Last Train Home in Industrializing China

Review of Last Train Home, Directed by Lixin FanThe documentary Last Train Home tells the heart-wrenching story of a family caught in the turbulence of an industrializing China. Every Spring, for Chinese New Year, 130 million migrant workers trek back to their rural homes to rejoin their families, only to return again to their urban employment. The film was released in 2009 and now, four years later, the story is still relevant.Zhang Changhua (father) and Chen Suqin (mother) have a teenage … [Read more...]

Lu Xun’s Short Stories

Review of The Real Story of Ah-Q and Other Tales of China: The Complete Fiction of Lu XunBy KENDRICK KUOOutside of world literature connoisseurs and scholars, Lu Xun (1881-1936) is not well known to the West. Writing in the early twentieth century, Lu Xun is considered one of the founders of modern Chinese literature. The Real Story of Ah-Q and Other Tales of China: The Complete Fiction of Lu Xun is a Penguin-published compilation of his short stories and one of his plays. Lu Xun never … [Read more...]

Building Heaven in China

Review of The Great Chinese Revolution: 1800-1985 by John King FairbankBy KENDRICK KUO Studying China is less about studying a country, and more about studying a civilization, with all the complexities hidden within a supposedly unified edifice. China has a long history of integrating state, society, and culture, under the emperor who was himself integral to the balance of the cosmic order. With such a rich history, why do popular conceptions of the modernization of China revolve solely … [Read more...]

Celebrating Beauty Over Truth

 Review of Mao's Last Dancer, Directed by Bruce BeresfordBy KENDRICK KUOI’ve become the resident reviewer of Chinese foreign films and movies about China. And in due course I will also become the reviewer of books about China. Having grown up as an Asian American, let’s say this is a way for me to get in touch with my roots. So in the same vein, I decided to continue my trend of watching China-related movies and watched Mao’s Last Dancer, which is based on the true story of Li Cunxin, mad … [Read more...]

The Flowers of War

Review of The Flowers of War, Directed by Zhang YimouBy KENDRICK KUO[Warning: The review below contains mature themes]The Rape of Nanjing is a historical event that continues to play a role in Sino-Japanese relations. Whenever the Japanese government reviews or changes its educational curriculum, its treatment of the sacking of Nanjing (or Nanking as it was spelled then) is heavily scrutinized, as well as its account of the way Japanese soldiers treated the women of Korea during their … [Read more...]

The Great Leap Forward to Famine

Review of Mao's Great Famine, Directed by Patrick Cabouat and Philippe Grangereau (film can be viewed here for free)By KENDRICK KUOIn recent years, the famine accompanying Mao Zedong's Great Leap Forward has achieved the title of "The Great Famine." Previously, it had been known as the "Three Years of Natural Disasters," which shifted the blame to the neutral forces of nature rather than to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), or to Mao personally. The topic has been a taboo subject in public … [Read more...]

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry

Review of Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, Directed by Alison KlaymanBy KENDRICK KUOAi Weiwei is an unknown, strange sounding name to most Americans, but Americans are nonetheless becoming more aware of the plight of Chinese dissidents. Earlier this year the blind activist Chen Guangcheng, known for protesting against forced abortions, escaped from house arrest and fled to the U.S. Consulate.  He eventually struck a deal with the Chinese government, allowing him to pursue academic interests atNew … [Read more...]