Crows and Sparrows

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Christopher Rea’s translation of the script Crows and Sparrows (烏鴉與麻雀), the 1949 film directed by Zheng Junli 鄭君里. The translation includes many stills and an embedded version of the film that includes Rea’s subtitles. The translation’s can be read at:

https://u.osu.edu/mclc/online-series/crows-and-sparrows/

Our thanks to Christopher Rea for sharing his work with the MCLC community.

Kirk Denton, MCLC

Why You Should Read Bi Shumin’s Novel Coronavirus (1)

Xiaomei Yu’s detailed synopsis of Bi Shumin’s Coronavirus brings to mind another, older work which is timely: Hu Fayun’s 如焉@sars.come, still available ;-) in English as Such Is This World@sars.come. Mr. Hu’s recent interviews for Dutch and Austrian periodicals (unfortunately paywalled)

https://www.nrc.nl/nieuws/2020/02/11/heeft-china-geleerd-van-sars-deze-schrijver-uit-wuhan-denkt-van-niet-a3990018

https://www.zeit.de/2020/10/sars-virus-hu-fayun-coronavirus

contain some gems. He said that the fate of Dr. Li Wenliang exceeded anything he could have imagined as a novelist:

Und Li Wenliang? “Er war kein Whistleblower”, sagt Hu. “er hat Kollegen informiert. Seine Nachrichten wurden dann aber nicht einfach nur gelöscht, die Polizei zwang ihn, ein Schuldeingeständnis zu unterschreiben, dass er falsche Behauptungen verbreitet habe. Er wurde zurück zur Arbeit geschickt, an einen Ort, an dem er sich anstecken konnte. Genau das passierte, und er starb.” Was mit Li geschah, übersteigt Hus Fantasie, er habe sich das nicht vorstellen können, auch nicht, als er seinen Roman schrieb. “Das übertrifft alles, was ich während der Sars-Epidemie erlebt habe.”

And Li Wenliang? “he was no whistleblower,” says Hu. “He passed the word to his colleagues. And then not only were his posts deleted, the police made him sign a confession that he had spread false statements. He was sent back to work in a place where he could get infected. And that is exactly what ensued, and he died.” What happened to Li exceeded Hu’s wildest imagination. He could not have dreamed it, even when he was writing his novel. “It goes beyond anything I saw during the SARS epidemic.”

Both of the interviews were written by Julie Blussé.

A.E. Clark
Ragged Banner Press

Why You Should Read Bi Shumin’s Novel Coronavirus

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of “Why You Should Read Bi Shumin’s Novel Coronavirus,” by Xiaomei Yu. The essay can be found here:

https://u.osu.edu/mclc/online-series/yu-xiaomei/

I thank the author for drawing our attention to this novel, which is so obviously relevant to our present circumstances.

Enjoy the essay. Hopefully the novel’s happy ending portends a happy ending for us.

Kirk Denton, editor

The Power of Print in Modern China review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Yue Du’s review of The Power of Print in Modern China: Intellectuals and Industrial Publishing from the End of Empire to Maoist State Socialism (Columbia UP, 2019), by Robert Culp. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/yue-du/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk A. Denton, editor

The Power of Print in Modern China:
Intellectuals and Industrial Publishing from the End of Empire to Maoist State Socialism

By Robert Culp


Reviewed by Yue Du
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright January, 2020)


Robert Culp, The Power of Print in Modern China: Intellectuals and Industrial Publishing from the End of Empire to Maoist State Socialism Robert Culp. New York: Columbia University Press, 2019. xviii + 371 pgs. ISBN: 9780231545358.

For Robert Culp, prominent leaders in twentieth-century cultural and political revolutions, such as Hu Shi and Mao Zedong, were not the only major players to implement the cultural transformation of modern China. A group of people Culp calls “petty intellectuals” (小知識分子), who engaged in the production of textbooks, reference books, reprinted classics, and book series at China’s leading commercial publishers, also fundamentally shaped the cultural landscape of China during the late Qing and Republican periods and into the early years of the People’s Republic. Focusing on the Commercial Press (商務印書館), Zhonghua Book Company (中華書局), and other institutions in China’s industrialized publishing sector, The Power of Print in Modern China successfully reconstructs the work lives and cultural activities of editors who were tremendously influential but who have heretofore received inadequate scholarly attention. This reconstruction in turn enables the author to engage with core academic debates on print and media, negotiated power, and modernity in China.

