vol 9 | winter 2013

Page 1

orientations the undergraduate journal from the department of east asian studies 2012 2013

editor-in-chiefs Christine Klippenstein, Hatty Liu managing editors Hera Chan, Thy Anne Chu Quang editorial board Christa Coryea, Grace Fu, Sumin Lee, Alexandria Proctor, Lucy Ren design + production Hera Chan cover Tai O, Hong Kong, 2012 Hera Chan special thanks We would like to thank the Arts Undergraduate Society, the East Asian Studies Students’ Association, and the Department of East Asian Studies for their support.

contents Racism and Ethnic Enclaves The Chinese Community in Montreal Caroline Tremblay 5 The Pien Mountains as Wang Meng’s Body Charlotte Jacob-Maguire 13 The Visual Manifestation of “Qi” Throughout the Tang, Song, and Yuan Dynasties A Case Study of the I-p’in Style Alexandria Proctor 20 Representation of the Self ThroughPictorial Emulation of Models of Society Alexandria Proctor 26 Passion for Individuality in Two Different Chinas An analysis on Jia Zhangke’s Platform Siyang Zheng 33 The 1988 Seoul Olympics and Democratic Transition in South Korea Caroline Tremblay 37 Sara-Sara Hikikamari life, myths, and perceptions Dawn Cheung 40 Cinema and Culture China After the Cultural Revolution Charlotte Jacob-Maguire 46 Modern China and the One Child Policy Zhe Feng 49 Note from the editors 56


Racism and Ethnic Enclaves The Chinese Community in Montreal Caroline Tremblay


any people consider Canada and its ethnic composition to be a culturally heterogeneous society, especially in major cities such as Vancouver, Toronto, and Montreal. However, scholars have questioned these assumptions and proven that Canadian society, only a few decades ago and perhaps still today, has adopted nativistic ideologies and racist policies with the hope of creating a homogeneous White society.1 One particular group that was especially affected by the prevalence of nativist attitudes in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries was the Chinese migrants. Their experience on Canada’s West Coast showed how racial discrimination practiced both by the majority population and by local or national institutions was a major source of hardship for minorities at the time. While the most blatant forms of discrimination, such as the Chinese Immigration Act that stymied Chinese immigration from 1923 to 1947, have long been repealed, their impact on the lives of immigrants cannot be ignored. Much of the work that has been done on Canadian racism towards the Chinese has focused on British Columbia, which is not surprising: until 1981, it was the province with the highest proportion of Chinese residents and racial violence against them, as well as the province with the most powerful political influence on Ottawa’s immigration policies concerning Asian minorities.2 Yet, though we do see the recurrence of some crucial themes, the experience of Chinese migrants in British Columbia cannot be universalized across the country. The city of Montreal, with its particular history, economic development, and population composition, is a good example of where racial discrimination took a slightly different yet still significant form; although there was no major disturbance involving the Chinese, racism was something that strongly influenced the way the community has been shaped. Chinese immigrants in Montreal certainly received more social support than elsewhere, but this was superficial. The political landscape indirectly coerced them into tightly

closed occupational and cultural enclaves, thwarting any desire to participate in mainstream society. As a result, the community responded by further withdrawing into itself. Examining the global political climate that initiated this process will help to elucidate it.

Immigration Begins

The first significant wave of Chinese immigration to Canada was induced by the gold rushes in British Columbia, which began in the late 1850s and lasted for about a decade.3 Many migrants came from the United States. They had experience in mining in California, but took their chances in the North partly to escape the antiChinese feelings rampant in American mining towns at the time.4 Outbursts of anti-Orientalism did not appear right away. The population was small, numbering about 1,900 migrants in the late 1860s, and most lived in remote mining towns.5 It was when British Columbia entered the Confederation in 1871 that the Chinese problem became a public issue. From that point on, social tensions increased within the province due to the economic stagnation that followed the end of the gold rushes and the ensuing job scarcity, for which much of the blame was put on the Chinese.6 The construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), which had been promised to British Columbia if they agreed to join the Canadian Confederation, started in 1881. Although this might have at first seemed like a good solution to the problem of job scarcity, it did not put an end to the hostility towards Chinese immigration. Rather, it furthered the debate on how to deal with this segment of the population. On the one hand, there was the British majority who constructed images of the Chinese as vicious and immoral beings that would pollute their society, steal their jobs, and forever remain aliens.7 Thus, they increasingly feared the potentially


massive influx of Chinese immigrants that the railway project implied. On the other hand, John A. Macdonald, who headed the federal government, believed that there was a shortage of labour for the construction of the CPR, and that its completion could not be realized without the help of the Chinese workers, who were willing to perform some of the most dangerous work. As Macdonald put it himself, the challenge was to bring the Chinese to Canada “without introducing a permanent evil to the country by allowing to come into it… an inferior… foreign and alien race.”8 Soon after, in 1885, the federal government passed the Chinese Immigration Act, which imposed a head tax of $50 on every person of Chinese descent entering Canada. This moment marked the beginning of the era of discrimination specifically oriented towards the Chinese in Canada’s immigration policies. The tax increased twice at the beginning of the twentieth century, first to $100 and then to $200, until Chinese immigration became strictly forbidden by the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1923.9 From then until 1947, virtually no Chinese immigrant was accepted within Canadian borders. As for the debate surrounding the employment of Chinese workers on construction sites, much of the legislation adopted by Ottawa in that period was influenced by the unfolding of events in British Columbia. Therefore, before looking at the specific case of Montreal, it is important to look at why racism was so rampant in the West, since both East and West were subjected to the same federal laws despite the large discrepancies in the number of Chinese migrants present in different areas. One useful framework to understand the treatment of Chinese migrants in Canada would be to look at their history through Bolaria’s and Li’s definition of “institutional racism.” Bolaria and Li argue that racial oppression in the Canadian context and also in capitalist countries at large was a coherent part of the social system and strongly linked to the economy. Thus, race is a social construct used to form an orthodoxy, whereby the exploitation of minorities becomes justified by the goal of economic development.10 Bolaria and Li argue:

“Racial oppression has to include not only the economic exploitation of racial minorities, but also the control exercised by the dominant group through various state apparatuses, including the law and law-enforcement agencies. Anoth-


er aspect of racial oppression is the psychological and social impact institutional racism produces among minority members.”11 Moreover, “race is a basis of fractionalizing the work force:

“To the extent that members of the dominant and subordinate groups have unequal access to rights and privileges, and that such inequality is institutionalized and rationalized by a theory supporting the inherent superiority and inferiority of racial groups, it is fair to say that race has become a basic feature of our society.”12 In short, whereas racism is often understood as a cultural or ethnic conflict in which one culture is deemed biologically superior to the other, thus justifying social inequalities, the concept of institutional racism adds an economic component.13 Race is constructed around physical traits, which not only moulds groups into permanently racialized entities, but also explains the unequal exploitation of labour. This process is then embodied into law in a way that benefits the economic development of the majority. The assimilation model, an important framework for understanding North American immigration policies, also operates on these concepts. In fact, the single most significant argument for racist policies in Canada has simply been that “non-whites are less likely to assimilate into Canadian society.”14 This theory seems to fit well with the experience of the Chinese, although there might be other aspects that need to be explored in order to fully capture their situation. In contrast, scholars like Ward prefer to argue that “economic strains, while in many instances important sources of racial conflict and prejudice, ultimately were subordinate to psychological tensions as the central locus of racial animosity.”15 The Chinese undeniably posed a potential threat to the economic health of the West Coast, since they were assumed to send all their savings back to China instead of reinvesting in the local economy. Moreover, they accepted lower salaries, thereby undermining the livelihood of White Canadian workers.16 However, Ward proposes that the racism inherent

to immigration policies came more from the desire to create a homogeneous society founded upon the image of race and of Whiteness.17 This desire stemmed mainly from two ideas. First, the stereotyped image of the Chinese characterized by ignorance, perversity, cruelty and poverty was firmly embedded in Western thought and the Europeans’ experience in China in the beginning of the nineteenth century. This, from the start, had categorized the Chinese as inferior based on Western standards and value systems. Another popular myth was that of the “Yellow Peril”, which predicted that once awakened, the large populations of Asia would easily “over-run [the] land like grasshoppers.”18 Second, the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were a period when the “doctrine of white supremacy” extensively marked political, scientific and literary ideas.19 For example, one theory that was popularized and even institutionalized in many countries was the “science” of heredity, eugenics, which proposed that racial improvement was possible through selective breeding of the human species. Not only were physical attributes inherited, but human behaviour was, too.20 Given the prevalence of stereotypes of the Chinese people as immoral, there were therefore enough good reasons to stay away from them. According to Ward, this ideological climate stimulated racial awareness, and thus the need to preserve the West coast’s White integrity in an age where Asian populations formed increasingly large ethnic enclaves, both numerically and proportionally. Clearly, there was a push-and-pull component to the development of institutional racism in Canada. The state first wanted to exploit the cheap labor of the Chinese migrants. At the same time, it feared the social repercussions of a too-large minority group that would undermine its project of forming a homogeneous and superior White society. The majority population, similarly, was worried for its welfare, and it asked the government to restrict Chinese immigration. They became more hostile as discriminatory practices were legitimized by the government. The Chinese were thus constantly pushed back within their inferior and segregated profile.21 No longer able to sponsor their families to join them after 1923, and without any rights to defend their own positions, many chose to return to China in the following years.22 Those who stayed were institutionally, ideologically and physically isolated. Nonetheless, not everyone was radically against the Chinese. Their employers often praised them for their good work. However, very often there was arrogance and condescension in their descriptions: “If white men and their families had servants like the Chinese to do the dirty work for them. I think it is the destiny of

the white man to be worked for by the inferior races,” remarked a Vancouver businessman in 1919.23 This type of attitude can also be noted in the city’s policies in the 1930s. Chinatown was renovated and given a more positive image based on romantic conceptions of the Orient. In her book on Vancouver’s Chinatown, Anderson argues that the ensuing promises of a better life in Chinatown were at the same time accompanied with an “endurance of the process of racial categorization.”24 Although the Caucasians might have been interested in discovering the exotic cultures of the world, the inferior status of non-White people was not changed. For instance, one advertisement for the Liberal Party published in a Vancouver newspaper in 1935 stated: “the Liberal Party is opposed to giving these Orientals the vote.… Insure Vancouver’s future by voting Liberal on October 14.”25 The Chinese problem was, as we can see, still strongly tied to politics. The Chinese found ways to avoid confrontations and exploitation, for example by investing in their own businesses instead of taking up jobs that would pay them much less than they deserved.26 Another option for the Chinese was to move to Eastern Canada, a process that had slowly started in the 1880s. In 1881, the Canadian national census counted only seven persons of Chinese origin in the province of Quebec, all of them situated in Montreal.27 The pace of migration to the East increased in the twentieth century, and despite the fact that British Columbia continued to host the majority of Chinese Canadians by far, it was the only province to actually experience a decline in its Chinese population between 1911 and 1941. In the same period of time in Quebec, the Chinese population increased by about 50%, with most migrants settling in the city of Montreal.28 Nonetheless, we should note that people in Eastern Canada were aware of the debates on whether Chinese immigration should be restricted or encouraged for the construction of the CPR. Munro examines the attitude of French Canadians towards the Chinese at that time, and concludes that despite the usual ideological differences between the French and Anglo-Canadians, the two groups agreed that the priority was of keeping Canada “white.”29 Munro observed that the French Canadians had a direct stake in the debate mainly because it involved the railway, which would be beneficial to the development of Montreal.30 He also expected them to disapprove of the hostility of the Anglo-British Columbians, since “French Canadians recognized that respect for the culture of the past is similar in kind to respect for the culture of others.”31 The proposed legislation did not match Canada’s core ideal of “respect for diversity of


culture and traditions.”32 However, the Royal Commission on the Chinese question, headed by Adolphe Chapleau, a French Canadian from Montreal, concluded that even though they might be wrong and irrational, antiChinese feelings could not be ignored, and hence should be addressed directly in order to prevent social disorder in British Columbia. The French Canadians seemed to endorse this position as a group, agreeing to suppress one of their principles in order to avoid unnecessary social upheaval.33 As a result, people in Montreal were well aware of the threats that Chinese immigration could pose on their own society, as their ideas had already been shaped by the larger Canadian political context. Many Chinese also became racially targeted by both local authorities and their White neighbours. Yet, the way racism affected them in Montreal was quite different from their compatriots in Vancouver. As a matter of fact, both cities presented very different characteristics from the start. The most relevant in our case was that institutional racism against the Chinese was instilled from the top, so that the official racist standpoints in Quebec were not adopted based on concrete experience but rather on an imagined fear of replicating the negative experience of the West. This, however, would and probably could never happen given the relatively small Chinese population. As a result, despite the large differences between various individual experiences, what we can observe in Montreal was a somewhat more passive form of racism, one which allowed the Chinese to find more sources of support and sympathy, but one that also placed them in very tight, isolated enclaves.

The Migrant Experience in Montreal

Among other discriminatory practices, fights occurred between Whites and Chinese in Montreal. The interviews conducted by Chan with Chinese women who came to live in Montreal at various points in time reveal that all of them agreed that there was widespread discrimination and prejudice, especially before the Second World War. Canadian perceptions and indeed, perceptions throughout the world, took a new direction in the second half of the twentieth century, so that all the women agreed that things had improved over time. Yet, in the earlier years, hardship seemed to stem more from their living and working conditions, not to mention tensions within the community, than from the racist attitudes from without, which was only an added strain to their problems. Some, like Mrs. Fang Zhoushi, who arrived in Canada in 1921, were more bothered by the Caucasians than others. She recalled: “Before the war, there was a lot of prejudice against the Chinese. These


people,… the French… When my children, my son and daughter were small, they would laugh at them and yell, ‘Ching, Ching, Ching.’ They would yell, ‘Maudit Chinois.’ [Damn Chinese] I would yell back, ‘Maudit Français. Tu es fou?’ [Damn French. Are you crazy?] They shut up after that.”34 Such incidents might at first seem trivial compared to the large-scale anti-Oriental movements taking place in the West, which more than once erupted into violence. For example, the most famous incident concerning the Chinese in Canadian history was probably the Vancouver Race Riots in Chinatown and Japantown 1907. Ward argues that although the riot “was simply a spontaneous outburst, one which asserted West Coast racialism in a clear and emphatic way”, the factors which made the situation boil up to that point had been accumulating in the past months, if not in the whole history of Asian migration to British Columbia.35 Most importantly, the Asiatic Exclusion League, the leader and precipitator of the riots, had become a symbol to rally anti-Oriental feelings. The League was comprised of agitators afraid that their province would become “Asiatic.” Macpherson, the Liberal MP for Vancouver, justified the presence of the League by saying: “I can see without any difficulty the Province of British Columbia slipping into the hands of Asiatics and this part of Western Canada no longer a part and parcel of the Dominion.”36 No such event took place in Montreal. Helly, in fact, claims that the small size of the Chinese community, and the fact that they worked in only two occupational sectors in which they did not pose competition to the majority of White workers, made them much easier to keep under control. No organization was forced to contest their presence. Consequently, the only explicit attacks against the Chinese, whether physical or in legislation matters, were organized privately, thus less noticeable publicly and less likely to succeed.37 Nevertheless, these small actions are still significant as they produced a long-term psychological strain on the Chinese, reinforcing their sense of isolation, which soon began to feed on itself.

The Creation of Enclaves

The isolation of the Montreal Chinese community did not result in the creation of a specific area of settlement where most of the Chinese would reside, as in many North American Chinatowns including Vancouver. As Aiken explains in her study on Chinese property ownership in Montreal, this was probably linked to the city’s finished character: it was easier and cheaper to rent than to construct new buildings. Nonetheless, she notes that the first Chinese newcomers mostly settled in two dis-

tricts, St-Louis and St-Laurent (near the old city), which were at the time occupied by people of various ethnic backgrounds. The “Chinatown” as we know it today was formed gradually but began to grow as such only in 1910 when the community bought their first properties in the area.38 Yet, Montreal’s Chinatown, throughout its history, has never been occupied by a large proportion of its Chinese population. In fact, they were quite dispersed throughout the city. Chinatown’s main function was thus more of a place for the Chinese to meet one another, gamble and participate in the activities organized by the few community associations, rather than to provide housing to Chinese residents. The fact that the Chinese were so dispersed was actually directly linked to their isolation. One of the most important characteristics of the Chinese communities in Eastern Canada, and most specifically Montreal, was that they formed very strong occupational enclaves. For the most part, they worked either in laundries or in restaurants, with a few working in related sectors such as groceries, although this sector grew mostly in the latter half of the century. In the community’s first decades more than 90% of the Chinese were involved in the laundry industry, and more than half of the community still was by 1940.39 Restaurant businesses were the second most important source of employment for the Chinese in that period of time, although they comprised a much lesser proportion of the workers than laundries.40 These occupations were adopted by the Chinese in mostly all major Canadian cities. Opening a laundry did not require a large initial investment nor specific skills, and it was not necessary to speak English or French. Interestingly, despite its small Chinese population, Montreal was the city with the largest number of Chinese launderers in the early twentieth century.41 Why did they all concentrate in laundries? Hoe argues that it was a consequence of the hostile sociopolitical Canadian landscape, which barred them from participation in the mainstream labour market: “In order to avoid labour competition, they took up the laundry trade and, over the years, the laundry trade became institutionalized as a pattern of work and life for the Chinese in Canada.”42 In Montreal, they set up their own market. Prior to their arrival, the only laundries belonged to big English companies who charged high prices and served mostly the commercial sector. The Chinese, on the other hand, offered their services to the poorer working class sector of the population, for whom they set low prices.43 Working in a laundry was purely labour-intensive: it was very hard and degrading. They did not make large profits and had to work long hours washing strangers’ stained

clothes. Moreover, their success was highly dependent on the welfare of the economy at large. Their clients, mostly poor workers, could not afford Chinese laundries during times of recession, no matter how low the prices fell.44 There was thus a constant fluctuation in the number of laundries, as the economy in the early twentieth century was far from stable. Only a few launderers, most of them who had already accumulated capital in the West before settling in Montreal, were able to set up long-term businesses with a few branches, which allowed them to survive in times of recession.45 Despite the hardships that laundries entailed, most Chinese accepted their condition and adopted strategies to cope with their established position. For example, Mrs. Yu Cuizhu spoke of the hard work she had to perform:

“If you were Chinese, what are you going to do? If it was not laundry, it was restaurant work… The Chinese really worked hard then. They would make some money, but they never spent any of it…. They were concerned with saving. Now, people are concerned with doing what is good for themselves, not like it was then. They were always saving money to go back to China.”46 From Mrs. Yu’s account and those of other women interviewed by Chan, we can observe the Chinese’s interest in keeping a low profile. In that sense, it is arguable that they took employment cleavages and racial discrimination for granted and made their choices based on the best potential outcome. Chan and Lam’s study of an Ontarian Chinese community came to similar conclusions:

“The Chinese in Timmins have chosen to accommodate by withdrawal and self-isolation, not counter-arguments or attacks. In choosing to fight back, the Chinese would be liable to be accused of being uncivilized and militant when they win, and of being morally physically weak when they lose. It is a no-win situation.”47


There is, though, a problem with such a point of view: it assumes that the Chinese worker was only a sojourner with an intrinsic “disinclination to assimilate.” Criticizing this theory, Chan argues that “the immigrants would very much like to enter the mainstream society; it is the latter that continually thwarts their desires and intentions.”48 According to Chan, the Chinese enclaves in hand laundries and restaurants were part of the larger “cultural division of labour” that characterized Montreal in the first half of the century, and in which Jewish and British immigrants possessed the monopoly on managerial, administrative and professional occupations, and Italians likewise for construction.49 The occupational hierarchy in the city was immutable, and it was only due to important changes in the economic structure and immigration policy that the Chinese were able to diversify their occupations much later. To support his argument, Chan gives an example of two individuals. One of them, Huang Jinzhuo (Jack), was an important figure in the Chinese community, and also an exceptional individual who did not wish to go back to China and married a Caucasian woman. He arrived in Canada in 1913 and moved around the country, but spent most of his life in Montreal. The key to his success was probably the fact that he spoke a little of both French and English, which was very unusual for a Chinese immigrant at that time. He recalled:

“I think that racism does exist overall. It is always there. In my opinion, there is racism everywhere. However, it has never happened to me. In general, people from my country often experienced racism. The Caucasians discriminated against our country. Why? If the old people had the opportunities that the younger generation have, such as the chance to go to school and learn how to speak and write, they would have got along with the Caucasians.”50 Jack did not think like the majority of his community, and he was willing to mix with the White population. In fact, racism is not a linear process whereby one racial group discriminates against another; it can go both ways. Many Chinese avoided contact with other groups because they feared that their lack of communication skills would


be used against them, but many also genuinely hated the Caucasians. As much as the Canadians might not have wanted to have their kind polluted by Asian blood, following the principles of the sciences of heredity, the opposite was also true in many instances. Jack was one of the few to marry interracially, but he had to face the consequences: “The older generation of Chinese people felt that if you married a Caucasian, you would be going against the culture you were brought in. You did not love the motherland anymore. If you married a Caucasian, you were useless.”51 There were deep-set tensions on both sides. Accordingly, Chan and Helly argued that the immigrants’ “passive” reaction to discrimination, which is the formation of economic and cultural enclaves, did not mean that they were being submissive. It was a way not only to contain the violence imposed by the Canadian society on the Chinese, but also the violence of the Chinese against Canadians; criminality was politically dangerous, therefore the solution was to remain isolated from the mainstream to avoid further trouble.52 Finally, as Jack demonstrated, the other way by which the Chinese could get by was through acculturation. However, except from very few individuals like him, the first generation was not necessarily open to an idea like this. Also, it would never be guaranteed that by adopting the host society’s culture, language or religion, one could get out of the ethnic enclaves. As a matter of fact, Jack worked in his restaurant businesses all his life. Mixing had, however, different types of benefits, both on the personal and on the communal level. It was easier for him to defend his interests and to find help. He found out that many White people did not discriminate against his race. For instance, when it was announced that redevelopment projects in the city would have buildings in Chinatown torn down, he was the one to go to the bank and take care of the paperwork: “I was the only person responsible for it. The Caucasians were very considerate about the matter. They discussed things with me and gave me a chance to work things out.”53 Attitudes among the population were less monolithic than most studies on Canadian racism toward the Chinese tend to suggest. Most of the social support that was offered to the Chinese came from two organizations: the Catholic Church and the Protestant Church. Both the provincial and federal governments had adopted a policy of nonintervention in social welfare. In Quebec, this responsibility was given to the two religious orders. Both had different ways of dealing with ethnic minorities, although they had in common the underlying goal of reinforcing their own cultural hegemony. First, the Catholic Church shared the majority point of view that immigration was

a threat to the purity of its values regarding family and community. Conversely, these same values required that they welcome the migrants. Their response was thus to form parishes based on the language and national origin of its members.54 The next step was to teach them the “right” values. In fact, the Catholics feared that the Chinese pagan ideologies would spread and undermine Christianity, which was the basis of the French Canadian community. These fears were reinforced by the accounts of French Canadian missionaries in China that were published in Quebec between 1918 and 1955. The way the missionaries expressed their views on China showed various degrees of respect for Chinese culture, but they all came to the same conclusion that the Chinese’s superstitions were wrong and their practices, like gambling and smoking opium, backward.55 The Chinese would be welcome as long as they would respect the host society’s laws and values. In that sense, the Catholic Church wanted to convert the Chinese not only to its religion but also to Canadian culture at large.56 It must be emphasized, however, that the Church’s goal was not to benevolently facilitate the integration of the migrants into the French Canadian mainstream but rather to protect the integrity of the Catholic Church and to reinforce the cultural enclaves. A good example was the foundation of the Montreal Chinese Hospital. The Chinese community (though not in its entirety) had joined hands to accumulate the necessary capital and developed their own hospital in response to the anti-Oriental political landscape and their lack of access to care facilities. The only external help they received was that of the Catholic Church.57 At the same time as they were promoting moral education and providing financial assistance to the poorest, investing in the hospital allowed the Church to reinforce the isolation of the Chinese away from Caucasians by creating this new symbol of the Chinese ethnic enclave. On the other hand, the Protestant Church wanted to anglicize the migrants, but allowed them to keep their Confucian values since these were more compatible to their own ethics, at least when compared with Catholicism.58 They thus offered education as a way to “Canadianize” the foreigners. Like their French counterparts, the English elites were worried about their hegemony.59 What the two groups wanted to protect, though, were different. The French were concerned for the legacy of their own culture and history. The English, for their part, were well intent on keeping their strong political and economic influence. “Canadianizing” the minorities was, for them, a way to avoid competition from any other ethnic group.60 Accordingly, only a few Chinese in Montreal joined that

Church, and they tended to be the richer ones who saw the benefits of learning English. Most of those living in extreme poverty chose to join the Catholics for the assistance they provided for those in need, even if that meant putting their own beliefs aside. Therefore, not only was the Chinese community constantly labelled as aliens while they were compelled to acculturate, but the involvement of religious institutions also played a role in changing the dynamics within the enclave they were creating.


Racism was present in Montreal as much as it was elsewhere in Canada, where it yielded particular consequences on the Chinese in the first half of the twentieth century. In that sense, we can contrast the experience of the Chinese in this specific community to that of their compatriots in British Columbia: the Chinese community in Montreal was much smaller, did not represent any strong competition in labour markets, and lived in dispersed locations as required by the laundry industry and its clientele. They were thus much less visible on the whole. However, their presence remained problematic to the majority White population, whose behaviour encouraged the formation of self-perpetuating isolated enclaves. In fact, when we go back to the concept of institutional racism used to understand discriminatory practices against the Chinese in British Columbia, we can observe that the criteria fit Montreal well too: racism fractionalized the workforce into specialized ethnic enclaves, and it produced psychological strains on the Chinese, who more often than not responded by various strategies of avoidance. Although racism was not enforced directly through state apparatuses, it was administered by the institutions to which these responsibilities had been relegated, namely the Catholic and Protestant Churches. Violence is not a necessary criterion for racial discrimination to be seen as such; indeed, the Chinese in Montreal were alienated from the mainstream at the same time as they were receiving social and economic assistance. In the end, while there might have been better opportunities for the Chinese in this part of the country, the underlying message was once again that Canada was to remain a White country.


Notes [1] W. Peter Ward. White Canada Forever: Popular Attitudes and Public Policy Toward Orientals in British Columbia. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1978. x. [2] David Chuenyan Lai. “From Downtown Slums to Suburban Malls: Chinese Migration and Settlement in Canada.” In The Chinese Diaspora: Space, Place, Mobility and Identity. Ma and Cartier, ed. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003. 324. [3] Ibid. 312. [4] Ward. 24. [5] Lai. 313. [6] Kenneth Munro. “The Chinese Immigration Act, 1885: Adolphe Chapleau and the French Canadian Attitude.” In Canadian Ethnic Studies. Calgary, Alta: Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal, XIX (3). 1987. 90. [7] Ibid. 94. [8] Canada, House of Commons. Debates. Macdonald, 2 April 1884, p. 1287. In Munro. 93. [9] Lai. 315, 319. [10] B Singh Bolaria and Peter S Li. Racial Oppression in Canada. Toronto, Ont: Garamond Press, 1988. 15. [11] Ibid. 14. [12] Ibid. 14. [13] Ibid. 17. [14] Ibid. 21. [15] Ward. ix. [16] Ibid. 10. [17] Ibid. 22. [18] Ibid. 4-6. [19] Ibid. 13. [20] Kay Anderson. Vancouver’s Chinatown: Racial Discourse in Canada, 1875-1980. Montreal: McGillQueen’s University Press, 1991. 107. [21] Kwok Bun Chan and Denise Helly. “Coping with Racism: A Century of the Chinese Experience in Canada.” In Canadian Ethnic Studies. Calgary, Alta: Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal, XIX (3). 1987. 9. [22] Lai. 319. [23] Province, Oct. 17, 1919. In Ward. 12. [24] Anderson. 145. [25] Province. Oct. 7, 1935. In Anderson. 154. [26] Denise Helly. Les Chinois à Montréal: 1877-1951. Québec : Institut québécois de recherche sur la culture, 1987. 43. [27] Helly. 50. [28] Lai. 316. [29] Munro. 98.


[30] Ibid. 91. [31] Ibid. 90. [32] Ibid. 90. [33] Ibid. 97. [34] Kwok Bun Chan. Smoke and Fire: The Chinese in Montreal. Hong Kong: Chinese University Press, 1991. 44. [35] Ward. 69. [36] Macpherson to Laurier. Aug. 20, 1907. Laurier Papers, 127979-80. In Ward. 66. [37] Helly. 150-151. [38] Rebecca B Aiken. Montreal Chinese Property Ownership and Occupational Change, 1881-1981. Thesis. McGill University, 1984. 81-82. [39] Ibid. 87. [40] Ibid. 86. [41] Ban Seng Hoe. Enduring Hardship: The Chinese Laundry in Canada. Gatineau, Québec: Canadian Museum of Civilization, 2003. 7. [42] Ibid. 40. [43] Nathalie Harel. La peur de l’étranger: Les Chinois à Montréal de 1885 à 1947. Thesis. Université de Montréal, 1995. 17. [44] Helly. 73. [45] Helly. 78. [46] Chan. 51. [47] Kwok Bun Chan and Lawrence Lam. “Chinese in Timmins, Canada, 1915-1950: A Study of Ethnic Stereotypes in the Press.” Asian Profile, 14 (6). 1986: 569-583. In Chan and Helly. 7-8. [48] Chan. 110. [49] Ibid. 172. [50] Ibid. 137-138. [51] Ibid. 124. [52] Chan and Helly. 10. [53] Chan. 128. [54] Helly. 179-181. [55] Harel. 42. [56] Ibid. 39. [57] Evi Kwong-ming Ho. The Montreal Chinese Hospital, 1918-1982: A Case Study of an Ethnic Instituttion. Thesis. McGill University, 1983. 68. [58] Harel. 44. [59] Helly. 185. [60] Ibid. 187.

The Pien Mountains as Wang Meng’s Body Charlotte Jacob-Maguire


f all the genres of Chinese painting, landscape painting (shanshui hua) flourished relatively late; however, when eleventh century writer Kuo Ju-hsü stated that “if one is speaking of landscapes…the ancient does not come up to the modern,”1 and identified the Five Dynasties and early Sung masters Li Ch’eng, Kuan T’ung and Fan K’uan (Fig. 1) as “setting the standard for a hundred generations,”2 it signalled not only the maturity of landscape painting as an art, but also the beginning of the dominance of landscape over other subjects. The gradual rise of landscape painting, as meaningfully understood, started in the fourth and fifth centuries with seminal texts by Wang Wei and Tsung Ping. In his Introduction to Landscape Painting, Tsung Ping expressed the idea that the appreciation of nature could stimulate the spirit and set it on the path toward enlightenment.3 For him, landscape, in its vastness and emptiness, was more than a symbol of the mind of the sage; it functioned literally as a “vale of soul-making.”4 Landscapes, according to Tsung Ping, were a means of displaying “the beauty of the Tao in their forms.”5 In the tenth and eleventh century, the writings and paintings of Ching Hao and Kuo Hsi (Fig. 2) consolidated the position of landscape painting. Gradually, throughout the Northern and Southern Sung, artists started to become known and appreciated for their landscapes. By the late Yüan dynasty (1279-1368), the predominance of landscape painting was secured by artists such as Huang Kung-wang, Wu Chen, Ni Tsan and Wang Meng, who were primarily landscapists, only rarely depicting bamboo and rocks.6 On the one hand, late Yüan landscape painting can be understood as the confirmation of a trend, on the other, it can be viewed as a turning point in the history of Chinese painting.7 As art historian James Cahill notes, the period of the Yüan dynasty was an “age of economic decline, physical hardship, and spiritual anguish.”8 He adds, however, that the pe-

riod was also one of “intense cultural creativity, especially drama, calligraphy, and painting.”9 The intense cultural flourishing in painting, for him, should be viewed as a major revolution wherein the past artistic tradition interacted with elements from outside of these traditions to determine the new direction of Chinese painting. Therefore, as Cahill observes, “the revolution in Yüan painting was in some part forced by history.”10 Indeed, the impact of the Mongol conquest on the lives of scholars in China was reflected in the popularity of landscapes on the themes of reclusion or hermitage. Suspicious of the southern literati class, the new Mongol rulers entrusted administration of their dynasty to central Asians, Tartars, and northern Chinese.11 Having resisted the Mongol invasion the longest, the “Southern Chinese faced a conscious policy of discrimination,”12 leading scholars to withdraw from public life to pursue personal and artistic cultivation, “often under the aegis of the Buddhist or Taoist religions.”13 Having retired from official life, scholars identified themselves as amateurs, “with all the attendant adjustments in taste, style, and preferred subject matter.”14 For these scholar-amateurs, the proper motivation for painting was to “give lodging to one’s mind.”15 In the fourteenth century then, landscape painting became fully established as an instrument of “self-expression and self-cultivation, to go with its earlier functions as vessel for the spirit, appearance, and principles of nature.”16 Paradoxically, the growth of landscape painting in the fourteenth century did not result in the development of theoretical writing on landscape and its new functions. This was perhaps because landscape had become such a direct and personal instrument of expression, accompanied often by lengthy textual material, as not to require any special translation or explanation in text.17 The visual was to serve as text for the feelings, thoughts, and shifting moods of the artist himself so one could “[see] the man


in his painting.”18 As the late Yüan witnessed the dominance of landscape painting as the primary subject matter, the range of sub-categories, meaning and significances within the more general classifications of the period become valuable in understanding the work of individual artists. Classifications indeed become crucial in order to determine “if the focus on landscape in this period represented only a narrowing of subject and concern, or whether the restriction in ostensible subject was in some ways compensated for by gradually more varied and inflected subtyped of landscape.”19 Eremitism, as a way of life and a subject for painting, developed as one such category in the context of the Yüan as a response to the conditions of the time. Another paradox of late Yüan paintings points to an additional subject of investigation: in spite of the tendency toward replacement of representational qualities in landscape painting with more abstract, self-expressive values, “the era also saw an unprecedented concern with specific locales in landscape images, particularly mountain sites.”20 Many of these sites are identified by name in the work’s title, thus pointing to very real landscapes. Kenneth Stanley Ganza has focused his research on such known geographic locations. He explains that the term “toponymic” best describes such works as it bridges the concept of identifying geography with name.21 In China, these landscapes were referred to as pictures of “famous places” (ming sheng-t’u) or “true view” (cheng chingt’u).22 The importance of the images, however, was not determined by the specifics of how they looked. Rather, they were studied through the lens of various levels of significance: “associations- historical, literary, or personal […] that demanded a specific identification.”23 One painting that uses such associations and concerns of the time is a hanging scroll by the late Yüan, early Ming artist Wang Meng, titled Dwelling in Reclusion in the Blue Pien Mountains (Fig. 3), dated 1366. This painting will serve as the focus of this essay. The artist, as an educated man interested in the past and a native of the region where the Pien Mountains were located, would have been familiar with the literary, legendary, and pictorial traditions surrounding the site. Cultural factors were connected to a place, playing an essential role in the identity of the landscape. Most famous of these culturally charged sites was Mount Lu. To appreciate nature in the Mount Lu community was:


“an attempt to experience the mind of the sage who had ultimately merged with the universe.

