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A National Cinema for a Puppet State: The Manchurian Motion Picture Association

Abstract and Keywords

Founded in 1937, the Manchurian Motion Picture Association (Manying) produced hundreds of films to propagate the ideology of the Great East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere, most of which were lost in the postwar chaos. This chapter analyzes Manying’s magazines, former employee memoirs, and seven extant films—including wartime interracial romances starring the Japanese-born Li Xianglan, who always played Chinese roles, a musical on the Russian community in Harbin, a comedy about a country bumpkin in the modern capital, a historical costume drama on the Opium War, as well as an animated “educational documentary” on the dangers of lice. Despite Manying’s exclusion from national film historiographies, this chapter shows that it was created as a “national cinema” that was to help a nation-building process, yet its remnant fragments evoked ambivalent and contradictory imaginations of nationhood, serving as an illuminating parable for the aspirations and failures of modern states to engineer identities through cinema.

Keywords: Manchuria, propaganda, Li Xianglan, Sino-Japanese coproductions, musical, comedy, historical costume film, documentary, animation

While studying in Beijing in 1937, a seventeen-year-old girl, born to Japanese parents in Manchuria, found herself in a Chinese student demonstration against the Japanese, where everyone had to answer the question: “What will you do when the Japanese are here?” While her Japanese name was Yamaguchi Yoshiko 山口淑子, she often used her Chinese name, Li Xianglan 李香蘭, and her fellow students were not aware of her ethnic identity. When her turn came, she said: “I will stand on the city wall.”1

In the following years, Li Xianglan would become the brightest star of the Manchurian Motion Picture Association (Man’ei or Manying 满映), and her “pan-Asian” face and multilingual voice became the most memorable icon of the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. Having played the Chinese lover of a Japanese man in multiple films, she was put on trial after the end of the war in 1945 as a traitor to China and would have been sentenced to death had she not been able to prove her Japanese nationality just in the nick of time.2

These two biographical events bookend the rise and fall of Manying and evoke the conflicted position that Li Xianglan occupies in and outside her films. The liminal figure of the city wall articulates the contentious identity politics of Manchuria as a place beyond the Great Wall and at the geographic margins of both Japan and China proper, whereas the unfinished trial allegorizes the unsettled political and historical status of Manchuria’s cultural productions, subject to subsequent rediscovery and reevaluation, denunciation and dismissal. While Li Xianglan reclaimed her Japanese name and returned to Japan after the war, hundreds of films made by Manying and the South Manchurian Railway Company were lost in the chaos of political transition, with but a small fraction having been recovered over the last two decades, mostly from the Russian film archive Gosfilmofond by a group of Japanese researchers. In 1995, a thirty-VHS (p. 80) set of these films was released in Japan, and the Japanese scholar Yamaguchi Takeshi presented a copy to the Chinese government in order to “give the people in China who helped make these films a second chance to see them.” In response, People’s Daily (人民日報) published an article referring to these films as “visible evidence of cultural invasion” and “shameful documents of the crimes of the Japanese militarists.”3

Based on research into several extant Manying features and documentaries, film magazines, and published reminiscences by former Manying employees, this chapter explores the liminal position of Li Xianglan, Manying, and Manchuria at the margins of overlapping nations and national histories. As much as this cinema—including the films themselves, the film industry, and a broader film culture—has been excluded from national film historiographies, I will show that the cinema was created to advance a nation-building process, even as its productions evoked ambivalent and contradictory visions of nationhood. Manying’s leaders were unabashed about their alignment with “national policy,” and the films tried hard to interpellate Manchuria’s multiethnic citizens as members of the same imagined community and to transform the region from a battlefield and frontier into a “homeland” for prodigal sons and daughters. At the same time, “Manchurian cinema” embodied many of the innate contradictions of Manzhouguo as a nation-state—such as the tension between the trumpeted “harmony of the five races” and the perceived racial superiority of the Japanese. Whereas earlier works fetishized “virgin landscapes” and strove to cultivate “virgin mindscapes,” Manying’s staff of almost 2,000 employees by the end of the war mirrored the complex composition of the audiences of its films. These audiences included Japanese and Chinese, idealists and cynics, leftists and rightists, underground Nationalist agents and Communist guerrillas, together with politically naive adolescent actors. Transcending the simplistic binary of resistance and collaboration that characterizes many existing accounts of Manying, I will instead attend to the ambiguities and contingencies faced by the filmmakers and their audiences, who invested these cinematic works with heterogeneous meanings and disparate ideas of nationhood. Ultimately, Manying’s fragments may serve as a parable for the aspirations and failures of modern states to engineer national identities through cinema.4

Bearing in mind the irony that the Chinese Communist Party, the greatest denouncers of Japanese imperial propaganda, quickly took over Manying’s facilities at the end of the war to construct its own propagandistic film industry,5 the study of Manzhouguo’s cinema—in its crude form, short life-span, and retrospective illegitimacy—may offer some insights into cinema’s role in generating imagined communities. Whereas Benedict Anderson has emphasized the role of print culture in the creation and affirmation of a national imaginary, the case of Manzhouguo’s cinema shows that nationalizing intentions were also supported by a culture of images designed to display national unity in and through regional and ethnic diversity. Moreover, whereas Benedict Anderson argues that the nation is in large measure imagined retrospectively, Manying—to borrow an observation Noel Carroll and Sally Banes make with respect to Eisenstein’s The Old and the New—instead “offers an interesting counterpoint—that of a nation imagined prospectively.” Indeed, like the Soviet Union, Manzhouguo “literally had to be invented,” and “cinema was expected to play a crucial role in this process.”6 Perhaps part (p. 81) of the reason why these Manying films remain taboo in China today is precisely because they mirror all too well the cinematic fabrication of the nation that characterized the rise of the People’s Republic itself.

The Creation of a “National Cinema”

What does it mean to create a national cinema from scratch? At the time of Manying’s founding in 1937, there were already seventy-six film theaters built by Chinese, Japanese, and Russian entrepreneurs in Manchuria, screening films imported from Europe, America, and Japan, as well as ones made in Shanghai. The filmmaking unit of the Japanese-owned South Manchurian Railway Company (Mantetsu) had been making travelogues, newsreels, ethnographic films, and science films about the region since 1924, advertising Manchuria and the railroad to a Japanese audience. By contrast, Manying was created to make “Manchurian films” for “Manchurians” (Manshū jin) or “Manzhouguoans” (Manshū kokujin)—which is to say, all the citizens of the nation of Manzhouguo.

For such a national cinema to come into being, one needs to build a film studio, recruit “domestic” actors and staff, and create a distribution network that can bring the films to a “national” audience. Mantetsu provided half of the investment capital for Manying, as well as major technical personnel for the film unit and a basic infrastructure for the exhibition of films along the railway lines. As the construction of the film studio in Xinjing (today’s Changchun Film Studios) was under way, the first groups of “Manchurian” actors as well as assistant directors and cameramen were recruited from the local population, among them Li Xianglan. Manying also launched a film magazine, Manchurian Film (满洲映畫), to help cultivate cinephilia among its potential audience and to spell out the future visions for this emergent national cinema.