While observing the importance of the introduction of mechanized print technology, Culp distinguishes his work from earlier scholarship (by Christopher Reed and others) by laying out how print industrialism affected the ways in which books were produced and the relationship editors had with their products. To generate a wide range of texts in great numbers and in short periods of time, the most influential publishers in twentieth century China maintained large standing editorial departments, something that made China’s publishing sector globally distinctive. These departments adopted an organizational structure that over time came to resemble the factory assembly line. Staff editors with hybrid classical Chinese and Western educations collaboratively generated new content that they then incorporated into different titles to quickly meet market demand. Culp notes that, on the one hand, this process led to the vast majority of these editors losing control over the dynamics of their labor in this factory-style book production; on the other hand, print industrialism gave these petty intellectuals a direct say in the materials that went into standard products such as textbooks and reference books. Because of these books’ authoritative status, staff editors were able to play a key role in introducing new terms, shaping the modern Chinese lexicon, modeling vernacular writing, and “reorganizing the national heritage” (整理國故). Continue reading

Minjian: The Rise of China’s Grassroots Intellectuals review

MCLC is pleased to announce publication of Els van Dongen’s review of Minjian: The Rise of China’s Grassroots Intellectuals (Columbia UP, 2019), by Sebastian Veg. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/vandongen/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, our literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

Minjian:
The Rise of China’s Grassroots Intellectuals

By Sebastian Veg


Reviewed by Els van Dongen
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright December, 2019)


Sebastian Veg. Minjian: The Rise of China’s Grassroots Intellectuals. New York: Columbia University Press, 2019. ix + 352 pgs. ISBN: 9780231191401 (hardcover); ISBN: 9780231549400 (e-book).

“Traditional Chinese scholar-officials are today known as intellectuals. This is however not merely a change in name—it is a change in essence. In fact, this change is the shift of intellectuals from the center to the margin.”[1] Thus stated the intellectual historian Yü Ying-shih in an article published in the Hong Kong-based journal Twenty-first Century (二十一世纪) in August 1991. According to Yü, along with the transformation of traditional scholars (士) into modern intellectuals (知识分子) following the abolition of the examination system in 1905 came a gradual political, social, and cultural “marginalization” (边缘化). Modern intellectuals became, echoing Karl Mannheim, “free-floating.” This marginalization continued unabated—even intensified—through the Mao era and beyond. With Deng Xiaoping’s Southern Tour, 1992’s Fourteenth Party Congress, the commercialization of Chinese society, and the emergence of a new media landscape, traditional notions of Chinese scholars as moral saviors and members of a select club of luminaries have been even further transformed and/or subverted. As the philosopher Chen Lai 陈来 observed, in reform-era China, the public appeared to be more captivated by pop idol TV shows such as Super Girl (超级女声) than by the musings of intellectuals.[2] Concurrently, the repression of the Tiananmen demonstrations effectively ended the already shaky alliance between intellectuals and the state, leaving the “Enlightenment” ideals of the 1980s in tatters. Echoing Yü, we might say the early 1990s marked the double marginalization of traditional Chinese academic intellectuals by the state and the market. Hence, what did it mean to be a Chinese intellectual from the 1990s onwards? How did Chinese intellectuals perceive themselves and their relationship with the state and society? How did they adjust their approaches to changing realities? Continue reading

Vol. 31, no. 2 of MCLC

MCLC is pleased to announce the imminent publication of vol. 31, no. 2 (Fall 2019), a special issue on “Reportage and Its Contemporary Variations,” guest edited by Charles Laughlin and Li Guo. Below, find the table of contents, with links to a pdf of the introduction and to abstracts of the esssays. Subscribers will be receiving their copies over the next couple of weeks. If you would like to purchase a copy of this issue, subscribe to the journal, or inquire about the status of an existing subscription, please contact Mario De Grandis (mclc@osu.edu).

Kirk Denton, editor

Volume 31, Number 2 (Fall 2019) 

Special Issue on Reportage and its Contemporary Variations
Guest Editors Charles Laughlin and Li Guo

Articles

Chinese Poetic Modernisms review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Joanna Krenz’s review of Chinese Poetic Modernisms (Brill, 2019, edited by Paul Manfredi and Christopher Lupke. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/krenz/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

Chinese Poetic Modernisms

Edited by Paul Manfredi and Christopher Lupke


Reviewed by Joanna Krenz

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright November, 2019)


Chinese Poetic Modernisms. Edited by Paul Manfredi and Christopher Lupke. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2019. xl + 403 pgs. ISBN: 9789004402881.

Among academic publications, the title Chinese Poetic Modernisms does not stand out as particularly controversial or experimental; at first glance, it may even strike one as being somewhat mundane. Yet, one need only read a few paragraphs of the Introduction, by editors Paul Manfredi and Christopher Lupke, to see that the formula of “Chinese poetic modernisms” is anything but conventional. Each of its three main conceptual components—Chineseness, poeticness, and modernism(s)—alone can provoke endless discussion and debate, not to mention the plethora of contested terms associated with these concepts and their multiple configurations and contextualizations. The fourteen scholars whose contributions are included in the book confront the idea of Chinese poetic modernisms from various, sometimes radically different angles, which add up to a dynamic, multidimensional picture of modernist practice in Chinese poetry. Continue reading

Gao Xingjian and Transmedia Aesthetics review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Michael Ka-chi Cheuk’s review of Gao Xingjian and Transmedia Aesthetics (Cambria, 2018), edited by Mabel Lee and Liu Jianmei. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/cheuk/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

Gao Xingjian and Transmedia Aesthetics

Edited by Mabel Lee and Liu Jianmei


Reviewed by Michael Ka-chi Cheuk

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright November, 2019)


Gao Xingjian and Transmedia Aesthetics Edited by Mabel Lee and Liu Jianmei. Amherst: Cambria Press, 2018. x + 349 pp. ISBN: 9781604979466.

Since Gao Xingjian became the first Chinese-language writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature (2000), the field of Gao Xingjian studies has grown into a formidable industry. Yet, Liu Zaifu, arguably the most prolific and respected scholar in the field, remarks that critics have only scratched the surface of Gao’s artistic career: “Though there are certainly numerous critiques of his works, strictly speaking the academic study of Gao Xingjian has not yet begun” (Liu/Poon 2016: 132; translation my own). One should not take Liu’s words as discrediting the value of insightful studies like Tam Kwok-kan’s edited collection Soul of Chaos (2001), Quah Sy Ren’s Gao Xingjian and Chinese Transcultural Theatre (2004), or even Liu Zaifu’s own Chinese-language study On Gao Xingjian (Liu 2004). While these studies have laid the foundation for understanding Gao’s artistic vision and his works, Liu Zaifu calls for more attention to what makes Gao Xingjian an original artist. For Liu, Gao Xingjian’s contributions are groundbreaking and wide-ranging, including novels, plays, paintings, and films. As such, he asks: “What are their a priori sources?”; “How are they realized?”; “What has Gao Xingjian inherited and rejected from Chinese and Western literary traditions?” (2016: 132; translation my own). Continue reading

Poshek Fu essay wins award

MCLC is proud to announce that Poshek Fu’s essay, “More than Just Entertaining: Cinematic Containment and Asia’s Cold War in Hong Kong, 1949-1950,” published in MCLC 30.2 (Fall 2018), has been recommended as one of the Hong Kong Studies Annual Conference’s outstanding papers. Here’s the announcement.–Kirk

On behalf of The Academy of Hong Kong Studies (AHKS), we are very pleased to inform you that your paper entitled “More than Just Entertaining: Cinematic Containment and Asia’s Cold War in Hong Kong, 1949-1959” has been recommended as one of the outstanding papers for the 2019 Hong Kong Studies Annual Conference (HKSAC) to be held on 5 and 6 December 2019. Continue reading

Ban Yu’s Fiction of Northeast China

MCLC Resource Center Web Publications is pleased to announce publication of “Frozen Waters and Deathly Wells: Ban Yu’s Fiction of Northeast China,” by Qi Wang. The first few paragraphs of the essay appear below. The whole essay can be found here: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/online-series/qi-wang/.

Kirk Denton, editor

Frozen Waters and Deathly Wells:
Ban Yu’s Fiction of Northeast China

By Qi Wang


MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright September 2019)


Ban Yu

In my wandering around in the cinematic and literary world of East Asia, I have come upon many echoes and parallels among cultural imaginations across national borders. One such example is that of the comparable pulses I find in the films of South Korean maverick director Hong Sang-soo (b. 1960) and the stories of a much younger Chinese writer Ban Yu (班宇, b. 1986), even though their works deal with very different social subjects. Hong made his debut film, The Day a Pig Fell into the Well (1996), when Ban was still an elementary school kid in Shenyang. Hong weaves a cinema out of numerous rounds of wandering and drinking of frustrated Korean artists and intellectuals; Ban crafts a literary world in which laid-off workers in northeast China and their families try and fail to adapt to life in the reform era. Over the years, Hong’s arthouse corpus has continued to spin tales around waiting and wandering, creating thinking time between stops. This rejection of story efficiency and plot mechanism in which every step is not necessarily a preparation for the next step tends to characterize the art of a number of East Asian filmmakers and storytellers, a propensity that is worth pondering in terms of alternative paths for development. Different rhythms of life, usually appearing slower and more contemplative, seem sorely needed in the contemporary world. The young Chinese author Ban Yu (b. 1986), who started his writing career as a music critic, is a recent example of an East Asian cultural imagination that continues and refreshes this particular inclination for narrative realism. This current essay discusses Ban’s first literary collection, Winter Swim (冬泳), and presents the author as a brilliant thinker and stylist.[1] His prose features an alternative rhythm that is made manifest through kinesthetic arrangements such as waiting, wandering, and swimming. The last, in particular, is the author’s unique invention and characterizes the inner life of some Chinese in northeast Asia from the 1980s to the present. Continue reading

Fu Ping review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Elena Martín Enebral’s review of Fu Ping (Columbia UP, 2019), by Wang Anyi and translated by Howard Goldblatt. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/martin-enebral/. My thanks to Michael Berry, MCLC literary translations book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

Fu Ping

By Wang Anyi
Translated by Howard Goldblatt


Reviewed by Elena Martín Enebral
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright August, 2019)


Wang Anyi, Fu Ping. Tr. Howard Goldblatt. New York: Columbia University Press, 2019. 296 pp. ISBN: 9780231193221 (Hardcover); ISBN: 9780231550208 (E-book)

The novel Fu Ping (富萍) was first published in the literary magazine Harvest (收获) in 2000. Wang Anyi (王安忆, 1954-) described it as reflecting almost a decade of inquiry, the result of which satisfied her as much as her acclaimed novel Song of Everlasting Sorrow (长恨歌, 1995), for which she obtained the supreme Chinese writing award, the Mao Dun Prize, that same year.[1] With good reason, therefore, we can welcome the recent publication in English of this novel, essential as it is to understanding the creative evolution of one of the most emblematic figures of contemporary Chinese literature, and most especially when translated by the renowned Howard Goldblatt.

The English edition opens with a note from the author that reveals some of the sources of inspiration for the novel. A trip to Yangzhou (扬州) reminds Wang Anyi of a beautiful poem by Li Bai (李白) that takes her back in time to her childhood and her nanny, who was originally from that town. Poetry and memory fuse to evoke, before her eyes, the image of a face belonging to the heroine of her novel: Fu Ping, a young woman from a village near Yangzhou. Fu Ping moves to Shanghai in the mid-1960s to meet Nainai (奶奶), the adoptive grandmother of her future husband whom she has only seen on a handful of occasions. Wang Anyi links the fate of her heroine with another personal memory: a tranquil journey along the Suzhou River (苏州河) in one of the motorized scows that workers from Subei (苏北) use to transport waste daily outside the city of Shanghai. Continue reading

Yellow Perils review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Anne Witchard’s review of Yellow Perils: China Narratives in the Contemporary World (Hawaii, 2018), edited by Franck Billé and Sören Urbansky. The review appears below and at its online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/witchard/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk A. Denton, editor

Yellow Perils: 
China Narratives in the Contemporary World

Edited by Franck Billé and Sören Urbansky


Reviewed by Anne Witchard
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright August, 2019)


Franck Billé and Sören Urbansky, eds., Yellow Perils: China Narratives in the Contemporary World Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2018. Viii + 276. ISBN: 978-0-8248-7579-4 (hardcover).

In the last decade the emergence of China as a global superpower has provoked an array of responses that have prompted comparisons with the early-twentieth century rhetoric of a Yellow Peril. Yellow Perils: China Narratives in the Contemporary World is a timely collection, coming as it does when the might of Beijing indeed poses a significant threat, to Muslims in Xinjiang Province for example, and (at the time of writing) to democracy activists in Hong Kong. It is all too easy to resort to inflammatory responses and indeed hostile and/or prejudicial treatment that fails to distinguish between the actions of China’s current Party State regime and ethnic Chinese in the PRC and across the globe.

