Author Archives: mnewton

Hero: Women Warriors

moon and snow

In the film Hero, directed by Yimou Zhang, a warrior called Nameless is invited to see the King of Qin after defeating three assassins that had attempted to take his life. This particular scene is part of a flashback during Nameless’s account to the king in which one of the three assassins, a female warrior named Flying Snow is confronted in the woods by Moon, the apprentice of Broken Sword (another of the three assassins who is both Moon’s master and Flying Snow’s lover). Moon approaches Flying Snow in the woods in order to get revenge for the death of Broken Sword. At first, Flying Snow refuses to fight Moon and doges her blows. Moon attacks repeatedly and expresses her anger in yells and grunts while Flying Snow remains silent. The two engage in nothing short of a dance ant the forest’s yellow forests are swept up in the movement of their red robes. When Moon manages to cut off a lock of her hair however, Flying Snow agrees to “help her die.” She makes her move and lands a fatal strike. Moon pulls Flying Snow’s sword from her wound and throws it. The sword hits a near-by tree and a close up shot reveals blood dripping from the blade. When the blood drips, the leaves in the forest suddenly turn from yellow to crimson red and drift slowly to the ground. try to avoid description

start from here: The fight scene between the two female warriors is a brilliant yellow and red color scheme. Each account of Nameless’s stories are shaded in different colors from red and blue to green and white. This particular scene is untrue. In this version, the red sets the stage for the jealousy, anger, lust, love and betrayal that plays out on the screen. In this clip, we experience perhaps the only true violence of the film. The fact that blood is only shown in this particular part and that Moon is particularly vocal about her anger through her series of exasperated yells supports this idea. It is a fight driven by rage and emotion rather than a traditional battle of honor between warriors. The yellow, a traditionally imperial color worn only by emperors, ties this scene into the story line as a whole. In the end, Nameless does not kill the king. Through his trials and with the guidance of Broken Sword he realizes that peace rather than vengeance is the only way to unite china ‘All Under Heaven’ and stop the decades of suffering that resulted from China’s warring states. I argue that the yellow not only foreshadows this but is emblematic of this idea. Violence and anger do not bring closure rather, giving up personal goals for the collective good is the only way to achieve peace. Finally, the scene is significant because it is the only one that depicts a battle between two female warriors. This narrative seems to be an attempt by the director to counter hegemonic orientalist stereotypes of women as frail and meek. Instead, the two women are agile, intelligent, strong, and have super-power like ability. At first, the scene seems to propagate the stereotype that women only ever fight over men. In the end however, this sexist perception is done away with when the scene is revealed to be made up and, in reality, the two women are strong, virtuous, and idealistic to the death.

it would be clearer should the writing move from one color to another.

Link to Scene:


Hero, Yimou Zhang, 2002. Film.

“Chinese Essence, Western Method”: East-West Binary by Chen Man

Chen Man self portrait

In her work, thirty-five year old photographer and artist Chen Man “acknowledges the position of China within a predominately western fashion system and states a deliberate use of East-West binary…to work from a truly Chinese perspective whilst adopting western technics.”(Radclyffe-Thomas 4)  By combining traditional Chinese landscapes and modern photo editing techniques, Man aims to “produce modern representations of China,” that replace hegemonic western stereotypes and orientalism. Chen Man’s working modo is “Chinese Essence, Western Method.” (define immediately the claimed notion) In particular, Man’s collection “Chen Man East-West” occupies both floors of L.A. Louver, a gallery in Venice, California.

Long Live the Motherland, Beijing No 3, 2009


Man’s photograph, Long Live the Motherland, Beijing No 3, is part of this collection. In the foreground, a Chinese women stands off to the right of the frame. Her long legs are smeared with dirt and she wears tall leather boots and a short red romper. On each wrist, she wears metallic cuffs and she holds a hammer and work gloves. Her hair is pulled back and a skinny brown belt runs across runs across her waist securing a small brown work apron. Her rouge and pouting red lips are prominent as she looks off to the right of the frame. In the background of the photo is a large industrial complex. The photo is taken from a low angle.


