15 November 2007

Afanti and the Treasure Pooping Donkey

Afanti (阿凡提) is the Chinese version of the Uyghur name Effendi, a 13th century Sufi mischievous mystic, perhaps better known as Mulla or Hodja Nasrudin/Nesruddin/Nasr Eddin. Famous from Turkey to, well, China*, the tales of Afanti involve him and his donkey traveling around getting into all sorts of hilarious hijinks due to his being simultaneously wiser and more foolish than everybody else around him.

In other words, Afanti is a 13th century sitcom. He may or may not be the popularizer of the phrase “heads I win, tails you lose”. He’s certainly documented as saying it. One tale has him opining that since Allah is manifest in all things, “Allah is an aubergine”. He was the Jerry Seinfeld of the medieval Muslim world. The Afanti claymation program in China, shown above, was one of China’s first domestic cartoons and major hit. From what I can tell, millions of Chinese in their 30s remember Afanti fondly. On Youku, an uploader proclaims Afanti 一个NB!(see here for explanation), and the Afanti name is common for Uyghur restaurants across the country, a financial services website, and more. So it’s no surprise that the cartoon impressarios of Chongqing are working on a new Afanti cartoon for next year. The question on everybody’s mind: will they have the episode where a cross-eyed guy strokes and spanks a gold coin defecating donkey?

*Afanti is yet another example of how China, via Xinjiang, partakes in something of a truly international character (such as the muqams) but domestically promotes it as purely a local “Xinjiang characteristic”.

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