Characteristics of Chinese Culture in Online Games
Disclaimer: This dissertation has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional dissertation writers. You can view samples of our professional work here.
Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UK Essays.
Game industry is a kind of globalizing market. This research is investigating the relationship between game art and culture. Due to each culture has an original root which influences particular cultural forms. Therefore, cultural barriers play a crucial role in the game design. In some ways, cultural barriers prevent games from globalization market.
The society of online games is formed by players who come from various culture backgrounds. Additionally, the online game which involves more interactive elements is affected by culture significantly. Players are not playing with computer but human beings. This new way of game play gives more freedom to players and designers. Meanwhile, online game has close connection with culture.
When we talk about online game industry we cannot ignore the Chinese online game industry, because China is one of the biggest online game industries in the world. The paper focuses on Chinese online game industry because of its accomplishments, highest speed of development and huge online game market. And how this ancient culture influences the new media form is crucial area to investigate.
Firstly, brief original Chinese culture will be presented for clearing an archetypal culture value. Based on Chinese online game industry, a local game named Westward Journey Online ? is examined for getting valuable methods which are how to use the archetypal cultural values into game art. From the examination on Chinese culture, value methods possible are getting for widen audiences all over the world. However, there is limitation existing in this paper which ignores other distinguishing culture contents. Further research might go more detailed on various culture forms for this particular research area.
The main purpose of this research is to examine the archetypal/universal characteristics that are expressed in Chinese culture within Multiple Massive Online Games in order to explain to a western the shared human values that are expressed in a uniquely Chinese expression of archetypal human values. The study examines the impact of archetypal cultural characteristics on game aesthetics that is important for corporations that are desirous to explore business throughout worldwide. Due to globalization might be a kind of megatrend in modern society as cultural forms, cultural barriers might exist to prevent the global distributions of games to some extent in the process of game development. There was a hot discussion about a female character in different cultural styles online (Liuduanyinsu 2008). This female character named Faith who was the heroine in Mirror's Edge which was developed by D.I.C.E studio in Sweden (2009). Her appearance caused controversy about what kind of female character could reach the expectation from each side of culture backgrounds. When Mirror's edge came to Japan, the Japanese players were not satisfied in the design of this character. Therefore, some of Japanese players adopted the female character depending on their own expectations. We could see the clear distinguishing features of different tastes on female beauty from figure 1 and 2. After the adaptation of the character, each side of players expressed their opinions. Both sides were not satiated to the other side's design. The discussion presented the cultural barriers on female beauty. Exploring the question that is how the features of culture influences game aesthetics could clarify the future direction of both single Game Corporation and the whole game industry. Therefore, a high level of culture understanding is necessary for meeting players' expectations. As a result, the cultural barriers influence game aesthetics in certain ways.
The platform of the study is set in China which is a long history country and has various mythologies which could reflect traditional culture and the process of development of each culture in some way. The culture studies could give us the solid basis of understanding of the Chinese cultural root and human values. The newest form studies of combing game art and culture open the door to explore new opportunities for fresh knowledge in this area. At the same time, the examination of Chinese culture could give a brief impression to western readers for understanding the distinct cultural form which has very different philosophy of life, attitudes, lifestyle, ideology and values from westerners. Meanwhile, it is aware that the myths influence game design and aesthetics significantly. Many myths are widely applied into game design and art, for example the characters in myths become main adopted features into game design like priest, Druid, Dragons etc both in western culture and eastern culture. Why is this situation happening? Are there same features between mythology and games so that the two things could be concordantly combined? In the research, the Journey to the West and games that were adapted from it is employed as a successful case to investigate for finding the acceptable answers. Moreover, the fast speed of development online game industry gives the research an additional benefit to unfold the examination.
According to the trend of globalization, bigger game marketplace could be opened by applying different cultural contexts into game aesthetics after the research. Moreover, the game industry gains much more attention from modern society which includes academic field and marketplace. People desire to obtain benefits from the fresh and cutting edge game industry such as entertainment and education.
The major research question is: how archetypal/universal characteristics are reflecting in online games based on Chinese culture? Afterwards, two further questions are: what is the archetypal characteristic of Chinese culture? And what kinds of archetypal could be translated into universal for more audiences in online games?
For answering these questions, multidiscipline study will be involved. There are culture studies, art, marketing and the newest one- computer games study. Depends on aims and research questions, the objectives have been listed below:
- To establish understanding of culture for game aesthetics using creative methods in culture studies
- To explore the relation of mythology and game aesthetics across several subjects
- To explore the functions of culture in game aesthetics and seek possibility of combining two different cultures into game art for widen players.
2 The background information of Chinese online game industry
2.1 Localization of Chinese online game industry
Chinese online game industry has a fastest speed of development and gives a great influence on the globalization game marketplace. From the research of the three nations that are American, Korea and China, it could be discovered that the income of American online game came from games exporting, and Korea is developing the exporting outside and locally operating, the income of China online game mainly came from locally operating. Therefore, a part of income in American and Korea online games came from Chinese online game marketplace (iResearch 2009). The report from iResearch (2009) evinced that the revenue of Chinese online game market occupied about 27 percentages of global game market and it is ranked the second position, American online game industry is 29 percentages to take the lead and Korea is the third position as 21 percentages. Due to the fact about the data sources of game exporting, it is aware that Chinese online games industry is localization because of the lower export level. The reasons might be the strategy of government, cultural barriers or limitation of development.
However, the Chinese online game industry is the biggest game marketplace in the world that is gradually getting more and more important status in international game industry by reason that the Chinese market size is 30.4 million dollars which occupies 27.1 percentages of the gross income of global online game marketing in 2008 according to the iResearch China Online Game Research Report (2009). In addition, China online game industry has the fastest developing speed. The report also predicted that the occupancy of Chinese online game market will continually increase at the speed of 5 percentages based on the research. Additionally, it is expected that the occupancy of Chinese online game market will be close to 50 percentages, and reach to 45.9 percentages (iResearch 2009). So it will become a big importing point of international online game industry.
2.2 The reasons of localization of online games boom in China
The localization of Chinese online game industry is possibly caused by multiple reasons. Are the Chinese players easily accepting the games which are set in other cultural contexts? The answer is negative. Local games with strong cultural contexts could get sympathetic attentions by players who live in the cultural environments. The cultural barriers caused game marketplace in certain ways. Based on the research about the developing areas of online games which are paid great attention in Chinese online game industry by Baidu (2009), the highest attention rate of place of online games' developers is China, the 49.65 percentages, following the second place is Korea which is 43.82 percentages, then there are American and Europe occupied 5.36 percentages and Japan is the lowest attention rate which is 1.18 percentages. So we can see the major online games are developed by local Chinese developers and Chinese neighbour-Korea which has similar culture with China. The similar cultures shared common online game market.
And online game industry meet the situation in China, it is getting more and more advanced support from government and other objective supports. Since the operating of Chinese government's strategy named reform and opening-up, the political climate became enlightened and loosened so that people's concepts are diversity and more easily accepting new things and globalization environment is established as a result of that popular culture could gain opportunity of booming (Xiaolin 2008).
Moreover, why could the online games get improvement in China rather than console games? One main reason is the pirate. In China, players could spend just few money to get the illegal copies from peddlers. This becomes a bad habit in Chinese players. And the pirate brings a negative influence to the console and computer games. Therefore, Chinese developers cannot get deserved profits from developing videogames and console games. The intellectual property of game developers is not protected. The failure sales of videogames and computer games give more space to online games development in China.
Finally, huge population forms the largest marketplace in China. It is reported that there are more than three hundreds millions cyber citizens in China until 17 July 2009 depending on the update database of China Internet Network Information Centre (2009). Thanks to the development of hardware and cyber technology, the disseminate internet is continually growing. More and more people use internet in China, and there are more potential players on internet.
Based on the investigation of Niko Partners, there are forty six million online game players who spent seventeen million dollars on online games in China (Sina 2008). This great circumstance for online games creates more and more opportunities for online game development. Following on the fast developing speed of Chinese online game industry, the further potentials need to be explored by the industry insiders.
3 The background of Chinese culture
3.1 The collective and discriminative culture
In different situation, the definition of culture has different explanation. The research mainly discussed art and culture for the latter investigation of game art and culture. Therefore, the definition of culture related to art or aesthetics is the focal point; it does not mean we ignore other important comprehension of culture studies, all the necessary study also is considered through the whole process of investigation. For the later research, which definition of culture is properly suitable for investigating the relation of culture and game aesthetics might be sorted out.
Firstly the definition of culture in dictionary must be considered. The 'culture' in English involves several meanings as a noun. The one of major definitions in Oxford Advanced Learner's English-Chinese Dictionary (1990, p.284) of culture described that 'all the arts, beliefs, social institutions, etc characteristic of a community, race, etc'. In Collins COBUILD Advanced Learner's English Dictionary (2004), there are similar explanations of the term 'culture' that are ' culture consists of activities such as the arts and philosophy, which are considered to be important for the development of civilization and of people's mind', ' a culture is a particular society or civilization, especially considered in relation to its beliefs, way of life, or art' and 'the culture of a particular organization or group consists of the habits of the people in it and the way they generally behave'. From there definition in dictionary, the main feature of culture is collective, a certain subject of people's common mind. The common ground includes arts, beliefs, habits, lifestyle, customs, institutions and philosophy. So sometimes, the culture means people's shared mind in one nation, one race even bigger in one group which has common benefits. Simply speaking, culture could be understood as a group of people who has a similar taste on game aesthetics in this field of research. This might be the reason why cultural barriers influence selling of games which involve strong cultural features.
Excepting the property of collective of culture, another crucial nature of culture is discriminative. Culture is regarded as "the collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another" by Geert (2001). If a culture loses its own distinguishing feature, it will vanish in the world. In other word, culture involves another important function which is identifying human's origins. Therefore, different cultures exist by their identification and discrimination with other cultural forms. Applying the feature of culture into this research, the different areas in game industry could be distinguished by analysing cultural characteristics.
There is another English word 'civilisation' which is treated as a synonym of the word 'culture'. It has similar definition with culture; however this word 'civilisation' emphasizes on the differentiation of culture. People always say ancient Egyptian civilisation, American Indian civilisation and Arab civilisation etc. When we say Chinese civilisation, the name externalizes the particular cultural form. A culture is archetypal and distinguishing. Therefore, the different culture gives distinguishing art styles to various games.
3.2 Chinese culture
The Chinese culture exists for thousands of years; it has great influences to the East area and other parts of the world. Due to the complex culture forms, it is hard to present a very clear and details of this particular culture. This paper is investigating the major root of Chinese culture which possibly affects modern new media the games. These contents of Chinese cultural root include Confucianism, Taoism and very crucial concepts of harmony between man and nature. These foundational concepts of Chinese culture give a great influence to very aspects of modern society. Meanwhile, games reflect or being reflected these traditional cultural concepts more or less. It needs to understand the cultural root for further studies of games and culture.
3.2.1 Brief introduction of Confucianism
The Confucianism is a complexity. Some people consider it is a cult, others think it is a form of learning (Xinzhong 2000). However, the research regards Confucianism is a form of culture. The content of Confucianism involves several disciplines such as moral, social, political, philosophical, and quasi-religious which reflect cultural contexts in China.
Due to the Confucianism involves different explanations in different historical periods; there is no specific definition for it. From different aspects, we could get different comprehensions from Confucianism. However, the central thought still exists and has positive impacts on modern Chinese people. Generally speaking, there are three cores themes and a crucial core concept in Confucianism. Those are "Li" - ritual in English, "De" - virtue, "Ren" - humanity and the doctrine of mean.
It is said that China is a state of ceremony because of the strict ritual from Confucianism. Some of the rituals were used into Chinese online games in order to give the local people familiar things in a virtual and realistic ancient world. In terms of original concept, "Li" is an important behavioural norm in Confucianism, and it includes traditional rituals. In Confucianism, it states that grades of people's relationship which includes the monarch and his subjects, parents and children, older sisters (brothers) and young sisters (brothers) should be clearly distinguished, and upper position of person have superior rights than lowers (Baidu 2009). For example, in ancient Chinese imperial family the emperor could talk several wives, and the first wife's child is the son and heir who have greatest prerogatives than other wives' children, such as acceding to the throne as the first person selected. And in modern China, the norm involves less power, but in Chinese family there are still some shadows of the "Li" existing. For instance, children should respect seniorities. When a Chinese family have an important dinner together, the oldest family member takes a seat in the best positions around a big table. The senior people usually have a greater power in the society, others always respect them. So the "Li" developed the strict hierarchy system in ancient Chinese society.
The virtue named "De" in Chinese is a tool to measure human's behaviours. Filial piety and Loyalty are two main contents in Confucianism (Kai-wing 1994, p.36). Filial piety means children should respect their parents. Simply speaking, offspring should give supports to their seniorities that cannot take care of themselves. These supports include mental supports and material supports. There are many legends and tales talking about filial piety in China to instruct people's behaviours. One of the famous stories about filial piety is that the person named Dongyong sold himself for money in order to bury his father's body, the city named "Xiaogan" which means the miracle of filial piety inspires god came from the ancient story (Wilt 2009). Ancient Chinese emperor applies "De" into ruling. The virtue in Confucianism requests governors using benevolent politics and self virtue to rule civilians. It presents using virtue to educate people for peaceful and steady society.
Humanity is a core content of Confucianism. It claims loving human, people should love each other, support each other and existing with each other. Therefore, the basic meaning of "Ren" is homage and friendship. In ancient Chinese governments always employed "Ren" into their ruling strategy, so it was developed to a kind of political strategy called policy of benevolence which advocated using the proactive and ethical human being to rule the country. It is different with western jural strategy. However, it involves some limit from contemporary viewpoints.
The doctrine of mean is another crucial concept of Confucianism. Zhangxin who is a professor researching Sinology introduced his opinion about the doctrine of mean. The spirit of medium way is doing something using appropriate methods to keep the things in a reasonable and fair expectation for people. He also claimed culture does not need to meet the international standards and the archetypal culture is the universal. Medium way is a root of Confucianism and Chinese culture, it affects people's behaviours at present. People's characteristics might be determined by the origin of their cultures. So the characteristics of Chinese people are introverted poise and defensive just reflect the medium way in Confucianism.
3.2.2 Brief introduction of Taoism
In the research, the characteristics of China are going to discuss from the native religion of Taoism rather than investigation on religion itself. Taoism is a native philosophical and religious of China and it focus on the moral code. It came from China and has influenced East Asia for over two millennia and the West for over two centuries (James 2003). On one hand, Taoism is one of main original inspirations for Chinese games. On the other hand, it is a core of human value in Chinese society.
Taoism's concepts could be applied into computer game design. The original religion involves several worships. Those include nature worship, totem worship, spirits worship and ancestor worship. Moreover, there is a complex system of Daoism, different branches have different leaders. These features of Daoism give great inspirations to game designers. The features have already employed into several Chinese games which used traditional themes and backgrounds. The Jianxia3 online employed many Daoism's elements into the game play (Kingsoft 2009). Players could choose Chunyang branch which is a real branch of Daoism as their clans. There are many rooms of Daoism could be employed into game design such as celestial beings, making pills of immortality and Fengshui theory in Daoism.
Taoism affects human being's behaviours and thoughts; from this point the conducts in Taoism could reveal the core human value in China. The noun Taoism involves different elements with Daoism, at the first place we should distinguishing the two nouns for latter discussion. Taoism is a type of thought or doctrine; it was developed by Lao Tzu who is a thinker and ideologist in ancient China. The book named Tao Te Ching is a Chinese classic text which is considered as a basic origin in Taoism like Bible in Christianity. However, the first official classic of Daoism is named Taiping Ching. Tao Te Ching and Taiping Ching plus Zhouyicantongqi are considered as the origin of Daoism's religion and theory by current academic area. Simply speaking, Taoism is a kind of theory and Daoism is a religion.
There are the jewels of the Tao: compassion, moderation and humility (Ray 1989, p.133). These conducts reflect to Taoist become a crucial belief named Wu wei which "is action without bureaucratic, competitive, aggressive, or self-serving effort. Wu wei is a way of being that comes from an internal sensitivity to the natural rhythms of the universe, similar to water flowing over or around rocks, logs, or islands in a stream," (R. Paul 2002, p.152). Wu wei is a basic cognition of Taoism to the development of nature and human society. The general meaning of Wu wei action through inaction does not mean doing nothing but revealing things with soft and invisible power (Richard 2004). In Taoism, it is considered human's behaviours and the way of act should obey the law of nature. The all things in the world develop by themselves, human beings cannot intervene the development of nature and all other things. This thought forces Chinese people like to stick to old ways and make Chinese characteristic becoming mediocrity. This is reflected in the characteristics is defensive and moderate temperament.
3.2.3 The relationship between man and nature in Chinese culture
This concept of relationship between man and nature reflects into game design is that the characters in games usually involve appearances of natural things like animal monsters. The situation is very different from western games which seldom apply monsters came from nature. This might be caused by Chinese original root which is called harmony between man and nature which is widely considered as the main principal part of Chinese traditional culture. In the traditional Chinese culture, the world is separated into three parts that are heaven, manpower and earth. For each part there are specific classic texts for guiding people's behaviours. I Ching is used to guide for explaining relation between heaven and manpower. It presents how to obey law of nature to make human ideal and healthy. The analects of Confucius expound relation between manpower and heaven for instructing people making right choices. And the Sunzi Art of War is a book to be used in war it presents relations of human beings themselves. The Dao Te Ching which was mentioned in previous paragraph is employed to coordinate human and earth making the harmony between man and nature. The last one named Huang di nei Ching interprets earth and human beings for guide people to get the benefits from earth. The ancient classic traditional Chinese philosophy teaches Chinese people the major behaviours. It affects people's choices more or less in modern society. Understanding Chinese culture, these principles have to be clarified, because when the character involves archetypal characteristics it must follows some elements from these concepts from ancient China.
3.3 The original mythology in Chinese culture
Mythology should not to be neglected because it reflects culture in some ways. William considers myth is "culturally important", and myths are this kind of story which are created by individuals' interpretations in discriminating special societies (William 2000). Myths demonstrate certain culture contents such as religious, rituals, customs, and people's behaviours. Therefore, it might bring us to an articulate culture form by examining the particular mythology.
In terms of game design, there are many games applying mythic elements into character designs, background stories, environment designs and requests designs. There might have common senses between games and myths. Why could the mythic contents be widely employed into games? This chapter will discuss myth and find out the bonding point between myths and games.
3.3.1 The definition of mythology
At the first place, it needs to clarify that what are mythology and what kind of characteristics is involved in mythology. Williams suggested that myths are fictional but not unreal and non-empirical, however they are not incomprehensible and formed by values of fundamental mythical orientations of cultures (Williams 2000). And a common contestation of mythology is that "myths are stories about gods or remote ancestors, myths are sacred stories, myths are stories that explain how the world and humans came to be in their present forms, and myths encapsulate important information about human thought, feeling, history, and social life" (Yang, Deming and Jessica 2005). However, particular myths could be understood by people who live in the particular culture environment, it is hard to be comprehended by other person who has different culture background if he has not established understanding of the particular culture. Because each culturally mythology has distinguishing features. But myths still have universal features like the statement was presented by Stith Thompson in 1955 that myths are connecting with gods and their behaviours, creation, and the general nature of the universe and of the earth (Yang, Deming and Jessica 2005). Therefore, myths are universal and archetypal in every cultural form by using dialectic method of analysis.
Games as a creative industry need creation and imagination, however the design of games should not be incredible. The attributes of games are very similar with mythology's which discussed above. This is not a coincidence; this is why there are so many designers employed mythological elements into the game design. There are two reasons that games should be imaginative and believable. The first one is the purpose of playing for imaginative feature of games. Players are anxious for getting entrainment from games; they usually want to get different experiences from playing games. If the environment and characters in games are same with real life, the game will be boring. Even a simulating game like series of Sims also involves other virtual elements for giving different experiences to players. Another reason is for believable; a game should be attractive to players, when players play the game they are immersing into the games. Unreal and incredible characters and environment cannot be acceptable by players. So most of successful games were adopted from real stories, the Non-players character, the monsters and the avatars for players were altered from fictional characters in mythology. Generally speaking, games and mythology have same attributes. That the reason mythologies are widely used into game design both in environment setting, background stories and character designs.
3.3.2 The origin of mythology
The origin of mythology is various. Some myths are adopted from the narratives of scripture by adding several imaginative elements and altered contents of the original scripture. And historical events are another source of mythology; the real historical case was rewritten by later people using the forms of legends and fabulous traditions which are widely disseminated. Additionally, there are other two features could describe myths which are allegorical and physical, nearly all the ancient myths are symbolical and involved some educational contents in aspects of moral, religious or philosophical truth etc (Thomas 2004).
In terms of the origin of Chinese mythology, it is generally believed that the Chinese mythology originated from the totemism of remote Chinese ancestors and legends of ancient tribes. Some Chinese myths are another form of historical records, for instance it is confirmed that the myth of Nüwa is partly true after discovering the historical remains belongs to the period of maternal tribes in China (need evidences). Moreover, the Chinese myths mirrored contents of religions; the concept of three worlds that are heaven, earth and human being in Chinese mythology is coming from Buddha. Many online games which were set in ancient Chinese environment were applied the concept of three worlds into game design. The characters in these games are generally separated into three groups which are celestial beings, devils and human beings.
The Chinese cultural concept of the harmony between human and heaven is also reflecting in the local mythology. The Chinese myths usually concentrate on explain rationalize, embellish, humanize, or historicize the mythical beings (Williams 2000 1993: 387). The Chinese myths usually involve the characters who came from nature, like various devils are transformed from animals or plants of the nature. And they involve historical events such as Yan Di who is a mythic figure that invented agriculture in Chinese history, and many devils in mythology are transformed from animals and plants so that their appearances embody the shape of original animals or plants. This phenomenon might be a kind of culture barriers existing in the form of mythology.
From the statement above, we could see the origin of mythology causes a kind of culture barrier. Mythologies of one culture are formed with local nuances. For example, the Chinese mythologies are influenced by local religions which are Buddha, Taoism and cultural ideology which is the harmony between human and nature. The local culture might determine major contents of mythologies. And mythologies were spreading by people in the different periods, during the different historical periods people's thoughts are different and in some way reflect the certain society cognition. Therefore, the mythology is a mixture of local culture and people's ideology of that time. Depends on distinguishing history of every culture, the local mythology is hardly understanding by other people who came from different cultural background.
3.3.3 The Chinese mythology in online games
Due to the similar points between mythology and games, they naturally combine together. Moreover, the localization of myths could make the traditional culture games more popular in the particular area. Meanwhile, games help spreading myths to young people and foreigners who have established basic understanding of traditional mythology or live in different culture environment so that they could get the knowledge of particular mythology by easy-to-understand methods during playing. In other words, games which applied mythological contents into could improve culturally globalization and educate traditional culture using interesting paths.
