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2. The Nation and the Self


7. Zhang Taiyan's Concept of the Individual and Modern Chinese Identity

Wang Hui

Concepts of the self and the individual are often seen to be at the heart of issues of identity and its crisis in the modern West.[1] Whether this is also the case in the context of Chinese modernity, however, is a matter of question. Lucian Pye argues, for example, that the shock sustained by the modern Chinese psyche has very little to do with issues of identity. Chinese anxieties and uncertainties, in fact, "have a distinctive overtone that can be traced back to the peculiar sensitivity of traditional Chinese culture to the importance of authority for the potentially destructive character of human emotions. The intimate psychic relationships between authority, order, ritual, and the repression of passion all point to a deep Chinese cultural awareness that man finds his only significance as a social being."[2]

This link between the individual and his or her sense of belonging to the collectivity has received just as much emphasis in the writings of Fredric Jameson. Jameson argues that Third World texts, even those that are seemingly private and invested with a properly libidinal dynamic, necessarily project a political dimension in the form of a national allegory. "The story of individual destiny," according to Jameson, "is always an allegory of the embattled situation of the public third-world culture and society."[3] "Third-world psyche" in that context is denied subjectivity and is seen as situational and materialistic despite itself. This accounts for the allegorical nature of Third World culture, "where the telling of the individual story and the individual experience cannot but ultimately involve the whole laborious telling of the experience of the collectivity itself."[4]

Jameson, unlike Pye, does not attribute this allegorical relation between the individual and the collectivity to the unique nature of Chinese cultural tradition. He sees it, instead, as a universal characteristic determined by that tradition's position in the opposition between the Third and First Worlds. Still, if we follow Jameson, the Chinese concept of the individual and the individual's experience implicitly

contains the experience of the collectivity. The narrative of individual experiences is at the same time the narrative of group experiences.

Jameson, like Pye, does not at all touch on if or how the relationship between the individual and the national collective experience is mediated. However, we must ask whether using a concept especially linked with psychologism (which must be seen as a tool unique to the modern West) to depict issues regarding the individual and the self within modern Chinese thought has any significance. Moreover, is modern China's cultural shock tied only to the individual's sense of belonging to the group? Before pursuing this further we must define the term "identity."

The problem of identity is linked with its significance and value, that is, the fundamental relationship between "identity" and "orientation." Orientation, however, emerges only within a specific context, because we can express our attitude toward and evaluation of matters only within a range of concrete choices. If we accept these premises, then we see that the problem of identity for the Chinese in the modern time is extremely complicated and multifaceted because it involves concrete sociopolitical and cultural choices. One cannot discuss issues regarding the individual and the self in modern Chinese thought within the abstract framework of First and Third World relations. Nor can one base discussion on the abstract notion of a unique cultural sense of belonging to a collectivity, which leads to nothing but an essentialization of the Chinese "national character."

I argue that, from the late Qing onward, many different concepts of the individual and the self emerged. Each has a particular sociopolitical and cultural content, thereby defying holistic explanations under a single system. Drawing on the work of Zhang Taiyan, this essay will examine the constitution of a major Chinese conception of the individual within the late Qing context. Zhang is the focus of this analysis not only because the concept of the individual is central to his thinking but also because his ideas were uniquely different from those of other major late Qing liberal thinkers, such as Yan Fu and Liang Qichao. Zhang Taiyan was, furthermore, one of the most important thinkers at the turn of the century. During the critical period of 1906–10, Zhang and his intellectual followers, such as Lu Xun, put forward the notion that universal terms such as "government," "settlement," "mankind," "grouping," "the world," "public principles" (gongli), "evolution," "materialism," "nature," "duty," and "responsibility" refer in fact to things that lack "self-nature" (zixing).[5] By arguing through a mode of negation, they raised the question of individual subjectivity. In other words, Zhang Taiyan and his disciples, unlike Yan Fu and others—including Zhang himself in an earlier time—did not proceed to constitute the individual within the framework of the grouping and society. They employed instead a logic of negation and established the concept of the individual as an opposite to the concepts of the public and the grouping. Zhang formulated the self, the individual, and morality as an opposition to universalistic concepts that were devoid of subjectivity.

With respect to the concepts of the individual and the self and their ramifications in modern Chinese thought, I am particularly interested in the historical

constitution of the individual, that is to say, its genealogy. Nietzsche once asked, "What light does the science of linguistics, especially the science of etymology, throw on the evolution of moral ideas?"[6] This question inspires us to begin from the perspective of etymology and its application without employing preconceived notions of human behavior. The approach permits us to show the conditions under which moral (or immoral) concepts produce nature, society, principles of life, and even illness. These investigations reveal the primitive dynamism with which people produce value judgments under different sorts of circumstances over time.

According to Zhang Taiyan, concepts of the individual and the self, in contrast to those of the public and the grouping, had emerged as counterdirectional actions in search of moral value. Zhang's concept of the individual is formulated in opposition to universalistic concepts such as public principle (gongli), the nation, and the grouping. This concept is further formulated in order to delineate the limitations of the universal terms. These universals, as we know, had arisen in intellectual circles in response to social problems and political concerns. The self and the individual, as they had been conceptualized both in tandem and in opposition to the universals, are inevitably implicated in this process, and they become political concepts.


On June 29, 1906, Zhang Taiyan was released from prison upon completing his term, and he left for Japan, where he became managing editor of the revolutionary organ Minbao. Between September 9, 1906, and October 10, 1908, when the paper ceased publication, Zhang published, apart from numerous political essays, a series of essays on philosophy and religion that spelled out the theoretical basis of his sociopolitical concepts. These essays were well circulated at the time, and they elicited considerable response in the printed media of the day. Zhang used these essays both to launch attacks on major contemporary thinkers such as Kang Youwei, Liang Qichao, and Yan Fu and to articulate an alternative worldview that was sharply different from a modernist one based on concepts of publicness (gong), grouping, and evolution.

Among the core concepts of Zhang's worldview were "the individual" and "self-nature." Zhang Taiyan developed concepts about individuality (geti), subjectivity, and other terms to attack contemporary constructions of the nation, the government, the family, the society, and humankind. In doing so, he sought to establish a new ethical revolutionary morality that drew upon a Yogacaric interpretation of Zhuangzi's Qiwu lun (On the equality of all things).[7] This is the most complicated and difficult period in Zhang Taiyan's thought, not only because his prose is archaic and obscure but also because he employed a difficult Buddhist vocabulary to express his social thought. To add to the difficulty, the relationship between his intellectual system—in which self-nature and the individual were positive concepts—and his politics contained elements of contradiction. There are

two points to this contradiction. First, the concept of the individual, as developed by intellectuals of his day, has served as an important foundation for modern moral and political thinking; this was especially true in the modernist critique of tradition. In the case of Zhang, however, there is a critical dimension to his conception of the individual that was aimed at the denial of the self in modern political thought. Furthermore, Zhang's concepts of self-nature and the individual are opposed to the universal and the collective. They are ostensibly anticollective. But in truth, in Zhang's thinking there was no more important practical mission than construction of a collective national identity.

Many have tried to explain this contrariness of Zhang Taiyan's thought as a contradiction between practical missions and future ideals. They have also pointed to sudden changes and confusion in Zhang's own thinking. But in the interpretation of modern Chinese identity and its multifaceted nature, these explanations are less than useful. Zhang's criticisms of modernity (especially his criticism of the modern concept of time, which leads directly to notions of progress and evolution) became the core ideas for modern morality and literary theory for his students, including Lu Xun. The concept of the individual has, of course, become a key element of modern thought within May Fourth literature, and its rationality is built on a progressive notion of time. How did Zhang Taiyan's concept of the individual, which denies the self and opposes modernity, become an intellectual fountainhead of modern identity (as it did for Lu Xun)?

Before analyzing the sociopolitical import of Zhang Taiyan's concept of the individual, I would like to outline the various nuances of Zhang's concept of this key subject and spell out its implications. To begin with, Zhang's individual is an absolute, subjective entity: "[The individual] does not come into being because of the world, the society, the nation, or other people. Thus the individual fundamentally has no responsibility toward the world, the society, the nation, and toward people."[8] In other words, the individual is not a constituent of the world, a member of society, a citizen of the nation, a follower of a religion, or a relative or friend of others. The condition of being an individual is, in fact, an "absolute" standing above and beyond all commands or external discipline, whether legal, political, social, or economic.[9]

Second, the limit of individual freedom lies in the proscription against harming others. The basic meaning of individual freedom is a freedom of refusal; aided by this freedom, individuals are able to resist the claims of things that assume the form of the suprapersonal, whether social, historical, or natural. Conservative, reclusive, or suicidal behavior is the highest expression of individual subjectivity, because it is a behavior of refusal. It expresses the individual's freedom to refuse all the things that "even the gods cannot interfere with," such as responsibility and duty. Zhang compares public principle (gongli) to heavenly principle (tianli) and sees both as the antithesis of individual freedom.[10]

Unlike tianli, which is grounded in metaphysics, gongli is societal and "uses the society's ever-abiding power to suppress the individual." In this regard the ruthlessness and mercilessness of gongli even surpass the heavenly principle.[11] In other

words, modern society and its organizational ideology are far more suppressive than the traditional authoritarian society, which grounded its ethical system in the concept of heavenly principle.

Third, Zhang Taiyan regards this absolute concept of the individual as a cosmic principle that is intended to make all things equal. In Zhang's thinking, the concept of the individual provides the foundation of a mode of knowledge as well as a system of ethics for coping with the world. This means that his concept of the individual, just like the concept of the individual embedded in a modern worldview, was intended to solve basic problems of social identity. However, Zhang does not take universalistic concepts as true social law; he accepts instead an absolute individual subjectivity. Zhang quotes Zhuangzi, especially the qiwu ("making all things equal") chapter, and praises the Daoist philosopher's teaching that all beings should be allowed to follow their preferences. This teaching, according to Zhang, is far superior to the theory of public principle (gongli). Furthermore, Zhang draws attention to Hegel's notion that "all matters accord with reason; all things are beautiful." Zhang points out that the two positions, by Zhuangzi and Hegel, seem comparable. The former, however, takes the human mind as the root of difference and an obstacle in making things equal, while the latter takes common purpose as the ultimate destination and sees the multitude as a passage toward that destination. There is an immense distance, then, between Zhuangzi and Hegel, according to Zhang.[12] By underscoring the differences between the two, Zhang Taiyan shaped his concepts of qiwu and the individual into a cosmic view that is antideterministic and antiteleological.

In the same fashion, Zhang attacks evolution, materialism, and naturalism by calling attention to his conception of the individual, and reveals the absurdity and falsehood of public principle (gongli). Evolution, materialism, and naturalism were key concepts that lay the foundation of modern notions of science and its publicness (gong), which in turn became the basis of a theory of social change. Zhang argues, however, that natural law, such as the principle of evolution, does not in itself bear relevance to human affairs: "To follow natural law offers no merit and to oppose it is no crime." But those who subscribe to evolution hate those who do not and accuse them of violating the laws of nature.[13] In the eyes of Zhang Taiyan, the modern worldview was composed of public principle (gongli), evolution, materialism, naturalism, and similar "fundamental intellectual delusions." If one allowed these delusions to create a moral order, then the gongli of these delusions would provide a foundation for a dangerous despotism, for they would not only eliminate human intelligence but would also take away human happiness and freedom, especially those of the individual. Only by completely wiping out these delusive concepts could the natural order be saved from the interference and intimidation of the supranatural world formed by these concepts and names.

Zhang's criticism of a worldview of gongli was derived from the Buddhist theory of cosmic "truth," especially its ideas regarding dependent causation and impermanence. It was not, however, a simple extension of Buddhist thought. When Zhang opposed individual subjectivity against the various kinds of gongli, as seen

above, he perceived this gongli as merely a repressive power surrounding and oppressing the individual. Although the individual had no self-nature to speak of, the individual was a relatively real entity, even an adequate foundation of morality for "the restoration of all Chinese."[14]

However, the connection between the individual and morality as discussed above should not be seen too simplistically. The individual took precedence over gongli, evolution, materialism, and nature, on the one hand, and government, nation, society, and family, on the other. This priority, however, derived from the individual's proximity to, rather than true possession of, self-nature. Furthermore, the link between the individual and morality was established within the complex relationship between the individual and the Buddhist "nonself." What the Buddhists called the self meant governance and substance: "The eternal is called the self; the unmoving is called the self; and the indestructible is called the self."[15] The concept of nonself entails that nothing that exists is an independent, unchanging, self-existent, and self-determining substance, and nothing possesses a self-governing principle or capacity. Because of this dependent causation, all phenomena arise within the conditions of interdependence and thus are relative and provisional.

If the concept of the individual—which opposed that of publicness (gong) and the consequent "impartial" modern worldview and ethics of the family, nation, and society—was to be reduced to nonself, might this not lead to moral nihilism? Or, if the individual had no self, then did a true self exist? If it did, then how did the true self relate to the individual? Using suicide as an example, Zhang argued that the person who undertook suicide to "save the self" did not "take the form as the self." Thus outside the form there must be something called the self. Suicide could be explained as a means of escaping the self-form that is shackled by the world and of attaining the true self. The self that committed suicide was thus the alayavijnana in an illusory form.[16] Compared with the self-form, which lacked substance, universality, and eternity, only alayavijnana was the true self: it was a universal, eternal, subjective, and "completely free self." On the one hand, it was the source of the self, the other, and all phenomena; on the other hand, it abided amid all phenomena.[17] Zhang thus treated the true self, alayavijnana, and suchness as a single substance possessed by all things: it was permanent and immutable. Since he believed that alayavijnana was not limited to the individual, what he called the "eternal," "unmoving," and "indestructible" "self" was in fact a "greater self," a universal substance that transcended the world of phenomena, much like the Kantian notion of the "thing-in-itself." The moral implications of this would be: "If we can substantiate the nonself, then the world will begin to possess the great compassion of equality."[18] Thus, Zhang regarded the principle of equality not as an ethical rule but an ontological state. This was the basis of the linkages that he identified between Yogacaric thought and Zhuangzi's concept of qiwu. It was also the intellectual bridge that led him from the concept of the individual—advanced as the antithesis of the impartial and grouping—to the concept of a supreme publicness (dagong) that transcended the individual.


Zhang's criticism of the worldview of gongli begins with a defense of subjectivity and concludes with a negation of the individual and the individual's subjectivity. His ultimate goal, therefore, is not the absolute, subjective individuality, but universality in the ontological sense. This kind of universality is the origin of the cosmos and of the ethics and morality that society should adhere to. This suggests that Zhang did not make the individual's subjectivity the ultimate moral foundation: it only serves as the premise of his criticism of "public principle" and a worldview associated with it. His concept of the self as nonself actually approximated those "public" ideals (gong) from an ontological perspective. His universal principle, however, certainly did not impose on the individual restrictive demands in the name of gong, particularly the restrictive moral codes formed within a hierarchical social structure.[19]

Through the negation of the universal (gongli) Zhang arrives at an affirmation of the universal (dagong), and the new foundation of identity is confirmed. This peculiar thinking process is constructed in the language of the Buddhist Yogacara school and the thought of Laozi and Zhuangzi. We will see that these apparently difficult, self-contradictory, abstract ideas were closely tied with Zhang Taiyan's direct engagement with sociopolitical issues.


1. Antistate and Antigovernmental Significance in the Concept of Individuality

Zhang Taiyan's concept of individuality was not only a philosophical or moral idea but also a political one. It was developed in opposition to a worldview rooted in the concept of "publicness (gong)–grouping (qun)," which, in the context of the late Qing, was not merely an abstract moral idea but a substitute term for (and moral foundation of) the modern nation-state and its many modes of social organization. These organizations include the chambers of commerce, learned societies, national assemblies, political parties, and gentry-village communities. The modern concepts such as public principle, evolution, materialism, and naturalism were the most important and dynamic elements in the modern Chinese discourse of the nation-state. The question I pose here: What was the relationship between Zhang's concept of the individual and the discursive network of the nation-state? To put it more directly, as a founding figure of the concept of the modern nation-state and a theorist for the late Qing racial revolution, Zhang made nationalism an especially significant theme during his entire writing career and revolutionary praxis. His provisional concept of the individual was not only a critique and negation of the nation, the government, and social groups—all collectives aimed at the creation of a modern nation-state and at social mobilization—but also a rejection of the very concept of the "nation." If the concept of the individual was a key element in the discourse of the modern nation-state, then how and in what way did this concept constitute a negation of the discourse? How did this contrariety come about? The political use of the concept of the individual formed a social context

for the construction of this concept. If this concept and those of race, nation, social group, and community involved different aspects and constructive modes of the modern Chinese worldview, why did Zhang's concept of the individual, which was characterized by denial of the universal, still return to it?

The political significance of Zhang's concept of the individual can be seen, first, in the concept's negation of the nation and the state. In several of his treatises—including "On the Nation" and "On Politics of Representation" —Zhang applied his analytical reasoning to political questions and developed his concepts of individuality and self-nature into a critique of the modern nation-state. In "On the State" Zhang writes, "The ‘subjectivity’ of the state, first, is artificially ascribed rather than substantively endowed. The construction of the state, furthermore, is the outcome of external power dynamics rather than the extension of inherent, natural principles. The business of the state, above all, is base and sullied, rather than pure and sacred."[20] The first point above is clearly the most important: it establishes the foundation for the two ensuing points. It is precisely in the discussion of whether the state possesses "subjectivity" that Zhang posits the individual and the nation as fundamentally opposed to each other. Invoking the atomistic view of the Buddhist Yogacara school, he argues that "all entities are composed of myriad constituents and thus do not possess their own being. The individuated entities that form the composite, however, can be said to have true being. In contrast, the composite has false being. Since the nation is composed of the people, each person provisionally can be said to be a true being. But the nation has no true being."[21] By drawing an analogy between the atomistic model of matter and the composition of society and nation, Zhang refutes all theories that regard the nation as the subject and the people as object: "Some have said, ‘The nation itself has its institutions and laws. Although the people from time to time will be renewed, the institutions and laws cannot be renewed. These being so, [the nation] is thus called a subject.’ But this is not true. Institutions and laws change of themselves and do not necessarily follow the old principles. Even if they do not change, they are only the ‘expressive appearances' bestowed by previous generations."[22]

What deserves attention is the fact that when he touches on the relationship between the nation and the individual, Zhang discusses the issue of who is the subject; but he does not believe that the subjectivity of the individual is absolute. It has only relative priority within its relations to the nation and other social groups. Since it is merely "nearer to reality than the composite" but is itself still a "false phenomenon," then the conclusion that the nation is a "false being" is not only an extrapolation but follows naturally upon the position of nation in the order of things.[23] Zhang did not elaborate on the relationship between subjectivity and that of "differentiated positions." In principle, the concept of self-nature precluded any hierarchical order or discriminating relationship.

Why did he argue that the world had certain hierarchical order? On the one hand, the assumption of hierarchical order is necessitated by his stress on the priority of the individual; on the other, the issues discussed by Zhang were not ontological but political

ones dealing with political regimes and social structures. This testified again to the immediate political significance of the concept of the individual.

The argument concerning the individual's priority over the group aimed at the idea of national sovereignty, which, in the formulations of Zou Rong, Chen Tianhua, Sun Yatsen, Liang Qichao, and Yan Fu, accentuated the freedom of the totality above that of the individual. The fact that Zhang argued against the sovereignty of the nation from the perspective of Yogacaric thought regarding self-nature means that his discussion of sovereignty did not involve relations between nations—in which case, he was a firm nationalist (and not a statist). Zhang's second criticism of the nation denies the actual significance of the nation's geographical establishment (national boundaries) and its hierarchical construction. It follows upon his idea that all distinctions among things lacking self-nature are the product of "false thoughts." His analysis of the illusory nature of national sovereignty, boundaries, and hierarchical structure leads to the third criticism, that the nation was not a moral wellspring but a lair of iniquity. Only the individual—each and every individual—was a creator of value. Collective activities were not the achievements of abstract groups or the fame of the group's leader but were the individual's creation.[24] Implicit in this conclusion were doubts regarding the right of collective cause to command the lives of individuals and interpret their significance. Viewed from the perspective of modern revolutionary history, this pertains to the rationale of revolution, the ethicality of the call to revolution, the validity of the modernist tendency to link the self with the macroprocess of history, and the natural legitimacy of the modern nation-state and its enterprises. Whereas a religious cause, which calls for the dedication of the lives of those who pursue it, often does not sacrifice anyone else, "the cause of the nation is different. Is it racial revolution? Political revolution? Social revolution? At any rate, it is not to be accomplished by dint of the individual going through hell and high water. If I advocate [the revolution's] commencement, then hundreds of millions of people will follow me and go through hell and high water…. If one can only speak of corpses and regard it as something worthy of lofty fame, then how is [carrying out revolution] different from banditry?"[25] In the eyes of Zhang, those such as Yao, Shun, Washington, Napoleon, Bahktin, and Kropotkin, who saw their calling as working for social change and the national project, could not be compared with those such as Sakyamuni, Epicurus, Chen Zhongzi, and Guan Ying, who risked their lives for all humankind, because the former had made their names as a result of the sacrifice of others.

2. The Relationship between the Individual and the People

Another aspect of the oppositional duality between the nation and the individual was Zhang Taiyan's radical nationalism. One set of questions related to this is: what is the relationship between the nation and the people, what is the historical context in which Zhang denied the nation, and more important, why was Zhang's mode of discourse an individual/nation duality, and not the more complex one of individual/society/nation?


In the various discussions of modern Chinese nationalism, the nation, national sovereignty, and national institutions (establishment of the constitution, the parliament, and bureaucratic systems) are the most important themes. They are also the primary indicators of the differences between Chinese nationalism and traditional (cultural) Sinocentrism. As forms of group-identity consciousness, concepts of nationality and culture developed very early in Chinese thought. This is seen in the classical texts Zuo zhuan ("If they are not of our kin, their minds must be different"), the Li ji ("Those who have this knowledge always know to love their own kind"), and the Xunzi ("The ancestors are the basis of our kind").[26] According to Wang Ermin's studies, many of the nations of the Spring and Autumn period were clan factions, but many were groups formed as a result of racial or ethnic self-intuition. This is the Chinese/non-Chinese distinction found in the Zuo zhuan and the Analects. This sort of orthodox racial consciousness achieved a cultural self-identity, as testified by Confucius's remark, "Were it not for Guan Zhong, we might now be wearing our hair loose and folding our clothes to the left."[27] However, as many scholars have already pointed out, in the process of struggle and assimilation within the Chinese people, the idea of nationality did not penetrate people's minds as much as the concept of culture, even to the point where one can say that "eliminating distinctions through culture has been a tradition of political ideals since the pre-Qin era."[28] As seen from the relationship between the Chinese core and outlying foreigners, assimilation did not primarily take the form of establishing military garrisons and general viceroys. The criterion was often merely the observation of the Chinese calendar. The core of ancient China was reflected in the king's capital and five concentric domains of governance, a hierarchical ideal that posed the sovereign as the center and extended outward.[29] In institutional form, relations with outlying non-Chinese were chiefly controlled by the Board of Rites and not agencies responsible for foreign relations or colonization. This shows clearly that the center that preserved the kingly way was the person of the emperor—who combined the political and moral lines of succession—and not the nation. Within this extensive structure, equal relations between nations were extremely difficult to create. In this sense, although the traditional notion of "China" had its complex and multifaceted implications, it was chiefly an "intuition of cultural place," and not a nation-state. In other words, the concept of China and the concept of all Chinese were identical. China does not entail the reality of political unity, but primarily that of cultural and racial unity.[30]

The formation of Chinese nationalism in the late Qing started with the concept of strengthening the barriers between outlying non-Chinese and Chinese. After the Opium War, however, Chinese nationalism gradually absorbed the ideas of national sovereignty and interests. During the period of the Sino-Japanese War and the rise of the reform movement, the Western concept of the nation not only had already become the most prominent characteristic of Chinese nationalism but also was a central idea permeating the political discourse of different political groups. In other words, "the people equals the nation" formula was established by the court's plan of

political reform (as seen in memorials and edicts), the propaganda of nonofficial intellectuals (as seen in essays and publications), and the theory and practice of revolutionaries (as seen in speeches, essays, publications, and overseas activities). At the beginning of the Hundred Days Reform, Kang Youwei said, "We should use the power of various kingdoms to rule all under heaven and not use the power of the unified trailing gowns."[31] Liang Qichao directly pitted the concept of the nation against the concepts of "great unity" and "Earthly Realm": "We Chinese do not lack patriotic character. As for those who do not know to love their country, it is because they do not know what a country is. China has been unified since ancient times…. [It was] called the Earthly Realm and was not called a country…. For several thousand years, we lived together in a small Earthly Realm and never met an equal country, to the effect that we know no country other than our own."[32] In a series of essays, Liang also pitted the individual or the self against the nation (or grouping). His stance, however, was just the opposite of Zhang's, as he declared that the cause of the nation's weakness was the fact that "within everyone's mind and eye there is only the I of his own self and not the I of the collective.[33]… What is the idea of the nation-state all about? The nation-state comes into being, first, in opposition (and as an antithesis) to the individuated self. It arises, second, in opposition to the functioning of the imperial court. It exists in opposition, third, to foreign people and an alien nation. It is defined, fourth, in opposition to the global order and larger universe."[34] The concept of the nation comes about through the relationships of the individual, the family, foreign peoples, and the world. Here, however, Liang left out the relationship between race and nation. The political implications of this omission were perfectly clear: its purpose was to dampen the ethnic conflicts between Han Chinese and Manchus and strengthen the unified nature of China as a nation of many peoples. The nation, not the race, became the true subject and source of modern identity and constituted the imaginative structure of the Chinese people within the world order. Sun Yatsen believed that China since the Qin and Han dynasties had been a nation-state because "nationalism is national-people-ism." Like Liang Qichao, Sun also posed the nation against the clan or lineage.[35] The vision of "nation-state" implied in his national-people-ism may thus be viewed as that of a political leader who had already established the predominance of the Han. Thus the idea of a single nation with many peoples was directly tied to the legitimacy of safeguarding Han Chinese sovereignty. Although these modern thinkers held different views of the state, the nation-state as the most important consequence of Western modernity had already remolded their mental framework. The demands of national identity implied that the nation itself was the true unit of sovereignty: this kind of national sovereignty was defined not only in regard to other nations but also in regard to individuals, families, clans, races, and other social groups within the nation. In other words, to achieve effective social mobilization, the nation's subjectivity implied the loss or partial loss of the subjectivity of the individual, the family, and other social units.

In the context of the nation-state construction, what was the significance of Zhang Taiyan's denial of the nation? We must first observe that from a cultural perspective,

Zhang did not reject the concept of the nation. As a prime advocate for modern Chinese "national studies," he saw "national essence" —that is to say, the reworking and exegesis of language, institutions, and personal biography—as an important part of the entire constructive process of the concept of the Chinese nation-state. In February 1902, when the organ of the Guoxue baocun hui (Society for the Preservation of National Learning), Guocui xuebao (National essence studies report), was founded in Shanghai, Zhang Taiyan, still in prison, published in it four letters written before incarceration, as well as his prison "random jottings," in which he claimed that "heaven bestowed the national essence on me."[36] In 1906, when Zhang managed Minbao, the anti-Manchu, pro-Han thinking of the national essence group could be found in abundance in this publication. When Guoxue jianghua (Talks on national learning), edited by Wang Sichen, discussed national learning, it said, "The term ‘national learning’ was not to be found in ancient times. There must be nations facing nations for the concept of the nation to begin. Then the study of one's own nation as national learning begins."[37] This explained in general the relationship between national learning and the idea of the nation. In "Guocui xuebaoxu" (preface to Guocui xuebao), Huang Jie spoke of national substance and national learning together: "Our nation's national substance is the national substance of foreign people's despotism; our nation's theory is the theory of foreign people's despotism."[38] The "nation" of the "national learning" referred to here was the nation of Han Chinese. The "learning" was Han Chinese learning, which was in direct opposition to the despotism of "foreign people" and their "foreign learning."[39] Thus the nation, within the notions of "national essence" and "national learning," primarily was meant in regard to foreign peoples, especially Manchu rulers. It gave rise to racial and cultural ideas and was not the political concept of the nation found in modern international relations. In his "Yanshuo lu" (Record of speeches), Zhang Taiyan summarized his nationalist agenda in two sentences: "The first task is to employ religion to arouse faith and improve the nation's morality; the second task is to use the dynamism of national essence to improve patriotic fervor." The purpose of advocating national essence "was only to have people cherish our Han people's history."[40] Although advocacy of "national essence" was linked with the motive of resisting Western and Japanese influences, its primary meaning derived from the necessity of opposing the Manchus on a cultural level. What he emphasized was the subjectivity and purity of race and culture, the logical conclusion of which was necessarily an "anti-Manchu revolution."

