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Beyond Imperial AestheticsTheories of Art and Politics in East Asia$
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Mayumo Inoue and Steve Choe

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9789888455874

Published to Hong Kong Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.5790/hongkong/9789888455874.001.0001

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The Grain of Jade

The Grain of Jade

Woman, Repression, and Fei Mu’s Spring in a Small Town

(p.116) 5 The Grain of Jade
Beyond Imperial Aesthetics

Rey Chow

Hong Kong University Press

This essay attempts a critical rereading of the well-known film by the Chinese director Fei Mu. When first released in 1948, Spring in a Small Town was judged derogatorily by critics in the then-rising communist China as a reactionary work, one that they considered to perpetuate China's feudal beliefs and customs. Through a reading of the Yuwen's voiceover narration, the scenes in which she and Zhichen play out their strong passion for each other in words and gestures, and the melodramatic ending of the reconciliation between Yuwen and Liyan, this chapter raises questions about the relations among female sexuality, culture, and nature in this specific context. Above all, the chapter interrogates the basis that seems to unite the film's director and his critics-that is, a collective consensus on the necessity of repression, as expressed in the Confucian moral-aethetic dictum, fa huqing, zhi hu li ([poetry is] springing from the emotions, stopping at the rules of propriety), a dictum that was not only conveyed by Fei Mu as an instruction to the actors but also reiterated as an ethical principle in much of the critical literature on the film.

Keywords:   Fei Mu, Voice-over, Desire, Play, Cinema

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