We will hold an AAS panel on animals in Chinese culture and history at 7:30 pm, March 27 (Thursday), 2014. We sincerely hope that scholars interested in this topic can join us for intellectual stimulation and discussion.
Daisy Yan Du Assistant Professor Division of Humanities Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Hong Kong
-------------------------------------------------------- Marvelous Creatures: Figuring Animals and Humans in Chinese Culture and History
Chair and Organizer: Daisy Yan Du, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Discussants: Haiyan Lee, Stanford University & Mark Swislocki, New York University
Sponsored by the China and Inner Asia Council
Animals have played an important role in human history, functioning as food sources, totems, tools, companions, and abstract figures for philosophical and artistic reflection. This panel examines the biopolitical significance of animals and humans in the context of Chinese culture and history. The first two presenters discuss representations of animals in cinema. Focusing on the lives and deaths of stray animals in a variety of films, Yiman Wang foregrounds the cinematic mechanisms that reinforce these animal representations and give rise to an ecocommunity in which the human subject is decentralized. Interested in the inter-relationship between animals, animation, and revolution, Daisy Yan Du examines the disappearance of animals in animated film during the Cultural Revolution and redefines this tumultuous era as a decade of absent animals. The next two presenters share their critical insight on the geopolitical significance of dogs. Claire Huot explores the names of small dogs designated as brachycephalic (broad and short skulled).Tracing the pedigree of these small dogs and examining the politics of naming through a comparative approach, Huot unravels the complicated relations between China and other countries. Menghsin Cindy Horng depicts the complex ways in which the Taiwan dog’s status is implicated and in conflict with various governing entities’ goals of standardization and regulation. She argues that the indeterminacy of the so-called Taiwan Dog is its defining feature, and, through her analysis, traces an alternative, non-anthropocentric view of human history.
The Mortal Animal and the Techno Life–Ecocommunity in Chinese-language Cinema Yiman Wang University of California–Santa Cruz
Since the dawn of cinema, the representation of the animals’ life and death have mesmerized the audience, eliciting curiosity, fascination, identification and reflection. Animal death, as a key memento mori moment, reminds humans of their mortality and their inevitable failure to transcend the ecosystem in which every being lives and dies to feed (into) the rest of the system. In this paper, I dwell on animals (or animal products) that go astray from the profit/efficiency/ration-oriented human world, become useless, stranded, jettisoned, and yet manage to reclaim their position in an ecosystem in which humans are inevitably enmeshed. I glean these animal presence and absence from a TV documentary, Sand and Sea (dir. Kang Jianning, 1990), feature film Old Dog (dir. Pema Tseden 2011), and Chen Qiang’s animation series (2011) on a piece of delinquent pork that tries to escape the fate of being eaten and a walking fish that seeks to escape pollution. I weave into my analysis a comparative study with Chris Marker’s still photograph animation, Junkopia (1981). By juxtaposing these works, I explore the ways in which film techniques are deployed to underscore the surreal life of the stray and/or jettisoned animal presence and absence. I further discuss the role of film in giving rise to modes of life that rupture anthropocentrism and open up an ecocommunity that will ultimately engulf the human and decentralize them.
The Dis/appearance of Animals in Animated Film during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, 1966-1976 Daisy Yan Du Hong Kong University of Science and Technology
Conventional studies of the Chinese Cultural Revolution usually come from a human-centered perspective that focuses on politics, revolution, class struggle, trauma, resistance, and agency as represented in such established artistic forms as literature, feature film, theatre, painting, and poster. This kind of approach is presence-centered by drawing attention to the most visible scenarios under the revolutionary limelight at that time. In contrast, this article calls attention to what was invisible in the much-discussed cultural scene at that time: how animals were represented and underrepresented in the marginalized form of animation. Animation, like fairytales, fables, and parables, is usually an artistic form of fantasy full of (talking) animals. Prior to the Cultural Revolution, animated films were replete with (anthropomorphic) animals. As animated films began to be dominated by politicized human actions in the mid 1960s, animals systematically disappeared from the silver screen until the late 1970s. The Chinese Cultural Revolution can be redefined as a decade of absent animals. However, these animals did not vanish completely during the Cultural Revolution; rather they took refuge in the bodies of ethnic minorities and villains, waiting for opportunities to return, get revenge, and talk back. The disappearance of animals in the mid 1960s marked the start of the Cultural Revolution. When the animals finally returned to the silver screen in the late 1970s, the seemly impregnable ideology of the Cultural Revolution gradually disintegrated.
Small Dog, Big List of Names Claire Huot University of Calgary Recent genetic studies pinpointing the origin of canis familiaris in China have resolved only one among many points of East-West contention revolving around the figure of the dog. In the first Chinese dictionary, the Shuowen Jiezi, dogs are classified according to head sizes and length of limbs. This paper will focus on those small dogs designated as brachycephalic (broad and short skulled). In Kennel Club nomenclature, three of these are currently regarded as distinct “ancient Chinese breeds”: the Shih Tzu, Pekingese, and Lhasa Apso. Chinese texts tell a very different story: not only are designations for these breeds extremely numerous, but they have varied over time, and according to the class, gender, geographical, religious, and ethnic origins of those doing the naming. In certain times and places, these small creatures have been perceived as lowly “ba” dogs; whereas, in other contexts, they have been elevated to the status of “fu/fo” dogs, or Buddhist lions. The mapping is rendered even more complex by the inclusion of three additional small breeds also represented in Chinese texts: the Pug, Maltese, and Japanese Chin spaniel. By contextualizing appellations and verifying their representations in visual art and artifacts, it is possible to construct a cultural history of the pedigree of the small dog in and outside China. A comparative study of the symbolic roles inherent in the naming of these animals reveals a great deal about relations between China and ‘the Rest.’
Down the Mountain and Off the Streets: the Taiwan Dog and the Making of a ‘National’ Breed Menghsin Cindy Horng University of California-Berkeley
The Taiwan Dog, also known as the Formosan Mountain Dog and the Taiwan tugou, is a type of native dog subject to the vicissitudes of human barbarism and benevolence. Regarded as vermin, they have been purged in the name of modernization and public sanitization under various colonial regimes. Selectively bred in conservation programs established in recent decades, some are celebrated as emblems of indigenous pride, romanticized primitivism, and competitive potential – specifically, in the arenas of internationally sanctioned dog shows. Yet, the uncontrolled reproduction of free-roaming stray dogs has led to a surplus for export through trans-Pacific rescue organizations. From the street mongrel to the show champion, the peril and survival of these creatures maintains a tenuous dependency on human interventions, often writ large on a geopolitical scale. This presentation draws from a range of sources, including documentary films, newspaper articles, photographs, and interviews with breeders, rescue volunteers, adopters and other breed guardians, to depict the complex ways in which the Taiwan dog’s status is implicated and in conflict with various governing entities’ goals of standardization and regulation. Though these dogs are presented as a distinct taxonomic entity, I argue that the indeterminacy of the so-called Taiwan Dog is its defining feature, and precisely what makes it visible and viable as a particular kind of living archive. In so doing, I question the limitations of the anthropocentric archive as I attempt to capture these elusive canine shadows which have so closely trailed the steps of human history.
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