3. Late Qing Statism and the Relationship between Individual and Nation

Clearly, Zhang's denial of the nation was inextricably linked with his anti-Manchu nationalism.[41] This cannot explain, however, why his criticism of the nation adopted the nation/individual duality mode of discourse. On this point, we must analyze from the opposite perspective the position of his opponent Liang Qichao. After he returned from his visit to the United States (1903–6), Liang expressed deep reservations

about American democratic government and the Western liberalism he had formerly believed in. He turned to German statist political theory, especially that of Johann Bluntschli and Gustav Bornhak. Liang introduced Bluntschli's criticism of Rousseau's theory of the social contract, which claimed that the theory of the social contract muddled the distinctions between the people and society. Liang said, "The national people are a fixed, unmovable entirety. Society is only a changing, unfixed collectivity. The national people have a single character by law, and society does not. Thus to term them ‘the national people’ is to associate them always with the country without allowing the slightest permissible separation. To term them ‘society’ is to make them only an assembly of many individuals."[42]

In addition to the relationship between the "national people" and the ethnic group discussed above, Liang cited the statist ideas of Bluntschli and Bornhak. First, unlike the society composed of individuals, the nation was an organic entity with a spiritual purpose, a physical structure, untrammeled movement, and a developmental process. Liang approved of Bluntschli's criticisms of Rousseau's theory of civil rights and social contract, believing that "national sovereignty" could not be shared with any individual.[43] Second, regarding the political entity, Bluntschli believed that constitutional monarchy was superior to other polities, especially that of the republic. This was not only because the establishment of republican polities depended on specific historical conditions but also because the separation of legislative powers (where the majority ruled) and administrative powers could weaken national sovereignty. Republican polities boasted freedom and equality, but in truth, because their social elite despised the lower ranks of the people, they also were suspicious of excellence. According to Bornhak, republican polities mixed the ruling subject and ruling object, and outside of the people there was no place for the nation. Considering the immediate relevance of this theory, Liang decided: "Our China today is weakest, and what it most urgently needs is organic unity and coercive order. Freedom and equality are secondary."[44] Third, sovereignty belonged neither to the sovereign nor to the society; the nation and its constitutional law were the source of sovereignty. Liang especially condemned the view that the sovereign was the collective authority of individuals but could not be the sovereign of a corporate nationality. He believed that with sovereignty there was the nation, and without it there was no nation.[45] Fourth, regarding the purpose of the nation, although Bluntschli attempted to maintain a rough balance between the nation for itself and the nation as an instrument of the people, "composed of each individual," fundamentally his tendency was toward a clear concept of the nation for itself. "The national purpose occupies the first place, and each individual is a tool to accomplish that purpose."[46] These views of the nation in the end led to Liang's shift toward believing that for China's concrete situation, "enlightened despotism" was even more suitable than constitutional monarchy.[47]

We can clearly see now that the true reason that Zhang Taiyan criticized the nation from the perspective of the individual was his thorough denial of the view that the nation was of supreme political value. The nation did not have its own

characteristics and certainly did not have its own dynamic organic quality. Nor did it have sovereignty: only the individual— "each person" —could possess sovereignty. For the individual, the nation was an instrument of despotism and a lair of iniquity. All discriminating relations were the source of inequality, for the cosmos and the world in the ontological sense were equal and without distinction. On the level of politics, the most important political aspect of Zhang's concept of the individual was its complete rejection of the ideals of enlightened despotism and constitutional monarchy. The key issue, however, was still the nationalist question of whether or not one desired Manchu rule. As Zhu Zhixin said in his essay "Xinli guojiazhuyi" (Psychological statism), the nation referred to in Liang Qichao's Xinmin baoshu (New citizen report letter), Yang Du's Zhongguo xinbao (China new report), and Dongfang zazhi (Eastern miscellany) "was nothing other than the Manchu government."[48] On the contrary, Zhang's "Zhonghua minguo jie" (Explaining the Republic of China) repeatedly discussed the unity of the Chinese nation and people. "If one establishes the Han name as a people, then the meaning of the nation resides there. If one establishes the name of China [Hua] as a country, then the meaning of the race also abides there. This is why the Republic of China flourishes." In clearly rejecting a territorial definition in favor of a cultural one, he emphasized the racial character of the concept of China.[49] He also emphasized national sovereignty, but his notion of sovereignty was completely racial, not political. "As well as [the reason] for expelling the Manchus mentioned above, there is the fact that they ruin our country and usurp our sovereignty."[50]

It is worth noting that the debate between Liang Qichao and Zhang Taiyan over nationalism began as early as 1903. In 1907, when Zhang returned to the issue of the nation, the issue of nationalism had even more immediate political implications. This occurred not only because the debate between Minbao and the reformist newspapers Xinmin congbao and Zhongguo xinbao involved acute conflicts between the political groups advocating revolution and reform; it occurred also because during the period between 1905 and 1907 the preparations for constitutional reform were no longer matters for debate among intellectuals or social groups, but matters of practical decision for the Qing government. At the end of 1905, the Qing government sent five high officials, Dai Ze, Duan Fang, Dai Hongzi, Li Shengduo, and Shang Qiheng, to Japan, Europe, and the United States to study constitutional government. Liang Qichao, then in exile, drafted a memorial of over two hundred thousand characters. In 1906 the Qing court announced its program for constitutional preparation: "Supreme power will be centralized at the court. The affairs of the state will be made public in popular discussion. In this manner a new and enduring foundation will be established for a new nation…. At present, however, the laws and institutions are not yet comprehensive, and the people's sagacity awaits enlightenment," and so the government would have to first lend a hand.

Archival materials on late Qing constitutional movement show that preparatory work for the initiation of a constitutional government was carried out extensively

in many aspects of society. These include the creation of new state offices, parliamentary assemblies, consultative agencies, local self-governments, legal and judicial bodies, educational and financial associations, and official newspapers, and an adjustment of the Manchu-Han relationship. The overall vision that emerged was one with the Qing court at the center, presiding over the establishment of a hierarchical administrative system resembling that of modern American and European nations, and implementing effective social mobilization from above. An imperial edict announced, "We have great hopes that each will understand the righteousness of loyalty to the monarch and love for the country, and the principle of joining with the collective to advance moral transformation. Individuals will be forbidden to harm the public interest with private opinions or damage the greater plan with petty grudges. They will revere order and preserve peace while preparing themselves to be people of a constitutional nation."[51] Thus the constitutional movement was a shared product of the Qing court and exiled intellectuals; and statism and its values, with the Qing court's legitimacy at its core, defined political discussion during the reform era.

4. The Omission of Societal Space
in the Binary Formulation of Individual and Nation

Within the particular nationalist atmosphere of the late Qing, Zhang Taiyan employed the "reality" of the individual to negate the "falsity" of the nation, and used the negative freedom of the individual to critique the freedom of the nation-state. Thus the provisional concept of the individual had profound political implications. Instead of posing a three-way, nation/society/individual relation in discussing the problem of the individual, Zhang elided society, configuring it together with nation in opposition to the individual. In this way, the relationship of mutual stimulation and restraint between nonnational and nongovernmental social organizations, and the nation or government, did not fall within the sphere of discussion.

One of the primary motifs of modern Chinese thought is the formation of the concept of the society, and the popularity of concepts of gong (public) and qun (grouping) that was directly related to the influx of Western thought and learning regarding "society." Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao's theoretical investigation and political practice concerning "learned groups" (learned societies), "commercial groups" (chambers of commerce), and "national groups" (national associations) developed around the pivot of the relationship between society and the nation (primarily the imperial court). This was how the power of a morally constituted society could check imperial authority and complete the reconstruction of the social and political systems. For Liang Qichao and Yan Fu, the individual's autonomy was inseparable from the establishment of social contract groups and modern state systems. On the one hand, the autonomous social grouping could mediate the process of social mobilization necessary for the establishment of the modern nation-state. On the other, the restraint imposed on the state by the autonomous social grouping

provided a public space for individual freedom, hence the fact that so many Western scholars used the designations "civil society" and "public sphere" to explain the theory and practice of the modern Chinese "grouping." In other words, Liang and Yan's individual was a concept within the category of the grouping and the nation-state. According to Liang Qichao, "The reason why our China does not establish an independent nation is only because our people lack the virtue of independence."[52] Liang's formulation of the individual's independence used the establishment of national morality as its means and the establishment of an independent nation-state as its end, and the formation of the social group was a mediating stage.

However, Zhang's concept of the individual not only opposed the nation but was asocial. As he said in "Sihuo lun," "What mankind commonly acknowledges is that one cannot encroach on society for the sake of the individual, nor encroach on the individual for the sake of society." What was referred to here as society included the nation, the government, and all social groups organized by people as individual units. The individual did not come into being because of the nation, society, or other people, and thus did not acknowledge laws, responsibilities, or duties.[53] Within the entire order of phenomena, no phenomenon composed of other constituents had self-nature— "not only the nation, but all of its villages, settlements, groups, and assemblies." It was only each person who truly possessed self-nature.[54] "Wuwu lun" fully expressed the various aspects of Zhang's social thought: that is, there was no government, no settlements, no humankind, no groupings, and no world. The development of the Five Nonexistences involved three stages. At the first stage, there was no government and no settlements; at the second, no humankind and no groupings; at the third, no world. Zhang first treated the individual as an element within all social organizations. These organizations structured discriminating relations, all of which had no self-nature. Thus on the social level, the denial of the nation and other social groups originated in the demand that the individual be liberated from all discriminating relationships. This suggests that Zhang's social thought not only was anarchist but also antisocial. Thus the individual as social atom could also be divided, because, "speaking of the atom, at root it has no space, but later takes shape through mutual contact. Since it has no space, it is amassed into a unity. How could there have been mutual contact? This shows that all talk about the atom is nonsense."[55] This is why he denied humankind, the living beings, and the world altogether.

One particularly important aspect of Zhang's denial of social collectivities is his idea of "no-settlement." Why did Zhang reject the autonomous social group so valued by Liang Qichao and others? According to the Western historical experience, especially that of western Europe, were not civil society and the public it engendered the base conditions for the limitation of state power and the formation of democratic society? The key to an answer to these questions is the fact that society, in Zhang's definition, comprised all kinds of nonindividual collectivities, including the nation, which is quite different from the Habermasian civil society standing outside the state and bearing special relation to the individual's private domain. More important, within the late Qing context, both the dynamism of urban

charter associations and the practice of forming them, and the reinterpretation and utilization of the social functions of kin and gentry-based communities, aimed to establish the modern nation-state and carry out social mobilization. The formation of western European civil society took place in the context of the development of the nation-state. In late Qing China, however, various social groups were formed against the background of the decline of the state apparatus. European civil society, and the public sphere built on it, played a crucial role in restricting the despotic state and became a social foundation of the democratic system. In the Chinese case, the civic groups and gentry-village communities employed by the Qing government and a sector of intellectuals had a completely different significance. These groups not only aimed primarily to establish a nation-state but were state or quasistate organs in their very conception, establishment, and social functioning. Founders and members of late Qing learned societies, chambers of commerce, and other social organizations were usually gentry and intellectuals with close ties to the government, and some were officials themselves. The appearance of these social organizations was part of the top-down national reform movement of the late Qing. This demonstrates the lack of a clear division between the activities of these social groups and those of the state. Civic organizations themselves were important means for state making, especially the means for the state authority to penetrate grassroots society and strengthen its political and economic control. The state was at the center of all societal activities. This helped to explain the ambiguity of the concept of "the groupings" in the late Qing: most social organizations used the grouping as a rubric, and the highest level of grouping was the "great grouping," which referred to the nation-state. Once we see this, we recognize that Zhang's critique of "the settlement" and all kinds of social grouping was an integral part of his critique of the nation.

5. A Critique of the Parliamentary System

Against the backdrop of late Qing reformist state building, which used the Western nation-state as its blueprint, Zhang held a sharply critical attitude toward the government's use of parliaments and local self-governing bodies to expand state power into grassroots society. Many scholars have analyzed in detail Zhang's critique of the parliamentary system; I will not repeat their findings here.[56] What I do wish to emphasize is that Zhang's criticisms of the parliamentary system were directed against the state's use of the system to carry out social mobilization. First, he pointed out that parliamentary polities were another form of feudalism; their most important defect was that they employed status hierarchies to organize society.[57] Second, Zhang perceptively realized that the consultative bodies established in districts at all levels in China not only would be extremely difficult to operate (especially because of the contrast between the large population and limited numbers of representatives, the huge territory, and the voters' educational level), but even more important, the purpose of establishing parliaments was to exercise control at the

grassroots level in an economic sense, especially in solving the central government's difficult problem of tax collection.[58] The parliamentary system originally was intended to expand the people's rights, but in reality, because of economic inequality, it would increase political inequality and create a new social hierarchy.

Third, Zhang believed that the parliamentary system legitimized the special privileges of representatives (local magnates), which clashed with the principle of economic equality within the principle of the people's livelihood. Zhang offered a series of idealistic political proposals that would "check official [power] and extend [that of] the people."[59] On the surface, his proposals resemble Sun Yatsen's "Principle of the People's Livelihood." In content, however, they were considerably different, as they were rooted in Zhang's critical stance toward capitalism. For example, his plan for "equal distribution of land" was not limited to paddies and swamps but also included mountain and forest preserves and even cattle, clearly indicating his seriousness in attacking the movement of capital. This was precisely the opposite of Sun's proposal of developing state capital in order to develop a capitalist economy.[60] In Wuchao falü suoyin (Index to the laws of the five dynasties) and other works, Zhang expressed particular admiration for the traditional idea of "revering agriculture and restraining commerce." He advocated "universal laws" debasing trade and attributed social disorder to "the esteem for merchants."[61] Seen alongside his opposition to new industries and technology expressed in "Wuwu lun," such views clearly betray antimodern sentiments.

It will be recalled that Zhang's denial of the nation emerged from the perspective of the individual. This perspective, however, did not develop at all the economic idea of private property. On the contrary, whether on the level of political rights or economic rights, the individual was closely linked with the concept of equality and not the concept of rights. In the area of economic property rights, his proposals for "equal distribution" of land and the "public establishment" of factories both embodied a principle of "publicness" (gong). If we consider that the particular characteristics of his concept of the individual developed in opposition to the worldview of public principle (gongli), then on the concrete sociopolitical and economic levels the links between the concept of the individual and the value of publicness (gong) deserve special attention. This aids us in understanding why his critique of universality was also rooted in universality.

6. A Critique of Merchants as a Special Interest Group

Zhang Taiyan's critique of political groups also focused on the operation of state power in these organizations and its moral consequences. Learned societies and political parties, as well as chambers of commerce, were the most important among urban groups. Since creation of the Self-Strengthening Learned Society (Ziqiang xuehui), most late imperial learned societies were political groups; these were also the precursors of modern Chinese political parties. The most forceful promoter of learned societies was Liang Qichao. He used the term "grouping" for

all sorts of social and political organizations. Their most important function was to bring together the Chinese people as a unified nation. In "Lun xuehui" (On learned societies), in Bianfa tongyi (The general significance of the reform movement), Liang divided social groups into three types: "National groupings are the parliaments, commercial groupings are companies, and academic groupings are learned societies. Parliaments and companies know and discuss their vocations. Both derive from learning, so learned societies are the mother of those two."[62] As Hao Chang has pointed out, Liang Qichao granted learned societies such an important position because he believed that they formed an integral link in China's state making. Learned societies not only undertook the mission of teaching the people but also provided a way of shaping a certain political identity. Thus they constituted an indispensable bond in transforming China's complex and unorganized society into a unified, cohesive nation.[63] During the constitutionalist movement of the late Qing, political parties had a close relationship with learned societies. Zhang criticized these political groups primarily because of their ties with state power. He said that "if the state has political parties, then not only are most political matters corrupt, but the virtue of the scholargentry also declines. It turns the government into a redlight district, and national affairs into a peep show." This, he explained, followed from the election of representatives from political parties, who "ascended overnight to the king's road, sitting to discuss the Way. They seek to express their parties' views, not the will of the people. As for the various craft and commercial parties, all submit to their own private circles."[64] Hence his denial of political groups was twofold: on the one hand, they were self-interested social collectivities that obstructed the rationalization of state making; on the other hand, the activities of Chinese political groups were part of the state's workings. This also was the foundation of his post–1911 revolution theory: "Raise revolutionary armies and eliminate revolutionary parties."

7. The Rejection of Urban Political Organizations

Urban political organizations, including study societies and political parties, were seen as both sources of corruption and instruments of state power and were rejected.

8. The Rejection of Communities Based on Connections

In "Wuwu lun," Zhang advanced his ideal of abolishing the "settlement" (juluo), which primarily meant locally based or kin-based clans and tribes. What deserves attention is the fact that this ideal follows the ideal of abolishing the government. "The reason that all clans contend with each other is because the government sustains their separation. If political authority were to disappear, then human beings would still tame and treat generously dogs, horses, and different species. How much more generously would they treat other people?"[65] Zhang's aversion for

governments, however, was by no means unconditional anarchism. In his view, the roots of government lay in war. If war did not cease, then the government could not be dispensed with for a single day. "Thus governments are not established to order the people, but in reality are established to deal with governments of other nations. If other countries have governments, then one country cannot unilaterally be without one."[66] Thus the implication of anarchism was that it would eliminate national boundaries, unify languages, and end conflict completely. The so-called no-settlement was mentioned in the sense of ending conflict, since even with the elimination of national boundaries and government, natural differences in environment would remain, leading to conflict and alliances between natural settlements formed according to race, language, or regional differences, and the emergence of new countries and governments. "Thus if we wish to dispense with governments, we must also dispense with settlements. Farmers will be itinerant farmers, craftsmen itinerant craftsmen, and women itinerant women…. They will settle as they change dwellings and move continuously…. This is why government and settlement must be eliminated at the same time."[67]

Zhang Taiyan's "Farmers will be itinerant farmers, craftsmen itinerant craftsmen" emphasized the shedding of land and family ties. This reflected his understanding of the Chinese patriarchal clan system. In Shehui tongquan shangdui (A discussion of A History of Politics), he commented on Edward Jenks's idea that patriarchal societies "emphasize the people, not the land," pointing out that China's patriarchal society had deep bonds with the land, these bonds being in fact the combination of ancestor worship and the system of land division. It must be noted that Zhang's critique of the patriarchal system was inextricably linked to his political anti-Manchu stance, since, as he saw it, China's patriarchal society accepted the rule of foreign ethnicity. However, within the late Qing context, his assault on the patriarchal system was also based on his antagonism toward the state and the expansion of its power. During the reform period, the national officials' and constitutionalist intellectuals' proposal for local self-government was in essence an attempt to use the gentry-village community to strengthen state power. Qingmo choubei lixian dang'an shiliao includes many memorials relating to local self-government. Their central concern was how the nation might employ the gentry, clans, and the system of natural villages to carry out the exploitation, organization, mobilization, and control of society. At the end of the Qing, the reform government requested villages to establish a set of financial institutions to finance the opening of new schools and administrative and self-defense organizations. In addition, the state pressed rural villages unceasingly for tax levies (the amount exceeded by several times the land tax) to finance colossal indemnities and subsequent wars. According to Prasenjit Duara's study of rural north China, levies imposed between 1900 and 1942 were fundamentally different from the land tax and other forms of taxes collected in the past. The levies were not assessed according to population or individual wealth, but were imposed with the village serving as a unit of taxation. Because the villages were allowed to divide up their

own tax burdens, the state granted the villages their own powers of taxation and thereby control over their communal budget. After the establishment of new-style schools and public enterprises, these new-style village organizations were empowered to supervise these new enterprises and to assess and collect taxes.[68] On the one hand, the Qing government needed to nurture a group of local leaders to carry out social organization and mobilization and to realize the state's objectives. On the other hand, it had to avoid a social and judicial crisis and respect traditional authority and its institutions. However, the effort of the Manchu Qing government to use local self-government to expand its power was not entirely successful. State revenue and local disorder increased simultaneously, because the ability of the state to control rural society did not match its ability to exploit it. Formal state political authority could rely on informal structures to carry out its own policies. However, it had no means of controlling these structures. As a result, the legitimacy of state structures was checked by the corruption of local officials. Moreover, the extension of state power suggested heightened oppression and bankruptcy within the society. Duara uses Clifford Geertz's concept of involution to describe this characteristic of the expansion of late Qing state authority: "As the state grows in the involutionary mode, the informal groups become an uncontrollable power in local society, replacing a host of traditional arrangements of local governance."[69] Under these conditions, the involution of state authority means that the state bureaucracy did not rely on improving the efficiency of the existing or new establishments (personal or other administrative resources), but on reviving or expanding old state-society ties. For example, when China's old profit-based brokerage system gained in its powers of control, it not only brought about an increase in the number of brokers but also led the brokerage system to penetrate into the society's lowest level—the village. Zhang Taiyan's views toward local elections and rich families have already shown how perceptive he was about this process. At the time, however, he paid perhaps even more attention to the fact that local self-government organizations and their activities, based on local or kin-based ties, were part of the state's activities.

9. Conclusion

Let us turn to the historical significance of Zhang's proposition that "the individuated is the real; the collective is the illusory."

First, in Zhang Taiyan's writing, there is little mention of society, and the individual is set up in opposition to the state in a binary relationship. This has much to do with the historical circumstances in which the notion of society was articulated. Late Qing societal organizations such as chambers of commerce, urban guilds, and so forth often functioned as the entities in between state and society and were organized to help with the tasks of state building, society making, and individual making. As an anti-Manchu nationalist, Zhang rejected all social action in this form as attempts to help consolidate and even enhance the power of the

Manchu court. The opposition between the individuated self and the state thus developed into an opposition between the individual and a state that included all nonstate organizations. Thus, rather than saying that Zhang omitted the sphere of the society, one should say that he understood society as being "statified." This mode of discourse, with its dualistic formulation of individual and state in opposition, profoundly influenced contemporary Chinese political thought. One manifestation has been the custom of enlightened intellectuals finding political identity within the individual/nation duality (regardless of whether one is adopting an oppositional or conservative political stance). Relatively few have explored the social space that might exist between the individual and the state or in the public sphere.

Second, within the individual/state mode of discourse, the individual would never again be an abstract philosophical concept, but would be imbued with a complex structure of meaning. The meaning of the individual, with its absolute sovereignty and absolute equality in existence, had emerged in a concrete social context. Zhang's concept of the individual contained fierce negation of all "coercive" boundaries, such as nationalism, statism, and notions of village and patriarchy.[70] With regard to the state, since the individual was the basis of anarchistic thought, the individual also functioned as the basis for the declaration of popular sovereignty (with the people as individuals). With regard to modern bureaucratic structures, since the concept of the individual eliminated all rationalized social hierarchies, the concept also carried an inherent demand for political equality. With regard to economic structures, since the individual was a rationale for equal rights to the land, the individual was also a source of state socialist thought. With regard to urban groups, since the concept of the individual denied contractual relations, the concept was also the rejection of the individual/society/state mode of discourse. With regard to the patriarchal system and village associations, since the concept of the individual critiqued the gentry-village community (especially that composed of kin and local ties) as an instrument for the expansion of state power, the individual, thus conceptualized, also completely denied the traditional Chinese ethical structure. With this last point, I want to remark on the fact that although on the cultural and intellectual level Zhang promoted the "national essence" and the Chinese tradition, he rejected the clan and other traditional social groups as he developed his concept of the individual. This rejection provided an intellectual logic for modern Chinese antitraditionalism.

One of the central issues in May Fourth antitraditional thought was, as we know, the opposition between the individual, on the one hand, and the family system and traditional ethics, on the other. What deserves particular mention is the fact that Zhang's strong concept of the individual was not yet an intellectual source for capitalist rights to private property or an ethical precondition for a modern state system characterized by democracy. In other words, the individual and its related discourse certainly did not foster a Western-style individualistic culture. On the contrary, within the political, economic, and social sphere, the concept of the individual developed a politically anarchistic, economically socialist, and socially antihierarchical

intellectual orientation. The inherent relationship between the individual and universal equality in Zhang's conception contained the promise of a new relationship between the individual and the ideal of gong (the public).[71]

Third, on the level of politics, Zhang's radical negation of the nation and all social groups, as developed in his concept of the individual, had deep links with his anti-Manchu nationalism. This was because concepts of nation and social groups, as developed by Zhang's contemporaries at the turn of the century, had been predicated upon an acceptance of the legitimate authority of the Qing government. In this fashion, the radical opposition between the individual and the people (which is also a group) in Zhang's thinking had an immediate, practical consequence. The establishment of the Chinese people as a nation meant seizure of political power from the Manchus by the Han people. Moreover, the concept of the individual in principle underscored the hollowness of official state-making endeavors launched by the Qing court. In this sense, the concept of the individual was an integral part of the discursive structure of the modern Chinese people and nation.

Fourth, the concept of the individual is both self-negating and self-transcending. Zhang had argued that, within the opposition of the individual and the state, collective entities lacked subjectivity. In the end, he asserted that entities without subjectivity were but human artifices, thereby bringing up the concept of no-mankind. Furthermore, in consideration of the history of human evolution, he raised the concept of no-organisms, in order to evade the possibility that microorganisms reconstruct humankind and its society through evolution. Finally, based on the Buddhist doctrine of nonbeing, he raised the concept of the nonworld. Actually, all these arcane concepts drew from the Buddhist principles of "man without self" and "dharma without self." The concept of the individual, then, was self-negating because the individual "always took clinging to alayavijnana to be the self, clinging to self-as-real as presented in consciousness, and thoughts of good and evil arose." Moreover, this sort of self and self-as-real were biases and illusory realizations born out of discriminating relations.[72] In other words, what Zhang called the individual and the true (eternal, real, and universal) self were separate. This kind of individual was one without substance, and thus the individual itself was not a phenomenon possessing self-nature and could not become a final source of moral identity. The self thus became a concept of self-transcendence: it had to look elsewhere for substance or self-nature. The separation between the individual and self-nature (ego) was the most prominent characteristic of Zhang's provisional concept of the self. This kind of separation determined that the self would not have its own depth or inherence and could not become a foundation for value or identity. It also determined the inherent logic of Zhang's thought: his emphasis on the individual in the end led to the denial of the individual itself and toward a cosmic type of pursuit for religion, faith, and universality. This was the intellectual dynamic that gave rise to the cosmic vision in his "theory of establishing religion" and "theory of making all things equal."


Fifth, within the framework of the three-natures theory and the "theory of making all things equal," Zhang discussed the question of the individual on the ontological and cosmological levels. In other words, at least in form, the concept of the individual and the concepts of the society and collectivity were unrelated. This means that the concept has nothing to do with what Lucian Pye called "sense of belonging to a collectivity," but rather concerns the problem of the individual's identity—the position and modes of existence—within the cosmos. Whether it be Zhang's demonstration of the individual's subjectivity or his doubts with regard to the real existence of the individual, neither lay within the relationship of individual and society, individual and collectivity, or even individual and self. This special rhetoric concerning the individual and his or her substance determined that Zhang's concepts of freedom and equality would be suprasocial. Thus the relationship of equality among phenomena (including people and things, people and people, and things and things) was a principle of cosmic existence and original (natural) condition, and freedom was another form of expression for this principle and condition. Even though Zhang hinted that this should also be a political and moral principle regulating relations among nations and peoples, this freedom and equality involved no concepts of rights or duty; they did not belong to the spheres of law or morality, much less to the sphere of property. We know already that within the context of "taking the uneven as even," all phenomena have their own character and principles; but we do not know if adjustment or moderation are needed between self and self, or between principle and principle. In other words, in Zhang's mode of discourse, between the individual and the individual there was no mediator of any sort, especially with respect to society.

Zhang's concept of freedom and equality did not contain the principle that the individual precedes the social structure. Nor did it contain the principle that the social structure precedes the appearance of the individual. This was because the term "social" implied a kind of order, an apprehensible entity, a discriminating relationship, a universality, and a despotic and violent potentiality. Zhang's concept of the individual and its related discourse here involved political and social applications, but not political or social science. The political nature of Zhang's social philosophy not only led to differences in his ideas about the individual and its mode of discourse and set them apart from those articulated by Liang Qichao and Yan Fu, but it also led to differences in related ideas developed in modern Western social thought. Zhang's emphasis on self-reliance and the destruction of gongli did not lead to an argument in favor of an individual's absolute subjectivity, but to a case for the supremacy of cosmic principle and the idea of gong. This gong stemmed neither from a ritual system nor from a society, but from a natural principle of absolute equality. The reason Zhang's concept of the individual was fundamentally provisional was because only the gong had an eternal, natural condition. Although Zhang's use of the individual to oppose the nation was apparently an extreme case of individualism, he did not see the individual as a source of value

or a basis of identity. On the contrary, the source of value and the basis for morality was rooted in a unique condition, a condition of selfless publicness (gong).


This article has been translated from Chinese by Mark Halperin and condensed and revised by Zhang Qiong.

