‘Objects placed in a row’

Source: China Digital Times (6/6/23)
Word(s) of the Week: “Objects Placed in a Row” (物体排成一排, WÙTǏ PÁICHÉNG YĪPÁI)

“Tank Man” stands before a row of four enormous yellow rubber ducks.

The sight of a lone man standing before a row of tanks in Beijing is perhaps the most enduring image to emerge from the Tiananmen Protests of 1989. Photographs taken on June 5 of that year—one day after PLA troops crushed the protests, killing and injuring untold numbers of Chinese citizens—show an unidentified man dressed in a white shirt and black trousers and holding two shopping bags, standing before a line of tanks on Beijing’s Chang’an Avenue. The identity and fate of the individual who has come to be known as “Tank Man” are unconfirmed.

Images of Tank Man are completely censored on the Chinese internet and social media. This heavy-handed censorship has given rise to many variations on a theme, in an effort to evade censorship. Photoshopped permutations of the “objects in a row” theme are manifold: in some, the line of tanks has been replaced by enormous yellow rubber ducks, Lego figures, cartoon characters, or food items such as zongzi (glutinous rice dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves.) In others, “Tank Man” himself has been replaced by a cartoon or video-game character, a Lego man, a “grass-mud horse,” or another animate or inanimate object. Typographic and ideographic tricks also abound: strings of Chinese characters such as 占占人 and 占占占人 have been used to represent a person standing in front of two, three, or more tanks, while the combinations 占占点 and 占点占 resemble a person being crushed by tanks. In June of 2012, a Sohu Weibo user had their account blocked after posting this extraordinary string of characters representing a person being crushed under four tanks: 占占占占人 占占占点 占占点占 占点占占 点占占占 灬占占占占. Continue reading

32 New Takes on Taiwan Cinema review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Ming-Yeh T. Rawnsley’s review of 32 New Takes on Taiwan Cinema, edited by Emilie Yueh-yu Yeh, Darrell William Davis, and Wenchi Lin. The review appears below and at its online home: My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis for overseeing publication of the review.

Kirk Denton, MCLC

32 New Takes on Taiwan Cinema

Edited by Emilie Yueh-yu Yeh, Darrell William Davis, and Wenchi Lin

Reviewed by Ming-Yeh T. Rawnsley 

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright June, 2023)

Emilie Yueh-yu Yeh, Darrell William Davis, and Wenchi Lin, eds. 32 New Takes on Taiwan Cinema Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2022, xii + 563 pp. + 40 illus. ISBN: 978-0-472-07546-1 (cloth) / ISBN: 978-0-472-05546-3 (paper) / ISBN: 978-0-472-22039-7 (e-book)

It has always been a rewarding experience to read works by Emilie Yueh-yu Yeh and Darrell William Davis. In their Taiwan Film Directors: A Treasure Island (2007), Yeh and Davis took an auteur approach and provided readers with a careful study of several Taiwan-based filmmakers, including Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Edward Yang, Ang Lee, and Tsai Ming-liang. That volume explored Taiwan film directors’ particular styles of image composition and editing patterns, as well as how, from a larger perspective, their artistic trajectories and career developments were related to Taiwan’s social, political, and cultural history. One year later in East Asian Screen Industries (2008), Davis and Yeh adopted an industry-focused approach and articulated new benchmarks set by Japanese, South Korean, and the three Chinese-language cinemas—Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the People’s Republic of China. Their examination of structural features and strategies employed by these five film industries between the 1990s and the 2000s illuminated an emerging trend of “increasing decentralisation, deregulation and regional cooperation” (p. 3). This framework has contributed enormously to our understanding of East Asian screen cultures and talents within the global flow of communications.[1]

In their new volume, 32 New Takes on Taiwan Cinema, published in December 2022, Yeh and Davis team up with co-editor Wenchi Lin and take a conventional approach from the discipline of film studies—that is, a meticulous examination of individual films. As the editors state, their aim is to reveal a wide spectrum of Taiwanese cinematic output in addition to updating the existing literature. Their stated criteria of selection include (1) films that represent different historical settings, genres, auteurs, and formats in the post-war era; (2) films that are less studied in the English language literature; (3) prioritizing films produced in the twenty-first century; (4) films that are readily available for viewing with bilingual subtitles and suitable audio-visual quality; and (5) films that the contributors themselves prefer (p. 2). Based on the above considerations, Yeh, Davis, and Lin offer readers thirty-two original interpretations of films released between 1963 and 2017, arranged chronologically, which together demonstrate a fresh and expansive perspective on Taiwan cinema. Continue reading

