[R] Der-wei Wang - 1997 - Fin-de-siecle - Splendor - Repressed Modernities of Late Qing Fiction - 18 - Fin-de-siecle Splendor Repressed Modernities of

[R] Der-wei Wang - 1997 - Fin-de-siecle - Splendor - Repressed Modernities of Late Qing Fiction - 18

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Unformatted text preview: Fin-de-siecle Splendor Repressed Modernities of Late Qing Fiction, 1849-1911 David Der-wei Wang Stanford University Press Stanford, California © 1997 by the Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University Printed in the United States of America CIP data appear at the end of the book Publication of this book was underwritten in part by a grant for the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange. Acknowledgments I am most grateful to Professors C. T. Hsia and Leo Ou-fan Lee, who read the manuscript and contributed insightful suggestions. Special thanks should go to Professors Milena Dolezelova, Patrick Hanan, Rudolf Wagner, and Catherine Yeh for their support and ad­ vice. Among scholars in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and mainland China, I would like to single out Professors Ch'i Pang-yuan, David Pollard, Wang-chi Wong, Chen Pingyuan, Cheung Suk-heng, Li Hsiao-ti, Wang Xiaoming, Xia Xiaohong and Yang Yi for thanks. I particularly benefited from discussions with Professor Ko Ch'ing-ming. I must also express gratitude to Shannon Cannella, Chris Hill, Ann Huss, Jianmei Liu, Robin Visser, and John Weinstein, Ph.D. stu­ dents at Columbia University, for their research assistance and comments on chapters of the manuscript. John R. Ziemer of Stanford University Press was extremely help­ ful when the manuscript was being prepared for publication. The Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Pacific Cul­ tural Foundation generously sponsored the project at different stages. Portions of Chapter 2 appeared in The Paradoxes of Traditional Chinese Literature, ed. Eva Hung (Hong Kong: Chinese University of Hong Kong Press, 1994), pp. 231-56, under the title "Edifying De- v1 Acknowledg1nents pravity: Three Late Qing Courtesan Novels." A different version of Chapter 6 will appear in The Burdens of May Fourth, ed. Milena Dolezelova and Oldfich Kral (forthcoming), under the title, "Return to Go: Fictional Innovations in Late Qing and Late Twentieth­ Century Chinese Literature." D.W. Contents Introduction 1 Repressed Modernities 3 Justice Undone: Chivalric and Court-Case Fiction 5 Confused Horizons: Science Fantasy 2 Edifying Depravity: The Courtesan Novel 4 Abject Carnival: Grotesque Exposes 6 Return to Go: Contemporary Chinese Fiction and Its Late Qing Antecedents Notes Works Cited Character List Index 1 13 53 117 183 252 313 345 387 409 419 Fin-de-siecle Splendor Repressed Modernities of Late Qing Fiction, 1849-1911 Introduction This book assesses Chinese fiction from the Taiping Rebellion (1849) to the fall of the Qing dynasty (1911). The reigning paradigm of Chinese literature sees the May Fourth uprising-the famous 1919 declaration of a revolution in literature-as the beginning of the mod­ ern stage of Chinese literature. In the May Fourth paradigm, the final years of the Qing dynasty witnessed either the end of an old and moribund tradition or a �ition that contained early signs of West­ ern influence. In contrast,fthis book shows that signs of reform and in­ novation could be discerhed long before the May Fourth revolution and that the historical span of late Qing fiction must be expanded to include the second half of the nineteenth century. This book argues that these signs were part of a Chinese contribution to global moder­ nity predating the May Fourth perio but that these inventions were subsequently denied and repressed. 1 As China entered the arena of modern, international history in e-·iate Qing, it was already devel­ oping its own complex matrix of · i i nt modernities. By the time that China was recognized as an important part of modern civiliza­ tion, however, it had submitted to a monolithic discourse in which only Western theory and Western mode:rnities could be spoken. The last sixty years of the Qing witnessed a surge of writing, printing, and reading fiction in a multitude of ways unknown in pre­ vious ages that culminated at the turn of the century, the fin-de-siecle. Between the Hundred Days Reform (1898) and the fall of the Qing empire (1911), an estimated 2,000 or more works of fiction were writ- 2 Introduction ten and circulated in various forms. 