsequent impressions as a spectator. What was even more interesting was that, as a traveler, she depicted everything from the landscapes and scenery, historic sites, culture and human feelings to the delicious food, local specialties and performing arts that she experienced during this short but busy trip; everything is described in minute detail and the result is something approaching a carefully edited sightseeing guide. It would be fair to say that, thanks to this book, many Taiwanese people, as well as people on the mainland and in other countries, have developed an understanding of a lively approach to traveling.

She is a famous person and the influence of the mass media is also great. Furthermore, this trip was the first contact between Taiwan and mainland China in more than half a century, and she was fortunate to have good conditions that enabled her to experience and examine this visit of such great significance. Soon afterwards, many travel agencies on the mainland planned tours taking in the same places that Lien Chan visited there. Naturally, many Taiwanese companies also have the same idea. This is because people will remember this history for a very long time and want to experience the same atmosphere for themselves. Lien Fangyu’s “sightseeing guide” undoubtedly has much greater value than merely spending money on publicizing tours.

Few people in China have not heard of Zhang Yimou. Many people around the world have head of him. Many of the films that he has directed deal with such somber themes as failure, calamity and stupidity, but one by one, it is precisely these films that have made stars of the actors who appear in them.

In Japan, everyone has heard of Ken Takakura. As a result of the film Kimi yo funnu no kawa o watare (Cross the River of Wrath), Ken Takakura achieved fame in China. He always plays quiet men of courage and is called the actor who acts with his back. Unlike other stars, he is not only an idol for countless women, but is also beloved by innumerable men.

Last year, Zhang Yimou invited Ken Takakura to star in his film Qian li zou dan qi (Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles). The characters in the story are from both China and Japan, and the historic Chinese city of Lijiang provides the background for the film. What links the story is the plot of a little-known Chinese nuó jù masque that brought together religion and entertainment. Only Zhang Yimou could have made Ken Takakura travel for thousands of miles and serve as a voluntary guide on a tour of Yunnan Province. Journeying around the famous peaks and mighty rivers of Yunnan, the film is filled with a variety of scenes set amidst glorious sunshine and under the bright moonlight. At the same time, it shows the true nature of Yunnan’s scenery and introduces the famous historic city of Lijiang, as well as obscure ancient citadels nestling deep in the mountains and dark valleys. In addition, he comes into contact with local officials, reports on a prison and watches a performance of the masque.

This was the first collaboration between Zhang Yimou and Ken Takakura and may turn out to be the only one. Chinese people will go to see this film, without fail. Japanese people and fans of Zhang Yimou and Ken Takakura around the world are also likely to go and see it. As one watches the film, one should be sure not to miss the scenes in the play or the scenery. The mysterious scenes in the historic city of Lijiang that are likely to make an impression on many people, the unending banquet at Shitouzhen, the stage makeup of Guan Yu in the masque… This film will undoubtedly bring many tourists and business opportunities to Yunnan and will be of immense value in terms of tourism PR.

Getting back to the subject, tourism PR may not have been the true intention of Lien Fangyu or Zhang Yimou. At least, neither of them has said that this is the case, but their works have certainly had this kind of effect. However, life frequently gives rise to such complexities and relationships between things are tenuous. It is not necessarily the case that if one goes to the effort of planting flowers, one’s garden will turn into a beautiful spring landscape, but if one casually places a willow branch in the earth, it is possible that it might become an avenue of willow trees. What is travel? It might not be possible to explain it clearly if one thinks about it deeply, but the process of coming into contact and interacting with other people through travel can promote mutual understanding and social progress. Works of literature and performing arts also constantly encourage people to go out of their homes, go outside their countries, look outward and experience the world that they do not know, as well as that which they do.

In this sense, I would like to propose that the government’s tourism management division establish a prize and award it to people such as Lien Fangyu and Zhang Yimou, who have contributed to the development of the travel industry in various countries, even if that was not their intention.

[Translated by ERINA]