視覺啟蒙:民國時期面向兒童的電影教育與兒童電影 (1918-1949)

Visual Enlightenment: Children’s Films as Educational Tool in Republican China (1918-1949)

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

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Award date24 Aug 2020




The thesis explores children-aimed film education and children’s films during Republican China under the rubric of “visual enlightenment”. From 1918 to 1949, Chinese educators, intellectuals, filmmakers and the government carried out film censorship and film education towards child audience, and filmmakers produced children’s films with divergent purposes.

The first chapter focuses on the relationship between children and films in early Republican era (1918-1928). As children and the populace were discovered during the New Culture Movement, films were considered as suitable educational tool for them from the perspective of educators. Filmmakers experimented “social film” and “fairytale film” as new genres of children’s films and child protection even provided a solid justification for educational organization and the Beiyang government to impose film censorship.

The second chapter explores child-aimed film censorship and film education during the Nanjing decade (1927-1937). The Nanjing government continuously regarded films as education tools, which transmitted knowledge and more importantly, assumed political propaganda. Through the roles of semi-official educational organizations and Education Ministry, the Nanjing government set up an educational film system for children combined with censorship regulations and film screenings.

The third chapter studies the production of children’s films during The Children Year (1935-1936). As children were widely considered as national subjects in the development of the nation-state, The Little Angel(1935) and The Lost Lamb (1936) represented competing national imaginations and corresponded to the power conflicts between the Nationalist Party (Kuomintang) and Chinese Communist Party(CCP) in the film industry.

The fourth chapter examines film mobilization through educating children in the Nationalist areas and the “Orphan Island” in Shanghai during the war of resistance (1937-1945). Films education in the Nationalist areas cultivated children as militant warriors and disciplined ideal citizens of the party-state. This chapter compares two films with strong focus on educating wartime children, namely educational documentary The Second Generation (1941) and feature-length animation Princess Iron Fan (1941), which drew the defense line crossing geographical and ideological borders, and constructed divergent and competing visual images.

The fifth chapter examines how the Nationalist Party and CCP claimed the protection of child welfare through films in the postwar era (1946-1949). The Nationalist government screened American educational films for children and added the provision of “preserve children’s mental abilities” into Film Censorship Statue, thus projecting a political blueprint modelled by American democracy. Left-wing film The Wandering Life of Sanmao(1949), revealed the exclusion of destitute children under the Nationalist regime, shaped an approximately proletarian and strongly resistant protagonist Sanmao and concluded with a sequence of Sanmao welcoming the Liberation. The Sanmao film represented the opening of the Socialist China ruled by the CCP.

In conclusion, the history of visual enlightenment has witnessed a transition from the intellectual-led educational activities and artistic practice in early Republican era to political propaganda and politicized aesthetics held by different parties in the regime of the Nationalist government. When government-led film censorship and film education disciplined children, the effects were hindered by limited power of the Nationalist government, underdeveloped conditions and lack of cooperation from social groups, thus falling behind the blueprints. As for children’s films, left-wing and right-wing shaped the wandering children and the ideal children through working with filmmakers, corresponding to the political struggle between the Nationalist party and CCP. However, innocent children on the one hand constituted political propaganda, and on the other hand overthrew it from the within.