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The Other Kang Youwei

Calligrapher, Art Activist, and Aesthetic Reformer in Modern China


Aida Yuen Wong

The Other Kang Youwei is the first in-depth study of the art historical importance of Kang Youwei (1858-1927). The most prominent constitutional monarchist who served as Emperor Guangxu’s advisor during the Hundred Days Reform of 1898, he has been discussed in previous scholarship largely as a political figure. Less well known are his achievements in calligraphy and calligraphy theory (he wrote the most comprehensive and widely-read guide to the Stele School in his day), as well as his efforts in making art a powerful instrument for national transformation. He advocated East-West synthesis, especially the adoption of Renaissance plasticity and Song Dynasty-style verisimilitude. This book evaluates his extensive and controversial impact on pictorial realism in a variety of genres: human figures, horses, landscapes, and bird-and-flower subjects (the last developing in close step with Japanese trends). Besides providing an objective assessment of his legacy in the art world, The Other Kang Youwei offers a rare integrated treatment of Chinese calligraphy, painting, and art theory of the twentieth century.

Shan'ge, the 'Mountain Songs'

Love Songs in Ming China


Yasushi OKI and Paolo Santangelo

Mountain Songs is a collection of folk songs edited by the famous writer Feng Menglong (1574-1646). By this innovative work - mainly written in the Suzhou dialect - he aimed to revitalize poetry through the power of popular songs. This collection is very significant to the understanding of the characters of the mobile society of Jiangnan and the vitality of its intellectual world. The songs deal with the lives of common people: women, often prostitutes, boatmen, peasants, hunters, fishers and paddlers. Their spirit is far from the orthodox moral intents that Zhu Xi advocated for interpreting the Shijing, and their language is often vulgar and full of crude expressions or salacious double meanings and contains allusions to sexual and erotic behaviour.


Edited by Sarah Queen and Michael Puett

The Han dynasty Huainanzi is a compendium of knowledge covering every subject from self-cultivation, astronomy, and calendrics, to the arts of government. This edited volume follows a multi-disciplinary approach to explore how and why the Huainanzi was produced and how we should interpret the work. The volume should be of interest to scholars of early China, as well as scholars of textual production in other periods of Chinese history and in other cultures.
With contributions by Anne Behnke Kinney, Martin Kern, John S. Major, Andrew Meyer, Judson B. Murray, Michael Nylan, David W. Pankenier, Michael Puett, Sarah A. Queen, Harold D. Roth, and Griet Vankeerberghen.

Pi Kyunghoon

Throughout the history of modern and contemporary China, the concept of “science” maintains a crucial significance. Since the May Fourth period, “science” represented the advanced civilization and culture of the West. Because of its critical role, quarrels over the question of science were abundant in China in the years after the Cultural Revolution, notably in the “debates on humanism and science” (kexue lunzheng). Following that, scientific Marxism, which is based on natural dialectics, surpassed other discourses to become of dominated importance to the intellectual discourses of post-Mao China. Scientific Marxism was considered the highest form of truth in revolutionary China, when transcendental truth reigned supreme. Following the Cultural Revolution, intellectuals embracing scientific thought sought to locate “another science” with which to replace scientific Marxism. Addressing an understudied yet crucial aspect of 1980s intellectual history, this paper explores the central ideas and discourses of scientism in this historical moment, as well as the intellectuals who took part in its construction and controversy.

Luying Chen

This article analyzes scenes of media and redemption in Zhang Yimou’s 张艺谋 film Qianli zou danqi 千里走单骑 (Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles, 2005) as a critique of Romantic Orientalism. Whereas in Western Romantic poetry, the themes of retreating to nature and journeying abroad are strengthened by imagining the Orient and appropriating the local voice, Riding Alone negates that motif by depicting the divided subjectivities of Kenichi, a historian of Oriental Art at Tokyo University, and his failed redemption during his journey to China. The film offers his father Takata’s alternative journey, which involves the foreign traveler losing his subject position before asserting his own, leading to the revival of the Lord Guan story. Much of the historical myth-making of Lord Guan in Buddhist, Daoist, and Confucian religious practices involves a reinvention of a cultural tradition as a response to foreign threat; all share the features of what Prasenjit Duara calls “the apotheosization of a hero and his role as guardian” in a process of the “superscription of symbols.” By contrast, Riding Alone is secular and forward-thinking while reenacting several meanings of the Lord Guan myth such as repentance, sacrifice, redemption, and guardianship. The film interpolates the Japanese into a new “Oriental” subject position that has to lose its Western Orientalism as well as the negative impact of industrialism while retaining democratic subjectivity, and the Chinese into a new democratic subject position that maintains autonomy.

Myth Superscription in Zhang Yimou’s Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles

FAN Boqun

Haishang hua liezhuan is a distinctive marker of the transition from traditional to modern Chinese literature. No matter whether one looks at its choice of subject matter, character depiction, use of language, artistic technique, or even its publication channels, in every aspect this work’s originality shines through, illustrating how Chinese literature, even without the influence of foreign literary trends, also could walk the road towards modernization, because it possessed the innate dynamic towards it. The Haishang hua liezhuan is thus an excellent representative of popular fiction, one which—a quarter century before the emergence of the New Literature Movement—quietly ushered Chinese literature into modernity.

SHEN Jinhao

The cane is a frequent subject in Song Literature. Its tremendous variety is starting. Meanwhile, cane-related materials, costumes, circumstances and activities reflect distinct inclination, carrying rich cultural and aesthetic implications. From the “cane literature,” we see clearly the evolution of worldviews, values, aesthetic tastes and literary claims of Song writers, as well as the selective inheritance of Song culture from preceding literatures. It can be concluded that, in a certain sense, the cane of ancient Chinese writers embodies a history of literature, of aesthetic, and of philosophy.

Xiaoping Wang

Suzhou River, a 2000 film directed by Lou Ye, explores several tragic love stories set in Shanghai around the transitional period of 1980s and 1990s. Many critics have praised its technical excellence, yet generally they have not paid sufficient attention to its subject matter. This paper departs from previous interpretations of the film, which have tended to be premised on superficial readings of the plotline, and contends that the work constitutes a poignant socio-political critique, which is conveyed through the construction of differing love stories set against a changing socio-cultural landscape. The past and the present incarnations of the cardinal female protagonist—who can be understood as a symbol for the average Chinese (woman)—suggest the fact that the society has transformed dramatically across the three disparate eras of the past half a century; accordingly, the identity of the Chinese also shifts tremendously. In this way, Lou Ye in effect constructs a diachronic re-presentation of the changing social mores and varied cultural ethos in a synchronic structure, which is subject to be read as an ingenious historical allegory.

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.

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.