Course Code


Course Name

Trauma and Memory in 20th and 21st Century China


Wednesdays 2:30pm-6:15pm




Prof. Kristof VAN DEN TROOST

Teaching Assistant

MIAO Zixin

Course Description

This course will use cinematic and literary texts to explore several traumatic events in China’s recent history. We will focus on nine such events: the Nanjing Massacre, the 228 Incident, the Anti-Rightist Movement, the Great Famine, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, June Fourth, Hong Kong unrest, and COVID-19. These events all resulted in different kinds of collective trauma, whether caused by foreign invasion, popular/state violence, or natural disaster.

Students will be asked to reflect on the way traumatic events are remembered, and on how the past is often rewritten in the service of the present. Central themes of the course will be history and its representation, the function of memory and trauma in the construction of collective identity, the moral issues involved in the representation of trauma, and the importance of remembering and avoiding the repetition of past catastrophes.

Course Outline

Week 1 (6/9):             Introduction

Berry, Michael. A History of Pain: Trauma in Modern Chinese Literature and Film. New York: Columbia UP, 2008. 1-20.


Week 2 (13/9):            Nanjing Massacre

*Buruma, Ian. The Wages of Guilt: Memories of War in Germany and Japan. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1994. 3-12; 31-46;112-35; 189-201.


Week 3 (20/9):             Nanjing Massacre (Screening City of Life and Death, 2009)

*Arendt, Hannah. Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil. Rev. ed. New York: Penguin Books, 1977. 21-55; 83-117; 135-38; 230-33; 252; 276-9; 287-98.


Week 4 (27/9):             228 Incident + White Terror

*Chen, Yingzhen. Exiles at Home: Short Stories. Translated by Lucien Miller. Ann Arbor: Center for Chinese Studies, U of Michigan, 1986. 39-50.

*Guo, Songfen. Running Mother and Other Stories. Edited by John Balcom. New York: Columbia UP, 2009. vii-ix; 1-80.


Week 5 (4/10):            228 Incident + White Terror (Screening Detention, 2019)

Lowenstein, Adam. Shocking Representation: Historical Trauma, National Cinema, and the Modern Horror Film. New York: Columbia University Press, 2005. 1-16.

Blake, Linnie. The Wounds of Nations: Horror Cinema, Historical Trauma and National Identity. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2008. 1-16.


Week 6 (11/10):          Anti-Rightist Movement (Screening Searching for Lin Zhao’s Soul, 2004)

*Zhang, Xianliang. Grass Soup. Translated by Martha Avery. London: Secker & Warburg, 1994. v-vi; 118-132; 170-207.


***Friday  October 13        Short Assignment 1 Due***


Week 7 (18/10):          Great Famine (Screening selections Fengming, 2007, and The Ditch, 2010)

*Yang, Xianhui. Woman from Shanghai: Tales of Survival from a Chinese Labor Camp. Translated by Wen Huang. New York: Pantheon Books, 2009. vii-xiv; 3-26; 114-142; 143-161; 243-256; 257-71.


Week 8 (25/10):          Cultural Revolution

*Chen, Ruoxi. The Execution of Mayor Yin and Other Stories from the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Rev. ed. Edited by Howard Goldblatt. Translated by Nancy Ing and Howard Goldblatt. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2004. xi-xxxii; 34-61; 106-25.

*Yu, Hua. “The Past and the Punishments.” In Chairman Mao Would Not Be Amused: Fiction from Today’s China, edited and translated by Howard Goldblatt, 156-171. New York: Grove Press, 1995.


Week 9 (1/11):            Cultural Revolution (Screening The Blue Kite, 1993)

Wang, Ban. Illuminations from the Past: Trauma, Memory, and History in Modern China. Stanford: Stanford UP, 2004. 1-14; 142-62.


Week 10 (8/11):          June Fourth (Screening The Gate of Heavenly Peace, 1995)

Chen, Thomas. Made in Censorship: The Tiananmen Movement in Chinese Literature and Film. New York: Columbia University Press, 2022. 1-16.


***Friday 10 November       Short Assignment 2 Due [FOR CHES5133 STUDENTS ONLY]***


Week 11 (15/11):        Hong Kong 1967 (Screening No. 1 Chung Ying Street, 2018)

Cunliffe, Tom. “Lung Kong’s Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow: The 1967 Riots and the Politics of Cultural Production in the Hong Kong Film Industry.” Screen 61, no. 1 (Spring 2020): 47-74.


Week 12 (22/11):        Hong Kong 2014 (Screening Mong Kok First Aid, 2019, and selections of Yellowing, 2016)

*Leung, Ping-kwan. City at the End of Time: Poems by Leung Ping-kwan. Edited by Esther M.K. Cheung. Translated by Gordon T. Osing and Leung Ping-kwan. Hong Kong: Hong Kong UP, 2012. 89-91; 115-119; 147.

*Dung, Kai-cheung. Atlas: The Archaeology of an Imaginary City. Translated by Dung Kai-cheung, Anders Hansson, and Bonnie S. McDougall. New York: Columbia UP, 2012. xi-xxxiii, 19-21; 31-3; 36-8; 45-7; 60-1; 73-8; 88-90; 97-9; 106-11; 118-9; 129-31; 138-40.


Week 13 (29/11):        COVID-19 (Screening In the Same Breath, 2021)

*Fang, Fang. Wuhan Diary: Dispatches from a Quarantined City. Translated by Michael Berry. New York: HaperVia, 2020. Vii-xvi; 15-23; 31-5; 44-52; 56-60; 78-83; 173-78; 198-205; 216-22; 251-58; 271-77; 348-54.

***Friday December 1           Final Paper Due***

Assessment & Assignments

Reading Reflections  30%

Short Assignments (2)  20%

Final Paper  50%

Honesty in Academic Work

Attention is drawn to University policy and regulations on honesty in academic work, and to the disciplinary guidelines and procedures applicable to breaches of such policy and regulations. Details may be found at With each assignment, students will be required to submit a signed declaration that they are aware of the policies, regulations and procedures.