Cultural History of Heritage in China

The University of Sydney China Studies Centre
Cultural History of Heritage in China
Time: 1:00PM-2:00PM AEST
Date: Wednesday 7 July 2021

Organised by the Department of Chinese Studies in collaboration with the China Studies Centre ‘Language, Literature, Culture and Education’ cluster and The Australian Society for Asian Humanities (formerly OSA).

This talk discusses how the Chinese understanding and treatment of the past has changed over time, depicting the development from imperial times to Mao-era China. In doing so, the talk pays particular attention to the cultural history of “heritage” over the last century, especially the practices of imperial collections, knowledge transmission and antiquarianism. Chinese treatment of the past has been and continues to be characterised by cycles of destruction and creation in which new dynasties or governments use the past to legitimize their rules. Moreover, members of Chinese society have gone through cycles of antiquarianism – attempts of conserving and collecting the past – to foster a sense of identity during times of uncertainty. Studying the history of heritage ideas and practices in both imperial and modern China, the talk argues that today’s “heritage fever” can be seen as a part of this tradition.

About the speaker

Yujie Zhu is a Senior Lecturer at the Research School of Humanities and the Arts, the Australian National University, Australia. His research focuses on the politics of cultural heritage and memories in modern China. His recent books include Heritage Tourism (Cambridge 2021); Heritage Politics in China (Routledge 2020, with C. Maags) and Heritage and Romantic Consumption in China (Amsterdam 2018). Continue reading

Feng Jicai event

Feng Jicai: Art, Writing, and the Preservation of Old Tianjin
A guided tour of Feng Jicai’s work & Tianjin’s broader artistic legacy, led by world-class experts from Sotheby’s Institute of Art.
Fri, 25 June 2021; 05:00 – 06:00 EDT; 10am British Summer Time / 5pm China Standard Time
Online event: click the link above to register

Sinoist Books, Sotheby’s Institute of Art, and the Feng Jicai Institute are thrilled to bring you Feng Jicai: Art, Writing, and the Preservation of the Old Tianjin. In this seminar, we’ll be exploring the artistic, literary, and cultural history of Tianjin, looking to Feng Jicai as one of its most prominent authors and artists operating in the 20th-21st century.

We’ll be hearing from the author himself, hearing about the significance of his work in Tianjin and beyond, as well as unpacking the intimate connections between his art and his other work.

What’s more, we’ll be looking at Tianjin’s wider artistic culture with Dr Katie Hill, one of Sotheby’s Institute of Art experts, as she shares her knowledge on the Tianjin Yangliuqing woodblock new year pictures.

We’re looking forward to welcoming people from around the globe – this event will be bilingual in Chinese to English sequential translations provided, we’re excited to say!

This event will be recorded for later social media broadcast. Continue reading

Uyghur women in China’s genocide

New publication (open access):

Dossier: Uyghur Women in China’s Genocide.”
By Rukiye Turdush, and Magnus Fiskesjö.
Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal 15.1 (2021): 22–43.

Abstract: In genocide, both women and men suffer. However, their suffering has always been different; with men mostly subjected to torture and killings, and women mostly subjected to torture and mutilation. These differences stem primarily from the perpetrators’ ideology and intention to exterminate the targeted people. Many patriarchal societies link men with blood lineage and the group’s continuation, while women embody the group’s reproductivity and dignity. In the ongoing genocide against the Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims in East Turkistan, the ideology of Chinese colonialism is a root cause. It motivates the targeting of women as the means through which to destroy the reproductivity and the dignity of the people as a whole. It is a common misunderstanding to associate genocide with only mass killings, and the current lack of evidence for massacres has led some to prematurely conclude there is no genocide. But this overlooks the targeting of women, which is also a prominent part of the definition of genocide laid out in the Genocide Convention. State policy in China intentionally targets Uyghur and other Turkic women in multiple ways. This dossier is focused on analyzing China’s targeted policies against Uyghur women and their “punishment,” as rooted in part in ancient Chinese legalist philosophy. In doing so, this dossier contributes toward further exposing Chinese colonialism and the genocidal intent now in evidence.

I’m proud to be co-author on this new paper, which also includes discussion of the ideological origins of the Chinese genocide:

For more on the genocide, see this online bibliography (continually updated).

–Yrs. Magnus Fiskesjö,

Forced labor in China sources

This is a copy of a post on H-Slavery (part of H-Net), from May 15, 2021, part of a series of H-Slavery posts on contemporary forced labor and slavery in China:

A new report details forced labor in China’s solar panels industry, and, “how forced labour in the Uyghur region has ripple effects throughout international solar supply chains.” Also reveals how China’s so-called “labor transfer” programs are really part of massive state-sanctioned slavery.