Despite the time elapsed from research to print and the astonishing rapidity of change in the current political scene, Yellow Perils’s relevancy may perhaps be greater than might have been predicted by its editors. It is unfortunately all too easy to find statements that reflect Sinophobic predispositions informing some decision-making under the Trump administration. In April 2019, Kiron Skinner, director of policy planning at the State Department said at a security forum in Washington, D.C.: “This is a fight with a really different civilization and a different ideology and the United States hasn’t had that before.” Of course, as any high school student might remind her, the notorious Chinese Exclusion Act (1882) repealed only in 1943, was formulated upon exactly this racialized and divisive narrative. Continue reading

The Translatability of Revolution review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Yi Zheng’s review of The Translatability of Revolution: Guo Moruo and Twentieth-Century Chinese Culture (Harvard University Asia Center), by Pu Wang. The review appears below and at is online home: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/yizheng2/.

My thanks to MCLC literary studies book review editor, Nicholas Kaldis, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

The Translatability of Revolution:
Guo Moruo and Twentieth-Century Chinese Culture

By Pu Wang


Reviewed by Yi Zheng
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright July, 2019)


Pu Wang, The Translatability of Revolution: Guo Moruo and Twentieth-Century Chinese Culture Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2018. xvi + 336 pp. ISBN: 978-0-674-98718-0.

Owing largely to the controversial nature of his political affiliations and intellectual achievements, Guo Moruo has to date not received adequate academic attention in the English-speaking world. There are notable studies of Guo’s historiography, literary theory and practice, and his intellectual and life choices.[1] His early poems and poetics have also received substantial treatment.[2] But as one of twentieth-century China’s most important poets, translators, dramatists, and scholars, his work is understudied and underappreciated. The Translatability of Revolution: Guo Moruo and Twentieth-Century Chinese Culture is ground-breaking in affording Guo his rightful place. Pu Wang’s comprehensive new study of Guo’s life and work is not only a first, but also an intellectual and literary-historical tour-de-force that both demonstrates excellent scholarship and offers remarkable insights into Chinese literature, history, comparative literature, and translation studies. Continue reading

Forging the Golden Urn review

MCLC Resource Center is pleased to announce publication of Joseph Lawson’s review of Forging the Golden Urn: The Qing Empire and the Politics of Reincarnation in Tibet (Columbia, 2018), by Max Oidtmann. The review appears below and at its online home here: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/lawson/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

Forging the Golden Urn: The Qing Empire
and the Politics of Reincarnation in Tibet

By Max Oidtmann


Reviewed by Joseph Lawson
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright July, 2019)


Max Oidtmann, Forging the Golden Urn: The Qing Empire and the Politics of Reincarnation in Tibet New York: Columbia University Press, 2018. Xvii + 330 pp. ISBN: 978-0-231-18406-9 (cloth).

The Geluk church, headed by the Dalai Lama, was the most powerful institution in the Qing Empire not under the control of the Qing court. It is still arguably the largest extra-bureaucratic nongovernmental organization in China, as Max Oidtmann points out in the introduction of his terrific book on relations between the Qing court and the Geluk hierarchy. Neglected relative to Manchu or Mongol archives until recently, the Qing Empire’s Tibetan institutions and sources are the subject of an emerging body of research by Paul Nietupski, Peter Schweiger, Yudru Tsomu, and now Oidtmann with this new book on how the Qing court asserted control over the process for recognizing the reincarnations of powerful lamas. Continue reading

Which Classic?

MCLC Resource Center is pleased announce publication of Yichun Xu and Frederick Bowman’s translation of the first chapter of Which Classic? (何典), by Zhang Nanzhuang 張南莊.

Which Classic? is a ten-chapter comic novella written in the traditional linked-chapter form. Circulated in manuscript form for several decades, it was first published by Shenbao Guan in 1878 and remained an obscure book until it was rediscovered by May Fourth scholars, such as Liu Bannong 劉半農, Lu Xun 魯迅, and Wu Zhihui 吳稚暉, who recognized it as one of the earliest extant novels to make extensive use of Wu-dialect vocabulary. Which Classic? is composed in a peculiar hybrid language that makes use of Wu vernacular vocabulary, classical Chinese, and plain Chinese (白話文). Its heterogeneous language is the source of much of the novella’s humor. Frequently a given phrase will have one meaning when read as plain Chinese but another when read in Wu vernacular. This implied second reading is often silly or obscene and serves to add to the irreverent and tongue-in-cheek tone of the work as a whole. In this translation of the first chapter of Which Classic?, the translators have attempted to convey these multiple linguistic levels as often as possible, but such plays on words are, of course, a particular challenge to the translator. The translators are working on a rendering of the entire novella.

The translation can be accessed here: https://u.osu.edu/mclc/online-series/which-classic/

Enjoy,

Kirk Denton, editor