New textbooks claim HK was not a British colony

Source: BBC News (6/15/22)
Hong Kong: New school books claim territory was not a British colony
By Frances Mao, BBC News

A woman carries the Chinese and Hong Kong flags while walking down Victoria Harbour in Hong Kong

IMAGE SOURCE,GETTY IMAGES: China has long said that Britain’s rule in Hong Kong did not usurp its sovereignty over the territory

New textbooks for Hong Kong schools will state the territory was never a British colony, local media report.

Instead, the books declare the British “only exercised colonial rule” in Hong Kong – a distinction drawn to highlight China’s claims of unbroken sovereignty.

China has always asserted it never gave up sovereignty and its surrender of Hong Kong to the British was due to unfair Opium War treaties in the 1800s.

The UK returned Hong Kong to China in 1997 after ruling for over 150 years.

During its rule, it referred to Hong Kong – a port with a deep harbour that grew into a booming city state, and one of the world’s leading financial centres – as a colony, as well as a dependent territory.

The United Kingdom governed the area from 1841 to 1941, and from 1945 to 1997, after which it was handed back to China. Continue reading

The Suicide of Miss Xi review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Joan Judge’s review of The Suicide of Miss Xi: Democracy and Disenchantment in the Chinese Republic, by Bryna Goodman. The review appears below and at its online home: My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, our book review editor for literary studies, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, MCLC

The Suicide of Miss Xi:
Democracy and Disenchantment in the Chinese Republic

By Bryna Goodman

Reviewed by Joan Judge

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright June, 2022)

Bryna Goodman, The Suicide of Miss Xi: Democracy and Disenchantment in the Chinese Republic. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 2021, 339 pages. ISBN: 9780674248823 (Hardcover)

The Suicide of Miss Xi: Democracy and Disenchantment in the Chinese Republic is a deeply researched thick description of a dramatic suicide that took place on September 8, 1922, a pivotal moment in the unfolding of China’s troubled Republic. Goodman extracts three key facets of the incident that have ramifications for a fuller understanding of the period: gender and the ambiguous status of the New Woman; the stock exchange and the fragility of both economic structures and economic understanding; and the law as manipulable force rather than final arbiter. The story is layered, the key protagonists flawed, and the outcome neither clear nor satisfactory. Miss Xi’s suicide thus stands in for the complexity and unsettledness of the period.

The book “illuminates a moment, after the fall of empire and before the rise of central party rule, when urban Chinese improvised practices of liberal democracy in public life” (24). The moment coincides with the May Fourth period with its forceful narratives of newness and its invocations of the power of Mr. Science and Mr. Democracy. The suicide of Miss Xi highlights how removed those narratives were from the messy contradictions of what Goodman labels the “vernacular” realm. She probes reactions to the suicide in the periodical press and in associational life (native-place associations, chambers of commerce, trade associations [a.k.a., “guilds”], the Jingwu Athletic Association, etc.) for evidence of democratic forces that struggled to assert themselves despite the lack of state scaffolding to support them. Her rich primary source base includes newspapers; associational, professional and women’s journals; and police, commercial, native place, diplomatic, private, and court archives. Through scrutinizing of these materials, she uncovers what she describes as an active “public without a Republic.” Continue reading

Hong Kong’s first art-house film

Source: SCMP (6/5/22)
Hong Kong’s first art-house film, Cecille Tong Shu-shuen’s The Arch, starring Crazy Rich Asians’ Lisa Lu Yan, was ahead of its time
Cecille Tong Shu-shuen’s The Arch is an elegant psychological drama about a widow who has committed to receiving a stone ‘arch of chastity’. With its roots in a folk tale, it may have also been Hong Kong’s first ‘independent’ film, having been fully funded by the director and her family
By Richard James Havis

Lisa Lu in a still from Cecille Tong Shu-shuen’s The Arch (1970), considered to be Hong Kong’s first art-house film.

Lisa Lu in a still from Cecille Tong Shu-shuen’s The Arch (1970), considered to be Hong Kong’s first art-house film.

Martial arts films were all the rage in the late 1960s and 1970s, so it may come as a surprise to learn that the era also produced what is considered Hong Kong’s first art-house film.

The Arch, a Ming dynasty period piece directed by Cecille Tong Shu-shuen (sometimes known as Shu Shuen or Cecile Tang) in 1970, is an elegant psychological drama about a widow who has committed to receiving a stone “arch of chastity”. Although The Arch only played for three days on its original release in Hong Kong theatres, it went on to become a highly regarded work of cinema.

“The art-house look and ambitions of the The Arch set it aside from much of the commercial output of the early 1970s,” Roger Garcia, former director of the Hong Kong International Film Festival, tells the Post. “For a historical period film of the time, it lacks much of the requisite commercial action and sexual passion that were prevalent in contemporary local studio films.

