The Portraits of a Heroine: Huang Bamei and the Politics of Wartime History in East Asia, 1930–1960

December 11, 2019

This talk explores the life and images of Huang Bamei (1906–82)—a female bandit, guerrilla leader, and women’s organization coordinator. Born to a poor family near Shanghai, Huang Bamei was active in piracy, smuggling, and banditry. During the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937–45), Huang was involved in smuggling and trade with pro-Japanese elements. The Nationalist authorities recruited her troops and hid her past by portraying her as a wartime heroine and model housewife. Yet fears about her potential threat to local communities did not cease until the end of the war. After the Nationalist government retreated to Taiwan, Huang participated in the secret service and guerrilla warfare against the Communist forces. While films and literature revealed her past as a pirate and “Han traitor,” the Nationalist authorities granted her land, garment factory, and fund to prevent her collaboration with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States. Drawing on abundant sources from government archives, newspapers, memoirs, and films, this talk looks at this chameleon-like woman in light of the vicissitudes of cultural and national imaginations in WWII and Cold War. Through a close reading of the life history of this legendary woman, this talk examines how Huang developed her survival strategies during a turbulent time and how her competing representations were embedded in the wartime politics of modern East Asia.


Dr. Weiting Guo is Assistant Professor of History at Simon Fraser University. He received his Ph.D. in Asian Studies from the University of British Columbia (2016). He also holds Master of Laws degrees from the University of Southern California and National Taiwan University. Dr. Guo has published several peer-reviewed articles on law, empire, and violence in modern China and East Asia. He is the Secretary of the International Society for Chinese Law and History (ISCLH). He is currently working on his monograph, Justice for the Empire: Summary Execution and Legal Culture in Qing China, which examines the tension between measures of judicial expediency and the cost of political decentralization in the Qing Empire (1636–1912). He is also co-editor of the Routledge Companion to Chinese Legal History (forthcoming), a comprehensive work containing contributions from the leading scholars in the field of Chinese legal history.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

12:00 - 2:00pm

SFU Burnaby
Academic Quadrangle
AQ 6229
8888 University Drive, Burnaby