Advertisement

The Sino-Japanese War and Chinese History in Amy Tan’s Novels and Lisa See’s Shanghai Girls

  • Walter S. H. Lim

Abstract

Early-twentieth-century China was a country in turmoil, witnessing such events as the Boxer Rebellion, the collapse of the Qing Dynasty, the Sino-Japanese War, and the Chinese Civil War. Of these events, the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–45), which resulted in the Japanese occupation of Shanghai, Nanjing, and Northern Shaanxi, has captured the attention and imagination of historians, film makers, and fiction writers.1 In particular, the Rape of Nanjing has become the center of focus in this war, not least because of the atrocities perpetrated by the invading Japanese army against the inhabitants of Nanjing, atrocities that have become the subject of historical scholarship and literary representation. When Chinese immigrants in America describe the Sino-Japanese War, they not only identify a major source of national trauma in twentieth-century Chinese history but also clarify that any sense of Chinese American belonging in the United States can never be free from American political involvement in the Asia-Pacific world.

Keywords

Chinese History Pearl Harbor Japanese Occupation Communist Revolution Japanese Invasion 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 2.
    Eileen Chang, Lust, Caution, trans. and ed. Julia Lovell (New York: Penguin, 2007). In Eileen Chang’s story, resistance to the Japanese invasion of China encompasses tensions between idealistic radicalism and the complexities of romantic relationships in which a patriotic young woman finds herself unexpectedly harboring romantic feelings for a national enemy.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Ha Jin, Nanjing Requiem (New York: Pantheon, 2011). All subsequent references to the text are to this edition and will be cited as NR.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Iris Chang, The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II (New York: Penguin, 1997), 7.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    In Asian/American: Historical Crossings of a Racial Frontier (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999), David Palumbo-Liu notes that “America’s interest in the Sino-Japanese War, its war in the Pacific (and its postwar relations in that area), its concern with China’s and Taiwan’s position in the Cold War, its wars in Korea and Indochina, have all affected Asian Americans profoundly, both in terms of Asians already in America and Asians who migrated to the United States” (218). Palumbo-Liu notes the contribution of American military incursions into and imperialistic designs in the Pacific toward the “cross-border” shaping of Asian/American modernity, one in which the idea of the United States as a nation cannot be extricated from racial, geopolitical, spatial, and conceptual interpenetrations. The importance of war as a thematic feature in Asian American literary and cultural production has recently been given critical attention in Jodi Kim, Ends of Empire: Asian American Critique and the Cold War (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010). Kim analyzes the ways in which Asian American literature and film engage in critique of US military activities and imperial ambitions in Asia. Specifically she focuses attention on the Cold War as an extremely important political and historical context for the working out of American imperial ambitions in Asia, the realization of which cannot be disentangled from the strategic discursive racialization and gendering of the East. A consideration of Cold War history and its enablement of American hegemonic designs in the Asia-Pacific world offers an important exemplification of the functioning of American Orientalism. In “The Sino-Japanese Conflict of Asian American Literature,” inCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. China Abroad: Travels, Subjects, Spaces, ed. Elaine Yee Lin Ho and Julia Kuehn (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2009), Colleen Lye analyzes how the Sino-Japanese War constitutes an important part of that larger canvas of twentieth-century history within which China, Japan, and the United States find themselves embroiled in major military conflicts. Strategies of self- and racial representation in both Chinese American and Japanese American literary production are influenced by the unfolding of historical events involving the United States’ political engagement with both Republican China and Communist China, with both imperialistic and militarily defeated Japan. World War II helped give shape to “the rhetorical protocols of the claiming of Asian American identity” (166).Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    Amy Tan, The Kitchen God’s Wife (New York: Penguin, 1991), 166. All subsequent references to the text are to this edition and will be cited as KGW.Google Scholar
  7. 9.
    Charles Hill, Grand Strategies: Literature, Statecraft, and World Order (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2010), 232–52.Google Scholar
  8. 10.
    Bella Adams, “Representing History in Amy Tan’s The Kitchen God’s Wife,” MELUS 28, no. 2 (2003): 9–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 12.
    Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Dictee (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001).Google Scholar
  10. 13.
    Sau-ling Cynthia Wong, “‘Sugar Sisterhood’: Situating the Amy Tan Phenomenon,” in Amy Tan’s “The Joy Luck Club”: Modern Critical Interpretations, ed. Harold Bloom, 83–110 (New York: Chelsea House, 2002), 94.Google Scholar
  11. 14.
    Amy Tan, The Bonesetter’s Daughter (London: Flamingo, 2001), 235. All subsequent references to the text are to this edition and will be cited as BD.Google Scholar
  12. 16.
    Douglas Kerr, Eastern Figures: Orient and Empire in British Writing (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2008), 159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 17.
    Amy Tan, The Opposite of Fate (London: Harper Perennial, 2003), 305, 209. All subsequent references to the text are to this edition and will be cited as OF.Google Scholar
  14. 19.
    Langston Hughes, Autobiography: I Wonder as I Wander, in The Collected Poems of The Collected Works of Langston Hughes, ed. Joseph McLaren, 16 vols. (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2001–04), 14:248–49.Google Scholar
  15. 21.
    Lisa See, Shanghai Girls (London: Bloomsbury, 2009), 22. All subsequent references to the text are to this edition and will be cited as SG. 22. For readings of the historical and cultural significance of inscriptions of the experience of would-be migrants on the walls of the detainment center in Angel Island, seeGoogle Scholar
  16. Steven G. Yao, “Transplantation and Modernity: The Chinese/American Poems of Angel Island,” in Sinographies: Writing China, ed. Eric Hayot, Steven G. Yao, and Haun Saussy, 300–329 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008);Google Scholar
  17. Steven G. Yao, Foreign Accents: Chinese American Verse from Exclusion to Postethnicity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 63–93; and alsoCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Yunte Huang, Transpacific Imaginations: History, Literature, Counterpoetics (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008), 101–15.Google Scholar
  19. 23.
    King-Kok Cheung, “Art, Spirituality, and the Ethic of Care: Alternative Masculinities in Chinese American Literature” in Masculinity Studies and Feminist Theory: New Directions, ed. Judith Kegan Gardiner, 261–89. (New York: Columbia University Press, 2002).Google Scholar
  20. 24.
    For an important study of how the history and legal enactments of US immigration exclusion acts significantly shaped and informed Asian American social and cultural identity with all its complex contradictions, see Lisa Lowe, Immigrant Acts: On Asian American Cultural Politics (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1996).Google Scholar
  21. 25.
    Maxine Hong Kingston, China Men (London: Picador, 1977), 155. All subsequent references to the text are to this edition and will be cited as CM.Google Scholar
  22. 26.
    Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club (London: Minerva, 1989), 289. All subsequent references to the text are to this edition and will be cited as JLC.Google Scholar
  23. 27.
    David Leiwei Li, Imagining the Nation: Asian American Literature and Cultural Consent (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998), 116.Google Scholar
  24. 29.
    Lisa See, Dreams of Joy (London: Bloomsbury, 2011), 349. All subsequent references to the text are to this edition and will be cited as DJ.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Walter S. H. Lim 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Walter S. H. Lim

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations