Images of China and the West: The Globalization of Culture and Values in Contemporary Transnational Chinese Film

By Kay Li.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper explores images of China and the West in contemporary transnational Chinese films aspiring to win an Academy Award, to find out how globalization of culture and values is manipulated to make these films competitive. The title of this paper: “Images of China and the West” assumes a binary polarization between China and the “West.” This goes along assumptions of cultural differences, when there are options of confrontation or engagement, together with the conventional dichotomies of East/powerless/othered and West/powerful/mainstream. However, recent transnational Chinese films deliberately play up to this construction and make use of it to conjure up the exotic to attract a global audience. Beyond the binary cultural constructions is a corresponding globalization of these images to enable the global audience to make sense of the visual and audio images. A global appeal is achieved without compromising local cultural specifics.
Transnational Chinese films make use of the globalization of culture and values through various adaptations of the source text. Examples will be drawn from contemporary cross-cultural Chinese films based on classical Chinese and Western literature, Chinese martial arts novel, and the Hong Kong gangster film. In these films running for, and sometimes winning Academy Awards, images of China and the West go through simultaneous processes of localization and globalization. These Chinese films include Man cheng jin dai huang jin jia (Curse of the Golden Flower) starring Chow Yun-fat and Gong Li which is an adaptation of modern Chinese literature; Ye Yan (The Banquet) starring Zhang Ziyi that is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon adapting a Chinese martial arts novel; and the Hollywood film The Departed growing out of a Hong Kong film. How these films gradually detach themselves from their local literary roots and acquire a global life of their own will be shown.

Keywords: China, Globalization, Culture, Transnational, Film

The International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp.99-106. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 561.858KB).

Dr. Kay Li

University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada


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