Fantasy and the Forbidden City

Source: China Channel, LARB (2/4/20)
Fantasy and the Forbidden City
China’s most popular costume drama tells more about the present than it does about the Qing dynasty – Tobie Meyer-Fong
By Tobie Meyer-Fong

Story of Yanxi Palace

During the summer of 2018, The Story of Yanxi Palace (延禧攻略), a soap opera set in the Forbidden City, mesmerized audiences with its sumptuous costumes and lavish sets. Media analysts celebrated the protagonist – a concubine rising within the ranks – as a bold female exemplar, and noted that it provided a promising vehicle for education about China’s cultural heritage both at home and abroad. The show was made and initially screened by iQiyi, a Chinese internet streaming company owned by Baidu, although it was later also broadcast on conventional and cable television channels. (A version with English subtitles can be found on YouTube.) It proved hugely popular, with episodes streamed over 15 billion times by Chinese viewers. The BBC online breathlessly announced that Yanxi Palace was the “most Googled TV show of 2018 globally,” even though Google is blocked in China. Continue reading

The Great Leap Backward

The Great Leap Backward: Forgetting and Representing the Mao Years
by Lingchei Letty Chen
Cambria Press
Cambria Sinophone World Series (General Editor: Victor H. Mair)
Hardback  9781604979923  $114.99  304pp.
Order direct from Cambria Press by 02/29/2020 and save 25% (Use coupon code SAVE25).

It is now forty years after Mao Zedong’s death and the end of the Cultural Revolution, and more than fifty years since the Great Leap Forward and the Great Famine. During this time, the collective memory of these events has been sanitized, reduced to a much-diluted version of what truly took place. Historical and sociological approaches cannot fully address the moral failure that allowed the atrocities of the Mao era to take place. Humanist approaches, such as literary criticism, have a central role to play in uncovering and making explicit the testimonies of both victims and perpetrators in “memory writing” in order to recover the truth of China’s history.

In this unprecedented study The Great Leap Backward, inspired by Holocaust studies, memory work such as fiction, memoirs, autobiographies, and documentary films that have surfaced since Mao’s death are examined to uncover the many aspects of the forces underlying remembering and forgetting. These are significant for they also embody the politics of writing and publishing traumatic historical memories in contemporary China and beyond. Beginning with a scar literature classic and ending with popular Cultural Revolution memoirs that appeared early in the twenty-first century, this study provides us with another important way through which memory studies can help us grapple with traumatic histories. Continue reading

Negative Exposures

Negative Exposures: Knowing What Not to Know in Contemporary China
Margaret Hillenbrand
Duke University Press, 2020
312 pages, 66 illustrations
$27.95, discount $19.57 (30% off)
https://www.dukeupress.edu/negative-exposures

When nations decide to disown their troubled pasts, how does this strategic disavowal harden into social fact? In Negative Exposures, Margaret Hillenbrand investigates the erasure of key aspects of such momentous events as the Nanjing Massacre, the Cultural Revolution, and the Tiananmen Square protests from the Chinese historical consciousness, not due to amnesia or censorship but through the operations of public secrecy. Knowing what not to know, she argues, has many stakeholders, willing and otherwise, who keep quiet to protect themselves or their families out of shame, pragmatism, or the palliative effects of silence. Hillenbrand shows how secrecy works as a powerful structuring force in Chinese society, one hiding in plain sight, and identifies aesthetic artifacts that serve as modes of reckoning against this phenomenon. She analyses the proliferation of photo-forms—remediations of well-known photographs of troubling historical events rendered in such media as paint, celluloid, fabric, digital imagery, and tattoos—as imaginative spaces in which the shadows of secrecy are provocatively outlined. Continue reading

Dream of the Red Chamber exhibit

Source: Global Times (12/22/19)
Exhibition on ‘Dream of the Red Chamber’ kicks off in Beijing

A visitor explores the Cultural Exhibition of Dream of the Red Chamber at the National Museum of China in Beijing on Friday. Photo: Li Hao/GT

Some have described it as the Chinese Gone with the Wind, while others have called it China’s answer to War and Peace. No matter how it is described, Dream of the Red Chamber is unanimously regarded as one of the four great classic novels of Chinese literature.

Nearly 600 related items are currently on display at the National Museum of China (NMC) to showcase the charm of this beloved classic. Continue reading

China’s Revolutions in the Modern World

9781788735599China’s Revolutions in the Modern World: A Brief Interpretive History
by Rebecca E. Karl
Verso
Hardback/Ebook / Hardback with free ebook
$26.95, discount $21.56 (20% off)
240 pages / January 2020 / 9781788735599

A concise account of how revolutions made modern China and helped shape the modern world

China’s emergence as a twenty-first-century global economic, cultural, and political power is often presented as a story of what Chinese leader Xi Jinping calls the nation’s “great rejuvenation,” a story narrated as the return of China to its “rightful” place at the center of the world. In China’s Revolutions in the Modern World, historian Rebecca E. Karl argues that China’s contemporary emergence is best seen not as a “return,” but rather as the product of revolutionary and counter-revolutionary activity and imaginings. From the Taipings in the mid-nineteenth century through nationalist, anti-imperialist, cultural, and socialist revolutions to today’s capitalist-inflected Communist State, modern China has been made in intellectual dissonance and class struggle, in mass democratic movements and global war, in socialism and anti-socialism, in repression and conflict by multiple generations of Chinese people mobilized to seize history and make the future in their own name. Through China’s successive revolutions, the contours of our contemporary world have taken shape. This brief interpretive history shows how. Continue reading

Mapping Hong Kong-A History Workshop–cfp

[CALL FOR PAPERS]
Mapping Hong Kong—A History Workshop
The University of British Columbia, Vancouver
29–31 May 2020

The UBC Hong Kong Studies Initiative, in partnership with the Hong Kong History Project at the University of Bristol, is pleased to announce a history workshop to be held at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, on May 29–31, 2020.

The theme “Mapping Hong Kong” invites reflections on how Hong Kong’s past could be mapped onto a wide range of historical scales or contexts. Whether it has to do with the lived experiences of particular individuals at certain (critical) moments or the transnational movements of goods, ideas, and people over time and space, a common challenge for historians (of Hong Kong or not) is to place their subject in a proper frame of analysis. But what makes a frame “proper”? And how do we as historians attend to the politics of framing? Continue reading

Gao Chengxian’s Reminiscence of the Manchukuo Arts Exhibitions

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of “Negotiating Colonial Visuality: Gao Chengxian’s Reminiscence of the Manchukuo Arts Exhibitions,” introduced and translated by Yanlong Guo, in our online series. The full essay/translation can be read at the follwing url: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/online-series/yanlong-guo/. Find the opening paragraph below.

Kirk A. Denton, editor

Figure 1. “Portrait of Gao Chengxian,” photograph, photographer and date unknown. Source: Gao Chengxian shuhua ji, n.p.

Commemorating the Manchukuo[1] Emperor Puyi’s 溥儀 (r. 1932-1945) Admonitory Rescript to the People on the Occasion of the Emperor’s Return (回鑾訓民詔書), issued in 1935, the newly established State of Manchuria under Japanese colonial rule launched the First Art Exhibition in Commemoration of [Emperor Kangde’s] Visit to Japan and Announcement of the Rescript (第一回訪日宣詔記念美術展覧会) on May 2, 1937 in its New Capital (新京; current day Changchun).[2] The Manchukuo government organized eight such annual “national exhibitions” (國展) until 1945, when the Japan imperial army was defeated.[3] Each year, a review committee was appointed by a responsible institute to select artworks for the exhibition.[4] Accolades and cash stipends were bestowed on artists whose works were deemed the most excellent. The participating artists consisted of Japanese expatriate artists, such as Shouhou Kusakari 首藤春草 (1907-1994) and Yokoyama Shigeyuki 横山繁行 (1894-1946); prominent Chinese artists, such as Yu Lianke 于蓮客 (1899-1980), Wang Guanglie 王光烈 (1880-1953), and Luo Zhenyu 羅振玉 (1866-1940); and underrecognized Manchuria-born Chinese artists. One of the local and emerging artists was Gao Chengxian 高澄鮮 (1913-1990) (fig. 1), whose art activities during the Manchukuo period are known to us thanks to two interviews of him by Lu Ye 盧燁.[5] One of the interviews, published in 1990 and entitled “My Recollections of Participating in the Illegitimate Manchukuo Exhibitions of Calligraphy and Painting” (我參加偽滿書畫展的回憶), is translated below. [READ MORE]

The Power of Print in Modern China review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Yue Du’s review of The Power of Print in Modern China: Intellectuals and Industrial Publishing from the End of Empire to Maoist State Socialism (Columbia UP, 2019), by Robert Culp. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/yue-du/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk A. Denton, editor

The Power of Print in Modern China:
Intellectuals and Industrial Publishing from the End of Empire to Maoist State Socialism

By Robert Culp


Reviewed by Yue Du
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright January, 2020)


Robert Culp, The Power of Print in Modern China: Intellectuals and Industrial Publishing from the End of Empire to Maoist State Socialism Robert Culp. New York: Columbia University Press, 2019. xviii + 371 pgs. ISBN: 9780231545358.

For Robert Culp, prominent leaders in twentieth-century cultural and political revolutions, such as Hu Shi and Mao Zedong, were not the only major players to implement the cultural transformation of modern China. A group of people Culp calls “petty intellectuals” (小知識分子), who engaged in the production of textbooks, reference books, reprinted classics, and book series at China’s leading commercial publishers, also fundamentally shaped the cultural landscape of China during the late Qing and Republican periods and into the early years of the People’s Republic. Focusing on the Commercial Press (商務印書館), Zhonghua Book Company (中華書局), and other institutions in China’s industrialized publishing sector, The Power of Print in Modern China successfully reconstructs the work lives and cultural activities of editors who were tremendously influential but who have heretofore received inadequate scholarly attention. This reconstruction in turn enables the author to engage with core academic debates on print and media, negotiated power, and modernity in China.

While observing the importance of the introduction of mechanized print technology, Culp distinguishes his work from earlier scholarship (by Christopher Reed and others) by laying out how print industrialism affected the ways in which books were produced and the relationship editors had with their products. To generate a wide range of texts in great numbers and in short periods of time, the most influential publishers in twentieth century China maintained large standing editorial departments, something that made China’s publishing sector globally distinctive. These departments adopted an organizational structure that over time came to resemble the factory assembly line. Staff editors with hybrid classical Chinese and Western educations collaboratively generated new content that they then incorporated into different titles to quickly meet market demand. Culp notes that, on the one hand, this process led to the vast majority of these editors losing control over the dynamics of their labor in this factory-style book production; on the other hand, print industrialism gave these petty intellectuals a direct say in the materials that went into standard products such as textbooks and reference books. Because of these books’ authoritative status, staff editors were able to play a key role in introducing new terms, shaping the modern Chinese lexicon, modeling vernacular writing, and “reorganizing the national heritage” (整理國故). Continue reading

Taiwan studies and forging an identity

Source: Taiwan Today (1/1/2020)
Forging an Identity
BY PAT GAO

A map of Taiwan and the Penghu archipelago printed in the early 18th century by a Dutch publisher (Photo courtesy of National Taiwan Library)

Taiwan is a country of increasing interest for academics from home and abroad.

In September 2018, hundreds of scholars gathered at Taipei City-based Academia Sinica, the country’s foremost research institution, for an event with a decidedly local flavor: the three-day World Congress of Taiwan Studies (WCTS). Among the keynote speakers was Huang Fu-san (黃富三), the founding director of Academia Sinica’s Institute of Taiwan History (ITH). “Having a conference dedicated to Taiwan as its own cross-disciplinary subject is a major achievement,” he said.

Last year’s event was the third edition of the triennial WCTS and the second at Academia Sinica, with the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in the U.K. hosting the other in 2015. Bringing together experts from around the world covering fields spanning anthropology, art, gender studies, history, law, linguistics, literature, political science and sociology, WCTS is testament to the vitality of Taiwan studies. Continue reading

The Myth of Political Brainwashing (4)

In an October 11 (The Myth of Political Brainwashing [1]) reply to my recent piece on the genealogy of “brainwashing,” Professor Magnus Fiskesjö of Cornell takes issue with my critique of the term’s Cold War misappropriation. He asks, in particular, “if you don’t like the term ‘brainwashing,’ then what will you call the violent conversion therapy currently practiced on hundreds of thousands of concentration camp detainees in Xinjiang?”

At several points in his reply, Dr. Fiskesjö seems to imply, inaccurately, that my tracing of the origins of the Chinese term xinao was intended as a commentary on current events—specifically, as some kind of defense of ongoing Chinese state practices in Xinjiang and elsewhere. “I would have thought that it should be impossible,” he writes, “for any scholar … to touch on this topic of brainwashing today without touching on these dramatic current developments.” This leads into a subsequent charge of “intellectual dishonesty.”

In this brief response, I will not dwell on the question whether it is fair to raise such weighty charges over a piece focusing on the origins of a Chinese word, written under space constraints, and beginning with events in Hunan in the 1890s, solely because it does not go on to extensively discuss 21st century events in Xinjiang that many describe by using that word. Continue reading

The Trouble with Taiwan (1)

I am an American anthropologist who is preparing an analysis of a key Taiwan public health system. Totaling almost a decade living and researching here off and on since since the 1980s, I have personally witnessed and thought much about the political processes this book promises to discuss.  Assuming the facts adduced in the review accurately reflect its content, I speculate the volume will become required reading for public officials whose duties encompass managing cross-strait relations. I include in this category persons in Europe and North American and, more particularly, in Taiwan and mainland China.

Jim Martin < jmar3701tin2@gmail.com>

The Trouble with Taiwan

Source: SCMP (10/26/19)
The Trouble with Taiwan – book maps out why the world should care about the self-ruled island
Charting the island’s history, Kerry Brown and Kalley Wu Tzu-hui underscore the global significance of its relationship with China. Makes the case for why the world should pay attention to what happens in Taiwan and to its citizens
By Kit Gillet

The Trouble with Taiwan maps out the island’s history, underscoring the global significance of its relationship with China and making the case for why the world should still care, very much, about what happens next. Photo: Shutterstock

The Trouble with Taiwan maps out the island’s history, underscoring the global significance of its relationship with China and making the case for why the world should still care, very much, about what happens next. Photo: Shutterstock

=========================================
The Trouble with Taiwan: History, the United States and a Rising China
by Kerry Brown and Kalley Wu Tzu-hui

Zed Books

The Trouble with Taiwan is a provocative title for a book, but then a lot about Taiwan is provocative, depending on who you’re talking to.

Tensions between the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of China (as Taiwan is officially called) have not ceased since the Nationalist government of Chiang Kai-shek fled to the island in 1949, after losing the civil war to Mao Zedong’s communist forces. As such, alongside the unresolved conflict between North and South Korea, the stand-off is seen as one of the last vestiges of the cold war.

Now, in an age when China is a global superpower, Taiwan’s position is of particular importance, both symbolically as well as practically. How other nations treat Taiwan and its citizens is directly related to their willing­ness to either alienate or placate China. At the same time, how China deals with Taiwan is seen as the great litmus test for its fitness to remain a global power. So far the jury is out, but, as Kerry Brown and Kalley Wu Tzu-hui write, “the stakes could not be higher”. Continue reading

The Myth of Political Brainwashing (3)

The Ryan Mitchell paper is very nostalgic, very bilateral, and rather ivory tower. Xinao, yes. Heard about it, read about it before. Interesting. But this article sounds like a kind of old-school liberal scholarship that has long existed in the West in the Cold War. And in Hong Kong. Removed from the reality of places where there is no academic freedom. Could he have written this in Taiwan nowadays, without someone telling him how it was under Chiang Kaishek? Scientific doesn’t mean nice and neutral, never did. Science wasn’t something better before the Cold War. Not at all. Remember race. Most science on race. Or Scientific Communism. A somewhat discredited term in Central and Eastern Europe. Some still use it, of course. Nothing wrong with Marx. Something tedious about ivory towers. Re-centering, oh god. In love with his idea of China or the East through the ages. Is he still writing in Hong Kong now? Sorry, I know this is very rambling, not very polite and so on. Has anyone looked when the word brain-washing came up in other languages? In Russian, for example. Did Orwell know it? It’s a classical modern scholarship thing to bring up a word, a term, a phenomenon, to declare it Western, Euro-centric, then de-construct it with non-Western facts. In China it works the other way around, ever since the times of the reformers around Liang Qichao Mitchell mentions, and earlier. Marx was very close to the political reality of his time. He wanted that very much. I suspect Mitchell doesn’t. I understand the impulse. But reality has overtaken Hong Kong, hasn’t it?

Peace,

Martin Winter <dujuan99@gmail.com>

The Political Myth of ‘Brainwashing’ (1)

It’s eerie to have this article, which argues brainwashing is a pointless Cold War term only bounded about for political purposes and with no analytical purchase either on the past or on today, with no reference at all to the recent waves of forced-confession spectacles which are the results of months of “brainwashing” (exchange with another word if you don’t like it), surely the polar opposite of “individuals’ active attempts to re-examine their own ideas,” — whether or not that was an original sense of this word xinao, as the article says it was.

Worse, if you don’t like the term “brainwashing,” then what will you call the violent conversion therapy currently practiced on hundreds of thousands of concentration camp detainees in Xinjiang?

Even if Mitchell is right that “the term is used frequently by ideologues of all stripes to define the opinions of those whom they disagree with as the result of external mind control rather than an independent thought process,” how is it remotely possible to even write on this topic without touching on the massive campaign forcing people at gunpoint, in the Xinjiang camps, to regurgitate CCP dogma and then denounce themselves and deny their identity day out and day in — as copiously documented by numerous witnesses — surely a full-throated contemporary revival of Maoist CCP torture-brainwashing? Continue reading