Literary Societies of Republican China

(literary societies and factual information concerning formation, journals, and membership)

[Premodern / Late Qing / Butterfly / Conservative May Fourth / Leftist / 1930s / War Period]


Late Ming societies

  • Gongan 公安 (associated or derived from the Putao she) and Jingling schools
  • Jiangxi 江西 School associated with the followers of Huang Tingjian 黃庭堅


  • Banana Garden Poetry Club (Jiaoyuan shi she), late 17th c. women’s poetry group
  • Ten Women Poets of Wu (Wu zhong shi zi), late 19th c. group
  • Sui Yuan (Followers of Yuan Mei, 1716-1798) [for references to these societies, see Widmer, Burdens of the May Fourth]
  • Tongcheng school (mid to late Qing)

Late Qing
Southern Society (南社; 1908-22)

  • founded by Chen Qubing, Gao Kan, Liu Yazi and eventually had a membership of over 1,000, with branches in major cities
  • with a anti-Qing revolutionary platform (the name itself implied the Ming dynasty); these three had been members of the Guocui she (National essence society); founded shortly after the execution of Qiu Jin and Xu Xilin; many members were also members of the Tongmenghui
  • the Nanshe was sometimes called the “literary arm” of that revolutionary organization, publishing some 22 volumes of poetry, and issues of literary style were hotly debated
  • after the GMD allied with the CCP, Liu Yazi became “intoxicated” by Marx and Bolshevism; the Nanshe was dissolved and the Xin nanshe (New Southern Society) was established; their forums were the Minguo ribao and the supplement Juewu (edited by Shao Lizi); Chen Qubing rejected this new orientation and set up his own competing Hunan branch of the Nanshe that opposed the New Culture movement being promoted by his erstwhile colleagues

National Essence (國粹)

Spring Willow Society (春柳社)

  • formed in Japan in 1908, the first modern dramatic society

 Green Society (青社, founded 1922)

  • this was a Butterfly society formed of Bao Tianxiao, Wang Dungen, Zhou Shoujuan, Li Hanqiu,
  • published a weekly bulletin called Changqing (Evergreen)
  • collapse after only one meeting (See Link, p.168)

Star society (星社, founded 1922)

  • published several journals, including Xing baoXing guangXingxiu hai

Northern group (北派)


Critical Review (學衡, 1922-31)

  • Membership: Mei Guangdi, Hu Xiansu (friend and foe of Hu Shi), Wu Mi
  • Position: anti-New Culture; written in wenyan; students of Irving Babbitt (Harvard); neo-classical humanism; rejection of both romanticism and realism; introduced Western classics and Enlightenment writers; favoured criticism of Matthew Arnold (Victorian humanism)

Jiayin (Tiger; 1925-27), ed Zhang Shizhao

  • centered around a journal edited by Zhang Shizhao, Jiayin zhoukan, not to be confused with the liberal journal, Jiayin zazhi, edited by the same in the teens; Zhang was the principal contributor to the latter, and his logically argued essay earned the sobriquet “luoji wenxue” (logical literature)
  • the resurrection of the Jiayin school in the mid-20s was different, far more conservative
  • Zhang was at this time Minister of Education under the Duan Qirui gov’t
  • promoted wenyan and classical learning

May Fourth

Literary Research Association (文學研究會, 1920-32, though publication of the series continued until the late 40s, though organized activity ceased around 1925)

  1. Members: Mao Dun, Zheng Zhenduo, Xu Dishan, Wang Tongzhao, Ye Shaojun, Geng Jizhi, Zhou Zuoren, Sun Fuyuan, Guo Shaoyu, Huang Luyin, Bing Xin

  2. Goals:

  • translations of progressive Western Lit.
  • scientific research of traditional Chinese lit.
  • foster cooperation in literary studies and facilitate the dissemination of knowledge from West and knowledge gained through literary endeavour
  1. Journals
  • Xiaoshuo yuebao (Shanghai: Commercial Press)
  • manifesto written by Zhou Zuoren, published also the constitution of the association, but, according to Hockx, had no official institutional association with the group
  • Wenxue xunkan (supplement to the Shanghai New Times, then the Chenbao, then published by Beixin shuju, May 1921-)
  • this was a more official organ of the group and later become the journal Wenxue after 1922
  • Shi yuekan (Poetry monthly, 1922-)
  • established by Zhu Ziqing, Liu Yanling, and Ye Shengtao
  1. Publication Series
  • translation series, creative writing series, humor series, drama series
  1. Tenets:
  • literature as exposition of real life (not of dao)
  • opposed view of literature as a diversion for pleasure
  • concern with social rather than personal problems
  • opposed notion of inspiration as source of lit.
  • art for life’s sake (realism) (never actually a stated tenet of the society)

Creation Society (創造社,  1921-29)

1. Members: Guo Moruo, Yu Dafu, Cheng Fangwu, Zhang Ziping, Tian Han, Feng Yuanjun2. Journals:

    • Chuangzuo jikan (1922-25) and Chuangzuo zhoubao
    • Chuangzuo yuekan and Hongshui
    • Wenhua pipan

3. Tenets:

    • romanticism (against naturalism)
    • aestheticism (perfection in beauty)
    • self-expression: “Our isms, our ideologies are not the same. Niether do we insist they should be the same. The view that we all share is that we should follow the demands from the bottom of the heart and get on with our activities in literature and art” (“Afterword,” Chuangzao jikan 1, 2)
    • source of literature in inspiration and genius

4. Radicalization of society after 1925 (May 30 Movement)5. Important theoretical articles:

    • “Cong wenxue geming dao geming wenxue” (Cheng Fangwu)
    • “Xin wenxue de shiming” (Cheng Fangwu)
    • “Zenyang de jianshe geming wenxue” (Li Chuli)
    • “Introduction to Sorrows” (Guo Moruo)

Chenguang she (Morning Light) and Hupan she (Lakeside)

  • poetry societies formed by young poets primarily from Hangzhou
  • close connection to the Literary Research Ass., as most were members
  • members include: Wang Jingzhi, Ye Shengtao, Zhu Ziqing, Feng Xuefeng, Pan Mohua, Yu Pingbo, Ying Xiuren, etc
  • see Hockx for information

Beijing Women’s Normal College Women’s Writing Group

  • though not formally recognized as such, one might say, as the editors of Writing Women in Modern China (p. 15) seem to, that Lu Yin, Su Xuelin, Feng Yuanjun, Shi Pingmei and Lu Jingqing, all students in the early 1920s at Beijing Women’s Normal, formed a loose-knit literary group
  • Lu Jingqing was an activist with Liu Hezhen and also wrote about her in her Memoirs

Misa she (Muse Society)

  • formed in 1922 in Shanghai; founding members include Hu Shanyuan, Qian Jiangchun (Hu and Qian worked together in the translation bureau of the Shanghai branch of the YMCA), Zhao Zukang (or Zhao Kang, a construction engineer); authors mostly from Jiangsu, Zhejiang, and Shanghai
  • in the wake of the bitter battles between the Literary Association and the Creation Society, they organized this society and journal to promote literary creativity, a literature of inspiration
  • loose organization with collective activities centered primarily around publishing the journal
  • published their “manifesto” and “regulations” in Juewu, the literary supplement of the Guomin ribao (3/3/1923)
  • published 6 issues of the journal into 1924, then the society dispersed; but Qian Jiangchun, now working with the translation section at Commercial Press, wanted to continue things, so he arranged for the publication of a series Misa she chuangzuo ji, of which two were published
  • when Qian Jiangchun died young in 1927, the society fell apart
  • “We are the gods of art”

Qiancao she (Shallow weeds society)

  • formed in 1922 in Shanghai
  • Fei Ming was an important member; also Lin Ruji (b. Sichuan), co-founder of the society, with Feng Zhi and Chen Xianghe
  • its members seem to have evolved into the Chenzhong she in 1925
  • Lin Ruji’s “Jiang guoqu” (About to pass; 1923) is a story in the Yu Dafu mode, “Ruoshui is a sensitive, unsuccessful, and despondent urban male writers…” (Zhang Yingjin, 12-13)

Kuangbiao she (Sturm und Drang society)

  • principal figure clearly was Gao Changhong þ_Á, with members principally coming from Shanxi and including: Xiang Liangpei Ú¦¡º, etc.
  • journal: Kuangbiao yuekan and Kuangbiao zhoukan (1925-26)
  • radical iconoclasts and vaguely Nietszchean

Xi she (Sunshine society)

  • formed in 1922 in Beijing by Jian Xian’ai, Zhu Danan, amd Teng Qinhua
  • published Jue huo (Swalling fire)

Nanguo she (Southern nation society)

  • principally a drama and film society formed by Tian Han with decidedly romantic views of the function of literature

Yusi she (Spinner of Words; 1924-31)

1. Origins

    • founded by Zhou Zuoren after he left the Wenxue yanjiu hui; Lu Xun took over as editor in 1927; Later published by Rou Shi.
    • founded after Sun Fuyuan left Chenbao fukan, when Zhou Zuoren was unable to publish some of his retellings of Xu Wenchang (Xu Wei) stories, stories about this witty troublemaker that were very popular during the May Fourth and that Hong Chang-tai argues was a perfect ‘folk’ self-image for intellectuals (Going to the People, 82-93)

2. Non-dogmatic approach to literary creation

    • frequently at odds with Creation Society and entertainment journals (ie.Chenbao)
    • anti-theory, pro-creative writing

3. After 1925 – schism between Zhou brothers4. Contributors: Qian Xuantong, Yu Pingbo, Feng Wenming (Fei Ming), Sun Fuxi, Gu Jiegang, and of course Lu Xun, whose Yecao poems were first published here

5. Yusi

Weiming she (The Unnamed Society; 1925-30)

1. Founded by Lu Xun to translated Soviet writing

    • reflects his radicalization of the second half of the 20s

2. Publications:

    • Weiming congshu (series of translations)
    • Mangyuan (The Wilderness)

3. Contributors: Wei Suyuan

Xinyue she (The Crescent Moon Society; 1923-31)

1. Founded by Xu Zhimo in 1923 but not an society with a literary platform until 1928.2. Members: Liang Shiqiu, Wen Yiduo, Shen Congwen, Rao Mengkan, Hu Shi, Xu Zhimo

3. Journals

    • Chenbao fukan; according to some, the Crescent Moon society members began to exert control over this journal in 1924 after Sun Fuyuan was removed and he formed Yusi with Lu Xun, Zhou Zuoren, Chuan Dao, and others
    • Xiandai pinglun
    • Xinyue yuekan (f. 1928)

4. Important positional articles

    • “Xinyue de taidu” (Crescent moon’s attitude)

5. Tenets

    • freedom of ideals and literary discussion
    • “healthy ideals” (directed at obscenity of Creation)
    • strict rules of metre and rhyme in poetry

6. Opposition

    • mostly famously, from Lu Xun in many essays (“The Function of the Critics of the Crescent Moon Society”, 1929; “Hard Translation and the Class Character of Literature,” 1930; “Government by Gentlemenism”, 1930; “Homeless, Senseless Watchdog of the Capitalists”, 1930)


Taiyang she (The Sun Society; 1928)

1. Members: Qian Xingcun (A Ying), Jiang Guangzi, Yang Cunren.2. Journals

    • Taiyang zhoukan (1928)
    • Shidai wenyi (short run)
    • Xin liu (short run)
    • Tuohuangzhe (short run)

3. Tenets

    • radical Marxist organization promoting revolutionary literature
    • attacked Creation Society and their leadership in the revolutionary lit
    • together with Creation Society attacked Lu Xun and Yusi as living anachronism
    • first to propagate literature of the working class

4. Affiliations

    • all members were members of the CCP

5. Debates

    • at the forefront of the “revolutionary literature” debate, the attack on Lu Xun, etc.

Zuojia zuoyi lianmeng (League of left-wing writers; 1930-36)

1. Established by leftist writers in an attempt to end literary bickering and attack the real enemies (Xinyue pai)

    • promote literature from a Marxist perspective
    • literature to speak for the proletariat

2. Important league articles:

    • inaugural address by Zheng Boqi shows continuing allegiance to romantic elements, such as poets as prophets
    • “Duiyu zuoyi zuojia lianmeng de yijian” (Lu Xun, Er xin ji), in which he soberly warned romantics of being “salon socialists”
    • these two speeches mark the tensions that later explode in the League debates

3. organized three research societies in connection with League

    • Research Society of Marxist Literary and Art Theories
    • of International Culture
    • of Popularization of Literature and Art

4. Journals:

    • Beidou
    • Tuohuang zhe
    • Shijie wenhua
    • Mengya yuekan
    • Dazhong wenyi
    • Wenxue yuekan
    • the mimeographed sheet, Wenxue shenghuo, was a kind of internal organization pamphlet
    • Xiandai xiaoshuo

5. Sources

    • See Wong Wang-chi. Politics and Literature in Shanghai: The Chinese League of Left-wing Writers


Xiandai Group (or Xin ganjue pai, neosensualists)

  • group loosely associated with the journal Xiandai, edited by Du Heng (Su Wen)
  • Liu Na’ou, Mu Shiying, Shi Zhecun, etc.

Minzuzhuyi wenyi (early 30s)

  • centered around the figures of Huang Zhenxia, a KMT army instructor, and Fan Zhongbo, chief of police
  • Xianfeng zhoubaoXianfeng yuebao (early 30s)
  • countered the League notion of a class based literature with a “nationalist literature”; closely tied to the KMT

Lunyu (Analects)

1. Members

    • apart from Lin Yutang himself, Tao Hangde and Xu Xu were key editors for journals, while Quan Zengxia, Pan Guangdan, Li Qingya, Shao Xunmei, Zhang Kebiao were frequent contributors

2. Journals

    • centered around Lin Yutang and his various publications, in the 30s and 40s
    • Lunyu (1932-37; 1946-49), Ren shi jian, and Yuzhou feng being the most important

3. Tenets

    • humour (youmo) and the xiaopin wen seem to be the essence of the group’s position
    • “Yi ziwo wei zhongxin, yi xianshi wei gediao” (the ego at the center and idleness as the form) was a slogan associated with the group

4. In the Field

    • Lin had been a member of the Yusi Society and had taught with Lu Xun at Beida, Bei nu shi da, and Xiamen University; so they were in the 1920s very close
    • Lin seems to have supported Lu Xun in his struggles with the leadership of Nu shi da
    • Lu Xun, of course, wrote about the group in essays on humor

Yuefeng pai

  • group formed in 1935 around a journal allegedly with ties to the GMD, particularly the CC Clique (including the Chen brothers, Chen Guofu and Chen Lifu); published, among other things, articles about Zhejiang (Yue), which was a stronghold of the GMD
  • journal was founded by Huang Pingsun and assisted by his fellow Fudaner Hu Jianzhong, who had earlier published in Chuangzao journals as Hu Hengzi
  • journal published Zhou Zuoren, Ye Shengtao, Yu Pingbo, Sun Fuyuan, Mao Dun, Ah Ying and Yu Dafu, but it also had close ties with former members of the Nanshe and was used as a forum for attempts to both resurrect and commemorate the earlier society by Liu Yazi and others

War Period

Qiyue July Group (1937-55)

  • led nominally by Hu Feng and composed of writers close to him and those who published in his two journals
  • journals: July and Hope and some minor journals of the late 40s
  • principal members: Tian Jian, Ai Qing, Cai Bai, Qiu Dongping, Jia Zhifang, Lu Ling, Ji Pang, Lu Dian, A Long

Zhanguo ce (1940-41)

  • centered around the journal Zhanguo ce (founded in 1940), this group, centered around the ideas of Lei Haizong and composed of Chen Quan and Lin Tongji; the journal also published Liang Zongdai (poetry critic and German trained scholar)
  • Chen Quan, playwright and novelist, was the central literary figure
  • influenced by Nietszche and the notion of power politics
  • for material see Michael Godley and Raoul Findeison

Wenyijie kangdi xiehui (All-China Liteary Resistance Associaton (1938-45)

  • umbrella organization for the cultural world during the Anti-Japanese war
  • formed in 1938 in Wuhan, then moved to Chongqing in 1939
  • led trips to the front by writers
  • official journal Kangzhan wenyi (ed. Mao Dun)

Wenhua gongzuo weiyuan hui (Cultural work committee; 1940-45)

  • cultural organization during the war period
  • formed by Guo Moruo in 1940

Jiuye pai (Nine leaves School)

  • late forties poetry group
  • the name given to the group post hoc, in the 1980s, when a liberal political climate allowed them to reemerge; the members created a cultural group consciousness post-hoc, 40 years after they wrote and published (which raises an interesting question about literary societies; an attempt to legitimize themselves as having established a literary position apart from the dogmatic one which became literary policy after 1949)
  • Lan Dizhi makes the point that they were really two groups that only became conscious of themselves as a single group in the 1980s (see intro to Jiuyu pai shixuan, p.3)
  • centered around two publications: Zhongguo xinshi (1948) and Shi chuangzao (1947-48)
  • members include: Mu Dan, Tang Qi, Tang Shi, Yuan Kejia, Xin Di, Chen Jingrong (woman), Hang Yuehe (main editorial person), Du Yunxie, and Zheng Min (woman)