A Neglected Medium: The Literary Journal and the Case
of The Short Story Magazine (Xiaoshuo yuebao), 1910-1914

By Denise Gimpel

Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, vol. 11, no. 2, pp.53-106

The article is an attempt to see one early Chinese literary journal (Xiaoshuo yuebao) within the particular context of its own times. It dismisses accrued scholarly opinion (East and West) on the journal as well as the label Mandarin Ducks and Butterflies Literature (yuanyang hudie pai wenxue) and regards these as the result of (a) ideological requirements (May Fourth writers, for instance, wishing to see themselves as the creators of the real “new literature” and thus repudiating innovative elements in the writing of the previous generation), and (b) the continued uncritical acceptance of these views by scholars (uncritical because to date they havefailed to read the texts they condemn).

The task of the article is an archaeological one: to lay free the actual contents of the journal, examine contributors’ biographies, assess the context of the publication b e f o r e making general statements on the character of the publication or the quality of the materials it contained. In other words, description precedes analysis.

The article presents a selection of texts and elements of the journal (visual materials, advertising) and concludes that the fields of journal publication and writing in China in the 1910s has not only been misrepresented in literary history, it has been the subject of scholarly neglect. On the basis of our findings with regard to one literary journal (Xiaoshuo yuebao) we cannot make sweeping statements about the development of modern Chinese literature, the evolution of various genres of writing, literary criticism, or the field of publishing. Too many other journals still need reading, describing, and analyzing. This, in turn, requires a broad and comparative literary-historical approach that shakes off received opinion, and it presupposes intensive reading and, above all, a viable analytical framework.