1. Translators' note: In this essay, the Chinese term geti has been translated alternately as "the individual," "the individuated," and "the individuated entity," depending on the context. The term geren has been rendered consistently as "the individual." [BACK]

2. Lucian W. Pye, The Spirit of Chinese Politics (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1968), xviii. Wang Hui's reading is based upon a Chinese version of this work. [BACK]

3. Fredric Jameson, "Third World Literature in the Era of Multinational Capitalism," Social Text 15 (1986): 69. Wang Hui's reading is based on a Chinese translation of this text. [BACK]

4. Ibid., 85–86. [BACK]

5. Translators' note: We have used Hao Chang's translation of qun. See his Liang Ch'i-ch'ao and Intellectual Transition in China, 1890–1907 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1971), 95. The Chinese term zixing is translated alternately as "self-nature" and "subjectivity" in this essay. In Wang Hui's interpretive reading of Zhang Taiyan, a key distinction is maintained between two different kinds of entities: those that are natural and thereby endowed with an authentic xing (nature, attributes) residing within the individuated unit (zi); and those that are socially constituted, often of a collective nature, to which this xing is ascribed. The most prominent significance of zixing thus lies with subjectivity but sometimes goes beyond it. [BACK]

6. Friedrich Nietzsche, "The Genealogy of Morals," in The Birth of Tragedy and the Genealogy of Morals, trans. Francis Golffing (New York: Anchor Books, 1956), 188. Wang Hui's reading was based upon a Chinese version of this text. [BACK]

7. Translators' note: This translation adopts Hao Chang's view of Zhang Taiyan's interpretation of Zhuangzi. See his Chinese Intellectuals in Crisis (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1987), 121–22. [BACK]

8. Zhang Taiyan, "Sihuo lun" (On the four delusions), in Zhang Taiyan quanji (Shanghai: Shanghai renmin chubanshe, 1984), 4th fasc., 444. [BACK]

9. Ibid., 446. [BACK]

10. Translators' note: Gongli, as Wang Hui explains in the text, is a normative principle (li) recognized and accepted by all members of the society and is therefore impartial and public in the sense that it is equally accessible to all (gong). In this essay we use "public principle" to translate gongli in the hope of differentiating it from tianli (heavenly principle), a key concept in Neo-Confucian social philosophy. Gongli and tianli in Zhang Taiyan's conception appear to share attributes but differ significantly in philosophical foundation. [BACK]

11. Zhang Taiyan quanji, 4th fasc., 449. [BACK]

12. Ibid. The quote from Zhuangzi is taken from A. C. Graham, Chuang-tzu, 53. [BACK]

13. Zhang Taiyan quanji, 4th fasc., 456–57. [BACK]

14. "Da Tiezheng" (Responding to the iron gong), in Zhang Taiyan quanji, 4th fasc., 374–75. [BACK]


15. "Ren wuwo lun" (On the nonexistence of the human self), in Zhang Taiyan quanji, 4th fasc., 419. [BACK]

16. Translators' note: Peter Gregory defines alayavijnana as "the key Yogacara doctrine of ‘store consciousness,’ the eighth consciousness that operates as the underlying continuum in mental life and functions as the underlying projective consciousness on which delusion is ultimately based. The alayavijnana stores the seeds out of which the mental and physical elements that comprise the phenomenal world develop; it stores all experiences as karmically charged seeds, which, under the proper conditions, ripen as actions (whether mental, verbal, or physical), which in turn create new seeds." See his Inquiry into the Origin of Humanity: An Annotated Translation of Tsungmi's Yüan jen lun, with a Modern Commentary (Honolulu: Kuroda Institute, 1995), 207 and passim. [BACK]

17. "Jianshe Zongjiao lun" (On the establishment of religion), in Zhang Taiyan quanji, 4th fasc., 414. The same sort of view is also seen in "Ren wuwo lun," in Zhang Taiyan quanji, 4th fasc., 427. [BACK]

18. "Ren wuwo lun," in Zhang Taiyan quanji, 4th fasc., 427. [BACK]

19. The stress on the impartial and the collective in modern thought exhibits a significant parallel to the ritualistic political ideals of Xunzi, whereas Zhang's conception of the "impartial," articulated in Buddhist language, is inherently similar to the ideas of natural publicness (gong) and cosmic equality expressed in the Zhuangzi: "Heaven is impartial to everything it covers, earth to everything it carries; why would heaven and earth discriminate to make me poor?" A. C. Graham, Chuang-tzu, 93. [BACK]

20. "Guojia lun" (On the state), in Zhang Taiyan quanji, 4th fasc., 457. [BACK]

21. Ibid., 457–58. [BACK]

22. Ibid., 459. Zhang explains the so-called expressive appearances as follows: "What most people call appearance can be divided into three parts. Green, yellow, red, and white name manifest appearances. Crooked, straight, square, and round name formal appearances. Taking, giving, contracting, and expanding name expressive appearances. All things belong to manifest and formal appearances, and all matters belong to expressive appearances. The expressive appearances pass away, and with the functions they leave behind, their shape and its boundaries are not yet extinguished, and are named nonexpressive appearances." [BACK]

23. Ibid., 459. [BACK]

24. Ibid., 461–62. [BACK]

25. Ibid., 462 [BACK]

26. Fourth year of the Duke of Cheng, Zuo zhuan, Shisanjing zhushu, vol. 6 (Taipei: Yiwen yinshuguan, 1976), 439; "Sannianjian" (Three-year period), Li ji, Shisanjing zhushu, vol. 5 (Taipei: Yiwen yinshuguan, 1976), 961; "Lilun" (The discourse on ritual), Xunzi jijie, ed. Wang Xianqian, vol. 3 (Shanghai: Shangwu yinshuguan, 1936), 80. [BACK]

27. Shisanjing zhushu, 8:127. Translators' note: We have used the translation by Arthur Waley. See The Analects (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1938), 185. [BACK]

28. Wang Ermin, Zhongguo jindai sixiang shigao (A draft history of modern Chinese thought) (Taibei: Huashi chubanshe, 1977), 209–10. [BACK]

29. See, for example, the description of wufu in "Basic Annals of Xia," in Shiji (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1982), 75. [BACK]

30. See Wang Ermin's two articles, "‘Zhongguo’ mingcheng suyuan ji qi jindai quanshi" (Tracing the origins of the term "China" and its modern interpretation) and "Qingji xuehui yu jindai minzuzhuyi di xingcheng" (Qing learned societies and the formation of

modern nationalism), in Zhongguo jindai sixiang shigao (Taibei: Huashi chubanshe, 1977), 209–32, 441–80. [BACK]

31. Kang Youwei, "Shang Qingdi disanchu" (The third letter to the Qing emperor [May 29, 1895]), in Kang Youwei shenglunji, ed. Tang Zhijun (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1981), 140. "Trailing gowns" refers to how the Yellow Emperor, Yao, and Shun ruled the world by merely donning proper garments. See Zhou Yi, "Xici zhuan," Shisanjing zhushu, vol. 1 (Taipei: Yiwen yinshuguan, 1976), 167. [BACK]

32. Liang Qichao, "Aiguo lun" (On patriotism), in Yinbingshi heji, wenji (Collected works and essays from the Ice-Drinker's Studio), vol. 3 (Shanghai: Shanghai Zhonghua shuju, 1947), 47. [BACK]

33. Liang Qichao, "Zhongguo jiruo suyuan lun" (On tracing the origins of China's extreme weakness), in Yinbingshi heji, wenji, vol. 5, 15–16, 22–23. [BACK]

34. Liang Qichao, "Xinmin shuo" (New citizen), in Yinbingshi heji. Translators' note: The author does not indicate which part of Yinbingshi heji he refers to and gives no volume or page number. [BACK]

35. For the view that nationalism meant "national-people-ism," see "Sanmin zhuyi" (The three principles of the people), in Sun Zhongshan quanji (The collected works of Sun Yatsen), 9th fasc. (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1981), 184–185. [BACK]

36. Zhang Taiyan, "Zhang Taiyan guimao yuzhong manbi" (Zhang Taiyan's random jottings from prison in 1903), Guocui xuebao (Shanghai), no. 8 (1905): 5. [BACK]

37. Wang Sichen, Guoxue jianghua (Shanghai: Shijie shuju, 1935), 1–3. [BACK]

38. Huang Jie, "Guocui xuebaoshu," Guocui xuebao (Shanghai), no. 1 (March 23, 1905): 3. [BACK]

39. Ibid. [BACK]

40. Zhang Taiyan, "Yanshuo lu," in Minbao, no. 6 (January 1907): 4. See Xinhai geming qian shinian jianshi lun xuanji, 2d fasc., pt. A (Beijing: Sanlian shudian, 1978), 448–52. [BACK]

41. Translators' note: To distinguish minzu zhuyi and guojia zhuyi, we translate the former as "nationalism" and the latter as "statism." [BACK]

42. Liang Qichao, "Zhengzhixue dajia Bolunzhili zhi xueshuo" (The ideas of the great political scientist Bluntschli), in Yinbingshi heji, wenji, vol. 13, 68. Behind Liang's view was the major turn in his political attitudes and faith in politics. Liang Rengong xiansheng nianpu changbian chugao (A first draft of the long version of Master Liang Rengong's chronological history) has the following note: "The nihilism of his previous deeply felt beliefs and his advocacy of revolutionary anti-Manchuism were completely abandoned. This was a great turn in the master's political thought. His speech and ideas of the next few years were based completely on this foundation." Cited from Xinhai geming shiqi qikan jieshao (An introduction to periodicals of the 1911 revolution era), vol. 1 (Beijing: Renmin chubanshe, 1982), 162. [BACK]

43. Liang Qichao, "Zhengzhixue dajia Bolunzhili zhi xueshuo," 70–71. [BACK]

44. Ibid., 69, 77–86. [BACK]

45. Ibid., 86–88. [BACK]

46. Ibid., 88–89. [BACK]

47. See Liang Qichao, "Kaiming zhuanzhi lun" (On enlightened despotism), Yinbingshi heji, wenji, vol. 17. Hao Chang points out that "his central concern was not with ‘enlightened despotism’ per se, but with a much broader underlying problem, namely, ‘reason of the state.’" In other words, Liang's political orientation was identical to that of Western political thinkers from Machiavelli to Hegel, whose "paramount concern was the rational conduct of government to ensure the survival and security of the state irrespective of its moral

and ideological consequences. Specifically, ‘reason of state’ consists in the justification of such rational conduct of government as the supreme political end." See his Liang Ch'i-ch'ao, 255–56. Liang's interest in "enlightened despotism" was a natural development of his interest in "reason of state." What must be pointed out here, however, is that he had no interest in enlightened despotism itself, but found it an ideal and effective means to solve the problem of the Chinese nation's security and survival during an age of imperialism. This in general also explains Liang's contradictory feelings toward constitutional monarchy and enlightened despotism. [BACK]

48. Zhu Zhixin, "Xinli de guojiazhuyi," Minbao 21 (June 1906): 22–34. [BACK]

49. Zhang Taiyan, "Zhonghua minguo jie," in Zhang Taiyan quanji, 4th fasc., 253. The targets of his criticism were "economic-military theorists," meaning actually Yang Du's essay "Jintie zhuyi shuo" (The theory of economic militarism), published in Zhongguo xinbao (China new report) 2 (February 1907): 4. Yang Du believed in enriching the country and strengthening the military, establishing the nation through the military "only toward the outside, but not toward the inside," and carrying out an "economic militarism." During the constitutional monarchy period, he touched on the Manchu-Han Chinese problem. "Between the monarch and the people, those who say that there has been no Manchu-Han Chinese problem for a long time cannot extend this to the imperial house. The imperial house directly stands outside the Manchu-Han Chinese problem." His view was that the monarch was an agency of the nation; the problem was one of whether he is the monarch of the enlightened despotic polity or that of the constitutional monarchical polity, and not one of whether he is a Manchu or Han Chinese. "The monarch is the representative of the entire nation, not that of an entire people." Behind his slogan that "the monarch and people are one, and Manchu and Han have equal rights" was his use of the national problem to obscure the racial problem. [BACK]

50. Zhang Taiyan, "Zhonghua minguo jie," in Zhang Taiyan quanji, 4th fasc., 256. [BACK]

51. "Xuanshi yule lixian xianxing liding guanzhi yu" (Edict announcing that constitutional preparation will begin by carrying out the formulation of rules for official institutions), in Qingmo choubei lixian dang'an shiliao, ed. Gugong bowuguan Ming-Qing dang'anbu (Ming-Qing archives of the National Palace Museum), vol. 1 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1979), 44. [BACK]

52. Liang Qichao, "Shizhong dexing xiangfan xiangcheng yi" (The contradictory and complementary meaning of ten kinds of virtuous conduct), published originally in Qingyi bao (Pure discussion reports) 82 (June 16, 1901) and 84 (July 6, 1901), later included in Yinbingshi heji, wenji, 5th vol. See also Liang Qichao, Liang Qichao zhexue sixiang lunwen xuan (A selection of Liang Qichao's essays on philosophical thought) (Beijing: Beijing Daxue chuban-she, 1984), 49. [BACK]

53. Zhang Taiyan, "Sihuo lun," in Zhang Taiyan quanji, 4th fasc., 446–48. [BACK]

54. Zhang Taiyan, "Guojia lun," in Zhang Taiyan quanji, 4th fasc., 458. [BACK]

55. Zhang Taiyan, "Wuwu lun," in Zhang Taiyan quanji, 4th fasc., 435. [BACK]

56. See, for example, Wang Fansen, Zhang Taiyan ti sixiang ji qi dui Ruxue chuantong di chongji(Zhang Taiyan's thought and its attack on Confucian tradition) (Taipei: Shibao wenhua chuban youxian gongsi, 1985), chap. 5, sec. 3. See also Qingmo choubei lixian dang'an shiliao, vol. 2 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1979), 603–4. [BACK]

57. Zhang believed that China's despotic system made for a more egalitarian society than the constitutional systems of the West and Japan. See Zhang Taiyan, "Daiyi ranfou lun," Zhang Taiyan quanji, 4th fasc., 300. [BACK]


58. Ibid., 303. [BACK]

59. Ibid., 307–8; and "Wuwu lun," Zhang Taiyan quanji, 4th fasc., 430–31. [BACK]

60. See Zhao Jing and Yi Menghong, eds., Zhongguo jindai jingji sixiang shi (The history of modern Chinese economic thought), vol. 2 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1985), 488–502. [BACK]

61. Zhang Taiyan, "Wuchao falü suoyin," Zhang Taiyan quanji, 4th fasc., 84. This work originally appeared in issue 23 of Minbao, and was changed somewhat when incorporated into Taiyan wenlu (Record of Taiyan's writings). [BACK]

62. Liang Qichao, "Bianfa tongyi—lun xuehui," Yinbingshi heji, wenji, 1st fasc., 31. [BACK]

63. Hao Chang, Liang Ch'i-ch'ao, 108–9. [BACK]

64. Zhang Taiyan, "Daiyi ranfou lun," Zhang Taiyan quanji, 4th fasc., 309. See also Zhang Taiyan's October 1911 essay, "Zhu zhengdang" (Eliminating political parties), in Tang Zhijun, ed., Zhang Taiyan nianpu changbian (The long version of Zhang Taiyan's chronology), vol. 1 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1979), 352–60. [BACK]

65. Zhang Taiyan quanji, 4th fasc., 432. [BACK]

66. Ibid., 432. [BACK]

67. Ibid., 434. [BACK]

68. Prasenjit Duara, Culture, Power, and the State: Rural North China, 1900–1942 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1988), 4. [BACK]

69. Ibid., 74–77. [BACK]

70. "Wuwu lun," Zhang Taiyan quanji, 4th fasc., 429–30. [BACK]

71. The manifestation of this notion of publicness (gong) in nationalism is the extension of Mozi's "impartial" ethics, in which "undifferentiated love begins its practice with kin," to the relationships between peoples. Zhang said, "What we propose is not limited to the Han people. For other weak peoples who have been conquered by strong peoples, whose government has been usurped and people enslaved, if they have any remaining strength they must unite and recover [their sovereignty and freedom]…. If we want to fulfill our nationalism, then we should extend our ‘hearts of a child’ to rescue others in similar distress and allow them to live in land that is completely independent." Ibid., 430. [BACK]

72. Ibid., 436–37. [BACK]


8. Crime or Punishment?
On the Forensic Discourse
of Modern Chinese Literature

David Derwei Wang

This essay approaches the subject of "violence and modern China" by examining the dialogical representation of violence and justice in modern Chinese literature. The corpus of Chinese literature from the turn of the century up to the Chinese Communist takeover of the mainland is one replete with horrific natural and humanmade disasters, such as foreign aggressions, civil wars, revolutions, local riots, clan conflicts, famines, and floods, to say nothing of the cataclysmic collapse of established values. While these various forms of violence have engendered a "literature of tears and blood" commemorating the physical and emotional pain of the Chinese people, they have given rise to an equally compelling if not so famous discourse on "crime and punishment."[1]

The entangled relations between violence and justice can be found in the legal-literary discourse of earlier eras.[2] What concerns me here is the way in which modern Chinese writers' inquiries into the terms of violence and justice have served as a poignant index to the rise (and premature decline?) of a new consciousness called Chinese modernity. I consider justice to be a social institution that is implemented in many ways—from legal codes to administrative norms, from consensual conventions to "mythical" taboos—so as to define and curb natural and human forms of violence.[3] By corollary, violence is understood as a demonstration of natural, social, or individual power that crosses the consensual boundary of the rational and results in physical or psychological damage to the victim.[4] These are working definitions and are admittedly provisional. As will be demonstrated by the following examples, these two definitions tend to collapse into each other in a way that is dramatized in some of the most intriguing moments in modern Chinese legal-literary representation.

A high-strung, contentious call for justice permeated modern Chinese literature from the start; it obliged writers to write in order to indict social evils, right wrongs, and prefigure a world of equality and order. This discourse originated in

the late Qing and May Fourth eras, when literati promulgated the "new literature" as a total rejection of the old, and it reached its first climax in the forties, in the wake of Mao's Yan'an talks. Chen Duxiu's advocacy of "a literature for the common people" and the leftist writers' slogan "literature for the insulted and the injured" are but the most blatant examples.[5] Under the pens of modern Chinese writers, traditional norms, from imperial mandate to familial patriarchy, are shown as having lost their claims to legitimacy and, worse, as having revealed themselves to be nothing but excuses for systematic coercion. In Lu Xun's words, the Chinese had been attending a spectacular banquet that was nothing but "cannibalism."[6] In revulsion, modern Chinese literature set about to demolish an obsolete system in which oppression had been invisible, even if it took acts of representational violence to stop the old "cannibalism" and make the Chinese see the horrible truth. As critics such as Liu Zaifu have pointed out, Chinese literature under the auspices of leftist aesthetics starts out as "a literature against violence" but becomes a "violence of literature."[7]

After all, in understanding modern China, one sees that violence is not just a theoretical issue.[8] The mutual implication of violence and justice can never be understood as simply what happened "out there" and why some activity had to be punished.[9] One must understand justice as a discourse under which some forms of violence are condemned while others are taken for granted. Insofar as it constituted a major cultural premise in modern China, "violence of representation" presented literature as the meeting ground where poetic justice contested with legal justice, where ink demanded blood. Instead of merely reflecting external instances of violence, literature would demand to be appreciated and enlisted as a radical agency of change. In other words, writing and reading were to be taken as juridical events capable of transforming symbolic victims into social rebels and figurative humiliations into moral passions.

Long before politically correct scholars began to trumpet the power of language and rhetoric, Chinese literary discourse emphasized the politics of literature, and the late Qing had only to substitute European terms in the traditional discourse of the Way. The changing images of the modern Chinese writer, from the "scholarly knight-errant" (ruxia), as promoted by Zhang Taiyan (1869–1936) in the late Qing, to the "revolutionary vanguard," as sanctioned by the Communist Party in the late forties, bespoke the writers' persistent attempts to retain their traditional role as arbiters of social order and moral chaos.[10] But Chinese literary history from the Literary Revolution to revolutionary literature has left ample evidence of how such representational claims might backfire. By this I do not mean merely that language might "instigate" criminal activity or that literature might be the victim of false "indictments." I mean that the Way may be rendered mute, due either to self-censorship or to external coercion; and when the name of injustice should be spoken, literature is silent, thereby betraying its complicitous relations with all master narratives, old and new. This, I argue, is the worst form of "the violence of representation."[11]


To further my argument, I will describe how a forensic discourse—a discourse formed by an open debate, in the courtroom or in any other public space, regarding the legal consequences of a narrated event—has arisen and evolved in modern Chinese literature. With examples drawn from four historical moments, the late Qing era, the post–May Fourth era, the thirties, and the Yan'an era, I will show how, at a time when the old political, judicial, and moral order had collapsed and the new orders were yet to be established, literature provided a textual space in which legal cases were presented for debate and deliberation. In each of the examples to be discussed, a certain crime has been committed, followed by a call for a due punishment as a form of revenge, retribution, or discipline. But closer reading suggests that the narrated crime and punishment may have penetrated each other's realms, violating rather than vindicating each other's legal or moral presumptions. These examples reveal a practice of justice that is as vulnerable as it is violent. Meanwhile, as a transmitter of these debatable cases of crime and punishment, the position of literature itself comes to be questioned as an accomplice of criminals or of executioners.


For readers of late Qing fiction, one of the most memorable scenes is perhaps the intrusion of Lao Can into the hall of justice in Liu E's (1857–1909) Lao Can youji (The travels of Lao Can, 1907). In chapter 16 of The Travels of Lao Can, prefect Gangbi is cross-examining a woman prisoner named Jia Wei, who had been wrongly indicted as murderer of the whole family of her father-in-law—a total of thirteen lives—after her alleged adultery was exposed. Exasperated by the woman's response that she could not give the name of her lover-accomplice because she had never had one, Gangbi orders thumbscrews placed on her. One attendant grasps the woman's hair and lifts up her head and another two are pushing her hands into the thumbscrews, and at this crucial moment Lao Can walks into the middle of the courtroom and stops the torture.

Lao Can had learned of the misjudged case from a friend. Outraged by Gangbi's bigotry and cruelty, Lao Can volunteered to draft a letter of impeachment to Governor Zhuang and Judge Bai, Gangbi's superiors, so as to save the innocent defendant. He receives positive responses from Zhuang and Bai. As there is no time to deliver Zhuang's and Bai's letters to Gangbi through the normal channels, in the crucial scene described above, Lao Can is carrying the letters and has walked into the hall of justice without permission.

The illegal intrusion of Lao Can into the hall of justice brings together two strands from contesting themes that have been manifested from the beginning of the novel. The confrontation between Lao Can and Gangbi is not merely a show-down between a chivalrous traveling doctor and a haughty judge-investigator regarding a misjudged case. Rather, it represents the dramatic moment in which the incipient issues of legal praxis and its transgression, governmental mandate and

individual agency, social justice and poetic justice, are finally laid on the table for negotiation. As its preface suggests, The Travels of Lao Can is a novel written, and expected to be read, in tears.[12] Through Lao Can's travels, the novel introduces a China caught in an array of crises from the Boxer Rebellion to local riots, from natural disaster to impending revolutions. But in his diagnosis of the national malaise, what troubles Liu E (and Lao Can) most is the injustice that prevails throughout the governmental system, a condition that Lao Can believes symptomizes the final sickness of the dynasty.

Despite conventional wisdom, however, Liu E does not hold corrupt officials responsible for the collapse of law and justice. As many scholars have pointed out, what makes the novel polemic is that it condemns apparently good or incorruptible judges, not the corruptible ones, as the real source of evil. In the episode cited above, Judge Gangbi is not a classically "bad" judge but one famous for his sense of integrity. In a judicial system in which buying oneself out of indictments has become the norm, Gangbi is known for taking no bribes, and to that extent he has reason to be proud of himself. But as he tries hard to maintain his clean image, he turns this virtue into a vice. He is so proud of his reputation for virtue that he has become an intolerant puritan, as his Chinese name, homophonous with "bigotry" (gangbi), indicates.

When the woman Jia Wei was put in jail, her family had followed the normal rules of the game by paying a sizable sum of money to the court. Instead of returning the money right away, however, Gangbi keeps it, to use as new evidence against Jia Wei; he believes that the family of an innocent defendant would not bribe a judge. He tortures the woman with all kinds of penal instruments, forcing her to confess in accordance with a scenario that jumps to the worst of conclusions. Gangbi's behavior leads Liu E to make the famous commentary at the end of chapter 16: "All men know that corrupt officials are bad, but few know that incorruptible officials are even worse. Whereas a corrupt official knows his own faults and dares not play the tyrant openly, an incorruptible official imagines that since he never takes bribes he is free to do whatever he likes. Then self-confidence and personal prejudice may lead him to kill the innocent or even endanger the state."[13]

Gangbi's perpetration of "pious violence" posits an uncanny challenge to the conventional practice of justice. To scare people away from transgressing the law, or to demonstrate the absolute power of justice over evil, Gangbi can impose a punishment that is crueler and more spectacular than the crime for which the punishment is executed. The effect of Gangbi's law resorts to a penal technology that comes from the very transgression it aims to eliminate. Liu E has described earlier in the novel this paradox of justice in the form of another incorruptible judge, Yuxian.[14] Under his rule, a part of Shandong has become a model region free of crime. But Yuxian has achieved this temporary miracle by setting up a regime of horror; he mercilessly kills not only bandits but also innocent suspects misidentified as bandits. The citizens under Yuxian's governorship enjoy a communal life safe from bandits, their lives saved until they themselves are accused of

banditry. That the justice system is legalized violence, so to speak, becomes apparent when the state, in a moment of fanatical self-affirmation, decides that it can eliminate crime.

By exposing the violence concealed behind the facade of "benevolent" governorship, Liu E means to do more than criticize local judicial errors. He sees this hidden injustice as a most dangerous malady that, left unchecked, would eventually jeopardize national well-being. In Lao Can's words, "With so great a reputation as an administrator,… within a few years [Yuxian] will become provincial governor. The greater the official position such a man holds, the greater the harm he will do. If he controls a prefecture, then a prefecture suffers; if he governs a province, then a province is maimed; if he [administers the affairs of] the Empire, then the Empire dies!"[15] Liu E has a good reason to make such a radical comment. A historically verifiable figure, Yuxian was later promoted to high position thanks to his judicial impartiality. He turned out nevertheless to be one of the most vehement voices in support of the Boxer Rebellion, which led to national disaster. The final irony is that, in the wake of the invasion of the eight foreign allied armies, Yuxian found himself being indicted by his own government as a war criminal, for having instigated a rebellion aimed at "punishing" foreigners. The incorruptible judge was finally sentenced as a traitor and beheaded.[16]

Back to the episode of Gangbi and the woman Jia Wei. When he is planning to save the woman, Lao Can at the same time involves himself in ransoming a prostitute named Cuihuan, who otherwise would be resold to a lower-class brothel. The girl was a survivor of a massive Yellow River flood in Shandong Province. She had come from a rich farm family in the fertile land between the governmental dikes against the Yellow River.[17] As the Yellow River was about to flood one year, Shandong governor Zhuang took the advice of a scholar to give up areas outside the governmental dikes so as to widen the river and ease the peak of the flood. But the area between the governmental dikes was densely populated and rimmed with smaller dikes built by farmers to protect their land. For fear that these people would fiercely object to his policy, Zhuang was urged to keep it a secret till the last moment. Governor Zhuang was an official well known for his benevolence and fair-mindedness: a "good judge" in other words.[18] In the case of the Yellow River flood, nevertheless, he knowingly let thousands of people be drowned and their properties washed away, as the wisest and most effective policy mechanism.

Governor Zhuang, it will be recalled, is the fictional force whose last-minute interference rescues the woman Jia Wei from the hands of Gangbi. He serves as the deus ex machina whose power sponsors Lao Can in his intrusion in the above-cited courtroom scene. But Lao Can is not unaware of the fact that it is this same Governor Zhuang who has indirectly killed thousands. One innocent has been saved by a merciful man, the governor; thousands of innocents have been killed by that same merciful man. If the criminal in the mystery of thirteen deaths is guilty of murder, how about a "good" judge like Gangbi or Yuxian who has administered so many wrong convictions and unjust capital punishments before this single case? If a

small-scale "good judge" (Gangbi or Yuxian) is to be condemned for harming dozens, how about a higher-ranking "good judge" (Governor Zhuang), who is responsible for annulling thousands of innocent lives? No Lao Can turns up to "expose" the governor; indeed, all Lao Can does is salvage a few victims from the thousands sacrificed to the public good and manipulate a small "good judge" with the help of a grand "good judge," whose crimes are also on a much grander scale.

In volume two of The Travels of Lao Can, Lao Can has a dream. He travels to Hell and witnesses thousands of condemned souls undergoing various forms of punishment: they are scourged by nail-studded clubs till their flesh falls off their bones, deep-fried in a huge cauldron full of boiling oil, or ground into powder by grindstones.[19] These souls are paying the price for their misdeeds, however trivial, during their lifetimes. As for those who were virtuous when alive, they have been rewarded with a smooth transmigration into their next lives. The dream visit to Hell reinforces Lao Can's belief that some supernatural agency is at work handing out proper retribution.

