Crossing the 1949 Divide: Rethinking Cultural Continuities in 1950s’ China

Conference: AAS-in-Asia2020 (AAS-in-Asia2020)
Title: Crossing the 1949 Divide: Rethinking Cultural Continuities in 1950s’ China
Stream: Literature
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Anne Rebull, University of Michigan, United States (chair, discussant)
Keyue Wang, Beijing Dance Academy, China (presenter)
Hui Yao, Ohio State University, United States (presenter)
Yucong Hao, University of Michigan, United States (organizer, presenter)
Chuanhui Meng, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, United States (presenter)
Xuenan Cao, Duke University, United States (presenter)


Our panel series rethink the 1950s’ Chinese cultural production by situating the decade within the dual context of the continued exploration of cultural modernities in twentieth-century China and border-crossing movements of world literature and transnational cinema. In doing so, we join the recent reexamination of Chinese culture across the 1949 divide and recognize how the transitional period appropriated earlier developments while foregrounding future experiments. With interdisciplinary inquiries of film studies, media archaeology, book history, and intermedial theatre, the panel reveals the extraordinary creative energies at the turn of 1949.
Wang Keyue’s paper examines the invention of the labor of aesthetics in the early years of the People’s Republic of China, when workers were encouraged to integrate industrial labor with artistic creation. Hui Yao investigates the use of music in Fei Mu’s Six Chapters of a Floating Life, the intermedial experiment of which contributed to the introduction of musical accompaniment in spoken drama in subsequent decades. Yucong Hao compares the sounding schemes and sound technologies in early PRC documentaries, and identifies the stylistic transition from Yan'an documentalism to Soviet-inflected socialist realism. Studying Rhapsody of the Ming Tomb Reservoir (1958), Chuanhui Meng considers how Revolutionary Realism and Revolutionary Romanticism were founded upon and yet simultaneously rewritten the theoretical traditions of Soviet socialist realism of the 1930s and Mao’s Yan’an Talk in 1942. Xuenan Cao’s discovery of the lost documents in the 1950s navigates her way into these irretrievable artifacts and their residual, sensuous past.