vol 15 | winter 2022

Page 1



vol. 15, 2022

Volume 15 2021 - 2022

Orientations is McGill's East Asian Studies departmental journal. We provide inclusive peer-reviewed literature from the McGill undergraduate student community and beyond. We publish bianually through a multicultural approach allowing us to platform East Asian voices in academia. We seek to advocate against anti-Asian racism by including educational resources on our platforms and promoting on our social media and during panels and events. We stand against any form of violence against communities of color, including all communities of Asian descent, and against the LGBTQIA+ community. We are committed to maintaining a fair and inclusive publication process that is exempt from biased or prejudiced works. Funding for this journal has been generously provided by the AUS Journal Fund. Special thanks to the East Asian Studies Student Association and the Department of East Asian Studies.


EDITORIAL BOARD Editor-in-Chief Graphic Designer Léa Baillargeon (she/her/elle) Léa is a published writer, editor, and full-time psychology student at McGill. She has worked for several academic publications and takes interest in social influence, autism, and East Asian languages. Alongside her research, she likes to advocate for human rights and educate herself on the social issues our communities face.

Managing Editor Ethan Bird (he/him/il) Ethan is majoring in Honors Geography and minoring in East Asian Language and Literature. He has been learning Mandarin Chinese for almost a decade and is very interested in Chinese language and culture. He is interested in combining academic research and everyday experiences to further cross-cultural understanding, global peace, prosperity, and justice.

Editor Jessica Zhang (she/her/elle) Jessica double majors in East Asian Studies and International Development. She is deeply interested in the social issues, languages and cultures of East Asia. She aspires to create a bridge between the East Asian communities through her involvement with the journal.

Communications Manager Sasha Staggs (she/her/elle) Sasha majors in Linguistics and minors in East Asian Language and Literature. Fascinated by the history and phonetics of the language, she studied Korean at McGill for two consecutive years and hopes to continue learning about the language and the culture after graduating. Passionate about creative writing, editing, and fostering a diverse community, she aims to pursue these interests even after her involvement with the journal is completed.


ARTISTS "Year of the Water Tiger" Cover Fetia Maucotel (she/her/elle) "I

am from Tahiti, French Polynesia in my second year at McGill. I always

liked the way colors and lines could intertwine to depict the motion surrounding us. Hence, I wanted to illustrate the Chinese lunar new year by portraying the mouvement of the water surrounding a swimming Tiger, that reminded me of the waves from the island I come from."

“Opera” p. 5-6 Rae Li (she/her/elle) "Although I have never thought of Chinese Opera as an important part of my life, hearing it always brings me back to the good worriless days where the TV was turned on and I could just sit on the floor doing nothing and watch the days pass by. Time flows by so quickly, yet music could bring back memories of places and people I thought I had forgotten. "

""Cycle of Inc," わ," "행복," "Opposites Complete" p. 10, 21, 28, 37 Madhi Sabour (he/him/il) "To me, art is the expression of a reality we can only hint at. The wonderful complexity of reality evades representations through single forms. Amongst the different artforms, brush calligraphy stands out in many ways. The figure and the background complement each other, while the movements of the wrist and the brush strokes that created the figure can be noticed and appreciated as well. How spontaneous one stroke was, how slowly another covered the page, and the fragility of the human body in drawing simple shapes are all features brush calligraphy highlights. I depicted the word happiness (행복) in the Korean hangul alphabet. I also depicted the japanese kana "wa" (わ) in its hiragana form, as seen in watashi (わたし), the genderless term translating to "I" in English. Finally, Cycle of Inc and Opposites Complete are inspired by Zen buddhist imagery, particularly the Enso (circle) as often seen in Japanese calligraphy in France."




Panel "Growing up in the West" with guest speakers Angelina Guo, Annette Hong Kim, and Estelle Mi


Naomi Szabo-Wexler Drudgery & Barbarism: The Interplay of Gender and


Michael Goldberg The Causes of the Nian Rebellion in Mid-19th Century,

Chloé Pélata Shin-Godzilla

Table of Contents 29


Abigail Brewer

with William Dere on his novel "Being Chinese in Canada: The Struggle for Identity, Redress and Belonging"

Portrayals of Women’s Mental Illness in Korean Literature: Relations to Korean Society and Gendered Expectations for Women




Peter Quian & Jack Paul Ryan

Thanks A word of thanks for our esteemed collaborators

Comparative Studies of Rhyming in Cantonese and Mandarin




PANEL Panelist Angela Guo (she/her/elle) Born in Montreal, Angelina Guo is a poet, translator and literature student of Chinese descent. She is primarily interested in the boundaries of language, women’s issues and questions of identity among members of the Asian diaspora in Quebec. She has appeared in Le Devoir, Rad.ca, CBC and Sticky Rice Magazine for her community engagement.

Panelist Annette Hong Kim (she/her/elle) Annette Hong Kim is a Korean-Canadian born in the Netherlands. She has worked as a homeroom teacher for young children in two different Korean language schools in Montreal as a way to stay involved within her Korean community and to stay in touch with her mother tongue. She is also involved with the Young Asian Health Professionals Association, under the Mental Health and Translation committees.

Panelist Estelle Mi (she/her/elle) Born in Lyon, Estelle Mi is a second generation Chinese immigrant in France. As an undergraduate student at McGill University in International Development and East Asian Cultural Studies, she participated in multiple projects such as Slash Asian, formerly called ‘Sororasie’, which revolved around the issue of Asian women’s representation in France. She was invited to speak in the podcast À L’intersection and participated in the photo exhibition Asiatitudes, which opened at Festival Plurielles in France.

During our relaunch panel “Growing Up in the West”, guest speakers Angelina Guo, Annette Hong Kim, and Estelle Mi, shared their experiences as East Asian women living in the West, growing up as multicultural, and getting involved in the community by practicing activism and self-advocacy. Our goal was to bring together McGill students of the Asian diaspora, and beyond, in an effort to challenge current perspectives and acknowledge the struggles of all who have lived through similar experiences. The panel was very successful, with 30 some attendees, and we discussed topics related to multiculturalism, racism, misogyny, and alienation, as well as advocacy, resilience, and finding a sense of self.




The Causes of the Nian Rebellion in Mid-19th Century, Northern China

The Nian1 Rebellion was a mid-19th century

In this paper, I will seek to answer how and why the Nian

peasant uprising in Northern China, characterized by

transformed over the 1850s from these autonomous bands

loosely connected groups of bandits who organized to

into a violent rebellion movement in open war with the Qing.

become instrumental in the downfall of the Qing. Un-

Indeed, it was a perfect storm of factors—calamitous natural

like most other rebellions in late-imperial China, in-

disasters, government corruption and mismanagement, few

cluding the Taiping, which was occurring contempora-

economic prospects—that pushed the peasants in Anhui and

neously with the Nian Rebellion in Southern China, the

Huaibei first towards destitution and then to rebellion. Fur-

Nian lacked a religious or ideological motivation (Perry

thermore, the Nian’s interaction with the Taiping Heavenly

117). Rather, the Nian Rebellion developed relatively or-

Kingdom, beginning in 1853, propagated the large-scale re-

ganically from disconnected and often feuding bands

bellion that would define the next 15 years in Northern China

of peasants in Anhui province into a united rebellion

and weaken the already fragile Qing state (Lund v). There-

against the Manchu-led Qing Dynasty, covering most of

fore, the Nian Rebellion was caused by poor economic con-

North China. From their beginnings around 18082 to the

ditions in Northern China and exacerbated by contact with

mid-1850s, the Nian were autonomous and geograph-

the Taiping movement.

ically dispersed bandit groups, earning income largely

To understand the causes of the Nian Rebellion, it

through plunder and salt smuggling (Ti 49; Perry 113).

is pertinent to discuss the context of the Nian in the years before the rebellion (which lasted from 1853-1868). Chiang Ti refers to the early history of the Nian as a mass movement of peasants seeking to provide food, shelter and money for an

1. Note on spellings: Given that primary sources on this event were all written in Chinese, translations and scholarly sources on the Nian use

increasingly impoverished and desperate populace (44-59).

a variety of different spellings for much of the key language relating

Centered around Huaibei in Northern Anhui, early Nian So-

to the events of the rebellion. For consistency, I will use the follow-

ciety was made up of groups of peasants who, mostly out of a

ing English spellings unless directly quoting a source: Nian (instead of

sheer lack of resources, took to robbery, kidnapping and ex-

Nien), Huaibei (instead of Huai-pei), Qing (instead of Ch’ing), Zhang

tortion. The utter desperation during this period is exempli-

Lexing (instead of Chang Lo-hsing) etc.

fied by witness Chia Hsueh-yu, who reported that: using the

2. Historians disagree on the exact date of the birth of the Nian, but “it

corpses of those who died of famine in “[Meng-ch’eng city],

is tentatively dated 1808 when its name first appeared in official doc-

people sold steamed dumplings made of human flesh” (Liu

uments” (Lund V). Other sources disagree, saying the Nian were first documented in 1815 while others argue that they go back to the K’ang-

41). The famine in Northern Anhui was largely the result of

hsi period (1662-1772) or the Chia-ch’ing period (1796-1820).

bad soil and routine patterns of drought and flooding, leading to endemic poverty in the region (Perry 103). To provide for them and their families, many farmers took to banditry, a



practice that had a long history in Northern China.

of the year or when conditions allowed it. The bands, which

Poverty and disaffection was not unique to

came to be known as Nian, were different from local ban-

Northern China at this time, but was endemic in the

dits (and treated as such in official documentation) because

rapidly declining Qing empire of the 19th century. The

they were well-organized and had a “formidable reputation

first several emperors of the Manchu dynasty had been

in the Huai-pei countryside,” which was partially a reflec-

successful rulers, owing to their “untiring attention to

tion of their social banditry practices (Perry 117). Thus, the

maintaining order, peace and river conservation,” in

early history of the Nian was defined by economically mo-

the Qing empire (Teng 35). However, the history of Chi-

tivated and well-organized groups of peasants conducting

nese empires followed a cyclical pattern of periods of

brigandage, with little self-conscious effort to supplant the

relative stability followed by rebellion, which emerged

Qing rulers. Nevertheless, the organizational structure and

in the Qing empire in the 1770s with the rise of secret

support amongst peasants laid the foundation for their fu-

societies, such as the White Lotus, who fought for an

ture rebellion. As Chiang Ti summarized: “Nian society was

end to Manchu rule (Teng 36). Between the 1770s and

the vanguard of the army and the army was an outgrowth of

the rise of the Nian in the mid-19th century, the Qing

the society” (44).

empire was fraught with conflict, corruption and a de-

There is much debate among historians about the

cline of its ideological underpinning (Teng 37). Notably,

origins and meaning of the term Nian, all of which are reveal-

internal rebellions such as the Taiping Heavenly King-

ing of their early history and motivations. One interpretation

dom and foreign interference such as the First Opium

is that the name Nian referred to the organizational struc-

War against the British, led to a destabilized Qing state.

ture and place where people gathered. This is evidenced by

Thus, by the time of the Nian’s ascension, the Qing

Ch’a K’uei, who said “the places they gathered were known

state was weak and ineffective, with prevailing condi-

as nien-tzu” and T’ao Chu who, in 1814, said “they gather

tions that millions of dissatisfied Chinese considered

and commit improprieties in broad daylight. Each group is

untenable (Teng 219).

known as a nien” (Erh-kang 76-77). This demonstrates that

That being said, the Nian’s pre-rebellion ac-

Nian was already a term used to describe a specific set of au-

tivities had a distinctly Northern nature and were

tonomous groups of bandits in the North at least 40 years

“inextricably linked to ongoing processes of adaptive

before the outbreak of the rebellion. A second interpretation

competition within the [Huaibei] region” (Perry 97;

put forward by several historians suggests that Nian refers

Chiang 3). Following the tradition of “unruly” peasants

to twisted paper strips or cloth that would be lit and used

in Huaibei, poor peasants and farmers banded togeth-

for torches while Nian bands were plundering at night (Perry

er into semi-permanent gangs, ranging in size from

98; Chiang 7). A third explanation posits that Nian referred

a few members to several hundred, who would make

to the carts pulled by salt smugglers—a group that the Nian

an income through plunder and salt smuggling (Per-

was intimately entwined with (Erh-kang 78). It is difficult to

ry 100-104). Often, they returned to farming for part

ascertain which is the most correct interpretation given a


lack of primary texts directly relating to the Nian. Howev-

Lexing, the leader who is largely credited with organizing

er, a source written by Liu T’ang, a merchant who was held

and unifying the Nian into a systematic military organi-

captive by the Nian for several months, revealed that Nian

zation beginning in 1853 ( Jung-heng and Shou-I 265). As

leaders referred to themselves as “t’ang chu,” translating

with most other early Nian activities, salt smuggling tend-

to sect leader, while landlords called them “nien bandits”

ed to be done as a way to supplement income and provide

(Erh-kang 79). This suggests, firstly, that Nian was not a

for one’s family and community during the agricultural

self-appellation but a term used by outsiders to refer to

off-season. Salt smuggling also set a precedent of peas-

these groups and, secondly, demonstrates the dynamic of

ant resistance to Qing authority in the region, though in

conflict between the Nian bandits and local landlords.

a more subtle form than future peasant resistance. One

Whether or not it was the source of the term Nian,

way that salt smuggling influenced the Nian rebellion was

salt smuggling was of pivotal importance to the develop-

through the formation of armed groups who protected

ment and growth of the Nian and was an important force

smugglers from getting their salt confiscated by Qing au-

on their path to rebellion. Indeed, the salt trade was one

thorities. Zhang was protected by one such group, known

of the most important industries in the Qing empire be-

as the eighteen gunmen, which, being made up of “accu-

cause salt was a necessity for daily life and production was

rate marksmen and brave fighters”, prepared the founda-

dispersed across the empire. Following systems inherit-

tions of Nian armed resistance against the Qing (Liu 37).

ed from the Ming, the Qing heavily controlled and taxed

These groups, often referred to as Red Beards (they dyed

the salt trade in an effort to generate government income

their beards red to avoid being identified) escorted the

(Chiang 218). One result of this heavy taxation was the for-

salt smugglers for a fee of two hundred coins per cart-

mation of a salt smuggling industry that was as profitable

load of salt smuggled (Teng 41). When this did not make

as the legal trade, as smuggled salt was often cheaper for

enough money or the salt got confiscated, Red Beards took

consumers and better quality (Chiang 209). The Huaibei

to plunder to supplement their income, often robbing the

region, which Nian rebels frequented, contained vast net-

rich to help the poor. This suggests that there was “a slight

works of rivers, lakes, and canals centered around the Yel-

tinge of social revolution” in the early Nian movement

low River and the Grand Canal, which connects the Yellow

(Teng 21). Salt smuggling was also instrumental in the rise

River to the Yangtze River (Teng 37). As a result, this region

and expansion of the Nian because smugglers developed

had long been an economic center, containing five of the

connections and networks across the region that mobi-

eleven salt producing centers in China and fertile valleys

lized into rebel groups in later years (Liu 38). Smugglers

for crop production (Teng 41). Salt-smuggling flourished in

helped break down regional barriers and unify peasants in

Nian-frequented regions because strict government con-

their resistance to the Qing state.

trol meant that only certain types of salt could legally be

Salt smuggling, like most of the key factors that

sold in certain districts. For instance, people in the Huai

caused the Nian Rebellion, can be understood as an un-

district preferred the better tasting salt from Anhui and so

intended consequence of poor government planning and

a large smuggling market emerged (Liu 37). One important

corruption of local officials. Indeed, by the 1850s the Qing

Nian figure involved in the salt smuggling trade was Zhang

state was severely weakened from several concurrent


uprisings across the country and the failure of govern-

food. The flooding of the dikes—which had happened rou-

ments to provide for peasants left many with little choice

tinely throughout history—was largely a result of admin-

but to resort to illegal livelihoods. Additionally, the Qing’s

istrative neglect and inadequate maintenance (Teng 40).

weak military apparatus in the Huaibei region allowed

Lacking any relief from the government, this propagated

bandits to “roam over unchecked countryside, reaping

a massive expansion of the Nian movement and, as Perry

profits from looting, kidnapping and extortion” and gain-

contends, “it was only around this time that the Nien as-

ing adherents among the many peasants who had been

sumed the character of a mass movement” (118). It was also

forced off their land (Lund vi). The Nian salt smuggling

around the time of the floods that the Nian formally raised

industry must be understood as part of this pattern of

the flag of rebellion and began uniting former feuding

corrupt governance and weak enforcement mechanisms

bands together against the Qing. For example, in 1853 Qing

in the late-Qing period. The Manchu’s strict regime for

general Yuan Chia-san came up against a force of 3000

controlling and taxing salt created a market for smuggling

Nian plundering on the border between Fu-yang and Po

by inflating prices and restricting which types of salt could

counties, carrying with them a variety of banners, over 100

be sold where. As T’ao Chu, a Qing official, wrote in 1815,

horses and comprising 58 formerly independent groups

“to clean up the bandits, it is first necessary to standardize

(Perry 117). Thus, the failure of the Yellow River dikes in

the price of salt. All the bandits’ money for drinking, eat-

1852 directly led to the massive expansion and unification

ing and gambling comes from this source [and] if it is not

of the Nian into organized military movements.

enough they go out to plunder” (Teng 41). There were also

Peasants were also driven to rebellion by the cor-

reports of Qing officials falsely accusing peasants of salt

ruption, oppression and exploitation at the hands of local

smuggling or arresting peasants to extort them, leading to

elites, landowners and government officials. In Northern

the formation of Red Beard protection groups and further

Anhui, peasants had little to no access to means of produc-

propagating the salt smuggling business (Liu 37).

tion and their labor was exploited by the few landlords who

Government mismanagement was also the key

controlled much of the land (Liu 25). Landlords and elites

factor in what was perhaps the most direct short-term

colluded with the easily-bribed Yamen runners to avoid

cause of the Nian Rebellion: the flooding of the yellow riv-

paying their taxes, shifting the burden for taxation to the

er in the early 1850s (Teng 40). Indeed, “natural calamities

already impoverished peasant class. Indeed, the Nian re-

and misgovernment of local authorities worked together

bellion occurred at a time of massive discontentment and

to provoke the Nien uprising” (Chiang 12). As mentioned,

administrative decline across Chinese society, as “the out-

flooding and drought were routine occurrences in the

moded imperial government neglected its duties of look-

Huaibei region but, beginning in 1851, “the scope, severity

ing after its people” (Teng 218). As a natural response after

and persistence of catastrophes dramatically increased”

decades of aggrievement, peasants, who had a numerical

(Perry 118). Most notably, the Yellow River dike system col-

advantage, rose up against the bullying of the landlords.

lapsed in the early 1850s, flooding the entire Yellow Riv-

One such example can be seen in the story of Kung-Te, “a

er plain and preventing hundreds of thousands of peas-

filial son” of a poor single mother who was inspired to join

ants from being able to plant crops, store grain and make

the Nian after a conflict with an old, rich landlord. As the


story goes, a rich man’s ox went missing while Kung-Te

ferocious than the Taiping” (Daye 113). Nevertheless, the

was transporting smuggled salt. Hearing that Kung Te was

relationship between the Taiping and the Nian became

not home and taking this to mean that he stole the ox, the

more important around 1856 when they entered into a for-

rich man and his associates destroyed Kung-Te’s house

mal alliance.

and brutally beat his mother, threatening to come back

The most contentious historical debate over the

later to arrest Kung-Te. Upon hearing this, Kung-Te went

causes of the Nian surrounds the influence that the White

over to the rich man’s house with a sharp knife, stabbed

Lotus, a heterodox ‘secret society’ organization, had on the

the man to death as he lay in his bed, distributed the

Nian. Some historians have pointed to similarities between

man’s possessions amongst peasants and then left to join

the Nian and White Lotus, such as their fighting styles and

the Nian (Lien-Chieh 101-105). Kung-Te’s story illustrates

base location, as evidence that the Nian formed out of the

what is perhaps the closest the Nian came to ideological

remnants of the White Lotus movement (Daye 111). Oth-

underpinnings of their rebellion: a pursuit of peasant jus-

ers disagree, describing the evidence of the Nian being a

tice and vengeance against elites.

new expression of the White Lotus as “circumstantial, at

One area of disagreement among historians is

best,” suggesting instead that the “White Lotus were one

the importance and impact that other rebellion move-

of many allies in the Nien’s continual search for support”

ments—specifically the Taiping and White Lotus—had on

(Perry 97). Nevertheless, it is likely that some members of

the foundations of the Nian Rebellion. Evidence shows that

the Nian, such as perhaps the Red Beards, had had some

the Taiping Heavenly Kingdom, which marched through

involvement with the White Lotus, even possibly fighting

Anhui in 1853, had a powder-keg effect on the Nian, acting

on the government side (Perry 98). However, the Nian cer-

as the spark to light the already aggrieved and organized

tainly did not have the same secret society structure and

Nian into a full-blown rebellious force. Indeed, in Zhang

religious motivations as the White Lotus. Rather, the Nian

Lexing’s 1862 confessions he claimed that only after the

were a pragmatic peasant rebellion movement, seeking to

Taipings attacked Po county in 1853 did the city fall, “ban-

improve their economic prospects in the face of extreme

dits arose all around [and I…] established banners and

poverty and oppression.

took to plunder to make a living” ( Jung-heng and Shou-I

In summary, the Nian Rebellion developed out

265). The entrance of the Taiping also pushed the Nian to

of autonomous groups of bandits who, lacking econom-

develop more overtly anti-Qing rhetoric and to develop a

ic opportunities and lacking assistance from a weak and

national consciousness. For example, leaders of the Nian

corrupt state, turned to rebellion. On balance, the key dif-

took Taiping-style anti-imperial titles, such as Zhang who

ference between the early peasant bands and later Nian

began calling himself “Everlasting King of the Han” or the

rebellion was the emergence of an explicit anti-Qing el-

“Great Han Prince With the Heavenly Mandate,” both of

ement after encountering the Taiping rebels in 1853. The

which have a distinctly anti-Manchuist tone ( Jung-heng

Nian Rebellion did not have one single cause, but rather

and Shou I 265; Chiang 24). Interestingly, despite the Taip-

a combination of factors—such as the flooding of the yel-

ing War being one of the deadliest conflicts in history, a

low river, the expansion of salt smuggling, and inequality

contemporary witness described the Nian as “even more

between peasants and landlords—drove peasants to band


Works Cited

together for plunder and allowed the Nian to expand in

Chiang, Siang Tseh. The Nien Rebellion. Seattle, University of

size and organization over time. The Nian Rebellion was

Washington Press, 1954.

also exacerbated and propagated by their interaction

Chiang, Tao-Chang. “The Salt Trade in Ch’ing China.”

with other rebel movements such as the Taiping and

Modern Asian Studies, Vol 17, No. 2, 1983, pp. 197-219.

White Lotus. That said, given the lack of direct sources on the Nian, it is difficult to ascertain the exact causes

Erh-kang, L. “Interpretations of the Name of the Nien

of the Nian Rebellion. Thus, while I have tried to pres-

Army.” In Chinese Perspectives on the Nien Re-

ent a comprehensive overview of the causes of the re-

bellion, edited by Elizabeth J. Perry, 76-82. Armonk, M.E. Shar-

bellion, I have but scratched the surface of the nuanced

pe Inc, 1980. Jung-heng, M., & Shou-i, L. “Appendix A: Confession of

and fascinating historical debates surrounding the Nian.

Chang Lo-hsing.” In Rebels and Revolutionaries in North China, 1845-1945, edited by Elizabeth J. Perry, 265266. Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1980. Lien-chieh, K. “Kung Te Joins the Nien.” Edited by Niu Chia-k’um. In Chinese Perspectives on the Nien Rebellion, translated by Elizabeth J. Perry, 101-105. Ar monk, M.E. Sharpe Inc, 1980. Liu, H. “The Social Background of the Birth of the Nien Army.” In Chinese Perspectives on the Nien Rebellion, edited by Elizabeth J. Perry, 23-44. Armonk, M.E. Sharpe Inc, 1980. Lund, Renville. “Preface.” In The Nian Rebellion, edited by Siang Tseh Chiang, Seattle, University of Washington Press, 1954. Perry, Elizabeth J. Rebels and Revolutionaries in North China, 1845-1945. Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1980. Teng, S.Y. The Nien Army and Their Guerilla Warfare 18511868. The Hague, Mouton & Co., 1961. Ti, Chiang. “A Discussion of the Nien Society (1808-1853).” In Chinese Perspectives on the Nien Rebellion, edited by Elizabeth J. Perry, 44-59. Armonk, M.E. Sharpe Inc, 1980. Daye, Zhang. The World of a Tiny Insect: A Memoir of the Taiping Rebellion and Its Aftermath. Translated by Xiaofei Tian. Seattle, University of Washington Press, 2013.


Drudgery & Barbarism: The Interplay of Gender and Labor on Imperial Japan’s Frontiers

The discussion of labor relations in regions

engaged in business, hawking their cloth wares on the open

controlled by Imperial Japan prior to the second world


war is a complex one. Despite Japan’s obfuscation via

By contrast, Okinawan men were expected to be

Pan-Asianism rhetoric, which positioned the Japanese

above such direct sales and show personal refinement.

nation as a first among equals in East Asia, Japan’s eco-

Okinawan reformers viewed the reversal of these social ex-

nomic motivations and control of other Asian territo-

pectations as “a prerequisite for the establishment of a new

ries resembled that of Western imperial powers in oth-

sexual division of labor that subjugated women’s labor and

er colonial holdings. Introducing the element of gender

reproductive functions to the reproduction of capitalist soci-

to these labor relations further adds to the complexity.

ety”2. In effect, these reformers wanted independent female

To narrow this discussion, I primarily focus

Okinawan weavers to abandon their private, uncontrolled

on the positions of historians Wendy Matsumura and

businesses for a factory-type system which would give the

Theodore Jun Yoo in their respective works, The Limits

reformers and their economic proponents the ability to more

of Okinawa and The Politics of Gender in Colonial Ko-

effectively extract female labor and pay little for the privi-

rea, which present contrasting images of female labor

lege. The efforts of the Okinawan reformers were thus two-

relations in interwar Okinawa and Korea respective-

pronged: first, to reform gender relations via public shaming

ly. Their analysis of labor relations, before the second

and policing of women’s more independent activities, and

world war, indicate that the experiences of female lab-

second to restrict women’s labor to traditional capitalist

orers on Japan’s frontiers depended largely on women’s

modes in a factory setting via market regulation and coercion.

positions within the labor structures of Okinawa and

The former shame-based campaigns tended to be more suc-

Korea prior to colonial rule. Parallels between female

cessful than the latter as Okinawan weavers strenuously re-

laborers’ economic position preceding and following

sisted all efforts to establish a factory economy based around

Japanese colonization comes with a caveat. Okinawa

mechanization. One notable case of resistance occurred on

and Korea faced different degrees of exogenous pres-

October 31st, 1901 when Governor Narahara attended a gen-

sure, as a result of diverging Japanese colonial policies

eral meeting of the Ryūkyū woven cloth dealers’ association.

in those regions, as Okinawa was considered a part of the Japanese interior while Korea was considered a colonial frontier. In Okinawa, reformers like Ōta Chōfu sought to transform women’s traditional roles as fam-

1. Wendy Matsumura, The Limits of Okinawa: Japanese Capitalism, Living La-

ily breadwinners to fit the Japanese mold1. Unlike their

bor, and Theorizations of Community (Durham: Duke University Press, 2015), 84, digital file.

counterparts on the Japanese mainland, Okinawan

2. Matsumura, The Limits, 80.

women were expected to be rugged and actively



A cohort of outraged female weavers protested the as-

By 1933, Korea exported 66.3 percent of its rice crop to Ja-

sociation’s efforts to police their business and stormed

pan5. The high demand for rice from Japan caused famine

the waiting rooms, offices, and houses of the associa-

and death in the Korean countryside in the 1920s and ‘30s

tion’s officers to make sure that, in Matsumara’s words,

forcing rural women, young and old, to seek work in facto-

“their displeasure was duly noted”3. This resistance

ries despite the extreme social and economic exploitation

was made possible because of the entrenchment of

that ensued6.

independent skilled female workers in the Okinawan

Though more constrained than Okinawan women,

economy and because their weaving was conducted

female laborers in Korea resisted the factory system in var-

without oversight at home where government regula-

ious ways. Over the course of the interwar period, absen-

tion or suppression was nearly impossible.

teeism from prison-like factory dormitories became wide-

By contrast, contemporaneous conditions in

spread7. While desertions were commonly attributed to the

rural Korea forced already-devalued female laborers

search for better wages, a 1940 survey indicates that a third of

away from traditional gendered work and into the fac-

the surveyed women left the factory due to family considera-

tory system. While Okinawan women had historical-

tions (marriage or household duties). More obviously, factory

ly worked as independent agents earning income for

wages failed to increase even as the cost of living rose, forcing

their families, the traditional status of Korean women

female factory workers into cycles of poverty when they were

was quite different. Under a patriarchal Confucian sys-

unable to pay off the debt accrued from living in the factory

tem, rural Korean women were expected to match their

dormitories. When this economic burden would cyclically

husbands’ field work while simultaneously running

reach a boiling point, female laborers would strike. The la-

their households, a double load which historian Yoo de-

bor movement grew over the course of the 1920s. Demands

scribes as “drudgery” and which modern sociologists

were sometimes met under the more lenient colonial state

term ‘the reproductive labor double burden’4. While

but such compromises often came with strings attached. In

Okinawan women had sufficient sway to reject facto-

one example, strikers from the Pyongwon Rubber Factory

ry work, Korean women could not. In Korea, excessive

succeeded in preventing a wage cut in the spring of 19318.

economic demands from Imperial Japan for rice and industrial goods weakened Korean family structures. 5. Sorensen, Clark W., Yong-Chool Ha, and Hong Yung Lee. Colonial Rule and Social Change in Korea, 1910-1945. (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2013), 24.

3. Matsumura, The Limits, 109.

6. Yoo, The Politics, 105.

4. Theodore Jun Yoo, The Politics of Gender in Colonial Korea: Educa-

7. Yoo, The Politics, 143.

tion, Labor, and Health, 1910-1945 (Berkeley: University of California

8. Yoo, The Politics, 147.

Press, 2008), 152, PDF.


This win came at a cost. Factory leaders demanded the

and to transfer blame for female labor exploitation entire-

termination of the 20 female strike leaders who were

ly to the Japanese colonial empire. This is certainly not to

promptly fired and lived the rest of their lives in abject

free Imperial Japan of culpability for the egregious social

poverty in Seoul. Factory owners often struggled to re-

and economic exploitation of colonial Korea. However,

place workers lost from both absenteeism and strikes. In

the contrast between Okinawa and Korea suggest that the

response, owners would sometimes resort to hiring male

quality of gender expectations and labor relations prior to

workers. This gendered employment shortage came about

colonization had significant effects on the experiences of

in part because, as the reputation of factory employment

female laborers under Japanese rule.

became tantamount to sexual slavery, as a result of the rampant abuses of male managers rural families would prevent their daughters from entering the system to avoid the associated “shame”9. Thus, female laborers in Korea,

9. Yoo, The Politics, 145. 10. Yoo, The Politics, 152. 11. Yoo, The Politics, 153.

too, found methods to resist the imposition of a factory system. The continuity of female labor exploitation, between the pre-colonial and colonial period, created contradictory forms of colonial resistance within the Korean intelligentsia on the topic of female factory workers, or yugong. On one side of the issue were Korean thinkers, often socialists, who were sensitive to the plight and the sacrifices of the yugong as a class at the hands of Japanese managers and even Korean industrialists. On the other side were Korean nationalists who called for a return to traditional ways as part of a new Korean nationalism. For female laborers, this Confucist framework dictated either leaving the factory to act as a homemaker or, failing that, becoming patient and compliant workers within an exploitative system. Yoo’s description raises an important question: did adherence to traditional Confucian values in pursuit of a new Korean national identity represent more an act of resistance to Japanese rule or a capitulation to a system which undervalued and racialized female labor? At some level, the reinforcement of traditional gender roles by some intellectuals seems an attempt to paper over economic inequities, which Korea had previously tolerated,


Works Cited Matsumura, Wendy. The Limits of Okinawa: Japanese Cap italism, Living Labor, and Theorizations of Community. Durham: Duke University Press, 2015. Digital file. Sorensen, Clark W., et al. Colonial Rule and Social Change in Korea, 1910-1945. University of Washington Press, 2013. Project MUSE muse.jhu.edu/book/26694. Yoo, Theodore Jun . The Politics of Gender in Colonial Ko rea : Education, Labor, and Health, 1910-1945. University of California Press, 2008.


Art & Cinema


Shin-Godzilla (2016), a film directed by Anno

“in tandem with Japanese counterculture2” and“the popular

Hideaki, is the thirty-first movie out of the thirty-six

closely intersected with the political, synchronically corre-

that constitute the Godzilla franchise. Lone Wolf and

sponding to other radical cultural praxes and movements

Cub: Sword of Vengeance (1972), directed by Misumi

in other parts of the globe3”. The critiquing and question-

Kenji, is the first film in six. Where the former revolves

ing of the Shogunate in 1973, in the film version of Lone Wolf

around the governmental response to the resurfacing

and Cub, thus in itself already introduces an underlying

of a radioactive monster in 21st century Japan –– “in a

commentary, by extending the legacy of the Japanese 1960’s

seeming reference to the actual incompetence of the

counterculture movements. Indeed, Misumi Kenji’s critique

government in dealing with the Fukushima nuclear

of this governance is made clear within the first minutes of

disaster1” –– the latter focuses on a former execution-

the film. Let us remind ourselves that the beginning scene

er’s quest to avenge his wife’s murder and his clan’s

opens with a frame of the child Daimyō (a Japanese feudal

honor, in Edo Japan. At first glance, these two works

lord), holding a man’s hand –– presumably his caregiver’s

appear unrelated to one another; one is a commercial

–– and walking to his execution, performed by the protag-

monster film and the other is chanbara, a sword-fight-

onist, Ogami Itto. Although we are first confused as to why

ing movie. However, upon further analysis, these

such execution is taking place –– for a child, the symbol of

works significantly relate to one another with regards

innocence, an unnamed narrator promptly contextualizes

to the role of governance. We will establish how, in

the situation, stating: ”the shogunate took an iron-fisted ap-

both works, the existing system of control is painted

proach in controlling the Daimyō lords [...]. Any sign of dis-

in a negative light and is questioned. We will first see

agreement could cost a lord his title and his family land”4,

how this is the case in Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of

leading us to conclude that the little boy must fit this cate-

Vengeance through the Shogunatethen we will explore

gory. This scene, therefore, sets the stage for the ubiquitous

how it is so, in Shin-Godzilla, through the Japanese bu-

critique of the archaic, unfair, and rigid feudal system.

reaucratic system. In the 1960’s, gekiga, the genre of 2. Suzuki, Shige,"Gekiga, or Japanese Alternative Comics: The Mediascape of Japanese Countercul-

the manga version of Lone Wolf and Cub, was growing

ture", (dir. Alisa Freedman et al.) Introducing Japanese Popular Culture, 2017, https://www.academia. edu/36750791/_Gekiga_or_Japanese_Alternative_Comics_The_Mediascape_of_Japanese_Countercul-

1. Morris Low, Visualizing Nuclear Power in Japan: A Trip to the Reactor (Palgrave Macmillan,


2020), 218.

NY_2017 [accessed on February 22, 2022]. 3. Idem



By depicting a child Daimyō and by simultaneously

Indeed, although he is already the leader of one of the agen-

stating that “any sign of disagreement” could lead to

cies of the Shogunate, Retsudo Yagyu desires to steal the

their execution, viewers cannot help but see the clear

post of the Executioner held by the protagonist by framing

wrongdoings of the Shogunate –– begging the ques-

him of treason to gain even more authority. To do so, the

tion: how can such a young boy be accused of express-

Yagyu continuously exploits the loyalty of his inferiors, out-

ing a “disagreement” towards the system of power,

rageously using the Bushido code of samurais as an excuse

when he is barely even capable of speaking at such an

to force four of his samurais to commit seppuku and to send

age? The director emphasizes the Shogunate’s abusive

a dozen of his men, including his best sword fighter, to die

enforcement of customs and tradition above reason or

in the hands of the “lone wolf”, all in the name of loyalty and

common sense and does so within the first five min-

honor to the Yagyu clan. Even when Retsudo Yagyu winds up

utes of the film, which serves as a microcosm for all

alone, with all his men dead, he continues to exploit others,

of the unfairness seen throughout. As scholar Derek

saying: “The Yagyu exists because of the Shogunate, and the

Johnston accurately summarizes: “The feudal system

Shogunate exists because of the Yagyu [...] I’ll make sure the

is therefore repeatedly shown to [...] have largely lost

Shogun settles the matter” –– in which the chiasma particu-

contact with any ideals which it may theoretically have

larly accentuates feudal Japan’s brokenness and corruption,

embodied”5, explicit of its outdatedness and its con-

reinforcing Johnston’s claim that the Shogunate has entirely

sequent questioning. This injustice and questioning of

lost contact with its original ideals. Even the outcasted ronin

governance style are also further accentuated through

bandits are aware of the samurai’s moral decline, calling

sound. Where the first ten seconds of the movie are

them “disloyal and traitorous bastards”: here, the samurai,

in complete silence, faint noises of vassals weeping

normally allegorical of virtue, is just as degenerate as the

are introduced gradually, heightened to enumerative

bandit, which goes to show the extent of this chaos. As such,

exclamations such as “Our lord! This is unjust!”, “Not

it is made evident that the feudal system is painted in a neg-

our young lord!”, or “My lord!”—the cries and exclama-

ative light and is questioned: Misumi Kenji defends the claim

tions invade the silence like the Shogunate invades the

that Japan must emancipate itself from this long-established,

peace, symbolic of the reigning unfairness. Further-

yet expired, status quo.

more, Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance calls

6. Kenji Misumi, Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance, 1972, 00:01:04. 7. Ibid., 00:01:15.

into question the Shogunate and portrays it in a nega-

8. Ibid., 00:01:21. 9. Kenji Misumi, op. cit., 0:26:36-0:27:10. 10. Ibid., 1:12:30 - 1:12:37.

4. Ibid., 00:04:50-00:05:10. 5. Derek Johnston, “Transcultural Reinterpretation of the 'Lone Wolf and Cub' Narrative”, 2012, p. 1.


Secondly, shifting to Anno Hideaki’s Shin-Godzil-

As such, facts are disregarded, and where the government

la, the existing norms are equally depicted in a negative

was trying to save time by planning a unified response,

manner, epitomized by the traditional Japanese bureau-

they only waste it by opposing themselves to any devia-

cratic system. For instance, throughout the film, the

tion away from the traditional bureaucratic hierarchy.

long-established respect for seniority comes as a priority,

Again, when ministers discuss the likelihood of Godzilla

resulting in oversight of facts, and the state’s consequent

making it to land, the young Hiromi Ogashira, from the

inefficiency in fighting Godzilla. Such consequences are

Environmental Ministry, shares her belief that Godzilla

made clear during the experts and government officials’

could make it to land, but, as she is “low-ranking”19 (and

first meeting concerning the nature of the accidents in To-

female), she is looked down upon for speaking up and is

kyo bay. Indeed,when the event takes place, three hypoth-

ultimately dismissed by the Environmental Minister, who

eses are put forth: first, the Minister of Land, Infrastruc-

takes the side of senior experts. Later, the Prime Minis-

ture, Transport and Tourism claims that incidents were

ter is caught lying on live television, stating there is “no

caused by a “new undersea volcano11”; second, the Minis-

danger of the creature coming ashore”20, right as Godzilla

ter of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology

ironically makes his way on land. The director, therefore,

justifies them by a “large hydrothermal vent12”; and third,

satirically criticizes and questions the existing governing

the young and newly employed Yaguchi Rando, speculates

style,epitomized by the Japanese archaic bureaucratic

that they are due to “something on the seafloor [like a]

system, where younger lower-ranking voices are dis-

colossal creature”13. The way each idea is accounted for

missed by their inefficient and incorrect older male su-

is particularly symbolic; where both ministers’ ideas are

periors. Lastly, the negative portrayal and questioning of

proven wrong by scientific data –– volcanic activity being

this dominant governance are exemplified by scientists.

ruled out by “further studies that show the epicenter to

Indeed, by showing how the scientists that worked on

be shallow and just steam”14, and the vent being impos-

Godzilla –– who represent the exact opposite of the dom-

sible since “past geological surveys would have uncovered

inant governing style –– were successful in stopping the

it years ago”15 –– Yaguchi’s hypothesis is the only one un-

monster, the director highlights the bureaucratic system’s

contested by science. And yet, in direct contradiction to

failure. These scientists evidently differ from the rest of

the evidence, officials rule that “the cause is a new volcano,

the bureaucracy.Not only are they characterized by a lexi-

or a large thermal vent. It can't be anything else”16, and

cal field of ostracization, depicted as “a crack team of lone

Yaguchi is labeled a “rebel”17 and disrespectful towards

wolves, nerds, troublemakers, academic heretics, freaks,

his seniors for speaking up, and his idea is deemed “ab-

and general pains-in-the-butt-of-the-bureaucracy”21,

surd”18. Here, Anno Hideaki illustrates the wrinkled Min-

but they have even attributed a separate governing style

isters’ seniority as being synonymous with indisputable

to that of the bureaucracy: one in which “titles and senior-

truth and exactitude –– despite proof of their inaccuracy.

ity don't mean anything [...] and you can speak freely”22.

1. Anno, Hideaki Shin-Godzilla, 2016, 00:04:41-00:04:46.

19. Ibid., 0:12:41.

12. Ibid., 0:04:57- 00:05:00.

20. Ibid., 0:14:46-0:14:50.

13. Ibid., 0:05:12-0:05:17.

21. Ibid., 0:31:59-0:32:05.

14. Ibid., 0:04:47- 00:05:53.

22. Ibid., 0:31:50-0:31:54.

15. Ibid., 0:05:01- 00:05:05. 16. Ibid., 0:05:39- 00:05:43.


Works Cited

By depicting these “saviors” as a democratic non-hierarchical group of scientists, free from the rules and con-

Anno, Hideaki Shin-Godzilla, 2016, 120 min.

straints of the government, Anno Hideaki undeniably crit-

Johnston, Derek, “Transcultural Reinterpretation of the

icizes the older inefficient modes of bureaucracy, arguing for a newer, sleeker version: he presents an alternative form of power in which “only non-consensus thinkers will come up with the right ideas”23. Both Shin-Godzilla and Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance question the status quo, whether the Shogunate or the bureaucratic system, and, in so doing, both works invite us to question our role in society: do labels such as

'Lone Wolf and Cub' Narrative”, 2012, p. 1. Low, Morris, Visualizing Nuclear Power in Japan: A Trip to the Reactor, Palgrave Macmillan, 2020, 195-225. Misumi, Kenji, Lone Wolf and Cub: Sword of Vengeance, 1972, 80 min. Rayns, Tony, "Shin Godzilla", Sight & Sound, vol. XXVII, no10, 2017, p. 75. Suzuki, Shige,"Gekiga, or Japanese Alternative Comics:

seniority, rank, or age affect our own daily decisions and

The Mediascape of Japanese Counterculture", (dir. Ali-

responses like they affect the characters in Shin-Godzilla?

sa Freedman et al.) Introducing Japanese Popular Culture,

In a world where morals are collapsing, would we exploit


others for personal gain, like Yagyu Retsudo, or would we


fight against this injustice, like Ogami Itto?

anese_Counterculture_Introducing_Japanese_Popular_ Culture_Eds_Alisa_Freedman_and_Toby_Slade_New_

23. Tony Rayns, "Shin Godzilla", Sight & Sound, vol. XXVII, no10, 2017, p. 75.

York_NY_2017 [accessed on February 22, 2022].



Portrayals of Women’s Mental Illness in Korean Literature: Relations to Korean Society and Gendered Expectations for Women

Mental health and mental illness have become

of cultural analysis and new criticism to examine the text

hot topics in recent years in the United States. Young

“Evening Game” (1979) by O Chonghui and asking: How can

people are at the forefront of the movement to de-stig-

one understand the portrayal of mental illness in South Ko-

matize mental illness and prioritize mental health in

rean literature in the 1970s, and its private and societal treat-

the face of the fast-moving and results-oriented Amer-

ment? What is the relationship between these short stories’

ican capitalist culture. This increased focus on mental

portrayals of mental illness and gendered expectations of

health has led to better education on the subject and

women, and what does this relationship say about Korean

better treatments for mental health in general.

society’s relationship with mental illness in the late 1970s?

Despite the different cultural context, I have noticed that mental health, and more specifically men-

Background on the History and Treatment of Mental Illness

tal illness, is a topic described overtly, or present as an

in Korea and South Korea

undercurrent, in many of the short stories written by

In pre-modern Korea, mental illness was often

and about women in South Korea in the 1970s. I believe

treated by shamans, as people thought that a person with a

that fiction written by women has the ability to provide a

mental illness was possessed by an evil spirit. Accordingly,

nuanced, emotional, and somewhat dramatized view of

shamans were hired to perform exorcisms, with the most

the way various sociocultural, historical, and economic

common treatment being, “a blind sorcerer beating the pa-

circumstances intersect in a person’s life. In particu-

tient with a peach club while chanting a spell to expel the evil

lar, the ability of women’s fiction to provide a differ-

spirits” (Sung-Kil et al. 81). Shamans were usually female. One

entiated, personalized, and female-oriented portrayal

other way that mental illness was treated was through tradi-

of mental illness in South Korean society, in the 1970s,

tional medicine, especially drug-based treatments (Sung-Kil

is valuable. This is because it is not only layered and

et al. 81). Doctors thought that if someone had too much of

emotive, but it also provides a view of circumstances

any of the seven emotions, which were governed by one’s

and notions that textbooks and male-authored sources

spirit, the spirit would be affected and various connected in-

may overlook. This is insightful, because rather than

ternal organs would be damaged (Sung-Kil et al. 81). Drugs

simply having hard facts and figures, or a male-dom-

were used to treat the illnesses because mental and physical

inated understanding of the subject, the reader can

symptoms were seen as the same, thus making drugs effec-

comprehend it in a more complete and intersectional


manner, further improving their understanding of the

During the colonial period, the police were put in

treatment of mental health and mental illness in both

charge of mental health issues and viewed people with men-

historical and contemporary Korean society.

tal illnesses as a cause of social unrest (Sung-Kil et al. 82).

Thus, in this paper, I will be using the lenses

Patients were mainly cared for by their families but were sent



Meanwhile, in Christian missionary hospitals,

anger, trauma, and unfairness, often summarized as Haan

doctors believed that patients with mental illnesses

(Sung-Kil et al. 89). These feelings are frequently connected

were being persecuted, by the government and society,

by doctors to the hardships faced by people during the co-

and required separate wards in hospitals (Sung-Kil et

lonial period, Korean War, and democratization movements

al. 83).

(Sung-Kil et al. 89). However, the medical system was destroyed

In modern Korean society, Western medicine, medical care,

during the Korean War which left Koreans with wide-

and treatment by shamans are often combined (Connor, Lin-

spread psychological trauma (Sung-Kil et al. 84). Dur-

da, et al. 29). As previously mentioned, shamans were often

ing the war, some Korean doctors trained in the USA,

called to perform exorcisms in pre-modern times, and peo-

and by the 1970s, economic development saw increases

ple still rely on shamans for blessings, exorcisms, and other

in both hospital beds and doctors. Drug therapy and

practices in contemporary contexts.

psychotropic drugs were released at the beginning of

In addition to its broader history and various methods of

the 1970s and again in the mid-1980s (Sung-Kil et al. 84).

treatment, mental illness in South Korea is highly gendered.

However, with the advancements in treatment came

Hwa-byung, mentioned above, is associated the most with

increases in medical costs, leading to families bringing

middle-aged women, particularly in rural areas (Choi 594).

patients to “less expensive, illegal asylums and ask[ing

In Korean society, women are held to Confucian standards,

the asylums] to hold the [patients] as long as possible”

which “emphasize emotional and behavioral control to cul-

(Sung-Kil et al. 85). These asylums were places where

tivate harmonious hierarchical interpersonal relationships”

the “Period of Grand Confinement” occurred, and

(Choi 596). This makes women more likely to suppress their

patients were held without receiving proper medical

negative emotions such as anger, compared to men, leading

care. In the early 1980s, documentaries about these il-

to higher rates of hwa-byung in women. This suppression

legal asylums emerged, resulting in more government

also comes from the expectation that women are supposed

funding for mental health (Sung-Kil et al. 85).

to express affirmative or positive emotions and to have strict

Today, mental illness in South Korea is high-

personal standards of behavior. This repressive standard

ly stigmatized, and the country has high rates of su-

leads to depression, resentment, guilt, anxiety, dependency,

icide, alcoholism, smoking, and bullying in schools

low self-esteem, and passive aggressiveness (Choi 595, 597).

which are considered a substantial issue (Sung-Kil et

The anger itself comes from “feeling ignored, having ideas

al. 86). These problems are intertwined with unrelent-

discounted, feeling disrespected by too many interruptions,

ing competitive mentalities and high-income inequal-

or being treated unfairly” (Choi 595).

ities present in Korean society. Koreans are also diag-

Finally, beyond the gendered aspect of men-

nosed with culturally specific types of mental illness,

tal illness, Korean society views disability and men-

such as hwa-byung, which is an anger syndrome that

tal illness as connected to “the imaginary of the colo-

results from repressed and accumulated feelings of

nial Korean body politic during Japanese rule” (Kim 3).


There is a focus on the need to cure mental illnesses,

hui, the narrator, presumed to be a middle-aged woman,

meaning a desire “to remedy, rectify, or remove (an evil

lives with her aging father. It is revealed throughout the

of any kind),” showing the moral judgment implicit in the

story that her older brother has left the family and that her

meaning of the word “cure”, as well as its connections to

mother, afflicted with a mental illness for much of the nar-

shamanism (Kim 6). Korean society places a focus on “cu-

rator’s life, died at an unspecified time in a mental insti-

rative time,” where an individual should wait for a cure

tution, which she was taken to after killing the narrator’s

rather than living their life (Kim 8). In this way, people with

baby brother. In the present time in the story, the narrator

mental illnesses are often sent away to institutions, where

and her father play hwatu, a fortune telling card game, in

they will either be cured of their illnesses, and return to

which the cards are so worn that it is easy to tell which one

society, or live out their lives in isolation. These cures also

is which. The card game serves as a kind of ritual for the

often carry risks of pain, violence, and even death; e.g.,

father and daughter.

electric shock therapy (Kim 13). Violence is frequently jus-

O portrays the treatment of mental illness

tified in the name of curing someone, invalidating their

through pseudo-shamanistic rituals in “Evening Game.”

current state of existence, and saying that their life is not

It is mentioned that the narrator’s mother, who suffered

worth living unless they fit in with “normal society” (Kim

from an unidentified mental illness, was treated by some-

14). This need for a cure can be seen, especially in litera-

one in an attempt to exorcize her of the presumed evil spir-

ture, as representative of the need to find a cure for the

it causing the illness. The narrator reminisces, “he wasn’t

damaged (often female-coded) nation, not simply the in-

a preacher and he wasn’t a shaman, but he sure knew how

dividual, often through the process of “curative violence”

to whip her with peach branches” (O 193). The mentions of

in order to return to a normal (i.e. masculine, patriarchal,

a preacher and a shaman as potential people who could

healthy, monoracial) state. (Kim 32).

cure the mother are references to both traditional meth-

In this paper, this background on mental illness

ods of treatment by shamans as well as more recent West-

in South Korea will be used to analyze the selected short

ern-imported Christianity. Interestingly, treatment by ei-

story in the specific cultural context of South Korea in the

ther a shaman or a priest would have involved some kind

1970s. I will pay close attention to the connections with

of exorcism, showing the pervasive connection of mental

the historical treatment of mental health in Korea, both

illness with evil spirits and curses. By having the narra-

Western and shamanistic, as well as the gendered and fe-

tor’s mother whipped with peach branches to try and cure

male-specific experiences of mental illness, and the over-

her, it shows that the narrator’s father was willing to let

all perception of mental illness as something to be cured

his wife be hurt due to the damaging societal norm of cu-

in Korean society.

rative violence, in an attempt to make her become “normal”. Additionally, O’s choice of having the mother treated

Analysis of the Portrayal of Mental Illness in “Evening

by a man is interesting, as shamans were usually female.


By having a man perform the shamanistic ritual, O cre-

The Mother’s Life

ates a dichotomy between traditionally patriarchal Korean

In “Evening Game,” written in 1979 by O Chong-

family society and matriarchal shamanistic practices. This


contrast has a strong narrative effect, as it shows the ina-

er, further juxtaposing her with her husband. In this way,

bility of the narrator’s household to afford better and more

by repudiating the expectations to care for her children

reliable treatment for the mother, as well as the father’s

and be a dutiful wife, mother, and member of society, her

desperation to see her cured despite the pseudo-practi-

character can be read as both influenced by her mental

tioner’s obvious lack of legitimacy and the violent nature

illness, in that she acts outside of societal norms because

of the treatment. In this way, O portrays the mother as a

of it, but also embracing it, because she is able to escape

victim of societal norms, where she is hurt in an attempt to

the expectations placed upon her. After the murder takes place, the narrator’s

be healed and return to normal, despite a lack of verifiable traditional or religious treatment available to her.

mother is taken to a mental hospital, phsyically and emo-

O illustrates how the mother’s mental illness eventually

tionally separating her from her family and Korean society

culminates in outright repudiation of her role within her

thereafter, as she cannot be returned to society until she

family and society, leading to her exile from it and eventu-

either is cured of her illness or dies. The narrator receives

al death. In “Evening Game,” when the narrator is in ele-

letters from her mother, saying, “Sweetie, take me home!

mentary school, she returns home from school to find that

It’s scary here. I’m lonely,” to which the narrator replies, “I

her baby brother has disappeared. Her mother reassures

know, but it's the same everywhere” (O 195). This dialogue

her by saying, “Don’t worry–I’ll buy a doll for you” (O 193).

effectively displays the state of mental health care in South

This piece of dialogue reveals the severity of the mother’s

Korea in the late 1970s, where the only affordable treat-

illness, potentially exacerbated by postpartum depression,

ment was given by illegally-run private institutions which

where she has killed her own child and believes that he is

provided deplorable levels of alleged care for patients.

replaceable with a doll. By saying that her child’s broth-

The mother and daughter’s exchange exemplifies the sit-

er can be replaced by a doll, the mother demonstrates

uations many patients and families found themselves in,

the lack of connection she had with her son: his ability to

where people received inadequate care, but were unable

breathe, sleep, cry, and grow up is seemingly unimportant

to leave because their families could not take them back as

to her. This shows her complete rejection of her role as a

they were deemed dangerous to society. O illustrates the stigma surrounding women’s

mother, taking away life instead of creating it. Furthermore, the mother has embraced her illness and

mental health through the motif of flowers. At an unspec-

is using it as an escape from gendered expectations in

ified point after the mother’s institutionalization, the nar-

contrast to her husband’s “unrestrained lifestyle” (O 193).

rator and her father go to the hospital to get her mother’s

There is a contradiction in the roles of the narrator’s

body. It isn’t revealed how she died. The narrator remem-

mother and father: while the mother is expected to give

bers, “the smell of flowers from Mother, who had started

birth to, raise, and care for her children as well as work as

turning putrid, was acrid, rather like smoke” (O 200). In

a kindergarten teacher, the father is carefree and without

the short story, flowers are seen in the hwatu cards, the

responsibilities. The mother is performing very tradition-

mother’s perfume and hair, etc. In Korean culture, women

ally feminine roles, such as being a wife and mother, as

only wear flowers in their hair if they’re children or mad-

well as the male role of provider by working as a teach-

women. By using this motif, especially when talking about


or around the subject of the mother (e.g. in the card game),

rounding her behavior, even in death, and how her illness

O weaves in this infantilizing belief, effectively supporting

is not able to give her a full escape from it. Likewise, the

the narrative that the mother struggles with her mental

continued presence of the scent of flowers after the moth-

health, especially by placing her in contrast with other

er’s death shows how the stigma of the mother’s illness

healthy, adult women who are not associated with flowers.

remains for her family posthumously, demonstrating how

As previously mentioned, the mother rejects her role of

rumors and people’s reputations are affected by the stig-

wife and mother by embracing the symptoms of her illness

ma around mental illness.

and killing her child. By doing this, she not only embrac-

The Narrator’s Life

es her illness but also its connection to childhood. In this

The narrator’s life is deeply impacted by her

way, the connection between mental illness and girlhood

mother’s illness. O portrays how her life is affected, from

becomes more relevant, and raises the question: Why do

a lack of marriage prospects to the worn-out card game

Korean women with mental illness have these illnesses?

she plays. The title of the story, “Evening Game,” comes

How much of their mental states are a product of their cir-

from the fortune-telling card game, hwatu, that the nar-

cumstances, under constant pressure in private and public

rator plays with her father every night. While playing, the

spheres to fulfill gendered expectations in the home and

narrator comments, “the backs of the cards told me what

in the workplace? Therefore, by having the scent of flow-

they were” (O 189). The cards range in type from plum

ers linger on the mother even in death, O demonstrates

blossom to peony to paulownia, and their point values

the mother’s continued desire to return to her childhood

vary. In the story, the game is a kind of ritual for the fami-

and escape the societal pressure surrounding her. Fur-

ly, where they play and replay it with the same cards until

thermore, by having this scent turn acrid when she dies, O

they are worn out and easily identifiable, taking one of the

shows how the mother has been consumed by her illness

main challenges of the game away, yet they don’t get a new

from the inside out, and how now, in this state of death

deck of cards. The game is a metaphor for their father and

and decay, there is still a continuous barrier between her

daughter relationship: they know each other very well, but

and other people. This barrier is a product of the Korean

can’t get rid of or exchange each other despite built-up

attitude towards mental illness. The mother’s suffering in

resentment, so they find themselves interacting in a cir-

the mental institution is one example of the othering and

cular fashion, holding their cards to their chests literally

negative effects of this cultural attitude.

and figuratively, and never truly addressing the topics that

The motif of flowers and the lasting presence of

matter, such as the treatment of the narrator’s mother, her

their scent on the mother demonstrate the pervasiveness

brother's abandonment of the family, or the main charac-

of the gendered expectations present in Korean socie-

ter’s dissatisfaction with her life.

ty’s perception of female mental illness, and how wom-

In the game, like in her life, the daughter is taking

en cannot escape feminine expectations (even through

care of her father, who responds to her care with orders or

mental illness). This emphasizes the mother’s inability to

“a childish, slack-jawed grin” (O 190). She concedes to his

survive in or connect with Korean society. O displays how

whims, eating extra slowly so that she doesn’t leave him

the mother has been overtaken by the expectations sur-

eating alone, due to his health issues, and letting him win


their games so that he can feel satisfied with himself.

arated from them but still affected in numerous ways by

Their relationship is both parent-child and patient-care-

their illnesses.

taker, where in either scenario she is constantly the filial

Due to her family circumstances, the nar-

daughter, putting aside her own life to take care of him in

rator, like many middle-aged women in Korea, ex-

the Confucian fashion, where children are meant to place

periences mental health issues of her own. As previ-

their parents’ needs above their own. The daughter’s re-

ously mentioned, she does not voice her resentment

sentment of her father is never discussed with him, and

towards her father or her dissatisfaction with her

many things go unsaid. Due to her mother’s illness and

own life. She also has dreams where she talks with a

actions, her entire family carries the resulting stigma, and

mysterious young man and can discuss her trauma.

this discriminatory reputation has ensured that the narra-

The narrator of the story is unable to express her

tor has been unable to marry, something that she resents.

emotions, at best saying things to her father like, “well,

Additionally, at this point in her life (she is implied to be

you could have taken better care of [my mother].” (O 193).

middle-aged), according to Korean societal norms, she

Even when she is able to articulate her feelings, she of-

should be living her own life, with her parents left to care

ten keeps them trapped inside, resulting in the fragment-

for each other. However, due to her mother’s illness and

ed flashbacks present in the short story, mimicking the

death, she has to fulfill the empty role as the woman of the

symptoms of hwa-byung, where emotions and trauma

house, leaving her and her father to, “[perform] an end-

are suppressed, occasionally building up enough to jump

less play from a tattered, worn-out script” (O 191). Instead

out unexpectedly. Additionally, the narrator’s dreams are

of discussing her mother’s illness, they dance around the

indicative of her mental state and her feelings. As she is

subject, playing hwatu with its flower cards and indirectly

confined by the gendered expectations to be a filial healthy

showing how the narrator’s mother is still present in their

daughter, placed upon her by her father and society, she

lives despite her death. Like her marriage, the topics of her

is only free to do otherwise in her dreams. In a recurring

mother and her mental illness are left undiscussed, leav-

dream, she interacts with a mysterious young man, saying

ing the two of them to continue reading from their script,

to him, “Yes, I guess I’m too old to be tying my hair with

avoiding direct communication, and ignoring the genuine

a red ribbon. Only a crazy woman or a prostitute would

problems that require solving both in their relationship

do that” (O 194). This is significant because throughout the

and in their lives. The repetitive gameplay and carefully

story her mother is associated with flowers, showing the

worded conversations are a metaphor for Korean society’s

pervasive presence of her mental illness and her desire to

relationship with mental health, and indeed the society as

return to girlhood. Likewise, the main character mirrors

a whole in the late 1970s. Everyone is tired, beaten down,

this by wearing bright colors in her hair. In her recurring

and suffering in some way, but they all refuse to talk about

dream, the main character is able to acknowledge the top-

what matters, preferring to keep up the status quo despite

ic of mental illness and the behaviors associated with it.

the misery it brings them. In particular, mental illness is

Interestingly, while her dreams are a kind of safe space for

highly stigmatized, with patients taken away from society

her to act as she wishes, outside of her daughterly duties,

to suffer in isolation and their families left behind, sep-

we also see her placing the same kind of judgment on her-


self that her mother faced from her father. This leads to her

tionships and the negative attitude towards mental illness

condemning her own actions of exploring her past and de-

in South Korea. Thus, her use of dreams to explore her

sire for her girlhood while still doing them. Furthermore,

emotions and acknowledge the traumatic events she has

this exploration occurring only in her dreams is significant

faced is made even more striking. In this way, O portrays

because dreams are short-lived and temporary. The nar-

mental illness in South Korean society as both intensely

rator cannot stay too long within them without going mad

private and highly stigmatized, with multiple consequenc-

like her mother, hence why she self-censures. This shows

es on one’s life.

the pervasiveness of the public and private pressures that

In conclusion, as seen through the lenses of new

the main character faces, where even in her subconscious,

criticism and cultural analysis in the short story “Evening

she is not fully free. In this way, we see her portrayed as a

Game” (1979) by O Chonghui, O explores the topic of men-

woman suppressing her own desires to fulfill both public

tal illness through the characters of the mother and the

and private gendered expectations, whose life is deeply

daughter. O employs pseudo-shamanistic rituals and

affected by her mother’s mental illness and whose buried

curative violence, the repudiation of gender and familial

trauma is causing her own mental health issues and desire

roles, and the motif of flowers to examine the character

to be free of her burdens. O effectively shows the myriad

of the mother, portraying her illness as an affliction she

of ways that the narrator’s life has been affected, display-

suffers from as well as an escape to girlhood from her du-

ing the effects of the stigma surrounding mental illness in

ties as a wife and mother, where her illness is ever-pres-

Korean society in the 1970s.

ent in her life. The daughter’s character is examined pri-

The narrator’s dreams are not only a place for her

marily through the effects her mother’s illness has on her

to be free from the constraints of her life, they are also a

life, where she faces private and societal expectations to

place for her to work through her trauma. In her dream,

fulfill her role as a filial daughter and take care of her fa-

she declares, “‘I’m going to catch some butterflies.’ [...]

ther in her mother’s absence. O portrays the father and

‘Your mother looked like a butterfly,’ Father had said” (O

daughter’s relationship as a microcosm of Korean society,

194). When she says this, it is both sad and informative: she

where standards of behavior and attitudes towards mental

is looking for her mother in her dreams, because she can-

illness compound in the two characters’ ritualistic nightly

not find her or even talk about her in reality. Her dreams

game of hwatu, where the effects of these norms and at-

are a place for her to express her emotions towards and

titudes, including curative violence, remain undiscussed.

about her mother and attempt to work through them. They

O also displays the narrator’s resulting hwa-byung dis-

are a place for her to try to understand her mother, such as

order, where she has buried her resentment towards her

by wearing the ribbon in her hair and trying to live freely

father and trauma about her mother’s illness so deep-

at least in her dreams. However, even in her private life

ly that she can only fully express these emotions, along

she is unable to convey her unacceptable emotions about

with her desire for freedom from her daughterly duties,

her mother’s actions and illness as well as her father’s

in her dreams. By showing how the narrator’s dreams are

treatment of her mother, as the Confucian societal expec-

a place of escape and expression for her, O demonstrates

tations are exacerbated by both her strained familial rela-

the harsh effects that trauma and gendered expectations


placed upon her have produced. She ultimately uses the story to depict the negative and highly stigmatized treatment of mental illness in South Korean society in the 1970s, showing how for women especially, their societal roles and mental health were intimately connected, and

Works Cited Choi, Yun-Jung. “The Impact of Gender, Culture, and So ciety on Korean Women's Mental Health.” Social Be havior and Personality: An International Journal, vol. 43, no. 4, 2015, pp. 593–600., https://doi.org/10.2224/ sbp.2015.43.4.593. Connor, Linda, et al.. “The Cultural Politics of ‘Supersti tion’ in the Korean Shaman World: Modernity Con structs Its Other.” Healing Powers and Modernity: Tra ditional Medicine, Shamanism, and Science in Asian Societies, Bergin; Garvey, Westport, CT, 2001, pp. 25–37. Kim, Eunjung. “Introduction: Time and the Presence of Disability.” Curative Violence: Rehabilitating Disability, Gender, and Sexuality in Modern Korea, Duke Universi ty Press, 2016, pp. 1–41. O, Chonghui. “Evening Game.” Words of Farewell: Stories by Korean Women Writers, Seal Press, 1989, pp. 181-201. Sung-kil, Min, and Yeo In-sok. “Mental Health in Korea: Past and Present.” International and Cultural Psychol ogy, 2017, pp. 79–92., https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-48997999-5_5. Accessed 9 Nov. 2021.




Comparative Studies of Rhyming in Cantonese and Mandarin


er non-level tone (see *Great Song Revised and Expanded Following Wagner and McCurdy’s 2010 study

Rhymes (陳 and 邱 1008)). According to the anecdotes of some

on identity rhymes in French and English, this paper

Mandarin and Cantonese speakers, the identity rhymes are

reports on a comparative study exploring the percep-

considered natural but there was not a perception study to

tion of identity rhymes in Mandarin and Cantonese.

test that judgment. We will examine if these constraints on

Optimal English rhymes are word pairs with the same

rhymes in Middle Chinese also hold in Mandarin and Can-

nucleus and coda (if present), but with different on-

tonese. If similar restrictions on rhyming based on tone were

sets. Identity rhymes refer to the rhymes with the same

to hold in Mandarin or Cantonese, it would be important to

onset. The identity rhyme is acceptable according to

see whether these restrictions correspond with present-day

Great Song Revised and Expanded Rhymes, while in

tone pronunciation or the historical Middle Chinese tone

English poetry, it is considered to be “unconventional


and even unacceptable” and to “fall ridiculously flat”

In Wagner and McCurdy (2010), the native French

(Wagner&McCurdy 2010).

speakers rate as good both identity rhymes and “good rhymes” (rhymes with different onset but same nucleus and


coda). We designed a comparative experiment based on Wag-

This paper reports on a study of identity

ner and McCurdy (2010) to see what instincts Mandarin and

rhymes in Cantonese and Mandarin. As in Wagner and

Cantonese have on rhyming syllables with the same onset.

McCurdy’s 2010 study on French and English, this re-

We find that Mandarin and Cantonese follow Middle Chinese

search seeks to find the extent to which Mandarin and

in allowing identical rhymes.

Cantonese speakers consider rhymes with the same

We further tested whether tone affects rhym-

onset, identity rhymes, to be good. Furthermore, we








consider what impact, if any, tone has on rhyme quality.

found that, unlike in Middle Chinese, it does not.

Contrast to the definition of rhymes in English, in Middle Chinese, the predecessor of Mandarin 2. Middle Chinese level-toned syllables with voiced onsets become oblique in

and Cantonese, rhymes with the same onset are al-

Mandarin and Cantonese. For example, Middle Chinese 林 /lim/ ‘forest’ has a

lowed.Further, a level tone cannot rhyme with anoth-

flat tone, but its reflexes in Mandarin and Cantonese do not due to the voiced /l/ initial. Furthermore, Middle Chinese falling tones correspond to mid or low-level tones in Cantonese. For example, 見 ‘to see’ is /kên/ in Middle Chi-

2. We appreciate the feedback and advice provided by Professor Mi-

nese but [ki:n³³] in Cantonese.

chael Wagner, who is a Professor of Linguistics at McGill University.




evaluated. Cantonese is transcribed in the International We had ten Mandarin speakers and nine

Phonetic Alphabet and Mandarin in Pīnyīn.

Cantonese speakers listen to several mini-poems in a random order. Each mini-poem had one of four conditions: 1. DiffOnset SameFinal (like Wagner and McCurdy’s ‘Good’) 2. SameOnset SameFinal SameTone (like Wagner and McCurdy’s ‘Identical’) 3. SameOnset SameFinal DiffTone (added to test if Mandarin and Cantonese’s tones affect rhyming judgements) 4. DiffFinal (like Wagner and McCurdy’s ‘Bad’) Following the ‘within’-style design, the participants listened to every mini-poem in their chosen variety. With the goal of comparing the quality of the four conditions, the experiment had participants rate the rhymes from 1 (Very Bad) to 6 (Very Good). After the main part of the experiment, they were debriefed and asked to provide feedback. Cantonese speakers listened to sixteen couplets (4 conditions 4 sets) and Mandarin speakers listened to thirty-two couplets (4 conditions 8 sets). Every set had one example of each of the four conditions and maintained the same second line throughout, thereby minimizing variation caused by change in mini-poem.

3. The Cantonese couplets were composed and recorded by Sophie Thomp-

The participants did not receive compensation and

son, a volunteer, while the Mandarin couplets were composed and recorded

were not run on any other experiments.

by Qian. 4. Participants did not see these written versions of the mini-poems.

Item sets samples The following examples are transcriptions of the mini-poems participants listened to. The highlighted syllables are those whose rhyming quality was


Results The first two graphs (below) demonstrate how Cantonese and Mandarin speakers ranked each condition’s rhyme quality. The number next to each point represents the arithmetic mean rating for each condition. Speakers expectedly ranked DiffFinal as poor; the other three conditions, having overlapping error bars, show no significant difference in their average rating.

The results above demonstrate that participants in both experiments judge rhymes with the same onset as good in Mandarin and Cantonese whether the tone varies (as in SameOnset SameFinal DiffTone) or not (as in SameOnset SameFinal SameTone). Note that, in both Cantonese (item set 2) and The third and fourth graphs break up the data

Madnarin (item sets 4 and 8), level tones rhyming with

by item set, as labeled by the number above each sub-

non-level tones (as in SameOnset SameFinal DiffTone)

graph. As with the first two graphs, speakers consistently

are judged similarlly to level tones rhyming with oth-

rate DiffFinal as poor and the other three conditions as

er level tones (as in SameOnset SameFinal SameTone).

good, with insignificant differences between these three.

This difference from Middle Chiense is discussed below.



trast to rhyme pairs with different nuclei and codas (if

The following are examples of feedback for the


experiments (translated if necessary).

Note that, unlike in Middle Chinese, two level-toned syllables rhyming are judged as good. For

• The quality of some recordings are not so good.

example, In Cantonese item set 2 (given in section 4

• I don’t fully comprehend the rules for rating.

above), the last syllable of the second line is 知 /t͡ siː˥/

• I don’t understand what a good rhyme is.

which bears a high level tone5 On average, speakers rated the rhyme between 枝 /t͡ siː˥/ and 知 /t͡ siː˥/ as good

Particularly helpful was the following feed-

(in fact, slightly better than 指 /t͡ si / and 知 /t͡ siː˥/ where

back from a Cantonese participant. This person’s frus-

指 has a rising tone). Despite both syllables having a lev-

tration at the lack of traditional Chinese, odd ordering

el tone, they are

of place names, and the lack of clear bilingual option

still are good rhymes. Mandarin Item sets 4 and 8

point out important flaws in our pre-experiment sur-

demonstrate that Mandarin also shows little differ-

vey which are to be rectified in future work * the survey

ence in judgment between level tones rhyming with

is written in simplified Chinese, which is unfriendly to

non-level tones and with other level tones. The ob-

Hong Kongers * First question is about place of birth

servation here is that Mandarin and Cantonese do not

and residence, to be chosen from a dropdown menu.

follow the rhyming constraint by tone contrast from

The names are listed in Chinese but follow the alpha-

Middle Chinese.

betical order in English.

Future research could focus on the impacts of

This is confusing (e.g., I had to look for 香港

this study on Wagner and McCurdy’s discussion of the

(Hong Kong) somewhere near the middle, and extract

Williams effect. Like English but unlike French, Man-

it from 海地 (Haiti), 洪都拉斯 (Honduras), etc.) * This

darin has anaphoric destressing. If Mandarin (or Can-

is where I gave up: you are only given one choice for

tonese) were found to also have the Williams effect, this

‘mother tongue’, but I consider myself as being bilingual from early childhood and can’t really decide whether Cantonese or English is my mother tongue. I could not continue without the ‘bilingual’ option.

Discussion From the results we obtained as shown in the

5. Besides its synchronic status as a level tone, the Cantonese high

plots above. Mandarin and Cantonese speakers have

level tone also descends from the Middle Chinese level tone. The other two Cantnonese level tones were historically falling tones for

similar perception about the rhymes as what was tested

syllables ending in sonorants (Carlyle 2020 p.84). The Cantonese low

in French (without the presence of tone manipulation).

falling tone, 􏰃, also descends from the Middle Chinese level tone, ap-

Speakers of Mandarin and Cantonese treat identity

pearing in place of a high flat tone when the onset was historically

rhymes favorably in contrast to rhyme pairs with dif-

voiced. (Gu and Simmons 2020 p.7, Carlyle 2020 p.84).

ferent nuclei and codas (if present).


good by native speakers as long as they have identical nuclei. We can examine these features in Mandarin as well by utilizing nasal codas (Plosive codas do not exist in Mandarin but they exist in Middle Chinese and Cantonese). Future work could incorporate judgments on coda variation. An improvement to the methodology would be including a Traditional Chinese option. As discussed in the Feedback section, a participant was offended by the settings and decided to quit the experiment.

References Carlyle, John. Common Yue: A Comparative Study of Yue Dialect Historical Phonology. University of Washington, 2020. Chen, P. Qiu, Y (1008). Great Song Revised and Expanded Rhymes Cheung, Hung-nin Samuel . “Songs and rhymes: Cantonese phonology as reconstructed from popular songs.” Journal of Chinese Linguistics 2 4.1 (1996): 1-54. Gu, Qian, and Richard VanNess Simmons. Common Phonology of the Chinese Dialects. Springer, 2020, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-153102-6. Wagner, Michael, and Katherine McCurdy. “Poetic Rhyme Reflects Cross-Linguistic Differ ences in Information Structure.” Cognition, vol. 117, no. 2, Nov. 2010, pp. 166– 75. PubMed, https:// doi.org/10.1016/j.cognition.2010.08.007.


Interview with William Ging Wee Dere: Being Chinese in Canada, Past & Present February 23rd, 2022 William Ging Wee Dere (he/him/il) "William Ging Wee Dere has been an activist over his lifetime fighting for equality and justice, including the 22-year movement to redress the Chinese Head Tax and Exclusion Act. He has published in numerous Canadian magazines and journals, including Ricepaper Magazine, Toronto.com and CBC.ca. He co-directed the documentary Être Chinois au Québec (2013) and co-directed and wrote Moving the Mountain (1993) and Gens du Pays: The Chinese of Québec (1993). His works reflect the history, life and struggles of the Chinese Canadian community in Canada and Québec. William’s latest work is the 2019 non-fiction book published by Douglas & McIntyre, Being Chinese in Canada, The Struggle for Identity, Redress and Belonging, which won the 2020 Blue Met/Conseil des arts de Montréal Diversity Prize." (https://bluemetropolis.org/hope-blog/diversity-william-ging-wee-dere/)

A few weeks ago, we hosted a panel composed of 3

activists today [are] a lot more aware of their identity than we

young activists from the East Asian diaspora. You

were at the beginning. This identity awareness gives them

have been involved in many different Chinese-Cana-

the confidence of challenging the status quo and integrating

dian and other activist movements over the past sev-

into the larger Canadian society. But at the basis of all this,

eral decades. In your view, how has the role of activ-

it's always the struggle against discrimination against ine-

ism changed? What has stayed the same?

quality, against racism. And I think this is where a lot of the

Well, when I first started getting involved in

younger Chinese would be looking at what they will be look-

the Chinese Canadian community, I guess that was

ing at today. Because we still face many issues of inequality

probably in the 1980s. The legacy of the Chinese Exclu-

and finding our rightful place in Canadian society.

sion Act was still quite evident. Many of the old-timers, the lo wah kiu, the old overseas Chinese, [they] were

In your book "Being Chinese in Canada: The Struggle for

conditioned by decades of being non-citizens, so they

Identity, Redress and Belonging," you discuss how your

did not have the confidence [or] the ability to fight

family history shaped your views, activism, and writing.

against the repression that they were facing. My father

Can you briefly explain how your background has influ-

felt that there was nothing he could have done. So I

enced your work for those who have not read your book?

guess it was really up to the children and the grand-

I grew up in my father's hand laundry. I came to

children of these early Chinese pioneers like myself,

Canada when I was seven years old. My father had a hand

who started integrating into the larger society, who

laundry in Verdun. A hand laundry is [a place] where the

started going to the schools and their universities with

person does all the work manually. It's not like the industri-

their White counterparts, [where] they were able to

al laundries of today or the dry cleaning laundry. That [up-

learn and understand what was happening and under-

bringing] gave me a unique perspective on how people were

stand oppression and the history of the Chinese Cana-

oppressed by racism and how generations of racism have

dian community. t was people of that generation that

impacted their livelihood and their social and economic de-

started articulating our demands, our needs, and our

velopment. I grew up in my father's laundry and [saw] how

rightful place in Canadian history. So I think Chinese

he dealt with the situation and the particular oppression and



discrimination towards his identity. He was very much

nese families, not only in Canada but also in China. Could

aware of his identity, not necessarily by his own ac-

you go into more detail about how you chose to include this

cord, but because it was imposed on him by the larger

poem in the book and how the Chinese Exclusion Act im-

society. So whenever anything [went wrong], he would

pacted your own family (in concert with the previous ques-

just be resigned to it and say, well, it's because we're


Chinese. That's why, you know, that's the way society treats us. That was his first step in fighting against the

Right after we were wed, Husband, you set out on a journey.

discrimination that he faced. So I grew up, you know,

How was I to tell you how I felt?

having that kind of, I guess, understanding. But I didn't

Wandering around a foreign country, when will you ever

understand because knowing the oppression and feel-

come home?

ing of repression doesn't make you understand why

You are wasting many joyous years of our precious youth.

and where [it] came from and comes from today. So, in

My spring heart has turned to ashes.

high school, and later, when I entered McGill, I became

Poverty does not allow me the luxury of a choice.

politically conscious. I was able to understand that the

But let it be known to all my sisters:

discrimination and exploitation that we face were not

Don't ever marry a young man going overseas.

because we were Chinese but [were] due to the unequal system. This discrimination was due to the ruling

Songs of Gold Mountain, Marlon K. Hom

class' use of racism, division, and unequal distribution of wealth to keep minorities like Chinese Canadians

This poem talks about the people who came to Canada dur-

away from the structures of power. I began to see the

ing the Chinese Exclusion Act. I felt that this represent-

world outside of my surroundings. The Cuban and the

ed the hardship of the racist Chinese Exclusion Act and its

Chinese revolutions also had profound effects on me.

impact on Chinese families, not only in Canada but also in

Basically, it comes to having an understanding of the

China. I was very much touched and moved by the poetry,

political-economic and social factors at play within

and I concentrated on the poetry from the woman's per-

society. When you understand that, I think you have a

spective, because we have some knowledge about the hard-

better appreciation of where you are at and where your

ships that the Chinese immigrant men went through when

consciousness is.

they first came to Canada, but there's very little information on the Chinese women who suffered and had been left be-

One passage in your book that moved us

hind in the villages. They knew that their husbands had gone

was the poem on page 74 that said, “don’t ever marry

overseas to earn a living for themselves and their families,

a young man going overseas.” We felt that this pro-

but they didn't know where it was, and the only expecta-

vided a poignant perspective on the hardship of the

tion was that their husbands would hopefully come home.

racist Chinese Exclusion Act and its impact on Chi-

The husband would send back some money to keep the


family alive. That's pretty much what happened to my par-

people ... [that] were looking for a model. They were look-

ents. My father and my mother were married right after the

ing for a path to get out of their alienation. The slogans of

Chinese Exclusion Act was passed. It was passed in 1923,

the Chinese, the various Chinese social movements and

and my parents married in 1925. So, my father [couldn't]

revolutionary movements, especially the Cultural Revolu-

bring my mother back to Canada with him because of the

tion, were very enticing, ... like "Let 100 flowers blossom,

law. That's the cruelty of the Chinese Exclusion Act. It kept

and 100 schools of thought contend." They were very ap-

families apart. It separated husbands and wives. My par-

pealing to disaffected young people in the West and other

ents were separated by the Exclusion Act for three decades

parts of the world, especially in countries where national

after they got married. And so this poem, this lamentation

liberation struggles were underway. We were just com-

of a young bride after her husband left for Gold Mountain.

ing out of the quiet Revolution with a strong Nationalist

It's a good representation of my mother's experience, and

movement in Quebec. We're starting to gain self-con-

that's why I featured this poem in the chapter about her.

fidence as a nation. And a Nationalist consciousness as

I wanted to give a voice to my mother and all the women

well. There was a current of nationalism versus interna-

who suffered and were left behind in the villages. I think I

tionalism at that time, and so that's what happened when I

was able to do that through this poetry, and I'm very glad

was a McGill, the McGill Français movement people were

that you brought that up.

working to turn McGill into a French university, but that turned into a dead end. The young people started stud-

You also discuss in the book your involvement

ying Marxism and Leninism. So, they turned towards an

with the Marxist movement in Canada, especially with

internationalist perspective. I think the 1970s was the

the Workers Communist Party (WCP), and how you even-

height of the Marxist-Leninist movement here in Canada.

tually became disillusioned with this movement. Could

My disillusionment in the early 1980s was not with Marx-

you explain how your view of Marxism and Communism

ist ideology but with the political positions taken by my

has changed over the years and what impact those years

organization. The Workers Communist Party denounced

still have on you today?

China because it was undergoing profound changes and

Well, I began that chapter on getting organized

began [reforming] the economy, which was devastated by

with this quote from Marx, so I'll just read it here. “It's not

a decade of the Cultural Revolution, and other erroneous

the consciousness of men that determines their existence,

policies applied by the Communist Party of China before

but their social existence that determines their conscious-

that. Deng Xiao Ping undertook a huge rectification move-

ness.” That really spoke to me, because my social existence

ment to open up and reform the economy. So groups in

determines my consciousness, my political consciousness,

the West started criticizing China because they felt that

my social consciousness, and my identity consciousness.

the Communist party was turning away from the true rev-

I guess those were the glory days of the new Communist

olutionary path. They believed so dogmatically that they

movement, the so-called International Marxist Leninist

had to criticize tried and true revolutionaries in China.

movements because Mao Ze Dong and the Chinese and the

That's what I was disillusioned with. I was very uneasy

Communist Party of China were beacons for many young

about this trend of thought. What right did they have to


criticize Communists who fought the revolution in Chi-

what it really means by this Marxist slogan to each accord-

na? So my ideological views on Marxism and Communism

ing to his work. So that gave me a clear understanding of

have not really changed. Maybe, just my articulation has

this opening up and reform of the economy. This is what

changed, as I have studied the reality and the concrete

China is carrying out today, and I believe it has shown a

practice of building Socialism in the few countries led by

way in building a multi-polar world order of equality, jus-

a Communist party like China, Cuba and Vietnam. Hav-

tice, and peace.

ing said that, most of us don't really know what Socialism is. I mean, you know that the word Socialism gets bandied

One thing you mention a lot in interviews and

about by so-called progressive people. Marx never gave us

your book (especially in the closing chapters) is the idea

a blueprint on how to build Socialism. So I had to study

that diversity alone will not end racism. Can you expand

modern analysis from people who actually experienced

on that idea?

building Socialism by putting Marxist theories into prac-

Diversity today is very much touted. Policy-mak-

tice. And I don't mean the Western eurocentric Marxist in-

ers in corporations, institutions, governmental agencies,

tellectuals who spend their lifetime reading Marxist text,

and different levels of governments use it to show that

you know, and these are not the people I could learn from.

something is being done against racism. But racism is an

I don't think anybody else could learn from them although

ideology that is built into the capitalist system. It is a so-

they do make a career out of criticism of China. But, as I

cial and economic construct to perpetuate the products of

said in the book, the building of socialism is a new phe-

colonialism, slavery, and settler genocide. So, diversity is

nomenon in human history, and each country must lay

much talked about these days. But what do you do? What

down its own path towards socialism. It began with the

do we do after diversity? The fight against racism requires

Soviet Union with the Great October Socialist revolution

some fundamental changes, and I would say, one, we need

in 1917. But the Chinese Communists realized soon in the

to recognize racism as systemic because it is built into

1950s that the building of Socialism in China was not the

the system. The Quebec government does not recognize

same as the building of socialism in the Soviet Union be-

systemic racism, although it's hidden and right in the face

cause China was an agrarian, semi-feudal, semi-colonial

of a law which is so obviously systemic because it picks

society and ... that they had to build their own path towards

on a small group of minority people to apply the tyran-

Chinese socialism. At that time, I was looking for explana-

ny of the majority. I’m talking about Law 21. I know from

tions as to what was happening in China. I saw these com-

my involvement in the head tax redress movement that if

rades were saying or telling me, arguing with me against

the government applies legislation against one minority

China. Then I'd read this book by Xue Muqiao, called Chi-

group, then it makes the entire society less tolerant. The

na's Socialist Economy, and began to understand how the

Chinese community faced 62 years of legislated racism in

Chinese apply Marxism to modern-day China because he

the form of the head tax and the Chinese Exclusion Act. I

explained very clearly the Socialist market economy and

think [this kind of legislation is] quite obvious to us and we

the need to develop the productive forces in China; how

can understand why the government continues to legislate

to use the laws of value to determine price and wages and

against minorities in the way that it has against Muslims,


Sikhs, and others by preventing them from taking their

compatibility is so much more important for my wife and

full place in the Quebec Civil Service because they hap-

me. So, I can say that my identity as a Chinese Canadi-

pen to wear a hijab or yarmulke. The first step to making

an has affected me more profoundly than I realized, and

fundamental changes is recognizing that racism is built

I think that's the conclusion that I drew towards the end

into the system. The second step is recognizing that there

of the book.

is such a thing as White privilege and that [White people] benefit from economic interests that stem from racism,

You talk in the book about making the film" Être

which produces economic benefits for those who control

Chinois au Québec" and ultimately being dissatisfied

power. And the last time I checked, Canada is a White so-

with the process and the final result because many of the

ciety, so the ruling class is mainly White. The third point is

people whom you worked with on the film were not com-

that black, indigenous, and people of color need to enter

fortable with challenging the model minority myth and

into the decision-making structures of society. This is how

pushing the limits, so to speak, of Asian representation

they can change the policies of the ruling class for minor-

in media. You also discussed how filmmaking helped you

ities to move into the ruling class. They need to be able

understand the faults within your community. Can you

to be there, to change policies, to make decisions that not

expand on that?

only benefit the White ruling class but also BIPOC people

The main issue with the many education systems

as a whole.

in Quebec is how they deal with racism. I didn't just have an issue with the model minority myth although it was

On page 316 of the book "Being Chinese in Can-

part of it, because being a model minority means that you

ada," you talk about your arranged marriage. At the time,

do not challenge the dominant narrative on issues that af-

you were “still conflicted” in your “mind, heart, and soul”

fect you. You are set up as a model of a people who can

and not ready to “let go of that Western mentality” of ro-

assimilate into the dominant culture. I felt that we lost an

mantic love. Can you discuss how your identity as a Chi-

opportunity to expose racism in Quebec society. We were

nese-Canadian has shaped your personal life?

making that film at the time when the PQ was putting out

We've all seen romance movies and read roman-

their charter of Quebec values, which was a precursor to

tic books on idealized love. I tried romantic love, but it

Bill 21. In the process of making that film, I realized that

didn't work for me. So there's always the issue of cultural

[some faults] were very difficult to overcome. The forc-

baggage. I was conflicted because my parents supported

es of assimilation are everywhere and I suppose some of

each other throughout their entire lives, even when they

the young people who worked on this film felt it was a lot

were separated for 30 years due to the social circumstanc-

easier being assimilated than going against the current.

es of exclusion and racism. They got to know each other all

How to deal with racism and Quebec society was really the

over again [once they reunited after the repeal of the Ex-

ssue. The role of a filmmaker, especially a minority film

clusion Act]. I learned that marriage is a commitment. I've

worker, is to state a point of view and to challenge social

been married now for 32 years with [my wife]. Apart from

narratives. He is responsible to his community and can-

the romantic and sexual attraction, I believe that cultural

not walk away once the project's finished. I cannot make


a film to meet society's expectations because I wanted to

National Liberation struggles against colonialism and im-

make the film to provoke and challenge the status quo. I

perialism were breaking out all over Asia, Africa, and Latin

had hoped to influence the film, but the film crew per-

America. It was a very exciting time, [during which] I was

ceived it as an example of Chinese narrow nationalism

able to put my principles into practice by organizing sol-

because, to them, a Chinese person stands up for their

idarity movements in support of numerous people, [such

self-identity. They call it narrow nationalism. But here in

as] the Palestinian people and the South African people

Quebec, there is such a thing as narrow nationalism, when

in the fight against apartheid. We organized study groups,

you play identity politics, and language politics, which the

marched, and demonstrated. I think of student rep-

CAQ is doing today. I think the criticism of Quebec na-

resentation at the University's Board of governors today

tionalism is valid, but I don't think criticizing minorities

as a result of some of these actions. Furthermore, as an

for standing up for their identity is valid at all. Continuing,

engineering student, along with some other progressive

minority filmmakers must answer for what they produce

engineering students, I took over the Plumber's Pot, which

because what they do is a reflection of their community, so

was a racist misogynist paper, and filled it with progres-

they must take responsibility for the end product and be

sive content and talked about women's liberation and sup-

accountable to that community. and I went on to say that

port for third-world struggles and so on I don't know if

primarily we must tell and show the truth. Do it honestly

Plumber Pot still exist today, but I don't know whether it's

and passionately. We must tell the stories that the main-

it has any progressive content to it. I also knew Paul Lin

stream ignores or refuses to acknowledge as important.

when he was young. I believe he was the first director of

Furthermore, we must tell it in such a way that is not tripe,

the East Asian Studies Department, and we used to meet

cliche, stereotypical, or fitting certain mainstream expec-

in that department. Paul supported our work in the Can-


ada China Friendship Association. It was a good time, an exciting time when I was a student at McGill. Given that we are a McGill student journal, we

want to ask you about the role that your time at McGill

What is one story, idea, or thought that you did

played in your development as an activist and a person.

not end up including in the book that you would like to

Can you tell us any interesting stories or things that you

share with us? I finished my book in 2016 and finished editing it

noticed have changed about McGill and its role in the

throughout 2017. It was at the publisher's for about a year

Greater Montreal community? I was a student at the time just before the CEGEP

until it was finally released in March 2019. It was too ear-

system came in. So I went straight to university from high

ly for the issue that I am spending a lot of time studying

school. As I said earlier, it was an exciting time. Quebec

and writing about today, that is, today's anti-Asian racism

was rapidly changing with the quiet revolution. Interna-

and how it is directly linked to Sinophobia and anti-China

tionally, Vietnam was fighting against American aggres-

hate. Anti-China hate has always been a powerful psycho-

sion, and there was an international movement to support

logical factor to condition people to support the colonial

Vietnam to defeat the Americans and the Third World. The

and imperialist designs on China. You had the Yellow Peril


to justify the opium wars. OOther European and American occupations of China which the Chinese called a century of humiliation. Here in Canada there was the 62 years of racist legislation of the head tax and the Chinese Exclusion Act because [the government] knew they could use the Yellow Peril to get popular support and also knew that China was so weak and subjugated that the Chinese government was in no shape to object to the treatment that Canada was giving to its citizens. Today, the Yellow Peril has resurfaced, along with McCarthyism. So we have a toxic mix: the red scare combined with the Yellow Peril to condition people to fear China. So that would have been one theme that I would have included in the book if I had kept writing it until today.

We would like to thank all of our contributors, from the East Asian Studies Department and the Arts Undergraduate Society to our esteemed peer reviewers and contributors for making Orientations a journal with integrity and creativity. A special thanks to our guest speakers for involving themselves in such a wonderful fashion and taking the time to share such meaningful reflections, bringing us closer and more unified in our fight against racism and all forms of discrimination. We hope that you have enjoyed this relaunch issue who, through art and text, portrays the different heritages of our communities and sought to illuminate the issues that still affect us today. - The Orientations Editorial Board


CONTACT US The Orientations Journal

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