Source Title: Zeng Guofan and Li Hongzhang: “On Sending Young Men Abroad to Study”
Bary, William Theodore. "Moderate Reform and the Self-Strengthening Movement." In Sources
of East Asian Tradition, 634-35. Vol. 2. New York, New York: Columbia University Press, 2008.
(Taken from: Zeng Wenzhong gong quanji, Yishu hangao 1:19b-21b; CT)
This particular primary source had two authors: Zeng Guofan and Li Hongzhang. Zeng Guofan was a high ranking Qing official, general, and Confucian scholar. He was born in Hunan, China in 1811. In 1838 at age 27 he passed the provincial and metropolitan civil service examinations and earned the Jinshi degree, which was the highest level in the Chinese civil service examinations. Because of this, he was appointed to the Hanlin Academy, where he worked on a variety of literary projects for the Emperor and gradually advanced his rank. He was appointed as chief literary examiner in Sichuan province in 1843, and was also made military examiner of Sichuan. During this time, the Taiping rebellion was causing havoc in Hunan, where he was summoned to help. He was successful in defeating the rebels on the Yangtze River and surrounding cities and captured the rebel capitol of Nanjing. However after this Zeng Guofan did not have much military success and was relieved of command in favor of Li Hongzhang in 1870. He was an avid follower and outstanding leader of the Self-Strengthening Movement, believing that adopting superior western technology and knowledge would be of great benefit to China. After being relieved of command, he retired to Nanjing where died in 1872.
Li Hongzhang was also Chinese politician, general, and diplomat. Born 1823 in Anhui province, China, he, just like Zeng Guofan, obtained the Jinshi degree in the civil service examination system and attended Hanlin academy. Under the direction of Zeng Guofan, he helped fight the rebels during the Taiping rebellion. He was also successful in suppressing the Nian Rebellion in 1866, and was made viceroy of Zhilio in 1870. As part of the Self-Strengthening Movement, he wanted to open China to the world but with China setting the terms, and sent a group of boys to study in the United States in 1872. Also, in 1885 he founded the Tianjin Military academy, which included German advisors. He played a crucial role in leading troops during the first Sino-Japanese War, which China lost, despite using modern troops that he trained as part of the Self-Strengthening Movement. He personally went to Japan and signed the ceasefire document to end the war. He also played a crucial role in ending the Boxer Rebellion in 1901, negotiating the departure of foreign military. The stresses of his duties took such a toll on him that he later died of liver failure two months later in 1901.
This primary source is a letter written by Zeng Guofan and Li Hongzhang to the Zongli Yamen, which was the equivalent of the Qing dynasty’s ministry of foreign affairs at the time. The Zongli Yamen was mostly anti-western and was opposed to many Self-Strengthening ideals. Because of the opposition within the Zongli Yamen to Self-Strengthening, it took almost a year after this letter was received for them to ratify its contents and suggestions.
Date of Source Creation:
This letter was written in March of 1871 to the Zongli Yamen which was the government branch in charge of foreign policy during that part of the Qing dynasty. In our textbook, Sources, this essay was translated into English by Chester Tan, who attended New York University. The manuscript from which this translation comes from is the original letter written by Zeng Guofan and Li Hongzhang themselves. Because this text is taken from the original manuscript and not handed down or copied by others, there is no lapse in time that would impact the interpretation of the source. This was also written as part of the Self-Strengthening Movement, which lasted from roughly 1861-1895 and included initiatives and policies in which the Qing government could strengthen itself militarily to compete against foreign powers.
Sources authors transcribed this letter from the original, and we know Zeng Guofan and Li Hongzhang wrote it, so this publication is very trustworthy and true to the original author. Sources translated this source from Zeng Wenzhong Gong Quanji, which is a collection of letters and historical documents from the life of Li Hongzhang. Again, this letter was translated by Sources translator Chester Tan. This letter is an official Qing dynasty government historical document, so it is a very reliable source.
The authors, Zeng Guofan and Li Hongzhang, intended the members of the Zongli Yamen to read this letter. This was a private government official audience. This audience may have affected what written because the Zongli Yamen opposed many Self-Strengthening policies and wanted China to be more closed to the west. Their letter was presented in this manner because this is the most effective way that Zeng Guofan and Li Hongzhang communicated with other officials, through letters. The authors are somewhat candid but are also mindful of their skeptical and hostile audience; they use logic and reason, such as saying that the west has much better technology that China must adopt. The second paragraph of the letter particularly tries to use logic as a means of convincing the members of the Zongli Yamen, explaining that by not adapting these plans and policies, China will not be able to implement coveted western technology.
The authors seemed to be in very good positions to report about what strategies China should use to modernize its military. Zeng Guofan and Li Hongzhang both had extensive military experience, including experience fighting alongside British and German troops during the Taiping Rebellion. They both had successes fighting against numerous rebellions up to that point, and were considered military geniuses. They saw firsthand the weaknesses of China’s fighting force and knew that it was important to improve the military. Also, they both had extensive experience as bureaucrats within the Qing government, and knew the proper channels and means of communication to accomplish their Self-Strengthening agenda. It seems they were the best people to have written this and some of the only people that were in a position to push such Self-Strengthening policies onto the Zongli Yamen. Not many others had the extensive military knowledge that they did as well as the political clout to push these policies from within the Qing government.
This primary source is a petition from Zeng Guofan and Li Hongzhang to the Zongli Yamen, requesting increased activity with and learning from the west. They suggest learning from the west by sending young men on prolonged study abroad, where they could study “Military administration, shipping administration, infantry tactics, mathematics, manufacturing, and other subjects.” These young men could then be equipped to reeducate the entire nation, creating a new education system with advanced western ideas as well as Chinese tradition. Thus, China could commence in Self-Strengthening by utilizing these skills for self-defense in order to keep westerners out of Chinese affairs. This plan was meant to take a quite long time, and was part of a long-term solution to try to industrialize China and employ western manufacturing techniques.
The authors, Zeng Guofan and Li Hongzhang, are trying to say that one of the best ways to implement Self-Strengthening is through sending young men abroad to learn western technology and then come back and teach it to the Chinese. At the same time, they are trying to persuade a very hostile audience, the anti-western Zongli Yamen, that this contact with the west is good for China in the long term. The Zongli Yamen at the time was against close relations with western nations. Although Zeng and Li also did not like western interference in China, they realized that learning advanced western military tactics was one of the best ways to defend China and keep its sovereignty untainted. In the last paragraph of the letter, they tried to convince the Zongli Yamen that sending young men abroad was the best way to adopt new western technology, and only by having young men study it overseas could they hope to understand and apply this new technology. Zeng and Li do have an agenda; it is the Self-Strengthening Movement and the overall sovereignty of China. Both of these men were outstanding leaders of the Self-Strengthening Movement, which promoted ideals of Chinese industrialization and technological improvement so that it could better defend against foreign powers.
Zeng and Li seemed to assume that their audience was educated concerning western technology, and was familiar with the advantages that it could bring to China. They also assume that improving the Chinese military with the help of the west is morally correct. In addition, they assume that their audience knows that westerners have better technology than China. This letter however does not seem to touch on or make assumptions about religion, and seems to view the boys’ adopting of western religion as not important. Also gender roles are considered here in that only boys are considered to be sent abroad, instead of girls, showing that at that time girls were not encouraged to study abroad.
This letter also touched on the subjects of war and diplomacy. By adopting advanced western technology and learning, the Chinese could vastly improve their military, fend of foreign invasion, and avoid events similar to the Opium Wars. Also, if strong enough, they could possibly push off the foreign presence and avoid more embarrassing defeats. However, the Zongli Yamen wanted to continue in limited diplomacy and interaction with the west. Sending students to study abroad would have strengthened ties and understanding between the two countries. The Self-Strengthening Movement and its values were surely the main driving force in this letter. Both Zeng and Li had fought in the Taiping rebellion and realized that China needed Self-Strengthening both militarily and economically. Also we can see that Confucianism influenced this source because the authors wanted to employ western technology, but use it more advantageously than the west by means of their advanced moral system. It seems that this letter was highly influential in the Self-Strengthening Movement of China and helped to start a program for young men to study abroad which would tremendously help China reform and improve throughout all aspects of society in the coming decades.
Critical Analysis and Further Research:
This primary source provides many Intriguing and thought provoking insights. In this letter, these two military generals recognize that the west has better technology than the Chinese. This piece provided me with increased understanding of the time period because it let me see how inferior the Chinese military was compared to the west at the time the letter was written. Also it was surprising to me that this letter took so long to get approved by the Zongli Yamen, showing the ineffective bureaucracy that was operating during the Qing dynasty.
Using this source, I could make a number or claims concerning the situation of China at the time. For instance, the Zongli Yamen was an ineffective tool that was preventing China from improving. Also, the people at the time understood that they were far behind the west and needed a form of long-term improvement to their situation. I could also say at this time the Qing dynasty was not completely anti-western, especially when it came to the Self-Strengthening Movement, but because they were slow to adopt western technology, they lost battles and were eventually overthrown.
