In this paper dealing with modern Chinese literature, that is, more especially, with literature of the period following the first World War and of the Manchu period, I wish to follow a single complex of features which may be summed up under “subjectivism and individualism.” I understand these terms to cover an emphasis on the creator’s personality in art and a concentration of attention on the artist’s own life. The artist sees in artistic production above all the opportunity to express his views, feelings, sympathy or maybe hate; in extreme cases a work of art may provide the means for expressing, developing and finding scope for those aspects of his personality which in real life are somehow suppressed or not given full play. The work of art then, as a rule, does not document objective reality but rather reflects the author’s inner life and comprises descriptions or analysis of his own feelings, moods, visions and even dreams; the artist’s work approaches more and more closely to a confession in which the author reveals the different sides of his character and of his life—and especially the gloomier and more hidden sides. In my view, the growth of these features in the literature of a given period may serve as an important indication of certain changes in the social structure in which it arises and is not seldom the sign of the individual’s emancipation from traditional views in the spheres of philosophy, religion or ethics, or even of actual revolt against the inherited social order. In the case of Chinese literature of the period referred to above, I should say that the measure of these features is one of the symptoms of the emancipation of the individual from feudal traditions, the breaking of all those fetters restricting the freedom of the individual in the old society, whether in family or in public life. There is no doubt that only when the individual realizes his own entity and singularity can he begin to claim his right to order his life in his own way and determine his own fate. In tradition-bound societies, this feeling for individual self-determination is weak or even completely stifled by the demands and claims of religion and traditional morality. Thus, for instance, Buddhism, in the teaching of Karma, of the chain of cause and effect, conceived this life as only an episode in an endless series of similar episodes which man must pass through in ever new incarnations. If his fate happens to be hard, the causes must be sought in a previous life, and if man bears his burden without complaint, he will be rewarded in a future life. Thus the importance of this life and of the lot of the individual was very much diminished. Man was not responsible for his own life, did not direct it or determine it, for everything was pre-determined by fate. The belief in the pre-determination of the personal lot was also shared by Confucianism, which in addition placed duty to the family and to society altogether above the interests of the individual. The belief, too, that human nature was naturally good and only deformed by the world’s temptations, merely obscured the real problems both of individual psychology as well as of the motivation of the actions of others. No more did Taoism with its yearning for complete merging with the universe, for a state in which the individual ceased to exist, do anything to strengthen the consciousness of the significance of the individual life and lot. It is natural that the birth of a modern, free and self-determining individual was possible only at the price of shattering and discarding these traditional views and customs and the whole social structure on which they were based. The modern revolution in China is thus, first and foremost, in the sphere of ideas, a revolution of the individual and of individualism in opposition to traditional dogmas. In this context, we can then realize the immense importance of subjectivistic and individualistic tendencies in modern Chinese thought and art. It is equally natural, however, that this consciousness of self, this investigation of one’s own personality, must go hand in hand with realism, with the ability to look at oneself and at the facts of existence without the spectacles of tradition. This is an aspect of literature, however, which would require special study. An accompanying feature of this consciousness of self, of one’s own entity and significance is a feeling for the tragedy of life. If we are confined to this life alone, and if it is full of hardship and suffering, then nothing canrecompense us for this tragedy, it is a misfortune that cannot be repaired. We shall see later on how this feeling for the tragedy of existence—very weakly developed or not at all in older literature—is in fact a characteristic feature of modern art. In the same way, along with this new feeling of the singularity of existence, goes hand in hand the revolutionary character of the new man and his art. In this life alone is all the content and purpose of existence, and so it is necessary to remove everything that would stand in the way of its full development and full enjoyment—and by force if necessary. The other side of this mentality, however, is a tendency to self-destruction. If only this life exists—and it is not worth living—then it is better to make an end of it. These are, in rough outline, the different aspects of this new, modern mental complex which we call subjectivism and individualism, and to which we wish to devote our attention in this paper.
It is evident that we cannot here give by any means an exhaustive or complete picture of these tendencies in recent Chinese literature of the Manchu and revolutionary periods. Besides, the present state of our knowledge is far from sufficient for such a task, for we should need to have a good knowledge of the character of this period not only in literature, but also in all other sectors of Chinese life. In literature, too, we are faced with a complete insufficiency of monographs providing systematic studies of the various personalities, trends, problems and so on, on the basis of which we could then attempt to build up a synthetic picture of the successive stages of development, in which all the facets of social life could be evaluated and taken into account for the epoch in question. As it is, all we can do is to call attention to certain symptoms and indications rather than present a systematic account of the whole development in all its aspects. So, too, it will be possible only in a later study to classify the individual writers according to the different social groups to which they belong and to establish the relations between their ideology and their class origin.
There can be no question that subjectivism and individualism, joined with pessimism and a feeling for the tragedy of life, along with an inclination to revolt and even the tendency to self-destruction, are the most characteristic qualities of Chinese literature from the May Fourth Movement of 1919 to the outbreak of war with Japan.1 Typical, too, for the mood of the time was undoubtedly the fact that the Bible of the new youth was Die Leiden des jungen Werther. In proof of this, it is sufficient, perhaps, to quote at least one passage from the novel Tzu yeb, by Мао Тun.2 Captain Lei , one of those who took part in the May Fourth Movement, a former student and later a cadet of the Huang-p’u Academy, is speaking to Mrs. Wu, his one-time student love, now the wife of a Shanghai industrialist:
“Captain Lei lifted his head and drew out a book from his pocket. Opening it quickly, he extended it toward Mrs. Wu with both hands. It was an old, well-worn copy of Die Leiden des jungen Werther. The place at which it was open was marked with a pressed white rose. Like a flash this book and this white rose recalled to Mrs. Wu the stormy times of student meetings during the Movement of the 30th of May, and so vividly that she found herself trembling . . .
“Captain Lei smiled a little bitterly and sighed as it seemed, but then he went on: ‘ . . . This book and this white rose are dearer to me than all else . . . I took part in the campaign against Hu-nаn, I rose from a lieutenant to the rank of captain, I was present at the taking of Ch’ang-sha, Wu-han, Chêng-chou and of Peiping. I made my way over thousands, indeed tens of thousands of corpses. Innumerable times I escaped death by a hair’s-breadth, I lost everything, only from this rose and book I never parted . . .”
The passage is extremely interesting for the way it shows how the greatest product of European Romanticism found a kindred spirit and mood among Chinese revolutionary youth. It testifies to how the moods in China were reminiscent in many aspects of the moods of European Romanticism and its exaggerated individualism, tragic coloring and feeling of “Weltschmerz.” It is well known that Die Leiden des jungen Werther was translated into Chinese by Kuo Mo-jo ,3 who in this period was the principal representative of Chinese romanticism, individualism and even titanism, and also the chief propagator of revolt and revolution. In the early works of Kuo Mo-jo, we also find strong echoes of the great German model as, for example, in the highly romantic and lyrical tale of love and suicide entitled “The Grave of Yeh Lo-t’i .”
Characteristic, too, of the subjectivistic-individualistic tendency of that time is the fact that Kuo Mo-jo wrote an account of his life, especially his early youth and literary beginnings, up to the Great Revolution, in seven autobiographical novels of which the best is perhaps “Childhood” [Shao-nien shih-tai ], published in 1929. His other work is also strongly autobiographical in character, in fact not seldom his works are the raw material rather than the finished product of literary art, records and notes of personal experiences rather than stories and novels in the accepted sense, examples of which are to be found, for instance, in the collection “Olive” [Kan-Ian ].
There can be no doubt that their own lives, their own experiences and feelings are the main source of writers’ inspiration in the inter-war period, and these sources are always gloomy and tragic in coloring. This melancholy subjectivism also pervades to a large extent the work of the greatest of modern writers—Lu Hsün . Here we shall quote no more than the beginning of his introduction to the collection “Call to Arms” [Na-han], where Lu Hsün alludes to his own sad experiences in childhood and early youth as the source of his inspiration: “I, too, in my young days dreamt many a dream, but later I forgot the greater part of them. But this I by no means regret. People say that such so-called reminiscences can give one pleasure, but equally often they cause us grief, for the silken threads of our thoughts may renew long past stabs of pain. What delight is in that? Besides, all our proneness to grief is in the impossibility of complete forgetfulness. And so that part of my recollections which I am unable to forget gave birth to ‘Call to Arms’.” Here we have a subjectivistic explanation of the author’s creative work. If we go through the collection Na-han4 or P’ang-huang,5 we shall have little difficulty in persuading ourselves of the subjectivistic character of Lu Hsün’s work—even though we must bear in mind that this man of genius also created some of the most convincing and most penetrating pictures of Chinese society. This subjectivity is particularly clear in his collection of poetry and prose, “Wild Grass” [Yeh-ts’ao ], while its autobiographical character is indicated in the title of the collection, “Dawn Flowers Plucked at Dusk” [ch’ao-hua hsi-she ].6 It is, of course, necessary to note that even the vision and dreams recorded in “Wild Grass” do not express Lu Hsün’s personal desires and experiences, but that their only theme, as is clearly shown by B. Krebsová in her book Lu Sün, sa vie et son œuvre (Praha 1953), is revolt, the revolution of the Chinese people and the liberation of the whole of Chinese society.
The pessimistic, tragic mood of Chinese youth in the period of the Great Revolution is most effectively expressed by the greatest contemporary writer of epic, Mao Tun [Shen Yen-ping ], in his excellent trilogy “Eclipse” [Shih]. The first part of this trilogy, characteristically called “Frustrated Hopes” [Huan-mieh], is the story of a disillusioned and defeated generation, which set out with great hopes and ended in complete despair. Similarly, the second part of the trilogy “Agitation” [Tung-yao], shows how futile were all attempts of young intellectuals, endowed with good will but too weak to ride the storm which was sweeping the whole of society. Finally the rebel peasants murder the girls with short hair who come to help them, but who have become for them the symbol of the hated town. Most tragic of all is the conclusion of the third part, called “Pursuit” [Chui-ch’iu], describing three young couples whose lives are a complete failure, because the partners are never equally matched. Every good is immediately opposed by an equally great evil which in the end gains the victory. It is an account of poor, broken lives which end, after short lived attempts at escape, in death or suicide. This first major work by Mao Tun gives us the impression that the author sees around him nothing but dissolution and death. There can be no more convincing document of the feeling for the tragedy of life with which the youth of that time was filled.
Equally subjective and emotionally highly-keyed is another writer of this time, Yü Ta-fu, whose Romanticism brings him close to Kuo Mo-jo. His best-known work actually bears the title “Nine Diaries” [Jih-chi chiu-chung ], which in itself points to the subjective character of the work. In this book Yü Ta-fu retells with unusual candor the history of his love. Similar subjective and pessimistic elements are to be found in the writings of Pa Chin , whose first work, which also immediately won him fame, bears the suggestive title “Destruction” [Mieb-wang ]. The same subjectivisim permeates his other well-known work, “The Family” [Chia ]. We could thus enumerate the works of one author after another and everywhere, in greater or lesser measure, we should find the same traits of subjectivism, individualism and pessimism. They are present, too, for instance, in the work of the authoress Ting Ling who, however, was the first, along with Lu Hsün, to realize that this Weltschmerz, these despairing and unhappy moods, do not lead anywhere, and that it is necessary first to change the world, if we are to change ourselves and our destiny. As she rightly puts into the mouth of Jo-ch’ü in her novel, “Shanghai in the Spring of 1930” :7 “I sometimes have the feeling that if we stopped this writing it would not be a pity. We write something, a handful of people read it, but in a short time it vanishes from their minds. What sense has it all except perhaps that you get some kind of a fee for it? Maybe there are readers who are moved by some passage or by the style, but what kind of readers are they? Petty bourgeois students—adolescents who are extremely easily affected. They feel that it is very close to their own spiritual mood and read into it the spleen which is in them but which they cannot express. It is possible, too, that what they read is the embodiment of their own desires, with some of the characters in the novels they actually fall in love, while with others they identify themselves. They also believe that the writer describes himself, and for that reason adore him and write him naïve and admiring letters. And we cannot help feeling touched that perhaps our work has had an effect and reply with still greater care to these young lads . . . And the result? I know now that we have only harmed them with it. We are drawing these young people on to our old path. A painful sensibility, egotism, futile self-torment, grief! . . . Where are they to find a solution, a way out? Finally they give way, day by day, increasingly to their melancholy, and fail to grasp the connection between society and their suffering. When they themselves try their hand at writing, they turn out some essay or poem and win the praise of older writers. Tell me, what good is it to them? And what gain is it for humanity? And so I myself now intend to give up writing. I expect, too, that our writers will think all this over a little and that they will take a different path. And small though the hope may be that they will create something outstanding in the near future, perhaps what they write will find its place in a future history of literature.” Here we have summed up the basic character of the literature of this period and of those moods of youth of which we have spoken above.
Even Ting Ling, it must be noted, wrote at the beginning of her career the deeply subjective “Diary of Miss Sophia” [Suo-fei nü-shih jih-chi ] and other works of a like kind.
This orientation toward the writer’s own fate and own life, which we call subjectivism, is testified to by numerous autobiographies and memoirs, works which, as we shall see, were up to that time extremely rare. We have already alluded above to the autobiographical works of Kuo Mo-jo. Besides these, we may mention, for example, the “Auto-biography of a Forty-Year-Old” [Ssu-shih tzu-shu], by one of the leaders of the literary revolution, Hu Shih , or the well-known autobiography of the notable historian Ku Chie-kang] with which he prefaced his work Ku-shih-pien and with which the West became familiar in Hummel’s translation,8 further, the autobiography of the writer Shen Ts’ung-wen , entitled Ts’ung-wen tzu chuan , and others. At the same time, a whole series of books of memoirs appeared, which is all the more interesting as all the literature in the period between the wars was written by young people who, at the end of this period, in very few cases were over forty. As a rule, however, memoirs are written by persons in the evening of their lives. This again points to the authors’ quite extraordinary interest in their own lives and possibly also in the lives of their friends. As an example of such memoirs, we may cite the two volumes by Shen Ts’ung-wen , dedicated respectively to the writer Hu Yeh-p’in, shot by Chiang Kai-shek’s henchmen [Chi Нu Уеh-р’in ], and to his wife, the above-mentioned writer, Ting Ling [Chi Ting Ling ].
If we compare this literature that arose in China after the War, as the product of the tremendous ferment evoked everywhere by the Great October Revolution, with the literature of the preceding period, it seems to us that it is hardly possible that the same nation can have produced both. Let us consider only the differences in language: the creation of a new national language—kuo-yü , differing sharply not only from the old written language—wen-yen, but also from the old pai-hua . Further, the differences in literary form and subject-matter; the disappearance of the old essay, whose place was taken by modern newspaper and magazine articles; the passing-away of the old poetry and the creation of quite a new prosody with new poetic themes; the replacing of the old novel with its chain of episodes by the complex modern novel; the introduction of the modern short-story with a skilfully built up psychological situation; the rise of a new, realistic drama, or even tragedy, in place of the old Singspiele; the new accent on psychology instead of description or dialogue; the change of setting—instead of the old country towns and villages—the city, and mainly, as we pointed out above, the gloomy pessimism permeating all this literature and taking the place of the former affirmation of this world or at least reconciliation with the existing state of things. The sum of all these differences is so great that it seems to us that whole centuries and thousands of miles must needs separate the two epochs and not a mere decade and a shift of scene of a few dozen or score miles from some provincial town to Shanghai. Only on looking somewhat closer into the texture of the works in question, do we discover in them a greater connection with the literature of the preceding period than might be expected after such a revolutionary upheaval.
We can, indeed, affirm that it is just this subjectivism which we have found to be the characteristic feature of the revolutionary epoch that is the main link between the literature of the inter-war period and the literature of the preceding period. In short, we may say that modern literature, in a certain sense and on a new formal and thematic platform, as well as in a different environment, inherits and carries on the old literary tradition of the Manchu literati, of the educated, ruling class of the Chinese people. We need not be misled by the fact that certain conservative men of letters waged a stubborn fight against the new literature, which they condemned and rejected along with its creators. Were we to seek the main characteristic whereby we could distinguish most clearly the production of the literati for their own consumption from what was created for the people in the older period (such a dividing line is necessarily rough, but actually it is provided by the criteria which the literati themselves applied to what they included in their catalogues of literature such as the Ssu-k’u cb’üan-shu tsung-mu t’i-yao , we should most certainly find it in the greater emphasis on the lyrical and subjective aspects of literary production as compared with the predominantly epic and objective character of folk literature. The lyric occupies the foremost place in the literary output of the old Chinese man of letters, whether in the form of a poem (shih), or of a song (tz’u), or of the long compositions in rhymed prose (fu), or in the lyrical mood and approach permeating and coloring all the other domains of literary art. To a certain extent, the essay, too, has a lyrical quality in its descriptions of natural scenery and of personal experiences and feelings which, apart from works of a political character or deriving from the author’s official activities, comprise the greater part of its subject-matter. Besides, the formal features of the ku-wen style, with its emphasis on balanced phrases, on rhythm, on the regular alternation of shorter and longer paragraphs, its love of parallelism in the word-arrangement and the thought-structure, its frequent use of antithesis and similar stylistic devices, comprise qualities which we are wont to associate with poetry rather than with prose. The same is true of the strict layout of the essay, of the rules about how to begin, how to make a transition, how to present the main idea, how to work up to the point and what particles are to be used and in what positions. These lyrical and subjective traits, however, are also to be found in letters, which form an important part of the literati’s prose work, as well as in other forms of artistic expression, such as pictures, and so on. Epic in the form of narrative poems, tales and novels scarcely appears in the works of the literati at all, or if it does, remains on the margin of their production in the form of those pi-chi which document in artificial and impartial style, and with the utmost brevity, all the noteworthy events of which the man of letters hears or which he sees or reads about. This form of literature becomes increasingly intimate and subjective. For whereas formerly all experiences had to pass the censorship of beauty, only what was wen or “beautiful” being allowed to pass into the temple of literature, also designated wen, while all evil and ugly emotions were excluded, literature in later periods began to embrace an ever wider range of human experience. This tendency to greater intimacy, to the introduction of broader and new spheres of personal life into higher literature, is also noted by G. Margouliès in his introduction to Le Kou-wen Chinois (Paris 1926, p. XXXIII): “Pour ce qui est du style, il est impossible de ne pas remarquer de grandes modifications: L’auteur semble s’épancher plus ouvertement et plus librement, il paraît plus intime et plus personnel. . . .” A little further on, he writes (p. XXXIV): “Enfin, parurent Han Yu et ses continuateurs; . . . Il n’appartenait qu’à eux d’imprimer à la littérature un caractère bien personnel et bien intime, de faire passer dans les notices et les préfaces offertes en cadeau, genres autant dire inexistants avant cette époque, élément de sincérité et de franc épanchement qui auparavant ne pouvait être observé et encore sous réserves, que dans le genre épistolaire. Cependant ce caractère une fois imprimé à la littérature, les époques postérieures le conserveront avec les genres créés et servant à son expression . . . les auteurs des Song et des Ming auront de plus en plus nettement cet accent personnel et intime; ils s’ouvriront, ils se donneront de plus en plus entièrement au lecteur. C’est là le grand changement et la grande importance littéraire de l’époque des T’ang. C’est peut-être pour cette raison que, l’accent personnel de l’auteur devenant trop fort et trop perceptible, la haute littérature, ainsi que nous l’avons dit plus haut, se popularise, perd ses traits distinctifs et se fond avec les autres genres littéraires du Kou-wen.”
Margouliès here formulates very exactly those tendencies which, however, in an unusually high degree, characterize modern literature, as we pointed out above. We shall show from a number of examples that such tendencies were particularly strong in the Manchu period and thereby provide the proof that modern literature, at first glance so very different from that of preceding epochs, is in fact the culmination of tendencies which had, for a very long time, been at work and slowly maturing in Chinese literature. Naturally, we shall not seek these trends pre-eminently in essays and poetry, which no longer occupy the fore ground of interest in Manchu literature, but are becoming the domain of mere imitators. We must turn our attention to the new genres which constitute the main and characteristic expressive means of this epoch. First and foremost it is the novel which is probably the high-point of artistic expression of the Manchu period. Strongly subjective, intimate and individualistic traits characterized the novel in this period. I myself had the occasion some time ago to point out how intimate and personal was the approach of the author of the novel Hung-lou meng and of his circle to this work.9 Even though it is not a purely autobiographical work, yet individual characters in the novel were conceived by the author, or at least by his circle, as personifications, doubles or representations of themselves. Certainly it is in the light of such an intimate link with this work that we must grasp the marginal notes appearing in the manuscript of this novel entitled “Shih t’ou chi, with a new commentary from the study Chïh-yen-chai , from the year 1760.”
For example: “How deserted today is he who knows the story of how Chïh-yen held the brush for Fêng-chïeh (one of the female characters in the novel) when she was to choose the play (to be sung by the actors). How then should he not be downcast?” And further on: “He who once wrote this: ‘How deserted today is he who knows this story,’ is now in the year 1767 only a mouldering corpse. Is it not sad?” These short quotations are enough to show that this novel is not only a story for entertainment, as it used to be with the novels of the Ming Period, but a work expressing the most intimate experiences and feelings of the author and his friends who regarded the characters in the novel as personifications of themselves.
A no less definitely personal relation between the authors and their work, though in a somewhat different sense, is observable in the novel Yeh-sou p’u-yen, by Hsia Ching-ch’ü, c.1750, and in Chin-hua-lu, by Li Ju-chen (1763-1830). In these cases, the authors looked upon their novels as a kind of compensation for their lack of success in life, as a means of satisfying their longing for fame and immortality. Into them they put all their learning, all their knowledge, all they wanted to achieve, all they had dreamed and meditated upon. What we see then is a quite new, individualistic conception of literature and, at the same time, a complete re-evaluation of literary genres and traditions. Even for traditional learning, as comes out especially clearly in the second case, the best medium for its display is now the novel which, in the same way as the novel in Europe, became the platform from which everything could be discussed from politics to metaphysics. This, too, is an entirely new feature in Chinese literature, especially as the novel was a medium formerly despised by Chinese men of learning.
Similarly, I once drew attention10 to the fact that Lao Ts’an, in the novel Lao Ts’an yu-chi, is, on the one hand, the embodiment of the traditional ideal of Chinese culture, a “hidden scholar,” and, on the other hand, a personification of the author of the novel, Liu O, just as other characters are representations of his friends, patrons and even of his opponents and enemies. Still more marked is this strongly personal tendency in other novels toward the end of the Manchu Period. Thus Wu Wo-yao, already in his novel bearing the title “Strange Things Seen During Twenty Years” [Ehr-shih nien mu-tu chih kuai hsien-chuang ], sets his own person and character in opposition to the whole of society and, in the opening chapter, formulates his dismal view of the world: “But now, when I take stock and look back over these twenty years in which I have stood face to face with life, I see that I have met with only three kinds of beings: insects, beasts of prey and vampires.” Personal, autobiographical elements of an equally pronounced kind are present in another novel of this type, in “A Picture of the Present-day Class of Officials” [Kuan cb’ang hsien-hsing chi], by Li Pao-chia, better known under the name Li Po-yüan (1867-1906).
This thoroughly subjective and intimate note is to be found not only in the novel, but in the whole domain of literature in so far as it seeks to say something new and original and does not merely reproduce old patterns and ideas, as did the literati of the T’ung school , or was customary among the writers of traditional novels of adventure (usually of Manchu origin), such as Wen K’ang, author of “Tales about Heroes and Heroines” [Erh-nü ying-hsiung chuan], c.1868.
In order to demonstrate these tendencies, let us take at least a cursory glance at the work of one of the most outstanding authors of the Manchu Period—P’u Sung-ling (1640-1715), who in many respects anticipated all these trends which have reached their full development at the present time. P’u Sung-ling created, as did Lu Hsün some two hundred and forty years later, the perfect short-story. Just as did the authors of the May Fourth Movement he composed the social novel, and, like the authors in the liberated regions during the Patriotic War, he composed for the people long songs and narrative ballads. And finally, like all progressive educated persons in the revolutionary epoch, he was interested in raising the educational and cultural standards of the masses and wrote a whole series of handbooks dealing with their principal spheres of interest: folk characters, calendars, agriculture, medicinal herbs, wedding and other family ceremonies, etc. As is to be expected in the work of an author who in so many ways was ahead of his time, those trends come out most clearly which became the distinguishing traits of the following epoch. No doubt, in the mind of every reader of his collection of curious tales, Liao chai chih-i, repeatedly translated into European languages, there remains fixed in his memory the intense lyricism and pathos of the passionate introduction to this collection. Let us recall only the words “My life is like a flower tossed by the wind and falling at last into the manure-heap beyond the fence.” And he describes his book as “the fruit of his desolation and bitterness,” adding: “The fact that I must give outlet to my feelings in this way is sad enough.”11
Here we have a cogent formulation of the new, modern attitude to a work of art: A work of art is not the product of leisure and good spirits designed for the entertainment of friends, which was the purpose for which earlier writers published their books, but it is the manifestation of the innermost feelings, the expression not only of love, but of bitterness and even hate. It required great courage and a quite unprecedented self-confidence, the consciousness of the significance of one’s own personality, for the author of the feudal epoch so openly to formulate his program and stress the claim that his feelings, his point of view, are the most important factor in art. “Mea res agitur” is the credo of the modern writer. It would be unnecessary here to allude once more to the biting ridicule and the active hate with which P’u Sung-ling attacks different social evils, such as the corruption of the officials, the arrogance and rapacity of the powerful, and so on, which Chinese and European scholars have repeatedly underlined. Much more important will be to investigate the intimate connection of P’u Sung-ling’s stories with his personal life and show how he paints into the pictures of the gentle, unresisting young man of letters, part of himself. And how the various, colorful adventures which he invented lit up the grey monotony of his life as a private tutor in the houses of rich and overbearing patrons. Yet another typical expression of the personal key in which P’u Sung-ling’s work is pitched is his output in traditional forms, his essays, notes and especially his poems. Here I shall give at least one or two examples in illustration. When he was seventy-three, he wrote a biography of his deceased wife, which speaks with surprising frankness of himself, of his family and even of his parents. Thus, for instance, of the scholarly predilections of his father, a businessman who gave up his business and devoted himself to study, P’u Sung-ling speaks as follows: “The book was never out of his hands and, in consequence, not even old scholars could compare with him as regards the depth and extent of his learning. Only it was like when the Chou became impoverished and wanted to build a temple—he ceased to care about his property.” That is, considering Chinese traditions, an uncommonly candid verdict on his own father. With no less daring and candor, P’u Sung-ling speaks of the dissension that arose between his wife and the wives of his brothers, so that in the long run he had to move out of the family house: “But the silliest pretext was good enough for them (his sisters-in-law) to find fault with her (P’u Sung-ling’s mother); they made a great din and (their) long tongues never stopped wagging. The private scholar (P’u’s father) said: Things cannot go on like this; divided up our property and gave Sung-ling twenty mou of land. It was a bad year and Sung-ling got barely five tou of buckwheat and three tou of millet, besides some implements. They were all discarded things, rotten and broken, but when Sung-ling protested and tried to get something that was still in good condition, Mrs Liu (P’u Sung-ling’s wife) remained dumb as if she had not a tongue in her head. The older and the younger brother got the main house where the kitchen and the sitting room were in perfect order. Sung-ling alone had to move out. He got an old peasant’s cottage where not one wall was whole; a thicket of small trees flourished there and everything was covered with a tangle of thorns and weeds.”
