1. General Aspects: The Political and Cultural Revolution
The purpose of the collection of studies we are presenting to the public is to cast some light on the great transformation the Chinese nation has been going through, a transformation which undoubtedly is one of the greatest ever witnessed in history.
The volume contains a collection of analytical studies, with a single exception, devoted to Chinese literature of the period from 1917 to 1937. We chose the method of analytical studies for two reasons: First of all the work was done by beginners—mostly my students, a majority of whom are now working in the Oriental Institute of the Czechoslovak Academy of Sciences, and one German colleague who is a very close co-worker of ours. The initial attempts of beginners to cope w ith the obscure tangle of problems and facts, as new Chinese literature appears to be today, can aim at no more than a survey of single problems, or figuratively speaking, the laying of the first beams on which further structures would rest. This method, motivated by our facilities, would not justify the publication of the material, rather, it would be sufficient to collect it for our archives. The second, and decisive, reason for publishing our collection is the complete lack of European analytical studies on the individual personalities, problems and works of new Chinese literature; consequently no attempt at synthetic work on the material can be successful. The need for such analytical studies in the sphere of modern Chinese literature is evident even after a first glance at the contemporary situation of this branch of sinology. I give here at least a brief survey of the present state of literary studies.1
Chinese scholars have written several synthetic works on new Chinese literature, such as the two-volume book by Wang Yao Chung-kuo hsin wen-hsüeh shih kao “Draft of History of Modern Chinese Literature,”2 the book by Liu shou-sung Chung-kuo hsin wen-hsüeh shih ch’u kao , “First Draft of a History of New Chinese Literature,”3 the book by Ting Yi Chung-kuo hsien-tai wen-hsüeh shih lüehx “A Short History of Modern Chinese Literature” translated into English4 and a number of others. In addition there are a great number of studies devoted to various problems and aspects of new literature, especially to Lu Hsiin’s works. In contrast, it is very difficult to find a thorough study of important writers such as Mao Tun, Kuo Mo-jo, Yü Ta-fu and others. On some writers we find only single articles, mainly of pre-war origin; there exists no modern evaluation.
Soviet literature on the subject is relatively rich and most of the important works of modern literature have been translated into Russian. Of the synthetic works I would mention at least H. T. Fedorenko, Kitajskaja literatura, “Chinese Literature,” Moskva, 1956; L. Ejdlin, 0 Kitajskoj literature našich dnej, “Chinese Literature of Our Time,” Moskva 1955, the important collection of articles published under Fedorenko’s supervision, Voprosy Kul’turnoj revolucii o KNR, “Problems of Cultural Revolution in the Chinese People’s Republic,” Moskva 1960, and a large number of monographs mainly on Lu Hsün and his works, such as L. D. Pozdnejeva: Lu Siň, žizň i tvorčestvo, “Lu Hsün, His Life and Work,” Moskva 1959; V. F. Sorokin, Formirovanije mirovozzrenije Lu Sinja, “The Development of Lu Hsün’s World Outlook,” Moskva 1958; V. Petrov, Lu sih, Oierk žizni i tvorčestva, “Lu Hsün, A Survey of His Life and Work,” Moskva 1960 and others.
Many new Chinese works have been translated into German by the young sinologists in the German Democratic Republic.
On the other hand, the interest in new Chinese Literature in the West is very limited. The largest work on new literature in the West is H. van Boven’s Histoire de la Littérature Chinoise Moderne, Peiping 1946. This book was written from a strictly Catholic point of view and this itself distorts the entire development of new literature and the portraits of the individual authors. It is sufficient to read van Boven’s judgments of Lu Hsün, for example, to see what a distorted, not to say even false, picture he gives: “Après 1930 il est communiste, mais communiste mencheviste, adoptant les théories de Plekhanov et Lunacharsky, et non bolcheviste . . . Dans la préface de son livre Erh hsin chi il dit clairement qu’il ne faut pas le considérer comme communiste sans plus” (p. 121). It is unnecessary to point out the incorrect designation of Mensheviks as Communists, and of Lunacharsky and Plekhanov as Mensheviks, but it is particularly necessary to stress that Lu Hsün read and translated Lunacharsky and Plekhanov because he wanted to become acquainted with Bolshevik literary theories and thus serve the revolution. Nor does his introduction say what van Boven reads into it.
I see the second main fault of van Boven’s work in the fact that a large part of his information on literary works is not based on authentic sources but it is second-hand information. Other books written in the West contain even more serious mistakes than van Boven’s. The book by Jos. Schyns, 1500 Modern Chinese Novels and Plays, Peking 1948, is full of mistakes and most of the facts he presents are insignificant. Other books, such as Jean Monsterleet, Sommets de la Littérature Chinoise Contemporaine, Editions Domat 1953, are of an essayistic nature. In comparison with these works we have to evaluate positively, despite a number of inadequacies, Dr Huang Sung-k’ang’s book, Lu Hsün and the New Culture Movement of Modern China, Amsterdam 1957. It deals, however, more with Lu Hsün’s ideological development than with his artistic activity.5
Under these conditions we hope our studies will be, at least, a small contribution to understanding one of the most important phases in the history of man and in the development of world literature.
The analytical study of not well-known, or entirely unknown material—a large part of the literary sources worked on in these studies were subjected to systematic research for the first time—has the disadvantage that the research worker is confronted exclusively by separate isolated facts. He does not see their relationships and he can hardly judge their significance. Most of the time he must be satisfied with descriptions and listings and he has to postpone any eventual synthetic conclusions and judgments that may, at the time, seem likely to him until they are verified on the basis of richer material and are checked with conclusions arrived at in other fields. Undoubtedly, at this stage, the results of our work look rather colorless and lacking in depth and pattern. There was no way of avoiding this; thus far our work is no more than a construction site where the foundations are being dug and not a single house has as yet been completed. Now it is only a question of making the foundation sufficiently solid.
In order to offer the reader more than mere chaos and to enable him at the least to see the perspectives of further development and the meaning of what seems to be an agglomeration of unconnected details, this volume of studies will be complemented by a second volume in which I shall try to give a more systematic explanation of what took place in Chinese literature in the period between the May Fourth Movement in 1919 and the beginning of the war against Japan in 1937, on the basis of a substantial analysis of the prose of this period.
I shall limit my introduction therefore to a few remarks that will set this collection of studies in a framework; I shall summarize here some of the results of the book I am preparing.
As I mentioned above, our studies, with the exception of the work of K. Kaden, which deals w ith the writings of the contemporary author Chao Shu-li, are devoted to the period 1917-1937. We have chosen this period of Chinese literature intentionally. It is the period of the culmination of the revolutionary process taking place in China from the time of the Opium War (1839-1841) and most likely as early as some time in the eighteenth century. I repeat, it is one of the greatest transformations ever witnessed in history. This alone endows it with extraordinary importance for every scholar dealing with the history of mankind. Our studies dedicated to the literature of this period represent part of a broader project having for its aim an understanding of the entire process of the creation of Chinese national literature, an important part of modern Chinese culture. In a number of studies, some of which have been published, while others are in preparation we attempt to give an expianation of the process from the time of the inception of a literature in the colloquial language intended for the broadest masses in the T’ang era, up to the present.
It should be emphasized again that this work is just beginning. As yet it is mainly composed of single studies which are mostly descriptive and only later will it be possible to proceed to work of a more synthetic nature.
We are of the opinion that a detailed study of the history of Chinese literature between the two world wars is also of special importance for literary theory. From the theoretical point of view it is possible to say that here we can follow a tremendous experiment in detail (I use the word experiment purposely because this is practically a unique opportunity in social sciences to follow a specifically limited dynamic process with a very detailed knowledge of all the aspects of its course, as is usual in experiments in natural sciences) of a literary transformation, let us say even a revolution, abolishing medieval literature and creating modern literature, a democratic and later on a socialist literature. We can actually feel the forces that determine the development of literature and thus contribute to the solution of the question of whether the development of literature is immanent or whether it is determined by social forces, and if so by what kind. We are also given the rare opportunity of a sharp confrontation of feudal and modern literature, an encounter which clearly shows up their differences and at the same time the basic qualities of each. Further on it provides us with material for a study of the question of what circumstances led to the origins of modern literature and determined its forms and what was the original meaning of the various artistic processes that appeared in various places of the world, as well as in China, after the Great October Revolution. It is the question of the real meaning of the so-called literary avant-garde and the role it played in this stage of the development. I think that precisely in this aspect the Chinese material can bring out very important arguments, even though these points are not apparent at a first view of the formative process of Chinese literature.
The long revolutionary struggle of the Chinese people, first with anti-feudal aims, and, from the Opium War onwards, with aims of a more and more explicit anti-imperialist character, culminated in the twenty years between the May Fourth Movement and the war against Japan. The May Fourth Movement, for which the Great October Revolution was the main impulse, represents an important turning-point in this process. Until then the main revolutionary force was the small peasantry; then the modern industrial proletariat joined them, and the working class, led by the Communist Party, took the leadership of the revolution out of the hands of the bourgeoisie and the petty bourgeoisie led by the revolutionary democratic Sun Yat-sen Party from 1905. From the May Fourth Movement onwards, the old democratic revolution, which was part of the international bourgeois revolution, grew into a revolution of the new-democratic type and became part of the world proletarian revolution.6
There already are a number of works dealing not only with the political, but also with the ideological and general cultural aspects of this revolution7 so that we can limit ourselves to a few remarks sufficient to let us realize of the depth and size of this transformation in China’s social structure and literature for our further discussion. In China the development which in Europe lasted for several centuries or even millennia was packed into the eighty years between the Opium War and the May Fourth Movement, and especially into the following thirty years, ending with the victory of the revolution in 1949.
In most of Europe the anti-feudal struggle was fought out by the bourgeoisie which also created modern European culture. The bourgeoisie, supported by powerful and rich cities with developed crafts and trade, stood up against the aristocracy as an equal political factor, basically shattered the mythological world outlook and spread the rationalistic view of the world. The beginnings of this struggle go back to our Hussism, Reformation and Renaissance. Even before the forces of feudalism were completely defeated modern science and technique were developed, which in turn helped break the established feudal order and its ideology. The germination of modern realistic art and literature took place simultaneously with a rebellion against the forces of religion. From the time of the Renaissance the criterion for artistic creation became reality; the accurate depiction of it, sometimes with almost scientific exactness, is the fundamental postulate of art. It is worthwhile mentioning that in Europe mainly graphic and sculptural art opened the way for the realistic orientation in arts. It is in these fields that the first professional artists appear, proud of their mastery, knowledge and techniques.
Although the bourgeois revolution in Europe first brought man complete political liberty and secured his rights as an individual, the cords that bound the individual were in many places loosened earlier. This was due in part to the breaking up of old clan relations during the migration of nations and in part to the fall of the slave system at the end of Antiquity; Christianity, with its stress on the equality of man before God and the moral responsibility of man for his personal life, also had an important influence. In addition the European code of chivalry contained strong ideals of individualism, and on the other hand helped the emancipation of women.
The situation in China was very different. The remnants of primitive communist society, the rural communities, the clan system and the strictly organized patriarchal families were completely wiped out only after the victory of the new-democratic revolution in 1949. It was the revolution that brought freedom to the individual and especially liberated women and children from the yoke of the patriarchal family it had destroyed. Chinese despotism, a tool of the ruling gentry, the official-landlord stratum, relied on these remnants. Whenever the need arose the State could mobilize endless masses of peasants for common labor or military service through the clans and communities. The middle class was helpless against the power of the state and for that reason, too, science, art and almost all culture were in the hands of the gentry. The slow development of literature written in the colloquial language, which originated in the big cities and was at least partially an expression of the Chinese bourgeoisie,8 is a convincing example. For the entire duration of its existence until the end of the Manchu period, this literature was to a large degree saturated with feudal ideology. Painting never succeeded in emancipating itself from literary dilettantism and establishing itself as an independent profession, with its own tradition of artistic methods and theories. In China, crafts always remained crafts and were never elevated to the level of art appreciated by society. Art was only what the gentry did.
As a conclusion of our reasoning we may say that the main front of the class struggle in Europe lies between the cities and the feudal seats. The peasantry appears on the scene only occasionally and, at that, usually together with at least a section of the urban population, as in our country for example, during the Hussite wars. On the other hand, in China, the open and unreconcilable struggle of the poor peasants, tenant peasants and landless peasants against the gentry, the landowners and their state power, practically never ceased. This struggle, even when, for example, it is turned against foreign conquerors—the Mongolians, Manchus—is predominantly of a social and class character. In contrast to the relative political and ideological complexity of the class struggle in Europe, in China even the ideological reflection of this struggle is fundamentally simpler: in opposition to the Confucian emphasis on a social hierarchy with a complex system of relations and connections, which culminate in the person of the ruler, stand the equalitarian desires of the broad masses, who reject all social differences and their external expressions and demand equal division of the land and the establishment of a primitive communist society. That is the slogan Tai-p’ing, “Great Equality,” which could be heard in all the major Chinese rebellions from the Yellow Turbans in the second century A.D. up to the great révolution in the middle of the nineteenth century which took its name from this slogan. The class struggle in the Chinese countryside often took the form of an open conflict, grew into an armed uprising of the people, and the landlords regularly had to use force in order to squeeze out their rents and collect their debts. In the south many of them actually lived in fortified residences protected by armed bands. The forms of the conflicts were extraordinarily brutal and this brutality casts a dark shadow over the entire revolutionary epoch and gives literature its dismal and tragic mood.
The anti-feudal struggle of the Chinese peasantry, in which the poor city dwellers and the national minorities often joined, could not succeed. Victory was made impossible by the basic contradiction between the peasants’ concept of equality and the individualistic and very backward methods of production; the peasants were not able to formulate a realistic political program, nor to create and maintain more complex political and administrative forms, nor yet to organize an army and protect the economy. Ambitious individuals from the gentry usually seized leadership and used the uprising only to gain power, whereupon they betrayed or liquidated the uprising. The story of the national uprising against the Mongols serves as a good example; its leader Chu Yüan-chang founded the Ming Dynasty, and the same was true of the 1911 Revolution, when all power was seized by various military satraps who leaned upon the old gentry.
The new-democratic revolution that developed in China from the time of the May Fourth Movement had to solve a complete gamut of problems that had been solved in Europe, as we said above, during a thousand years of upheavals, changes, developments and revolutions. This alone points up the great intensity and the unbelievable rapidity of the Chinese revolution in which months and years were equal to tens and hundreds of years in other places. In less than the duration of a human life, the revolution, like a hurricane, swept away all the remnants of primitive communist society, of rural communities, of the clan system and of the patriarchal family. It achieved all the aims of the people’s anti-feudal uprisings: it liquidated the landlord class and the rule of the bureaucratic gentry, it divided the land equally among those who toil on it, it wiped out usurers, bond and lease serfdom, and shattered the feudal social hierarchy with its ideology of Confucianism.9 At the same time this revolution also fulfilled the tasks of a bourgeois revolution, of course, no longer on the basis of a capitalist society but within a people’s democratic system. The revolution transformed an agrarian country into an industrial one, it did away with cultural and technical backwardness (illiteracy), it liquidated religious superstitions and strove for a rationalistic, scientific conception of the world, and it advanced scientific materialism. This revolution then grew into a people’s democratic revolution taking the road towards socialism. Agricultural production became collective, capitalist business was eliminated from production and distribution, and a new socialist culture was founded.
That is a brief enumeration, in outline, of at least some of the changes brought about by the contemporary revolution in China. In order to understand the specific characteristics of the Chinese cultural development and so also the literary development of this period, for our further discussion, we must be aware of the fact that the role of the Chinese bourgeoisie in the entire process was very small compared with the role of the European bourgeoisie, and that the Chinese bourgeoisie was not able to hold a leading position either in politics or in culture. The Chinese bourgeoisie failed to assume a leading role in the 1898 reforms and during the initial phase of the national and democratic 1911 Revolution—in both cases the progressive elements of the gentry were at least of equal importance with the bourgeoisie—and so from the May Fourth Movement on, the dominating role of the Chinese revolutionary movement was taken over by the Chinese proletariat, joined by broad masses of peasants, and the avant-garde of the proletariat, the Communist Party of China. Under the leadership of the Communist Party countless changes were carried out and at the same time the Communist Party preserved the liberty of the Chinese nation in the fight against imperialist aggression. That is the main feature distinguishing the new-democratic revolution from the previous ones. We can comprehend the entire cultural transformation that took place in China, and the founding and forming of a new Chinese literature which followed only in terms of the leading role of the Chinese proletariat and the Communist Party of China.
2. General Questions of the Literary Revolution, Feudal Literature and Modern Democratic Literature
If a revolutionary transformation—the features of which we have tried to outline, at least briefly—brought about a gigantic change in all sections of life for the Chinese nation and a complete separation from the past, the same holds true for literature. A powerful revolution took place here too and when those who originated these events spoke about a revolution in literature,10 the term was fully justified.
Twenty years ago, when I tried to summarize my impressions after becoming acquainted with the new Chinese literature, I had to say that “the term, new Chinese literature, is not only a conception of time. The differences between the literature of old China and the literature created after World War I are so sharp that it is hard to believe that they were produced by the same nation.”11
I am of the opinion that this first impression rightly grasped the deep cleavage which the storm evoked by the May Fourth Movement brought about, separating the new and old literature.
If we were to define the general character of the revolutionary changes in new Chinese literature we would say that it was a process similar to that which took place in other spheres of Chinese society and culture. The feudal literature of the gentry was defeated and abolished and its place was taken by literature which reflected the life of the people and served their interests.
At the very beginning of the literary revolution the prominent theoretician Ch’en Tu־hsiu, strongly influenced by the ideas of Marxism-Leninism, realized that the primary task of the literary revolution was to break and remove the old feudal literature.12 In contrast with the overcautious attitude of the leader of the Rightist bourgeois intelligentsia, Hu Shih, who was satisfied with mild reforms of a formal nature which did not differ in the least from the postulates formulated by Liang Ch’i-ch’ao, the leader of the liberal reformists in 1898, Ch’en Tu-hsiu proclaimed the radical program of the Chinese literary révolution in February 1917: “I am willing to brave the enmity of all the pedantic scholars of the country, and hoist the great banner of the Army of the Literary Revolution in support of my friend.13 On this banner shall be written in big clear characters my three great principles of the Revolutionary Army:
“1. To overthrow the painted, powdered and obsequious literature of the aristocratic few, and to create the plain, simple and expressive literature of the people;
“2. To overthrow the stereotyped and over-ornamental literature of classicism, and to create the fresh and sincere literature of realism;
“3. To overthrow the pedantic, unintelligible and obscurantist literature of the hermit and recluse, and to create the plainspeaking and popular literature of society in general.”14
What basically differentiates Ch’en Tu-hsiu’s principles from the former reformist attempts to improve the language and literature—such as Liang Ch’i-ch’ao’s above-mentioned attempts and Hu Shih’s formulation—and what reveals the influence of the ideas of the new democratic revolution is his clear awareness that literature has a class character, and that the literary revolution is directed against the literature of one class and aims to help the literature of other classes to victory. Instead of a literature for the aristocracy, i.e., the gentry, literature should now be written for the people, primarily for the workers and the peasants. From Ch’en Tu-hsiu’s description of aristocratic literature it is evident that he means mainly literature written in wen-yen, because it was exclusively a product of the gentry.
A knowledge of the written language, which required many years of study, separated the gentry from the common people and encouraged its privileged status, because only a scholar could sit for the State examinations and become an official. The main literary genres cultivated by the old scholars of the gentry were essays and poetry. Essays written according to complicated rules and replete with allusions were required for the State examinations and w ere part of the official routine, because a large majority of these essays were official documents, memorials to the court, various reports, records, etc. Even poetry was often a social matter; it was more of a decoration for official life than a true expression of feelings.
In this respect the literary revolution was a complete success: the old essay disappeared and the old poetry was merely dying out in the few exceptional cases remaining. It is necessary to state, of course, that the literature of the gentry was dead at the very beginning of the literary revolution and that the revolution only removed its decaying corpse. Essays in wen-yen died out with the old examinations and old bureaucracy. The old poetry which had been unfruitful for centuries could not be revived by various attempts to breathe new energy into it in the second half of the nineteenth century. Even the stories composed in the written language imitating the artificial and minutely polished novels of P’u Sung-ling of the seventeenth century lost all importance. The opera, the versed parts of which were also written in wen-yen, remains merely as a beautiful fossil incapable of further development.
The liquidation of feudal literature goes hand in hand with a complete shift in the hierarchy of genres in literary evaluation. The genres that stood highest according to the old evaluation have now disappeared completely or they have been transformed and their place has been taken by other, new genres or by those that had been on the periphery of literature. It is a perfect parallel to the social struggle going on in the country at the same time. As the gentry was liquidated, so was its literature, and what remained of it became more democratic and turned to serving the people. The essay lives on—written in the colloquial language—as articles and features in newspapers and magazines. And in the hands of the great writer Lu Hsün this symbol of old culture becomes the sharpest weapon against the class that created it and wasted all its talent on it. Even poetry is now composed in the colloquial language and thus its form is changed and, as the revolution advances, its content too. Instead of the old opera a new type of theatrical art begins to take root—the drama. The main means of expression of the new period are the novel and the short story in colloquial language that had existed in China at least from the twelfth century, but which were regarded with disdain by men of letters because they were written in “the language of coachmen and maids.” Some time later the new drama achieved a status of similar importance.
We can see that the old feudal hierarchy was at the time replaced by a new hierarchy corresponding to the European literary hierarchy and we can add that the old Chinese hierarchy was not completely without analogy in the ancient and feudal literature of Europe.
If we want to characterize this literary transformation, as far as its internal character and relationship to reality are concerned, we can say that the dominating position which lyrics held in the old literature—essays, inasfar as they served aesthetic aims, also had a specifically lyric nature, the same as the old opera—is now held by epics because even modern drama is closer to the epic form than to lyrics. This in itself indicates the changed attitude toward reality. Instead of observation, feeling for and contemplation of reality which formerly were typical of lyrics, we now find exact rendering of reality, its description and analysis, which are the main aims of modern prose. We can also say that old Chinese literary methods used in old Chinese poetry and prose15 were synthetical, while the methods of modern prose (and modern poetry as well, of course) are analytical. The basic method of old poetry was toselect a few phenomena from reality, which were rich in strong emotion and were usually of a general nature, so that we could practically speak of signs or symbols, and through them evoke a certain mood rather than give an exact description of a particular phenomenon or state. These symbols or signs often passed from one work to another; figuratively it could be said that they were somewhat like vouchers worth a certain quantity of emotion. All of this leads to the fact that old poetry was directed more toward general and permanent phenomena and feelings rather than toward concrete details. This trend is intensified by the constant repetition of themes and artificial language, where almost every turn of phrase has a long literary history. We find similar tendencies in Chinese painting, which works with a definite and very permanent repertoire of motifs, and again they are very evident in old opera, in its system of masks, symbolic gestures, etc.
Attempts at an analytical expression of reality, in sharp contrast with literature in wen-yen, had already appeared in the old literature written in the colloquial language, mainly in the novel and the short story; nor are they missing in the narrative songs, as well. This also is proof that old literature written in the colloquial language was the real predecessor of modern Chinese literature.
An attempt to depict reality truthfully, to understand and describe the relationships and connections between individual phenomena, as manifested in modern literature, is an expression of an effort to make literature an instrument of knowledge, but of a special kind. The aim of literature is no longer the contemplation of reality, the enjoyment of observing it and relishing it, but to become acquainted with it, comprehend it, and understand its laws. That is the basis of realism in new literature and art. That is why we can characterize the revolutionary process that took place in Chinese literature as a victory of realistic literature over feudal literature with purely aesthetic and ornamental—eventually moral—purposes. And this is an exact expression of Ch’en Tu-hsiu’s program, which characterizes old literature with a long list of epithets, expressing its aesthetic and ornamental nature: painted, powdered, obsequious, stereotyped, over-ornamental, etc. To counteract this literature his program calls for the founding of a “fresh and sincere literature of realism.”
But it was no easy task to translate these demands into reality and create a really modern, realistic literature which would, moreover, serve the people. In the first place there was a need for new writers who had lived through the spiritual revolution of the time in their own thinking and simultaneously mastered all the possibilities and range of European literature, where feudal literature had long since been surpassed and a modern realistic literature had been created. Above all, these writers had to be in close contact with the people in order to depict their life and express their desires, in order not to lose their own national orientation and become renegade cosmopolitans in the process of mastering foreign cultures.
3. The Relation to the Old Literature
To evaluate the full immensity of the task that faced the new writers putting into practice the positive part of the revolutionary program, that is, the creation of a new literature, we shall try briefly to characterize the literary genre that the literary revolution did not turn against but which emerged at the head of the hierarchy of literary genres, so that it seemed that this was where the new writers could link up with the old literature and use its achievements while creating a new literature.16 The fact that this did not happen and could not happen is the best proof of the deep gap by which the revolution separated the new culture from the old. I am thinking of the old Chinese novel which gave Chinese literature some of its greatest works, well known all over the world. Moreover, from the eighteenth century onward the novel became an instrument of social criticism. The famous writer Wu Ching-tzu used the traditional novel form for an attack on the entire class of scholars (in his novel Ju-lin wai-shih, , “The Scholars”). This form—a chain of independent episodes joined by the main hero or connected by links—was employed by writers at the turn of the twentieth century who attacked the bureaucracy of their day and from the position of the newly risen bourgeoisie17 turned, at least partially, against the gentry.
We have here literature that seems to fit Ch’en Tu-hsiu’s requirement of “plain-speaking and popular literature of society in general.” Yet between these novels and the new prose written after the May Fourth Movement there is a wide gap—the new-democratic revolution we spoke of above.
The authors of these novels, such as Li Po-yüan Wu Wo-yao and Liu O were still convinced of the general validity of Confucianism and its final victory. Therefore, even though they attacked the officials sharply and the gentry in part, and Liu О saw the necessity of a revolution, they never came to understand the necessity of breaking down the entire old social system. Even the most revolutionary of these authors, Tseng P’u who firmly supported the revolutionary movement led by Sun Yat-sen, never surpassed in his views the limitations set by a bourgeois-democratic revolution of the old type. Fundamentally all these writers remained rooted in the old way of thinking and their political viewpoints were somewhere between the more progressive old gentry and the liberal bourgeoisie that was being created. They could not see the world rationally and scientifically nor understand its laws, since they were in the grip of an idealistic Confucian world outlook, the basis of which was the belief that the social system and human morals were expressions of the immanent laws of the world so that evil is merely a temporary violation of this system and cannot achieve ultimate victory. In their thinking they still did not fully discard the medieval mythological conception of reality, according to which all phenomena are determined by some metaphysical law which is not to be understood by the powers of reason, be it the Confucian fate t’ien-ming or the Buddhist chain of deeds and consequences yin-yüan, karman, or the Taoist circle tao. That means that, as far as artistic creation is concerned, the world appears to the artist as an accidental and basically incomprehensible sequence of events, and he does not feel bound or restricted by natural and social laws in his creative work. Speaking of the “truth” of an artistic work—a term repeatedly used in Chinese literary criticism—two things are understood: first, the subjective truthfulness of feelings and viewpoints—the artist is not “lying”—thus actually sincerity rather than truth is meant; this is usually employed for the evaluation of a lyrical subjective work of art. Secondly, it means the exact and truthful depiction of certain individual facts. This is used for the evaluation of writing dealing with facts in various records and historical literature. The idea had not penetrated that the artist should express not only a single feeling or fact, but common laws and typical phenomena and create general pictures which not only reflect details but are a summary and analysis of a large number of phenomena, so that we can understand and evaluate each of them according to the artist’s image.
The faults of the above-mentioned novels pointed out by Lu Hsün,18 A Ying19 and other Chinese scholars are a result of this unscientific, nonrationalistic conception of reality. The general weakness of these novels is the exaggeration and description of unlikely matters. Further on, in the works of Liu O, for example, we find medieval wild fantasy and instead of synthetic images these writers present a collection of single, isolated facts, narrations, scenes and anecdotes which have not been worked up into a homogeneous unit. The insufficient knowledge of the laws binding facts in unbreakable connections is apparent in the form of the novels, for they do not overcome the principle of the free linking of one episode with another; you could place a third anecdote between two others and the chain could be prolonged endlessly. A more elaborate structure can be found in Liu O’s novel Lao Ts’an yu-chi, , “The Travels of Lao Ts’an,” but this is result of purely artificial architectonics, dictated by aesthetic principles and not by the needs of the story; and in Wu Wo-yao’s novel Chiu-ming cb’i-yuan “A Strange Revenge for Nine Lives”20 which was obviously inspired by European models. The novel starts with the committing of a murder and then retrospectively tells how it happened. This indicates a certain tendency to stress the perceptive value of the work, its aim being to explain how such a tragedy comes about.
The new authors, however, could not even continue in the style of the old novels. In China the novel and the short story developed from the oral, vivid narration by folk story-tellers at the bazaars, and until the end of the Manchu period they maintained the form and style of narrations. They were conceived as the tales of one specific story-teller and they were divided very unnaturally into sections, stages (hui ) at the point of greatest suspense. Their style was the lengthy, slow style of a folk tale in which the story-teller’s thoughts, descriptions, dialogues and monologues were blended into one unit. There is no clear distinction between narrated parts, descriptions and parts spoken by the characters. This made it impossible to achieve a more complicated description either of the environment or the psychology of the characters in the story and, what is more important, the narrator had to tell the story from his own point of view; he could not move freely to the scene of action or into his heroes’ minds and describe things through their eyes, perception and experiences. The reproduction of their spoken words was always presented as direct speech and in this way it was impossible to achieve a more complicated story structure. An explicit example of this is the psychological short novel, the narration of nun I-yün , which tells how she overcame worldly desires, in the supplementary six chapters of “The Travels of Lao Ts’an.” Since the whole novel was still presented in the form of the narrative of a traditional story-teller, I-yün’s narration is practically in quotes. Her story also gives comments by other people and they in turn quote still others so that an impossible tangle of quotations within quotations comes into existence. It is obvious that this entire method of composition had outlived its day and that it was necessary to reject both the narrative structure and this style as a concept for prose works. Already the attempts at analytic descriptions, which are the virtue of Liu O’s work and his personal contribution to the development of Chinese realism, completely shatter the old structure of the novel-narration.
It is evident that the new writers had to seek absolutely new ideological viewpoints, take a look at the world with entirely new eyes, with the eyes of other classes, those of the peasants and the workers, create a new artistic structure and finally create a new style, or rather, a new literary language. From all we have said it is clear that at the given stage of the revolution, when a new professional and democratic literature was being founded, the new Chinese writers could not continue in the footsteps of the old literary heritage even in the field of narrative prose.
I must add that the facts I have just presented are in no way an absolute evaluation of the old Chinese novel and short story; I am only searching for what could be of use at the given stage of evolution. In a number of other works, especially in the book Die Literatur des befreiten China und ihre Volkstraditionen, Prague 1955, I have pointed out the superior values of these literary genres in China and I am convinced that in this field of literature Chinese feudal literature achieved such heights that hardly any other literature in the world of the same historical period could surpass it. As soon as the tasks of the literary revolution were fulfilled the new Chinese literature consciously began to revive these old traditions. That took place during the war against Japan, as I pointed out in the above-mentioned book.
In other fields the situation was even more complicated. In drama, except for vast stage experience, there was nothing that could have been taken over from the properties of the old opera and it was necessary to create both a new dramatic structure and a new stage language. The fact that this was accomplished in so short a period is proof of the true greatness of the creators of the new theatre, Ou-yang Yü-ch’ien , T’ien Han , Hung Shen , Hsia Yen , and the youngest of them Ts’ao Yü .
It was most difficult to overcome the past and create new forms and a new language in poetry. In old literature Chinese lyrics held an absolutely dominating position; their images and language became the property not only of the scholars but of the broad masses of people as well. It is generally accepted that Chinese lyrics are among the greatest creations of humanity as a whole. All deviations from the poetic code, worked out to the last detail, were considered as iconoclasm and even barbarism. Therefore, all efforts to bring new themes into poetry and to create a new poetic language on the basis of the colloquial language instead of the old wen-yen, in which most poetry was written until then, were not too successful, and it was only at the end of the period we are dealing with that the first great poet of modern China, Ai Ch’ing appears.
In conclusion, we may say that a deep break in the development of Chinese literature took place in this period. New Chinese literature was inspired by foreign examples rather than by the old native literature. This is best seen in the case of the writer Lu Hsün. When he recalls how he began to write he states that he was inspired by some hundred foreign stories which he had read and the remnants of his medical knowledge.21 He does not say a single word about old literature although there hardly was anyone who had a comparable knowledge of classical Chinese literature. Old Chinese literature had little to offer to the revolutionary Chinese writers whose mission was the creation of a literature and culture completely different from that of old China. When we do find links with old literature in the works of new writers, we more often find links with the old literature written in wen-yen, the literary language, rather than with literature in the colloquial language. The reason for this is that in most cases literature in the colloquial language had too stong a folk flavor, serving as entertainment for the broad masses rather than as an instrument for serious artistic expression. The new writers were faced with the task of founding a new national literature that would fulfil all the exigent demands placed upon this literature. Therefore, they unconsciously identified themselves with what they considered good literature and not with those genres which they felt were to a large degree folkloristic and which, moreover, were more burdened with the old psychology and way of thinking than literary works were. I do not of course speak here of such great works as Ju-lin wai-shih or Hung-lou-meng. In addition, the new literature had to grow up from the soil, until then occupied by the old popular literature—narrative prose, drama, epics—and therefore it first had to clear the ground and start anew if it did not want to drag the old manners and clichés along with it.
4. The New Writers
It is natural that only writers whose links with tradition had been severely loosened could make such a break with the old literature. The literature created in China after the May Fourth Movement is the work of entirely new writers, a new generation which suddenly entered the literary scene after 1917, and there is not a single writer from the previous generation among them.22 Seldom have we witnessed such a complete change of forces in literature anywhere in the world as in China during this era. The new literature is a creation of a single literary generation born in the last decade of the nineteenth century. The oldest one among them is Lu Hsün, who was born in 1881, but it was from 1918 that he first began to devote himself systematically to literature. Only gradually did the writers born in the first decade of the twentieth century join them.
One can say that this was the most cosmopolitan generation that ever appeared in Chinese literature and that it would be difficult to find a comparable one even in foreign literature. Most of these writers studied abroad for many years and became well acquainted with foreign life and culture and mastered foreign languages. The degree of knowledge of foreign languages, culture and literature of some of the members of this generation is quite unbelievable, such as in the case of Mao Tun and Yü Ta-fu This is what makes them absolutely different from the writers of the previous periods, for example, the authors of the satirical novels we spoke about above. The latter merely tried to graft some foreign knowledge onto the traditional education they were brought up with. It is especially interesting that even the most intimate feelings of the new writers are saturated with foreign images and symbols. They speak of the cross they have to carry, a beautiful woman for them is a Beatrice or Mona Lisa, and so on.
They have completely departed from the old way of thinking, the old philosophy and conception of the world with their foreign scientific and rationalistic education. For them Confucianism is just the “morality of eaters of human flesh” as Lu Hsün expressed it,23 every mention of the works of the old philosophers evokes laughter24 and all allusions to the classics have disappeared from their works except when they are part of the theme or are meant to be ironical. On the other hand, their works are filled with motifs, quotations and echoes of European literature. Their thinking is thoroughly materialistic25 and as far as any religious ideas appear in their works it is a reflection of European ideas, of Christianity, and not of the old Chinese religious beliefs.26
Conversely, this entire generation received a good traditional education in classical Chinese literature and there is a conspicuous antagonism of sympathies and interests in their thinking. On the one hand they know that only modern science and learning can bring freedom to them and the whole of Chinese society, yet on the other hand from childhood they have more of a feeling for old Chinese literature presented in school than for European sciences, which were often taught by half-educated people. That is why many of them return to the old learning again and again in free moments and some of them create great scientific works in addition to their literary works. That was true especially in the case of Lu Hsün and Kuo Mo-jo; Cheng Chen-To’s scientific interests were by far the stronger ones, Mao Tun excels in erudition, though he mainly devotes himself to European literature, theory and criticism and deals with old Chinese literature only occasionally. We must constantly be aware of the attachment of this revolutionary generation to the old literature. Certainly their main task was to break down the old world and its culture and here their new European education helped them to do so. But on the other hand it was also their duty to re-evaluate the old Chinese cultural heritage from a progressive and popular point of view. The phenomenal work this generation did under unbelievably difficult conditions has not yet been fully appreciated. It is sufficient to compare the picture of Chinese literature in older European histories, such as Grube’s and Gilles’, etc., with the image we now have thanks to the research done by Wang Kuo-wei Lu Hsün, Cheng Chen-to, A Ying and a whole pleiad of their contemporaries, and we clearly see that scarcely anywhere in the world was literary history the subject of such pioneering passion as in China in the period we are discussing. And here, as in their literary works, we can see the new-democratic revolutionary viewpoint of this generation, which completely discarded the old dogma of the feudal men of letters who limited the huge flow of old literature to a small trickle of feudal letters in the old literary language.
All these tasks: the breaking of the old ideology, the striving towards a new materialistic conception of the world, the liquidation of feudal literature and the creation of a realistic modern literature simultaneously with the re-evaluation of the entire literary heritage and the disclosing of its folk and progressive elements, could be achieved by this generation only because it parted, in its entire way of life, thinking and feeling, from the old ruling class of gentry scholars and officials and changed over to the viewpoint of the working class, the proletariat and the peasantry.
Most of the new writers came from the class of petty landlords and scholars, as was the case in China for centuries. Of the known writers of this period only the dramatist T’ien Han and the writer Lao she came from the lower classes. T’ien Han comes from a peasant back-ground and Lao She from an impoverished Manchu family in Peking. At that time the Chinese proletariat still could not produce its own writers. In most cases, though, their landlord origin was counteracted by the fact that they broke with their own class, ran away from their homes, full of hatred for the environment they came from, and often they did not return home at all or if they did only with disgust. Their stay abroad loosened the relations with their native environments even further and when they returned to China they did not take their place among the old ruling class but became members of the newly developing and still weak strata of the intelligentsia. Most of the intelligentsia departed from the class they came from but could not find their place in any other class. One of the weaknesses of the Chinese bourgeoisie, which we have mentioned many times above, can be seen from the fact that it could not draw this modern intelligentsia to itself, create the adequate working and living conditions for them and impress its thinking and ideas upon them. After returning to China most of the intelligentsia could not find employment in the fields they had studied and these new intellectuals led dreary lives as teachers or they tried to live on their writing. Even at the universities the position of a teacher was completely unstable, teachers were hired and fired like servants and the rewards for writing were very poor. Thus this intelligentsia, and especially those who wanted to make their livelihood from writing, constantly lived on the verge of poverty as outcasts of society. Even the lives of Lu Hsün, Mao Tun, etc., were also very poor and Yü Ta-fu, Kuo Mo-jo, Ting Ling Hu Yeh-p’in and a number of others found themselves at the very bottom of society. Many of them became familiar with the Chinese proletariat not only theoretically but directly through their own lives in the Shanghai slums, which Yü Ta-fu described so magnificently in his autobiographical stories and sketches. Also their personal experiences strengthened the revolutionary spirit in Chinese writers and awakened the feeling that life in China had become unbearable and that there were only two solutions: either to commit suicide or join the revolution. The poet Wen I-to described precisely these feelings in his criticism of Kuo Mo-jo’s collection of poems Nü-shen “The Goddesses”: “The indignation and despair of the Chinese youth after the May Fourth Movement burns like fire, swells like the incoming tide, they feel that this world, ‘as cold as iron,’ ‘as dark as lacquer,’ ‘as foul smelling as blood,’ cannot last for another second. The world disgusts them, they are disgusted by themselves. As a result those with quicker temperaments seek their refuge in suicide and the more patient ones strive for reform with all their strength. Yet even those who seek reform feel that their power is not sufficient for all that stirs them, they begin to shake, and they fall.”27
The reality that surrounded them was extremely cruel—it is sufficient to read Lu Hsün’s essays to gather a large amount of shocking evidence on what life in China was like—and even their personal experiences led this generation of writers to understand the necessity of a revolution and turned them finally to the proletariat when they were convinced that the proletariat was the only force able to carry out the revolution. Uniting with the proletariat was the only way in which they could overcome their desperate isolation in a society which, absolutely misunderstanding these people who, educated abroad, had new feelings and needs, belittled them and regarded them as monstrosities. The circle of eyes watching a tortured victim with apathetic interest which constantly reappears in Lu Hsün’s stories is an expression of the feeling that haunted every intellectual.
All this drove the writers and the intelligentsia as a whole to rebel and brought about their final break with the old society. The ground for this had been laid by their stay abroad and their studies of European culture. The confrontation of their recollections of homes, which they often left full of anger and spite, with a foreign environment gave this generation a feeling of the absolute impossibility of maintaining the prevalent conditions in their country. They saw that in comparison with foreign powers China was weak and backward and on every occasion they felt how foreigners looked down upon the Chinese.28
The environment in which these writers grew up and lived also explains why the ideas of Marxism-Leninism prevailed so quickly. With very few exceptions the ideological development of this generation of writers can be characterized as the development of revolutionary-minded petty bourgeois intellectuals into conscious members of the fighting front of the proletariat. All honest, thinking writers took this road even though some of them were not strong enough to follow this road up to the very end while others were stopped by fate or native or foreign assassins. The first peak of this development was the founding of the “China League of Left Wing Writers” on March 2, 1930. Almost all of China’s significant writers became members of the League. At the inaugural meeting, when the theorectical program was formulated, the members consciously took the standpoint of the proletariat in its fight against capitalism and imperialism and they accepted the world outlook of Marxism-Leninism. Just as on the eve of the patriotic war against the Japanese imperialists all the patriotic elements in China joined in a united fighting front, in the same way all the progressive writers were organized in the League.
It is typical of the political and cultural situation in China that the reactionary forces could not form any organized opposition to this broad front of progressive writers united by the ideas of Marxism-Leninism. We can almost ignore the feeble attempts to defend feudal letters by the famous translator Lin Shu and other old followers of the old literature adhering to the school of T’ung-ch’eng city , or the reactionaries concentrated around the magazine Hsüeh-heng founded in January 1921, in Nan-king. These attempts to defend the old written language in literature were so absurd that the conservatives, with the exception of a few confused polemical articles, did not creat any literary work of art worth mentioning. The writers influenced by the bourgeoisie were able to organize only one important literary society, namely, the Hsin-yüeh she , “Crescent Moon Society” (a magazine under the same name began to appear in 1928). The main theoretician of the society, Liang Shih-ch’iu , regarded the attack against capitalism as an attack against civilization itself and he even repeated the outworn fable of how a diligent worker could accumulate a handsome fortune in a capitalist society.29
The most important ideological spokesman of the bourgeoisie was Hu Shih who had dropped his scholarly activities at the time and was devoting his time more and more to politics, struggling with all his energy to build a dam against the all-embracing flood of socialist ideas. The membership of the “Crescent Moon Society” included only two significant poets who by birth and education belonged to the bourgeoisie. The first was Hsü Chih-mo , who died in an air accident in 1931, when he was only thirty-six years of age, and therefore we cannot say w hat his further development under Kuomintang oppression and the national struggle against the Japanese would have been. The second was Wen I-to, who during the war repeatedly gave voice to the dissatisfied and radical mood of the patriotic Chinese youth in his poetry and critical works and became a spokesman for the democratic intelligentsia against Kuomintang corruption. As a result he lost his life when the Kuomintang agents assassinated him in July 1946. If we take the ideologically unclear and lifeless attempts by the feudal and bourgeois intelligentsia to create an organization—it is, for example, typical that the followers of the “Crescent Moon Society” could express what they were against, that is to say politics in literature, rather than what they were striving for—and compare them to the intensive, artistically and ideologically unusually fruitful activities of the societies uniting revolutionary attuned writers, we see at first glance that neither the old feudal gentry nor the new bourgeoisie could play an important role in Chinese culture any longer. The most important societies, such as Wen-hsüeh yen-chiu hui “The Society for the Study of Literature,” founded in January 1921, the society Ch’uang-tsao she , “Creation,” founded in the summer of 1921, the society Yü szu-she founded in 1924, of which Lu Hsün was the most significant member, and a number of others were of a progressive nature. The leading personalities in these societies were writers who had worked their way up to the ideas of Marxism-Leninism from the position of revolutionary democrats, and who fought strongly against feudal survivals in culture and felt the necessity for revolutionary changes in Chinese society. Their attitude toward the Kuomintang clique was one of complete rejection. All that we have said proves how correct the evaluation of new literature by Wang Yao, the progressive Chinese scholar, is: “The history of new Chinese literature begins with the literary revolution on May Fourth (1919). It is a struggle and a reflection of the thirty-year new-democratic revolution in the field of literature. The new literature used artistic weapons to commence the fight against imperialism and feudalism and it educated broad masses of people, therefore this new literature is a necessary component of the new-democratic revolution and it is closely bound with the political struggle.”30
5. A General Characterization of New Literary Creation
In this section I wish to say a few words about those fields of creation that are dealt with in our collection, that is about drama—although only one study is dedicated to this particular field—and especially about prose, which is what all the other studies are concerned with. In Prague we have begun to study Chinese poetry intensively, too. Of course to explain the birth of new poetry requires a thorough and long-term study of old Chinese poetry, its artistic processes and especially its prosody. If we accept the thesis we formulated above on the basic tendency toward realism in new Chinese literature and the attempts to express, by analytical methods, the varied phenomena of reality and their relations and to create typical images, there is no doubt that this task would be most complicated in poetry because the methods used in Chinese old poetry, as mentioned above, were the exact opposite of these requirements. On the other hand, we cannot overlook the fact that old Chinese poetry brought the art of creating general compositions expressing a great number of details through one image in the most economical way to its highest peak of perfection. Some of Tu Fu’s poems, for instance, are inimitable examples of how to immortalize the most typical features of society in a few strokes and, in addition, to give them the greatest emotional strength. I would venture to say that the roots of the exquisite modern Chinese short story, such as the short stories of Lu Hsün, in so far as they have roots in old Chinese literature at all, are not to be found in old Chinese prose but in poetry. Probably that is where we have to search for the ability to render the environment, sketch a figure and, above all, create the atmosphere of the story with a few strokes. But as far as poetry is concerned the old form, the old means of expression and their rigidity created obstacles for new poets and therefore the poets of this period often use free verse because any other more elaborate form seems to confine them and prevent them from expressing what they feel. This is especially true of the most revolutionary poets, such as Kuo Mo-jo, who wrote his Nü-shen “The Goddesses” almost completely in free verse.
The sharp difference between the new themes and the new tasks of poetry, and all the poetic means available to poets in those days was felt strongly. The example of Lu Hsün is especially instructive. Lu Hsün occasionally wrote both traditional and modern verse,31 but undoubtedly his greatest work of art, which corresponds exactly to the concepts of what modern poetry should be, is the collection of his poems in prose in Yeh-ts’ao , “Wild Grass.” Here Lu Hsün created a work of art which, in relation to the period and environment it was created in, is almost a miracle. His poems in prose, with their emotional atmosphere, complex images and metaphors, and the extraordinary strength of their feelings, assume their place as an exceptional link in the special chain of modern poetry—poems in prose—which begins with the collection by A. Bertrand, Gaspard de la Nuit, continues with Ch. Baudelaire’s Petits poèmes en prose, Lautréamont’s Les Chants de Maldoror, A. Rimbaud’s Une saison en enfer and Les Illuminations and ends with the collection Divagations by Stephane Mallarmé. The question remains open whether Lu Hsün became acquainted with this specific European type of poetry through some Japanese translation or Japanese imitation, or whether he himself through his own poetic genius created a work of art which brought the highest achievements of European poetry to Chinese letters. Since we find similar examples in Lu Hsün’s prose, I am inclined to the opinion that the poems in prose are his independent creation and that he succeeded in producing an original parallel to this remarkable trend in European poetry.
In Lu Hsün’s poetry there are two striking features: The first is the independent development of metaphors which detach themselves from the original impulse that evoked them and begin to live their own lives governed only by the aesthetic laws of the pattern of the artistic image. Here lies the basic principle of modern European poetry and of other forms of art as well. The second characteristic then tells us much about the particular nature of contemporary Chinese literature. Although these poems in prose are very close in form to the works of the poets called the “cursed poets,” poètes maudits, who are spoken of as decadent, the impulse for Lu Hsün to create this poetry did not stem from any morbid moods and feelings, but, on the contrary, as B. Krebsová32 points out very convincingly, these personal confessions are proof of how Lu Hsün’s thinking was dominated by one single thought: anxiety for his nation and the fight for its future. At the same time this example shows us that in Lu Hsün’s case the creating of avant-garde poetry cannot be connected with any subjective escape from reality as the creation of avant-garde art is sometimes explained; contrariwise its impulse is in the need for new and exact expressions of the feelings of the revolutionary epoch. Naturally these feelings become more complicated the more difficult the fight is which awaits the modern man and the more conscious he is of the responsibility resting on his shoulders and the size of the task he must measure up to. This example proves that even in poetry the new Chinese writers could cope with the problem of expressing the new reality—in this instancce the new feelings of modern man—and master the achievements of European literature.
New Chinese drama closely follows modern European drama and this fact needs no further comment. It was only the European “spoken drama” hua-chü that was able to fulfil new tasks, draw attention to social problems and in a realistic way demonstrate various aspects of life on the stage, disseminate new ideas and spur the masses to action. It is interesting to compare the most significant Chinese plays of this period with the general aspects of European drama by which they were inspired. I am of the opinion that this comparision will bring to light the fact that the most important plays of this period, the works of T’ien Han and especially those of Ts’ao Yü,33 are marked in the first place by exceptional concentration. They try to give expression to one single climax, where all the contradictions culminate and clash in a tragic, sometimes even frightening, conflict. It appears to me that these plays are closer to the ancient tragedy, where all the component parts were a preparation for the final catastrophe and where the basic principle was a unity of time, place and action, than to the psychological plays of the closing nineteenth century, such as those of Chekhov, where the conflicts were not expressed in an open clash but took place inside the characters, the play being meant to convey a certain atmosphere. Notice how often the murderous conflicts between close relatives, brother and sister, parents and children, etc. are repeated in T’ien Han’s or in Ts’ao Yü’s plays. Obviously the same need to underline the general tragic mood is felt, just as it was felt by the authors of ancient tragedies about whom Aristotle speaks in his “Poetics”: “If an enemy makes an enemy suffer he arouses no sympathy while he is in action nor while he is preparing for it; perhaps the mere fact of suffering may have an effect; it is the same if two people who mean nothing to each other act this way. But when suffering is caused among friends, if a brother kills his brother, for example, a son his father or a mother kills her son, or if they plan to kill or do anything like that, behold a story the poet should look for.”
It is also necessary to note that by concentrating on one final moment new Chinese drama completely separated itself from the old Chinese opera, the pattern of which was formed by a long chain of episodes spread over long periods of time and space. Obviously the brutal struggle that was raging all over China at the time needed to be expressed in an exciting, dynamic way full of fighting pathos and tragedy. These plays are also outcries of indignation and despair like a part of contemporary poetry, as Wen I-to expressed so well in his above-quoted criticism. From this point of view Chinese drama, at the time, had features that correspond to the larger section of literary creation of the period and I think it is correct to use the term Chinese literary theoreticians apply to this characteristic: revolutionary realism. The author is not satisfied with mere criticism of conditions, he does not only point out the evil that is destroying society, his work is a clear battle call and, in the case of drama, this fight is shown directly on the stage. This is true of the best plays by T’ien Han and Ts’ao Yü. We shall find the same characteristics in prose.
There is one other conspicuous feature in new Chinese drama which we shall deal with while surveying works of prose. We find two distinct and varied sources for dramatic creation which we shall discover later in prose, too. On the one hand it is an effort to express a certain reality objectively—that is the method used especially by Ts’ao Yü. On the other hand drama became predominantly an expression of the personal feelings and ideas of the author, who speaks to the audience through the lips of his heroes, and the majority of the main characters in his plays are nothing more than various personifications of himself. We usually find this method in Kuo Mo-jo’s plays. Yet this dramatic subjectivism—and that must be emphasized here—is not self-centered; it is not meant as an expression of any of the author’s private moods and feelings but it voices the author’s revolutionary thinking, it is a battle-call mobilizing the audience. It is likely that certain lyrical and, even more, some of the sentimental tones of T’ien Han’s plays, pointed out by J. Häringová in her study, are an expression of this strong subjective trend in new literature. Such moods are more than understandable in the given situation. Each person had to solve the difficult problems of his day for himself and the sincerity of his solution was often put to the ultimate test: the sacrifice of his own life. On the other hand, we must note that these subjective moods often took the writers away from really important problems and led to futile analyses of personal feelings and suffering which also deepened the gap between this literature and the interests of the broad masses.
On the whole, we can say of Chinese drama of this time that it is amazing with what virtuosity the Chinese dramatists mastered the principles of the dramatic structure so that its effect was most penetrating and with what speed they created a new stage language.
There is no doubt that Chinese prose was the greatest manifestation of this epoch. It is at this time that the modern lengthy social novel appeared in China; the sketch, the essay, the diary, etc., acquired new forms, but it was the Chinese short story that reached the highest degree of perfection. Compared with previous genres, in all of these branches of belles-lettres we find a marked predilection for rigidly outlined and artistically elaborated formations which is undoubtedly, as we stated above, related to the new understanding of reality as a system of necessary processes determined by inherent laws. It is actually at this moment that the modern short story was created in China, that is, a modern prose form which grasps a single psychological situation, where all the parts are linked by one single feeling and are interwoven in a systematically connected, unbreakable entity.
Prose also discovered, in some instances, new theme fields similar to new drama: the life of the lower strata of Chinese society, especially the most important social classes, the workers and the peasants. Only at that time it was discovering methods to depict realistically the life of the petty bourgeoisie, the small businessman and the craftsman, too. It is, however, necessary to add that, at this time, the writer remained within the bounds of his own group, the intelligentsia, and therefore observed the life of other classes only as an outsider.
In prose, as in drama, we can follow two ways of approaching reality. One method strives at creating an objective image of society by applying the methods of European classical realism to Chinese literature. Its main characteristic, according to the Czech literary theoretician, Mukafovský,34 is the striving to maintain in an epic work of art the highest degree of objective presentation: either ‘material’ or psychological facts are presented to the reader so that he believes he sees them directly. At most, the narrator may fulfil—it is, of course, only a deceptive pretense—the role of the lens in a camera or of an exact recording machine. These artistic methods were applied most thoroughly by Mao Tun in his works: the best examples can be found in his masterpiece Tzu-yeh , “Twilight”35 from 1931, and in a number of stories from approximately the same period. The methods of classical realism were disseminated particularly by the writers belonging to the Society for the Study of Literature.
Mao Tun’s methods, which aim at the most objective expression of reality and carefully cover up every trace of the author-narrator’s role in the description, are unquestionably the greatest departure from the patterns of the old Chinese novel and story, which were always presented as the tale of a certain, concrete narrator. From this point of view the works of another realistic writer of this period, Lao She, as Z. Slupski points out in his study, represent an older stage of European realistic prose and at the same time they are closer to the traditions of the old Chinese novel than Mao Tun’s works are. Lao She starts from Dickens’ novel in which the author-narrator constantly intervenes in the narration in the same way as the Chinese story-tellers. Even the free pattern of the majority of his early novels reminds us of the old Chinese novel where the entire work is rather a series of independent images than a firmly bound formation. This brings out Lao She’s close contact with Chinese folk art, which is further illustrated by his interest in various forms of folk literature and by the entire tone of his dramatic creation.
The origins of the second way of approaching reality are far less clear. It is possible that the first wave of European Romanticism at the turn of the nineteenth century had an influence here, for example, Goethe’s Die Leiden des jungen Werther; further on it was the influence of Naturalsim which led to the very particular style of watakushi-shōsetsu (Ich-Erzählung) in Japan, which had its influence on Chinese writers, too. And finally we must not overlook the fact that the second wave of Romanticism hit European literature in the second half of the nineteenth century and especially after World War I all European prose was saturated with subjectivity and lyricism, which permeated and disintegrated all the traditional forms of epic narration. The presence of these foreign influences is quite undeniable; we can, for example, prove convincingly the influence of European Romanticism on Kuo Mo-jo and find exact parallels between the autobiographical lyrical sketches by Yü Ta-fu and the Japanese watakushi-shōsetsu. The reason, however, why these foreign influences found such favorable ground in Chinese literature probably lies in the explicitly lyrical and subjective character of the old higher Chinese writing in wen-yen.
As we said above, only the accounts of the real facts or a personal experience seemed “true” to the old Chinese men of letters and worthy of the high mission of wen writing. Fiction was overlooked as invention or as something “empty” hsü , not belonging to higher literature. These views still had their influence in the new period. The writer Yü Ta-fu, for example, maintained that every work was to a certain extent autobiographical. If a work is related in the third person and the writer gives too exact an account of his hero’s mental states, the reader then necessarily asks how does the author know these feelings so well. He loses his illusions and that leads to a loss of literary sincerity. Therefore, Yü Ta-fu considers the diary and letter to be the most appropriate literary forms.36 Lu Hsün was forced to reject these incorrect theories of artistic truth as some kind of factographies with—in this case—explicitly lyrical coloring.
The most distinct examples of subjective tendencies in new Chinese prose and simultaneously the closest parallel with the Romantic subjective prose of the Die Leiden des jungen Werther type or of A. Musset’s Confession d’un enfant du siècle type are the subjective sketches by the two main members of the Society “Creation” Yü Ta-fu and Kuo Mo-jo. We could also call this kind of prose the author’s dramatized experiences because in these sketches the author presents his mental states, dissatisfaction and pain that again and again culminated in explosions of despair, self-accusation and suicidal moods. The feature that connects them with the Japanese watakushi-shōsetsu is that the author paid little attention to the outer reality of his life; he concentrated on his own feelings which he described with utmost sincerity.37 Yet he often wove lyrical descriptions of nature and scenery into his narration.
However, the reality surrounding Chinese writers pressed on them too urgently and would not permit them to concentrate only on observing the palpitations of their souls, as the Japanese writers did, and therefore they sought the road to understanding and expressing the reality around them through their personal experiences. Sometimes it was sufficient to suppress all the relations of a certain personal experience with the surrounding reality in the depiction and thus give it a certain general validity; the phenomenon became a symbol. Yü Ta-fu’s story Li ch’iu chih yeh , “A Night in Early Autumn,”38 is a good example of this; here the aimless walk of two friends in the night becomes a symbol of the aimless crawling of the Chinese intelligentsia and perhaps the aimlessness of life itself. Much more artistic is the method of complex stratification of different temporal and emotional levels in describing a particular experience; in that way an unusually complicated structure is created whereby one detail is posed against another distant in time and emotion, and at the same time an extraordinary internal homogenity of story is achieved by this blending and contrasting of details. This is one of the roads that resulted in the creation of the carefully worked out modern Chinese psychological short story.
Most likely the best example of this method is Yü Ta-fu’s story I-ko jen tsai fu-shang , “A Lonely Man on a Journay.”39 The author Ping-Hsin used similar methods in her stories, as M. Boušková points out in her study.
Yü Ta-fu uses the same methods in his most important works in which he describes his encounters with the Chinese proletariat, with a worker in a tobacco factory in the story Ch’un-feng cb’en-tsui-ti wan-shang , Intoxicating Spring Nights” and with a rickshaw man in the story Po-tien , “Humble Sacrifice.”40 The deep sympathy and love with which he depicted the noble characters of these representatives of the proletariat against the background of his own poverty and despair made these stories practically symbols of the general situation in China where only the proletariat could bring salvation to all those who were suffering. This emphasis on a personal event, a personal experience as a necessary premise for the truthfulness of a literary work, which this school claimed, was of special importance for the formation of new Chinese literature; at another level and in other situations it was acclaimed during the last war and also at present. It is a conviction that the writer can give truthful expression only to the reality he has deeply experienced. This is where the demand for the re-education of the writers stems from: if he is to depict the life of the people well he must identify himself with them and above all live and work with them.
When Kuo Mo-jo, like Yü Ta-fu, tried to free himself from the somewhat monotonous chains depicting the states of his mind he chose a rather different process for the literary moulding of his experiences. Kuo Mo-jo was influenced by European Romanticism more strongly than Yü Ta-fu; therefore he gave his experiences romantic settings and tragic perspectives. Thus, he attempted to give voice to the romantic desire for a great, strong life, which can have only one noble end, that is, a tragic death. On the other hand, Kuo Mo-jo has a strong feeling for reality, much stronger than the oversensitive and obviously sick Yü Ta-fu, and this feeling for reality is inseparably connected with his historical interests. These varied interests and moods, his interest in history, his romantic desires and his feeling for reality led to the creation of a number of works which reflected all these aspects of his personality: in some instances he worked up his personal experiences from the point of view of a historian, thus preparing material for a future historian. Here the historian and realist outweigh the Romantic, which is reflected in this kind of writing by a tendency to an objective description of reality, in a detailed picture of the period and milieu and in the small attempt at fictionalization, as M. Velingerová pointed out in her study. In other instances Kuo Mo-jo used historical material to express his own feelings and opinions; he created a number of strongly subjective historical stories in which, as he frequently does in his plays, the historical personalities became his spokesmen; they expressed his judgments and views. At the same time Kuo Mo-jo maintained the coloring of the period and he gave his descriptions bright romantic colors so that he created perfect historical pictures reminding us of similar works by European Romantics.41
Mao Tun s works, on one hand, and the works of Yü Ta-fu and Kuo Mo-jo on the other, represent the two extremes of Chinese prose between which the entire body of prose of the period extends nearing sometimes this pole and at other times that pole. The great popularity of the subjective approach to the story is apparent even in the works of writers striving for an objective expression of reality, in the strong activization of their characters so that all actions are seen through their eyes and perceived through their reactions until, in the end, the work is presented as a confession (for example a diary) of the main character. The activization of the characters is apparent already in the first great work by Mao Tun, in the trilogy Shih “The Eclipse,”42 and it culminates in the great novel Fu-shih , “Corruption”43 conceived as a diary of the heroine. Ting Ling, who otherwise strove for an objective depiction of reality, also used at the beginning of her career the form of the diary of the heroine.44 On the other hand her largest novel Sang-kan ho-shang “On the River Sang-kan,”45 written shortly after the war against Japan, was one of the first Chinese contributions to socialist realism and is written in a purely objective way.
It is necessary to note that the tendency to actualize the characters is very typical in contemporary European prose and this fact alone proves that the Chinese writers had mastered all the technical achievements of modern literature.
On the other hand even the writers with strong subjective inclinations like Pa Chin, as O. Král pointed out in his study of the novel Chia, “Family” by this writer, aimed at eliminating details of a purely individual nature and creating on the basis of autobiographical experiences a work expressing certain features typical for society of those days. The writer Yeh Shao-chün 46 uses similar methods in his largest work, the novel Ni Huan-chih .
These various methods which we have tried to characterize here can also be found in the works of Lu Hsün which represent a synthesis and culmination of all the efforts to create new Chinese literature during that period. In Lu Hsün’s works we find reflections of his most intimate feelings worked into perfect, polished form; these are the poems in prose we have discussed above. Among his works we find a whole range of different ways of writing up subjective material: from the diary, notebook, letter, sketch, memoir to the strongly subjectivized historical story the base of which is an autobiographical experience.47 This variety of form alone shows that Lu Hsün’s aim never was to express some personal experience in an unaltered form and he rejected this demand for a work of art. He regarded a personal experience as a purely artistic material like any other and he worked it up freely according to the needs of his artistic aim, and never for the purpose of truthfully describing a single detail. This is convincingly shown by the confrontation of all the recollections of Lu Hsün’s contemporaries on his actual life with his work because we see how freely Lu Hsün changed and treated real facts in his works and gave them an entirely new meaning, so that the connections between the individual facts and his literary works are very weak.48 On the other hand, it is undeniable that Lu Hsün constantly returned to his experiences and memories and that they were his main source of inspiration, as he himself says in the introduction to the collection Na-han “Call to Arms.”49 The personal relationship to what he is telling gave his story strong emotional pathos and strengthened its effect on the reader. That is probably why Lu Hsün enjoyed using the form of personal narration (Ich-Erzählung) so much, even in those cases when it obviously was not the question of a personal story, for example in the story Shang-shih “Regret for the Past,”50 etc. The use of the form of personal narration enabled him to create exceptional suspense in telling the story because we learn only what the narrator knows and he knows only part of the truth and never the whole truth. Thus a mystery is created; we feel there are other things beyond the facts we know, probably more terrible than the ones we were told. We see that Lu Hsün used a method very popular in modern prose (used by W. Faulkner, for example) and, on the other hand, one that reminds us of the old Chinese painting technique with all its white areas. Naturally this is just one of the examples of the varied methods Lu Hsün used which prove that the modern Chinese artist, by his own efforts, discovered all the artistic means that it took entire generations of European prose to arrive at through joint efforts.
If we ask for the meaning of all the new artistic methods that the new Chinese writers applied to Chinese literature it becomes clear that it is an attempt at a more exact expression of reality, of course not at an expression of the individual facts but the various laws that bind and determine all the phenomena of reality. Writers became aware of the perceptive value of a literary work—that it supplies us with knowledge of reality, of course of a specific kind—and many of them discussed this problem in their theoretical works. Therefore, e.g., Kuo Mo-jo placed this thesis at the opening of his autobiography Jou-nien shih-tai , “My Youth”51: “I wrote only about how a certain society gave birth to a certain person, or you could say, how a certain person lived in a certain period.”52 Thus, he emphasized the perceptive, documentary value of his autobiographies.53 Mao Tun often returned to this problem in his criticisms and theoretical essays; again and again he accused the young writers of not knowing reality or of being satisfied with superficial impressions. Once he blamed the young writers for sympathizing with the oppressed and poor and wanting to pour this sympathy into creation without having the slightest conception of the conditions in which these people live. He blamed another writer for the fact “that his knowledge of this special social life (the life of the railway workers and the miners) is not bad. Yet he lacks a really penetrating understanding of the facts; he cannot analyze his material and classify it properly to be able to create a broad and complete picture. He collects scattered chips which do not touch the heart of the matter and he describes them as they affect him . . . they are impressionistic fragments . . .”54
The basic difference, in contrast to critical and satirical works of the previous period, which we have discussed above, lies in the fact that the writer goes “to the heart of the matter,” he tries to express the fundamental social problems. This is also where we see the specific features of Chinese realism of this epoch in comparison to European critical realism of the nineteenth century. If we compare the works of Mao Tun, for example, with the works of the masters of European realism (and naturalism), E. Zola and L. N. Tolstoy55 whom he considered his teachers, we see the main difference in the fact that Mao Tun turned from the detailed, psychological analysis of his heroes to expressing the general social connections. His above-mentioned novel, Tzu-yeh, “Twilight” and a collection of stories accompanying it, certainly portrayed through a carefully chosen and ingeniously constructed system of scenes the social and economic situation in China better and deeper than any scientific book. The price he paid for this was that his characters and their stories rather illustrated the general situation than created it. His heroes evidently could not change the course of events, no matter what they did. On the other hand, Mao Tun clearly showed the reader that the general situation was unbearable, that any attempt at individual escape was quite hopeless: and that only nation-wide effort could lead China out of a misery which had no parallel in history.
This tendency toward the typical and general conclusions that the author expresses through his images is, I think, the most common characteristic of the best products of Chinese literature of this epoch. Lu Hsün’s art is a good illustration of this statement. It is probably certain that Lu Hsün studied the art of stirring up a certain social group and forcing various representatives of society to show their true character from the Russian writers, especially from Gogol. We can evidently trace that Lu Hsün’s method, used already in his earliest story written in 1911, Huai chiu , “Past,”56 is in its conception identical to Gogol’s The Inspector-General. A false rumor forces the representatives of society to take off their masks of Confucian virtue and loyalty and show themselves to be reckless villains and careerists. There is, however, one important difference: While Gogol laughs at his types and caricatures them Lu Hsün’s portraits are full of hatred.
The difference between the two writers is even more apparent in Kuang jen jih chi , “Diary of a Madman.”57 It is very likely that Lu Hsün was inspired by Gogol’s work with the same name, Zapisky sumasšedšago, but of what diverse results!58 Not to speak of the generally gloomier mood of Lu Hsün’s story; the difference lies mainly in the fact that, in addition to a certain satirical aim, Gogol’s chief interest was in the sick imagination of his hero, whereas Lu Hsün used this motif only to be able to voice a crushing denunciation of the entire old system. It is a society of cannibals which is doomed! Here we see clearly the different viewpoints of the two writers and their artistic results. Gogol was never able to break completely away from the old society although he saw its rottenness and misery well, and for that reason his works could not attain the absolute straightforwardness of Lu Hsün’s works.
Undoubtedly this is the result of the entirely different class outlook of the Chinese writers we spoke of above. The European writer remained chained to his semi-feudal or bourgeois society, while the Chinese writer became the outcast of society in that era and sooner or later he had to find his way to the proletariat, if he did not want to betray himself and his mission. The Chinese critics, who say that already at this time, as far as his relationship to the landlord gentry is concerned, Lu Hsün accepted the viewpoint of the revolutionary peasants, are probably right.59
This departure from the traditions of the old classes and his passionate fighting spirit enabled Lu Hsün to find new artistic methods to give expression to his hatred and will to fight, methods that have no analogy in the old literature and which were explicitly modernistic even in comparison with European literature of the time. Like the European critical realists, Lu Hsün also wanted, as he himself said, to describe the unfortunate people and the suffering. In one place he says: “So my themes were usually the unfortunates in this abnormal society. My aim was to expose the disease and draw attention to it so that it might be cured.”60
Among Lu Hsün’s works we find a number of stories, especially in the second collection P’ang-huang, “Wandering” which depict “the unfortunates in this abnormal society.” Yet his most important works have completely different tendencies. Let us look at the story К’ung I-chi,61 for example! It seems to me that all the explanations saying that Lu Hsün wanted to show the tragic results of the old examinations, etc.62 are rather doubtful. Certainly Lu Hsün’s genius portrayed an unsuccessful person with a mastery that has few parallels. Yet obviously the aim of the story was not predominantly in this direction. It aims at something quite different, at the licentiate who has a person cruelly crippled for a petty crime, at the entire dark barbarian atmosphere where the poverty and the suffering of the next man are a subject for laughter and amusement. We obviously find the same phenomenon here as in Mao Tun’s works, a departure from the individual history and an attempt to express facts of a general nature and give a picture of the whole social situation. The individual history became the background text against which the writer sharply depicted those social phenomena to which he wanted to draw our attention. We find a similar method in a number of stories, especially in the collection Na-han, “Call to Arms,” for example in the story Yao , “Medicine”63 and even in “The True Story of Ah Q,”64 the story of Ah Q himself became only the background on which the author could depict the behavior and character of the gentry during the revolution in 1911. This method is demonstrated quite openly in the story Shih-chung “On the Pillory”65 in which the story itself is completely suppressed and the writer presents merely the description of a mob which considers it most delightful to stare at a suffering person. Incidentally we can mention that Lu Hsün applied here the same methods that the experimentalists in form worked with after World War I, for example the Czech writer K. Čapek.66 What was, however, mere play for them has full meaning and is completely justified in the general tendency of Lu Hsün’s works, because it fulfils a significant artistic and social purpose.
We could also illustrate this endeavor to express the general and typical in Lu Hsün’s characters, for example, the character of Ah Q, where the individual portrait and history are very limited and the stress is predominantly on general features typical of an entire specified social group or even an entire national community. In this way Lu Hsün’s characters acquire that special common validity which is so typical of them; they become representatives, or even symbols, of entire broad circles of society. Lu Hsün’s ability to create figures of so general a character as to become symbols can be seen, for example, in the short sketch called Tui-pai-hsien-ti tien-tung “The Last Shiver on the Way to the Abyss”67 in which with a few strokes Lu Hsün created a monumental figure of a mother whose pain stirs the entire universe. In any case, the ability to endow his creations with a great range of meanings so that their target and meaning keep incessantly changing, like the coloring of a rainbow, is Lu Hsün’s special artistic principle.
We find the same striving for perceptive value and general validity even in works seemingly limited to a purely individual experience. Certainly the meaning of the intimate pieces by Yü Ta-fu, Kuo Mo-jo, just like the Japanese watakushi-shōsetsu, was not only to record the exceptional and inimitable experiences of their authors. On the contrary, I am of the opinion that the exceptional interest in works of this kind both in China and in Japan definitely did not stem from a desire to understand the emotional world of an extraordinary person, but because the readers found themselves in the pages of such records and the author expressed their own feelings. These records were the outcry of a silenced and crushed individual, similar to the poetry of the time, as Wen I-to so aptly put it in the above quoted statement. In a society in which the main task was the fight against the remnants of feudalism it was necessary to show what a person looks like in reality and what his inner life is, what his desires, needs and feelings are, in order to break the false morality and the untrue stereotyped assertions about man and his feelings that were repeated in feudal works of ethics and literature. The pictures of authors’ own souls which were bruised and angry were an important part of critical realism, as were the pictures of sick individuals whom Lu Hsün depicted. Mao Tun stressed this in his discussions when he said: “New literature depicts the dark sides of society, uses analytical methods to solve problems and, in poetry, gives vent to individual feelings with the aim of rousing in the reader, feelings of social pity, sympathy and anger.”68
Again and again we must repeat that the rebellion of the individual against family and social limitations was one of the most important parts of the general revolution taking place in China at the time. Therefore literature disclosing the inner life of an individual played an important social role, it fulfilled a revolutionary task. As far as its importance for the creation of new literature is concerned, it is sufficient to point out that only at that time did Chinese literature try to explore the interior of the human mind and describe it exactly. From this point of view we can consider all these descriptions of mental states as important literary experiments, discovering new areas of reality.
Subjective literature, however, had one other important function. It became a direct weapon in the political and cultural struggle of that time. It was very difficult to express all the anger and indignation the writers felt toward the old society and to portray the fight against the old system in objective images, especially when writers seldom witnessed this struggle. But it was possible to express all of this directly as personal opinions, feelings, views, in the form of records, diaries, letters, personal sketches or in other strongly subjective literary forms. For this reason we find the most revolutionary expressions of Kuo Mo-jo in his notes and the same is true of various letters and articles by Yü Ta-fu. In the same way the subjective and romantic tone of Kuo Mo-jo’s stories is, in the first place, an expression of his passionate desire to sacrifice his life in the great national and social fight, and this romantic desire puts the weapon in his hand. In other instances he puts his revolutionary political and philosophical ideas into the mouths of the heroes of his historical plays and stories. We must not overlook the fact that to the revolutionary minded young individualist Lu Hsün “satanic” poetry, that is, European Romantic poetry, seemed to be the highest expression of the revolutionary spirit. All this reveals the specific social function of this subjective and Romantic literature of this period.
Lu Hsün’s essays are the best example of the use of subjective literary forms as a fighting weapon and they undoubtedly have a much more militant character than his stories, so that the Chinese critics speak about Lu Hsün’s essays as products of socialist realism.
On the whole we can say that Chinese literature of this epoch fulfils mainly the function of the literature of critical realism. It exposes the dark sides and diseases of the old society so that they may be cured, as it was expressed by Lu Hsün. Through an uncompromising attitude to the originators of these evils the literature indicates that the situation in China had reached such a peak that no social compromise was possible any more and that the revolution was unavoidable. The great majority of the new writers were on the side of the broad masses of the people and began a passionate fight against their native and foreign enemies. A symptom of the fact that various contradictions in China had reached such a peak that it had come to open conflict, is that literature turned from depicting individual fates and analyzing mental states of single heroes and attempted to render this struggle and explain all its connections. It then focused its attention on the culminations of the social struggle either by depicting it directly, like Mao Tun and a number of dramatists, or the authors tried at least to reflect the general tragedy the Chinese nation lived through by emphasizing the tragic moments of human life in their works. At the same time literature became a direct weapon in this struggle. The writer attacked the enemies of the people, not only in artistic images but personally in sharp articles. In this epoch literature was changing from critical realism to socialist realism, at least in the best works.
I have tried briefly to summarize here the results of our work so far. Our work up till now has convincingly showed us the need for monograph studies on the individual authors and problems without which no attempts at books of a synthetic nature can be made. That will be the next stage of our work. Together with our colleagues in other socialist countries we shall prepare a number of monographs on various personalities and on questions connected with the new literature.
1My Introduction was finished in 1961. Other studies are still older. From Studies tn Moaern Chinese Literature, ed. Jaroslav Průšek (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1964), pp. 1-43.
2Shanghai, Hsin wen-i ch’u-pan-she 1953.
3Peking, Tso-chia ch’u-pan-she 1957.
5See my review of this book, Lu Hsün, The Revolutionary and the Artist, OLZ 1960 (LV 5/6) p. 229-236.
6Compare the opening chapters of Ho Kan-chih, A History of Modem Chinese Revolution, Peking 1959, with particular reference to p. 7.
7I refer to the above-mentioned book by Ho Kan-chih, to the extraordinarily thorough Soviet work Očerki istoriji Kitaja ν novefšeje vremja, Moskva 1959; to both of W. Franke’s books, Chinas kulturelle Revolution, München 1957 and Das Jahrhundert der chinesiscben Revolution 1851-1949, München 1958; to the Czech work by Stamberger-Pokora-Slupski, Na přelomu staré a nové Činy, “On the Turning Point of Old and New China,” Praha 1959; Chow Tse-tsung, The May Fourth Movement, Cambridge, Mass., 1960 and a number of others. In these books one can find further references to what by now is a considerable literature.
8I discuss this question in the study Les Contes Chinois du Moyen Âge comme source de l’histoire économique et sociale sous les dynasties des Sung et des Yuan, Mélanges publiés par l’Institut des Études Chinoises, T. ü, Paris 1960, pp. n3-140.
9It is necessary to note that the ideology of the Chinese gentry, in fact called Confucianism, has almost nothing in common with the original theory of Confucius which was of an explicitly progressive nature in its time, as we point out in a special study.
10The term “literary revolution” has been used overmuch in Europe where any and every literary and artistic movement was called as a “revolution.” In comparison to these movements the Chinese literary revolution is probably the only example in history of a real revolution in literature.
11Neue Chinesische Literatur in: Das Neue China, Berlin 1940, p. 456, 523 and 588, reprinted in the book O činském písemnictví a vzdělanosti, “Chinese Literature and Culture,” Prague 1947, pp. 207-256.
12Ch’en Tu-hsiu, however, never overcame the strong influence of bourgeois thinking and finally he was dismissed from the Party for his capitulationist tendencies. See Ho Kan-chih, op. cit., pp. 43, 50 and passim.