How a massacre shaped China’s media

Source: China Media Project (6/2/23)
How a Massacre Shaped China’s Media
When it comes to media and information control policies, all Chinese live today with the legacy of the Tiananmen Massacre. We look back on a brief moment before the brutal crackdown when China’s press stood with those clamoring for change.
By David Bandurski

Journalists from the People’s Daily, the flagship newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, march toward Tiananmen Square on May 17, 1989. The banner over their heads reads: “Eliminate Martial Law, Protect the Capital.”

When Xi Jinping addressed Chinese journalists on February 19, 2016, emphasizing loyalty to the Chinese Communist Party as the fundamental condition of their work, he spoke a phrase that has echoed across the now 34 years since the brutal murder of innocent students and citizens by government savagery on June 4, 1989. “Adhering to correct public opinion guidance,” said Xi, “is the heart and soul of propaganda and public opinion work.”

This concept that Xi describes as the “heart and soul” of press and information control in today’s China is about cutting out the real heart and soul of the people — ensuring not that the voices and demands of the population are heard, but that the undeviating voice of the Party dominates the life and politics of the country.

The lead editorial on the front page of the April 26, 1989, edition of the People’s Daily characterizes the peaceful protests in Beijing as destructive “riots” (动乱) that are “an attack on the Chinese Communist Party and the socialism system.”

Underpinning all work to control information and public opinion today, from the latest commentary in a state-run newspaper to every comment on the most popular social media platform, “public opinion guidance” (正确舆论导向) reaffirms and focuses the CCP’s conviction that media control is essential to regime stability.

The concept emerged in the aftermath of the Tiananmen Massacre, as the new leadership under Jiang Zemin (江泽民) — who as Party Secretary of Shanghai had played a central role in the April shutdown of the country’s most liberal newspaper, the World Economic Herald (世界经济导报) — identified the factors leading to the unrest in Beijing and across the country. The leadership’s assessment centered on a meeting that Zhao Ziyang (赵紫阳), the ousted liberal premier, had held with his top propaganda officials on May 6, 1989, ten days after the People’s Daily had published the infamous April 26 commentary (shown above) taking an attitude of zero tolerance and branding the protests as “an attack on the Chinese Communist Party and the socialist system.” Continue reading

Testing China’s shrinking LGBTQ space

Source: NYT (6/3/23)
With Rainbow Flags, 2 Students Test China’s Shrinking L.G.B.T.Q. Space
The students at an elite college in China found themselves on a collision course with the authorities amid a crackdown on gay and transgender expression.
By Nicole Hong and 

Two people sit back to back against a tree, their faces turned away from the camera, holding small rainbow flags close to the ground.

Karolyn Li and Christine Huang in Beijing. The two Tsinghua University students are fighting the education authorities in China over their right to display rainbow flags on campus. Credit…Gilles Sabrié for The New York Times

Karolyn Li still remembers reading the brochure from China’s prestigious Tsinghua University when she was in high school preparing to apply to college. It highlighted a graduate who had co-founded an L.G.B.T.Q. rights group, a suggestion of inclusivity on campus that surprised Ms. Li, who identifies as queer.

Ms. Li ended up enrolling at Tsinghua. Now a 21-year-old junior, Ms. Li sees the brochure as cruelly ironic. She and her friend, Christine Huang, a 23-year-old senior, have spent the past year locked in a losing battle against the university and the country’s education authorities over gay and transgender expression.

When the two women distributed rainbow flags on campus last year, and resisted school administrators who confronted them, the university issued a punishment that would stay on their permanent records. When they tried in March to place flowers outside the dorm of a transgender classmate who died by suicide, they were surrounded by security. When they posed with rainbow flags in a photo in May, a university employee ran over and said they were not allowed to post the images online. Continue reading

New Tiananmen exhibit in NYC

Source: NYT (6/2/23)
Tiananmen Exhibit Is ‘a Symbol of Defiance’
A new display on the 1989 massacre is set to open in Manhattan, two years after a Tiananmen museum closed in Hong Kong.
By Lola Fadulu and Ashley Southall

ImagePhotos of people who were killed during the Tiananmen Square protests. Credit…James Estrin/The New York Times

A new exhibition is set to open in Midtown Manhattan memorializing those killed when Chinese troops opened fire on pro-democracy protesters who had gathered in Tiananmen Square in 1989. The exhibit, which will open this month, comes two years after officials in Hong Kong cracked down on commemorations of the Tiananmen Square protests.

The 2,000-square-foot display includes newspaper clippings, letters written to protesters who were sent to jail, a bloodstained banner and a tent. Organizers said they also have many pictures, audio and video that have yet to be displayed.

“We’re much more than a museum, more than any museum, because this is a symbol of defiance,” said David Yu, the executive director of the group that organized the exhibition.

Many of the items in the exhibition — which were displayed in Washington, D.C., last year — are from friends of Zhou Fengsuo, an exiled former protest organizer whose name and picture are on the Chinese government’s 1989 list of the 21 most-wanted students. Since 1989 he has worked closely with political prisoners. Continue reading

Into the Desert review

Source: World Literature 世界文学 (forthcoming in the bilingual journal World Literature accessible online at
“Journey to Spiritualism in the Novel Into the Desert by Xuemo”
By Dian Li (University of Arizona)

Cover of Into the Desert

Xuemo’s novel Into the Desert begins with this sentence: “Mountains of sand reached into the sky, dropping the sun closer to the grounds than when they’d set out.” Here “they,” as we quickly learn, are a father-daughter pair embarking on a nighttime trip into the desert. As we appreciate the beauty of the desert led on by this sentence, we are also besieged by the ominous feeling of a coming disaster: the reference to a fox (never a lucky animal in Chinese folklore), the howling wind and the bitter cold (often signs of the destructive forces of nature). Two pages later, the daughter, who was just nine years old, was left alone by her father: “She sat down to wait for Papa. Drowsiness slowly descended and enshrouded her like an enormous net.”

The abandonment of a child is a cruelty that no one can bear, worse yet, imagining how this child would have fared by herself in the unforgiving desert disturbs us endlessly, giving us a lingering anticipation that will foreshadow our transition from the Prologue to the main story of the novel, which turns out to be an extensive journey into the same desert, a place of both fear and spirituality.

“Early in the morning, before the sun made an appearance, Ying’er and Lanlan left their village for the salt lakes in the heart of the Gobi.” So begins the long journey into the desert in Chapter 1, which is cast in a detached but suggestive third-person narration rich in verbs but stingy in adjectives. We will find this style to be characteristic of Xuemo, a contemporary Chinese writer who has already enthralled many English readers with several translated works of fiction. Undoubtedly, many more will embrace him with this novel that was masterfully translated by Howard Goldblatt and Sylvia Li-chun Lin. Continue reading

Resilient Cultures PhD positions

Three PhD positions, belonging to the ERC funded project ‘Resilient Cultures – Music, Art, and Cinema in Mainland China and Hong Kong’ (RESCUE), are now online, at the University of Amsterdam, Department of Media Studies and the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA). One is on indie pop in Hong Kong, one on queer cinema in mainland China and Hong Kong, and one on socially engaged art in mainland China and Hong Kong, see here the positions.

Please inform your students!

With kind regards,

Jeroen de Kloet

SWCAS paper prize submissions

Southwest Conference on Asian Studies–Paper Prize Submission Announcement

(Southwest Conference on Asian Studies)
Submission Deadline October 1, 2023

Southwest Conference on Asian Studies, a regional affiliate of the Association for Asian Studies (AAS), will award the annual SWCAS Graduate Paper Prize for outstanding essay by graduate students in November 2023, during its Annual Meeting to be held at University of Houston (November 2-4).

2023 SWCAS Prize for Graduate Student
This prize recognizes extraordinary graduate student scholarship in any area of Asian Studies. It is open to all students pursuing graduate studies in any discipline and in any area of research pertaining to Asian Studies.

Graduate students wishing to apply for the SWCAS Graduate Paper Prize should provide the complete paper by October 1, 2023.  The prize comes with a monetary award.

The winner of the SWCAS Graduate Paper Prize along with runners-up for these awards, will be announced during the Annual Meeting. Continue reading

Mystery of the disappearing van Gogh

Source: NYT (5/29/23)
The Mystery of the Disappearing van Gogh
After a painting by the Dutch artist sold at auction, a movie producer claimed to be the owner. It later vanished from sight, with a trail leading to Caribbean tax havens and a jailed Chinese billionaire.
By Michael ForsytheIsabelle QianMuyi Xiao and Vivian Wang

Two men dressed in black stand with a colorful van Gogh painting, Chinese text written on the wall above them.

Kevin Ching, left, then the head of Sotheby’s in Asia, appeared at a Hong Kong ceremony in 2014 to present the van Gogh painting to Wang Zhongjun, the movie producer who claimed to have bought it. Credit…Johannes Eisele/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The bidding for Lot 17 started at $23 million.

In the packed room at Sotheby’s in Manhattan, the price quickly climbed: $32 million, $42 million, $48 million. Then a new prospective buyer, calling from China, made it a contest between just two people.

On the block that evening in November 2014 were works by Impressionist painters and Modernist sculptors that would make the auction the most successful yet in the firm’s history. But one painting drew particular attention: “Still Life, Vase with Daisies and Poppies,” completed by Vincent van Gogh weeks before his death.

Pushing the price to almost $62 million, the Chinese caller prevailed. His offer was the highest ever for a van Gogh still life at auction.

In the discreet world of high-end art, buyers often remain anonymous. But the winning bidder, a prominent movie producer, would proclaim in interview after interview that he was the painting’s new owner. Continue reading

SEC-AAS 2024–cfp

Dear Colleagues,

I am pleased to announce that the fully in-person 63rd annual meeting of the Southeast Conference of the Association for Asian Studies, “Regional and Global Flows,” will be held on January 26–28, 2024, at Wake Forest University, North Carolina. Our local coordinators are arranging some very exciting events. All conference information will be posted online at as it becomes available.

The program committee welcomes proposals for individual or panel presentations and round tables. Please submit your proposals to the following sites:

We plan to have a “new book roundtable” for authors who have published their new books in 2023. Pease let us know if you are one of them and share your success together! Please submit your proposals no later than October 30, 2023. All proposals will be collectively reviewed by our 2024 program committee. Please direct questions about conference logistics to Professor Yaohua Shi Continue reading

Babel of Chinese SF: A Reading Group

Chinese SF in translation-May Session-“Starship: Library” by Jiang Bo and translated by Xuetitng Ni
Babel of Chinese SF: A Reading Group

We are a monthly online meet-up that reads, shares and discusses Chinese language sci-fi and speculative fiction in translation
Wechat: 科幻巴别塔

Upcoming: May Session

“Starship: Library” / 《宇宙尽头的书店》
by Jiang Bo 江波
Translated by Xueting Christine Ni 倪雪亭
Included in Sinopticon: A Celebration of Chinese Science Fiction
Video call with the author Jiang Bo and the translator Xueting Christine Ni

Beijing Time: 20:00, May 28th, 2023.
British Summer Time: 13:00, May 28th, 2023. Continue reading

Yue Minjun’s paintings censored on Weibo

Source: China Digital Times (5/24/23)
Yue Minjun’s Iconic Paintings of Grinning PLA Soldiers Being Censored on Weibo

If the lesson last week was “Don’t laugh about the PLA,” this week’s message seems to be, “Don’t even crack a smile.”

First, stand-up comedian Li Haoshi (stage name “House”) was accused of defaming the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) because of a joke he made that referenced a PLA slogan and seemed to liken stray dogs to soldiers. House was deplatformed, pressured to apologize, and placed under police investigation, while the Shanghai comedy studio that employs him was fined nearly $2 million dollars and had their performances suspended indefinitely. At least one of House’s online defenders was arrested.

Now it appears that one of China’s most renowned contemporary painters, Beijing-based Yue Minjun (岳敏君), has been targeted by online nationalists who accuse him of “insulting the military” and “defaming revolutionary heroes and martyrs.” Painting in a style has been dubbed “Cynical Realism,” Yue is well known for his colorful, off-kilter, and instantly recognizable paintings of wide-mouthed, toothily grinning or laughing men—all of whom bear a close resemblance to the artist himself. Many of his works are sold at auction, exhibited in museums, or held in private collections. At a 2007 auction at Sotheby’s London, his painting “Execution” sold for £2.9 million pounds ($5.9 million U.S. dollars), “making it the most expensive Chinese contemporary artwork sold on the secondary market at the time.” Continue reading

CCP smear campaign targets the Dalai Lama (2)

I expand this discussion of the Chinese propaganda against the Dalai Lama, and the stunning gullibility of the Western audiences that fell for it, in this new online interview with the new website Global Order, based out of New Delhi–Magnus Fiskesjö <>

Source: Global Order (5/24/23)
How the Chinese Communist Party ran a global propaganda campaign against the Dalai Lama

The Chinese Communist Party is running a global propaganda campaign to destroy the credibility of the Dalai Lama. The most recent example of this, says Magnus Fiskesjö, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Asian Studies at Cornell University, was the crude and brutal ‘suck my tongue’ controversy where an innocuous Tibetan gesture was attacked by trolling mobs, and even celebrities, around the world as sexual exploitation – all led by propaganda teams of the Chinese Communist Party. Fiskesjö talks to Hindol Sengupta about propaganda, cultural differences and misunderstandings and the redemptive power of compassion.”

Wabash College visiting position

Wabash College invites applications for the position of Visiting Instructor of Chinese for the academic year beginning August 1, 2023 and ending May 15, 2024. The visiting instructor teaches one or two Chinese language courses per semester and assists with planning occasional Asian cultural events, depending upon an individual’s qualifications and availability.  Minimum requirements include an advanced degree in Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language, Chinese Language and Literature or a related field, or a certificate from a reputable program, as well as Chinese language teaching experience.

In the midst of a strategic transformation to advance the success of first-generation students, students of color, and students from low-income families, Wabash College is committed to attracting and effectively supporting faculty from all backgrounds, including academically and culturally diverse faculty. More than 25% of our students are federal Pell Grant recipients, one-third of our students are first-generation college students, and about 20% of our students identify as domestic students of color. Wabash has been home to the Malcolm X Institute of Black Studies for more than fifty years, has an Asian studies minor and student groups such as the Asian Culture Club and International Student Association promote diverse activities.  Wabash is a member of the USC Race and Equity Center’s Liberal Arts Colleges Racial Equity Leadership Alliance, is a top-60 Liberal Arts College according to U.S. News, and is a member of Colleges That Change Lives. Continue reading

China ramps up scrutiny of culture

Source: NYT (5/24/23)
As China Ramps Up Scrutiny of Culture, the Show Does Not Go On
Performances across the country were canceled last week after Beijing began investigating a stand-up comedian.
By Vivian Wang, reporting from Beijing

A person walks in front of a building with bright yellow facade and a sign saying “You are part of the show.”

The Beijing venue of the stand-up comedy company Xiaoguo Culture Media Co., which was fined around $2 million after one of its performers was accused of insulting the Chinese military in a joke. Credit…Tingshu Wang/Reuters

The cancellations rippled across the country: A Japanese choral band touring China, stand-up comedy shows in several cities, jazz shows in Beijing. In the span of a few days, the performances were among more than a dozen that were abruptly called off — some just minutes before they were supposed to begin — with virtually no explanation.

Just before the performances were scrapped, the authorities in Beijing had fined a Chinese comedy studio around $2 million, after one of its stand-up performers was accused of insulting the Chinese military in a joke; the police in northern China also detained a woman who had defended the comedian online.

Those penalties, and the sudden spate of cancellations that followed, point to the growing scrutiny of China’s already heavily censored creative landscape. China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, has made arts and culture a central arena for ideological crackdowns, demanding that artists align their creative ambitions with Chinese Communist Party goals and promote a nationalist vision of Chinese identity. Performers must submit scripts or set lists for vetting, and publications are closely monitored.

On Tuesday, Mr. Xi sent a letter to the National Art Museum of China for its 60th anniversary, reminding staff to “adhere to the correct political orientation.” Continue reading