“As one of Hong Kong cinema’s first women directors, Shu Shuen’s portrayal of a woman weighed down by social convention and the question of fate is more nuanced and ambiguous than those of male directors.”

Continue reading

Liu Yifei stars in A Dream of Spendor

Source: China Daily (6/6/22)
Actress Liu Yifei shows off tea acrobatics in her latest outing
By Xu Fan

A scene in A Dream of Splendor. [Photo provided to China Daily]

A Dream of Splendor [梦华录], marking A-list star Liu Yifei’s [刘亦菲] return to the historic theme, has quickly hooked millions of views since the 40-episode costume series began streaming on Tencent Video domestically and its overseas platform WeTV on June 2.

Starring Liu as a brave and independent young woman, the tale set in the Song Dynasty (960-1279) is inspired by Jiu Feng Chen [救風塵], a four-act play about a sophisticated heroine’s effort to rescue her friend from domestic violence by Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) playwright Guan Hanqing [关汉卿]. Continue reading

A New Old Play review

Source: NYT (5/19/22)
‘A New Old Play’ Review: Even the Clown Show Must Go On
Qiu Jiongjiong’s absurdist epic of 20th century China is both a movie and a play, both tragedy and farce.
By Austin Considine

Yi Sicheng in “A New Old Play.”

Yi Sicheng in “A New Old Play.”Credit…Icarus Films

Per the title, Qiu Jiongjiong’s magnificently layered historical epic, “A New Old Play,” draws as much from Brecht and Beckett as from cinematic traditions. At once tragedy and farce, it breathes new life into a story as old as civilization.

The opening scene is disorienting at first, not least for the film’s protagonist, Qiu Fu (Yi Sicheng), a well-known actor from a Sichuan opera troupe. We meet him when he is old and stooping, in a crumbling mountain village enshrouded by fog. It is China in the 1980s, and the Japanese, the nationalists and the communists have wreaked their havoc in turn. Now two raggedy demons have arrived in a broken-down bicycle rickshaw to cart Qiu off to the underworld.

Still, something feels uncanny, demons notwithstanding. The entire mise-en-scène of the film, we discover, is artificial, an assembly of stage props and hand-painted scenery. Qiu has always played the clown, shuffling from scene to scene, a hapless pauper harassed by need and political fashion. Even his wife (Guan Nan) may not miss him when he’s gone. Somehow he, like the film, maintains a sense of humor. Such is life for a poor player.

Qiu isn’t keen to leave, but his time is up — as the demons remind him, it’s no use trying to outrun fate. Also, the King of Hell is a fan, and Qiu’s failure to appear would make them look bad.

But first, let’s drink and play mahjong in purgatory, where Qiu awaits final passage to oblivion. Absurdities and indignities mount as he reminisces about a life spanning wars and famine, revolution and betrayal. The director’s cleverest trick is having also found joy there.

A New Old Play
Not rated. In Mandarin, with subtitles. Running time: 2 hours 59 minutes. In theaters.

On the 33rd Anniversary of the June Fourth Massacre

Source: Human Rights in China (6/1/22)
For Fairness and Justice, We Will Persevere: On the 33rd Anniversary of the June Fourth Massacre
By The Tiananmen Mothers
[Translation by Human Rights in China]
[Original Chinese text from]

Thirty-three years ago, a brutal tragedy of unparalleled savagery occurred in China, sending shockwaves across the nation and around the world. The ruling Communist Party of China and the Chinese government, in complete disregard of the lives of the hundreds of thousands of students and common people along the ten-mile Chang’an Avenue, used the military to indiscriminately murder innocent people in the capital city of Beijing with live ammunition. The armed forces aimed their guns at them and even drove tanks to crush the crowd, killing and injuring thousands.

This government-led massacre caught Beijing residents completely off guard. At around 10 p.m. on June 3, under cover of darkness, martial law troops rode tanks and armored vehicles from all directions toward Tiananmen Square. On their way, they sprayed students and residents with gunfire and chased after those trying to escape, leaving heavy casualties in their wake. Early the next morning, on June 4, when student protestors evacuated from the square in files and walked to Liubukou in Xidan, the army unleashed poisonous tear gas with paralyzing nerve agents, causing the students and residents at the scene to collapse on the ground, unable to move due to difficulty breathing and a feeling of suffocation. A row of tanks ran over the fallen crowd, killing or seriously injuring more than ten students on the spot. Continue reading

Rewriting history for China’s youth

Source: China Media Project (5/12/22)
Rewriting History for China’s Youth
Xi Jinping’s speech to mark the centenary of the Chinese Communist Youth League this week was meant to inspire a generation’s dedication to the ruling Party — but also to shape the dominant view of history in favor of the general secretary’s continued power.
By David Bandurski

At right, Zhu De (朱德) and Liao Chengzhi (廖承志) on the podium while attending China’s Second National Youth League Congress on July 1, 1953. Reform leader Hu Yaobang (胡耀邦), who was leader of the Communist Youth League from 1952 to 1966, is on the left. Image in Public Domain available at Wikimedia Commons.

