AAS Annual Meeting

Interarea/Border-Crossing Session 214

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Session 214: Interactions Between World War Two and East Asian Cultures

Organizer and Chair: Shuk-ting Kinnia Yau, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Discussant: Wai-luk Lo, Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong

More than half of a century has passed since the end of WWII. While there are considerable amount of research addressing the political and economic significances of the war, little work has been done on the interactions between WWII and different cultural aspects. This panel therefore aims to examine how WWII meant and means to the development of textbook, film, music and religion in China and Japan. SIU Kam-wah explores how the spirit of Imperial Empire had been implanted in students’ mind in the primary education of colonial Taiwan by analyzing the most dominant textbook, the National (Japanese) Language Textbook, used during the war. Xue Yu argues how WWII transformed institutional Buddhism, while Buddhist participation in the war became a valuable experiment of humanistic Buddhism in modern China. He focuses on the Buddhist propaganda of compassionate killing and examines the phenomena of Buddhist monks participating in anti-Japanese activities. YAU Shuk-ting discusses the influence of Chūshingura on some of the recent WWII movies produced in Japan, and explores how Japanese perceive the war responsibilities nowadays. YU Siu-wah examines the intricate history of “The March of the Volunteer Army,” by relating the historical and social contexts in which it was entwined. He argues how different vocal genres share a certain martial or military spirit which the Chinese were eager to learn from their “enemy” Japan. This panel is multi-disciplinary and diverse with different cultural perspectives and lays the foundation for a deeper understanding of the relationship between WWII and East Asian cultures.

The Spirit of Imperial Empire and Militarism in Wartime Primary Education: Content Analysis of National (Japanese) Language Textbook in Colonial Taiwan (1937-1942)
Kam-wah Joseph Siu, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

During WWII, Japan made considerable effort to disseminate the Spirit of Japanese Imperial Empire and Militarism in its colonies and newly-occupied territories for the sake of wartime mobilization. Formal education especially the primary school was the most important venue for the Japanese colonial government to inculcate these two ideologies to the teenagers. This paper explores how the ideologies and related ideas had been implanted in students’ mind in the primary education of colonial Taiwan with the greater engagement of Japan in WWII especially the Sino-Japanese War from 1937 by conducting an in-depth content analysis of the most dominant textbook, the National (Japanese) Language Textbook used in the fourth period (1937-1942). Since 1937, the colonial government in Taiwan had been implementing the policies of Imperialization, Industrialization and Southward Expansion in full swing for the Japanese wartime mobilization. It is found that the National Language Textbook transformed significantly from the third period edition (1923-1941) by adopting more new elements particularly from the government-designated National Language Textbook used in Japan. It attempted to get the Taiwanese students steadily assimilated to be “real Japanese” and infused more with the ideologies of Shintoism, Bushido, Imperial Empire’s spirit and Militarism by the immersion approach of learning from the simple Japanese language to the more complex Japanese knowledge, culture and war progress, especially as Taiwan became an industrial and military base of the Empire. This study reveals that the Japanese language textbook became an effective tool to propagate militarism among the teenagers in the colonies during WWII.

A Song Grown out of War: The PRC National Anthem and WWII
Siu Wah Yu, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

Originally written for the movie “Children of National Crisis” (1935), “The March of the Volunteer Army” by Nie Er was later elevated to be a national music icon after it was selected as the provisional national anthem for the Communist regime when the PRC was founded in 1949. It remained to be provisional for almost three decades and was almost replaced (not sung, only played) by “The East is Red” during the Cultural Revolution in national functions. Eventually, it was reinstated in 1982 as the official national anthem. This paper aims to trace the intricate history of the song, trying to relate the historical and social contexts in which it was entwined. The march has never been a traditional Chinese form. Writing a Western march was something unprecedented in post imperial China. Musically and historically it dates back to the early school songs xuetang yuege which Chinese intellectuals learned from Japan at the beginning of the 20th century. The popularity of this particular march all over China during the Sino-Japanese War added weight to its history and political status for Chinese of various political affiliations accepted it without hesitation. This paper further argues that the anthem is a bridge between the school songs and the mass song, a later genre of Communist China. Incidentally, these vocal genres came into the picture of Chinese music history as a result of war, and all of them share a certain martial or military spirit which the Chinese desperately tried to learn from Japan.

The Loyal 47 Ronin Never Die: Influence of Chushingura on Japanese War Films
Shuk-ting Kinnia Yau, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

WWII is one of the best examples in history to exemplify the huge gap between ideal (victory) and reality (defeat) to the Japanese. Different from the Chinese filmmakers who use WWII to convey the present diplomatic situation between China and the world powers, most of the Japanese WWII movies are characterized by the tension between the authority and inferior Japanese soldiers. The dilemma faced by the warriors who have to sacrifice their lives for “justice” in these WWII movies perhaps reminds the audience of the legendary Chūshingura (The Treasury of Loyal Retainers). Chūshingura generally refers to literary works based on the Genroku Akō Incident. The incident took place during the Edo period (1701) when 47 samurai avenged their master by murdering a superior, which eventually led them to the ultimate punishment seppuku (stomach-cutting). As a matter of fact, many of the Japanese WWII movies such as Otokotachi no Yamato (Yamato) (2005, Satō Junya), Ore wa kimi no tame ni koso shi ni iku (For Those We Love) (2007, Taku Shinjō), and Manatsu no orion (Last Operations under the Orion) (2009, Shinohara Tetsuo), are inspired by the essence of Chūshingura, i.e. the struggle between personal belief and public expectation, and many of these movies revolve around the question on the true meaning of loyalty as does the national classic. This paper aims to explore the influence of Chūshingura on some of the recently WWII movies produced after 2000, and to discuss how Japanese perceive the war responsibilities nowadays.

The Emergence of New Buddhism during the Anti-Japanese War (1937-1945): The Practice of Humanistic Buddhism in Modern China
Yu Xue, Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

The Anti-Japanese War (1937-1945) exerted tremendous impact on the development of modern Chinese Buddhism as a new Buddhism or popularly known as humanistic Buddhism emerged while some old Buddhist traditions disappeared. This paper first briefly examines the theoretic ideas of humanistic Buddhism largely based on the writings of Master Taixu (1898-1947), and then investigates how young Buddhist monks, many of them were the students and followers of Taixu, put the ideas of humanistic Buddhism into practice during the war. The war in fact provided a great opportunity for these young monks who had struggled against traditional culture prevailed within the sangha for more than thousand years. Under the influence of nationalism, they made use of the war and openly called for revolutionary change of the Chinese sangha. Through historical review, I will pay a special attention to the Buddhist propaganda of compassionate killing and examine the phenomena that Buddhist monks, either voluntarily or being forced, participated in anti-Japanese activities during the war. After they received military training, many of them went to warfront either to rescue Chinese soldiers or to kill Japanese invaders. The Chinese victory over the war once again provided an opportunity for these monks to reshuffle traditional sangha which had suffered in a great deal during the war. Finally, I shall argue that the war forcefully transformed institutional Buddhism while Buddhist participation in the war became a valuable experiment of humanistic Buddhism in modern China.