mercredi 11 mai 2011

Jasmine censored in China


 In a private conversation with a common friend, the writer Milan Kundera scoffed that as soon as you add a qualifier to the name of a revolution, like “Velvet” or “Orange”, you somehow disqualify it. Clearly the Chinese authorities weren’t listening in on the call. In a kafkaesque move to crack down on the dissenters who might be inspired by the Jasmine Revolution spreading through the Arab world, the government has been cracking down on the little white flower so beloved by its constituents.

In a May 10th article entitled “Catching Scent of Revolution, China Moves to Snip Jasmine”, the New York Times reports that authorities have cancelled China’s International Jasmine Cultural Festival, blocked the ideogram meaning “jasmine” from appearing in text messages and instructed growers and vendors that the flower had become contraband. Vendors are even asked to note the licence plate numbers of those seeking to buy jasmine.

Will dissidents turn to jasmine scents to signal their protest, just like the Muscadins wore musk during the French Revolution – a fragrant badge that could cost you your head? And will this put a crimp on the sales of, say, Dior J’Adore just as cosmetics giants are panting to find a peg on the humongous Chinese market?

But as the artist Ai Wei Wei, arrested on April 3rd, has not been seen or heard from since, nothing the Chinese authorities do is a laughing matter. In an admittedly feeble gesture of solidarity, I plan to wear a beautiful jasmine scent to remind myself of his plight…

Which jasmine would you recommend?




30 commentaires:

  1. Sarrasins, my discovery on my last trip to Paris.

    RépondreSupprimer
  2. This story is heartbreaking indeed ! Both for the innocent people and the innocent jasmine flower. The absurdities of politics...
    I am not terribly fond of jasmine in perfume although I love the flowering plant. Diptyque's Olene however seems to capture the entire jasmine plant. It's fresh and green enough and I think I will join you in solidarity and wear Olene today. Thank you for sharing this story.

    RépondreSupprimer
  3. D,

    While still honoring the seriousness of what you are describing.....

    I recommend Carthusia's Gelsomini di Capri. It is breathtakingly beautiful.

    Marcus

    RépondreSupprimer
  4. Will having a steaming fragrant cup of Jasmine Tea in public be banned next? Or will Jasmine Tea be outlawed too? (Just wondering at the illogical, absurd, doomed-to-failure measures being adopted.)

    Good grief.

    Anna in Edinburgh

    RépondreSupprimer
  5. Carla, Sarrasins is a gorgeous jasmine indeed. Whenever I take Indian students to the Palais-Royal, it moves them deeply.

    RépondreSupprimer
  6. Cynthia, clearly even a flower can become political, but the thing is, most Chinese people aren't even aware of the Arab revolutions and are now thinking that jasmine must somehow be toxic... Absurd and sad, because
    of what it reveals of the mindset of the Chinese authorities...

    RépondreSupprimer
  7. Marcus, I don't know the line well. Must have a sniff...

    RépondreSupprimer
  8. Anna, jasmine tea wasn't mentioned in the NYT article, but one wonders indeed...

    RépondreSupprimer
  9. This is both absurd, scary and very, very sad. I shall wear TDC's jasmine tonight, though the Olene is another option. It's been awhile since I wore that.

    RépondreSupprimer
  10. Musette, Jasmin de Nuit is a good idea -- i've got some on hand. There's something monstrously grotesque about autocrats "disappearing" world famous artists and asking florists to spy on flower lovers...

    RépondreSupprimer
  11. This seems almost too absurd to be true. Like 1984, George Orwell.

    As it is too late today to wear Jasmin, I will wear A la Nuit tomorrow. And drink lots of Jasmine tea. Chinese Jasmin tea.

    Barbara

    RépondreSupprimer
  12. Barbara, totalitarianism is, in a way, not only about abolishing the past but the very memory of the past and somehow, in the absurd will to take jasmine out of the picture, there's something of that...

    RépondreSupprimer
  13. Which is what Orwell captured so very well, both in 1984 and in Animal Farm. I find it very frightening when governments try to control even thoughts and memories of people. It's a complete and utter loss of freedom.

    Barbara

    RépondreSupprimer
  14. Barbara, the absurd thing, if one is to believe the NYT article, is that most people in China are quite unaware of the Jasmine Revolution in the Arab world, and imagine that jasmine is somehow toxic, perhaps contaminated by the radioactive fallout from Fukushima...

    RépondreSupprimer
  15. Much of the commentary on jasmine censorship attacks the censorship on an ideological level. However, keeping in mind China's goal to block the democracy movement, censorship of the word and the flower jasmine makes sense. China's great firewall is thwarted by Chinese netizens through the rapid evolution of coded terms for certain censored words. In order to keep conversation going, netizens communicate by creating words and phrases with encoded meanings. The Chinese language is extremely malleable in this sense because the Romanized spellings, homonymic and homophonic characters can all be manipulated on several levels. So by censoring the word and symbol of jasmine, China's government is catching up with the netizens who have adopted this word in their conversation and begun to use it as a symbol in the revolutionary movement. China's censorship of jasmine is less ideological and more practical than many may think.

    That's all! Just chiming in as a perfumista-cum-international-netizen. I love SL A la Nuit and TDC Jasmin de Nuit.

    RépondreSupprimer
  16. CC, thank you very much indeed for your enlightening comments. The Chinese government has always struck me as using the instruments forged by ideologies to very pragmatic ends.

    RépondreSupprimer
  17. BK Love and Tears might be appropriate!

    It's very sad, and even more so as I see equally disturbing things in my own country. Nevertheless, such absurd examples of how power corrupts, and the sacrifice of artists, are important to note. Thank you, Denyse!

    RépondreSupprimer
  18. Reminds me of Terry Gilliam's movie, "Brazil", so very sad and frightening. I ordered up 3 boxes of my favorite jasmine tea yesterday. I already have plenty of jasmine absolute in stock, I usually get the Egyptian or Indian anyway.I feel very sad for the farmers, who have enough climate and environmental issues to cope with, they don't need this dumped on their heads.
    -Marla

    RépondreSupprimer
  19. Anonymous, perfume-related matters seldom have a political angle... But I *did* grow up in the "everything is political" 70s. And the case can be made.

    RépondreSupprimer
  20. Marla, true, it's a grotesque outcome of the censorship... Though I would imagine they'll still be able to export their jasmine oil and tea.

    RépondreSupprimer
  21. Mad. Utterly truly mad and sad. And yet CC's comments made horrible sense of the Chinese authorities actions. If I possessed any I would douse myself in Secrets de Sophie and go admire the zodiac heads in Somerset House courtyard. I will do the latter anyway and also pay particular attention to my newly planted jasmine shrub this evening. Nicola

    RépondreSupprimer
  22. Nicola, I'm grateful to CC for explaining it in a better informed fashion than I have... Enjoy your jasmine and Somerset House.

    RépondreSupprimer
  23. Dizzying and yes, Orwellian and, as Hillary Clinton said recently, a fool's errand. I also appreciated CC's explanation, but I do think the at-first-glance ridiculousness of it is useful - it's the sort of thing that people pay attention to when they hear it because it's so outlandish, and I think we need to pay much more attention to rights abuses in China.

    Me, I'm going with A la Nuit today. I'm going Full Jasmine.

    RépondreSupprimer
  24. Amy, you're right, there *is* something demented about reading the facts as they stand... Waft away.

    RépondreSupprimer
  25. I have been wearing Love and Tears by K in spite of its undertitle Surrender! It's a very fierce and powerfully lasting jasmin that will definitely never surrender. Let us hope that this flower does share it's effect with butterfly wings. Thank you for one more smart and aware post! I am not anonymous, i am just it illiterate, sorry. aliki

    RépondreSupprimer
  26. Aliki, not illiterate surely! Absent-minded... Yes, the name should be changed to "Never surrender"!

    RépondreSupprimer
  27. My original comment was lost in the Blogger outage - I'm wondering if the outage wasn't Chinese hacker mischief!

    Personally, I think there is censorship, misinformation and oppression in most places. It's more heavy-handed and absurd in China, and more commercialized and internalized in some others.

    Nonetheless, the plight of artists and activists in China is especially heartbreaking. I wish I hadn't already used up my sample of Kilian's Love and Tears!

    Thank you, Denyse! ~~nozknoz

    RépondreSupprimer
  28. Nozknoz, see what happens when one mentions jasmine? Joke aside, I agree with what you're saying. And China is far from the only country that detains people secretly without giving them any rights.

    RépondreSupprimer
  29. I was just listening to a story on the radio about Taliban banning music and art and poetry for 5 years in Afghanistan during their domination. Banning a smell strikes me as similarly outrageous and impossible.

    RépondreSupprimer
  30. Katie, seems impossible to me too -- but the source of the smell, i.e. the flowers or bush, can be "censored". I wonder whether the Chinese authorities will go as far as to ask people to rip them out of the gardens... Or whether they'll be in trouble for having a bush.

    RépondreSupprimer