Chinese Modern

The Heroic and the Quotidian

Chinese Modern

Post-Contemporary Interventions

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Book Pages: 402 Illustrations: 17 figures Published: April 2000

Author: Xiaobing Tang

Asian Studies > East Asia, Cultural Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism

Chinese Modern examines crucial episodes in the creation of Chinese modernity during the turbulent twentieth century. Analyzing a rich array of literary, visual, theatrical, and cinematic texts, Xiaobing Tang portrays the cultural transformation of China from the early 1900s through the founding of the People’s Republic, the installation of the socialist realist aesthetic, the collapse of the idea of utopia in the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution, and the gradual cannibalization of the socialist past by consumer culture at the century’s end. Throughout, he highlights the dynamic tension between everyday life and the heroic ideal.
Tang uncovers crucial clues to modern Chinese literary and cultural practices through readings of Wu Jianren’s 1906 novel The Sea of Regret and works by canonical writers Lu Xun, Ding Ling, and Ba Jin. For the midcentury, he broadens his investigation by considering theatrical, cinematic, and visual materials in addition to literary texts. His reading of the 1963 play The Young Generation reveals the anxiety and terror underlying the exhilarating new socialist life portrayed on the stage. This play, enormously influential when it first appeared, illustrates the utopian vision of China’s lyrical age and its underlying discontents—both of which are critical for understanding late-twentieth-century China. Tang closes with an examination of post–Cultural Revolution nostalgia for the passion of the lyrical age.
Throughout Chinese Modern Tang suggests a historical and imaginative affinity between apparently separate literatures and cultures. He thus illuminates not only Chinese modernity but also the condition of modernity as a whole, particularly in light of the postmodern recognition that the market and commodity culture are both angel and devil. This elegantly written volume will be invaluable to students of China, Asian studies, literary criticism, and cultural studies, as well as to readers who study modernity.


Chinese Modern is a broad-ranging book, sweeping grandly across the 20th century and examining a range of genre including fiction, film, drama, poster art, oil paintings and advertisements . . . . [E]njoyable and challenging in its scope and insights.” — Louise Edwards, The China Journal

Chinese Modern is both a noteworthy attempt to bring the experiences of Chinese modernity to bear on theoretical discourses of modernity and a dexterous use of western theories to illuminate the workings of modernity in Chinese literature and culture.” — Ming-Yan Lai , Modern Fiction Studies

“[A] very rich collection, covering a huge area of knowledge . . . . Chinese Modern pioneers the study of contemporary Chinese writers who have so far received little attention in the English-reading world, and opens up plenty of possibilities for future discussion and research.” — Michel Hockx , Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies

“Rich, imaginative and immensely useful for teaching courses . . . .” — Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

“Highlights of the book include the author’s original readings of Wu Jianren and Wang Anyi and often brilliant cultural historicizing. . . . A rewarding decode. . . .” — J. C. Kinkley , Choice

"Consistently thoughtful and lucid. . . . Chinese Modern constitutes an important contribution to the study of modernism in Chinese literature and culture. It effectively combines insightful close readings of a wide range of canonical and more ‘popular’ literary and cinematic works with an intelligent engagement with relevant theoretical paradigms." — Carlos Rojas , Journal of Asian Studies

“Containing a series of penetrating analyses of landmark cultural works from the entire course of the twentieth century, Chinese Modern represents the most comprehensive account of modern Chinese literature that has ever been published in English. Tang also illuminates—like no one has before—the various ways in which the looming imperative of modernity has left its image on the imagination of modern China.” — Theodore Huters, University of California at Los Angeles

“Read Chinese Modern for a journey through China's ‘long twentieth century.’ Xiaobing Tang as guide shows how imaginative sympathy for one's subject nourishes critical acuity.” — Norma Field, University of Chicago


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Xiaobing Tang is Associate Professor in Modern Chinese Literature at the University of Chicago.

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of Illustrations ix

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction 1

Part I 11

Part II 163

Afterword 341

Glossary 349

Selected Bibliography 357

Index 369

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2447-8 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2412-6
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