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Modern Chinese Literature

Modern Chinese Literature

Modern Chinese literature refers to the works created from the First Opium War in 1840 to the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. 

Before the May 4th Movement in 1919, modern literature features to reflect great political events and the kaleidoscopic social life of the day. Most of them voiced opposition to the foreign invasion and exposed the evil feudal system of the time. In this period, great representative poets are Gong Zizhen and Huang Zunxian, of which Gong Zizhen was a progressive and a creative romantic poet as well as one of the founders of modern Chinese literature, his masterpiece is Poems 1839 (Chinese:《己亥杂诗》). Novels were also flourishing during this time and the most renowned are Exposure of the Official World (Chinese:《官场现形记》) by Li Baojia (Chinese:李宝嘉), The Travel records of Lao Can (Chinese: 《老残游记》) by Liu E (Chinese:刘鹗), and Flowers in a Mrrior (Chinese:《镜花缘》) by Li Ruzhen (Chinese:李汝珍). In addition, as contacts with foreign countries increased day by day, Chinese bourgeoisie realized the need to learn from the west, that over 1000 novels were translated and the leading translators are Yanfu (Chinese:严复) and Linshu (Chinese: 林纾), which played a important part in promoting Chinese novel writing of the time as well as subsequent years.

On May 4, 1919, an anti-imperialist, anti-feudal revolutionary movement broke out, marking the beginning of a new literature which directly helped the rising of the new literature movement to promote science, democracy and writings in the vernacular. Luxun (鲁迅) is the chief figure of the new cultural movement. With incisive realism, his collects of essays like Call for Arms (Chinese:《呐喊》) and Wandering (Chinese:《彷徨》) lash out against the iniquities of the time. And his most famous short story the True Story of Ah Q (Chinese:《阿Q正传》) is international acknowledged as an immortal work in the history of modern Chinese literature. In the field of poetry, Guo Moruo (Chinese:郭沫若) is the figure initiated the modern Chinese poetry with his outstanding example, The Goddess (Chinese:《女神》). Other important works of this period are novels Midnight (Chinese:《子夜》) by Mao Dun (Chinese:茅盾), Camel Xiangzi (Chinese:《骆驼祥子》) by Lao She (Chinese:老舍), Trilogy of the Turbulent Currents (Chinese:《激流三部曲》) by Ba Jin (Chinese:巴金) which embraced three full-length novels-The Family, Spring and Autumn (Chinese:《家》,《春》,《秋》) and the play Thunderstorm (Chinese:《雷雨》) by Cao Yu (Chinese:曹禺).

During the War of Liberation, themes of literature are generally the rural life in liberation areas and Chinese peasant’s struggle against the feudal rule and the system of exploitation. Representatives are Zhou Libo’s (Chinese:周立波) The Hurricane (Chinese:《暴风骤雨》), Zhao Shuli’s (Chinese:赵树理) novel The Marriage of Young Black(Chinese:《小二黑结婚》) and Rhymes  of Li Youcai (Chinese:《李有才板话》), Li Ji’s (Chinese:李季) long poem Wang Gui and Li Xiangxiang (Chinese:《王贵和李香香》) and the opera The White-haired Girl (Chinese:《白毛女》) by He Jingzhi (Chinese:贺敬之) and Ding Yi (Chinese:丁毅).

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