copyright 2003, Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media
No. 46

Chinese film criticism

Dai Jinhua, Cinema and Desire: Feminist Marxism and Cultural Politics in the Work of Dai Jinhua, eds. Jing Wang and Tani E. Barlow. London: Verso, 2002.[1]

By Gina Marchetti

Cinema and Desire brings together a selection of essays by Dai Jinhua, one of the People’s Republic of China’s most prolific film and cultural studies academics. This collection will certainly make her important critical voice more widely heard within the English-speaking world. Dai’s essays have appeared in positions: east asian culture critique (edited by Tani E. Barlow, one of the editors of this volume); Public Culture; boundary 2: an international journal of literature and culture; and other English-language publications. Before this book appeared, she was perhaps best known outside of China for her critique of the “self-Orientalizing” aspect of the work of filmmakers from China’s Fifth Generation, specifically Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige. In “Rewriting Chinese Women: Gender Production and Cultural Space in the Eighties and Nineties,” Dai states:

... as the eternal Other in a patriarchal society, women are made to act out a Chinese historical drama that replaces the Father’s history with a new history of the Other, which is the self-Orientalizing male elite narrative... gory, cruel, and charming stories about women were not only going to resolve the strangeness and opaqueness of the complex Chinese male historical narrative but also win them a ticket ‘to the world,’ or the attention of the West.[2]

Dai Jinhua is not the only Chinese feminist to take this position toward the films of Zhang and Chen, however. Another Dai—Dai Qing, the female dissident journalist perhaps best known for her commitment to ecology and condemnation of China’s Three Gorges Dam project—also made a similar argument in “Raised Eyebrows for Raise the Red Lantern.” Here, she states,

This kind of film is really shot for the casual pleasures of foreigners.[3]

Rey Chow, among others, has criticized the above position. In Primitive Passions: Visuality, Sexuality, Ethnography, and Contemporary Chinese Cinema, she writes:

...what Zhang is producing is rather an exhibitionist self-display that contains, in its very excessive modes, a critique of the voyeurism of orientalism itself. (Mis)construed by many as mere self-display (in the spirit of airing one’s dirty laundry in public), this exhibitionism— what we may call the Oriental’s orientalism—does not make its critique moralistically or resentfully. Instead, it turns the remnants of orientalism into elements of a new ethnography...this ethnography accepts the historical fact of orientalism and performs a critique (i.e., evaluation) of it by staging and parodying orientalism’s politics of visuality. In its self-subalternizing, self-exoticizing visual gestures, the Oriental’s orientalism is first and foremost a demonstration—the display of a tactic...If their glossy surfaces are the ‘myths’ that commodify and betray China, Zhang’s films nonetheless achieve for modern Chinese culture the attention and status that many sophisticated others fail to bring.[4]

In fact, many scholars have participated in debates surrounding the films of the Fifth Generation that Dai Jinhua engages in this collection, including Esther Yau, Jenny Lau, Chris Berry, Wang Yuejin, Zhang Yingjin, and Sheldon Lu, to name only a few writing in English. The fact that many scholars internationally have contributed to such a lively debate brings to light one of the disappointing aspects of Cinema and Desire. That is, the book isolates Dai from her contemporaries both inside and outside of China.

In contrast, the reader gets a very different sense of Dai within the context of an emerging transnational feminist public sphere for Chinese women in Mayfair Yang’s Spaces of Their Own[5] or in relation to other Asian film and media scholars in Jenny Lau’s Multiple Modernities.[6] In Cinema and Desire, for all intents and purposes, Dai stands alone as a feminist and Marxist critic of contemporary Chinese culture. Although Laura Mulvey, Teresa de Lauretis, and other feminist film scholars do get mentioned in passing, the positioning of Dai’s work remains disconnected from the prodigious body of scholarship that now exists on feminism in China, Chinese cinema, media and contemporary culture. Given that Dai has spent much of her career translating European and American film theory into Chinese, it seems odd that she so seldom engages with the scholarship on Chinese cinema that has been produced by scholars based outside of China.

It also seems odd that the editors, themselves so knowledgeable about these debates as seen in their own scholarship (i.e., Jing Wang’s High Culture Fever[7] and Tani Barlow’s Gender Politics in Modern China[8]), should not make more of an attempt to place Dai within this intellectual context. Although the interview conducted with Dai by Lau Kin Chi that concludes the book is rather helpful, the brief introduction and even shorter biography of Dai does not do enough to inform the reader of the environment in which Dai works in China and her importance beyond China to scholars working on Chinese film and culture.

