Interpreting Symbolic Items Across Yu Hua and Zhang Yimou's To Live
Bi-College (Haverford and Bryn Mawr Colleges). Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures
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Yu Hua's novel To Live (1993) and Zhang Yimou's film adaptation by the same name has made waves in both contemporary Chinese and international circles in educating the public about the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. While the novel and the film share the same core story, Zhang has changed certain aspects of the story in order to portray different themes and depict a more hopeful tone throughout the film, as opposed to Yu's darker storytelling. These two works have portrays the rapid modernization and industrialization of China, and these turbulent, changing times have made lasting impacts on modern China. This paper will focus on the symbolic items that both Yu and Zhang employ in their works and how these symbols demonstrate the effects of the choices the Chinese government made had on society. The symbols that Zhang and Yu use in their works are cultural items that a contemporary audience would have had regular access and interaction with. In incorporating these cultural props into their work, Zhang and Yu are able to connect with their audience in ways that other historical accounts cannot. In order to support this argument, I will be analyzing the way these props are used through film and literary analyses. The literary analysis will focus on how these items are described, and the film analysis will focus on mise-en-scene and cinematography.
Chayanit Jenny Yung was a Bryn Mawr College student.