In the Chinese online game industry, traditional myths are widely used. For example, the Chinese famous classic fictions which are considered to include myths inside are applied into several games that released in Chinese online game industry, such as the Romance of the Tree Kingdoms is made into games several times. These games include Biography of the Three Kingdoms Heroes Online developed by UserJoy in Taiwan (UserJoy 2009), Sangokushi Online which is history of three kingdoms in English developed by Koei in Japan (Koei 2009) and Shin Sangoku Musou which is another popular series of games used the story of three kingdoms developed by Koei in Japan (Koei 2009). Additionally, there are another classic Chinese fictions, the Journey to the West is also widely applied into game design, like Westward Journey Fantasy Online developed by NetEase in China (NetEase 2009), Journey to the West Online developed by LangangOnline in China (Langang 2009) and the series of Westford Journey Online developed by NetEase which is one of the most popular online game in China. These games are a kind of entertainment products which won profits for developers and publishers, and they are also a kind of educational products, players could learn knowledge of traditional Chinese culture and mythology, the appearances of traditional characters establish beauty taste of ancient China, background stories give a brief conception to gamers what happened in Chinese history because some myths involve historical events which are employed into games as well, game cultural environments provide real space to players who live into it, and the requests in these games give a guidance for telling players how to live like a traditional Chinese obeying the ancient rules, customs and moral norms.
In order to establish the further research about Chinese online games and culture, especially Chinese mythologies, a popular online game named Westward Journey Online ? is employed into the paper for getting more details about how is the mythology merging into online game design based on Chinese culture.
4 The case study of the Journey to the West three
In this chapter, the Journey to the West will be the main material to be analysed from several points of view. Firstly, the plot of a play of the original Journey to the West will be presented for establishing basic understanding for who are not familiar with the ancient classic Chinese fiction. At the same time, the impact of Journey to the West on modern media including TV, movies, Games etc also will be introduced. Due to the original Chinese root, most of the impacts happened in eastern countries such as China and Japan.
After introduction analysis and examination of Journey to the West is unfolded from three aspects, there are the real historical context related to the fantasy fiction, the main four characters' features and what happened on the way to west.
Moreover, a previous research is applied for demonstrating the crucial characteristics of Chinese culture in Journey to the West. The author originally states the distinguishing features of Chinese and western cultures from three aspects which include the origin of the world, consciousness of life and conception of goodness and badness (Jinghui 2006). However, this research only employs the result of Chinese side in this paper.
From examining these distinctive characteristics of the fiction, it is possible finding a worth result of the origin Chinese culture expressions linking to the Confucianism, Taoism and harmony between human and nature. Move forward, we could consider how to efficiently use these archetypal characteristics into the newest media - art of computer games.
4.1 The introduction of the Journey to the West
The Journey to the west is one of the China's four great classical novels which also include Dream of the Red Chamber, Water Margin, and Romance of the Three Kingdoms. The story happened in the Tang Dynasty, there are plenty of celestial beings, demons and goblins inside. Most of them came from Buddhism which is the widespread religion in China. It was adapted for movies and videogames. The well-known TV programmes named Xiyouji which was screened in CCTV in 1988 got a high reputation at that time, most of Chinese people had the memory to watch the famous TV drama program, and then the theme song of Xiyouji88 version also gave a great influence to the 80s generation during the period. And the sequels were shot in 2000 which got more technical supporting making the fantasy TV program more attractive. Chinese neighbour Japanese also like the classic fantasy story, Japanese movie Journey to the West named The Adventures of Super Monkey was released in 2007, four main characters was played by Kensaku Sawada, Shingo Katori, Eri Fukatsu and Atsushi Ito (?). This movie gained high audience rating in the year. There are several online games in Chinese are originally set the background form the original fiction - Journey to the west, including Westward Journey Fantasy Online (NetEase 2009) which is one of most popular online games in China, XiyouQji refers to Q Memoir of west journey (Guangyu 2009) and the Pocket Journey West (Perfect world 2009) etc. The classic fiction is originally based on Chinese culture, it involves several cultural elements such as religions, values and human attitudes. What are the distinguishing core cultural values of Chinese characteristics which have being expressed in the fiction? The question possibly could be answered by examining the original fiction.
4.1.1 Origin of the Journey to the West
In the every first place, the brief content of each story should be presented for setting up a general comprehension. The Journey to the west was written by Wu Cheng'en in the 16th century. The story happened in the Tang dynasty. The main characters include Tang Xuanzhang - Tripitaka, Sun Wukong - Monkey King, Zhu Bajie - Pig of the Eight Prohibitions, Sha Wujing - Sand Awakened to Purity and the white dragon-horse. The four characters formed a team for bringing back Buddhist scriptures from the west - Vulture Peak in India to China. On their journey, they experienced eighty-one calamities. Finally, they successful obtained the Buddhist scriptures and all of them became immortals.
The paper would like to examine the classic fiction from three fields that are the historical context, characters and the way or mission to west. First of all, the origin of the classic fiction needs to present and clarify. The paper will not investigate the exact time and event happening in the book, but the general event related to the classical creation need to be displayed. Because it was not only came from imagination, there are real historical event as the basis of background story of the Journey to the West. The origin of the Journey to the West is a biography named A Biography of the Tripitaka Master of the Great Ci'en Monastery of the Great Tang Dynasty which was written by two disciples of Xuan Zang (Yuen 2008). After many years spread by storytellers among the people, the story was handed down and improved for a long time. Xuanzang (born c.602 - 664) was a real character in the history, he was a monk living in the late-Sui Dynasty and early - Tang Dynasty. Xuanzang travelled to west namely India where the place of origin of Buddhism is and he studied at the ancient university at Nalanda. Finally, Xuanzang brought scriptures and icons from India, and translated them into Chinese, he made the contribution to improve the disseminate Buddhism as well as establish the Dharma character school of Buddhism in China (Wikipedia 2009). The real event happened a long time before the classical fiction - Journey to the West. The author Wu Chengen combined his experiences and several other elements together to create the famous story after several years when the Xuanzang backed from India. Wu added many fantasy factors into the story making the plot and character more attractive.
