SOAS University of London

China & Inner Asia Section, Department of East Asian Languages & Cultures

Modern Film from Taiwan and the Chinese Diaspora

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2020/2021
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 3 of 3 or Year 4 of 4
Taught in:
Term 2

This module offers a selective yet wide-ranging survey and analysis of films from Taiwan and the Chinese Diaspora since the 1960s, with a special focus on the role that cinema has played in the making of national, local, and cultural identities.  In addition to introducing major historical developments in Taiwanese and Chinese diasporic filmmaking as well as critical approaches to film criticism (e.g., auteur, psychoanalytical, and ideological approaches), the module explores issues such as cinema and memory, the politics of representation, and identity construction of the Chinese Diaspora. The syllabus is regularly updated so as to ensure that it keeps pace with recent developments in these cinemas.  

Students taking the module New Taiwan Cinema and Beyond are restricted from taking this module due to content overlap.

All films will be made available subtitled in English.  There is no language requirement for this module.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be expected to be able to:

  1. have a comprehensive knowledge of the history, main trends and key critical debates relating to Taiwan cinema and Chinese diasporic filmmaking.
  2. have a general knowledge of different theoretical and critical methods for approaching film and will be able to situate cinematic works within their cultural, social and political context of production and reception
  3. have strengthened their skills in research and essay writing and learnt how to extract and process information from primary and secondary sources (e.g., cinematic materials and related criticism), and to combine the two


Total of 10 weeks teaching with 2 hours classroom contact per week consisting of a 1 hour lecture and a 1 hour seminar.

Scope and syllabus

  • Week 1: Introduction
  • Week 2: Filming Imagined Communities
  • Week 3: Rewriting Taiwanese National History
  • Week 4: Remembering Colonial Taiwan
  • Week 5: Confronting Modernity
  • Week 6: Reading Week
  • Week 7: Queer Culture in Taiwan
  • Week 8: Queer Culture and Asian American Experience
  • Week 9: Translating Chinese Culture for Global Audiences
  • Week 10: Becoming Asian American
  • Week 11: Diaspora Cinemas or Sinophone Cinemas?

Method of assessment

A reaction paper of 800 words OR a short film analysis of 6 minutes to be submitted on day 1, week 7, in the term of teaching (15%); a 20 minute quiz in week 11 in the term of teaching (15%); an essay of 2500 words to be submitted on day 1, week 2, in the term following teaching (70%).

Suggested reading

  • Udden, James. “Taiwan,” in Hjort and Petrie eds., The Cinema of Small Nations (Edinburgh University Press, 2007)
  • Hong, Guo-Juin. "Healthy Realism in Taiwan, 1964-80: Film Style, Cultural Policies and Mandarin Cinema." In Song Hwee Lim and Julian Ward, eds., The Chinese Cinema Book. London: BFI, 2011, 95-102
  • Yip, June. “Constructing A Nation: Taiwanese History and the Films of Hou Hsiao-hsien”, in Sheldon Hsiao-peng Lu (ed.), Transnational Chinese Cinemas: Identity, Nationhood, Gender (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1997), 139-168
  • Browne, Nick, “Hou Hsiao-hsien’s The Puppetmaster: The Poetics of Landscape”, in Chris Berry and Feii Lu (eds.), Island on the Edge: Taiwan New Cinema and After (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2005), 79-88
  • Lu, Tonglin, “Melodrama of the City” from Confronting Modernity in the Cinemas of Taiwan and Mainland China (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), 116-154
  • Marchetti, Gina, “On Tsai Ming-liang’s The River”, in Chris Berry and Feii Lu, Island on the Edge: Taiwan New Cinema and After (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2004), 113-26
  • Song-Hwee Lim, “The Burden of Representation,” in Celluloid Comrades. Representations of Male Homosexuality in Contemporary Chinese Cinemas, (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2006)
  • Chan, Felicia. “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Cultural Migrancy and Translatability”, in Chris Berry (ed.), Chinese Films in Focus: 25 New Takes. London: BFI Publishing, 2003, 56-64
  • Feng, Peter. “Being Chinese American, Becoming Asian American: Chan Is Missing,” in Screening Asian Americans (NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2002) 185-
  • Chan, Felicia and Willis, Andy, “Articulating British Chinese experiences on-screen: 'soursweet' and 'ping pong',” Journal of Chinese Cinemas, 2012, 6 (1) , pp. 27-39


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules