Academic journal article Journal of Modern Literature in Chinese

A Critical Review of Japanese Scholarship on Modern Chinese Fiction and Translation Studies

Academic journal article Journal of Modern Literature in Chinese

A Critical Review of Japanese Scholarship on Modern Chinese Fiction and Translation Studies

Article excerpt


In a short article entitled "Discussing the Inadequacy of Eliminating the Classical Language" [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], the well-known translator Lin Shu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1917) criticizes the shift from literature in the classical to vernacular language, which at the time was taken place in Beijing University, explaining that once the classical language was eliminated from the educational institutions, only Japanese scholars would be qualified to teach it in China. (1) Despite progress made since these words were written, Lin Shu's insight, extrapolated to Chinese literature research, remains as valid today as it was at the height of the May Fourth Movement. As advanced as Chinese studies are, particularly regarding recognized authors such as Lu Xun [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] or Zhou Zuoren [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], a more traditional approach to the question of modernity as proposed by a number of writers has not been studied with accuracy and scholarly details. (2) While it is true that attention has been directed to the matter, and that recent years have witnessed new groundbreaking studies in a variety of neglected topics and authors, scholarship has remained faithful to its own inherited tradition, accepting at face value many biased accounts against non-revolutionary figures, (3) such as accusations of Lin Shu's defective translations, Liu Tieyun's treachery, and Li Boyuan's plagiarism.

Besides outstanding advances in classical Chinese literature conducted, for instance, by Hayashida Shinnosuke [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (b. 1932) and Takagi Masakazu [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1912-1997) on pre-Tang literature, and by Arai Ken [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (b. 1929) and Uchiyama Chinari [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (b. 1928) on poetry and fiction, (4) research on late nineteenth century and early twentieth century Chinese literature has been highly influenced by political trends in China and Japan, especially after the improvement of political relations between both countries following the Sino-Japanese Joint Statement signed in 29 September 1972 (Sato 1987; Wong 1988, 114). It was also at this time that politically-oriented scholarship shifted to a more open and revisionist position which included late Qing literature and translation studies, providing readers with solid philological foundations for further expansion. Unfortunately, a large bulk of this research, published over the last forty years, remains virtually unknown outside Japan. (5)

In order to introduce this research to English-language scholars, this paper begins with offering a historical background on the development of late Qing and early Republican fiction studies in Japan, covering research societies, publications, and scholars in the field. Second, it discusses questions related to new directions in the study of the May Fourth Movement. Third, it addresses groundbreaking studies on writers and translators outside the main stream of research, covering Lin Shu, Liu Tieyun [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII], and Li Boyuan [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]. Further discussion examines thematic studies, limiting ourselves to editorship, detective fiction, and Japanese political fiction--themes that were highly relevant because their authors engaged in important questions related to cultural reforms and the evolution and formation of modern fiction, its genres, and concerns.

Historical background

Japanese scholarship on modern Chinese fiction is usually categorized into three generations, based on the motivations and scope of their research: the first generation emerged in the 1930s and 1940s when Chinese literature was introduced to Japan. The second wave began in the 1950s, following the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949. Finally, a third generation appeared in the 1970s after the Sino-Japanese Joint Statement signed in 1972 (Wong 1988, 113-14, 123). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.