Course Syllabus: HUMA 6001T: Comparative Perspectives on Chinese Animation (Daisy Yan Du, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology)

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By Daisy Yan Du

Course Description:                   

This graduate course is a comparative study of Chinese animation between the 1920s and 1980s. Located in an international landscape of modernity, this course will examine Chinese animation in relation to American, Japanese, and Soviet animations, thus providing an alternative perspective to current studies of Chinese animation characterized by a preoccupation with essentialist Chineseness. Covering various forms such as cel animation, puppet animation, papercutting animation, ink-painting animation, and TV animation, this course will discuss miscellaneous artistic styles, animation techniques and technologies, and animation theories concerning race, class, gender, children, animals, machines, cuteness, mobility, and fantasy. This course will target students in the humanities. Students from other disciplines who are interested in the topic are also welcome. All reading materials, lectures, classroom discussions, and writing assignments are in English.  

Course Objectives:      

By the end of the semester students should be able to:     

  • track the development of Chinese animation in an international context
  • be familiar with major animators, their representative work, and the socio-historical context in which they emerged        
  • analyze particular animated films, identify their directors, animation technologies/techniques, their visual styles, and socio-historical condition   
  • understand miscellaneous animation theories
  • use a professional and theoretical vocabulary to discuss animation 
  • sharpen critical thinking and enhance academic writing skills in animation studies      


  • Watch required films in class and read required articles/book chapters every week     
  • Write a reading report and post it online every week (around 150 words)
  • At least one formal presentation (around 10 minutes)    
  • An interest area statement (around one paragraph, double spaced)  
  • A paper proposal (around 2 pages, double spaced)  
  • A final paper (around 15 pages, double spaced)  
  • Presentation of final research project (5 minutes)   

Due Dates:                            

  • 10am, every Wednesday, Reading Report (submit online)
  • 19pm, Oct 9, Week 6, Interest Statement (submit in class)
  • 19pm, Oct 23, Week 8, Preliminary Proposal (submit in class)
  • 19pm, Nov 6, Week 10, Final Proposal (submit in class) 
  • 10am, Dec 8, Final Paper (mail box, general office)     

Grading Criteria:      

  • Attendance: 5% or F
  • Participation: 10% 
  • Reading Reports: 10%
  • Presentation: 5%
  • Paper Proposal: 5%
  • Final Paper: 65%

Technical Issues:                                                         

  • Reading Materials: Available at “Files,” Canvas.
  • Audiovisual Materials: Films for this course are available at the Reserve counter in the Library. You can also find some films online through youtube and youku.         
  • Lecture Notes: Lecture notes will NOT be uploaded online because graduate students are expected to attend classes and take notes. Other course materials, if any, will be uploaded to “Files,” Canvas.
  • Discussion Forum: Students can post questions/comments/concerns about this course for open discussion. The instructor will check the forum on a regular basis to address your postings if necessary. Your postings will be counted as classroom participation.            
  • E-mail: E-mail will be used frequently in this course. The instructor will use it to make announcements relevant to the course. You can also use it to ask questions or express your concerns to your instructor. The instructor will reply your emails within 48 hours. Please check your campus email account daily.

Classroom Etiquette         

  • Attendance is mandatory. It is your responsibility to sign up and track attendance. If you forget to sign up an attendance, the instructor will not make up for it. If you have to miss a class for a legitimate reason, please inform your instructor at least one day in advance and present relevant documents to the instructor within one week after the absence. Being 5 minutes late for class three times will be counted as one unexcused absence. Your final grade will be lowered proportionately with each absence. One unexcused absence means 5 points off your final score. Four or more unexcused absences will automatically lower your final grade to F.                      
  • No Late or Incomplete Assignments are allowed. The instructor will grant an extension or incomplete only for absolute necessities (e.g., medical reason, family crisis) and not because you have too much work and have run out of time. Please inform the instructor in advance if you believe you have a legitimate reason for late or incomplete assignments. You are expected to present convincing documents to the instructor.                
  • Preparation: You are expected to be well prepared before each class begins. Please read all assigned course materials and watch the required films of the week before you come to class. In this way, you can better follow the instructor’s lectures and make the most of classroom discussions with your classmates. Your diligent preparation is crucial for the success of this course.                  
  • Electronic Devices: Please turn off your cell phones in class. Laptops and other electronic devices are allowed only for learning purposes.                 
  • Notification in Advance: Always inform the instructor at least one day in advance for absences and other issues that need special attention and accommodation.        
  • Religious Holiday Accommodation: If you wish to claim accommodation for a religious holiday, you should talk to your instructor within the first two weeks of the semester. Supporting documents are needed.                                                     
  • Learning Disability Accommodation: If you wish to claim accommodation for any kind of learning disability, you should talk to your instructor within the first two weeks of the semester. Supporting documents are needed.                     
  • Academic Integrity: Any academic dishonesty of any kind will be officially processed in accordance with the policies of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.     

Week 1 (Sept 4, 2014): Animation as Special Effects in Early Chinese Cinema                   

Film Screening in Class:   

  • A String of Pearls (1926)
  • The Burning of Red Lotus Temple (1928)
  • The Scene of the Metropolis (1935)
  • Street Angel (1937)

Required Readings:    

  • Sergei Eisenstein, Eisenstein on Disney, 7-35
  • Paul Wells, “Thinking about Animated Film,” in Understanding Animation (New York: Routledge, 1998), 10-34.   

Week 2 (Sept 11): Wartime Chinese Animated Feature Film          

Film Screening in Class:

  • Princess Iron Fan (Wan Brothers, 1941)       

Required Readings:    

  • Poshek Fu, “The Ambiguity of Entertainment: Chinese Cinema in Japanese-Occupied Shanghai, 1941-1945,” Cinema Journal No. 1 (Autumn 1997): 66-84.  
  • Hung Chang-tai, “Female Symbols of Resistance in Chinese Wartime Spoken Drama,” Modern China 15:2 (April 1989): 149-177. 
  • Deniz Kandiyoti, “Identity and its Discontents: Women and the Nation,” Colonial Discourse and Postcolonial Theory: A Reader, 376-390.
  • John Lent and Xu Ying, “China’s Animation Beginnings: The Roles of the Wan Brothers and Others,” Asian Cinema, 14.1 (March 2003): 56-69. 

Week 3 (Sept 18): Princess Iron Fan and Wartime Japanese Animated Feature Film    

Film Screening in Class:   

  • Momotarō’s Sea Eagles (Japan, 1943)  
  • Momotarō’s Divine Sea Warriors (Japan, 1945)

Required Readings:  

  • Thomas LaMarre, “Speciesism, Part One: Translating Races into Animals in Wartime Animation,” Mechademia 3: The Limits of the Human: 2009, 100-128.    
  • Michael Baskett, The Attractive Empire: Transnational Film Culture in Imperial Japan (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2008), 41-71.    
  • “Momotarō’s Sea Eagles,” “Momotarō vs. Mickey Mouse,” “Superman: Japateurs,” “Princess Iron Fan,” in The Japan/America Film Wars: WWII Propaganda and Its Cultural Contexts, 191-195, 198-200, 222-224, 225-229.
  • John Dower, “The Demonic Other,” War without Mercy, Race and Power in the Pacific War, 234-261.            

Week 4 (Sept 25): Princess Iron Fan and the Rise of TV Animation in Postwar Japan  

Film Screening in Class:       

  • Alakazam the Great (Japan, 1960) 
  • Astro Boy (Japan, 1963)
  • The Adventures of Sun Wukong (Japan, 1967)  
  • I am Sun Wukong (Japan, 1989)

Required Readings:       

  • Thomas LaMarre, “Introduction,” “Full Animation,” “Full Limited Animation,” The Anime Machine: A Media Theory of Animation (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009), xiii-xxxvii, 64-76, 184-208.       
  • “Mighty Atom, TV Star” and “Go, Go, Go Astro Boy,” in Frederik Schodt, The Astro Boy Essays, 55-97.   

Week 5 (Oct 2): No Class         

Week 6 (Oct 9): Mochinaga Tadahito and Animation in Early Socialist China     

 Film Screening in Class:        

  • The Dream to be an Emperor (1947)  
  • Capturing the Turtle in the Jar (1948) 
  • Thank You, Kitty (1951)     
  • Kitty Goes Fishing (1952)    
  • Who Mewed (1979)
  • The Magician (Japan, 1953)    
  • The Melon Girl and the Demon (Japan, 1956) 
  • To Shoot without Shooting (China & Japan, 1988)    

Required Readings:          

  • Kosei Ono, “Tadahito Mochinaga: The Japanese Animator Who Lived in Two Worlds,” <;
  • Jeremy Brown and Paul Pickowicz, “The Early Years of the People’s Republic of China: An Introduction,” Dilemmas of Victory: The Early Years of the People’s Republic of China (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2007), 1-18.      
  • Sianne Ngai, “The Cuteness of the Avant-Garde,” Critical Inquiry 31 (Summer 2005): 811-847. 
  • Sharon Kinsella, “Cuties in Japan,” Women, Media, and Consumption in Japan (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 1995), 220-254.    

Week 7 (Oct 16): The Animated Sino-Soviet Encounter in the 1950s       

Film Screening in Class:   

  • Good Friends (1954) 
  • Why Is the Crow Black-Coated (1956)   
  • Little Carp Jump over the Dragon Gate (1958)
  • Nezha Disturbs the Sea (1979)       
  • China in Flames (Soviet, 1925)
  • The Story of the Yellow Stork (Soviet, 1950)
  • The Three Brothers of the Liu Family (Soviet, 1953)
  • The Fisherman and the Goldfish (Soviet, 1950)
  • The Dead Princess and Seven Warriors (1951)
  • The Night before Christmas (Soviet, 1951)        
  • The Golden Antelope (Soviet, 1954) 
  • Princess Frog (Soviet, 1954)
  • Little Gray Neck (Soviet, 1956)

Required Readings:       

  • Laura Pontieri, “Chapter 1: From Propaganda to Children’s Films: The Earliest Beginnings and the Stalin Era of Soviet Animation,” in Soviet Animation and the Thaw of the 1960s, 5-50.    
  • David MacFadyen, “Several Paradoxes of Soviet Realism and Disney’s Unexpected Alternative,” Yellow Crocodiles and Blue Oranges, 31-61.   
  • Tina Mai Chen, “Internationalism and Cultural Experience: Soviet Films and Popular Chinese Understandings of the Future in the 1950s,” Cultural Critique 58 (Autumn, 2004): 82-114.        
  • Tina Mai Chen, “Socialism, Aestheticized Bodies and International Circuits of Gender: Soviet Female Film Stars in the People’s Republic of China, 1949-1969,” Journal of the Canadian Historical Association (Online) 18.2 (2007): 53-80.     

Week 8 (Oct 23): Animated Imagination of the Capitalist West in Socialist China           

 Film Screening in Class:         

  • The Wandering Life of the Three-Haired Boy (1958)
  • Who Sings the Best (1958) 
  • The Fishing Boy (1959) 
  • The Lobster (1959)     
  • The Pigeon (1960)    
  • The Little Guests of the Sun (1961)  
  • A Dream of Gold (1963)  

Required Readings:           

  • Benedict Anderson, “Introduction,” Imagined Communities, 1-7.  
  • Edward Said, “Introduction,” Orientalism (New York: Vintage Books, 1979), 1-28.
  • Xiaomei Chen, “Introduction,” Occidentalism: A Theory of Counter-Discourse in Post-Mao China, 1-26.
  • Jing Li, China’s America: The Chinese View the United States, 51-120.   
  • Michael Berry, “The Absent American: Figuring the United States in Chinese Cinema of the Reform Era,” A Companion to Chinese Cinema, eds., Yingjin Zhang (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012, 552-574), 553.    
  • Christina Kelin, “Introduction,” Cold War Orientalism: Asia in the Middlebrow Imagination, 1945-1961, 2003, 1-17.        

