Mao the Scholar in the Cultural Revolution

Posted in Uncategorized on January 30th, 2011 by amodernselkie

“During the cultural revolution period, poster artists were required to produce representations of the leader in his many pastoral and international guises: the young scholar turned international savior, the Great Helmsman, the inspiration to the new, young, revolutionary generation, and so on, ” – Evans and Donald, “Introducing Posters of China’s Cultural Revolution,” 9.

The cultural revolution, for all of its grand promises of equality, resulted in a mass attack against the intellectuals of Chinese society. “Better to be red than expert” Mao famously said; this, not equality, became the heart of the revolution. Expert was bad; only Mao’s most ardent followers, the new generation, could fully understand what was necessary to live in a country of constant revolution. Mao was so ardently admired and idolized by the Red Guards, pillaging and killing in his name; can you even imagine the chaos that would have ensued if Mao had died before he basically “called off” the Red Guards? In a culture that became so actively against intellectualism, and so passionately for Mao’s “common people” revolution ideals, it seems exceptionally ironic to me that one of the common portrayals of Mao was as “the young scholar”. In the documentary by Carma Hinton we watched last week, there were several photos of young Mao that we saw that fit this Maoist archtype; Mao sitting in a study filling out paperwork, and Mao reading Marx in a large chair. Was this stereotype ever used as a way to support intellectualism? Or was it simply the transition – that Mao, who was once a scholar, could forgo his study and lead China to ‘peace’?

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Project & Topic Ideas: Movies! Food! Pop Culture! Etc.

Posted in Uncategorized on January 27th, 2011 by amodernselkie

While looking around JSTOR and MCLC, I came up with several potential paper topics that I thought would be really interesting to research. The first I came up with was “Representations of Martial Arts in Chinese Historical Films”. I’d want to discuss the various methods popular in showcasing martial arts in Chinese Film. I’d also talk about the origins of Chinese Martial Arts films, classic examples, and then try to discuss the reason behind the style of presentation. At this point in time, I’m not entirely sure what my thesis would be. I want to see a larger variety of films, and read more texts, before fully committing to a research question. Thankfully that should not be hard. I have found a large number of secondary writing on the subject, and using a combination of yesasia and amazon, I don’t think I’ll have any trouble getting my hands on the movies themselves.

Another possible topic I came up with would focus on Chinese food blogging. I know of a small number of Chinese food blogs written in english, and if I used TasteSpotting and similar sites, I could probably manage to find a few more. I must admit that I have not looked into this topic as much as I have the other one; I thought of this much more recently. But I think it would be extremely fun to research, and is certainly something that I very much enjoy. I would be limited in my research by my inability to read Chinese (cutting out, I’d imagine, a fair number of Chinese Food Blogs), but I think that there are enough multi-language food blogs that I think the topic is worth proposing. As far as secondary resources is concerned, I can think of several generic blogging articles and books, but none offer a specifically Chinese perspective. However, given the number of blogs and online journals available, I don’t think I’ll have much trouble with finding material for this topic.

Let me know what you think!

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Chairman Mao Wants You to Marry (Or At Least To Move In Together)!

Posted in Uncategorized on January 20th, 2011 by amodernselkie

The Li Fengjin: How The New Marriage Law Helped Chinese Women Stand Up comic presents the purportedly true story of Li Fengjin and her quest to escape an arranged marriage. Fengjin is from the country side, and lives in a rural area where it seems that nothing has changed for generations. Her mother is given 20 Dan ( 1 Dan equals approximately 120-160 pounds) of rice when Fengjin is eight as payment for the marriage. Upon marrying her husband, she is constantly beaten, abused, denied food, and verbally insulted until she is forced to run away from home on several occasions to avoid starvation and death. She goes through much trouble to escape her husband with no help from the government. It is only when her husband and a gang of their friends tie her and her romantic interest to two trees and attempt to beat them to death that the CCP interferes.

The CCP functions as a deus ex machina in this story – they descend and bring order to the chaotic feudal structure of Fengjin’s rural hometown. However, what I found interesting was the portrayal of the local cadre. In this story, the cadre, while technically Communist, does not read the laws he is supposed to enforce. Moreover, he continues to let the community deal with problems the way it always has, without any challenge. This is not a positive light the pamphlet is shining on local cadres. What made this catch my attention is that this view of local CCP cadres does not seem to have changed in any real way. In almost every personal account or article I’ve read about China today, most say that local cadres are extremely corrupt and ineffective at enforcing the laws set in place by the CCP. The cadre in this story apologizes, saying “Only after study did I finally understand the bondage woman previously suffered under feudalism. Under the policies of the new democratic movement, we must smash feudalism.” Susan Glosser, ed., Li Fengjin: How the New Marriage Law Helped Chinese Women Stand Up. (Opal Mogus Books, 2005), 29. He is also punished for his role in this saga, though the reader is never told how. How would a cadre in this situation be punished?

