Module 4: War and Revolution (Show and Tell)

Due Date: April 30 (Friday)

  • Remember you can always re-submit these projects for a shiny new grade, and incorporate feedback.

Important: There’s only one “free pass” for the Show and Tell projects. This is the fourth one, so check carefully if you still have a free pass up your sleeve or not.

Include in submission comments on Canvas a self-assessment and suggested grade. (More details below)

Get ready!

As we reached the end of the fourth module, you should start thinking about a way to showcase what you learned about Chinese history between 1937 and 1971 (i.e. from the start of WWII in China, through the founding of the People’s Republic, and the first part of the Cultural Revolution in 1971.) You can talk about the (second) Sino-Japanese war (remember the first one was in 1895), the Civil War between the Nationalists and the Communists and the retreat to Taiwan, followed by the Founding of the PRC, the land reform campaigns, the Korean War, the economic development of the PRC, Great Leap Forward (and famine), the Cultural Revolution, or you can even explore the topics we did not get a chance to cover, such as what happened to Hong Kong or Taiwan in this period? (We’ll get back to them in Module 5, don’t worry.) Use chapters 17-22 (of the third edition in The Search for Modern China, or weeks 9-11 as your starting points.

There are many different ways you can do that: traditional, scholarly, or more creative and interpretive. As long as you can share your project digitally with your colleagues in the course, the sky is the limit (more or less). Many of you like a text-based project, but I suggest you can branch out into less traditional formats, too!


To make sure you pick a viable project, one that your colleagues feel is of equitable size and effort, and to get a sense of the variety of ideas there are, please pitch your idea in Google Chat Room by Tuesday, April 27, 11.59pm. Just a few lines is fine, to coordinate between closely related topics and to prevent you from embarking on a Ph.D.-sized research project. (I’d love you to do that, but we don’t have time.) Give a shout if you don’t quite know where to start, I may have a few suggestions for sources, or I may have to confirm that we don’t have the materials on hand to do that kind of project, but I can help you redirect.

During Get Stuff Done club and the weekly class, we will talk about your ideas. I highly encourage you to drop-in/attend and brainstorm.

How to submit

To submit your Show and Tell project:

  • Please make sure to use NOTES to indicate clearly where you use which sources. Read more how to do that in this blog post, which also serves as an example.
  • Create a blog post, and share a link to the project. (If it’s a text-based Show and Tell, you can of course submit it as the blog post.)
  • Use the words “Show and Tell 4:” in the title of the post, you can further customize the title by adding a title that will draw the reader in.
  • Add the post to the category hst271.

Self-assessment: Think of the self-assessment as an “honesty check”, which gives you a chance to reflect on the effort you put into the task, and you can flag up where you feel there is room for further improvement, or what you did particularly well in your opinion. If you want to think more about it through the perspective of a grade: Use that paragraph to explain why you think you deserve an A? Or if you think you’re only handing in a project that deserves a B+, what would you like to do differently to make it an A- or an A? (A: 10-9/ B: 8.9-8/ C: 7.9-7/ D: 6.9-6)

I reserve the right to modify the grade, but I will provide you feedback why I think our views on this differ. Remember you can always re-submit the project for a shiny new grade.

I’ll add this to the list of assignments of Week 11 and 12, as an assignment to submit on Canvas, not as a declaration quiz.

Good to know

Remember you only need 4 out of 5 Show and Tell projects. If you do all 5, I’ll only count the 4 highest scores. Bear in mind you don’t know what trouble may lie ahead in this strange semester, and banking any points available is probably a good strategy.

You can re-submit the project based on feedback, anytime before May 17. (but I would not wait that long.)

Useful starting point for further information:

Ideas and suggestions for formats

The description of the assignment in the syllabus contains a lot of suggestions, including information for analytical papers (in blog post form), small digital projects, response papers, … One student each can also provide a new or updated version of the map layer or timeline we have for “Part 4” on the course website.

Response papers

For the response papers, here are a few I provide that work well with the time period under scrutiny. There are a few of movies this time as well. Note that for two of them the story ranges much wider than Module 4, you can write the response more broadly, or more focused on the 1937-1971 period. Note: you can’t write twice about the same movie!

The movies are available through Canvas. Check the link in the description below.

  • Lust Caution (Se jie). Directed by Ang Lee. Haishang Films, 2008.
    • Canvas: “Media Gallery Page”
    • What is it? Based on a short story by Zhang Ailing (Eileen Chang). During World War II, a young woman gets swept up in a dangerous game of emotional intrigue with a powerful political figure, Mr. Yee. He is a collaborator with the Japanese occupying forces, and she is trying to have him assassinated. (contains graphic scenes of sex, violence and sexual violence)
  • Devils on the Doorstep. Directed by Jiang Wen. Home Vision Entertainment, 2005.
    • Canvas: Media Gallery Page
    • A (very) black comedy on what happens when the resistance drops two Japanese prisoners off in an unsuspecting village. (contains graphic scenes of violence)
  • Tan, Amy. The Kitchen God’s Wife. 1st Vintage Contemporaries Ed. ed. New York: Vintage, 1993. (other editions available)
    • What is it? Focus on the “inner story” of Winnie (Chapter 3 onwards), which uses much of the history of twentieth-century China until 1949 as background. Although fictional, the story does a great job of portraying everyday life and struggles in China during a period of turmoil, told from a young woman’s point of view. (contains graphic scenes of sexual violence)
    • Unfortunately I can’t provide a PDF because it would put me in the doghouse for copy-right violations. If you can find a copy through your local library, or through Trexler, that would be your best option. It is an amazing story, so worth putting on your reading list anyway.
  • Dai, Sijie. Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress. London: Vintage, 2002.
    • PDF
    • What is it? Dai’s fictional novel is informed by his personal experiences during the Cultural Revolution, when he was “sent down” to the country side. Two young men are sent to a small village near the border with Tibet. One of the other sent-down youths has a suitcase full of Chinese translations of the great nineteenth century novels from the West- obviously forbidden literature at the time…
  • Yang, Jiang. Six Chapters from My Life “Downunder”. Translated by Howard Goldblatt. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1988.
    • PDF
    • What is it? Six sketches forming a memoir of Yang Jian’s experiences during the Cultural Revolution. She was an academic, who was sent to the countryside for re-education, together with her husband.
  • Gao, Yuan. Born Red: A Chronicle of the Cultural Revolution. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1987.
    • ebook Trexler
    • What is is? A memoir of a middle-school student who was a Red Guard during the Cultural Revolution. Pick any section of about 100 (consecutive) pages, but indicate in your notes which section you read (contains scenes of violence)
  • Farewell, My Concubine. Directed by Chen Kaige. Miramax Films and Buena Vista Home Entertainment, 1999.
    • Canvas: “Trexler Library Electronic Reserves” page
    • What is it? This film follows the trials and tribulations of a pair of actors of jingju (known as Beijing opera), with China’s twentieth-century history as the backdrop. The title is taken from the play which made the fame of the two protagonists, who are loosely based on real historical figures from the late third century BCE. The character of Cheng Dieyi (nicknamed Douzi) is very loosely based on the real life jingju star Mei Lanfang. (So loosely his family disavows any connection with the story.)
    • Available through
  • The Last Emperor. Directed by Bernardo Bertoluci. Yanco Films, 1987.
    • Canvas: Media Gallery Page
    • What is it? Epic bio-pic of Puyi, the last of the Manchu emperors, who died a commoner under the Communist regime. (Please note: our DVD is either dubbed in English, or you can pick a subtitled version but none of the sound-tracks respect the multi-lingual nature of the film (Russian, Japanese, Chinese, English), which grates against my sensitivities but it’s the best I can do.)
  • To Live (Huozhe). Directed by Zhang Yimou. MGM Home Entertainment, 2003.
    • Canvas: “Trexler Library Electronic Reserves” page
    • What is it? This fictional story follows the life of Xu Fugui and his family, and how they adapt (or not) to life in constantly changing political circumstances, from life under the Nationalist government to the various campaigns under the Communist Party.