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Full Access How the Steel Was Tempered: The Rebirth of Pawel Korchagin in Contemporary Chinese Media

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How the Steel Was Tempered: The Rebirth of Pawel Korchagin in Contemporary Chinese Media

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image of Frontiers of Literary Studies in China

Russian writer Nicholas Ostrovski's novel How the Steel Was Tempered (1934) provided generations of Chinese youth with a widely admired role model: a young devoted communist soldier, Pawel Korchagin, whose image occupied a prominent place in the orthodoxy revolutionary education and literary imagination during Mao's era. Over the past decade, Pawel Korchagin has regained his popularity in Chinese media, his name and image have been appropriated by numerous artists and filmmakers to help in portrayals of the new generation's self-fashioning. The various (unorthodox) interpretations recently attached to Pawel's heroic story reveal a huge gap between Maoist ideology and the post-Mao ideas. This paper looks into the intricate relationships between Pawel Korchagin's revolutionary past and his varied contemporary representations. By doing so, I hope to gain a better understanding of the cultural politics of appropriating Mao's legacy to create new meanings for a changing Chinese society. One example on which this paper focuses is the sixth-generation director Lu Xuechang's film Becoming a Man (1997), which rewrites the revolutionary Bildungsroman of Pawel in a startling different context.


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