On the Margins of Modernism review

MCLC and MCLC Resource Center are pleased to announce publication of Angie Chau’s review of On the Margins of Modernism: Xu Xu, Wumingshi and Popular Chinese Literature in the 1940s (Edinburgh UP, 2017), by Christopher Rosenmeier. The review appears below and online at: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/angie-chau/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk A. Denton, editor

On the Margins of Modernism: Xu Xu,
Wumingshi and Popular Chinese Literature in the 1940s
By Christopher Rosenmeier


Reviewed by Angie Chau
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright November, 2018)


Christopher Rosenmeier, On the Margins of Modernism: Xu Xu, Wumingshi and Popular Chinese Literature in the 1940s Edinburg: Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh East Asian Studies Series, 2017. vi, 139 pp. ISBN: 9780748696369 (Hardback) // ISBN: 9781474444477 (Paperback: March 2019).

Up to now, Xu Xu 徐訏 (1908–1980) and Wumingshi 無名氏 (1917–2002), two of the most widely-read writers in the 1940s, have been neglected in English-language literary studies of modernism during the Republican period. Christopher Rosenmeier’s On the Margins of Modernism: Xu Xu, Wumingshi and Popular Chinese Literature in the 1940s aims to correct that oversight by providing readers with ample translations and clear textual analyses of the writers’ (lesser known) works.

Focusing on popular literature published during the Sino-Japanese war (1937–1945), Rosenmeier’s study shows how Xu Xu and Wumingshi’s stories and novels appealed to a broad readership and drew upon the earlier literary experimentation of New Sensationists Shi Zhecun and Mu Shiying. Rosenmeier argues that because both authors “stayed outside politics” (2) and because their fiction, which navigates the border between romanticism and modernism defies easy categorization, Xu Xu and Wumingshi have been marginalized in the Chinese literary canon. Continue reading

Shanghai Literary Imaginings

MCLC and MCLC Resource Center are pleased to announce publication of Andrew Field’s review of Shanghai Literary Imaginings: A City in Transformation (Amsterdam UP, 2015), by Lena Scheen. The review appears below and online at: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/field/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk A. Denton, editor

Shanghai Literary Imaginings: 
A City in Transformation

By Lena Scheen


Reviewed by Andrew David Field
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright November, 2018)


Lena Scheen, Shanghai Literary Imaginings: A City in Transformation Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, Asian Cities Series, 2015. 284 pp. ISBN: 9789089645876 (Hardcover), E-ISBN: 978904852223 1 (PDF).

There are innumerable Shanghais, an infinity of them perhaps, as Lena Scheen ponders at the end of her interdisciplinary book Shanghai Literary Imaginings: A City in Transformation, which probes the city’s transformation in the era of postsocialism and marketization through an original and insightful juxtaposition of literary texts, maps, and observations. And yet, what defines Shanghai as a city? We can ask historians this question and get many different answers: Shanghai is a city of sojourners; a hotbed of criminality; a honeycomb of opium dens; a cauldron of revolution; a sad city full of “fallen women.” The list goes on. Of course, these are definitions that fit better with the “old Shanghai” of our collective imagination, which existed or may have existed in the early twentieth century, rather than the realities of the city today. Continue reading

Recite and Refuse review

MCLC and MCLC Resource Center are please to announce publication of Paul Manfredi’s review of Recite and Refuse: Contemporary Chinese Prose Poetry (University of Hawaii Press, 2016), by Nick Admussen. The review appears below and at: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/recite-and-refuse/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

Recite and Refuse: 
Contemporary Chinese Prose Poetry

By Nick Admussen


Reviewed by Paul Manfredi
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright October, 2018)


Nick Admussen, Recite and Refuse: Contemporary Chinese Prose Poetry. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2016. V-viii, 219 pp. ISBN-13: 9780824856526. Hardback: $65.00

