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Staging Local History between Empires: Shandong Boxer Resistance as Maoqiang Opera

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Chapter Summary

In China, academic historiography as well as a flood of historical novels and films since the late 1980s, and especially popular TV series like Towards the Republic, are engaged in a large-scale project to rewrite national history and thereby rework the nation's structure of feeling in an attempt to reconcile the contesting epochal trends within a new master narrative. The Shandong commoners' anxieties about the railroad construction and their naïve belief in the superiority of their native spiritual power over alien military technology as Boxer warriors find their mirror image in the tragic fate of an educated young man who believes in Western technology and dies as a national martyr at the hands of his own compatriots. The events are not only spectralized in the individual, subjective experience of six narrators, but also transformed into myth and aesthetically repackaged for commemoration in the simultaneous creation of a new Maoqiang opera.

Keywords: academic historiography; alien military technology; Boxer warriors; China; Maoqiang opera; Shandong commoners; Western technology



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