Some concerns or doubts about the text I have are: what prompted Li and Zeng to think of such a long and drawn out plan? Didn’t they realize that it would take decades for their plan to take effect? Also, why didn’t the men mentioned in the letter who went to the west already teach the Chinese the new western arts of war? Some questions left unanswered by the source were: why didn’t the authors perceive their hostile audience better and also why did they not suggest foreigners coming in to train the Chinese as part of their plan? Some limitations of this source were: it was only two paragraphs long in Sources, so obviously there were some portions missing; this leads me to wonder: what else did Zeng and Li talk about? How long was the original letter? What did they talk about in the parts that were skipped in Sources?
The historiographical issue I have chosen that this primary source may shed light on is how exactly did those promoting the Self-Strengthening Movement seek to implement changes in China, and was it in fact a failure?
Secondary Source 1: Elman, Benjamin A. "Naval Warfare and the Refraction of China's Self-Strengthening Reforms into Scientific and Technological Failure, 1865-1895." Modern Asian Studies 38, no. 2 (2004): 283-326.
In this article, Benjamin Elman discusses the goals and difficulties of the Self-Strengthening Movement, namely on the subjects of industrialization, weapons, training, and leadership, showing that this movement was not a true failure. He touched on how Li Hongzhang and Zeng Guofan created manufacturing plants for guns and other weapons, and that “At the end of 1873, 4,200 were produced, but they were more costly and proved inferior to imported Remingtons. In 1874-75, Li Hongzhang advised establishing a branch to produce powder and cartridges instead” (292). Li and Zeng also set up schools for language and military training. In addition they published magazines to promulgate western science and other Self-Strengthening ideas. “The promising start made in missionary schools and the empire wide arsenals accelerated…[which] unfortunately produced an intellectual backlash from foreigners in China and Chinese literati that China was doomed unless more radical political initiatives were carried out,” (305). According to Elman, the Self-Strengthening Movement was not a failure, but was simply seen as a failure because the Chinese lost the Sino-Japanese war. This war was probably lost because of lack of political coordination rather than a failure of the Self-Strengthening Movement. The intellectuals behind the Self-Strengthening Movement such as Li and Zeng were actually doing a great service for China and paving the way for future scholarly movements and improvement such as and the May Fourth Movement.
Secondary Source 2: Shen, Grace. "Murky Waters: Thoughts on Desire, Utility, and the "Sea of Modern Science"" Isis 98, no. 3 (2007): 584-96.
In this article, Grace Shen states that the Self-Strengthening Movement was successful, despite the loss of the Sino-Japanese War. She explores Chinese views and adaptation of science, and why the Chinese adopted western science for their own purposes more slowly than other countries. The Chinese were especially fond of modern geology, which seems an odd topic for them to adopt. She agreed with Elman in that the Self-Strengthening Movement was not a failure, but it was perceived as so by the loss of the Sino-Japanese War. She said, “on a purely technical basis the Chinese navy was actually superior to that of the Japanese. Whatever the reasons for the outcome of the war (which Elman attributes to a lack of political coordination), the Self-Strengthening Movement proved its worth in the limited arena of technology,” (p. 26) This new understanding from Ms. Shen helps us understand that people like Zeng Guofan and Li Hongzhang were actually one of the best things happening to China at the time, and their contributions cannot simply be measured by the loss of the Sino-Japanese War. It seems that political factors, such as the very Zongli Yamen, were more of a cause for failure than the Self-Strengthening Movement itself.
Secondary Source 3: Smith, Richard J. "Foreign-Training and China's Self-Strengthening: The Case of Feng-huang-shan, 1864–1873." Modern Asian Studies 10, no. 2 (1976): 195-223.
In this article, Richard Smith explores the Self-Strengthening Movement in terms of Qing military reform, stating that military failure was due to anti-foreignism within the government. The Qing government wanted to end their reliance on foreign assistance and at the same time improve their own military so they could better cope with outside influences as well as rebellions. Scholars have not really studied the importance of foreign military training to the Chinese. Feng Huanshang was a Qing military official in charge of running a military training camp with the help of foreign officers, but this program fell under abuse and did not produce satisfactory results. The number of Chinese soldiers that were trained in the western ways of military was small, and often they became “unruly, ineffective, and dangerous,” (193). These soldiers often spent most of their salary on opium, and the Chinese government did not widely utilize foreign military training, as they wanted to wean themselves off of foreign power. Smith states that “Anti-foreignism obviously played a major role in the failure of foreign-training to become widespread,” (217). The Qing government was often reluctant to fund and support troops trained by foreigners because they were afraid of the impact of too much foreign presence in their military.
The primary source analyzed in part one of this paper, written by Zeng Guofan and Li Hongzhang, give us valuable insight into the mechanisms and strategy behind the Self-Strengthening Movement. Zeng and Li wanted young men to go abroad and learn engineering, manufacturing, mathematics, and military strategy, then come back to China and teach others. However this plan would have taken years to implement and the Sino-Japanese War was already close at hand. It seems this plan would have been effective, but was not fast enough to be a deciding factor in winning the war, and also was not powerful enough to overcome a corrupt and anti-western government in the Qing dynasty. This fear of westernization in the Qing government effectively stopped China from adopting western technology and using it effectively. However, Li and Zeng’s impact lasted long beyond the Qing dynasty, as many of the boys that went abroad to study brought back with them new ideas, starting new movements and ideas for government such as The May Forth Movement, communism, and democracy.
The Self-Strengthening Movement was actually not a failure, but initiated great technological advancements in its time and was a catalyst and foundation for future reformations in China.
According to A History of East Asia, “Confucianism is commonly considered to be the mainstream of Chinese, and East Asian, tradition” (Holcombe, p. 35). Confucius, who lived from 551-479 BCE during the Eastern Zhou period in China, influenced a way of thinking and philosophy that lasted more than 2000 years. His philosophies and moral code, also known as Confucianism, have deeply affected East Asian polity and government systems, ideology and philosophy, as well as societal norms and structures. Korea and Japan have also adopted and adapted Confucianist ideals and societal norms throughout history. In this essay, I will discuss in detail how Confucianism has affected polity, ideology, and society in East Asia during the period covered in class so far.
Confucianism has deeply affected the polity of East Asia. Chinese governments were set up as a meritocracy based on Confucian ideals that required a hierarchy and loyalty to the emperor, as well an emphasis on learning and personal virtue. Chinese dynasties built on the Confucian political system such as the Han, Tang, and others were strong, successful, and technologically advanced which influenced neighboring Korea and Japan to adopt and adapt these Confucian oriented political systems. For instance, during the Choson dynasty in Korea, Koreans claimed to be even more Confucian than Chinese; they set up a meritocracy based on officials memorizing the Confucian classics and taking anonymously graded tests. These officials comprised a noble class called the Yangban; the Yangban were supposed to memorize and internalize the virtues found in these works. The Korean scholar Ch‘oe Malli in 1444 CE spoke of Confucianism and Chinese systems saying, “Barbarians are changed only by means of adopting Chinese ways, we have never heard of Chinese being changed by barbarians” (Sources p. 576). From this passage, we can see that Confucian ideals and government were highly respected by other countries in East Asia. Japan also was greatly influenced by Confucianism, especially during the Nara era when it adopted Tang cultural norms and practices. In addition, during the Tokugawa era Japanese society was set in rigid classes, with the Samurai acting in the place of Confucian scholars, and with peasants, artisans and merchants below them. This polity and class system helped to solidify Confucian principles and “justify a rigidly hereditary social hierarchy” (Holcombe, p. 38).
The Mandate of heaven is a Confucian concept that has also affected East Asian polity for centuries. It is a belief that a ruler is granted power from heaven as long as he rules with benevolence and virtue. This way of thinking has influenced dynastic change throughout China, such as the overthrow of the Ming dynasty by Li Zicheng and with the overthrow of every other Chinese dynasty before it, but this concept also had hold in other East Asian countries. When the Mongols took over the largest land mass of any empire in history, the Koreans also “realized that Mongols had the mandate of heaven” (Sources p. 545). In addition, the Japanese warlord Hideyoshi, as seen in his letter to king of Korea in 1590, also believed he had the mandate of heaven when he invaded Korea, saying he had the blessing of the sun goddess and he had never failed in war before (Sources p. 859). The Japanese imperial line also employed the mandate of heaven that they obtained from the sun goddess for thousands of years; they claimed to be descendants from the sun goddess Amaterasu who gave them divine power and authority to rule. Overall, it seems that in general Confucian thought played a major role in political systems throughout East Asia.
Confucianism has also heavily influenced the ideology of East Asia generally. When new religions like Buddhism and Christianity entered into China and East Asia, they were immediately compared to Confucian ideals, and accepted or rejected based on whether or not they were considered compliant to these ideals. For instance, Fanwang Sutra defended Buddhism using Confucian ideals by saying that “filial obedience is the way by which one attains the way” (Sources 235), essentially saying that Buddhism is completely compliant with Confucianism. Yet the Confucian scholar Han Yu condemned Buddhism because it did not place importance filial piety such as on the relationship between father and son (Sources 305). Confucianism has also heavily influenced Daoism; for instance, Zhuangzi used Confucius as a model in his writings to show Daoist ideals. The focus on filial piety and ancestors in Confucianism has also influenced Chinese and Korean ancestor worship and shamanism, which are highly syncretic religions. Overall, Confucianism ideology has had a strong influence on philosophy as well as religious thinking in East Asia.
Perhaps Confucianism has had the most important impact on East Asian society and social structure. The social hierarchy in Confucian thought holds scholars at the top, then farmers, then artisans, and merchants at the bottom; as discussed earlier, Korea and Japan adopted this social hierarchy particularly in the Choson and Tokugawa periods. Confucianism also puts a strong emphasis on one’s family, parents, ancestors, and political superiors. This emphasis had a strong impact on other countries outside of China, especially Korea. According to Song Kan, a Korean scholar, the four main relationships in Confucianism, “ruler and minister, father and son, husband and wife, elder brother and younger brother, friend and friend,” were of the upmost importance, and the basis for a functional society (Sources 578). In China and Korea, it was believed that filial piety was the foundation of a good moral society. Women in society were also taught to live Confucian morals in their daily lives, including being loyal to ones’ husband, but also, as discussed by Bao Zhao in “Admonitions for Women,” women were also encouraged seek learning, the same as Confucian men (Sources 413).
Confucianism has also had a strong influence on the overall moral fiber of East Asian society because of its focus on individuals showing virtue and kindness to one another. In Confucian meritocracy, rulers were supposed to lead by moral example; this was thought to be more effective than ruling by the power of regulations and punishments that would only encourage others to go around the law (Holcombe 37). Confucius taught, “What you would not want for yourself, do not unto others,” (Holcombe 37); this teaching shows moral virtue similar to the golden rule taught by Jesus Christ. In addition, Confucius’ follower Mencius taught that people are naturally good, but without constant effort, they would regress (Holcombe 37). Confucianism was meant to bring peace on earth and internalize virtue through humanness and filial piety, and learning and personal perfection was stressed (Holcombe 36). Confucian thought has also affected social dealings with westerners and barbarians, because Chinese and East Asians believed that their Confucian moral code was superior to the Mongols and westerners, causing social conflict and culture clashes that last even until today.
Overall, Confucianism has been one of the biggest influences of all time on East Asian history, culture, polity, and ideology. Its influence is widespread, and has been a major factor in the organization of Korean and Japanese ideals and political systems. In addition, Confucian thought has had profound impact on East Asian on ideologies toward religion and education. East Asian societal structure has also been highly affected by Confucianism, especially in the eras we have discussed in class such as the Choson, Tang, and the Tokugawa era. Confucianism has played a major impact in numerous aspects of East Asian life and will surely continue to play a crucial role in the future of East Asia.
Hu Shi: “A Preliminary Discussion of Literary Reform”
Bary, William Theodore. "The New Culture Movement." In Sources of East Asian Tradition, 706-07. Vol. 2. New York, New York: Columbia University Press, 2008.
(Taken from Hu, “Wenxue gailiang chuyi,” in Hu Shi wencun collection 1, ch. 1, pp. 5-16; original version in Xin Qingnian 2, no. 5 (January 1917): 1-11; WTC)
The author of this work was the Chinese philosopher, essayist, and diplomat Hu Shi (胡适). Mr. Hu was born in Anhui, China, in 1891. In 1910 he went to the United States to study agriculture at Cornell University. Later, went on to study philosophy at Columbia University and was greatly influenced by his professor John Dewey. After his studied he returned to China and began teaching at Peking University. There he met Chen Duxiu, the author of New Youth journal, in which this particular primary source work was published. He became one of the leading intellectuals in the New Culture Movement in China and was very influential in advocating for the use of vernacular in Chinese literature, as well as advocating for a new Chinese writing system. He was a great and influential intellectual, and was even nominated for the Nobel Prize. Later in life he became the diplomat for the Republic of China to the United States. After the Chinese Civil War, he fled to Taiwan and resided in Taipei, where he then passed away in 1962 at the age of 70.
This primary source is an opinion essay regarding certain aspects of literary reform in China; it is not a personal or historical account. It was originally written in the Xin Qingnian as part of New Culture Movement literature specifically to improve Chinese culture and literature.
Date of Source Creation:
This essay was originally published January 1917 in the Chinese Xin Qingnian (New Youth) journal. In our textbook, Sources, this essay was translated into English by Wing-tsit Chan, who attended Dartmouth College and Colombia University and was a world-renowned translator of Chinese philosophical texts. The manuscript from which this translation comes from is the original and was written by Hu Shi himself. Because this text is taken from the original manuscript and not handed down or copied by others, there is no lapse in time that would impact the interpretation of the source. This was also published only during the New Culture Movement, which lasted from roughly 1915-1921 and was one of the most influential journals in spreading New Culture Movement thought, and likely had a great influence on the May Fourth Movement that culminated in student demonstrations on May Fourth, 1919 in Beijing.
The text comes from the Xin Qingnian journal (New Youth), a New Culture Movement journal, published by Chen Duxiu who was head of the literature department at Peking University in January 1917. Sources authors transcribed this work from the original journal, and we know Hu Shi himself wrote it because it was directly published from his hand into the Xin Qingnian journal, so this publication is very trustworthy and true to the original author.
