A Verbose Silence in 1939 Chongqing: Why Ah Long’s Nanjing Could Not Be Published

By Ken Sekine, Keio University

Published by the MCLC Resource Center, Copyright 2004

Fig.1: Photo of Ah Long from the 1940s.

Fig.1: Photo of Ah Long from the 1940s.


The first Chinese novel to treat the Nanjing Massacre is not very well-known, either in China or elsewhere. In this paper I should like to introduce the novel, entitled Nanjing 南京 (Nanjing) [1], and its author Ah Long 阿垅 (1907-1967). Through an examination of the circumstances surrounding its publication, I also want to disclose practices of self-censorship in the field of literature in China in the late 1930s to early 1940s.

Ah Long is primarily remembered as a member of the “counter-revolutionary” Hu Feng 胡风 group. His name appeared numerous times during political campaigns in post-revolutionary PRC, especially in documents and dossiers on the Hu Feng Counter-Revolutionary Clique Affair of 1955 [2]. Ah Long had a remarkable and unique career. He was not only a novelist but a poet, critic, journalist, editor, and essayist. He was also an officer in the Nationalist Army, and he once taught the theory of strategy and tactics at the Central Army University. Ah Long was a graduate of the Nationalist Party Central Military College, but also studied at the Communist Party Military University in Yan’an. Arrested in 1955 as a core member of the Hu Feng Counter Revolutionary Clique, he was accused of being a “big spy sent from the Nationalist Army.” He died tragically of illness in 1967 after twelve years of incarceration in Tianjin Prison. Since the Hu Feng group’s political rehabilitation in 1980, many memoirs have been written by former leading figures in the CCP who declared that Ah Long was never a “big spy”; to the contrary, he revealed many important secrets about the Nationalist Army to the Communist side. Space does not allow me to go into the details of his literary and political career. However, for a more accurate understanding of Ah Long, I will begin this paper by presenting a simple curriculum vitae.

Ah Long’s Life and Career

Ah Long (Chen Shoumei 陈守梅) was born into a poor merchant family in 1907 in Hangzhou, Zhejiang. He would later adopt many other pennames, including SM, Yi-Men 亦门, Shi-Mu 师穆, Sheng-Men 圣门, Zhang Huairui 张怀瑞. After completing a traditional education at a school in his hometown, he went to Shanghai against his parents’ wishes. At this time he began to write traditional-style poems and contribute them to literary magazines. When he arrived in Shanghai in 1930 (he was twenty-three years old), Ah Long also started to study technology, but the conflict withJapan was becoming fiercer, and he became so sympathetic to the patriotic movement that he finally decided to go to Nanjing to enter the Central Military College of Huangpu (Zhongyang huangpu junguan xuexiao 中央黄埔军官学校). This was in 1934, when he was twenty-seven years old. He graduated from the Military College in 1936, just one year before the beginning of the Anti-Japanese War and was assigned to the 88th Division of the Nationalist Army (国民革命军第八十八师) as a lieutenant. In August 1937, he participated in the front line of the Shanghai Defense War as the commanding officer of a platoon, but was severely injured in battle, and he was withdrawn from the front line and moved to Changsha for treatment. It was at this moment in his life that he began to write seriously. He wrote a lot of reportage, which he contributed to the magazine Qiyue 七月 (July). This magazine’s editor was Hu Feng, and Ah Long came to be considered a member of the so-called Qiyue pai 七月派, or July school.

In October 1938, Ah Long moved to Yan’an and entered the Political Military University of Resistance (Kangri junzheng daxue 抗日军政大学). However, the next year, in the spring of 1939, he moved to Xi’an, where he was treated for a severe injury suffered during a military exercise. Here, he began to write the novel Nanjing. After two months’ hard work, he finished the novel in October and sent it to the Resistance Novel Competition organized by the magazine Kangzhan wenyi 抗战文艺 (Resistance literature), the official publication of the All-China Association of Literary Resistance (Quanguo wenyijie kangdi xiehui 全国文艺界抗敌协会). The following year, 1940, the selection committee of this magazine decided to award Nanjing first prize in the competition.

Following the advice of Hu Feng and other friends, in 1941 Ah Long decided to move to Chongqing. There he entered the University of the Chinese Nationalist Army. Two years later, he was promoted to major and gained the position of lecturer at the Central Military College in Chengdu. In those days, although he was a high-level officer in the Nationalist Army, he also wrote many works of poetry, essays, and reportage, which were published under various pseudonyms in Hu Feng’s journal. (The use of pennames was necessary because his works were strongly critical of the Nationalist Party’s wartime policies.) In this period, at great personal risk, Ah Long revealed some important military information to the Communist Party; this leaking of information was done through a secret connection–from Hu Feng to Wu Xiru to Zhou Enlai himself.

Fig.2: Ah Long (front row, far right) with other members of the Hu Feng group in 1947 in Nanjing.

Fig.2: Ah Long (front row, far right) with other members of the Hu Feng group in 1947 in Nanjing.

While in Chengdu, Ah Long fell in love with a woman named Zhang Rui 张瑞, who was sixteen years his junior. They married in 1944 and had a baby the next year. However, their happy life did not last long: for reasons unknown, Zhang committed suicide by taking poison. To make matters worse, Ah Long’s espionage was discovered by a secret agent of the Nationalist Army, which meant that he had to leave Chengdu and begin a new life in exile in southern China. The situation was so bad and so complex that Ah Long was forced to use an assumed name to obtain a job in the Nanjing Meteorological Observatory in 1947. He eventually succeeded in entering the Postgraduate School of the Military University with the position of lecturer (as an army colonel) in the School of Staff Officers. We should view his efforts and struggles in the context of the difficult conditions during the civil war period in Nanjing. Ah Long continued to carry out espionage activities for the Communist Party.

In 1949, after the founding of the People’s Republic of China, Ah Long and his son moved to Tianjin, and he emerged as a leading literary figure. But in 1950, criticism began against his work and ideas. He was considered a main figure of the Hu Feng Clique, and his literary thought was considered to embody a dangerous tendency toward subjectivism and factionalism. In 1955, such ideas were suddenly regarded as counter-revolutionary and as crimes against socialism. Ah Long was arrested in May 1955 along with many other associates of Hu Feng. Although Zhou Enlai and his staff (for example) would have definitely known the truth about Ah Long, there was no one who had enough courage to testify in his favour while he was still alive. Thirteen years after his tragic death, his official rehabilitation was announced in 1980, and a memorial ceremony was held in 1982.

Ah Long’s Novel Nanjing

Fig.3: cover of 1987 publication of Ah Long's Nanjing xueji.

Fig.3: cover of 1987 publication of Ah Long’s Nanjing xueji.

Ah Long completed Nanjing in November 1939. Although the novel received first prize in the novel competition of Resistance Literature magazine, it was not published until December 1987, with the title Nanjing xueji 南京血祭 (The bloody sacrifice of Nanjing). In other words, it took almost half a century to obtain permission from the Chinese government to publish the work. Nanjing is significant for, among other things, being the first Chinese novel to deal with the Nanjing Massacre.

In February 1989, I interviewed Lu Yuan [3], a Hu Feng group poet and one of Ah Long’s friends. Lu Yuan had exerted a great deal of effort to get his friend’s work published. According to Lu Yuan, the reason why the authorities changed the title was that they did not want people to misunderstand this book as some kind of “Nanjing guide book.” Regarding the difference between Ah Long’s original manuscript and this publication, we can say very little, because it is no longer possible to see the original. The original manuscript disappeared during Ah Long’s hard and difficult days during the war, but he did keep a draft version of the manuscript in an old notebook; the 1987 publication is based on this draft. According to many memoirs, we know the original manuscript consisted of 300,000 words, but the 1987 publication counts only 140,000 words, so it is a much reduced version of the original manuscript.

As mentioned above, Ah Long was arrested in May 1955, and the remainder of his life was spent in Tianjin Prison. Even during the period of the Cultural Revolution, the Red Guards could not touch any of Ah Long’s documents because his entire works (including that old notebook) were kept concealed by the Chinese Public Safety Commission (南京血祭). If these documents had passed to the Red Guards, they would likely have been destroyed, and we would not have seen even this incomplete publication of the novel.

The Bloody Sacrifice of Nanjing comprises nine chapters and an epilogue. It describes events that occurred in Nanjing from November to early December of 1937. The following is a brief summary of the novel:

Chapter 1: In the early winter of 1937 in Nanjing, the Japanese army begins a massive air raid over Nanjing, and many buildings, famous structures, and temples are destroyed. The protagonist of the novel is a young military officer named Yan Long 严龙. Through his eyes and thoughts, we see the terrible destruction suffered by the city; in the process, Ah Long displays his feelings about the death of traditional culture and the destiny of China and its people, and the existence of the critical power of resistance and the regeneration of China. Besides Yan Long, there are many suffering characters in the novel: for example, an old woman escaping from the air attacks, running about this way and that, holding her grandson and important belongings in her arms; she falls into deep confusion and loses hold of them; both of her treasures are lost and she dies among the crowd escaping. The chapter also describes the terrible sight of the miserable Nanjing slum under bombing attacks [4].

Chapter 2: Describes the period from late November to early December 1937 and the fall of Nanjing. Officer Yan Long and his friends are intelligentsia. They are given the mission to destroy a large area of the city in order to prepare for the Japanese invasion. These young officers love Nanjing very much, and it pains them to have to destroy their beloved city. Under the eviction order, many citizens must leave their residences immediately. Ah Long describes the various lifestyles of these people. Many of them are very obedient and make long orderly lines to flee from the forbidden area. However, some of them staunchly refuse to move, so these officers continue to persuade them to leave. Through these anecdotes, Ah Long expresses his deep sense of agony about the events taking place in Nanjing. In addition, Ah Long writes about the Chinese soldiers’ looting. These troops mainly come from the peasant class; they cannot understand why looting is a crime and believe they are merely taking things from abandoned houses. In this chapter, Ah Long tries to write about this age-old problem of the Chinese army. He expresses deep sorrow and is ashamed that the looting happens even in such a severe situation as Nanjing in 1937.

Chapter 3: In this chapter Ah Long writes about the history and geography of Nanjing, and tries to explain the defensive structures of the Nanjing army. Ah Long claims that Nanjing’s defense system is very poor, and the Chinese army itself is corrupt from the inside. He recreates a top meeting of the Nationalist Party Central Military Committee (Guomindang zhongyang junwei 国民党中央军委). At this meeting, Chairman Chiang Kai-shek decides to flee the capital city and designates an energetic general named Tang Shengzhi 唐生智 as the Commander of the Nanjing Defense Army. Ah Long describes Commander Tang’s ambitions and desires. Tang conceives of himself as king of the old Chinese capital. Ah Long further describes the completion of Nanjing’s defensive system.

Chapters 4 and 5: Describe the collapse of the defense lines surrounding Nanjing. In Chapter 4, Ah Long mainly writes about the garrison that protecting Jiuhua shan (九华山) on December 5. In Chapter 5 he writes about the artillery brigade operating in the village of Chunhua on the seventh of that month. Although the Chinese Nationalist Army has many problems, Chinese soldiers fight bravely against the Japanese invaders and many are killed in terrible battles. In these chapters, Ah Long represents the mutual understanding between the young intelligentsia and the veteran soldiers. He also writes about the cooperation that occurred naturally among the peasant soldiers. Through describing these anecdotes, Ah Long eventually shows much respect for what they did. However, he indicates that these ideal human relationships develop only at the end of their lives, as they are about to die. Despite their efforts, the Japanese invaders cruelly break through the Chinese defense line and enter Nanjing city.

Chapters 6 and 7: These chapters mainly describe the situation of the Chinese army, which has withdrawn from the defense front line and come back into Nanjing city. The situation on the battlefield is extremely bad, and the whole capital is in confusion. But Ah Long focuses on several battles that show the admirable sprit and self-sacrifice of the brave Chinese fighters. There are tragic descriptions of the battles at Guanghua men 光华门, Zijin shan 紫金山, Niushou shan 牛首山, and Yuhua tai 雨花台. Chapter 7 in particular is dedicated to officer Huang Demei 黄德美 and two fellow officers. They were friends of Ah Long and all were killed in the dreadful battle at Yuhua tai on the December 11.

Chapter 8: Describes the extreme confusion in Nanjing city on December 11 and 12 (the fall would come on the next day). Many soldiers desert from the front line and try to escape to the Changjiang (Yangtze River), and there occur many bloody battles among the Chinese soldiers themselves. There are severe gunfights at Zhongshan North Street 中山北路, Xinjiekou 新街口, and Yijiang men 挹江门. Deserting Chinese soldiers use tanks and machine guns against the Chinese army troops who attempt to stop them. Corpses pile up under the gate. At the banks of the Changjiang, many citizens and soldiers rush to ships, but the Chinese army garrison of Changjiang is ordered by Commander Tang to intercept anybody trying to escape from Nanjing, so they begin to shoot refugees with machine guns. Ah Long seems to express his realization about the fate of the Chinese people under the situation of war, and also wants to symbolize the destiny of the traditional old army. At the same time, Ah Long describes the psychological growth of Yan Long and his friends. The terrible battle changes them, and Ah Long hopes to find a new power of regeneration from them.

Chapter 9 and the epilogue describe the situation on the days of the Fall of Nanjing city on 13 and 14 December. In Chapter 9, Ah Long focuses on four threads; the miserable fate that befalls the city upon surrendering; the great change in Yan Long; the first defeat of the Japanese army (although it is very small); and a kind of curious familiarity that occurs between an old Confucian and a poor worker at a burial place near the bank of the Changjiang. Through these anecdotes, Ah Long tries to symbolize the particularity of this war; he seems to suggest that China suffers from the miserable cruel destruction because of its old feudal system. Nevertheless, China would obtain a final victory. The last scene of this chapter is very impressive: he writes about one Japanese officer who cries bitterly in front of the burial place, although Ah Long does not explain the reason why he is crying. Through this scene, the author seems to describe the moral defeat of the Japanese army. In the epilogue, Ah Long relates the symbolic victory against the Japanese invaders on the December 20 in Wuhu 芜湖, twelve days before Wuhu’s fall: the exasperated Chinese soldiers are reunited and succeed in recapturing Wuhu. This epilogue indicates that Ah Long wrote this novel not only to mourn a catastrophe, but also, and especially, to sustain the war and aim for final victory.

Characteristics of the Novel Nanjing

Ah Long’s Nanjing is a very remarkable novel in the context of Chinese wartime literary practice. It includes at least three unique characteristics: (1) it is written from the point-of-view of a soldier (Ah Long was, after all, an army officer) who fights against Japan; (2) there is strong criticism of the Chinese army; and (3) the author refuses to use stereotypes to describe Japanese soldiers, while also refusing to take the received viewpoint of nationalism–“Chinese national consciousness” (Zhonghua minzu yishi 中华民族意识).

In recent years, many books have been written on the subject of the Nanjing Massacre, including a considerable number of historical studies. In those days, however, little information was given to the Chinese people about the catastrophe. Ah Long himself did not witness the massacre. He was wounded in the middle of August 1937 in the Shanghai Defense Battle and sent to the interior to convalesce. It is therefore difficult to say that this novel is based on the truth of actual events. However, it is obvious that Ah Long collected a great deal of information from his comrades in the army, by word of mouth, as well as from the press. Ah Long’s knowledge of the Nanjing Massacre may well have been among the first and most detailed information given to Chinese intellectuals of the period.

We must take note that Ah Long’s description was limited to the period of early November to December 14,1937. The invading Japanese army’s horrific massacre actually began on the 14 December and continued another two months. This means that Ah Long wrote only about the situation at the very beginning of the massacre.

Furthermore, Ah Long’s purpose in writing about the subject was not to mourn or evoke deep grief, but to describe the particular features of the war and to suggest a way by which final victory might be obtained. Ah Long, thus, tends to emphasize symbolism rather than realism [5]. From this point of view, I think that the most successful symbol in the novel is that of the crying Japanese officer on the Changjiang bank. This scene implies the inevitable defeat of the Japanese army. Although there is no explicit explanation for his tears, this soldier represents an acknowledgment of the Japanese army’s unforgivable crimes.

Fig.4: manuscript of <em>Nanjing</em>.

Fig.4: manuscript of Nanjing.

Apart from this scene, there is another significant passage, although it was excised by the publisher from the published edition in 1987. I have confirmed this from the manuscript in that old notebook, which I consulted at the house of Ah Long’s son, Chen Pei 3??ae. In this passage, Ah Long describes many cruel rapes by the Japanese army, but he also writes about one Japanese soldier who comes to an old woman’s house. This Japanese soldier suddenly kneels down in front of her and begins sobbing. He probably sees in her his own mother in the Japanese countryside, and deeply regrets the sins of his army, and of himself.

At this point we should consider Ah Long’s motive for writing the novel. Two novels about the Nanjing Massacre had already been published in Japan when Ah Long undertook his novel. They were Hino Ashihei 火野苇平’s Mugi to heitai (Wheat and the soldier) [6], and Ishikawa Tatsuzo 石川达三 ‘s Ikite iru heitai (The living soldier) [7]. Both authors were Japanese. Hino was a correspondence officer in the Japanese army, and Ishikawa was a Japanese magazine correspondent, and both were famous novelists in Japan at that time. The Living Soldier was published at the beginning of 1938, and was translated into Chinese immediately by Xia Yan 夏衍. This novel was published in the Damei wanbao 大美晚报 (The Shanghai evening post). Hino’s novel was also translated into Chinese and published in Shanghai that same year. According to his postscript, Ah Long had obtained detailed information about these two Japanese novels from Hu Feng and his group, especially from Kaji Wataru 鹿地 亘 and Ikeda Sachiko 池田幸子, who were sympathizers of the Chinese revolutionary group and were living in China. Ah Long wrote about this process in his postscript, confessing that he was ashamed of this fact and how angry he felt about it. He felt strongly that this topic should be written about from the Chinese rather than from the invader’s point of view. Thus Ah Long was driven by great rage to write this novel. It took him only two months to write it, from August to October 1939.

It seems very strange that there were no other Chinese novelists willing to deal with this theme in that period, although there are some reports and essays and some stories that deal in part with the Nanjing Massacre. Zhou Erfu 周而复’s famous novel Nanjing de xianluo 南京的陷落 (The fall of Nanking) was only published in 1987, the same year as the official publication of Ah Long’s novel.

Why Nanjing Could Not Be Published: An Hypothesis

At this point we should look at the mysterious fate of this novel. First of all, we must confirm the great reputation the novel had in 1939-1940. According to Hu Feng’s memoirs of 1984 [8], all the jury members for the novel competition listed Nanjing as number one, and all of them agreed to give Ah Long the 400 yuan prize, which represented quite a big sum of money in those days. As I mentioned above, the original novel contained 300,000 words, twice the length of the ultimately published book, The Bloody Sacrifice of Nanjing. This means that the length of the original was similar to Gao Xingjian’s famous Soul Mountain. Given the facts of its positive reception by the jury committee and its substantial length, Nanjing was clearly a significant novel. Is so, then it is very natural to entertain one question: why was the novel not published at that time?

When The Bloody Sacrifice of Nanjing appeared in print in 1987, the publisher explained on the back cover that, until then, the novel “could not be published for certain reasons” (yin gu bu neng chuban 因故不能出版). After the Cultural Revolution, especially after the rehabilitation of the Hu Feng group in 1980, many documents and articles about the Hu Feng group appeared in print. Nevertheless, little was written about this Nanjing, which suggests that the novel and its failure to get published in the 1940s were still somehow delicate issues. However, fron clues contained in recently published memoirs I think we can form some kind of hypothesis.

Let us look more closely at remarks made by Hu Feng group members regarding the novel. First, Lu Yuan 绿原- told me in a 1989 interview that Ah Long’s problem in the novel was his shocking description of real battles and horrible deaths. Ah Long, he said, wrote “too much.” This remark is repeated in “Biographical Sketch of Ah Long” [9] written by Lu Yuan and Ah Long’s only son Chen Pei and two other friends of Ah Long. This remark would suggest that the Nationalist Party had suppressed publication of Nanjing. However, we can find another reason, provided by Hu Feng himself.

In his memoirs, Hu Feng writes about the selection process of the novel competition. According to Hu, a careless mistake in procedure occurred during the review process. The committee upheld a principle of anonymous selection, so committee members were not supposed to know the names of the authors of submitted manuscripts. However, one of the committe members, Kong Luosun 孔罗荪 (a famous critic, and one of Ba Jin 巴金’s best friends), carelessly revealed to the other committee members that Ah Long was the author of Nanjing. It was common knowledge that Ah Long was a friend of Hu Feng, and committee members would have known also that Ah Long’s articles (reportage) and poetry had appeared in Hu Feng’s magazine July. For the sake of impartiality, the committee decided to cancel the competition, but at the same time it was decided that the first prize money should be given to the author of Nanjing. More details about the selection committee appeared in The Biography of Hu Feng [10], written by Mei Zhi 梅志 (Hu Feng’s wife). Mei Zhi writes that one of the Chongqing newspapers, Saodang bao 扫荡报, had offered to publish the novel after it received the first prize. Saodang means “drive off the enemy” and this newspaper represented the Nationalist Party Central Army. However, after Saodang bao editors learned of the relationship between the winner of the first prize and July magazine, their offer evaporated.

These observations raise some issues: First, even if it was a careless mistake of the selection committee to reveal Ah Long’s name, why could Hu Feng not publish the novel himself? Hu Feng was a famous editor, and he had published (or helped to publish) several books during the late 1930s and early 1940s. Second, why did Kong Luosun disclose Ah Long’s name? Hu Feng said it was because of his curiosity, but it seems unlikely that such a silly mistake would have occured for no particular reason, especially in a serious selection process of an official magazine. Thirdly, why did a prominent nationalist paper like Saodang bao offer to publish the novel when they certainly knew the responsibility for selection had belonged to the famous “red critic” Hu Feng. It is necessary to keep in mind that there were no legal bans against Nanjing at that time in Chongqing. The real clue to this problem probably exists in the circumstances surrounding Chongqing’s publications and press.

From 1937 to late 1940, faced with Japanese aggression, the Chinese Communist Party and Nationalist Party formed a “united front.” This united front also existed in the cultural sphere. There is much evidence for this alliance. The Press in Wartime Chongqing [11] indicates that there were some very strong relationships among all the presses in Chongqing, even between the Communist and Nationalist press; they always helped each other. Especially in 1938, Chongqing’s ten newspapers including the Communist Party Xinhua ribao 新华日报 and the Nationalist Party Zhongyang ribao 中央日报 and Saodang bao, ceased independent publication and organized one united press. Many writers who were communists or sympathized with the communist cause, assumed important positions in Nationalist-held Chongqing, like the famous authors Guo Moruo 郭沫若, Ba Jin, and Lao She 老舍.

Researching newspaper articles appearing in the Chongqing press during the early years of the war, we can find several tendencies. First is the strong emphasis on cooperation between the Nationalist Party and Communist Party. It is clear that there was a lot of support for a wide united front against Japan. At this time, many articles dealing with the Soviet Union, including its government and the Communist Party, were published. This was the symbolic phenomenon of their alliance. For example, the Nationalist Party’s official newspaper Zhongyang ribao carried the whole of Stalin’s report on the 18th Conference of the Soviet Communist Party. This newspaper had also run a very long serial column, Sulian jixing 苏联纪行 (Travel sketches about the Soviet Union) during 1937-38. Of course, this column offered admiration of the Soviet Union, not criticism. If Lu Xun had lived a little longer, he would have wondered at these articles, because he knew that the first travel sketch Exiang jicheng 饿乡纪程 (A Trip to the Starved Country) was written by Qu Qiubai 瞿秋白, one of his best friends, and Qu was executed by this newspaper’s organizer, the Nationalist Party, just four years previously. Second, also associated with this mainstream, these articles highlight the strong fighting spirit of the Nationalist Army. I should point out that after both parties’ unification in 1937, the Red Army was absorbed by the Nationalist Army, renamed the Eigth Route Army (Guomin geming jun di ba lujun 国民革命军第八路军) and the New Fourth Army (Guomin geming jun xin si jun 国民革命军新四军).

The Chongqing press published many articles and reports about the Chinese army’s great victories in this period; conversely, there were very few articles about defeat or the collapse of the Chinese army. Thus even concerning the Nanjing Massacre, almost nothing at all was reported in the newspapers. Although we can occasionally find some articles about Nanjing, these were mainly quoted from the American Chinese newspapers, the China Weekly Review (密勒氏评论报) and Shanghai Evening Post and Mercury. Finally, if we carefully read these articles, we can find the basis of this united front was formed by a kind of Chinese traditional nationalism. These tendencies continued until the Wan’an shibian 皖南事变 (aka, New Fourth Army Incident) in 1941.

As we have seen above, the united front between both parties was the most important policy for the Communist Party. In this stage, we should notice that this policy was not decided independently, by the Chinese Communist Party alone, but was strongly influenced by the basic Asian strategy of the Comintern (Communist International, the Third International). Of course, this Stalin’s policy.

Let me focus on some extreme statements by a key person, Guo Moruo. Guo was chief of the Chinese Nationalist Government Military Committee Third Section (中国国民政府军事委员会第三厅), while at the same time a secret member of the Communist Party, and directly attached to the Communist Party’s Central Committee (according to the memoirs about Ah Long written by Wu Xiru 吴奚如 in 2001[12]; Wu Xiru was a senior secretary to Zhou Enlai, and one of Hu Feng’s best friends at that time). When Guo Moruo described the anti-Nationalist Party or anti-military alliance tendency, he sometimes used the phrases “anti-national attitude” (非国民的态度) or “suspicion of aiding the enemy” (资敌嫌疑). These unfamiliar terms were mainly used in wartime Japan, and if somebody in Japan were classified in this way, this person would soon be arrested. Guo Moruo knew the precise meaning of these words when he employed them. Reading Guo Moruo’s article quoted in Hu Feng’s anthology Minzu zhanzheng yu wenyi xingge 民族战争与文艺性格 (National war and the character of literature) [13], one can easily see that these criticisms were directed at leftist intellectuals like Hu Feng. We know that Guo and Hu had both studied in Japan and were fluent in Japanese. I think these particular terms were not only the expression of the united front government’s attitude, but rather indicate the Communist Party’s official political tendency.

Now, let me turn to Hu Feng’s particular situation. Critics have often portrayed Hu Feng as a “Chinese Lukacs,” and indeed, Gyorgy Lukacs’s famous work History and Class Consciousness had a huge influence on Hu Feng’s ideas about “subjective fighting spirit” (zhuguan zhandou jingshen 主观战斗精神). In this very period 1939-1940, Lukacs was under strong criticism in Moscow, and the following year, 1941, he was arrested for suspicion of being a Trotskyite. To absolve himself of suspicion, Lukacs finally disowned this work. After this enforced criticism, Stalin had managed to build up his perfect autocracy. In these years Hu Feng had been aware of Lukacs’s problem and tried to describe how Lukacs’s influence on him was limited only to “cognitive processes.” Hu emphatically stated that his political stance was exactly the same as that of the Communist Party, i.e. completely unaffected by Lukacs (who, of course, was never a Trotskyite [14]. From these factors, we may suppose that more than anybody else Hu Feng had to support the united front policy very carefully, especially in this period.

On the whole, the situation of the many leading leftist intellectuals was similar to that of Hu Feng. They could say what they wanted as long as they declared that their political stance was the same as the Communist Party’s united front policy. That probably was a kind of distorted freedom, so they had to carefully consider their choice of expression (whether it was suitable to the policy or not) at all times. Many of them had been living in fear of being convicted as a Trotskyite. In this period, if a leftist intellectual took a position against the Nationalist Party or the military united front, it meant this person had opposed the main policy of the Communist Party and, finally, it would probably mean he or she would be considered an “anti-Stalinist.” In the Chongqing leftist literary field, there was a great risk of being labelled a Trotskyite. We must remember that eminent “protege of the Comintern” Wang Ming 王明, who also gained an important position in the government with Zhou Enlai and Guo Moruo. These big leaders were standing behind the magazine Resistance Literature, the formal official magazine of Wenxie. This was one of the significant results of the Two Slogans Debate (Liangge kouhao lunzheng 两个口号的论争) in 1936. By this time, Lu Xun’s anxiety about the individual thought of creation had come true.

Fig.5: copy of the Japanese version of <em>Nanjing xueji</em>, translated by Ken Sekine.

Fig.5: copy of the Japanese version of Nanjing xueji, translated by Ken Sekine.

When we examine articles in the Chongqing press, we can also realize an important and elementary fact about the Nanjing Massacre. During 1939-1940, the period when Ah Long submitted Nanjing to Resistance Literature, neither the Communist Party nor the Nationalist Party had come up with an official account of the massacre. There was a lack of information, as well as a lack of basic consensus about human rights. Above all, the leaders of these two parties were busy promoting a strong image of the united front’s military force and its fighting spirit or its great “Chinese national consciousness,” so they were probably reluctant to inform the Chinese people about what had really happened in their former capital city, Nanjing. From these factors, we may suppose that leftist intellectuals were encouraged to shy away from this theme and eventually they avoided writing about Nanjing Massacre of their own volition, at least until the Communist Party defined the political significance of the tragedy. So at this stage, they were able only to publish some translations like the articles from the China Weekly Review or like Xia Yan’s The Living Soldier. In these cases, the contents and the political stance belonged to the original author, and the responsibility of the translators themselves was not so great.

If this supposition is correct, it would be easy to imagine the magazine selection committee’s perplexity after they received Ah Long’s work. Intellectually, they could understand the excellent achievement of his work, but at the same time, they would notice that some “dangerous” elements clearly existed in this novel. Because of this, one of the committee members, Kong Luosun, dared to expose the author’s identity, probably for their common political safety. And the committee’s final decision “not only to award him the prize money, but also to cancel the result of the competition” reveals an elaborate and compromised conclusion. From Hu Feng’s memoirs and other biographies we can understand that Hu Feng had made every effort to obtain actual profit for Ah Long. In fact, this amount of money was very useful for the treatment of his old wounds, and for this Ah Long maintained a feeling of gratitude to Hu Feng. After this particular period, Hu Feng also recommended that Ah Long rewrite Nanjing and prepare it for future publication. That was after World War Two, and Japan’s wartime crimes (including the Nanjing Massacre) had already been judged in Provost Court, and the concept of the Massacre had been defined in this new stage. Then, according to Hu Feng’s recommendation, Ah Long rewrote Nanjing, but because of the turbulent conditions of civil war, this rewritten manuscript was also lost. Afterwards he had neither the time nor enough data in hand; furthermore, he had been concentrating on the construction of his theory of literature, especially the concept of how to develop creative individuality in the new China. For Ah Long, this problem was the most important subject at that time. He was seriously engaged in this and it was symptomatic of his way of his life: perhaps from the political viewpoint his life style was too dangerous, but as a literary figure he was nothing but sincere and enthusiastic.


As seen above, it is not difficult to presume that Ah Long’s Nanjing ignored the consensus of the upper-class intelligentsia in Chongqing. His strong criticism of the Nationalist Army is very obvious. His basic spirit of anti-nationalism, of anti-“Chinese national consciousness” can be discerned in some descriptions of Chinese people as well as Japanese soldiers. He strongly refused to use acceptable stereotypes, and he wrote clearly about the corruption and ignorance in China. At the same time he described the Japanese soldiers’ tears. It is completely different from the image of Riben guizi 日本鬼子  (Japanese devils). According to Ah Long, this war was not only one for the Chinese race, but also for human rights, and for the regeneration of people living in China. There is no doubt that Ah Long’s novel was one of the masterpieces produced in wartime China. But at the same time, it did not reflect the strategy of that period. Moreover, his work would have been a kind of obstacle to the politics of the alliance government. Perhaps it engendered political fears that made some people drop support for its publication. I have argued that it was neither political oppression nor legalities, but a kind of obscure “self-censorship” in the Chongqing literary field that suppressed the original novel Nanjing. I think this tendency continued to work until Mao Zedong’s notorious “Yan’an Talks” and the Wang Shiwei 王实味 Affair and finally, it also predicted the tragedy of Hu Feng and that of Ah Long himself.


[1]. Ah Long, Nanjing. Finished October 1939. Published in 1987 under the title Nanjing xueji (The bloody sacrifice of Nanjing) (Beijing: Renmin wenxue). I translated the novel into Japanese (Tokyo: Gogatsu shobo, 1994) as Nanking Doukoku (A lament for Nanjing).
[2]. Hu Feng Counter-Revolutionary Clique Affair (Hu Feng fan geming jituan shijian 胡风反革命集团事件). In May 1955, Mao Zedong suddenly decided that the literary field arguments between Communist Party bureaucrats and the Hu Feng group had diverted to the political (class) struggle, and finally invoked police force. In relation to this, almost a hundred intellectuals were arrested and over two thousand were publicly criticized. Apart from Hu Feng, Ah Long was considered as one of three “big heads” of the “counter-revolutionaries” in the u Feng clique and was sentenced as a serious criminal. The third “head” was Jia Zhifang 贾直芳.
[3]. I interviewed Lu Yuan in February 1989 in Beijing, and the record of this interview was published in the monthly journal TOA (East Asia), no. 284 (February 1991). The report included information about Mei Zhi, Jia Zhifang, Lu Ling 路翎, Niu Han 牛汉, Chen Pei, and other participants in this tragedy.
[4]. Interestingly, some of these descriptions are quite similar to those of a Japanese novel entitled Natsu no hana 夏の花 夏天的花儿 (Summer flowers), which is Hara Tamiki 原民喜’s famous poetic novel dealing with the atomic bomb’s destruction of Hiroshima in 1945. Although it is impossible to find any influence or relation between these two shocking novels, I think the terrible and massive destruction of human life might make a similar impact in the minds of sensitive novelists, albeit in a different time and a different place. Hara finished the novel after the war under the complex situation of the US military occupation, and because of US regulations about information regarding the atomic bomb, there were some difficulties in this novel’s publication.
[5]. For a literary analysis of Ah Long’s Nanjing, refer to Yunzhong Shu, Buglers on the Home Front (Albany: SUNY Press, 2000), pp.73-79.
[6]. Mugi to Heitai by Ashihei Hino was published in the magazine Kaizou (Reform) in August 1938. This diary-style novel deals with the situation from the Xuzhou Bay landing operation to the offensive against Nanjing, and was highly received in wartime Tokyo. However, Hino was criticized for his obvious fascist attitude after the war.
[7]. Ikiteiru Heitai by Ishikawa Tatsuzo was published in the magazine Chuou Kouro (Central Opinion)in Tokyo, February 1938. On the same day of this publication, the Japanese military government decided to ban the magazine, because this novel described very clearly Japanese soldiers’ mental destruction of humanity and personality. It was eventually formally published in December 1945 by Kawade Shobo in Tokyo.
[8]. Hu Feng, “Hu Feng huiyilu” (Hu Feng memoirs). Xin wenxue shiliao 1 (1984). Reprinted in a book of the same title by Renmin wenxue chubanshe in 1993. See pp. 188-189 in the latter book for information about Ah Long’s Nanjing.
[9]. Geng Yong, Luo Luo, Lu Yuan, Chen Pei (comps.) “Ah Long nianbiao jianbian” 阿垅年表简编 (Brief chronological biography of Ah Long). Xin wenxue shiliao 2 (2001).
[10]. Mei Zhi, Hu Feng zhuan (Biography of Hu Feng) (Beijing: Shiyue wenyi, 1998). The novel Nanjing is discussed on p. 435.
[11]. Chongqing ribao she, Kangzhan shiqi de Chongqing xinwenjie 抗战时期的重庆新闻界 (The press in wartime Chongqing) (Chongqing: Chongqing chubanshe, 1995). For Saodang bao, see pp. 45-49; for more about the situation of the wartime press, see chapters 1, 3, and 4.
[12]. Wu Xiru’s memoirs are included in Xiaofeng, ed., Wo yu Hu Feng (Hu Feng and I) (Ningxia renmin, 1993), pp. 13-32.
[13]. For more information about the argument between Hu Feng and Guo Moruo, see Hu Feng’s anthology Minzu zhanzheng yu wenyi xingge (National war and the character of literature), published in March 1941. In this anthology, Guo Moruo’s article “Kangzhan yu wenhua yundong” 抗战与文化运动 (The war of resistance and the cultural movement) [originally published in the magazine Ziyou Zhongguo 自由中国 3 (1938)] is contrasted with Hu Feng’s essay “Yao puji ye yao tigao” 要普及也要提高 (We need to popularise as well as to raise standards) [originally published in the magazine Guomin gonglun 国民公论10 (1938)]. The argument about the problem of the (over)simplification of resistance literature.
[14]. For Hu Feng’s problems with Lukacs, see Yunzhong Shu, Buglers on the Home Front, pp.101-103.