13Here Ch’en Tu-hsiu refers to Hu Shih. As in other cases, Ch’en was not aware of the basic differences between his own revolutionary demands and the reformist view point of Hu Shih.
14I quote Chow Tse-Tsung, The May Fourth Movement, pp. 275-276, because he gives an English translation.
15I give a more detailed illustration of these two approaches to reality in the introductory study to the translation of Liu O’s novel Lao Ts’an yu-cbi, Putováni Starébo chromce, “The Travels of Lao Ts’an,” Prague 1960.
16Hu Shih, who paid attention only to the formal aspects of literature, constantly emphasized that it would be possible to continue the old novels in the colloquial language at least as far as their language is concerned. As he did not understand the fundamental difference between literature created by the new-democratic revolution and the old literature, he did not see that this was not possible even in respect of language—or rather style—as we shall point out later on. See Hu Shih wen-ts’un Shanghai 1940, Vol 1, p. 84.
17This very interesting fact was pointed out by W. Bettin in his article. Die Darstellung der Gentry in Li Po-yüans Roman “Beamten.” Wissenschaftliche Zeitschrift der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Gesellschafts- und sprachwissenschaftliche Reihe, Jg. XI (1962), p. 425-429.
18Lu Hsün, Chung-kuo hsiao-shuo shih-lüeh, , Shanghai, Pei-hsin shu-chü 1932, Ρ. says Wu Wo-yao’s work: “Unfortunately his narration often loses a just sense of proportion; sometimes he errs by painting everything in extremely dark colours and his story departs from anything that is likely.”
19A Ying , Wan Ch’ing, hsiao-shuo shih , Peking, Tso-chia ch’u-pan-she 1955, p. 9 says of Li Po-yüan’s, Wen-ming hsiao-shih , “Short History of Civilization”: “The descriptions in this book are far from the truth and they are exaggerated.”
20Shih-chie shu-chü, Shanghai 1926.
21"I started writing short stories not because I thought I had any particular talent, but because I was staying in a hostel in Peking and had no reference books for research work and no originals for translation. I had to write something resembling a story to comply with request, that was A Madman՝s Diary. I must have relied entirely on the hundred or more foreign [underlined by Průšek] stories I had read and a smattering of medical knowledge. I had no other preparation.” Lu Hsün ch’üan-chi , Peking, Jen-min wen-hsüe u-pan-she 1957, Vol. 4, p. 392, Wo tsem-mo tso ch’i hsiao-shuo lai , “How I came to write short stories,” pp. 392-393. Compare Selected Works of Lu Hsün, Peking 1959, Vol. 3, p. 229.
22In this period the eminent publicist of the reform movement in 1898, Liang Ch’i-ch’ao, still continued to write, but he worked more on scientific and popular science books than on literary works. The original works of the famous and respected translator Lin Shu , of this period are not worth mentioning.
23In his first story K’uang-jen jih cht , “A Madman’s Diary” in the collection Na han,, Cb’üan-chi, Vol. 1, p. 9 et seq.
24 When Chüeh-hui , one of the main heroes of Pa Chin’s novel Chia , “Family” (Shanghai, K’ai-ming shu-chü 1933) mentions that in a certain school they read nothing but the works of saints and sages, Pa Chin accompanies the statement with these words: “Chüeh-hui himself felt a rush of uneasiness and he couldn’t control his laughter (p. 281).
25Especially Lu Hsün’s expression of this materialistic world outlook in the story Pu , “Mending Heaven” in the collection Ku-shih hsin-pien , “Old Tales Retold,” Ch’üan-chi, Vol. 2 p. 307 and further on, is an artistic masterpiece. In this story he describes the origin of man as an unconscious and even unwanted action of the Goddess Nü-wa, representing the productive forces of nature. In his conception man is not the center of the universe as in old Confucian philosophy, but only one of the products of the development of Nature.
26See for example, certain traces of Christianity in the views of the heroine of Kuo Mo-jo’s novel Lao-yeh , “Fallen Leaves,” in the collection Ti-hsia-ti hsiao sheng , Shanghai, Hsin wen-i ch’u-pan-she 1951, p. 299 et seq.
27Wen I-to cb’üan-cbi Vol. 3, Sbiby ü p’i-ping p. 185, Nü-shen-chih sbib-tai ching-shen , “Spirit of the Epoch of [the collection] The Goddesses. This quotation appears on p. 191.
28These feelings were expressed, for example, by Yü Ta-fu in his story Ch’en-lun , “Drowning” (in the collection Yü Ta-fu hsüan-chi , Peking, Jen-min wen-hsüe ch’u-pan-she 1954, pp. 1-40); by Wen I-to in the poem Hsi-i ko , “The Washman’s Song” (in the collection Szu-shui , “Dead Water” p. 28, Wen I-to ch’üan-chi,, Vol. 3) and by a number of other writers. The story, Ch’en-lun has been translated into Slovakian by A. Vlčková in her collection of Yü Ta-fu’s works, Večer opitý jarntm větrem, “Intoxicating Spring Nights,” Bratislava i960.
29See Lu Hsün ciïüan-chi, Vol. 4, p. 155 and further, Ying-i yü wen-hsüeh-ti chieh-cbi bsing “Hard translation and the class character of Literature”; compare Selected Worb of Lu Hsün, Vol. 3, p. 65 et seq.
30Chung-kuo hsin wen-hsüeh shih kao , Hsin wen-i ch’u-pan she, Shanghai 1953, p. 1.
31These poems were collected in Chi wai chi and reprinted in the 7th volume of his Ch’üan-cbi.
32B. Krebsová, Lu Sün, sa vie et son oeuvre, Prague 1953, p. 89.
33A dissertation on Ts’ao Yü was written in Prague by Z. Slezák. Further see the resume of the thesis by L. A. Nikol’skaja, Dramaturgia Cao Juja, avtoreferat dissertacii, Moskva 1961.
34J. Mukařovský, Vyvoj Čapkovy prózy, “The Development of Čapek’s Prose,” Kapitoly z české poetiky, “Chapters from Czech Poetics,” Prague 1948, Vol. 2, p. 329.
35Shanghai, K’ai-ming shu-chü 1933.
36See Lu Hsün, Tsen-mo hsieh , Yeh chi chih yi , Ch’üan-chi, Vol. 4, p. 15 et seq.
37 This comparison is based on the report on watakushi-shōsetsu by my pupil M. Novák, which will appear in Acta Universitatis Carolinae, Orientalia Pragensis ü, Praha 1962.
38Α. Vlčková translated this story in the above-mentioned collection of Yü Ta-fu’s works “Intoxicating Spnng Nights.” A. Vlčková also wrote a dissertation paper on Yü Ta-fu and a study in English which will soon be published.
39Ta-fu ch’üan-chi , Shanghai, Ch’uang-tsao-she ch’u-pan-pu 1927. This story, as well as the two following, were translated by A. Vlčková in her collection.
40Ta-fu ch’üan chi.
41These stories have been translated into Czech by B. Krebsová under the title, Návrat Starého mistra a jiné povtdky,” ”The Return of the Old Master and other Stories” Praha 1961. See further her study Lu Hsün and His Collection “Old Tales Retold”, Ar Or 29 (1961), pp. 306ff.
42Peking, Jen-min wen-hsüe ch’u-pan she 1954.
43Shanghai, Hua-hsia shu-chü 1949.
44Suo-fei nü-shih-ti jih-chi , Hsien-tai chung-kuo hsiao-sbuo hsüan , Shanghai, Ya-hsi-ya shu-chü 1929, Vol. 1, pp. iff. See the book by D. Kalvodová. Ting Ling, Denik slečny Suo-fei a jiné prózy, “The diary of Miss Suo-fei and other prose,” Praha 1955.
45Hsin-hua shu-tien 1949.
46Yeh Shao-chün is also known as Yeh Sheng-t’ ; E. A. Klien has written a short report about him which has not yet been published. The book was translated into English with the title Schoolmaster Ni Huan-chih, Peking 1958.
47The connections between Lu Hsün’s historical stories and his personal experiences are discussed in the above-mentioned study of B. Krebsová, Lu Hsün’s “Old Tales Retold,” pp. 252ff.
48Lu Hsün expressed all that we have said here very precisely in the following words: “The happenings I described generally arose from something I had seen or heard but I never relied entirely on facts. I just took one occurrence and modified or expanded it till it expressed what I had in mind. The same was true of the models for characters-I did not pick on specific individuals. My characters were often a mixture of a mouth from Chekiang, a face from Peking and clothes from Shansi.” See the above-mentioned article. Wo tsen-mo tso-ch’i bsiao-sbuo lai, “How I came to write stories,” Ch’üan-cbi, Vol. 4, p. 394. Compare Selected Works, Vol. h p. 2 31.
49"However, my trouble is that I cannot forget completely, and these stories have resulted from what I have been unable to erase from my memory," Cb’üan-cbi, Vol. 1, p. 3. Compare Selected Works, Vol. 1., P. 1.
50See collection P’ang-buang "Wandering," Cb’üan-cbi, Vol. 2, p. 108.
51Shanghai, Kuang-hua shu-chü 1933.
53 M. Velingerová in her study also stresses this character of Kuo Mo-jo’s autobiographies.
54See the study by O. Král, Mao Tunův zápas o vědecký realismus, “Mao Tun’s Quest for New Scientific Realism,” Acta Universitatis Carolinae, Philologica Supplementum, Contributions to the theory of socialist realism, Praha 1960, pp. 96-97.
55He speaks about these relationships in his article Ts’ting Ku-ling tao Tung-cbing Hsiao-sbuo yüeb-pao XIX, 10, 1928, pp. 1138ff. For our further discussion there is no need to distinguish between classical realism and naturalism because we are not dealing here with the philosophical and scientific views of these authors but merely with their artistic methods.
56Cb’üan-cbi, Vol. 7, pp. 257ff.
57Ch’üan-chi, Vol. 1, p. 9.
58This fact was analyzed in detail by B. Krebsová in her article Lu Hsün’s “Old Tales Retold,” p. 303, where she lists the previous literature.
59This opinion was voiced by Ch’en Yung in his study Lun Lu Hsün bsiao-shuo-ti hsien-shih chu-i , “The Realism of Lu Hsün’s Short-Stories” in the boo’k Lu Hsün tso-p’in lun-cbi , “The Collection of Essays on Lu Hsün’s Work,” Peking, Chung-’ku~ ing-sien ch’u-pan-she 1956, p. 45.
60Cb’üon-chi, Vol. 4, p. 393. Compare Selected Works, Vol. 3, p. 230.
61 Collection Na-han, Ch’üon-chi, Vol. 1, p. 20ff.
62See f. ex. the book of Dr Huang Sung-k’ang, Lu Hsün and the New Culture Movement of Modern China, p. 49.
63Ch’üan-chi, Vol. I’ PP. 2 sff.
64A Q cheng chuan, , Ch’üan-chi, Vol. I, P. 72ff.
65See Collection P’ang-buang, Ch’üan-chi, Vol. 2, p. 67.
66I am thinking of the story Histone beze slov “History Without Words” in the collection Boži muka, “The Stations of the Cross,” which contains a number of Čapek’s experiments with various forms of the short story.
67See collection Yeh-ts’ao, Ch’üan-chi, Vol. 2, pp. 193ff.
68See Shen Yen-ping (Mao Tun), Shen-mo shih wen-hsüeh Chung-kuo hsin wen-hsüeh ta-hsi , compiled by Chao Chia-pi , Vol. 2, pp. 153ff. The quotation appears on p. 157.