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Rabindranath Tagore's visit to China in 1924 was a milestone in the May Fourth Movement's envisioning of modern literature as a vehicle for social transformation. Moving beyond interpretations of the visit as a political failure, this article locates the reception of Tagore's ideal of Eastern spirituality within the larger climate of literary production, specifically in new poetry. Through close reading of poems by Xu Zhimo and Bing Xin, this article argues that Tagore's ideas were fundamental for the development of poetry as an interpersonal medium that both portrays and effects social bonds. This understanding developed as Chinese poets and literary critics engaged with Tagore's critique of Western materialism and his positioning of Asian religious sensibilities in contrast to Western materialism. Tagore's view promoted literature as a medium connecting religion, the individual, and the universe. In this sense, though Tagore's pan-Asianism failed as a viable political project, it carried powerful resonance in the arena of modern Chinese literature.
The Great Shun once said, “Poetry bespeaks the emotion.” As Ezra Pound puts it, “Poetry is a verbal statement of emotional values; a poem is an emotional value verbally stated.” From the earliest anonymous composer to Mao Tse-tung, we observe in the outpourings of the poet's heart his innermost feelings and the shape of things in the offing. In the Ch'un-ch'iu period (722–484 B.C.) poetry was not only composed to voice the poet's emotion, but also quoted to the accompaniment of music on diplomatic missions to exchange views between states without causing affront or embarrassment, a fact which underlies the “moderation and magnanimity” characteristic of Chinese poetical tradition.
Through a study of the corpus of contemporary literary depictions of the early medieval/medieval king of Bengal, Lakṣmaṇasena, in the works of the royal literary salon, this essay defines a cluster of poetic elements inseparable from the monarch. It suggests that this official poetic projects its proximity to the contemporary Turkish invasion (ca. 1205 ce), and the attendant crisis and restructuring of the Sena state. Some idiosyncratic poems, however, evince a historical dynamic that is both distinct and inseparable from the official poetic: the proud assertion of a Sanskrit literary provincialism in the context of a shrinking and threatened state. By correlating a pattern of poetic representation with a discrete period and locality, the present inquiry brings into focus the mutually constitutive relationship between literary interpretation and political historical interpretation for the study of early South Asia. And by tracing what was relatively peculiar and singular to this literary world, it strives to erode established scholarly visions of the endless uniformity of premodern literary-political life.
Since 2003, the dispute over the history of the ancient kingdom of Koguryŏ (37 bce, trad.-668 ce), located in Manchuria and northern Korea, has been one of the hottest issues between China and Korea. The debate seems to have fueled a new nationalistic or Sinocentric historiography of the ancient Chinese northeast. A ninth century BCE poem called “Hanyi” in the Classic of Poetry [Shijing] has been the cause of a far older history dispute. Whereas Chinese scholars have generally understood Han as a Zhou feudal state ruled by a Ji-surnamed scion of the Zhou Dynasty (1045–256 bce), most Korean scholars have linked the polity with Old Chosŏn (n.d.-108 bce), the earliest known state in Korean history. However, by comparing the “Hanyi” with several bronze inscriptions with similar contents, this study seeks to re-read the “Hanyi” from a perspective that transcends the dichotomy of Chinese history versus Korean history.
The scholarly narrative of spoken Chinese studies in Tokugawa Japan is dominated by Ogyū Sorai, who founded a translation society in 1711 and urged Japanese intellectuals to learn contemporary spoken Chinese in order to draw closer to the language of the Chinese classics. This article explores the decades prior to this, when Sorai served the powerful daimyo Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu. By investigating Yoshiyasu's contact with Chinese monks and the surprising but previously untested claim that he could understand spoken Chinese, I explore the cultivation of spoken Chinese learning and the patronage of Chinese émigrés by members of Japan’s warrior elite in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. Prior to the scholarly interest in vernacular Chinese and the popularity of Ming and Qing literature in Japan from the Kyōhō period (1716–35) onwards, Chinese orality served as a tangible link to the Chinese tradition for Yoshiyasu and other powerful daimyo, functioning as a sign of their fitness for power in East Asia.
This article examines the strategy of literary spatialization employed by colonial subjects to imaginatively engage with colonial civilizing projects. It analyzes twelve adventure stories written between the 1910s and 1920s by colonial Vietnamese reformed scholars, whose lives were impacted by the pan-Asian reform movements that swept Japan, China, and Vietnam between the 1860s and 1900s. They reflected their experiences with Enlightened civilization as they were pushing for vernacularization and modernization through translating the Chinese transculturation of Japanese texts into Latin-based quốc ngữ script while constructing a national literature. Adventure tales and travelogues were considered suitable for aspiring writers to translatively imitate Western literature as presented in Chinese translation of Japanese texts. The authors negotiated with the French version of Enlightened Civilization by employing two East Asian literary tropes: the dangerous but exciting Rivers-and-Lakes World, where the protagonist ventures to search for văn minh, and the peaceful and other-worldly Peach Blossom Spring utopia, where the true qualities of văn minh are realized. These stories reveal colonial subjects’ admiration for and anxiety regarding the French mission civilisatrice, and their literary efforts to imagine a Vietnamese văn minh that would both impress and surpass the original models.