One wonders if Lao Can's dream visit to Hell in volume two is not to be taken as a belated act of poetic justice, written to counterbalance the numerous episodes of misjudged cases and undeserved sufferings in volume one. Though the secular judicial system fails, Liu E tells us, a higher judicial system still works. The eternal wheel of fortune still turns, at least in Lao Can's dreams.

But for a reader alerted by the first volume of Liu E's novel to the fact that incorruptible judges can be more dangerous than corruptible ones, and that justice on earthly China is only an expensive fantasy, questions remain. Given the way that Hell is visualized as a gigantic, rigid bureaucracy handing out gory punishments according to the book, one can only see it as an extension of, rather than a contrast to, human courtrooms. When the earthly "incorruptible" judge is seen as culpable of abusing justice, one cannot help questioning the "incorruptibility" of the judge of judges, Yama, the ruler of Hell. And the other side of a rigid and abacus-like system of rewards and punishments in Heaven and Hell can be the corrupt and careless system of divine whims and tantrums.[20]

Whereas Liu E takes pains to distinguish the divine and human agencies of justice and their violent consequences, only to call attention to the collusive relation between them, Li Boyuan (1857–1906), Liu's contemporary, approaches the issue from a different angle. Li tells his readers that Hell is neither worse nor better than this world; as a matter of fact, Hell is this world. In his preface to his Huo Diyu (Living hell, 1906), he says:

At the trial in the Grand Hall of Justice, the magistrate is the king of Hades; the clerks and underlings are the judges who demand the death penalty; the runners and servants, all three ranks of them, are like the ox-headed and horse-faced demon messengers from purgatory; and the flat bamboo canes and instruments of torture designed to hurt people are like the two edged sword-leaf trees and the hill of knives in Hell. Before the prisoner has been assigned to his quarters or incarcerated in prison, he has suffered more than enough! Alas! Heaven is above us and Hell is below!

Although I have never seen this Hell of "judges of Hell," I am afraid there is nowhere one will not find such a hell on earth.[21]

Living Hell is a novel featuring fourteen misjudged cases and cruel tortures presided over by corrupt judges. It has never been a popular work from Li's oeuvre.[22] Among the few critics who appreciated it, the novel was regarded as "the first book written in Chinese which sought to expose malpractice and corruption in the Chinese penal system and to describe in detail a variety of techniques employed to extract information from prisoners."[23] In terms of unveiling the most inhuman aspects of the Chinese legal system, the novel is indeed a chilling success. Such a reading, however, overlooks the real "virtue" of Living Hell by making it merely another example of late Qing exposé fiction.

Artistic flaws—the crude language, contrived plotting, and flat characterization typical of late Qing fiction—notwithstanding, Living Hell distinguishes itself. A relentless parody of the genre of chivalric and court-case fiction, it also questions the concept of justice and its violation (most exposé novels assume or reaffirm a concept of it). Justice, as I am using the word, is not just the implementation of a humanmade or heaven-given law by human or divine judges; it is also the process of questioning and remaking the laws themselves.[24] It contains a dimension in which narrative praxis figures importantly, because there it does not assume an originary concept of justice by which human or celestial laws can be evaluated. Liu E in The Travels of Lao Can still betrays a lingering nostalgia about the lost world of chivalry and justice; with all his cynical observations on contemporary society, Li Boyuan makes the abuses of law and order the pretext of his novel; his is a world in which chivalry is nullified and justice turned upside down, but there is still a perspective from which abuse is clearly abuse. If Liu E still worries about why justice can be so generally violated, Li Boyuan is surprised to see any justice being done anywhere.

What kinds of cases does Li Boyuan examine in his novel? In one story, local officers provoke two feuding families in Shanxi to sue each other. As more and more of their members are put in jail, both families are forced to spend thousands of dollars buying the magistrate's favor; the case comes to a sudden halt as the magistrate moves to a new position (chapters 1–8). In another, a highway robber known for his capacity to endure any form of punishment finally succumbs to the tools of torture invented by a cruel judge (chapter 12). More than half of the episodes in the novel deal with sufferings of the innocent, however. A chaste woman turns down the sexual advances of a local official, only to find herself being charged with murdering her husband, who is actually away on business. The woman suffers horribly in jail and has to be acquitted only because her husband returns from his trip (chapters 13–18). In a similar case, a man who loses all his property in an accidental fire is accused of arson. Without money to buy himself out of the charge and unable to stand police torture, he drowns himself (chapter 33).

In Li Boyuan's world, corruptible judges and incorruptible judges are alike in administering inhuman punishments; innocent people and bandits are tortured

equally once they fall into the hands of the judges. In sharp contrast to Liu E, who doggedly searches against all odds for a way of rectifying the social order, Li Boyuan tells us that any effort to amend the way things are will prove too little and too late. If good judges never exist, neither do "good" outlaws. As if ridiculing such popular late Qing chivalric novels as Sanxia wuyi (Three knights-errant and five sworn brothers, 1878), in which former lawbreakers are persuaded by loyal judges to serve the emperor, Li Boyuan introduces in Living Hell bandits and officials cooperating like business partners in setting up innocent people and cheating them of their money. Business is so good that, since he has made a fortune, one highway robber buys himself a position as county magistrate. This bandit-judge appoints his cohorts as officers and attendants in his court and runs a lucrative business taking bribes from the innocent and the guilty alike (chapters 38–39). All the fourteen cases narrated in the novel end with a nonending, the narrator's moral commentary at the end of each case being at best perfunctory. No justice, not even a dream of divine justice, appears in the novel.

This is where Li Boyuan shows that his novel can at the same time be more conservative and radical than The Travels of Lao Can. Like A Ying, Zhao Jingshen, and other critics, one may conclude that Li Boyuan views the total breakdown of a judicial system from a conventional perspective, that of the dynastic cycle. By comparing the world to Hell, he reveals a reliance on conventional wisdom without either questioning its premises or stating a resolution in traditional terms. His cynicism partakes less of skeptical rigor, such as Liu E's, than of noncommittal play. Nonetheless, the way Li Boyuan portrays the late Qing courtroom as a bloody circus marks a radical departure from the traditional aesthetics of spectatorhood. So, just as Liu E's narrative innovations shed an ambiguous light on his politics of writing, Li Boyuan's relentless narratives of bodily torture seize new ground in the morality of reading.

One cannot overlook the possibility that Li Boyuan (and his intended readers) may actually enjoy the blood and pain, in a kind of philosophical schadenfreude. What he ultimately provides in the novel is not an account of misjudged cases but, rather, a spectacle of punishments. Few readers will fail to be impressed by Li's meticulous descriptions of the tools and paraphernalia used to torture the indicted. Women are often among the first group of victims in this circus of cruelty. A woman charged with adultery is treated with a "nippled iron": stripped of her clothes, she is "ironed" by a burninghot metal instrument with nipplelike points.[25] Another woman culprit with tender bound feet is forced to stand barefoot for hours on bricks. As her feet are already deformed thanks to foot binding, she can hardly stand straight for a moment.

Unpleasant as they are, these punishments are only for beginners. Some penal devices are so ingenious that they are even given patent names. "Red embroidered shoes" are shoes made from iron. Prisoners put on the shoes only when they are red hot. "Big red gown" refers to a kind of glue as thick as ox hide. When heated to a liquid, it is applied to the prisoner's body. The courtroom attendants wait till

it dries and then peel it off, together with the prisoner's skin. Judged by the ingenuity of these devices, one may well imagine what other punishments hide behind such euphemisms as "Dragon flying amid mountains," "Five sons pass the civil service examination," and "Three immortals make a visit to a cave."[26]

Li Boyuan scrupulously catalogues the variety of courtroom punishments, so much so that the report acquires an aesthetic of its own. A mock-encyclopedic form of narrative, of course, is a main trait of late Qing exposé novels. Living Hell stands out as the exposé that relates social justice to bodily pain in the most direct and systematic way (like the judges it exposes). It features a penal technology that resorts heavily to the presentation of a bloody corporeal theater, and in this sense it is almost a textbook illustration of Michel Foucault's notion of the relation between disciplining and punishing, power and law, in premodern society.[27] Pain and confession are supposed to come together; fragments of information can be pieced together at the cost of torn limbs. Through performing physical torture and mutilation in public, the authorities make sure that the law has been literally implicated into the body politic.

Besides offering lip service to the institution of justice, Li shows little sympathy for his victims. No matter how he justifies his narrative stance, he cannot hide his thirst for sensationalism. Following the Foucauldian argument, one can say that Li's elaborate description of punishment betrays a sadomasochistic penchant, something that upsets the solemnity of justice and turns it into an excuse for a macabre carnival. Parading the penal devices used in the courtroom and overexposing the pain of the indicted, Li Boyuan imbues his narrative with a cynical subtext, thereby intimating the final stage of the decadent inclination in late Qing fiction. In a similar manner, the novel anticipates a reader who may be as much provoked as he or she is excited by the bloody cases. Twice removed from the scene of punishments, the implied reader occupies a safe position and may attentively observe limbs torn apart and bodies charred into pieces. With a quivering sigh, the reader may experience a quick catharsis, accompanied by a puff of reassuring indignation.

These Foucauldian observations lead us back to the question: how can justice be represented as such? One remembers that, in The Travels of Lao Can, Liu E scandalizes his readers by declaring that incorruptible judges are more dangerous than corruptible judges. While it blurs the distinction between good and bad judges sanctioned by conventional wisdom, Liu E's discovery is nevertheless based on a belief that there is an essential system for judging the goodness of a "good" judge; hence he experiments with various forms of poetic justice, from appropriating the new Sherlock Holmes techniques of investigation to invoking the old Buddhist consolations of Heaven and Hell.[28]

Li Boyuan answers the question by telling us that there is no distinction between good and bad judges, because there are no good judges. Li envisions in Living Hell a state of legal and bureaucratic anarchy, one that celebrates the complicity between the corruptible and incorruptible judges and shows no sympathy for

the fate of either the innocent or the criminal in custody of the law. Li Boyuan does not solve the dilemma generated by this vision. If Earth is merely Hell, then Li Boyuan is plainly one of the cruel, incompetent, and greedy inhabitants. As an earthly devil, he enjoys staging punishments, the bloodier the better. And as a minion of Yama, his opinions on justice are those of a devil: they question nothing of the divine order. If Earth is Hell, then judges are devils, and writers who judge the judges are also devils. Liu E puts institutions into question; Li Boyuan puts intuitions into question.


Questions arising in Living Hell, as in The Travels of Lao Can, about the equivocal relationship between law and violence, between crime and punishment, between the cynical and the carnivalesque response to judicial anarchy, continue to occupy the minds of Chinese writers of the post–May Fourth era. As a matter of fact, modern Chinese literature has been described as originating with a bloody scene. According to his own account, in 1906, Lu Xun (1881–1936), initiator of modern Chinese literature, saw a slide show of decapitation as he was studying medicine in Japan. In the slide, a Chinese is about to be beheaded by Japanese soldiers for serving as spy for the Russians during the Russo-Japanese war, while a surrounding Chinese crowd waits to see the bloody spectacle. Lu Xun was allegedly so traumatized by the slide show that he gave up medical school to become a writer.[29]

As I have discussed elsewhere, violence and "modern" literature erupted at the same time, as Chinese literati set out to gaze at the bloody consequences of their cultural heritage.[30] Modern Chinese literature is not a medium employed passively to reflect extant social abuses; as implied by the dramatic case of Lu Xun, it was instead provoked into existence by a drastic jolt at both the emotive and ideological level, when the author confronted his national status symbolized by a decapitated body. This literature arose as part of the radical Lu Xun's and his contemporaries' search for the cause of the Chinese "original sin," which is projected by the spectacle of decapitation. Lu Xun asks, why did Russia and Japan wage a war against each other yet choose China as their battleground? Why is a Chinese willing to work for one foreign army to spy on the other? Why does the Chinese crowd look on so callously as one of their compatriots is beheaded?

For Lu Xun, the Chinese spy may as well be killed for collaborating in a war that nominally had nothing to do with China. Moreover, just as the spy deserves his capital punishment, so are his fellow Chinese spectators unworthy of mercy.[31] Lu Xun sees in these Chinese a readiness to transform themselves from spectators to practitioners at every cannibalistic rite, though the cost is everyone's blood. Lu Xun's charge could have extended even further, to the Japanese and Russians, who had manipulated the Chinese into humiliating themselves. Finally, Lu Xun must have tortured himself with this question: if all Chinese are culpable for bringing

shame upon their nation, what about Lu Xun, the spectator who stands gaping at a slide show of Chinese being humiliated? Is he the last conscience of China, privileged with a superhuman vision and voice? Or does he after all share in this collective Chinese original sin?

Lu Xun's "Kuangren riji" (Diary of a madman, 1918), usually regarded as the harbinger of modern Chinese fiction, invites one more reading. Insofar as his Madman launches a one-man investigation of social evils, only to discover that Chinese society as a whole is guilty of cannibalism, Lu Xun has told a story about justice lost and refound, the most cynical version. The origin of social evil—cannibalism—can be named by the Madman only at the cost of his being confined, censored, clinically (mal)treated, imprisoned, and finally "eaten up" by his closest family members. The story is full of penal and carceral imagery, such as quarantine, persecution, rehabilitation, a stifling iron house, and so on. All these forms of punishment, as the ending of the story tells us, prove to be nothing but preludes to yet another round of cannibalistic banqueting.

If Lu Xun is pessimistic about the retrievability of justice, he is just as equivocal about the consequences of finally bringing that desired justice into practice. Consider his famous allegory of the iron house, in which a crowd is jailed and suffocates from lack of air. Should a sole waker among the crowd wake up his fellow inmates (which might result in a panicked and useless attempt to escape)? Or should he let them die "peacefully" (and therefore become a reluctant witness to mass murder)?[32] In other words, faced with a hopelessly suffocating China, should an intellectual watch the final collapse as a spectator, or should this person come to its rescue, however unworthy it is of the risk? In either case, Lu Xun and his Madman have incarcerated themselves in a dilemma.

Lu Xun's predicament as a justice seeker, together with the cynical, self-deprecating bent of his imagination, may not be completely original, however. An apparently "modern" writer, Lu Xun has a temperament that betrays many fixations inherited from "premodern" writers; what comes to mind are Liu E's elite yearning for justice in The Travels of Lao Can and Li Boyuan's cynical spectatorship in Living Hell. One recalls that, in the imagined hell of Lao Can's dream, Liu E can still see justice done in another world; in the realistic hell that is contemporary China, Li Boyuan simply scoffs at any attempt at restoring justice. Lu Xun appears as the self-imposed tragic fighter standing at the threshold of Hell, unable, or unwilling, to cross over to either side. As T. A. Hsia speculates, one of the most prominent images Lu Xun takes up as a modern writer is that of a chivalric hero in a dynastic cycle, a hero who holds open the "gate of darkness" to let his comrades and other innocent people flee disaster, only to be crushed by the gate when he falls exhausted.[33]

Straddling the threshold of the "gate of darkness," Lu Xun, as a "scholarly knight-errant," must have sensed the uncertainties in his revisioning of justice. Like Liu E, Lu Xun wishes to imagine himself as a chivalrous literatus, standing alone against the "gate of darkness" while dreaming a late Qing dream of the true

justice on the other side; and like Li Boyuan, Lu Xun cannot take his gaze away from the nightmarish injustice on this side of the gate. Lu Xun must also have known from his predecessors that the "gate of darkness" may not stand between the old and the new China, between injustice and justice. It may instead join the world of institutionalized cannibalism on this side to its phantom replica on the other. Lu Xun cannot indict the "living hell" of China without demonstrating that his power derives from the hell of which he is a part. A Liu E–like champion protesting against social injustice, Lu Xun was no less a connoisseur, à la Li Boyuan, of the dark aspect of humanity, a fact well attested by the ghastly imagery of his essays, memoirs, and stories. Though it is said to be savored in the modern world, the new justice conceived by Lu Xun already has a taste of blood from the old, cannibalistic world.[34]

Two more examples can be cited from Lu Xun's short stories to illuminate the uncanny affinity between the concept of justice and its denial. For instance, the climax of "Zhufu" (New year sacrifice, 1921) is preceded by none other than an argument about the innocent suffering in this world and its redress in the other. In that episode, the ill-fated wife of Xianglin, now reduced to a beggar, stops the homecoming narrator Lu Xun and asks him if the soul survives death. Earlier on, Xianglin's wife was told that, since she had been twice widowed and now deprived of her only son, her body would be sentenced to be torn apart by her dead husbands in Hell. She was advised to donate a threshold at a nearby Buddhist temple, to be trampled on as her substitute so that her sin would be atoned for. In their encounter, the dying woman intends to seek from the narrator Lu Xun a reason for her plight in this life. To her question, the narrator responds, "It is hard to say" (shuo bu qing).

The reference to Hell and afterlife brings to mind, again, the dialectic formed by two of the late Qing novels discussed in the last section. Hell, in Lu Xun's narrative, may suggest the underworld courtroom of Liu E's Travels of Lao Can, in which retribution is carried out in the most fastidious way; at the same time it may also correspond to the secular judicial institutions of Living Hell, which prove to be hideous replicas of the other world. After her donation of the threshold, Xianglin's wife was still treated by her fellow villagers as if under a curse. Neither the justice of this world nor the justice of Hell applies to her. With her question never answered, Xianglin's wife dies, presumably in the fear that she will be eternally tortured in Hell.

But as she dies, Xianglin's wife leaves behind another "hell," so to speak, in which our narrator-author will be eternally tortured. In his failure to either stand by the poor woman or deny collusion with society, the narrator Lu Xun would carry with himself an everlasting sense of guilt. One question remains to be asked, however. Given his obsession with crime and punishment, could it be possible that his vision of Hell is that which Lu Xun fears and desires? Not unlike Xianglin's wife who resigns herself to her imagined perpetual condemnation, Lu Xun may have created and inhabited a literary hell of his own from which he was unable,

and perhaps unwilling, to escape. The psychological drama of self-imposed crime and punishment constitutes the most treacherous aspect of Lu Xun's, and his followers', image of justice. As will be argued later, this psychological mechanism would eventually be appropriated by the Communists in forming their discourse of crime and punishment.

At the other end of Lu Xun's gallery of characters stands the ne'er-do-well A Q. One may remember how, in "A Q zhengzhuan" (The true story of A Q, 1921), A Q is created as a clown starring in a series of country turmoils, from bullying, attempted rape, robbery, riot, and revolution to his own execution. Throughout the earlier part of the story, A Q dreams of becoming a bandit-hero who, even arrested and sentenced to capital punishment, would die a fearless man. This dream is reinforced after he has watched the spectacle of a beheading at a city theater. For A Q and his rustic fellow villagers alike, the bloody punishment has been romanticized into an exotic event. A Q's imagined "death wish" is finally realized, only in the most ironic manner. A Q believes that he is being executed for a charge of which he is largely innocent; for the crowd coming to see the show of his execution, the much-awaited decapitation turns out to be an anticlimax. Thanks to advances in modern technology, A Q is not ceremoniously beheaded, just shot.

As a parody of a society nurtured on an insatiable cannibalistic desire, the story easily impresses one with its violent potential. At issue here is how the violence and its punishment are described in such a way as to become a fatal comedy of errors. A Q is both the victim and the victimizer of his society. While he has previously committed crimes that result in no legal punishment, he is now executed for a felony he did not commit. A Q is transformed from an enthusiastic onlooker at a bloody spectacle to the devastated scapegoat in that spectacle; his tragedy, if there is one at all, lies in his complacency as a cruel but empathetic watcher. But if A Q's bloody desire was aroused by his watching the beheading scene in the folk theater, cannot one describe the same arousal in Lu Xun's writing about Chinese cannibalism, as a result of his watching of the legendary slide show? As a chronicler-watcher of A Q's tragicomedy, does Lu Xun hide a cannibalistic impulse behind his indignant posturing? If so, has Lu Xun truly done justice to A Q in the literary world?

For the revolutionminded writers of the post–May Fourth era, next to fiction, drama became an important venue in which the debate over justice versus violence was presented. With its mandate to be "acted" out in a public space peopled with viewers, drama appeared more readily to approximate the locus of the courtroom, prodding its implied audience to deliberate over a human case reenacted on the stage. Courtroom drama, just like its fictional counterpart, had been one of the major genres of traditional Chinese literature since the Yuan dynasty.[35] For centuries, Chinese audiences have watched judge-investigators preside over difficult

cases on stage, with the denunciation of the villain and the rehabilitation of justice as the climax of the play. In what sense has the modern theater opened up a new horizon in this old genre?

Two early modern plays, Pan Jinlian (Pan Jinlian, 1928) by Ouyang Yuqian (1889–1962) and Dachu youling ta (Breaking out of the tower of ghosts, 1928) by Bai Wei (1894–1987), can be discussed as examples. As its title indicates, Pan Jinlian is a play based on the life and death of Pan Jinlian, one of the most notorious femmes fatales in classical Chinese literature. As one of the earliest modern efforts at rewriting the "bad woman," Ouyang Yuqian's play holds a sympathetic view of Jinlian's motives for committing adultery and murder. Instead of being a blood-thirsty villainess and licentious shrew, Pan Jinlian is cast in Ouyang Yuqian's version as the archetype of the free-spirited Chinese woman sacrificed to a rigid male-centered social system. After having been humiliated and sold by her first master, married to an impotent dwarf, and spurned by the brother-in-law she had fallen in love with, Pan Jinlian turns to adultery and murder, as if these extreme deeds were the only remaining means by which she could express her desire.

A feminist might very well follow up on this theme and develop a reading of Pan Jinlian's sexual politics. At stake here is nevertheless the extent to which Ouyang Yuqian has introduced a dynamic, critical dramaturgy representing traditional justice held at bay. By this I have in mind particularly the final act, in which Pan Jinlian and Wu Song come face to face at the funerary meal in memory of the dwarf Wu Da. Cross-examined by Wu Song as to the murderer of his brother, Pan Jinlian retorts that, while she may be the person who poisoned her husband, the genuine murderers are none other than Wu Song and the other men in her life. As for Ximen Qing, the archvillain of the play and Jinlian's lover, Jinlian defiantly argues that she "has been willing to serve as his plaything," since, unlike other men, Ximen Qing "would treat [her] as nothing less than a plaything."[36] Doubly infuriated by Jinlian's confession, Wu Song demands Jinlian's heart as a compensation for the death of his brother. To the murderous demand, Jinlian responds, "I gave you my heart a long time ago."[37]

Pan Jinlian sounds more like the victim than the principal suspect, whereas Wu Song is less the avenger than the perpetrator of the whole family tragedy. As Wu Song thrusts his sword into the chest of his sister-in-law, justice seems to have been done, with Jinlian's protesting words still lingering in the air. Rarely has one seen in traditional court-case drama such a gripping debate between two parties to a murder case, to say nothing of the alleged murderer rising to lay charges against the prosecutor. Crime and punishment threaten to switch roles. Ouyang Yuqian scores one more point, by having the killing of Pan Jinlian take place right at the funerary banquet table. Appetite, passion, and death wish are mixed, invoking the ambiguous undercurrent of Lu Xun's cannibalistic banquet.

Still, what distinguishes Ouyang Yuqian's Pan Jinlian most is that he has turned a play about a court case into a play as a court case. In a conventional courtroom play, the courtroom provides the central chronotope in which evidence is presented,

testimonies are heard, and conviction is delivered. None of these elements is to be found in Pan Jinlian; missing from the stage is not only the courtroom but also the judge-investigator in charge of the courtroom. A different dramatic effect is thus generated. One is given to feel that, as Pan Jinlian delivers her testimony on the stage, she cannot mean to persuade those unsympathetic characters around her; rather, she argues as if she were addressing across space and time an audience ready to renegotiate moral and legal conventions. Ouyang Yuqian has turned the theater into a substitute courtroom and the audience into the jury-judge.

This implied forensic scene must have indicated a significant moment in regard to the way modern Chinese writers and audience imagined justice at the time. Ouyang Yuqian's play is as much a violation of the law of verisimilitude constituted by conventional court-case drama as it is a defiant rewriting of the law sanctioned by moral and political authorities. As will be argued in the following sections, this new "theatrics" of justice and violence would eventually become a major trope in Chinese Communist revolutionary discourse. When the function of the formal courtroom has been handicapped by wayward political and legal forces, a public space like the stage can be used as its phantom substitute; the stage reenacts cases denied access to the courtroom, thus challenging the monolithic institutionalization of judicial procedure.

In Bai Wei's Breaking out of the Tower of Ghosts, a different kind of family tragedy bears witness to the tyranny of Chinese cannibalism. In the play, a cruel landlord cum opium dealer, Master Rongsheng, is about to marry Yuelin, a servant girl whom Rongsheng bought years before and adopted later as his foster daughter. This plan is under way despite the fact that Rongsheng has seven concubines and Yuelin has fallen in love with Rongsheng's own son, Qiaoming. In the meantime, Rongsheng has to cope with his rebellious tenants, whose recent riots have been reinforced by the support of local revolutionaries. The plot is further compounded by the appearance of a woman revolutionary named Xiao Sen, who was once impregnated by Rongsheng. On a visit to the mansion of Rongsheng, Xiao Sen is shocked to discover that Yuelin is her long-lost illegitimate daughter, and so the real father of Yuelin is none other than Rongsheng!

One can easily point out the problems of the play. Loaded with creaking plots, improbable characters, and sentimental tears, Breaking out of the Tower of Ghosts may well be an example of bad melodrama, indicating the immaturity of the playwright. However, I argue that precisely because these dramatic elements are so "unnaturally" blended, they call attention to the play's contesting ideological powers. A rebellious daughter in her own right, Bai Wei wrote her play on behalf of both modern and traditional Chinese women trapped in the aftermath of the first Chinese Communist revolution, during the course of critiquing the eclipse of justice in the name of revolution.[38] Relentless ethical aberration and physical violence thrive at every level of the play, in the form of rape, incest, child desertion, bribery, riot, murder, revolution, and antirevolution, all the while anticipating the cataclysm of the final disaster.


The play's central symbolism develops around the so-called tower of ghosts (youling ta), referring to the site of an old tower taken by Master Rongsheng from a widow. The site has since been deserted amid rumors that it is haunted by ghosts; the only building that remains in the vicinity is a small house, used by Rongsheng to cage women who dare to defy his lust. Shrouded in a deadly atmosphere, the tower site may be a "living hell" where many young females have been tortured. The tower of ghosts also reminds us of the famous essay by Lu Xun, "Lun leifeng ta de daodiao" (On the collapse of the Leifeng Tower, 1926).[39] As the legend goes, the monk Fahai incarcerated the beautiful White Snake under the formidable Leifeng Tower for good—an eternal condemnation of the snake for having fallen in love with a human. The collapse of the tower, after having stood for hundreds of years, represents for Lu Xun a belated natural justice overthrowing the punishment meted out by a male-centered justice system.

Bai Wei makes clear reference to the collapse of Leifeng Tower in her play and adds to it an ironic, bitter note. Although the tower of ghosts no longer physically exists, the old, male power still rules women by invoking the coercive system of the tower. At one point in the play, Bai Wei has one woman servant articulate the fact that the tower site is not haunted by ghosts; it is Master Rongsheng who fakes ghostly sounds from time to time to sustain the old, terrifying myth. Moreover, Bai Wei suggests that the "ghosts" of the tower not only persecute women but also their own young, male descendants. Hence, "the tower of ghosts is referred to by the young master as the [patriarchal tyranny of the] old master. Master Rong-sheng may not look like a ghost, but in view of the way he oppresses his young male descendants, isn't he comparable to the Leifeng Tower that crushed the White Snake spirit?"[40]

The archvillain of the play, Master Rongsheng is described as a fiendish landlord, an unscrupulous merchant, a heartless father, and a sex maniac. His evil forces have undermined the political, economic, ethical, and sexual foundations of Chinese society and could let it fall into anarchy at any time. Yet before his final moment comes, Master Rongsheng manages to hold on to his power, as a pillar of his society. As the play develops, when Master Rongsheng's son, Qiaoming, comes forward to challenge his father's wish to marry Yuelin, the father takes out his pistol and slays his son. Not content with that, Rongsheng goes on to trap the leader of the rioting tenants, jailing him under the false charge of being the murderer, and to kill an old servant, who at the last minute reveals that he has been Rong-sheng's best friend and romantic rival.

For Bai Wei, crime on such a horrific scale goes beyond the control of imaginable legality. It can only be put down by even more outrageous deeds of violence. In the final moment of the play, when the woman revolutionary Xiao Sen returns and reveals to Master Rongsheng that she was the girl once seduced by him and that Yuelin is their daughter out of wedlock, Rongsheng, in fury, shoots at her. To protect her mother, Yuelin rushes to Xiao Sen with another pistol, which happens to be close to hand, and fires back at her father; father/rapist and daughter/victim

thus manage to kill each other. The attempted incest-plus-rape ends with the concomitant crime of patricideplus-filicide. We last see Yuelin dying in the arms of her mother, deliriously singing celebrations of her pathetic life: a baby deserted by both parents, a child-servant abused by her master, a foster daughter almost raped by her foster father, and a daughter killed by her own father.

