Posted by Eric Mu on Monday, May 11, 2009 at 3:43 PM
This short comic strip takes the form of an erotic thriller. The heroine embarks on a politically-motivated assassination attempt against Duan Qirui, a general who is collaborating with the Japanese. Liu Hezhen's strike against Duan follows another assassin's failed attempt to seduce and kill him.
Lots of blood and borderline nudity may make some people uncomfortable, and the theme may be too much of a cliche for anyone who's seen Lust, Caution and similar films.
But readers who spent their schooling years in China will immediately recognize what the creator is trying to accomplish: a parody that tries to make fun of Lu Xun's classic essay In Memory of Miss Liu Hezhen.
The creator, a Chinese manga artist who uses the name Dekisugi Taro (出木杉太郎), is behind another series that plays on high-school nostalgia. His English Text Book of The People's Publishing House weaves Li Lei, Han Meimei, and other familiar characters from a series of Chinese English textbooks into original stories.
In Memory of Miss Liu Hezhen was written by the celebrated and revered Left-wing writer Lu Xun in 1926. For decades, it had been in high school textbooks, and there was quite a bit of controversy when education authorities decided to remove it in 2007. There was speculation that the article was junked in part because it might remind people of a similar incident that occurred in 1989.
On March 18, 1926, students in Beiping staged a demonstration to protest the Japanese navy opening fire on Chinese troops in Tianjin. When protesters gathered outside the residence of Duan Qirui, a warlord who was chief executive of the Republic of China at the time, to submit their petition, a shooting was ordered and forty-seven people died. Among them was 22-year-old Liu Hejun, a student activist campaigning for a boycott of Japanese goods and the expulsion of foreign ambassadors.
Duan was deposed after the massacre and died of natural causes in 1936. In the following comic, which presents him as a womanizing blood-thirsty devil far younger than sixty-one years old, his fate is rather different.
Yang Yinyu, another assassin in the comic, was indeed the university president, but she little resembled the noble figure depicted by the artist. The American-educated Yang actually opposed the protest.
The cartoon characters are far cries from their real life inspirations, and the playful reinterpretation of history serves only to entertain rather than educate its readers, yet the author does deserve credit for his imagination for a tumultuous tale of tragic love.
Cover: "In Memory of Miss Liu Hezhen," based on the work by Lu Xun / art by DEKISUGI Taro.
May 18, 1926. Beijing: The General's Residence
Duan Qirui: What for?
Bald soldier: Stop sulking, girly. I will make you feel good....
Duan Qirui: Name? Age?
Liu Hezhen: General, I beg you....
Duan Qirui: I can spare your life. However...
Lu Xun: Out of the way! Out of the way!
Liu Hezhen: I did it.
Excerpted from "In Memory of Miss Liu Hezhen":
In the aftermath of the deaths, wild speculations about the nature of the incident multiplied. In his emotionally-charged essay, Lu Xun dismissed the theories circulating among the intellectual class, writing "the insidious talk of some so-called scholars since this incident has added to my sense of desolation."
Although Lu Xun was not explicit about what exactly the "insidious talk" was, evidence over the years has suggested that the demonstration was staged in concert with other political maneuverings involving Li Dazhao, the co-founder of the communist party. That Duan's resignation from office came only a month later seemed too convenient to be a coincidence.
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Jobs in China
Henry on The Eurasian Face
Caroline W on Big in China
Michael on Julia Lovell on translating Lu Xun's complete fiction: "His is an angry, searing vision of China"
Brandon K. on Clueless academic takes on popular fantasy novels
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The Eurasian Face : Blacksmith Books, a publishing house in Hong Kong, is behind The Eurasian Face, a collection of photographs by Kirsteen Zimmern. Below is an excerpt from the series:
Big in China: An adapted excerpt from Big In China: My Unlikely Adventures Raising A Family, Playing The Blues and Becoming A Star in China, just published this month. Author Alan Paul tells the story of arriving in Beijing as a trailing spouse, starting a blues band, raising kids and trying to make sense of China.
Pallavi Aiyar's Chinese Whiskers: Pallavi Aiyar's first novel, Chinese Whiskers, a modern fable set in contemporary Beijing, will be published in January 2011. Aiyar currently lives in Brussels where she writes about Europe for the Business Standard. Below she gives permissions for an excerpt.
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+ Religion and government in an uneasy mix (2008.03): Phoenix Weekly (凤凰周刊) article from October, 2007, on government influence on religious practice in Tibet.
+ David Moser on Mao impersonators (2004.10): I first became aware of this phenomenon in 1992 when I turned on a Beijing TV variety show and was jolted by the sight of "Mao Zedong" and "Zhou Enlai" playing a game of ping pong. They both gave short, rousing speeches, and then were reverently interviewed by the emcee, who thanked them profusely for taking time off from their governmental duties to appear on the show.