Gazing from a height into the empty distance was analogous to the detached view that diminished worldly concerns and achieved insight into the natural world order.”24

Places were thought to preserve the effect of past events and writings. Cultural connections, Richard Vinograd argues, could be more important and more enduring than the physical aspect of the place.25 Still more importantly, personal associations could charge a site with special significance and lead to the creation of a powerfully expressive rendering of the landscape, as in Wang Meng’s Pien Mountains. Stemming from a tradition of eremitic paintings, Wang Meng differentiates himself from anti-naturalist scholar-artists such as Li Kung-lin or Ch’ien Hsüan, the elements of whose works have become cultural glyphs, as well as from contemporaries like Ni Tsan (Fig. 4) who favoured “sketching the exceptional exhilaration in [one’s] breast” over formal likeness; Wang Meng expresses a profound unnaturalism in his Pien Mountains.26 As Max Loehr describes them: the Pien Mountains gained particular force by embodying a wilful manipulation of forms within a context that is arrestingly vivid and involving in terms of naturalistic landscape pictorialization.27 In his depiction of the Pien Mountains, Wang Meng infuses the work with an attitude:

“he may not even concern himself with the question of topographical accuracy but use the site simply as a point of departure for some particular formal of thematic statement.”28 This view is further supported by the erasure of visual or verbal reference to the journey from which the painting resulted. In Pien Mountains, the physical human presence, while retaining human meaning and spiritual presence, is submerged in the landscape. With the suppression or concealment of the hermit, the mountainscape is invested with new significance: it is no longer a mere manifestation of the scholar’s retreat in nature, but the mountains now embody the personality and the aspirations of the hermit himself. In his depiction of the Pien Mountains, Wang Meng also breaks from the tradition of landscape painting: its presentation of space and form as well as lighting is disturbingly unnatural and unstable. Along with dismissing

traditional prescriptions of landscape painting, Wang Meng profoundly changes the landscape of eremitism: the theme of withdrawal in his painting becomes synonymous with insecurity and the cultural associations with the Pien Mountains are disrupted by inescapable turmoil. Here, Vinograd states, “the landscape of eremitism has become explosive in its tensions and finally inhospitable.”29 He adds:

“It is this combination of the ideal, traditional order and present conflict, of the eternal and general with the specific and contemporary, of vivid physicality with insubstantial personality, that makes the experience of many late Yüan mountainscapes so powerful and disturbing, and clarifies, if it does not resolve, the paradox of the appearance of personalized and unnaturalistic images of monumental, specific sites.”30 As Susan Bush notes on the evolution of Wang Meng’s style, his early paintings of the 1340s were open river views in the Chao Mengfu manner, but by the 1360s he shifted to close-up scenes of vertical mountain ranges in the Tung Yuan style.31 In the period from 1362 to 1368 in which he painted Pien Mountains, Wang Meng manifests a preoccupation with monumental mountainscapes with compositional intervals along with transitional passages frequently closed off and filled with solid forms. His Pien Mountains composition combines monumental solidity with elements of tension and ambiguity, as stable forms are twisted and axial forms tilted. This artistic phase in Wang Meng’s career appears to have corresponded to a period of “intense involvement with the disordered political and military situation in the closing of the Yüan.”32 The ambiguities and tensions within Wang Meng’s monumental landscapes in this period seem reflective of both the difficulty and urgency of Wang’s choices of the period. He conveys a “disturbed urgency…within a format of strong contrasts of light and shadow, richly textured and contoured surfaces, dynamic movements through space, and a pictorial structure of monumental, interrelated forms.”33 The landscape created here and the implausibility of its natural referents lies in the realm of pictorial abstraction. The landscape itself is evidently important. However, the intent behind its representation is differ-

ent from the body of works by earlier masters; structural facts and their ordering principles are no longer meant to be conveyed, “nor is the landscape a mere pretext for a visual discourse with and through the past, or for expressionism, as with other scholar artists.”34 Pien Mountains depicts a particular landscape that is assertively unreal. An extensive body of literature about mountainscape subject and the tension between Wang’s oeuvre and conventional renderings has been produced.35 Other routes should equally be explored when looking at this work, notably the landscape as a particular mountain site as embodying the artist himself. This will lend the painting a background of meaning and formal context that will enlarge its possible range of significance and expression rather than limit it, as the specificity of the theme might indicate. Concomitant with the rise of eremitism in the Yüan was the rise of individualism in art. Individualism was manifested through the innovative techniques developed by artists, relinquishing past conventions that had previously ruled and what was and was not possible in landscape painting.36 Moreover, individualism came to be ingrained as a component of the Yüan scholars’ conception of the self. This preoccupation with the individual had first been raised by the Taoists, and Chuang Tzu in particular: he questioned whether the individual’s primary moral obligations were to social institutions, such as family and state. Confucian ideals however, taught that “humans were fundamentally social creatures with social obligations, but they saw these formalized obligations as moral norms that formed the basis of civilized culture.”37 In Confucianism, five cardinal relationships (rulersubject, parent-child, husband-wife, elder-younger and friend-friend) were believed to be the normative patterns for all human relationships. By following ritual norms, a person would refine his or her character.38 For Chuang Tzu, who Judith Berling identifies as “the champion for the individual,” this worldview was problematic in that it distorted and unnaturally limited human potential.39 Chuang Tzu’s arguments imply that in order to find the free and autonomous self, one has to break away from rigid ritual conventions and institutions of the social world. Chuang Tzu’s ideal of the perfected self, “the theoretical limit and soteriological goal of his philosophy,” is not confined by strict definitions, but is rather presented in a series of images and anecdotes. These images portray the transcendence of the perfected self, often appealing to the imagination of the reader, transcending the boundaries of past experience and even common sense.40 The sense of self in Taoism, as written by Chuang Tzu, is integrally related to the person’s understanding of the


larger whole in which he or she participates. Freedom, Berling notes, occurs not by accepting the fixed limitations of one’s place in society, but rather by “flowing with changes, assuming new perspective, identifying ‘this’ with ‘that’, and freeing one’s imagination and mind from the hold of the past.”41 Norms of self-definition for the Taoist scholar would have been influenced by the role of individuality and creativity in traditional China, however “the primary sense of self was given by the pattern of relationships that defined it within the ritual complex of society.”42 In the traditional Chinese norm, connections with society would have structured the self. Without such connections, there was no self, and “the self might be seen as evolving in the relation between the organic microcosm of the body and the social macrocosm of humanity.”43 A cyclical motion between social microcosm and universal macrocosm effectively defined the self in relation to the whole. The interconnectedness between self and whole can been seen as a major element in the initial formulation and evolution of classical Chinese metaphysics.44 Interconnections rather than oppositional binaries are prevalent in conceptualizing the self in China. In his work on the body in Chinese philosophy, Roger T. Ames borrows and elaborates on David L. Hall’s distinction of dualism and polarism in his explanation of the non-cosmogonic nature of early Chinese thought. Ames argues that in contrast to the dualistic model predominant in philosophies of the West, a polar model might better explain the relationship between mind and body in Chinese metaphysics. Ames defines polarism as “the unity of two organismic processes which require each other a necessary condition for being what they are.”45 The principle feature of polarism is that each pole can only be explained by reference to the other. Left requires right, up requires down, yin requires yang, and self requires other.46 Ames further argues that in traditional China and according to a correlative worldview, mind and body, human intellect and physical form, were not conceptualized as exclusive opposites; instead they formed polar relationships. The body, he writes, was never conceived as material object but rather as a lived organism existing in relation to what is often referred to in the West as internal phenomena. Shen, Ames establishes, designated a body conceived as process continually resonating with internal psychological and intellectual phenomena.47 The self and the whole are seen as continuous processes, all intrinsically related to each other. The Chuang Tzu, as an example of this tradition, challenges the principle of absolute beginning:


“There is a beginning. There is not yet begun to be a beginning. There is not yet begun to not yet begin to be a beginning. There is something. There is nothing. There is not yet begun to be nothing. There is not yet begun to not begin to be nothing. Suddenly there is something and nothing. And yet I don’t know what follows from there “being” nothing. Is it something or is it nothing?”48 Ames explains, “The organismic process of existence, generating its own motion by the interaction of psychophysical forces, is fundamentally cyclical.”49 While in agreement with Ames, some scholars, notably John Hay, have noted that correlative cosmology also dictated a conceptualization of the body as fundamentally linked to external phenomena. Correlative cosmology can be defined as a “comprehensive worldview in which the organic nature of the cosmos in which the individual, society and the natural world were subject to homologous cycles of change and mutation.”50 According to correlative cosmology, all phenomena were conceived as materializing from a unitary oneness and also intimately linked to each other through holistic relationships of correspondence between correlative categories.51 The Chinese conceptualization of the individual as irreducibly social also structured an understanding of the body as fundamentally connected to external phenomena. In Confucian and to some extent in Taoist texts, a distinction is drawn between “substance,” zhi, and “accomplishment,” wen. The distinction is analogous to that between body and clothing.52 The body in order to have meaning in society had to be articulated by some code of ornament. In Chuang Tzu, for example, where substance is more important than society, the body is referred to in a physiological and evolutionary way:

“The Bright and shining is born out of deep darkness; the ordered is born out of formlessness; pure spirit is born out of the Way. The body is born originally from this purity [or seminal fluid], and the ten thousand things give bodily form to one another through the process of birth.”53

For Kristofer Schipper, the Taoist body was one of change, rather than stability. The Taoist Body was an especially puissant embodiment of the macro/microcosmic relationship prevalent in China in which Lao Tzu, the mythical founder of Taoism, was understood as “incorporating the universe in his own body, a relationship that could be reflected back upon the universe itself.”54 Using this conceptualization of the world, a Taoist could, at the local and temporal level, affect both the universe and his community by acting internally upon his own physical, microcosmic body. The body, conceived as irreducibly social, is equally intimately correlated with topography. Schipper notes however that the Taoist body is not anthropomorphic in the “usual” sense. It is part of this general nexus of meaning, but is presented as an environmental category of activity rather than a social class.55 It is not surprising then to find texts of shanshui hua (landscape painting), dating from the Northern Sung (A.D. 960-1126) describing mountains and rivers in physiological terms. Such descriptions are found, for example, in Kuo Hsi’s notes on painting:

“a mountain has water as blood, foliage as hair, haze and clouds as its spirit and characters.”56 According to Susan Bush, at the time when Guo Xi wrote these words, mountain ridges were almost certainly already termed qimo, “energy artery pulses.”57 Topography and the body, according to Taoist conceptions of the body were analogous. The art representing landscapes was similar to the representation of the body: it was a process of construction, not mimesis.58 This process of construction involves an understanding of phenomena as “concentrations and conformations of qi rather than geometric objects demarcated by solid planes and edges.”59 Solids and voids were not opposites but polar extremes of structure. Surfaces served as interfaces through which “the structural values of interiority interacted with the environment.”60 The body was not only understood as a series of organs, it was itself an environment at a higher level. “Bodies were inseparable from psychologies.”61 In the late Yüan, there seems to have been an almost obsessive concern with texture in landscape painting. As Hay indicates, texture was a cultural concern in relation to cosmology62; the texture of trees and the topography of mountains was relevant for painters as the human body came to be visualized as landscape. The structure of the human body was believed to reflect both the structure of the natural landscape and the structure of the uni-

verse.63 The mountain, as it occurs among the images that express the connection between heaven and earth, is revered throughout Taoist history. It follows, for Mercia Eliad, “that every construction or fabrication has the cosmogony as paradigmatic model.”64 The depiction of the mountain “becomes the archetype of every creative human gesture.”65

Notes [1] Alexander Coburn Soper, Kuo Ho-hsü Experiences in Painting (Washington, D.C.: American Council of Learned Societies, 1951),19. [2] Ibid. [3] Susan Bush, “Tsung Ping’s Essay on Painting Landscape and the “Landscape Buddhism” of Mount Lu,” in Theories of the Arts in China, ed. Susan Bush and Christian F. Murck, (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1983), 141. [4] Ibid. [5] Susan Bush, and Hsio-yen Shih, Early Chinese Texts on Painting (Cambridge, Mass: Published for the Harvard-Yenching Institute by Harvard University Press, 1985), 36. [6] Bush, The Chinese Literati on Painting, 119. [7] Richard Ellis Vinograd, “Wang Meng’s Pien Mountains: the Landscape of Eremitism in Later Fourteenth Century Chinese Painting.” (PhD. Diss., University of California, Berkeley, 1979), 2 [8] James Cahill, Hills Beyond a River: Chinese Painting of the Yüan Dynasty, 1279-1368 (New York: Weatherhill, 1976), 3. [9] Ibid. [10] Ibid. [11] Notes from EAST-211


[12] Notes from EAST-211 [13] Metropolitan museum of Art, “Yuan dynasty” http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/yuan/hd_yuan.htm [14] Cahill, Hills Beyond a River, 3. [15] Ibid, 5. [16] Ibid, 131. [17] Susan Bush, The Chinese literati on painting; Su Shi (1037-1101) to Dong Qichang (1555-1636) (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1971) [18] Cahill, Hills Beyond a River, 5. [19] Vinograd, “Wang Meng’s Pien Mountains,” 6. [20] Vinograd, “Wang Meng’s Pien Mountains,” 6. [21] Kenneth Stanley Ganza, “The Artist as Traveler: The Origin and Development of Travel as a Theme in Chinese Landscape Painting of the Fourteenth to Seventeenth Centuries” (PhD diss., Indiana University, 1990), 7. [22] Ibid. [23] Ibid. [24] Susan Bush, “Tsung Ping’s Essay on Painting Landscape and the “Landscape Buddhism” of Mount Lu,” in Theories of the Arts in China, ed. Susan Bush and Christian F. Murck, (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1983), 152 [25] Richard, Vinograd, “Family Properties: Personal Context and Cultural Pattern in Wang Meng’s “Pien Mountains” of 1366,” Ars Orientalis 13 (1982): 7. [26] Vinograd, “Wang Meng’s Pien Mountains,” 18. [27] Max Loehr, “Chinese Landscape Painting and its Real Content,” ed. Robert A. Kapp 59 (Fall 1973): 86. [28] Ganza, “The Artist as Traveler,” 7-8. [29] Vinograd, “Wang Meng’s Pien Mountains,” 394. [30] Ibid, 392. [31] Bush and Shih, Early Chinese Texts on Painting, 340. [32] Vinograd, “Wang Meng’s Pien Mountains,” 389. [33] Vinograd, “Wang Meng’s Pien Mountains,” 65. [34] Ibid. [35] Especially Cahill, 122-23. [36] Cahill, Hills Beyond a River, 123. [37] Judith, Berling, “Self and Whole in Chuang Tzu,” in Individualism and Holism: Studies in Confucian and Taoist Values, ed. Donald J. Munro (Ann Arbor: Center for Chinese Studies, The University of Michigan, 1985), 104. [38] Ibid. [39] Ibid, 101-104. [40] Berling, “Self and Whole in Chuang Tzu,” 109. [41] Ibid, 111. [42] John Hay, “The Body Invisible in Chinese Art?” in Body, subject & power in China ed. Angela Zito and


Tani E. Barlow (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994), 65. [43] Hay, “The Body Invisible in Chinese Art?” 65. [44] Roger T. Ames, “The Meaning of Body in Classical Chinese Philosophy,” in Self as Body in Asian Theory and Practice, ed. Thomas P. Kasulis, Roger T. Aimes, and Wimal Dissanayake, 157-177. (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993), 159. [45] Ibid. [46] Ibid, 159-160. [47] Ibid, 158. [48] Zhuangzi, and Burton Watson, Zhuangzi: Basic Writings (New York: Columbia University Press, 2003), 38. [49] Roger T. Ames, “The Meaning of Body in Classical Chinese Philosophy,” 160. [50] For more on the relative stability of correlative cosmology see Hay, “The Body Invisible,” 65. Also see Richard von Glahn. The Sinister Way: The Devine and the Demonic in Chinese Religious Culture (Berkley and London: University of California Press, 2004), 14. [51] Gabrielle, Steiger Levine, Deviance and disorder: the naked body in Chinese art, (M.A. McGill University, 2008), 19. [52] Ibid, 62 [53] Zhuang Zi and Watson Burton. “Free and Easy Wandering” and “In the World of Men.” In Chuang Tzu: Basic Writings, 23-30 and 50-63. New York: Columbia University Press, 1996, 22.238. [54] Hay, “The Body Invisible in Chinese Art?” 63. [55] Schipper, Kristofer, “Taoism: The Story of the Way,” in Taoism and the Arts of China ed Stephen Little and Shawn Eichman (Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago, 2000) [56] Susan Bush, The Chinese literati on painting; Su Shi (1037-1101) to Dong Qichang (1555-1636) (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1971),167 [57] Hay, “The Body Invisible in Chinese Art?” 64. [58] Ibid, 44. [59] Ibid, 66. [60] Ibid. [61] Ibid. [62] Ibid, 67. [63] Stephen Little, “Taoism and the Arts of China,” in Taoism and the Arts of China ed. Stephen Little and Shawn Eichman, 13-31. (Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago, 2000), 15. [64] Mircea Eliade, and Willard R. Trask trans. The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1957), 45. [65] Ibid.


Figure 2. Kuo Hsi, Early Spring, signed and dated 1072.

