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  • The Textual Afterlives of Utopia:Titles Published in China and Taiwan Since 2016
  • Yi−Chun Liu

This article examines the textual afterlives of Utopia in China and Taiwan by surveying titles published between 2016 and the first half of 2017. We are dealing with a massive array of titles pertinent to Utopia(nism) related to multiple disciplines. Indeed, not only has the sixteenth-century neologism Utopia become "a term of common parlance" that has taken on its own life,1 but the concept of Utopia representing the ideal (and the search for it) has also been extensively adapted and appropriated.2 Since any articulation expressing a particular ideal can be considered "utopian" in its own right, it is not my intention to take into account all the titles that border on the articulation of or the desire for an ideal.3 I limit the scope of my investigation to books with the word utopia appearing either in the title or in the abstract or under subject headings in library catalogs and databases. I exclude the translations (be they reissues or new ones) of utopian classics such as Nineteen Eighty-Four, We, and Brave New World, as well as translations of critiques such as Karl Mannheim's Ideology and Utopia, among others.4 I also exclude essay collections from symposia and conferences as well as M.A. theses and Ph.D. dissertations. Those titles that do not fall into these excluded groups, then, shall offer a brief [End Page 656] overview of thematic categories and demonstrate how the idea of Utopia is maintaining its textual legacy.

The results of cross-referencing various databases and library catalogs render a simple result: since 2016, thirteen books on this subject were published in China, and three books were published in Taiwan.5 To begin with the list from Taiwan, the first book located is about the dislocation of Tibetans and their search for a free Tibet. Written by Wenhui Yin, 謎途:流亡路上 的烏托邦 (Puzzling Routes: The Utopia on the Way of Exile) implicitly conveys loaded sentiments that are only relatable to exiled Tibetans. The second one was published in June 2016, entitled 自由文化地球國 (The Earth Nation of Free Culture).6 The author Guomin Zeng attempts to express his ideals by resorting to philosophical theories and the socioeconomic system, arriving at his ultimate aspirations: a Republic of Free Culture, a Free Cultural Area, a Passion-Based Economy, and a Global Republic of Free Culture.7 While the previous two books focus on the present and the future, the third one, authored by Guoqing He, looks back to the past. Challenging the common view that the Emperor Wanli of the Ming dynasty caused China to experience a "dark age," in 萬曆駕到:多元、開放、創意的文化盛世 (The Royal Arrival of [Emperor] Wanli: The Cultural Heyday of the Dynamic, Receptive, and Creative), Guoqing He offers a different historical standpoint by illustrating how the cultural pinnacle of Ming China had in fact been analogized with the Renaissance by the sixteenth-century European missionaries who set foot in China. "The missionaries were amazed that Utopia did exist in the world," writes the author.8 Thus, these three Utopia-related titles published in Taiwan in 2016 can be viewed as their authors' utopian visions, factual or otherwise, ranging from the past to the future. Guoqing He's book is a reestablishment of Ming China as being a Utopia when viewed culturally and artistically; Wenhui Yin, voicing her concern for the Tibetans, builds an imaginary Utopia for the exiled through her piece of reported literature; and Guomin Zeng's work, expanded from the utopian novel he wrote ten years back, goes into the future with practical solutions to attaining his ideal.

While the three books published in Taiwan are the authors' reflections of their ideal vision, the thirteen titles published in China cover a wider range of disciplines. The two published in 2017 deal with the utopian spirit of ethical values and the critique of a writer considered utopian. The first book, titled 乌托邦精神的伦理价值 (The Ethical Values of Utopian Spirits), was the outcome of a project called "Chinese Traditional Utopian Thinking [End Page 657] and Its Archival Research," funded by Huaqiao University in 2016. The second book looks into Andrei Platonov's...


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