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Tsung-Cheng Lin


Chen Sanli broke the conventional stereotypes, regulations and structural limitations of past poetry to create innovations in poetic form, as well as adopting a variety of writing devices such as the transformed metaphors and the abstruse diction. Within these invented poetic forms, converted metaphors and recondite diction, Chen Sanli experiments with new subject matters which were unprecedented in poetry before his time, and convey his psychological reactions such as oppression, anxiety, helplessness, fear, despair, and confusion toward the change and upheaval. All the poetic forms, metaphors, linguistic devices and emotions in Chen’s verse have a great impact on modern Chinese literature. This paper aims to examine how Chen’s verse promoted classical Chinese poetic tradition but also contributed to the transition from traditional to modern literature.

Editors Frontiers of Literary Studies in China

Richard John Lynn


Huang Zunxian, member of the staff of the Qing legation in Tokyo (1877–82), became acquainted with prominent Japanese literati (bunjin). His experiences provide a window of information and insight into the cultural atmosphere of early Meiji Japan and the attitude of progressive and Chinese intellectuals then resident there. With the skills of a literatus, Huang had access to the modes of discourse and thought of his hosts, so formed discriminating views of almost all aspects of Japanese life in an era of change. His experience is captured in some 200 quatrains in the two editions of his Riben zashi shi (Poems on miscellaneous subjects from Japan, 1879 and 1890), whose contents overlap to include different poems and different versions of same poems. The poems were intended to have more than literary impact—to enlighten those in power in China by casting Japan in a positive light and promote Japan as a model for reform and modernization. Huang linked Japanese tradition with the Chinese, which he did in poems emphasizing their common high culture. The scope of the poems is quite broad: Japanese history and geography, Sino-Japanese cultural relations, Chinese culture in Japan, poetry (kanshi) and prose (kanbun), painting and calligraphy, Confucianism and Buddhism, the Meiji Restoration and modernization, new political and social institutions, the Diet, local government, political parties, museums, taxation, education reform, women’s education. Many subjects were unknown to earlier tradition but now topical and urgent as China began to shed old ways and embrace the new.

Nanxiu Qian


The late Qing woman poet Shen Queying (1877–1900) had lived in the shadow of her husband, the reform martyr Lin Xu (1875–98). This paper subverts the conventional portrayal of Shen Queying as a chaste widow through reading her poems and song-lyrics in comparison with the poetic works of Lin Xu, to show that she herself was a reformer in her own right, and in this she was Lin Xu’s vocal soul-mate rather than his mute wife and then widow. In her poems and song-lyrics, Shen Queying made clear that she had endeavored in poetic learning for expressing “the grand ambition of a racing steed,” and her poetry sent unmistakable message to become a political player herself in China’s reform era, fighting for the welfare of the country and the people. For some subtle reasons, however, she was not able to fulfill this ambition by personally participating in the reform activities. Frustrated, she resolved to be a supporter and protector of her husband. Precisely because Shen Queying had put so much of her reform ideal into her husband’s career, the execution of Lin Xu fell on her as a double blow. Her pining away to death, although conforming to a seemingly late imperial lienü model, transcends this traditional image and bears a clear mark of the reform era, when a woman tied her personal life closely to the destiny of the country and the people.

Translator Wang Anyi and Todd Foley