Memories of Redress and Rehabilitation and the Narrativity of In/justice

Pingfan Films and Chinese Political Culture


  • Agnes Schick-Chen University of Vienna



memory, redress and rehabilitation, film, documentary, justice, narrative, political culture, China


After the end of the Cultural Revolution, many yuan’an 冤案 (unjust cases) of the Mao era were revised with the aim of reintegrating those wrongly convicted into the processes of reforms. Pingfan 平反 (redress and rehabilitation) reinstated their and their families’ social and political status, but did not address issues of individual suffering and accountability in a manner that would enable either victims or perpetrators to deal with the traumatising experiences of the past. Film provided a forum to reflect on the lack of answers to questions left over from recent history in the immediate aftermath of the Cultural Revolution, and continued to do so in later periods. This paper traces the framing of related issues from early pingfan films, through independent documentaries of the noughties, to a 2014 film about the transitional period. It identifies three narratives of justice unachieved pervading the memory-scape of China’s transition: the impossibility of achieving justice through procedurality, the impossibility of doing justice to the former selves of those affected by trauma, and the impossibility of providing them with the acknowledgment and explanation they would have needed to overcome the inconceivability of the injustices endured. The finding of an interrelationship between memory frames, discourses on newly embraced politico-legal concepts and perceptions of persistent socio-political problems leads to the conclusion that the conditions of (not) coming to terms with the past have been formed by and had an impact on the development of Chinese political culture from late 20th to early 21st century. 




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How to Cite

Schick-Chen, A. (2023). Memories of Redress and Rehabilitation and the Narrativity of In/justice: Pingfan Films and Chinese Political Culture. The Journal of the European Association for Chinese Studies, 4, 25–43.



Culture and Memory