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.

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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!

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Publication Excerpt from Contemporary Taiwanese Women Writers

Stalling

The following is an excerpt from the introduction in Contemporary Taiwanese Women Writers, edited by Jonathan Stalling, Lin Tai-man, and Yanwing Leung.

A Pacific island of roughly 14,400 square miles, Taiwan lies just over a hundred miles off China’s southeast shoreline and seven hundred miles south of Japan. It has been a contested cultural space between its original aboriginal inhabitants (Taiyals and Vonums), and then among many generations of Chinese immigrants as well as waves of Dutch, Spanish, and Japanese colonial inhabitants, all of which provides the backdrop for some of the richest Sinophone literature in the world. 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.

With this first American anthology of contemporary Taiwanese women writers in decades, the editors hope to expose English readers to the widest possible range of voices, styles, and textures of contemporary Taiwanese writers. In Ping Lu’s “Wedding Date,” we meet a wheelchair-bound mother who seems to get younger by the day as her filial daughter prematurely ages. A talented writer in her youth, the protagonist’s imagination imbues a possible romance with an intimacy that seems so real it almost becomes so, despite piling signs to the contrary. In “The Story of Hsiao-Pi,” by Newman Prize–winning author Chu T’ien-wen, the narrator lovingly examines the life of a troubled village boy, who builds an unexpected future upon the fierce if complicated love of his mother and step-father. Then Taiwan itself becomes the protagonist in Tsai Su-fen’s “Taipei Train Station,” where the station serves as an aperture through which numerous lives pass, if only briefly, into view before emerging into the boundless possibilities of the city.

Chung Wenyin recalls her first steps into literature and love through her story “The Travels and Lover of a Junior High Girl,” an adventure that explores the evolving ideas of love and the eros of art, and the open-ended possibilities of life itself. After being told by an amateur psychic that her not-yet-conceived son is following her around, waiting for his time to enter the world, the narrator of Marula Liu’s story “Baby, My Dear” begins to search for his father. Su Wei-chen, however, enters the traumatic space of a mother losing her daughter to leukemia in “No Time to Grow Up,” asking if children who die so young have had enough time to even know they are alive. Yuan Chiung-chiung traces the dynamic and transformative process of divorce, reinvention, and love through the story “A Place of One’s Own,” while Liao Hui-ying opens a window into class identity, fate, motherhood, and, ultimately, love in the context of an arranged marriage in “Seed of the Rape Plant.” Li Ang offers a tale of Taiwanese oppositional politics, personal sacrifice, and unrequited love in “The Devil in a Chastity Belt.” Chen Jo-hsi draws the collection to a close with a poignant vignette exposing the point where international politics and the dinner table meet, somewhere between the imagination and anticipation and the machinations of political power in her story “The Fish.”

Read the rave reviews for Contemporary Taiwanese Women Writers, which is available for purchase directly from Cambria Press or on Amazon.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Pi-twan Huang
Introduction: From Taiwan: Some of the Richest Sinophone Literature by Jonathan Stalling
Chapter 1: Wedding Date by Ping Lu
Chapter 2: The Story of Hsiao-Pi by Chu T’ien-wen
Chapter 3: The Party Girl by Lin Tai-man
Chapter 4: Taipei Train Station by Tsai Su-fen
Chapter 5: The Travels and Lover of a Junior High Girl by Chung Wenyin
Chapter 6: Baby, My Dear by Marula Liu
Chapter 7: No Time to Grow Up by Su Wei-chen
Chapter 8: A Place of One’s Own Yuan by Chiung-chiung
Chapter 9: Seed of the Rape Plant by Liao Hui-ying
Chapter 10: The Devil in a Chastity Belt by Li Ang
Chapter 11: The Fish by Jo-hsi Chen
About the Editors

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Cambria Press Publication Review: Supernatural Sinophone Taiwan and Beyond

Congratulations to Professor Chia-rong Wu on the excellent review of his book, Supernatural Sinophone Taiwan and Beyond, in the journal Modern Chinese Literature and Culture (MCLC).

Sinophone

The review praises the book, noting that it is “a most welcome addition to the burgeoning field of Sinophone studies” and “makes important contributions to the field.” It further states that:

Through a meticulous delineation of the literary aesthetic trajectory, reformulation, and deformation of the zhiguai genre from traditional Chinese culture to modern and contemporary Sinophone Taiwan, Supernatural Sinophone Taiwan and Beyond succeeds in advancing the field of Sinophone studies in several critical directions. First, it demonstrates the spectral and supernatural genre’s stylistic diversification into the terrains of magical realism, nativism, and translocalism. Second, it reveals the complex histories and narratives of migration, displacement, and global diasporas in both contextual and textual literary production. Furthermore, the emphasis on the literary form and expressive potential of the supernatural and the strange reconfirms the critical value of literature itself, which Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak has called the value of ‘unverifiability.’ Finally, engaging with voices and figures that dwell in the shadows of mainstream historicism, nationalist historiography, China-centrism, and patriarchal violence, the book gestures alternatively toward the marginal, the feminist, the racially marked, and the queer. In so doing, Supernatural Sinophone Taiwan and Beyond charts a new direction at the intersections of Sinophone studies, Chinese literary studies, Taiwan studies, and gender studies.

Supernatural Sinophone Taiwan and Beyond is in the Cambria Sinophone World Series headed by Victor H. Mair (University of Pennsylvania).

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Cambria Press Publication Review: Central American Avant-Garde Narrative

Congratulations to Professor Adrian Kane on the excellent review of his book, Central American Avant-Garde Narrative: Literary Innovation and Cultural Change (1926–1936), in the journal Chasqui: revista de literatura latinoamericana.

Kane Book Cover

The review notes that:

While other studies have centered on poetry and manifestos, in Central American Avant-Garde Narrative Kane turns to the genre of narrative fiction to trace the ways in which authors from the isthmus use European techniques of literary experimentation in the 1920s and 1930s to renovate cultural traditions at home. Cosmopolitan authors such as Luis Cardoza y Aragón, Miguel Angel Asturias, and Flavio Herrera (from Guatemala), Max Jiménez (from Costa Rica), and Rogelio Sinán (from Panama) creatively incorporate regional elements within broader, international artistic concerns as they apply locally…

The book review also praises the book because it “fills gaps in the literary criticism of the region” and because ” it calls for a new approach to reading the works addressed and, at the same time, it provides a helpful review of particular strategies of innovation used in the avant-garde in general through the author’s close reading of the texts.”

Central American Avant-Garde Narrative is in the the Cambria Latin American Literatures and Cultures Series headed by Román de la Campa, the Edwin B. and Lenore R. Williams Professor of Romance Languages at the University of Pennsylvania.

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Cambria Press Author Jonathan Stalling – Speech at AAS 2018 Reception

Cambria Press author Professor Jonathan Stalling, Professor of English and Curator of the Chinese Literature Translation Archive at the University of Oklahoma, gave a speech about his book, Contemporary Taiwanese Women Writers: An Anthology, coedited with Lin Tai-man and Yanwing Leung, at the Cambria Press reception at the AAS 2018 conference in Washington, DC.

Watch Professor Jonathan Stalling’s speech and/or read the transcript below.

Cambria Press Publication Author Jonathan Stalling

 

“I’m going to jump right in about the two questions that are asked about the book. The first is how did this volume of short fiction by contemporary Taiwanese women come about? The longer version of the answer is that it starts about twelve years ago, in Arkansas. We’ll fast forward to a couple of decades. The next relevant bit would be working in Chinese Literature Today.  Over the process of six or seven years, I became more and more familiar, although I didn’t start out as a Taiwan scholar or editor. Gradually, I became more and more connected to the Taiwanese literary scene, with people like Li Yang, Zhu Tianwen, Yang Mu, and others. That eventually brought me to Taiwan for the first time to meet with the poet Ye Weilian and during that time, I toured a part of Taipei with him, and met some of the older generations of poets and the newer generations of poets as well. Second time I came around, I met with fiction writers, architects, and dancers, as well as entrepreneurs, archivists, scholars, critics, poets, and so on, and got a deeper and more textured sense of what was happening on the Taiwan scene. It was that time that I met Jack Kuei [the Director of Taiwan Academy at the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the U.S. (TECRO)] and we started thinking about what was in fact greatly missing and it was over two decades that there was an anthology of Taiwanese women writers in English. And that is really the point of genesis. And I did write this down as well, and that this volume would not be possible if the Taiwanese literary scene were not so vibrant and diverse and if this robust productivity were not curated by TaiPen over many decades starting in  1972. That repository of rich translated literary material by some of the very best translators in the Sinosphere and Englishspheres was really what made this volume possible.

Furthermore it would not be possible if it were not for the support of Jack Kuei, who has been a driving force behind this work and others. It would also not have been possible without my Co-editors Lin Tai-man, and Yanwing Leung, and finally Toni Tan, and her amazing editorial and marketing team at Cambria. Speaking here right now with all of you is simply another extension of the care and energy that goes into the Sinophone World Series.

The second question is what is your favorite story in the anthology? Each story is so different from the next as each takes the reader from the first page and pulls them through such fascinating narratives that we have little choice but to with the authors adolescence, marriage, motherhood, sex, politics and economics on so many different scales. —We are there in the snapshots of lives in transition, we are there as whole lives appear and disappear in time-lapse images across decades, and we are there while a few implode into the stillness of a single bottomless moment. That is all to say, I cannot answer this question with a single story when the entire, pointedly gendered exploration of modern Taiwan is such a compelling and timely collection.”

* * * * *

About the book

A Pacific island of roughly 14,400 square miles, Taiwan lies just over a hundred miles off the China’s southeast shoreline and seven hundred miles south of Japan. It has been a contested cultural space between its original aboriginal inhabitants (Taiyals and Vonums) and many generations of Chinese immigrants as well as waves of Dutch, Spanish, and Japanese colonial inhabitants. All of this provides the backdrop for some of the richest Sinophone literature in the world. Unfixed, vibrant, and deeply engaged with a sense of place, Taiwanese women 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.

With this first English-language anthology of contemporary Taiwanese women writers in decades, readers are finally provided with a window to the widest possible range of voices, styles, and textures of contemporary Taiwanese women writers. Each story unfolds and takes readers through fascinating narratives spanning adolescence, marriage, and motherhood as well as sex, politics and economics on many different scales—some appear as snapshots of lives in transition, others reveal whole lives as time-lapse images across decades, while a few implode into the stillness of a single bottomless moment. Individually each story expresses its own varied, expansively heterogeneous narrative; when read as a whole collection, readers will discover a pointedly gendered exploration of modern Taiwan.

Title: Contemporary Taiwanese Women Writers: An Anthology
Editors:  Jonathan Stalling, Lin Tai-man, and Yanwing Leung
Publisher: Cambria Press
ISBN: 9781604979558
226 pp.  |   2018   |   Paperback & E-book
Book Webpage: http://www.cambriapress.com/books/9781604979558.cfm

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