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Zhang Yimou: Globalization and the Subject of Culture By Wendy Larson ...

Chapter :  Introduction
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Zhang Yimou:


The Subject of Culture

The multiple-award-winning Chinese film director Zhang Yimou (1951–) must be the most admired and reviled film director China has ever seen.1 Since he began his work in the late 1980s, his steady stream of films has produced a profusion of criticism both pro and con.2 By 2008, more than 400 articles had been published in China about him, as opposed to around 150 for Xie Jin (1923–2008), next in line, and going down from there for other directors (Li Jinmei 2008, 2). The debate, which has involved some of China’s leading humanistic intellectuals as well as international scholars, has touched on the gamut of concerns that have faced China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. The embrace of capitalism and a renewed relationship with the nonsocialist world motivated a reevaluation and reimagining of socialist history, and Zhang’s work is often contextualized within that effort. In a way that has affected many countries or areas with rich cultural and economic histories but without the sustained industrialization of Europe and the United States, the so-called opening up of China under Deng Xiaoping (1904–1997) prompted questions about the position of the nation as it relates to other nations, and eventually, as a leading player in globalization. Many intellectuals directly addressed culture, with investigations into the question of how