The Business of Enlightenment: Repositories
How does one provide basic knowledge in a way that makes it accessible to everyone in society? In addition to school textbooks, the Commercial Press launched two well-known repositories (wenku): Dongfang wenku (Eastern repository [1923–34]) and Wanyou wenku (Comprehensive repository [1929–34]). The Dongfang wenku, in which some of the major articles printed in Dongfang zazhi were collected (together with other treatises and translations that did not appear), totaled more than 120 pamphlet-sized volumes—a device clearly intended for the task of inculcating new knowledge. The roster of its authors is distinguished and includes both academic and nonacademic intellectuals representing a wide spectrum of backgrounds and positions. The subjects and titles (mostly translations) are even more impressive, as they cover an immensely wide range. I can give only a rough classification of the subjects covered, as follows: literature (19 titles), philosophy (17), sciences (13), society (9), economy (7), politics (6), foreign countries (6), diplomacy (6), history (5), geography (5), art (5), women (5), culture (4), psychology (3), law (3), scholarship (3), education (3), military affairs (2), migration (2), and journalism, language, archeology, religion, and medicine (1 each). This rundown serves to give us merely a general impression, and it does not reveal the specific contents of the volumes. It seems to disclose a fairly heavy concentration on the humanities (literature and philosophy), which is followed by natural and social sciences. A considerable number of titles are concerned with diplomacy and foreign countries (12). Among the titles in literature, six are collections of stories from foreign countries: Anglo-American, French, Russian, European, Japanese, and Indian (the works of Tagore). But a more intriguing feature is the diversity of some of the other titles. To give one small example, a book written by Du Yaquan titled Chushi zhexue (A philosophy
Still, Dongfang wenku is dwarfed by comparison with its sister repository, Wanyou wenku, whose conception was even more ambitious, for it was designed to fill up nothing less than a modern library. This is clearly what its chief editor Wang Yunwu had in mind when he embarked upon the two gigantic series comprising Wanyou wenku, each containing more than a thousand volumes. By purchasing the two series, a newly established library acquired a basic collection in the most economical and systematic fashion—economical as a result of modern printing, and systematic because of the new index system based on Mr. Wang's own four-corner system. This may have been the most ambitious effort in the categorization and dissemination of knowledge for the general public during the Republican period.
From his own preface about the origin of the repository project, we see that Wang's basic design derives from the traditional congshu (collectanea) formula, and that he had seen fit to add a considerable number of new collections to the series Basic Collectanea of National Learning (Guoxue jiben congshu). We find such collections as Baike xiaocongshu (Mini collection of encyclopedic knowledge) and Xinshidai shidi congshu (History and geography of the new era), as well as separate congshu for agriculture, industry, commerce, normal school education, arithmetic, medicine, and athletics, all of which were meant to be "disciplinary tools." By the time Wang edited the second series, he had further enlarged the collections of both Western translations and "national learning," and, instead of the disciplinary texts, had included two new collections: a collection on natural sciences (Kexue xiaocongsu) and a collection on "modern problems" (Xiandai wenti congshu); the most complex task, he admitted, was the compilation of the latter, because "there were few precedents in the publications in the nation and abroad."
A glance through the catalogue of the two series is sufficient for some revelations. The editorial board for the first series lists Wang Yunwu as chief editor and a dozen other editors. At the end of the preface Wang also acknowledges the help of such "friends" —all intellectuals of great renown—as Cai Yuanpei, Hu Shi, Li Shizeng, Wu Zhihui, Yang Xingfo, and others. The editorial guidelines list the following four basic purposes: (1) the repository is intended to "inculcate in the general reading public the knowledge that is necessary for human life"; (2) "the standard of collection is based on necessity"; (3) "the whole collection is clearly systematic and complete in all categories; the categories have the effect of mutual enlightenment and do not have the blemish of duplication"; and (4) "what is deemed most necessary for all categories [of knowledge] is provided for the library or individual collector at the lowest price; students of the middle school or below, or teachers of primary schools, can establish a rudimentary library when they purchase
In its own way the project is certainly comparable to that of the French Encyclopedists and their disseminators. The crucial difference, however, lies in the systems and contents of categorization. Let us leave aside the 400 titles of "Chinese learning" in the two series (100 in the first series and 300 in the second) and look into the 250 titles of translations of "world classics" (100 in the first series, 150 in the second), as well as the 200 titles of "natural science" and 50 titles of "modern problems" —a total of 500 titles of what might be called "Western learning." Even at a glance, the catalogues are most impressive. The following is a selective listing of the categories and the significant Western authors and titles contained therein.
