Someone once said that a poor man is crazy, whereas a rich man is merely eccentric.
China has money. The new Chinese middle class, hundreds of millions strong, suddenly has the means to express itself in wonderfully ridiculous ways. This is significant. Anyone who has spent time in North-east Asia is well aware that all two billion people there are, from a western scientific perspective,
batshit crazy a bit eccentric.
Scholars generally concur that no country, any time soon at least, will out-freak Japan with all its inexplicable vending machines and Hello Kitty schoolgirl sex palace/dolphin restaurants and whatnot. They also point out that the fading superpower has maintained a sizeable advantage in the North-east Asian weirdness race, having acquired its wealth several decades before the impressive emergence of its weird neighbour.
Yes Japan’s ancient, young upstart neighbour South Korea is also truly bizarre. The Koreans, at the risk of generalising a tad, invest heavily in education, manufacturing, being at work, alcoholism, prostitution and sex tourism, not having children, spitting, suicide and dreams of finally conquering the Japanese. Specific examples of South Korean weirdness are difficult to express here because there are so many of them, and because I spent enough years there to have normalised most of it. Go there and check it out!
Be warned though, the pace of life in uber-urban South Korea isn’t for the weak or sane. These guys don’t spend all their time sitting around on stone phalli. Actually, the Koreans’ work (read: being at work) ethic is infamously punishing and there seems to be a bewildering mindset that they are still a developing nation… that they can simply never stop, and that levels of wealth will simply never be enough. If you’d like to know more about the South Koreans, they’ll be at the office… or drinking hatefully with their seniors. Their phones are on.
Enter the world’s most populous and third-largest country.
Ah, the pragmatic Chinese. Builders of walls, exporters of things… China doesn’t do things by halves, and having announced their arrival on the global geopolitical stage in the tsunami-like fashion only they could do, that’s quite a thought. As Chinese living standards and disposable incomes continue to rise, the people can increasingly afford to be increasingly odd. In that spirit…
You might have read recently about how Chinese authorities decided to clamp down on all the funeral stripping. Funeral strippers are apparently a worrisome growth industry on the mainland (having been already a thing in more prosperous Taiwan for decades).
My attempt to relate this story to a few mates at the pub was clumsy. I didn’t realise that, logically enough, my friends assumed I was talking about cases of fraud, theft, grave-robbing or something else more sensibly believable than women gyrating and removing their clothes to loud music at funerals.
Apparently the idea is that attracting large crowds to funerals is a harbinger of good fortune in the afterlife, a villager reportedly said. “Otherwise no one would come”, he reportedly also said, probably about one particular funeral.
In this crowded part of the world stereotyped by some as revering quantity over quality, I can’t even begin to imagine the conversations going on at grandad’s funeral. Here’s an event where measure of honour of a person’s life and death is measured by the hopeful attendance of any random horny Dong, Wang or Yongzheng* who happen to hear the music and pop in for the show.
Look out Japan, these guys have potential.
*Yongzheng is of course a popular Chinese male name which translates as ‘forever upright‘.
The Democratic Peoples’ Republic of (North) Korea has been deliberately excluded from whatever this is. Whilst the undisputed galactic champions of hilariously inept and unwitting self-satire, North Korea’s almost unbelievable achievements in super-freakiness are almost entirely the work of a single insane, clever family and small core group of party elite. The overwhelming majority of North Koreans focus their attention on food and heat, which isn’t so zany.
It should also be noted of course that the North-east Asians find westerners and other foreigners, with our inexplicable foreign thoughts and behaviours, to be unfathomably odd. Winky face.