Untamed Shrews

I’m pleased to announce the publication of my new book Untamed Shrews: Negotiating New Womanhood in Modern China (Cornell University Press, Cornell East Asia Series, 2023).


Untamed Shrews traces the evolution of unruly women in Chinese literature, from the reviled “shrew” to the celebrated “new woman.” Notorious for her violence, jealousy, and promiscuity, the character of the shrew personified the threat of unruly femininity to the Confucian social order and served as a justification for punishing any woman exhibiting these qualities. In this book, Shu Yang connects these shrewish qualities to symbols of female empowerment in modern China. Rather than meeting her demise, the shrew persisted, and her negative qualities became the basis for many forms of the new woman, ranging from the early Republican suffragettes and Chinese Noras, to the Communist and socialist radicals. Criticism of the shrew endured, but her vicious, sexualized, and transgressive nature became a source of pride, placing her among the ranks of liberated female models. Untamed Shrews shows that whether male writers and the state hate, fear, or love them, there will always be a place for the vitality of unruly women. Unlike in imperial times, the shrew in modern China stayed untamed as an inspiration for the new woman. Continue reading

Edinburgh lectureship

University of Edinburgh Lectureship in Chinese Studies

The Department of Asian Studies in the University of Edinburgh is looking for a lecturer in Chinese studies. We invite applications from scholars with research expertise and teaching experience in any discipline who focus on pre-modern China and/or the Sinophone world, preferably with a focus on mid to late imperial China.

Application deadline: 18 August 2023

Full details here: https://elxw.fa.em3.oraclecloud.com/hcmUI/CandidateExperience/en/sites/CX_1001/job/8069

The University of Edinburgh is a charitable body, registered in Scotland, with registration number SC005336. Is e buidheann carthannais a th’ ann an Oilthigh Dhùn Èideann, clàraichte an Alba, àireamh clàraidh SC005336.

Posted by: Christopher Rosenmeier <christopher.rosenmeier@ed.ac.uk>

Writing Manchuria

Writing Manchuria: The Lives and Literature of Zhu Ti and Li Zhengzhong (Routledge, 2023)
By Norman Smith


Writing Manchuria details the lives and translates a selection of fiction from one of the mid-twentieth century’s “four famous husband-wife writers” of China’s Northeast, who lived in the Japanese puppet state of Manchukuo: Li Zhengzhong (1921–2020) and Zhu Ti (1923–2012).

The writings herein were published from the late 1930s to the mid-1940s, in Manchukuo, north China, and Japan; their writings appeared in the most prominent Japanese-owned, Chinese-language journals and newspapers. This volume includes materials that were censored or banned by the Manchukuo authorities: Li Zhengzhong’s “Temptation” and “Frost Flowers,” and Zhu Ti’s “Cross the Bo Sea” and “Little Linzi and her Family.” Li Zhengzhong has been characterized as “an angry youth” while Zhu Ti’s work questioned contemporary gender ideals and the subjugation of women. Their writings – those that were censored or banned and those published – shed important light on Japanese imperialism and the Chinese literature that was produced in different regions, reflecting both official support and suppression.

Writing Manchuria is the first English-language translation of their writings, and it will appeal to those interested in Chinese wartime literature, as well as contribute to understandings of imperialism and the varied forms it took across Japan’s vast war-time empire.

A New Era for China’s Readers

Source: China Media Project (4/25/23)
A New Era for China’s Readers
Xi Jinping has been lauded in the official press as a deep reader who wants to create an atmosphere of love for books in China. But the latest numbers from the country’s publishing industry suggest a climate of political hypersensitivity is killing book titles before they ever reach the shelves.
By CMP Staff

Screenshot of a propaganda video by Xinhua linking lauding Xi for his love of reading and promotion of reading across the country.

As China celebrated World Book Day one year ago, Xi Jinping expressed the hope that “our whole society can take part in reading, creating an atmosphere of love for reading.” As the day rolled around again on Sunday, state media were inundated with visions of Xi as a great lover of literature, who as a sent-down youth at the age of 15 is said to have plodded down a long country road just to borrow a copy of Goethe’s Faust — which he then read assiduously by lamplight.

The April 24 edition of the CCP’s People’s Daily.

In yesterday’s official People’s Daily, Xi the Great Reader was once again front-page news. An article just below the paper’s masthead declared that “General Secretary Xi Jinping leads the way in promoting reading for all.”

But for China’s avid readers, the prospect of finding fresh and insightful books has grown as dim over the past few years as a cave home in Liangjiahe, the village where the young Xi of legend is said to have studied his Goethe.

Book publishers in China, including the private publishers once seen as an important channel of growth in the industry, have suffered under a thick atmosphere of political wariness as ideological controls have intensified.

The results can now be seen in the numbers. According to a report on the retail book market released in March, there were 25,000 fewer book titles released in China in 2022 than in 2021. This included a drop of 5,000 in the number of new original Chinese titles, and a drop of 20,000 in the number of imported titles in translation.

New titles have dropped substantially as a proportion of China’s book publishing industry during Xi’s decade in power, from more than 20 percent of the total in 2014 to just 13.63 percent in 2022. In 2020, the retail market for books shrank for the first time in decades, and in 2022 contracted even further. Continue reading

Whitewashing China’s record on Covid

Source: China Media Project (1/9/23)
Whitewashing China’s Record on Covid
An official commentary published yesterday in the CCP’s official People’s Daily newspaper is one of the more egregious efforts to date to present China’s handling of the pandemic over the past three years as evidence of strong global leadership.
By David Bandurski

Images by Gauthier Delacroix available at Flickr.com under CC license.

China’s leaders have been at pains in recent days to defend their handling of Covid-19 in the face of tough criticism both at home and abroad, with cases soaring and concerns rising among international experts and foreign governments that China is under-reporting cases and fiddling with the facts — the type of obfuscation, it could be said, that got the world into this mess in the first place.

Published yesterday in the Chinese Communist Party’s official People’s Daily newspaper, the latest official commentary from “Zhong Sheng” (钟声), an official pen name used routinely for important pieces on international affairs on which the leadership wishes to register its view, is one of the more egregious examples of how determined CCP leaders are to present their handling of the pandemic over three years as evidence of strong global leadership. Continue reading

MCLC 34.2

We are pleased to announce publication of Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, vol. 34, no. 2 (2022), a special issue on “Taiwan and Hong Kong’s Global Connections.” Find the table of contents below, with links to abstracts. See here for information on how to subscribe.

Natascha Gentz and Christopher Rosenmeier, Editors

Table of Contents
Volume 34, Issue 2, December, 2022

Note from the Editors, by Natascha Gentz and Christopher Rosenmeier
34(2), pp. v–vii
Full Text | PDF/EPUB

Beyond Party Politics? Visitors and Meaning-Making in the National Museum of Taiwan Literature, by Emily GRAF
34(2), pp. 241–290

The Making of Small Literature as World Literature: Taiwanese Writer Wu Ming-Yi, by Kuei-fen CHIU
34(2), pp. 291–312

“World Literature” between Transcultural Poetics and Colonial Politics: Yang Chichang, Le Moulin, and Surrealism in Taiwan, by Fangdai CHEN
34(2), pp. 313–344
Abstract Continue reading

Peng Ming-min dies at 98

Source: NYT (4/16/22)
Peng Ming-min, Fighter for Democracy in Taiwan, Dies at 98
He endured Japanese imperial rule, a lost limb in World War II, Chinese martial law and decades in exile to become a leading force for Taiwanese self-determination.
By Chris Horton

Peng Ming-min delivering a speech in 1995, when he was running for president of Taiwan. He did not win, but his candidacy was a turning point in Taiwan’s democratic journey.

Peng Ming-min delivering a speech in 1995, when he was running for president of Taiwan. He did not win, but his candidacy was a turning point in Taiwan’s democratic journey. Credit…Andrew Wong/Reuters

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Peng Ming-min, a victim of World War II who endured Japanese imperial rule, brutal Chinese martial law and decades of exile to become a leading fighter for democracy and self-determination for his native Taiwan, died here, the nation’s capital, on April 8. He was 98.

His death, at the Koo Foundation Sun Yat-Sen Cancer Center, was confirmed by Lee Chun-ta, director of the Peng Ming-min Foundation.

Mr. Peng pressed his case for a democratic Taiwan over the years as a lobbyist, author and academic, both in Taiwan and in exile in the United States.

As a young Japanese subject in 1945, near the end of the war, he lost his left arm during an American bombing raid on Japan. Days later, while convalescing at his brother’s home near Nagasaki, he witnessed the atomic bombing of that city by the United States.

Mr. Peng returned to Taiwan after Tokyo’s surrender ended its 50-year colonial rule of the island, with the Republic of China under Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek taking control. In 1947, he lived through what came to be known as the 228 Massacre, in which Chiang’s government executed as many as 28,000 members of the Taiwanese elite, effectively killing off a generation of leaders. Mr. Peng’s father narrowly escaped the government roundups in the southern port city of Kaohsiung. Continue reading

Chen Qiufan on how sci-fi imagines the future

Chen Qiufan | 2041: How Chinese Science Fiction Imagines Our Future

We invite you to join us at an online seminar titled “2041: How Chinese Science Fiction Imagines Our Future,” featuring sci-fi author Chen Qiufan and Cornell professors Andrea Bachner and Anindita Banerjee.

Time: Thursday, April 28 at 7:30pm (EST) | Friday, April 29 at 7:30am (China Time)
Speaker:Chen Qiufan (Sci-fi writer, translator, and curator; Author of Waste Tide and AI 2041)
Discussants: Andrea Bachner (Cornell University) and Anindita Banerjee (Cornell University)
Moderator: Song Han (Cornell University)

The greatest value of science fiction is not providing answers, but rather raising questions.

Can AI help humans prevent the next global pandemic by eliminating it at the very root? How can we deal with future job challenges? How can we maintain cultural diversity in a world dominated by machines? How can we teach our children to live in a society where humans and machines coexist? Continue reading

African writing in Chinese translation

Source: Bruce-Humes.com (12/30/21)
African Writing in Chinese Translation: 2021 Round-up + A Peek at 2022
By Bruce Humes

“This has been a great year for African writing,” said South Africa’s Damon Galgut upon receiving the 2021 Booker Prize for his novel, The Promise.

As reported in From the Booker to the Nobel, several other African authors also snagged prestigious European literary prizes during 2021. They include Abdulrazak Gurnah (Nobel), David Diop (International Booker), Mohamed Mbougar Sarr (Prix Goncourt), and Karen Jennings and Nadifa Mohamed, longlisted and shortlisted, respectively, for the Booker.

But how keen are Chinese publishers on Africa, arguably an “emerging” supply market for the Middle Kingdom?

One way to gauge interest is to check out AfroLit4China, a bilingual (Chinese and English) database listing African writing (mainly book-length fiction) published in the Sinophone world since the 80s. Literary factoids listed below are based on AfroLit4China.

A few numbers first:

269:  African works published in Chinese
106:   African authors now available in Chinese
40:   People’s Literature Publishing House’s African titles
16:  African works newly published in China during 2020-21 Continue reading

The Battle of Images: The Sino-Hollywood Negotiation lecture

Oxford Seminar on Visual Culture in Modern and Contemporary China
The Battle of Images: The Sino-Hollywood Negotiation
Ying ZHU, City University of New York and Hong Kong Baptist University
Tuesday 23 November 2021, 5pm

HYBRID EVENT: In-person venue: University of Oxford China Centre, Kin-ku Cheng Lecture Theatre; or to attend online (via Zoom), please register here

All welcome

Hollywood dominated the Chinese film market during China’s Republic era, triggering a mixture of fascination and resistance. The Communist victory in 1949 and the outbreakof the Korean War in 1950 led to an official ban on Hollywood imports by the PRC government in 1950.China’sfilm market reopened to Hollywoodin 1994 amidst China’s declining domestic output and theatre attendance. Hollywood has since becomea regular fixturein China, spurringsimultaneously rejection, admiration, emulation, competition and coercion. Rejection and repulsionfor Hollywood’s historical injustice to the China image; admiration and emulation for thesheer allure and market prowess of Hollywood pictures; competition and coercion for Hollywood’s global dominance and a new determination to draft Hollywoodinto serving China’sglobalimage campaign. This talk comparesthe context and terms of Hollywood’s Republic era China triumphto those of its repeated performance in the post-1994 era, and the subsequent expansionof a powerful Chinese film marketto suggest historical contingencies, continuities andchanges in an ongoing Sino-Hollywood dynamic with competing political, cultural and economic interest on and off screen. Continue reading

HKBU PhD fellowships

2022/23 Hong Kong PhD Fellowship Scheme
Department of Chinese Language and Literature

The Department of Chinese Language and Literature at Hong Kong Baptist University is a great place to pursue PhD studies for various reasons.

Our staff have received their qualifications and previously worked in various prestigious academic institutions in Hong Kong. Mainland China, Taiwan, Singapore, USA, UK, Germany and others.

Their research expertise covers areas as diverse as poetics and literary theory, canonical studies and commentaries, Sino-Korean cross-cultural studies, pre-classical inscriptions, paleography, excavated  manuscripts, as well as modern and contemporary Chinese literature and culture.

The department is associated with a number of noted institutions such as the Jao Tsung-I Academy of Sinology (JAS), the Sino- Humanitas Institute (SHI), and the Centre for Chinese Cultural Heritage (CCH). Among the most recent academic exchange partners of our department are Waseda University, National University of Singapore, Yonsei University, Heidelberg University and others. Continue reading

Is Taiwan next

Source: NYT (8/4/21)
Is Taiwan Next?
阅读简体中文版 | 閱讀繁體中文版
In Taipei, young people like Nancy Tao Chen Ying watched as the Hong Kong protests were brutally extinguished. Now they wonder what’s in their future.
By Sarah A. Topol

Nancy Tao Chen Ying outside Taipei.Credit…An Rong Xu for The New York Times

Under the sharp light of Taiwan’s Taoyuan International Airport, the 19-year-old was easy to find. He stood alone where Nancy Tao Chen Ying had instructed.

Nancy was at her office when she received the message. It was a hot and humid Friday afternoon in July 2019, and a friend in Hong Kong asked if she could get to the airport: A young anti-government protester was fleeing the semiautonomous Chinese territory; could she pick him up once he landed? Nancy had never done this before, but when she agreed, the protester sent her an encrypted message with his flight details, and she left work to meet him.

Slightly less than five feet tall and 26 years old, Nancy wore her long dark hair side swept, the layers framing her face. She dressed well, often in pastels, changing styles like moods. As Nancy approached him, the boy seemed unsettled. Tall and slim, he loomed over her, clutching a small backpack. He told her that while he had brought some clothes, he had little money. “It’s OK,” Nancy told him, leading him to the metro. “Let’s just go to Taipei first.” Continue reading

Utopian Ruins review

MCLC Resource Center has published my review of Utopian Ruins: A Memorial Museum of the Mao Era, by Jie Li. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/kdenton3/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton

Utopian Ruins:
A Memorial Museum of the Mao Era

By Jie Li

Reviewed by Kirk A. Denton

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright July, 2021)

Jie Li. Utopian Ruins: A Memorial Museum of the Mao Era Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2020. 384pp. ISBN: 978-1-4780-1123-1 (paper); ISBN: 978-1-4780-1018-0 (cloth)

The past few years have seen a bonanza of excellent books dealing with memory of the Maoist past—Lingchei Letty Chen’s The Great Leap Backward: Forgetting and Representing the Mao Years, Margaret Hillenbrand’s Negative Exposures: Knowing What Not to Know in Contemporary Chinaboth of which I reviewed for MCLC, Sebastian Veg’s edited collection Popular Memories of the Mao Era, and the book under review here, Jie Li’s Utopian Ruins.

Utopian Ruins is framed as “a memorial museum of the Mao era,” with each chapter centered on different sorts of “artifacts”—prison texts “written in blood,” personal dossiers (檔案), photographs, films, and museums/memorials. Li sees herself as a curator—an overused word these days but one that is certainly apt in this case—who sifts through artifacts, choosing them judiciously for what they can tell us about the multivalenced nature of the Maoist past, and then glossing them with nuanced analyses and contextualizations. It goes almost without saying that her “museum” is self-consciously different from PRC state museums, such as the National Museum of China, which whitewash the Maoist past and make what is left serve political narratives of China’s “rejuvenation.” Although Utopian Ruins was conceived in part as a response to Ba Jin’s appeal for the creation of a Cultural Revolution museum, the kind of museum Li has in mind is a far cry from his “official” museum, which, if it were ever to materialize, would be shaped and distorted by state interests and would elide the trauma of the Maoist past. Continue reading

Critical China Scholars statement on the “lab-leak” investigation (2)

It is mystifying to me how otherwise really intelligent people willfully misread the recent CCS Statement on the ‘lab-leak hypothesis.’

The statement says clearly: we call for a multilateral inquiry into the origins of COVID-19 for the purposes of global health and international scientific cooperation; we are skeptical of any US-led inquiry because the inflamed politics of the bilateral relationship politicizes any such inquiry and renders it suspect from the onset; and we are clear that the PRC government would not cooperate with any US-led inquiry.  We are not unaware of the strong likelihood that both the Chinese and the US governments have been lying about many things concerning the virus, and we continue to be clear that the antagonisms of state politics will not resolve the questions, but rather will further inflame them. We link the COVID-19 origins stories and the further inflaming of bilateral antagonisms to anti-Asian racisms in the United States and elsewhere in the West, because we are not representing China or the Chinese, we are critical China scholars who reside outside of China. Our organization has issued clear condemnations of the Chinese state for the systemic racist violence they are perpetrating in Xinjiang, and anyone who is interested can certainly look on our website (criticalchinascholars.org) to find our positions on that and many other things.

In conclusion, I’d ask that those who might wish to disagree with us do so on the basis of what we’ve actually said.

Rebecca Karl (as an individual)