The report:

In Broad Daylight: Uyghur Forced Labour and Global Solar Supply Chains.” By Laura T. Murphy and Nyrola Elimä. Helena Kennedy Centre, Sheffield Hallam University, UK.   (= landing page with links)

  • Important commentary thread:
    “The economic and political ramifications of this report are going to be discussed widely. But its introductory section also offers the most succinct and compelling demonstration yet that, when applied to Xinjiang, “labor transfer” means forced labor. … be sure to read pages 9-13 on the forced labor programs in the Uyghur region -and the exec summary.”

  • Also see: Continue reading


Source: SupChina (5/7/21)
Chinese rapper NINEONE# says expressing empathy for men doesn’t make her anti-feminist
She’s a huge star known for her feminist hip-hop lyrics, but now Nǎi Wàn 乃万 a.k.a. NINEONE# is under fire for remarks she made onstage that some women felt undermine their quest for equality.
By Jiayun Feng


Rapper Nǎi Wàn 乃万 a.k.a. NINEONE#.

Another week, another gender debate. Or so it’s beginning to seem when it comes to the Chinese internet, where public outcry over questionable views about gender and women’s roles has become increasingly swift and loud.

This time, the lightning rod is woman rapper Nǎi Wàn 乃万, also known as NINEONE#. Her remarks at a music festival last week about the burdens men face in society touched off a firestorm of controversy. Many commenters, apparently women fed up with China’s retrograde gender dynamics, told the 24-year-old artist to “check her privilege” before preaching her understanding of gender equality.

“Boys have many dreams, too, when they are young, like becoming an athlete or a professional gamer. But when they reach 18, their goals are all about buying a house and a car,” Nai said (in Chinese) onstage last Sunday, suggesting that because men are traditionally expected to be the primary breadwinner in a relationship, they have to let their passion take a backseat when choosing careers.

And in order to free men from this dilemma, the musician went on to urge girls to have “more consideration and tolerance” for the boys they love, so that they can continue to pursue their aspirations. “Girls need to stay true to themselves as well. That’s what gender equality is really about,” she added. Continue reading

Misogynistic trolls dunk on Tsinghua dancers

Source: SupChina (5/4/21)
Misogynistic trolls band together to dunk on dance-loving young women at Tsinghua University
A video of students at Tsinghua doing dancing to celebrate their university’s 110th birthday went viral. Then the haters arrived. Guess why.
By Jiayun Feng

Misogynistic trolls band together to dunk on dance-loving young women at Tsinghua University

Dance-loving women at Tsinghua

Here’s another daily reminder that internet misogynists are horrible creatures and that women face harassment and vitriol on a daily basis just for wanting to have some fun by themselves. A group of female college students in China have found themselves confronting a barrage of obscenities and hateful comments online after a mobile phone video of them dancing in public went viral.

In the video, an all-girls dance troupe at the prestigious Tsinghua University delivers a nearly two-minute dance routine in celebration of the 110th anniversary of the school. With a marching band playing trumpets in the background, the nine students — wearing tight, gold mini dresses decorated with tassels — pull off a choreographed performance featuring body rolls, formation changes, and synchronized moves.

The dance was undoubtedly amateurish, but it was intended to be performed for a small audience on the Tsinghua campus, not for an enormous internet audience, and nothing about it was offensive. However, soon after the footage appeared on social media, commenters jumped on the video, saying the dance was an “inappropriate exhibit” at a birthday event. Continue reading

Ancient relief sculpture brought alive

Source: China Daily (4/29/21)
Relief sculpture brought alive after millennium

Actors hold live performance presenting the image of a relief sculpture dating back to the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534), Zhengzhou, Central China’s Henan province, on April 28, 2021. [Photo/Xinhua]

Carved in Binyangzhong Cave, an imperial cave excavated in the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534), the relief sculpture Emperor and Empress Pay Respect for Buddha is a national treasure of great historical and cultural values.In the 1930s, the sculpture was stolen and taken abroad in pieces. “We hope to resurrect this work through many forms, and this live-action performance is one of them. It took nearly three months to prepare,” Dan Gao, researcher of Longmen Grottoes Research Institute, said.

In order to restore the images on the relief, the research team collected literature and pictures, and studied the character’s makeup and hair, costumes, props and movements one by one.

Apart from the actors for the emperor and empress, most of the 40-plus cast members are young people born after 2000. Continue reading

Teaching the Living Dead: My Classroom in Xinjiang

The Sydney Morning Herald has published an excerpt from new English ed. of Sayragul Sauytbay’s book The Chief Witness: Escape from China’s Modern-Day Concentration Camps, with Alexandra Cavelius; trans. Caroline Waight. Melbourne and London: Scribe, 2021. ISBN: 9781922310538.–Magnus Fiskesjö <>

Source: Sydney Morning Herald (4/30/21)
Teaching the living dead: My classroom in Xinjiang
Sayragul Sauytbay escaped Xinjiang to tell of its detention camps. In this extract from her book, she relives a day of horror in a camp ‘classroom’.
By Sayragul Sauytbay and Alexandra Cavelius

Satellite imagery reveals expansion of Xinjiang detention centres

I’d scarcely set foot in the room at 7am before my 56 students rose to their feet, ankle shackles jangling, and shouted: “We’re ready!”

