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Blanks to be Filled

Public-Making and the Censorship of Jia Pingwa’s Decadent Capital
Thomas Chen
p. 15-22


Jia Pingwa’s Decadent Capital was wildly popular upon its publication in 1993. Offering plenty of sex and a bleak view of Chinese society under reform, it was also highly controversial, not least because of the blank squares strewn throughout the text to represent erotic descriptions edited out by the author. Commentators accused Jia of selling out high culture, much like the intellectuals portrayed in the narrative. The novel was banned in 1994 but rereleased in 2009 with one major change: the blank squares were replaced by ellipses. I argue that these blank squares not only make public censorship itself but also constitute the space of alternative publics, whether harking back to an elided past or projecting into a future yet to be written, that the post-Tiananmen Party-state tries to nullify.

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Bibliographical reference

Thomas Chen, « Blanks to be Filled », China Perspectives, 2015/1 | 2015, 15-22.

Electronic reference

Thomas Chen, « Blanks to be Filled », China Perspectives [Online], 2015/1 | 2015, Online since 01 January 2017, connection on 24 June 2018. URL :

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About the author

Thomas Chen

Thomas Chen is a PhD candidate in Comparative Literature at the University of California, Los Angeles.350 Humanities Building, Box 951536, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1536, USA (

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