Home » Hakka Construction of Femininity in the Character of Chung Phin-Moi in the Film “China, My Native Land,” by Tenn Nga-I.

Hakka Construction of Femininity in the Character of Chung Phin-Moi in the Film “China, My Native Land,” by Tenn Nga-I.

Vol. 6, No. 1 (2010): 1–23.

Abstract

“China, My Native Land”, directed by Lee Hsing and released in 1980, was the first film that highlights the life story of Taiwanese Hakka writer Chung Li-fo (1915–1960) and his wife Chung Phin-moi (1914–2008). In reality the Chungs had challenged a contemporary Hakka taboo that couples with the same surname could never tie the knot. Throughout their lives they experienced ridicules, illness, death of a child and extreme poverty. Nevertheless they managed to stay together and remained in love with each other. On its debut the film was acclaimed a masterpiece of “Healthy Realism”, a new trend of cinematic art of the 1980s. Reexamined two decades later, the film turned out a cultural product targeted advocating the Kuomintang (國民黨 KMT) pro-China policy and consolidating its rule of martial law. Furthermore, Phin moi’s image represented in the film goes through duplex distortion, first by her husband and next by the director with Chinese mentality. Illiterate, Phin-moi could not take the initiative of constructing her image either in creative writing or in film production. At first her husband described her personality. Afterwards the director based on his description to reconstruct her on the screen. In this light Phin-moi is exploited twice, first by Hakka patriarchy and then by Chinese ideology. Image construction involves complicated knowledge politics. Phin-moi’s role in the film exposes the multiple power configurations of male-centered Hakka value and Chinese mindset. Towards the end the article explores the prospect of re-envisioning Hakka femininity by younger-generation Hakka women themselves.

Author’s bio

Tenn Nga-I is a PhD student in the Graduate Institute of Taiwan Culture, Languages and Literature, National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU), Taipei, Taiwan. She holds an MA in journalism from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and an MA in Taiwanese Literature from National Cheng-kung University, Tainan, Taiwan. Her research interests range from Hoklo and Hakka literatures, ethnicities, Plain Aborigines’ Studies, feminism, nationalism to social linguistics, pop culture and folk studies. For years, she has been participating in the revitalization of Taiwanese native tongues, such as Hoklo, Hakka and the Austronesian Siraya language. Her recent publications include, “Decolonizing and De-Han Historical Interpretation A Supplementary History of My Homeland”, Taiwanese Literature Review, Vol. 8, No. 3 (2008), and “Sirayan Women’s De-Han and De-patriarchal Multi-marginal Struggles in A Supplementary History of My Homeland”, Journal of Taiwan Literary Studies No. 8 (2009).

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