Ke-chin Hsia, Indiana University and Fei-Hsien Wang, Indiana University
Why and how did Sissi/Empress Elisabeth of Austria (1837-1898) become such a popular icon in China after the mid-1980s? We explore the post-Mao Chinese obsession with “Sissi” or, more accurately, the fictionalized depiction of her in the 1950s German/Austrian film trilogy starring Romy Schneider. Our effort to solve the puzzle begins with the film trilogy’s entry into China in the age of “Reform and Opening Up,” when the cinematic Sissi established her dominance in defining what is desirable in matters “European,” and began to serve as a central reference point as well as a role model to many in China. In today’s China, Sissi has morphed into a locally-created figure Xixi. Her legacy and images have been used to sell underwear, breast augmentation, apartments, yogurt, and the “Belt and Road” initiative. Sissi/Xixi’s career in the ever-changing contemporary China illustrates not only the mythologized Sissi’s cross-cultural mobility and malleability, but also how the contemporary Chinese have reconstructed their images of Europe and empires.
Co-Sponsored by Germanic Studies, Global Asian Studies, and Moving Image Arts.
Part of the Forum on 15: https://huminst.uic.edu/ifth/events/working-groups/Forum-on-15/2018-2019