Portrait of the Artist as a Schoolboy: Bao Tianxiao’s
Creative Interventions in Little Xin’s School Journal

By Maria Franca Sibau

Modern Chinese Literature and Culture, vol. 28, no.2  (Fall 2016), pp. 1-42

The once popular yet now largely forgotten Little Xin’s School Journal (Xin’er jiuxue ji) by the prolific Bao Tianxiao (1876–1973) was an educational novel (jiaoyu xiaoshuo) in classical Chinese that recounted the daily life of a schoolboy and first published serially between February 1909 and February 1910 in the Commercial Press’s Jiaoyu zazhi. In spite of being presented as an original work, Little Xin was based, via Japanese translation, on De Amicis’ Cuore (Heart, 1866), better known in the Chinese-speaking world through the later vernacular translation Ai de jiaoyu (1924) by Xia Mianzun. This essay analyzes the nature and significance of Bao’s rewriting of Cuore as a cultural intervention. As one of the earliest novels to engage with the idea of education and youth at multiple levels, Little Xin captured something of the complicated process that has been termed the “making of the modern citizen,” by providing a compelling, if contradictory, image of a new school in a changed world. The essay focuses on Bao’s ambiguous handling of temporality and narrative voice, the interplay between Sinicized foreignness and foreignized Chineseness, the ingenious recasting of old values in new contexts, and the construction of exemplary teachers and students.