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From Daoist Immortality to Revolutionary Morality

February 24th, 2009 No comments

The Art and Politics in East Asia Workshop Presents:

From Daoist Immortality to Revolutionary Morality:
Transforming the Immortal Hirsute Maiden into
the White Haired Girl
 

Max Bohnenkamp

Ph.D. Candidate , Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations

With a response offered by Kwok-wai Hui, Ph.D student, History

Friday, February 27

4-6 p.m.

Judd 313

The White Haired Girl (Bai mao nü) has stood out over the years as one of the most successful creations of Chinese
revolutionary aesthetics since its inception as a musical theater piece in the Communist headquarters of Yan'an 
during the 1940s. While the story of the White Haired Girl is often claimed to originate from a folktale discovered 
by wartime culture workers in Hebei province, the details of its provenance have always remained vague. This 
paper examines the previously undiscovered relationship between the White Haired Girl and a tale from traditional 
folklore- the "Immortal Hairy Maiden" (Maonü xiangu). First mentioned in the 3rd century Biographies of Immortals 
(Liexian zhuan), the story tells how a female retainer of the Qin court escaped the fate of burial alongside the First 
Emperor by fleeing to the mountains, where she survived on sparse flora, learned the secrets of Daoist immortality, 
and uncannily sprouted fur all over her body. 
This paper explores the significance the Immortal Hairy Maiden and the White Haired Girl's similar straddling of the 
divide between human and non-human worlds, asking how the values of the traditional tale were commuted by the 
revolutionary one. Complicating recent interpretations of the latter as representing a sacrifice of gender subjectivity 
to revolutionary class-consciousness, I trace the figure's transformation from a traditional folk symbol of supernatural 
female metamorphosis and knowledge of immortality to a national icon of revolutionary subjectivity, domestic renewal, 
and the dispelling of superstition.  
If you would like to be added to our mailing list and receive workshop updates, please contact ktanaka@uchicago.edu

Persons with a disability who believe they may need assistance, please email Kathryn Tanaka at ktanaka@uchicago.edu or Tomoko Seto at tseto@uchicago.edu

Categories: China Tags: ,

From Parliamentary Speeches to Chinese Poetry

February 3rd, 2009 No comments

The Art and Politics in East Asia Workshop Presents:

From Parliamentary Speeches to Chinese Poetry:

The Privileged Space of Popular Rights Activist Kishida Toshiko’s Diaries (1891-1901)

Mamiko Suzuki

Ph.D. Candidate , Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations

Friday, February 6

4-6 p.m.

Judd 313

Known as the first female orator of modern Japan, Kishida Toshiko (1864-1901) left behind a
decade's worth of diaries which spanned the years after her political activism and ran
concurrently with her shift in expressive mode from voice to pen. Kishida's turn toward the less
controversial medium of women's educational journals to express her ideas within the public
domain was a response to the increasingly restrictive world of the mid-Meiji period (1868-1901).
At the same time, Toshiko found in her diaries a unique and privileged space of self-expression
that helped her to construct an identity otherwise impermissible in her published writings.
In this talk, I will discuss the specific circumstances surrounding the posthumous publication in
1903 of the final two diaries (1900-1901) and how Kishida's formal language, audience, and
public persona in her remaining diaries complicate way we read Meiji women's writing. Kishida
also demonstrates also how the expressive space of the diary is communicating with, yet
functions outside the limitations of print media and other public platforms. The diary allowed
Kishida as a woman writer to multiply her narrative positions regardless of her legal subjugation
and social classification and to posthumously contribute an anomalous yet parallel discourse on
Meiji women.
 
Note:
No paper will be distributed in advance. The talk will be given at a research university for a
Languages and Literatures Department position.  We would appreciate comments and
questions to the talk, particularly from the position of a non-Japan or non-East Asian specialist.
 
If you would like to be added to our mailing list and receive workshop updates, please contact ktanaka@uchicago.edu

Persons with a disability who believe they may need assistance, please email Kathryn Tanaka at ktanaka@uchicago.edu or Tomoko Seto at tseto@uchicago.edu

Categories: Japan Tags: