Chinese 560 Pro-seminar in Chinese


The Cultural Revolution:

From Testimony to Allegory


The Cultural Revolution has been described in films, spawned an industry of memoirs, and has inspired many works of surreal fiction. The seminar explores the relation between history, testimony and allegory through works such as oral histories, first-person accounts, fictional novels, state-sponsored and commercial films. How does each kind of account cope with memories of the Cultural Revolution and respond to its own times?

Although students are not expected to have native skills in Chinese, the course requires relatively high language competence. When possible, texts and films will be discussed in accordance with the original Chinese versions, and many are unavailable in English. The syllabus includes Yige ren de shengjing (One man's bible), the latest novel by 2000 Nobel laureate Gao Xingjian.



Hours: T, Th 3:30-5:20

Classroom: SAV 142

5 credits



Instructor: Yomi Braester
office: C-504 Padelford
office hours: MW 4:50- 5:30 and by appointment
course website:


message board



Grading Components

Policies and Procedures


Class Schedule







Grading components

Weekly reading reports 20 (10 x 2)
Presentation and presentation report: 20

Final paper:



Policies and Procedures

Late submissions must be pre-approved by the instructor or they will not be accepted. The course adheres to UWs rules on plagiarism (see Students with disabilities are encouraged to inform me, and Ill do my best to provide the relevant accommodations.
Books are available at the University Bookstore as well as on reserve at the relevant library. Otherwise-unavailable sources are provided in the reading packet. Students interested in purchasing Chen Kaige's Shaonian Kaige (AKA Longxie shu), Ji Xianlin's Niupeng zayi or
Zhang Xialiang's Wode puti shu from a Taiwan bookshop, at around US$12 each, should contact the instructor ( as soon as possible.
- Jung Chang, Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China Odegaard; Suzzallo/Allen DS774 .C43 1991
- Chen Kaige, Longxie shu (The dragon-blood tree, 1992). NOT IN LIBRARY
- Chen Xiaomei, "Growing Up with Posters in the Maoist Era," in Harriet Evans and Stephanie Donald, eds., Picturing Power in the People's Republic of China: Posters of the Cultural Revolution Art General Stacks DS778.7 .P535 1999
- Dai Houying, Ren a, ren! (Stones of the Wall, 1980)
- Feng Jicai, Ten Years of Madness: Oral Histories of China's Cultural Revolution NOT IN LIBRARY
- Ji Xianlin, Niupeng zayi (Memoirs from the cowshed, 1998). EAsia General Stacks DS778.7 .C35 1998.
- Li Bihua, Bawang bieji NOT IN LIBRARY
- Liu Daren, Liu Daren ji EAsia General Stacks PL2879.T35 A6 1993
- Liu Suola, "Zuihou yige zhizhu"
- Anne F. Thurston,
Enemies of the People Suzzallo/Allen Stacks DS778.7 .T46 1987
- Zhang Xialiang, Wode puti shu (My bodhi tree, 1994). NOT IN LIBRARY
Films shown:
Cheng Yin, Hongdeng ji (The red lantern) (1970).
Chen Chong, Tianyu (Xiuxiu, the Sent-down Girl, 1998)
Chen Kaige
, Bawang bieji (Farewell my concubine) (1993).
Jiang Wen, Yangguang canlan de rizi (In the Heat of the Sun) (1995).
Xie Jin, Furong zhen (Hibiscus town, 1986)
Yang Yanjin, Xiao jie (The alley, 1981)
Yang Yanjin
, Ku'nao ren de xiao (Bitter laughter) (1980).
Zhang Nuanxin, Qingchun ji (1985)
Recommended secondary readings:

On Testimony:
Blanchot, Maurice. The Writing of the Disaster. Trans. Ann Smock. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1995.
Caruth, Cathy, ed. Trauma: Explorations in Memory. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins UP, 1995.
Felman, Shoshana. Testimony: Crises in Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History. New York and London: Routledge, 1992.
Halbwachs, Maurice, The Collective Memory, trans. Francis J. Ditter and Vida Yazdi Ditter. New York: Harper & Row, 1980.

On China-related theoretical questions:
Anagnost, Ann. National Past-times: Narrative, Representation, and Power in Modern China. Durham: Duke University Press, 1997.
Wang, Ban. The Sublime Figure of History: Aesthetics and Politics in Twentieth-Century China. Stanford: Stanford UP, 1997.

On the Cultural Revolution and The Red Lantern:
Dai Jiafang. Yangbanxi de fengfeng yuyu - Jiang Qing,Yangban xi ji neimu [Gossip on the model plays: Jiang Qing, the model plays and the back stage]. Beijing: Zhishi chubanshe, 1995.
Geming de Hongdeng - zan geming xiandai jingju Hongdeng ji [The red lantern of the revolution: in praise of the revolutionary modern Beijing opera The Red Lantern]. Hangzhou: Renmin chubanshe, 1970.
Jingtian dongdi de weida geming zhuangju - zan geming yangban xi [The earth-shattering great revolutionary achievement: in praise of the revolutionary model plays]. Hong Kong: Xianggang sanlian shudian, 1970.
Yang, Lan. Chinese Fiction of the Cultural Revolution. Hong Kong: Hong Kong UP, 1998.

On post-Cultural Revolution film:
Bashan yeyu: cong juben dao yingpian [Night Rain in Bashan: from script to film]. Beijing: Zhongguo dianying chubanshe, 1982.
Jiang Wen, Dansheng [Birth]. Beijing: Huayi chubanshe, 1997.
Tianyunshan chuanqi - cong xiaoshuo dao dianying [The Legend of Tianyunshan: from novel to film]. Beijing: Zhongguo dianying chubanshe, 1983.

CLASS SCHEDULE (subject to change)


week 1

1/2 Introduction: Can history be read allegorically?
1/4 Oral History -- filmed interviews
Excerpts from the TV program Lao sanjie

week 2

1/9 Oral history -- an American perspective
Read: Thurston, Enemies of the people
1/11 Fiction and contradicting testimonies
Read: Dai Houying, Ren a, ren!
week 3

The Aesthetics of the model plays

View: Cheng Yin, Hongdeng ji
1/18 Film after the Cultural Revolution (I)
View: Yang Yanjin, Ku'nao ren de xiao

week 4

1/23 Testimony of the older generation
Read: Ji Xianlin, Niupeng zayi
1/25 Film after the Cultural Revolution (II)
View: Wu Yanjin, Xiao jie

week 5

1/30 Testimonies of sent-down youth

Read: Chen Kaige, Longxie shu; View: Zhang Nuanxin, Qingchun ji

2/1 The sent-down youth experience in film
View: Chen Chong, Tianyu

week 6

2/6 The Cultural Revolution seen from outside
Read: Chen Ruoxi, The Execution of Mayor Yin; Liu Daren, Dujuan ti xie
2/8 Testimonies for foreign consumption

Read: Zhang Rong, Wild Swans (selection); Chen Xiaomei, "Growing Up with Posters in the Maoist Era," in Picturing China

week 7

2/13 The Cultural Revolution as spectacle (I)
View:Xie Jin, Furong zhen

The Cultural Revolution as spectacle (II)

View: Chen Kaige, Farewell My Concubine

week 8

2/20 Autobiography as fiction
Read: Zhang Xianliang, "Mimosa"; Wode puti shu
2/22 Autobiography as fiction (II)
Finish reading Zhang Xialiang, Wode puti shu


week 9

2/27 In-class screening: Jiang Wen, In the Heat of the Sun

3/1 In-class screening: Jiang Wen, In the Heat of the Sun

week 10

3/6 Nostalgia and street-smart literature
Read: Wang Shuo, Dongwu xiongmeng

3/8 Allegory and fantasy

Liu Suola, "Zuihou yige zhizhu"; Yu Hua, "Shiba sui chumen yuanxing"