The best books on Manchukuo (Manchuria)

Annika A. Culver Author Of Glorify the Empire: Japanese Avant-Garde Propaganda in Manchukuo
By Annika A. Culver

The Books I Picked & Why

Intoxicating Manchuria: Alcohol, Opium, and Culture in China's Northeast

By Norman Smith

Intoxicating Manchuria: Alcohol, Opium, and Culture in China's Northeast

Why this book?

This excellent book illuminates the culture of intoxicants in northeast China under Japanese occupation. Smith examines Chinese literature, advertisements, and popular culture to show how liquor and opium were depicted in contemporaneous mass media and impacted local urban communities. He also investigates how popular conceptions of "health" tied in with programs initiated by the Japanese authorities to control local populations, while advertisers of patent medicines, cordials, and tonics also picked up on these themes. Some of the highlights of Intoxicating Manchuria include masterfully vivid descriptions and illustrations of cartoons revealing the uneasy relationship between law enforcement, retailers, public health practitioners, and corporations.


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Japan's Total Empire: Manchuria and the Culture of Wartime Imperialism

By Louise Young

Japan's Total Empire: Manchuria and the Culture of Wartime Imperialism

Why this book?

Young's now-classic book delves into the birth of Manchukuo during a precarious time for imperial Japan. Her excellent use of statistics from Japanese colonial sources illuminates Japanese settlement in the new state, and also reveals much of the ideology behind the Japanese colonists who developed and settled an area that served as a reservoir for individuals and corporations to realize their utopian dreams.


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Sovereignty and Authenticity: Manchukuo and the East Asian Modern

By Prasenjit Duara

Sovereignty and Authenticity: Manchukuo and the East Asian Modern

Why this book?

One of the first scholars to write a full-length monograph on Manchukuo, Duara delves into the Chinese and Japanese writers who viewed northeast China under Japanese occupation as a means to envision their own Pan-Asianist ideals. He analyses this in the context of a broader "East Asian modern" in Manchukuo, and utilizes political and literary sources to unearth previous connections with previous iterations and currents of Chinese nationalism tied to the Pan-Asianism of the early twentieth century.


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Manchukuo Perspectives: Transnational Approaches to Literary Production

By Annika A. Culver, Norman Smith

Manchukuo Perspectives: Transnational Approaches to Literary Production

Why this book?

In this edited volume with contributions from scholars from China, Japan, Korea, and North America, we investigate the intellectual climate of Manchukuo and interrogate how writers found both opportunity and peril in this new state under Japanese control. This study approaches Manchukuo literature from a transnational perspective, and most importantly, not all of the scholars in our collection agree with each other! We contest the "collaboration-resistance" binary that had been so persistent in much scholarship related to China under Japanese occupation by illuminating the complex choices made by cultural producers during their careers. One of our chapters features an essay by one of Manchukuo's last living writers.


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Heaven and Hell: A Novel of a Manchukuo Childhood

By Toriko Takarabe, Phyllis Birnbaum

Heaven and Hell: A Novel of a Manchukuo Childhood

Why this book?

In tandem with the "Manshû bûmu" [Manchuria Boom] in Japan from the late nineties until early aughts, numerous memoirs have appeared on the market by former Japanese settlers of Manchukuo. One of the more chilling and nuanced accounts is that of Takarabe Toriko, a celebrated Japanese poet, who was a child and preteen during the 1930s and 1940s in a family where her father served as a Kantô Army officer near Jiamusi in Japanese-occupied northeast China. She herself experienced and witnessed life under Japanese occupation, as well as the brutal revenge exacted upon Japan's overlords after defeat, where both Chinese and Russians wreaked violence upon their oppressors as the Japanese attempted to flee. As a young girl, Takarabe recounts personal memories of a horror that, ironically, had been experienced by the colonized only a short time before. This engaging memoir expertly translated by Phyllis Birnbaum is both fascinating and a compelling read, as Takarabe crafts a narrative from a child's viewpoint spun out of memories that still haunt with their contemporary resonance.


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