Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

From China Men to Tripmaster Monkey: Border Crossing in Maxine Hong Kingston

Wong Kam-ming.

As companion to The Woman Warrior, China Men continues Kingston’s project of crossing racial, national, cultural, linguistic, and gender borders by incorporating myths, “immigrant acts,” and allusions into the biographies of three generations of male members of a family. What kinds of strategies do these men employ to survive the transition from their homeland to the new world? How do they negotiate the double bind that diverse traditions generate and wrap around them? How do they reconcile the Confucian emphasis on the family to the more individual centered society of the United States? How do they preserve and build a viable community in an inhospitable environment? By naming play in Tripmaster Monkey as a distinctive contribution the Chinese immigrants have made to American culture and society, Kingston has provided answers to some of these questions. To what extent has she succeeded by weaving the story of the Monkey, Three Kingdoms, and Water Margin into the fabric of Whitman, Rilke, and other Western writers? I shall examine these questions in light of Zhuangzi’s perspectivism as exemplified by his butterfly dream and Confucius’s thought on rectification of names, language, and attunement by reference to Derrida’s view on autobiography and translation. By closely reading China Men and Tripmaster Monkey as literary texts, I shall demonstrate that for Kingston border crossing in the final analysis is a matter of attuning one’s ear to hear with the ear of the other.


Wong Kam-ming  (United States)
Associate Professor in Comparative Literature
Comparative Literature Department
University of Georgia

  • Border Crossing
  • China Men
  • Tripmaster Monkey
Person as Subject
  • Kingston, Maxine Hong

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)