The first issue of Manchurian Film was published in December 1937 with separate Japanese-language and “Manchurian” (Chinese-language) editions, which came together bilingually in the same magazine in August 1939. The cover of the inaugural issue shows a woman in a Chinese opera costume, followed by a six-page photo spread on the “natural resources for Manchurian cinema,” featuring clear blue skies, songs of grasslands, coal mining, and so-called “descendents of Genghis Khan.” The next page features photos of newly recruited Manchurian actors and their new lives on the set. These opening images emphasize the role of women, landscape, and the native “noble savages” as cinema’s raw materials—not civilization but nature to be exploited. Manying is likened to a piece of virgin land to be developed, an immature child to be nurtured.7 Meanwhile, this industry is to cultivate a naive and semiliterate population, providing them with a young nation’s founding myths.

The magazine’s articles are self-righteous regarding the propagandistic or “educational” purpose of cinema, valued above mere entertainment.8 They spell out the hopes for “our country’s new cinema” and speak of film’s power to enter the hearts and influence the (p. 82) thoughts of the nation’s citizens, and of the necessity of having a national cinema adapted to local circumstances and customs, rather than relying on imports. Arguing that film productions must have convictions rather than pandering to the audience’s low tastes, the magazine also attacks martial-arts films that cause social disorder by praising rebellion against authority.9 The most frequently used adjectives for an ideal Manchurian cinema are “wholesome” (健全) and “bright” (明朗), as opposed to immoral and decadent.10

Amakasu Masahiko, Manying’s infamous and powerful leader from 1939, was determined to make films that appealed to the Manchurians, training local directors and scriptwriters, as well as hiring talented staff regardless of their political orientations.11 By early 1940, Manchurian directors who finished their training as assistant directors at Manying were allowed to direct their own films.12 Moreover, the magazine frequently published sample scripts, film scenarios, and how-to guides instructing aspiring screenwriters among the Manchurian readers on how to write filmable scripts. There were also suggestions for Japanese directors to give Manchurian actors greater agency.13 Under these policies, Manying produced a total of 108 “entertainment” features, 189 “educational” documentaries, and hundreds of newsreels and children’s programs.14

As for distribution, over the course of Manying’s existence the number of film theaters in Manchuria almost tripled—half of which were owned by Chinese and the other half by Japanese, thereby catering to their respective audiences.15 Since most cinemas were in urban areas, Manying also employed itinerant projection teams to screen films in townships lacking cinemas and in schools, either for free or for a nominal fee.16 These screenings took place along the railroad lines, in Japanese schools and migrant villages, and in northern peripheral regions. There were also “special screenings” targeting migrant laborers from China proper.17 By 1944, these projection teams documented four or five million viewers a year, and Manchurian Film would occasionally publish essays by projectionists on the delight with which these screenings were received by rural audiences.18 On the other hand, a Chinese member of a Manying projection team recalls that they sometimes faced death threats in villages under strong Communist influence.19

Despite efforts to attract local audiences, Manying films never truly became popular. According to a 1939 survey of educated Manchurian viewers, the obvious lack of familiarity with Manchurian life rendered films by Japanese directors—which were often adaptations from Japanese originals—dull and implausible.20 The ever-widening gap between what was projected on-screen and what was experienced in reality was perhaps another reason why audiences did not flock to the cinema. One of Manying’s Manchurian directors, Wang Ze 王則, wrote in a 1943 issue of Manchurian Film that a typical Manying film is “like an ugly daughter; no matter how much dowry her parents prepare for her, they simply can’t marry her off because she looks so repulsive.”21 Japanese film critics writing for a Japanese audience also wrote scornfully about not only Manying films, but also the local audiences themselves: “The acting was poor and the story insipid, but even more mystifying was how [the Manchurians] would roar in great belly laughs at the most absurd parts of the film.”22 Even in the early days of Manying, critics attributed the “low quality” of the films to the Manchurian audience’s simplicity—which hindered (p. 83) them from understanding sophisticated editing techniques—and their “gloomy national character.”23 Amakasu voiced a similar condescending attitude in 1943 when he proclaimed that “the films of the Manchurian Motion Picture Association are primarily targeted at the uncultured masses….We must treat and educate them like children, and explain things to them slowly and in plain language.”24

These comments illustrate some of Manying’s many contradictions: the films were designed to propagate “national policy,” but such “education” would be in vain if audiences were not entertained; they were intended to “make different ethnicities laugh and cry and be moved in unison.”25 Manzhouguo’s populations, however, were deeply divided by language, tradition, politics, and socioeconomic inequalities; Japanese and Manchurian cinemas remained segregated until the end of the war, while Korean-, Mongolian-, or Russian-language theaters were practically nonexistent. Even the film magazine itself addressed Japanese and Manchurian readers differently, treating the latter as childish consumers by giving them trivia, manga, and how-to-guides.26 By contrast, the Japanese sections addressed their readers as makers of national policy, educators, and connoisseurs. Thus Manchurian cinema remained fragmented—unable to reconcile the conflicting identities of its intended audiences.

Colonization as Homecoming: Li Xianglan’s Interethnic Romances

The vast majority of Manying films are no longer extant, and I was only able to locate copies of eight feature films, six of which starred Li Xianglan. Despite this small sample size, these films made between 1939 and 1943 can provide us with preliminary insights into the evolution of Manying and its national imaginary. Three of these are so-called continental goodwill films, set in either Manchuria or the Chinese mainland and featuring a romance between a Japanese man and a young Chinese woman played by Li Xianglan. Transforming foreign landscapes into familiar ones and strangers into lovers, these films sought to resolve the questions of how, on the one hand, the colonizer could become a “native son” of a place he has conquered, and how, on the other hand, cultural differences and misunderstandings between different ethnicities and languages could be overcome.

As if taking advantage of the cinematic raw material of Manchuria’s photogenic landscapes, several Manying feature films, rather than relying on studio sets, instead incorporated a good deal of location shooting so that the spectators could vicariously travel through exotic sights while identifying with the gaze of the Japanese male protagonist on the Manchurian woman in the continental landscape. In the opening of The Song of the White Orchid (白玉蘭之歌), coproduced by Manying and Toho film in 1939, the Japanese-Manchurian couple first appear in an idyllic shot under a tree, and Li Xianglan’s character, Sekko, sings “When Will You Come Again?” (何日君再來) because her (p. 84) Japanese lover, Kokichi, must return to his dying father in Japan. As the song continues, we see a montage sequence of postcard-like landscapes that transitions to a flashback in which Sekko emerges in a rickshaw from under the city gate, again identifying her as part of the Manchurian landscape and the protagonist’s wanderlust.

The remainder of the film, however, uses the trope of the prodigal son to transform Manchuria from a site of adventure into one of homecoming. In Japan, Kokichi buries his father and takes his younger siblings with him to settle in Manchuria. His brother Norio is initially bored with life in the colony, squanders stolen money at a brothel, and runs away from home, only to reappear as a penniless coal miner when united with his brother. After coming to his senses, this prodigal son helps Kokichi defend the railroad from “Communist bandits.” Kokichi dies in battle, and the burial of his ashes in the soil of his adopted homeland becomes his “ultimate homecoming.” In carrying Kokichi’s ashes back to the village, Norio also undergoes a final rite of passage into a virtuous Japanese man and colonialist.

Meanwhile, Sekko has been living under the guardianship of an uncle who is a loyal subject of Manzhouguo, but her cousin, a Communist, intercepts her correspondences with Kokichi and convinces her to join the guerrillas. She reencounters Kokichi in battle and outrages him in her manly uniform and her refusal to speak Japanese to him. As a prodigal daughter, she first deviates from her Manchurian father and her Japanese lover-patriarch, but as soon as she recognizes the “misunderstanding,” Sekko switches to the Japanese side and dies in battle together with Kokichi. Their sacrifice enables the completion of the railroad, and here Mantetsu documentary footage of railroad construction is inserted to enhance the film’s “reality,” in turn rendered part of a fictional national imaginary: Manzhouguo is consecrated with blood of martyrs.

In a later and more notorious continental goodwill film, China Nights (中國之夜, 1941), Li Xianglan plays a Chinese orphan girl named Keiran rescued from the streets of Shanghai by a Japanese marine officer by the name of Hase, who nurses her back to health but only manages to win her heart by slapping her so hard that she falls to the floor. Besides obvious gender metaphors for China as the woman tamed into loving obedience to Japan, the film also subsumes actual Chinese landscapes into a fictive narrative logic that justifies Japanese invasion as the “violent pangs of labor” while “the continent gives birth to a New Order.”27 In this parallel between the conquest of a woman and the conquest of land—through brute force combined with poetic courtship and diligent cultivation—romance becomes symptomatic of a Pygmalion desire to domesticate the wild girl / wilderness into a new housewife/homeland.

Set in the chaotic recent battlefield of Shanghai and serene, idyllic Suzhou, China Nights surprisingly devotes a substantial sequence to location shooting amid Shanghai’s war rubble. After her convalescence from a fever, Keiran takes a walk in the ruined site of her childhood home—not an artificial set but rather the result of recent bombings—and upon seeing a blooming flower bush, she drifts into a reverie of the good old days with her family. A Japanese female acquaintance happens to be praying nearby at her brother’s grave, a soldier fallen in the battle of Shanghai. After their conversation, the two women’s losses cancel each other out, and the ruins attain (p. 85) a sublime new meaning of sacrifice for the common good of the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere.28

Just as spring growth overcomes the rubble of bad memories, the honeymoon between Keiran and Hase in beautiful Suzhou displaces the war ruins in the earlier part of the film. With its temples, gardens, and canals, Suzhou becomes a stand-in for traditional China, but rather than having Keiran share with Hase her cultural heritage, it is instead Hase who teaches Keiran his favorite classical Japanese poem—as if only Japan could restore China to its former glory. A photographer later takes a picture of the two lovers on a bridge, thereby turning a traditional Chinese landscape into an iconic picture of Sino-Japanese friendship. After Hase is called away to war and subsequently reported dead, this framed photograph will assume even greater meaning and poignancy for Keiran. Thus reframed by imperial ideology and reinscribed with Japanese lyricism and Japanese sacrifice, the exotic and sometimes devastated Chinese landscapes have been assimilated, refamiliarized, and rehabilitated for a Japanese audience all too eager to believe in the fiction of goodwill, peace, and harmony in the cruel reality of war.

The February 1940 issue of Manchurian Film published the leftist film critic Iwasaki Akira’s criticism of continental goodwill films for “merely confirming the image of Manchuria in Japanese hearts.” He maintained that “Manchurian films should exist for the masses of Manchuria, and foreign appreciation should only be secondary.”29 Published during Iwasaki’s imprisonment in Japan for criticizing the Film Law, this article suggests a certain measure of independence that Manying had from Tokyo, for after Iwasaki’s release a year later, he came to Manying as a film producer. His first film, Winter Jasmine (迎春花,1942), also featured Li Xianglan (Bai Li) as a Manchurian romantic interest of a Japanese man (Murakawa). Rather than an assertive soldier, however, Murakawa is a reticent and somewhat bewildered young man who has come to Manchuria to work in his uncle’s company. His uncle tells him to live and eat with the Manchurians—“in order to understand Manchuria”—as well as to maintain himself with a Manchurian salary—his Chinese colleagues teach him the art and virtue of frugality.

Providing Murakawa with geographic, cultural, and linguistic orientation, Li Xianglan’s character this time is not to be assimilated but rather the agent of assimilation. Whereas in China Nights the Japanese protagonist picks a dirty Li Xianglan (as Keiran) off the streets and orders her to bathe, in Winter Jasmine Li Xianglan (as Bai Li) admonishes the Japanese man not to take too many baths, in order to cut costs. Whereas in Song of the White Orchid Li Xianglan (as Sekko) tells her Japanese lover not to pay a rickshaw puller who bumped into his car, “because it’s a typical Manchurian ruse to cheat money,” in Winter Jasmine Bai Li teaches Murakawa polite phrases in “Manchurian,” which he subsequently tries out on a rickshaw puller who doesn’t understand him because of his poor pronunciation. The film’s only blatant “national policy” moment is when the Japanese company boss tells his Manchurian friend that he detected similarities between some ancient Manchurian murals and medieval Japanese paintings, and thus the common origins of “East Asian art.” When the old Chinese man exclaims: “What a discovery! You should write an academic article about it,” it is not difficult to hear a sarcastic overtone to these words of praise.

(p. 86) Ultimately, more than virgin territories and picturesque landscapes, Winter Jasmine evinces awe and fascination with “Manchurian ways of life.” Exceeding the film’s simple plot are many “ethnographic moments” where the Japanese protagonist explores Manchuria’s streets alone, briefly joining a children’s game of shuttlecock or gawking at exotic birds and animals at the marketplace. As in previous “continental goodwill films,” the film inserts tourist sights into the narrative “documentary,” but rather than using an imperious gaze that seeks to colonize and transform what he sees, our guide here is an aimless flaneur who loses himself in the crowd.

Thus, the continental romances starring Li Xianglan are mainly negotiations of Japanese identity vis-à-vis Manchuria. Rather than the imperialists and invaders described in history books, the Japanese portrayed themselves in these films as pioneers of the frontier, carriers of civilization, martyrs for a better future, and respectful newcomers willing to adapt themselves to local customs. While transforming Japanese men from colonizers into “native sons,” these films present Li Xianglan as an embodiment of the continent—a virgin land to be loved and conquered, a wilderness to be tamed and cultivated, and a school of alternative ways of life.

