Jin Yong (1924–2018): Legend in Chinese Martial Arts Fiction and Modern Chinese Literary History

Today we mourn the passing of Jin Yong (Louis Cha) who was well loved for his wuxia novels, among his many other accomplishments.

Jin Yong

What made Jin Yong such a legend? As Ann Huss and Jianmei noted in The Jin Yong Phenomenon, “Jin Yong writes in what has been referred to by readers and critics as ‘the common language of Chinese around the world.’ [… and his]  writing has emerged as an interrogation of Chinese intellectuals’ project of modernity.”

In their seminal book, Huss and Liu argued that:

Most scholars of modern Chinese literature have studied Jin Yong’s novels within the boundaries of “martial art novels,” an approach which to a large degree has not only ignored the position of Jin Yong’s writing in the modern Chinese literary tradition, but also disregarded the impact of specific historical circumstances on the production of literary works. To remedy this weakness, our selection considers Jin Yong’s anti-Europeanized Chinese writings as works which efficiently rejuvenate long-neglected elements of the native literary tradition: huaben xiaoshuo, classical essay language, and the style of the Mandarin Duck and Butterfly School (Yuanyang hudie pai), all suppressed long ago by the New Literary Tradition. In addition to reclaiming the importance of Jin Yong’s language, our collection also engages Hong Kong, and the cultural and geopolitical space within which Jin Yong’s writings were produced from the 1950s through the 1970s. In this way, we go beyond the limits of literature, ushering the research of Jin Yong’s novels into the interdisciplinary world of political, social, cultural, and film studies.

They also add that:

the popularity of Jin Yong’s works offers us an opportunity to reconceptualize the relationship between high and popular culture, the canon and the uncanon, the modern and the traditional, the East and the West. A closer look at the wuxia project of this seasoned politician, businessman, and master of the literary jianghu will lead us toward a greater understanding of the complexity of the concepts of nation, globalization, and diaspora.

We are indebted to Jin Yong for what he has done for the Chinese literary world; his works will continue to, as Huss and Liu have noted, “lead us toward a greater understanding of the complexity of the concepts of nation, globalization, and diaspora.”

Jin Yong

The Jin Yong Phenomenon: Chinese Martial Arts Fiction and Modern Chinese Literary History, edited by Ann Huss and Jianmei Liu (Cambria Press, 2009)

This book is available in print and e-book editions.

Like Cambria Press on Facebook and
follow Cambria Press on Twitter to stay posted.

 

Advertisements

Celebrating Taiwan, home to some of the richest Sinophone literature in the world

Today on Taiwan’s National Day, we celebrate this important, vibrant island, which has given us—as Jonathan Stalling aptly puts it in Contemporary Taiwanese Women Writers—”some of the richest Sinophone literature in the world.” Stalling elaborates that “unfixed, vibrant, and deeply engaged with a sense of place, Taiwanese writers—from the experimental poetry pioneer Hsia Yu to younger multimedia poets like Ye Mimi to powerhouse authors like Li Ang and Chu T’ien-wen—are continually pushing the boundaries of the possible and unlocking new directions for Sinophone literature in the twenty-first century.”

Stalling

Taiwan’s literary history is just as unique, as seen in Chia-rong Wu’s fascinating study, Supernatural Sinophone Taiwan and Beyond, which explores “the discourse of the supernatural and beyond in response to the historical overview of Sinophone Taiwan.” Wu explores the zhiguai 志怪 genre and shows us how “ghost haunting may be allegorically associated with the historical, political, cultural, and even sexual dimensions of the world of the living.”

Supernatural Sinophone Taiwan

In showcasing the world of the living in Taiwan, Hou Hsiao-hsien is “considered by many cinema aficionados to be one of the most innovative, provocative, and enthralling directors,” as Christopher Lupke notes in The Sinophone Cinema of Hou Hsiao-hsien and further remarks that “linguistically and culturally speaking Hou Hsiao-hsien necessarily dwells in contested terrain, in the political penumbra between state and region, between national culture and transnational identity.”

Hou Hsiao-hsien

Supernatural Sinophone Taiwan and Beyond and The Sinophone Cinema of Hou Hsiao-hsien are part of the Cambria Sinophone World Series, headed by Professor Victor Mair (University of Pennsylvania).

Like Cambria Press on Facebook and
follow Cambria Press on Twitter to stay posted.

Cambria Press Publication Review: The Borderlands of Asia

Congratulations to Professor Mark Bender (The Ohio State University) on the outstanding review of his book, The Borderlands of Asia: Culture, Place, Poetry, in the journal Modern Chinese Literature and Culture (MCLC).

Sinophone

The review states:

In translating these poems into English, the global ‘language of interaction’ (p. xxi), the voices of poets from the borderlands of Asia can be heard by a wider audience. Bender’s informative introduction gives his readers a broad context for understanding the complicated histories and cultures of the areas and the poets included in the volume. ….

In addition to highlighting the ecocritical aspects of the poems in the volume (p. 14), Bender’s introduction contributes to a growing awareness of the peoples and cultures of Zomia and Sinophone communities of the margins. People transform space into place through the process of inhabiting an environment; the cultural adaptability and knowledge they obtain through human interactions help them shape and conceptualize that environment. The different conceptualizations of place in this collection are associated with various histories and ethnic identities. …

In the borderlands of Asia, people suffer from war, economic inequality, and environmental degradation because of modern development and nation-state building. In this collection of poems, we also encounter the anxiety, rage, and trauma felt by the poets and their peoples as they confront the daunting challenges of the nation-state system, modernity, globalization, and the Anthropocene. …

The editor has done impressive work to offer background knowledge for understanding most of the poems, especially the ones from Southwest China. …

Taken together, this work is a timely publication in dialogue with many scholarly trends, including the Sinophone, Zomia, and the Anthropocene, as understood through the medium of poetry. Although the contributors of this collection hail from a variety of nationalities and cultures, they share common difficulties and concerns in their lives. This volume is a crucial contribution to the fields of literary anthropology, literary studies, and Asian studies and is destined to become required reading for students in anthropology and comparative literature.

The Borderlands of Asia is part of the Cambria Sinophone World Series, headed by Victor Mair (University of Pennsylvania).

Like Cambria Press on Facebook and
follow Cambria Press on Twitter to stay posted.

 

 

Cambria Press Author Interview with Professor Christopher Rea

Before Crazy Rich Asians, there were the Chinese celebrities in the 1930’s. In his latest book Imperfect Understanding: Intimate Portraits of Modern Chinese Celebrities, Professor Christopher Rea (University of British Columbia) takes us into the world of Chinese elites and what they had to say about each other. Louise Edwards, Scientia Professor and Deputy Head of the School of Humanities and Languages at the University of New South Wales, hails Professor Rea’s latest book as “satirical, witty, and compulsive reading.”

So, what did it mean to be a celebrity in modern China? In Imperfect Understanding: Intimate Portraits of Modern Chinese Celebrities, Christopher Rea presents fifty brilliant pen sketches of Chinese cultural and political elites, written and edited in 1934 by Wen Yuan-ning, a Cambridge-educated ethnic Hakka from Indonesia and a master literary stylist. In this interview, Christopher Rea discusses what Imperfect Understanding reveals about the politics fame in China, then and now.

Cambria Press Publication Author Christopher Rea

Question: Professor Theodore Huters (UCLA) has called this collection “an extraordinary artifact of Chinese literary and social history.” Could you please elaborate on this and why it was so important for you to edit this book?

Christopher Rea: I got the idea for Imperfect Understanding: Intimate Portraits of Modern Chinese Celebrities while doing a postdoctoral fellowship at the Australian Centre on China in the World at the Australian National University in 2012. Geremie Barmé, the Director of the Centre, invited me to co-guest edit with William Sima a double issue of the e-journal China Heritage Quarterly focused on the Chinese-edited English-language weekly The China Critic, which was founded in Shanghai in 1928. In the pages of the Critic I discovered a column of “Unedited Biographies” of Chinese celebrities, which I found to be often brilliant and consistently entertaining, even when I didn’t know much about the person being profiled. The editor of the column, Wen Yuan-ning, was a favorite professor of Qian Zhongshu’s, a writer whom I’m keenly interested in. I discovered that Wen not only edited fifty celebrity profiles for the Critic in 1934, but that he also released a book of seventeen of them under his own name in 1935 as Imperfect Understanding. His takes on Hu Shi, Xu Zhimo, Zhou Zuoren, Liang Yuchun, Wellington Koo, Gu Hongming and other cultural celebrities are insightful, funny, and often mischievous. In many cases, Wen knew them personally and would try to reconcile their personalities with their reputations. His instinct was to deflate the puffed-up biographies found in books like Who’s Who in China, and the results are refreshing.

As I read more of the essays and started researching the individuals involved, it became clear to me that Wen Yuan-ning is a literary voice who deserves to be rediscovered. His influence on the satirical style of Qian Zhongshu is unmistakable and his essays make good reading in their own right. Like many members of his generation, Wen’s literary career was cut short by war and politics—but in his case it likely had more to do with being elected to China’s legislature and later being appointed Ambassador to Greece. But what he left behind is treasure trove for the essay lover and the historian.

Q: What do you hope readers will take away from your book?
CR: For starters, I hope that they enjoy discovering Wen Yuan-ning’s writings as much as I did. Imperfect Understanding contains much good humor, well-turned wit, and judicious character appraisal, along with flights of arch mockery, physiognomic satire, and poetry. Some pieces are quite touching. I hope that readers enjoy the results of some literary sleuthing that went into this book. For example, one of the best sources on Wen turned out to be writings by the New Yorker journalist Emily Hahn, who worked with him in Shanghai in the 1930s. One essay, the one on George T. Yeh (Ye Gongchao), I figured out was almost certainly written by Qian Zhongshu. I discovered that many of the essays—which were originally written in English—were translated and retranslated into Chinese many times in the 1930s and 1940s. And, as a literary historian, I learned quite a bit about celebrities outside my field, including plague fighters of Manchuria, Manila businessmen, university presidents from Singapore, rubber tycoons, diplomats, physicists, philanthropists, and musicians. Just the selection of persons profiled—the mix of professions, of male and female, living and dead—provides ample material for thinking about the politics of celebrity in in China’s age of print, and in its publishing center of Shanghai. Who was included or excluded from the list, and why? I also hope that this book inspires greater appreciation of how multilingualism has been a part of China’s literary sphere. Apart from some material in the appendices, this book is not a translation; Wen and his co-authors wrote in English. Finally, I hope that readers find useful all of the photographs, summary biographies, and bibliographic material about Wen Yuan-ning and his peers at the back of the book.

Q: What other research do you believe is needed on this topic?

CR: There’s plenty more research to be done on Wen Yuan-ning, besides the material I was able to get from Cambridge, Stanford, Taipei, and a few other places. Next steps might include tracking down his personal papers and archives in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Taiwan. Wen is just one of many talented writers of modern China who could write in English or another language besides Chinese, and much more work is needed to elucidate the multilingual dimension of modern Chinese literary history. We need more treasure-hunters in the archives, as many literary gems remain hiding in old magazines and journals, waiting to be rediscovered. The politics of fame has had a tremendous impact on modern Chinese culture, before and after the extraordinary example of Mao Zedong. Celebrities abound in contemporary China, for example, and our tendency is to interpret them based on the archetypes we’re most familiar with. Yet it’s clear, even before factoring in the latest digital twist, that not all of them fit the mold. Insofar as celebrity is a function of things like money, status, power, time, and attention, its configurations in Chinese contexts deserve our attention too.

Imperfect Understanding: Intimate Portraits of Chinese Celebrities is part of the Cambria Sinophone World Series, headed by Professor Victor Mair (University of Pennsylvania).

About Christopher Rea

Christopher Rea is an associate professor of Asian studies at the University of British Columbia. He holds an MA and PhD from Columbia University and a BA from Dartmouth College. His previous books include The Book of Swindles: Selections from a Late Ming Collection (cotranslated with Bruce Rusk), China’s Literary Cosmopolitans: Qian Zhongshu, Yang Jiang, and the World of Letters, and The Age of Irreverence: A New History of Laughter in China, which the Association for Asian Studies awarded the Joseph Levenson Book Prize (post-1900 China) in 2017.

About Wen Yuan-Ning

Wen Yuan-ning (1900–1984), also known as Oon Guan Neng, was born into a Hakka family on the island of Banka, and educated in Singapore, London, and King’s College, Cambridge. He taught English literature at universities in Peking, including Tsinghua University, and served as chair of the Department of Foreign Languages of Peking University. He subsequently became a contributing editor of the English-language weekly The China Critic (1928–1940, 1946) and editor-in-chief of T’ien Hsia Monthly (1935–1941), releasing his essay collection Imperfect Understanding in 1935. He was made a member of the Legislative Yuan in 1933 and in 1947 became China’s Ambassador to Greece, a position he held for twenty years. In retirement, he taught English literature at Chinese Culture University in Taipei.

 

 

Cambria Press Book Launch at iPreciation with Mabel Lee, Shen Jiawei, and Victor Mair

The Cambria Press double book launch at iPreciation on July 14, 2018,  was a great success! The audience was treated not only to fascinating talks by celebrity artist Shen Jiawei and Professor Mabel Lee about their  books Painting History: China’s Revolution in a Global Context and Gao Xingjian and Transmedia Aesthetics  but also the introductory speech by distinguished guest of honor Professor Victor Mair and an impromptu speech by another eminent guest Professor Wang Gungwu. In addition, attendees were able to view the paintings of another Cambria author Nobel laureate Gao Xingjian, who has his major paintings held at iPreciation.

Cambria Press iPreciation book launch

Cambria Press book launch at iPreciation (Singapore)

Cambria Press iPreciation Mabel Lee Toni Tan Helina Chan Wang Gungwu Victor Mair Shen Jiawei

Cambria Press book launch at iPreciation (left to right): Mabel Lee, Toni Tan, Helina Chan, Wang Gungwu, Victor Mair, and Shen Jiawei

Cambria Press iPreciation Shen Jiawei Victor Mair books

Cambria Press iPreciation Shen Jiawei Victor Mair with books–Gao Xingjian and Transmedia Aesthetics, Painting History: China’s Revolution in a Global Context, and Texts and Transformations: Essays in Honor of the 75th Birthday of Victor H. Mair 

Cambria Press iPreciation Mabel Lee Victor Mair

Cambria Press book launch at iPreciation: In addition to discussing her two books, Mabel Lee also introduced another book she was involved in-Texts and Transformations: Essays in Honor of the 75th Birthday of Victor H. Mair edited by Haun Saussy

Cambria Press iPreciation Shen Jiawei book signing

Cambria Press book launch at iPreciation: Shen Jiawei signing copies of Painting History

Cambria Press iPreciation book signing Victor Mair Shen Jiawei

Cambria Press book launch at iPreciation: Victor Mair signing copies of Texts and Transformations, and Shen Jiawei signing copies of Painting History

Cambria Press iPreciation Victor Mair signing

Cambria Press book launch at iPreciation: Victor Mair signing copies of Texts and Transformations

Cambria Press authors with books Mabel Lee Victor Mair Shen Jiawei

Cambria Press authors with their books: Mabel Lee, Victor Mair, and Shen Jiawei with Shen Jiawei’s painting of Chin Peng

More photos and a video will be posted soon, so stayed tuned!

Like Cambria Press on Facebook and
follow Cambria Press on Twitter to stay posted.

Meet Mabel Lee, Shen Jiawei, and Victor Mair at the double book launch

Victor Mair Mabel Lee Shen Jiawei

The double book launch for Mabel Lee and Shen Jiawei just got even more exciting! Attendees will also get to meet world-renowned Sinologist Victor H. Mair (University of Pennsylvania), general editor of the Cambria Sinophone World Series. Register now for the event!

The double book launch for Painting History: China’s Revolution in a Global Context
and Gao Xingjian and Transmedia Aesthetics will be held on July 14, 2018 (Saturday) at 2–5 p.m. at iPreciation, Singapore’s premier gallery that showcases the best of modern and contemporary Asian Art, including the works of Nobel laureate Gao Xingjian.

Celebrity Artist Shen Jiawei is not only known for his commissioned portraits of dignitaries such as Pope Francis, Princess Mary of Denmark, and Australian Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove but also his famous history paintings, which are held at the National Museum, Art Museum, and Military Museum in Beijing, as well as in public and private collections around the world. Mr Shen’s unique experiences and innovative techniques are documented in his new book Painting History: China’s Revolution in a Global Context (edited by Dr. Mabel Lee), which he will discuss at the event.

Dr. Mabel Lee is an honorary professor at the Open University of Hong Kong and an adjunct professor at the University of Sydney, where she taught 20th-century Chinese history and literature for more than 30 years. She is best known for her translations of Gao Xingjian’s writings, including his eponymous book Gao Xingjian: Aesthetics and Creation (Cambria Press, 2012). Dr Lee will also be speaking about her latest book Gao Xingjian and Transmedia Aesthetics, coedited with Dr Liu Jianmei, a professor at Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Both Gao Xingjian and Transmedia Aesthetics  and Gao Xingjian: Aesthetics and Creation are in the Cambria Sinophone World Series, headed by Professor Victor Mair (University of Pennsylvania).

Painting History and Gao Xingjian and Transmedia Aesthetics were published in March 2018  and made their debut at the Association of Asian Studies conference in Washington, DC.

Books will be available for purchase at the event during the book signing.

To register for the event or to receive more information about the book launch, please contact either Cambria Press at bgoodman<AT>cambriapress.com, or iPreciation at  enquiry<AT>ipreciation.com or +65 6339 0678.

Cambria Press thanks iPreciation for being the venue sponsor for this event.

Like Cambria Press on Facebook and
follow Cambria Press on Twitter to stay posted.

Cambria Press Publication Review: The Borderlands of Asia

inter-Asia

Congratulations to Professor Mark Bender on the outstanding review of his book, The Borderlands of Asia: Culture, Place, Poetry, in China Review International, which notes:

With poems from established and upcoming authors and a thematic focus on poetic expressions of place and ‘place-competence,’ the collection includes voices from northeast India, Myanmar, Mongolia, and some of the borderland regions of China: the southwestern provinces, Qinghai, Gansu, and Inner Mongolia. Bender’s detailed Introduction provides historical background on the political situation and the situation of poetry in each of the regions from which poems are included. … If anything unites borderlands within Asia, it may be these themes of rootedness interacting with environmental and political-economic precarity. These incisive poems bring the concerns of these poets and their regions to us with clarity and feeling. … This volume will be appreciated by scholars of border regions within Asia, indigenous and minzu studies, translation, and all who appreciate taking a closer look at the senses of place conveyed in these poems. It may be especially valuable for those wishing to bring a contemporary humanities perspective to courses on inter-Asian connections. And, perhaps most importantly, these translations bring the poets’ unique voices and collective concerns to a wider readership, drawing our attention to the timely relevance of their perspectives on our changing world.

Mark Bender is a professor of Chinese literature and folklore at The Ohio State University.

This book is in the Cambria Sinophone World Series headed by Victor H. Mair (University of Pennsylvania).

Like Cambria Press on Facebook and
follow Cambria Press on Twitter to stay posted.