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7 The Meaning: Toward a Sentimental Education

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Chapter Summary

This chapter charts the meanings that Mingxing films conveyed and asks about the ways in which Shanghai filmmaking provided what may be termed a 'sentimental education' at a time when Chinese intellectuals were eager to 'enlighten the masses' for the sake of national salvation. It provides a panoramic view of what contemporary film reviewers called the zhuyi/isms or yishi/ideologies addressed by Mingxing films. Many of the ideas and themes crossed artificial boundaries that appeared to separate the 'different' groups of filmmakers: Butterflies, Leftwingers, and Right-wingers. The chapter paints a broader picture that incorporates a large corpus of lesser-known Mingxing films. Three broad thematic categories and two motifs recurred in Mingxing films. The themes include family, marriage and woman; labor, social class and the ills of society; and revolution and nationalism. The relationships between city and countryside and between love and revolution are two motifs that appear in many Mingxing films.

Keywords: Butterflies; Chinese intellectuals; Leftwingers; Mingxing films; Right-wingers; sentimental education; Shanghai filmmaking; yishi/ideologies; zhuyi/isms



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