This article is set against the post-Mao official discourse on modernity, in which the conceptualization of a homogeneous, progressive time dominates the public consciousness. The focus is on Han Shaogong, one of the most important writers and cultural theorists in contemporary China, and on how he imagines a heterogeneous spatiotemporality away from the centralized and teleological paradigm. Han’s emphasis on the heterogeneity of time and space puts the homogenized, Hegelian-Marxist, developmentalist logic at the core of China’s modernization project into question. The article begins by examining how the linear and evolutionary concept of time has determined the perception of history and reality in modern China. It then moves to an exegesis of Han’s famous literary treatise “The Roots of Literature,” illustrating how Han’s insistence on tracing multiple roots rather than one singular Root challenges the monocultural, essentialized notion of Chineseness that prevails hegemonically in the discussion of Chinese modernity. The last section analyzes Han’s “Homecoming,” a story centered on an educated youth’s compulsive return to the village where he was rusticated. Moving beyond the conventional interpretation of identity crisis, the present study illuminates a different sense of time toward which Han gestures—a multi-directional and displaced temporality, to which the unconscious and the repressed both claim access.
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FeuerwerkerYi-tsi Mei“The Post-Modern ‘Search for Roots’ in Han Shaogong, Mo Yan, and Wang Anyi.”Ideology Power Text: Self-representation and the Peasant
“Other” in Modern Chinese Literature1998Stanford, CA.Stanford University Press188237
LauJosephWidmerEllenDer-wei WangDavid“Visitation of the Past in Han Shaogong’s Post-1985 fiction.”From May Fourth to June Fourth: Fiction and Film in Twentieth-Century China1993Cambridge, MAHarvard University Press1942
StuckeyG. Andrew“The Lyrical and the Local: Sheng Congwen, Roots, and Temporality in the Lyrical Tradition.”Old Stories Retold: Narrative and Vanishing Pasts in Modern China2010Lanham, MDLexington Books8398
Deng Xiaoping“Emancipate the Mind, Seek Truth from Facts, Unite as One, and Look Forward,” in The Search for Modern China: A Documentary Collectioned. Pei-kai Cheng Michael Lestz and Jonathan Spencer (New York: W.W. Norton and Company1999) 451.
Joseph Lau“Visitation of the Past in Han Shaogong’s Post-1985 fiction,” in From May Fourth to June Fourth: Fiction and Film in Twentieth-Century Chinaed. Ellen Widmer and David Der-wei Wang (Cambridge ma: Harvard University Press 1993) 25.
In2000Han Shaogong after twenty odd years of habitation in the cities chose to resettle in the rural village where he had been rusticated. According to him living a simple life like a farmer “can help me reflect on modern civilization.” See Han Shaogong “Literature: Dream and Awakening” in Xiaoti Dazuo (Contemplation on trivial matters) (Beijing: Renmin wenxue chubanshe 2008) 79.
Jing WangHigh Culture Fever: Politics Aesthetics and Ideology in Deng’s China (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press1996) 214.
Yi-tsi Mei Feuerwerker“The Post-Modern ‘Search for Roots’ in Han Shaogong, Mo Yan, and Wang Anyi,” in Ideology Power Text: Self-representation and the Peasant “Other” in Modern Chinese Literature(Stanford CA: Stanford University Press 1998) 210.