Imagining an Alternate History: Chan Koonchung's Second Year of Jianfeng
Refereed conference paper presented and published in conference proceedings

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AbstractAlternate history, or uchronia, is a genre often associated with literary fantasy. Echoing Philip K. Dick’s classic The Man in the High Castle, Chan Koonchung's The Second Year of Jianfeng: An Alternative History of New China (2015) casts light on the history and politics of Mainland China. Zeroing in on the life of a series of historical figures in 1979, Chan imagines an alternate history of China under the KMT rule. In a matter-of-fact tone, Chan seeks to ask, what would have happened if China were not under the Communist rule? How would it affect Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan? Published after the Umbrella Movement in 2014, Chan’s book forcefully brings up the unspeakable history through creating an alternative world that connects mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.

In this paper, I focus on the role of Hong Kong as an “outsider” in the making of history and politics of China in three ways. First, as a British colony, Hong Kong in 1979 lies outside of official Republican history while remaining an asylum for political dissidents from mainland China. Second, Cantonese language and culture lie at the margin of this alternative history. While the majority of the (hi)story is presented in Mandarin, Chan elaborates on the life of a Cantonese-speaking nobody whose life takes a dramatic turn thanks to his familiarity with Hong Kong popular culture. Last, through looking into a hypothetical past where Hong Kong did not thrive due to the influx of money from merchants who fled Communist China, Chan envisions the future of Hong Kong that is gradually disappearing. In light of Ackbar Abbas’ analysis of “the politics of disappearance,” I argue that Chan’s book asserts the presence of Hong Kong in the making of (alternate) history of China particularly through its marginality.
Acceptance Date13/08/2018
All Author(s) ListGao Yunwen
Name of ConferenceLiterary Fantasy and Its Discontents
Start Date of Conference23/11/2018
End Date of Conference24/11/2018
Place of ConferenceTaipei
Country/Region of ConferenceTaiwan
Proceedings TitleLiterary Fantasy and Its Discontent Conference Handbook
PublisherTaipei Tech Department of English
Place of PublicationTaipei
Pages33 - 33
LanguagesEnglish-United States

Last updated on 2019-12-02 at 14:49