Revolutionary Literature in China: An Anthology

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

The Question of Popular Literature and Art

By Qu Qiu-bai

translated by Paul G. Pickowicz


What Is the Problem?

In China the laboring people are still in the Middle Ages in their cultural life. Popular literary and artistic forms such as storytelling, romantic adventure, ditties, cinematic peepshows, comic books, and outdoor theatre are used by China's merchant-gentry class as tools to impose their enslaving education on the laboring people. In both written and oral form the origins of all this reactionary popular literature and art lie several centuries in the past; in a most subtle fashion it penetrated deeply among the people and became a part of their daily lives. Consequently, their knowledge of life and their observations of social phenomena--in a word, the cosmology and view of humankind held by the laboring masses--have been derived, for the most part, from this corpus of reactionary popular literature and art. Naturally reactionary popular literature and art of this sort give full expression to the prevailing feudal consciousness of the time. In it we see the flesh devouring principle of li (Confucian doctrine of propriety) flash its teeth and brandish its claws, we witness the terror of Hell, prostrations before Grand Magistrates, fantasies of Knighthood-errant and magic swordsmen, the propaganda of popularized Eastern culturalism, and evil, indecent, and cruel attitudes towards women . . . as usual everything is shrouded over in a fog, and there is no representation whatever of the birth and growth of revolutionary class consciousness or the emergence of a determination to resist. Recently during the Manchurian and Shanghai Incidents12 the counter- revolutionary bourgeoisie made use of these same tools to obstruct increasingly revolutionary expressions of understanding on the part of the masses.

The May Fourth New Culture Movement was a waste of time with regard to the people! May Fourth new classical

-47-

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