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Frontiers of Literary Studies in China

ISSN 1673-7318 (Print)
ISSN 1673-7423 (Online)
CN 11-5745/I
Postal Subscription Code 80-982


, Volume 7 Issue 3

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Orginal Article
Confucian Humanism in Perspective
Weiming Tu
Front. Lit. Stud. China. 2013, 7 (3): 333-338.
Abstract   PDF (176KB)

This paper is a synthetic piece based on my attempts to address the significance and importance of Confucian humanism as a spiritual resource for human self-understanding in the 21st century. The relevance of Confucian spirituality to ecological civilization is self-evident, but the Confucian revival in Cultural China is predicated on its ability to transcend instrumental rationality, the Faustian drive to dominate, anthropocentrism, and China-centered mentality. The enabling power that helps an open, pluralistic and self-reflexive cultural identity to emerge will be greatly enhanced if China takes India as an essential reference society.

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Research and Reflections on Zhang Taiyan
John Makeham
Front. Lit. Stud. China. 2013, 7 (3): 339-345.
Abstract   PDF (276KB)

Historians generally describe Zhang Taiyan章太炎 (Binglin 炳麟, 1869–1936) as an anti-Manchu revolutionary and treat his Buddhism as subordinate to this larger political project. Far less commonly understood is Zhang’s role in preparing the groundwork for the establishment of Chinese philosophy as an academic discipline. Against the backdrop of an intellectual climate in Japan and China during the decades either side of 1900, in which a premium had come to be placed on logic as a precondition for the development of philosophy, Zhang was one of the first Chinese intellectuals to follow the lead of Japanese scholars in maintaining that classical Chinese philosophers had developed indigenous forms of logic. Significantly, he further argued that Chinese versions of Yogācāra texts on Buddhist logic and epistemology (yinming 因明; Skt. hetu-vidyā) made it possible once again to gain a proper understanding of China’s earliest writings on logic. In this paper I argue that Zhang sought to establish that early Chinese texts “bear witness” to insights into realities that transcend individual cultures but are most fully and systematically articulated in Yogācāra systems of learning; and that classical Chinese philosopher-sages had attained an awareness of the highest truths, evidence of which can be found in their writings. In short, I will show that Zhang used Yogācāra to affirm the value of “Chinese philosophy” and, in doing so, helped shape its early definition.

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Zhang Taiyan: Daoist Individualism and Political Reality
Mabel Lee
Front. Lit. Stud. China. 2013, 7 (3): 346-366.
Abstract   PDF (281KB)

Zhang Taiyan is one of the most powerful thinkers in modern times. From the 1890s he began reading European works of philosophy, history, and thought as they became available in Japanese translation. He also began to assess this knowledge in the framework of his Chinese training and scholarship. Specializing in the study of the Confucian classics, by his early twenties he had distinguished himself through his philological research on ancient texts. Aware of his intellectual prowess, he had an uncompromising belief in the judgments of his subjective self. His notion of the self and its relationship with society was based on the Daoist philosophy of Laozi and Zhuangzi: An individual’s actions are dictated by the self, not by any other person, or by the society, the nation, ideology, or religion; he saw himself as an individual, but also as being at one with society. Escalating foreign encroachments on Chinese territorial sovereignty and the extreme suffering of the people from the 1890s was for him a viscerally perceived experience. He therefore had no option but to engage in politics. However, his Daoist individualism made him unsuited to politics, and his liaisons with various agents of change inevitably failed. Nonetheless, his cogently argued essays calling for the expulsion of the Manchu rulers significantly contributed to the successful outcome of the revolutionary cause. In the post-Manchu era, his opposition to a Western-style parliamentary system in favor of the appointment of the meritorious and worthy either created enemies or fell on deaf ears. His entry into politics had resulted in ignoble failure, and this has consigned him to historical obscurity until very recent times. This study focuses on Zhang Taiyan as a rational human being acting in the context of extraordinary historical circumstances and seeks to demonstrate how his thinking remains relevant for understanding the nature of meaningful human existence not just in China in his times, but also in the globalized world of today.

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Records of a Minor Historian: Lu Xun on Zhang Taiyan
Eileen J. Cheng
Front. Lit. Stud. China. 2013, 7 (3): 367-395.
Abstract   PDF (402KB)

Lu Xun, nearing his death, wrote two essays commemorating Zhang Taiyan. Both are rather unconventional eulogies, which engage the style, themes, and conventions of traditional biographies. Keenly aware of the depictions of his teacher as a conservative Confucian scholar and a political reactionary, Lu Xun provides a counter image. By associating his teacher with prominent revolutionaries and framing his idiosyncratic behaviors and political choices in later life as the product of failed ambition, Lu Xun harks back to the figure of the “mad genius” lauded as exemplars in the classical literary tradition, an image that resonates as well with the gallery of “modern” misanthropes and madmen in his short stories. Cast within a lineage of awakened eccentrics often deemed insane in their own times, Zhang emerges in Lu Xun’s essays as a revolutionary par excellence: an outspoken rebel who, after the founding of the Republic, remained a fearless critic of the establishment; an uncompromising radical at heart, who remained committed to the ideals of a true social transformation long since forgotten by those around him. In making the “worthiness” and relevance of Zhang Taiyan as a historical figure legible to modern readers through his engagement with traditional biographical conventions, Lu Xun also affirms the value of a traditional literati culture which continued to structure his worldview as a modern intellectual and writer. For his portrait of the “master of classical studies” as a radical revolutionary, however partial, was an attempt to ensure that Zhang’s name would remain relevant to posterity, leaving open the possibility that his teacher’s “precious records” might also be transmitted and still find knowing readers in later ages.

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The Conceptualization of Qing-Era (1644–1911) Chinese Literature in Nineteenth Century Chosŏn (1392–1910) Korea
Gregory N. Evon
Front. Lit. Stud. China. 2013, 7 (3): 396-421.
Abstract   PDF (354KB)

In a poem composed in 1832, the Chosŏn-Korean polymath Chŏng Yagyong (1762–1836) declared his fidelity towards Confucian literary principles. Chŏng’s poem was a product of an elite education, and in both form and content, it embodied the ideals of the Chosŏn elite: written in classical Chinese rather than Korean, it was an expression of cultural self-confidence. From the point of view of nationalism and its emphasis on vernaculars, it seems strange to define oneself through a cosmopolitan written language. But Chŏng was no nationalist. He was a Confucian conservative, and the sense of distinction and difference that animated Chŏng’s poem was Confucian and literary. His articulation of such ideals manifested unease over the erosion of Confucian literary values in China and the prospect of the same occurring in Chosŏn under Chinese influence. The source of that influence was books imported from China. What Chŏng was reacting against was, at root, the commodification of literature and all that had entailed in Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1911) China. Although such concerns had grown increasingly urgent a half-century before, they had a long pedigree in Chosŏn, stretching back to debates that had arisen in relation to Ming China and the principal emblem of the commodification of literature: commercial bookstores. This paper examines some of the principal differences between Chinese and Korean literary cultures that were embodied in Chŏng. It therefore begins with a brief overview of Chŏng and his poem, before turning to a discussion of some key sociopolitical and intellectual features that distinguished Chosŏn’s literary culture from that of China. Sixteenth-century attitudes towards bookstores are discussed to contextualize subsequent worries over Chinese books, with special attention given to the historical and historiographical dimensions of the question, before concluding with an assessment of the final moments of direct Chinese literary influence in Korea.

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Translating Lu Xun’s Māra: Determining the “Source” Text, the “Spirit” versus “Letter” Dilemma and Other Philosophical Conundrums
Jon Eugene von Kowallis
Front. Lit. Stud. China. 2013, 7 (3): 422-440.
Abstract   PDF (366KB)

Not long after he withdrew from medical studies at Sendai and returned to Tokyo in 1906, Lu Xun began research on the history and philosophy of science, modern European thought, and comparative literature which produced five treatises he eventually published in an archaistic classical prose style influenced by that of Zhang Taiyan. Central to, and the longest among these essays is Moluo shi li shuo (On the power of Māra Poetry), which focuses on literature East and West and, in particular, the Byronic poets and their international legacy. In translating, annotating, and analyzing this essay, one meets with a number of quotations and terms derived originally from Western sources, sometimes through a secondary Japanese, German, or English translation. This article will focus on issues that arise in the translation and interpretation of that essay, in particular on the question of determining the source text, what bearing that has or should have on scholarly translation and how the study of textual issues can shed light not only on texts but also on literary and intellectual history. It offers an analysis of Lu Xun’s own interpretation of the source texts as well as conclusions reflecting on the significance of his literary career and broader mission.

