Yuefeng: A Literati Journal of the 1930s

By Susan Daruvala

Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, vol. 18, no. 2 (Fall 2006), pp. 39-97

Yuefeng, or Styles of Yue, was published in Hangzhou between October 1935 and April 1937 and focussed to a large extent on Zhejiang’s history and culture. The journal had strong ties to the Guomindang, but included several May Fourth intellectuals among its contributors, including Yu Dafu, who played an important role in getting the journal underway. In this essay I attempt to understand the Chinese literary field from the vantage point of a publication that was not situated in a major publishing or cultural center, such as Shanghai, or Beijing, although it did try to compete on the Shanghai market and was keenly interested in Lu Xun. Yuefeng shows that rather than a field, it might be better to envisage a landscape, containing a variety of ecological niches. Underlying the Zhejiang ecological niche was a highly politicized view of culture formed over a long period of time and an understanding of writing (wen) that included scholarship able to disclose the national essence, as well as the purely literary.

One crucial feature of Yuefeng was the coverage it gave to accounts of the history of the Nanshe poetry society set up in 1909 by Liu Yazi and others sympathetic to anti-Qing republicanism. Yuefeng took old-style poetry seriously and published some in every issue. Many of those who joined Nanshe were to become journalists active in reform-oriented publishing. The Nanshe founders were also involved in bibliographic and historical research into the area’s late-Ming revolutionary traditions, and Liu Yazi was still engaged in them in the 1930s. Although the Nanshe’s activities had effectively ceased in 1923, there were periodic attempts to revive it. Yuefeng ‘s publication coincided with one such period, and I try to show how disputes about the history of the literary society had implications for factional political activity. Yet at the same time, Yuefeng was not a mere mouthpiece for any one person or group but served as a shifting space where opinions and allegiances were displayed.