We could quote other passages from this short autobiography, which would support what was said above—that the literature of that time already embraces the whole of life, in all its breadth, and that it does not exclude even the shadier and uglier facts of existence. We see, too, that a system of ethics emphasizing the solidarity of the family unit failed to assert its hold where material interests were at stake, and there can be no doubt that the breaking-up of large families is the first step towards freeing the individual and, at the same time, the prelude to a general social revolution. We could quote from P’u Sung-ling’s work a great number of things testifying to this new, unsentimental, realistic view of his own life and of society around him. Equally unassailable, too, is the contention that the individualistic, revolutionary attitude of modern man is determined by the individual seeing through the haze of philosophical and religious conceptions in which tradition has wrapped everything and seeing life as it really is. Here I shall quote only one poem to show how P’u Sung-ling’s art grew out of this ability “to see life steadily and to see it whole.” (I have, of course, to confine myself to a more or less literal prose translation.)
Song about the Drivers-out of the Demons of Drought12
In the sixth month there was a terrible heat and dampness so that everything was in decay,
Nor would it have been a wonder if the stones on the hills had crumbled and the hills of copper turned molten,
Benches and stools burned as if you were to sit on the bottom of a red-hot pan,
Grain withered, the leaves curled and rustled rustily in the wind.
The people suffering from the drought feared it and began to spread rumors;
The rumor sprang up that the demons of drought wish to destroy the peasants.
The corpses in the graves—those that have been mouldering three years already —
Their bones, they say, have power to cause this catastrophe.
The people from twelve villages came rushing in a single stream,
Wildly waving spears and bows, and their noise was like the roaring of a flood.
They overran the country like excited ants or swarming bees.
The owners of graves pressed back their tears and clasped their hands to their hearts,
They dared not, however, even peep, not to speak of showing their anger!
They sat and listened as hundreds of spades struck each other in a circle,
The dust from the dwellings of the dead flew on all sides, coverings roads and paths.
In the dug-up grave they came upon the remains of the dead,
Smashed up the coffin, crushed the bones and hung up the skull,
Even in the grave misfortune may overtake you.
Thus they drove out the demons of drought and the drought persisted all the more;
What harm have these mouldering bones done, why are you so cruel?
The families made complaint and immediately a strict order came:
To catch the runaways, bind them and bring them in, as you would roll a mat.
Those caught were beaten till their innards were in ribbons and their bones broken.
Those who got off with their lives had to bribe agents, and fields and gardens were gone with the wind.
In the Chou-liang 13 district, during such a disturbance, a still stranger thing happened.
When they opened the coffin, a yellow rat sprang out and made off into the corn.
The crowd vainly chased after it till they met an old villager;
His eyes were glaring, he mouthed and gasped for breath,
He stumbled and measured his full length on the ground and, at that moment, hundreds of halberds struck him.
In Ch’i and Lu,14 up to eighty places were affected by this calamity,
Is it possible that a hundred different devils have gathered to fill Shan-tung?
If the demons can regulate rain and mist,
Then the Emperor in Heaven sits serenely, unseeing and unhearing.
If heaven does not intervene, we shall find ourselves on the verge of destruction.
Sad indeed are all these stories, stupid and idiotic!
This poem is a valuable testimony to how clearly P’u Sung-ling saw the world about him, the foolishness and superstition of the masses, the cruelty of the ruling class and, not least, how sceptical and mistrustful was also his attitude to traditional religion. From this poem there speaks to us a modern spirit, rejecting all illusion, no matter how cruel the truth. Proof that P’u Sung-ling regarded his personal entity as a biological fact is forthcoming in a whole series of poems dating from his old age. Nowhere do we find a trace of any attempt to console himself for his approaching end with some hope of an existence after death. Here we shall quote again a single poem in corroboration:
Old Age—A Complaint. Dedicated to Pi Wei-cbung15
Four hundred and forty-five chia-tzu16 days,
Have flown like the wind.
I remember how long since, in my youth, when I saw a decrepit old man,
I used to ask myself whether this life was short or long.
Who would have thought that the number of white hairs would be ever greater,
That bones would grow tired and senses lose their acuteness,
And alone my forgetfulness shows how I am growing old and going downhill.
From the aches in my bones I can tell whether it will be fine weather or foul.
What teeth remain are loose and ready to fall out,
They are hollow and decayed, loath to do their work, and the stomach complains of hunger.
When the left gum begins to hurt me, I chew with the right,
And still every mouthful that I swallow is hard.
If your ears turn deaf, you can get on without hearing,
If your eyes grow dim, you must not see,
Only teeth serve the digestion,
And when they begin to ache, you cannot give up your two meals a day.
This I wish to tell my friends,
So that you, my old friend, may pity me and not mock me.
This poem illustrates as convincingly as one could wish that basic tendency in the literature of the time, namely, the directing of attention to one’s personal lot, one’s own life, of which we spoke above.
The most important documents for this continually growing tendency toward subjectivity and intimacy are, naturally, those works directly recording the individual’s experiences and thoughts, such as notes, diaries and autobiographies. In them, we see most clearly how gradually and in increasingly large measure the focus of interest shifts from external things and actions to inward experiences. The same view is reached by Yüan Wu-ming in his preface to “A Selection from the Diaries” [Jih-chi wen-hsüeh ts’ung-hsüan], where he cites Lu Hsün, who twice makes mention of the diary of his country-man, Li Tz’u-ming, of which he says that “his heart is not to be seen in it.” Yüan, commenting on this, says that it was true of the majority of people in older times that it was not possible to see their inner life. He attributes the cause to the feudal order of society. We shall find (he says) in them only very faint flashes of what the representatives of the old philosophy call hsin-fou , “movements of the heart.” The present-day diaries (he affirms) are quite different; in them events are related in detail and descriptions of feelings become day by day more profuse, so that (in his opinion) today diary literature is at its height. Further, he considers that the majority of older diaries had another defect: Most of them described journeys, while very few described everyday life. According to Yüan Wu-ming, the reason was that private life had no connection with the administration of the State and so the authors had no wish to write about it. In other words, Yüan Wu-ming comes to the conclusion we already reached above, that the feudal order checked and suppressed the individual and discouraged the free expression of personality. And, in fact, the first of the diaries that have been preserved, the “Notes from a Journey to the South” (Lai-nan lu) by Li Au, dating from the T’ang Period, is nothing more than a bare retailing of facts. Here follows a short excerpt:17
“An order having come in the tenth month of the third year of the Yuan Ho (808) Period from the Miniser in Ling-nan (today the two provinces of Kuang and Vietnam), I set out on my journey in the first month of the fourth year. Along with my family, I left our family house—Ching-shan-ti , and took ship at the Canal. On i-wei I departed from the Eastern capital (Lo-yang). Han T’ui-chih and Shih Chiin-ch’uan hired a boat and accompanied me. The following day I reached old Lo-tung , where I paid a visit of condolence to Mêng Tung-yieh, whereupon I continued my journey.”
