China and Inner Asia

Organized Panel Session

3 - Women and Dao in Gao Xingjian’s Works

Friday, March 23
10:30 AM - 12:30 PM
Location: Roosevelt Room 5, Exhibit Level

Among the existing scholarly work on Gao Xingjian’s approach to gender relations and the female problem, some studies are inclined to label Gao a misogynist writer, considering his representation of women problematic because he focuses more on his own social and cultural identity, merely using women as the projection of his own anxiety and desire rather than truly sympathizing with women’s problems and fate. However, in the eyes of other scholars and critics, Gao’s treatment of women’s images in his plays and fiction shed the didacticism of his aesthetic and philosophical models, allowing him to delve into female thinking and unconsciousness.
Drawing on the existing scholarly studies that have gone beyond the misogynist paradigm, such as those by Mabel Lee, Gilbert Fong, Terry Siu-han Yip, Kwok-kan Tam, and Mary Mazzilli, I intend to explore the connection between the Zen Buddhist comprehension of Dao and the representation of women in Gao’s novels and plays. As desire and sexual relationships play a very crucial part in the realm of Zen, the role of women is inevitably bound up with self-awareness and self-reflection, which are enshrined by Gao as necessary on the path toward individual enlightenment. According to Gao, even if women’s roles are socially and culturally constructed or sometimes become a privileged trope of defying social convention, the truth that emerges from secular life often incorporates the spirituality into women’s unique biological and psychological construction, immune to men’s full understanding but inexorably furnishing a way leading to the state of Zen. 

Jianmei Liu

Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Not Applicable, Hong Kong

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