Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

2 - The "Chinese Dream" and Economic Euphoria in Feng Xiaogang's Comic Films

Thursday, March 22
7:30 PM - 9:30 PM
Location: Harding, Mezzanine Level

Feng Xiaogang is a very popular director in China, whose films have long been favored by an enormous body of fans mostly made up of common people. This paper examines the trajectory of a significant transformation in the imagining of wealth and the ideals of happiness in Feng’s films by comparing his 2004 A World without Thieves and the most recent Personal Tailor (2013).


In A World without Thieves, the grass-root protagonist Shagen makes a living by selling his physical labor, takes full pride in it, and has sufficient confidence in his own ability to achieve his “Chinese dream.” In Personal Tailor, which came out a whole decade later, however, characters from the bottom of society have literally no access to wealth other than counting on the merciful help from rich people, so that they can temporarily pretend to be something like a “one-night magnet.” In contrast, the real newly rich are so bored with their excessive wealth that they even pay to enjoy fake experiences of poverty, which stand beyond the range of their imagination.


The apparently incredible differences between the two films are of fundamental ideological significance. In my view, Feng’s comic films are vivid representations of the changing situation in Chinese economy and society, especially its symptoms of social crisis. They reflect a disturbing reality where the gap between the rich and the poor is becoming bigger and deeper behind the euphoric scenes of rapid economic growth.

Xuguan Chen

Peking University, Not Applicable, China

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