There are fifteen categories of translations in the first series.
Philosophy: Descartes's Discourse on Method, Spinoza's Ethics, Hume, Kant's Critique of Pure Reason, Schopenhauer, William James, Kropotkin, Nietzsche's Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Eucken, Bergson, Dewey, and Westaway's Scientific Method
Psychology: W. James's Psychology: Brief Course, Freud's Psychoanalysis, J. B. Watson's Psychology from the Standpoint of Behaviorism, K. Koffka's The Growth of the Mind
Sociology: H. Spencer, Kropotkin, Durkheim
Political science: Plato's The Republic, Aristotle's Politics, Hobbes's Leviathan, Bentham's Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, J. S. Mill's On Liberty, W. Bagehot's Physics and Politics, E. Jenks's History of Politics, Harold Laski's Grammar of Politics
Economics: Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations, List, Proudhon, Marx's Value, Price, and Profit, Ingram, Hobson's Modern Capitalism, Webbs's History of Trade Unionism, D. S. Kimball's Principles of Industrial Organization, A. L. Bowley's Elements of Statistics
Law: Gropius, Montesquieu, Maine, Dicey, Lombroso, Duguit
Education: Rousseau's Emile, Herbart, Spencer, Dewey's Democracy and Education
Natural sciences: Newton, Lamarck, Faraday, Darwin, Huxley, Pasteur, Russell, Einstein
Anglo-American literature: Shakespeare's Hamlet, Milton's Paradise Lost, Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, Swift's Gulliver's Travels, Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography, Goldsmith's The Vicar of Wakefield, Walter Scott's Ivanhoe, Dickens's David Copperfield, Washington Irving's Tales of Alhambra (most of the preceding Anglo-American literature was translated by Lin Shu), G. B. Shaw
French literature: Rousseau's Confessions, Molière's The Miser, Hugo's Les Miserables, Dumas père's The Three Musketeers, Dumas fils' La Dame aux Camelias (translated by Lin Shu), Maupassant's The Heritage
German literature: Goethe's Egmont, Schiller's Wallenstein, Hauptmann's Der rote Hahn
Russian literature: Gogol's The Reviser or Inspector General, Turgenev's Fathers and Sons, A. Ostrovsky's Poverty No Vice, Tolstoy's Childhood, Boyhood, and Youth
Literature of other countries: Homer's Odyssey, Cicero's Orations, The Arabian Nights, Dante's Divine Comedy, Cervantes's Don Quixote, Ibsen's plays, Bj⊘rnson's In God's Way, Maeterlinck's The Blue Bird, Tagore's The Crescent Moon, a collection of Japanese stories translated by Zhou Zuoren
History: Robinson's New History, Wells's Outline of History
Geography: Huntington and Cushing's Principles of Human Geography, Bowmen's The New World
In the second series, the translations of Western titles are divided into the following categories (italics indicate new or added categories): culture and cultural history, philosophy (Bacon, Leibnitz, Comte, Nietzsche), psychology, logic (Aristotle's Logic), ethics, sociology (Durkheim, Morgan, Malthus), statistics, political science (Rousseau's Social Contract, Moore's Utopia), world diplomacy, economics and finance, law, military affairs, education, industry, family and marriage, general science, mathematics, biological sciences, physics, applied sciences (more specialized than in the first series), geography and travel, biographies (of Napoleon, Bismarck, von Hindenburg, Tolstoy, and Edison, and including the autobiographies of J. M. Mill and Andrew Carnegie), historiography, history of Europe and America, history of Asia, general literature, and national literatures, with the latter including collections of works from countries including Japan, India, the United States, England, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Russia, Poland, Denmark, Hungary, Norway, Sweden, and Romania, and the works of individual authors, such as Carlyle, Thackeray, Charlotte Bronte, J. M. Barrie, Drinkwater, Hardy, Galsworthy, Hawthorne, O. Henry, Frank Wedenkind, J. Freytag, Theodor Storm, Zola, Romain Rolland, Balzac, Octave Mirabeau, Paul Geraldy, Anatole France, Andreyev, Dostoevsky, Gorky, Dante, Euripides, Sophocles, Aeschylus, Knut Hamsum, Sienkiewicz, Ibanez, and K. Palamas.
To the above we may add the 200 titles of the natural sciences collection in the second series, which comprise the following ten categories: general discourses on science; astronomy; physics; chemistry; biology; zoology and anthropology; botany; geology, mining, and geography; biographies of famous scientists; and other. Almost all of the titles are translations (with Zhou Jianren, Lu Xun's younger brother, and Zhang Ziping, otherwise known as a popular novelist, taking a conspicuous share). These titles alone would earn the collection a particularly prominent position in the repository. Then, we must also add the 70 titles in the natural sciences section and the 30 titles in the applied sciences section of the
What ultimately seems most relevant are the 50 titles in the second series in the category "modern problems." What can be categorized as modern problems (which is itself problematic)? In the second series catalogue we find the category divided into two parts: China (24 problems) and the world (26 problems). A mere listing of the titles already tells a story of nationalism as conceived and categorized in a popular imagination. Given the background of the Commercial Press, one cannot expect such a story to have a radical revolutionary projection. Rather, the problems in the section on China clearly focus on the recently established nation-state: namely, constitution, local self-government, village reconstruction, land, water conservancy (shuili), transportation, finance, taxation, international trade, cotton, silk, tea, compulsory education, adult education, women, labor, consular jurisdiction, recovery of the Northeast, development of the Northwest, Mongolia, Tibet, Sino-Japanese relations, Sino-Soviet relations, and overseas Chinese. The problems represent a preoccupation with issues of social and economic development; territorial and diplomatic issues also seem to demand attention. The latter is clearly reflected in the second section, whose titles address problems of the "world," with Japan, Soviet Russia, America, India, and the Philippines (its independence) occupying the center of attention. But an overwhelming amount of attention is focused on international issues, above all the reform of the League of Nations, international jurisdiction, and national self-determination, but also military weapons, food, fuel, unemployment, migration, monetary regulations, eugenics, sale of narcotic drugs, and rationalization (helihua). Together they give a political context that realistically reflects the situation of the world between the two world wars, in which the new Republic of China emerged as a new nation concerned with its territorial sovereignty and domestic development.
However, if we compare the titles in the category above with the revolutionary programs of the Chinese Communist Party, whose activities during the same period (1929–34) marked a transition from the urban to the rural phases, it is clear that some of the basic revolutionary premises are missing from the "fifty modern problems" covered in the series: problems of the urban proletariat, workers' strikes, theories of socialism, revolutionary literature, and above all peasantry and its revolutionary potential. The discrepancy reveals not only a difference between political orientations (Wang Yunwu's editorial board consisted of moderates and conservatives) but also a gap between the urban and rural imaginations. In other words, the entire repository enterprise was both urban based and addressed to an
I hope that my narrative centered on the Commercial Press has also conveyed a sense of how its commercial enterprise evolved—from an educational enterprise based on textbook production to a cultural enterprise based on its journals and repositories. Together they forged a modern trajectory in terms of both time and space: the press's introduction of new knowledge was definitely animated by a desire to bring China abreast of what was going on around it, at the same time that it sought to support the effort of nation-building by providing intellectual resources for both the state and its "people." However, its definitions of the guomin remained vague, reflecting a nationalist echo of Liang Qichao's earlier slogan— and unfinished intellectual project—to have a "people made new" (xinmin) by renovating their collective mind and spirit. Whereas elitist intellectuals from Liang to Chen Duxiu and Lu Xun, perhaps following a Confucian precedent, continued to emphasize the issue of how to cultivate the intellectual and spiritual "essence" of a people, the less elitist intellectuals were perhaps less driven by such a moral impulse; they may have been more interested in the task of popularization—to make knowledge more general and accessible to the "new people" (who were "created" after all by their textbooks and newspapers), thus infusing urban society with the "temper" of a new era.