Hu Shi seems to have been writing this essay to a literate and educated Chinese public audience who had knowledge of ancient texts and literature forms, but more specifically to the Chinese literati and younger authors who were writing and publishing at that time. His audience would have had a background in Confucian literary tradition as well as political measures. This audience affects how the material is presented because Hu Shi dives right into the faults of the Chinese written tradition, assuming that his audience already has a background in the aspects of literature that he talks about. The Xin Qingnian journal would have reached an intellectual audience as well as a younger audience that could change the future of Chinese literary tradition; because Hu Shi wrote this in the Xin Qingnian journal, he most likely assumes that his audience is seeking to improve Chinese culture and literature. He mentions specifically what changes should be made in the writing tradition so that the Chinese writers he is talking writing to can implement these changes. The author is also very candid and clear on what he thinks should be reformed in Chinese literature, so he can reach and effect as many people as possible in order to persuade them to change the current writing and literature norms of the time. It seems that he is also especially appealing to Chinese literati and the government, because only they would have the power to implement the changes in Chinese literature and education that he mentions in the paper.
The author seems to be in an ideal situation to give an opinion on Chinese literary reform because he was schooled in China as well as in universities in the United States, so he has firsthand knowledge of the strengths of western literature and the deficiencies of Chinese literature. Many of the arguments that he makes have to do with incorporating the strengths of western literature into Chinese literature. However received degrees in agriculture and philosophy, so perhaps there would be others more qualified than him to write an opinion paper on this subject, for instance Chinese scholars that had degrees in literature. Hu Shi may not have had the full credentials needed to make a completely informed and comprehensive appeal to reform the Chinese literary system. Although his background of schooling both in China and the U.S. qualifies him to share a unique opinion regarding Chinese literary reform, someone with literature degrees from both China and the west would be more qualified to write such an opinion essay.
In this primary source, it is clear that the author Hu Shi is suggesting ways in which the Chinese literary tradition can improve. He gives 8 theses to reform literature: “(1) write with substance, (2) do not imitate the ancients, (3) emphasize grammar, (4) reject melancholy, (5) eliminate old clichés, (6) do not use allusions, (7) do not use couplets or parallelisms, (8) do not avoid popular expressions or forms of characters.” It is clear that he wants to change Chinese writing through these key points. He makes his points very clear and is very open about his opinions. Also he explains these points thoroughly to make sure his readers know what exactly his theses mean.
This text is meant to persuade Chinese literary scholars as well as the literate public at large that the Chinese literary tradition needs reform. Hu Shi does this by pointing out the deficiencies of Chinese literature using modern and ancient examples of these deficiencies. He says that every dynastic period had its own unique literature and that now Chinese writers should be writing material unique to their time instead of just imitating the ancients. He goes on to argue that the best literature comes from the heart and isn’t just a copy of the past, and this is how literature becomes great. Although he may not be the most appropriate scholar to address these issues, as mentioned above (he did not have a degree in literature), he still makes very clear and logical statements that were supported by the Chinese reformist community and helped to further the cause of the literary renaissance. Publishing the essay in the “New Youth” journal helped to spread these ideas faster and with more power than could otherwise be attained.
Hu Shi did have an agenda when writing this: he was part of the greater New Culture Movement and literary revolution. His colleague Chen Duxiu ran the Xin Qingnian (New Youth) journal, which was supportive of the New Culture Movement and its progressive ideals, and encouraged him to publish this essay in the journal. His goals in writing this essay were to reform the Chinese literary tradition by writing in vernacular, writing unique and new things, and to improve the writing system in general so it would be easier to learn and understand. This included discontinuing the use of ancient Chinese grammar and structure in literature.
Hu Shi assumes his audience is literate and intellectual, and has read ancient classics, literary works, and even had experience written a few of their own works. He also assumes, by publishing his work in Xin Qingnian, that his audience is interested in the New Culture Movement and Chinese cultural reform. The values and issues of the time strongly influenced Hu Shi in writing this essay; the New Culture Movement and the fall of the Qing dynasty were catalysts of reform that tried to push China out of its dark and stagnant intellectual and political situation. Many other intellectuals, such as Chen Duxiu and Lu Xun, stood behind Hu Shi in promoting a literary and cultural renaissance. In addition, the stigma of being seen as the “sick man of Asia” by other Asian countries surely pushed China and its people toward progression. Seeing the technological and social advancements of other nations such as Japan would have surely spurred nationalism and competition within China. Literary reform was an obvious place to start because it was in many ways less efficient than western literature. Overall, this primary source article seems to have been greatly influential and persuasive in pushing the Chinese literary renaissance of the early 20th century.
Summary of J.D. Frodsham
“The Origins of Nature Poetry” Asia Major: A British Journal of Far Eastern Studies
(Publisher: Percy Lund, Humphries & Company, Limited, 1960)
This article, “The Origins of Nature Poetry,” by J.D. Frodsham published in the Asia Major Journal in 1960, discusses the origins of ancient Chinese poetry as related to themes of nature, especially its connection to early Taosim. Nature poetry, or shanshuishi山水試, had major developments during the beginning of the Song dynasty. During this time, older poetry such as that from the Shijing 試經was instead favored for this new form of nature poetry, which had its roots in Taoism.
After the restoration of the Qin Dynasty, Taoism had a major influence on poetry. With their knowledge gained from several books of Taoist thought, poets of this era seemed to write endless poems concerning these ideas and how they connect to nature. These ideas were especially popular with scholars that lived south of the Yangtze River. Many of the poets of this time had the same ideas in their poems although some used more ornate language than others. This revolution in taste of ancient poets brought in a new era of nature poetry. The basic characteristics of nature poetry however already existed in the corpus of the earlier Xuanyan 玄言 Taoist verse.
There were basically two schools of reaction against the prevailing conditions of Taoism. The first school tried to destroy Confucian philosophy and create a government based on Taoist principles. The second school stressed the anarchical views of Taoism. These both played a heavy influence on the nature poetry of the time. The first 50 years of nature poetry is hard to study because many of these early nature poems have been lost, but we can assume that later poets had access to these early poems and drew on them for inspiration. Because of this, many scholars have been mistaken concerning the origins of the sudden appearance of nature poetry in the 5th century A.D.
Lu Xun was one of the most renowned and revered Chinese authors of his time. His ability to affect his readers and make them think about societal problems set him apart from other writers. Many of his works use various literary devices to affect his readers. In this essay I will compare the different writing styles and literary devices used in “Medicine” and “A Madman’s Diary,” both written by Lu Xun. First, I will compare the perspective from which the stories were written and how this affects the reader. I will also compare the object of Lu Xun is criticism in these two different works, as well as what methods and symbolism he uses in his criticism. I will also discuss how the reader is affected by each story, as well as what message is sent to the reader. Through this analysis, we can understand the logic and methods employed by this ingenious writer to help improve Chinese society.
In “A Madman’s Diary” we are first shown the story from the perspective of a friend of the Madman. This perspective gives us some background about the madman, letting us know the man who wrote the diary was considered crazy, but this perspective also gives us a bit of bias concerning into the story. Then the author switches to the perspective of the madman; the Madman’s gives us a first person account, which allows us to see the inner thoughts of his mind, but we don’t know if everything he thinks is true. He blames society for eating people, although everyone denies this. The story also ends in the madman’s first person perspective, showing us his personal opinions on society until the end. This unique perspective from a madman makes us aware of some of the more unfavorable aspects in traditional Chinese society that even intellectuals would deny. Only through this madman’s perspective can we clearly see the truth of society, unencumbered by other people’s opinions. At the end of his diary, the madman tells us, “I have been living in this place where for four thousand years they have been eating human flesh,” (Lu 18). This kind of thought, showing some of the unfavorable aspects of Chinese society, can only come from a madman who is worried about everyone trying to eat him. Using a madman’s perspective to criticize society was an ingenious literary device employed by Lu Xun to accentuate the problems in traditional Chinese society.
These two stories both employ very different perspectives that work to bring the reader to a different conclusion and opinion about society. However both of these stories change perspectives through the story, giving us a different opinion about the events before and after they unfold. The first story starts out in third person but only shows Lao Quan’s life, and then the viewpoint at the end shows a grieving mother in third person, which gives us a unique perspective of how we should really feel toward the fallen martyr. However, in “A Madman’s Diary” the perspective changes from the first person perspective of an intellectual to the first person perspective of a madman, which more directly criticizes society. The changes of perspective throughout both of these stories give power to and reinforce the satire and irony that Lu Xun is trying to portray.
In “A Madman’s Diary” Lu Xun’s uses a madman and the practice of eating people as symbolism for the contemporary problems with traditional China. The practice of people eating one another can be taken to symbolize the many traditions that are hindering China’s progress in the modern world. Also, the madman seems to represent intellectuals in China who understand the faults of Chinese society. In the story, the madman asks his brother, “‘Is it right because things have always been like that?’ ‘I refuse to discuss these things with you. Anyway, you shouldn’t talk about it. Whoever talks about these things is in the wrong!’” Here we can see the elder brother, who seems to be a representation of traditional Chinese intellectuals, refuse to question Chinese traditions, and rebukes his brother for questioning them. From this passage we can see the clash between modernist Chinese intellectuals and those intellectuals who wish to cling to the ancient Chinese systems and ideas.
The madman seems to stand as a symbol of those who push for social reform and change in traditional China. Ann Huss also gives this insight concerning the madman, “The madman… is the model for the Western, independent self. He is the archetypal romantic cure for the disease called tradition,” (Huss 386). From this commentary we can see that the madman not only represents revolution, but also represents western thoughts and ideas. Many of the ideas for the reforming the Chinese traditional system would never have come about without the influence of western thoughts and ideas. The madman seems to embody Lu Xun and other intellectuals who have left China to study abroad and have experienced the advantages of western culture. Through this story, Lu Xun creatively expresses what positive aspects of western culture he has seen abroad and the changes that China should make in its traditional society.
In both of these stories, the author Lu Xun uses irony and symbolism to convey his criticism of society. The symbolisms of eating blood to cure someone and the symbolism of eating people are both very similar; not only do they both involve consuming human flesh, but they also represent the foolish and backward traditions that so many Chinese people cling to. This seems to be a theme throughout many of Lu Xun’s works. The young martyr and the Madman also both symbolize revolutionaries in China that are rejected by the cold society around them. Although these stories both use similar symbolism, it seems that the symbolism used in “A Madman’s Diary” is more direct and easier to understand. The madman seems to repeat over and over that people are eating blood, whereas in “Medicine” people don’t really question the tradition, and it is left up to the reader to understand that eating a person’s blood to cure illness is a foolish traditional belief. Only at the end of the story are we directly shown that the martyr was mistreated. Although both of these stories accomplish the purpose of using symbolism to criticize society, it seems the “A Madman’s Diary” was more direct and thus more effective in delivering this message.
In “Diary of a Madman” the reader is affected by the strange perspective of a madman, and his claims that everyone around him is eating people. To see the story unfold from a madman’s perspective may be discomforting for some readers because they don’t know if they can trust anything that he says. Also the theme of eating of human beings is probably also unsettling for many readers. In the story it reads, “My brother had just taken over charge of the house when our sister died, and he may well have used her flesh in our rice and dishes, making us eat it unwittingly,” ( Lu 18). This imagery may be horrifying for some readers, which is precisely Lu Xun’s goal; he wasn’t to shock his readers into contemplating the problems in China. Another emotion that Lu Xun evokes in his readers is that of empathy; the madman is persecuted by everyone, even though we can see he is trying to do the right thing. The reader is naturally left to feel sorry for the madman because he is only standing up for what is right.
In both of these stories, the reader is shown frightening images of blood and people eating other people. However, in both stories we are left to feel compassion for the madman and the young martyr because they have been persecuted. The stories in these works awaken feelings of compassion and disgust, and these emotions are the basis for our wanting to change society and see things from another perspective. Although the readers may initially be disgusted by the imagery in these two stories, they are awakened to the problems in Chinese society that are described by the author.
Hsia, Chih. A History of Modern Chinese Fiction. 3rd ed. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1999. 54. Print.
Huss, Ann. "The Madman That Was Ah Q: Tradition and Modernity in Lu Xun's Fiction." The Columbia Companion to Modern East Asian Literature. New York: Columbia UP, 2013. 385-394. Print.
This article, “The Quest of the Goddess,” discusses one of the earliest examples of Chinese poetry we have, the Ch’u-tz’u. The author of this article argues that the poet of this work, Chu Yuan, was not making any novel poetry but instead taking ancient ritual religious oral poetry and making it more secular. The purpose of this ancient poet’s work was to revive a dying form of poetry by secularizing it for the benefit of the royal court at the time.
In the poem “The Quest of the Goddess” studied by the author, it describes a religious rite of a shaman going out onto the water to offer jade to the river goddess. The poem is overshadowed by the poet’s personal intent, but it is still clear that the poem is based on a religious rite. The people watching still cheer on the shaman even though the goddess has eluded him and not appeared. In ancient times, it was common practice to worship ancient river deities by dropping precious things into the water such as jade and food. We know that this poem was given orally because of the many repeated formulas throughout it. Perhaps these formulas were the original words of an ancient shaman’s ritual.
The poems of the Ch’u-tz’u consist of basically two types of poems; the first types of poems are the trista poems that deal with the sadness and sorrows of a shaman when he deals with the rejection of society. This is exactly what the poem quest for the goddess portrays; the Shaman tries to go find the Goddess but is unsuccessful. She always eludes him, and he is ashamed in front of the people, even though they still cheer him on.
The other types of poems are ilineraria, which is a shaman’s or a wizard’s journey to obtain power. This journey usually leads them on a spiritual path around the cosmos, slowly gaining more power over the elements until he has ultimate power over the universe. This kind of poetry was used to flatter the king and his court, because the king did not need to go on such a spiritual journey to obtain such power.
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