- Handian li de renjiguanxi yu zhengzhi—Du Hafo-Yanjing Tushuguan cang "Hu Hanmin wanglai handiangao" [inline-graphic xmlns:xlink="http://www.w3.org/1999/xlink" xlink:href="01i" /] [inline-graphic xmlns:xlink="http://www.w3.org/1999/xlink" xlink:href="02i" /] (Human relations and politics within correspondence: Reading "Hu Hanmin's [collected] Correspondence" at the Harvard-Yenching Library)
Chen Hongmin's new book is the most recent achievement in the research on Hu Hanmin (1879-1936), one of the most important political figures of early twentieth-century China. Not only does the book provide new source materials, it also offers penetrating interpretations of Hu's later life and his role in the complex Chinese political scene in the years from 1931 to 1936.
A native of Guangdong, Hu studied in Japan, where he joined Sun Yat-sen's Revolutionary Alliance. He was a staunch supporter of Sun and saw himself as Sun's truest disciple and interpreter. After Sun's death, Hu, Chiang Kai-shek, and Wang Jingwei served as a triumvirate within the Nationalist Party (KMT), with [End Page 44] Chiang as military commander, Wang as civilian head, and Hu as Party theoretician. As Chiang's military power grew, the political power of the other two gradually waned. Yet the interactions of the three continued to dominate Chinese politics from the mid-1920s to the mid-1930s.
Chen Hongmin's book is not a study of Hu Hanmin per se. Rather it focuses on Hu's personal correspondence in the five years from 1931 to 1936 and makes full use of the available materials to reveal important aspects of the events of that time. This correspondence has a distinctive history of its own. Hu left a great number of speeches, pamphlets, articles, and essays along with his autobiography to 1912; but he did not keep a diary, which has made his private life a mystery. In his later years, however, Hu appears to have saved everything he sent out and received. As a result, a great number of letters, telegrams, telephone messages, and personal notes were amassed. These materials were preserved by his daughter Hu Mulan for more than three decades until 1968, when she donated them to the Harvard-Yenching Library. This archive consists of more than 2,600 items, dating from 1931 to 1936, and is now known as "The Hu Hanmin Correspondence in the Harvard-Yenching Library." Chen Hongmin's book is an analytical study of this collection.
The book consists of nine chapters, each on a distinctive topic. Chen utilizes his materials to probe some important aspects of Hu's role in Chinese politics during these five years. According to Chen, Hu used multiple means of communication in carrying on this extensive correspondence: telephone, telegraph, and regular post, as well as messengers and personal envoys. Chen classifies the people with whom Hu communicated into seven groups, ranging from the inner coterie to outside figures and from close friends to personal enemies. To maintain confidentiality, Hu and his close friends made extensive use of codes to represent persons, organizations, and even countries. For example, there were over twenty different "nicknames" for Chiang Kai-shek, ranging from "men" (door) to "caotou" (grass head). These names are meaningless to outsiders, yet for Hu they were important tools for discussing political issues. Chen decodes all of them and makes the meaning of the correspondence crystal clear.
One vital feature of the book is Chen's investigation of Hu's relationship with Chiang Kai-shek. In 1931, because of their political differences, Hu...