This is the style of the whole diary, one fact after another, while traces of an inner life are extremely rare. Similarly, diaries from the Sung Period usually describe travel experiences. They devote their main attention to the beauties of the scenery, are altogether lyrical in tone and regularly written in a rhythmed, prosodie style. They are all very concise in form, each item being described in a few strokes of the brush. As an example, here is a short excerpt from the diary of Fan Ch’êng-ta (about 1200 A.D.), describing a journey to Canton: “At night we disembarked at The Falling Rainbow (place-name). The hazy moon filled the river; I could not bring myself to give the command to set sail. My guests, too, had no thought of returning. So we anchored beneath the bridge.”
Let us now, for the sake of comparison, take two diaries from the end of the Ming Period. The first can serve to document the refined, sensitive art of lyrical description, the other the remarkable powers of introspection and analysis of one’s own spiritual states, without which every attempt at recording the individual’s spiritual life would be vain. The first diary, which is anonymous, describes how the author fled to the hills before the victorious Manchus and lived there in seclusion as a monk.18
“On the fourth day of the ninth month, on jen-tzu at dawn, just as the sun was rising, I ‘struck oar’ (as the poet Ch’ü Yüan says) and set out on my journey. It was raining again. I passed the Stone Gate (place-name), walls falling to decay, the enclosure in ruins; everything destroyed and devastated. You could count on the fingers of both hands the people who still remained (fewer) than the stars at daybreak. The spectacle of a countryside scorched by war evoked a heavy sigh from my breast. I got as far as T’ang-hsi, where I again met in with the boats of barbarians. Fortunately it was pouring and a strong wind was blowing so that the barbarians could not see as far as the bridge. I was dead tired. I lost my way and my head was splitting. In the evening mist the ravens returned and the flowering reeds were silent. It seemed to me as if I was in the jungles of the South on a rainy day, the raindrops beat down on me unceasingly. I had already lost my head when the bank appeared before me, on which rose like a peak the monastery of Yang-yung . So I tied up the boat and stepped out on to the bank. The head of the monastery, Ssu-ming , allowed me to stay the night in the waterside pavilion. Green weeds covered the little lake, rusty willows were planted along the bank, mist enveloped the countryside and exuded rain; the round moon was cold and cheerless.”
This extract is sufficient to illustrate the lyrical mood characteristic of this kind of literature. Nor does such a man of letters forget even amid his troubles and tribulations to note the beauties of nature and the poetical impressions evoked by the changing moods of the day. The second extract is chosen to illustrate the path on which Chinese literature had already set out toward a deeper and wider knowledge of human psychology, that careful and painstaking introspection to which Chinese literati were brought up by Confucian ethics fertilized by Buddhism. Essentially it serves the same function as the Catholic confessional, only it is more rational. The passages are from the diary of Huang Ch’un-yüch , lzu: Yün-shêng and date from the first three months of 1644:19
3rd day of the 1st month. “I got up late—that is my first transgression. Kuan Jou-an puffs himself up when he says: ‘I was always lazy in the morning; when, however, I lay abed three mornings running, it was necessary to look upon it as a transgression.’ How could I accept that as a rule under my present regimen?
“Even the saint Confucius was human, but when he was forty he had no longer any doubts. Today I have not yet reached the stage at which I have ‘become firm.’ That is my first reason for concern. Master Yen affirms that he never committed the same offence twice. But when I transgress, I commit the same trespass repeatedly. That is a second reason for misgiving. [The Master] says: If I hear about the Journey in the morning, in the evening I am ready to die.’ Could I die today? That is my third reason for misgiving. Men in olden times were well brought up in their youth and so were capable of directing the world and administering the State. Myself, however, always commit some mistake and only then do I learn from it, and so I have a fourth ground for doubt, and namely this: that I have wasted all the previous years and months and that they will be of no use to me.
“If we say no more than a few words to someone, there should be something in it that strengthens the character and serves some purpose; broad jokes and uncurbed laughter, just as giving the first answer that occurs to us, is not proper and is without substance.
“I have long felt that the years and months pass easily, but nowhere, unfortunately, do the results of work pile up.
“In the evening I went to have a glass of wine with Hsi-mêng. My heart was half pure and half troubled. Men of olden times burned incense every night and gave an account of their acts to heaven. If in their hearts there was the least foulness or dregs, they had not the presumption to converse with heaven.
“Human life, that is directness, sincerity. Directness means following one’s natural disposition.
“Empty chatter is a great fault. Often something slips out that we do not intend.
“(In the evening) by the light of the lamp, I read twenty-eight pages of ‘History in a Pragmatic Presentation’ [Chi-shih pen-mo ].”
7th day (op. cit., p. 114 et seq.). “The main reason why we eat and drink is alone in that we may nourish our spirit. Rich foods and strong wine, like soft cushions and a heap of pillows, can only, on the contrary, darken our spirit. No sooner is our spirit darkened, however, than our desires become active.
“Let us train our hearts so that we may fulfil our duties. But, should our hearts be thus prepared, we must test it on our duties. My pupils, Wang Ch’ang-shih , called Sui , and Wang Chin-chih , called Li , came together to visit me.
“K’ai-yin and Tzu-i were here to see me. In the afternoon I went to I-fu , and we met Chieh-an . When we were chatting and laughing, I all at once became aware of a certain shortcoming—namely, that I am obstinate in defending my views. I probably carry my persistency too far and so go to extremes.”
18th day (op. cit., p. 116). “Patriarch Fu [Fu Hsi ] (a patriarch of Buddhism in the 6th cent. A.D.), worked during the day as a laborer, and at night devoted himself to his religious duties, but we must realize that when he was working as a laborer, he was actually doing nothing else (than when he was devoting himself to his religious duties).
“In his sermons, Patriarch Fu says: ‘Our body is what we must most abhor and for which we must have the greatest contempt, for it is the source of all our suffering. Thus it is necessary for us to keep a close guard on our three organs (namely, the mouth, the body and the mind) and strenuously cultivate the Sixfold Path to the attainment of Nirvana (good deeds, right behavior, patience, energy, calm meditation and wisdom). If we descend into hell, we shall find it difficult ever to get out, and we shall eternally regret it.’
“On this day I expended much energy on matters connected with festivals. Besides, together with Wei-kung , we took stock of the past and made plans for the future, and so awakened in ourselves many impulses still germinating; it is clear that we ourselves have walked into a trap. In the afternoon a letter came from Shêng-chü asking me for a manuscript copy of commentaries on the two Ch’êngs [Ch’êngs Hao , (1032-1085), and his brother Ch’eng I , 1033-1107, famous Sung philosophers]. A letter arrived, too, from Master Yung-ssu , enclosed with which was the book, Tieh-shan pi chi ) for me to look through. Tzu-i came to see me and left again after dinner. I continued my reading of ‘History in a Pragmatic Presentation’ and finished the eleventh chapter. At night I had very confused dreams. I dreamt that I was in some kind of garden surrounded by walls. Such dreams, according to Ch’i-lin , are usually called forth by what the heart is attached to. Then in my dream I saw Ling-yung rowing towards me in a boat. He had a red kerchief bound round his head and trousers tied at the bottom. I also dreamt that Shêng-chü was the incarnation of the teacher Chia-t’an . He sat with crossed legs like Buddha and expounded the Law.”
