Jiarui Sun

Ph.D. Student, EALC
Méng Cuteness, Danmu Semiotics, and Cyber Nationalism in Year, Hare, Affair


Time: Friday, March 6th, 3-5 pm

Location: Center for East Asian Studies 319 (1155 E. 60th St.)

Discussant: Alex Murphy, Ph.D. Candidate, EALC


The Art and Politics of East Asia (APEA) workshop is proud to host Jiarui Sun (Ph.D. Student, EALC), who will present her paper “‘ALMIGHTY ME RABBIT!’ Méng Cuteness, Danmu Semiotics, and Cyber Nationalism in Year, Hare, Affair” next Friday. She summarizes her paper as follows:

Around mid-2000s, Chinese internet users picked up méng(萌),[1] etymologically meaning “to sprout,” as a slang that roughly translates into “cuteness.” Despite its daily interchangeable usage with ke’ai or cuteness, méng has an additional affective layer that can be incorporated for nationalist agenda. I focus on the nationalist animation Year, Hare, Affair, whose méng animal characters and emotionally-charged fandom reactions popularized a nationalist narrative in line with the party-state’s socialist ideology on Chinese internet. As a derivative category of cuteness, méng has its anachronistic impulse that probes the subject to both embody an infantile performance of a child and project the childlike mentality into the future. The méng elements in the animation engage viewers with sadomasochist feelings mixing both vulnerability and violence, harmlessness and manipulation, sincerity and playfulness. By watching the animation and typing in real-time comments, viewers of the animation are becoming both supporters of the méng characters and a part of the méng spectacle itself. In this way, méng serves as an affective mechanism that allows online nationalists to come across as cute fan girls or méng rabbits on social media. Unlike its Japanese synonyms kawaii (commonly used in real life) and moe (usually used in anime and manga fandom), méng resides between real life and virtual world. Weaving real-life passions with cyber avatars, méng is particularly convenient for China’s propaganda apparatus to incorporate and accommodate a bottom-up nationalism that is powerful enough to manipulate public attention, docile enough to surveillance, and intimate enough to appeal to viewers. Thus, méng in the production and consumption of Year, Hare, Affair formulates and sustains a nationalist semi-virtual presence that coordinates the state’s quest for soft persuasion and the internet’s inclination for decentralization.

[1] I’m using a diacritic to mark méng(萌) here in order to differentiate it from the mèng in Zhōngguó Mèng (the Chinese Dream,中国梦), a phrase put forth by Xi Jinping since 2013 as a set of ideals for the Chinese society. Because Zhōngguó Mèng as a governmental discourse has already caught attention among scholars interested in Chinese nationalism, I find it necessary to mark the bottom-up méng subculture differently for the sake of clarity.


Refreshments will be provided. We look forward to seeing you at the workshop!

Jiayi Chen and Sabine Schulz
Co-coordinators, Art and Politics of East Asia Workshop

For questions related to accessibility or accommodations for those who may need assistance in order to participate, please contact jiayic@uchicago.edu and sabines@uchicago.edu.

Julian Yi Cao
Masters Program in the Humanities
“Visualizing Japan’s Wartime Pan-Asianism: The Ideological Landscape in Triumphal Entry into Nanjing


Left: Kanokogi Takeshirō 鹿子木孟郎. Triumphal Entry into Nanjing 南京入城図. Oil on canvas. 205.0 x 495.0 cm. 1940. The National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo.

Right: Japanese General Iwane Matsui 松井石根, enters Nanjing, China, December 17th, 1937. Photo by Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images.


Time: Friday, February 7th, 3-5 pm
Location: Center for East Asian Studies 319 (1155 E. 60th St.)
Discussant: Jiakai Sheng (Ph.D. Student, History)


The Art and Politics of East Asia (APEA) workshop is proud to host Julian Yi Cao (Associate Professor, UNIST, Korea), who will present his thesis “Visualizing Japan’s Wartime Pan-Asianism: The Ideological Landscape in Triumphal Entry into Nanjing” this Friday. He summarizes his thesis as follows:

This thesis examines Kanokogi Takeshirō’s (1874-1941) painting, Triumphal Entry into Nanjing (1940), as a visual representation and witness of Pan-Asianism at its critical transformation in wartime Japan. A tribute to the Japanese army and the Yasukuni Shrine, the painting depicts the scene in which the army, after taking over China’s capital on December 13th, 1937, held an official ceremony of the city entry on the 17th. Nanjing invites a new way of looking at Japanese wartime art produced in the 1930s and 40s, most of the existing research on which focuses only on the representation of either the establishment or disintegration of the human figures. This thesis argues that Nanjing shifts the visual emphasis from the representation of human figures to the identified landscape elements, thus inverting the pictorial construction by giving both visual and ideological primacy to the compositional background instead of the foreground. It successfully overcomes the circumscriptions of both objectivity and a mere record of war. Instead, the painting actively witnesses the historical event by involving its viewers into a nationalistic participation, through which the notion of a communal body is given form.

This thesis, while providing a detailed visual examination of Nanjing and its comparison with photographs and architecture, combines different types of media and literature—including news reports, memoirs, and travelogues—in order to demonstrate Nanjing’s capacity as an ideologically charged symbolism that uses the landscape to generate a specific interpretation—of the occupied territory and its national icons—that fits with Japan’s own Pan-Asian and colonial ideals. In general, this thesis intends to shed light on the art historical understanding of the subtlety and ambiguity of Japan’s wartime ideology, one that consists of both violence and a (re)imagination of Asia that overcomes borderlines and modernity.

11/1 Jue Hou @ APEA

Jue Hou

PhD Student, Committee on Social Thought

“The Cybernetic Writing Pad: Computer Science and Chinese Script Reforms”

Friday, November 1st, 3-5 p.m.

Location: Center for East Asian Studies 319 (1155 E. 60th St.) 

Discussant: Yueling Ji (PhD Student, EALC)

Next Friday from 3-5pm, the Art and Politics of East Asia (APEA) workshop is proud to host Jue Hou (PhD Student, Committee on Social Thought), who will present his paper “The Cybernetic Writing Pad: Computer Science and Chinese Script Reforms.” He summarizes the paper as follows:

In an era where the experience of Chinese writing is lived through such technologies as the Sogou cloud input, word prediction, and abundant choices of artistic fonts, Chinese scripts seems to have attained harmony with the world of machines. Yet as recently as the late 1970s and early 1980s, when all this was yet unforeseen, the Chinese character faced an impending doom of being abolished against the backdrop of the reopening of conversations on script reform previously interrupted by the Cultural Revolution and the various new demands instigated by technological advancements—the latest of the many crises in the troubled history of China’s entanglement with its script system and a century-long enterprise of national revival. This study is intended as an archaeology of how this crisis (re)emerged in the late 1970s and culminated in the first few years of the 1980s, how the old ideology of phonocentrism and the new wave of computer science informed and contested with each other, and how the series of dialogues between script reformists and engineers renegotiated the understanding of writing at the dawn of the Information Age. In particular, I seek to show that, following a shift from an ideologically informed anti-illiteracy movement to a scientifically driven campaign toward establishing new human-machine interfaces, ci [word] took over zi [character] as the major concern of scriptal modernization, during which the computer emerged as an actant that demands a retheorization of writing. I argue that, while the series of debates over scriptal modernization in this period were carried out in the familiar vocabulary of phonocentrism, Chinese scripts’ encounter with computer science in effect gave rise to a new ideology, characterized by what I shall call “phoneticization without phonè.”