Figure 1. Fan K’uan, Travellers among Mountains and Streams Figure 3. Wang Meng, Dwelling in Reclusion in the Blue Pien Mountains, 1366

Figure 4. Ni Tsan, Woods and Valleys of Mount Yu


The Visual Manifestation of “Qi” Throughout the Tang, Song, and Yuan Dynasties A Case Study of the I-p’in style Alexandria Proctor


he discussion of qi (“spirit consonance,” “spirit vitality,” “spirit breath”) as the characteristic of a “good” painting has dominated Chinese painting criticism from the Tang (618-907) through to the Song (960-1279) and Yuan (1271-1368) dynasties. As one of the properties most prevalently associated with Literati painting, it remained throughout the dynasties the key distinguishing feature that separated the highest class of artists from lower styles of painting and groups of artists. Yet, there is no concrete definition. Owing to the abstract quality of qi, this paper aims to answer the question of what constitutes qi by locating it visually. The exploration of the visual manifestation of qi from the Tang to the Song to the Yuan will reveal the different ways it is expressed by the masters of each dynasty, ultimately coming to the conclusion that the i-p’in (“untrammelled”) style, as defined by Shimada in his article Concerning the I-P’in Style of Painting, is the absolute embodiment of qi. Though little discussed as a separate style throughout Chinese painting criticism, this paper will demonstrate its ever-lingering presence within the shadows of the Literati and traditional styles of painting, even when thought by most to be extinguished. Its survival is owing to its ability as a style to most easily allow for the expression of qi. The i-p’in style’s gradual development starting from the mid-Tang to the Ming and even Qing dynasties, provided the foundation that allowed other styles, the Yuan Literati and Chan Buddhist sect, to emerge. That it could do so was, as this paper proposes, owing to the style’s absolute embodiment of “qi.” Qi has most commonly been translated to mean “spirit consonance/resonance,” “spirit vitality,” and “spirit breath.” The first and most important law of Hsieh Ho’s Six Laws, which governed much of Chinese painting through providing a standard from which to judge paint-


ing, speaks of attaining “spirit resonance.” The importance and difficulty of expressing qi within one’s painting is expressed by what was seen as the primary goal of the artist within Chinese painting traditions: to “catch the fleeting phase of eternality rather than of imitation.”1 Qi’s high status was owing to the difficulty of achieving it, for it was often seen as “a matter of innate knowledge, immanent in the artist’s mind rather than through refining technical skills” (Guo Jo-hsu).2 Thus, qi became the marker between the few who were able to (wield their brush to) express the “spirit” of the objects depicted, and those who merely imitated and copied the works of prior masters. The presence of qi within a painting has been agreed upon by Tang, Song, and Yuan critics as elevating the work of art to the highest class, customarily attributed to artists whose works fall outside of the traditional painting methods and orthodox schools. This ideal is clearly conveyed in Shimada’s placing of the i-p’in style as the highest class, when he states that: “even in the i-p’in spirit consonance had to be recognized. This was only proper if the i-p’in was to occupy the highest position in the classification system.”3 There existed the idea that only certain, exceptional, men could convey the spirit of things (achieve qi-yun).4 Su Shih (1037-1101), one of the most well-known and powerful art Chinese painting critics, separated scholar-painter from artisan-painter by the presence or absence of spirit (qi).5 Scholar-artists upheld “spirit consonance” as the essential element in painting, and such was a prerequisite for a painting to become “a treasure of the age” during the Song Dynasty.6 “Spirit consonance” did not depend on the skillful representation of form.7 For the purposes of this investigation, the exploration of the visual manifestation of qi will be limited to the most recognized (pre-dominantly Literati)

artists of each dynasty, to the exclusion of court painting and other styles, owing to the fact that the Chinese painting critics by and large agree on the presence of qi within the works of these masters. Critics of the Tang dynasty described qi as the “breath of life,” vitality that is a part of one’s own nature.8 The qi-yun reveals the nature of the artist, making the artist himself visible within his work.9 Thus, qi corresponded to the temperament of the artist.10 It was linked to the use of the brush in Tang critics’ association of skillful painting with excellence in calligraphy.11 The naturally spontaneous artists, deemed by critics as belonging to the highest class, exhibited the characteristic of qi within their works.12 The production of a life-like representation, considered the most important of the Six Laws, was achieved in part through a lively qi-yun with structural brushwork.13 Through a description of Wu Daozi’s (eighth century) paintings, we are able to extract key qualities of the visual manifestation of qi in painting during the Tang dynasty. Considered as “the sage of painters, illustrious for eternity,”14 Wu’s “spirit was there as soon as his brush descended.”15 His visual manifestation of qi was achieved through his ability to affect the audience through his paintings, as one critic records: upon viewing Wu’s murals, “one’s mind was turned to the creative powers of Nature.”16 When he painted a hell cycle in a temple, “the capital’s butchers and fishmongers were terrified for their sins on seeing it and occasionally changed their trades.”17 The images he painted of people doing good deeds “became models for men of later generations.”18 Unlike his contemporaries, who “took pains to join the ends of strokes,” he left spaces between his dots and strokes.19 These other artists aimed to achieve exact and detailed brushwork rather than the incompleteness that was viewed as “divine” by Tang critics.20 His goal was not verisimilitude and therefore his lines were not created using rulers.21 This free expression of brushstrokes, compared to exact and detailed lines, becomes a key characteristic in the expression of qi. All critics have accorded Wu the status of a genius, a divine being, speaking in awe of his ability to “magically” paint images so that they come to life. The life-like quality of his paintings was achieved through movement. For example, his dragons “moved in flight.”22 His wall paintings were sometimes carried out in ink alone, signaling the beginning of the ink-wash style that would come to form a key characteristic of the i-p’in style.23 One critic states that the evolution of landscape painting began with Wu and was perfected by Li Ssu-hsun (651-718) and his son Chao-tao.24 As will be discussed in the latter half of

this paper, Li Ssu-hsun coined the term “i-p’in.” This allows us to postulate that the i-p’in style’s basic foundations originated from Wu Daozi. During the Song dynasty, art critics more thoroughly defined “spirit consonance” as representing an innate talent that reflected a man’s character and social condition.25 Proper use of the brush was linked to the production of spiritual character: “from beginning to end the brush was responsive, the connecting links were interdependent and the flow of energy uninterrupted.”26 Here again we see the importance of brushwork in achieving qi. During the Song, the “untrammelled” began to take form as a class of their own, as a descriptive style. Characterized as abbreviated brushwork, they were considered the most difficult to group. Despite their style of brushwork, their “forms are complete” because they were attained through spontaneity.27 Thus, the idea of spontaneity as a valued characteristic in painting became more coherent during the Song. The style of the untrammelled class was attributed to a process that saw the formulation of concepts before the brushwork so that when the brushwork was complete, the concept would be within. When the concept is within, “the painting is finished, the concept will be present, its images will correspond and its spirit will be whole.”28 The “untrammelled” class were inimitable owing to the presence of qi within their works, obtained through their focus on the expression of concepts as opposed to formal likeness. Spirit vitality in the Song possessed the quality of movement.29 Sketchiness was valued as a way to convey the spirit of the landscape. It was in this dynasty that the divide between the scholar-painter and the artisan-painter came to form. The main difference between the two groups of artists was the spontaneity of the brushstrokes of the scholar-artists.30 According to Su Shih, scholarartists are able to go beyond mere likeness to capture the spirit (qi) of the object. His description of scholar-artists emphasizes movement and the spontaneous process of art production, motivated by a desire to express inner emotions.31 Thus scholar-painters were accorded a position higher than artisan-painters owing to their ability to express the spirit of the depicted object and the ideas from one’s mind. This speaks to the significance of qi as a quality of painting that elevated the artist above the average artisan-painter. As the most celebrated artists of the Song Literati, Fan Kuan’s Travellers Among Mountains and Streams (Fig.1) and Guo Xi’s Early Spring (Fig. 2) were revered owing to their ability to visually manifest their own spirit as well as the qi of the mountains, streams, and trees. Fan Kuan’s work is described as achieving a perfect balance


between “texture dabs and brush-drawing.”32 This can be interpreted to mean achieving a harmony between substance (texture) and form (outline drawing), creating an object that not only possesses formal likeness, as is easily achievable by all painters, but also the texture that gives the mountain its life (its spirit). Spontaneity is shown by Fan’s “weld[ing] [of ] his brush as one with his spirit... unaware of the way forms were developing and expanding, they came into existence themselves...all of a sudden the T’ai-hang and Wang-wu mountains would rise before him.”33 When he was inspired, he is said to “have left behind a few brushstrokes,” again emphasizing the spontaneous nature of expression.34 His landscapes were noted for their strong effects of snowstorms or shifting clouds, affecting the viewer in a manner similar to Wu Daozi’s images.35 Fan did not ornament his paintings, another key characteristic of paintings that exhibited qi; ornamentation is a distraction that accounts for a lack of substance or an empty spirit within the painting.36 Guo Xi “ha[d] the proper concepts.”37 This can be seen by his proper conveyance of the moods of nature within his paintings. That he was able to produce moods that affected (moved) the viewer speaks to his capturing of the spirit of each season in nature. Both Fan and Guo established their own style. Thus it becomes clear that the establishment of one’s own style is a prerequisite for the visual manifestation of qi, for expression of emotions and ideas is unique to each individual. It thereby follows that those who express spirit in their paintings produce a unique style. Critics of the Yuan dynasty also discussed qi in terms that equated spirit resonance with movement, coming from natural accomplishment,38 and emphasis on brushwork as the vehicle to convey the spirit, through the prerequisite that calligraphy must become “one and the same” with painting in order for the expression of spirit resonance to occur.39 We can abstract from this statement that the visual manifestation of “calligraphy” in a painting does not simply refer to characters in the form of poetry written on the paintings, but rather to the presence of a calligraphic nature in the brushstrokes that comprise the painting. Zhao Mengfu (1254-1322), the most famous calligrapher and painter of the early Yuan dynasty, valued rough brushstrokes, depreciating likeness to nature.40 He valued spirit over formal likeness, displaying the spirit of antiquity in his paintings. Despite his masterpiece, Autumn Colors on the Qiao and Hua Mountains (Fig. 3) exhibiting color as opposed to ink-washes, he advocates the connection of calligraphy and painting stemming from the fact that they “have one origin.”41 Further, he


describes the sketching of bamboo, a common symbolic subject of the literati, as “includ[ing] the Eight Strokes of calligraphic technique.”42 As one of the four great Yuan Literati masters, critics have agreed that Ni Zan’s (1301-1374) landscapes exemplify the expression of qi owing in part to their sparse and simple composition. His own painting theory espouses the idea that painting should not go beyond “careless sketching [of ideas] with the brush.”43 Free, sketchily done brushwork is the defining characteristic of Ni’s landscapes, portrayed in his most celebrated work: Rongxi Studio (Fig. 4). Painting to express his “untrammeled spirit,” Ni’s bamboo paintings portray his spirit in their lack of verisimilitude; as ink-play, they also possess an affinity to rushes.44 A lack of verisimilitude as a key visual characteristic of qi represents the expression of the artist in painting what sprung forth from his breast rather than merely formal likeness through copying nature. The heavy emphasis on brushwork in critics’ discussions of what constitutes qi and its role in separating the artists discussed above from other artists leads us to conclude that brushwork is the primary technique of visually expressing qi. “Spirit vitality” as produced by the brush is discussed by art historian John Hay in his examination of the brush as the channel for both the qi of the artist and the subject matter.45 He describes the patterns of qi as articulated by the movements of the brush and their traces that remain as ink upon the surface.46 Extraordinarily responsive to every psychological and physiological inflection of the artist, the Chinese brush allows for the “product [to] vividly embod[y] process, in which the user, the usage, and the end result are singularly unified.”47 This unification allows for the artist to become one with his tool (brush), as exemplified by Wu Daozi’s concentration on his spirit (which we can assume to mean that he was aware of it, cultivated it, and then concentrated it towards painting) until it could “borrow Master Wu’s (Wu Daozi’s) brush.”48 Thus, artists used the brush as a vehicle to convey their emotions, ideas and spirit. As the key transmitter of the artist’s spirit, brushstrokes served as a balance between form and idea. The attribution of Wu Daozi, Fan Kuan, Guo Xi, Zhao Mengfu and Ni Zan as belonging to the highest of classes is owing to their ability to utilize the Chinese brush to produce strokes that balanced between form and idea, allowing for the expression of qi. Fan Kuan’s texture strokes countered his outline- drawing strokes to achieve a harmony that provided his mountains with a life-like spirit. Wu’s Daozi’s brushstrokes were “incomparable...varied and untrammelled.”49 Ni Zan’s sketchy brushstrokes expressed his emotions and ideas, yet retained a rough

formal resemblance to mountains and trees. The relationship between brush and ink is one that represents the process to product, of interior to exterior.50 It is through this relationship, of artist to brush and brushstrokes to ink, that the visual manifestation of qi is achieved. The general trend of defining “spirit consonance” transformed from objective drawing, depicting the spirit of the object, during early Tang to a new means of spontaneity.51 As the remainder of this paper will demonstrate, the i-p’in (“untrammelled”) style most completely embodies the visual manifestation of qi owing to its foundation as purely on spontaneity and brushwork, whereas the masters discussed above incorporated other aspects (formal elements, varied compositions, certain features from the orthodox methods) into their painting aside from qi. The previously mentioned artists displayed an “untrammelled” manner that was a measure of their quality and artistic value, but this manner was not their actual style, as it was for the i-p’in. The first critic to establish the “untrammelled” as a class of painting was Li Ssu-chen. In esteeming this class of artists, Li stated their defining characteristic to be an innate talent that could not be contained within the framework of the other classes of artists, that is, the Three Classes and the Nine Grades.52 The attribution of this style to innate talent accords with Song critics in their discussion of the necessary characteristics for the portrayal of qi in painting. The i-p’in style designates painting that is liberated from the standard method of painting; however, it is more than a measure of quality and artistic value.53 It refers to the evolution of an artistic style. The definition of “i-p’in” as a class came into being once the i-p’in techniques that artists had incorporated into certain aspects of their works were extended to the entire work.54 The first to re-name the three classes from “upper, middle, lower” to “divine, excellent and competent” was Chang Huai-Kuan.55 The artists he placed in the i-p’in class were Wang Mo, Li Ling-sheng, and Chang Chih-ho.56 Wang Mo was known for his spattered ink landscapes. This technique represented the utmost spontaneity, for the ambiguity of his ink puddles implied that only the artist could know what the shapes were to represent, as opposed to the fine lines and distinct shapes of the orthodox painting method.57 I-p’in artists captured the “spirit vitality” of the objects depicted through the splashed ink and “dropping on the ink” style similar to Wu Daozi’s wall paintings carried out in an ink-wash style.58 Features characteristic of the i-p’in style consists of an unrestrained manner in brushstrokes, with emphasis placed on the use of ink.59 This allows for spontaneity

and the seeking of a means of expression for the artist’s thoughts through the use of ink as substance that is difficult to control. For example, Wang Mo would, when inebriated, “respond to the movements of his hand and follow his inclinations.”60 The following of one’s hand accords with the Song idea of concept preceding the brush in order for the end product to possess spirit; this technique also produces sketchy brushwork similar to the manner of Ni Zan. The elimination of detail and ornamentation in i-p’in paintings is in accord with the Song critics’ description of qi and the Literati masters’ visual manifestation of qi. Through lack of detail, they are able to capture the essential nature of the object rather than hide the essence of the object behind elaborate ornamentation. Not bounded by precise, firm lines, the objects the i-p’in artists depicted came into existence possessing characteristics of the natural creation of objects.61 Their abbreviated brushstrokes capture the forms spontaneously and engender a sense of movement.62 Movement has been discussed by critics in relation to producing lifelike qualities, as with Wu Daozi’s dragon that moved with flight. As a main visual key of the display of qi within a painting, i-p’in artists epitomize movement through their abbreviated stroke.63 The evolution of the i-p’in style developed from the incorporation of traditional painting methods with representational abbreviated brushstrokes, to the eventual absence of anything but abbreviated brushstrokes. With the latter, the i-p’in style came into absolute visual representation of qi. Shih Ko’s Patriarchs, (Fig. 5) exemplify the early use of painting method in the faces, hands, and feet of figures with abbreviated and rough brushwork for the garments, which hint at the bodies beneath.64 Liang Kai’s Li Po Intoning Lines of Poetry (Fig. 6) is more abbreviated than Shih Ko’s but there still lacks a complete arbitrariness in the brushstrokes as seen in the later development of the i-p’in style.65 The origin of “spirit consonance” is sought in spontaneity. The i-p’in style as directly manifesting “spirit consonance” correlates to the Daoist attitudes of the absence of willful action, displayed by the free and arbitrary brushstrokes and absence of outline drawing, as the right way to embody spontaneity.66 Shimada establishes the i-p’in style as first arising during the mid-Tang period, originating from landscape painting owing to the fact that all three of the i-p’in artists first recorded by Chang Huai-Kuan were landscapists.67 His article presents evidence to suggest that the ip’in style was always present within traditional Chinese painting. He attributes Wu Daozi’s ability to “give life to an image with only one or two brush lines” and his depiction of the vitality of forms through movement as a


preparation for the i-p’in style.68 This attribution suggests the existence of an “i-p’in” style in artists who attained the highest class within their dynasties even before the term was coined as a class of its own. From the late Tang to the Song, when landscape painting saw a complete transformation by artists such as Li Cheng, Fan Kuan, and Dong Yuan, there existed elements of the i-p’in style. For example, Chu-jan, Dong Yuan’s artistic heir, depicted trees with clusters of dots and when seen up close the elements of his pictures scarcely took on the forms of objects.69 His way of depicting trees is similar to the i-p’in painter Mu Qi’s use of dots on his mountains to denote trees. Further, Mi Fu’s style has been considered by Ming critics as developing from the splashed-ink landscape style of Wang Mo.70 Hsu Hsi, the foremost bird and flower painter of the early Song, painted in a “dropping on the ink” technique that is akin to the “splashed ink” technique of i-p’in artists; both styles make no use of fine brushwork for outlines.71 Shimada’s claim that the beginning of Song painting began in the mid-Tang with the advent of the i-p’in style72 and Su Shih’s claim that Yuan Literati painting could not have reached its height without having had the i-p’in style to draw upon, provide evidence for the ever-lingering presence of the i-p’in style within the shadows of the Literati and traditional styles of painting, functioning as foundation from which other styles and movements were able to develop.73 The freedom from the restrictions of faithful depiction of natural shapes and fine lines allowed for the simple and direct expression of the artist’s spirit, which prepared the way for Literati painting.74 This new significance attributed to the i-p’in style is owing to its absolute embodiment of qi, as has been revealed through our analysis of the elements in the visual manifestation of qi. Contrary to what many critics believed about the extermination of the style, it still existed in the shadows owing to the status of qi as continuously allotted the highest of values within Chinese painting. The character of what can be perceived in a painting changes with the method of observation. As Hay states: “the observer is a creator of both form and meaning, through perceiving the structure and then establishing a level of significance.”75 An essential component of the conveyance of qi in a painting is the establishment of a connection between the act of viewing the painting and the painter. The ability of the i-p’in paintings to embody the expression of qi owes significantly to its viewer-painter relationship. The i-p’in style’s opposition to the laws of “bone method in use of the brush” and “fidelity to the object in portraying forms” produced abbreviated forms that call upon the viewer’s previous knowledge in order


to interpret the image.76 For example, Yujian’s Mountain and Village in the Clearing Mist (Fig. 7), calls upon the viewer’s previous experiences of villages amongst misty mountaintops to make sense of the splattered ink splotches and absence of forms. The painting is a shadow of the elements in a landscape painting, requiring the imagination to make sense of the whole image. The ink-wash style common to i-p’in landscapes caused the brushwork to take on a representational function. For example, Mu Qi’s Sunset Over a Fishing Village (Fig. 8) is composed of barely-there ink- washes, evoking the artist’s impression of a mountain; something not actually in nature, but a cue for a series of emotional reactions. Movement is a crucial element of human perception and experience. In i-p’in painting, the viewer’s eye traces the movement of the brushstrokes, allowing the viewer to experience the artist’s qi. The argument could be made that qi is present to some degree within all works of art, regardless as to whether the artist possessed an “untrammelled” nature or not. However, as the i-p’in artists clearly demonstrate, their ability to establish a powerful connection with the viewer through requiring his/her active presence in the process and interpretation of the work is essential for allowing critics and viewers alike to appreciate the absolute embodiment of qi. This is precisely what the i-p’in style achieves. The exploration into the markers of the visual manifestation of qi has revealed the main characteristic to lie in the use of brushstrokes. Whether it is texture-dab strokes as exhibited by Fan Kuan, or sketchy and free brushwork such as Ni Zan’s, qi is manifested in the individual expression of a stroke. The free and abbreviated brushstroke, associated with spontaneity and the execution of ideas, manifested itself to the greatest degree in the i-p’in style of painting. A significant feature that allowed it to do so was its distinctly powerful subject-painter relationship. That the i-p’in style fully embodied the spirit of the artist and of the object depicted, through the movement of its brushstrokes, establishes the style as a foundation that allowed for the continuous transformation of Chinese landscape painting. The techniques employed by the ip’in artists leaves us with the thought: perhaps the visual manifestation of qi occurs when the artist is between having an intention and not having one.

Notes [1] John Hay, “Values and History in Chinese Painting, I: Hsieh Ho Revisited,” Anthropology and Aesthetics [2] Shujiro Shimada, “Concerning the I-P’in Style of Painting,” Oriental Art 1 (1964): 22 [3] Ibid. 136 [4] Susan Bush, The Chinese Literati On Painting: Su Shih (1037-1101) to Tung Chi’i-ch’ang (1555-1636) (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1978), 22 [5] Shimada, “Concerning the I-P’in Style of Painting,” 22 [6] Susan Bush, Early Chinese Texts on Painting (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1985) 96 [7] Shimada, “Concerning the I-P’in Style of Painting,” 22 [8] Bush, The Chinese Literati, 16 [9] Ibid. 20 [10] Ibid. 21 [11] Bush, Early Chinese Texts 54 [12] Ibid. 78 [13] Bush, The Chinese Literati 16 [14] Bush, Early Chinese Texts 247 [15] Ibid. 55 [16] Ibid. 56 [17] Ibid. 56 [18] Ibid. 56 [19] Ibid. 61 [20] Ibid. 61 [21] Ibid. 61 [22] Ibid. 56 [23] Ibid. 64 [24] Ibid. 66 [25] Ibid. 91 [26] Ibid. 97 [27] Ibid. 100-101 [28] Ibid. 97 [29] Ibid. 127 [30] Bush, The Chinese Literati, 56 [31] Ibid. 56 [32] Bush, Early Chinese Texts 118 [33] Ibid. 217 [34] Ibid. 238 [35] Ibid. 305 [36] Ibid. 117 [37] Ibid. 251-52 [38] Ibid. 246 [39] Ibid. 245 [40] Bush, The Chinese Literati 122-23 [41] Ibid. 279 [42] Ibid.139

[43] Bush, Early Chinese Texts 270 [44] Bush, The Chinese Literati 134 [50] Hay, “Values and History in Chinese Painting, I: Hsieh Ho Revisited,” 117 [51] Shimada, “Concerning the I-P’in Style of Painting,” 37 [52] Ibid. 66 [53] Ibid. 67 [54] Ibid. 71 [55] Ibid. 66 [56] Ibid. 67 [57] Ibid. 68 [58] Ibid. 20 [59] Ibid. 71 [60] Ibid. 68 [54] Ibid. 71 [55] Ibid. 66 [56] Ibid. 67 [57] Ibid. 68 [58] Ibid. 20 [59] Ibid. 71 [60] Ibid. 68 [66] Ibid. 136 [67] Ibid. 67 [68] Ibid.70 [69] Ibid. 19 [70] Ibid. 19 [71] Ibid. 20 [72] Ibid. 22 [73] Ibid. 24 [74] Ibid. 23 [75] Hay, “Values and History in Chinese Painting, II: The Hierarchic Evolution of Structure Hsieh Ho Revisited,” 124 [76] Shimada, “Concerning the I-P’in Style of Painting,” 70



Figure 1. Fan K’uan, Travellers among Mountains and Streams, ink and colour on silk. National Palace Museum, Taiwan.

Figure 2. Guo Xi, Early Spring, hanging scroll, ink and colour on silk. National Palace Museum, Taiwan.

Figure 3. Zhao Mengfu, Autumn colors on the Qiao and Hua Mountains, handscroll, ink and colour on paper. National Palace Museum, Taiwan.


Representation of the Self Through Pictorial Emulation of Models of Society Alexandria Proctor


o understand Chinese pictorial art, one must understand the philosophy behind it: the relation, discovery, and portrayal of self through emulation of models who are depicted with allusions and symbolism. Chinese pictorial art perceives an “other,” that is, a model of society, in the artist’s search for his own self. The portrayal of ideal models of the society at the time – for example, The Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove, Tao Yuanming, Li Bai, and Su Shi – allowed the artist to metaphorically represent his self through representation of the other. The Chinese elite also combined these models of social, political, ideal, metaphorical, virtuous, or pursued self with the values and behaviour of the society-model as a way of finding their own individuality. The way in which each artist chose to represent these models contributed to the model’s image, since the artist inevitably incorporated a part of himself in the process and set a tone based on his personal emotions. The artist created a veil to hide behind in this quest of self-identification. This “hiding in art” enables art to be a mirror of social and political attitudes, as well as providing a visual comment on the politics of the day through a veil of metaphors. The painter faced the problem of how to express abstract concepts and feelings by depicting models and the values they represent. To express his own personal circumstances or representing the other, the artist needed to understand allusion and metaphors (which, Mencius declared, are the root of feelings). The fall of the Han in 220-420 AD resulted in political, economic, and social chaos.1 These conditions forced a choice between a Confucian or a Daoist way of life, which, respectively, engaged with or escaped from the world. The Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove epitomized the latter by shunning Confucianism and embracing Daoism in an attempt to find natural freedom: that is, spontaneity and freedom from conventions and restrictions. Their depiction in the Nanjing tomb was an

unprecedented attempt at associating individuals with a pictorial identity, as well as showcasing the increasing awareness of the self in Chinese society. Despite their depiction as individuals, the Seven Sages held strong group symbolism because of their values and behaviour, which included pursuits of immortality (perhaps the reason for their depiction on tombs walls), exploration of alcoholic spirits as an escape, and losing oneself in music. Their emulation by others resulted in the rejection of the social world in favour of self-pursuit in nature. Intellectuals who thus took the Seven Sages as their model avoided political life and became recluses. Discovering the self rather than heeding the state’s definition of proper behaviour was a rare stance in Chinese society and lent The Seven Sages of the Bamboo much of their appeal. +++ However, the Seven Sages did not always symbolize the “ideal self ”; their position as high officials made them contradictory figures. For example, the sages Wang Rong and Shan Tao had previously devoted their lives to the civil service. Despite this, they remained the ideal self for intellectuals and scholar officials distressed over political events of the day because they abandoned their official life for that of a Daoist. The Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove exemplify the importance of the use of symbolism in understanding Chinese painting. The artist who created the Nanking tomb depictions of the Seven Sages portrayed each sage with an object distinct to his personality and inner qualities, each with varied poses to represent their specific “creative talents.”2 For example, Wang Rong sits on a fur mat to symbolize his origin from a wealthy family3; Shan Tao, noted for his straightforward upright integrity, is in a modest and erect pose4; Xi Kang, noted as a musician,


is depicted playing the qin.5 To further emphasize each sage’s individuality within the group, the artist created the compositional device of separating each sage by a tree. The wine bowls symbolize the use of alcohol to forget oneself, while the loose robes reveal the men’s skin, thus representing both the Daoist concept of naturalism and shen (the body) as the starting point for self-realization. The various personalities of the Seven Sages, despite a central unifying theme of Daoist escape from the world, enabled them to appeal to a greater number of individuals. This artwork makes visible a study of human nature which was emerging at the time. When similar social and political conditions arose in the 17th century, artists adopted the Seven Sages to convey their dissatisfaction and provide a comment on society, as well as for their own purposes. For example, Sheng Mao-yeh’s “Lofty Recluses of the Bamboo Grove” (Fig.1), integrates the sages into the landscape setting and show the figures grouped together, as if advocating “qing tan” among the literati scholars who refused to remain in office due to the growing power of the corrupt eunuchs.6 The sages are also depicted dressed in Ming robes, to appeal to contemporary audiences. Thus the representation of the Seven Sages endured, infused into artworks created during later yet similar social and political times. The concept of disengagement and liberating oneself from the world was a response to political chaos. Reclusion as an ideal way of life and a moral choice gained increasing popularity after the Tang. With it came the recurrent question: whether “to engage with the world or to withdraw from it.”7 Tao Yuanming became the model of the latter, positing that the ideal self could be found through the cultivation of the mind and body, removing oneself from worldly affairs, and withdrawal into nature. Those who drew inspiration from his poetry sought the “detached mind” that his poetry emphasized by stating that the man who forgets himself enters heaven.8 +++ His poetry is autobiographical in that it represents the ideal of the intimate scholarly retreat and the importance of detaching one’s mind through discarding the use of an “I”. Those who sought to discover their self through the Tao desired connection with the boundless and serene natural landscapes of his poetry. This poetry fostered a devoted following on Mount Lu, immortalizing the mountain as a symbol of longevity as well as providing a place of refuge for those seeking self-cultivation and purification from social or political life. The highly effective symbolism of this mountain resulted in an influx


of visitors during uneasy political climates, including the Northern Song. Further, the mountain epitomizes the typically Chinese relationship between landscape and enlightenment; the peak of Mount Lu represents limitless space, hinting at immortality, and absence of worldly attachments.9 Much like the Seven Sages’ revived depiction throughout the 17th century, Tao re-appeared throughout history as his symbolism changed. For example, the intellectuals of the Song dynasty, who emphasized the importance of cultivating moral virtues, found meaning and significance in Tao’s disdain for official position, his adamant desire to return to rural life, and his loyalty to the overthrown Eastern Jin dynasty. The Song dynasty thus used him as a tool for their social self.10 On the other hand, during the Ming-Qing transition, surviving supporters of the Ming dynasty regarded Tao as an icon of political resistance.11 Dai Benxiao, an artist loyal to the Ming, utilized Tao Yuanming as spiritual comfort in realizing his political self.12 Swartz explores the idea that Tao was a mirror reflecting those who read him.13 Perhaps his appeal throughout history owed much to his potential to reflect the society of his audience; in a sense, his greatness was created by those who read and painted him. For scholar-bureaucrats, Tao represented integrity and non-conformity. His visual depiction allowed artists of the Song and Yuan dynasties to express personal emotions and opinions. Li Gonglin’s hand-scroll entitled Yuanming Returns to Seclusion is one example. Through innovative composition and redefinition of the visual language, Li helped others find their selves in the story of Tao, just as Li found himself by depicting Tao and the Tao way of life.19 Li’s style of depiction, in the archaic style of the Tang, imbues the artwork with a tone of nostalgia for the past dynasty and dissatisfaction with the current dynasty. The artist’s style reveals his own emotions the vehicle of Tao Yuanming. Li Gonglin understood that the painter should seek meaning that existed beyond the words of a text (Tao’s poetry). The formal techniques used in Li’s hand-scroll emphasize Tao’s solitude and detachment. The metaphor of the boat image conveys the sense of relief and the concept of escape that Tao expressed in his poetry upon “escaping” his political life (Fig.2). Li strategically depicted Tao with frontal poses to detach him from his surroundings, inhibiting the viewer from achieving total empathy with him, a technique perhaps employed to shift the viewer from merely understanding the life of Tao to a process of self discovery through Tao. The second main metaphor used in depictions of Tao is the chrysanthemum, which symbolized integrity and the recluse in ancient China.

During Mongol rule, Li Bai was an exemplar of moral and spiritual cultivation through his poetry and behaviour as depicted by many artists. Emulating him offered hope that the student of poetry could become his equal; that is, the equal of one of the greatest poets who ever lived. Li Bai came to be represented in a wide range of artistic media for his admirable courage of moral and political convictions, “ability to face adversity with dignity, and honest attempts to comprehend and accept a constantly changing natural world.”14 He served as a court poet during the reign of Emperor Xuanzong and as a translator, obtaining favour from the emperor while still behaving in his own inebriated, carefree way.15 His disregard for social norms, infamous drunken abandon, and refusal to be bound by conventional court rules identified him as a model for those seeking their true self. The courage of Li Bai became not only a powerful symbol for any official who saw himself in a comparable role, for example, striving to limit the power of eunuchs, but also an inspiration for others facing political obstacles. Like Tao Yuanming, Li Bai’s heroic image endured over the centuries, preserved from the Yuan to the Qing in art forms ranging from rubbings to lacquer boxes, glazed bowls to musical dramas.16 The mass production and portrayals in different mediums allowed a wider range of audiences access to Li, and through him, to their inner selves. The image of Li on lacquer boxes, for example, could represent hope that sons would bravely confront petty abusers of power when they later served as government officials. Li’s poetry as “poetry of the self ” formed and projected an image of his self. The very essence of his poetry defied conventions, finding expression in the breaking of rules. It was for this reason that his works attracted intellectuals who sought to break rules and define themselves. Li became the idealized self, an immortal of the wine bottle (emphasizing the necessity of losing oneself to discover the true self ) and a heroic poet who distinguished between good and evil (which is precisely what the scholar-officials sought). Like Tao, as seen in the new composition of Li Gonglin’s handscroll, Li Bai’s heroism was somewhat exaggerated, perhaps to re-inspire a pursuit of selfhood. Despite critics who saw his work as disrupting the “ideal oneness of world and poem,” Li Bai prevailed as a model because his poetry possessed the power to transform the very standards against which he was being judged. Paula Varsano describes Li Bai’s work as a “canonized work”: it expressed the set of values held by the culture that produced it and the work’s status remained prominent over time; the consensus that kept it in place

was one of cultural identity. Li’s work then functioned as a nexus, embodying a unifying image of past, present, and future. +++ The depiction of Li Bai on a dish (Fig.3) shows how the artist conveys the political triumph of Li Bai over that of the eunuch Gao Lishi. This is achieved through the compositional device of placing Gao behind the envoy, enabling Li Bai to thrust off his boots as though rejecting both internal and external threats to the Tang dynasty.17 This symbolic event emphasizes diplomatic over poetic triumph, which was the more resonant theme with those who used Li as a model at the time. Two other symbols attached to Li in his depictions are the moon18 and (his liberation from) the “dusty world” of court life and social restraints.19 Financial prosperity during the Song dynasty allowed for economic development, cultural expansion, and an increase of scholar-bureaucrats. For instance Su Shih was an eminent poet, painter, calligrapher and major political figure who even came to represent the scholar-bureaucrat ideal.20 A circle of Su’s contemporary intellectuals developed around him, together establishing a dominant ideal of the cultivated scholar expressing himself through the arts.21 Unlike Li Bai, who did not draw on tradition when composing poetry, Su Shih spoke through the words of earlier poets.22 Su favoured a reclusive life but, unlike Tao Yuanming, was forced into exile. However, similar to Tao, he sought immortality in nature and advocated spontaneity, which he perceives as essential for the sage. Su also believed that intimately associating oneself with a landscape would allow one to escape death that ordinary social time would bring.23 In other words, the self could be immortalized if separated from outer worlds. Thus Tao provided a model for Su’s self discovery, just as the latter would in turn become a model for the scholar-bureaucrat. Arts served as a means of enhancing spiritual and moral development. Su coined “Literati” painting: not to depict formal likeness but to depict the personality of the artist, which can only be achieved by the “refined mind.”24 Thus Su represented the self and 自然. His famous saying: “if anyone understands painting in terms of formal likeness, his understanding is close to that of a child”25 expresses the well-known idea in Chinese painting that art must strike the viewer as familiar, yet new, by incorporating the artist’s personal feelings or new compositional devices). Su became a model of the social self through his


excellence at the examinations coupled with his politically charged poetry; his outspoken attitude caused his banishment. The experience of landscape is central to his artistic, ethical, and social conceptions of self26, since thoughts “steal from a man.”27 His self was defined in opposition to the Confucian political self: contrast between the ego-less self represented by landscape and the strong self presupposed by political life.28 Su was a model of the political self, advocating the ideal political man to possess qualities of the artist-sage even while breaking his selfcontainment in response to the needs of society. “Needs” here means injustice, just as Su himself spoke out against the political structure of his time. For Su, the self could be realized through the Way rather than rational, scholarly inquiry. The sage was one who responded on the basis of his human feelings. For Su, the artist immersed himself in art in response to personal spiritual progress and internal needs. As with Tao Yuanming and the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove, he found the self through the meeting of the world with landscape. For him specifically, as it was Mount Lu for Tao, the element of water was the metaphor for this meeting-point. Similarities between these four models tie them together as ideals across generations. Their image inspired artists and the elite over the centuries, just as each successive model drew on previous models for inspiration. For example, Li Bai used Tao as inspiration for his values and Su Shi imitated Tao’s poetry. One reason for their continued appeal was the versatility of their image and symbolism; with each new time of unrest, the artists and elite were able to adapt the model to suit their personal needs, whether social, political, or metaphorical. For example, Li Gonglin’s hand-scroll of Tao Yuanming ensured the survival of the image of Tao because it was imbued with nostalgia for the past in the face of current social dissatisfaction, yet presented the ideas of detachment and retreat in a modernized manner for contemporaries to understand.29 Equally, depictions of the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove were modernized in the next century to appeal to contemporaries. However, the core values inherent in the symbolism of the models survived each artist’s adaptation. The mass production of Li Bai’s image in various art forms allowed for a wider range of audience, just as the Seven Sages each possessed distinct personalities that could appeal to various scholar-officials and elite. In a similar way, the numerous paintings depicting Tao Yuanming, each with different compositions, tones and styles, and Su Shih’s poetry as a transformation in style and content from his youth to his time of exile as he became


influenced by Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism, also allowed for an expanded role as an ideal model.30 All lived a reclusive life at one point in their lives, whether forced into exile or on their own accord. Despite the attachment of poetry to each of these figures, they wrote and inspired poetry in different styles. For example, Tao Yuanming inspired poetry about his values, being more of an ideal and social self than Li Bai’s poems permitted, since they were transmitted orally and became household names for his primary role as a political self. Furthermore, Li Bai did not draw on traditions when writing poetry as Su Shih did. These men became ideal models because they defied the constraints of their time, embodying the “perfect morality.” Two other factors contributing to their appeal was the influence of individualism and the emphasis placed on self-cultivation as a locus of value, rather than official accomplishments or political success. These poets allowed artists and the elite to find their true selves through creating or owning artwork of a model; for example, possessing Returning Home linked the theme of the painting to the owner’s own circumstances and behaviour. The cycle of self discovery described in this essay surfaced in times of state upheaval. The Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove, Tao Yuanming, Li Bai, and Su Shih embodied a shared ideal for a particular social class in a specific time period. Artistic representation of these models both offered the artist a vehicle for self expression, and provided a behavioural model for the viewer. This twofold purpose shows the power of art as a medium for the discovery of the self.

Notes [1] Liang, Ellen Johnston. “Neo-Taoism and the “Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove in Chinese Painting,” in Artibus Asiae, Vol. 36, No. 1/2 (1974), p.5 [2] Ibid. p.11 [3] Ibid. p.11 [4] Ibid p.12 [5] Ibid p.14 [6] Liang, Ellen Johnston. “Neo-Taoism and the “Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove in Chinese Painting,” in Artibus Asiae, Vol. 36, No. 1/2 (1974), p.50 [7] Nelson, Susan E. “Catching Sight of South Mountain: Tao Yuanming, Mount Lu, and the Iconographies of Escape.” Archives of Asian Art. 52 (2001): p.11 [8] Birch, Cyril. Studies in Chinese Literary Genres. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974. p. 124 [9] Bush, Susan. Theories of the Arts in China. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983. p.146 [10] Yuan, Xingpei. “Tao Qian and Classical Chinese Paintings.” Frontiers of Literary Studies in China. 3.4 (2009): p.499 [11] Ibid. p. 493 [12] Ibid. p.495 [13] Swartz, Wendy, p.5 [14] Liscomb, Kathlyn M. “Li Bai, a Hero Among Poets, in the Visual, Dramatic, and Literary Arts of China.” Art Bulletin. 81.3 (1999), p.355 [15] Ibid. p.356 [16] Ibid. p.360 [17] Liscomb, Kathlyn M. “Li Bai, a Hero Among Poets, in the Visual, Dramatic, and Literary Arts of China.” Art Bulletin. 81.3 (1999), p.380 [18] Ibid. p.356 [19] Varsano, Paula. Tracking the Banished Immortal: the poetry of Li Bo and its Critical Reception. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2003. p.7 [20] Grant, Beata. Mount Lu Revisited: Buddhism in the Life and Writings of Su Shih. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 1994. p.1 [21] Bush, Susan. Theories of the Arts in China. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1983. p. xxi [22] Fuller, Michael. The Road to East Slope: Su Shi’s Poetic Voice. Paulo Alto: Stanford University Press, 1990. p.2 [23] March, Andrew L. “Self and Landscape in Su Shih.” Journal of the American Oriental Society. 86.4 (1966): p.381 [24] Ibid p.382 [25] Bush, Susan. “Theories of the Arts in China.” New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1983. p.268

[26] March, Andrew L. “Self and Landscape in Su Shih.” Journal of the American Oriental Society. 86.4 (1966). p.377 [27] Ibid p.387 [28] Ibid p.392 [29] Brotherton, Elizabeth. “Beyond the Written Word: Li Gonglin’s Illustrations to Tao Yuanming’s “Returning Home.” Artibus Asiae. 59.4 (2000), p.257 [30] Fuller, Michael. “The Road to East Slope: Su Shi’s Poetic Voice.” California: Stanford University Press, 1990. p.2



Figure 1. Sheng Mao-yeh, Lofty Recluses of the Bamboo Grove, 1634 A.D.

Figure 2. Anonymous, Yuanming Returning to Seclusion, early 12th century.


Figure 3. Dish, underglaze, blue and copper red, 167090s.

Passion for Individuality in Two Different Chinas An analysis on Jia Zhangke’s Platform Siyang Zheng


ia Zhangke’s film Platform (Jia Zhangke, 2000) exemplifies his realist aesthetic taste and uses China’s economic development as the backdrop of his work. In Platform, Jia successfully shows the social transformation of China via a group of performers in the remote town of Fenyang, where a capitalizing China paralyzes four youths’ pursuit of individuality. Jia’s narrative emphasizes the contrast between individual realization and the capitalist policies that China adopted in the 1980s. Jia Zhangke’s realist filming philosophy is represented by the frequent use of long shots with steady or no camera movements and by his preference to expose reality rather than oppose social contradiction.1 Jia explicitly criticizes the Fifth Generation directors’ attempts to create a fictional symbol of Chinese identity while ignoring the complex yet provocative consequences on individuals derived from China’s drastic economic development.2 With regard to China’s economic growth, the disciplinary collectivism value in family and society becomes an obstacle to the young generation’s pursuit of individual expression, living style and romantic freedom. These young people naively equate individual freedom with capitalist society, which is represented by mega-cities such as Guangzhou. The main characters in the film, likewise, continue to struggle in different periods of Chinese history, even after joining the longed-for capitalist society. The plot of the film reflects Jia’s belief that individuality is instinctive and independent from any faction of ideology. Therefore, Jia denies the validity of the logical connection between capitalism and individualism in the context of 1980’s China. In this respect, Jia’s determination to portray reality is represented by his use of long shots; such tactics were designated to demonstrate a complete image of contradictory relation between innocent youth and China’s

social norm both before and after its capitalization. The characters’ pursuit of individual expression begins with their consciousness of the possibility of independence, an awareness raised by their unique work during the socialist era of China. To a certain degree, Jia denies that economic reform inaugurated the absolute social extinction of the pre-1980 Chinese individual; rather, the form of individuality people pursue is predetermined and cultivated by their “division of labour” under this communist regime. The main characters are members of the Cultural Troupe, who are supposed to express their individual beauty to impress the audience. In fact, it is this unique role in society that has made the desire for individual freedom second nature for these youths. In a scene where Cui Mingliang’s (Wang Hongwei) mother criticizes him for not doing any work, Cui replies by stating that he was a “literary and artistic worker” (文艺工 作者). Similarly, when Cui’s father satirically challenges him to squat down with his new pants, Cui responds that a “literary and artistic worker” was different from peasants or workers. Being a member of the Cultural Troupe hence becomes the excuse for Cui to pursue an individualistic approach to his life. Jia Zhangke confirms this idea through his cinematography. As Jia suggests by his long shots in the beginning of this film, “literary and artistic workers” are centrifugal from the mainstream social value. In many shots, especially when these youths are performing on the stage, the audience, who represents the collective mass, occupies almost half of the screen. These young performers are set in a position that is far from the camera and their figures appear distant, away from the audience (Fig. 1). In this way, Jia Zhangke locates the source of these youths’ desire for individuality – it developed even while they lived under the social values of 1970 Communist


China, which championed uniformity and collectivism. In view of this narrative, Jia maintains that the passion for individuality is independent from the influence of social values, communism or capitalism. These youths’ ambition to pursue individualism is in a great contradiction to the mainstream collectivist social value in the 1970s, and their almost instinctive desire for individuality brings them anxieties. In a long take and long shot, Cui Mingliang and Yin Ruijuan (Zhao Tao) have a private conversation underneath a heavy city wall. Only Cui and Yin are filmed in the frame throughout almost the entire three-minute shot, and the camera maintains a long distance from these ostensible lovers during the entire shot. Although Cui and Yin stand in the center of the frame, the heavy ancient wall behind them creates a sense of pressure monitoring these two young individuals. The secret and silent corner behind a wall is supposed to be a perfect location to conduct a private dialogue. However, the steady long shot exposes the entire brick wall and the background noise recorded in audio spoils their “secret.” By the end of this scene, Cui’s cigarette ignites a bundle of dried grass stored in the arch cave (Fig. 2). Although the warm color of this fire stands out from the overall image that has tuned with a cold colour temperature, the long shot and the fact that the fire is hidden in the cave reveals Cui’s impotent anxiety. Unfortunately, the industrialization and capitalism that these youths awaited also did not bring the potential for individual freedom that they dreamed of. One of the most touching and emotionally rich shots in this film is when members of the already privatized performance troupe run through the valley and climb up the hill to catch a glimpse of a train. On the one hand, the train symbolizes that capitalist development has deeply penetrated the remote valley; on the other hand, the extreme long shot suggests that these youths were powerless and marginalized. Further, the background music, which is also titled “Platform,” sarcastically suggests that their hearts are “forever waiting.” The following scene illustrates that the constant anxiety of these young performers remain even after the society has been revised with industrial and capitalistic value. The director portraits these youths symbolically with the massive mountain in the background of those extreme long shots (Fig.3). In addition, the color temperature is toned to a dark blue, and layers of mountain covered by the extreme long shot surround these naïve young performers. Cui Mingliang lights up a fire in an area apart from the crowd and the extreme long shot marginalizes his figure into the bottom corner of the frame on the screen. The consistent representation of anxiety


behind the fire suggests that the characters in the film would still have to go through unknown difficulties to reach their goal, and their entry to the outside society is only the beginning of their journey. Jia has demonstrates the constant contradictory relation between characters and the society via his extreme long shots throughout the entire film. Furthermore, he has depicted the capitalized Chinese society as a chaotic world. The backdrop of the film is no longer the innocence that was portrayed in the first half of the film. In the latter part of the film, for example, an old villager pretending to be the head of the town humiliatingly fools Lao Song’s performers, and street guys harass two girls who newly join the performance group. The characters’ goal of pursuing individual expression has not been achieved in the capitalist world, because their performances have to compromise with materialistic conditions and to fit into the rule of a market economy. For example, they lie and announce that one of the performers, Er Yong, has travelled to America. Also, Cui Mingliang, who used to be a Bayan player, starts to sing on stage. Ironically, the song Cui sings is “Platform” again, and one could read this as a symbol of their unachieved goals because the phrase “waiting” repeats in the song. In the film, freedom in a love relationship is the ultimate representation of individual freedom. The romantic relationship is another theme that Jia has developed throughout the film; many of the relationships were eventually “destroyed” or at least distorted after their encounter with the new society. Yin Ruijuan’s father explicitly refused Yin to date Cui Mingliang because Cui is considered to be a trifler in his eye. Therefore, the biggest obstacle in the way for Cui to achieve his object of desire was Yin’s father, who also represented the disciplinary collectivist social value in pre-capitalized China. After the privatization of the Culture Troupe, Yin Ruijuan decides to stay in Fenyang and become a tax collector. This transition shows that Yin has given up on her pursuit of individuality, which distorts the love relationship between Cui and Yin. To Cui, the innocent Yin has grown up to a mature and realistic civil servant, shattering the dream they once shared. Cui’s nostalgia is clear in the scene when Lao Song’s performance group returns to Fenyang, and the band find their old music equipment and start to play a 1980s popular song in the storage room behind their rehearsal hall. The camera moves from the band to Cui and then stopps at a shot of the empty room where the Culture Troupe used to practice. The abandoned equipment in a cramped room and the dusty empty rehearsal room make Cui’s smoking seem sentimental and impotent.

This sequence is then followed by a sequence of Yin’s performing. The second shot of the said sequence is one of the most famous and memorable shots in Jia’s works (Fig. 4). The music is touching and Yin’s dance is beautiful. However, Jia Zhangke clearly does not mean to make Yin to be Cui’s object of desire at this point. The entire shot is a long shot with no camera movement, and Yin stands far from the camera until she starts dancing with the music. It is noticeable that Yin sometimes even dances out of the light and her face is shadowed. The beauty of this shot comes from the nostalgic elements behind Yin’s dance. As McGrath states, “the predominant use of longshot compositions and long-take cinematography is, of course, an integral part of the reflective nostalgia of the film.”3 Further, Yin’s dancing scene not only represents Jia’s personal nostalgia nor only stimulates the audience’s memory, but delivers the message that the present Yin has come far from being the naïve youth of the past. In other words, her innocence and beauty that Cui Ming Liang used to cherish in the Cultural Troupe have become mere memories. In this long take, Yin dances in her office and wears her blue tax agency uniform, and all these elements remind the spectators that her performance has become the past. Surprisingly, however, the film ends with a long shot of Yin, Cui, and their child in the same frame (Fig. 5). Seemingly, Cui has achieved his goal by possessing his past object of desire. However, the beauty of Yin Ruijuan that Cui admired before has disappeared. In the shot, Cui lies on a small couch and Yin and the child occupy themselves with a pot of boiling water. This shot is a very realistic portrayal of ordinary people’s lives in the 1980s. Yet, the noise coming from the water pot and Cui’s facial expression create a frustrating affect. The once innocent romance between Cui and Yin has devolved into an anxious and banal marriage. Jia Zhangke’s final shot delivers a feeling of disappointment and impotence. As Jia said in his interview with Dudley Andrew, “the feeling of disappointment is not the result of historical occurrences, the kinds of tragedies and problems brought about by bad politics and ideology.”4 Indeed, the realistic method of filmmaking in this film suggested that instead of criticizing a specific ideology or policy, Jia was eager to aesthetically record individual reactions to China’s sudden economic transformation. In order to present an objective observation on Chinese society, Jia Zhangke uses an independent artistic philosophy that frees his characters from stereotypes. In this and other ways apparent in Platform, Jia Zhangke maintains that one’s eagerness to pursue dreams should be independent from both social preferences and state values.

Notes [1] Jason McGrath, “The Independent Cinema of Jia Zhangke: From Postsocialist Realism to a Transitional Aesthetic,” in Zhang Zhen, ed., The Urban Generation: Chinese Cinema and Society at the Turn of the TwentyFirst Century (Durham: Duke UP, 2007). [2] Jia, Zhangke. “Youth Leaders and Our Generation.” Speech. People, CCTV. Peking University, Beijing. 12 Dec. 2012. Www.youtube.com. Youtube, 2007. Web. 8 Dec. 2012. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uUMJuE6dfwE>. [3] Jason McGrath, “The Independent Cinema of Jia Zhangke: From Postsocialist Realism to a Transitional Aesthetic,” 100. [4] “Encounter: Interview with Jia Zhang-Ke.” Interview by Dudley Andrew. Film Quarterly Summer 2009: 8083.



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The 1988 Seoul Olympics and Democratic Transition in South Korea Caroline Tremblay


he transition from authoritarianism to democracy in South Korea Has not been simple; many events and conditions led up to Roh Tae Woo’s 6.29 Declaration, which ushered in the democratic transition. Among these factors, the 1988 Olympics in Seoul contributed to the government’s open-mindedness towards democratic policies. The Games shaped both the policies of the government headed by then-president Chun Doo-hwan and the people’s democratic struggle in the 1980s, and both perpetuated and ultimately undermined the authoritarian regime. To understand the role that the Olympics played in Korea’s democratic transition, it will be useful to first look at the political context in the 1980s, thereby identifying the government’s motives in hosting the Games and analyzing the role of nationalism in motivating people to either submit to or protest against the government. It will also be helpful to assess the impact of the global media on the South Korean democracy movement. Kihl analyzes the economically prosperous context of the political transition’s beginning in 1987. He argues that the Korean democratic transition was unusual because of this prosperity, and that the government’s authoritarian withdrawal appears almost prearranged.1 Kihl suggests that legitimacy is a key concept to understanding this development. It can be illustrated by a comparison of the government’s actions during two events, the political and economic crisis of 1979-1980 and the crisis in 19861987. The forces at play during the two crises were quite different. In the former’s case, the economy was clearly in trouble. For Kihl, this allowed the Chun government to restore political and economic stability by vigorously implementing an economic adjustment plan, a strategy quite similar to that of Chun’s predecessor Park Chung Hee.2 By gaining the support of businesses, and through the promise of socioeconomic progress, Chun was able to

maintain power.3 One important component of this development project was the substantial investment in the building of infrastructure for the upcoming Olympics. In fact, Thomas argues that Olympic investments allowed the state to curb the opposition. They were used “as a means of penetrating into every corner of the nation,” and “under the Olympic mandate, such development projects that might otherwise have faced funding problems or public opposition were easily pushed forward.”4 On the other hand, Kihl argues that the Korean government’s reaction to the 1986-1987 Crisis was very different because it happened during economically prosperous times. He identifies two forces that could lead to a democratic transition: democratization led by opposition leaders and civil society, and liberalization, which denotes policy change that is led by the ruling elite of the authoritarian regime.5 Both processes were initiated by government leaders, who thereby shaped the path toward the peaceful democratic opening of 1987.6 Accordingly, Kihl concludes, “the key to South Korea’s initial success in democratization lies, as James Cotton argues, not only in popular demands for political participation, but also in the willingness of elites to recognize them as unavoidable consequences of socioeconomic modernization.”7 However, Kihl’s analysis does not provide further reasons for Chun’s “designed withdrawal.” Manheim goes so far as to argue that, considering the specific policies designed to enhance the regime’s legitimacy through the anticipated success of the Olympic Games, its strategy “backfired.”8 Most scholars agree that Chun’s bid for the 1988 Olympic Games was made with political and economic objectives in mind. Larson and Park identified three major reasons for South Korea’s decision to host the Olympics, which were first discussed during Park’s presidency: the economic boon that Japanese reaped from the 1964 Olympic were an aspiration because of similar economic situations; the Games would be an opportunity to re-


solve the confrontation with the North; and they would provide an opportunity for South Korea to gain recognition as an “advanced” nation.9 Manheim reaches similar conclusions. There was a desire to change South Korea’s image by associating the new Chun government with the economic miracle, thereby consolidating its legitimacy internationally. Industrialization and development would also give domestic credit to the government, while the world’s attention to the Games would raise awareness about the North Korean threat and “insur[e]” protection for South Korea against possible aggression.10 Similarly, Thomas argues that the state used the “Olympic Regime” to promote its own agendas and regain credibility. He defines the “Olympic Regime” as a “highly disciplined regime that uses intimidation, coercion, and force (or the threat of it) to assert its power and carry out its agenda, usually by mobilizing masses of people in a “common cause.”11 In fact, preparation for the Olympics was intrinsically linked to substantial investments in development projects. These, as Thomas suggests, were partly motivated by the government’s desire to deflect attention from its history of human rights abuses, especially Chun’s coup and the Gwangju Massacre,12 and bolster the country’s international reputation by removing squatter shanties and other signs of underdevelopment.13 Most of these goals were fulfilled in the short term. First, Larson & Park suggest that the International Olympic Committee (IOC)’s decision to award the Olympics to Seoul instantly legitimized Chun’s military government, both in the Eastern Bloc and in North America.14 Although the Games did not explicitly address North Korean propaganda, they did become an important vehicle for the pursuit of South Korean nordpolitik, which allowed for greater dialogue between the two countries.15 As Thomas shows, North Korea’s attempts to disrupt or co-host the Games ultimately discredited its regime, while the South successfully established formal relations with many Eastern Bloc and non-aligned nations previously allied with the North.16 Additionally, public opinion polls show that while many Koreans initially considered the Seoul Olympics to be simply a military pageant, opinions gradually shifted as the population took pride in working toward the Olympics’ success.17 The nationalism sparked by the upcoming Olympics was a powerful but precarious force. South Korea’s population shared the government’s desire to join the ranks of “advanced” nations, a desire that had led the state to bid for the Games. During a welterweight boxing event, the Korean audience stormed a referee whom they believed was unjust toward the Korean boxer. When


Korean media rebroadcasted NBC’s live telecast of the incident, especially coupled with previous NBC footage of negative Korean stereotypes, Korean-American relations were greatly damaged. Thomas takes this example to show that Koreans “responded to what they perceived as attacks on Korea with defensive nationalism. Through it, they asserted national pride during the Olympics and were able to move ahead, fully mobilized and proudly in support of their nation.”18 On the other hand, in April 1987, President Chun announced that he would postpone the debate on constitutional reforms after the Games, and thereby opened a new political crisis: students and middle-class citizens filled the streets of Seoul and other Korean cities in protest.19 According to Black and Bezanson, the relevance of these protests lies in the threat they posed for having to cancel the Olympic Games. South Korea had already been humiliated by having had to forfeit hosting the 1976 Asian Games because it could not afford to build the necessary infrastructure; in 1987, other international cities offered to host the 1988 Olympics because of the deepening political crisis in Seoul. Black and Bezanson argue that “the loss of the Games to another city … was a national humiliation the South Korean government was not willing to risk.”20 In order to maintain its credibility, the state came to understand that it would have to secure democracy before the opening of the Olympic Games. Accordingly, the Olympics “marked a deadline for a restructuring of the South Korean political system.”21 The state had few alternatives. International interest in South Korea during the 1980s is key in the relationship between the Seoul Olympics and the democratic transition. As Manheim puts it, “it may or may not have been the anticipation of the Olympics that brought students into the streets in June 1987, but it was surely the anticipation of the Olympics that brought the world’s press to Seoul, Kwangju and elsewhere to cover their activities.”22 Han suggests that the Chun government faced two options: either it could mobilize troops to quell the demonstrations and risk large-scale violence, or it could make democratic concessions to the political opposition and risk losing power.23 Although they did not directly cause the democratic transition, the Olympics and the media certainly had an impact on the government’s response to the demonstrations, considering their wish to gain name recognition. Black & Bezanson suggest that the Olympics thusly allowed for a peaceful and rapid transition as prevention against the public humiliation the Chun administration would have suffered if it had taken the default option of political repression.24

Chun faced a lack of legitimacy from the onset of his presidency; he therefore had a vested interest in enhancing the government’s legitimacy by bidding for the 1988 Olympic Games. Huge financial investments in the Games turned public and media attention away from the abuses of the state. Even though Koreans were initially skeptical of the state’s motives, the government’s efforts sparked an outburst of national pride as the Games approached. Therefore, when the 1987 political crisis deepened and demonstrations expanded, the state had no choice but to make the democratic concessions embodied in Roh’s 6.29 Declaration. In fact, as Manheim argued, the government’s strategy had “backfired”: “the Olympics were a symbol bestowed with great importance by the government … but they were a symbol over which the government lost control.”25 The Korean people had a stake in their nation’s image abroad but not in the legitimization of their authoritarian government. Thus, the increase of international media attention successfully allowed them to voice their plight.

Notes [1] Kihl, Young Whan. Transforming Korean Politics: Democracy, Reform, and Culture (Armonk: M.E. Sharpe, 2005), 81. [2] Ibid. 80. [3] Ibid. 81-82. [4] Thomas, James P. “Nationalist Desires, State Spectacles, and Hegemonic Legacies: Retrospective Tales of Seoul’s Olympic Regime.” From The East Asian Olympiads, 1934-2008: Building Bodies and Nations in Japan, Korea, and China. By William M. Tsutsui and Michael Baskett, eds. (Leiden: Global Oriental, 2011), 91. [5] Kihl, 67-68. [6] Ibid. 69. [7] Cotton (1989) in Kihl, 82. [8] Manheim, Jarol B. “Rites of Passage: The 1988 Seoul Olympics as Public Diplomacy.” From The Western Political Quarterly 43.2 (1990), 291. [9] Larson, James F., and Heung-Soo Park. Global Television and the Politics of the Seoul Olympics (Boulder: Westview, 1993), 151. [10] Manheim, 281-282 [11] Thomas, 89. [12] Ibid. 92. [13] Ibid. 93. [14] Larson and Park, 158. [15] Ibid. 3 [16] Thomas, 100. [17] Larson and Park, 167. [18] Thomas, 96-98. [19] Larson and Park, 160. [20] Black, David, and Shona Bezanson. “The Olympic Games, Human Rights and Democratization: Lessons from Seoul and Implications for Beijing.” From Third World Quarterly 25.7 (2004), 1252. [21] Ibid. 1253. [22] Manheim, 291. [23] Han, Sung-Joo. “South Korea in 1987: the Politics of Democratization.” From Asian Survey 28.1 (1988), 54. [24] Black and Bezanson, 1254. [25] Manheim, 291.


sara-sara Hikikamari life, myths, and perceptions Dawn Cheung

explanatory note

This manga explores the life, myths and popular perceptions that give hikikomori, a youth subculture in Japan, negative associations in contemporary Japanese media. Images show a hikikomori’s typical home environment and the typical, dehumanizing misconceptions that surround hikikomori in and outside of Japanese society. For instance, the appearance of the “nonono” cat on Page 6 as a hikikomori human in cosplay offers a cat/human role reversal in the home, while a second significant cat, Sara-Sara, watches her master suffer the stab wounds of social pressures. The manga explores hikikomori as a response to conformist society and weighs in on its cure, coming down against disciplinarian tactics like those attempted by Osada Yuriko in favour of treating root causes of hikikomori behaviour.


Otaku | people with obsessive interests, any interest, but most commonly used outside of Japan to denote fans of anime, manga or Japanese games. The otaku subculture carries social stigma in Japan, though some celebrities have been known to call themselves “otaku” as well. NEET | refers to young people Not in Education, Employment or Training (or seeking such). In Japan, NEETs often become hikikomori, and this can be seen as a withdrawal from the pressures of Japanese work-life as well as a consequence of Japan’s economic stagnation in the 1990s.







Cinema and Culture China After the Cultural Revolution Charlotte Jacob-Maguire


ollowing the Communist Revolution, cinema progressively came to function as “an instrument for the popularization of a new mass culture”1 in China. “A homogenised and standardized art of film presented to nationwide audiences regularized views of the past, of the present and of older indigenous art”.2 This was brought to an extreme during the Cultural Revolution as modernized versions of “model operas” were presented as the epitome of the new mass culture and new film style. The function of revolutionary operas such as The WhiteHaired Girl was twofold. First, they appeared as models both for the modernization of operatic arts as well as for a new culture, while heightening existing formalist tendencies. Second, these model operas also served to present exemplary revolutionary behaviour. In her essay “Female Images and National Myth”, Meng Yue analyses revolutionary narratives and argues that socialist fiction used the female image to signify either a certain class or socio-political group or the authority of the Communist party.3 She further argues that female images functioned as a special agent of the state’s appropriation of the “public”, as women normally took on the role of representatives of the private sphere. Notwithstanding the “true” reality of Chinese women throughout the decades after the Liberation, the government’s official position, after 1942, was that Chinese men and women were equal. Officially, then, sex and gender differences did not exist. As such, the author asks: “what do male/female hierarchies mean if they have nothing to do with gender difference?”4 Rosemary Roberts, on the other hand, questions notions of gender erasure from public space. She argues that gender differentiation and expressions of sexuality were present in these narratives via heroines’ aesthetic, even erotic, appeal for audiences.5 Roberts states that in writing this paper she seeks to contribute to this debate by focusing closely on theatrical costume in the yangbanxi,


which she argues was “semiotically loaded with cultural and historical meaning that gendered and sexualised its wearers to a much greater extent than has been recognised to date.”6 These two essays offer contesting ideas as to whether the female body is sexualized or neutered in Chinese Revolutionary operas, namely The White-Haired Girl. Both authors assume that the female body exists as a space, whether sexualized or not, marked by class; in both essays, the body provides tangible evidence of class rivalry. Meng Yue studies the relationship between Xier and her landlord in the 1971 version of the film, which omits the rape and birth scene, as well as Xier’s relationship with her father and lover. Rosemary Roberts foregrounds the arrival of Dachun, Xier’s lover, at the end of the story, as the enabler of her transition to Communist fighter and restorer of her repressed sexuality. The gender order is thus transferred onto the symbolic order of class relations, “thereby making gender role structure into a basic frame for representing class struggle.”7 This assumption is problematic in that this supposed gender role structure may not be applied to Xier’s experiences with all three men. The unfolding of the female protagonist’s relations with her father, lover and landlord vary in their meaning, solely focusing on class struggle only in the presence of the landlord. Xier’s relationship with her father and lover recall the archetype of the virtuous Chinese woman. The double play presented in the film reflects the process of socialization of women in the public domain, wherein women were presented as equal to men, but were expected to play the traditional social roles of wives, mothers, and daughters, as well as that of workers.8 Moreover, the authors’ assumption that the gender role structure is transferred into an illustration of class struggle disregards the relationship between Xier and the landlord’s mother. Indeed, in the 1971 ballet version of the story, it is the landlord’s mother who

ultimately drives Xier to the mountains because of her incessant demands: one woman’s actions thus cause another’s misery. Meng Yue and Rosemary Roberts have completely ignored this relationship in their analysis of gender representation in The White-Haired Girl. While the female presence of the mother could be viewed as an element of the class struggle relationship, it simultaneously renders the transferral of gender to class difficult, since the relationship between Xier and Dachun serves a specific political purpose. In the film, Xier represents the anger of the masses. However, unlike her lover and male counterpart Dachun, who joins the Red Army, she leaves the human world, exemplified by the loss of colour in her hair and the fading of her red clothing. The relationship between Xier and Dachun and their own different responses to class struggle are crucial to The White-Haired Girl. By analyzing the visual culture of the film, within the cultural context in which the filmed version of the ballet was produced, a different understanding of Xier and Dachun’s relationship is possible: the female character is a central symbol of the masses. She is an allegorical character, standing in for the people who have not yet taken part in the communist revolution. In the film, Xier is justifiably angry about her oppressive situation. However, unlike Dachun’s revolutionary fervor, her anger is emotionally driven. As such, her efforts are fruitless because they cannot be taken to the collective level and be effectively channelled into a revolutionary movement. In this way, the female character is a convenient figure through which to display the position of the not-yet mobilized masses with a revolutionary vision. To take this analysis another step further, the relationship between the returning male leader Dachun and the woman Xier represents the relationshp between the Party and the masses. The masses, as victims of oppression, are lead by a passion that must be channelled by communist education and oriented toward the revolution. Within this framework, the man follows the correct path immediately, while the woman is consumed and blinded by her anger. The means of directing anger are exemplified by repeated visual motifs, including clenched fists. The fist, as an example of the collectivized individual, represents the organ of labour in revolutionary imagery.9 Since the fist expresses the will of the masses, observing a character’s fists can shed light on their significance. In the case of Dachun, his movements are contained and controlled, while Xier raises her fists above her head, agitating her hands around her body. The difference between these movements expresses private and collectivised anger, re-

spectively. Following this logic, the heroine must be taught how to react to this anger; she only re-enters the human world when the male protagonist re-educates her. Through his teaching, her struggle becomes an appeal to fight back and triumph over the landlord. This positioning of the characters functions as the continuation of the clichéd phrase “daughter of the Party” which, for decades, “functioned […] as bearer of the Party’s transcendental authority into family, love and the whole personal sphere”.10 The gendering of the party and the masses in the film also however supplies erotic motivation in the narrative: the masses and the Party are here shown as naturally attracted to one another. The climactic moment in this relationship occurs in the cave, when Xier’s recognition of herself in her lover is played out visibly, from close-ups of each character to long shots of them dancing together. The love between the two will therefore eventually lead to marriage between the man and the woman, that is, between the Party and the masses. However, the notion of marriage as the union of two equal parties is ambiguous. Although the protagonists are presented as equal, the male inevitably leads. This exemplifies the proposed relationship of the Party and the people as a whole and the reality of the Party as leader of the masses.11 The final scene, in which Dachun and Xier march side-by-side, followed by Red Guards, has twofold significance. Politically, it signifies Xier’s rightful education as she enlists to become a Communist. Personally, the procession, as well as red wedding rosette pinned on her chest, carries strong connotations of marriage and sexuality. Through the union of the male and female protagonists, the leader/educator becomes one with the receiver of the education and thus underlines the importance of channelling the anger arising from class struggle. Through repetition, the film inculcates its viewers with the notion that Xier’s triumph was dependent upon the leader. Similarly, the masses are destined to struggle without the Party. In presenting this movie, the Party would have thus entered the public and private space, presenting unequal gender roles while also pervading the private realm of the masses.


Notes [1] Paul Clark, Chinese cinema : culture and politics since 1949 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 69. [2] Ibid [3] Meng Yue, “Female Image and National Myth,” in Gender politics in modern China: writing and feminism, ed. Tani E. Barlow. (Durham: Duke University Press, 1993), 118. [4] Ibid. 119. [5] Rosemary Roberts, “Gendering the Revolutionary Body: Theatrical Costume in Cultural Revolution China,” Asian Studies Review 30 (2006): 141. [6] Ibid. [7] Meng Yue, “Female Image and National Myth,” in Gender politics in modern China: writing and feminism, ed. Tani E. Barlow. (Durham: Duke University Press, 1993), 122. [8] Shuqin Cui, Women through the lens : gender and nation in a century of Chinese cinema (Honolulu: University of Hawaiʻi Press, 2003), 55. [9] Lecture notes from ARTH-356 [10] Meng Yue, “Female Image and National Myth,” in Gender politics in modern China : writing and feminism, ed. Tani E. Barlow. (Durham: Duke University Press, 1993), 124. [11] Lecture notes from HIST-218 and ARTH-356.


Modern China and the One Child Policy Zhe Feng


ote from the author: I am the only child of a family of urban Chinese background. Both of my parents had several siblings. The Chinese government’s One Child Policy does not allow parents to have multiple children without paying considerable fines. This social restriction was one of the reasons, among others, that we decided to settle in Canada, where my sister Jenny was born in 2005. For more than 32 years, the One Child Policy (计 划生育政策), also known as the Family Planning Policy, has been enforced upon Chinese families. On a social level, the policy violates human rights and creates age and gender imbalances, but on an economic level, it has helped China regain control of its overcrowded labour force and alleviate poverty in certain regions of the country. China is currently in the second year of its 12th FiveYear Plan, under which the policy persists. If the policy is indeed abandoned or made less strict in 2015, will China return to its ‘backward’ economy? The answer is no: analyses conclude that a more relaxed One Child Policy for the entire nation can bring socioeconomic relief for an extended period of time.

Motivation and outcome of the One Child Policy

Established in 1979 by Deng Xiaoping, the One Child Policy aims to restrict the serious population crisis caused by rapid population growth during Deng’s predecessor, Mao Zedong’s leadership. The fear of unsustainability stems from Malthus and his concern for shortages in food supplies.i These efforts by the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to control overcrowding were not only a protection against severe famines and periods of great diseases, but an attempt to readapt the PRC’s MarxistMaoist orthodoxy, which was the prominent ideology in communist China. However, Marxism rejects Malthusianism: according to Marx, it is by eradicating poverty and inequality that the populace proliferates and pros-

pers. Malthus has the opposite causal viewpoint. By instituting the One Child Policy, Deng was working backwards by repressing population expansion first. He hoped that this would result in the elimination of poverty and social inequality. Deng did not originally introduce this Malthusian approach. In 1957, Dr. Ma Yinchu, renowned economist who graduated from Yale and Columbia Universities and president of Peking University, argued that a high population growth was problematic for China.ii Unfortunately, he was forced to resign from his position because his views defied the prevailing Marxist ideas at the time. Thus, under Deng’s administration, China was evidently beginning to move away from the traditional socialist society that was once put forward by Mao. Intrinsically, the One Child Policy was also an attempt to reach a “beautiful dream […] seeking to create a new generation of healthy, wealthy, smart, and savvy young people to lead the nation’s rise to global dominance”.iii This objective aligns with the economic reform, and the intention to enhance education and to invest in human capital. This focus on quality over quantity of the labour pool improved labour productivity and encouraged wealth accumulation. Indeed, the development of education began under Deng Xiaoping with the establishment of a mission in 1986: to provide compulsory nine-year basic education for every child. The mission continued under Jiang Zemin, Deng’s successor.iv After three decades, the number of enrollments in higher education was 21 times more than that of 1978v and the illiteracy rate fell dramatically by almost 20%. The popularization of education became in effect partly due to the Family Planning Policy for it allowed parents to put all efforts into their one and only child. Economist Gary Becker also supported this idea of trade from quantity to quality: “it is easier for families to monitor and support the education of one child than multiple ones, and more educated manpower is more productive”.vi Not only was the policy intended to shape China’s


future leaders; it was also a plan to alleviate some heavy burden left behind by past ones. Fortunately, the strategy paid off. In rural areas, promoting family planning saw huge improvement in eradicating poverty. In 2007, only 1.6% of families were under the absolute poverty line compared to 30% in 1978 for a net difference of 230 million people who can now live a more prosperous life. vii The living standard per capita for citizens all across the country has increased more than fourfold since the implementation of the policy.viii This astonishing outcome was the result of two parallel forces. The first effect comes from the ongoing high economic growth during post-reform days; the second arises from the application of the One Child Policy, which maintained a stable population level. With both factors acting side-by-side, the quality of life soon picked up. Furthermore, in the long-term, the low and steady population growth helped China lower the rate of depletion of its natural resources, reduce its unemployment rate and create less competition within the labour force as the generation of children affected by the policy enters the workforce.ix As a result, labour became scarcer, real income per household increased, and accordingly the capital-to-labour ratio rose. Overall, the policy has proved to be efficient in achieving its primary objective: to decelerate China’s rapidly rising population, which resulted in a growing improvement of people’s lifestyle. However, this gain did not come without cost. Many social issues have been raised, particularly those regarding low fertility rates, forced abortions, infanticides, and gender inequality. Thus, the question remains whether the positive consequences of the One Child Policy outweigh the negative ones.

Becker, Glaeser, and Murphy: agrarian vs. non-agrarian economies

Becker, Glaeser, and Murphy present an interesting perception to the issue. They believe that the Malthusian views are solely applicable in an agrarian economy.x Urbanization and capitalist markets enjoy many characteristics that are inconsistent with economies that subsist exclusively on agriculture. Mainly, a consistently growing population in an agrarian economy with limited capital and rudimentary technology will result in diminishing returns to labour, whereas higher population leads to increasing returns in a non-agrarian economy. In the traditional socialist era, when farmlands were the main source of revenue in China, the population grew alongside China’s physical capital. However, with only a fixed quantity of land and an increasing amount


of workers, it was obvious that the overcrowding would soon outstrip labour productivity, lower household savings, and reduce living standards. The only solution available that would maintain a constant quality of life was indeed a reduction in the number of dependents in each family. However, as China shifts from Maoism to Dengism, Becker, Glaeser, and Murphy become skeptical of this ‘diminishing returns to labour’ effect. In modern urban economies, “the increased density that comes with higher population and greater urbanization promotes specialization and greater investment in human capital, and also more rapid accumulation of new knowledge”.xi The benefits from specialization and new knowledge rise above the diminishing returns created by the challenge of constrained resources. Some have argued that a slow population growth offsets higher productivity from the existing workforce such that economic growth will remain unchanged and sustainable. Still, this assumes that technological progress and increase in knowledge are factors independent of population growth. This statement is intuitively false. Barro and Martin proposed the same argument: “in advanced economies, human capital […] generates new products and ideas for economic progress. A larger educated population can generate more ideas and economic growth than a smaller one. As a result, population growth could increase economic growth and wealth through more ideas and output”.xii Therefore, relying solely on technology to compensate for shortages in labour will not maintain growth, at least not in the long term. Consequently, a revision of the One Child Policy is required in order for China to maximize returns.

Projections into the future by Song, Yu and Li (1980)

Since its implementation, policymakers of the One Child Policy have striven to find several alternatives to address the attending controversy, and to convince themselves that their decision was reasonable in the first place. Their failure to understand the bigger picture exposed by social scientists (whose work was considered to be of little practical value) shows the importance they gave to the natural sciences, in particular the field of mathematics, since it was viewed as accurate, precise and reliable. In 1980, Song, Yu and Li proposed their “Theory on Prospect of Population Evolution Processes,” in which they examine the dynamic process of population growth in China.xiii The main objective of their paper was to quantify the policy implications and to project population a hundred years into the future given a fixed set

of assumptions on fertility rates. Using elaborate mathematical concepts, they succeeded in forecasting population growth starting from 1980 and stretching up until 2080 using six various levels of fertility rate. The results were summarized in tabular form (Appendix A) and the conclusions were staggering. First, starting from 1980, assuming a fixed fertility rate of three children per woman, which was the case in 1975, China will see its populace grow to roughly 4.26 billion a hundred years later, almost reaching the world population at the time. Second, if fertility rate per woman was set to 2.3 (the 1978 level), then China will monotonically see its population rise from 0.98 billion to 2.12 billion in 2080. However, with a fertility rate of two or less per woman, population will still positively rise in the near future, but will eventually reach its peak at some point between 2005 and 2050, and quickly dwindle due to a more pronounced mortality rate in contrast to the fertility rate. The second table (Appendix B) shows that the aging index will rise considerably and the dependency ratio of old-to-young will attain 3.80 by 2030, which illustrates a huge age imbalance. Ultimately, Song, Yu and Li approved of the policy: “Neither the nation nor society can tolerate a fertility level over 2 from this point on. If we want population growth to fall to zero by about 2000, […] the only way is for the whole country to implement one-childization”.xiv They believed that positive population growth will hinder economic expansion and recommended that population level must decrease in the future. To swiftly accomplish this extremist vision, they affirmed that the one-child option was the only way out and referred the policy as the ideal solution available. Nevertheless, in their analysis, they disregarded Becker, Glaesar, and Murphy’s insight about increasing returns in free markets. Obviously, in 1980, the impact of the Chinese economic reform did not strike as significantly as it has in China today. Song, Yu and Li undoubtedly detected the diminishing returns effect, but it was too early to imagine China transitioning from a backward agrarian economy to a modern urban economy. Examining the projections and comparing them to data reports since 1980 reveal whether these results are accurate. Using data provided by the National Bureau of Statistics of China from the July ’11 edition of the magazine Science, we observe the movement of population growth in conjunction with the fertility rate for specific years from 1953 to 2010.xv According to the table (Appendix C), in 1982, the fertility rate in China was 2.6 – contradicting Song, Li and Yu’s estimations – and slowly depreciated to 1.5 in 2010. Since fertility rates are constantly adjusting, this task seems to be more challeng-

ing. A simple calculation is to take the arithmetic mean fertility rate (2.05). With 1.33 billion people in 2010, this corresponds approximately to year 2010 with a fertility rate of 2.0 in Song, Li and Yu’s extrapolation model. Thus, this model captures some key factors that reflect reality in China – but to what extent?

Peng’s outlook on China’s demographic transition

The concern for calculating total population lies exclusively in the controversial level of fertility in the country. As seen previously, scientists did not come to a consensus in determining the true fertility rate for any given year, but this measurement is the root of establishing population size. In Figure A of Peng Xizhe’s article (Appendix D), five different estimations of future population trend are presented assuming that the One Child Policy remains in place, including a valuation by the National Population and Family Planning Commission of China.xvi The pattern observed from all predictions (except for Goldman Sachs, who holds a very optimistic view on future population growth) is clear and coincides with Song, Yu and Li’s findings thirty years ago: China’s population will increase, peak, and rapidly decline thereafter. However, the period in which China will observe its population reach its apex does not follow Song, Yu and Li’s. “All projections agree that China’s population will continue to grow for at least another decade. However, there are marked differences in terms of the peak population, which ranges from 1.35 to 1.507 billion because of disagreement about the present fertility level in China”. xvii According to Song, Yu and Li, China will attain maximum population from 2030 to 2050, much later than Peng’s prediction. In Figure B (Appendix D), Peng analyzes population growth under policy change settings. Under all scenarios (except Goldman Sachs assumption of total relaxation of the One Child Policy) a two-child policy will delay peak population period to about 2035 and enhance its maximal level by 100 million people more. Peng stresses the negative effects of a large population size: severe disproportion in sex and age ratio, greater pressure on scarcity of natural resources, vast reduction in arable land and massive emission of carbon dioxide. Despite all this, Peng advocates for a loosening of the One Child Policy to allow the total fertility rate to increase and to be maintained at roughly 1.8. He believes that a minor decline in the population size in the future is anticipated and beneficial, but a sudden drop can generate undesirable consequences. China’s population growth


and “aging process would be slower in the future, which would provide more time and a better social environment for China to cope with future population-related socioeconomic changes”.xviii


The PRC under Deng’s administration designed the One Child Policy in order to control population from growing too rapidly. However, the policy was strictly applied to the Han people who live in urban neighbourhoods.xix This allowed the total fertility rate to decrease gradually but to always remain above the 1.0 level. As the long-term repercussions of the policy strike China, where mortality rate slowly gets closer to the fertility rate, outdated policies like the One Child Policy must adapt to modernity. Becker, Glaeser, and Murphy’s perception of change is valid. The decision to implement the policy at the time was justifiable because it was beneficial to the type of economy China was built upon, but as China moves away from the agrarian economy to an industrial market-based economy, governmental regulation must follow. In the Goldman Sachs’ model of a complete alleviation of the policy, population growth would rise uncontrollably and debilitate the currently booming economy in China.xx The establishment of the One Child Policy in 1979 had a great impact on the Chinese economy of the time, and promises to have an even greater influence on the future.

Notes i. Neurath, Paul. From Malthus to the Club of Rome and Back: Problems of Limits to Growth, Population Control, and Migrations. Armonk: M.E. Sharpe, 1994. Print. ii. Freeberne, Michael. “Birth Control in China.” Population Studies 18.1 (1964): 5-16. Print. iii.Greenhalgh, Susan. Just One Child: Science and Policy in Deng’s China. Berkeley: University of California, 2008. Print. iv. Grivoyannis, Elias Constantine. The New Chinese Economy: Dynamic Transitions into the Future. 1st ed. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. Print. v. Quan, Jin. China in Diagrams: 1978-2008. Beijing: China Intercontinental, 2009. Print. vi. Becker, Gary S., and H. Gregg Lewis. “On the Interaction between the Quantity and Quality of Children.” Journal of Political Economy 81.2 (1973): S279-288. Print. vii. Quan, Jin. China in Diagrams: 1978-2008. Beijing: China Intercontinental, 2009. Print. viii. Greenhalgh, Susan. Cultivating Global Citizens: Population in the Rise of China. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2010. Print. ix. Gittings, John. The Changing Face of China: From Mao to Market. New York: Oxford UP, 2005. Print. x. Becker, Gary S., Edward L. Glaeser, and Kevin M. Murphy. “Population and Economic Growth.” American Economic Review 89.2 (1999): 145-49. Print. xi. Becker, Gary S., Edward L. Glaeser, and Kevin M. Murphy. “Population and Economic Growth.” American Economic Review 89.2 (1999): 145-49. Print. xii. Grivoyannis, Elias Constantine. The New Chinese Economy: Dynamic Transitions into the Future. 1st ed. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. Print. xiii. Song, J, J. Yu, and G. Li. “Theory on Prospect of Population Evolution Processes.”Scientia Sinica. 24.3 (1981): 431-44. Print. xiv. Song, J, J. Yu, and G. Li. “Theory on Prospect of Population Evolution Processes.”Scientia Sinica. 24.3 (1981): 431-44. Print. xv. Peng, Xizhe. “China’s Demographic History and Future Challenges.” Science 333.6042 (2011): 581-87. Print.


xvi. Peng, Xizhe. “China’s Demographic History and Future Challenges.” Science 333.6042 (2011): 581-87. Print. xvii. Peng, Xizhe. “China’s Demographic History and Future Challenges.” Science 333.6042 (2011): 581-87. Print. xviii. Peng, Xizhe. “China’s Demographic History and Future Challenges.” Science 333.6042 (2011): 581-87. Print. xix. Grivoyannis, Elias Constantine. The New Chinese Economy: Dynamic Transitions into the Future. 1st ed. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. Print. xx. Peng, Xizhe. “China’s Demographic History and Future Challenges.” Science 333.6042 (2011): 581-87. Print. [1] Neurath, Paul. From Malthus to the Club of Rome and Back: Problems of Limits to Growth, Population Control, and Migrations. Armonk: M.E. Sharpe, 1994. Print. [2] Freeberne, Michael. “Birth Control in China.” Population Studies 18.1 (1964): 5-16. Print. [3] Greenhalgh, Susan. Just One Child: Science and Policy in Deng’s China. Berkeley: University of California, 2008. Print. [4] Grivoyannis, Elias Constantine. The New Chinese Economy: Dynamic Transitions into the Future. 1st ed. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. Print. [5] Quan, Jin. China in Diagrams: 1978-2008. Beijing: China Intercontinental, 2009. Print. [6] Becker, Gary S., and H. Gregg Lewis. “On the Interaction between the Quantity and Quality of Children.” Journal of Political Economy 81.2 (1973): S279-288. Print. [7] Quan, Jin. China in Diagrams: 1978-2008. Beijing: China Intercontinental, 2009. Print. [8] Greenhalgh, Susan. Cultivating Global Citizens: Population in the Rise of China. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 2010. Print. [9] Gittings, John. The Changing Face of China: From Mao to Market. New York: Oxford UP, 2005. Print. [10] Becker, Gary S., Edward L. Glaeser, and Kevin M. Murphy. “Population and Economic Growth.” American Economic Review 89.2 (1999): 145-49. Print. [11] Becker, Gary S., Edward L. Glaeser, and Kevin M. Murphy. “Population and Economic Growth.” American Economic Review 89.2 (1999): 145-49. Print. [12] Grivoyannis, Elias Constantine. The New Chinese Economy: Dynamic Transitions into the Future. 1st ed.

New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. Print. [13] Song, J, J. Yu, and G. Li. “Theory on Prospect of Population Evolution Processes.”Scientia Sinica. 24.3 (1981): 431-44. Print. [14] Song, J, J. Yu, and G. Li. “Theory on Prospect of Population Evolution Processes.”Scientia Sinica. 24.3 (1981): 431-44. Print. [15] Peng, Xizhe. “China’s Demographic History and Future Challenges.” Science 333.6042 (2011): 581-87. Print. [16] Peng, Xizhe. “China’s Demographic History and Future Challenges.” Science 333.6042 (2011): 581-87. Print. [17] Peng, Xizhe. “China’s Demographic History and Future Challenges.” Science 333.6042 (2011): 581-87. Print. [18] Peng, Xizhe. “China’s Demographic History and Future Challenges.” Science 333.6042 (2011): 581-87. Print. [19] Grivoyannis, Elias Constantine. The New Chinese Economy: Dynamic Transitions into the Future. 1st ed. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. Print. [20] Peng, Xizhe. “China’s Demographic History and Future Challenges.” Science 333.6042 (2011): 581-87. Print.


Appendix A Table representing Song, Yu, and Li’s projections on population growth in China from 1980 to 2080 – The above numbers are of magnitude 108.

Appendix B Table representing Song, Li, and Yu’s predictions on population evolution in China from 1980 to 2030. N.B. Authors did not provide the way each index was constructed in the article.


Appendix C

Data on Chinese demographics retrieved by the National Bureau of Statistics of China from the July 11 edition of the magazine Science.

Appendix D Figure A. Chinese population with current policy unchanged, 2010-2050 Figure B. Chines population under policy change scenarios, 2010-2050 Figure C. Chinese population age structure, 2010-2050


Christine Klippenstein

Hera Chan

This group of essays performs a remarkable feat: it asks us not only to examine the world around us, but to strive for greater knowledge of ourselves. From economics to art history, literature to political science, these essays together form a portrait of East Asia -- a portrait which, for all its incompleteness, strives to understand the apparent exoticism of the Asian Other. Can a reader ‘enjoy’ essays like these? Yes, and that is my wish for you: read, consider, enjoy. A heartfelt thank you to every editor and contributor for their academic investment in the small, but dedicated, Department of East Asian Studies.

A sense of a certain identity can be discerned from this unique selection of essays, a certain voice of the Western undergraduate scholar studying East Asian culture and not conducting a study of East Asian culture. This is our (the editorial board) brief glimpse into the ever-changing definition of what East Asia is and seen as, as well as our version of a disorientation guide.

Hatty Liu What do the Seoul Olympics and Song landscape paintings have in common? We hope you will find the answer to be more than “they existed in East Asia.” They are nuanced topics in their own right. They represent what we feel best captures all that animates our department and sets our undergraduates thinking. They are focal points for understanding, without universalizing, a key area of the globe and a foundation stone of its collective memory.


Thy Anne Chu Quang All major streets in Montreal are complemented with “est” or “ouest”. For a person whose sense of orientation is not their greatest skill, determining where is “est” and where is “ouest” is an everyday challenge. Where is the East? I guess it has always been a question of perspective. (Orient)ations gathers different perspectives, different aspects of East Asia, in an attempt to give a sincere picture of its identity, in terms of economics, politics, history, art and culture.

note from the editors

Christa Coryea

Orientations is a collaborative effort on the part of a varied group of undergraduate writers and editors, each with different backgrounds and personal experiences. The works we’ve chosen to publish engage with East Asian culture through several different disciplines, and each writer has contributed a unique subjectivity to this journal. No one voice or perspective dominates this volume. This is always a risk in academia, and especially in area studies, where the power to define a region and its inhabitants rarely belongs to the region itself. I am honored to have worked on this project, and I would like to thank everyone who took part in it.

Grace Fu We are delighted to present these essays, which were carefully curated with the aim of enriching current knowledge as well as stimulating new interest in various themes of East Asian Studies. Or, for those yet uninitiated to the field, we hope that this issue will serve as an inspiring orientation to the exciting world of East Asia. Thanks for your readership and enjoy the publication.

Sumin Lee The dilemma that I faced as an immigrant to Canada from Korea was that I really wanted to learn more about my own background and the broader East Asian culture. As a first year student, it has been such a delight to have gotten a chance to explore and learn about it on an academic level – not only the classes I have taken but also from these papers written by the fellow students.

Alexandria Proctor In seeking to orient ourselves within the study of East Asian culture, we as students not only have to reconcile our multi-cultural perspectives that we bring to the broader community of McGill, but further need to view these perspectives through the lens of the East in relationship to the West. This edition of Orientations seeks to present some of the themes that students ponder, analyse, and seek to present through such a lens, in a way that can be understood within not only the academic community of McGill but also within the wider community of North America and the world.

Lucy Ren Having grown up in China, I have always been curious about how westerners perceive East Asian cultures and values. That was why my experience in Orientations absolutely stunned me in terms of the depth to which these young scholars understood my own culture. This selection of essays opened up brand new perspectives on the exciting world of East Asia for me, and I hope they will do the same for you too.



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