Tuesday, March 3, 2015

A Comparison Of Two Peony Lanterns

From two stories, first the Chinese Peony Lantern (牡丹灯记) and then the Botan Doro (牡丹燈); we can see how stories are changed to suit cultural preferences:

The beginning of the Chinese version was set to the last day of Chinese Lunar New Year, while the Japanese version, the beginning of the scene was set on Buddhist Ulambata festival; this is also the ‘ghost month’ for the Chinese.

The original Chinese Peony Lantern only slightly touched the scene when the skeleton was having intimacy act with Qiao as:

“A skeleton sits beside Qiao under a lamp…”

But the Japanese version has deliberately exploited on enhancing the fear factor:

“… Her face colour is iron green and she is without anything below her waist. Her skinny and rocky hands tightly embraced Ogiwara’s neck…”

The Japanese version has deliberately omitted the last part of Chinese version:

“On the command of Iron Crown, the heavenly messengers used iron chain to tie up the vengeful ghosts and then whipped them. After a few rounds of torturing and scolding; the ghosts were sent to the hell.”

Well, come and think of it, the above would indeed be an anticlimax to any ghost stories. Maybe this is why the Japanese writer has opted to omit the above part. It may also be due to heavy influence of Buddhism over Taoism in Japan.

This can also be seen from the use of Taoist talismans in the Chinese version, but that was changed to gold Buddha statue.

I am also of particular interest to different endings of two similar stories:

·         The ghosts in Chinese version were sent to hell, end of story.
·         The ghosts in Japanese version are still at large until today…

In short, Maybe I can conclude in this way:

Chinese are more reluctant to let harmful spirits at large so drastic actions must be taken to punish all trouble makers. The sooner the daily business return to normal the better it is.  However Japanese can endure and coexist with harmful spirits around them; or it may just be the author’s technique to leave some leeway to writhe Part I, II, III etc. of Peony Lanterns… Why not? Since the evil is still not dead and while the money is good!

Whatever case that may be, please enjoy two Peony Lanterns of different flavour!


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