Cosmopolitanism and Modernity in Manchuria’s Cities

Not all films made in Manying, however, were as obsessed with the role of the Japanese in Manchuria or in Mainland China. This section deals with two rather different Manying films from 1943: My Nightingale (Watashi no uguisu 私の鶯) is a musical with a mostly Russian cast, uses mostly Russian, and was banned before it was ever publicly screened; Everybody Is Happy (皆大歡喜) is a comedy directed by a Chinese director entirely in Chinese for Chinese audiences. These films share a common interest in showcasing Manzhouguo’s cosmopolitan urban culture and modernization process, and furthermore may be interpreted as both national allegories and as “documentaries” of Manchuria’s and Manying’s own ethnic diversity.

Produced by Iwasaki and directed by Shimazu Yasujiro, My Nightingale was the most elaborate musical made in East Asia up to that time. It featured the White Russian musical community in Harbin, with Li Xianglan playing the role of Mariko, a Japanese girl adopted and raised by a Russian opera singer named Panin—a role that is perhaps closer than any of her previous ones to the actress’s real identity.30 The film opens with a Russian aristocrat singing of exile on a ship to Harbin after the October Revolution and tending to a wounded Japanese man named Sumida, who had helped him flee from the Bolsheviks but was separated from his family in the process. Fifteen years later, Sumida’s daughter Mariko appears under the guardianship of a Russian opera singer. During the Manchurian Incident, their home is pillaged by passing Chinese soldiers, so Panin entrusts Mariko to the Japanese army that restores order in Harbin and tells Mariko the (p. 87) truth of her birth. The ending features Mariko’s singing of “My Nightingale” at her adoptive father’s grave.

On the one hand, the film’s convoluted plot serves to maximize its musical numbers, and the many performances by the Russian orchestra, opera, and cabaret function as a documentary elegy to the vibrant musical culture of the Russian émigré community in Harbin.31 Li Xianglan herself partially belonged to this community by virtue of having learned to sing from a Russian opera singer after an introduction from her childhood best friend, a young Russian Jew, whose gestures and facial expressions Li imitated in her role as Mariko.32 On the other hand, the film, if read as a national allegory, underscores the historical contingencies that created and destroyed Manzhouguo as well as the diverse origins and fictive kinships among its population. The film begins, climaxes, and ends with diasporic separations and reunions at crucial historical junctures: from the October Revolution (the loss of a nation), through the Manchurian Incident (the creation of a new nation), and concluding, I would argue, with the extradiegetic end of the war, which the film itself anticipates. Japanese families in Manchuria would soon be driven apart by the Soviet Red Army, and many Japanese war orphans would live out the next few decades under the care of their adoptive Chinese parents. Li Xianglan would have to “become Japanese” in the postwar collaboration trials, since by that point Manzhouguo, the land of her childhood and adolescence, would have already ceased to exist. In this film, however, her remarkably childish performance makes her appear younger than all her previous roles, as if she wished to return to her cosmopolitan childhood days when her different names, costumes, and languages did not yet bear political connotations, and when performance was not deception or betrayal of a nation.

Directed by Wang Xinqi 王心齊, Everybody Is Happy recounts a rural grandmother’s visit of her children, and the comic confrontation with modernity at the Great East Asia Exposition in the “New Capital” (Xinjing, today’s Changchun). The alignment with the grandmother’s perspective positions the viewer as a Chinese tourist to Xinjing, sharing her amazement while laughing at her country bumpkin ways. This scene was clearly inspired by a well-known episode in the classic novel The Dream of the Red Chamber (紅樓夢), in which the rustic Granny Liu visits her distant aristocratic “relatives” in town, and her perspective as an outsider provides the pretext for a thick description of the house that would otherwise be superfluous. Like Granny Liu, the grandmother in Everybody Is Happy makes a laughingstock of herself—such as when she doesn’t know how to use a telephone—but she also makes shrewd observations and gives hearty advice to her urban children. Not only does she lecture them on the virtues of honesty between husband and wife, she admonishes them to be patriotic and help contribute to the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. In this way, national policy is interwoven into traditional values with which most audiences can identify.

Through the grandmother’s travels, the film connects the idyllic countryside with the prosperous city as two spaces in perfect harmony, unlike the rural-urban dichotomy found in Shanghai’s 1930s left-wing cinema, where the corrupt decadence of the city is contrasted with the moral purity of the countryside. The fairground, the central (p. 88) setting of the film, appears as a miniature of both Manchuria and the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. The exhibitions halls showcase products and technologies from all over the empire, including its forests (a fake forest with fake tigers), its army and air force (model airplanes, tanks), and its culture (music halls). In a sense, the grandmother’s trip—from the train ride to the city spectacles visible from the taxi window, from her son-in-law’s hospital to the horse-racing tracks where her son gambles—are all part of the same theme park, whose boundaries might be extended to include her village and family itself, an idyllic landscape constructed through colonial ideology. Alternatively, the fairground may also be seen as a metaphor for Manying studios, with all its artifice and cheap thrills, the cooperation of the “five races,” and fantasies of progress and modernity. Quite ironically, the grandmother propagating national policy is here played by a twenty-year-old actress Zhang Min 張敏, whose husband Wang Ze, a director and critic at Manying, was later arrested for his anti-Japanese writings and died in jail in 1944. Such retrospective knowledge transforms this comedy into a poignant document of the tragic realities of many who were both contributors and victims of this nation-building project.

The National Body under Threat from Opium and Lice

In addition to films showcasing Manzhouguo’s virgin landscapes and cosmopolitan modernity, Manying also made films that focused on the sick bodies of its population, works meant to awaken its citizens to both internal and external enemies and to legitimate the “puppet state” as a healer and savior. After all, nations are constituted not merely by natural resources and urban development, but also by external threats that help create a sense of imagined solidarity. This section discusses the historical film Toward Eternity (萬世流芳, 1942), set in the era of the Opium War, as well as the “enlightenment documentary” Lice Are to Be Feared (可怕的虱子, 1943). Produced at the height of the Pacific War, the explicit message of both these films was to fight against the Western imperialists, but both works also carry far more nuanced and ambivalent implications.

Coproduced by Manying and China United Productions in Japanese-occupied Shanghai,33Toward Eternity is a historical epic about the anti-British, anti-opium campaign of the Qing imperial commissioner Lin Zexu 林則徐 in 1839. As a poor scholar, the young Lin stays with the illustrious Zhang family, where he mistakes the Zhang daughter’s show of affection as indecency and consequently marries someone else. Miss Zhang subsequently vows to remain chaste and devotes her life to producing and disseminating anti-opium drugs, eventually leading a local militia against the British and dies a martyr’s death. In her 1943 review of the film in the Shanghai English-language magazine The XXth Century, Eileen Chang 張愛玲 points out that Toward Eternity is the first Chinese-language film to portray opium smoking on-screen and thus “deserves (p. 89) much praise for its candor, its many-sided approach to a painful subject.”34Toward Eternity’s most impressive scenes are associated with its subplot and set in an opium den, where a singsong girl named Fenggu, played by Li Xianglan, sells candy. Her song “Come Buy Candies” (買糖歌) attracts customers and wins the favor of the British owners. To persuade her Chinese lover to quit opium, however, in the second round of singing she changes her lyrics to warnings about the horrors of opium addiction, but since the Britons cannot understand Chinese they keep on applauding. Whereas the first performance of the song features several long takes, connected by dissolves, of Fenggu walking through the elaborate architecture of the opium paradise with euphoric opium smokers, the second performance of the song cuts between Fenggu and close-ups of grotesque opium smokers with a punctuated clarity. The content of the lyrics and the film editing work together to expose the phantasmagoric utopia as dystopia.

