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Medical Humanities in China – conference

An international interdisciplinary conference at Peking University Institute for Medical Humanities, 15-17th October, 2015, jointly convened by UCL and PKU

A unique opportunity to learn Chinese Sign Language at UCL!

学中国手语!Short intensive introductory immersion course spread over 6 days, 13–24 July More...

Hot and Numb! 2000 years of Sichuan pepper

Saturday 13th June, 12.00 midday, The Spice Exchange, Kew Gardens. As part of the Kew Full of Spice Festival 2015, Vivienne Lo (UCL CCHH) will give a presentation on the history of Sichuan pepper, its medical and culinary uses. More...

Film and Discussion: When China Met Africa

Wednesday 20 May, 6.30pm, Roberts 106, UCL. FREE – part of UCL Festival of the Arts 2015. Book via Eventbrite.

Lady Precious Stream

A symposium on S. I. Hsiung's 1934 play, and the obstacles to and opportunities for East Asian voices in UK theatre and literature. Monday 18 May, 6.30–8pm, Anatomy JZ Young LT.

Call for Chinese-speaking choral singers!

London Chinese Philharmonic Choir 伦敦华人爱乐合唱团 (LCPC) is looking for additional singers to perform the Yellow River Cantata 黄河大合唱 in September/October 2015. More...

5th Annual Chinese Visual Festival

7–22 May 2015, at King’s College London, BFI Southbank, Bertha DocHouse and Chelsea College of Arts. The festival will welcome to London some of the most exciting directors currently working in Chinese-language cinema and art. More...

The Chinese Erhu during the First World War

An evening of performance and discussion with Dr Colin Huehns. Friday 8th May, 7pm, UCL South Cloisters More...

HISTGC06: Chinese Film, Medicine and the Body, 2015–2016

Provisional schedule – details to be finalised shortly

Course Convenor: Michael Clark:
Office hours: tba

Film screenings: Tuesday 7–9.30pm, from 10th November 2015 to 9th February 2016
Intensive Course: 15th – 21st February 2016 (Reading Week)

Lecturers: Michael Clark (King's College, London) and Patrizia Liberati (Peking University)

Location: to be arranged

Zui ai 1

This module seeks to explore a wide range of issues relating to health, medicine, and the body in China and other Chinese societies during the past century through the medium of film.  Drawing on a wide range of both fiction and documentary films from mainland China and elsewhere, together we shall examine the representation in film of many important aspects of the modern Chinese experience of health, illness, and medical care, including the work of ‘barefoot doctors’ during the Cultural Revolution, the HIV/AIDs epidemic during the 1980s and ’90s, changing attitudes towards the physically disabled since the 1970s, and the virtual privatisation of the Chinese health care system during the post-Mao Zedong ‘Reform era’. The aim of the module is to achieve a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of the changes which have transformed the lives and embodied experience of the Chinese people since the start of the twentieth century, by critically analysing the cinematic representation and treatment of health care, health conditions and health-related issues in the light of ideas drawn from film theory and criticism, gender and cultural studies and other academic disciplines, and by putting the films and the issues which they highlight into their historical, political, and cultural contexts.

The main emphasis is on films which reflect political, social and cultural changes and related changes in health and medicine in mainland China over the past century. However, the course also includes relevant films made in Hong Kong, Taiwan and even films co-produced or partly shot in the U.S. and the U.K.  All types and genres of film are represented, from historical action movies and martial arts epics through propaganda films, classic Chinese family dramas, melodramas and satirical comedies to independent documentaries, docu-dramas and intimate personal testimonies and reflections.  The module thus provides students with an opportunity to develop and demonstrate in-depth knowledge and understanding of the relationship between the rapidly changing political, ideological and economic, as well as cultural, factors which have influenced Chinese film-making and styles of cinematic representation since the 1930s and ‘40s, and the unique set of meanings associated with health, medicine and the body in both ancient and modern China, and thereby to contribute to the development of a distinctively Chinese version of the ‘medical humanities’.

The module consists of two parts:

1. A series of weekly screenings and discussions, starting mid-way through Term 1 and continuing until mid-way through Term 2, each week being devoted to a particular topic or theme which in turn follow a roughly chronological order.

2. A 5-day (20-hour) ‘Intensive Course’ to take place between 15th and 21st February 2016, i.e. the week following the Chinese New Year (Reading Week).

Each week for the first 9 or 10 weeks, one film will be screened in its entirety, but students will also be expected to view at least two other films from the list of ‘Recommended Viewing’ for each of the weekly topics or themes.  Selected reading materials will also be provided for each weekly topic and screening and students will be expected to be familiar with the background to each film and to be sufficiently well informed to comment on it by the time of the screening.  During the Intensive Course, a number of other general topics will be introduced and discussed, such as the history of cinema in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, the relations between the ‘natural’ and the supernatural in Chinese cinema, and the particular significance of the martial arts genre in relation to embodiment.  There will also be sessions devoted to making the best use of the course Reading Lists, getting to grips with the ‘Medical Humanities’ and student Term essay projects.  A number of other relevant films will be screened and discussed and there will be one or two presentations by ‘guest’ lecturers.  Regular attendance for screenings, discussions and thematic lectures in both parts of the module is obligatory, and all students are expected to participate fully in the group discussions following the screenings and lectures/seminars. 

Course Assessment: 1 Term essay of 4000 words (100%)

Screening programme 2014-2015 (for reference only)

The screening programme for 2015-2016 will be be published shortly.

November 11 – Presentation/discussion 1:
Public Health 1: Barefoot revolution
Viewing:     Cui Wei 崔嵬 – Hongyu (Hongyu 红雨, 1975)
Location: tba


November 18Presentation/discussion 2:
Public Health 2: HIV/Aids awareness
Viewing:     Zhao Liang 赵亮 – Together (Zai yiqi 在一起, 2011, 84'),
a documentary on the making of Gu Changwei's 顾长卫 Love for Life (Zui ai 最爱, 2011).
Students are required to watch Love for Life before the showing of Together
Location: tba

Zui ai (with crew)

November 25Presentation/discussion 3:
Viewing:     Huang Shuqin 黄蜀芹 – Woman, Demon, Human (Ren gui qing 人鬼情, 1987)
Location: tba

Ren gui qing

December 2Presentation/discussion 4:
The troubled mind
Viewing:     Lo Chi-leung [Luo Zhiliang] 罗志良 – Inner Senses (Yidu kongjian 异度空间, Hong Kong, 2002)
Location: tba

Inner Senses

December 9Presentation/discussion 5:
Martial Arts: China and the forensic gaze
Viewing:     Peter Chan 陈可辛 – Dragon (Wuxia 武俠, 2011)
Possibly also: Lo Chi-leung 罗志良 – The Bullet Vanishes (Xiaoshi de zidan 消失的子弹, 2012)
Location: tba


January 13Presentation/discussion 6:
Childhood and disability
Viewing:     Peng Tao 彭韬 – Little Moth (Xue chan 血蝉, 2007)
Introduced by Lily Chang
Location: tba
Download screening notes


January 20Presentation/discussion 7:
East meets West – cultural approaches to medicine
Viewing:     Zheng Xiaolong 郑晓龙 – The Treatment (Guasha 刮痧, 2001)
Location: tba

Gua sha

January 27Presentation/discussion 8:
Viewing:    Zhang Yuan 张元 – Mother (Mama 妈妈, 1989)
Location: tba


Feb 3:Presentation/discussion 9:
Old age
Viewing:     Zhang Yang 张杨 – Full Circle (Feiyue laoren yuan 飞越老人院 2012)
Location: tba

Full Circle

February 10Presentation/discussion 10:
Death and dying
Viewing:     Li Ruijun 李睿珺 – Fly with the Crane (Gaosu tamen, wo cheng baihe qu le 告诉他们,我乘白鹤去了 2012)
Location: tba

Fly with the Crane

Reading Seminar: January 2015, date tbc

Seminar leaders: Michael Clark, Vivienne Lo
This session is an integral part of the course.

Intensive Seminar Week, 16–22 February  2015

Seminar leader: Patrizia Liberati
Much of this week will be devoted to an analysis of representations of the body in different genres of Chinese film.

Suggested reading list

Berry, Christopher J. Chinese Films in Focus II, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan/ BFI, 2008.

Berry, Christopher J. and Mary Farquhar, China on Screen: Cinema and Nation, New York: Columbia University Press, 2006.

Berry, Michael, Speaking in Images: Interviews with Contemporary Chinese Filmmakers, New York: Columbia University Press, 2005.

Berry, Michael, A History of Pain: Trauma in Modern Chinese Literature and Film, New York: Columbia University Press, 2008.

Chow, Rey, Primitive Passions – Visuality, Sexuality, Ethnography and Contemporary Chinese Cinema, New York: Columbia University Press, 1995.

Cui Shuqin, 'Kekexili: Mountain Patrol? Moral Dilemma and a Man with a Camera', in Chris Berry (ed.), Chinese Films in Focus II.

Lim, Song Hwee and Julian Ward (eds), The Chinese Cinema Book, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

Lu, Sheldon H. and Emilie Yueh-yu Yeh (eds.), Chinese-Language Films: Historiography, Poetics, Politics, Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2005.
(esp. Chapter 2, Zhang Zhen, 'Bodies in the air: the magic of science and the fate of the early "martial arts" film in China')

Mulvey, Laura, Visual and Other Pleasures, Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana Univ. Press, 1989. [contains a slightly revised version of her celebrated essay, 'Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema', originally published in Screen, Vol. 16, No. 3 (1975), 6-18.

Reagan, Leslie J., Nancy Tomes and Paula A. Treichler, (eds.), Medicine's Moving Pictures: Medicine, Health and Bodies in American Film and Television, Rochester, N.Y., Univ. of Rochester Press, 2007.

Richards, Andy, Asian Horror, Harpenden: Kamera Books, 2010. (Chapters 10, 'Hong Kong horror cinema' and 11, 'Modern Hong Kong horror: essential viewing')

Silbergeld, Jerome, China into Film: Frames of Reference in Contemporary Chinese Cinema, London: Reaktion Books, 1999.

Silbergeld, Jerome,  Body in Question: Image and Illusion in Two Chinese Films by Jiang Wen, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2002.

Van Dijck, Jose, The Transparent Body: A Cultural Analysis of Medical Imaging, Seattle and London: Univ. of Washington Press, 2005.

Xu, Gary. G., Sinascape: Contemporary Chinese Cinema, Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield, 2007.

Zhang Yingjin, Chinese National Cinema, London: Routledge, 2004.

Zhu Ying and Stanley Rosen (eds.), Art, Politics and Commerce in Chinese Cinema, Hong Kong: Univ. of Hong Kong Press, 2010.

Other film and body bibliographies:

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Page last modified on 19 aug 15 11:35 by Penelope Barrett