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The Avant-Garde and the Popular in China

Tian Han and the Intersection of Performance and Politics

Liang Luo

Publication Year: 2014

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-x

I have incurred so many debts writing this book. It gives me great pleasure to have an opportunity to express my gratitude here. I thank Professors Leo Ou-fan Lee, David Der-wei Wang, Wilt L. Idema, and Andrew Gordon for helping me lay the foundation for this book in my dissertation and continuing to offer inspiration to this day. I am truly grateful for their unwavering support. David...


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pp. xi-xii

Selected List of Tian Han’s Works

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pp. xiii-xviii

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pp. 1-6

Questions about the intersection of the personal and the political impact almost any intellectual project, whether acknowledged or not, but in the case of a book written by a student of Chinese literature who left Mainland China more than a decade ago, the questions are especially pointed. As someone who came to the United States in pursuit of higher education in Chinese studies at the tail...

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Introduction: The Avant-Garde and the Popular

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pp. 7-22

This book reveals avant-garde performance as an important political force shaped by, and in turn shaping, popular culture in modern China. It examines the multiple relationships among avant-garde performance, national politics, and popular culture in twentieth-century China with a focus on their shared internationalist visions and cosmopolitan aspirations.1 I undertake an examination...

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Chapter One. The Lights of Tokyo

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pp. 23-59

It was 4:30 in the afternoon. I went to Kanda for French lessons. Lingering rain had stopped, and the firelike setting sun with its golden light was shining on the glass windows of each household. Taking the streetcar, I passed Iidabashi. Looking outside the streetcar window, I saw a rainbow showing off its colors from an opening in the red clouds. On the way back from my lesson, a bright sun was...

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Chapter Two. The Night and Fire of Shanghai

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pp. 60-102

...He sang this song to them, feeling tipsy. One of the women made fun of him with another, “crazy drunkard!” He merrily took the title and was about to jaywalk from Boyong Hospital to the side of the Great World, when a policeman suddenly flashed that bloody-red light towards Kehan. His eyes could hardly open, reminding him of his shouting out “Camera!” for a few consecutive...

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Chapter Three. Lovers and Heroes in the Wartime Hinterland

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pp. 103-144

Lovers and heroes, as embodiments of the private erotic realm and the public political realm, are coming together in the wartime Chinese hinterland as Wen Kang describes it. Literary scholar David Der-wei Wang argues that the “repressed modernity” of the 1872 novel Legend of Lovers and Heroes lies in Wen Kang’s conscious conflation of Chinese heroism and Chinese eroticism—and...

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Chapter Four. The International Avant-Garde and the Chinese National Anthem

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pp. 145-176

Alexander Portnoy, who grew up in Newark, New Jersey during World War II, remembers in vivid detail a song he learned in grade school. Just the rhythm alone can cause my flesh to ripple. . . . “Arise, ye who refuse to be bond-slaves, with our very flesh and blood”—oh, that defiant cadence! I remember every single heroic word!—“ We will build a new great wall!” And then my favorite line, commencing as it does with my favorite word in the English...

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Chapter Five. A White Snake in Beijing: Re-creating Socialist Opera

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pp. 177-212

In chapter 4, we examined the making of the modern, westward-looking national anthem with its assertion of the masculinist values of nation building. We turn now to the making of a seemingly inward-looking Chinese opera with a female protagonist. Uncannily, it is the similarities rather than the differences between the two that prevail. Both are avant-gardist projects with popular...

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Epilogue: Endings, Happy and Otherwise

Tian Han and Guan Hanqing

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pp. 213-226

On June 28, 1958, fifteen hundred professional theater troupes performed plays by one single playwright simultaneously in some one hundred different theatrical venues all over the People’s Republic of China in celebration of the seven-hundredth anniversary of his theatrical activities. Outside China the playwright’s works were known through translations into English, French, German...


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pp. 227-296


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pp. 297-310


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pp. 311-352


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pp. 353-367

E-ISBN-13: 9780472120345
E-ISBN-10: 0472120344
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472072170
Print-ISBN-10: 047207217X

Page Count: 368
Illustrations: 12 halftones
Publication Year: 2014