What strikes us is that when she is delivering her crazy, dying remarks, Yuelin is made to address directly the implied audience, as if the plethora of anger, madness, and pathos can no longer be contained by the enclosure of the stage but must spill over onto the audience. As in the case of Ouyang Yuqian's Pan Jinlian, the theater is turned into a site where a different kind of justice is being sought. To her audience, Yuelin cries, "Shame, shame,… unbearable shame, revenge, revenge, only to be acknowledged by the sea. Ah! What a world it would be like! (addressed to the audience) Red, yellow, green,… all colors! (crazier, driven to dance) Ha-haha!… Upside down!… All is upside down! The world has been turned over!…Fresh, beautiful!… Hahaha, all is upside down—this is the gift of death."[41] (Stage directions in parentheses; emphasis mine.)

Critics in the Communist camp have praised Breaking out of the Tower of Ghosts as a model drama for women's liberation. The theme of class struggle has been high-lighted in view of the deadly conflict between the landlord and the proletariat, father and children, man and woman.[42] A feminist of the fundamentalist persuasion would praise the play for its focus on misandry and its celebration of sisterhood and mother-daughter coalition.[43] These critics may have underestimated the (self-) destructive power embedded in the play. Close reading shows that in Bai Wei's world, revolutionary leaders turn out to be either burdened by their dark past or disabled by unforeseeable contingencies. The woman revolutionary Xiao Sen has been so busy with her adventures that she has had no time for the baby, which she left in the hands of cruel and rapacious foster parents; hence the daughter's protest that she never had a real mother. The peasant protest does triumph in the end, but only as the result of landlord Rongsheng's death at the hands of his own daughter. Moreover, Yuelin is never portrayed as a feminist heroine; she appears instead as a girl troubled by a chronic, manic-depressive syndrome, and the root of her psychological instability is traced to her being deserted by her mother. Whereas the incestuous conjugation between father and daughter is stopped by the timely death of the father, the much-expected reunion between mother and daughter comes only at the cost of the daughter's life. Finally, Yuelin is presented as having fallen in love with her own half brother, so that if she had had her (unnatural) way, she would still have committed incest.

The political, ethical, and emotional irrationalities in the play, once unleashed among the characters, never really settle as the curtain drops. These irrationalities, which manifest themselves in the expedient form of madness, I argue, constitute the most equivocal force of the play. As Yuelin is trying to address her listeners beyond the stage, she is said, by other characters and by "stage direction," to have gone mad. Bai Wei may never have achieved the kind of self-irony attained by Lu

Xun in his story about an equally confused mind, "Diary of a Madman." Given her own frustrated biographical experience, however, she manages to showcase a gendered, compulsive soul in desperate quest of a just way out, both within and without the play.

The play takes on another dimension if one looks into its "life" in the extratextual context. As Bai Wei writes in her postscript to the play, the extant version of Breaking out of the Tower of Ghosts is actually a rewrite based on an original that had been rudely "taken away" by a male colleague, to be published as his own. This violence in the literary world adds yet another dimension to the risks that a writing woman has to face, while she is writing about the risks her female characters encounter in the male world. Finally, Bai Wei's play lends itself to a parallel reading with Cao Yu's Leiyu (Thunderstorm, 1932), a melodrama also dealing with incestuous marriage, forbidden love, mistaken identity, murder, and revolution. Cao Yu's play was an immediate success when premiered in 1932, and would be staged numerous times in the years to come. Bai Wei may not be the playwright that Cao Yu was, but the eclipse of her play, despite its striking resemblance to Thunderstorm, serves as one more depressing example of a woman writer's vulnerability when competing for literary power in a male-dominated world.


I have described the way in which the concepts of justice and violence evolved along with the development of the genres of fiction and drama. With a series of short stories and sketches, Lu Xun launched a narrative inquiry into the ambiguous terms of crime and punishment in a society bereft of political and ethical order. In a new dramatic form, Ouyang Yuqian and Bai Wei dealt with the polemic of justice by staging the crime scene in such a way as to stimulate a debate among not only characters but theater audiences. In this way, both genres challenged established legal and literary order in a rapidly changing historical context.

By the beginning of the thirties, these two, the narrative deliberation and the theatrical reenactment of crimes and punishments, had converged to become a powerful discourse demanding and instantiating a new definition of social and poetic justice. This discourse was further consolidated as the Communist trope of "mass revolution" gained currency. To show their solidarity with the "insulted and the injured" and to promote a body politic of revolutionary writing, progressive writers united under the banner of a "literature of blood and tears" (xue he lei de wenxue).

What is to be noticed is that the slogan, as well as the works produced in its name, derives its power from a renegotiation of the arts of telling and of showing. The literature of blood and tears is believed to possess such demonstrative force as to both evoke the blood and tears repressed in the objects of narration and to induce blood and tears at the site of writing and representing. Instead of catharsis, as would have been expected of these Europeanized intellectuals, the new poetics

aims at inciting action (blood) and indignation (tears). Hence Marston Anderson's sarcastic comment, "The new fiction was to possess the palpable reality of fluids exuded by the body. But significantly the fluids to which the expression refers are released only when the body is physically wounded (blood) or when the spirit is bruised by empathy (tears)."[44]

What Anderson does not mention is that, in the name of displaying blood and tears, this literature offers a discursive format akin to the forensic debate over the nature of violence and its containment. Tears and blood are corporeal clues that need to be reconstituted so as to testify for or against a given defendant. Its performative inclination is expected to be the first step leading toward the final call to justice. As such, the works of "blood and tears" are really not too far away from the two late Qing court-case novels discussed above, in the sense that the realization of crime and justice presupposes a staging in a corporeal theater.

There are, nevertheless, moments in which tears and blood are called on, only to confuse an issue instead of settle one. These moments give rise to the theoretical double bind in legal or ethical disputes. In Paoxiao lede tudi (The roaring earth, 1931) by Jiang Guangci (1901–31), for example, the young leftist revolutionary, Li Jie, is forced to make a painful decision as his comrades propose to burn down the properties of local landlord families. As a leader of the local proletariat organization, Li Jie is obliged to see to the implementation of this plan. He is, however, beset by several worries. Li happens to be the son of the richest landlord in town; should the peasants' riot take place in the proposed form of burning and looting, it would mean a total devastation of the Li family estate. Moreover, even though he could not care less about his father's life and fortune, Li is worried about the well-being of his bedridden mother and his younger sister, still a mere child. Should these two females be sacrificed to the cause of justice as part of the peasant rebellion?

Throughout his short career, Jiang Guangci had been known as a tendentious Communist writer with a corpus of works addressing contemporary revolutionism of the most sentimental kind. Jiang's narcissism and romantic eccentricities, nevertheless, compelled in him a literary imagination germane to Communist literature despite its superficial call for altruism and scientific historicism. It is the romantic yearning for a lost, originary, and communal state that makes it easy for a writer like Jiang Guangci to be taken in by Communist myths about return to the lost origin. There is a good reason that he has been regarded as the forerunner of the "revolution plus romance" formula of Chinese leftist fiction. This fact, ironically, may very well be one of the reasons for his ejection from the party in 1930.[45] One is now supposed to read Jiang Guangci's work in a pejorative way, treating it as a "historical phenomenon."[46] But in the above-cited episode of The Roaring Earth, Jiang demonstrates an acute sensitivity when dramatizing the personal dilemma of a revolutionary.

A landlord's son, Li Jie had nevertheless fought against his father's oppression of the tenants. After a series of confrontations between father and son, Li Jie leaves

home to pursue his own goals. When he returns, he has become a Communist revolutionary. Li Jie shows no qualms in response to the plan to kill his father and burn down his family properties. Insofar as Li's father embodies the meanest of the local reactionary forces, patricide is necessary as a young revolutionary's clearest act of defiance against a feudal patriarchal system. But Li cherishes a deep feeling for his mother and is much troubled by the likelihood of her death in the proposed riots. At one of the most gripping moments in his interior monologue, Li cries:

I have no father now. I have only an enemy. It is only on the battlefield that I can meet the enemy, but I hear that my mother is at home, sick…. Mother! Please forgive your rebellious son!…There is a duty much more important, much greater than filial piety. To live up to this duty, I am willing to bear the bad name of rebel. Mother, you have lost your son!…

Alas! A man after all has his feelings. You know how distressed I am! I love my innocent, darling little sister.[47]

In pain and despair, Li Jie falls unconscious. When he comes to, the burning and killing have taken place.

After years under the tyrannical rule of Li Jie's father, the rioting tenants finally prove that they have the will and the capacity to overthrow a landlord. Insofar as it endorses "rebel justice" at the expense of an existing social order, The Roaring Earth must be regarded as one of the most important models for Chinese Communist fiction of the forties and fifties, a model that celebrates a "spontaneous" uprising of the proletariat against the ruling class. By forgoing personal and familial attachments, Li Jie has passed the harsh test of his Communist convictions. He may be guilty of a family murder, but for the advancement of revolution and history, he understands that the end justifies the means.

There are irksome factors, however, looming behind such a (self-)righteous reading of this episode. Even before the fire starts, we are told, Li's father, the archvillain of the novel, has run away to a nearby town. To revenge their suffering, the peasants should presumably have tracked him down and punished him in person. Instead, they choose to set fire to the Li family compound in the absence of the villain. The fire thus works more like a symbol, or "staged" effect, signaling the end of landlord rule. Moreover, by burning to death a very ill woman and her child, for the reason that they are immediate family members of the villain, these peasant heroes show a decided preference for justice in the form of theater, for acts of symbolic terrorism. By theater, I do not mean that the riot or killing is unreal, but that it is "acted out" in such a way as to gesture toward a revolution that does not actually happen; instead, the revolutionaries appropriate to themselves the landlord's power to oppress, punish, and destroy at will. At its best, the symbolic justice mimics the peasants' desire to throw off oppression; at its worst, the theatrical terror enacts the peasants' desire to replace and imitate their oppressors. By terrorism, I mean that a ritual asserting loyalty and brotherhood within the group of revolutionaries has been established, one in which the test is the ability to live with terror.[48]


By pushing Li Jie to the center of the stage of terrorism, the tenants wait and watch to see whether their leader will play his role the right way. Li Jie could have prevented the murder from happening, as he well understood that his sick mother and weak sister should not have been held responsible for his father's misdeeds. But he lets the fire engulf his family compound so as to "make a point," to his fellow revolutionaries as well as to himself, that he can relinquish all his ties to the past. Li Jie's mother and sister thus die an undeserved and cruel death, ultimately for the sake of Li Jie's accreditation as one who is a revolutionary more than a son. By killing them for crimes they never committed, Li Jie can purge his own crime, that of being a descendant of a landlord family, though it is a crime Li Jie never committed. Only in feudalism are individuals held guilty of the sins of their ancestors; here, Li Jie offers a feudal proof that he no longer is the property of his father, by destroying the father's other feudal property, buildings, women, and children, allowing himself to think that he has rid himself of feudal consciousness.

Only in feudalism can one purge oneself of the guilt acquired from one's original clan by submitting utterly to the will of one's new clan. The ultimate proof of new cult loyalty is always the capability to destroy the old clan, to put aside one's individual feelings and become as one with the new clan. Jiang Guangci could not have been unaware of the ironies underlying this violent code of self-abnegation. This is most emphatically indicated by Li Jie's monologue: "I have read Turgenev's Fathers and Sons and always felt the conflict between the fathers and sons in the novel is too commonplace. It is far less exciting than the antagonism between my father and me. I wonder if there will be a writer who can write out this father-son struggle of mine. I truly hope that such a writer exists."[49] Even before the crime has been committed, the hero of the patricide is already contemplating his status in comparison to famous examples. This is the narcissistic, romantic side of the would-be revolutionary hero, the side that makes him more than ordinarily vulnerable to group shame and group praise.

T. A. Hsia doubts Jiang Guangci's sincerity even at Jiang's seemingly most pained moment. Having seen too many melodramatic gestures in Jiang's works and life, Hsia rightly suspects the veracity of The Roaring Earth. My argument is that, given his indulgence in role playing, Jiang's mannerism as a writer and as a revolutionary may have given rise to a crucial trope in Chinese Communist poetics and politics alike. When theater and violence, mutual spectatorship, and reciprocal surveillance are mixed, a dangerous discourse—of romanticism but not of revolution—is born. The question has to be whether this discourse has significantly rewritten the discourse of feudalism or is merely its reiteration, disguised by its romantic, European clothing. One suspects the killing is performed as a bloody public spectacle so as to renew, rather than subvert, the kind of hell of crime and punishment these romantic revolutionaries wish to overthrow.

As one of the best interpreters of Lu Xun's ethics of writing, Wu Zuxiang (1908–94) may well have intended in his stories a thirties' version of cannibalism, indicting a society devoid of any moral and legal resources. Indeed, in the famous

"Guanguan de bupin" (Young master gets his tonic, 1932), Wu takes on cannibalism literally, by writing how the young master of a landlord family is nurtured on the milk and blood of a peasant couple during his recovery from a recent car crash. The story ends by recapitulating another of Lu Xun's favorite images, as the peasant husband is sentenced to decapitation, convicted as a bandit courier. Few readers of the story can forget the gory execution scene at the climax, where the dying convict "suddenly struggles and stands up, raising his hands and screaming like a demon."[50]

The scene of execution can be treated as a neat reversal of the ending of "The True Story of A Q," in which A Q is quickly shot to death while the crowd looks on. For Wu Zuxiang, a proletarian convict of the thirties would struggle against his oppressors right up to the moment of extinction, registering one last protest against the injustices done to him. Still, "Young Master Gets His Tonic" is a story couched in the rhetoric of "victimology" that marked Lu Xun's tributes to the insulted and the injured. It is in novellas such as "Fanjia pu" (Fan family village, 1934), and "Yiqian babai dan" (Eighteen hundred piculs of rice, 1934) that the terms of crime and punishment are polemically reexamined.

In "Fan Family Village," a village woman named Xianzi is subject to increasing humiliations and pains as her village is beset by drought, civil war, and changes in rural economic structure. The final blow comes when Xianzi's husband, Gouzi, whose love is her only remaining source of stability, is arrested on a charge of robbing and murdering a nun, and a cunning intermediary for the local magistrate comes to demand a bribe. Xianzi turns for help to her mother, who has recently won a considerable amount of money at a lottery, but she is refused. In desperation, Xianzi kills her mother by braining the old woman with a sacrificial candlestick.[51]

I need not belabor the multiple layers of plight surrounding the woman: drought, civil war, religious fraud, superstition, judicial malpractice, murder, robbery, parental cruelty, and burgeoning capitalism, each making its contribution to the matricide. Critics from C. T. Hsia to Philip Williams have had a lot to say about the ethical dilemma involved in the final bloody scene of the novella.[52] What used to be considered a quintessential taboo of humanity, matricide, finds itself justified in given historical circumstances. Xianzi's mother used to be a rustic peasant woman. After working for years as servant to a rich family in the city, she has developed a monstrous desire for money. Ironically, this old woman's acquisitive consciousness, which makes her value money more than kinship, augments in equal proportion to her Buddhist convictions about spiritual transcendence. Instead of helping her daughter out, she would prefer to donate money to the nunnery run by the nun who would later be accidentally killed by Xianzi's husband.

Xianzi's mother intends to purge her sins from this and previous lives by donating money to the nunnery, money which she has made by participating in the new mode of production in the city. Xianzi's husband robs the nunnery with a belief that gods may as well pay back part of their worshipers' donation so as to redeem

the pain these worshipers are undergoing. In either case, one notices a mounting conflict between different systems of justice. The law of the human world and the ordinance of supernatural beings, the imperative of blood kinship and the rule of monetary ownership, the God of Mercy and the God of Mammon, all are presented in a radical clash, with each axis of the contested values demanding a new judgment. Caught right in the middle of these conflicts, Xianzi is driven to maintain her own "moral sanity," in C. T. Hsia's words, by committing matricide.[53]

Just as in The Roaring Earth, a horrific crime has to be done in "Fan Family Village" so as to suppress the inhuman quality of life as it was and underline the necessity of revolution. Whereas the young, educated, landlord-turned-revolutionary Li Jie completes his initiation into revolution by countenancing the killing of his mother and younger sister, an illiterate peasant woman such as Xianzi is now made to go through a similar ordeal of parricide so as to reach her moment of political awakening. Bai Wei's Breaking out of the Tower of Ghosts can be regarded as predecessor of both works in terms of parricide, but her play differs in trying to exonerate its patricidal heroine by recourse to the old device of hysteria and madness. However, for Jiang Guangci as for Wu Zuxiang, at a time when the whole world verges on moral and economic bankruptcy, nobody can have clean hands.

It is in this sense that Lu Xun's vision of cannibalism has to be subjected to a new interpretation. Lu Xun sees in Chinese an instinctual need for mutual persecution, which will drive them to final catastrophe. Violence, in the form of parricide, is treated by Wu Zuxiang, Jiang Guangci, and like-minded leftist writers as something capable of generating positive consequences. Revolution is nothing if not a justifiable form of violence, enacted to subvert the traditional form of tyranny. Chinese political theory, from the Zhou dynasty to the Qing, justifies popular violence—if it overthrows a cruel and decadent dynasty and replaces it with the dynasty that is historically anointed to loot, kill, and defy authority until it secures the imperial power. The morbid impulse of cannibalism inherent in the Chinese character that upset Lu Xun is once more legitimated, so to speak, in the hands of writers like Jiang Guangci and Wu Zuxiang. As either would have agreed, at the right historical moment, for the right ideological cause, even the most victimized social being can be, and should be, motivated to walk over any remnants of social and moral law. What distinguishes Jiang and Wu from their fellow writers, at least as far as the examples being discussed here are concerned, is that they are not unaware of the terrible freedom implied in the form of group violence newly sanctioned in the name of revolution. These two writers have dramatized in their works criminal cases so as to warrant not a hasty verdict but a prolonged legal debate.

This leads us to the juxtaposition of two forensic scenes in Wu's acclaimed novella "Eighteen Hundred Piculs of Rice." As the novella opens, representatives of the various houses of the powerful Song clan meet, after a recent drought, to determine what to do with the eighteen hundred piculs of rice they have reserved

from the last harvest. The meeting soon deteriorates into a series of squabbles indicative of the conflicting interests among the houses. It is suggested that the rice be sold to pay for irrigation construction, local militia reinforcement, or educational upgrading; or that the proceeds be used to pay off outstanding loans or be given to charity. Behind all these noble causes, however, are generations of corruption and self-interest that have driven the houses farther and farther apart. As the debate continues on endlessly, one important factor has been neglected: the starving tenants who have produced the rice. These tenants are waiting outside the clan temple to demand their share of the rice so as to survive.

The central scene of the novella is the clan temple where the meeting is being held. Its refurbishment long overdue, the clan temple stands in dreadful dilapidation, a most telling sign of the decline of the Song clan. The clan temple used to be the site where social functions were performed, most important of which was the executing of familial justice and order. Thus, this meeting is being held at the temple. But as Wu Zuxiang tells us, just as the temple can no longer properly accommodate a family meeting, the continued squabble under the leaking roof of the temple signals the disintegration of the doomed houses. Meanwhile, the angry peasants have run out of patience. They break into the clan temple, grab the representatives, and pillage all the rice.

The novella does not stop here, however. In the uprising, the peasants carry gongs and drums, wear devil masks, and "shriek, jump, and whistle like demons."[54] They drag the district head to an abandoned platform, where the community had once prayed to the rain deity for relief from the drought, and use the site to act out a ritualized destruction of the old order and its superstitions. For a writer as careful as Wu Zuxiang, that the mock trial is performed on a ritual stage cannot be coincidence. Taking justice in their own hands, the peasants still need to return to the site of clan ritual to enact the destruction of the old order.

The eerie carnivalesque atmosphere of the uprising, with all the audiovisual cacophony of peasants dressed as demons and devils, suggests not so much the beginning of a new historical moment—in which a different or at least reinvigorated practice of justice will be hailed—as a return to the mood of late Qing novels such as The Travels of Lao Can and Living Hell, where the image of Hell is paraded. And as such, violence perpetrated in the name of "modern" justice is tellingly reinstated in its premodern, even prefeudal form. Wu Zuxiang may have attempted to record realistically the way that peasants conceive of justice; but his realistic representation of the revolutionary scene betrays no less a romantic longing for the fiendish and brutal pleasures of originary communal life.


The year 1942 marks a turning point in both the Nationalist and Communist versions of modern Chinese literary history. In response to the increasingly recalcitrant postures among the writers in the "liberation area," Mao gave a series of talks

that prescribed the format of Communist literature for the next four decades.[55] Much has been written about the hegemonic status of Mao's talks as well as their disastrous consequences. Two things come to our attention at this juncture. First, as the call for justice expanded to become a national campaign, on behalf either of a regime or a class, the debate about crime and punishment entered into a more tendentious stage. For Communist writers, two wars had to be fought at the same time, the war against the national enemy, the Japanese, and the war against the class enemy, the Nationalist regime. Mutilated bodies and broken families became regular themes of the time; but they were treated in such a way as to be subsumed into the national, or Nationalist, symbolism of a China ravished and lacerated by both external and internal wounds. As I have argued elsewhere, a corporeal typology of "the scarred" was inaugurated at this time, as a climax to the tears and blood flowing through Chinese literature from previous ages, and as an (unfortunate) anticipation of more tears and blood to come in the next few decades.[56]

Second, as far as leftist literature was concerned, there appeared a decisive inward turn, so to speak, as writers came to terms with the new definition of violence. The quarrel between Hu Feng (1902–85) and Mao Zedong as to how reality was to be represented, for all its ideological turmoil, mirrors the disturbed etiological state of Chinese Communist discourse. Hu Feng and his followers picture in their critical treatise a humanity seriously maimed by the atrocities of inhuman history, so much so that it cannot be rehabilitated until the primitive, individual power inherent in it is called forth. Mao and his cohorts acknowledge the suffering of humanity, but argue that to do justice to "the insulted and the injured," they first have to subordinate individual subjectivity—which seemed to have gone out of control in Hu Feng's hands—to a collective, historical subjectivity.[57]

The debate cannot be adequately characterized in an essay of this scope. But let it be said that the two sides concurred in a diagnosis of the self as beset by storms. As will be discussed, whereas Lu Ling (1923–94), Hu Feng's protégé, features a gallery of grotesques trapped in a losing war against their own ferocious ressentiment, Ding Ling (1904–86), one of Mao's grudging followers, moves her drama of revolution toward a portrait of individual passion that has submitted itself to the will of the mass and found its true vocation in self-discipline.[58] If Lu Ling aims at a negative dialectic of the soul caught in its libidinous desire to be free, Ding Ling intends to show how that soul can truly liberate itself through intense acts of continual submission. Set side by side, the two form an unexpected dialogue pointing to how, before the final revolution happens, the mindscape of China has already become the battleground of opposite furious impulses.

This changing configuration of national, international, and "intentional" factors results in a significant reform of the discourse of justice and violence. My first case in point is the well-known short story by Ding Ling, "Wozai xiacun de shihou" (When I was in Xia village, 1941). In the story, a girl named Zhenzhen (literally meaning "chastitychastity"), who had been known to have defiantly rejected an arranged marriage, was raped when the Japanese invaded her village. To revenge herself,

Zhenzhen secretly signs up for a Communist antiaggressor mission, which requires her to spy on the Japanese army while serving as prostitute. As the story opens, Zhenzhen has returned from the front lines to cure her venereal disease, which she contracted while "serving" the Japanese and, to that extent, China. Her situation, nevertheless, induces more contempt than sympathy among her fellow villagers.

Zhenzhen's rape embodies only the fear any Chinese woman might entertain during wartime; her mission as a prostitute-spy exemplifies total patriotism. But as Ding Ling has it, Zhenzhen's fellow villagers, who mostly remain ignorant of her mission, think of her otherwise. For these villagers, a girl like Zhenzhen who defied an arranged marriage and then failed to safeguard her virginity is already quite detestable; that she should have capitalized on her misfortune and become a prostitute and traitor amounts to nothing less than outrage. Meanwhile, Zhenzhen suffers submissively, her venereal disease becoming a physical token of both her patriotic fervor and her unredeemable shame.

Feminist critics have argued forcefully that Zhenzhen's story indicates as much the cruelty of the Japanese invaders as the callousness of Chinese defense forces. As Yitsi Mei Feuerwerker puts it, the sufferings of Zhenzhen are "fully ‘available’ only to women: arranged marriage, rape by enemy soldiers, exploitation of her body by both armies and, after her return to the village, ostracism for violating the chastity code."[59] Zhenzhen's story is built on a paradox, that she can derive self-esteem only through willful self-abandon. For her patriotic contribution, she is rewarded with the most humiliating of diseases. To this one may add one more point. Zhenzhen joins the secret mission supposedly at the call of the Communist United Front. In the cause of liberating the collective body of the Chinese, first her own body must be taken and ruined by the enemies. But when she returns home, it is those "people" that she has vowed to save that ostracize her, in accordance with a most unliberated code of chastity.

But more striking is the fact that, for all the physical illness and tortures she has suffered, Zhenzhen "appears" in the story as a rather healthy-looking person. As the I-narrator puts it, "There was no outward sign of her disease. Her complexion was ruddy. Her voice was clear. She showed no signs of inhibition or rudeness. She did not exaggerate. She gave the impression that she had never had any complaints or sad thoughts."[60] That Zhenzhen appears undisturbed by her painful experience would have indicated, to a romantic reader, a personality of nunlike goodness as well as saintly self-control. Her ideological (or religious?) commitment is stronger than her still-hidden physical degeneration. But I wonder if one can take Ding Ling's narrative merely at face value. Zhenzhen's natural, healthy look is, after all, a front, hiding a body that is rapidly deteriorating. The contrast between how Zhenzhen's body looks and how it feels invites an allegorical reading; it is symptomatic of a reality or realism that turns against itself. As such, it may very well point to the dilemma that beset Ding Ling as a writer in the "liberated area."[61]

For Ding Ling, to write a story like "When I Was in Xia Village" would have meant to indict the evil forces of reality: the Nationalist regime, the feudal forces,

the class enemies, and the Japanese invaders. But as her narrative develops, she cannot celebrate the power of justice represented by the party without pondering its newly installed system of coercion and discipline. Zhenzhen's "crime" of being a free-spirited girl opposing a prearranged marriage should be treated as a virtue in the new society; this virtue is, nevertheless, later rewarded and punished at the same time. Zhenzhen is persuaded to sacrifice for her party and nation on account of the fact that she had already been raped by the Japanese anyway and belittled by her fellow villagers. Later, she proclaims that she did so out of her own free will and that she harbors neither hatred nor regret. Zhenzhen's total submission to the party reveals a revolutionary zeal tantamount to religious fanaticism, her "healthy appearance" a suspicious sign of her deteriorating capacity to judge.

As expected, the story has a bright, formulaic ending. Zhenzhen will go to another city, presumably Yan'an, for medical treatment and rehabilitation. But with all her inglorious past, as a raped woman and a Japanese army prostitute, will Zhenzhen be treated fairly by the puritanical-minded party cadres? Knowing that "illness" and "rehabilitation" are characteristic of Chinese Communist literary and political discourse, one wonders whether Zhenzhen's disease can be cured, even in medical terms.[62] One recalls how the story starts with the frame in which the narrator Ding Ling is sent down to Xia Village for her "rehabilitation,… because of the turmoil of the department of politics."[63] Even if she could recover from her physical ailment, chances are that Zhenzhen might end up being like her creator, Ding Ling, spending the rest of her life undergoing the cycle of political illness and rehabilitation.

"When I Was in Xia Village" thus appears as a Communist retelling of Christian-Buddhist hagiography, while it provides a chilling subtext regarding the usefulness and disposability of the female body under the new regime just as under the old one. It is at this point that a dimension of violence and justice in modern Chinese literature has been touched on by a woman cadre author. The case of Zhenzhen demonstrates the advent of an intricate technology of violence that inflicts pain on its victim, only to win the victim's wholehearted support. By writing her story as such, Ding Ling proves that she is not as naive as Zhenzhen. Allegedly thanks to publications such as "When I Was in Xia Village," Mao put forth his literary policy in 1942, followed by the first zhengfeng (rectification) movement.[64] In the next few years, Ding Ling, together with some other outspoken fellow writers, would disappear from the scene for "rehabilitation." Given the nostalgic mood of its narrative, "When I Was in Xia Village" turns out to be both a nostalgic posture and an ominous outlook, indicating the end of an age of innocence.

