Paper Assignment: To Live & the Novels


For the next few class periods we will watch the film To Live (Shanghai Film Studios, 1994).  directed by Zhang Yimou, a graduate of Beijing Film Academy known for films which frequently critique aspects of Chinese culture or government.  This film shows the struggles of the Xu family in China from the time of the conflict between the KMT and the CCP (1940s) through the Communist Revolution (Liberation of 1949), the Great Leap Forward (late 1950s), and the Cultural Revolution (1966-76).  The film is still banned in China today. 


Film Characters:           Fugui = husband

                                    Jiazhen = wife

                                    Fengxia = daughter

                                    Youqing = son

                                    Chunsheng = Fugui’s friend who likes to drive

                                    Mr Niu = town cadre (leader)

                                    Wan Erxi = the daughter’s husband


Themes:            Confucian values regarding family



                        changing shape of the role of sons

                        changing value of daughters


                        the sentiment toward outsiders (foreigners, Taiwan)


                        class labels (peasant, landlord, Capitalist Roader, Rightist, etc.)

                        the changing ceremonies for marriage

                        matchmaking marriages

                        confusion of changing governments in China

                        persecution of intellectuals


For your paper I would like you to choose a (one!) theme.  You can use one of these or you may come up with something else that is evident in both books and the film. 

Make a strong specific claim about this issue in your introduction.  Then, using at least three detailed comparisons between the film and the two novels we have read (citing and documenting in MLA format), prove your claim.  Be sure to fully introduce the authors and the director. Conclude with how this adds to our understanding of China/Chinese people (not just that it does, but how it does!).  You do not need any information outside of the book and the texts (going to the internet for info to put in your paper will lose you points). Plagiarism will result in immediate failure of the paper and possibly of the course.  Visit the Writing Lab if you need help.

Your paper must be typed, double spaced, in MLA format with a works cited page.  No cover pages, please!  (Very good MLA Guidelines can be found online at: