In his book Time in Ruins, the French anthropologist Marc Augé pointed out that “humanity is not in ruins, it is being built.” These words well fit both the present-day Chinese context and the figurative trend of new shanshuihua in which construction sites, cityscapes and artificial nature territories become the subject of depiction. New iconic elements that provide a visual and conceptual framework for artists’ construction of a different shanshui-type heavily indebted to Chinese social and environmental changes, these new coded depictions substitute the traditional representation of natural landscape, reflect the rise of a new sensibility about nature and challenge the idea of what landscape is in the context of Chinese contemporary art. By focusing on a variety of works related to the theme of artificial nature and representing paradigmatic images of physical and allegorical landscape, this paper aims to explore this visual and conceptual innovations introduced in the context of new shanshuihua and analyze the way in which artists use nature, trying to find a new aesthetic categorization for this artistic genre.
This essay aims to examine one key dimension of Yang Mu’s literary writings, namely, his “poetics of history.” From 1968 to 2011, Yang Mu created approximately twenty-two poems on history at different stages of his life. This paper holds that, by invoking historical memory, Yang Mu not only offers his critical response to the polemics on modern Chinese poetry in 1970s Taiwan but also brilliantly conceives of two specific approaches and modes, namely, “observing and presenting history” and “reenacting and re-interpreting history.” This paper argues that the second approach and mode, e.g., Yang Mu speaking through fictionalized and dramatized historical figures, should be viewed as Yang’s insight, as it powerfully displays the originality and depth of the poet’s vision. In addition, as the focus of Yang Mu’s historical imagination shifts from Chinese mainland to Taiwan over the decades, his cultural identity undergoes a major transformation; in a sense, this shift results from the rise of Taiwan’s nativization movement in the age of globalization.
“Youth and the Countryside” by Li Dazhao is a pivotal text that initiated the “Going to the People” movement in China. Scholars have long focused either on its similarity with Russian populism or on its impact on Chinese Communist revolution later on. This paper attempts to situate the essay in its historical context and to delineate the process how the countryside as a problem emerged in Li Dazhao’s thinking. In “Youth and the Countryside,” the rural problem is closely associated with Li’s reflections on youth problems. Accordingly, the emergence of the countryside as a problem can only be possible after Li formed an understanding of class issues through his concept of “common people.”
As we enter 21st century, with China’s economic rise, Chinese intellectual circle have come up with some new narratives regarding China’s position in the world order. Among these narratives, one that attracts most attention is the “civilization narrative.” It holds that China is not a general “nation-state,” nor a traditional “empire,” but a political body that should be described in terms of “civilization.” This article, by combining together intellectual history and social history, tries to make a critical evaluation of this “civilization narrative” from four aspects: first, the narratives about “civilization-state”; second, the relation between “civilization” and “China”; third, the contemporaneity of “civilization,” i.e. the historical condition under which classical canons and tradition are reconstituted in contemporary China; fourth, to examine the genealogy of “civilization narratives” and conceive the possibility for imagining a pluralistic world.
Setting to the task of a logical exposition of this article from Mao’s Talks with regards to both historical context and philosophical content, a re-reading explores the “living historical document” as a theoretical possibility. The author indicates that the literary-artistic hypothesis of Talks consists in the political and military logic of “the revolutionary machine,” offering a politically autonomous character to artistic formulation while simultaneously drawing up a mechanics for the general relationship between the reconstruction of art and social relations in the country’s future. Successively, in an attempt to engage with an elucidation of Mao’s notion of “universal enlightenment” in the contemporary context, is an analytical emphasis on the implications of the material of Talks which embodies its cultural-political framework. This indicates that the revolutionary machine imposes a double function on the cultural-artistic worker as somebody who undertakes the responsibilities of both teacher and servant; who occupies the position of a “vanishing mediator” in the process of universal historical movement; and whose vanguard characteristics and ultimate existence possess no independent value but instead depend on and draw from their relationship with the historical totality. The author holds that this perspective supports the advancement of our cognizance with regards to the civilizing functionality and ethical constructiveness of the Chinese Revolution in world-historical context.
This paper is a discussion of the fantastic genre in literature and film. I employ the term genre in this paper in two ways. First, I attempt to define the fantastic as a genre of writing through the emblematic form of the zhiguai. Second, I link this genre of writing to fantastic film, a category of genre film that has dominated the market in China recently. One of the earliest forms of fiction in Chinese literature, zhiguai were often contrasted to textually verifiable historic writing. First, I contrast discussions of zhiguai to modern conceptions of the fantastic and Enlightenment and revolutionary conceptions of narrative and history. The zhiguai share some features with fantastic storytelling in Europe, notably the Gothic tale that emerged in the late eighteenth century. Second, I draw links between state intervention in religion and superstition and the early modern classification of fantastic literature and film. State anti-superstition campaigns in the early twentieth century would frame fantastic films as superstitious (shenguai dianying). Third, I discuss how the fantastic has been framed in the contemporary China. The modern and contemporary fantastic in China is a combination of Chinese and Western categories of the real and the supernatural.
