Symposium 2007

Symposium 2007:

The Individual and Society in Modern Chinese Literature

Symposium

Main Themes

  • Painful Beginnings-From Violence of History to History of Violence
  • Individual and Social Sphere-Between Chinese Traditions and Present Westernization
  • Fragility of Chinese Humanism-Local and Global Confusion of Modern and Post-Modern Times
  • Chinese Literature and Modern Culture
  • The Chinese Self in Globalizing World
  • The Status of Poet and Translator: Care of Chinese Language and Literature

Date:

  • 29-30 November, 2007
  • 1 December, 2007

Location:

  • Macau: Inspiration Building, Institute For Tourism Studies

Languages:

  • Putonghua and English

Introduction

With the economic growth and the revival of Chinese contemporary arts and culture, Chinese literature seems to have regained its traditional dynamic and leading role. It reflects upon what is at stake for the individual person involved in social changes, be they in the cities or in the countryside. Chinese modern writers bear witness to the construction of a new Chinese society and of its identity. Chinese modern literature is at the same time continuously searching for new ways of expression and for its ancient roots and millenary traditions.

The questions posed by the human being about its shaking value system, its uncertain future, its longing for stability, its deep sense of human life and its challenging aspirations will be at the center of the symposium debates.

Since its very origins, Chinese literature is grounded on four primordial cultural patterns. The first comes from its relation with the Empire, the imperial ritual and the philosophy of individual cultivation (The Classic of Poetry, The Elegies of Chu , the fu of the Han dynasties, etc.). Then, in a Taoist and Buddhist background, comes a pattern that, despite the influence of a religious culture, has preserved the independence of the forms that have become a kind of refuge for many Chinese literati. Popular culture generated also a pattern through which writers, while exploring tales and fables of various ethnic groups, have preserved their customs and usages, including ballades and folk songs. But Chinese literature is most of all routed on a pattern which expresses the real spirit of the East, that is to say: the ziranguan (the contemplation of what is as it is), this xuanxue or « mystery study » of the Wei and Jin times, as well of Chan or Zen; as such, in literature, this spirit has kept itself apart from its religious form; it has become a kind of “mode of life” for the literati who wanted to escape from the pressure of political power. To sum up, nearly all the most creative works of classical Chinese literature come from these four cultural patterns.

Today, after going through destruction, enslavement and commercial consumerism, Chinese literature strives for exerting its revealing role of the human conscience and for finding the right language to describe its real feelings.

That is why the present symposium aims to bring together leading Chinese writers and literary critics, in dialogue with outstanding Western literary sinologists, modern Chinese thinkers and opinion making publishers.

Organising Institutions

  • MACAU RICCI INSTITUTE
 

Bonnie S. MCDOUGALL 杜愽妮

Diversity as Value: Marginality, Post-colonialism and Identity in Modern Chinese Literature

While fiction in English about Hong Kong reaches an international audience, fiction written in Chinese and translated into English has not been so successful, and the Chinese texts themselves (although their readership is potentially huge) ► are mostly only read by local Hong Kong people. The mainland authorities discourage the diversity of Chinese languages in China, even to the extent of censoring Disney movies, and elite mainland readers, scholars and critics tend to ignore serious fiction which does not emanate from the centre.

This is a great pity, since there are many good reasons for reading Hong Kong literature. To begin with, linguistic diversity has its own existential justification: we are all the poorer if written or spoken Cantonese is driven out. Hong Kong literature also tells us much about identity, one of the most crucial issues in modern life, showing that fragmentation and multiple identities can be a matter for celebration rather than agony. Hong Kong's unique colonial and post-colonial experience (given the voluntary nature of its enormous population increase since the 1950s and reservations about its present governance) can contribute new insights to theories of post-colonialism. As a literature on the margins, its Chinese voice presents alternatives in cultural inheritance as well as modernity. The following works, written in Chinese or in English, exemplify these issues:

► Qing cheng zhi lian 傾城之戀 [Love in a fallen city] (1943) by Zhang Ailing 張愛玲 [Eileen Chang] (1920-1995);

► A Many-Splendoured Thing (1952) by Han Suyin (1917—);

► The World of Suzie Wong (1957) by Richard Mason (1919-1997);

► Xiang wo zheyang de yige nüzi 像我這樣的一個女子 [Take a girl like me] (1984) by Xi Xi 西 西 [penname of Zhang Yan 張彥] (1938—);

► Yanzhi kou 胭脂扣 [Rouge] (1984) by Lee Pik-Wah 李碧華 [Li Bihua, Lillian Lee];

► Chinese Walls (1994) by Xu Xi (1954—);

► Ditu ji: yige xiangxiang de chengshi de kaoguxue 地圖集:一個想像的城市的考古學 [The atlas: archaeology of an imaginary city] (1997) by Dung Kai Cheung 蕫啓章 [Dong Qizhang] (1967);

► 'Beijing ximo' 北京戲墨 [Beijing sketches] (2007) by Leung Ping-kwan 梁秉鈞 [Liang Bingjun] (1948—).

Literature is more than documentation for language studies, and although social scientists in many disciplines, including history, sociology and cultural studies, routinely turn to literature for material, there is also good reason to proceed with caution in using fiction and poetry as evidence. Literature is an unreliable source of information, and the insights that it provides into social life are subjective and limited. Nevertheless, literature provides a platform for voices that are not necessarily represented in other texts. This selection of eight works provides varyingly coherent views of a shared social landscape as well as individual lives. Lack of time precludes a discussion of each title, but taken collectively, these novels and poems provide a perceptive, thoughtful account of one of the most lively, prosperous and innovative societies in the world. Above all, these works are wonderfully entertaining: gracefully written, highly imaginative, original, experimental, dissident, disrespectful, witty. That they are also multivalent and polyphonic is a bonus.

杨剑龙 YANG Jianlong

Discussing the Debate on Views of Human Nature in the History of Contemporary Chinese Literature

The “May Fourth” period emphasized the spirit of independence of the individual, stressing the satisfaction of peoples’ rational desires, and thoughts on human nature were influenced even more by the ideological trends of the Renaissance. The debate between Leftist writers and Liang Shiqiu over human nature and class character, represented the conflicting ideological concepts in the thought of Leftist intellectuals and liberal intellectuals, and can be viewed as a clash between the international proletarian of literary trend and the New Humanism of Bai Bide. In the 1950s, the surrounding, suppressing, and criticizing of the theory of human nature frequently used Marxist class struggle theory in an oversimplified way to launch a critique. After Reform and Opening the discussion of human nature, within different understandings of Marxism, expressed varying opinions. Looking back at the debate over the view of human nature in Chinese literary circles of the 20th century, we have seen a U-turn in the interest paid to human nature, and today there is still a need for deep research into the problem of human nature in literature.

葛涛 GE Tao

From the Start of the “Cultural Revolution to the End of the “June Fourth” Incident: Lu Xun’s Influence on the Chinese Society from the 1970s to the 1990s

This paper attempts, from the perspective of history, to study and reflect upon the profound and far-reaching influence exerted by Lu Xun on the Chinese politics and culture from the 1970s to the 1990s.

During the Cultural Revolution, Lu Xun was made a model of rebellion for the Red Guards by then government. But at the non-governmental level, many educated youth, deeply influenced by the spirit of Lu Xun, turned out to be famous painters, writers and scholars of humanities in China after the end of the Cultural Revolution, thus making it possible the succession of the New Literature tradition initiated during the May Fourth Movement in the post Cultural Revolution era.

From the end of the 1970s to the beginning of the 1980s, Lu Xun was made, once again, by the then government, a tool to set things in the realm of ideology right. In the mid 1980s, the study on Lu Xun, under the background of promoting the spirit of Lu Xun nationwide, became the vogue in the whole realm of humanity sciences across China, pushing greatly the progress of research in the fields of human sciences.

After the “June 4th Incident” in 1989, the government at that time made it clear that Lu Xun had to be used as an example to reverse the policy trends prevalent in the realm of ideology in the 1980s. Some scholars, represented by Wang Hui, began to reflect upon the 1980s and Lu Xun, and changed their research interests as a result; some writers, represented by Zhang Chengzhi, began to pass on the spirit of Lu Xun in their literary creations, too.

In a word, this paper holds the opinion that Lu Xun not only greatly influenced, at both political and ideological levels, the transition of the Chinese society from the 1970s to the 1990s, but also the creation of Chinese literature and art in the same period at the cultural level. By reviewing the influence of Lu Xun, we can see that the Chinese government has always been using Lu Xun, at least at the political level, to reach its political aim of ideological rectification. At the same time, some intellectuals who love Lu Xun have been trying to pass on the true spirit of Lu Xun.

王晓渔 WANG Xiaoyu

From Red Idealism to Sanguine Romanticism: A Study on Lao Gui

Both The Song of Youth (Qing Chun Zhi Ge)by Yang Mo and A Sanguine Dusk (Xue Se Huang Hun) by Lao Gui (Old Devil) belong to the genre of “initiation” fiction, telling the stories of revolutionary young people growing up. Such an “initiation” is not only physiological, but also spiritual. In the novel by Yang Mo, the main characters are those who took part in the “December 9th” Movement in 1935 whereas in the novel by Old Devil, the protagonists are the “educated youth”. The initiations of the two generations are presented in different forms.

In “Yang Mo, My Mother”, Old Devil likens the initiation of Yang Mo to a process of “killing her mother and marrying her father”. Old Devil says “Yang Mo was like an orphan when she was young”. The word “orphan”, a symbol of an identity commonly held by the revolutionary youth, does not necessarily signify that a person thus called must have lost his or her parents. Instead, it is used to refer to the spiritual nihilism of the revolutionary youth. The young people belonging to the generation of the “December 9th” Movement are confronted with a double orphanage: they are first faced with the possible subjugation of their country; and second, the breakup of their families. Such a miserable condition has prompted them to seek a spiritual father, who is an overlap with red idealism. In the concluding part of the novel, those “orphans” are seen to have “sacrificed” themselves to both their “spiritual father” and red idealism.

