2023/24 Yip So Man Wat Memorial Lecture: The Allegorical American: Positioning the United States in Chinese-Language Cinema

Wednesday April 3, 2024 - Thursday April 4, 2024
3:30 PM - 8:00 PM

The 2023/24 Yip So Man Wat Memorial Lecture
with guest speaker Michael Berry

Lecture: The Allegorical American: Positioning the United States in Chinese-Language Cinema

Cinema can play many roles, from entertainment to escapism, and from the pedagogical to the propagandistic. Within the matrix of Chinese language cinema, representations of the United States and the figure of the American have served a particularly powerful role in helping Chinese audiences imagine new global possibilities as well as themselves. Since 1949, the image of the American in Chinese-language cinema has undergone radical transformations. This history of representation is further complicated by radically different portrayals in different regions that produce Chinese-language film, including the PRC, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. These representations have also often served as a political tool to alternately temper or fuel global dreams, contend with new forms of nationalism, and establish a more complex understanding of China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong’s place in the world. This talk will provide a critical overview of some of the major tropes, trends, and permutations that the United States has gone through in Chinese-language cinema. Turning to the present, it will also address the curious ways in which, against the backdrop of a so-called “New World Order,” it is actually old tropes and well-worn stereotypes that have found renewed cultural and political capital.

Date & Time:
Thursday, April 4, 2024
Reception: 5:00pm-6:00pm (PDT)
Lecture: 6:00pm-8:00pm (PDT)

Ponderosa Ballroom, Ponderosa Commons – Oak House, 6445 University Blvd, Vancouver, BC
(view map)

Presented in English
Free & open to the public

Events in Conjunction

Research Seminar: A Tale of Two Viruses: Wuhan Diary, COVID-19 and the Plague of Disinformation

During the early days of the COVID-19 health crisis, Fang Fang’s Wuhan Diary provided an important portal for people around the world to understand the outbreak, local response, and how the novel coronavirus was impacting everyday people. But when news of the international publication of Wuhan Diary appeared online in early April of 2020, Fang Fang’s writings became the target of a series of online attacks by “Chinese ultra-nationalists.” Over time, these attacks morphed into one of the most sophisticated and protracted hate Campaigns against a Chinese writer in decades. Meanwhile, as controversy around Wuhan Diary swelled in China, the author was transformed into a global icon, honored by the BBC as one of the most influential women of 2020 and featured in stories by dozens of international news outlets.
This seminar will draw upon first-hand experience of translating Wuhan Diary into English, alternating between a first-hand account of the translation process and more critical observations on how a diary became a lightning rod for fierce political debate and the target of a sweeping online campaign that many described as a “cyber Cultural Revolution.” The seminar will chronicle how Berry would be pulled into the attacks and targeted by thousands of online trolls and how that experience would change his perspectives on the act and ethics of literary translation.

Date & Time:
Wednesday, April 3, 2024
3:30pm – 5:30pm (PDT)


The xʷθəθiqətəm or Place of Many Trees, Liu Institute for Global Issues, 6476 NW Marine Dr, Vancouver, BC
(view map)

Presented in English
Free & open to the public


Michael Berry is an author and translator who is Professor of Contemporary Chinese Cultural Studies and Director of the Center for Chinese Studies at UCLA. He has written and edited ten books on Chinese literature and cinema, including Speaking in Images: Interviews with Contemporary Chinese Filmmakers (2006), A History of Pain: Trauma in Modern Chinese Literature and Film (2008), Jia Zhangke on Jia Zhangke (2022) The Musha Incident: A Reader on the Indigenous Uprising in Colonial Taiwan (2022) and Translation, Disinformation and Wuhan Diary: Anatomy of a Trans Pacific Disinformation Campaign (2022). He has served as a film consultant and a juror for numerous film festivals, including the Golden Horse (Taiwan) and the Fresh Wave (Hong Kong). A Guggenheim Fellow and two-time National Endowment for the Arts Translation Fellow, Berry’s book-length translations include The Song of Everlasting Sorrow: A Novel of Shanghai (2008) by Wang Anyi, shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize, To Live (2004) by Yu Hua, a selection in the National Endowment for the Arts Big Read library, and Wuhan Diary: Dispatches from a Quarantined City (2020) by Fang Fang. His latest translation projects include the dystopian science fiction Hospital Trilogy by Han Song, which includes the novels Hospital (2023), Exorcism (2023) and Dead Souls (2024), and the novels Soft Burial (2024) and The Running Flame (2024) by Fang Fang.

About the Yip So Man Wat Memorial Lecture

The Yip So Man Wat Memorial Lectures are made possible by the generous support of Messrs. Alex and Chi Shum Watt in honour of their mother, the late Mrs. Wat, and her passion for Chinese literature and culture.

The 2023-2024 Wat Lecture is dedicated to the memory of Chi Shum Watt.