In this paper, we examine the various approaches toward literary classicism among contemporary Chinese poets. If “poetry of the establishment” features ideological conservatism and aesthetic populism, then its opposite is the online scene of classicist poetry which represents an innovative continuation of the poetic tradition. Here such innovations are discussed in terms of theme, language, and form. Thematic innovations include further that of ideology, worldview, and urbanity. In particular, we argue that a major distinction between contemporary online classicist poets and their premodern predecessors is in their cultural identity. Unlike a traditional literatus who is a poet, scholar, and bureaucrat, contemporary poets often endure economic, intellectual, or political marginalization; or at the very least, writing in the marginalized genre of classicist poetry is a skill that can no longer be readily translated into career success. This new type of poetic identity, in addition to their modern education, has given rise to fresh interpretations of our living world unseen in premodern poetry. Despite their broad spectrum of intellectual persuasions and aesthetic preferences, most of the poets have demonstrated an audacity to experiment, which, coupled with full versatility and virtuosity in the classical poetry tradition, creates outstanding poems. The highly original works of a few leading classicist poets like Lizilizilizi (Zeng Shaoli), Xutang (Duan Xiaosong), and Dugu Shiroushou (Zeng Zheng) will be examined in depth.
Chinese science fiction (sf) writer Liu Cixin (b. 1963) has constantly been dubbed as China’s Arthur C. Clarke (1917−2008) ever since he won the 2015 Hugo Award for best novel. He himself humbly states on several occasions that everything he writes is just clumsy imitations of Arthur C. Clarke. One similarity between Liu and Clarke is the obsession with the imagination of the alien encounter. But their imagination of the alien other has one major difference: While the aliens in Clarke’s sf are mostly benevolent, those in Liu’s are mostly malevolent. This essay compares the differences between their alien encounter sf, focusing on Childhood’s End and The Three-Body Trilogy (Santi sanbuqu). I will especially look at how the narrative point of view and the consequence of the alien encounter differ in the two texts. And I argue that Childhood’s End is an unapologetic justification of (British) colonialism (dressed up as the benevolent Overlords) and propaganda for colonial logics, whereas Liu’s trilogy is a representation of the colonial encounter story written from the point of view of the (semi-) colonized, for whom this experience is characterized by dehumanization. The Three-Body Trilogy could be considered as resulted from the revival of the national humiliation discourse in the 1990s.
In this paper I will re-contextualize Lu Xun’s early thought, as evidenced in his lengthy classical-style essays, which are concerned with issues in literature, philosophy, politics and aesthetics during an era when China was facing profound cultural changes. Part of their significance lies in the way they provide us with an unabashed glimpse at what Lu Xun set out to accomplish, early on, in his new-found literary career. Although they are mainly the product of his final Lehrjahre (years of study) in Japan, the fact that he chose to include the two longest of them in the very first pages of his important 1926 anthology Fen (The grave) indicates that he considered the views expressed therein neither too immature nor too passé to reprint at the height of his career as a creative writer. In fact, he wrote that one of his reasons for doing so was that a number of the literary figures and issues treated in these essays had, ironically, taken on an increased relevance for China “since the founding of the Republic.” The central concern of all the essays turns on questions of cultural crisis and transition. What I propose to do in this paper is to re-examine the essays within the context in which they first appeared, i.e., the expatriate Chinese journal Henan, then published in Tokyo as an unofficial organ of the anti-Manchu Tongmenghui (Revolutionary Alliance).
Following China’s large-scale process of urbanization, the distinctive characteristics of China’s “city(s)” has also begun taking shape. Descriptions and imaginative writings about the city found in contemporary Chinese science fiction have demonstrated unique and yet very specific ways of understanding the city. They have displayed discontentment with the high-level fragmentation of urban space as well as its implicit social inequality, yet also have reflected upon the urban individual’s resort to acquiescence and self-justification as a result of their inability to effectively dismantle such predicaments. In these kinds of imaginary relations, the city becomes an object which is difficult to fathom yet unable to be resisted. Though science fiction novels are able to reconceptualize the city through the reconstruction of space and time, thus bringing about seemingly new visions of the city, yet when these narratives begin to deviate from topics such as the “social property of time,” or that of “social labor,” they themselves then become problematic.