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The Charisma of Power and the Military Sublime in Tiananmen Square


While a growing scholarship has shed light on the spatial transformations of Tiananmen Square and its environs, not enough attention has been paid to the sacralization of power through symbols, rituals, and mythologies that lend enduring legitimacy to the Chinese Communist Party and the socialist revolution it led. This article examines how the official iconography of Tiananmen Square constructs the charisma of power through what I call the “military sublime.” Using the 1985 film The Big Parade as a primary example, I argue that the martyrology and pageantry of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) exemplify the dominant mode of symbolic investment of space which not only constitutes the nation as a militarized body politic but also frames the tradition of dissent associated with the Square, most notably the 1989 protest movement.

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Yomi Braester . 2010a. Painting the City Red: Chinese Cinema and the Urban Contract. Durham: Duke University Press.

Yomi Braester . 2010b. Photography at Tiananmen: Pictorial Frames, Spatial Borders, and Ideological Matrixes. Positions: East Asia Cultures Critique 18 (3):633670.

Michael Dutton . 2004. Mango Mao: Infections of the Sacred. Public Culture 16 (2):161187.

Linda Hershkovitz . 1993. Tiananmen Square and the Politics of Place. Political Geography 12 (5):395420.

Haiyan Lee . 2009. The Ruins of Yuanmingyuan; or, How to Enjoy a National Wound. Modern China 35 (2):155190.

Xuelin Zhou . 2007. Young Rebels in Contemporary Chinese Cinema. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press.

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The Journal of Asian Studies
  • ISSN: 0021-9118
  • EISSN: 1752-0401
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-asian-studies
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