Nick Admussen’s book Recite and Refuse: Contemporary Chinese Prose Poetry can be characterized in the same terms as the poetry he describes: concentrated and condensed. The book’s modest size (some 165 pages plus an appended 10-page translation) relative to its scope, however, makes it no less effective because Admussen’s prose is lucid and his arguments almost uniformly intriguing. The essential argument of the work—that prose poetry is more process than product of creation and that authors of prose poetry so identified should be understood in the context of the entire social field giving rise to their works—is comprehensively addressed. In the Afterword, which serves as something of an artistic treatise, he summarizes as follows: “Creation becomes the creation not of a product but a set of connections: the power of creation is not then ownership or mastery, but definition, consensus, the ability to fix the shape of a structure” (164). Continue reading

I’ve Got a Little Problem review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Jenn Marie Nunes’ review of the documentary film I’ve Got a Little Problem (我有一个忧郁的, 小问题, 2018), by Zhang Ximing 张溪溟. The film documents the life and work of photographer/poet Ren Hang 任航, who committed suicide in 2017. The essay has too many images and video clips to post here. Readers can find it online at:  http://u.osu.edu/mclc/online-series/nunes/. Our thanks to Cinema Guild, I’ve Got a Little Problem‘s distributor, for allowing us to use clips from the film.

Enjoy, Kirk Denton, editor

Imagining a Postnational World review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Ban Wang’s review of Imagining a Postnational World: Hegemony and Space in Modern China (Brill 2016), by Marc Andre Matten. The review appears below and online at: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/banwang3/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

Imagining a Postnational World: 
Hegemony and Space in Modern China

By Marc Andre Matten


Reviewed by Ban Wang
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright September, 2018)


Marc Andre Matten, Imagining a Postnational World: Hegemony and Space in Modern China Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2016. xi, 362 pp. ISBN: 978-90-04-32715-3 (hardcover)

The nation-state system has dominated the Western picture of the world since the Westphalia Treaty in 1648. As Marc Andre Matten explains, “the Peace of Westphalia . . . marked the beginning of a new world order characterized by the concept of a sovereign state governed by a sovereign” (81). Rooted in the tenets of sovereignty, territory, and state equality, the nation-state model divides the world into separate entities along the lines of ethnicity, race, and culture. Although it is a superstructure built on the concepts of national sovereignty and accepted by non-European societies, international law has never stopped worldwide lawlessness, and the nation-state has been the perpetrator of ceaseless conflict, chaos, and domination. Continue reading

The Spatiality of Emotion review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Haiyan Lee’s review of The Spatiality of Emotion in Early Modern China: From Dreamscapes to Theatricality (Columbia UP, 2018), by Ling Hon Lam. The review appears below and online at: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/haiyanlee2/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk A. Denton, editor

The Spatiality of Emotion in Early Modern China: 
From Dreamscapes to Theatricality

By Ling Hon Lam


Reviewed by Haiyan Lee
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright September, 2018)


Ling Hon Lam, The Spatiality of Emotion in Early Modern China: From Dreamscapes to Theatricality New York: Columbia University Press, 2018. ix-xiii + 339 pp. ISBN: Hardback (9780231187947)• $60.00 • (£47.00)

In the field of Chinese literary studies, it is rare to see names like Zhu Xi, Tang Xianzu, and Li Yu sharing the same pages with Heidegger, Foucault, and Lefebvre. It happens in The Spatiality of Emotion in Early Modern China: From Dreamscapes to Theatricalitythanks to its author Ling Hon Lam’s vaulting ambition to retell the story of just about every topic near and dear to the heart of a literary scholar: representation, fictionality, theatricality, emotion, and performance, among others. Amazingly, this tall order is pulled off via an even taller order—a counterintuitive thesis that Lam presents at the outset and defends strenuously and successfully throughout the book: that emotion is less an inside-out psychological or neuro-chemical process than an outside-in spatial process. Continue reading

Hao Ran’s “At Dusk”

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Richard King’s translation of “At Dusk” (傍晚, 1959), by Hao Ran 浩然, as part of our online publication series. The translation appears below and online at: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/online-series/at-dusk/.

Enjoy,

Kirk Denton, editor

At Dusk

By Hao Ran 浩然 [1]

Translated by Richard King


MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright August 2018)


Hao Ran, circa 1960. Source: China.com 

As the sun set over the Western Hills, evening clouds tinted the vivid green of the vegetable allotment with their peach-hued light. The little courtyard was filled with enchanting colors.

The girl came up, walking along the dike between the fields. Her bright eyes carefully scanned the vegetable patch as she took a short-handled hoe from the low wattle fence and squatted down to scuffle the soil around the autumn cucumber shoots.

Her home was just by the fence, and there were people chattering in the courtyard. She didn’t need to listen to know what they were talking about. Amused, she pursed her lip in a wry smile. Unfortunately, she was inattentive in her work, her mind swirling back and forth like turbulent waters. Images flashed before her eyes like the shapes in a kaleidoscope. Her hand slipped, and the hoe broke off a sturdy cucumber shoot. Upset and annoyed, she flung down the hoe and slumped down on a clump of grass by the dike. Continue reading

A Hero Born review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of David Hull’s review of A Hero Born: Legends of the Condor I (MacLehose 2018), by Jin Yong, translated by Anna Holmwood. The review appears below and online at http://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/hull/. My thanks to Michael Berry, MCLC book review editor for translations, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

A Hero Born: Legends of the Condor I

By Jin Yong

Translated by Anna Holmwood


Reviewed by David Hull
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright August, 2018)


Jin Yong. A Hero Born: Legends of the Condor Heroes I Tr. Anna Holmwood. London: MacLehose Press, 2018. 416pp £14.99 ISBN 9780857053008.

Anna Holmwood’s new translation of Jin Yong’s novel A Hero Born: Legends of the Condor Heroes I (射雕英雄傳) is a significant and well-crafted addition to the Chinese canon in English. This is a long overdue translation of a key work of martial arts fiction, a novel that has broad cultural importance in China at least partly because it has been adapted multiple times for film and television.

Jin Yong, the pen name of Louis Cha, is universally known in the Chinese language world, and the influence of his books is difficult to overestimate. This book’s publisher seems to favor referring to him as the Chinese Tolkien, and perhaps that comes close to the mark. When people think of a fantasy setting, they usually imagine something not too far removed from Lord of the Rings or its derivations. And yet Jin Yong is even more ubiquitous in the Chinese-speaking world than Tolkien in the English world. There is probably more than a bit of truth to the old joke that most Chinese students learn history not from textbooks, but from Jin Yong novels. I would add that, for many readers, his novels contribute to constructing broad conceptions of Chinese identity. Continue reading

The Book of Swindles review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Yinghui Wu’s review of The Book of Swindles: Selections from a Late Ming Collection (Columbia UP, 2017), by Zhang Yingyu, translated by Christoper Rea and Bruce Rusk. The review appears below and at http://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/yinghui-wu/. My thanks to Michael Berry, MCLC book review editor for translations, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

The Book of Swindles
Selections from a Late Ming Collection

By Zhang Yingyu

Translated by Christopher Rea and Bruce Rusk


Reviewed by Yinghui Wu
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright August, 2018)


Zhang Yingyu, The Book of Swindles: Selections from a Late Ming Collection Trs. Christopher Rea and Bruce Rusk. New York: Columbia University Press, 2017. xxxvi, 226 pp. $25. ISBN 978-0-231-17863-1 (paperback); $75, ISBN 9780231178624 (hardcover)

The Book of Swindles, by Zhang Yingyu 張應俞 (fl. 1612-17), is a collection of fascinating tales that speak to a common concern over time and across cultures—namely, anxiety about deception. A product of the publishing boom in seventeenth-century China, with a preface dated 1617, the book is “said to be the first Chinese story collection focused explicitly on the topic of fraud” (xiii). Ostensibly a manual for self-protection against scams, it belongs to a rich body of publications that promise to help their readers navigate the increasingly complex and perilous world of late Ming China.[1]Yet, this book serves equally well as a manual for swindlers (xiv).The author, also speaking as the commentator on his stories, often marvels at the crooks’ ingenuity while lamenting the moral decline of his age and blaming the victims for their folly or naïveté. The forty-four stories, elegantly translated by Christopher Rea and Bruce Rusk, offer a valuable source for specialists of late imperial China, as well as a good read for anyone looking for entertainment. Continue reading

Writing Beijing review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Lena Scheen’s review of Writing Beijing: Urban Spaces and Cultural Imaginaries in Contemporary Chinese Literature and Films (Lexington Books, 2016), by Yiran Zheng. The review appears below and and at: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/lena-scheen/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

Writing Beijing: Urban Spaces and Cultural Imaginations
in Contemporary Chinese Literature and Films

By Yiran Zheng


Reviewed by Lena Scheen
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright August, 2018)


Yiran Zheng, Writing Beijing: Urban Spaces and Cultural Imaginations in Contemporary Literature and Film Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2016. v-xviii + 149 pp. ISBN: Hardback 978-1-4985-3101-6 • $79.00; ISBN: Paperback 978-1-4985-3103-0 • $42.99; ISBN: eBook 978-1-4985-3102-3  • $40.50

It was a map of Beijing that sparked Yiran Zheng’s interest in the subject for her book Writing Beijing: Urban Spaces and Cultural Imaginations in Contemporary Literature and Film. Looking at the city’s distinctive spatial structure of “square-like loops” (x), formed by its major ring roads, she noticed how one can read the history of the city in its architectural shape; from its centermost area, still largely consisting of narrow alleyways (胡同) lined with traditional Beijing-style courtyard houses (四合院), through the three- to four-story Soviet-style apartment blocks built from the 1950s to the 1970s (between the 2nd and 3rd ring roads), to the modern high rises that have sprung up since the 1980s (between the 3rd and 4th ring roads), and the recently built townhouses and single-family houses (outside the 4th ring road). In Writing Beijing, Zheng takes three of the city’s representative urban spaces—courtyard houses, military compounds, and (post)modern architecture—as the basis of the book’s three-part structure. Each part itself consists of three chapters. The first chapters of each part (chapters 1, 4, 7) investigate particular buildings and architecture as “representations of space” and analyze how they “reflect, embody, and implement power relations, such as power of the state and power between different social groups” (xii). The second chapters (2, 5, 8) discuss representative writers and filmmakers whose work either prominently features the particular space or reflects how residing there influenced them. The third and final chapters of each part (3, 6, 9) analyze literary representations of these urban forms in novels and films, “namely, how the city is perceived and presented in literature and film, as well as why they choose particular spaces to carry their imaginations” (xii). Continue reading

Queer Comrades review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Ari Larissa Heinrich’s review of Queer Comrades: Gay Identity and Tongzhi Activism in Postsocialist China (NIAS, 2018), by Hongwei Bao. The review appears below and can also be read online at http://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/heinrich/.  My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk A. Denton, editor

Queer Comrades: Gay Identity and
Tongzhi Activism in Postsocialist China

By Hongwei Bao


Reviewed by Ari Larissa Heinrich
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright August, 2018)


Hongwei Bao, Queer Comrades: Gay Identity and Tongzhi Activism in Postsocialist China. Copenhagen: NIAS Press, 2018. vi-xii + 265 pp. ISBN: Hardback 978-87-7694-234-2, £65.00; ISBN: Paperback 978-87-7694-236-6, £22.50

