The Making of a Chinese Romantic: Cosmopolitan Nationalism
and Lyrical Exoticism in Xu Xu’s Early Travel Writings

By Fredrik Green

Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, vol. 23, no. 2 (Fall 2011), pp. 64-99

This essays places the work of Xu Xu, one of the most widely read authors of the Republican period, into the context of a universal romantic aesthetic. It argues that the act of traveling performed through physical displacement or through metaphysical journeying that is central to Xu’s early fiction and non-fiction is not only driven by intellectual curiosity, but more importantly by the desire to project the Self onto an exotic Other in an attempt to expand one’s own cultural boundaries. The author seeks to demonstrate how Xu Xu’s oeuvre came to evince an independent Chinese romanticism that was not simply derivative of its Western counterpart, and that allowed for a depoliticized affirmative Chinese identity. As such, Xu’s aesthetics offer alternative interpretations of Self and the nation to those seen in most Republican-period fiction.