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236 China Review International: Vol. 4, No. ?, Spring 1997 Keith Schoppa. Blood Road: The Mystery ofShen Dingyi in Revolutionary China. Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University ofCalifornia Press, 1995. xii, 322 pp. Hardcover $40.00, isbn 0-520-20015-2. Using what is known ofthe life ofa single individual to ülustrate the forces that swept through China during the May Fourth Movement and into die twenties, Keith Schoppa investigates the circumstances surrounding the death ofShen Dingyi, who was assassinated in 1928; the "mystery" focuses on fhe who and fhe why offhis act. In exploring these questions, the author engages the reader not only in social history and biography, but in a literary analysis ofthe essays, stories , speeches, and poetry ofthe victim. These are used to introduce each chapter, and are interspersed throughout the text as weU. The stated themes ofthis book are the nature ofsocial identity, the role of social networks, the political importance ofplace, and the centrality ofthe process ofhistorical explanation. Using these themes, Schoppa attempts to explore the forces within the Chinese revolutionary movements ofthis era that have shaped, twisted, and destroyed the lives caught up in them. Only fragments ofthe life ofShen Dingyi exist in documented form. Interviews were conducted with Shen's son and grandson, with people from his village, and widi government and party officials. The evidence uncovered is mixed. The act that brought Shen to local prominence was the organization ofa rent-resistance movement among the peasants in his home vUlage ofYaqian, in Zhejiang. Yet his grave, in the vUlage, was blown up during the Cultural Revolution because Shen had been a landlord. Sun Yat-sen referred to Shen as "the most talented man" in his province. He joined both fhe CCP and the GMD—and both ultimately rejected him. He was both the product and the victim ofhis times. His career was cyclical: he began in his vülage, rose to provincial and national prominence , and then, having lost support within both of fhe two most prominent political movements, returned to Yaqian, where he was murdered. Shen reflected bodi traditional and revolutionary China. He passed the first ofthe traditional examinations, and his father purchased for him the post of magistrate. He then became involved in revolutionary activity and left his post without permission; for this he was impeached and declared "forever unemployable ." The nature ofhis personality is reflected in his subsequent career. The author analyzes the uncertainty ofplace as part of the search for a revolutionary© 1997 by University identity; the evidence is sufficiendy uncertain that an argument can also be made ofHawai'iPressfor ^n unstable personality living in unstable times. Shen was involved with many groups, yet he always seemed to alienate himselffrom them. Was his problem due to a lack of social stability or to the tendency of a revolution to devour its adher- Reviews 237 ents, or was it the fault ofan individual who was unable to adjust sufficiendy to the ever changing—and, the author would argue, ever narrowing—parameters of individual enterprise? Perhaps it was Shen's emphasis on the individual, in a society where the collective was the norm, that set him apart from those persons whose organizations were engaged in narrowing the definition ofthe collective. Shen believed in changing individuals through education and then joining them in a common enterprise ofreform. How many strong personalities were to be integrated into such a progressive force, however, is not addressed in this volume. Shen used his writings to educate students, attract them into his network, and promote among them ideas ofchange. His relationship wifh his students was that of the traditional patron and client. By aU accounts he was a persuasive public speaker, and his abUities as a writer and speaker gave him status in revolutionary circles. Yet he was more than just a literary figure. Involved in the founding ofthe CCP, he began to organize the peasants ^—not die workers who were the traditional Marxist underclass. His support for the farmers in the provincial assembly was denounced as Bolshevik inspired, and soldiers were sent into his district to end the chaUenge to landlord authority there. Perhaps the problem with Shen lay in his attempt to translate the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 236-238
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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