Class Hours and Classroom: Abbreviation Martial Arts Film Cultu Catalog Description

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165:350 Chinese Martial Arts Film and Culture

Rutgers University, Spring 2015


Professor Weijie SONG

Telephone number: 848-932-6476 (office)

E-mail address:

Office Hours:
Class Hours and Classroom:
Abbreviation -- Martial Arts Film Cultu

Catalog Description – Introduction to Chinese martial arts literature, film, history, and culture
Learning Outcome Goals for the Course – (see Page 2)
"Has this course been discussed with and consented to by officers of those departments which offer courses with which it might overlap or which offer pre-requisite courses?"-- There is no other course that overlaps.

Course description:

How did martial arts fantasy arise in Chinese society? Why have martial arts films gained phenomenal popularity not only in Asia but also in the West? This course explores the local and national contexts of Chinese martial arts cinema and its global dissemination, and introduces early historical writings on assassins, late imperial vernacular fiction about outlaws, the broad variety of martial arts novels published in the twentieth century, and the developments of martial arts cinema in Hong Kong, Taiwan, mainland China and Hollywood from the postwar era to the present. It covers key movie stars such as Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Tony Yen, Cheng Pei-pei, Michelle Yeoh, Maggie Cheung, and Ziyi Zhang, and explore major film directors including King Hu, Chang Che, Tsui Hark, John Woo, Wong Kar-wai, Chen Kaige, Zhang Yimou, Ang Lee, Hou Hsiao-hsien, among others. Topics include martial art literary and cinematic traditions, "Sick men of Asia", Chinese Masculinity, Body and Violence, The Birth of a Trans-national Hero, Female Knight-errant and the Tradition of Chinese Ghost Story, Justice, Revenge, and Romance, Utopia and Counter-Utopia in the Martial Arts World, The Consumption of Kung-fu as Significant Entertainment, Empire, Individual, and Historical Values in martial arts genre.

Requirements and Grading:

1) Attendance, Participation, Sakai posting and Oral presentation (35%): Since this class emphasizes focused discussions of each week’s readings, it is essential that students come to class having read all of the assigned materials carefully and prepared to engage actively in the discussion. Students should bring a copy of each week’s readings. Regular attendance is thus expected. If an absence is unavoidable, the student must consult with the instructor beforehand and make-up work will be assigned.

For each weekly readings, students will be designated to post a reading response (approximately 200-300 words) by midnight two days before each sessions starts. These responses should begin with a summary of the key points of the assigned literary, cinematic, or critical texts and comment on the relevance or usefulness of reading the literary and/or cinematic works within the given theoretical framework. These responses may include ideas, reflections and questions that arise during the reading of the texts. They may also address larger issues or make comparison with other readings. Others are required to have read each week’s postings before class in order to participate in group discussion. Those assigned to oral presentations will also be responsible for presenting on that week’s readings at the beginning of class. The 5-minute oral presentation should summarize and elaborate on the points made in the Sakai posting. To post a response, log into the Sakai site (, choose the page for this class, click on “Discussion and Private Messages” and then click on “Class Discussions” for the relevant week.

2) One short paper (25%): one paper of 4 pages is due in Week 8 in class. The paper should be understood as “think papers,” in which students have the opportunity to respond to the readings of a particular week in depth. These “think papers” should demonstrate a good understanding of the ideas and issues in the literary, historical, cinematic, and critical texts and show original and careful reflection of these issues. Students are encouraged to consult with the instructor about their topic in advance. Students must retain a copy of each paper.

3) Final paper (40%): 6-7 pages (double-spaced)
Learning Outcome Goals for the Course:

This course will introduce students to the major issues of Chinese martial arts film and culture; it will teach students to develop critical approaches to literary, historical and cinematic texts, and to formulate their own ideas to produce a solid paper about Chinese martial arts imagination.

Department Learning Goals Met by this Course:

  • Acquire in-depth knowledge of Chinese film and culture in translation and critical scholarships in a major field of Chinese literature and history

  • Analyze and interpret major texts and issues concerning Chinese martial arts imagination and relate them to other areas in the humanities following a comparative and interdisciplinary approach

Core Curriculum Learning Goals Met by This Course

II.B.k Explain the development of some aspect of a society or culture over time, including the history of ideas or history of science.

II.C.o Examine critically philosophical and other theoretical issues concerning the nature of reality, human experience, knowledge, value, and/or cultural production.

II.C.p Analyze arts and/or literatures in themselves and in relation to specific histories, values, languages, cultures, and technologies.

III.A.s.1 Communicate complex ideas effectively, in standard written English, to a general audience.

III.A.v Analyze and synthesize information and ideas from multiple sources to generate new insights.

Assessment Plan:

The assessment methods for this course are designed to evaluate student mastery of the course goals. The assignments require students to read, interpret and discuss texts related to topics and issues in Chinese martial arts literature, film, and culture, related scholarship, and critical theory. Upon completion of the course, students will have learned analytical and rhetoric skills through weekly discussions of the texts and issues, as well as through individual oral presentation to the class. Students will also be able to construct a thesis argument and build support with examples through one short and one long analytical and research papers.

Academic Integrity:

Under no circumstance will behaviors that violate academic integrity be tolerated. These behaviors include: cheating, fabrication, plagiarism, denying fellow students access to information or material, helping others to violate academic integrity, or purchasing essays online or otherwise. All violations will automatically receive no grade and be referred to the Office of Student Conduct. Please note that, in the case of plagiarism, ignorance of conventions of attribution and citation is not considered a mitigating circumstance.

Students with disabilities:

It is the policy of Rutgers to make reasonable academic accommodations for qualified individuals with disabilities. If you have a disability and wish to request accommodations to complete your course requirements, please contact the Office of Disability Services and ask to speak with a Coordinator (848-445-6800 or about accommodations.

Required Course Materials:

There are two types of reading material: books to be purchased and individual articles and book chapters available for download at the course website. Students must bring a hard copy of the readings assigned for the particular class.

  1. E-files are available on Sakai, under “Resources.”

  2. The following text books are available at the Rutgers University Bookstore and on reserve at the Alexander Library:

  • Bordwell, David. Planet Hong Kong: Popular Cinema and the Art of Entertainment. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2000.

  • Jin, Yong (Louis Cha). The Deer and the Cauldron. Vol. 1. Trans. John Minford. Oxford University Press, 1997.

C) Recommended books on literary and cultural theory:

  • Shi, Nai’an and Luo Guanzhong. Outlaws of the Marsh. Trans. Sidney Shapiro. 4 vols. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1993.

  • Liu, James J. Y. The Chinese Knight-Errant. Chicago: U. of Chicago Press, 1967.

  • Jin, Yong (Louis Cha). The Deer and the Cauldron. Vol. 2-3. Trans. John Minford. Oxford University Press (2000, 2003).

  • Bey Logan. Hong Kong Action Cinema. Woodstock, New York: The Overlook Press, 1996.

  • Lisa Odham Stokes and Michael Hoover. City on Fire: Hong Kong Cinema. Verso, 1999.

  • Esther Yau, ed. At Full Speed: Hong Kong Cinema in a Borderless World.

  • University of Minnesota Press.

  • John Christopher Hamm. Paper Swordsmen: Jin Yong And The Modern Chinese Martial Arts Novel. University of Hawaii Press, 2006.

  • Stephen Teo. Chinese Martial Arts Cinema: The Wuxia Tradition. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2009.
  • Petrus Liu. Stateless Subjects: Chinese Martial Arts Literature and Postcolonial History. Ithaca, NY: Cornell East Asia Series, 2011.

Week 1. Introduction and organization:

Chinese Wuxia Film and Culture: Between Historical Narrative and Popular Fantasy, and Between “Martial Arts” and “Avant-Gardes”

Week 2. Assassins in Early Chinese History

  • James Liu, The Chinese Knight-Errant, pp. 1-17 [e-reserve]

  • Sima Qian, "The Biographies of the Assassin-Retainers (Excerpt)" [e-reserve]

  • Film clips: Chen Kaige dir., The Emperor and the Assassin (1999)

  • Film clips: Zhang Yimou dir., Hero (2002)

  • Evans Chan,. "Zhang Yimou's Hero: The Temptation of Fascism," in See-kam Tan, Peter X. Feng, and Gina Marchetti, eds., Chinese Connections: Critical Perspectives on Film, Identity, and Diaspora. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2009, 263-77

  • Feng Lan, "Zhang Yimou's Hero: Reclaiming the Martial Arts Film for 'All under Heaven.'" Modern Chinese Literature and Cutlure 20, 1 (Spring 2008): 1-43.

Week 3. Outlaws in late Imperial Fiction

  • Shi and Luo, Outlaws of the Marsh, chapters 4, 7-12, 23-26

  • James Liu, The Chinese Knight-Errant, pp. 108-116
  • David Ownby, "Approximations of Chinese Bandits: Perverse Rebels, Romantic Heroes, or Frustrated Bachelors?," in Chinese Femininities/Chinese Masculinities: A Reader, ed. Susan Brownell and Jeff Wasserstrom [e-reserve]

  • Film clips: Billy Chan dir., All Men Are Brothers: Blood of the Leopard (1993)

Week 4. Female Knights-errant in Literature and Film

  • P’ei Hsing, “Nieh Yin-niang” [e-reserve]

  • Pu Songling, “The Lady Knight-Errant” [e-reserve]

  • James Liu, The Chinese Knight-Errant, pp. 86-91 [e-reserve]

  • David Bordwell, Planet Hong Kong, pp. 248-260 (particular the part on King Hu)

  • Film clips: King Hu dir., A Touch of Zen (1971)

  • Film clips: King Hu dir., Come Drink with Me (1966)

  • Mary Farquhar, "A Touch of Zen: Action in Martial Arts Movies." In Chris Berry, ed., Chinese Films in Focus II. Basingstoke: BFI/Palgrave MacMillan, 2008, 219-26.

  • Tony Rayns, "Laying Foundations: Dragon Gate Inn." Cinemaya (Winter/Spring 1998): 80-83.

Week 5. Fists of identity: The Legend of Bruce Lee

  • David Bordwell, Planet Hong Kong, pp. 1-25.

  • Bordwell, Planet Hong Kong, pp. 26-48.

  • Bordwell, Planet Hong Kong, pp. 49-81.
  • Chirs Berry, "Stellar Transit: Bruce Lee's Body or Chinese Masculinity in a Transnational Frame," in Martin and Larissa Heinrich, eds., Embodied Modernities: Corporeality, Representation, and Chinese Cultures (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2006), 218-34.

  • LO Wei dir., The Chinese Connection (1972)

Week 6. Kung-fu Comedy and Action Superstar Jackie Chan

  • Ramie Tateishi, "Jackie Chan and the Reinvention of Tradition." Asian Cinema 10, no. 1 (1998): 78-84. [e-reserve]

  • Steve Fore, "Life Imitates Entertainment: Home and Dislocation in the Films of Jackie Chan" [e-reserve]

  • Greg Dancer, “Film Style and Performance: Comedy and Kung Fu from Hong Kong” [e-reserve]

  • Kin-Yan Szeto, "Jackie Chan's Cosmopolitical Consciousness and Comic Displacement," Modern Chinese Literature and Culture 20, 2 (Fall 2008): 229-260.

  • Jackie CHAN dir., Rumble in the Bronx (1995)

Week 7. The Return of the Repressed in China after Mao

  • Marja Kaikkonen, "From Knights to Nudes: Chinese Popular Literature Since Mao," The Stockholm Journal of East Asian Studies 5 (1994): 85-110. [e-reserve]

  • David Bordwell, Planet Hong Kong, pp. 135-148.

  • Film clips: ZHANG Xinyan dir., The Shaolin Temple (Shaolin si) (1982)

  • Film clips: Hong Kong-Mainland collaborations: Tsui Hark dir., Once Upon a Time in China I-VI

Week 8. Gangster Film and Border-crossing Action
  • David Bordwell, Planet Hong Kong, pp. 82-114.

  • Anne T. Ciecko, "Transnational Action: John Woo, Hong Kong, Hollywood,” in Transnational Chinese Cinema, ed. Sheldon Lu (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1997), 221-237. [e-reserve]

  • Tony Williams, "Space, Place and Spectacle: The Crisis Cinema of John Woo," in Poshek Fu and David Desser, eds., The Cinema of Hong Kong: History, Arts, Identity (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2000), 137-57.

  • John WOO dir., A Better Tomorrow (1989)

  • Film clips: John WOO dir., A Better Tomorrow II & III

Week 9. Jin Yong (Louis Cha): Master of New School Martial Arts Fiction

  • Jin Yong (Louis Cha), The Deer and the Cauldron, chapters 1-2, 3-4, 5-6.

  • John Hamm, Paper Swordsmen, chapter 1

  • Liu, Petrus. Stateless Subjects: Chinese Martial Arts Literature and Postcolonial History (Ithaca, NY: Cornell East Asia Series, 2011), 107-152.

  • Film clips: King Hu and Tsui Hark, dir., The Swordsman (1990)

Week 10. From Entertainment Activity to Utopian Impulse

  • Jin Yong (Louis Cha), The Deer and the Cauldron, chapters 7-9.
  • Weijie Song, “Nation-State, Individual Identity, and Historical Memory: Conflicts between Han and Non-Han Peoples in Jin Yong’s Novels,” and “Space, Swordsmen, and Utopia: The Dualistic Imagination in Jin Yong’s Narratives,” in The Jin Yong Phenomenon: Chinese Martial Arts Fiction and Modern Chinese Literary History, edited by Ann Huss and Jianmei Liu (Amherst, NY: Cambria Press, 2007), 121-178.

Week 11. Re-configuring the Martial Arts Film and Culture

  • David Bordwell, Planet Hong Kong, pp. 149-170.

  • Ackbar Abbas, “The Erotics of Disappointment” [e-reserve]

  • Sheldon H. Lu, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Bouncing Angels: Hollywood, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Transnational Cinema”

  • Wong Kar-wai dir., Ashes of Time (1994)

Week 12. The Haunting Specters and the Phantom of the Genre

  • Pu Songling, “Nie Xiaoqian,” in Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio (e-reserve)

  • Siu-Tung Ching, A Chinese Ghost Story (adapted from “Nie Xiaoqian,” 1987)

  • John Zou, “A Chinese Ghost Story: Ghostly Counsel and Innocent Man,” in Chris Berry, ed., Chinese Film in Focus II (British Film Institute, 2008), pp. 56-63.

Week 13. Wu-xia Sentiment and the Mind of China

  • Wang Dulu, Crane-Iron Pentalogy [selected chapters; e-reserve]

  • Ang Lee dir., Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
  • Felicia Chan, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Cultural Migrancy and Translatability,” in Chris Berry, ed., Chinese Film in Focus II (British Film Institute, 2008), pp. 73-82.

  • Rong Cai, "Gender Imaginations in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and the Wuxia World." positions: east asia cultures critiques 13, 2 (Fall 2005): 441-71.

Week 14. The Fall and Rise of Martial Arts Film and Culture in the New Millennium; Thoughts on Chinese Martial Arts Film and Culture; final presentations of your paper projects

  • Chen Pingyuan, "Literature High and Low: 'Popular Fiction' in Twentieth-Century China." In Michel Hockx, ed., The Literary Field of Twentieth Century China. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1999, 113-33.

  • Stephen Teo, “Wuxia from Literature to Cinema” and “Wuxia between Nationalism and Transnationalism,” in his Chinese Martial Arts Cinema: The Wuxia Tradition (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2009), 17-37, 172-195.

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