Area: China and Inner Asia
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Maya Hamada, Kobe University, Japan (presenter)
Martin Blahota, Charles University, Czech Republic (organizer, presenter)
Hsiang-Ling Lee, Taiwan Film Institute, Taiwan (presenter)
Pei-yin Lin, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong (chair, presenter)
This panel intends to explore the highly politicized nature of women’s representation in East Asia during the 1930s and 1940s. Scholars have already paid attention to “the question of women” in modern East Asia since the 1990s, however, this panel endeavours to reconceptualize this narrative by focusing on topics which have, so far, remained marginal. By exploring the overlooked images of women in literary and cinematic works produced during the wartime, this panel presents a means of mapping geopolitical contours in areas controlled by Japan or influenced by Japanese imperialism, namely in Manchuria, Shanghai, and Taiwan. Maya Hamada’s paper explores the representation of female students in Xiao Hong’s fiction. It demonstrates that Xiao’s mixed characterization of female students unveils the dilemma of new womanhood complicated by issues surrounding class and nationalism. Martin Blahota’s paper compares “modern girls” in early works of the Manchukuo writer Jue Qing with images of marginalized women in his later fiction. It suggests that the author used the females’ images as a tool for expression of his changing attitudes towards the colonial regime. Hsiang Ling Lee’s examination turns to visual identity and performative modernity of female characters in Bu Wancang’s historical films produced in Shanghai before and after the city’s complete Japanese occupation. Pei-yin Lin’s paper analyzes selected Japanese-language works by Zhang Wenhuan. It argues that his male protagonists’ envisioning of ideal woman can be taken as Zhang’s tactic to carve out space for his Taiwan-centric writing at the height of Japan’s wartime mobilization.
The Imagery of Female Students in Xiao Hong’s Works
This paper examines Xiao Hong’s (1911-1942) complicated feelings about educated women by exploring the representation of female students in her selected works. Xiao is an important May Fourth-inspired writer from Manchuria who lived in exile during the Japanese occupation. Her “Hands”, a short story reflecting her Harbin life, tells the school principal and majority female students’ ingratiating attitude towards the foreigners (mainly the Russians) but indifference toward Yaming, the story’s heroine who wishes to escape poverty through receiving education but ended up quitting school and returning home. Similar to Upton Sinclair’s 1906 novel The Jungle, Xiao sympathizes with Yaming, who fails to become educated, instead of the intellectual women. Xiao’s keeping a distance from the female students is also found in her essay “The Completion of a Railroad” in which female students in Harbin are described as arrogant and their anti-Japanese activities superficial. Quite the opposite, when writing about rural villages and small towns, such as her “Summer Night” and The Field of Life and Death, Xiao depicts the rural girls’ yearning for attending schools despite their parents’ fear about female students. Her last work “March in the Small Town”, through the faint romance between the uneducated female protagonist and a male student in Harbin, again exhibits the heroine’s yearning to be educated. Nevertheless, the heroine’s tragedy indicates the near impossibility of women’s liberation at that time. This paper demonstrates that Xiao’s mixed characterization of female students unveils the dilemma of new womanhood complicated by issues surrounding class and nationalism.
From a “Modern Girl” to a Teenage Thief: Representation of Women in Jue Qing’s Fiction
Jue Qing (1917–1962) was a very active member of Manchukuo’s official literary world. After the Japanese surrender he was labeled “a traitor of the Chinese nation” and, until recently, his fiction works have been erased from the history of Chinese literature. Indeed, some of his stories can be read as supportive of the colonial regime. However, especially after the Pacific War broke out in 1941, his works seem to express anti-colonial sentiments. This paper analyzes Jue Qing’s stories “Harbin” (1936) and “The Devil” (1942) that represent the early and the late periods of his oeuvre, respectively. It focuses on the representation of women in these works of fiction and argues that the women’s images function as a construct of the author’s own subjectivity. Whereas the “modern girl” in “Harbin” that was inspired by a similar but not identical type of a modern woman in the Shanghai’s new sensationist writings symbolizes the accessibility of the colonial modernity’s benefits for the male artist, the protagonist of a teenage female thief in “The Devil” can be considered rather a symbol of the denial of these benefits to the marginalized colonial subjects, including Jue Qing, after the outbreak of the Pacific war: if she wanted to become equal with the others (as rich as them), she had to steal. This paper analyzes these images of women and suggests that Jue Qing used them as a tool for expression of his changing attitudes towards the colonial regime.
Between “National Policy Film” and “National Defence Drama”: Bu Wancang’s Films during Wartime
In the semi-occupied Shanghai during the Second Sino-Japanese War, under the pressure of being labelled as traitors and confronted with censorship and threat from Chinese state or colonial powers, filmmakers and producers negotiated to launch films of commercial appeal as well as to take “national conscience” into concern. Meanwhile, theatrical activities took place vigorously in this city as writer-, director- and actor-activists flowed to theatre troupes to solidify political boundary and advocate “National Defence Drama”, which lead to frequent adaptation between film and theatre plays. It was the time when historical drama films were brought back and revived the film industry. Focusing on the works of film director Bu Wancang, who was established for social ethics films with the theme of love-marriage set in modern times and successfully characterised a fighting-woman heroine in Mulan congjun (Mulan Joins the Army, 1939) in the Solitary Island, which fired up the re-interpretation of patriotic woman figures remade on screens and stages, this paper examines how traditional dramas were “reformed” to co-exist and interact with the historical drama films to structure “national tradition” in the aspects of narrative strategy, performance and lyricism in Bu’s films, in which sexuality, gender tensions and contemporary love-marriage issues infiltrated. This paper attempts to unravel the entanglement of ambiguous polyphony between nationalism and colonialism as in Wanshi liufang (Eternity, 1943), a Japanese and Manchurian national policy film Bu Wancang later co-directed after the complete fall of Shanghai
Between Docility and Rebellion: Female Characterization in the Works of Zhang Wenhuan
Zhang Wenhuan (1909-1978) is an important colonial Taiwanese writer known as a founder of the journal Formosa in Tokyo, and of Taiwan bungaku, a wartime realism-oriented journal in the rivalry with the romanticism-leaning Bungei Taiwan led by Nishikawa Mitsuru. He is also recognized as a writer good at depicting folk customs and characters’ psyche. While his characters exhibit yearnings for modern education, several females are not endowed with this privilege. Instead, they either drop out to help improve the family’s financial situation, feel trapped in an arranged and unhappy marriage, or are sold as geishas or child brides. Employing textual analysis, this paper examines the various female characters in selected works by Zhang, including “Fallen Bud” (1933), “Chastity” (1935), “Camellia” (1940), “The Home of Geisha” (1941), “Capon” (1942), and “Night Monkeys” (1942). It analyzes the docile and rebellious types of Zhang’s female characterization, illustrating the different conundrums faced by females. It then explores the educated male protagonists’ view of ideal woman and life. Finally it discusses the relationship between Zhang’s folklore writing and female characterization against the background of the Kōminka movement. It argues that while Zhang is a gender-sensitive humanist and some of his female characters are progressive, it is his male protagonists who remain the true beneficiaries of colonial modernity. And their envisioning of ideal woman, which resonates with their tender feelings for the countryside, can be taken as Zhang’s tactic to carve out space for his Taiwan-centric writing at the height of Japan’s wartime mobilization.
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