Unlike the preceding diary, that of Huang is written very simply; the author nowhere lingers over descriptions of scenery and poetical experiences—his main aim is evidently self-improvement in the sense of Sung Confucian philosophy. The diary shows very clearly how this philosophy, with its emphasis on unceasing self-improvement, led to the study of self, awakened an interest in the refinements of psychology, encouraged the analysis and evaluation of all feelings and emotions, and even sought to interpret dreams. Here then are the roots of those dream-motifs which appear in modern times in China, in Lu Hsün’s collection Yeh-ts’ao, and in Japan in the work of Natsume Sōseki.
The other source of this trend toward psychological analysis is clearly Buddhism with its shunnmg of sin and probing of conscience in which it resembles Christianity. These philosophical and religious tendencies brought out the contradictions in the human soul, the conflict and strife of antagonistic desires and feelings, the ceaseless struggle of man between his nature and his ideals, thus enabling future literature to find in man’s inner being the spring of conflicts much more effective than were mere outward conflicts such as we find described in earlier literature. Here, then, is to be found the literary origin of what we call subjectivism, the interest in one’s own inner life and, at the same time, the beginnings of that psychologically oriented literature so characteristic of the period between the two wars. In former times, Confucian philosophy greatly simplified the problem by asserting that man is naturally good and so ignoring the complexity and contradictions of human nature. No more could it be realized by the Taoist philosophy, the aim of which was the merging of the personal ego with the Cosmos in which the individual gradually ceased to exist as a separate entity. Only then did China discover the intensely interesting, bizarre, complex and stormy world of man’s inner being, and this fundamental fact cannot fail to be reflected in the whole of Chinese literature.
We could document the penetration of subjective elements into literature in various descriptions of nature, where at a later stage the tableau or lyrical “picture,” striving to evoke the impression of pure and perfect beauty, was always set off by some intimate experience, reminiscence or anecdote. In this way, the too impersonal and cold impression evoked by description assumes a warmer coloring and is brought within the sphere of human life and interest. Similar traits are observable in Chinese prefaces which regularly serve to bring the impersonal, unemotional material of the book closer to the reader, to form a bridge to his sympathies and in doing so make use of the same means: they introduce a personal note, talk of various intimate experiences and, in short, give the author the opportunity to open his heart to his readers.
The most striking manifestation of this general tendency to subjectivity, intimacy, to the description of personal experiences, but also to a realistic view of life stripped of all illusions, and even to a comprehension of all its tragedy, is the Chinese autobiography. How entirely new was this literary genre, which first arose under the Manchu dynasty and which, as we showed above, is very typical for the period between the first and second World War, is to be seen best of all in the fact that the greatest Chinese literary historian, Chêng Chen-to, in an article published already in 1934,20 in which he treats of the various literary forms, affirms that “in China there existed only very short autobiographies, such as ‘The Life of the Master of the Five Willows’ (Wu-liu hsien-sheng chuan), the well-known poetical auto-portrait of T’ao Yuan-ming , and that there never arose a work which would form an independent volume.” Similarly, he also asserts that memoirs and reminiscences did not exist in China. Today we know that the first Chinese autobiography of any length arose about 1809, at the beginning of that long period of storms, revolt and revolutions out of which the New China was born. It is a work well known in Europe today — Shen Fu’s Fou-shêng liu chi, translated by Lin Yutang in his book, The Wisdom of China and India, New York, 1942, pp. 968-1050. At the same time, and independently of Lin Yutang, I translated this book into Czech, it being published in Prague, in 1944, under the title, Šest historii prchavého života (Six Stories of Fleeting Life). It is therefore unnecessary to give here any quotations, as these translations are easily accessible.
Chêng Chen-to’s assertion confirms that this first work of its kind was undoubtedly very original, which is also stressed by Baccalaureate Fan Lin-shêng in the foreword to the book, in which he says: “the discovery of this book is the equivalent of raising a new banner.” It is natural that such an author, creator though he was of a new literary genre, remained in many ways in the shackles of tradition. Thus, for instance, his narrative does not yet form a single, epic stream, as in the case of biographies or autobiographies of modern type; the author, on the contrary, divides the events of his life into six “histories” or six categories of records, according to the subject-matter. The constructive principle on which his work is based does not, therefore, differ from that of other works of the preceding period, as, for instance, historical works, different kinds of notes, and so on. He vacillates, too, in the aim of his work: obviously the real character of the genre he is creating is not yet quite clear to him. The author is not certain whether he should confine himself entirely to the description of his life, for such material is not yet “canonized” in literature, especially as regards the everyday, sorrowful, gloomy aspects of life, which are just those aspects which give his work its realistic character. And so he often introduces into his book the traditional subject-matter of various old notebooks, speaks of the arrangement of flowers, of architecture, and devotes a large amount of space to the description of rambles and pilgrimages, which, as I have said above, had at that time a long and worthy tradition in polite literature. These traditional elements, however, are quite compensated for and, indeed, are given a new՛ significance, by the altogether new and definitely modern emanation of the author’s personality, the expression of his intimate life, the declaration of his loves, passions, feelings, interests, dislikes and hates. Here, in many places, we have the direct avowal of individuality—and of an individualist—almost without reservations, an avowal which links Shen Fu with the authors of that new revolutionary epoch to which we made reference above, and not with the old, strictly regulated spirit and literature of feudal times. It is certain that this desire and courage to put in words all that he felt, the passion and obsession with which he threw himself into life, and with which the pages of his book vibrate, enabled him to shatter the framework of the old, aesthetically highly polished essays and notes and create a work which, in comparison with similar products of the preceding epoch, was forceful and voluminous, though lacking in homogeneity and balance.
Shen Fu has the courage to speak of the most intimate experiences of his life, of his love for his wife, of his family, of the relations between himself and his father, his mother and his younger brother, with a frankness that would be surprising even in a European author. What daring was then needed to write with such openness in an epoch in which every resistance to parents and family was punished with the greatest severity and social ostracism! He says in effect that his father was a man who loved ostentation and liked to show off, but had not the smallest understanding of or compassion with his own son. His father took a concubine and his son had not enough to live on. He is bitter about his younger brother who was the cause of dissension with his parents and cheated him of his inheritance. Unsparingly he pillories the greed and rapacity of relations and friends who were glad of his help, but when he fell on bad times, left him in the lurch; from his book, too, we get a picture of what the members of the “cultured” feudal class were often really like. We may say that, in this respect, the work of Shen Fu offers a parallel to the celebrated novel by Wu Ching-tzu , from the first half of the eighteenth century, Ju-lin wai-shih .
If Shen Fu speaks openly of his family and friends, he also does not try to make himself out to be better than he is. He tells of his adventures with courtesans in Canton and makes no attempt to whitewash his fast mode of life after his father’s death, on the island of Ch’ung-ming. He speaks of his misery and humiliation when he was forced to beg at the doors of his unfeeling relatives and friends, and when he had sunk so deep that he was afraid to show his face. He also relates his rather discreditable nightly flight from his creditors and similar escapades.
