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A Garden of One’s Own

A Collection of Modern Chinese Essays, 1919–1949

Edited and translated by Tam King-fai

Publication Year: 2012

This authoritative collection contains writings by some thirty of the most significant Chinese writers of the period between 1919 and 1949. The three decades from which these pieces are drawn encompass most of the Republican period, a tumultuous era in Chinese history in which modernization and republicanism coexisted with classical culture. Thematically, these xiaopin wen, or modern Chinese essays, differ significantly from the more social and political fiction of the May Fourth movement. Their scope varies, from ruminations on broader existential issues to more personal contemplations on everyday life, often delving into issues of morality and interpersonal relations. Although described as “essays,” they are not restrained by the formal, expository connotations of this English term; rather, their tone is more intimate, reflective, and at times witty or tinged with melancholy.

Published by: Chinese University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. 1-4


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pp. v-viii

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pp. 1-38

Like the essays that the man of leisure in this passage picks up to while away a long wintry day, the works introduced in this anthology are known in Chinese by the name xiaopin wen.1 Having a common name is but one of the resemblances between essays of the Ming and those of the modern period, ...


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pp. 39-40

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1. Lu Xun

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pp. 41-44

Lu Xun (1881-1936) was first educted in his hometown of Shaoxing and then in Nanjing, after which he went to Japan for four years. These four years had a profound influence on his intellectual development. Lu Xun went to Japan intending to study medicine, but gave up this plan when he realized that the sickness of the Chinese people lay not so much in body but in mind. ...

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2. Xia Mianzun

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pp. 45-50

By all accounts, Xia Mianzun (1886–1946) is a kind, fair-minded, and disciplined man. He is remembered mostly for the contributions he made to literature and education. ...

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3. Zhou Zuoren

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pp. 51-60

Zhou Zuoren (1885–1967) is the younger brother of Lu Xun. The two shared the goals of the New Culture Movement, collaborating on a number of projects when they were students in Japan, before parting ways for political and literary reasons. ...

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4. Xu Dishan

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pp. 61-66

Xu Dishan (1894–1941) was a native of Tainan, Taiwan, but his family moved to Fujian when he was a child. He received his education from Yenching University, Columbia University, and Oxford University. Trained in literature and religious studies, he later became a writer, an educator, and a folklorist. ...

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5. Ye Shengtao

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pp. 67-74

Like Xia Mianzun featured earlier in this anthology, Ye Shengtao (also Ye Shaojun, 1894–1988) is a dedicated teacher, editor, and writer. In addition to many professional and family ties (Xia’s daughter was married to Ye’s son), these two distinguished writers also collaborated in the writing of Wenxin and Wenzhang jianghua. ...

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6. Lin Yutang

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pp. 75-84

Lin Yutang (1895–1976) was born to a Christian family in Fujian and received his education in Shanghai, the United States, and Germany. In addition to writing, he was also a scholar of Chinese linguistics, and as such, devised a method of romanizing and categorizing Chinese characters, invented a Chinese typewriter, and compiled a Chinese dictionary. ...

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7. Zhang Henshui

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pp. 85-88

Zhang Henhui (1985-1967) was a proific and well-known artitst of a form of traditional Chinese fiction known as the linked-chapter novel (zhanghui xiaoshuo). A journalist by profession, Zhang picked up novel writing initially as a hobby, but it soon came to absorb all of his creative energy. ...

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8. Mao Dun

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pp. 89-92

Mao Dun (1896–1981) is a writer, a critic, and a journalist. His education was spotty. Before he had the chance to complete his university education, he entered full-time employment with the Commercial Press. ...

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9. Xu Zhimo

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pp. 93-102

Among the many Chinese literary stars in the twentieth century, Xu Zhimo (1897–1931) probably cuts the most romantic figure. Many people have heard of his turbulent love affairs and his untimely death at thirty-four. His short but remarkable life provides raw material for many films and TV dramas. ...

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10. Yu Dafu

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pp. 103-106

Yu Dafu (1896–1945) received a traditional Chinese education from different schools in Hangzhou in his youth. After he was expelled from Hangzhou University for participating in a student movement, he went to Tokyo University to study economics. ...

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11. Su Xuelin

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pp. 107-114

Su Xuelin (1897–1999) was born to a late Qing bureaucrat who held the view that a virtuous woman should be uneducated. Thus, from very early on. Su had to fight for the right to be educated. After threatening to drown herself in a river if her wish were not granted, Su gained permission to attend school. ...

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12. Feng Zikai

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pp. 115-128

Feng Zikai (1898–1975) was a man of many talents. During his long career, he made significant contributions as a writer, a painter, a musician, and most of all, as an educator. In 1922, after returning from an eight-month stay in Japan, where he studied art, music, Japanese, and English, ...

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13. Lu Yin

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pp. 129-132

Lu Yin (1898–1934), born Huang Shuyi, had a short but productive life. In her writing career of fourteen years, she left behind an impressive repertoire of novels, stories, essays, and dramatic works. ...

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14. Zheng Zhenduo

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pp. 133-138

Zheng Zhenduo (1898–1958) was born in Zhejiang and was educated in Beijing. He led an active career as a writer, journalist, archaeologist, and literary scholar. In the wake of the May Fourth period, he played an active role in the literary scene as the editor of a number of literary magazines. ...

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15. Zhu Ziqing

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pp. 139-150

Zhu Ziqing (1898–1948) was an accomplished essayist and poet and a noted scholar of classical Chinese literature. He taught Chinese in Qinghua University and many high schools, and in such a capacity, coedited with other writers and teachers many language textbooks that have had a long-lasting influence on language teaching in China. ...

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16. Lao She

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pp. 151-154

Lao She (1899–1966) is a well-known novelist, playwright, and an accomplished amateur actor of different types of regional drama. He also experimented with various forms of popular entertainment such as shuoshu and xiangsheng. ...

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17. Bing Xin

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pp. 155-162

Bing Xin (1900–1999) is one of the most eminent Chinese women writers of the twentieth century. She was educated at Yenching Univesity, where she wrote for the school newspaper. Later, when she was pursuing an MA in literature at Wellesley University in the US, ...

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18. Yu Pingbo

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pp. 163-172

Yu Pingbo (1900–1990) is a descendant of the famous scholar Yu Yue of the Qing dynasty, and received at home solid training in classical Chinese studies. He studied at Peking University, where he immersed himself in the New Culture Movement, writing essays and vernacular poetry, and founding with colleagues the journal New Wave. ...

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19. Fang Lingru

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pp. 173-176

Fang Lingru (1897–1976) grew up in the oppressive atmosphere of a scholar’s family. Against the gender bias of the time, she fought to be allowed to be educated. Her uncle forced her into marriage with the son of a local gentry family. ...

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20. Liang Shiqiu

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pp. 177-190

For many readers, Liang Shiqiu (1903–1987) is forever linked with xiaopin wen, in large part due to the popularity of his Yashe xiaopin. His essays are characterized by the kind of wit that one associates with the English familiar essay. ...

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21. Zhu Xiang

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pp. 191-194

Like Liang Yuchun and a few other essayists featured in this anthology, Zhu Xiang (1904–1933) led a short but remarkable life. Also like Liang, he comes under the heavy influences of English literature, having studied it first in China and then in the US. ...

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22. Ba Jin

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pp. 195-198

Ba Jin (1904-2005) is one of the most influential Chinewe writers of the twentieth century. During his long life, Ba Jin was tireless in promoting the course of modern Chinese literature. Many of his works remain classics, including Family, probably the most well known of his novels. ...

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23. Ye Lingfeng

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pp. 199-202

Ye Lingfeng (1905–1975) was educated at Shanghai Arts Institute. He was an active member of the Creation Society, and is well known for creating characters with great psychological depth. ...

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24. Li Guangtian

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pp. 203-212

Li Guangtian (1906–1968) began his writing career as a poet, publishing Hanyuan ji with He Qifang and Bian Zhilin, but later came to be known mostly as a highly original prose writer. He was educated in the foreign language department of Peking University, where he also studied French on his own and Japanese with Zhou Zuoren. ...

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25. Liang Yuchun

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pp. 213-224

Liang Yuchun (1906–1932) is a precocious and prolific writer. He began to introduce foreign literature to Chinese readers when he was still a student in Peking University. He later turned to writing essays, which show clear signs of influences from the familiar English essay. ...

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26. Wu Boxiao

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pp. 225-232

Wu Boxiao (1906–1982) was born in Shangdong and entered Beijing Normal University in 1925. He made his fame as an essayist, but also pursued a tireless career in language education. ...

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27. Lu Li

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pp. 233-240

Lu Li (1908–1942) received an education in mechanical engineering and made a living as a science teacher, while his interest in literature led him to pursue a creative life of writing and translation, in addition to managing a publishing house in Shanghai during the years of Japanese occupation. ...

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28. Qian Zhongshu

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pp. 241-246

Qian Zhongshu (1910–1998) is one of the intellectual giants in twentieth-century China. His fame as a writer is built upon a volume of essays, a book of short stories, and a full-length novel. Yet, his scant literary output does not in any way reduce his stature, as his writings are generally held up to be the work of a genius, ...

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29. He Qifang

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pp. 247-260

He Qifang (1912–1977) was born to a wealthy land-owning family in Wanxian, Sichuan. To escape from his authoritarian conservative family, he moved to Shanghai for his education. He eventually entered Peking University where he befriended Li Guangtian and Bian Zhilin. ...

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30. Su Qing

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pp. 261-270

Su Qing (1917–1982) made her literary fame on the Lone Island, as occupied Shanghai was known during the War of Resistance against Japan. Like Zhang Ailing, another Lone Island writer to whom she is often compared, Su’s reputation is attributable to her literary achievements as much as her well-publicized personal life. ...

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31. Zhang Ailing

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pp. 271-274

Just as Lu Xun is the icon of twentieth-century China in crisis, Zhang Ailing (1920–1995) is the icon of Shanghai under siege in the late 1930s and early 1940s. She captures the reader’s imagination with her distinctive writing style and legendary personal life, which she consciously depicted with a fair amount of embellishment in her works. ...

Works Cited

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pp. 275-280

E-ISBN-13: 9789629969080
Print-ISBN-13: 9789629964238

Page Count: 288
Illustrations: N
Publication Year: 2012