In a speech this week marking the centenary of the Chinese Communist Youth League, the country’s official youth movement, Xi Jinping emphasized that it was the league’s mission to “go unswervingly with the Party.” To this end, he said, the league must “persist in grooming [young] people for the Party,” ensuring the loyalty and dedication of the next generation.

But even as the Party’s general secretary sought to inspire youth leaders with the past, recalling Mao Zedong’s words about the youth “spirit of struggle” (斗争精神), he sought to shape the dominant view of the history to firm up the foundation of his power.

When Xi Jinping reaches the section in his speech summing up the history of the CCP over the past century, he neatly outlines four distinct stages. While the first three, spanning the rule of Mao Zedong and reform and opening, are introduced as “periods,” the last, demarking Xi’s own rule, is referred to as the “New Era.” Continue reading

In Hong Kong, the search for a single identity

Source: NYT (5/18/22)
In Hong Kong, the Search for a Single Identity
To explain the city’s fraught present, two books look to its past.
By Amy Qin

Credit…Samantha Sin/AFP via Getty Images

INDELIBLE CITY: Dispossession and Defiance in Hong Kong, by Louisa Lim
THE IMPOSSIBLE CITY: A Hong Kong Memoir, by Karen Cheung

The first Hong Kongers, so the myth goes, were rebels. In the fifth century a Chinese official named Lu Xun incited a rebellion against the Jin dynasty. He lost, and fled with his army to Lantau, one of Hong Kong’s islands, where they lived in caves and ate so much raw fish that, according to one popular version of the legend, they grew fish heads. Indigenous Hong Kongers, the so-called Lo Ting, are said to be these insurrectionist mermen.

In recent years, the Lo Ting have inspired television shows, artworks and plays in Hong Kong. To those who perpetuated the myth, it didn’t matter that the tale was utterly fantastical. What mattered was that the story was created by and for Hong Kongers. It was an alternative to the dominant narratives told about the city by the British and the Chinese. It was an effort by Hong Kongers to reclaim their own history.

Two new books advance that effort by centering the voices and perspectives of Hong Kongers. Louisa Lim’s “Indelible City” dismantles the received wisdom about Hong Kong’s history and replaces it with an engaging, exhaustively researched account of its long struggle for sovereignty. And in her pulsing debut memoir, “The Impossible City,” Karen Cheung writes eloquently about what it means to find your place in a city as it vanishes before your eyes. Each book sheds a different light on how longstanding forces converged to foment the sustained outpouring of anger and frustration that in 2019 shook Hong Kong to its core. Continue reading

Hao Chang has passed away

Source: Academia Sinica (5/5/2022)
Academician Hao Chang Has Passed Away

Academician Hao Chang passed away in the United States on April 20, 2022. He was 85 years old.

Dr. Chang was a renowned Sinologist, devoted to the intellectual history of modern China and history of Chinese political thought. He studied under notable scholars, including Yin Hai-guang, Yang Lien-sheng, and Benjamin I. Schwartz, and obtained his Ph.D. from Harvard University in 1966. Dr. Chang taught at Ohio State University from 1968 to 1998, and at the University of Science and Technology, Hong Kong, since 1998.

Dr. Chang obtained many outstanding achievements and authored several articles and books in both Chinese and English. His comparison and reflection on Western Liberalism and Chinese Confucianism were widely influential in Sinology and in intellectual history studies. In February of this year, Dr. Chang donated his book and manuscript collection to the National Library, a remarkably generous gesture and invaluable contribution to history research.

During his distinguished career, Dr. Chang has received numerous honors, including grants from the American National Humanities Foundation and the American Council of Learned Societies, the Qian Mu History Lectureship and the Yu Ying-shih Lectureship at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and the Tseng Yueh-nung Lectureship on Comparative Study of Cultures at Tunghai University, Taiwan. Dr. Chang was elected Academia Sinica Academician in 1992.

Behind China’s new botanical garden

Source: Sixth Tone (5/2/22)
Behind China’s New Botanical Garden, a Decadeslong Struggle
Botanist Hu Xiansu spent his life trying to build China’s first national botanical garden. Now, 54 years after his death, he finally got his wish.
By Yang Yang

Visitors to the China National Botanical Garden, Beijing, April 22, 2022. VCG.

