Revolutionary Literature in China: An Anthology

By John David Berninghausen; Ted Huters | Go to book overview

your tears and go make that coffee." And so saying, he kissed her once on the lips.

Guifang walked as far as the painted screen, then quickly turned once more and came back to kneel before the couch. "Sir," she said in a mournful voice, "whatever may happen to you, you must always forgive me, and always think of my feelings for you. I will always love you. I am willing even to sacrifice my life in this world for you. If you should go to the ends of the earth, I will follow you to the ends of the earth. I would never let you go by yourself, lonely and without a companion." Covering her pretty face with her hands, she knelt there perfectly motionless.

Freeman was most surprised to see her this way. But he still did not understand. He could only imagine it was because of the previous day's talk about returning to England. Feeling depressed at this, he once again held Guifang's face in his hands, smiled, kissed her, and said, "Dear one, all of this is a simple matter. Of course I will bring you along wherever I go. I may lose every one of my possessions, but I will never spend a single day out of sight of my Guifang." Guifang stood several moments in a daze next to the couch, then moved daintily across the room to disappear behind the screen.

Before long she returned with a tea tray. Hesitating a moment, she then held out a cup of coffee for Freeman, her hand trembling. "Dear sir, a cup of coffee for you," she said.

"Thank you, my love," answered Freeman with a smile. Raising the cup to his lips, he drank until it was dry. When he was finished he fell with a thud back onto the couch, as the cup fell to the floor and shattered. Guifang stood staring at her sweetheart with tear-filled eyes. Then she slowly stretched her neck down to give him one final kiss. Kneeling on the floor, her utterly despondent voice cried out in spine-chilling lament, "Dear sir! Till we meet again!"

(From The Saturday Magazine, No. 3, June 20, 1914)

People Who Insult People

By Ye Sheng-tao

translated by Perry Link

In recent issues, Shanghai newspapers have been carrying an advertisement which grieves me deeply, and I imagine there must be a lot of people who feel as I do. I almost couldn't believe my eyes at this advertisement, but there it was--unmistakably written in big, clear characters. It read: "I'd rather not take a concubine / Than to miss out on reading The Saturday Magazine." Below this was a list of The Saturday Magazine's current contents. Every time they run an ad, then, open it with a ditty which is enough to leave one sick at heart and full of pity--this time it was just particularly bad, that's all. I wonder if they're going to think of something even worse in the future.

This really is an insult--a wide-ranging insult. They insult themselves, insult literature, and what's worse, insult others! I have never berated them before; but now, with this latest move, I have no choice but to berate them. No kind of game-playing has ever been as debased as this; even when playing games one should keep things on a fairly high plane and be sincere! But now we have people who write catchwords like this--and many people in society who absorb them--so that the same type of lines appear each week in the newspapers. This not only leaves the future of literature uncertain and worrisome; it actually leaves the whole advancement of the Chinese nation uncertain and worrisome.

Yet we hold the following as an item of faith: only literature has the power to serve as the tie which binds together the best in the human spirit, which unites countless small and weak consciousnesses together into one great consciousness. It can expose the darkness, usher in light, and lead people to abandon their mean and shallow side in favor of more honorable and profound tendencies. How can we let its future fall subject to uncertainty and worry?

There are really very few people in China who have contact with literary art. Our hope naturally must be to find a way gradually to increase their numbers. But even among this minority which does have contact with literary art, people lack the power of discrimination, and cannot understand the true nature of the things which appeal to them. Here our hope naturally must be to provide them the power of discrimination, that they may realize the nature of literary art. But can the current new literature movement extend its influence to those who have never been in contact with literary art? And can it make those who have taken the wrong path discern their own true and proper tendencies? We have no choice but to postulate an answer of "yes" to these questions. Leaving aside those who have never been in contact with literary art, some of those who have taken the wrong path have developed a weakness for doing so, and of course will continue in their ways. Good and proper material is also extremely scarce, and extremely, weak in its impact, while bad and absurd writing grabs the opportunity to rise with continuing demand. Good and proper works really are too few: aside-from a few magazines and collections of reprinted works, what else is there?

When we see the kind of advertisement I have described above, we must not be merely grieved. We should be all the more--industrious. Naturally, we must first fix our sights upon the people who have had contact with literature. Their tastes have gone awry, and they haven't realized it; it has become a habit with them to mistake wrong for right; and they often don't want anything to do with our so-called real literature. We must break down this barrier before anything else. Accordingly, we should examine and consider what points we might adopt from them; and only then proceed with writing stories. This is not to say we should grope blindly or stoop to their level, but just, as the saying goes, "provide judicious guidance according to the circumstances"--which in fact will be stinging satire and proper correction. When they have experienced the new literature, and have found it to be not unappealing, they will experience it more and more, their feelings will gradually change without their noticing it, and they will embark upon the new road. It is extremely important


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