Academic journal article Antipodes

No-Man's Land: Migration, Masculinity, and Ouyang Yu's the Eastern Slope Chronicle

Academic journal article Antipodes

No-Man's Land: Migration, Masculinity, and Ouyang Yu's the Eastern Slope Chronicle

Article excerpt

I had had great hopes in Australia. Like many who came before or around the time when I came, I regarded Australia as a land of opportunity. However, that opportunity seemed to exist for Australians and people from other countries of the British Commonwealth and not the likes of me. Even though I had sworn my allegiance, Australians saw in me an un-Australian.

-Ouyang Yu (2002)

The Eastern Slope Chronicle is a novel about migration, focusing on dao Zhuang, a male Chinese migrant who seems unable to belong anywhere. it is also about the protagonist's self-discovery and discovery of his home and host countries. this paper examines the impact of migration on gender norms and how tensions between different gender norms, particularly models for masculinity, play out in the novel. While previous criticism has addressed The Eastern Slope Chronicle from the perspective of cultural, ethnic, or national identity,1 issues surrounding the impact of migration on gender identity remain virtually unexplored.

The Eastern Slope Chronicle is a semi-autobiographical narrative in that author ouyang Yu and his character dao Zhuang have similar trajectories. ouyang is one of the numerous migrants from mainland China who have arrived in Australia since the mid-1980s. He arrived in 1991 to undertake a phd on the representation of Chinese in Australian fiction at Melbourne's La trobe University. A prolific writer in both Chinese and english, he is best known for his poetry collections Moon Over Melbourne and Songs of the Last Chinese Poet. The Eastern Slope Chronicle, his first novel, traces a life similar but not identical to his own, teasing the reader by offering not one but three alter egos for the author: dao Zhuang; Wu Liao, a character in a novel written by dao; and Wang Fu Fei, or Warne, dao's friend, who is also a writer. With the tiananmen square events of 1989 as the historical backdrop, The Eastern Slope Chronicle focuses on dao's multiple migrations between a fast-changing China and a multicultural Australia. Coming from "a family of scholars" (ouyang, Eastern Slope 105), dao completed a Bachelor's degree in english and a graduation certificate from a "postgraduate Class" in China, and taught english at Red Cliff University before traveling to Australia to pursue postgraduate studies. He has a master's degree in Chinese from an Australian university, and is a phd candidate in Cross-Cultural studies. dao's educational credentials establish him as what Kam Louie identifies as a wen man or a zhishi fenzi (intellectual) in the Chinese cultural discourse. in Theorising Chinese Masculinity: Society and Gender in China, Louie presents Chinese masculinity as a wen-wu dyad (roughly equivalent to brain-brawn). According to Louie, wen refers to "those genteel, refined qualities that were associated with literary and artistic pursuits of the classical scholars," and wu generally means "physical strength and military prowess" (14). to make the wen-wu dichotomy better understood by Western readers, he renders it as "cultural attainment-martial valour" (4). An ideal man is expected to possess either wen or wu, and a scholar is regarded as no less masculine than a soldier. A man who has both superb wen and superb wu qualities is believed to stand above other men who have only one of the two attributes. such a man is likely to become a supreme leader. Wen is given precedence over wu, even though both are indispensable components of Chinese masculinity. education in its wen sense is equated with power, so a well-educated man of wen feels that he is entitled to "a leadership role in the moral and social dimensions as well" (5).

Chinese wen men or intellectuals in modern times are modeled on the Confucian scholars in imperial times. in imperial China, because the ruling class chose its bureaucrats from Confucian scholars, scholars were ranked above peasants, craftsmen, and businessmen. in the long sweep of Chinese history, wen masculinity, which values educational credentials and cultural attainments, has occupied a dominant position (Louie, Theorising 17-21). …

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