9/17 | 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM | Baker Hall, Room 434 | 100 Tower Parkway
The popularization of basic legal knowledge is an important and contested technique of state governance in China today. Its roots reach back to the early years of Chinese Communist Party rule. Legal Lessons tells the story of how the party-state attempted to mobilize ordinary citizens to learn laws during the early years of the Mao period (1949 –1976) and in the decade after Mao’s death.
Examining case studies such as the dissemination of the 1950 Marriage Law and successive constitutions since 1954 in Beijing and Shanghai, Legal Lessons traces the dissemination of legal knowledge at different levels of state and society. Archival records, internal publications, periodicals, advice manuals, memoirs, and colorful propaganda materials reveal how official attempts to determine and promote “correct” understanding of written laws intersected with people’s interpretations and practical experiences. They also show how diverse groups—including party-state leadership, legal experts, publishers, writers, artists, and local officials, along with ordinary people—helped to define the meaning of laws in China’s socialist society. Placing mass legal education and law propaganda at the center of analysis, Legal Lessons offers a new perspective on the sociocultural and political history of law in socialist China.
Jennifer Altehenger is a Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Chinese History at King’s College London. She is the author of Legal Lessons: Popularizing Laws in the People’s Republic of China, 1949 –1989 (Harvard University Asia Center, 2018) and has also published on the history of propaganda production, information, lexicography, political satire, and on Communist China’s links to other socialist countries before 1989. Funded by an Arts and Humanities Research Council leadership fellowship, her current work examines the social, economic, and cultural history of everyday material culture and industrial design in China after 1949.
Lunch will be served.
Meet the Author
Drinks Reception 6:30pm
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For nearly two decades, a family manuscript lay hidden in a Chinese bank vault until a long-lost cousin from America inspired the 92-year-old author, Fengxian Chu to unearth it. Fengxian’s story begins in the 1920s in an idyllic home in the heart of China’s rice country. Her life is a struggle from the start. At a young age, she defies foot-binding and an arranged marriage and sneaks away from home to attend school. Her young adulthood is thrown into turmoil when the Japanese invade and ransack her village. Later her family is driven to starvation when Mao Zedong’s Communist Party seizes power and her husband is branded a ‘bad element’. The book traces a century of Chinese history through the experiences of Fengxian and her family, from the dark years of World War II and China’s civil war to the tragic Great Leap Forward, Cultural Revolution and beyond. It is a window into a faraway world, a sweeping epic about China’s tumultuous transformation and a harrowing yet ultimately uplifting story of a remarkable woman. Join co-author of Song of Praise for a Flower, Charlene Chu as she discusses her unearthing of this hidden family manuscript.
Fengxian Chu was raised in Hunan Province, China, spent most of her life living and working on a farm. She briefly attended college, but her education was interrupted when the Japanese army invaded her village in the 1940s. A writer and poet from a young age, she is unique among her generation of rural Chinese women, the majority of whom never attended school and are illiterate. Song of Praise for a Flower is Fengxian’s first work to be published, and among the only known first-person accounts from a woman of her generation about life during China’s turbulent past century. Now in her 90s, she enjoys gardening and spending time with her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. She resides in Shenzhen, China.
Charlene Chu, Fengxian’s first cousin, grew up in the United States and wrote the English rendering of Song of Praise for a Flower. A financial analyst well-known for her work on China’s economy and financial sector, she is quoted widely in the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Bloomberg, Business Insider and other media outlets. She holds an MBA and MA in International Relations from Yale University. Song of Praise for a Flower is her first book. Charlene splits her time between Washington, DC and Hong Kong.
This week and next, 23 Chinese university leaders are on campus to participate in the Advanced University Leadership Program.
The program, established in 2004 in close partnership with China’s Ministry of Education, provides an opportunity for Chinese university leaders to gain an in-depth look at the administrative practices and education philosophies of Yale and of American universities in general. Program activities include a combination of discussions, site visits, and case studies to illustrate the goals and operations of important administrative functions at leading U.S. research universities like Yale and the University of Connecticut, giving participants an opportunity to consider alternative models and approaches that may be applied to and benefit world-class Chinese universities.