China Modern Literature(1912-1949)
Either way, with the novel and the theater, a language is being prepared that will be decisive for the renewal of literature after the end of the imperial era. This is the so-called colloquial language. In its beginnings, this goes back to the Middle Ages, but has hardly found recognition, and wherever it came into play, sometimes in storytelling or on the stage, it was disregarded by the elite. The Chinese spirit had to express itself classically and in the forms of poetry as well as essay, otherwise in letter or treatise. That all changed thanks to the encounter with the West, initially hesitantly since the 16th century, then tremendously since the First Opium War (1840-42). For practical reasons, the interface for the transition from traditional to modern literature is the movement of May 4, 1919. In truth, years of rethinking preceded the demonstration against the Treaty of Versailles that was held at that time. Nevertheless, academic convenience wants the new literature to begin on this date. Lu Xun (* 1881, † 1936) is regarded as her father, her mother can be found in Bing Xin (* 1900, † 1999). Since 1918, Lu Xun has had the modern short story, the new prose poem and a lyrical and critical essay writing. Bing Xin invented the modern poem in 1923, as it were. From now on, writing meant writing critically, in a language that was no longer rooted in the classical expression, but rather in writing down the spoken language and making it a subject of instruction. Despite all the conservative protests, the innovators were able to prevail in the course of the 1920s. China now experienced a modern literature that was not supposed to exist in Germany until 1945. The translation formed the basis for this. At that time, a writer often also meant being his translator, a fact that was to change after 1949. Today, being an author in the entire Chinese-speaking area almost never means being a mediator of foreign literatures at the same time.
The acquaintance with almost the entire literature of the West that became possible at the time and the knowledge of many foreign languages allowed an educated person like Qian Zhongshu (* 1910, † 1998) with »The Surrounded Fortress« (Weicheng, 1947) to create what is perhaps the best and only one that really is modern novel in China. Other successful narrators did not necessarily place modern protagonists at the center of their portrayal, but rather traditional characters. This applies, for example, to the great work of Shen Congwen (* 1902, † 1988) or Xiao Hong (* 1911, † 1942). Nonetheless, they can be found in the short story or in the novella especially from the 1930s and 1940s, there are many traces of modernity, especially in the depiction of women. For example, in the feminist work of Ding Ling (* 1904, † 1986), Zhang Ailing (Eileen Chang, * 1920, † 1995) or the narrator Mao Dun (* 1896, † 1981).
The deliberate departure from tradition can be seen most programmatically in one of the most successful Chinese novels to date, including as a translation. »The family« (Jia, 1931) of Ba Jin (* 1904, † 2005) places the patriarchal clan system favored by Confucianism at the center of all evil. The word applies to young people alone; all future is seen in them as the driving force. Her liberation from all authority allowed her her own way, the way to herself. How much the subjectivity and inwardness that have now become possible can contribute to the endangerment of the subject can be seen in the work of Yu Dafu (1896, † 1945) read off. Here comes the melancholic who is no longer in control of himself and who seeks a way out in violent agitation.
Of all genres, poetry went the furthest in its modernity. She experimented with many languages and forms. Its radicalism is only now finding its admirers after many decades. Few poets were free from the stigma of incomprehensibility and the desired language. One of them was Feng Zhi (* 1905, † 1993), who, influenced by J. W. von Goethe, K. Jaspers and R. M. Rilke, created the perfect sonnet in Chinese. With simple, clear words he redesigns the existence of man in times of war. In his function as a Germanist, the poet was honored by both the former FRG and the GDR.
According to itypeauto, the multilingualism of many writers of those years also made it possible to write in foreign languages. The most successful was Lin Yutang (* 1895, † 1976), who turned to English in 1935 and, with his hymns to old China, which can also be understood as a criticism of the new China, significantly influenced the image of China in America and Europe. The danger of a modern literature capable of analysis, as Mao Zedong (* 1893, † 1976) indirectly expressed in his speeches on literature and art in 1942, had its ideological masterminds. Once great poets like He Qifang (* 1912, † 1977) or Zang Kejia (* 1905, † 2004) conjured up the burial of the modern self in order to be able to return to the collective of the people in the fight against Japan (1937–45). Mao Zedong only drew the consequences of such a demand. What was discussed in Yan’an was sealed on October 1, 1949 in Beijing: the establishment of the People’s Republic of China meant the temporary end of modern literature. The Maoist ideology from now on had to be poured into the traditional literary forms. Literature was no longer a matter of the individual but of the collective who spoke with only one voice, the voice of the party. The deportation of 500,000 authors, artists and thinkers following the campaign called Hundert Blumen in 1957 marked the end of a critical spirit on the mainland. Between 1949 and 1979 (the beginning of the reforms) there was little worthy of the name art. Lao She (* 1899, † 1966) was one of the few who was allowed to create a work of the century with the play »Das Teehaus« (1958). If you read it against the grain, it is a swan song for modern China, including the period after 1949.