Week 9 (Oct 30): The Rise of the National Style in the Early 1960s: Ink-Painting Animation    

Film Screening in Class:        

  • Little Tadpoles Look for Mama (1960) 
  • The Herd Boy’s Flute (1964) 
  • The Deer Bell (1982) 
  • Feelings of Mountains and Rivers (1988)
  • Harmonious China (2010, Shanghai Expo)   
  • Along the River during the Qingming Festival (2010, Shanghai Expo) 

Required Readings:       

  • Susan Napier, “Anime and Local/Global Identity,” Anime: From Akira to Howl’s Moving Castle, 15-34.  
  • Scarlett Ju-yu Jang, “Ox-herding Painting in the Sung dynasty,” Artibus Asiae ½ (1992): 54-93.   
  • Julia Andrews, “Traditional Painting in New China: Guohua and the Anti-Rightist Campaign,” The Journal of Asian Studies 49 (August 1990): 555-585.         
  • Julia Andrews, Painters and Politics in the People’s Republic of China: 1949-1979 (Berkeley: University of California Press), 1994. (Browsing relevant chapters)  

Week 10 (Nov 6): The Rise of the National Style in the Early 1960s: Cel and Papercutting Animation    

Film Screening in Class:         

  • The Conceited General (1956) 
  • Pigsy Eats Watermelon (1958)
  • The Fishing Boy (1959)
  • Uproar in Heaven (1960-1964)      

Required Readings:       

  • Mary Ann Farquhar, “Monks and Monkey: A Study of ‘National Style’ in Chinese Animation,” Animation Journal, 1:2 (Spring 1993): 5-27.
  • Rey Chow, “Introduction: On Chineseness as a Theoretical Problem,” Boundary 2 25:3 (1998): 1-24.
  • Yingjin Zhang, Cinema, Space, and Polylocality in a Globalizing China, 16-41. 
  • Sheldon Lu, “Chinese Cinemas and Transnational Film Studies,” Transnational Chinese Cinemas: Identity, Nationhood, Gender, 1-31.
  • Chris Berry, “If China Can Say No, Can China Make Movies? Or, Do Movies Make China? Rethinking National Cinema and National Agency,” Boundary 2 25:3 (1998): 129-150.        

Week 11 (Nov 13): Animation during the Cultural Revolution              

Film Screening in Class:           

  • Heroic Little Sisters of the Grassland (1965)    
  • The Little Trumpeter (1973)
  • Little Sentinels of the East Sea (1973)
  • The Golden Wild Goose (1976) 
  • The Goat Returns Home (1977)   
  • One Night at the Art Studio (1978)   
  • The Fox Hunts the Hunter (1978)  

Required Readings:                    

  • Andrew Jones, “Chapter 3: The Child as History in Republican China: A Discourse on Development,” Developmental Fairy Tales: Evolutionary Thinking and Modern Chinese Culture, 99-125.    
  • Ann Anagnost, “Children and National Transcendence in China,” Constructing China: The Interaction of Culture and Economics, 195-222.
  • Stephanie Donald, “Children as Political Messengers: Art, Childhood, and Continuity,” Picturing Power in the People’s Republic of China: Posters of the Cultural Revolution, 79-100.
  • Akira Mizuta Lippit, “Introduction,” Electric Animal: Toward a Rhetoric of Wildlife, 1-26.   
  • Paul Clark, “Ethnic Minorities in Chinese Films: Cinema and the Exotic,” East-West Film Journal 1.2 (1987): 15-32.            

Week 12 (Nov 20): The Rise of TV and the End of Animation History?                    

Film Screening in Class:                  

  • Three Monks (1980)     
  • The Story of Afanti (1979-1988)          
  • Police Chief Black Cat (1984-1987)      
  • The Calabash Brothers (1986-1987)          
  • Astro Boy (Japan 1963, released in China in Dec 1980) 

Required Readings:        

  • Paul Wells, “Smarter than the Average Art Form: Animation in the Television Era,” Prime Time Animation: Television Animation and American Culture, 15-32.
  • Neil Postman, The Disappearance of Childhood, 67-97.          
  • Thomas LaMarre, “From Animation to Anime: Drawing Movements and Moving Drawings,” Japan Forum 14. 2 (2002): 329–67.   
  • Mark Langer, “The End of Animation History,” unpublished paper 

Week 13 (Nov 27): Final Project Consultation

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