CCHH: China Centre For Health And Humanity


HIST0457 Chinese Film, Medicine and the Body, 2019-2020

Course Convenor
Vivienne Lo: v.lo@ucl.ac.uk
Room G03, 23 Gordon Square        
Tel. 020 7679 3605
Currently on sabbatical

Module Tutor  2019-2020
Daniel Vuillermin
Lecturer, School of Health Humanities, Peking University
Honorary Lecturer, China Centre for Health and Humanity, UCL
Email: dvuillermin@bjmu.edu.cn
Office: Room G03, 23 Gordon Square
Office hours: tbc

Tutor for Term 1
Dr Michael Facius
Newton International Fellow, History, UCL
E-Mail: m.facius@ucl.ac.uk
Office: Room B21, 24 Gordon Square

Consultant and Intensive Seminar Lecturer
Dr Michael Clark
Honorary Lecturer, History, UCL
Email: ucramjc@ucl.ac.uk

Film screenings: Wednesdays 3.00-6.00pm, from 12 November 2019
Location: South Quad Pop Up Learning Hub 101

Intensive Seminar week: 17-21 Feb 2020 (reading week)
Location: To be confirmed: please check Common Timetable

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 12th and 16th February 2018, i.e. in the week running up to 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%)

Sample screening programme (2017-2018)

For the current rpogramme, including recommendations for additional viewing and updated reading list, please consult our Moodle page



14 November 17 2017 - Presentation/discussion 1

Public Health 1: HIV/Aids awareness

Love for life (Zui ai 最爱), dir. Gu Changwei 顾长卫 (2011)

Zui ai (with crew)

Recommended viewing
Together (Zai yiqi 在一起), dir. Zhao Liang 赵亮 (2011) -
 a documentary on the making of Love for Life.


21 November - Presentation/discussion 2

Health and Social Welfare during the Foundation Years of the People's Republic and the Cultural Revolution (1949-c. 1978)

Hongyu (Hongyu 红雨), dir. Cui Wei崔嵬 (1975)


Recommended viewing
Chunmiao 春苗, dir. Xie Jin 谢晋 (1975)

Song of Acupuncture Anaesthesia (Wuying deng xia song yinzhen 无影灯下颂银针), dir. Sang Hu 桑弧 (1974)

28 November - Presentation/discussion 3

Women, Men and Changing Gender Roles and Identities  in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan

Woman, Demon, Human (Ren gui qing 人鬼情), dir. Huang Shuqin 黄蜀芹 (1987)

Ren gui qing





5 December - Presentation/discussion 4

Inter-Generational Relations in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan in the Post-Mao Era

Eat Drink Man Woman (Yinshi nannü 饮食男女), dir. Ang Lee 李安 (Li An) (1994)

Eat drink man woman

Recommended viewing
Piano in a Factory (Gang de qin 钢的琴), dir. Zhang Meng 张猛 (2010)


12 December - Presentation/discussion 5

Health, Illness, Medicine, Public Health and Social Welfare in Post-Socialist China and Chinese Communities Worldwide

The Treatment/Gua sha (Guasha刮痧), dir. Zheng Xiaolong 郑晓龙 (U.S./China, 2000)

Gua sha

Recommended viewing
Quitting (Zuotian 昨天), dir. Zhang Yang 张扬 (2001)



9 January - Presentation/discussion 6

Disability and 'Embodied Difference' in Contemporary China and Taiwan

Mama (Mama 妈妈), dir. Zhang Yuan 张元 (1991)


Recommended viewing
The Common People (Guanyu ai de gushi 关于爱的故事), dir. Zhou Xiaowen 周晓 (1998)

16 January - Presentation/discussion 7 

The troubled mind

Inner Senses (Yidu kongjian 异度空间), dir. Law Chi-leung (Luo Zhiliang) 罗志良 (Hong Kong, 2002)

Inner Senses

Recommended viewing
The double life (A mian B mian A面B面), dir. Ning Ying 宁瀛  (2010)

23 January - Presentation/discussion 8

Homosexuality and Different Sexualities in Contemporary China and Taiwan

East Palace, West Palace (Donggong xigong 东宫西宫), dir. Zhang Yuan 张元 (1996)

Donggong xigong

Recommended viewing
Fish and Elephant (Jinnian xiatian 今年夏天), dir. Li Yu 李鱼 (2001)


30 January - Presentation/discussion 9

Aging and Old Age in Contemporary China

For Fun (Zhao le 找乐), dir. Ning Ying 宁瀛 (1993)

Zhao le

Recommended viewing
Full Circle (Feiyue laorenyuan飞越老人院), dir. Zhang Yang 张扬 (2011)


6 February - Presentation/discussion 10



In Love We Trust (Zuoyou 左右), dir. Wang Xiaoshuai 王小帅 (2008)

In Love We Trust


tbc Death and Dying in Contemporary China

Fly with the Crane (Gaosu tamen, wo cheng baihe qu le 告诉他们,我乘白鹤去了), dir. Li Ruijun 李睿珺 (2012)

Fly with the Crane

Recommended viewing
(Zai yiqi de shiguang 在一起的時光), dir. Sha Qing 沙青 (2002)


(See also: Sample creening programme 2014-2015 - for reference only)

Intensive Seminar Week, 12-16 February  2018, details tbc

Much of this week will be devoted to an analysis of representations of the body in different genres of Chinese film.

Online resources

YiMovi website -- Chinese film and the Medical Humanities:
CCHH Medical and Health Humanities film list, updated 14-02-2017

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 16.3 (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: