This paper studies several travel accounts featuring transcultural and transnational experiences in the Yunnan-Burma borderlands where the British, Chinese, French and various indigenous peoples encountered each other, including Yangwentun xiaoyin, an anonymous “ballad” circulated in late Qing and Republican Yunnan, Ai Wu’s (1904–92) early fiction based upon his wanderings in Yunnan and Burma from 1925 to 1931, and Xiao Qian’s (1910–99) utopian “travelogue” featuring a European couple’s futuristic travel to the area. These writings illustrate the intersection of issues of nation, ethnicity, and gender, which are intertwined with the discourse of barbarism: On the one hand, their authors often express anxiety over threats to China’s dominance in this area; on the other, frequently resorting to the discourse of barbarism, these accounts, tinged with Sino-centrism, often exoticize and barbarize other cultures, particularly indigenous groups. The eroticized and racialized female body constitutes a privileged site of representation in these writings: On the one hand, travel writings often make a distinction between Han Chinese women and indigenous women, treating the latter as exotic, seductive, dangerous, and/or primitive; on the other hand, as the need to build a strong, modernized multi-ethnic nation became increasingly urgent, Republican authors began to “universalize” the female body, Chinese or indigenous, treating both as threatened and exploited by the Western “newcomer,” and thus are (potential) allies sharing a nationalist, anti-imperialist cause.
Through reading two creatively translated stories by the Zhou brothers, Lu Xun’s (Zhou Shuren) “The Soul of Sparta” (Sibada zhi hun, 1903) and Zhou Zuoren’s “The Chivalrous Slave Girl” (Xia nünu, 1904), this paper takes a close look at the intellectual trend in the first decade of the twentieth-century China of constructing strong and heroic women as the emblem of national power while rendering men as powerless. By focusing on a foreign heroine with traditional Chinese virtues, both translations creatively Sinicized and feminized the foreign power in the original tales. At the same time, male characters, prospective readers of the stories, and even authors themselves were marginalized, diminished, and ridiculed vis-à-vis the newly constructed feminine authority. Comparing this form of cultural masochism to other literary masochisms in modern China analyzed by Rey Chow and Jing Tsu respectively, this paper endeavors to excavate a hybrid model of nationalist agency grounded in the intertwined relationship of race, gender and nation. In my analysis, Gilles Deleuze’s discussion on masochism is utilized as a heuristic tool to shed light on the revolutionary potential embedded in the “strong women, weak men” complex in the 1910s. I argue that the cultural masochism in late Qing represents one of the earliest attempts of the Chinese intellectuals to creatively use Chinese traditional gender cosmology to absorb the threat of Western imperialism and put forward a hybrid model of nationalist agency.
Mei Niang (1920–2013), the pen name of Sun Jiarui, is a female fiction writer, translator, and editor of Funü zazhi (Ladies’ journal). In the semi-colonial Northeast China, Mei Niang’s exploration of melancholic narratives shore up manifold levels of socio-historical discourses that are constructive of women’s subjectivity. Melancholic narrative functions as an inverted mirror of both the author’s cultural displacement from her diasporic experience, and her portrayal of colonial domination of local elites by the Japanese in Northeast China. Also, the author’s depiction of feminine melancholia revokes the modernist ideology of love and its constitutive male-centered discourses, dismantles the social disenfranchisement of women by feudal authority, social prejudices, and the eroding urban materialism. Stylistically, Mei Niang’s second-person texts reinforce the feminine authority in enunciation, and by articulating women’s emotions and afflictions, transmogrify the melancholic narrative into a mode of self-narration and self-empowerment.
During the War of Resistance to Japan (1937–45), the cultural scene in Japanese-occupied Shanghai took on a “feminine” quality, as female leads dominated stage performance and film screens. This essay seeks to engage this gendered phenomenon through examples of Ouyang Yuqian’s wartime play Peach Blossom Fan (Taohua shan) and the film Mulan Joins the Army (Mulan congjun). Borrowing affect theory in conjunction with the gendered perception of modernity, the author argues that these representations of female characters, on the one hand, highlight the subjective projection of male intellectuals motivated by intense feelings of shame and anger, which constitutes a feminized national imagination encountering the colonial Other. On the other hand, such representations continue the May Fourth project of enlightening and liberating woman from the conventional family while reintroducing the concept of the nation in the family setting and proposing the foundational family as the basic unit of the new nation.
This study examines critical essays and imaginative fiction by three key writers of the Republican period: Mao Dun, Ba Jin and Lu Yin. I argue that, while Mao Dun and Ba Jin fuse elements of classical Chinese and modern Western sources so as to create strong heroines and a critique of “new men” for the purpose of revolutionary cultural and national reform, Lu Yin foregrounds an inward examination of the self, multiple narrative points of view and a dialogical perspective which fuses her protagonists’ interior consciousness with external reality as well as other characters’ streams of feeling and thought. My reading of Lu Yin’s texts reveals that she not only succeeds in bringing communion and solace to her readers but also creates “moments of being,” markedly similar to Virginia Woolf’s modernist aesthetics and Walter Benjamin’s mosaic-like “moments of recognition,” which allow her characters to perceive “wholeness” from fragmentary flashes of understanding. These intense moments of awareness enhance Lu Yin’s dialogic imagination and enable her to create discursive feminine narratives that convey the full complexity of women’s consciousness while simultaneously resisting the male realist literary discourse and strengthening her feminist-activist agenda in the national public sphere.
This essay explores the wartime fiction and drama of Xu Xu (徐訏, 1908–80), one of China’s most widely read authors of the Republican-period (1912–49). By placing Xu Xu’s popular spy fiction into the context of literary production during the war years, the essay illustrates that Xu Xu’s oeuvre protested against an ideology of moral collectivism in which the individual had to submit self to a higher political authority that professed to represent the will of the nation. Through a literary aesthetic that largely defied the demands for a literature of resistance that subjugated the individual self to the national collective, Xu’s ostensibly autobiographical I-novels brought comfort to urban readers whose personal salvation was rarely addressed in official wartime narratives depicting the nation in peril and calling for collective sacrifice. At the same time, Xu’s confident cosmopolitan heroes satisfied urban readers’ desire for political agency in the raging international conflict. Furthermore, this paper explores Xu Xu’s wartime drama through which Xu attempted to piece together a quasi-existentialist vision of the individual and human experience that was revealed only under the extreme condition of war.
Modern Chinese writer Yu Dafu continued composing classicalstyle poems for his whole life, claiming himself to be “a man infatuated with skeletons.” This article interprets Yu’s lyricism as a stylistic manifestation of his personal and national anxieties that were stimulated by the transition of Chinese culture into modernity during the first half of the twentieth century. By examining Yu’s status as a displaced loyalist both in his verses as well as in real life, I argue that Yu’s loyalist rhetoric represents the identity crisis of a Chinese writer in confronting the menacing power struggles of the modern world.
The focus of this essay is microfiction (wei xiaoshuo), a form of Weibo-based fiction writing. From the perspective of its most prominent feature—microness—the authors investigate the dialectical relationship between microness and largeness embodied in its form, the context of its emergence, the conditions of its existence, as well as the issues reflected in its content. Studying three disparate cases of microfiction writing, namely microfiction selected from contests hosted by Sina, Chen Peng’s personal Weibo posts, and Wen Huanjian’s Weibo novel, Love in the Age of Microblogging (Weibo shiqi de aiqing), we explore the cultural status of microfiction as a reflection of the combination of literary writing and online activities; and its aesthetic, literary, and cultural characteristics. Reading microfiction in both a literary and a sociocultural text, we argue that the smallness is an intrusion upon the largeness and hegemony of grand narratives on the one hand, and a reflection of a boradly changing reality on the other.