Ironically, like many of the Chinese filmmakers she criticizes, Dai and other Chinese intellectuals seek out and enjoy the interest and sponsorship of academics outside of China. Such recognition solidifies their position in China by letting them acquire an international reputation. While most academics hope to do research that will cross borders and make an impact around the world, this is particularly important for Chinese artists and intellectuals who often must look outside of China for validation or, in the case of filmmakers, funding, distribution, and exhibition venues outside of the tight monetary and censorship controls of the People’s Republic. For filmmakers whose work is routinely banned in China and for intellectuals who take a critical stance toward government policies, international recognition can mean the difference between maintaining a career and losing all pubic voice.

However, these transnational ties need not be “Western” in the strictest sense. Writing in Chinese, Dai’s work speaks to a global Chinese academic community, and Chinese scholars based in America often quote her. At this point in time, there is significantly greater contact among Chinese scholars based in the P.R.C., Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and other countries around the world, including the United States. The fact that many scholars writing in Chinese address their remarks to other Chinese scholars working in other languages outside of the People’s Republic should be kept in mind. In 1997, Dai and Jing Wang, for example, began to collaborate on a major project involving Chinese popular culture, funded by the Luce Foundation. Wang, educated in Taiwan and the United States and based in the United States (teaching for most of her career at Duke and, more recently, at MIT), sought out the Beijing-educated and based Dai Jinhua for this project. As movement within the Chinese diaspora intensifies, the address of scholarship involving China becomes more complicated. A simple Chinese/Western split simply does not exist.

In many ways, the trajectory of Dai’s career outside of China parallels the Fifth Generation filmmakers of whom she writes. By critiquing films that have captured awards at international film festivals and found their way into American art house distribution and home video outlets, Dai’s work speaks about texts that circulate outside of China more easily than they do domestically. As a consequence, scholars in Taiwan, Hong Kong, the United States and elsewhere look to her for a critical perspective on these films.

In her writings, Dai describes contemporary films from the People’s Republic as texts produced by filmmakers coming from a particular historical moment in China that travel as commodities about China for the rest of the world. The disjuncture between the moment of production and the films’ various contexts for consumption forms the basis for her analysis of the Fifth Generation. She shows how filmmakers like Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige deal with their experience of the Cultural Revolution, Chinese history generally, and the complexities of gender, sexuality, Confucianism, and socialism within the Chinese imagination.

As a feminist, Dai does not unconditionally accept the representation of the brutalized woman in these films as a call for women’s liberation. Rather she dissects the way in which women’s bodies figure within a visual imagination that uses that body to deal with male filmmakers’ own feelings of personal and political impotence as well as to create a spectacle of a victimized China for international consumption.

Born in 1959, Dai is younger than most of the Fifth Generation filmmakers, who like her entered college in 1978 to become the first generation to finish their studies after the Cultural Revolution. Because of this age difference, she does not have the same experience of the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) as do other artists and intellectuals who were a few years older and more deeply marked by that period. After graduating from Beijing University, Dai took up a teaching position at the Beijing Film Academy, establishing a film theory major in 1987. Working under the auspices of Ni Zhen (screenwriter and professor of art direction/film theory at the Beijing Film Academy, 1980-2000)[9] and closely with her collaborator Meng Yue in her early work, Dai quickly established herself as an important presence within Chinese film theory.[10]

Cinema and Desire’s bibliography of works by Dai lists an impressive twelve books, collections of essays, and edited volumes from 1989 to the present. In 1993, Dai moved to the more prestigious Beijing University, and, in 1995, she established its program in cultural studies. Dai has traveled widely in Asia and Europe. And she has lectured extensively in the United States at Ohio State University, Duke, Cornell, Pittsburgh, Harvard, various campuses in the University of California system, and other American universities. Dai’s work, thus, speaks to an audience within and outside of China.

In the first essay collected in Cinema and Desire, “Severed Bridge: The Art of the Sons’ Generation,” Dai uses psychoanalytic theory inflected by Jacques Lacan to examine the early films from the Fifth Generation in relation to the filmmakers’ political and aesthetic coming of age during and after the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. She refers to their films as “the art of the Sons.”(14)

She looks at One and Eight, Horse Thief, Yellow Earth, The King of Children, Red Sorghum, among other films, in terms of their contradictory interplay of searching for the roots of Chinese culture and identity in the post-Mao era while critiquing both traditional Chinese values and Maoist political doctrine. In her analysis of Red Sorghum, she notes the dialectical tension in that film between the creation of a new “national myth” (36) and the “onslaught of Western/Other culture” (33) in 1987. In the film, this tension is played out around female sexuality and the use of the female body as a sacrificial totem that

symbolically assuages the collective anxiety and shock of the present-day Chinese, again faced with an onslaught from alien cultures.(44)

Reading this essay, I was struck by the similarities between Dai and Slavoj Zizek —both committed to Lacanian psychoanalysis and a Marxist critique in post-socialist societies. After 1989 (a year that had a cataclysmic, but very different impact on China and Eastern Europe), both chose to maintain a base in the East while lecturing and publishing extensively in the West. Both center their research on cinema and popular culture. Dai and Zizek seem to fulfill a need within cultural studies to reconfigure the Left academy in the West in relation to the East, to take stock of Freud, Lacan, Marx, and feminism after the end of the Cold War. Both also allow scholars in the West to look at their own cultural “symptoms” as commodity capitalism emerges out of the ruins of post-socialist societies.

Making this comparison, I am again struck by the lack of intellectual context provided by Cinema and Desire. Postmodernism becomes a passing reference to Fredric Jameson, cultural studies a chance remark about Raymond Williams’ Keywords, and postcolonialism drifts as a concept without any reference to Gayatri Spivak, Homi Bhabha, Aijaz Ahmad, Arjun Appadurai, or Trinh T. Minh-ha.

However, even without this theoretical context, Dai makes some very astute observations in her essay, “Postcolonialism and Chinese Cinema of the Nineties,” which examines the post-1989 films of the Fifth Generation. The essay includes detailed analyses of Ju Dou, Raise the Red Lantern, and Life on a String as postmodern products that put on “display the spectacle of an imagined preindustrial China”(51) for the Western audience. Dai observes that these banned films have an allegorical significance. Referring to Ju Dou, for example, she notes:

In a certain way, it relates the heavy and painful emotions associated with the Tiananmen Square crackdown to the China of the nineties. (56)

However, Dai does not elaborate on this point, but, instead, moves quickly on to discuss Raise the Red Lantern as “representing history as discourse and facade for the Western gaze.”(57) The in-between space of the banned political allegory and global commodity remains obscure. The ways these films have been read by Chinese viewers in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and throughout the diaspora get no mention. Taiwanese director Hou Hsiao-Hsien (best known for the controversial City of Sadness), for example, likely became involved with producing Zhang’s Raise the Red Lantern for reasons other than its obvious appeal to Orientalist fantasies and fetishism of the Asian female body. Hou, like Zhang, has an investment in political allegories involving Chinese politics. His support for Zhang who was working across the Taiwanese straits on the same critical endeavor likely complemented any interest he may have had in the financial returns on a project appealing to the Orientalist voyeurism of the European or American viewer.

“A Scene in the Fog: Reading the Sixth Generation Films” looks at the sea change that took place as a younger generation of filmmakers began to emerge on the film scene in the nineties, including Zhang Yuan, Wang Xiaoshuai, and Wu Wenguang. Unlike the “Fifth Generation” that refers to a specific graduating class from the Beijing Film Academy, the “Sixth Generation” label covers filmmakers from various backgrounds. These include younger self-financed or foreign-financed filmmakers, graduates of the Academy after 1989 who may or may not work in “official” film channels, documentary filmmakers associated with various politically dissident or avant-garde art movements, and others falling under the category of “underground” filmmakers who work in amateur formats and who may have no formal production training. Dai rightly notes that these filmmakers work in a social, political, and economic climate dramatically different from the previous decade:

Complex as eighties Chinese culture is, it is still subject to integration into ‘modernity,’ on the basis of a common desire for progress, social democracy, and national prosperity, and by virtue of its resistance to historical inertia and the stronghold of mainstream ideology. In the nineties, however, the following elements feed a different sociocultural situation: the ambiguous ideology of the post-Cold War era; the implosion and diffusion of mainstream ideology; global capitalism’s tidal force and the resistance of nationalisms and nativisms; the penetration and impact of global capital on local cultural industries; cultures’ increasing commercialization in global and local culture markets; and the active role local intellectuals, besieged by postmodern and postcolonial discourse, have undertaken in their writing. (71-2)

The Sixth Generation has been associated with very different themes from the Fifth Generation. The younger filmmakers are concerned with the immediacy of the street, with contemporary city life (particularly in Beijing), with youth culture, rock music, and a punk inspired counter-cultural “anti-aesthetic,” along with a critical, sometimes self-absorbed or nihilistic view of Chinese culture and society. Moving away from Lacanian analysis, Dai becomes more descriptive in this essay, focusing on the distinctive qualities of the films of the Sixth Generation and their relationship to their Western patrons as well as China’s booming “underground” scene.

The next two essays focus on women in Chinese film, women filmmakers, and feminist readings of Chinese cinema. “Gender and Narration: Women in Contemporary Chinese Film” provides a sweeping overview of women in Chinese history, depictions of women in pre- and post-1949 cinema. It has a special emphasis on the long career of the melodramatist Xie Jin, and concludes with a discussion of the work of women filmmakers in China. Edited from a longer manuscript, this chapter tends to drift off on tangents out of line with its apparent focus on the depiction of women in Chinese film. While some readers may not be familiar with the legendary Hua Mulan, the Chinese “new woman” of the May Fourth movement (embodied by the actress Ruan Ling-yu), the “White Haired Girl” or the “Women’s Red Army Detachment” (a.k.a. “Red Detachment of Women”) of Mao’s “revolutionary romanticism” (both made into films on more than one occasion), this scattered background information does not always support the chapter’s exploration of women in Chinese film. Dai’s discussion of Xie Jin and the changing dynamics of women in relation to class structure and the political vicissitudes of post-1949 China marks a high point in this chapter. However, more detailed analyses of films by women filmmakers like Zhang Nuanxin, Li Shaohong, Hu Mei, and Ning Ying in relation to contemporary political and economic changes in China would have been welcome.

Dai does, indeed, look closely at Huang Shuqin’s Human, Woman, Demon (1987)[11] in the following chapter. Here, Dai’s allegorical reading of the film in relation to Chinese opera adds to an appreciation of this critically neglected film as a key work within the genre of opera film allegories so important to Chinese film history. Unfortunately, however, Dai does not connect this film to others within this tradition, such as Xie Jin’s Two Stage Sisters (1965) or Chen Kaige’s more recent Farewell My Concubine (1993). Unlike other films in this tradition, Human, Woman, Demon focuses more on the performance of gender roles, the continuing burden of male privilege, and the particularity of the woman’s voice in the narrative to a degree that overshadows the broader political allegory. While Dai notes the film’s feminist perspective, she does not tease out what makes this film distinct within the genre by comparing it to similar films.

The last three essays, arguably the best, deal with television, consumerism, and the rise of commodity culture in China in the 1990s. “Redemption and Consumption: Depicting Culture in the 1990s” astutely dissects the transposition of the image culture associated with politics into the visual spectacle of consumer capitalism. Her case study consist of looking at the vogue for Mao Zedong memorabilia. Dai associates this sort of nostalgia with the drive toward “redemptive memory” (174) for former Red Guards and the “educated youth” sent to the countryside during the Cultural Revolution to recuperate their past by turning traces of their experiences into commodities.

Ironically, some of these popular materials like the song, “Xiaofang,” have been received differently by the displaced peasants. These people now find themselves on the bottom rung of China’s urban economy. For them, feelings of lost love and the simplicity of country living resonate quite differently than for the upwardly mobile “returned” youth generation who find themselves entering China’s new “middle classes,” putting their “radical” pasts behind.

“National Identity in the Hall of Mirrors” looks at a range of television serials, such as Yearnings and Beijinger in New York,[12] as well as a number of memoirs and autobiographical novels written by Chinese nationals (mainly women) living abroad. In this essay, Dai looks at the Chinese immigrant experience, especially in relation to discourses involving race and class in the United States. She teases out the Chinese cultural nationalism of many of these narratives, which showcase stories of class mobility and material success in the United States in order to demonstrate Chinese superiority over African Americans and working class U.S. ethnics. In other narratives that focus on the painful process of succeeding in the United States, the consequences of class divisions in capitalism are seen as an “American” or “Western” problem rather than a reality of the dramatic economic changes taking place in China now. Thus, all the troubling aspects of capitalism become narrated as “foreign” problems unrelated to Chinese post-socialist economic policies.

In “Invisible Writing: The Politics of Mass Culture in the 1990s,” Dai looks at the changing meaning of the “square” (guangchang) in Chinese popular discourse before and after 1989. As she traces the evolution of the meaning of Tian’anmen Square in the popular imagination, Dai analyzes the ways in which public space has metamorphosed from political arena to commercial marketplace. In this essay, Dai confronts the ideological changes that have taken place with regard to the meaning of Tian’anmen Square since 1989:

The particular guangchang where the student demonstration was crushed in 1989 has become a deeply complex taboo: it symbolizes the socialist system but also the toppling of that system. So to name a commercial plaza a guangchang, to change the political meaning of guangchang, or at the very least to mask the significance of political mass movements with a happy shoppers’ heaven, is a transformation that is by no means innocent. (220)

Dai carefully critiques the way in which Chinese popular culture has dealt with the emergence of a new class of consumer at the expense of the unemployed, the working classes, and others who no longer can rely on what had been taken-for-granted social services (e.g., health care, housing, etc.) In China, discourses of consumerism laud “individualism” and “self-reliance.” But popular celebrations of the “traditional” family and filial piety place the onus of nursing the sick, unemployment, care of the elderly and incapacitated back on the family; the government has dismantled the health care system and the employment guarantees of the “iron rice bowl.” As the economy privatizes, factories close, work units disband, communes become a thing of the past, and large segments of the population suffer due to the elimination of social services these socialist institutions provided in the past.

Here, Dai is at her best. She calls for Chinese intellectuals to use Marxist theory beyond the “official” iterations of Communist Party doctrine in order to critique these devastating political, economic, and social developments. Women have been particularly hard hit by these changes. The revival of the “traditional” family and Confucian principles require women to shoulder the brunt of the increased domestic labor. Burdensome demands to care for the elderly, the ill, and the young are placed on the family newly bereft of guaranteed employment, health care, housing, day care, and other socialist support services.

In the past,the “official” feminism and Marxism of the Marriage Law of 1950 criminalized many “traditional” practices like concubinage. But this level of advance cannot muster the strength to combat the objectification of women within Chinese consumerism and the impoverishment of Chinese women within the new global economy. Therefore, Dai urges the Chinese “left” to reinvent itself and re-imagine Marxism and feminism in order to critique the current dismantling of socialism and rise of a new gender and class hierarchy on the backs of women, the poor, and the working classes. Thus, Dai’s Marxist analysis complements her feminism.

Overall, most of the essays in this collection may be of more value to those who already have a foundation in Chinese cinema history or who understand the development of the women’s movement in China. Some essays, particularly the last ones collected here, speak to a general readership. However, the quality and accessibility of the essays vary greatly. Likely, some of the uneven quality of the collection reflects the evolution of Dai’s writing as well as the varied approaches of the eleven translators who worked on the book. Many of the translators, like Edward Gunn (Cornell), are very well established Chinese language and literature scholars; others have more of a commitment to Chinese cinema (e.g., Harry Kuoshu, Shu-mei Shih, Yiman Wang); still others are graduate and undergraduate students just beginning their careers.

Unfortunately, other difficulties in the translation of Chinese theoretical and critical essays from the People’s Republic persist, and these can be very hard to overcome. For example, Dai uses certain catch phrases repeatedly in her writings (e.g., “broken bridges,” “floating bridges,” “going from the frying pan into the fire,” etc.) that she assumes have meaning beyond the obvious clichés. It should come as no surprise that many Chinese critics speak and write elliptically out of habit. Chinese artists and intellectuals face many difficulties when they attempt to speak directly about sensitive political issues and events that predate 1989 but have, understandably, been exacerbated since. While this discursive style fulfills an important function within the context of Chinese intellectual circles, it can perplex or annoy the English-language reader.

To complicate matters, this elliptical language may indicate to some outside of China that Dai is a political dissident. She is not. Her position does often deviate from official policy and she is an outspoken critic of some of the consequences of Deng’s economic policies and the current continuation of those policies in the post-Deng era. But she does not set herself against or outside the government in any way that would preclude the publication of her books and essays, her free travel inside and outside of China, and her ability to advance her career within the Chinese academy. The book’s editors praise Dai for deciding not to pursue graduate education outside of China when she had the opportunity after 1989. Regrettably the consequence of that decision limited Dai’s ability to sharpen her critique as a Marxist and a feminist outside the Chinese educational system, where draconian measures are often taken to silence dissident voices.

Dai’s scholarship must be understood within this context, and her position should not be misrepresented or mistaken for something it is not. In fact, the book would have benefited from a more direct discussion of Dai’s role in relation to the Chinese academy before and after 1989. Again, the parallels between Dai and the Fifth Generation filmmaker Zhang Yimou come to the fore. Zhang continues to reside in China, as does Tian Zhuangzhuang, Huang Jianxin, and others, while Chen Kaige left. The consequences of those physical locations, personal choices, and political perspectives continue to complicate our understanding of the People’s Republic, its cinema, and its intellectual culture.