1 Only half this number, a thou­ sand or so, have been recovered. These works can be assigned to a wide range of genres, from detective fiction to science fantasy, from erotic escapades to didactic utopias, and from chivalric cycles to revolutionary romances. But they are more notable for appropriating, mocking, mixing, and collapsing those genres. Conventional May Fourth wisdom singles out xin xiaoshuo, the new fiction-novels of political instruction and social commentary-as the sole late Qing contribution to literary modernization. But it is a rare piece of "new fiction" that is not seen as "uncontaminated" by less desirable genres; this is one way that the late Qing modernities survive in a repressed form. The rush to publish fiction signals a shake-up in cultural produc­ tion, one that was more diversified and radical than the standard ver­ sion of modern Chinese literary history might lead us to expect. Its promotion by the literary elite, on the grounds of didacticism, was only its most obvious cause. There were as well such phenomena as the public's insistent demand for new forms of entertainment, which set off a boom in commercial printing,2 readers' capacity to imagine fictive resolutions to historical problems, and writers' willingness to project utopian/ dystopian visions onto the future as much as onto the past. An array of imaginary realities arose that did not square with the new orthodox schemes for narrating modernity. By the last decade of the Qing, there were more than 170 presses,3 catering to a potential audience of two to four million readers. 4 Late Qing fiction was published through at least four channels: periodical newspapers, tabloids, fiction magazines, and books. Fiction became a feature of the new publishing medium, the newspaper, as early as the 1870's. The front pages of Slzenbao (1872-1949), one of the earliest Chi­ nese newspapers, often highlighted reports that combined journalistic reports and fictional imagination. The monthly literary supplement of Shenbao, Yinghuan suoji (Random sketches of the world), routinely printed narrative fiction side by side with other, more prestigious genres such as essays and poetry. 5 By 1892, fiction had become such a popular genre that it commanded a venue of its own. Under the aus­ pices of Hang Bangqing (1856-1894), himself an established novelist, Haishang qishu (Wonderbook of Shanghai) appeared as the first mod­ ern Chinese magazine devoted to fiction. 6 In the meantime, fiction also found new territory in tabloids dedicated to youxi (recreation) and xiaoxian (pastimes). Most of the 32 tabloids that have been identi- Introduction 3 fied, such as Zhinanbao (News about the pleasure quarters) and You­ xibao (News about recreation), carried fiction. Both Wu Jianren (18661910) and Li Boyuan (1867-1906), two of the most important late Qing writers, started their careers by serving as editors of and regular con­ tributors to these tabloids.7 In the wake of literati advocacy of fiction in the late 1890' s, more than 30 presses specialized in publishing fic­ tion, 8 and at least 21 literary periodicals appeared with the term xiaoshuo (fiction) as part of their titles. 9 The four most famous are Xin xiaoshuo (New fiction, 1902-6 ), Xiuxiang xiaoshuo (Illustrated fiction, 1903-6), Yueyue xiaoshuo (All-story monthly, 1906-8), and Xiaoshuolin (Fiction grove, 1907-8). 10 This was also the period in which Western fiction was introduced to China in various forms of translation. Based on the catalogue of late Qing fiction compiled by A Ying, one of the pioneers of late Qing fic­ tion studies, recent research has identified 479 original works and 628 translations. 11 Other scholars' estimates are close to this: 12 for exam­ ple, Chen Pingyuan' s recent statistics show that, between 1899 and 1911, 615 full-length foreign works were translated into Chinese; Ta­ rumoto Teruo, drawing on different data, concludes that at least 1,016 fiction translations appeared between 1840 and 1911. Charles Dickens and Alexandre Dumas fils, Victor Hugo and Leo Tolstoy, among oth­ ers, were warmly welcomed by readers, and works by A. Conan Doyle, H. Rider Haggard, and Jules Verne remained the top best­ sellers.13 The practice of translation at this time, however, was so loosely defined that it included paraphrasing, rewriting, truncating, and restyling. Some "translators" spoke no language but Chinese; they re­ lied on others for an ora!__translation, which they then rephrased in proper written Chinese. With Yan Fu (1853-1921), Liang Qichao (1873-1929), and Lin Shu (1852-1924) as their respective examples, Benjamin Schwartz, C. T. Hsia, and Leo Lee long ago noted that late Qing translators used translations to serve emotive and ideological goals inconceivable to the original authors and that these translators' witting and unwitting misinterpretations of the originals generated spontaneous alternative versions of th� modern.� As a form of human communication, translation is always already overdetermined by historical contingency.15 And late Qing translators played as free with the texts of the modern as late Qing novelists did with the texts of tra­ dition. But Chinese fictional renovation ---"-- was already under way when ---- 4 Introduction Western and Japanese texts began to appear in Chinese form. When Dangkouzhi (Quell the bandits, 1853) became the target of propaganda warfare during the Taiping Rebellion, alternately banned by the reb­ els and promoted by the Qing government, it was re-inducting the novel into the service of Chinese political warfare; when Pinhua bao­ jian (A precious mirror for judging flowers, 1849) brought the aes­ thetics of female impersonation to bear on heterosexual romantic con­ ventions, it was re-engendering Chinese sexual subjectivity. Parodic doubles of almost all major classic Chinese novels, from Shuihuzhuan (The water margin) to Hongloumeng (The story of the stone), appear at this time. The late Qing, as a fin-de-siecle period, is both decadent and de-cadent, engaged in cacophonous retuning of traditional harmo­ nies. Ages of decadence are known to be the inventive predecessors of the harmonious ages that follow, ages in which the discordant prac­ tices of the fin-de-siecle have become the familiar tunes of the present. Furthermore, the discovery and late Qing publication of two ec­ centric mid-Qing works, Shen Fu's (1762-after 1803) lyrical autobiog­ raphy Fusheng liuji (Six sketches from my floating life) and Zhang Nanzhuang's (nineteenth century) ghostly satire Hedian (What sort of book is this?), in 1877 and 1879, respectively, showed two further ways of narrating subjective and social realities.16 Hedian, in particu­ lar, distinguished itself by using dialect-in this case, the Wu dia­ lect-as part of its realistic effect. It flaunted the colloquial mannerism embedded in traditional vernacular fiction and anti�jpated the next generation's experiments with linguistic local color. 17·1By the time Yan Fu and Liang Qichao proposed reforms along the lines of Japanese and Western novels (in 1897 and 1898, respectively), Chinese fictional convention had shown every sign of disintegrating and reinventing itself. The advent of various foreign models compounded rather than initiated this complex phenomenon; it thrust the late Qing practice of fiction into the crosscultural and interlingual dialogue we know as modernity. In view of this phenomenal change, it is ironic that Chinese and Western scholars alike have paid so much less attention to the late Qing than to the May Fourth. For decades, the sprawling field of late Qing fiction has been seen as irrelevant, if not plainly inimical, to Chi­ nese literary modernization. Meanwhile, the May Fourth paradigm of fiction kept narrative practice within strict bounds, as succeeding writers more and more exhausted its possibilities. Introduction 5 This leads us to the issue of "repressed modernities," the major term in the subtitle of this book. By this, I am asking �hat makes late Qing fiction modern, as opposed to the discourse of the modern con­ structed by the May Fourth tradition? What has kept us from talking about these late Qing modernitiesf-Most important, what is the strate­ gic significance of stressing the modernities of late Qing fiction in an age whose prevailing disco1:1rse is one of post-modernity? To begin with, insofar as it self-consciously rewrote established canons and ordained conventions, late Qing fiction demonstrated a strong inclination to generate that which is noticeably original and dif­ ferent, thereby fulfilling a classic definition of the modern-to be new and innovative.:�:ln the numerous titles of fiction crowned by "new" or xin, from_�in_Shitouji (New Story of the__�ton_t:.1 1908) to �i11__ZhQ_ng _ guo weilaiji (The future of new China, 1902), one discerns a shared aspira­ tion among writers to pursue a narrative format different from that of their predecessors. To be sure, a consciously anti-traditionalist writer does not necessarily produce innovative works, and an apparently conservative writer may produce something radical. But, ideological affiliations notwithstanding)all these late Qing writers felt an urgency to reinv_�l!t the postures of rhetoric, to ��-� something recogniza­ bly new. One-may ask whether such a nascent drive toward rejuvenation within a literary tradition was not also characteristic of previous peri­ ods in Chinese civilization�,Witness, for example, the remarkable self­ renewal of late Ming literature, as established conventions were about to run out of energy. 19 To answer this question, I call attention to the historical context in which my inquiry is grounded. I see the late Qing as the beginning of the Chinese literary "modern" because writers' pursuit of novelty was no longer contained within indigenously de­ fined barriers but was inextricably affected by the multilingual, cross­ cultural trafficking of ideas, technologies, and powers in the wake of nineteenth-century Western expansionism. 20 The late Qing integration of non-Chinese elements into Chinese literary tradition is admittedly not unique. In the Six Dynasties and the Tang periods, Chinese culture undertook major importations of � foreign literary ideas, evinced in the contributions of Buddhist texts to Chinese narrative and mid-Asian lyrical forms to Chinese poetry. But late Qing novelties arose in response to Western provocations and Chinese restlessness during a time when Chinese culture was no longer historically isolated and indeed was becoming a part of "mod- 6 Introduction ern," international culture. Following the story line drawn by political scientists and (literary) historians, we can describe China's literary initiation into the modern as a history of inscribing, and being in­ scribed by, factors such as the call for constitutional democracy; the discovery of psychologized and gendered subjectivity; the industri­ alization of military, economic, and cultural production; the rise of an urban landscape; and, above all, the valorization of time as an evolu­ tionary sequence. These factors gained power first in Europe, after centuries of experimentation; 21 but as they were implemented in non­ Western civilizations such as China's, they acquired both global rele­ vance and local urgency. Modern Chinese literature is thus seen as de­ rived from the"discourse of deficit," 22 a discourse asserting that Chi­ nese literature could not accomplish the task of modernization with­ out borrowing Western cultural and literary capital. This scenario, though perhaps naming ,conditions that gave rise to modern Chinese literature, falls short of addressing the distinctive modernity that characterizes Chinese literature as such. Literary mod­ ernity may arise in response to political and technological moderniza­ tion, but it does not have to evoke any fixed order of causality as a re­ sult of such a response. 23 If, as in the classical definition of the mod­ ern-that which is new and different in the face of tradition- the modern is always associated with innovation, change, and the over­ coming of tradition, it cannot fully spell out its power without expos­ ing its chameleon nature, its continued resistance to the snares of codi­ fication under the aegis of History, or other linear narratives. 24 If Chinese literary modernity is seen only as a belated re-enactment of what already happened somewhere else, this modernity was new only to the Chinese, but not to those who had already experienced it. A corollary is that the Western appreciation of the Chinese modern should not be based merely on an effect of Orientalism. This effect blurs the line between exoticism and modern innovation, seeking novelty in that which is unfamiliar and therefore "new" only to for­ eign observers. 25 In this argument, I am not harkening back to idealist definitions of the modern or to playful deconstructions of them. I endorse the calls to historicize the polemic of modernity, which is what this book is trying to do. What puzzles me is that, gt the name of historicization, many discussions do not go far enough; Many would-be historical ac­ counts fail to articulate either the tortuous paths by which n1odernity has come about or the changing coordinates through which modern Introduction 7 history continually projects itself forward. They do not historicize the modern; rather, they place the modern (and themselves) at the end of a comfortable narrative of social progress and ultimate superiority. It is theses discussions, couched in the master narrative of a linear and pre­ conceived time, that mythify modernity, as a prerequisite to be ful­ filled by non-Europea� cultures that wish to catch up to History, en­ ticing yet ever evasive:_llence the ressentiment of those trapped in the ideology of "belated modernity." 26 I am proposing a view of (literary) history based on� more po-. lemical rethinking of evolutiom as already developed in some other fields of natural and social scie'1.ces. 27 I do not see literary moderniza­ tion, either at the global or the local level, as a singular, inevitable process, with each new stage leading toward a better and higher one in accordance with a certain timetable. Instead,fi see the advent of the modern at any given historical juncture as the �ffect of a fierce com­ petition of new possibilities, in which the result does not necessarily reflect the best possibility or even any one of the possibilities)Many innovations, whatever their capacity to generate more positive out­ comes, do not survive the contingency of time. Contingency is in­ voked here only as a thing unto itself, not as the "titration of determi­ nation by randomness." 28 I do not imply that literary modernization is senseless, shorn of any meaningful pattern. Each stage of renewal, such as that of the late Qing or the May Fourth reforms, proceeds for cause, and its result is explainable after the fact But no finale, I argue, can be predicted from the outset to confirm a singular path of evolu­ tion, and none would ever occur the second time in the same way, be­ cause any pathway to the realization of the modern proceeds though thousands of improbable and chaotic stages. "Alter any early event, ever so slightly and without apparent importance at the time, and evolution cascades into a radically different channel." 29 If one of the most precious lessons of twentieth-century moder­ nity is the value of opening traffic across cultural, temporal, and na­ tional boundaries, talk about the Chinese literary modern should not be limi...
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