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New Global Studies

Ed. by Chanda, Nayan / Iriye, Akira / Mazlish, Bruce / Sassen, Saskia

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Rewriting the Chinese National Epic in an Age of Global Consumerism: City of Life and Death and The Flowers of War

Jing Yang
Published Online: 2015-01-09 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ngs-2014-0031


The Nanjing Massacre (1937–1938) has been rewritten by two controversial Chinese hits aimed at the global market: City of Life and Death (2009) and The Flowers of War (2011). Directed, respectively, by the rising director Lu Chuan and the internationally renowned “Fifth Generation” director Zhang Yimou, the films feature the complicated dynamics between Chinese refugees, Westerners and Japanese soldiers amidst the devastation. Their ambition to reach worldwide audiences, such as the nuanced treatment of wartime occupation and aesthetic references to Hollywood, is either affirmed by international awards or thwarted by the lackluster reception in the West. By examining the various globalist transformations in the cinematic narrative, this paper argues that what begins as a rearticulation of the patriotic discourse turns into a tentative construction of new identity at the historical moment of China’s rise. The reconfiguration of the national epic in City of Life and Death and The Flowers of War manifests a repositioning of Chinese self in response to global consumerism.

Keywords: Nanjing Massacre; global consumerism; identity construction; globalist transformation; patriotic discourse; national epic


About the article

Published Online: 2015-01-09

Published in Print: 2014-12-01

Citation Information: New Global Studies, Volume 8, Issue 3, Pages 245–258, ISSN (Online) 1940-0004, ISSN (Print) 2194-6566, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/ngs-2014-0031.

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