A Tale of Two Boys, One Bicycle, Reveals Chinese Society:
An Analysis of Conflict in Society through the Sixth Generation Film Beijing Bicycle
A college paper submitted to Dr. Lijuan Meng
Department of Chinese Education
Grove City, PA
Beijing Bicycle is a 2001 Chinese drama film under the joint venture of the Taiwanese Arc Light Films and the French Pyramide Productions. Staring first-time actors Cui Lin and Li Bin, This film premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival and won the Jury Grand Prix and New Talent Award. This film is a perfect example of the generation the director Wang Xiaoshuai grew up in. The people that comprise Beijing as well as the lifestyle they lived are well portrayed in this film. The social status along with the primary characteristics of the movie such as the bicycle (an extremely common use of transportation during this period in China) and mail delivery were great facets to portrayal of Sixth Generation China. The conflicts faced through the two primary characters are symbolic of the issues Wang attempts to express, and leaves an important impact on the difference between stereotypical China and the collection of unique rough life experiences that needed to be expressed with the Chinese people. Through this film Beijing Bicycle I will investigate the work of Wang Xiaoshuai, a famous Sixth Generation director, and explain the particular social, economic, and political trends that Wang expresses through this film while exploring the historical periods that brought culture to these issues as well the socio-economic divisions of change. The emergence of the “Sixth Generation Directors” in the global film market was closely connected to the political currency attributed to their films’ ‘underground’ production in China. The early films directed by Zhang Yuan, Wan Xiaoshuai, and Jia Zhangke, for example were often referred to as ‘underground’ films by festivals and the media because of their taboo subjects, production outside Chain’s official studio system and censorship bureaucracy, and their illegal submission to (or screening at) international film festivals outside China (Chris Berry 2003,35). The underground phenomenon in new Chinese cinema from mainland China is a result of global and local politics. However, underground cultural production is not unique to China and has great importance of historicizing China’s ‘underground’ cinema. This in part can be accomplished by avoiding the pitfall of assuming that underground film in China is a product of an absolute dichotomy between legal and illegal film production, official sanction versus official censure, and market availability versus proscribed access. The Cultural Revolution and its lasting effects
Organizationally, the Cultural Revolution was an assault on the middle levels of the Chinese bureaucracy, in an attempt to make them less bureaucratic and more open to mass participation. The idea was to enforce communism in the country by removing capitalist, traditional and cultural elements from Chinese society, and to impose Maoist orthodoxy within the Party. Economically, revolutionary pragmatism represented pursuit of some Cultural Revolutionary goals, but not others. Essentially most economic activity was halted, with “revolution”, regardless of interpretation, being the primary objective of the country. Equalization of economic differences between city and countryside remained an operative goal, with vigorous efforts undertaken to provide machinery, fertilizer, and construction materials to agricultural communes and to extend educational and public health services deeper into rural areas. (HARRY HARDING 2009, 70) Ironically, the ten years of the Cultural Revolution brought China’s education system to a virtual halt. Many intellectuals were sent to rural labor camps, and many of those who survived left China shortly after the revolution ended. The Cultural Revolution also...
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