In case anyone was interested…

April 23rd, 2009

The THP Family video that I referenced and showed a clip of during my presentation is here.

The Yin Tsang video “Welcome to Beijing” (which I find quite catchy) is here.

And if you are super interested in seeing some interviews (translated of course) by Angela Steele of Chinese Hip Hop artists themselves…. see HERE. (I particularly like/find interesting and useful the What is Hip Hop?, Chinese Educational System, and the Foriegners ones.)

Reaction to Final Day of Class

April 23rd, 2009

I can’t believe how quickly this semester went. I guess the fact that we didn’t meet several times a week really made this class seem to be a speeding flash of light which is now gone.

I enjoyed the last day of presentations, moreso once mine was over. Again I was amazed by the vast variety of topics that our class produced a plethora of information about. From tattoos and hip hop to AIDs and Chinese Nationalism, to environmental, to village government, to film…. we covered all the bases. I think the eclectic nature of these projects is really what made them so interesting.

In most cases when I am subjected to listening to presentations for entire class periods I have trouble staying awake. I think the choice to give us 10 minutes was perfect. It is enough time to delve slightly into the topic, and get people interested, but not too much to have the audience nodding off or feeling like they are being lectured at. As a presenter it was a good amount of time to have as well because it wasn’t too nerve racking – ten minutes goes quickly when you have as much information as all of us did to complete our papers.

I enjoyed the use of primary sources in the presentations – particularly the photos and videos, which to me at always better than a quote or text of any kind.

I can’t say it enough- I am highly impressed by our class presentations.

Update on my project

April 18th, 2009

I know its late in the game to give an update but I recently had a breakthrough  (just in the nic of time to write my minimum of 10 pges by Tuesday). As I was reading the countless sources that I have accumulated, I realized that the majority of the text that I have been able to find, and have been referred to, has been on Chinese Rock.

As I may have mentioned to some of you in class, I was starting to think about paralleling the two movements and discussing them in that light together. I am doing this for my project and one particular article made this all click for me – Jeroen de Kloet’s “Popular Music and Youth in Urban China: the Dakou Generation. As I reread this source with my new focus in mind, I noticed that some of the main distinctions that de Kloet was making about Chinese Rock were also true for Chinese Hip Hop. From there I have determined that the two movements parallel each other quite nicely and are developing with the same issues at hand – they are both predominantly youth cultures, they both had to negotiate with govt. censorship, and they both were greatly influenced by Western culture (mainly the US).

I can’t tell you how good it feels to finally have a direction. I have been getting a little worried. I also finally got in some ILL requests that have been perfect.

Presentations So Far

April 18th, 2009

I have been really impressed by what our class has come up with so far. The topics are so diverse that it really makes presentation days interesting and eclectic.

I thought that the Homosexuals in China topic was very interesting – I don’t really think about how the gay community is accepted in other cultures, but it is important to realize how far the US has progressed in the last few decades in regards to tolerance and acceptance of homosexuals and bisexuals. I was interested to know that there is a conference for this purpose as well.

The environmental movement in China is also a topic that struck my fancy. I was interested to find out that often there are preliminary measures taken and publicized simply to quell the rising concern for carbon emissions etc. I think it is particularly interesting that China is behaving like a purely money driven state – sort of makes me think what is the US really doing to help with environmental issues?

Both film studies were very interesting to me as well. I completely understand their struggles with finding translations and source material (as I am dealing with that/have been dealing with that for the entirety of my project). I thought it was interesting how film could play such a large propoganda role in China – especially since the focus was on women and their rights. Painting women as strong only to support communist ideals blows my mind a little bit. And in the second case, painting women as strong characters who at the very end sacrifice themselves out of weakness also bothers me greatly. Both very interesting studies though for sure!

More later… I really agree with Aislyn that these presentations have been top notch. I have learned a lot from them and I can tell that everyone has worked very hard on their research this semester.

3rd Grade Elections

April 1st, 2009

The film from last night’s class really puts the term “democracy” into question for me. Is a democratic vote so easily swayed by bribery? I think the point to remember here is that while these are 3rd graders running for hall monitor, there are definite paralells to actual politics. Negative campaigning – pointing out the flaws of opponents, debate sessions, campaign promises, rhetoric (Cheng’s dictator vs. manager speech), and politics behind the scenes were all a part of this process.

Some things I found shocking were: 1. the lack of teacher involvement, particularly during the debates when the children were just naming each other flaws. 2. the overinvolvement of parents – who in the case of the winner, used bribery to win classmates votes. 3. that the result of the vote put the same harsh little boy in charge as previous years when they didn’t have a vote. one would think that if he beat his classmates and pulled their clothes, his classmates wouldn’t reelect him.

Overall I felt this was a very interesting film.

Time as Money

March 22nd, 2009

This account really took me by surprise. I guess I should have figured out the content from the title, but I often don’t look at authors names – hence I missed the Hooker part. I really am drawn to first hand accounts – first person makes everything more personal and real for me and you don’t often get that from Historical texts (with some obvious exceptions of journals, letters, etc.) For me, it is amazing that there is a sysem of heirarchy in being a hooker in shenzhen. I also was taken aback by the fact that some women would sell their services off for only 20 yaun. There are certain things I didn’t want to know about, like this particular hooker working even when she is on her period (guh). Overall, this is a vulgar text in that it describes the job of prostitution, with no allusions or methaphors – just straight up information. This account decribes money as the end all be all, you live off money, and money can even buy back your virginity. This was an interesting read for sure, I don’t really know what else to say about it except that I understand now the need to crack down on prostitution – if it is as common as this hooker made it seem. I never want to visit shenzhen.

On a seperate note – I wanted to just say again how surprised I was about the music choices of our class. No one picked “paved paradise” or led zepplin which i think speaks to the originality of the people in our class – and the fact that we don’t just pick the easiest thing to do so it’s done quickly. Good job guys!

Historical Musical Analysis of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Fortunate Son

March 10th, 2009

First of all I do really like the idea of music being a historical artifact. There are plenty of songs that I can think of off the top of my head that portray a message about the time period they were released and could therefore be investigated as primary sources of that period.

Since we will be talking about this in class tonight and I have done the required paper for that I don’t want to repeat everything here as well – but I will give a breif summary of my analysis of Fortunate Son. This one is relatively easy to get the message about – though I’ve listened to it for years and never before really thought about or really listened to the lyrics. It’s catchy which is a bit dangerous to me because I could really sing along to almost any message if it has a catchy/repeating melody. The song is a protest to the Vietnam War drafting process – and claims that “fortunate son(s)” of wealthy and connected Americans were free from the responsibility of fighting in Vietnam. At the same time, blue-collar working class young men were drafted and forced to fight for a cause they may or may not have believed in. An important thing to recognize is that CCR does support the troops over in the war – they are protesting the politics of America, not its defenders themselves.

Overall, it’s very interesting and neat that I never really knew the details described in the song before this assignment. Here’s a link to a You Tube Video of Fortunate Son.

Project Update March 10

March 10th, 2009

My project has evolved a bit since last posted upon. I am waiting on a few inter-library loans that I requested recently, but I feel like I have an adequate base of information to tackle the topic of Chinese hip hop.

I was interested by the reading that we had for class today – which actually tie into my topic pretty well given that I too am researching music as a historical primary source. I am in touch with an informed and willing source on the Chinese Hip Hop culture now, so I feel that this will be an asset to me as I get further into the research.

My project will be investigating Chinese Hip Hop music and culture as a source of freedom of expression in China today (and in the past decade). As a new trend, this topic has a fair amount of primary sources available in the musical products themselves as well as some useful interviews. I have many questions at this point in the process which I am having trouble narrowing.

I want to relate this movement to the Rock movement in China, which I believe parallels our American hip hop and rock movements well. Specifically I want to look at the Rock artist Cui Jian and his support, and later disaproval from Chinese officials. He is an interesting artist because he does play to the rules and regulations for some time, but also pushes the boundaries and suffers the consequences. In regards to the American movement – I feel that there is a plethora of information out there about how it began as a minority culture, but I am hoping that I will have enough information on purely Chinese movements that I will not be focusing on American Hip Hop or Rock for the bulk of my research.

I want to investigate the progress that Hip Hop artists in China ave made since the birth of the movement as well. Hip Hop is popular, but not embraced by mass media in China up to this point – I want to investigate the specific restrictions on this sort of self expression. I foresee myself focusing on a few songs in order to use lyrics to emphasis the rebellious nature of hip hop. Most of the music that I have access to is on the internet – which I understand is really the main forum for Chinese Hip Hop all together.

I have a few sources that I believe will be most helpful. is a compilation of critics and comments on Chinese Hip Hop which is friendly to those not fluent in the language. On this site, there are several in depth repsponses to the article which brought me down this road in the first place – a New York Times article entitled “Now Hip Hop Too is Made in China.” Dongting also compiled a series of You Tube video interviews with artists and officianados of Chinese Hip Hop which have been very interesting. I am also compiling various videos from well known artists (though it is hard to find the subtitles sometimes). I’m still searching for the primary source that I want everyone to enjoy with me – but here is one that is particularly interesting – with subtitles and very much a propaganda video (having yet to delve into it too much myself, I don’t have too much to say except for that it is very pointed and anti Tibet). is the link.

Some shortcomings that I anticipate would be that I cannot understand Chinese, making many of the sources available UNavailable to me. I also think I am trying to pursue a difficult topic in that the censorship “rules and regulations” aren’t straight forward and defined. I want to pursue it because that is what is most interesting to me, but I hope that I can find enough to be conclusive in this area of my research. As I do more research I hope to narrow my topic to a few artists and specific songs as well so that instead of a general statement I can have a more in depth analysis. Regardless, it is a daunting task given a quote I came across for the second time today from an artist “…individuals who decide to write about Chinese hip hop should be able to comprehend Chinese; this would help them avoid faulty translations and misquotations.” I’ll try not to do that for sure – but that definitely puts the pressure on.

Better Late than Never

March 9th, 2009

Ok so looking back on the Paper 1 Assignment, I am a little amused at myself for having had so much difficulty comprehending and narrowing a focus for the paper. I think my problem is I have always been prompted very directly to write about such and such exactly the way I know everyone else should be writing it in class (like a regurgitation of information). To me (and probably others) this method is much simpler and comforting because there is less analytical prowess necessary and its not something you have to dwell on. In the end I found that after beating the same topics to a pulp in endless notes, if I had been more carefree and comfortable with the idea of an evolving thesis from the get-go, I would have had a much more interesting and probably much better paper in general. I am hoping I remember this experience for the future (paper 2 is just around the corner).

As for Red Sorghum, I had a hard time at first deciphering the Cultural Revolution allusions and allegories. Class really helped me to sort out some ideas I had started on, like the importance of individuals and community over national fervor for example. I enjoyed reading this account as an alternative to the historical text expected (and loathed by this point) in the history major. This part fictional account of Mo Yan’s ancestry was much easier to get caught up in – the novel itself was a page-turner. The analysis for me was more difficult because it is not a traditional source (much as the music we are investigating for this week is non-traditional to most historians).

Topic Narrowing for Hist471PRC

February 17th, 2009

Now that the proposal has been completed I can safely give a little more information about what it is I am trying to do with this paper. To refresh everyone’s memory, I am doing research on the Chinese Hip Hop movement. Specifically, I am going to study the history of Hip Hop (first here in the US and then in China) and determine what role censorship holds in both those stories. As many of my sources have suggested, Hip Hop is a way for people to express themselves – freedom of expression in China can be difficult. The underground hip hop movement is a good example of Chinese censorship because unlike in the US where popular music artists enjoy good money for their performances, Chinese Hip Hop artists can not make a living off of their craft. They are censored by the government and are forced to multiply their fan bases by small live performances and online videos.

So far it’s been very interesting – so I am looking forward to delving further.