The fact that the author succeeded in fusing all this dissimilar material—on the one hand, traditional observations on flowers, on architecture, descriptions of rambles and natural scenery, and, on the other hand, new and original descriptions of intimate experiences from his life—in a single whole, that he made of traditional, compositional mosaic a picture whose parts are linked up with a single unifying thought and feeling, that he worked up his episodes into an impressive and truly artistic work of art—the explanation for this success is that he conceived (though no doubt intuitively rather than consciously) his whole work as a uniform, one-piece tragedy of human life. His work culminates in a description of deep and unaffected pathos of how he and his wife became impoverished, broke with their parents, how his wife sickened and eventually died—a few pages which in their overpowering truthfulness and depth of feeling are probably without parallel in Chinese literature. These pages are the core and focal point of the whole book and in relation to them all the other episodes of the work assume a new significance and a new context, so that they form a unity. Certain episodes show the development of the author’s personal tragedy culminating in the death of his wife and of his only son. Other episodes, with their beauty and poetry, color and heighten the final tragedy, giving to the author’s life story, as also to his work, a remarkable breadth and pathos and multiplying the scale of emotions which the book evokes in the reader. For, in reading every lovely and touching episode, he has at the back of his consciousness the feeling that it is only for a short time, that it is only a tiny fragment of happiness, that lying in wait is misfortune, destruction and death. The consciousness grows that every little bit of human happiness is paid for many times over with misery, hardship, pain, the loss of those dear to us and, finally, with death. In this way the author succeeds in connecting up all the parts in perfect artistic unity and in creating, on a different plane, an analogy to the modern autobiography composed as a single stream of action in chronological development. This unity of conception is yet another aspect of the work of Shen Fu which links it up with modern rather than with older literature.
Besides, the tragic pathos of Shen Fu’s work shows greater affinities with modern literature, those works mentioned above from the period between the two Wars, than with the old traditional literature that preceded it. A truly religious man in feudal society became reconciled to his fate and to the losses he suffered thanks to the belief or illusion that he would meet with his loved ones in the next world or in the next incarnation. Shen Fu, too, plays in moments of happiness with these illusions, but in times of despair they altogether fail him. The death of his beloved wife is for him a cruel, frightening tragedy and his grief cannot be mitigated by any idea of a life beyond the grave. We may, indeed, say that the consciousness of tragedy is the price which the individual pays for his freedom, for his having emancipated himself from the old order and way of thought and feeling—it is the penalty for the assertion of the human individuality. In Shen Fu’s work we already find all those qualities which are so characteristic of the literature between the two wars: subjectivism, individualism, the disregard for traditional bars and considerations, the awareness of the tragedy of life. It is, without doubt, the most interesting document of the close connection between revolutionary literature and the literature of the Manchu Period.
I have tried in the course of my paper to formulate and illustrate certain tendencies which, in my opinion, link up the literature of the revolutionary period with the literature produced under the Manchus. Naturally I could not, within the limits of a paper of this kind, as I remarked at the beginning, do more than indicate some of the signs and symptoms of a general trend. The presentation of a truly exhaustive picture of this period will require an immense amount of labor, for it involves the investigation of all the notable works of this epoch and their monographic treatment. Here my aim was to show from a few selected examples what seems to us to be a preparation and leading-up to the literature of the revolutionary epoch. If then the literature of the revolutionary period reflects the revolt of the Chinese people against the old feudal order, we must presume that the similar tendencies which we come across in Manchu literature are the first intimations of impending crisis in the feudal order. The subjectivism and individualism which we find in it testify to a certain emancipation of the individual from traditional ways of thought, are an indication of the loosening of the bonds which the feudal order imposed on the individual and an intimation that the individual is beginning to free himself—at least mentally—from all these limitations of the past.
Our view that the Manchu Period marks the preparation for and beginnings of a change in the structure of Chinese society is further confirmed by the complete re-evaluation of traditional literary criteria. The traditional literature represented by the essays and different forms of poetry lose their importance and the main literary medium of the time becomes the novel and the short story, as in the following revolutionary epoch. In this epoch the old written language is no longer the main vehicle of literary expression, its place being taken by pai-hua which is essentially the spoken language. All this points to the fact that, in literature, the lower, folk stream now takes over the dominating rôle. The literature of the gentry was thus forced out of its positions in the same way as the landed gentry were swept away by the people’s revolution.
These traits which we have singled out testify in their sum to the correctness of our assumption that the present great change in Chinese society has its beginnings in the Ming Period and is initiated in the main by internal, Chinese forces and has its purely Chinese origins. The European invasion only accelerated a process that would have achieved its goal without any such external factor.
Paper read at the IX Conference of Junior Sinologues in Paris. Published in Arcbiv Orientálni 25 (1957), 261-283.
1 For the literature of this period see my study: “Die neue chinesische Literatur," Das Neue China VI (1940) 39, pp. 456-465; 40, pp. 523-536; 41, pp. 588-600.
2 See Mao Tun, Šerosvit, translated by J. Průšek, Praha, 1950, p. 109 et seq.
3 Under the Chinese title of Shao-nien Wei-t’e ti fan-nao.
4see Lu Sün, Vřava-Polní tráva, translated by J. Průšek and B. Krebsová, Praha, 1951.
5 See Lu Sün: Tápáni, translated by B. Krebsová, Praha I9S4.
6See Lu Sün: Ranní kvĕty sebrané v podvečer—Staré příběhy v novêm rouŝe, translated by B. Krebsová, Praha 1956.
7See D. Kalvodová: Ting Ling, Praha, 1955, p. 82.
8A. W. Hummel, The Autohrograpby of a Chinese Historian, Leyden, 1931.
9J. Průšek, Neues Material zum Hung-lou-mêng-Problem, ArOr XIII (1942), pp.270-277.
10J. Průšek: Liu О et son roman, Le Pèlerinage du Vieux Boiteux, ArOr XV (1946), pp. 352-385.
11See: Pchu Sung-ling, Zkazky o šesteru cest osudu, translated and with an epilogue by J. Průšek, Praha 1955
12Chi pa hsing, Liao chai ch’üan chi, Shih-chi, shang, p.16 et seq.
13Present-day Chou-p’ing hsien in Shan-tung. Belongs to Chi-nan-fu .
14Two old States in the Shan-tung territory, Shan-tung Province.
15Liaa-chai ch’üan-chi, shih-chi, hsia, p. 53 et seq. Pi Wei-chung was the son of P’u Sung-ling’s friend and patron, Pi Chi-yu .
16First day of the sixty-days-cycle. Accordingly P’u Sung-ling was 73 years old when he wrote this poem.
17Yüan Wu-ming , ed., jih-chi wen-hsüeh ts’ung-hsüan , 1936, p. 3.
18lbid., p. 77
19Ibid., p. 111.
20Chêng Chen-to, Yen-chiu Chung-kuo wen hsüeh-ti hsin t’u-ching , Chung kuo wen-hsüeh lun-chi pp. 1ff