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Symposium at Harvard Seeks to Reimagine Tiananmen Movement

Youth in Revolt: Shu Haolun's "No. 89 Shimin Road"

A student symposium at Harvard entitled “Tiananmen In History And Memory” will be held at Harvard later this week. Following the success of the first symposium, which was held last year, the students describe the event as follows:

Like our forerunners from 2011, we were not yet born in 1989 but were brought together by a freshman seminar and Chinese History seminar, “Rebels with a Cause: Tiananmen in History and Memory” taught by Dr. Rowena He. During our short time together, we studied the primary source materials of the Tiananmen Movement, heard personal accounts of student leaders themselves, and explored the Tiananmen archives of the Harvard≠ Yenching Library. We imagined ourselves into the minds of the authorities and civilians, touched the protesters’ blood-stained clothes, and re-enacted the night of June 3rd, trying to put ourselves in the shoes of the protesters who then were around the same age as we are now. We debated and questioned everything along the way. This symposium is our way of presenting our studies. There have been hundreds of Tiananmen conferences in the past 23 years all over the world, but we are excited that we as undergraduate students are putting together an event on the 1989 Tiananmen Movement. It is our hope that through this forum we may give a voice to those who were silenced and that this voice will help keep the memory of June 4th alive. Our learning experience shows that with free access to information and free inquiry, we as young people can indeed explore history and make up our own minds about truths.

More information on the symposium can be found here.

This symposium stands as a symbol that, even twenty-three years after the events at Tiananmen Square shook the world, both political and personal issues from this era continue to resonate today. Examining the Tiananmen era from a deeply personal lens is Shu Haolun, whose film No. 89 Shimin Road is the story of a young aspiring photographer coming of age in late-1980s Shanghai. Shu’s film, which draws on black and white photographs of Shanghai neighborhoods that have long since been destroyed to evoke a specific time and place, engages emotional and political memory with equal power. Like Shu’s film, the symposium seems to recognize the component of the Tiananmen movement that is very much a story of youth—youth in motion and enacting change in society.


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