The photos title (Long live the Motherland) and red elements conjure notions of Chinese nationalism. In a way, the photo acts to replace the depictions of the model Chinese women propagated during the Maoist era. Instead of an androgynous genderless figure, the women’s feminine qualities are proudly on display. Although her accessories (the work gloves, hammer*, and work apron) clearly connote that she is capable of any man’s job, she is not masculinized. Instead, her short romper, tight belt, exposed legs, and tall boots accentuate her sexuality. Her up do is in a state of intentional disarray. Her facial expression is one of subtle determination and immediately brings ‘Rosie the Riveter’ to mind. The model’s strong presence is defined by her firm stance, muddy legs, and proud display of feminism. By placing the model to the right of the frame, the viewer’s glance is drawn by a sense of depth to the back of the photo. The industrial background is a proud display of Chinese manufacturing and economic power. It provides a direct link to modernity and only bolsters the strength of the model in the foreground. In a way, the factory is a traditional chinese background. China’s economic power is inherent to the nation-states national identity. This representation defies typical western orientalist perspective by using modern chinese elements instead of traditional symbolism to connote chinese identity. The low angle of the photo accentuates the women’s legs and gives the viewer a ‘bigger than life’ perspective.

*The hammer also denotes communism: revolution/political motifs and empowered female image: call for further exploration. Does the analysis support the claim of Chinese Essence, Western Method?

Sources: Chan Man would be a wonderful case for further research

Radclyffe-Thomas, Natascha and Radclyffe-Thomas, Babette (2015) The new Shanghai Xiaojie: Chinese fashion identities. International Journal of Fashion Studies, 2 (1). pp. 43-62. ISSN ISSN 2051-7106, Online ISSN: 2051-7114


Reclaiming female sexuality through Mao’s Suit

Summer Transparency  Hu Ming, Uniform Series   oil on canvas, 2001

Summer Transparency
Hu Ming, Uniform Series
oil on canvas, 2001

The oil on canvas piece, Summer Transparency was created by artist Hu Ming in 2001 as part of her Uniform Series. The painting depicts a smiling women with bangs in a kaki green transparent romper-like version of the Cultural Revolution uniform. The uniform’s form fit and transparency reveals her breasts and buttocks. The women is in front of a red background and smiles as she proudly shows off her body. She stands firm and holds the proletarian hat adorned with a red star to cover the gap between her slightly spread legs. The side-by-side back and front views exhibit her entire body to the viewer and reveal two long braids. military uniform


During the Cultural Revolution led by Mao Zedong in the newly formed People’s Republic of China (dates) the Mao suit was designed and propagated by the government to promote proletarian values and gender equality. In Mao’s China, men and women were suppose to be equal. However,  propaganda portraying the ideal women did not remove gender but masculinized the female figure. The image bellow depicts a female tractor operator in Mao’s China.

please introduce or make a thesis statement about these two contrasting artworks?

Liu Wenxi, 1970  Published by Renmin Meishu Chubanshe

Liu Wenxi, 1970
Published by Renmin Meishu Chubanshe

In the poster the women has a broad smile and a wears clothe cap over a short haircut. Any trace of the female body is hidden by a shapeless proletarian uniform. Beside her is a green bag with the red star and a copy of Mao’s book. Instead of creating gender equality, this masculinization devalued the female body by making it less desirable than the male figure. Hu Ming’s Uniform Series takes revenge on PLO for the masculinization of the female figure and demoting femininity. Her transparent uniform which reveal her breasts and buttocks embraces the female body. In her painting, the women is just as muscular as the tractor driver but by revealing the attributes of the female body, she achieves a more realistic depiction. Her strong and confident stance shows that women do not have  to be masculine to be strong. She shows the viewers that embracing sexuality doesn’t necessarily mean weakness. By providing both a front and back view, Ming shoes off the girls long hair and contrast with Mao’s depiction of women who has short hair like a man. The red background, collar, and hat connote nationalism and shows that femininity can still be patriotic. The short romper-like suit allows her legs to be on display. By depicting the Mao suit in a way that embraces female sexuality, Hu Ming has reclaims femininity and celebrates the women of the cultural revolution in a more dynamic way that allows them to be evocative, sexual, and strong.

In contrast to masculinized female body in Mao’s China, Hu Ming’s work reclaims femininity and sexuality through visual rhetoric of  military uniform transparency.  If this is the thesis statement and see what happens if you allow it to guide your analysis


Sources: (Black board in-class slides)


Selling Soap and Women: Qipao Advertisements in 1930s Shanghai

Two women wearing cheongsam in a 1930s Shanghai advertisement.