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China Candid: The Prodigy & The Orphanage

Posted in Uncategorized on January 13th, 2011 by amodernselkie

The two stories I read in China Candid were about children. I picked them because I wanted to know how children were dealt with in a Modern China. Children are often considered the future of a culture or nation – so, I wondered, what is the future of China like?

The main thing I gathered from the text was that life was just as difficult for children in China as it is for everyone else, if not more so. China idealizes it children (much like the USA), but life is no less demanding for them. Moreover, children are without voice. As the child in the story Shine said, “if you don’t work hard, you’ll be a complete failure,” (121). Moreover, in Looking Ahead, the head of the orphanage, Xu Yongfu, talks about how the government refuses to give heath insurance to the kids he takes care of. This is because, even though several important officials approve of his orphanage, local officials refuse to put the paperwork through (99). Due to biases towards Yongfu, a large group of orphans are left without insurance or healthcare by the government. Yongfu is forced to pay out of pocket for any doctors appointment or hospitalization for any of the kids he takes care of, something he shouldn’t have to do (and wouldn’t, if the paperwork got processed). The child in Shining, on the other hand, has no problems with the government. His problems stem entirely from his family. His father (and, presumably, also his mother) demand absolute excellence for him. This is at the sacrifice of play, fun, and freedom.

The theme that both stories share is that hard work – extreme hard work – is the only way to be successful in Modern China. Yongfu runs several businesses (a tea house, a game lending business, and a garbage disposal company) just to keep the orphanage open (102). The child in Shine, similarly, works exceedingly hard to appease his parents and meet the expectations of being a child prodigy. He has no free time – “every day is the same. And they still say I’m not working hard enough. ” (122). The difference, though, is that the child in Shine has no say in his occupation, whereas Yongfu does. Yongfu is annoyed by, but simultaneously at peace with, the difficulties of being successful in Modern China. “There is no reasonable explanation for the way things are done, it’s just the way it is, and somehow, for better or for worse, it works,” (105). The child prodigy, however, is not so at peace with his situation. He is clearly angry with his situation, but can do nothing about it. When asked about why he studies piano, he said, “don’t ask me. Ask my dad” (122). He does not enjoy his life, but he has been told all of his nine years that living this way is the only way he can survive.  When talking about his life, he says, “If I mess things up now, I won’t achieve anything,” (122). He is trapped in an endless routine of practice to achieve his parents dreams, forced to jump through hoops he sees as meaningless to appease them.

The stories were remarkably similar, but depressingly so. Both stories tell of hard work, and a general dislike of the status quo. But both storytellers seem to feel that, while they dislike what is happening, there is nothing they can do about it. The child progeny says, “But what can I do?”(122). Yongfu has more say in the world around him, but still thinks that the governmental organization, and their treatment of him, is senseless. All you can do, it seems, is work as hard as you can, and keep your fingers crossed.

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China Beat: The Chinese Professor & Chinese Misconceptions

Posted in Uncategorized on January 13th, 2011 by amodernselkie

While looking around The China Beat, I found an article about an interesting video I’d seen posted all over facebook and twitter a while back. The premise of the spot, created by Citizens Against Government Waste, was about how in the year 2030, China would be in control of the USA, because of how poorly the USA dealt with the recession. I had felt very conflicted when I saw the original video, so was intrigued when I saw that China Beat had addressed the issues presented by the video.

The article went to great lengths to lay out modern American fears of China. China Beat cites multiple articles from several major news sources discussing America’s distrust of China. What the article really brought home, though (something I myself had not noticed) was that there were multiple, very angry citations of China in the semi-recent political elections. Specifically, the article cites Zack Space of Ohio, who approved this video. The video accuses Zack Space’s opponent, Bob Gibbs, of working in the interest of China instead of in the interest of Ohio workers. And the video pulls on all of the fears outlined previously in the article. The fear of ‘the other’, of a large, homogeneous, powerful, and above all industrial country is plugged incessantly in both videos.

As a reader, I appreciated the multiple sources cited giving opinions on the piece. Jottings from the Granite Studio very thoroughly put down the video, but China Beat said that this does not knock the video’s worth. The implication seemed to be, “As foolish as this video is, is it important for exactly that reason.” I enjoyed reading this article because it provided so many trails to follow in analyzing the video, and that it tried so adamantly to point out the occurrences of the “China As Other” trope so popular in the USA. After reading the articles and following all of the links, I now feel that I have a much better understanding of where this video comes from. Moreover, I think this article does a good job of trying to move the discussion of Modern China beyond the rhetoric of the ‘terrifying, industrial other.’

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