Australia Horrible Histories ancient Chinese cuisine skit sparks controversy in Chinese community

22:15  23 november  2020
22:15  23 november  2020 Source:   abc.net.au

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The history of Chinese cuisine is marked by both variety and change. The archaeologist and scholar Kwang-chih Chang says “ Chinese people are especially preoccupied with food” and “food is at the center of, or at least it accompanies or symbolizes, many social interactions.”

This is a list of historical Chinese sources referring to Chinese cuisine . Not long after the expansion of the Chinese Empire during the Qin Dynasty (221 BC–207 BC) and Han Dynasty (202 BC–220 AD)

a young boy wearing a hat: Horrible Histories series 6 episode 2 featured a character playing ancient Chinese Empress Wu Zetian in a parody of I'm a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here. (Supplied) © Provided by ABC NEWS Horrible Histories series 6 episode 2 featured a character playing ancient Chinese Empress Wu Zetian in a parody of I'm a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here. (Supplied)

An award-winning skit on the ABC's television channel for school-aged children has sparked widespread controversy in Australia's Chinese community.

More than 500 people have signed a petition calling for the boycotting of the Horrible Histories program, over a segment from a 2015 episode of the children's comedy series that was aired on ABC Me last Friday evening.

In the show, which was produced by the BBC, a British actress of Asian descent appeared in traditional Chinese costume and ate rats, cockroaches, and jellyfish among other things.

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Ancient Chinese culture, before the imperial era (from 221 BC), has obscure beginnings. Later invasions and contact with foreign cultures has colored Chinese culture, but the underlying forms established during the Shang and Zhou eras still appear in modern Chinese culture in everything from

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It was part of a section that was explaining the eating culture from China's Tang Dynasty, which ended over 1,000 years ago.

Many Chinese Australians believed the sketch would not have been intended as offensive to the community.

But they are concerned it may result in further misrepresentations of their culture, beliefs, practices and could lead to their kids being questioned or bullied at their schools.

Along with moves to create a broad boycott of the TV programme, some members of the Chinese-Australian community have asked the ABC to publicly apologise for the content.

"I hope that ABC could take down the Horrible Histories TV series, especially the series 6," says Say Leng Kapsis, the president of Fair Go SA, a not-for-profit organisation providing anti-racism services for Chinese Australians since the coronavirus pandemic.

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"We just think that is really culturally inappropriate.

"We also hope that ABC in the future could have more considerations … whether it is culturally appropriate to show these types of content to our young children audience."

The ABC and BBC have been approached for comment.

Insects, rats, jellyfish and bear were on Tang dinner tables

The controversial section of the Horrible Histories episode is a parody of a reality show.

In an "eighth century" mock version of I'm a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here, where contestants often eat things not seen as usual sources of nutrition, two hosts introduce the audience to "Bushtucker trials".

This segment's contestant is an actor made up to play ancient Chinese Empress Wu Zetian.

After explaining that Empress Wu murdered a lot of people to take power, the two hosts ask if the Empress can "cope with" eating some of the common foods of the era.

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CHINESE CUISINE With a time-honored history , Chinese cuisine culture is extensive and profound. Each ethnic minority dishes displays its unique ethnic customs. Dishes in the style of the ancients These styles of cuisine reflect China 's rich and colorful catering culture in an all-round way.

A community for those interested in the history of China and the various peoples of China . Discussion, discoveries and debates are all welcome. Do you have a question about Chinese history ? Feel free to post it here! Also, please keep in mind that while any user is welcome to create flair here

She is first served hornet larvae, which the audience is told is "basically maggots".

As the actor scoffs the prop larvae with chopsticks, the hosts ready the next plate.

A plate of cockroaches is laid out, followed by boiled camel hoof, bamboo rat, jellyfish and steamed bear.

The actor enthusiastically eats the food, prompting one of the hosts to pretend to vomit.

"You do know in Tang China, these are things we normally eat," the actor tells the hosts.

Why are some Chinese-Australian parents concerned?

The British program is popular around the world and has up to 7 million views on China's online streaming site Bilibili.

And while some members of the community wanted it taken down immediately, others did not have a problem with the content.

Those who were concerned launched an online petition, asking signatories to boycott the show and for the ABC to apologise and to stop airing the Horrible Histories series.

Some Chinese-Australian parents told the ABC that they were worried about the impact the segment would have on their children.

Jing Li, from Adelaide, said he was surprised when he saw the video on Saturday morning after a parent shared the clip on Chinese social media platform WeChat.

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"After I watched the video, I actually immediately asked my kids, 'Did you get asked the questions at school about Chinese people eating strange things?'," Mr Li said.

"Because kids can easily be misled. They could not easily tell the difference from someone who is making fun, or [if] someone is actually being serious."

[insert link to soy sauce story]

Mr Li said many countries had strange cuisines and the "misleading" episode didn't truly reflect Chinese culture.

"I think [the vast majority] of Chinese people don't eat these kinds of things. And I think our response would be very much similar … it's actually quite disgusting to even think about eating these things," he said.

"They may think it's just fun … But the damage caused to the minority ethnic groups — they probably weren't aware of the consequences," he said.

Karen Lin, a mother of a five-year-old daughter, said she felt the content was "inappropriate" for kids even though parental guidance was advised by ABC Me.

"It is very easy to let children believe [this is a widespread practice] because many parents may just leave their children watching the program alone," she said.

"If their parents didn't provide them guidance, they may believe it and say something unconsciously to the [other] Chinese or Asian kids."

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While she was worried about the content aired on the national broadcaster's TV channel, Ms Lin said she didn't sign the online petition because the content wasn't produced by the ABC.

"Chinese Australians shouldn't be so narrow-minded. We should only request the ABC to take down the sketch," she said.

"The comedy series was known for making fun of every country's history — many people in Australia didn't think that is a problem.

"Forcing the ABC to apologise could single out Chinese Australians and may lead to a public sentiment that believes Chinese people are too demanding."

Concern over Beijing's use of controversy as propaganda

On Sunday, Chinese state-run tabloid Global Times criticised the ABC for airing the skit in an editorial, saying the skit "maliciously stigmatised Chinese people".

"The ABC, a 'Government-run media' of Australia, broadcasted a program on its children's channel that maligned the Chinese people, saying that the Chinese would eat anything disgusting," the article said.

"As for the broadcaster ABC and the producer BBC, their responses to Chinese people's discontent will be a test [as] to whether they are really against racism, or just playing double standards and politics."

Emily Sun, a Chinese-Australian mother said while she wasn't concerned about racial discrimination in Australia, she was very worried China's "exaggerated" media coverage of this incident could be used to attack Australia.

Ms Sun told the ABC she was overwhelmed by messages from her friends and family members in China asking if she was being racially targeted during the pandemic.

A string of racist incidents earlier this year prompted Beijing to warn Chinese students and tourists about coming to Australia.

Ms Sun said Beijing's nationalistic message to the Chinese diaspora was "a weapon" in its diplomatic tactics, which she only realised when she noticed the differences between what the Chinese media was reporting and the reality after moving to Australia.

Ms Kapsis, a Singaporean Australian, spoke emotionally when she was asked about the Global Times article.

She said that was the dilemma between speaking out and being used by a foreign government for its political purposes.

"I just find that hopeless in political life," she said.

"What can ordinary people do to help Australia? We really want Australia to be good."

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