China and Inner Asia

Organized Panel Session

4 - Interethnic Marriage and Revolutionary Rebirth: Gendered Perspectives of Place in Contemporary Shaanxi Novels

Thursday, March 22
7:30 PM - 9:30 PM
Location: Washington Room 1, Exhibit Level

In contemporary novels and TV dramas evoking the land and men and women of northern Shaanxi, a region that has been considered both Confucian periphery and revolutionary center, gendered representations of place can serve as discursive sites for cultural exchange and rebirth in China. Examining works by four prominent Shaanxi writers, this paper explores how gendered portrayals of northern Shaanxi women and men serve as stand-ins for viewpoints in larger sociocultural conversations. Gao Jianqun’s The Last Hun, touted as the “epic of northern Shaanxi,” portrays the region as a metaphor for China’s cultural marriage between nomadic rebelliousness and Confucian agricultural civilization. Lu Yao’s Life explores the uneasy transition from rural peasantry to incipient urbanity during the early 1980s market reform as a struggle to choose between two women—one representing northern rural tradition and the other southern urban modernity. Chen Zhongshi’s Fourth Sister acts as a transformative female Other entering central Shaanxi to offer a cure for the shortcomings of “civilized” Confucianism. Lastly, Jia Pingwa’s Ruined City brings together women from different parts of the province in a fictionalized version of fin-de-siècle Xi’an, using the metropolis as a playground where regional identities meet and interact. Together, these novels suggest how different representations of northern Shaanxi men and women serve as “others” to mainstream ideology and collectively form discursive sites where regional, ethnic, and national identities are negotiated.

Levi S. Gibbs

Dartmouth College, New Hampshire

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