Faces of Tradition

Levi S. Gibbs, ed. 2020. Faces of Tradition in Chinese Performing Arts. Series: Encounters: Explorations in Folklore and Ethnomusicology. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ISBN: 978-0-253-04583-6
Available in Paperback and E-Book

Faces of Tradition in Chinese Performing Arts examines the key role of the individual in the development of traditional Chinese performing arts such as music and dance. These artists and their artistic works—the “faces of tradition”—come to represent and reconfigure broader fields of cultural production in China today. The contributors to this volume explore the ways in which performances and recordings, including singing competitions, textual anthologies, ethnographic videos, and CD albums, serve as discursive spaces where individuals engage with and redefine larger traditions and themselves. By focusing on the performance, scholarship, collection, and teaching of instrumental music, folksong, and classical dance from a variety of disciplines–these case studies highlight the importance of the individual in determining how traditions have been and are represented, maintained, and cultivated. Continue reading

Dionysus on the Other Shore

Fusini, Letizia. Dionysus on the Other Shore: Gao Xingjian’s Theatre of the Tragic. Leiden: Brill, 2020.

In Dionysus on the Other Shore, Letizia Fusini argues that throughout his early exile years (late 1980s-1990s), Gao Xingjian gradually moved away from Absurdist Drama to develop a dramaturgical system with tragic characteristics. Drawing on a range of contemporary theories of tragedy, this book reconfigures some of the key tropes of Gao’s post-1987 theater as varied articulations of the Dionysian sparagmos mechanism. They are the dismemberment of the dramatic self, the usage of constricted spaces, the divisive nature of gender relations, and the agony of verbal language. Through a text-based analysis of seven plays, the author ultimately aims to show that in Gao’s theater, tragedy is an ongoing and mostly subtextual dynamism generated by an interplay of psychic forces concurrently cohesive and divisive. Continue reading

Sensible Politics

William A. Callahan, Sensible Politics: Visualizing International Relations (Oxford University Press, 2020).
Discount code ASFLYQ6: so paperback is $19.57

Book abstract:

Visual images are everywhere in international politics. But how are we to understand them? In Sensible Politics, William A. Callahan uses his expertise in theory and filmmaking to explore not only what visuals mean, but also how visuals can viscerally move and connect us in “affective communities of sense.”

The book’s rich analysis of visual images (photographs, film, art) and visual artifacts (maps, veils, walls, gardens, cyberspace) shows how critical scholarship needs to push beyond issues of identity and security to appreciate the creative politics of social-ordering and world-ordering. Continue reading

Moulding the Socialist Subject

Xiaoning Lu, Moulding the Socialist Subject: Cinema and Chinese Modernity (1949-1966) (Leiden: Brill 2020)
Series: Ideas, History, and Modern China, Volume: 22
Hardback ISBN: 978-90-04-42351-0 Publication Date: 03 Feb 2020
E-Book  ISBN:  978-90-04-42352-7  Publication Date: 30 Jan 2020

What role did cinema play in the Chinese Communist Party’s political project of shaping ideal socialist citizens in the early People’s Republic? In Moulding the Socialist Subject, Xiaoning Lu deploys case studies from popular film genres, movie star culture and rural film exhibition practices to argue that Chinese cinema in 1949–1966, at once an important political instrument, an enjoyable yet instructive form of entertainment, and a specific manifestation of the socialist society of the spectacle, was an everyday site where the moulding of the new socialist person unfolded. While painting a broad picture of Chinese socialist cinema, Lu credits the human agency of film professionals, whose self-reflexivity and individual adaptability played an intrinsic role in the Party’s political project. Continue reading

Drawing from Life

Drawing from Life: Sketching and Socialist Realism in the People’s Republic of China
By Christine I. Ho
University of California Press, 2020.

Drawing from Life explores revolutionary drawing and sketching in the early People’s Republic of China (1949–1965) in order to discover how artists created a national form of socialist realism. Tracing the development of seminal works by the major painters Xu Beihong, Wang Shikuo, Li Keran, Li Xiongcai, Dong Xiwen, and Fu Baoshi, author Christine I. Ho reconstructs how artists grappled with the representational politics of a nascent socialist art. The divergent approaches, styles, and genres presented in this study reveal an art world that is both heterogeneous and cosmopolitan. Through a history of artistic practices in pursuit of Maoist cultural ambitions—to forge new registers of experience, new structures of feeling, and new aesthetic communities—this original book argues that socialist Chinese art presents a critical, alternative vision for global modernism.

Christine I. Ho is Assistant Professor of East Asian Art at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Continue reading

Urban Horror

Urban Horror Urban Horror: Neoliberal Post-Socialism and the Limits of Visibility
By Erin Huang
Duke University Press, 2020

In Urban Horror, Erin Y. Huang theorizes the economic, cultural, and political conditions of neoliberal post-socialist China. Drawing on Marxist phenomenology, geography, and aesthetics from Engels and Merleau-Ponty to Lefebvre and Rancière, Huang traces the emergence and mediation of what she calls urban horror—a sociopolitical public affect that exceeds comprehension and provides the grounds for possible future revolutionary dissent. She shows how documentaries, blockbuster feature films, and video art from China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan made between the 1990s and the present rehearse and communicate urban horror. In these films urban horror circulates through myriad urban spaces characterized by the creation of speculative crises, shifting temporalities, and dystopic environments inhospitable to the human body. The cinematic image and the aesthetics of urban horror in neoliberal post-socialist China lay the groundwork for the future to such an extent, Huang contends, that the seeds of dissent at the heart of urban horror make it possible to imagine new forms of resistance. Continue reading

Ming Qing Studies 2019

Ming Qing Studies 2019
edited by Paolo Santangelo
Sapienza University of Rome

We are glad to inform you that Ming Qing Studies 2019 was issued in November 2019 by WriteUp Site (https://sites.google.com/site/mqsweb/home/ming-qing-studies-2019 and http://www.writeupsite.com/ming-qing-studies-2019.html).

MING QING STUDIES is an annual publication focused on late imperial China and the broader geo-cultural area of East Asia during the premodern and modern period. Its scope is to provide a forum for scholars from a variety of fields seeking to bridge the gap between ‘oriental’ and western knowledge. Articles may concern any discipline, including sociology, literature, psychology, anthropology, history, geography, linguistics, semiotics, political science, and philosophy. Contributions by young and post-graduated scholars are particularly welcome. Continue reading

Folk Literati

Folk Literati, Contested Tradition, and Heritage in Contemporary China: Incense Is Kept Burning
By Ziying You
Indiana University Press, 2020
ISBN: 978-0-253-04639-0

In this important ethnography Ziying You explores the role of the “folk literati” in negotiating, defining, and maintaining local cultural heritage. Expanding on the idea of the elite literati—a widely studied pre-modern Chinese social group, influential in cultural production—the folk literati are defined as those who are skilled in classical Chinese, knowledgeable about local traditions, and capable of representing them in writing. The folk literati work to maintain cultural continuity, a concept that is expressed locally through the vernacular phrase: “incense is kept burning.” 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

Chinese Literature Today 8.2

I’m pleased to announce that Chinese Literature Today vol. 8, no. 2 (2019) is now available online (https://www.tandfonline.com/toc/uclt20/8/2?nav=tocList) and can be accessed for free through the end of March. Below is the table of contents of this new issue:

SPECIAL FEATURE: Twenty-First-Century Chinese Theater

“Avant-Gardism and Experiments of Twenty-First-Century Chinese Theater,” by Liu Hongtao

“Rape,” by Zhang Xian, translated by Li Guo

“Lu Xun, Excerpts from an Unstaged Ahistorical Play,” by Li Jing, translated by David N. C. Hull

“Lu Xun as the Great Master: An Interview with Li Jing,” by Liu Hongtao, translated by David N. C. Hull

“Boundary-Crossing Experiments: Ecology of the Shanghai Avant-Garde Theater in the New Century,” by Zhai Yueqin, translated by Josh Stenberg

“Examining Experimental Theater in Contemporary China,” by Ding Luonan, translated by Nienyuan Cheng

“Subaltern Writing in Twenty-First-Century Chinese Avant-Garde Theater,” by Chen Jide, translated by Nienyuan Cheng

“‘Little Theater’ in Twenty-First-Century China,” by Song Baozhen, translated by Josh Stenberg 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)

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

China’s Revolutions in the Modern World

9781788735599China’s Revolutions in the Modern World: A Brief Interpretive History
by Rebecca E. Karl
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

Manchukuo Perspectives

Manchukuo Perspectives: Transnational Approaches to Literary Production
Edited by Annika A. Culver and Norman Smith
Hong Kong University Press, December 2019
328 pp., 6″ x 9″, 17 illustrations HB ISBN 978-988-8528-13-4 Price: HK$520 / US$70

“This first-rate collection offers the most comprehensive overview of Manchukuo literature in any language. Containing an abundance of very original research and analysis, with relevant references to diverse sources in Chinese, English, Japanese, Korean, and Russian, the essays will be welcomed by scholars dealing with literary, historical, political, and colonization issues in Manchukuo and its neighbors.”—Ronald Suleski, Suffolk University, Boston

“Manchukuo Perspectives is an excellent contribution to the field. Manchukuo was a fascinating and fraught experiment. Colonialism, imperialism, modernism, and nationalism were just some of the many different forces at play there. With an impressive set of contributors bringing both breadth and depth to the study of these issues, this collection fills a void in our understanding of the cultural and literary production of Manchukuo wonderfully.”—James Carter, Saint Joseph’s University Continue reading

The Culture of Love in China and Europe

The Culture of Love in China and Europe, by Paolo Santangelo and Gábor Boros (Brill 2019)

In The Culture of Love in China and Europe Paolo Santangelo and Gábor Boros offer a survey of the cults of love developed in the history of ideas and literary production in China and Europe between the 12th and early 19th century. They describe parallel evolutions within the two cultures, and how innovatively these independent civilisations developed their own categories and myths to explain, exalt but also control the emotions of love and their behavioural expressions. The analyses contain rich materials for comparison, point out the universal and specific elements in each culture, and hint at differences and resemblances, without ignoring the peculiar beauty and attractive force of the texts cultivating love.

Concerning China, a short survey of theoretical elaborations will cover the millennium from the Song dynasty (960–1279) to the beginning of the 19th century: this period starts from a new phase in Chinese history – according to some historians from the beginning of modern society – and includes early contacts with the west and the first phase of globalisation, before the Opium Wars. The reflection on the literary production will focus on the period of the last two dynasties, Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911), until the beginning of the 19th century. After dealing with the evolution of Neo-Confucian thought on love and emotions, the first question concerns the so-called “cult of qing”, its scope and consistency, and the main themes proposed by its supporters. Secondary questions concern the meaning of “genuine” love and emotions, and the construction of a rhetoric of love, its symbolism and mythology. Examining the rich and varied range of differing attitudes, concepts and approaches and different cases through the creation of fantasy, we see various perceptions. One of the key questions concerns the difference between love and lust, and the role of desires. Some paragraphs are dedicated to the language of seduction and the conditions of deregulation of love rules that help to understand some theories on the process of transmission of emotional codes and falling in love. Two other interesting topics concern the virtuous characters of the correct sexual union (legitimate conjugal love) and the role of the elaboration of the art of the bedchamber and all skills of erotic positions. Gender roles in love is evident in narrative and is reflected in the new male hero, in the active heroines, both shrews or benevolent lovers, fox spirits and femme fatale. We can finally tell of a love-death dyad in Chinese culture and some dark and polluting aspects perceived in love, as well as the dialectical transitions between dream and reality. Continue reading

2019 Publications in Chinese

Source: Paper Republic (12/21/19)
2019 Publications in Chinese
By David Haysom

cover image

As the year comes to a close, we’ve asked authors, translators, editors, and other friends of Paper Republic to recommend notable books published in Chinese in 2019 – translations into Chinese as well as original works. The resultant lists gives an insight into the titles that have made an impression this year – and perhaps offers a preview of some of the books we can hope to see available in English soon!


阿乙 A Yi

ge feilin peiqing zhou yunpeng



I would like to recommend Moon Over the Abandoned Temple, the new novel by Ge Fei, professor at Tsinghua University, and the short story collection The Prodigy and the Tape Deck, by his acolyte Lin Peiyuan. In the past I have read many international works of fiction by the intelligentsia, and now the work coming out of academia in China is growing in force, as well as influence. The strength of academic authors lies in the quantity of literature to which they are exposed, in their constant introspection, and in active experimentation. This has been particularly evident in Ge Fei’s two most recent novels, Invisibility Cloak and Moon Over the Abandoned Temple. Continue reading