Hygienic Modernity and Han Suyin’s Destination Chungking

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

View graph of relations


Related Research Unit(s)


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)916-932
Journal / PublicationInterventions
Issue number7
Online published21 Apr 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2020


This essay examines the work of Han Suyin, an author whose writings offer contested views on the formulation of Chinese nationalism from a transnational and multilingual perspective. While I refer to some of Han’s later works, including her novel “A Many Splendored Thing” (Han, Suyin. 1952. A Many Splendored Thing. London: Jonathan Cape), the primary focus of this study is Han’s first major publication, “Destination Chungking” (Han, Suyin. 2017 [1942]. Destination Chungking. Manchester: Camphor Press), a memoir that generates and critiques historical knowledge on China’s emergent modernity through tropes of desire, embodiment, and romance. Drawing on the idea of “hygienic modernity” that was first articulated by the historian Rogaski (2014. Hygienic Modernity: Meanings of Health and Disease in Treaty-Port China. Oakland: University of California Press), I examine how Han exposes the ways in which bodies and spaces are defined and disciplined through emergent biomedical discourses and practices. As Han’s texts depict the author’s dual roles as both doctor and author, they expose ambivalences that underlie conceptualizations of the body as a symbolic site of nationalist modernity during a period of historical transformation.

Research Area(s)

  • Biomedical discourse, body, Chinese nationalism, Han Suyin, hygienic modernity