If Japanese cinema hasn’t gained widespread acceptance in the West, it’s even less so for Chinese cinema. Far from the overly simplistic propaganda films glorifying Chairman Mao Zedong, Chinese cinema has a long history, with its many ups and downs. As with all societies, China has dramatized the wars its fought, which is an important export of culture and a way to preserve history, as well as shaping the perception of it.
Chinese cinema has a long history, as well as the fandom around movies within China. Much like its Western and Japanese counterparts, the Chinese created magazines around film, stretching back to the 1920s. The book Chinese Movie Magazines: From Charlie Chaplin to Chairman Mao by Paul Fonoroff catalogs this unique and unexplored subculture.
The 1980s was a period of rapid change and economic growth for China. In 1979, paramount leader Deng Xiaoping opened special economic zones in southern China, experimenting with market capitalism. Dori Jones Yang, a reporter for BusinessWeek, saw China’s rise in the 1980s and has recorded it for her memoir When The Red Gates Opened.
The Girl Who Played Go is a historical novel by Chinese author Shan Sa, originally published in French, and translated into English. With that many international filters, it is surprising how well it evokes the Chinese mindset, but also, the Japanese side as well.
October 1937. Surrounded by an enormous Japanese Army, Chinese soldiers hunker down for a siege. Their fortress is the Sihang Warehouse, tall and sturdy, standing on the banks of Soochow Creek. For seven days, they beat off numerous attempts to storm their position. Historian Stephen Robinson recreates and documents these events in Eight Hundred Heroes.
The Cultural Revolution has been a taboo subject in China, but confusing and forgotten to Westerners. The political upheavals instigated by Mao Zedong between 1966-1976 were baffling to those who observed and participated. Mao ostensibly sought to create a new, permanent revolutionary China, doing away with old ideas, old customs, and old culture, but his main aim was to purge all political rivals and enshrine himself as a godlike figure, which somewhat continues to this day. It is during this tumultuous era, that the novel Serve the People! by Yan Lianke takes place.
Chinese history has long been ignored in the West, but a few spotlights do shine out from time to time on certain events, even if only to provide superficial understanding. These usually point to the Opium Wars, the Boxer Rebellion, and, recently, the Sino-Japanese War. However, there is a small window of time in Chinese history that contained multiple smaller wars, which has almost been completely ignored by Western scholars. This brief era is what The Bitter Peace – Conflict in China 1928-37 by Philip S. Jowett illuminates.