PhD 2009, Harvard University.
Research interests: Chinese-language cinema; performing and visual arts in 20th century China; global and regional (East Asian) image exchange; silent and early sound cinema; genre theory and international film genres (especially comedy, melodrama, and musical); historical avant-garde and interwar modernism; theories of play and games; film exhibition and cinephile cultures.
My main area of interest is the aesthetic history of Chinese-language cinema, with dual emphasis on its interaction with international film styles on the one hand and with Chinese visual and performing arts on the other. Genre has been my favored means of intervention as a theoretically charged notion and as a rich set of historically specific practices across media and cultural boundaries. My first book (in Chinese, 2000), Between Seeing and Being Seen: A Cultural History of Chinese Silent Cinema, is one of the firsts to rewrite early Chinese film history from both transnational and art historical perspectives, focusing on Shanghai cinema’s gravitation toward melodrama during the silent era. My second book, The Comic Avant-garde: A Forgotten History of Chinese Cinema and Interwar Modernism (forthcoming 2017), excavates Chinese filmmakers’ avant-garde practices through the genre of comedy during the interwar period. This discovery of a comic avant-garde within Chinese leftist cinema between 1934-1937 crystallizes a local utopian discourse on modern mass entertainment developed since the 1920s, as well as the changing manifestation of the international cinematic avant-garde in the 1930s. At present, I’m engaged in two research projects: the first one considers the aesthetic legacy of the genre experiments conducted by a group of Chinese filmmakers that I call the “Peking opera generation,” whose careers bridged the 1949 divide; the second project charts the convergence of play forms in contemporary Chinese art cinema, including ritual performances, youth culture, and, not least, genre-mixing games.
In June 2012, I co-organized (with Paola Iovene and Judith Zeitlin) an international conference, “Chinese Opera Film: At the Intersection of Theater, Cinema, and Politics,” held at the University of Chicago Center in Beijing. I also curated a “Chinese Opera Film Series” at the University of Chicago’s Film Studies Center that ran from March to May in 2014, in conjunction with the exhibition, Performing Images: Opera in Chinese Visual Culture (co-curated by Judith Zeitlin and Yuhang Li) at the University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art. I’m currently in the process of co-editing with Jonathan Rosenbaum a special issue of the Journal of Chinese Cinemas, showcasing a range of recent work on Chinese film comedy, scheduled for publication in 2018.
- The Comic Avant-garde: A Forgotten History of Chinese Cinema and Interwar Modernism (Columbia University Press, forthcoming 2017)
- Chris Berry, Xinyu Dong, Yingjin Zhang, Zhang Zhen and Song Hwee Lim (Moderator) (2016), “The State and Stakes of Chinese Cinemas Studies: A Roundtable Discussion,” Journal of Chinese Cinemas 10 (1), 2016.
- “Meeting of the Eyes: Invented Gesture, Cinematic Choreography, and Mei Lanfang's Kun Opera Film,” in Chinese Opera Film, edited by Judith T. Zeitlin and Paola Iovene, special issue of The Opera Quarterly, vol. 26 (Summer-Fall 2010). Reprinted in Chinese Cinema, edited by Chris Berry (Routledge, 2012).
- “The Laborer at Play: Laborer’s Love, the Operational Aesthetic, and the Comedy of Inventions,” in Modern Chinese Literature and Culture (Fall 2008).
- 看与被看之间：对中国无声电影的文化研究 (Between Seeing and Being Seen: A Cultural History of Chinese Silent Cinema) (Beijing: Beijing Normal University Press, 2000).
Chinese Film Comedies; Chinese Film Musicals; Cinema, Play, Modernity; Cities in Sinophone Cinemas; Ernst Lubitsch: An International Style; Film Comedy; Media Aesthetics: Image; Three New Waves