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Denton, Kirk A. The Problematic of Self in Modern Chinese Literature: Hu Feng and Lu Ling. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998.
—–. “The Hu Feng Group: The Genealogy of a Literary School.” Urban Cultural Institutions of Early Twentieth Century China Symposium, The Ohio State University, 2002.
Geng Yong 耿庸. Weiwan de rensheng da zawen 未完的人生大杂文 (Long essays of an incomplete life). Shanghai: Yuandong 1996.
Hu Feng 胡风. Hu Feng pinglun ji 胡风评论集 (Hu Feng’s collected critical writings). 3 vols. Beijing: Renmin wenxue, 1984.
Li Hui 李辉. Hu Feng jituan yuanan shimo 胡风集团冤案始末 (The complete story of the unjust case of the Hu Feng clique). Beijing: Renmin ribao, 1989.
Lin Xianzhi 林贤治. “Hu Feng jituan an: Ershi shiji Zhongguo de zhengzhi shijian he jingshen shijian” 胡风集团案: 20世纪中国的政治事件和精神事件 (The case of the Hu Feng clique: a twentieth-century political and spiritual incident). Huanghe 1 (1998): 106-140
Lu Yuan. Cong yu mi 葱与蜜 (Scallions and honey). Beijing: Sanlian Shudian, 1985.
Mei Zhi, Hu Feng chenyuan lu 胡风沉冤录 (Record of the injustice suffered by Hu Feng). Beijing: Kexue, 1989. *Japanese Version, Ouji Kemuri no Gotoshi. Tr. Ken Sekine. Tokyo: Touhou Shoten, 1991.
Sekine, Ken. “Study on the Particularity of Ah Long in 1940’s China.” Nippon Chugoku Gakkai Ho (Bulletin of the Sinological Society of Japan). Tokyo, 1999.
Shu, Yunzhong. Buglers on the Home Front: The Wartime Practice of the Qiyue School. Albany: SUNY Press, 2000. .
Wan Tonglin 万同林. Xundaozhe: Hu Feng jiqi tongrenmen 殉道者-胡风及其同仁们  (Martyrs for a cause: Hu Feng and his colleagues). Jinan: Shandong 1998.
Wang Zengduo 王增铎. “Huan Ah Long yi zhengshi mianmu” 还阿垅以真实面目  (Looking at Ah Long directly in the face). Xin wenxue shiliao 2 (2001): 68-74.
Xiao Feng 晓风. “Danxin baihua tiegu zhengzheng” 丹心白花铁骨铮铮 (Red heart of a white flower and its strong spirit). Xin wenxue shiliao 2 (2001): 75-78.
Yan Jiayan 严家炎. Zhongguo xiandai siaoshuo liupai shi 中国现代小说流派史 (The history of schools of modern Chinese fiction). Beijing: Renmin wenxue, 1985.

About the Author
Ken Sekine is a professor of Chinese literature at Keio University, Japan. His research focuses on the literature of wartime China. He also has a lively interest in the media of the 1930’s. In addition to his translation of Ah Long’s novel Nanjing, Prof. Sekine has translated Ge Fei, Shi Tiesheng, and Hong Ying’s works into Japanese.