The film’s portrayal of the Chinese opium smokers as the “sick man of Asia” (東亞病夫) and of the final triumph over the British inspired very different nationalistic feelings among the work’s viewers. For the Japanese Pan-Asianists, only the unity of the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere could save the Chinese addicts from both the West and their own degeneracy. Despite the unspoken fact that the opium trade helped fund the Japanese administration in Manchuria, the Chinese opium smoker, as Miriam Kingsberg points out, was portrayed as “an embodied justification of imperial rule by Japan.”35 Defined against the West, such Asian racial solidarity served to legitimize Japan’s hegemony over other Asian nations such as Manzhouguo. Yet Toward Eternity also spoke to Chinese nationalists in the process of resisting Japanese imperialism, for, according to Li Xianglan’s autobiography, even the Communist guerrillas in Yan’an and the later leaders of North Korea appreciated the subversion of her candy-selling song.36 After all, the performance of the song resorts to a guerrilla tactic that operates on the enemy’s territory, in sharp contrast with the grand strategies of the famous anti-opium official, Lin Zexu. Furthermore, since the film focused on the courage and virtue of female “guerrillas” like Fenggu and Miss Zhang over the more “official” resistance of Lin Zexu, it projected, as Poshek Fu has argued, “an allegorical nationhood…defined by loyalty, purity, and steadfastness.”37

Beyond inspiring a variety of national feelings among its audiences, Toward Eternity’s female characters also embody the heroic dilemmas of the mostly Chinese cast and crew. From a Chinese nationalist point of view, apolitical entertainment under Japanese occupation may be considered what Marx famously called “opium of the people,” but the film alerts the audience that beneath the melodious entertainment could lie a hidden transcript of resistance, and that film could also function as an instrument of enlightenment and awakening. Such enlightenment is only effective, however, when the proselytizer could dissimulate herself and descend into corrupt, decadent places such as the opium den. Whereas the morally austere Lin Zexu fails to help his friend quit opium, Fenggu’s song and Miss Zhang’s medicine are able to do what a righteous man couldn’t. Instead of fighting the enemy and saving the fallen, Lin Zexu and other men in the film only flee to safer places while subjecting the women’s chastity to gruesome tests. Thus the film presents an implicit critique of the Manichaean categories of resistance and (p. 90) collaboration against which nationalists may judge Manying and other colonial/occupation cinemas.

Besides presenting opium as a metaphor for the enslavement of mind and body, nation, and race, Manying also waged a campaign against what seems like a much more trivial enemy: lice. Commissioned by the Manzhouguo’s Department of Civilian Welfare (满洲國民生部), the “enlightenment” documentary Lice Are to Be Feared embeds its propagandistic message and scientific lesson within a fictional scenario with humorous animation. An establishing shot of a miner’s dormitory in Fushun is followed by a comic close-up of a bespectacled Japanese man in cap and uniform, using a paper megaphone to call for clean-up. Next, three unkempt Chinese men protest their sleep deprivation, while a Chinese woman dumps a basin of dirty water into an open ditch. A miner with a fedora hat jokes that he’d be quite lonely without lice, whereupon the camera zooms into his belly and dissolves into an animated louse who responds: “Without you guys I’d be quite lonely too.” Later, a ferocious-looking louse with the mannerism and dialect of his host identifies himself as a migrant from Shandong, carrying the dangerous typhus. Animated anatomical diagrams illustrate the plague’s spread from one body’s itching spot to a family to an entire community, while subjective camera angles and montage are employed to show the developing symptoms of typhus in the man with a fedora hat—heaven and earth seem to change places while he digs his pick into the ground. Thus the film enables the audience to identify physically with the sick man—we can feel his nausea and horror—without feeling any emotional sympathy.

When Chinese workers finally panic from the danger of typhus, there is a cut to a Japanese soldier bayoneting a huge louse. Superimposed over the picture is the intertitle “Lice are like the U.K. and the U.S., and must be exterminated.” Entrenched in war with the Allies, Japanese film productions of this time often included such references—in Everybody Is Happy children use as their shooting targets caricatures of pale white men standing for England and America. The “educational” film that advocates hygiene comes with a dehumanizing message—enemies are vermin to be killed without mercy. Yet while the intertitles identify lice with the British and Americans, the film’s sound track, character design, and editing clearly identify typhus and lice with the Chinese workers. Parallel-cut with animated lice that appear with the leitmotif of Beijing opera drums and gongs, the workers’ crude, unhygienic ways at the beginning render them into stumbling zombies at the end, finally vanquished by—and with—the disease to the accompaniment of a triumphant Japanese military march.38

In the “documentary” segments, although the workers acting in this film are much better dressed than they ordinarily would be,39 we can still glimpse their rather miserable living conditions, with dozens of bodies crammed into the same long bed. When Japanese doctors carry a sick or dead body out with a stretcher, the contemporary audience may think of the notorious human body experimentation conducted by Unit 731 in Harbin’s suburbs. In fact, Unit 731 once employed a Manying cameraman, a former leftist, to film the dissection of a Chinese man’s body after he died from the germs spread by the unit using lice and fleas. Most ironically, one of the cinematographic assistants for Lice Are to Be Feared had himself just returned from the Harbin suburbs, where Unit 731 (p. 91) had spread typhus germs, and was unconscious for forty days after filming some lice in microscopic close-ups.40

As far as the promotion of hygienic habits is concerned, this film does represent a genuine attempt to stop the spread of deadly diseases among the migrant Chinese population. After all, colonization was not only a process of exploitation and suppression, but was also accompanied by some modernization and welfare.41 On the other hand, the reason for such education was not so much humanitarian as capitalist. The choice of locale for the film is Fushun, the coal-mining city that grew in parallel with Mantetsu, the agent of capitalist development in Manchuria. If lives were valuable only insofar as they furthered the capitalist goals of profit maximization, they were equally dispensable for the related purpose of imperialist expansion. Understanding the background of the film as well as its visual rhetoric makes us aware of the Janus-faced colonial policies, a government that constructs with one hand and destroys with the other, that heals and infects, and that has both a benevolent and monstrous side.

