Chinese Fiction of the Cultural Revolution

Chinese Fiction of the Cultural Revolution

Lan Yang
Copyright Date: 1998
Pages: 356
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  • Book Info
    Chinese Fiction of the Cultural Revolution
    Book Description:

    As the first comprehensive study of Chinese fiction of the Cultural Revolution, this pioneering work explores the position of the literature of this turbulent period in the context of contemporary China.The book covers the choice of subject matter, authorship and readership of Cultural Revolution fiction. It analyses the characterization of heroes promoted in the literary and artistic field during this period. By comparing Cultural Revolution fiction with the fiction of the preceding period, with Soviet fiction and with some traditional Chinese and Western fiction, this analysis emphasizes the ideological and cultural significance of the characteristics shown in the heroes' personal background and their physical, temperamental and behavioural qualities etc. The book also contains a comprehensive linguistic study focusing on lexical style. This investigation presents the density and distribution of stylistic items concerning narrators and characters, the general fictional language style, and the relation between the general style and the authors' individual language style. This book will be of significant benefit to both students and scholars of Chinese literature, language and society.

    eISBN: 978-988-220-068-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. ForeWord
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Bonnie S. McDougall

    It is a great pleasure to be able to introduce Dr Yang’s work to a wider audience. During the course of his study of Cultural Revolution fiction, I have been again and again impressed with the thoroughness of his research. Even more, I have been astonished and delighted at the results his painstaking work has yielded. Once and for all, the widespread misconception (repeated even by people who lived through that period) that in literature and the arts the Cultural Revolution produced no more than ‘eight model operas’ should be laid to rest. What is truly unexpected, and unique to...

  5. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-32)

    Both inside and outside China, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (‘CR’ for short) was known as the most sensational political movement in contemporary China under the People’s Republic. Some scholars prefer to date the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1969 and to define the period from 1969 to 1976 as a radical leftist phase. This book adopts the definition which dates the CR from 1966 to 1976 and divides the decade into two periods. The latter definition was the post-CR Chinese government’s official definition, and it is also widely adopted by Western scholars. In his China’s Continuous Revolution: The Post-Liberation...

  7. Part I Characterization of the Main Heroes
    • Introduction to Part I
      (pp. 35-38)

      Based on the then current literary policy and theory, the unprecedented promotion of heroic characters made this aspect the single most important literary factor in CR fiction, influencing other aspects such as plot, structure, style and aesthetic views. This part analyses the characterization of main heroes in the novels under investigation.

      ‘Hero’, as used in English literary analysis, can be ambiguous, used both for ‘main character’ and ‘protagonist’ as well as for a brave man. In Chinese literary analysis, the English term ‘hero’ may correspond to zhurengong, yingxiong, and zhuyao yingxiong. Zhurengong refers to the character who plays the main...

    • Chapter 1 Personal Background
      (pp. 39-48)

      The personal background under discussion covers the main heroes’ age, sex, marital status, class origin, family background, education, and so on.

      In Chinese terms, the period of youth continues up to the age of thirty, middle age occupies the years thirty to fifty, and old age is past fifty. Among the heroes of the twenty-four novels, two are set at old age (over fifty), seven at middle age (generally about thirty to forty), and the other fifteen at a young age (generally about twenty to thirty). Distinct preference is granted to youth; young main heroes make up 62.5 percent of...

    • Chapter 2 Physical Qualities
      (pp. 49-60)

      During the Cultural Revolution, the main value regarding the beauty of human beings was xinling mei [spiritual — literally ‘heart’ — beauty]. With relation to the restraints on sexual love, preference for physical or outward beauty was criticized as a sentiment of the bourgeoisie or petty bourgeoisie. This value was represented in CR literature.

      In CR novels, the ‘spiritual beauty’ of the main heroes is to a great extent related to their ideological qualities such as correct political standing, ideological consciousness and altruistic spirit. However, in spite of the stress laid on descriptions of ‘spiritual beauty’, authors were by no means careless...

    • Chapter 3 Ideological Qualities
      (pp. 61-74)

      The main ideological motifs of CR agricultural novels were summarized by Chinese commentators in the Cultural Revolution as the struggle between two classes (the proletariat and the capitalist class), two roads (the socialist road and the capitalist road), two lines (the line of Marxism–Leninism guided by Mao and the line of revisionism) and two ideologies (altruism/collectivism and egoism/individualism). In the novels, the main heroes are representatives of the proletariat, of the leaders [daitouren] of the socialist road, of the followers of Mao’s line, and of the values of altruism and collectivism.¹ Therefore, the idealization of the main heroes’ ideological...

    • Chapter 4 Temperamental and Behavioural Qualities
      (pp. 75-96)

      In CR novels ideology is evidently an important part of the foundation of the thinking and actions of the main heroes. This is especially true when the thinking and actions are concerned with class and line struggles. Nevertheless, apart from ideological consciousness and qualities, which cannot explain all their feelings, manners and behaviour, CR novel heroes have their temperamental and behavioural qualities. Like the ideological qualities, temperamental and behavioural qualities also contribute to the heroes’ ‘loftiness, greatness and perfection’.

      Generally, the following characteristics with regard to temperament and behaviour are prominent and are shared by all of the main heroes...

    • Chapter 5 Prominence Given to the Main Heroes
      (pp. 97-120)

      It is evident that the physical, ideological and behavioural qualities analysed in the preceding chapters showed the main heroes’ prominence in the CR novels. However, such prominence, as discussed in this section, refers in particular to those aspects intended by the authors to set the characters off through following the ‘three prominences’ and other established ways.

      As noted in the Introduction, according to the ‘three prominences’ (and also ‘three foilings’), all other characters are destined to serve as foils to the main heroes. The basic methods for using other characters as foils include fanchen [setting off a character through stressing...

  8. Part II Lexical Style
    • Introduction to Part II
      (pp. 123-128)

      Here Ferdinand de Saussure’s distinction between langue and parole is adopted, langue being the system of rules common to speakers of a language, and parole being the particular uses of this system.¹ The langue during the CR period was still the Modern Standard Chinese [putonghua] system, and there is no indication of any change in official policy in regard to its phonological, lexical or grammatical norms. Nevertheless, although the Cultural Revolution did not change the existing Chinese langue, it substantially affected the style of Chinese speech and writing, which pertains to parole.

      The definition of style in the present investigation...

    • Chapter 6 Vulgar Expressions
      (pp. 129-146)

      Here the concept ‘vulgar expression’ roughly corresponds to ‘swearing’ plus a small part of ‘slang’ described by Lars-Ounnar Andersson and Peter Trudgill in their Bad Language.¹ English and Chinese contain some specific sorts of vulgar expression which exist only in one of the two languages. For instance, according to Andersson and Trudgill, ‘a typical form of swearing in English and most other European languages involves blasphernic utterances’,² but in Chinese few words can be found to refer to religion in a derogatory way. According to the specificity of Chinese vocabulary, the vulgar expressions under discussion cover the following sorts of...

    • Chapter 7 Ideological Expressions
      (pp. 147-164)

      Compared to the other categories of stylistic items, ideological expressions are very difficult to count because of the following two factors:

      Firstly, on a semantic level, some political and ideological expressions are well, established, but some are not. There are three semantic categories of these expressions:

      This covers words and expressions whose political and ideological meaning are literally determined and distinct, including the following categories:

      1. Ideological terminology.

      Examples: zhengzhi [politics], geming [revolution], yishixingtai [ideology], shehuizhuyi [socialism], wuchanjieji [the proletariat), Mao Zedong Sixiang [Mao Zedong Thought].

      2. Names of political organizations and political figures plus their associated epithets.

      Examples: gongqingtuan...

    • Chapter 8 Idioms, Proverbs, Xiehouyu, and Classical Verses
      (pp. 165-180)

      In the present investigation, the definitions and range of idioms, proverbs, xiehouyu, and classical verses are based on the corresponding reference books indicated in the beginning of Part II. Below are complementary counting criteria concerning each category:

      i) The forms of Chinese idioms are sometimes allowed to be modified for the sake of literary rhetoric although they are generally established.¹ Some modified forms have gradually become established variant forms, such as ru ku han xin reversed from han xin ru ku [endure all kinds of hardships], and ba xian guo hai, ge xian qi neng modified from ba xian guo...

    • Chapter 9 ‘Bookish’ and ‘Colloquial’
      (pp. 181-186)

      In most if not all Chinese books concerning Chinese lexicology, rhetoric, and stylistics, there appear two terms: shumianyu [written language] and kouyu [spoken language]. Some vocabulary items are said to have shumianyu secai [the colour (flavour) of written language], being called shumianyu ci [bookish words], and some others to have kouyu secai [the colour (flavour) of spoken language], being called kouyu ci [colloquial words].¹ The vocabulary of Modern Standard Chinese is also often divided into three categories according to source: guyu ci or wenyan ci [old words or classical words], fangyan ci [dialectal words], and wailai ci [foreign words].¹ Here,...

    • Chapter 10 Dialectal Expressions
      (pp. 187-192)

      Dialectal expressions under discussion consist of two categories: one refers to the words and expressions which may still not be counted into the vocabulary of Modern Standard Chinese,¹ but are in rather common use in writings in the standard language. Such items are labelled ‘fang’ [dialectal] in A Modem Chinese Dictionary. For example, ‘sha’ [what] (E, p. 222), ‘jinr’ [today] (E, p. 386), ‘ganqing’ [indeed] (G, p. 61), ‘gouqiang’ [terrible] (D, p. 231), ‘duozan’ [when] (F, p. 245). Another category covers items which do not appear in A Modern Chinese Dictionary. They can be classified into two sub-categories: (1) items...

    • Chapter 11 Military Words and Expressions
      (pp. 193-202)

      In practical contexts, military words and expressions can be classified into two categories according to their usage: One covers military words and expressions in literal use, i.e. they are used to refer to organizations, people, materials, and acts in a real military sense; the other category includes military words and expressions in metaphorical use, i.e. they are used to indicate organizations, people, materials, and acts which are not related to real military affairs. Compare the following examples:

      (1) Ta hai xiang dao Qi Zhixiong cong chuangdong sai gei ta de mianxie, TIanmen Zhen shang de qiangsheng, Ji-Yunhe bian de paohuo....

    • Chapter 12 Meteorological Vocabulary and Inflated Expressions
      (pp. 203-210)

      The above ten stylistic categories of vocabulary have been analysed quantitatively and qualitatively. The other two categories of stylistic items in this study are meteorological vocabulary and inflated expressions. Owing to the lack of thorough statistics, the following analyses concerning the two categories are mainly qualitative.

      Like military words and expressions, meteorological items are also used in a literal or metaphorical sense. When used in a literal sense, they refer to weather and relative natural phenomena; when used in a metaphorical sense, they indicate political and social phenomena. Compare the following examples:

      (1) Zaochen qilai, tianqi haishi qinglang de, yu...

    • Chapter 13 The Vocabulary Style in General Perspective
      (pp. 211-214)

      Above we have analysed twelve vocabulary categories of CR novel through which the stylistic characteristics of each category have been presented. Now we place the results concerning the density of the categories into a general perspective (see Table 19).

      For the sake of generalization, the twelve categories may be stylistically grouped into A and B below:

      A: Idioms, proverbs, xiehouyu, classical verses, bookish items, colloquial items, and dialectal items.

      B: Vulgar items, ideological items, military items, meteorological items, and inflated items.

      Group A (the first stylistic classification) may be taken as a lexicological classification which is based mainly on the...

  9. Conclusion
    (pp. 215-226)

    The publication of one hundred and twenty-six novels in a ten-year period is a rather small number in a country as large as China. However, taking into account the political circumstances during the years of the Cultural Revolution, this figure is actually high because the average annual quantity was at a similar level to that of the pre-CR period. This study has concentrated on twenty-four CR agricultural novels, which occupy a prominent place among all CR novels.

    The first part of this study is literary analysis concentrating on the characterization of the novels’ main heroes. It has analysed five aspects....

  10. Tables
    (pp. 227-248)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 249-276)
  12. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 277-290)
  13. Appendix 1: The 24 CR Agricultural Novels
    (pp. 291-292)
  14. Appendix 2: Annotated Bibliography of Novels of the Cultural Revolution
    (pp. 293-310)
  15. Glossary
    (pp. 311-334)
  16. Index
    (pp. 335-340)