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Embodied Modernities

Embodied Modernities: Corporeality, Representation, and Chinese Cultures

Fran Martin
Larissa Heinrich
Copyright Date: 2006
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  • Book Info
    Embodied Modernities
    Book Description:

    From feminist philosophy to genetic science, scholarship in recent years has succeeded in challenging many entrenched assumptions about the material and biological status of human bodies. Likewise in the study of Chinese cultures, accelerating globalization and the resultant hybridity have called into question previous assumptions about the boundaries of Chinese national and ethnic identity. The problem of identifying a single or definitive referent for the "Chinese body" is thornier than ever. By facilitating fresh dialogue between fields as diverse as the history of science, literary studies, diaspora studies, cultural anthropology, and contemporary Chinese film and cultural studies, Embodied Modernities addresses contemporary Chinese embodiments as they are represented textually and as part of everyday life practices. The book is divided into two sections, each with a dedicated introduction by the editors. The first examines "Thresholds of Modernity" in chapters on Chinese body cultures in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries—a period of intensive cultural, political, and social modernization that led to a series of radical transformations in how bodies were understood and represented.The second section on "Contemporary Embodiments" explores body representations across the People’s Republic of China,Taiwan, and Hong Kong today.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6232-9
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Notes and Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. I. Thresholds of Modernity

    • CHAPTER 1 Introduction to Part I
      (pp. 3-20)

      While preparing this anthology we were struck by an item of entertainment news that seemed aptly to encapsulate some of the cultural and intellectual coincidences that inspired the present volume: the phenomenon of film director Ang Lee dressing up as the Incredible Hulk during production of his movieHulk. Shortly after the film was released in 2002, an interview with the prolific director revealed that partway through production, Lee grew concerned about the characterization of the title character, which was to be almost fully computer animated rather than played by a body-builder as it had been in the earlier television...

    • CHAPTER 2 Bound to Be Represented: Theorizing/Fetishizing Footbinding
      (pp. 21-41)

      As Dr. Cooper, surgeon at St. Guy’s Hospital, London, isolates the bound foot, he presents us with a fine example of the medicalized excision of the body into its parts.¹ And just as this fragment of the bound-foot body was cut off from physical integration, Cooper likewise disconnects the body itself from its social life-world. His only references to that life-world are “Oriental jealousy” and “unnatural taste.”²

      Fifty years later, Mary Porter Gamewell, an American missionary in China from 1871–1906, founded one of the first girls’ schools that refused admission to the footbound. She faced great opposition from her...

    • CHAPTER 3 Male Love Lost: The Fate of Male Same-Sex Prostitution in Beijing in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries
      (pp. 42-59)

      In Ba Jin’s novelJia(The Family, completed in 1931) there is a passage where the novel’s young hero Juehui struggles inwardly over his relationship with his paternal grandfather. The grandfather is a solid, conservative representative of the generation that came to be identified with the closing years of the Qing dynasty, and in Juehui’s mind, with everything old and moribund. He is a distant and greatly feared figure, and his grandson is fully aware of the absolute power he holds over their wealthy and influential family. In order to break the bonds of his grandfather’s authority Juehui lists in...

    • CHAPTER 4 Rewriting Sexual Ideals in Yesou puyan
      (pp. 60-78)

      In 1929 a minor literary event took place in semi-colonial Shanghai. The small press,Hao qingnian shudian(Good Youth Publishing House), published a revised and abridged Qing literati novel under the titleYuanzhu guben Yesou puyan(Original, Old-style Rustic’s Words of Exposure). Sales of the hundred-chapter abridgement were good enough that the press brought out six print runs during the four years between 1929 and 1933.¹ This essay attempts to explain the popularity of this handsome but poorly edited Republican-era abridgement of a marginal eighteenth-century novel calledYesou puyan(A Rustic’s Words of Exposure, hereafterYSPY); this work had been...

    • CHAPTER 5 Cross-Dressed Nation: Mei Lanfang and the Clothing of Modern Chinese Men
      (pp. 79-97)
      JOHN ZOU

      On December 27, 1994, former Chinese president Jiang Zemin delivered the opening address at a symposium commemorating the late Peking opera actors Mei Lanfang (1894–1961) and Zhou Xinfang (1895–1975). “As our country’s traditional theater communities and literary and artistic groups are celebrating the birthday centennials of Mei Lanfang and Zhou Xinfang,” the president proclaimed, “the purpose of the symposium is to address the grand vision of reviving Peking opera, the traditional theater, and the national arts.”¹ Between Mei and Zhou, the emphasis lay clearly with the former, however, for since the early days of Communist China (1949–),...

    • CHAPTER 6 The Transgender Body in Wang Dulu’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
      (pp. 98-112)

      For fifty years Wang Dulu (1909–1977) was forgotten by readers in mainland China and barely known in Hong Kong and Taiwan. His martial arts and social romance novels, written in northern China in the 1930s and 1940s, would likely have remained obscure to today’s readers had Ang Lee not recently made a film adaptation of Wang’sCrouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon(Wo hu cang long;serialized 1941–1942), the fourth volume of a five-part martial arts series.¹ Yu Jiaolong, a morally ambiguous and itinerant female fighter, occupies the center of Wang’s novel. Willful and ambitious, she is dissatisfied with the...

  5. II. Contemporary Embodiments

    • CHAPTER 7 Introduction to Part II
      (pp. 115-125)

      The essays in the first half of this volume explored representations of corporeality amidst the political and social turmoil of Republicanera Chinese modernity. The book’s second half shifts our focus to the rapidly transforming corporeal imaginaries of the late modern period, between the 1980s and the present. This section underscores connections between the multiplicity of late-modern Chinese body representations and the multiple and fragmentary character of late-modern Chinese cultures more generally. These essays frame their inquiries against the backdrop of emergent transnationalisms and distinctive forms of late-modern culture found in present-day Taiwan, Hong Kong, mainland China, and Chinese diasporas, as...


      • CHAPTER 8 Souvenirs of the Organ Trade: The Diasporic Body in Contemporary Chinese Literature and Art
        (pp. 126-145)

        Times have changed since Lu Xun first dissected a corpse in Japan at the turn of the twentieth century. At that time, dissection practice in China was limited to a small number of missionary-run hospital schools, and the fact that Lu Xun had such extensive training set him apart from the vast majority of his Chinese peers. One might argue, in fact, that Lu Xun’s education in anatomical understandings of the body had a profound impact on his experiments in literary realism, his visions of the self, and his understanding of what constituted human (and Chinese) identity.¹ Today, however, dramatic...

      • CHAPTER 9 Sport, Fashion, and Beauty: New Incarnations of the Female Politician in Contemporary China
        (pp. 146-161)

        Sporting prowess, fashion sense, and bodily beauty are the new tools of twenty-first century politics in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Their presence has introduced a new physicality to the interpellation of female politicians in a liberalizing China. For decades the incarnation of political power in the PRC has connoted masculinity. Yet aspiring PRC politicians also exist in female bodies with feminine attributes. The masculinist tradition of governance has its origins in centuries of Confucian orthodoxy and deeply rooted understandings of which individuals have the legitimate right to rule. An educated body, not an aesthetic, sporty, or stylish one,...

      • CHAPTER 10 Sites of Transformation: The Body and Ruins in Zhang Yang’s Shower
        (pp. 162-176)

        The filmShower(Zhang Yang, 1999) is one of several recent films to explore the transformation of everyday urban life through the demolition of old neighborhoods and the construction of high-rise commercial buildings and apartments in their place.¹ The film tells the story of a Shenzhen businessman, Daming, who returns to the Beijing bathhouse where he grew up after having left his past and his family behind. His return home is prompted by a postcard from his mentally handicapped younger brother Erming that leads him to mistakenly believe their father has passed away. After he returns home, he learns that...


      • CHAPTER 11 Stigmatic Bodies: The Corporeal Qiu Miaojin
        (pp. 177-194)

        Qiu Miaojin (1969–1995) is Taiwan’s best-known lesbian author. In local lesbian(nütongzhi)subcultures, Qiu’s books are frequently cited as classics, particularly her 1994 novelThe Crocodile’s Journal (Eyu shouji), the first novel in Taiwan’s modern literary history to be written by an author commonly known to be a lesbian that takes erotic relationships between women as its central theme. Qiu’s fiction is much celebrated, too, in the mainstream literary establishment;The Crocodile’s Journalwon the prestigiousChina TimesHonorary Prize for Literature for Qiu posthumously, following her suicide in mid-1995. Qiu’s unique literary style—mingling cerebral, experimental language use,...

      • CHAPTER 12 Informationalized Affect: The Body in Taiwanese Digital Video Puppetry and COSplay
        (pp. 195-217)

        When the traditional southern Chinese hand-puppet theater,po-te-hi,¹ was adapted for Taiwanese television in 1970, then to digital video in the 1990s, the genre underwent a revolution, not only in its style, but in the composition of its audience. Traditionalpo-te-hi, which has been performed at Taiwanese temple festivals since the nineteenth century, attracted a mostly male and rural audience, and by the 1960s, this audience tended to be elderly as well. Televisionpo-te-hi, however, attracted audiences that had never been interested in traditional puppetry—urbanites, young people, and women. The introduction of digital technology in the mid-1990s saw a...


      • CHAPTER 13 Stellar Transit: Bruce Lee’s Body or Chinese Masculinity in a Transnational Frame
        (pp. 218-234)

        Bruce Lee’s stellar transit across the world’s screens was all the more spectacular for its shocking brevity. His untimely death at the age of thirty-one, at the height of his success and after only four martial arts features, transformed him from new star to shooting star. Born in the United States, appearing suddenly out of Hong Kong, and flashing across the world’s screens, he no sooner became the first global Chinese film star than he disappeared. In the years to follow, numerous Bruce Lee look-alikes tried and failed to fill the gap. They only succeeded in confirming his unique charisma,...

      • CHAPTER 14 Love in Ruins: Spectral Bodies in Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love
        (pp. 235-252)

        Recent popular interest in Hong Kong’s art cinema has been met by a critical admonition from Western film academics to consider the ethics of cross-cultural spectatorship, in particular in the context of international film festival circulation and reception. While some attempts have been made to consider the place of these films in the lives of diasporic Chinese viewers, far fewer inquiries into an ethics ofethnicspectatorship have been engaged; that is, almost no one has challenged the claims for either a self-evident “Chinese gaze” or Chinese identity in existing conceptions of embodied spectatorship.²

        This essay joins these debates by...

  6. Bibliography
    (pp. 253-276)
  7. Filmography
    (pp. 277-278)
  8. Contributors
    (pp. 279-282)
  9. Index
    (pp. 283-291)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 292-292)