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In search of an ‘origin’: Re-presenting guoxue in Chinese cinema of the new millennium

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This article examines Zhang Yimou’s Yingxiong/Hero (2002), Chen Kaige’s Mei Lanfang/Forever Enthralled (2008) and Hu Mei’s Kongzi/Confucius (2010), and discusses how they respectively reconstruct narratives of a mythical national spirit via sublimated portrayals of guoxue and how such re-presentations respond to both earlier cinematic traditions and the more and more intense trend of commercialization in the Chinese film industry. What makes these films’ shared investment in guoxue even more interesting is the fact that all these three directors are representative figures of the so-called ‘Fifth Generation’, a group of film-makers who were best known for their self-consciously critical approaches towards Chinese cultural traditions in the 1980s. Their recent collective enthusiasm for guoxue and much more positive re-presentations of it not only indicate a revisit to the heated discussions over indigenous cultural roots two to three decades ago but also reflect the restructured relationships among film-makers, their audiences and the state.
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Keywords: Chinese cinema; Chinese learning; cultural nationalism; guoxue

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Temple University

Publication date: September 1, 2015

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  • The East Asian Journal of Popular Culture is the first academic peer-reviewed journal for scholars, teachers, and students from around the world who have an active and passionate interest in the Popular Culture of East Asia. The journal is devoted to all aspects of popular culture in East Asia and the interplay between East Asia and the wider world. With the growth in popularity of Asian visual products in the Western world and the increasing strength of the Asian markets, this publication fulfills the need for an international journal that allows Western and Asian film, media, literary, music, fashion, digital media, television, art and cultural scholars alike to engage in discussion. In the last few decades there has been a huge rise in the interest in East Asian popular culture. The East Asian Journal of Popular Culture will be engaging directly with that trend. From film to music; art to translation and fashion to tourism, this journal will offer a forum where multidisciplinary work can come together in new and exciting ways.
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