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Zoology, Celibacy, and the Heterosexual Imperative: Notes on Teaching Lu Xun’s “Loner” as a Queer Text
Ari Larissa Heinrich
Front. Lit. Stud. China. 2013, 7 (3): 441-458.
Abstract   PDF (286KB)

This essay reflects on the reception of Lu Xun’s short story “The Loner” (Gudu zhe, alternately translated as “The Lone Wolf,” “The Misanthrope,” and “The Isolate”) in American classrooms, where students have sometimes wondered whether that character might be read as “queer.” It suggests that the title character’s unusual and self-imposed celibacy is probably best explained by his belief, in a very general sense, in the foundational values of zoology as practiced in Japan and China in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and thus that the story may be a better gateway to understanding the ways in which Lu Xun envisioned the mixed impact of new political economies on private life than a source text for queer studies. At the same time, however, this essay emphasizes that in “The Loner,” as elsewhere, accounting for the “heterosexual imperative” of early zoology (e.g., with its emphases on animal husbandry, propagation, reproduction) can have meaningful consequences for “queering” interpretations of received texts from literature, history of science, and beyond.

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The Inner Workings of Lu Xun’s Mind: Behind the Author’s Pen-Names
Ping Wang
Front. Lit. Stud. China. 2013, 7 (3): 459-482.
Abstract   PDF (1324KB)

Lu Xun is arguably the most prolific user of pseudonyms of all writers in the world. The question, then, is why. While the diversity and multiplicity of Lu Xun’s pseudonyms defy clear classification, a close examination reveals much more than just the erstwhile political justifications for anonymity. This article argues that Lu Xun’s pseudonyms, with their rich literary allusions, satire, and humour, shed light on his complex character, and contributed to his sophisticated writing style. Through the author’s choice of pseudonyms, we see the inner workings of his mind, hear a voice of a national conscience, and feel his intense—albeit at times ambivalent—emotions. The pen-names Lu Xun ingeniously employed constructed his image as a solitary thinker and fighter embarked on a long and difficult journey in search of light in the darkness. Indeed, not only have the pseudonyms enriched the layered significance of his writing, they also have much to tell about Lu Xun both as an author and a person: his keen awareness of social and political issues, his deep insight into the weakness of the national character, and his passionate concern for the nation, as well as his eclectic approach to both classical discourse and modern narrative. And as such, these pseudonyms should form an integral part of the many queries posed and pondered by Lu Xun studies.

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Lu Xun in the Rhetoric of the Sino-Soviet Split: A View from Contemporary Russia
Olga Medvedeva
Front. Lit. Stud. China. 2013, 7 (3): 483-493.
Abstract   PDF (230KB)

The historical role of the prominent Chinese writer, social activist and thinker Lu Xun (1881–1936), is difficult to overestimate. His works influenced social change within China and became recognized internationally. For these and other reasons, he was of particular interest in the Soviet Union. Since 1932, his works have been published in numerous editions in Russian and have received a great deal of scholarly attention in the Soviet Union. Such unprecedented attention was initially based on the idea that he held similar revolutionary sentiments to those prevailing in the Soviet Union. Later, from the second half of the 1960s to the early 1970s, the ideological disagreements between the Soviet Union and China influenced the direction of Lu Xun studies in the Soviet Union. Soviet leader Khrushchev called for peaceful coexistence with the capitalist West, while Mao Zedong stressed the universal character of the proletarian revolution. Lu Xun was highly respected in both the USSR and China, and thus became an influential tool in this polemic. But, for Soviet scholars, this renewed focus on Lu Xun offered an opportunity to provide a new perspective on the writer’s works. This paper analyzes how the Sino-Soviet split influenced Russian academics’ positions on Lu Xun. The focus is on the three main points of contention in the ideological disagreements between the PRC and the USSR. First, Soviet critics focused on the psychological aspects and individualism in the Lu Xun’s works. Second, a special focus on humanistic elements in the writer’s ideas can be seen as a result of the Soviet disagreement with the Cultural Revolution’s period. Third, by pointing to the internationalist aspects of Lu Xun’s writings, Soviet scholars attempted to expose the Sinocentric political attitudes of the ruling circles in China.

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Editor’s Commentary
Xiaoming Wang
Front. Lit. Stud. China. 2013, 7 (3): 511-512.
Abstract   PDF (223KB)

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The Hopeless Bullet: On Let the Bullets Fly
Xiaoming Luo
Front. Lit. Stud. China. 2013, 7 (3): 512-517.
Abstract   PDF (227KB)

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16 articles