I Gave my Dreams to Liangshan The Yi People in the Chinese Literary Imagination

Research Journey

Travels to Xide, Liangshan

James Kennerly was inspired by his time in the C. V. Starr East Asian Library researching “I Gave my Dreams to Liangshan:” The Yi People in the Chinese Literary Imagination. It served as the foundation of his project funded by SURF to spend two months in Liangshan, China. Kennerly's research culminated in his honors thesis, "The New Uses of Old Things: Ethnicity, Value, and the Market in a Rural Chinese Town," an ethnographic and historical account of market reforms in Liangshan. The photos below are from Kennerly's travels in Summer 2019.

Selected Sources

According to his faculty advisor Mariane Ferme, Kennerly used a breadth of sources from the library, including rare Chinese books and academic journals accessed through library databases. In the C. V. Starr East Asian Library, he looked at 16th-century Chinese woodcuts, propaganda comic books from the Cultural Revolution era, Chinese-language works on Classical Chinese semantics, and narratives of "Educated Youth" sent down to the Yi countryside during the Cultural Revolution. Some sources are highlighted below.

I draw from three time periods—5th c. AD, the Cultural Revolution Era, and the Post-Mao Era. These choices certainly do not represent all Chinese literature about Liangshan, but rather demonstrate three very different modes of representing one group of people.

– James Kennerly

All three models I looked at use the Other to highlight some supposed truth about one’s society too terrifying to be confronted on its own. Lu Xun’s admonition is so threatening because in these circumstances, destroying the distinction between oneself and the Other is blasphemous. Historically, racial categories, stories about degeneracy and images of difference have been promoted by those in power to divide their subjects (see Cox 1948). But my sources show that what makes this strategy effective is the fact that this rhetoric becomes a vibrant and essential part of every-day life, one that allows people to think about ethics, identity and history in seemingly new ways.

– James Kennerly

Selected Bibliography

Cox, Oliver. (1948). Caste, Class and Race: A Study in Social Dynamics. New York: Doubleday & Company.

Fan, Ye. (1998). Hou Han Shu jinzhu jinyi xiace [Book of the Later Han, newly annotated and interpreted, vol. 3], ed. Zhang Huikang and Yi Mengchun. Changsha: Yuelu Shushe.

Hu, Wenhuan, ed. (2001). [1593]. Xin ke luo chong lu [Newly engraved record of naked creatures]. Beijing: Xuefan chubanshe.

Liu, Shao-hua. (2011). Passage to Manhood: Youth Migration, Heroin and AIDS in Southwest China. Stanford: Stanford University Press.

Liu, Xin. (2002). The Otherness of Self: A Genealogy of the Self in Contemporary China. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan.

Lu, Xun. (2009a). [1921]. “The Real Story of Ah-Q” In The Real Story of Ah-Q and Other Tales of China. Translated by Julia Lovell. New York: Penguin Books.

You, Yeke. (2018). “Yige Jiebufang de Xinjie—Xie zai Shanli Naxie Ren, Shanli Naxie Shi de Qianmian” [A knot in my heart I cannot liberate—written before ‘Those mountain people, those mountain times’]. China News Digest International (CND), May 2018. Retrieved from http://youyeke.hxwk.org/.

Zhang, Hongyue. (2013). “Hunduan Daliangshan” [Soul-splitting Liangshan]. Liangshan wenxue, no. 1.