They all wore blue shirts and trousers. Their heads were shaved, their skin white as a corpse’s.

New satellite imagery reveals how China has been expanding its detention centres in the Xinjiang region, despite its claims that all detainees had ‘graduated’ after ‘re-education’.

I stood to attention in front of the board, flanked either side by two guards with automatic guns. I was so unprepared for the sight and so appalled that for a moment I almost tottered on my feet. Black eyes, mutilated fingers, bruises everywhere. Continue reading

Chloe Zhao sought common ground in Oscars speech

Source: Nikkei Asia (4/27/21)
China-born Chloe Zhao sought common ground in Oscars speech
Considering ‘Nomadland’ as art made by humans rather than geopolitical actors
By AYNNE KOKAS and JEFFREY WASSERSTROM, Contributing writers

Chloe Zhao became the first Asian woman to win an Academy Award for best director on Sunday, crashing through one of Hollywood’s toughest barriers with her film “Nomadland.”   © AP

In her acceptance speech for the Best Director Oscar for “Nomadland,” Chloe Zhao recited the first verses of the San Zi Jing, a classic Confucian poem her father taught her.

Her reference evoked pan-Chineseness and the intimacy of family, while rejecting the patriotic education of the Chinese Communist Party. Her reference evoked a pride in the classics with wide appeal in some Chinese cultural contexts.

But even as Zhao’s speech expressed gratitude to her father, it fell far short of praising her motherland. And this is the challenge facing not just artists born in China, but anyone seeking to distribute media there — the space for ambiguous expression in the mainland has collapsed. Continue reading

Culture, Covid, Controversy: Tokyo 2021 and Beijing 2022

An Olympic Symposium
Wednesday, May 5, 2021 at 7pm
Presentations by MIT undergraduate students of 21M.848 and guest speaker Dr. Susan Brownell

Register for free tickets: (information, guest speaker and student photos/bios, registration link)

There have been only eight Olympics located in Asia in the 126-year history of the Games, two of them occurring in the next year.  The Tokyo 2020 Olympics being held in 2021 due to COVID-19 is the first time the Games have ever been postponed. Next February, Beijing will become the first city to ever host both a Summer and Winter Games.

This symposium offers a closer look at Tokyo and Beijing’s sport cultures and Olympic histories, their path to the upcoming Games, and the challenges and controversies surrounding them—and provides helpful history, cultural context, current events, and fun facts leading up to the the grandest spectacle on earth viewed by more than three billion people worldwide.

Please join the students of 21M.848 (Performance Studies: Advanced Theories of Sport) for two panels of their individual presentations and group Q&A, along with our special guest Dr. Susan Brownell, who will deliver a talk about the connections between the Olympics, NGOs, and human rights.

Taiwan indigenous hunters try to uphold tradition

Source: NYT (4/13/21)
Taiwan Hunters Contend With Taboos, and Trials, to Uphold Tradition
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
The island’s Indigenous hunting cultures are circumscribed by ancient rituals and modern legal restrictions. We join a hunt as Taiwan’s constitutional court considers a case on Indigenous rights.
By Amy Qin and Amy Chang Chien

Bayan Tanapima, a Bunun hunter, firing his homemade hunting gun in the woods of eastern Taiwan last month. Credit…Ashley Pon for The New York Times

ZHUOXI, Taiwan — The smell of damp earth filled the air on a recent moonless evening as the hunter wove through the dense mountain thicket, clutching a homemade rifle and with only the narrow white beam of a headlamp to illuminate his prey.

But the hunter, Vilian Istasipal, was confident. He knew this terrain well.

A member of the Bunun, one of 16 officially recognized Indigenous groups in Taiwan, Mr. Vilian, 70, has been hunting on this land for more than 60 years.

Some of his earliest memories growing up in Zhuoxi, a town of around 6,000 people in eastern Taiwan, involved going on dayslong hunts with his father deep into the mountains where he learned skills considered essential to being a Bunun man, like how to lay a trap, shoot a flying squirrel and skin a boar.

“We kill them, but we also pay respect to their lives,” Mr. Vilian said in the courtyard of his home in Zhuoxi, also known as Takkei in the Bunun language. Continue reading

“Sister” tackles male gender preference

Source: Sixth Tone (4/8/21)
Hit Film Tackles Male Gender Preference in Chinese Families
“Sister” has emerged as an unexpected holiday hit, surpassing Hollywood heavyweight “Godzilla vs. Kong.”
By Chen Qi’an

A still frame from the Chinese blockbuster film “Sister.” From Douban

A still frame from the Chinese blockbuster film “Sister.” From Douban

A new Chinese movie is casting a spotlight on a long-debated question: Should personal values be prioritized over traditional family values?

The family drama “Sister” [我的姐姐] which topped the domestic box office during the recent Qingming Festival holiday, tells the story of An Ran, a young woman who is suddenly faced with having to take care of her 6-year-old brother after their parents die in an accident. The movie follows An’s trajectory as she struggles to balance her own life choices while becoming her brother’s caretaker.

The movie, starring popular actor Zhang Zifeng as the titular character, has so far raked in over 500 million yuan ($76 million), outperforming Hollywood hit “Godzilla vs. Kong,” according to ticketing platform Maoyan. On review site Douban, “Sister” has scored 7.2 out of 10. Continue reading

Countering Xinjiang backlash with a musical

Source: NYT (4/5/21)
China Tries to Counter Xinjiang Backlash With … a Musical?
The movie is part of Beijing’s wide-ranging new propaganda campaign to push back on sanctions and criticism of its oppression of the Uyghurs.
By Amy Qin

A Chinese government propaganda sign with slogans reading “Forever following the Party” and “China’s ethnicities, one family” in Aksu, Xinjiang, last month. Credit…Ng Han Guan/Associated Press

In one scene, Uyghur women are seen dancing in a rousing Bollywood style face-off with a group of Uyghur men. In another, a Kazakh man serenades a group of friends with a traditional two-stringed lute while sitting in a yurt.

Welcome to “The Wings of Songs,” a state-backed musical that is the latest addition to China’s propaganda campaign to defend its policies in Xinjiang. The campaign has intensified in recent weeks as Western politicians and rights groups have accused Beijing of subjecting Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang to forced labor and genocide.

The film, which debuted in Chinese cinemas last week, offers a glimpse of the alternate vision of Xinjiang that China’s ruling Communist Party is pushing to audiences at home and abroad. Far from being oppressed, the musical seems to say, the Uyghurs and other minorities are singing and dancing happily in colorful dress, a flashy take on a tired Chinese stereotype about the region’s minorities that Uyghur rights activists quickly denounced. Continue reading

Manhua Modernity review

Source: Association for Chinese Animation Studies (3/31/21)
Review: John A. Crespi, Manhua Modernity: Chinese Culture and the Pictorial Turn (University of California Press, 2020) 198 pp.
By Jeremy E. Taylor

John A. Crespi’s Manhua Modernity: Chinese Culture and the Pictorial Turn represents an important contribution to the study of print and visual cultures in mid-twentieth-century China. Given the prominence of Republican Shanghai in Crespi’s narrative, this book might also be seen as part of a broader attempt to re-assess the place of this city in the story of modern Chinese print and visual cultures—a trend that is evident in other recent monographs, such as Pedith Chan’s The Making of a Modern Art World (2017) and Paul Bevan’s “Intoxicating Shanghai:” An Urban Montage (2020). Like such scholarship, Crespi’s book challenges what he refers to as the “anti-urban bias” (27) inherent in some earlier work in the field. Yet Manhua Modernity goes much further than this, providing a new set of methodologies for “horizontally reading” pictorial magazines. Indeed, Crespi should be congratulated for his methodological and conceptual ambition, for he seeks not simply to re-assess the evolution of manhua per se, but also to demonstrate the potential contribution of such a re-assessment to fields such as “pictorial studies” and visual cultures. Manhua Modernity contextualizes the manhua form (even as it takes issue with some of the existing literature on the topic) and updates an earlier fascination with images as stand-alone objects. Crespi’s approach also helps to free the history of manhua from a “nation-centered narrative” (34), as per Bi Keguan’s much cited work on the topic and seeks to bring the very notion of “manhua”—a term that Crespi refuses to italicize—into the mainstream of Chinese cultural history. Continue reading

Disgust at China’s state-sponsored ‘Uyghurface’ (1)

“The worst Uyghurface cosplay you ever did see” —

More on the racist use of dressed-up Uyghurface (= like ‘Blackface’) by official Chinese representatives, dancing around as fake, “happy” Uyghur people — in New Zealand: See today’s Twitter thread by Catherine Churchman, @C_M_Churchman.

Incredibly, among those naively playing along are both the mayor of the city of Auckland, Phil Goff, and, more incredibly, New Zealand’s Race Relations Commissioner Meng Foon. Or is it knowingly — thus a NZ ‘race relations commissioner’ playing along with the racist mockery of the victims of China’s genocide in Xinjiang?

Magnus Fiskesjö <>