China Perspectives 2014/4


Remembering the Mao Era:

From creative practices to parallel history

Buy this issue
China Perspectives 2014/4

Special Feature

Editorial Page 3

Judith PerninSebastian Veg

Creating a Literary Space to Debate the Mao Era: The fictionalisation of the Great Leap Forward in Yan Lianke’s Four Books Page 7

Sebastian Veg

ABSTRACT: Since the scar literature of the early 1980s, fiction and fictionalised autobiography have played an important role in bringing to light the mass violence of the Cultural Revolution. However, these texts remained within a well-defined framework in which the political system itself was not questioned. Over the last decade, by contrast, the Chinese literary field has focused more specifically on the 1950s, with works such as Yang Xianhui’s Chronicles of Jiabiangou (Tianjin, 2002), and Yang Jisheng’s Tombstone (Hong Kong, 2008). This paper focuses on Yan Lianke’s Four Books (Hong Kong, 2010), a full-fledged fictionalisation in a fantastic mode of the famine of the Great Leap Forward in a village on the Yellow River. Considering literature in the context of theories of the public sphere, it suggests that Yan’s book aims to broaden decisively the discussion on certain previously out-of-bounds aspects of the Mao era, an aim only partially thwarted by its failure to be published within mainland China. Four Books, like Yang Jisheng and Yang Xianhui’s works, thus represents an attempt to call into question the original legitimacy of the PRC polity and to create debate within the Chinese-speaking public sphere on the foundations of the current regime.
KEYWORDS: Yan Lianke, Great Leap Forward, famine, memory, history, public sphere, literary space, censorship, fiction.

Download this PDF

Performance, Documentary, and the Transmission of Memories of the Great Leap Famine in the Folk Memory Project Page 17

Judith Pernin

ABSTRACT: Independent documentary film projects dealing with history have recently multiplied in China. While all seek to shed new light on personal experiences of the Mao era, they vary greatly in form, method, and scale. Launched in 2010 by Wu Wenguang at the Caochangdi Workstation, a space devoted to contemporary dance and documentary film, the Folk Memory Project aims at producing various textual and visual records of the historical experience of rural populations, especially during the Great Leap famine. Of special interest are the 20 documentaries of the Folk Memory Project’s film section – a body of works constantly growing following yearly returns by filmmakers to their “home” villages. These films are characterised by a performative aspect that is rare in other Chinese documentaries on similar topics. This contribution examines this body of documentaries and the role of performance and performativity in the recording of collective memory of the famine.
KEYWORDS: Performance, memory, documentary, Great Leap famine, Wu Wenguang.

Download this PDF

Apolitical Art, Private Experience, and Alternative Subjectivity in China’s Cultural Revolution Page 27

Aihe Wang

ABSTRACT: For a revolution over “culture,” remarkably little has been said about the Cultural Revolution culture itself, and even less about the apolitical, private art produced underground. This article explores this apolitical, private art, arguing that it was a “rebellion of the heart” against the state’s ruthless destruction of the private sphere. Mao’s Party-state drastically fragmented families, moulding socialist subjects through “revolution deep down into the soul.” Paintings of (broken) homes and interiors, flowers, and moonlight articulate lived experiences of the revolution while silently reinventing a private refuge for the body and soul to subsist beyond state control. Defying orthodox revolutionary mass culture, this apolitical art articulated private experience and created a private inner world for a new form of modern subjectivity, while generating community and human solidarity against relentless class struggle and alienation.
KEYWORDS: Apolitical and private art, China’s Cultural Revolution, modern self, subjectivity, underground culture.

Download this PDF

Opening the Door of Memory with a Camera Lens: The Folk Memory Project and Documentary Production Page 37

Wu Wenguang

The following text is an introduction to the Folk Memory Project (Minjian jiyi jihua), a multidisciplinary memory initiative aiming at producing textual and visual records of the historical experience of rural populations, especially during the Great Leap famine. Written by its founder, independent documentary filmmaker Wu Wenguang, the article presents the project and the works of individual filmmakers, four years after its launch. It provides an account of the work method and goals of a specific unofficial memory project, which is further discussed in the article “Performance, Documentary, and the Transmission of Memories of the Great Leap Famine in the Folk Memory Project” p. 17.

Download this PDF


The Local Islamic Associations and the Party-State: Consanguinity and opportunities Page 45

Jérôme Doyon

ABSTRACT: In order to get to the heart of interactions between the state and Muslim communities and to understand local variants in the religious field, this article will focus on the role played by the Nanjing Islamic Association. This work breaks with top-down approaches, which concentrate on religions from the point of view of the central state, as well as with studies centred on the communities themselves, which overlook links with the state. Shedding light on the historical legacies of the Association and the networks of people comprising it shows that the link between the Party-state and religious communities is not a straightforward relationship of control and repression. It involves complex negotiations that have allowed a depoliticised form of Islam to develop in coastal China.
KEYWORDS: Islam, religious management, Nanjing, nationalities, United Front, Party-state.

Download this PDF

CEFC News Analysis

Taming the “Foreign Tigers”: China’s anti-trust crusade against multinational companies Page 53

Samson Yuen

Current Affairs

Protests against the Welfare Package for Chief: Executives and Principal Officials Macao’s political awakening Page 61

Ying-ho Kwong

Book Reviews

Book Reviews (PDF version) Page 65

Gordon MathewsEric FlorenceSun Jiawen

Leo F. Goodstadt, Poverty in the Midst of Affluence: How Hong Kong Mismanaged its Prosperity Page 66

Gordon Mathews

Chloé Froissart, La Chine et ses migrants. La conquête d’une citoyenneté (China and its migrants: the conquest of a citizenship) Page 67

Eric Florence

Zhu Yong, Fanyuedu: Gemingshiqi de shentishi (CounterReading: A History of the Body in Revolutionary Times) Page 70

Sun Jiawen



























Back to top