From Manying to Dongying, and a Postscript on The Last Emperor

Japan’s surrender in August 1945 brought an end to the short-lived nation known as Manzhouguo, and with it the demise of Manying. Amakasu Masahiko committed suicide with cyanide, and the large staff at Manying was thrown into disarray, with a few Chinese leaders attempting to seize power. Meanwhile, the Soviet Red Army occupied the city and sometimes “borrowed” equipment that was never returned. It is likely that the body of films found in the Russian film archive were among these confiscated materials. At this historical juncture, the Chinese Communist Party in Changchun sent representatives to mobilize supporters at Manying, eventually establishing the Northeast Film Company (東北電影公司), later renamed Northeast Film Studios (東北電影制片廠) on October 1, 1945. The company members were largely self-selected, as conservative or right-leaning Manying employees left on their own. The Japanese technical staff was asked to stay and help build up the burgeoning Chinese Communist film industry, and as repatriation to Japan was only a distant possibility, many accepted the offer. As Changchun itself faced invasion by the Chinese Nationalist army, eighty-four Japanese staff even moved with the company—or rather, helped to move the film studio itself—to the coal-mining town of Xingshan (today’s Hegang) at the Sino-Soviet border in May 1946. Joined by over forty former members of the Yan’an Film Team,42 the studio produced some of the first influential propaganda films for the Chinese Communist Party, among them The White-Haired Girl (白毛女, 1950) and Zhao Yiman (趙一曼, 1950), about a female underground Communist martyr in Manchuria executed by the Guandong army in 1936.43 The latter film in particular turned Japanese characters into “Japanese devils,” caricatures and stereotypes that would persist in PRC war films (p. 92) for more than half a century. Meanwhile, in 1947, forty-three Japanese members of the Northeast Film Studio were sent to a year and half of hard labor in the coal mines for “thought reform,” so that they “could better understand the lives of the Chinese proletariats.”44 After being released from the mines, they participated in twenty-five films—fiction and documentary features and shorts—until their repatriation in 1953. In 1955, Northeast Film Studio was renamed Changchun Film Studio (長春電影製片廠) and was to remain one of the most important and prolific film studios in the PRC. Its prehistory as Manying, however, remains disavowed in China to this day.

I would like to conclude with another “non-Chinese” film that had considerable impact on Chinese film history, Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor (1987), a film whose final hour provides us with the most spectacular cinematic afterlife of Manzhouguo. In this film, Amakasu Masahiko, played by the composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, is a prominent and sinister character responsible for smuggling China’s “last emperor,” 愛新覺羅溥傑, to Manchuria in 1931. Erroneously identified as the head of the Japanese secret service and the chief of Manying, Amakasu turns the emperor’s life in Manzhouguo into propaganda newsreels, which Pu Yi would watch for the first time in Mao’s reeducation prison, reedited as evidence of his guilt and his responsibility for atrocities committed under his “reign.” In this moment of epiphany, Pu Yi discovers, as Robert Burgoyne observes, that “his seemingly ceremonious role as puppet emperor of Manzhouguo had real-world effects,” whereas we as audience discover that “the role of the film as an agent of history overtakes its role as a source of history.”45 In other words, the figures captured on film are found to be at once real and illusory, subject and object, with and without historical agency. The legacy of Manchurian cinema shows that there was more to Manzhouguo than the “theatre of shadows” or “fascist prison”46 that was Pu Yi’s palace, but if Bertolucci could recover some of Pu Yi’s subjectivity from the totalitarian surveillance that fashioned his image, we may also endeavor to “rescue history”—and individual subjectivities—“from the nation”47 by looking more closely at the visual legacy of that short-lived state called Manzhouguo, if only as a distorted mirror of the relationship between cinema and national identity.

Works Cited

Bakish, Olga. “Emigré Identity: The Case of Harbin.” South Atlantic Quarterly 99.1 (2000): 51–76.Find this resource:

    Baskett, Michael. The Attractive Empire: Transnational Film Culture in Imperial Japan. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2008.Find this resource:

      (p. 96) Burgoyne Robert. “The Stages of History.” In Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor: Multiple Takes. Ed. Bruce Sklarew, Bonnie S. Kaufman, Ellen Handler Spitz, and Diane Borden. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1998. 223–234.Find this resource:

        Chang, Eileen, “On the Screen: The Opium War,” XXth Century (Shanghai: XXth Century Publishing) 4.6 (June 1943): 464.Find this resource:

          Choe Kilsung 崔吉城. “Manshu Eiga Shirami wa kowai kou” 満州映画『虱は怖い』考 [On Manchurian Film Lice Are to Be Feared]. In Ajia shakai bunka-kenkyu [The journal of social and cultural studies on Asia] 6 (2005): 121.Find this resource:

            Clark, Paul. Chinese Cinema: Culture and Politics since 1949. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987.Find this resource:

              Duara, Prasenjit. Rescuing History from the Nation: Questioning Narratives of Modern China. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.Find this resource:

                Duara, Prasenjit. Sovereignty and Authenticity: Manzhouguo and the East Asian Modern. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield, 2003.Find this resource:

                  Fu, Poshek. “The Ambiguity of Entertainment: Chinese Cinema in Japanese-Occupied Shanghai, 1941 to 1945.” Cinema Journal 37.1 (Autumn 1997): 69–76.Find this resource:

                    Hu Chang 胡昶 and Gu Quan 古泉 Manying: Guoce dianying mianmian guan 滿映: 國策電影面面觀 [Manying: An overview of national policy on filmmaking]. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1990.Find this resource:

                      Hu, Jubin. Projecting a Nation: Chinese National Cinema before 1949. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2003.Find this resource:

                        Iwano, Yuichi. “Watashi no uguisu to ongaku no to Harubin” 『私の鶯』と音楽の都ハルビン [My Nightingale and the music capital Harbin]. Ri Koran to Higashi ajia 李香蘭と東アジア [Li Xianglan and East Asia]. Ed. Yomota Inuhiko. Tokyo: Tokyo University Press 2001. 77–100.Find this resource:

                          Kingsberg, Miriam. Moral Nation: Modern Japan and Narcotics in Global History. Berkeley: University of California Press (forthcoming).Find this resource:

                            Li, Jie. “Phantasmagoric Manzhouguo: Documentaries Produced by the South Manchurian Railway Company, 1932–1940.” positions: east asia cultures critique 21.2 (forthcoming in 2014).Find this resource:

                              Li Zhanji 李戰吉 and Qian Shouren 錢守仁. “Wenhua qinlüe de yingxiang zhengci” 文化侵略的影像証詞 [Audiovisual testimony of cultural imperialism]. Renmin ribao 人民日報 [People’s daily], May 27, 1995.Find this resource:

                                Liang Xiaosheng 梁曉聲. Yige hongweibing de zibai 一個紅衛兵的自白 [Confessions of a Red Guard]. Beijing: Wenhua yishu chubanshe, 2006.Find this resource:

                                  Lü Ren 吕任. “Zhuming sheyingshi jian daoyan Li Guanghui” 著名攝影師兼導演李光惠 [Famous cinematographer and director Li Guanghui]. Changchun wenshi ziliao 長春文史資料 [Changchun cultural historical sources] 2 (1987): 92.Find this resource:

                                    Nornes, Markus, and Fukushima Yukio. The Japan/America Film Wars: World War II Propa-ganda and Its Cultural Contexts. Langhorne, PA: Harwood Academic Publishers, 1994.Find this resource:

                                      Rony, Fatimah Tobing. “The Last Emperor.” Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor: Multiple Takes. Ed. Bruce Sklarew, Bonnie S. Kaufman, Ellen Handler Spitz, and Diane Borden. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1998. 137–146.Find this resource:

                                        Welsh David. Propaganda and the German Cinema, 1933–1945. New York: Tauris, 2001.Find this resource:

                                          Yamaguchi Takeshi. Aishū no Manshū Eiga [Melancholic Manchurian cinema]. Tokyo: Santen Shobō, 2000.Find this resource:

                                            Yamaguchi Yoshiko 山口淑子 “Ri Kōran” o ikite: watakushi no rirekisho 「李香蘭」を生きて:私の履歴書 [Life as Li Xianglan: My resume]. Tokyo: Nihon Keizai Shinbunsha, 2004.Find this resource:

                                              (p. 97) Yamaguchi Yoshiko 山口淑子 Ri Kôran: Watakushi no hansei 李香蘭: 私の半生 [Li Xianglan: Half a life]. Tokyo: Shichôsha, 1990Find this resource:

                                                Yomota Inuhiko 四方田犬彦 and Yan Ni 晏妮. Post-Manshu eiga ron: nichichu eiga oukan ポスト満州映画論: 日中映画往還 [Post-Manchurian film history: Sino-Japanese cinematic exchanges]. Kyoto: Jimbunshoin, 2010.Find this resource:

                                                  Zhang, Yingjin. Chinese National Cinema. New York: Routledge, 2004.Find this resource:


                                                    (1.) Yamaguchi Yoshiko 山口淑子, “Ri Kō ran” o ikite: watakushi no rirekisho 「李香蘭」を生きて:私の履歴書 [Life as Li Xianglan: My resume] (Tokyo: Nihon Keizai Shinbunsha, 2004), 36.

                                                    (3.) Li Zhanji 李戰吉 and Qian Shouren 錢守仁, “Wenhua qinlüe de yingxiang zhengci” 文化侵略的影像証詞 [Audiovisual testimony of cultural imperialism], Renmin ribao 人民日報 [People’s daily], May 27, 1995.

                                                    (4.) Prasenjit Duara, Sovereignty and Authenticity: Manzhouguo and the East Asian Modern (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2003).

                                                    (5.) Paul Clark, Chinese Cinema: Culture and Politics since 1949 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 28.

                                                    (6.) Noel Carroll and Sally Banes, “Cinematic Nation-Building: Eisenstein’s The Old and the New,” in Cinema and Nation, ed. Mette Hjort and Scott Mackenzie (New York: Routledge, 2000), 121.

                                                    (7.) “Sanwei yiti kentanhui: dianying jianshang zhe dianying shangren, dianying zhizuo zhe” 三位一體懇談會: 電影鑑賞者 、 電影商人、 電影製作者 [Earnest conversations between film critics, film merchants, and filmmakers], Manzhou yinghua / Manshū Eiga 满洲影畫 [Manchurian film] 8 (1939): 42–45. Incidentally, many documentary films by the Japanese railway company in Manchuria were ethnographic works set in the countryside, which focused on the nomadic population and ignored the agrarian Han Chinese population.

                                                    (8.) Ono Kenta 小野賢太, “Kangde liuniandu manzhou dianyingjie de huigu” 康德六年度滿洲電影界的回顧 [Retrospective on Manchurian film in the sixth year of the Kangde reign period], trans. Du Biayu into Chinese, Manchurian Film 1939: no. 12, 18–21.

                                                    (9.) Ri Xuan 日宣, “Suo wang yu woguo zhi yinghua” 所望於我國之映畫 [Hopes for our national cinema], Manchurian Film 1937: no. 12, 7.

                                                    (10.) Shikiba Ryûzaburô 式場隆三郎, “Dianying de ganhuaxing” 電影的感化性 [The influence of film], trans. Mu Gong into Chinese, Manchurian Film 1940: no. 9, 54–55.

                                                    (11.) Amakasu was infamous in Japan for the 1923 murders of leading Japanese anarchists. He came to Manzhouguo in 1931 and was responsible for smuggling the last Qing emperor, Pu Yi, into Manchuria. See Michael Baskett, The Attractive Empire: Transnational Film Culture in Imperial Japan (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2008), 29–31, 123–128.

                                                    (12.) See “Manxi daoyan fangwen ji” 滿系導演訪問記 [Interview with Manchurian directors], Manchurian Film 1940: no. 2, 16–19.

                                                    (13.) “Hôten Manjin seinen bunkajin iitai hôdai no kai” 奉天満人青年文化人言い対放題の会 [A symposium of young and cultured Manchurians in Fengtian], Manchurian Film 1939: no. 1, 55–61; “Earnest Conversations”; Zhou Guoqing 周國慶, “Manzhou dianying de zhu wenti” 滿洲電影的諸問題 [Various problems with Manchurian cinema], Manchurian Film 1940: no. 7, 11–15.

                                                    (14.) Yingjin Zhang, Chinese National Cinema (New York: Routledge, 2004): 84. For detailed statistics on Mantetsu productions, see Hu Chang 胡昶 and Gu Quan 古泉, Manying: Guoce dianying mianmian guan 滿映: 國策電影面面觀 [Manying: An overview of national policy filmmaking] (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1990), 136. For an overview of extant Mantetsu films, see my article “Phantasmagoric Manzhouguo: Documentaries Produced by the South Manchurian Railway Company, 1932–1940,” forthcoming in positions: east asia cultures critique.

                                                    (16.) Hiratsuka Satoshi 平塚敏 “Kokumin eiga ami no kensetsu” 国民映画網の建設 [The establishment of a national people’s film network], Manchurian Film 1939: no. 5, 20–23; Akagawa Kôichi 赤川幸一 “16 mm Jun’ei shiryaku” 十六耗トーキー巡映史略 [Outline history of 16 mm itinerant projections], Manchurian Film 1939: no. 7, 39–42. A similar practice was also adopted by China’s Communist government in the 1960s and 1970s. As a sent-down youth in Northern Manchuria during the 1970s, my father was partly responsible for drawing propaganda on slides that would be projected before the movies at these itinerant screenings.

                                                    (17.) Ono Kenta, “Retrospective on Manchurian film,” 19.

                                                    (18.) Hu Chang and Gu Quan, Manying: An Overview, 208–209. Also see “Earnest Conversations”; “Mikkyo Nekka he no jun’ei kiroku” 秘境熱河への巡映記録 [Chronicle of itinerant projection in the secret border of Jehol], 1939.8:77–78; Ono Kenta, “Retrospective on Manchurian film,” 19.

                                                    (19.) Lü Ren 吕任, “Zhuming sheyingshi jian daoyan Li Guanghui” 著名摄影师兼导演李光惠 [Famous cinematographer and director Li Guanghui], Changchun wenshi ziliao 長春文史資料 [Changchun cultural historical sources] 2 (1987): 92.

                                                    (20.) “Symposium of Young and Cultured Manchurians,” and “Earnest Conversations,” 43.

                                                    (21.) Quoted in Jubin Hu, Projecting a Nation: Chinese National Cinema before 1949 (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2003), 151.

                                                    (23.) Zhou Guoqing, “Various problems with Manchurian cinema,” 12, 11–15; and “Earnest Conversations,” 43.

                                                    (24.) Quoted in Markus Nornes and Fukushima Yukio, The Japan/America Film Wars: World War II Propaganda and Its Cultural Contexts (Langhorne, PA: Harwood Academic Publishers, 1994), 85.

                                                    (25.) Ono Kenta, “Retrospective on Manchurian film,” 19.

                                                    (26.) There are entertaining and frivolous pieces on “dismantling the peep-show” [拆穿西洋鏡] that explain how films are made behind the scenes—how rain, tears, high jumps (Kuleshov effect), car scenes (back projection), and other special effects are achieved. Along the same lines, there is often a two- or four-page spread of “film news” of a tabloid and gossipy nature and short replies to readers letters (“Dianying xinxiang” 電影信箱 [Film mailbox], Manchurian Film 1939: no. 12, 41).

                                                    (27.) I borrow these descriptions from Kamei Fumio’s documentary Fighting Soldiers (Tatagau heitai, 1939), about the “everyday lives” of Japanese soldiers on the Chinese battlefield.

                                                    (28.) Such an ethos also pervades wartime documentaries, best articulated through an intertitle in Kamei Fumio’s Fighting Soldiers: “The continent is now going through the violent pangs of labor as it gives birth to a New Order.”

                                                    (29.) Iwasaki Akira 岩崎旭, “Byakuran no uta ni yosete” 「白蘭の歌」 [On Song of the White Orchid], Manchurian Film, 1940: no. 2, 86–87.

                                                    (30.) Although considerable resources and hope had been invested into this film, it was never released in Japan or Manchuria, considered by the Guangdong army as “running counter to national policy and of no value either for enlightenment or for amusement.” It was only in 1984 that a shorter version of the film was rediscovered and released. See Yamaguchi Yoshiko, Ri Kô ran: Watakushi no hansei 李香蘭: 私の半生 [Li Xianglan: Half a life] (Tokyo: Shichôsha, 1990), 278–279.

                                                    (31.) Iwano Yuichi, “Watashi no uguisu to ongaku no to Harubin 『私の鶯』と音楽の都ハルビン,” [My Nightingale and the music capital Harbin] in Romota Inuhiku, Ri Koran to Higashi ajia 李香蘭と東アジア [Li Xianglan and East Asia] (Tokyo: Tokyo University Press, 2001), 77–100. Three generations of Russians lived in the city during seven decades of their presence in Harbin, from 1898 to the mid-1960s. The first generation originally consisted of the builders of the Chinese Eastern Railway (CER), employees, and private settlers, but in the 1920s, during and after the Russian civil war, its number was expanded with an influx of émigrés of the same ages. Their children, some born in Russia and others in Harbin, formed the second generation, which was fated to grow up in emigration. In the mid-1930s and 1940s the second generation produced the third and last generation of Harbin Russians for whom Harbin was the only home they knew. See Olga Bakish, “Emigré Identity: The Case of Harbin,” in South Atlantic Quarterly 99.1 (2000): 51–76.

                                                    (32.) Yamaguchi Yoshiko, Life as Li Xianglan, 221–222.

                                                    (33.) China United Productions (中華聯合製片股份公司) was a collaborationist enterprise between the Japanese military government and Shanghai’s film industry. The company made only entertainment movies with no obvious propagandistic relevance until mid-1942, when it was pressured to demonstrate its “loyalty” by making a film with an anti-British and anti-American theme. See Poshek Fu, “The Ambiguity of Entertainment: Chinese Cinema in Japanese-Occupied Shanghai, 1941 to 1945,” Cinema Journal 37.1 (Autumn 1997): 69–76.

                                                    (34.) Eileen Chang, “On the Screen: The Opium War,” The XXth Century (Shanghai: XXth Century Publishing) 4.6 (June 1943): 464.

                                                    (35.) Miriam Kingsberg, Moral Nation: Modern Japan and Narcotics in Global History. Berkeley: University of California Press (forthcoming).

                                                    (36.) Yamaguchi Yoshiko, Life as Li Xianglan, 298–299.

                                                    (37.) Poshek Fu, “The Ambiguity of Entertainment,” 75.

                                                    (38.) Such strategies of parallel editing between men and pests are used in Nazi Kulturfilme, such as Fritz Hippler’s The Eternal Jew (Der Ewige Jude, 1940), where torrents of rats are crosscut with processions of Jews. See David Welsh, Propaganda and the German Cinema, 1933–1945 (New York: Tauris, 2001), 245–257. Similar propagandistic strategies would later be used by the Chinese Communist Party during the Cultural Revolution, where adolescents were first forced to squash caterpillars like class enemies and then told to squash class enemies like caterpillars (Liang Xiaosheng 梁曉聲, Yige hongweibing de zibai 一個紅衛兵的自白 [Confessions of a Red Guard] [Beijing: Wenhua yishu chubanshe, 2006], 22–45).

                                                    (39.) Yamaguchi Takeshi, Aishū no Manshū Eiga (Melancholic Manchurian cinema) (Tokyo: Santen Shobō, 2000), 205.

                                                    (41.) Choe Kilsung 崔吉城, “Manshu Eiga Shirami wa kowai kou” 満州映画『虱は怖い』考 ” [On the Manchurian film Lice Are to Be Feared], Ajia shakai bunka-kenkyu アジア社会文化研究 [Journal of social and cultural studies on Asia] 6 (2005): 121.

                                                    (42.) Paul Clark, Chinese Cinema, 29.

                                                    (43.) See Yomota Inuhiko 四方田犬彦 and Yan Ni 晏妮, Post-Manshu eiga ron: nichichu eiga oukan ポスト満州映画論: 日中映画往還 [Post-Manchurian film history: Sino-Japanese cinematic exchanges] (Kyoto: Jimbunshoin, 2010).

                                                    (44.) Hu Chang 胡昶, Dongying de riben ren 東影的日本人 [The Japanese at Northeast Film Studios] (Changchun: Changchun zhengxie wenshi ziliao weiyuanhui, 2005), 24–31.

                                                    (45.) Robert Burgoyne, “The Stages of History,” in Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor: Multiple Takes, ed. Bruce Sklarew, Bonnie S. Kaufman, Ellen Handler Spitz, and Diane Borden (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1998), 229–230.

                                                    (46.) Fatimah Tobing Rony, “The Last Emperor,” in Sklarew et al., Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor, 141.

                                                    (47.) Prasenjit Duara, Rescuing History from the Nation: Questioning Narratives of Modern China (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995).