Followers of the mainstreaming and globalizing of gay rights, with antennae pointed toward the Sinosphere, may remember the controversial McDonald’s McCafe “coming out” ad released in Taiwan in 2016. In the ad, a boy comes out to his father by writing “I like guys” on his coffee cup. Spoiler alert: the father, who initially seems annoyed, eventually borrows his son’s pen and adds a few words of his own, so that the writing on the coffee cup now reads “I [accept that you] like guys.” Music swells as tears of relief well up in the son’s eyes. For me and for many of the students in my large undergraduate lecture classes on “Queer Chinese Cultures,” the ad’s carefully choreographed emotional manipulation is so successful that, even after viewing it many times, I still sometimes feel weepy at the end. How embarrassing. For though on the surface the ad seems to paint a utopian picture of familial acceptance in the age of same-sex marriage, historically speaking the ad actually reinforces ideas about patriarchal family values and the ideal citizen-consumer in Taiwan. When working with students for whom such a course may be the only substantive introduction to LGBTQ-spectrum issues that they ever have, I sometimes struggle to articulate how ads like this may seem to offer straightforward support of a liberal politics, when in fact they effectively obscure the many histories in which “coming out” is actually a late-breaking and ideologically complicated addition to the story of sexualities in Sinophone contexts. As Hongwei Bao indicates in the introduction to his new book Queer Comrades: Gay Identity and Tongzhi Activism in Postsocialist China, citing Fran Martin and others, many scholars have pointed out how the authenticity of one’s identity is not determined by concealment or disclosure. On the contrary, concealment and disclosure “are historically contingent. Indeed, for many gays and lesbians in China, one does not need to be completely ‘in’ or ‘out.’ Being ‘in’ and ‘out’ depends on the particular social setting and on the person they are with. When to conceal and when to disclose one’s identity, together with to whom, becomes a matter of politics” (53). Now that the coming-out narrative has reached the stage where it can be folded (alongside “marriage equality”) into mainstream commercial idioms, it becomes even more urgent to understand the specific history of how “gay” came to be defined in Sinophone settings. Hongwei Bao’s new book contributes substantially to this agenda, by providing an eminently teachable resource for students interested in understanding some of the early twenty-first century figurations that have informed contemporary Mainland Chinese cultural practices around gay identities. Continue reading

Little Reunions review

MCLC and MCLC Resource Center are pleased to announce publication of Roy Bing Chan’s review of Little Reunions (New York Review of Books Classics, 2018), by Eileen Chang, translated by Jane Weizhen Pan and Martin Merz. The review appears below and can be read online at: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/roy-chan-2/. My thanks to Michael Berry, MCLC book review editor for translations, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

Little Reunions

By Eileen Chang

Translated by Jane Weizhen Pan and Martin Merz


Reviewed by Roy Bing Chan
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright July, 2018)


Chang, Eileen. Little Reunions  Trs. Jane Weizhen Pan and Martin Merz. New York: New York Review of Books, 2018. ix + 332 pp. ISBN-13: 978-1-68137-127-6 (Paperback $16.95)

Jane Weizhen Pan and Martin Merz’s English translation of Eileen Chang’s Little Reunions (小團圓) will bring a wider appreciation for the scope of Chang’s literary production. The manuscript, completed in 1976, was left unpublished in Chang’s lifetime, an exemplar of the Russian idiom pisat’ v stol, or “writing for the drawer.” It did not appear in print until 2009, twenty-four years after her death. The novel loosely mirrors key moments in Chang’s own life and readers intrigued by Chang’s biography will flock to this book looking for more insights into her personal enigmas. But from another angle, the novel stands as a testament of how to narrate a life undone by history, all the while expressing the persistent desire to remain ultimately free from any historical overdetermination. Continue reading

The Borderlands of Asia review

MCLC and MCLC Resource Center are pleased to announce publication of Wei-chieh Tsai’s review of The Borderlands of Asia: Culture, Place, Poetry (Cambria 2017), introduced and edited by Mark Bender. The review appears below and can be read online at: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/tsai-wei-chieh/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Enjoy, Kirk A. Denton, editor

The Borderlands of Asia: 
Culture, Place, Poetry

Introduced and Edited by Mark Bender


Reviewed by Wei-chieh Tsai
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright July, 2018)


Mark Bender, ed. The Borderlands of Asia: Culture, Place, Poetry. Amherst, NY: Cambria Press, 2017. v-xxii + 370 pp. ISBN: Hardcover 9781604979763 (USD 119.99)

Edited by Mark Bender, a specialist of Chinese literature and folklore at The Ohio State University, this book is a collection of poems penned by writers from various Asian border regions—Northeast India, Myanmar, the Southwest and Inner Asian frontiers of China, and Mongolia. Although some of the poems, especially those by Northeast Indian poets, were originally written in English, most are translations—from Burmese, Mongolian, Chinese, Tibetan, Nuoso, Hani, Khasi, and Manipuri—done by a group of translators. In translating these poems into English, the global “language of interaction” (p. xxi), the voices of poets from the borderlands of Asia can be heard by a wider audience. Bender’s informative introduction gives his readers a broad context for understanding the complicated histories and cultures of the areas and the poets included in the volume. Continue reading

Reading Lu Xun through Carl Jung review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Paul B. Foster’s review of Reading Lu Xun through Carl Jung (Cambria, 2018), by Carolyn T. Brown. The review appears below and can be read online at: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/foster1/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

Reading Lu Xun through Carl Jung

By Carolyn T. Brown


Reviewed by Paul B. Foster
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright July, 2018)


Carolyn T. Brown, Reading Lu Xun through Carl Jung Amherst, NY: Cambria Press, 2018. ix-xv + 293 pp. ISBN 978-1-60497-937-4 (Cloth $114.99).

Reading Lu Xun through Carl Jung is an amply annotated, firmly grounded, and compelling close reading of Lu Xun’s short stories from the perspective of Jungian psychoanalysis. This book is also a refreshing demonstration of how psychoanalysis can provide a new dimension of access to Lu Xun’s critical insight into the problems of the Chinese psyche vis-à-vis the social discourse of his age. The author shows familiarity with the main trends in Western Lu Xun studies, from the earlier works of Leo Ou-fan Lee, Theodore Huters, and Marston Anderson, to more recent critiques by Lydia Liu and Ming Dong Gu, just to name a few. Brown is concerned with what makes Lu Xun tick, not the authorial intention of his creative works, but his own inner workings as he grapples with issues of the Chinese people’s psyche, issues he himself faces and works out through his writing. Brown’s Jungian model, which includes a bifurcated ego/shadow inner tension, yields intriguing explanations concerning the process of therapy and identification of a cure—both for self and society—primarily grounded in challenging the individual’s resistance to change. Reading Lu Xun is dense (especially for novitiates to psychological analysis) but rewarding. It is composed of a detailed introduction, four main chapters, a conclusion, and an epilogue. Occasional in-text simplified Chinese characters are used for story titles and critical terminology. Continue reading

Beyond the Iron House review

Find below my review of Beyond the Iron House: Lu Xun and the Modern Chinese Literary Field (Routledge 2017), by Saiyin Sun. The review can also be read online here: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/kdenton/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

Beyond the Iron House: 
Lu Xun and the Modern Chinese Literary Field

By Saiyin Sun


Reviewed by Kirk A. Denton
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright June, 2018)


Saiyin Sun, Beyond the Iron House: Lu Xun and the Modern Chinese Literary Field New York: Routledge, 2017. ix-xii + 212 pp. ISBN: 978-1-138-67082-2 (Hardcover) ISBN: 978-1-315-61743-5 (E-book).

In a 1936 essay entitled “Death” (死) written about a month before he died, Lu Xun included a sort of last will and testament in which he prescribed arrangements for his funeral and his legacy. It reads in part:

1. Do not, on account of the funeral, accept a penny from anyone—old friends exempted.

2. Just quickly put the body in the coffin and bury it at once.

3. Do not hold any commemorative activities.

4. Forget me and mind your own lives. If you don’t, you’re just fools. . .[1]

Once dead, of course, things were out of Lu Xun’s control. Against his wishes, his funeral became a highly scripted affair that garnered lavish attention in the Shanghai media, and commemorative events have been held every year on the anniversary of his death. Far from forgotten, Lu Xun has been remembered more than any other modern Chinese writer. That process of remembering Lu Xun has been a contested one, but the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)—and Chairman Mao himself—were key agents involved in the construction of Lu Xun into a “Chinese Gorki,” as David Holm puts it.[2] Lu Xun’s iconic status in China is best captured in the fact that there are no less than six museums—one each in Shaoxing, Nanjing, Beijing, Xiamen, Guangzhou, and Shanghai—devoted to commemorating his life and works. Continue reading