Guoshang Cemetery and Chinese Collective Memory, 1945 and Beyond

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by Junyi Han, 20C History and Media Studies

My honors thesis examines how China remembers World War II and what role this collective memory plays in post-war Chinese society. I address my research inquiry through a micro-historical study of Tengchong Guoshang Cemetery, the earliest and largest burial ground in mainland China for Guomindang soldiers killed in World War II. Dividing the history of Guoshang Cemetery into three stages in a chronological order, I argue that while the meaning of this cemetery has changed overtime, it has contributed to the emergence of a nationalistic historical narrative of World War II in Chinese society and the continuance of a collective identity. Combining archival research with ethnographic work, I draw upon a variety of primary sources, including gazetteers, legal documents, newspapers, photos, unpublished memoirs, and firsthand interviews. I also engage with substantial academic literature in Chinese, English, and Japanese. This thesis illuminates the nexus between China’s past and its present, and provides insights into the formation process of contemporary Chinese identity.

The Fox Center for Humanistic Inquiry has allowed me to further develop my honors project within a vibrant, supportive research community. I am thankful for this opportunity and I really appreciate the feedback from other researchers at Fox Center. Even under current circumstances, we are still able to share our research updates with each other remotely. Their advice has helped me better understand my research topic. It has been a pleasure to get to know the fascanting work of other fellows, and I have learned a lot from this valuable experience.

Junyi Han is a senior double majoring History and Media Studies. She is currently working on an honors thesis that examines war memories through the case of the Chinese Expeditionary Forces, a military unit dispatched to Burma and India by the Nationalist government in 1942 in support of the Allied efforts against Japanese invasion in Asia. The thesis will answer how and why the war efforts of the Chinese Expeditionary Force started to be recognized in mainland China in the late twentieth century. It will explore how war memories and post-war politics have mutually shaped each other, and thus provide new  insights into contemporary Chinese history.  

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