China Beat Archive



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April 30, 2009 in the China Beat


Copyright April 30, 2009. Used by permission.


By the end of this post, readers will have been able to click on a word to be introduced to the sounds of “Redgrass Music” (a genre that uses Chinese instruments in a novel manner), seen the special look of a curious vehicle recently displayed in Shanghai that one journalist has said should be called a “Lexiac” ( like a Pontiac from the front, like a Lexus from behind), and discovered something important that Zhang Yimou and Jane Austen have in common (hint: surprise appearances by the undead are involved in each case). First, though, some background about “mash-ups” (aka “mash ups” and “mashups”), for “China Beat” has dealt with this subjectbefore and even run pieces with mash-up-like titles, but never before confronted the phenomenon of contemporary mash-up mania head on.

The first point to stress is that mash-ups are not completely new by any means.Even if the term has a short history, the mixing and matching it suggests has been taking place in China as well as all sorts of other place for ages. Fusion food was already a big thing way back in the twentieth century. (And what were nineteenth-century creations like chop suey and chow mein if not a kind of culinary mash-up avant la lettre?) Artists have been bringing together elements from and playing with juxtapositions of features of different genres and even different media for centuries, even if it is only recently that such efforts have been called “mash-ups,” “samplings,” or “post-modern” efforts. Turning from cuisine and art to politics, China is one of many countries that has a long experience with approaches to ideology that involve striking juxtapositions of concepts and assumptions, with just two of many examples being the effort by the Taipings (1848-1864) to fuse aspects of Christian eschatology with various kinds of indigenous concepts and the current experiment with “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics,” which Nicholas Kristoff has dubbed “Market Leninism,” a term that captures even more effectively the mash-up-like quality of the approach.