On April 18, 2022, the China National Botanical Garden officially opened its doors to the public — almost 80 years after it was first proposed. And while he didn’t live to see it happen, no one loomed larger over last month’s ceremony than Hu Xiansu, the man who spent his entire career trying to bring the garden to life.

Hu was born in 1894 in Nanchang, the capital of the central province of Jiangxi. His intellect stood out from an early age, winning him a coveted spot in an elite overseas exchange program. After graduating from the University of California, Berkeley in 1916 with a degree in Botany, Hu was named the vice-director of the Jiangxi Lushan Bureau of Forestry. Not long after, he became a professor of agricultural sciences at Southeast University in the eastern city of Nanjing, where he teamed with zoologist Bing Zhi to found the country’s first ever Department of Biology.

It was an impressive start to his academic career, but Hu wasn’t satisfied. In 1923, he returned to the United States for a Ph.D. program at Harvard University. Continue reading

Diaries of the two Chiangs forum

The Fairbank Center is hosting an online forum on the diaries of Chiang Kai-shek and Chiang Ching-kuo next week. Professor Michael Szonyi will host the event.

The Diaries of Chiang Kai-shek and Chiang Ching-kuo: Historical Reflections

Monday, April 25, 8-9pm (EDT)

Wayne Chiang (蔣萬安, Member of Legislative Yuan, Taiwan)
Hsiao-ting Lin (Stanford University)
Steven Goldstein (Harvard University)

Michael Szonyi (Harvard University)

Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies
Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation

Zoom Registration:

The Exiles review

Source: SupChina (4/15/22)
‘The Exiles’: Chinese democracy activists reflect on their banishment
Filmmakers Violet Columbus and Ben Klein reopen one of the most tightly sealed boxes from China’s collective consciousness — the 1989 Tiananmen Massacre — to consider what it means to be Chinese.
By Catherine Zauhar

Illustration for SupChina by Derek Zheng

Good documentaries need to have one of two elements: a wealth of archival material, whether that be footage, documents, photographs, etc., to build a strong visual and atmospheric foundation of the past, or a compelling character to catalyze the story. The Exiles, the Sundance-winning debut feature from Violet Columbus and Ben Klein, has both.

The film opens with Columbus and Klein interviewing Christine Choy (崔明慧 ​​Cuī Mínghuì), who is most well-known for her Oscar-nominated documentary Who Killed Vincent Chen? In the New York film community, Choy is regarded as one of the brashest, most uncompromising, chain-smoking, expletive-spewing, wonderfully politically incorrect, and always-magnetic people you’ll have the pleasure of talking to. We learn through the film that Choy had ambitions to make a documentary about the exiled leaders of Beijing’s 1989 democracy movement, but the film never came to fruition due to budgetary and emotional constraints.

In 1989 she and a small crew started closely following Yán Jiāqí 严家其, a steadfast and observant intellectual, Wàn Rùnnán 万润南, the once-CEO of the tech firm Sitong, and Wu’er Kaixi (吾尔开希·多莱特 Wúěr Kāixī Duōláitè), a fiery student leader, from the day the men land on American soil. Their post-Tiananmen story is told through press conferences, demonstrations, protests, and quieter moments of conversation and rest. (One of these exiles’ friends, Chén Yīzī 陈一咨, died in Los Angeles.) This footage intimately captures how these young men grapple with witnessing their compatriots die at the hands of a government they once respected. Back then, they believed that China’s political corruption and their own exiles would be temporary, a necessary anguish before a revitalizing rebirth. Continue reading

Bamboo and Silk 5.1

Dear friends,

We are happy to announce the publication of Bamboo and Silk 5.1, a special issue devoted to the Liye Qin manuscripts. It includes contributions by Robin Yates, Miyake Kiyoshi, Yang Zhenhong, Tsuchiguchi Fuminori, and a book review by Yuri Pines. Please find the articles online at the following address:


The Fate of the Defeated: Qin’s Treatment of Their Enemies  1
Robin D.S. Yates(葉山)

From the End of Conquest to the Beginning of Occupation: The Withdrawal of the Qin Army from Qianling Prefecture  73
Miyake Kiyoshi(宮宅潔) Continue reading

The Legacy of Koxinga event

We invite you to join us at an online forum titled “The Legacy of Koxinga in South East Asia: Chia Joo-ming and Nanyang Narrative” with writer Chia Joo-ming (Singapore), Ko Chia-cian (National Taiwan University), and Liu Hsiu-mei (National Dong-hwa University).

The event is organized by David Der-wei Wang (Harvard University) and the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies, and is co-sponsored by the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation.

The event will be conducted in Chinese.

Time: , March 24, 20228:30-10pm (ET)

Zoom registration: