Guillermo Del Toro’s horror blockbuster and haunted house film, Crimson Peak was banned from China upon release.  The film was banned for promoting spiritual and/or occult superstitions that go against the Communist country’s secular beliefs, is this the full story though? For the BBC, artist and horror lover Aowen Jin presents different and far more troubling reasons regarding Crimson Peak‘s ban and artistic censorship in China.

So when I moved to the West, it came as a surprise to me that there were major ghost films that were released in the UK but banned in China. I knew they couldn’t be more visceral or terrifying than the plots I had seen back home, so I was determined to find out why.

Firstly it may come as a slight shock that horror censorship is far more relaxed in China than it is here in the West. Folklore and fairy tales are a rich part of Chinese culture and thus when executed in a “government approved” manner are deemed acceptable for even the youngest viewers.

Corruption of the mind is a far more disturbing concern for China’s censoring body; subject matter such as graphic or strong sex and religious incitement are viewed as taboo themes.

So why, when ghosts are such an integral part of Chinese storytelling have they been met with such disdain?

Ghosts are often a symbol. A spectral metaphor for past resentment or past crimes. It’s no secret that throughout history the Chinese people have suffered through some fairly horrifying atrocities at the hands of their own government; ghosts are such a red flag for Chinese censorship as they can often be interpreted as a critique on past governmental cruelty.

As we have already discussed, corruption of the Chinese populous is the primary concern for intervention in the arts and corruption against Communism is what the Chinese government fears most.

What does this mean for artistic censorship? You’ll be thankful to hear that although obviously not a great thing censorship in our modern age isn’t a kill shot for creativity. Online streaming and sharing sites, especially the illegal ones, are hard to regulate. More importantly, if the history of art has taught us anything it’s that heavy censorship is no roadblock, it’s a spark that often leads to innovation.

Censorship is simply a prelude to revolution….

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