The second aspect need to be presented is the characters in the fiction. Talking about the characters, it is important to mention the team construction. The team is made by four major characters, and they play different responsibilities in the teamwork. Form the construction of the team, the distinguishing feature could be discovered. In the team of Journey to the west, it involves a clear hierarchic tree. The team has a leader who is the master - Xuanzang. The fellowship members are the disciples under his controlling. The disciples have to respect the master Xuanzhang. Xuanzang's duty is reciting scriptures, he don't need to do any works such as looking for food, washing the clothes even not need to guide the right direction because the first disciple Sun Wukong will find a path. He likes a general in the Chinese chess which cannot leave the palace. And in these apprentices, it is also involved the clear grade of status. Sun Wukong is the first disciple who has right to require others to do something, and he was the main force for fighting. The second disciple is Zhu Bajie who is usually responsible for cooking and slain smaller demons. The third one is Sha Wujing, who has less important responsibility, he just needs to keep eyes on luggage. The fourth one is the animal character, the white dragon-horse, who is the third prince of the Dragon-King. He was rescued by Guanyin, a celestial being, having a great power from sentencing to death because of setting fire to his father's great pearl. The white horse has not any right in the team, he is only a mount for the master. Therefore, from the responsibilities of the team members we could see the status of each member. A clear division of labour specific responsibilities could be presented. This is determined by the hierarchical structure of the team. Additionally, these features demonstrate the "Li" in origin of Confucianism in the Chinese culture. Chinese families also have inherent order, every thing has their own position in the world, and so do the relationships of human beings.
The major four characters involve distinguishing characteristics. Here the article ignore the animal character - the prince of the Dragon - King, because he is a small character and not important. The master Xuanzang is mentioned above, he came from the real historical character. In the story, he is craven, mercy, loyal and devoted. He marched forward courageously for finding the scriptures. Therefore, he is a true character. Xuanzang could be easily deceived in the Chapter ?? named Monkey Hit Lady White Bone Thrice. When White Bone Demon who is a monster want to eat fresh of Xuanzang set a trick for alienating between Xuanzang and the first disciple Sun Wukong using Xuanzang's bowels of mercy, Xuanzang was fooled by the demon and driving Sun Wukong back home. At the end, Xuanzang paid the price, he was captured by demons nearly was eaten. The story demonstrates Xuanzang's two dimensions; he is too merciful to be easily deceived, but he has a good intention which becomes a weakness.
The next one major character will be analysed is the first disciple of Xuanzang, the Monkey King. In some way, he is more famous than his master. There are several independent stories which descried Monkey King's experiences before meeting Xuanzang going to the west. He was born from stone beside the east ocean; therefore he is considered absorbing all of the world elements. After his great efforts on studying 72 transformations, he became a strongest character in the team. There are four main things have to be introduced for Monkey King. First one is the designation of "Great Sage Equal to Heaven" which was named by himself. This action demonstrates his wild ambitions, naive characteristics and contempt for all (Hujian 2008). After slighted by celestial beings in the heaven, he decided giving himself the inflated reputation name for gaining respect and contenting self-esteem. The name is empty but he cherished it and asked the Jade emperor rewarded the name to him. The mental status displays his childishness. Second thing is the process of learning the art of the Tao and 72 transformations. His original intention for learning is that he wants to get the secrets of immortality the same purpose with Taoism's doctrine in China. His first master taught him the 72 transformations for changing the appearances and essence of himself for evading catastrophes in the life. It is illustrated the eternal chase of Taoists and ancient Chinese people. In the past the Chinese people believes that doing good and accumulating merit could get longevity, people always expects immortality. Monkey King also is no exception. However, his advantage is his great perseverance during the learning. The more arduous training, the more Monkey King kept learning. These stories shape Monkey King's weaknesses and strong points that are naive and childishness which in same way is a weakness in real complex society, valour and hardworking. Finally, Monkey King's weapon, the Golden Cudgel has a close relationship with the five elements which is the natural science in ancient China. The ancient Chinese separated the world into five elements, they believe the five elements made the whole world. The five elements are metal, wood, water, fire and earth. They are reinforcing and counteract each other. The whole nature is a circle, and the five elements interact with each other. Generally have two kinds of interactions which are generating and overcoming. Their generating relationship is Wood feeds Fire, Fire creates Earth, Earth bears Metal, Metal carries Water and Water nourishes Wood (Wikipedia 2009). And the overcoming relationship between each other is that Wood parts Earth, Earth absorbs Water, Water quenches Fire, Fire melts Metal and Metal chops Wood, also Wood absorbs Water, Water rusts Metal, Metal breaks up Earth, Earth smothers Fire and Fire burns Wood (Wikipedia 2009).
This law of nature was developed for thousands of years and it was widely used in traditional Chinese medicine, agriculture, astronomy, aerology, chemistry, mathematics and music. Returning to the Monkey King's story, the five elements also applied into the classic fiction and several online games which's background story came from traditional Chinese culture for designing some game rules. Monkey King's golden cudgel that locates in the seabed belongs to the Metal element, so the golden cudgel is a metal in water. And Monkey King lives in the water-covered cave; he also is a metal element in water. They act in unison. Therefore, when Monkey King went to the east Dragon's Palace for asking weapons, the golden cudgel glittered with gold for responding Monkey King's metal element (Journey to the west cultural network 2007). There are two golden thimbles on the two sides of the cudgel, these two thimbles are very important for the weapon. They are not decorating items, they are made by lead which is a heavy metal, and lead belongs to the Water element. Depends on five element theory, the moral of the design is clamped both two ends of the cudgel for preventing the vigour out. Another crucial feature of golden cudgel is the weight of it. The total weight is 13500 kilograms which is the number of one person's breaths in one day and one night (Journey to the west cultural network 2007). Generally speaking, Monkey King is a crucial character in the Journey to the West. The author gave a great attention on this character and makes him rich and reality.
The third disciple is the Zhu Bajie is the second only to Monkey King in the three disciples. Like the first disciple, Zhu Bajie also has many independent stories were adopted into TV programmes and cartoons such as Spring Brillian Zhu Bajie which is a comedy TV drama program and broadcasted in 2000 in China and Falling Zhu Bajie from Heaven which was produced by Jiang Toon animation and broadcasted in China Central Television (??). He also is a rich character which involves weakness and advantages. His weakness is greedy especially on food, prurience and lazy. And his advantage is loyal. Zhu Bajie is originally Tenpou Gensui in the heaven; however he was punished to demote down to earth because of dalliance the Goddess of the Moon. However, in the process of his reborn to the earth, he made a mistake becoming a pig. During the Journey, Zhu Bajie was responsible for protect master Xuanzang using his 36 transformations abilities. Although his abilities are not enough strong, he also seriously executed every task. His loyal heart is the strongest in the team. At the same time, he usually created comedic figure in the story. That why children audiences like him more than others.
The third disciple Sha Monk is a kind of shadow character. However he also involves two sides' characteristics which are honest and incapable. His responsibility is taking care of the luggage. He nearly has no independent stories. His existing serves for other characters.
In addition, the way to west is another important content in the classic fiction. This paper supposes introduction from five crucial features of the journey, those are the purpose, the route, formulaic episodic structure combat, 81 calamities and final ending.
Regards to the purpose, each member has their own individual purposes go to the journey. Monkey King was set an inhibiting magic hoop on his head by Xuanzang for controlling his behaviours. In other words, the monkey king was forced to the journey. And the same situation happened in other disciples. The team members went to the journey because they want to escape from a bitterly places or be forced by celestial beings who have superior power. Generally speaking, no one is voluntary, but they went to the journey for the same objective. The team members had completely different starting points so that the following story was affected by it.
Their route is a famous silk road between China and India. Some scholar considered the Journey to the west is a book for introducing local conditions and customs. We could see some revised characters in the fiction like the Queen of the Bhikkhus which origins from current Nepal, the Imposter Princess of India is from India etc.
In the Journey to the west, every time the problem-solving has the same story line. First, when meeting the enemies Sun Wukong, the first disciple, usually uncovered the mask of demons, and fight against them. If he was successful defending the enemies, the journey could go on. However, the regular plot is that Sun Wukong was failed. Then all of them were captured by the demons. Sun Wukong usually could escape using his spells, and went to the heaven for looking for help from celestial beings. Finally, the demons usually belonged to a certain celestial being. The relationships between demons and celestial beings are generally master and pet, family members, disciples or doorman and master. So the superior celestial being helped the team to solve the problem. The reason what the demons made troubles in the human's world usually is depravity or injustice in their celestial families. This changeless story line demonstrates a classic discipline in Chinese culture, what goes around, come around. But this reflects into the story is the problem always could be solved, audiences usually don't need to worry about the difficult situations will hold back the team during the journey. Therefore, all problems could be solved if the hierarchic order is steady-going that is a belief in the head of Chinese people. This is the reason why Chinese always like obeying the conservative disciplines. All the combats actually happened behind the scene. The only duty of Sun Wukong is to find the chief plotter.
About the ending of the story, all the members in the team became immortals after completing the task in the Journey to the west although their staring points were different at the beginning. From the ending, it could be discovered that the utilitarian ethics are very important in Chinese culture. The members could be reward once they gave a great effort despite they have different purposes.
Lei, an Mphil in Institute of East China University of Science and Technology, discussed the connotative meanings of celestial legend using the Journey to the west and the Lord of the Rings as two samples in Chinese culture and western culture. He states the distinguishing features of Chinese and western cultures from three aspects which include the origin of the world, consciousness of life and conception of goodness and badness (Jinghui 2006).
Based on the topic which focuses on Chinese side, the paper will present the discussion on side of Chinese culture in the three aspects. Regards to the origin of the world, Chinese believe human beings and every thing in the world derive from nature, human cannot be above the nature. Therefore, in the Taoism and Buddhism that is localized consider the consciousness is not only belonged to human beings. Buddha always said everything, the everything here include not only human but also other animals, plants and anything else in the world. The belief reflects in the Journey to the west becomes that the shapes of many characters in the fiction shift from flowers, woods, inserts, fishers and other animals even the natural phenomena. For example, the Buffalo Demon-King comes from the shape of bulls. And the names of demons in Journey to the west could demonstrate the relationship of nature and human, such as Spider demons, Centipede Demon, Azure Lion Demon, Lady Earth Flow, King of Southern Mountains and King of Coldguard, heatguard, dusguard etc. The four main characters also transform from animals and nature, the monkey, pig, sand and horse. Therefore, in the fiction, all the things in nature have their own consciousness, and they could become a human shape after tough practice. The Chinese culture emphasizes on natural evolution and every thing has spiritualisms, the relation between nature and human is equal, the same meaning with the harmony between man and nature.
In the process of development of Chinese culture, it treats the nature has their own consciousness and the relation between man and nature is equal. So the natural science cannot be significantly developed like western world in Chinese, while the humanity subjects could get successful accomplishment in China. And this feature of respecting nature also could be reflected by the traditional Chinese medicine. The Chinese use botanic roots, flowers and animals as the drugs to treat people, it is developed for thousands of years. And Chinese people believe earth is the best shelter for dead people. The origin of conception of traditional Chinese medicine comes from the concept of harmony between human beings and nature.
The next point which Lei regards is the consciousness of life. Everlasting life is a crucial content in Taoism which is a native religion in China. Refining pellets for gaining everlasting life is an objective of most belivers in Taoism. The first emperor of China named Qin shihuang sent thousands of boys and girls goto the East China Sea for looking for praying the supernatural beings to give him the Elixir of life. And in the Journey to the west, Sun Wukong was also looking for talented persons to teach him spells for everlasting life. In their journey, the king of Monk kingdom followed the secret recipe came from witchcraft collecting one thousand and one hundred eleven hearts of children for refining the Elixir of life. All of the above ancient fictions, history and religion demonstrates the importance of life in Chinese culture. Chinese people believe that the life is more than other things. There is nothing without life. Game developers might have an attention on this difference for further developing projects for target audiences in game marketplace.
The last thing is conception of goodness and badness. In the Journey to the west the wholeness of thinking model is displayed. Good and badness is not against each other but could be transformed between each other and changeable. Most of demons which are bad characters in the fiction are the relatives or servants of celestial beings which represent good. The good and badness usually have certain relationship. And the evil never cannot be conquered. All the evil demons could be defeated or reformed to a good one. The ending of evil is becoming to a good one, this ending named Parinirvana. This point also could be reflected in some video games.
4.1.2 The significance of the Journey to the West in Chinese culture
The Journey to the West is considered as one of four classic novels in the history of China, others include Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Water Margin and Dream of the Red Chamber. It is generally believed that they have greatly influenced on Chinese culture. The Journey to the West is the only one novel that is fantasy and imaginary theme. Why has this fiction been universally approved in China? Or what are the significance of Journey to the West both in the past and current? These questions are worth to be answered.
It is said that every classic is reflecting the reality of the time in society, and the Journey to the West is also no exception. Some scholars consider that the Journey to the West involves several realistic meanings. Firstly, the three religions which are Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism were combined that reflects the real societal situation of that period (Bian, Wang and Wu 2006). Since Ming Dynasty, Confucianism occupied the legitimate status in Chinese society. In the Journey to the West, all characters belong to the three kinds of system which are Buddha, celestial beings and demons are constrained by doctrines of Confucianism. For instance, the unconquerable Monkey king has to obey the doctrine of Confucianism - a teacher for a day is a father for a lifetime. And another example is that the third prince of Dragon King was guilty as non-filial because he burned his father's pearl. Although the characters in the novel are Buddhist monks and Taoists, they are always quoting phrases in the Book of Poetry, the Book of Changes and the Analects of Confucius which are classic literatures of Confucianism. The ritual, filial piety and loyalty, humaneness and righteousness of Confucianism also are reflected in the Journey to the West.
The ruler of Ming Dynasty advocated combination of three religions. At the situation, the three religions were merged and affected each other. The mixture of Buddha and Taoism was fully demonstrates in the classic novel. In the novel, Buddha and Taoist immortals made friends and cooperated together. From the deeper analysis, we could discover that the three disciples of Xuanzang are truly mixture of Buddha and Taoism. Firstly, the monkey king became an apprentice to the Puti, the founder of a sect of Taoism, for learning 72 transformations. Zhu Bajie and Sha monk are originally Taoism celestial beings in heaven, one is the Field Marshal Tianpeng, and another is Curtain Raising General. Therefore the three disciples came from Taoism; finally they were all following Xuanzang going to the west for finding the Buddha's scriptures. This demonstrates the integration of the two religions not only on the surface but also in deeper level.
However, the three religions we need to consider the Confucianism as a kind of religion here have been placed at different level. Basically, Zhu Yuanzang, the fist emperor of Ming dynasty, asserted the Confucianism is superior, and respecting Buddha and restraining Taoism. The development of three religions was not following the original device of the ruler. But the strategy of Ming government gave an influence on the religions of that time. The tendency of Buddha which was ranked above Taoism is reflected in the Journey to the West. In the fiction, Buddha is the character above everything else. Even the Jade emperor had to ask Buddha to help him to conquered monkey king. And the whole process of the journey was planed by Buddha, including every calamity and choosing partners for Xuanzang.
Sum up, the mixture of three religions is the foundation of the novel. And it reflects the crucial significance society of that time. From the investigation on the background, we could understand the historical situation of the novel, and know the reason of that why the novel is so important in Chinese culture. It is reflecting the three major religions of China and their developing process in that period.
Another important significance of the Journey to the West is the laicizing of celestial beings, Buddha and devils. The relationship between celestial beings is a metaphor of real human officialdom.
The deeper understanding this background could help us to establish basis of Chinese culture and effectively apply into other area. The celestial beings intrigue against each other, the whole society in heaven was filled with intrigue like the reality society. Author used metaphor to display the incapable, fatuous and putrid government at that time; it is a normal way for demonstrating dissatisfied to the potentate in ancient Chinese literatures. For example, most of devils who the Xuanzang met during the journey came from heaven. They either escaped from masters in heaven or offended the law of god sending to men's world. For instance, the Mouse demon who lives in bottomless cave was the goddaughter of Pagoda-Bearing Heavenly King Li Jing, the Royal Father-in-law of the Bhikkhus is a deer who is the steed of the God of Longevity, Great Roc Demon is the brother of Buddha's godmother and Imposter Princess of India is the white rabbit of Chang'e who is the celestial being in moon. Those demons have a close relationship with celestial beings in heaven, they brought disasters to men's world, but finally they were not seriously punished. They were forced become original appearances, and backed to the heaven for serving their original masters. Opposing, other devils are not so lucky. They were born in wild, have not supporters. They depend on their abilities to bully common people. Their destinies were miserable. For instance, the Deity of Tiger Power was chopped off the head, Deity of Elk Power was killed by opening his chest, and Deity of Antelope Power was put into the oil cauldron. Additionally, the Queen of the Bhikkhus, a fox demon, and Python Demon was killed by monkey king. The complex networking of relationship between heaven and men's world demonstrates negative aspect in Confucianism. A powerful supporter could give someone more priorities than others even who have more stronger abilities. This also exists in Chinese society for thousands of years. The negative influence made people seeking establishing networking rather than developing own abilities. Solid kinship and family traditions are very important in Chinese culture, but in some way they restrain development of personal development.
4.2 Online game-Westward Journey Online ?
The series of Westward Journey Online are developed by Netease which is one of the biggest game developers in China. Before the recent version Westward Journey Online?, Netease released three other MMO games based on the background of Journey to the West. They are named Westward Journey Fantasy, Westward Journey Online?and the one named Westward Journey unofficial biography in testing right now. The most popular one is the series of Westward Journey Online games.
Following the main trend of applying the traditional Chinese culture backgrounds into online games, the series of Westward Journey Online games were successful in the Chinese online game market, and brought huge profit to Netease. According to the report on online games during the first half year in 2009 by Baidu data analysis centre, the Westward Journey Fantasy is judged to be the top ten MMORPG games in the first half year in 2009 (Baidu 2009). Its attention rate by players is 18.54 percents at the second place in the top ten Q version MMORPGs. The first one is WenDao in C
Cite This Dissertation
To export a reference to this article please select a referencing stye below: