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ASIAN STUDIES CONFERENCE JAPAN

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Contact the organizers: Asian Studies Conference (ASCJ) c/o Institute of Asian Cultural Studies, International Christian University 3-10-2 Osawa, Mitaka-shi, Tokyo 181





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Summer 2000 ASCJ Conference Details

14.  Individual Paper Session:  Representation and Politics in Modern China

Chair: James Farrer, Sophia University

 1)      Kan Liang, Seattle University. "War, Resistance, and Popularization of Literature in China, 1937-1945"

    Since the May Fourth movement, Chinese intellectuals had spent a long time debating how to make literature accessible to ordinary people. The pre-war discussion was limited within a small group of intellectuals, the necessity of wartime propaganda brought writers into a more serious focus on literary popularization. "Down to the Countryside, Into the Army" was the slogan raised by the Wenxie, the Chinese Writers Association, and experimented with by writers during the war.

   This paper explores what exactly this slogan meant to writers. "Front-line-ism" is examined as representing the early understanding of the slogan, which brought many writers into the battlefields and countryside. A more important development, however, was the writersf rethinking of New Literature since the May Fourth era and their attempts at literary popularization. This was one of the most important intellectual movements in twentieth century China, for it challenged some of the received wisdom of May Fourth on the role and function of literature.

   Novelist Lao She was the leader of this movement. His apolitical status in the prewar literary partisan conflicts won him the leadership for the Writers Association and enabled him stay the position in the entire war period. As a vernacular writer, Lao She firmly believed the importance of popularization of literature. In order to mobilize the masses to support the resistance of the enemy, he argues, the writers should write more works that will be understood, accepted and enjoyed by the ordinary people. Instead of novel, which vast non-educated Chinese could not read, Lao She started to learn to write drum singing, three-word-classics, and other popular reading materials.

   More importantly, Lao She and his friends started to rethink the value of the literature since the May Fourth. They believed the so-called New Literature of the May Fourth did not really reach the masses because the literary forms were not accepted by the ordinary people. The answer, for them, was to "pouring new wine into old bottles."

   Their challenge on the New Literature was strongly responded by the Leftist Writers. Thus a keen debate on "New Wine in Old Bottles" began. The main conflict between the Leftist writers and other writers lay in their different views on the "old forms" of literature and art. Many writers, like Lao She, believed those old forms were a part of Chinese traditional culture, and as such were treasured and loved by ordinary people. Thus writers should take advantage of this format to write more new works. Leftists, while admitting that old forms were much more acceptable for ordinary people, nevertheless were reluctant to favor these forms. As revolutionaries and successors of May Fourth, Leftists felt that they should protect the fruit of the movement by keeping a negative attitude towards the traditional literary forms.

   Most scholars agree that the Popularization of Literature did not succeed because it lacked support from the GMD government. Yet that was only one side of the coin. In the indifference, uncooperativeness, and opposing attitudes of the Leftist writers, who were a strong force in wartime Chongqing, we can see a second hand that helped to strangle the efforts to deepen and enhance the relationship between intellectuals and Chinese peasantry during the war.

 2)      Zhiwei Xiao, California State University, San Marcos.  "How to Appreciate a Film:  Instructional Writings on the Movies in 20th Century China"

    Today, we take for granted a wide range of cinematic techniques (close-ups, camera movements, lighting, etc.). We also follow certain theater etiquette peculiar to the movie houses when visiting a movie theater. It is often forgotten that those movie conventions – whether in the forms of cinematic manipulations of the technical possibilities, or customary social behavior (eating popcorns, assigning seats and etc.), are the result of social construction. When film was first introduced into China, the Chinese had a very different understanding about the purpose, meaning and social function of the movies from what is taken as "consensus" today. The movie houses in the early days also operated in hardly distinguishable manner from the traditional theaters, teahouses, and other entertainment places. Hence, there began a "disciplining" process in which cultural and political forces of diverse persuasions contested to guide the audience toward the "correct" understanding of the movies and movie going practice. A large number of books and articles were written for the purpose of channeling audience to conform to particular cinematic aesthetics and social norms pertaining to movies. Those writings, mostly published in movie magazines, general periodicals and newspapers, reveal a complex process of resistance, accommodations, and the ascendance of hegemonic discourse. This paper is a historical survey of those instructional writings. The objective is to demonstrate how a certain cinematic aesthetics and social practices related to movie going were formulated, propagated and eventually accepted as convention and heritage uniquely Chinese. 

 3)      Robert Culp, Bard College.  "China--The Land and its People:  Fashioning Identity in Chinese Secondary School History Textbooks, 1911-1937"

Between 1911 and 1937, Chinese history pedagogy drew on the themes of China's emerging modern historiography and introduced new generations of secondary students to the competing visions of the Chinese nation formulated by professional historians and other leading intellectuals. Chinese history textbooks of this period were dominated by narratives of the progressive development of a cohesive Chinese national subject. The common formulation of China as a continuously expanding territorial whole -- a national "geo-body" -- in nearly all Republican period history textbooks reveals this stress on national unity and continuity.

   However, textbooks published before and after the founding of the Nationalist state in 1927 differed over whether they described racial or cultural assimilation as the dominant process that had generated a cohesive Chinese nation. By portraying assimilation as a process of interracial miscegenation, Gu Jiegang and Wang Zhongqi's influential textbook, first published in 1923-24, made imaginable a hybrid "Chinese ethnicity" (huazu) which intermixed both Han and non-Han elements. By contrast, Nationalist government-sponsored textbooks of the 1930s described a historical process of cultural assimilation whereby non-Han communities had been encompassed within a continuous and dominant Han culture without significantly changing that culture.

   At stake in these competing histories was whether Chinese students would take as natural and desirable the hegemony of the Han ethnicity within an increasingly homogenous national community or whether they would embrace a pluralistic vision of nation which could include and intermingle distinct ethnic groups.

 4)      Lin Pei-Yin, University of London.  "In Pursuit of Aesthetic Autonomy and Cultural/Political Identity:  Lu Heruo's Works and Life"

    Following the nativisation movement in the period 1977-78 which  advocated Taiwanese cultural nationalism, many literary works written under Japanese rule have been re-evaluated.  An important author of this period was Lu Heruo.  With the recent discovery of his diary and the re-compilation and translation of his works, Lu provides one of the best Taiwanese writers from the Japan-run era to study.  This paper will examine the ways in which Lu's works negotiate the politics of Japanese colonialism and the construction of selfhood. 

   Both sociological and aesthetic approaches will be applied.  It will consist of four parts.  The first part will introduce Lu's literary notions and socialist inclinations, analysing how his writing was influenced by his aesthetic beliefs.  The second part will investigate the interrelationship between Lu's writing and the Japanese assimilation policy, examining how Lu re-deployed the discursive Japanese hegemony in order to maintain a cultural/national identity.  Lu's inner conflict, which made him oscillate between the two poles - embracing modernism (as often represented by Japanese culture) and sticking with the concept of a national identity, will be discussed.  The third part will examine the impact of Japanese colonisation on the change of style and themes of Lu's writing.  Lu's gradual shift from a bourgeois intellectual to collectivist will be scrutinised.  The trajectory traced by his works, starting from pursuing a national identity, then literary autonomy, and eventually returning to national longing, will be examined.  The last part will discuss the female characters in Lu's works, arguing how, through fictional construction, Taiwanese females have become iconographic in the male intellectuals' process of forging a national/cultural identity.  It will introduce the three main types of Lu's female characters and explore the masculinity of his selcted stories.

5)      S. Louisa Wei, University of Alberta / Josai International University.  "Where have all the Ideal Women Gone?  A Case of Chinese Film"

    Comparing to the Hollywood or any other national cinema, Chinese film contains a larger proportion of repertoires with female leads as central characters. All generations of Chinese filmmakers have portrayed unforgettable heroines who speak out the ideological ideal for their creators, no matter it is against feudalism or pro communism, no matter it is a return to, or, a depart from traditional values.  When looking at the ever-changing representation of women in Chinese film, however, what seems to distinguish "now" from "then" is the disappearance of "ideal women."

   Those good mothers, wives and daughters, who frequented older generations of films, have recently been replaced by rebellious young women with beautiful bodies and primitive passions, especially in the works of the fifth generation filmmakers who made Chinese film known to the world since late-1980s.  

     Where have all the "ideal women" gone?  Why can they not survive in contemporary films?  Do we still need new images of ideal women?  This paper will attempt to answer these questions.  I shall first compare cinematic representations of women by male and female directors, in order to shed light on how gender difference and indifference have affected the constructing and then deconstructing of the notion-"ideal women." Then, I

shall further analyze how China's social/economic reform and the longing for a global recognition of its culture/arts have also played important roles in the disappearance of the "ideal women" from the good old times.  

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