Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Liberal Arts (M.L.A.)

Degree Granting Department

Humanities and Cultural Studies

Major Professor

Todd Jurgess, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Amy Rust, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Daniel Belgrad, Ph.D.


Chinese Modernity, Classic Chinese Aesthetics, Landscape Painting, Realism


The dichotomous paradigm constituted by the realist tradition of Chinese cinema has become the epic and inertial discourse for understanding Chinese modernity. However, I argue that some new filmmakers after the sixth generation of directors have used the narrative and aesthetics of the hometown to change this dominant logic of Chinese modernity. The revolutions and wars of the twentieth century transformed the hometown from a relatively stable agrarian civilization to a modern society in violent turmoil. Recent hometown films are no longer satisfied with this realist aesthetic duality and strive for a pluralistic discourse of Chinese modernity, releasing it from the former oppositional structures of rural/urban, traditional/modern, collective/individual, and Eastern/Western. Using theories from the lyrical tradition, I compare the new hometown film Kaili Blues (Bi Gan, 2015) with the sixth-generation hometown film Xiao Wu (Jia Zhangke, 1998) and argue that the former invokes the classical aesthetics of the lyrical tradition to dissolve the oppositional nature of the latter's realist aesthetics, proposing a polysemy of time and space. The classical aesthetic in Kaili Blues draws on Chinese landscape painting and Chinese philosophy to show the renewable power of tradition, creating an open model of active dialogue with the Western modern in aesthetic and historical terms. By doing so, the lyrical tradition refutes the epic discourse dominated by realist aesthetics, which both challenges the grand national narrative and functions to expand Chinese modernity by exchanging the oppositional position of hometown for a multi-layered, multi-textual symbiotic understanding mode of contemporary Chinese society.