Two women wearing cheongsam in a 1930s Shanghai advertisement.

The cheongsam or qipao has been present in China’s fashion scene for centuries. Although it became muted post 1930’s, leading cultural authorities including world renowned fashion designers, like Oscar de La Renta and Valentino, as well as Chinese art, film and television  resurrected the qipao from an article of service wear to a product of high end fashion in the early to late 1990s. Although the qipao has persisted throughout history, it is important to recognize that the meaning of the qipao has never been static. The qipao holds distinct cultural, social, and symbolic values unique to each of its various time periods.

The image above is an advertisement for Victorian Soap and was published in 1930’s Shanghai. At the center of the photo are two young women. The backdrop is a traditional Chinese garden. One woman wears a red and white floral printed qipao while the other’s is black and white. The two girls have short western hair styles and shoes as well as red lipstick. Both are also holding golf clubs. The women on the left prepares to swing. Around the image is a floral border with inscriptions lining the sides. In the foreground are enlarged versions of the Victorian Soaps advertised. need a thesis statement right here

This advertisement is a classic example of the type of photo calendars typically distributed during this era. In the 1930s, the urban center of Shanghai was the metropolitan capital of China. When situated in its unique historical context, we can understand the picture of the two females as representative of the newly gained independence women had found in the public landscape at the time. The fact that the women are depicted outside in a garden landscape signals to this new sense of freedom. The two women are also holding golf clubs. Previously sports and outdoor activities traditionally reserved for men, like golfing, began to allow female participants in the 1930s.

Western influence from the ongoing colonial era is also signified by their bob hairstyle and red lipstick. Instead of the bound feet of the previous era, the women have natural feet adorned with western style shoes that were more practice for outdoor activities. Although the long qipao’s have traditional floral patterns popular at the time, their short sleeves make them much more revealing that the conservative dress of the 1920’s. In order  to make the clothing distinctly feminine, the qipao’s are form fitted. Before, the qipao was seen as a distinctly male form of dress because of its rather shapeless figure. By this time however, western fitted elements were added to emphasis sexuality and gender norms.

Although central to the poster, the advertisement is not for the qipao but rather for Victorian Soap. By associating the two however, it connotes to the viewer that the stylish and modern Chinese woman is a consumer of this product. In a way, this type of association works to sell not only the soap but the women. If one uses the soap, they too can achieve the sense of sexuality and modernity portrayed in the picture. Although the women in the poster are shown enjoying new social independence, their highly sexualized depiction as well as the manor in which they are sold beside the product, reminds us of that despite the era’s progress, the patriarchy and its objectification of women still dominates.

the thesis came finally at the end of your post, which could be introduced at the beginning

The Eroticism of Footbinding



Source: Artstor, Erotica: “The ‘Golden Lotus’ held in the Palm of the Hand” 1736-96 (Ch’ien-lung Period),Painting–China: Qing–1644-1912 A.D, University of California, San Diego

The above image, titled “The Golden Lotus’ held in the Palm of the Hand” from the Ch’ien-lung Period depicts a man and women in period dress in a traditional Chinese garden. The man, down on one knee,  gently holds one of the women’s bound feet, which emerges only slightly from beneath her skirt,  in the palm of his hand. Her bound foot is at the center of the painting and the two are making eye contact. Their exchange of pleasant knowing looks are illustrated in their facial expressions.

make an argument right after description

This painting relates many of  the meanings and traditional reasons behind footbinding as described by Dorothy Ko in her article “The Body as Attire: The shifting Meanings of Footbinding in Seventeenth-Century China.” Bound feet was an expression of wen civility and were critical in the search for a suitor. The bound foot was erotic for men and, as Ko mentions, suitors desired a small bound foot over a pretty face. In the painting, the traditional garden background emphasis the element of civility in the bound foot. The man holds the much desired “golden lotus” and their facial expressions seem to indicate its eroticism. It’s placement at the center of the painting emphasizes its importance. The fact that the small bound foot protrudes only slightly from beneath the women’s skirt signifies the appeal found in its concealment rather than exposure.

analysis could be in more detail and deapth

– Marysol Newton

Bowdoin Class 2017