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Remembering forgotten heroes and the idealisation of true love: Veteran memorial activism in contemporary China

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Lin, Jacqueline Zhenru  ORCID logo


Recent research on collective memory and war commemoration highlights the ‘conspicuous silence’ of war veterans in Chinese history. Studies of the War of Resistance against Japan (1937–1945) typically reflect either a state-centred approach, which emphasises the official history constructed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), or the alternative narratives constructed by intellectual elites in post-socialist China. In response to these top-down narratives, this essay focuses instead on a historical redress movement led by ex-servicemen of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The former PLA members, the participant volunteers of this movement, devote themselves into seeking and supporting a group of forgotten Kuomintang (KMT) veterans who fought against the Japanese invaders in the Second World War but now struggle with impoverished living conditions. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork from 2013 to 2015, I will show how the daily interactions between these two groups of veterans embody a more private and internalised sense of commemorative yearning for a lost past, highlighting in the process the value of ethnographic research in breaking through the wall of silence constructed by hegemonic histories around veteran communities and their role in making war history.



Articles, China, embodied nostalgia, memorialisation, nostalgia, veteran

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Memory Studies

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SAGE Publications


Embargo: ends 2021-05-18
Chiang Ching-Kuo Foundation (DD024-U-19)
chinese university of hong kong (M.Phil degree scholarship)
Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, University of Cambridge (Fieldwork Funding)