At the same time that I offer this critique, the importance of Dai’s critique within the Chinese academy should not be underestimated. As China rushes to integrate itself within a global economy dominated by U.S. business interests, the world needs more scholars speaking out against the impoverishment of the vast majority of the Chinese populace in the process. The Chinese people have seen the erosion of the social services and the civic guarantees which socialism did, indeed, deliver to most. Dai analyzes the consequences of new and wider class divisions within China’s capitalist, consumerist society, which is still plagued by the excesses and corruption of an aging bureaucracy. With these dramatic changes, women in China suffer as cheap labor easy to exploit within the new economy, as potential “consumers” bombarded by the spectacle of global capitalism, and as “old cadres” who may have benefited from the communist bureaucracy but who are now depicted as hopelessly out of step with a new, potent, “masculine,” market economy.

As such political tensions find expression in cinema and popular culture, Dai serves as an important critical voice that merits consideration. This translation of her essays is welcome. Despite some inelegant prose, poorly argued assertions, embryonic analyses, and inchoate theories, this volume provides valuable insight into the current state of Chinese film theory and cultural studies.

Notes:

[1] Special thanks to Yeh Yueh-Yu for her help in the preparation of this review.

[2] Dai Jinhua, “Rewriting Chinese Women: Gender Production and Cultural Space in the Eighties and Nineties,” trans. Yu Ning with Mayfair Yang, Spaces of Their Own: Women’s Public Sphere in Transnational China, ed. Mayfair Mei-Hui Yang (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1999), pp. 198-199.

[3] Dai Qing, “Raised Eyebrows for Raise the Red Lantern,” trans. Jeanne Tai, Pubic Culture, Vol. 5, No. 2 (Winter 1993), p. 336 (333-337). Jane Ying Zha ruminates on this as well in the same issue of Public Culture in her essay, “Excerpts form ‘Lore Segal, Red Lantern, and Exoticism,’” Pubic Culture, Vol. 5, No. 2 (Winter 1993), pp. 329-332. Under the name Jianying Zha, she continues her critique in her book China Pop: How Soap Operas, Tabloids, and Bestsellers Are transforming a Culture (NY: The New Press, 1995).

[4] Rey Chow, Primitive Passions: Visuality, Sexuality, Ethnography, and Contemporary Chinese Cinema (NY: Columbia University Press, 1995), pp. 171-2.

[5] Mayfair Mei-Hui Yang, ed. Spaces of Their Own: Women’s Public Sphere in Transnational China, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1999).

[6] Jenny Kwok Wah Lau, ed. Multiple Modernities: Cinemas and Popular Media in Transcultural Asia (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2003).

[7] Jing Wang, High Culture Fever: Politics, Aesthetics, and Ideology in Deng’s China (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996).

[8] Tani E. Barlow, ed. Gender Politics in Modern China (Durham: Duke University Press, 1993). Barlow was among the first American educators allowed into the People’s Republic after the Cultural Revolution, and she writes about her experiences in Tani E. Barlow and Donald M. Lowe, Teaching China’s Lost Generation: Foreign Experts in the People’s Republic of China (San Francisco: China Books, 1987). Portions of this book were excerpted in Jump Cut #34 (March 1989).

[9] Ni Zhen, Memoirs from the Beijing Film Academy: The Genesis of China’s Fifth Generation, trans. Chris Berry (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002).

[10] To get some sense of how film theory is understood in the People’s Republic, see George S. Semsel, Xia Hong, Hou Jianping, eds., Chinese Film Theory: A Guide to the New Era (Greenwood Publishing Group, 1990). Many of the essayists featured in this volume have been involved with the Beijing Film Academy in some capacity.

[11] The Chinese title, Ren Gui Qing, is usually translated as Woman, Demon, Human. Literally, it is closer to “human-ghost feelings” or “human-ghost intimacies.” I don’t know why the title more commonly used in English language versions of the film is not used here. Other common titles for films like Wang Xiaoshuai’s The Days (1993) and Xie Jin’s The Last Aristocrats (1989) are also rendered differently in this book.

[12] For more on Chinese soap operas, see Sheldon Lu, “Soap Opera in China: The Transnational Politics of Visuality, Sexuality, and Masculinity,” Cinema Journal 40:1 (Fall 2000), pp. 25-47.


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