Posts Tagged ‘academia’

Words to live by

“If the relative freedom in intellectual work that the Chinese living in the liberal West enjoy is a privilege, Chinese intellectuals must use this privilege as truthfully and as tactically as they can — not merely to speak as exotic minors, but to fight the crippling effects of Western imperialism and Chinese paternalism at once.”

Against the Lures of Diaspora by Rey Chow

Man, if she ever taught at my university . . .

Art and China’s Revolution

Okay, I wish I could show you more than those two pictures above but photography was not allowed within the exhibits so I got nada.

The exhibits were impressive. There were a lot of really magnificent paintings on display, poster art, a lot of little knick-knacks that people had saved over the years–Mao badges, bowls and dishes with Cultural Rev art on them, etcetera.

The pieces that made the biggest impression on me were the big-ass mural-sized paintings that had Mao as the subject. He was generally always in the center, leading a group of people, smiling his teeth off, and wearing very traditionally Western clothing. I noticed the bit about the Western clothing because he’s in the paintings as an example for the people to lead and he’s not in Chinese garb. Granted, I don’t mean that he has to be wearing a qipao or something, but it’s still interesting to note that he was set apart from the rest of the people because of his physical appearance (tall, really stocky) and his clothing (Western).

Other pieces that I really enjoyed looking at were the posters. The typography! Gorgeous. I’m without a scanner at the moment but I bought pamphlets with some of the art showcased and I’ll scan those once I have a chance to.

我虽死去 (Though I am Gone)

Yesterday, the documentary “Though I Am Gone” was shown at my school as part of a series of Chinese documentaries called Reel China. A brief summary of “Though I Am Gone”:

In August 1966, the Red Guards’ violent phase of ‘The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution’ spread from the educational sector to all other social circles. Within this month of ‘Red August’, Beijing alone saw 1,774 people killed. Bian Zhongyun, Vice Principal of the prestigious Beijing Normal University Girls Secondary School, was the first victim beaten to death during this month of terror. The film draws upon photographs of Bian’s death taken by her husband, Wang Jingyao, eyewitness accounts from courageous interviewees and broadcast footage from the period.

The documentary has been put up into ten parts on Youtube, the first part is here:


Video credit goes to Layla1968

The documentary has Mandarin Chinese audio and English subtitles. Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9, Part 10.

(Just a note, when the version of this documentary starts up, they say the title is “Though I Was Dead,” which is the literal translation of “我虽死去”, but the more poetic/metaphorical English translation is “Though I Am Gone.”)

This is the most depressing film I’ve ever sat through. I couldn’t really wrap my head around. Wang Jingyao is the husband of the first victim of the Cultural Revolution and he did something quite remarkable: he documented his experience of the Cultural Revolution through film photography. He photographed his wife’s corpse. He photographed his kids cleaning off their mother’s dead body before preparing her for her funeral. He photographed all that he could during this tumultuous time because he felt it was important for someone to document all that China was going through. He kept all the original notices distributed by the government. He kept all the letters he sent and received during this time. He also kept all articles of clothing off his wife’s back the time she died, bloody and muddy as they were.

I was really touched after I watched this. I don’t think the audience that watches this documentary should get away from it that China was disgusting, that Communism is wrong, or that Chinese people were uncivilized, barbaric mass murderers. I quote from Maurice Meisner, author of “Mao’s China and After”,

These macabre comparisons are offered not as revolutionary apologetics but only to maintain some degree of historical perspective on a matter that does not easily lend itself to either moral complacency or moral outrage. In most revolutionary situations, the choice is not between terror or its absence but rather between revolutionary terror or counterrevolutionary terror; and since China had suffered so greatly from the latter over the decades, one should not be too quick to levy moral condemnations on the former. As Barrington Moore has observed, it has been the case that “revolutionary violence has been part of the break with a repressive past and of the effort to construct a less repressive future.”

End to a long week

Came across this passage today:

“THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.”

— Thomas Paine, The Crisis, December 1776

I thought “Common Sense” was a HUGE pain to get through but this paragraph from “The Crisis” is great writing. There is flow to the entire paragraph and it lulls you to read more. The rhythm created by his diction (“the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph,” “What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly”) makes this amazing to hear out loud. Like my professor said, “Good writing is meant to be read out loud.”

Song of the Day

동방신기 ; HEY! (Don’t bring me down)
I’m starting to get tired of Yoo Young Jin’s lyrics because they’re basically ALL about the same thing, but thankfully this is not about the usual evil-society-don’t-be-sinful topic. This is still a YYJ piece — produced, arranged, composed, written — but it’s not as shout-y, self-righteous, and loud as his other works. I like this song more than Mirotic and am actually really surprised this song isn’t the title track given who’s behind it. YYJ has god-like status over at SM…

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