Why do stories have the power to bring China to the world and the world to China?
The course takes as its point of departure President Xi Jinping’s call in 2013 to “tell the good China story,” and in 2020 to “tell the good China story of combating coronavirus.” What is the good China story? Is this the story China should tell about itself to the world? Is this about cultural self-perception, understanding the world, cross-cultural communication, or simple propaganda? More importantly, how can we tell China stories from perspectives outside of China?
What seems beyond dispute is the power of stories to bring China to the world and the world to China. In exploring the “fictional turn” of contemporary Chinese cultural politics as it relates to the world, we will also trace its genealogy to earlier historical moments. Stories matter in China, not only in our times but also throughout history.
Narrative fiction is one of the most effective ways to engage with the Chinese past and the Chinese present. Instead of presenting China as a monolithic civilization, this course uses stories to understand “the world of China” and “China in the world” from ideological, ethnic, cultural, and geo-political perspectives. The course highlights the variety and vitality of stories from both modern and pre-modern periods. In genres ranging from religious allegory to science fiction, from moral fable to fantastic romance, from philosophical anecdote to political satire, Chinese stories have enlightened, intrigued, puzzled, and scandalized readers, reflecting and constructing ever-changing worldviews.