Kunming dreaming: Hope, change, and war in the autobiographies of youth in China’s Southwest

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


During WWII, Kunming was bombed, inundated with desperate citizens from other cities, encircled by Japanese forces, but never occupied. While part of ‘free China’, the city was comparatively free from KMT and CCP control, and filled with student activists, intellectuals, and Youth Army soldiers who fled the various provinces of occupied China. The student body of the Wuhua Academy, based in Kunming, therefore included local rural youth, urban refugees, and migrants of various class and ethnic backgrounds, as well as female applicants aspiring to a university education. In dozens of autobiographies written in the late 1940s, first year Wuhua students frankly discussed their tribulations in wartime China and its immediate post-war. These accounts show a sharp decline in the power of early modern urban institutions such as native place associations, which helps us to understand the transformative nature of the Republican Era and the war itself. Student accounts reveal the ebb and flow of wartime China’s urban/rural divide, Republican socio-economic class mobility, and the gradual suffusion of national consciousness among the post-1911 generations.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Habitable City in China
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages28
ISBN (Print)978-1-137-55470-3
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Publication series

NamePolitics and Development of Contemporary China


  • China
  • youth
  • WWII
  • autobiography
  • Kunming
  • Yunnan
  • life writing


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