Reshaping Nature: Humanism, Ethnicity, and Literary and Film Production of the Story of Daji

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


This article discusses the role that nature plays in ethnic literature and films in the Seventeen-Year Period (1949–66). It takes the story of Daji and Her Fathers as an example and investigates the ways in which nature features in the reconstruction of ethnic identity in the formation of a multiethnic nation as in the case of China. I will explore three aspects: first, the debate on humanism, which was closely related to ethnic minority film production at the time. A central issue of the debate then was the question of “humanistic”—that is, affective, emotional, subjective, and most importantly, natural—expression in literary and art works. Ethnic minority identity, with its unique status, was given some latitude for humanistic expression and “natural” understanding. Second, due to ethnic minority groups’ special significance in China’s nation-building, a reconstruction of ethnic minority nature became imperative for the People’s Republic of China. This reconstruction involves mostly restructuring a “second nature,” or dialectic nature of minority under the socialist mandate. This dialectic nature demands something more than natural, immediate constituents and requires a socially and politically mediated ethnic minority nature that is aligned with multiethnic nationality. Third, this dialectic nature is to be formed following Marxist dialectical materialism, mainly through the means of social(ist) labor that changes nature.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)136-158
Number of pages23
JournalFrontiers of Literary Studies in China
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Research of this article is funded by Direct Grant (DR 21A1) of Lingnan University, Hong Kong S.A.R.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Brill Academic Publishers. All rights reserved.


  • Daji and Her Fathers
  • dialectics of nature
  • second nature
  • inner nature
  • ethnic minority film
  • socialist practice


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