A Sanguine Dusk by Old Devil recounts the initiation process of an educated youngster who loves his mother and eventually abandons his father. At the very beginning, the protagonist, lured by red idealism, makes a voluntary decision to settle down in the frontier area. However, faced with the brutal reality of a sanguine romance, he comes to question the spiritual patriarchal system. To Old Devil, the idea of the protagonist to abandon his father is synchronous with the generation of his Oedipus complex. The spiritual void caused by the former must be filled by the latter.

The initiation of mother (Yang Mo) and son (Old Devil) takes opposite directions, the former “kills her mother and marries her father”, while the latter “loves his mother and abandons his father”. But the two novels have the same structure. The only difference lies in the fact that Old Devil is more reflective than Yang Mo. But his limited reflection has failed to touch on the fundamental question as to why red idealism has changed into sanguine romanticism.

河西 HE Xi

Shaded Pains: Botanical Study in Ge Fei’s Fiction

Life in the agricultural age is not only his original sin, but also his spiritual support in his opposition against the modern civilization. To Ge Fei, an avant-garde novelist who sometimes wanders in the country and sometimes in the city, plants serve as an indispensable link between the two worlds. In his fictions ranging from Greenish Yellow (Qing Huang) to Peach and Cream (Ren Mian Tao Hua), plants have always been his core metaphors.

In his avant-garde fictions, plants are often the blasting fuse or center of conflict, or serve as an obscure background to the whole novel. With their huge shade, plants cast a shadow on the inner world of the novelist and even exert a pressure on him. Plants grow on earth. But to this wanderer in the city, plants not only serve as symbols of his childhood memory, simplicity and hardship, but also have some inevitable mysterious implication. When the aphasic and rootless generation becomes aware that they can in no way communicate with plants, they are doomed to experiencing the once warm feeling of the earth that has been distorted beyond recognition today in the process of “recalling the past suffering and happiness”. The shaded pains have thus become an impulse to write. That is when the novelist, who claims that his earliest dream specialty is in “botanical gardening”, began to build his own avant-garde world of fantasy.

何伟杰 HO Wai Kit

From individual to collective violence: 1922 ‘May Twenty-ninth incident’ of Macau and the strike

At nightfall on May 28, 1922, at the busy bazaar in Macao’s inner harbor, an African soldier from Mozambique harassed a Chinese lady on the street. A chase ensued, followed by a brawl, and the incident evolved into a serious clash with police. Afterwards, the townspeople surrounded the police station, demanding the release of the arrested person. In the end, on May 29th the military and police opened fire to disperse the crowd, resulting in the greatest number of civilian deaths of any incident in Macao’s modern history.

Dissatisfied with the use of violent force to suppress the crowd, the Chinese protested by going on strike, and the Macao Portuguese authorities responded by disbanding the labor unions and imposing a state of martial law. The military government of Guangzhou, led by Sun Yat-sen, took up arms in support of the Chinese in Macao, sending warships to garrison duty in the inner harbor, in preparation to reclaim the territory. Macao society was in disarray, and the Macao Chinese, longing for a stable life, began streaming back to the mainland, setting off a historic, half-month long wave of refugees fleeing from calamity. In the end, Chen Jiongming’s bombardment of the Guanyin Presidential Palace left the Guangzhou government with no time to simultaneously deal with Macao. This paper, besides reconstructing the details of this incident, attempts to evaluate the nature of “May 29th” from historical materials.

余丽文 YEE Lai man, Winnie

Rediscovering the “Public Sphere”: The Emergence of Literary Critical Space in Hong Kong in the early 1920s

Although much discussion has been devoted to the relevance of Jürgen Habermas’s famous concepts of “civil society” and “public sphere” for Chinese studies, regarding the late-Qing period in particular, they are never deployed in the discussion of the literary scene. The critical space emerged in the literary journals, which flourished in the late 1920s and early 1930s in colonial Hong Kong, complicates the notion that “public sphere” was constructed merely in the newly established print medium of newspapers as a public forum for the discussion of national politics. In this paper, I examine two approaches to understanding the intricate relationship between individual and social space. On the one hand, through analyzing the early development of literary journals in Hong Kong, I argue that the existence of public space facilitates and encourages the blending of private and public realm. In their open discussions of political, social as well as personal issues, the struggle between revising traditional virtues and accepting western modern knowledge by the urban Chinese elites is clearly manifested. On the other hand, this paper scrutinizes the ways in which the notion of “public sphere”, a concept that denotes modern or modernizing forms of western social association, arouses vibrant discussions in the early 1990s and reinvents our interpretations of modern China and modern Chinese studies in North America. Through this discussion, the rapport between literature and public sphere will be unveiled with reference to recent discourses on national and cultural imaginary. .

Sebastian VEG

Utopian Fiction or Critical Examination:The Cultural Revolution in Wang Xiaobo’s The Golden Age

The first volume of Wang Xiaobo’s « Three Age Trilogy » has become a cult work in present-day China, especially among students. By making a paradoxical and ironic connection between the sending-down of “educated youths” (zhi qing) to the countryside and a “Golden Age” of sexual liberation in the lap of nature, Wang’s writing certainly owes part of its success to its scandalous aspects. Nonetheless, a careful reading reveals a more complex fictional world in which, moving beyond the absurdity of ideology and its manifestations, the “Golden Age” is associated with a kind of regression to animal life. This polemic vision of a mankind which finds fulfillment only in renouncing humanity opens the way for a reflection on the nature of the Cultural Revolution that is more deep-reaching than most “Educated Youth literature,” in that it examines Maoist totalitarianism within the context of the link between humanity and socialization. Wang Xiaobo’s work, still largely unknown outside China, will be read against the background of other texts on the Cultural Revolution, in which the demarcation between fiction and documentary literature is diversely constructed, for example Gao Xingjian’s One Man’s Bible.

陈文烨 CHEN Wenye

A Fusion of History and Modernity: An Interpretation of The Bronze Age by Wang Xiaobo

The Bronze Age (Qing Tong Shi Dai) is a collection of historical stories written by Wang Xiaobo, employing modern creative techniques. In the collection, historical stories and the real life stories of the narrator, Wang Er (or Wang, the No. 2), are intermingled with each other and develop side by side. Using this characteristic as a clue, this paper attempts to interpret the three stories collected in The Bronze Age as a whole. Starting from the analysis of its narrative techniques, the external characteristics of the fiction, and upon that basis, this paper tries to discuss further the historical and literary perspectives of the fiction, and the revelation of the human survival distresses by the writer.

1. Modernity of creative techniques. The narrative functions of the fiction are fully displayed in these texts. The historical stories in The Bronze Age unfold themselves in a non-linear order one step after another, because the writer has adopted two development clues, namely historical and realistic clues, that cross and intertwine with each other in the book. Besides, in the three stories, the perspectives of the first person narrator are constantly changing, indicating the change of relations between the narrator and historical stories.

2. Uniqueness of historical perspective. As far as the handling of historical perspective in the fiction is concerned, Wang Xiaobo has his unique understanding. Based on his personal memory, fabrication and imagination, his creation fuses historical stories and real life stories into a whole. History is actually a reincarnation and extension of reality. The purpose of Wang’s fiction is aimed at interpreting historical events as he understands them instead of pursuing their authenticity. In the stories, Wang Xiaobo uses historical events to reflect the reality in a fictional way. By retelling the romantic stories in the Tang Dynasty, Wang Xiaobo tries to transform everything into reincarnations, extensions and symbols of this realistic world.

3. Eternal humanity in historical and modern times. The Bronze Age embodies a kind of humanity distress and a yearning for the origin of humanity. As Wang Xiaobo sees it, man is often trapped in various kinds of depressed and bizarre environment. And beyond this distressed survival environment characterized by lack of wisdom, lack of interest, and lack of sex, there is another world that follows the natural laws. Only in that world, there exists the uncivilized beauty of freedom. Wang Xiaobo’s feeling of this distressed survival environment characterized by lack of wisdom, lack of interest, and lack of sex, and his longing for freedom, come largely from his personal experience of the Cultural Revolution. The depressed reality makes it a life-long spiritual pursuit of Wang Xiaobo to spread humanity.

顾彬 Wolfgang KUBIN

German Melancholy and Chinese Restlessness: YE Sheng- tao’s novel NI Huan-zhi

The novelist Ye Shengtao (1894-1990) seems to be much underestimated in the West. This is due to the poor interpretation of his works in Western Chinese Studies. As long as scholars are not able to understand Ye Shengtao in the context of world literature and of world revolution, this Chinese author will be neglected for ever. With his novel "Schoolmaster Ni Huan-chih" (1928) he created one of the master texts not only of Chinese, but also of Western modernity.

It is true that this novel has a lot of flaws, but it shows very clearly that in the aftermath of May 4th movement all the dreams of an ideal future soon to come were shattered. What follows out of it is a kind of desperation, that tries to find its way out through the work of total destruction of any once cherished value. In this sense Ni Huanzhi has a forerunner in the figure of Anton Reiser, the protagonist in a novel of the German writer Karl Philipp Moritz (1756-1793).

The paper tries to show that melancholy and revolution in the process of modernity are two sides of the same coin and that it is impossible to understand modern Chinese literature without sufficient knowledge of the history of melancholy and revolution in the West. The revolutionary in Ye Shengtao's novel has examplifying character as he symbolizes any revolutionary who tries to overcome his inner unrest in the face of modernity by hatred and murder.

张业松 ZHANG Yesong

Opening Up the Space for Interpretation of the “Scar Literature”

The term of “scar literature”, originally put forward by its opponents, was later approved and affirmed politically before it was replaced by “reflective literature” out of the new need of the progress of Chinese politics. This historical experience has limited the discussion of “scar literature”, from the very beginning, to the framework in which it could serve only as a footnote to the Chinese history and politics. As a result, our range of vision is narrowed and problems are covered. This paper proposes to redefine the intention of “scar literature” under the precondition of expanding its extension, with the aim of making it into a concept that might embody the comprehensive literary trend prevalent at the turn of the 1980s. And by interpreting some of the representative works of the genre of “scar literature”, this author hopes to uncover some of the long-covered secrets and myths of literature and that particular time period.

This paper holds that at the realistic level of literature that can reflect the time more accurately, “scar literature” is composed of two types of literary creations: the first type includes commonly acknowledged fictional works, mainly short stories, such as “Head Teacher” (Ban Zhu Ren by Liu Xinwu), “Scar” (Shang Hen by Lu Xinhua) and “Soul and Flesh” (Ling Yu Rou by Zhang Xianliang); and the other type, non-fictional works such as A Record of Miscellaneous Thoughts (Sui Xiang Lu by Ba Jin) that are normally excluded from the genre of “scar literature”, embodies the true spirit of “scar literature” much better. But these two types of works have never been included in the discussion of “scar literature” at the same time, because they have different measures of cohesiveness in real-life politics. This author believes that these two types of literary works should be put into the same field for observation because they share the same background, and attempt to handle the same issues. Between similarities anddifferences, some long-covered literary and historical information gets revealed. The most important point lies in the fact that there are contradictions between individual memory and national history, and literary creations by different writers thus display different and even contradicting tendencies. What these different tendencies show is the internal tension of literature in that particular period of time.

李进超 LI Jinchao

Women: A Lightness that a Marriage Must Balance - An Examination into the Shift of Social Situation of Women in Contemporary China from the “Marriage Trilogy” by Wang Hailing

Wang Hailing, hailed as the “No. 1 writer who focuses on marriages in China”, has often used marriage and family as her theme to reflect the realities in Chinese society, paying her attention to the living conditions of married women in families from different perspectives. Her “Marriage Trilogy”, a series of works representing her literary creation, is filled with her concern of women’s situation in society. From her Hand in Hand (Qian Shou) to Divorce: the Chinese Style (Zhong Guo Shi Li Hun), to her latest New Wedding Era (Xin Jie Hun Shi Dai), one can see this idea expressed forcefully in each of her book: women should have their own completely independent character, persistent pursuits in life, and a sense of responsibility for their families and society at large. No matter how beautiful their love and marriages are, women should never cast aside the most important essence of their role as “human beings”. Although from the traditional point of view, women are treated as the weaker sex, therefore lighter, on the scales of marriage, they constitute one extreme that a marriage must try to balance anyway. What is more, the deconstruction of “phallogocentrism” by the feminists shares some similarities with this view point. When taking a further look into the trilogy, one can see that the weight of women has been increasing on the scales of marriage. They have been engaged in a persistent fight against the traditional concept of patriarchy. In Hand in Hand, Xia Xiaoxue is always obedient and submissive in her marriage. Although she has established her own career and become successful after her marriage failed, she still regards marriage as a major recognition of her social status; in Divorce: the Chinese Style, Lin Xiaofeng expresses her resistance through suspicions and quarrels, although such a resistance, having failed to bring about any substantial improvement in her married life, leads her to agree to a divorce. But in some sense, this can also be viewed as a confirmation of her independent character; and in New Wedding Era, compared to the two heroines mentioned in the earlier works, Gu Xiaoxi is not only more rational but also more independent in her marriage. As a result, patriarchy takes the initiative to yield to her, thus making the two extremes on the scales of marriage (man and woman) reach a new balance gradually. If we take a further examination into the deeper causes of such changes, we shall find out that the root cause lies in the tremendous changes in the contemporary Chinese society. The “Marriage Trilogy” by Wang Hailing, as a matter of fact, is a record of the changes in the contemporary Chinese society.

The “Marriage Trilogy” by Wang Hailing, refers to her Hand in Hand, Divorce: the Chinese Style, and New Wedding Era, all of which have been adapted into TV series that bear the same titles. As Wang Hailing serves both as the writer of the novels and TV scriptwriter, she can display her creative tendency in a more consistent manner in her creations. Therefore, this author plans to discuss her novels in combination with her TV series when analyzing her works so as to better elaborate the view point in this paper.

金丝燕 JIN Siyan

Female Writings: A Mirror of Contemporary Society in China

The contemporary society in China has, through the mirror of her female writings, given rich and varied records to history. Time rather than readers or writers is what literary criticism is concerned first of all. What the literary critics ask is whether the literary work concerned can stand the test of time, whether it is still readable, whether it is still entertaining, or whether it is still full of vitality after several decades elapses.

In the studies on female literature in contemporary China, none of the three approaches, such as text structure analysis, historigraphic study, and comprehensive criticism, can be left out.

The authors attempt to study contemporary Chinese female literature from the above three different perspectives and try to set up a multi-layered space so that critics of various languages and cultures may engage in debate or reflect on some common issues together unrestrained by any boundaries.

Faced with the rich and complex literary phenomina, it is inadequate for us to use the conventional method of historigraphic criticism alone. Therefore, the search for ‘appropriate’ approach, starting point and angle of perspective have been the constant points of concern for us who have been studying mainstream writings, including female writings, in China. Although the three-dimensional approach to literary criticism has enriched the approaches of contemporary Chinese literary criticism by making the latter compare to its orignal approaches and take in literary history more positively, the case study approach in Chinese literature is also both a complement and enrichment to the theory and approach of the three dimentional criticism.

欧阳桢 EOYANG Chen, Eugene

The Ends of the World or The Edge of Heaven: The Ambivalence of the Modern Chinese Writer

In a 1994 essay, I explored the trope of 天涯 (“the ends of the world”) in traditional Chinese poetry as a generic description of the writer-in-exile, or the writer estranged (the essay appears in my recent book, Two-Way Mirrors). In this presentation, I meditate on this image in the context of modern Chinese literature, and see new resonances in the image for dissidents, diaspora writers, and other dispossessed figures. Chinese writers have been marginalized over the past century in various ways; for mainland writers from 1949-1979, the marginalization resulted from ideology; for Chinese writers neglected in the canon of world literature, the cause was Western ethnocentricity; and for specific writers, the sanctions have resulted from the prejudice of Orientalism (in the case of Bei Dao) and of Occidentalism (in the case of Gao Xingjian). In one sense, the ends of the world are much further off than they were in the traditional poems, but in another sense, these writers, on the periphery of Chinese civilization, have become the center of international consciousness. For them, 天涯 “the ends of the world” have become “the edge of heaven.” What Erich Auerbach said as early as 1952 remains true today: “our philological home is the earth: it can no longer be the nation.” For most exiles among modern Chinese writers, what I wrote in the 1994 essay holds true: “Dépaysment for an exile is both a calamity and an opportunity.”

李奭学 LI Sher-shiueh, Wallace

The Soul Mountain Revisited: Language, Novel, and the Chinese Tradition

This paper proposes to discuss the Nobel laurite Gao Xingjian’s Lingshan or the Soul Mountain by analyzing its relationship with such classical Chinese novels as the Xiyou ji or the Journey to the West. This paper, however, begins with an argument for Gao’s linguistic idea which holds strongly that “Chinese” as a writing system cannot be so-named within the territorial confines of China. It is also a writing medium employed in the world where any kind of the Chinese languages is spoken. This paper then proceeds to a parallel study made between Lingshan and, especially, the Xiyou ji, with an emphasis not only on the linguistic similarities between the two novels, but also the ways of their plot construction. With the help of knowledge taken from this parallel study, this paper concludes that although Gao claims his literary metropolitaness, he is primarily Chinese in the very sense of the literary culture that the Chinese languages have formulated since they began their tradition of prose fiction especially in the Ming.

苏七七 SU Qiqi

The Films Directed by Zhang Yimou and the Contemporary Chinese Fictions: A Shift of Cultural Power from Literature Age to Image Age

The attention paid by Zhang Yimou to the contemporary Chinese literature is unmatched among the contemporary film directors in China. Having subscribed to most of the literature periodicals, he tries to look for original literary creations from which he can adapt into films. All the films directed by Zhang Yimou before 1994 are based on the good literary works created by such well-known contemporary Chinese writers as Mo Yan, Su Tong, Liu Heng and Yu Hua. After 1995, Zhang Yimou tried to adjust the motif of his films, shifting his focus from the modern time to the contemporary age. The films directed by him in this period are mostly adapted from the contemporary literary works too. However, as far as the esthetic values are concerned, both the original literary works and his resulting films are not as good as the ones produced in his first stage of artistic creation. After 2001, Zhang tired once more to adjust the “motif” of his creations, focusing on martial-arts or kung fu blockbusters whose characters wear ancient Chinese costumes. His efforts in this regard have made him once again a core figure in China’s film industry. But films such as Heroes (Ying Xiong), Promise (Wu Ji), and Curse of the Golden Flower (Man Cheng Jin Dai Huang Jin Jia) are largely disconnected with the contemporary literature. This paper aims, by sorting out the relations between the films directed by Zhang Yimou and the contemporary literature, to discuss the historical perspective and ideological depth provided by the contemporary literature to the films and the best time shared by the contemporary literature and films as they promoted each other at the turn of the 1990s. This also coincides with the golden age of contemporary literature when the economic growth, on the whole, was on the rise and ideological control became more and more relaxed. But with the coming of the greater economic tides and image age, literature has rapidly withdrawn itself from the main channels of cultural consumption, and the relations between the literature and films began to deteriorate as a result, for the former can no longer provide good texts for the latter to adapt into films, and the latter, influenced by fund and viewers, treats literature as mere servants. This phenomenon has reached a state of extremity in the latest blockbusters directed by Zhang Yimou. These films, characterized by ostentatious format, empty content, have degenerated into symbolic commodities for cultural consumers. In the process of describing and discussing this degeneration, this paper will treat the relations between the films directed by Zhang Yimou and the contemporary literature as a syndrome, and discuss, at a time of societal and cultural transitions, how the cultural power of various types of texts might grow or decline, what kind of situation it has created, and reflect upon this situation.

阿城 Ah Cheng

Chinese Writer and Use of Modern Media—Interviewed by Zeng Yuan 曾园

Keith TESTER

After Identity? Fractured Lives in Rapidly Changing Society

Identity can only be achieved if men and women live in stable and predictable social institutions and relationships. Stability enables the subordination of what Freud called the pleasure principle (which is concerned with immediate gratification) to the reality principle (which emphasises deferred gratification). It is argued that the Western novel emerged at the dawn of the Modern Age when traditional forms of identity were breaking down, and when the pleasure principle was released. The development of the novel through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries shows the increasing domination of a reality principle. However, the social conditions of the modern reality principle have broken down in the face of globalization; now the sociological situation that confronts the novel is one of living after identity in rapidly changing society. The paper identifies the cultural pathologies of life after identity and reflects on the problems and possibilities of the novel in the context of rapid societal change.

伍晓明 WU Xiaoming

The Persecution “by” Others - Lu Xun and Levinas

Lévinas has generalized his important thought about others into a very simple phrase, that is, “Après vous!” or “You first, please!” or “After you!” The Records of Rites (Li Ji), on the other hand, has summarized the essence of rites as “to humble oneself and respect the others”. The closeness or similarity of the two generalizations, at least on the surface, seems to be apparent. If “humble oneself and respect the others” can be said to have indeed epitomized the spirit of rites, then “the essence of benevolence is to restrain oneself and restore rites” proposed by Confucius, at least in some sense, might be translated into a modern phrase “You first, please!” or “After you!” In this way we can establish some kind of meaningful connection between the thought of Confucius and the thought of Lévinas. And such a connection will be conducive to our looking at the Chinese tradition in retrospect on the one hand, and reconsidering the Western thinking that has exerted an influence on the Chinese thinking and Chinese literature since the May Fourth Movement on the other hand. Thus, we may ask this question: After Lu Xun generalized the Chinese tradition featuring “benevolence, righteousness and morality” into “man eating”, and after the traditional Chinese rites that treat “rites” the same as “education” have been accused of being a tradition “that kills people in the name of rites”, what else can we learn from this tradition? Such learning is not only a reinvention or positive approval of the traditional Chinese thought, but also serves as a welcome to the Western idea that attempts to criticize Western ideas.

Tudor VLÃDESCU

Literature as the Phoenix—Case Study on a W.S. Landor Book singled out from a Collection of Books that Belonged to a Macau Intellectual

A determinist approach of literature in Macau might seem scientific, but it also could lead to conventional theories that have no chance whatsoever of speaking of the destiny of literature in Macau. We will start with the presumption that any outlook on the future has to deal with the memories of the past. Though, our approach will not step on the cause-effect highway. The case-study of some books donated to the IIUM Library will function as an insight of the literary phenomenon that, in essence, remains unchanged: literature is both metaphorical and critical thinking.

Our paper will take the path of making an analysis of a list of books that were donated to the IIUM library. Among them, special attention will be given to a book by W.S. Landor, a book of an unusual destiny. This writer, a contemporary of Lord Byron, dedicated his work to a friend in times of grief. How this unique autograph book came to be in the possession of a Macau intellectual who lived in the 20th century is a mystery. The destiny of this eerie artefact is, in many respects, revelatory for the destiny of literature in our times. The copy of the Landor book of verses was burnt once. Frail as it is, it survived two hundred years. Its story is the story of the literature at the beginning of the 21st century, as fiction and poetry are largely ignored, but they still survive. Things of the past, memorabilia of a forgotten age, sometimes even proof of unserious occupations, fiction and poetry books occupy, in any modern library, at most 5% of the shelves. The rest, the non-fiction, the utilitarian books or the “introduction to” texts have definitely won the match. Still, the spirit of literature survives and might be rediscovered one day.

陆杨 LU Yang

The Rise of Cultural Study and the Evolution of the Redeeming Function of Literature

How should the contemporary Chinese literature respond to the shockwaves of cultural study has become a hot spot in the literary circle today. Literature, once a dominant form of culture, has long played the function of redeeming souls and strengthening the nation at the popular rather than academic level. But in today’s world, due to the continuous rise of new forms of media, popular culture has irresistibly replaced books, pens and paper, and become the major form through which the younger generation reads and communicates. Under this situation, reflection of the origin and development of the redeeming function of literature may help us reveal the evolution of the deeper consciousness that is hidden in human life. As the redeeming enthusiasm of the Chinese literature in the 20th century largely originates from the misery consciousness found in the 19th century Russian literature that has nourished this meditative tradition, and as the writers and intelligentsia in general are keen on playing a part in the context of popular culture, especially on television, should we blame the degeneration of the redeeming function of literature on the globalization of American culture? The viewpoint of this paper to the question is that literature, especially the traditional form of literature, that is, texts printed on paper, is fully justified to believe in its own charm instead of resenting the endless shockwaves caused by the continuous rise of new forms of media. Thus, in response to the shockwaves brought about by the cultural study, research in literature should, first of all, take a stabilized position rather than following the trend blindly and getting lost in the end. The redeeming function of literature, which bemoans social corruption and reveals people’s hard life, shall live forever, though it might not be the grandest paradigm of narration instructively.

刘光耀 LIU Guangyao

After Hai Zi: Two approaches for Chinese Christian Poetry—Between Chinese Tradition and Modern Westernization

For the sake of convenience, we can begin with Bing Xin. Bing Xin is the most important founder of the Christian trend in Modern Chinese literature. With her (and a group of writers and poets) as symbols, Christianity became a voice in Chinese literature that could not be wiped away. But Bing Xin’s problem lies in that her one-way public expression of a “philosophy of love” drowned out the kind of individual character of love imparted by Christianity, unable to bring together both the aspirations and turbulence inherent in the life of the individual, thus making the love of Jesus appear abstract, pale, and shallow.

Hai Zi was not a Christian, his thought somewhat heretical, and he certainly did not take the spreading of the Gospel as his duty, yet perhaps he can be regarded as the second milestone in Chinese Christian literature after Bing Xin, and it is his unique disposition that expressed that kind of spirit of regarding himself to be Jesus. It is precisely that heretical or pagan spirit that made him able in the depths of life’s experience be permeated with the mood of Christian faith, thus accomplishing a preview of the poetry of an age of individual Christian faith. If we can avoid suspicion of a forced interpretation, perhaps we can say that the writing of Bing Xin and company can be regarded as a “theology of affirmation—frankness,” because it remains fixed within Christian tradition, positively identifying with it; Hai Zi’s writings can be regarded as a “theology of negation—ambiguity,” because by no means does he restrain himself to the pronouncements of traditional Christian faith, but rather moves into exploring the experiences of the individual spirit.

After Hai Zi, Chinese Christian poetry’s avenues of approach, although by and large still remain these two, the difference between them is clear and profound. Speaking of the “theology of affirmation—frankness” approach, its great difference from the previous period is individual consciousness, the increase in the proportion of individual experience, but with regard to the question of how to both preserve the purity of faith, and at the same to develop the richness of human nature, it is still is lacking in depth of thought and exploration; speaking of the “theology of negation—ambiguity” approach, the great difference from the previous period (Hai Zi) is: the adventures of the individual spirit take place on the foundation of identifying with a faith tradition, therefore receiving the support of the theology of affirmation. On the other hand, the many layers of investigation such as flesh, spirit, and intelligence, and the tension and interaction felt between the circumstances of this world and the call toward the Kingdom of God, make this avenue of approach appear to be even more rich and colorful. In the art of poetry, these two roads demonstrate the different degrees of return to the expression one’s emotions and the classics.

梁秉钧 LEUNG Ping-kwan

Writing and Translating

In my first days of learning to write, I translated underground American literature, French, Eastern European, and Latin American literature in order to exercise and test the possibilities of written language, to find ways to oppose the prevailing trends in literature and art, and to explore various methods to write about my city and the circumstances of my own life.

Writing and translating have an intricate relationship. In translating the works of other cultures, writers open new windows for themselves, look out into different horizons of vision, bring in different perspectives, and try to see how far they can mold and stretch their own language. On the other hand when the works of a writer are in turn translated by colleagues into another culture, he and his works enter into new spaces and engage in dialogue with other cultures. The writer, generally speaking, always carries out his task in a state of translation; he translates his real experiences into words. He not only translates the literary works of foreign countries, he also translates the classics of his own tradition into modern versions, translates the common trivial world of popular culture into individual insights and imagination. He gets lost in translation, and through translation finds himself again.

蒋向艳 JIANG Xiangyan

A Text of Translation of Poems: Le Livre de Jade of Judith Gautier

As the second classic Chinese poem collection of French version, Le Livre de Jade of Judith Gautier is a creative work of translation. In the field of the translation studies, especially of the translation literature studies, the book serves as a good example to support the opinion that the value of some translation works is equal with original literary works, and that the translation literature is an indispensable part in a country’s literature. Le Livre de Jade also provides a great many examples of differences between western and Chinese culture engendered in translation, which is a good benefit for the research of comparative literature. Le Livre de Jade deserves more attention and research in the field of translation studies.

This thesis is one part of the research project “the Translation and Research of the Tang Poetry in the French World” held by Xiangyan JIANG, funded by National Planning Office of Philosophy and Social Science of the People’s Republic of China.