Far away from Yan'an, a young writer named Lu Ling wrote Ji'e de Guo Su'e (Hungry Guo Su'e, 1943) in Chongqing, Sichuan, to bear witness to the atrocities of the war. Instead of ordinary patriotic themes, Lu Ling exhibits the primitive psychological landscape of a group of people who have been condemned to the pit of life. At the center of the novel is Guo Su'e, a woman who was driven out of her hometown by famine and banditry, only to be taken by a sleazy opium addict, Liu Chunshou, as his wife. Ever discontented with her circumstances, Guo carries

on sexual liaisons with local miners, of whom Wei Haiqing and Zhang Zhenshan have become her favorites. Her adulterous behavior finally results in her death at the hands of her husband and his clan.

For our purposes, Hungry Guo Su'e impresses by radically shedding light on an internalized form of violence. In the case of "When I Was in Xia Village," Ding Ling witnesses the transformation of the village girl Zhenzhen into an obedient servant of the people. By contrast, Lu Ling sees in the life and death of Guo Su'e a (self-)destructive impulse that calls for vehement rebellion—against reality itself, if necessary. Guo Su'e's tortured soul can never find peace with itself, let alone submit to discipline.

As the protégé of Hu Feng, the feisty spokesman of a humanist brand of Chinese Marxism, Lu Ling writes of the "spiritual scars" that have in every way distorted Chinese humanity. Guo Su'e's hunger is seen as caused both by her need for food and sex and by her innate yearning for spiritual redemption, which will not happen unless there is a Communist revolution. But just as in the case of Ding Ling, Lu Ling can hardly find a viable way to convey the gospel of revolution without first questioning, however involuntarily, the "hygienic" preoccupation of that gospel. Moreover, given his own obsession with the sadomasochistic forces propelling human desire, Lu Ling sees in the downfall of Guo Su'e a strange mixture of creation and destruction, a libidinous chasm that cannot be filled by sociopolitical institutions.

Thus enters the crucial but ambiguous moment of the novel, in which the adulterous Guo Su'e is caught by her husband and relatives and put on private trial in the back room of a Daoist temple. Guo Su'e is forced to one corner of the room, her clothes torn to pieces but her look ever defiant. As one of the female clan members approaches her, "a devil suddenly comes out [of Guo Su'e]. This devil dishevels her hair, spits saliva, and jumps fiendishly onto the old woman, strangling the old woman [by seizing her] weak throat."[65] Infuriated by this unexpected move, Guo's husband and others tie her to a board and grill her thighs with red-hot pokers, till she loses consciousness in excruciating pain. Guo Su'e is left alone and dies three days later, from lack of food and medical care.

If the scene of the punishment of Guo Su'e seems familiar to us, it is perhaps because it first appears to be a parody of courtroom scenes from late Qing novels such as Living Hell and The Travels of Lao Can. Nevertheless, while the bloody punishments in the two late Qing novels are attributed to officials, Guo Su'e's death is a spectacle put on strictly under the direction of the masses. The predictable charges against the evil of the male-centered feudalism notwithstanding, the scene reveals how cruelly the social underdogs can be to each other, before they unite to stand against their class enemy. As Lu Ling puts it, there is almost a sense of festivity as Guo Su'e's torturers engage in mutilating her body, as if their own repressed desire had found a final, vicarious consummation.[66] Nurtured on the tradition of the "literature of blood and tears," Hungry Guo Su'e presents a series of scenes resulting in an overabundance of blood and tears, and it is hard to identify the instigator of the scenes as being squarely from any definite social class.


This leads us to reconsider the crime Guo Su'e committed. As a deserted child, a beggar, an abused wife, and a sexual object, Guo Su'e starts out being a repeat of the stereotypical suffering woman of socialist fiction. As the story develops, her vulgar, militant manners and her seemingly insatiable sexual desire appear to be her new front, which must have raised the eyebrows of many Communists. Compared with Zhenzhen in "When I Was in Xia Village," who willingly donates her soiled body to her country while managing to look healthier than ever, Guo Su'e commits adultery for a much humbler reason: after her body, she has nothing to lose. Guo appears even less pitiable than Pan Jinlian in Ouyang Yuqian's Pan Jinlian, who at least has clear motives of love and vengeance as she transgresses all ethical boundaries.

In somewhat dated mid-twentieth-century jargon, Guo Su'e's hunger is driven either by a "lack," a loss of physical and spiritual plenitude, or by an excess of carnivalesque desire, relentlessly demanding fulfillment. In any case, if Communist critics had found it irksome to diagnose Zhenzhen's dubious health, it must have been more difficult for them to explain Guo Su'e's eternal hunger. In the most ironic sense, the death of Guo Su'e might well be the solution to her problem: eternally "repressed," Guo Su'e can no longer stir up trouble and, perhaps thanks to this fact, her corpse can be safely displayed in the gallery of victims in the Communist hall of justice.

In the year 1948, seven years after her visit to "Xia Village," Ding Ling reemerged with a novel about another village experience. Titled Taiyang zhaozai Sanggan heshang (The sun shines over the Sanggan River), the novel deals with the land reform movement in a village of northwestern China, Nuanshuitun. The transformation of Ding Ling in terms of authorial status, subject matter, plotting, character, and even tonality is clearly indicated in the new book. In a humble, almost self-effacing manner, Ding Ling narrates the drastically changing ethical and economic structure of the village after the arrival of a land reform team. Though winner of a Stalin Literary Prize in the early fifties, the novel suffered a sudden eclipse when its author was purged in 1956.[67]

Ding Ling's own ups and downs notwithstanding, the novel represents in many ways the climax of the dialectic of violence and justice discussed in this article. Given all its economic initiatives, the land reform movement as Ding Ling describes it was never a mere attempt at overhauling the infrastructure of rural China; rather it had a superstructural dimension, as its implementing land reform contributed to, and was conditioned by, changes in traditional Chinese ethical, cultural, and legal systems. To that extent, Yitsi Mei Feuerwerker has made a significant point when she calls the novel a historical novel.[68]

With such builtin epic implications, The Sun Shines over the Sanggan River can no longer be treated as a mere account of the transfer of land ownership from landlords to poor peasants. Instead, it wants to capture an apocalyptic moment of history, when a new moral machinery has been activated: the revolution finally has begun. When Ding Ling's peasants demand justice accordingly, they are uttering

outrage stored up in the Chinese soul for hundreds of years; and when the villain—the landlord—is captured, he must be indicted as a lishi de zuiren or a "criminal of History."[69] Real "people" have finally seized the power from those inhuman beings who have always oppressed the "people"; the transfer of power over justice from the ruling class to the ruled is said to have been completed.

Liu Zaifu observes, in a novel like The Sun Shines over the Sanggan River, the rise of a new dialectic of violence and justice. Based on Roland Barthes's typological approach to the forms of revolution, Liu argues that the Chinese Communist revolution appeared as a hybrid, one inspired by both the "bloody ritual" of the French Revolution and the teleological imperative of the Stalinist Revolution.[70] In other words, the Chinese Communist revolution as manifested in Ding Ling's novel takes on a doubly grandiose form, combining both spectacular purgation and predestined fulfillment.[71]

While acknowledging Liu Zaifu's observation, I would call attention to an indigenous dimension to the Chinese form of revolution. The legal motifs of Ding Ling's novel, from public trial to communal ostracism, from the theater of blood to the invention of penal technology, could hardly have been new to twentieth-century Chinese readers and writers. When class enemies are judged by the arbitrary will of the newly empowered and when punishments are performed with an aim to arouse bloody festivity, even actual cannibalism, one cannot help recalling how "Chinese" these modes of imagining justice are. After almost half a century of debate over the feasibility of justice and its manifestation, one sees in a novel such as The Sun Shines over the Sanggan River not a leap over, but an uncanny return to, the premodern discourse of crime and punishment.

Take the prosecution of Qian Wengui, the archvillain of Ding Ling's novel, for example. For years Qian has joined with other local notables to persecute tenants. Upon hearing of the impending land reform movement, Qian sends his son to the Communist army and marries his daughter to the local cadre, with the hope of forestalling possible charges. Qian's wonderful scheme fails. In the climax of the novel, appropriately subtitled "The Final Combat" (juezhan), Qian and his wife are paraded before the public, humiliated, beaten, and almost clawed to death by the angry masses. Even the cannibalistic impulse comes close to the edge of consciousness, as the peasants converge to punish the hated landlord: "One feeling animated them all—vengeance! They wanted vengeance! They wanted to give vent to their hatred, the sufferings of the oppressed since their ancestors' times, the hatred and loathing of thousands of years; all this resentment they directed against him. They would have liked to tear him with their teeth"[72] (italics mine). It is not coincidental that such a ferocious scene appears in Communist fiction of this time. Zhou Libo's Baofeng zouyu (Hurricane, 1948), another novel on the land reform movement, which was published about the same time as The Sun Shines over the Sanggan River, features a similar scene with a similar suggestion of cannibalism. At the public trial of the landlord Hang Laoliu, the angry masses raise clubs and sticks to beat the villain. Widow Zhang, a weak old woman, raises her club too and cries to Han Laoliu,


"You, you killed my son!"

Her elm stick falls on Han Laoliu's shoulders. As she is about to hit Han Laoliu again, she finds herself short of energy. She drops the stick, jumps over to Han Laoliu, biting his shoulders and arms with her teeth. Nothing else can relieve the hatred in her mind.[73]

If the two public trial scenes are still startling to us today, it is perhaps not due to the questionable modes of popular justice but to the capacity of humans to be so possessed by bloodlust that they jump about and bite, like beasts. The sensational language and bloody descriptions that permeate the texts are reminiscent of the revolutionary works of the earlier generation, such as Jiang Guangci's The Roaring Earth and Wu Zuxiang's "Fan Family Village" and "Eighteen Hundred Piculs of Rice." But Ding Ling's work differs in that it programs all the motivations that Wu's and Jiang's peasants would have felt in such a way as to present the animality as a logical outcome rather than a momentary human reversion to the bestial. The public trial is made to happen as if in accordance with a court procedure, the difference being that this court scene takes place in an open space that demands everybody's attendance and, ostensibly, everybody's judgment. The fusion of the theater, the courtroom, and the site of punishment, long embedded in the early revolutionary plays and fiction such as Pan Jinlian and "The True Story of A Q," are finally officialized as an integral part of ultimate Communist legality.

The old questions regarding the way the late Qing novel Living Hell represents justice prove to be still pertinent. Whereas Living Hell presents a closed courtroom in which all suspects are punished and paraded about as if in a variety show, a novel like The Sun Shines over the Sanggan River introduces an open courtroom wherein suspects are served up in a mock cannibalistic feast. Lu Xun's and Lu Ling's cynical vision of the cruel human capacity to humiliate and persecute is enthusiastically endorsed in a model Communist novel. One perhaps would argue that the Communist masses are not the corrupt judges of the late Qing, and that they inflict punishment on the wicked as a necessary step toward long-awaited social justice. Liu E's paradoxical warning in The Travels of Lao Can is relevant: self-righteous, incorruptible judges are far more dangerous than corruptible ones.[74] Believing that they are acting at the behest of a new mandate, the Communist masses are more dangerous—when they torture the villains and their families indiscriminately—than the self-righteous, incorruptible judges of the Qing dynasty, not because the technology of torture has advanced but because there is now a vast number of self-righteous, incorruptible judges.

I would further argue that the discourse of violence and justice demonstrated in a novel like The Sun Shines over the Sanggan River can also be more cruel than that offered in the two late Qing novels. Liu E and Li Boyuan describe in one way or another the corruption of the late Qing judicial system, pointing out or insinuating that there are cracks between what the law means to achieve and what it really achieves. Despite their righteous or cynical undertones, the two novels contain a dimension of self-reflection, one that compels the writers and their implied readers to renegotiate a judicial and penal system other than what is practiced in the novels.

By contrast, The Sun Shines over the Sanggan River celebrates the mixture of rites of torture and rites of cannibalism and sees it as the final solution to the problem of justice; Ding Ling takes for granted what Liu E and Li Boyuan would have either condemned or parodied, if they had not died first.

There is another aspect of violence in a Communist novel like The Sun Shines over the Sanggan River that has been less discussed by critics. The land reform movement does not end in the redistribution of the land and properties that used to belong to the rural ruling class. Reform of the Chinese landscape prefigures the reform of the Chinese mindscape. Behind the confrontation between the landlords and the peasants stand the land reformers; their task is to mobilize the long-oppressed peasants to rise against local authorities. Throughout the novel, one witnesses how the reformers plan carefully to arouse anger among the peasants and channel that anger into action. The peasants, at the opening of the novel, are shown as so inhibited by the power of Qian Wengui that they cannot talk about their suffering in public. After they have been "worked on" by the reformers, however, they cannot talk enough about their hatred and vengeful desire. Insofar as they undergo group-therapeutic personality changes designed and initiated by the reformers, the peasants' liberation inaugurates a new, advanced form of serfdom; land reform is the outward form of mind reform.[75]

This psychological reeducation of the peasants is closely related to the so-called violence of language imposed on them. Tang Xiaobing has argued, with Zhou Libo's Hurricane as an example, that the function of language in Communist literature at this time has been reduced to the most primitive level, which can "make sense" only in recourse to the invocation of physical scars.[76] Tang sees a dangerous reduction of a symbolic system of linguistic signs to that of bodily spectacle.[77]

One should, however, never take the apparent Communist vulgarization of language for simplification of figural symbolism. The obsession with the reciprocity of ink and blood is not the invention of Communist writers. Lu Xun's "decapitation complex" still has to be regarded as one of the origins of the "scarred" discourse that later prevails in leftist and rightist literature. As argued above, the new violent language can be a well-orchestrated linguistic system, couched in a deep cultural and literary subtext traceable as far back as to late Qing literature. While evoking an immediate, bodily spectacle, this language functions not as a means to do away with but to revitalize a richly encoded discourse of violence. Thus, as David Apter and Tony Saich observe, the violence of language is an intricate, figural mechanism rather than a raw abuse of words, which manages to evoke an exegetical bonding among the party members.[78]

My final point is about the way in which some forms of suffering and punishment, horrific as they are, have been written as a result of the new Communist discourse of justice. I have in mind cases where the debate over crime and punishment is least expected, such as the love affair between Heini, Qian Wengui's niece, and Cheng Ren, the newly appointed local leader of the land reform. Before the land reform took place, the two were lovers despite their class difference. Now, under

the new legal terms that distinguish the lawful from the unlawful, they have to redefine their relations.

Though closely related to Qian Wengui by family ties, Heini has been treated as a free laborer by Qian and his wife. Now that they have learned Cheng Ren's position in the new power structure, the shrewd couple suddenly change their attitude toward their niece, hoping to use her to win Cheng Ren's favor. Heini is despised by the villagers for a scheme she is innocent of. Although she is accepted later as part of the oppressed class and enlisted to join the rally against her uncle, her romance with Cheng Ren has been indefinitely suspended by public will as well as by self-abnegation.

Cheng Ren is no better off. That Cheng Ren should have transgressed social taboos and fallen in love with a landlord's niece before the land reform seems to one a sign of his genuine courage and revolutionary consciousness. But in the new society, Cheng Ren becomes selfconscious of his newly won class status, which carries with it a new taboo as severe as the old one. The romance proves even more trying than before. As he finally decides to pick out Qian Wengui as the chief target of a public trial, Cheng Ren recognizes that he has been less than resolute in facing up to that reality: "He felt as if he had committed a crime, and done something wrong to others, and could not hold up his head. This was something he had never felt before…. He had forgiven [Qian Wengui] everything for the sake of his niece…. In his heart he had been secretly protecting her, that is, protecting them, the interests of the landowning class"[79] (italics mine).

Torn between his dedication to the party and his love for Qian Wengui's niece, Cheng Ren finally sacrifices all personal feelings for the sake of the revolution. And the motive that compels him to do so is a deeply embedded sense of prohibition and guilt.

In Cheng Ren's self-sacrifice there lurks a gender politics, one that is crucial to the Chinese Communist way of disciplining the "new" citizen. In "When I Was in Xia Village," Zhenzhen suffered under the old regime because she had lost her virginity, but she was allowed to prove her worth by sacrificing her body again, as a prostitute. Now, under Communist rule, Cheng Ren has lost his ideological purity by falling in love with a class enemy, and to prove his worth he must dedicate himself physically and emotionally to the party. As such, the man of the new era has been reduced to playing the role of the woman of the prerevolutionary era. Men and women will take up the old "feminine" role, so to speak, in the new society, a role in which the taint of evil can be acquired by rape or by association, and can be removed only by continual acts of selfless penitence, if at all. The emasculation of Cheng Ren thus completes the dialectic of gender already started in "When I Was in Xia Village."

Above all, as the homonym of his name suggests, "Cheng Ren" means both "becoming a man" and "dying as a martyr." Humanity can be attained only through a self-willed nullification of separate humanity. Lu Xunesque cannibalism—institutionalized oppression in the name of social virtue—has reappeared

on a grander scale. If Qian Wengui is condemned for his lack of humanity, Cheng Ren is honored because he has chosen to lose his humanity. Qian Wengui tries to bribe his way out of punishment; Cheng Ren condemns himself and carries out his own punishment.

The case of Ding Ling brings us back to where this article started. Late Qing writers like Liu E and Li Boyuan modernized conventional court-case literature by providing venues in which the terms of justice and violence were radically renegotiated. What had seemed complete, divine law and human law, was revealed in its incapacity to address either morality or equity. Their indictments of legal justice led to restatements of poetic justice; hence the beginnings of a new, forensic discourse.

While they look into social abuses and political atrocities, writers since Lu Xun's generation have excoriated social evil and called for the implementation of individual punishment; and they have usually come to the conclusion that justice cannot be done without violence—in the form of a revolution in the self. The consummation of the Qing desire for true forensic discourse was a massive network of self-censorship and mutual surveillance, and the Communist scene of justice shifted from the physical courthouse to the interior monologue. This inward turn of policing would prove to be far more "advanced" than any moment illustrated in the late Qing novels, both in penal technology and juridical efficacy. Violence finally stabilized in the form of self-imposed crimes and self-inflicted punishments, and the moral and legal machinery of a new justice was in full operation.


1. Zheng Zhenduo, "Xue he lei de wenxue" (Literature of blood and tears), in Zheng Zhenduo xuanji (Works of Zheng Zhenduo) (Fuzhou: Fujian renmin chubanshe, 1984), 1097. [BACK]

2. The most blatant example in this regard is perhaps the continued invention of cruel penal forms throughout Chinese history. See Wang Yongkuan, Zhongguo gudai kuxing (Cruel forms of punishment) (Taipei: Yunlong chubanshe, 1991). Also see Jonathan N. Lipman and Steven Havrell, eds., Violence in China: Essays in Culture and Counterculture (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1990). [BACK]

3. See, for example, Law in Imperial China: Exemplified by 190 Ch'ing Dynasty Cases (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1973); Hugh T. Scogin Jr., "Civil Law in Traditional China: History and Theory," in Civil Law in Qing and Republican China, ed. Kathryn Bernheart and Philip C. Huang (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1994), 13–41; Clifford Geertz, "Local Knowledge: Fact and Law in Comparative Perspective," in Local Knowledge (New York: Basic Books, 1983), 167–235. [BACK]

4. I am referring in particular to the book edited by Nancy Armstrong and Leonard Tennenhouse, The Violence of Representation: Literature and the History of Violence (New York: Routledge, 1989). See their introduction, 1–26. [BACK]

5. Chen Duxiu, "Wenxue geming lun" (On literary revolution), in Duxiu wencun (Writings of Chen Duxiu), vol. 1 (Shanghai: Yadong tushuguan, 1931), 135–40. [BACK]

6. Lu Xun, "Kuangren riji" (Diary of a madman), in Lu Xun Quanji, vol. 1 (Complete works of Lu Xun) (Beijing: Renmin wenxue chubanshe, 1981), 420. [BACK]


7. Liu Zaifu, "Zhongguo xiandai xiaoshuo de zhengzhishi xiezuo: cong ‘Chuncan’ dao Taiyang zhaozai Sanggan heshang" (The politics of writing in modern Chinese literature: From "Spring Silkworms" to The Sun Shines over the Sanggan River), in Fangzhu zhushen: Wenlun tigang he wenxueshe chongping (Exiling gods: Outlines of literary theory and rereadings of literary history) (Hong Kong: Tiandi tushu gongsi, 1994), 133–34, 140. [BACK]

8. See Armstrong and Tennenhouse, Violence, 1–26. [BACK]

9. Ibid., 9 [BACK]

10. Zhang Taiyan published "Ruxia pian" (On the scholarly knight) in Yadong shibao (East Asian times) in 1899, arguing that the concept and practice of traditional chivalric knight-errantry, or xia, is derived from the Confucian scholarly tradition. See Wang Yue's discussion in "Zhang Taiyan de ruxia guan jiqi lishi yiyi" (Zhang Taiyan's concept of the scholarly knight and its historical significance), in Xia yu Zhongguo wenhua (Knight-errantry and Chinese culture), ed. Department of Chinese, Tamkang University (Taipei: Xuesheng shuju, 1993), 269–86. See Wendy Larson's discussion in Literary Authority and the Modern Chinese Writer: Ambivalence and Autobiography (Durham: Duke University Press, 1991), 31–59. [BACK]

11. Literature, of course, babbles on about injustice and revolution, but these are just terms in the new masternarrative. The silences are about actual cruelties and actual repetitions, and the worst silence is the one about literary complicity, because it does representational violence to representation itself. [BACK]

12. Liu E, Lao Can youji (The travels of Lao Can) (Taipei: Lianjing chuban gongsi, 1983), 2. [BACK]

13. Ibid., 245. Throughout my essay I will use the term "incorruptible" to mean specifically "not bribable." [BACK]

14. This appears in chapter 6 of Laocan youji. See C. T. Hsia's discussion in "The Travels of Lao Ts'an: An Exploration of Its Arts and Meaning," Ts'ing Hua Journal of Chinese Studies 7, no. 2 (1969): 40–66. [BACK]

15. Liu E, The Travels of Lao Ts'an, trans. Harold Shadick (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1952), 70. [BACK]

16. See C. T. Hsia, "Travels," 50–52 and n. 31. [BACK]

17. The Yellow River in this area is less than a mile wide and is rimmed by small dikes built and maintained by the farmers whose land they protect. The government-built dikes are massive embankments twenty feet high and are up to three miles away from the water. The land between the two dikes is fertile and thickly populated. See Harold Shadick's note in his translation of Li, Travels, 262. [BACK]

18. See Liu E's commentary at the end of chapter 13 of Travels, 124. [BACK]

19. Ibid., 259–66. [BACK]

20. Liu E may not have been aware of the potential for this ironic reading. Schematically, however, his novel encourages us to apply on the celestial level the same rules he has been applying to terrestrial justice. By mentioning the bureaucracy of Hell in the context of the failures of human bureaucracy, Liu E sets up the comparison. [BACK]

21. Li Boyuan, Huo diyu (Living hell) (Taipei: Guangya shuju, 1984), 1. I am using Douglas Lancashire's translation, quoted from Lancashire, Li Po-yuan (Boston: Twayne, 1978), 64–65. [BACK]

22. It was the second of Li Boyuan's novels serialized in his magazine Xiuxiang xiaoshuo (Illustrated fiction). The novel comprises forty-three chapters; like most of other novels by Li Boyuan, it remains incomplete. Li died when he had finished chapter 39. Chapters 40 to 42 were added by his friend, the novelist Wu Jianren. The last chapter is said to have been written by Ouyang Juyuan, Li's friend and the assistant editor of Illustrated Fiction. The novel was not published in book form till 1956 in Shanghai, under the auspices of the well-known scholar Zhao Jingshen. [BACK]


23. Lancashire, Li Po-yuan, 63. [BACK]

24. Here, I am partially indebted to Lyotard's concept of justice. See Jean-Francois Lyotard and Jean-Loup Thebaud, Just Gaming (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1979), 25–26. [BACK]

25. Li Boyuan, Huo diyu, 72. [BACK]

26. The first is a long aluminum pipe circled all around the prisoner's body. The attendants inject boiling water at one end of the pipe and let it flow slowly to the other end. The second is a form of capital punishment, meaning to put five nails into the four limbs and the chest of the prisoner. The third is three iron sticks used to beat the prisoner. By pressing one iron stick on the prisoner's chest and the other on his legs, the courtroom attendants check the prisoner's breath at the two ends of his body and force it to accumulate in his stomach. They then use the third stick to beat the prisoner's stomach, and with one loud sound, all the intestines will burst out. [BACK]

27. Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Pantheon, 1977), 24–85. [BACK]

28. Lao Can is compared to Sherlock Holmes in chapter 18 for his investigation of the aforementioned murder case. [BACK]

29. Lu Xun, preface to Nahan (A call to arms), in Lu Xun quanji (Complete works of Lu Xun), vol. 1 (Beijing: Renmin wenxue chubanshe, 1981), 417. [BACK]

30. David Derwei Wang, "Lu Xun, Shen Congwen, and Decapitation," in Politics, Ideology, and Literary Discourse in Modern China: Theoretical Interventions and Cultural Critique, ed. Liu Kang and Tang Xiaobing (Durham: Duke University Press, 1993), 174–87. [BACK]

31. Lun Xun, preface to Nahan, 417. [BACK]

32. Ibid. [BACK]

33. T. A. Hsia, The Gate of Darkness (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1968), 146. [BACK]

34. Lu Xun seems to have understood the full meaning of late Qing intellectual chivalry; one cannot always say this for the writers after him, who too often thought they had passed through the gate and left the late Qing far behind them. [BACK]

35. For a discussion of the rise and development of Chinese court-case drama, see Zeng Yongyi, Zhongguo gudian xiju de renshi yu xinshang (An introduction to and appraisal of classical Chinese drama) (Taipei: Zhengzhong shuju, 1991), 55. [BACK]

36. Ouyang Yuqian, Pan Jinlian (Pan Jinlian), in vol. 1 of Ouyang Yuqian wenji (Works of Ouyang Yuqian) (Beijing: Renmin wenxue chubanshe, 1984), 90. [BACK]

37. Ibid., 93. [BACK]

38. See Bai Wei, afterword to Dachu youling ta (Breaking out of the tower of ghosts), in Bai Wei zuopinji (Works of Bai Wei) (Changsha: Hunan renmin chubanshe, 1985), 77. [BACK]

39. Lu Xun, "Lun Leifeng ta de daodiao," in Lu Xun Quanji, vol. 1 (Beijing: Renmin wenxue chubanshe, 1981), 174–77. [BACK]

40. Bai Wei, Dachu youling ta, 64. [BACK]

41. Ibid., 75. [BACK]

42. Zhu Yiqui, Zhongguo xiandai xijushi (History of modern Chinese drama) (Guilin: Guanxi renmin chubanshe, 1981), 234–36. [BACK]

43. See, for example, Meng Yue and Dai Jinhua, Fuchu lishi dibiao: Zhongguo xiandai nuxing wenxue yanjiu (Voices emerging from the foreground of history: A study of contemporary Chinese women's literature) (Taipei: Shibao chuban gongsi, 1993), 227–30. [BACK]

44. Marston Anderson, The Limits of Realism: Chinese Fiction in the Revolutionary Period (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1990), 44. [BACK]


45. T. A. Hsia, Gate of Darkness, 55–59. [BACK]

46. Ibid. Also see Leo Oufan Lee, The Romantic Generation of Modern Chinese Writers (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1973), 201–21. [BACK]

47. Jiang Guangci, Paoxiao de tudi (The roaring earth), vol. 2 of Jiang Guangci wenji (Selected works of Jiang Guangci) (Shanghai: Shanghai wenyi chubanshe, 1982), 374. [BACK]

48. See Anthony Kubiak, Stages of Terror, Terrorism, Ideology, and Coercion as Theater History (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991), 148. One way to live with terror is to repress it, to survive it by choosing to be unconscious of it, as Li Jie does literally. [BACK]

49. Jiang Guangci, Paoxiao de tudi, 374. [BACK]

50. Wu Zuxiang, "Young Master Gets His Tonic," trans. Cyril Birch, in Modern Chinese Short Stories and Novellas: 1919–1949, ed. C. T. Hsia, Joseph Lau, and Leo Oufan Lee (New York: Columbia Press, 1981), 381. [BACK]

51. Part of the plot summary is derived from that of Marston Anderson, Limits, 198. [BACK]

52. C. T. Hsia, A History of Modern Chinese Fiction (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1971), 284–85; Philip Williams, Village Echoes: The Fiction of Wu Zuxiang (Boulder: Westview Press, 1993), 82–84. [BACK]

53. C. T. Hsia, History, 286. [BACK]

54. Wu Zuxiang, "Yiqian babai dan" (Eighteen hundred piculs of rice), in Wu Zuxiang (Taipei: Haifeng chubanshe, 1990), 158–59. [BACK]

55. See, for example, Merle Goldman, Literary Dissent in Communist China (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1967), 1–50. Few literary historians have noticed that, right after Mao delivered his talks, the Nationalist Party retaliated by commissioning Zhang Daofan, a playwright and literary propagandist, to advocate a literature based on Sun Yatsen's Three Principles of the People. This policy would eventually become the backbone of the anti-Communist literature that the Nationalist Party promoted in Taiwan of the fifties and sixties. A comparative reading of both Nationalist and Communist literary policies indicates, ironically, a parallel between them in theory and practice, despite the fact that they were meant as antagonistic discourses. See Cheng Minglee, "Dangdai Taiwan wenyi zhengce de fazhan, yingxiang, yu jiaotao" (On the development, impact, and consequences of the literary policy in contemporary Taiwan), in Dangdai Taiwan zhengzhi wenxue lun (Politics and contemporary Taiwanese literature), ed. Cheng Minglee (Taipei: Shibao chuban gongsi, 1994), 1–20. Also see my article "Reinventing National History: Communist and Anti-Communist Fiction from 1946 to 1955," in China in the Transitional Period: 1946–1955, ed. William Kirby (Cambridge: Harvard University Press), forthcoming. [BACK]

56. See my article "Reinventing National History," in China in the Transnational Period, ed. Kirby. [BACK]

57. C. T. Hsia, History, 326–60. Also see Theodore Huters, "Hu Feng and the Critical Legacy of Lu Xun," in Lu Xun and His Legacy, ed. Leo Oufan Lee (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1985), 129–52. [BACK]

58. See David E. Apter and Tony Saich's discussion in Revolutionary Discourse in Mao's Republic (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1994), 243–92. [BACK]

59. Yitsi Mei Feuerwerker, The Fiction of Ding Ling (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1982), 114. Also see Tani Barlow, with Gary Bjorge, ed., I Myself Am a Woman (Boston: Beacon Press, 1989), 34–45. [BACK]

60. Ding Ling, "When I Was in Hsia Village," trans. Gary Bjorge, in Modern Chinese Stories and Novellas: 1919–1949, ed. Joseph Lau, C. T. Hsia, and Leo Oufan Lee (New York: Columbia Press, 1981), 274. [BACK]


61. This argument can be read in light of Apter and Saich's recent discussion where they borrow Baudrillard's theory to describe an effect of simulacrum in the production of the revolutionary discourse and revolutionary site, Revolutionary Discourse, 224–62. [BACK]

62. See Huang Ziping's succinct discussion in "Bing de yinyu yu wenxue shengchan: Ding Ling de ‘Zai yiyuan zhong’ ji qita" (The metaphor of illness and literary production: Ding Ling's "In the Hospital" and other works), in Zai jiedu: Dazhong wenyi yu yishi xingtai (Rereading: Mass literature and ideology), ed. Tang Xiaobing (Hong Kong: Oxford University Press, 1993), 51–67. [BACK]

63. Ding Ling, "When I Was in Hsia Village," 268. [BACK]

64. Merle Goldman, Literary Dissent, 67–86. [BACK]

65. Lu Ling, Ji'e de Guo Su'e (Hungry Guo Su'e) (Beijing: Beijing renmin chubanshe, 1988), 103. [BACK]

66. Ibid., 104. [BACK]

67. See Feuerwerker, Fiction, 136–46. [BACK]

68. Ibid., 139–40. Also see Apter and Saich, Revolutionary Discourse 263–332. [BACK]

69. Liu Zaifu and Lin Gang, Fangzhu zhushen: Wenlun tigang he wenxueshi chongping (Exiling the gods: Outlines of literary theory and reappraisal of literary history) (Hong Kong: Tiandi tushu, 1994), 130 [BACK]

70. Ibid., 124–25. [BACK]

71. Roland Barthes, Writing Degree Zero, trans. Annete Lavers and Colin Smith (New York: Hill and Wang, 1978), 71. [BACK]

72. Ding Ling, Taiyang zhaozai Sanggan heshang (The sun shines over the Sanggan River), vol. 1 of Ding Ling xuanji (Selected works of Ding Ling) (Chengdu: Sichuan renmin chuban-she, 1984), 300. English translation from C. T. Hsia, History, 486. [BACK]

73. Zhou Libo, Baofeng zouyu (Hurricane) (Changsha: Hunan renmin chubanshe, 1983), 174. See Tang Xiaobing's discussion in "Baoli de bianzheng fa" (The dialectic of violence), in Zai Jiedu: Dazhong wenyi yu yishi xingtai (Rereading: Mass literature and ideology), ed. Tang Xiaobing (Hong Kong: Oxford University Press, 1993), 122. [BACK]

74. Writers like Liu E criticize the way incorruptible judges abuse their power, torturing innocent people, but they rarely criticize the habit of torturing people who are not innocent. Lao Can the dreamer acquiesces in the most horrible punishments imposed on condemned souls in Hell as much as Liu E acquiesces in the edifying power of horrible punishments imposed on condemned criminals on Earth. [BACK]

75. See Apter and Saich's description of the so-called Foucault's paradox involved here: "The inversionary discourse that appears offers an unlimited prospect of freedom and proposes to free people from constraints of power, to break the hegemony of the discourse through which it is represented; but it, in turn, becomes hegemonic, all the more as it cleaves to its original intent," Revolutionary Discourse, 331. [BACK]

76. Tang, "Baoli de bianzheng fa," 120. [BACK]

77. Ibid., 121. [BACK]

78. Apter and Saich, Revolutionary Discourse, chapters 8, 9. [BACK]

79. Ding Ling, Taiyang zhaozai Sanggan heshagn, 247–48. [BACK]


9. Hanjian (Traitor)!
Collaboration and Retribution
in Wartime Shanghai

Frederic Wakeman Jr.

You young fellows must love your country and not assist the Japanese or be a traitor. Now in Nandao they are in need of a number of young plainclothes soldiers. If you wish to join us, you must follow me.


One of the most commonly used epithets in the Chinese popular press of the 1930s and early 1940s was the term hanjian, which meant "traitor" or "traitor to the Han." According to the Hanyu da cidian, the term "originally indicated the scum of the Han people [Hanzu bailei]. Later it generally came to allude to someone who throws in his or her lot with a foreign people [waizu] or with foreign invaders, willingly serves at their beck and call, and sells out the interests of the ancestral land and the people [zuguo minzu]."[1]


The key word, jian, exists in two forms (Mathews 817 and Mathews 818). The first form, which is a character composed of three (women), primarily means "private, selfish, secret" and "heterodox, depraved, vicious, evil, wicked, demonic." The ancient lexicon Shuowen derives these meanings from the notion of doting on or being attached to three women. Secondary meanings include "foul things; scoundrels, ruffians and robbers; spurious, fake; external and internal chaos; crafty, perverse, cunning, treacherous; illicit sexual intercourse; secret communication with the enemy; rape."[2] The second version, which is most often used in the binomial compound, Hanjian, has, among other significances, the additional meaning of "transgression."[3] This jian is more like a transitive verb: "to commit adultery, to have sex; to break the law; to oppose someone; to trespass, violate, and encroach."[4]

There are behind all these various signifiers three deeply connected meanings of jian that eventually adhere to the term "traitor." The first is the notion of illicitly

crossing boundaries, of transgressing norms by, in a sense, "going over to them." The second is the notion that this transgression invites, produces, and results in luan, or "chaos." And third is the connection between illicit transgression and sexual excess or lust.

The compound hanjian came into general usage during the Song dynasty when it described Han (that is, Chinese) officials who spied for the Jurchen Jin dynasty. According to the most authoritative dictionary in use in the People's Republic of China at present, a hanjian, then, "is someone who helps a different race [yizhong] harm his or her own race [tongzhong]."[5] Needless to say the term is more particularistic than such a definition properly would allow: that is, you have to be Han in order to be a hanjian. Semantically, in other words, it is difficult to separate political treason from ethnic transgression.[6]


The two iniquities—betraying universal cultural norms and joining exclusive ethnic enemies—coincided during foreign invasions of China, when the term hanjian was hung as a crude label of infamy around the necks of collaborators. At the time of the Ming-Qing transition, the greatest traitors in Ming officials' eyes were hanjian who crossed over to the Manchus just before they "entered the pass" in 1644 and occupied the Central Plains. Earlier boundary crossers, or transfrontiersmen, had ambiguous ethnic identities, but their loyalties to the new Qing dynasty were squarely centered on the person of the Manchu khan-emperor to whom they had declared allegiance. It was the later adherents, such as Hong Chengchou and Wu Sangui, who earned historians' opprobrium, though the notion of betraying the Han ethnie was intentionally muffled by the time of the Qianlong literary inquisition, when Confucian treachery was identified with the label of "twice-serving ministers" (er chen) for those who had been Ming officials before joining the Qing. Of course, the tension nonetheless persisted between Qing culturalism, with its universalistic monarchic pretensions, and the ethnic particularisms of both holders and subjects of the throne.[7]

Even prior to Qianlong's reign (1736–95), despite this late-cultural/early-national tension, the term hanjian was widely used within the Qing bureaucracy to designate Chinese who had "gone over" to the tribal peoples of southwestern China.[8] On the part of Qing viceroys and governors there were two impulses along the Miao frontier. One, which was associated with ascriptive officials (Manchu or Han Martial bannermen), was to prevent intermarriage and blame "undependable Han traitors" (wulai hanjian) for bringing about difficulties with the Miao. The second was to acculturate the Miao, not segregate them, even if this meant widespread intermarriage across ethnic boundaries. In the early eighteenth century, the Qing government attempted to enforce a quarantine legislated in 1707. Han residence was forbidden in Miao hamlets, and the Miao were prohibited from travel into the interior. Hanjian were those Chinese who crossed over the

demarcation line, which by the Yongzheng period (1722–35) was becoming impossible to rigidly maintain.[9]

Under the Qianlong emperor, who ruled over a society much more integrated than the formations of the early 1700s, the acculturalists gradually won out. "As the segregationists lost the argument, their tendency to see Han traitors behind every thicket was discredited," and it was not until the Western aggressions of the nineteenth century that the figure of the hanjian widely reappeared.[10]


The Opium War brought traitors—neiying (fifth columnists), maiguozhe (sellouts or collaborators), jianshang (treacherous merchants), and hanjian—back as primary scapegoats for the Manchu dynasty's defeat by the British Empire. Whether as unscrupulous lictors working for the Pomeranian missionary Gutzlaff when he assumed a local magistracy under English guns, or as a local prefect ransoming Canton from the H.M.S. Nemesis, "traitors" were blamed for selling out the country.[11] My purpose is not to dwell upon this rich historical theme in the nineteenth century, however, but rather to note again the connection between ethnocultural treachery and the crossing of boundaries by collusion with foreigners, linked in turn with bestiality, sexual violation, and demonic behavior.[12]

One way of diminishing the cognitive friction between universal and particular identities was to equate humankindness with Hanness. To be read out of the corporate group was to become "other," to lose one's ability to be genuinely human, to leave behind or "transgress" (jian) being Chinese (Han) or even being just a man (han).[13] In this sense, the ethnic condition of Hanness was a human state, which governed the trajectory one traced in the course of "crossing over" (jian) into nonhumanness. And leaving that state meant associating with demons or animals, such as the "pigs" (zhu), or Catholic missionaries depicted in the anti-Christian posters of that period.[14]

In the popular mentality of the twentieth century, treachery (or being a hanjian) was also an alienation, an act of madness, that could cut one off from other Chinese people. In a 1938 article entitled "School Principal Becomes a Traitor" ("Xiaozhang zuo hanjian"), it was reported, "Former elementary school principal, Chen Qibai, lost all capacity for self-respect after the War of Resistance began. When the capital was occupied, he took his family from the Yong [River, near Ningbo], and ended by losing his conscience and being stricken with madness [sangxin bingkuang]. He changed his name to Chen Daoliang and publicly accepted a post as a secretary in the puppet Executive Yuan in Nanjing."[15] Thus, to be a hanjian was to lose the capacity for moral judgment, along with one's primal identity and bestowed name.

After the collapse of the First United Front in 1927 and the commencement of the White Terror, the Communist Party formed a special assassination team under Zhou Enlai's Special Services Committee (Tewu weiyuanhui). The group was formally

known as the Red Brigade, but its members called themselves the "dogkillers squad" (dagou tuan) because they were devoted to murdering deviants (yiji), renegades (pantu), and traitors (hanjian) to their cause. The term hanjian was not always applied to those who had "betrayed Marxism" (beipan Makesizhuyi) or who had "betrayed their original class background" (beipan yuanlai de jieji). But insofar as political "renegades" had left the fold of the party, which was a family of its own, they were also designated as hanjian.[16] On their part, right-wing Nationalists regarded the Communists as hanjian as well.[17] The secret service chief Dai Li eventually hunted down the "dogkillers squad" in its Shanghai jewelry-store hideout and had its members executed by the Guomindang government in Nanjing.[18]


The stronghold of the Chiang Kai-shek régime's campaign against national traitors was a circle of Chiang's own students—Whampoa cadets who founded the Lixingshe (Vigorous Action Society) in February 1932 after Chiang resumed power. Although they were devoutly anti-Communist cadres, these members of the Lixingshe, which formed the core of the Blue Shirts, or Lanyishe, were aroused by Japan's aggression in China. Many of them had been studying in military or police academies in Japan at the time of the Manchurian Railway Incident (September 1931), and after they organized a demonstration in Tokyo that was broken up by the police, they returned to China and joined the Anti-Japanese National Salvation Association of Returned Students from Japan (Liu-Ri xuesheng kang-Ri jiuguo hui), formed by Gong Debo and others under the leadership of He Zhonghan's friend and classmate Xiao Zanyu. Gong Debo's newspaper, Jiuguo ribao (National salvation daily), printed editorial after editorial calling for the Chinese to "resist the Japanese and root out traitors" (kang Ri chu jian), and although Gong himself took no part in the activities of the Lixingshe, many members of that secret organization's "preparations department" used the newspaper as a cover for their own work, pretending to be editors or reporters.[19]

The Blue Shirts who belonged to the Lixingshe were fanatically dedicated to supporting their "leader" (lingxiu), Chiang Kai-shek, and to extirpating traitors (hanjian).[20] The Lixingshe's "backbone cadres" believed that hanjian were both a manifestation and a cause of the weakness of China, reflecting the absence of a national spirit or people's will such as animated the Japanese race. They believed that

the racial will [minzu yizhi] of the Chinese masses is extremely weak, which can be confirmed by the multitudinous numbers of Chinese traitors [hanjian] and thieves who have sold out their country [maiguozei]…. One can almost say that there is absolutely no parallel to this ugly phenomenon in all the other countries of the world. In the Northeast [i.e., Manchuria] and in the Yangzi Valley they shamelessly seek power and wealth by selling out their country. You could say that the interior of China is carpeted with hanjian. This is because as modern China suffered one defeat

after another in foreign wars, the psychology of the people changed from deprecation and rejection of outsiders to an attitude of awe and admiration for foreigners. There thus emerged the curious "sight" [jingguan] of Chinese hating Chinese but not hating foreigners….[We] believe that the people who indirectly assist the enemy in destroying China are just as despicable as the hanjian and maiguozei. They all belong to [the same] category of people who are completely irresponsible and dishonorable. At the same time that the hanjian and maiguozei are being exterminated, we will also eradicate those elements that lend an indirect hand to the enemy bent upon destroying China.[21]

In other words, not only were outright collaborators—whose motives had, in many cases, to be mixed—simply to be labeled hanjian and marked for execution; "indirect" or passive onlookers were designated potential targets as well. Moreover, this indiscriminate persecution by terrorist elements of the Guomindang right wing was to be justified as a means of addressing the humiliation suffered by the nation at the hands of foreign aggressors during the previous century. This marked loss of national self-confidence in the Chinese, seen now as an "inferior race" (liedeng minzu), which the late Lloyd Eastman explored in his pioneering study of the Nanjing decade, was a far cry from the culturalist self-confidence of the Qianlong period—though the term hanjian was used in both cases.


To be sure, the Blue Shirts had already witnessed the sorry spectacle of Chinese collaborators working closely with the enemy during the Japanese Occupation of Shanghai's northern Zhabei district from January to May 1932. During the attack on Zhabei, the term hanjian was applied to Chinese who looted in the wake of the assault by Japanese marines and soldiers on Shanghai's North Station. It was quickly extended to cover collaborators who were said to have gone into the combat zones to "make trouble" by working for the Japanese. Two hundred of these hanjian were believed to be Chinese secret agents from northern Jiangsu (Jiangbei or Subei) and Anhui, and a number of them were rounded up and shot by the Shanghai Public Security Bureau and the Nationalist Army.[22]

Once the Japanese drove the Nineteenth Route Army out of Shanghai and established a military occupation, a group of Chinese collaborators formed the Zhabei Citizens Maintenance Association, which was also known as the Shanghai Northern District Citizens Maintenance Association. It began as a street-cleaning operation at a time when Zhabei's thoroughfares were littered with corpses. On March 24, 1932, the Japanese army engaged 150 Chinese coolies to sweep the streets from Suzhou Creek all the way up to North Station. They were supervised by Chinese foremen, probably Subei gangsters, and paid with funds generated by a monthly tax levied on all of the street traders in Zhabei. The operation was run out of the former Zhabei municipal finance office by an organization called the Great Japan New Political Affairs Bureau, which was a puppet "municipal organ"

guarded by Japanese soldiers but manned, after April 1, by Chinese collaborators.[23]

The identification of these collaborators with natives of Subei—an ethnic subgroup already treated with negative prejudice by other Shanghainese sojourners—reinforced the connection between hanjian and outsiders beyond the pale.[24] Three prominent racketeers were involved in the puppet organization: Gu Zhuxuan, his brother Gu Sungmao, and Wei Zhongxiu. Gu Zhuxuan, the "emperor of Subei," was one of the most infamous gangsters in Shanghai. His brother Gu Sungmao was a former rickshaw coolie who now worked as a foreman in the Star Rickshaw Company and owned a theater that featured Subei dialect performances. Wei Zhongxiu, also a native of Subei, was the former chief detective of the Public Safety Bureau and a disciple of the Green Gang boss Du Yuesheng. Shanghainese and foreigners alike, then, spoke of "Jiangbei traitors" as if their corrupt collaboration with the Japanese Military Police could be explained by the men's darkskinned faces and hillbilly manners.[25] The public had by April 10 become so "dissatisfied with the foul tactics of these traitors" that the Japanese decided to dissolve the Maintenance Association while they prepared to return Zhabei to the Chinese Nationalist régime.[26]


While the Japanese gave up their occupied sectors of Shanghai under international pressure, they moved ahead in north China, consolidating their occupation of Rehe and attacking Zhahar (Chahar). The Christian warlord Feng Yuxiang decided to make a bid for national leadership by mobilizing a resistance movement. Coming out of his self-imposed retirement at Zhangjiakou, Feng announced the formation of the People's Allied Anti-Japanese Army (Minzhong kang-Ri tongmeng jun) on May 26, 1933, and began gathering troops.[27] Chiang Kai-shek, however, was thoroughly convinced of the importance of appeasing Japan in order to buy time to exterminate the Communists.[28] On May 31, five days after General Feng's announcement, Chiang's representative, Huang Fu, negotiated a cease-fire with the Japanese. But public opinion seemed to support Feng. The Tanggu Truce was decried as a sellout and Huang Fu denounced as a pro-Japanese hanjian.[29]

Chiang's Blue Shirts, fully accepting the generalissimo's policy of annei rangwai (first pacify the interior, then expel the external aggressor), shifted their attention to another sort of traitor: those who might collaborate with the Japanese by taking the role of puppet governor under the Occupation. By then, Dai Li, the future head of Juntong (Military Statistics, which was a euphemism for the secret police), was fully in charge of the Blue Shirts' intelligence and covert operations. Under his orders to assail internal rather than external enemies (a redirection that sometimes smacked of scapegoating), secret agent Zheng Jiemin arranged the assassination of Zhang Jingyao, the Hunanese warlord then negotiating with the Japanese.[30] Zhang's demise was meant to scare other hanjian out of collaborating with the Japanese.


For there was a significant stratum of political figures, many of them former Beiyang militarists and bureaucrats, who bore a deep antipathy toward the party of Sun Yatsen and other southerners who had adopted a radical agenda of revolutionary nationalism. Culturally conservative and often trained in Japanese military academies and universities in the last years of the Qing, these northern Chinese leaders saw little harm in cooperating with victorious Japanese generals in the name of a new order in East Asia that would repel Anglo-American imperialism on the one hand, and Soviet Bolshevism on the other. And even if they did not want to venture as far as outright collaboration, they could easily see that it was to their advantage to create a gray zone of complex and ambiguous loyalties that left them some room for maneuver.

Dai Li's strategy, however, was to force these political actors to choose between being live heroes or dead hanjian. Gan Guoxun, one of the Lixingshe's founders, later said that the assassination of Zhang Jingyao "aroused and excited the heroes [haojie] of Yan and Zhao[,]… completely changing the social atmosphere of northern China, which was feudal and self-indulgent. All those hanjian, such as Wang Kemin, Wang Jitang, and Gao Wenyue, went into hiding. Squirming like worms, they were afraid to make any move whatsoever. Representative northern warlord figures such as Duan Qirui and Wu Peifu bowed to public opinion and pledged loyalty to the center."[31]

Zhang Jingyao's assassination also convinced the Japanese that the Blue Shirts were responsible for most of the terrorism directed against hanjian in north China during the period 1934–35, and at their insistence the Lanyishe was supposedly disbanded. In fact, it continued to operate under other guises, partly as an agency engaged in anti-Japanese activities commanded by General Dai Li and partly as a rubric for numerous patriotic and terrorist activities directed against hanjian throughout China.[32]


War broke out between China and Japan after the Marco Polo Bridge Incident outside Beiping on the night of July 7, 1937. Even before then, a Shanghai "merchants militia" (shangtuan) had been formed by the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, which had taken out advertisements in the Shanghai press offering free courses in civic training to shop assistants.[33] During the six weeks between the on-set of fighting in north China and the eruption of conflict in the Yangzi delta on August 13, more citizen volunteer groups were formed in Shanghai under the loose supervision of the Nationalist general Zhang Jizhong.[34]

On July 15, for example, the Chinese Youth National Salvation Association was formally inaugurated at the Guandi Temple, where a depot had been established. More than a thousand people showed up to hear speeches by the head of the association, Zhao Gangyi, and by the chief of its execution department, Sun Yaxing.[35] A number of those who came then or later in answer to advertisements

in Zhongyang ribao (Central daily news) were taken aside and interviewed by Sun Yaxing, who asked them to write about their reasons for joining. Three of these young men later became members of Sun Yaxing's antitraitor assassination group: Wang Zhigu, a twenty-three-year-old factory apprentice; Jiang Haisheng, a nineteen-year-old student; and Zhou Shougang, a twenty-five-year-old printer.[36] A fourth, Sun Jinghao, was the bomber killed on December 3, 1937, at the Japanese victory parade on Nanjing Road.[37]

These new members of the National Salvation Association—all students, apprentices, or shop assistants—attended lectures on the current political situation, and then were asked on July 21 to volunteer to dig fortifications outside Shanghai. About two hundred men, mostly between eighteen and twenty-one years old, volunteered, and under Sun Yaxing's command they proceeded to Nanxiang, where they were attached to the Eighty-seventh Nationalist Division. For the next month, supplied with food but not pay, they dug trenches, working mostly at night to avoid Japanese bombers.[38]


After war broke out in Zhabei on August 13, the Nationalist secret service began to take over these paramilitary operations. General Dai Li met with the Green Gang leader Du Yuesheng in the French Concession to discuss the formation of a Pudong Guerrilla Brigade, a Lake Tai Special Action Command, the Loyal and Patriotic Army (Zhongyi jiuguo jun), and eventually the Jiangsu-Zhejiang Operations Committee.[39] And at the beginning of September Chiang Kai-shek's Military Affairs Commission approved the organization of an "emergency period service group" (feichang shiqi fuwutuan) to deal with traitors and spies in Shanghai. The Military Affairs Commission subsequently put this group under the orders of General Wang Jingjiu, commander of the Eighty-seventh Nationalist Division, housing its Special Services Squad (Tewutuan) in the Shaoxing guild hall in Nandao.[40]

The Special Services Squad also had an investigation section, which was charged with collecting evidence on hanjian so that the police could arrest the collaborators and turn them over to the Special Services Squad headquarters for questioning.[41] So deputized, members of the investigation group and other such patriotic volunteers had ample opportunities to form "antitraitor societies" to extort money from merchants dealing in Japanese goods.[42]

The Su-Zhe Operations Committee (Junshi weiyuanhui Su-Zhe xingdong weiyuan-hui), which was formed in late September to transform "gangland" (banghui) members into paramilitary cadres, was nominally chaired by Chiang Kai-shek. Its members included Du Yuesheng, Huang Jinrong, Wang Xiaolai, Yu Xiaqing, Zhang Xiaolin, Yang Hu, Mei Guangpei, Xiang Songpo, and Lu Jingshi. The secretary-general (shujizhang) was Dai Li, who used the authority of the committee to organize a General Command Headquarters for the Special Action Army (Biedong jun zongzhihui bu) located at Number 1 Shenjiazhai near Fenglinqiao opposite

Route Ghisi in South Market. This became the command post of what would be known as the Song-Hu biedong zongdui (Song-Hu Chief Special Action Corps), nominally directed by Du Yuesheng, but really run by Dai Li and his secret service agents.[43]

The corpsmen themselves consisted mainly of retail clerks (dianyuan) from the Shanghai Shopkeepers Association, local ruffians (dipi and liumang) from the gangs, routed Guomindang soldiers, laborers thrown out of work by the closing of the factories and shops during the Japanese attack, and organized labor union members.[44] Once trained and armed with Mauser pistols, these units' primary purpose was "solely to locate traitors [hanjian]" and turn them over to the nearest Chinese police bureau.[45]

Others were former members of the Chinese Youth National Salvation Association. Toward the end of August, Sun Yaxing's group, for instance, had been renamed a Special Services Corps and transferred to Longhua for military training. In late September, after being provided grenades, pistols, and rifles, they were assigned to patrol the area surrounding the martial law commander's headquarters at West Gate. The corpsmen were authorized to take whatever measures they deemed necessary "to suppress traitors": if they arrested persons "for perpetrating traitorous acts," the suspects were tried by a military court within the headquarters and summarily executed when found guilty.[46]

Naysayers later described the Special Services Corps as "a motley rabble" (wu he zhi zhong) that had very little military effectiveness against the Japanese.[47] The units that were supposed to defend the zone from the south bank of Suzhou Creek along Fanwangdu and Caojiadu across to Rihuigang did quickly retreat once the Japanese launched an attack across Suzhou Creek.[48] But Sun Yaxing's company, which was dispatched to the police station on the Nandao Bund in late October 1937 to help the police reserve unit defend the area from attack by the Japanese from the Huangpu River, held its ground. This was where the last stand of the Chinese Nationalist forces took place on November 11, the final day of the Battle of Shanghai.[49] Some Special Services corpsmen fought valiantly and died at the water's edge. Others made their way into the French Concession and International Settlement, where the authorities rounded them up and interned them in special camps—camps that became breeding grounds for the urban terrorists who would continue the war against hanjian long after the last contingent of Special Services Corps formally withdrew from Shanghai on February 1, 1938, after issuing a farewell letter to the Chinese press stating that they were leaving the concessions "for the safety of the residents of the foreign settlements." One newspaper commented, "The death of most of the Chinese traitors may have been the work of the corps."[50]


On December 5, 1937, Su Xiwen, a Waseda-educated philosopher, inaugurated "the Great Way" (the Dadao) puppet municipal government of Shanghai.[51] Su

had taught political theory at the private Chizhi University in Jiangwan.[52] His Buddhist Daoist syncretism ("All under heaven one family / Myriad laws revert to one" [tianxia yi jia, wanfa gui yi]) influenced the Great Way government's choice of flag, which was a taiji symbol on a yellow background.[53] The Su régime's collaborationist conservatism was reflected in the dating of its documents, which used both the old Chinese lunar and the Japanese Showa reign calendars, as the new administration set out to remove corpses from the Chinese city's streets after the Battle of Shanghai was over.[54] The Dadao régime's immediate task, according to orders issued to police chief Zhu Yuzhen, was to "establish local order" (chengli difang zhixu).[55] This meant ideologically stressing that "all under heaven is one family, within the four seas we are all brothers: the Way of the sun and moon, myriad laws reverting to one, great harmony [Datong] throughout the world, and using the Way to establish a state."[56] In political terms, the Dadao government promised to eliminate Communists and Nationalists alike, to extirpate the warlord scourge, and to lay a sound foundation for peace in East Asia.[57]

In truth, the Dadao puppet government was short-lived, at least in nomenclature.[58] The malodorous characteristics of its leading members, a potpourri of Venerable Mother religious cultists, smugglers, gamblers, narcotics dealers, panderers, and former rickshaw pullers, were liability enough.[59] But just as damaging was the Japanese handlers' contempt for Su Xiwen, whose philosophizing was not taken very seriously after the Special Services brought in a tough north China hanjian named Wang Zihui to run their Shanghai operations.[60]

Meanwhile, the poet Liang Hongzhi, a former Beiyang bureaucrat, had been "casting romantic glances" (song qiubo) at the Japanese, making known his availability as a collaborator.[61] Consequently, after the puppet administrations in north China were incorporated in January 1938 into a single provisional government (Linshi zhengfu, Rinji seifu) under Wang Kemin in Beiping, in south China a reform government (Weixin zhengf u, Ishin seifu) was set up in March 1938 in Nanjing headed by Liang Hongzhi.[62]

The puppet régime announced that it would establish a constitutional government, wipe out single-party dictatorship, exterminate the Communists, safeguard East Asia from "redification" (chihua), consolidate peaceful cooperation between China and Japan, return refugees to their homes, establish peace-preservation organizations (baoan zuzhi) to exterminate bandits and "cleanse the villages" (qing-xiang), stimulate industrial and agricultural production with the help of foreign capital from "friendly countries" (you bang), revamp education to combine traditional moral values and international scientific learning, abolish excessive taxes, encourage men of talent to come forward and freely criticize the government, and severely restrict the corrupt tyranny of petty officials and clerks.[63]

Shanghai sympathizers, together with members of the Special Services Department of the Japanese Central China Area Army garrison in Nandao, tepidly celebrated the establishment of the new reform government on March 28, 1938. The puppet Self-Government Committee held one meeting in the Confucian

Temple where, under the old fivebar national flag of the Beiyang warlords, the collaborators bowed to the image of Confucius.[64] Another group, which included several hundred "loafers" (liumang) and coolies trucked in from Hongkou, gathered at Great China University to hear a speech by the editor of Xin shenbao (the Chinese edition of the Japanese daily Shanghai godo), followed by huzzahs of "Long live the new government" in unison with the popping of firecrackers and the blaring of a brass band.[65]

Within a month, on April 28, 1938, the reform government had commissioned a new Supervisory Yamen (duban gongshu) to take over the functions of municipal administration formerly wielded by the Dadao puppet régime.[66] Su Xiwen formally recognized the superior legitimacy of the reform government by adopting its flag on May 3, but he continued as head of the Supervisory Yamen until October 15, 1938, when Fu Xiaoan assumed office as mayor of the Shanghai Special Municipality (Shanghai tebie shi).[67] Once ousted, Su Xiwen was named puppet mayor of Hankou but actually repaired to Tokyo—perhaps to evade assassination.[68]


Fu Xiaoan, director of the Chinese Bank of Commerce (Shangtong yinhang) and head of the General Chamber of Commerce, was a bitter enemy of Chiang Kai-shek, who had thrown him in prison in 1927.[69] After serving out his sentence and spending a period of exile in Japanese-controlled Manchuria, Fu returned to Shanghai determined to take revenge upon the generalissimo ("I am worth fifty million dollars, but I will spend every dollar I have to get even with Chiang"). In the eyes of most Shanghainese it was Fu's vindictiveness that led him to run the risk to his reputation and eventually to his life by becoming Shanghai's most nefarious hanjian.[70]

The damage to Fu's reputation was immediate. In the press of the time, his was just another "puppet show" manipulated by his Japanese masters.[71] At best, he and the poetaster Liang Hongzhi were compared to literati collaborators of the early Qing, such as Hou Fangyu, who pretended to be "recluses" (yimin) but were actually "adherents" (shunmin) of the Manchu invaders. One journalist remarked that when a country seems about to be destroyed, one sees spilled blood, broken heads, and "brave heroes" who refuse to submit, knowing that their honor will be recorded later in the pages of history. But one also sees a lot of people losing heart and becoming "treacherous elements." These "traitors" (hanjian) and "sellouts" (guozei) pass their lives well, perhaps even dedicating poems to the "brave heroes," comforting themselves with the thought that they are "managing the peace," and pretending to make a sacrifice as "unsung heroes" themselves.[72]

To such critics of hypocrisy, Fu Xiaoan himself would answer that he was merely being a "realist" (xianshizhuyizhe), working with the conquerors for the sake of the Chinese people. But it was hard to maintain that position when, like so

many collaborators with access to food supplies when there was such scarcity, with the power to levy taxes backed up by Japanese troops, and with special economic privileges denied to those whose businesses were being expropriated, Fu Xiaoan clearly flourished by governing as a puppet official.

His "realism," in other words was too self-serving to be plausible. Left-wing columnist Ding San insisted that the true "realism" was the vision of China's warriors struggling to gaze ahead to the clarity of absolute truth, siding with the peoples of the world against aggression and invasion in places like Abyssinia and Czechoslovakia. Fu's "realism," however, was nearsighted and self-interested; it characterized those in China who had elected to join the anti-Communist federation and the movement to compromise for peace. By so doing these "realists" had become "quasi traitors" (zhunhanjian) or "traitors" (hanjian) to that higher global cause.[73]


In France, when divisions sharpened after the November 1942 Allied invasion of North Africa, collabo became a general term of opprobrium. Occupied China began during 1938 to witness a similar polarization between the "warriors" of resistance and the "traitors" of collaboration—a polarization that reinforced a spirit of mass national unity by blaming collaboration on a small group of misbegotten traitors.[74] This can be seen, for example, in a lengthy series of letters supposedly written by a young woman, "the daughter of a traitor," to her lover, "a warrior of the resistance."[75]

Lying in bed in the moonlight she repeatedly calls out his name, "Jian," to tell him of her pain and grief.[76] "Even though I am the daughter of a traitor, I am certainly not a traitor myself." Who could have thought that this quiet place would fall into enemy hands? How could she have possibly foreseen that her father would "passively" become the head of the puppet Maintenance Association (Weichi-hui)?[77]

By the time she realized that she was in the lair of the Japanese "demons" (emo), it was too late: she had already been seized by the god of misfortune. She had thought of committing suicide, but instead she had coped by pretending to be happy and sympathetic whenever she had to talk with "them." How could they ever possibly know the internal pain she was suffering? In this bitter environment, she secreted her three years with Jian, when they promised each other to be forever like two stars twinkling in the summer sky, never to be extinguished unless the heavens themselves perished. The memory of that love kept her alive, ready to seek an escape. "I don't blame you," she tells Jian, for despising her as a Japanese soldier's mistress. "No one could understand the circumstances I have been in." She constantly thinks of his life as a warrior. When "they" lament guerrilla victories, she secretly exults, happy that "you are one of our aweinspiring Chinese men." When she hears that "our armies increase in strength," her heart is entirely soothed.[78]


At one time, she thought of running away and joining Jian, but she is watched too closely. And even if she could join the guerrillas, she is not sure that Jian would forgive her. Besides, she can use her position in the enemy's camp to do more effective work than she could as a guerrilla.[79] "You don't believe that?" Does Jian think that "the weak daughter of a hanjian" couldn't possibly have the strength to do significant work? The truth is, she already has accomplished something that no one—not even her father—knows about. Because the "demons" banzhang (Japanese hanchō, squad leader) believed that the deputy Maintenance Association chief was extorting too much from the people, the "demons" had him shot in order to maintain their reputation. But it was really she who "exterminated the traitor with a borrowed knife" (jie dao chu jian) by tricking the "demons."[80]

She has to confess that ever since the deputy chief was killed, she has been afraid that his ghost would return, especially on nights like this in the moonlight, which makes her hair stand on end. But then she loses her fear of that "thing" (dongxi), because she knows the souls of "our brave warriors" of the resistance are striking down his ghost in the underworld. He is to be abominated, not feared. When you are full of zealous hatred, fear is gone.

Now she has reached a critical phase, which is also her greatest opportunity. She wants to use the last, minute fraction of her life to fulfill this soul-satisfying task.[81] Three times "demons" have wanted to "eat me up," but she survived each time: "If I were a weakling—Jian! Before, I often told you that I was a weakling, that I was an absolutely helpless and absolutely passive weakling. But now I have to deny it. I believe that I'm not only not a weakling, I'm not one of those ordinary, backward women weaklings. Rather I am a strong-willed and determined person, a bold and imposing Chinese person. Don't you see? If I were still a weakling, how could I have been eaten up, invaded, and yet not have committed suicide? But I am still alive today, and I will not be eaten up, I will not be invaded."[82] Her plan is to kill the Japanese squad leader who has ravished her; for "demons always will be demons—they lack the rational ability of civilized human beings."[83]

The metaphor of the ravished or "eaten" woman applied to an invaded China is not, of course, new. Even before Zou Rong's Revolutionary Army (Geming jun), it appears in variant in the poetry of Wu Weiye and the dramaturgy of Kong Shangren. And it was certainly a common symbol, as numerous scholars have recently pointed out, during the 1930s and ′40s. Here, however, it gives form to feelings about the Japanese, who have literally raped their way up the Yangzi River, that spill over onto their collaborators. The Japanese are "demons" who "eat up" Chinese women; they are beings without souls or reason. The hanjian, fit to be denounced by their own daughters, are turned into hungry ghosts, "things," who deserve to be slaughtered in life as in death.[84] Indeed, to renounce them and to kill the enemy is to cease being a "backward" weak woman and to become an "imposing" and virile Chinese warrior.[85]

In her last letter to Jian, the "daughter of a hanjian" reveals her final plan. The emo has asked her to marry him. She consents, telling the Japanese "demon" that

"for the sake of his and my reputation, for the sake of my father's face, and in order to demonstrate our local area's peaceful qualities, we should hold a lavish banquet to start off on our joyful life together." All of the Japanese officers are invited to attend the banquet three days thence, and she plans to come to the party herself tarted up like a prostitute to raise her glass in toasts with the emo until they are drunk. Then, asking Jian to be prepared to bring his guerrillas in to strike, she plans to pull out the pistol her "demon" has given her and taught her to use, and strike down the Japanese emo like the soldier she now is. "Bearing a pure white body and soul, I am prepared to set out on the glorious road back home [guisu]." Certain to die, she wants her lover to know that "I may be the daughter of a hanjian, Jian, but I am not a perverse and demented [sangxin bingkuang] traitor myself!"[86]

The polarization of "heroes" and "traitors" served the United Front well. Candidly admitting that after the retreat from Wuhan in December there were numerous "wavering elements" (dongyao fenzi) among the Chinese, the resistance press stressed the importance of "sharing a bitter hatred of the enemy" (tongchou dikai)—that is, hatred of both the Japanese occupiers and their hanjian puppets— in order to close ranks around a United Front that had brought the Communist Party back into national politics.[87] On January 1, 1939, the Nationalist government in Chongqing issued an announcement "strictly dealing with hanjian":

Since the beginning of all-out war with Japan, there is not a single one of the soldiers and civilians of the entire country who does not share a bitter hatred for the enemy. Taking the nation and the people as the foundation, they steadfastly resist and vow never to waver. Now, there is a small number of perverse and demented [sangxin bingkuang] followers who are willing to be used by the enemy invaders and to slavishly serve the foe like a ghost [seeking out victims] for the tiger [weihu zuochang] in an utterly loathsome way.[88] The government has already explicitly ordered the Military Affairs Commission to investigate, order the arrest of, and severely punish according to the law those [who] have participated in each area's puppet organizations. Moreover, it has already promulgated regulations regarding the punishment of hanjian and clearly designated each of the criminal sanctions for collaborationist acts, issuing orders that they be implemented in order to clean out the traitors. Now, just as the circumstances of the War of Resistance take a turn for the better, the Japanese invaders have one layer of crafty schemes after another. If we don't root out the scoundrels, then how are we going to maintain social order?[89]

The Nationalist government was willing to forgive those former traitors who "washed their hearts" (xixin), because it believed in the possibility of self-renewal. But those who continued to be traitors to the people (minzu pantu), who continued to act publicly as puppets or to behave clandestinely as hanjian, not only risked the wrath of Heaven, but they also faced public elimination by their fellow citizens.[90]

The increasing polarization of Nationalist heroes and puppet traitors was one result of the defection of Wang Jingwei from the Chongqing régime and his launching of a "peace movement" (heping yundong) to hold talks with the Japanese.[91] Yet even as his enemies styled him a hanjian in increasingly absolutist terms, Wang

and his followers—many of them "romantic revolutionaries" in the second and third decades of the century known for their political "wavering" as self-doubting intellectuals—grew ever more conscious of the ambiguousness of their position.[92]

According to Zhou Fohai's diary, on May 13, 1940, Wang Jingwei remarked outside the Japanese military headquarters in Hankou that back in Chongqing people called each other "national heroes" (minzu yingxiong), while he was being styled a hanjian even though he and his allies thought of themselves as "national heroes" too.[93] The fact of the matter was that whether or not one ended by being a minzu yingxiong depended on whether one ended by "saving the country" (jiuguo). Wang and his friends believed that the only sure way to "save the country" was to seek a peaceful solution: "If I end up as a national hero, then there will forever be peace between China and Japan. If I end up as a traitor, then we will never be able to resolve the discord between China and Japan."[94]

Later that year, on September 2, Wang said in Beiping: "One group of Chinese wants to kill me. One group of Japanese also wants to kill me. Each has their own evidence [to justify this]. This proves my position correct. The Chinese wanting to kill me proves that I am not advocating a War of Resistance. The Japanese wanting to kill me proves that I am not a traitor [hanjian]."[95] According to Zhu Zijia, this same attitude colored the thinking and behavior of Wang Jingwei's entourage. They tried to hold fast to the notion of their being "national heroes," but the environment around them finally convinced them that they might well end up being vilified as "traitors."[96]

Wang's brother-in-law, Chu Minyi, initially believed that there were two aspects to the war against Japan: one was military resistance, which was Chiang Kai-shek's task, and the other was peace negotiations, which was Wang Jingwei's assignment. After all, Chiang himself had said that "resistance was easy, peace was hard." That was why Chu had decided to join the peace movement and "compromise out of consideration for the general interest" (weiqu qiu quan): "If I don't descend into hell, then who else will descend into hell?"[97] Li Shengwu, minister of education for Wang, declared during his trial in 1946, "At that time most men of resolve [zhishi] said that if Mr. Wang really could protect the nation's position, penetrating deep into the enemy's rear area, pursuing the task of saving the country, it could well be of modest benefit to the War of Resistance."[98]

The ambiguity—and ambivalence—of collaboration was explored twenty years after Pearl Harbor by Zhu Zijia in the preface to the fourth volume of his memoirs on the Nanjing régime. In a complex culturalist response to the stigmatization of hanjian, he wrote:

One other objective in writing this book is to speak to all of the descendants of the Yellow Emperor[99] and let them know that this group of people called hanjian are not the demons portrayed in propaganda or in their imaginations. Chen Gongbo said, "It is right to resist, but there is no alternative to peace." Zhou Fohai also said, "The War of Resistance is meant to save the nation. Peace is also meant to save the nation." Consequently, in this entire book I have absolutely never found fault with the

War of Resistance. Nor have I gone so far as to look after my own narrow self and betray my conscience to bare my left shoulder in mourning for the hanjian. I want to use the facts to tell all of the descendants of the Yellow Emperor that if a nation has so many hanjian selling out their country, then this would be a disgrace never to be washed clean in the history of the Chinese people. Even though you could not possibly have been a hanjian, if 10 million hanjian appear among the people, then it is still a disgrace to which not a single person can claim exception.[100]

But all of that complex cultural equivocation was wiped away at the time by the direct and simple issue of national betrayal. On January 5, 1939, Li Zongren described Wang Jingwei as someone who "betrayed his party and country" (beipan dangguo). Others accused him of selling out his country for personal gain, of becoming the Franco of the Far East, and of being a Japanese "yes-man vermin" (yingshengchong).[101] So many Chinese had compromised with the Japanese in north China because they had lacked self-esteem, because they had thought they were an inferior race (liedeng minzu), because they had been told they were the "sick man of Asia" (dongya bingf u). The Chinese had to cast aside such self-doubt and prove they were humankind's "most excellent race" (youxiu minzu) by repudiating the traitors in their midst—even if they were members of one's own family.[102]

The attack on hanjian would not only restore self-esteem; it would also corroborate the patriotic identity that Chinese shared under the Occupation. Shanghai newspaper editors declared in December 1938, "Coexisting on an isolated island, we feel all the more that we are Chinese, and that our responsibility to be Chinese citizens is all the heavier. We also feel that, with the exception of shameless hanjian, we are all the more cordial and kind to each other."[103] Although "Chinese do not attack Chinese," the people must also understand that the "big traitors" (da hanjian) had to be brought to justice.[104]

The editors of Yibao wrote in May 1939, "Ever since Wang Jingwei betrayed the country and fled into exile, all of the country's people have come to recognize the face of a hanjian in his communicating with the enemy and seeking to surrender, and they have unanimously supported the central [government's] sanctions upon him, as the struggle to oppose Traitor Wang is centrally linked to the struggle against hanjian." That same editorial called upon the central government to purge all Wang Jingwei elements, to punish those who suggested compromise with the enemy, to mobilize forces to attack Wang elements in Shanghai, to make Wang the theoretical center of the attack against hanjian, to expose his treacherous activities, and to use the campaign to elevate the morale-building drives then going on in Free China to mobilize support against the Japanese.[105]

By then, the lines were clearly drawn. However sensitive the "peace party" collaborators were to their own ambivalence, word had gone out to one and all that hanjian were simply traitors to be read out of the Chinese race. Solidarity and resistance demanded the traitors be eliminated. Hanjian did not deserve to be killed only because they were "treacherous merchants" smuggling black market rice and driving up the price for decent Chinese;[106] or because they opened up opium supply

bureaus to "poison" (duhua) their compatriots;[107] or because they heedlessly "extorted" (sougua) higher and higher taxes from the farmers the Japanese permitted them to govern; or because they sold out Chinese economic interests to their masters in Tokyo.[108] They deserved to be killed just because they were hanjian, and that was all there was to it.

Beginning in October 1938, the resistance newspaper Wenxian began to publish lists of puppet officials and local police chiefs, entitled "Investigation Charts to Root Out Traitors [chujian]."[109] In November, the entire roster of Liang Hongzhi's "flocks" (qunchou) of puppets at all levels of the reform government was printed, and that was followed by further lists of the "betrayers of the masses" (qunjian) in north China, Zhejiang, Anhui, Shanxi, and Jiangsu.[110] By January and February of 1939, the newspaper was publishing the local Shanghai office and residence addresses of reform government officials, including bureau and department chiefs of the Shanghai municipal puppet government.[111] In April, Wenxian printed a list of local district chiefs (qugongshuzhang), along with their salaries from the puppet régime, for Pudong, Nanshi, Huxi, Zhabei, Baoshan, Chuansha, and Nanhui. And that was followed in turn by lists of addresses of the managing editors of thirty hanjian newspapers in the Jiang delta and of the owners of fourteen opium shops (and their revenues, which totaled 225,000 yuan per month) in the Caojiadu badlands.[112] Each of these designations amounted to disgrace at best, death at worst—even to those puppets under the tightest protection and in the highest places.[113]

Shortly before dawn on October 11, 1940, the puppet mayor Fu Xiaoan's cook, Zhu Shengyuan, stole silently by the hanjian's bodyguards to slash the sleeping mayor to death with a butcher's cleaver.[114] Zhu had worked for Fu for twelve years, but he had set aside personal loyalty for a higher cause when he was secretly recruited for the Nationalist secret service by General Dai Li.[115]


With the Second United Front agreement reasonably secure, Dai Li's men turned their attention to the Japanese and their collaborators. By 1938, the Military Statistics Bureau, or Juntong, had been formally separated from the civilian secret police and placed under Dai Li's direction. One of its primary missions was to prevent any of Chiang Kai-shek's rivals from opening peace talks with the Japanese and forming a plausible puppet government. The key to this effort was Shanghai, where Nationalist agents could use the safe haven of the concessions to mount terrorist operations against hanjian.[116]

The Shanghai station of Juntong was quickly disabled after the Japanese took over the Chinese sectors of the city. However, Dai Li managed to maintain two special operations units through the period of "island Shanghai" (November 1937 to December 1941). Because of Chiang Kai-shek's fury over the "treacherous activities" of collaborators in the city, these two covert action units under Zhao Lijun and

Lin Zhijiang received the government's backing even though their operations threatened to draw the Japanese into seizing the International Settlement with force majeure—a move, by the way, that ultimately might not have disserved Chiang's long-term strategy of drawing America into the war against Japan.[117] These units, and especially Zhao Lijun's squad, were thus responsible for many of the major assassinations of the time, including the deaths of Zhou Fengqi and Zhang Xiaolin.[118] According to one estimate, Dai Li's men carried out over 150 assassinations in Shanghai between August 1937 and October 1941, when even the operations units were penetrated by the puppet secret service at 76 Jessfield Road.[119]

It is important to recognize the special place accorded to assassins in ancient Chinese history, as well as in the rise of revolutionary nationalism during the twentieth century.[120] In the second-century Wu family shrine, celebrated as a quintessential expression of the Confucian culture of Eastern Han, there are engraved thirty-three picture stories exemplifying the virtues of filial sons, wise ministers, eminent wives, virtuous rulers, and so forth, of the past. Six of those thirty-three wall carvings are "stories" of loyal assassin-retainers: Cao Mei seizing Duke Huan of Qi, Zhuan Zhu assassinating King Liao of Wu, Jing Ke's attempt to assassinate the king of Qin, Yao Li's assassination of Prince Qing Ji of Wu, Yu Rang's attempt to kill Xiang Zi of Zhao, and Nie Zheng's assassination of the uncle of the king of Han.[121] Each of these commoners was regarded as a hero because he sacrificed his own life without hesitation to kill his master's enemy out of a divine anger animated by loyalty rather than personal rancor. As Liu Xiang put it in the Shuo yuan (A garden of talks), "When Zhuan Zhu assassinated King Liao, [his movement] was like a comet attacking the moon and like a falling star shining in bright daylight. When Yao Li assassinated Prince Qing Ji [his movement] was like a dark eagle striking a tower terrace. When Nie Zheng assassinated the uncle of the king of Han [his movement] was like a white rainbow crossing the sun. These three people were all commoners[,]…but when they were still nursing their anger, their power could even terrorize great kings."[122]

The first Chinese revolutionary to attempt political assassination was Shi Jianru, who tried, as a "man of determination" (zhishi), to kill the Manchu governor of Guangdong in October 1900.[123] Although Shi had no developed rationale of his own for this suicidal effort, his attempt marked a transition from the personal loyalty of feudal assassins to the political commitment of revolutionary nationalists, mediated by a certain purity of motive dedicated to a just cause. Other Chinese radicals influenced by Japanese anarchism and Russian nihilism began to enunciate a doctrine of sacrificial terrorism beginning in 1902. Yang Dusheng, a Chinese student at Waseda, learned of Russian revolutionary assassination efforts through the work of Kemuyama Sentaro, whose Modern Anarchism (Kinsei musei-fushugi) was translated into Chinese under the title Freedom's Blood (Ziyou xue); and Yang subsequently helped Huang Xing, the Hunanese student leader, to found the first of several assassination corps that culminated in the formation of the Northern Assassination Corps (beifang wansha tuan) in 1905.[124]


The Northern Assassination Corps was best known for its member Wu Yue, who tried to annihilate a delegation of five government political reform commissioners at the Beijing Railroad Station in September 1905. Wu Yue blew himself up instead, but he left behind a tract called Heaven's Vengeance (Tian tao) that was published in April 1907 in the Revolutionary Alliance organ, Min bao. The tract called for "assassinationism," quoting the reform movement martyr Tan Sitong; and it cited with admiration the conscripts' revolt led by Chen She against the tyrant of Qin as an example of the inspirational righteousness of the romantic xia, or medieval knight.[125]

Early on, then, the figure of the revolutionary assassin was cast with molds that originated in both the new world of international revolutionaries and the traditional realm of self-sacrificing knights-errant and loyal retainers pledged to avenge their masters' lives and honor. Although particular motivations varied from case to case, the assassinations of Enling, governor of Zhejiang, in 1907 by Xu Xiling; of Fuqi and Fenshan in Guangdong in 1911; and of Liang Bi by Peng Jiazhen in January 1912 partook of these two traditions that converged most dramatically on the eve of the Xinhai Revolution in the famed effort by Wang Jingwei to blow up the Manchu regent Zaifeng (Prince Chun).[126]

Political assassination did not cease once the Qing dynasty was overthrown, but—as in the infamous conspiracy of Yuan Shikai to murder Song Jiaoren in 1913—revolutionary pretexts were often absent. Moreover, during this period of political fragmentation, when boundless ambitions flourished, adventurers in the haohan (tough guy) tradition were not slow to present themselves as the leaders of armed men, mercenaries to some and loyal followers to others, willing and ready to serve as the "claws and teeth" of competing claimants to power. Dai Li was just such a leader himself, and he was by no means unique.

Personal heroism aside, the special operations of Dai Li's Juntong were facilitated by a large population of veterans and former members of the various citizens' volunteers corps and Special Services Corps that had sprung up during the first few months after the Marco Polo Bridge Incident. We have observed how Sun Yaxing recruited followers and served in the Special Services Corps during the Battle of Shanghai. As a section leader with formal military training and as former head of the Chinese Youth National Salvation Association, he was a leading "warrior" (zhanshi) in the urban strife against collaborators after the city fell to the Japanese.


When Shanghai fell, Sun Yaxing managed to escape to Hangzhou, where the chairman of the provincial government instructed him to serve as a police officer in Shaoxing county. At the end of February 1938, possibly already under secret service control, he returned to Shanghai "with a view to bring[ing] all the former members of the Third Company of Special Services Corps, who were in Shanghai, to Hankou to further [the] National Salvation Movement in the latter city."[127]

Two of the future members of his assassination team, Jiang Haisheng and Zhao Liang, remembered signing up and leaving for Hong Kong by boat and reaching Hankou by late February 1938.[128]

By then Sun was already waiting for them, having precipitately left Shanghai when he saw a report in one of the newspapers that the leader of the Chinese Youth National Salvation Association—that is, Sun himself—was in the city.[129] Others, including Wang Zhigu, nephew of Wang Shihe, Chiang Kai-shek's chief bodyguard and executioner, joined Sun Yaxing on the spot.[130] The entire group was assigned different tasks. Ten were detailed for "special duty" in Changsha. Thirteen were told on April 25, 1938, that they had been chosen for urban guerrilla work in Shanghai "to suppress traitors."[131] This was the assassination group's one point of contact with General Dai Li, who told its members that they were under the direct orders of Sun Yaxing.[132] Joined by Wang Zhigu, the group was divided into three-or four-man teams, which proceeded via Jiujiang, Nanchang, Jin-hua, and Ningbo to Shanghai on May 1–2.[133]

Zhou Shougang, a printer from Chongming, had returned to Shanghai in February 1938, where he was completely dependent on relatives. One day in late June, Zhou bumped into Wang Zhigu and told him he was "practically destitute." Wang said that "he might be able to find [Zhou] work, should [he] care to participate in the assassination of ‘traitors.’" Zhou was willing to do so, and he repeated this when Wang Zhigu brought Sun Yaxing to his residence at 13 Rue du Weikwei. On July 3, Sun Yaxing told him to move his residence to 62 Route Vallon, where his job would be to function as Sun's courier.[134]

The same combination of circumstances—unemployment, a need for comrades, patriotism, a hatred of hanjian—drew in Chen Kaiguang, a teenager unable to find work since graduating from primary school.[135] Chen was approached by Zhao Liang, who invited him to join the Chinese Youth National Salvation Association. Out of patriotism Chen Kaiguang expressed his "willingness to help in the extermination of traitors." Zhao acknowledged the young man's idealism, but he told him that to prove his ultimate loyalty he would have to perform a special duty on July 7, 1938. Chen agreed to serve.[136]

Chen's duty was to commemorate the anniversary of the Marco Polo Bridge Incident by setting off explosives in public places. The group had already wounded one of the commissioners of the puppet Shanghai Citizens Society, tried to kill racketeer Zhang Xiaolin, murdered two law clerks working for a collaborationist lawyer, and shot a Chinese who had adopted Japanese citizenship. On July 7, the group prepared to discharge a much more indiscriminate attack—as though the crusade against hanjian justified any measures whatsoever. Together, the teams launched eighteen grenade attacks, killing two Japanese mill employees and two Chinese, and wounding eight Chinese after tossing a bomb into a floating restaurant along the Shanghai Bund.[137]

During the ensuing uproar, the police rounded up more than a thousand suspects, the Japanese issued formal protests, and British and U.S. diplomats attempted

to persuade Chiang Kai-shek to call off his special operations teams. But Chiang insisted that he had no connection with these crimes.[138] Later the Chinese minister of foreign affairs told the American chargé d'affaires, in Chongqing, "Where the victims were ‘puppet’ Chinese officials, the assassinations were probably perpetrated by persons acting spontaneously from patriotic motives or in revenge for wrongs suffered at the hands of the Japanese…. The Japanese themselves had instigated murders of political opponents, and he [the minister of foreign affairs] did not exclude the possibility of their killing their own partisans as well in order to discredit the Municipal Council."[139] In Shanghai, meanwhile, the International Settlement police managed to wring a confession out of one of Sun Yaxing's accomplices, and thus broke the band up, arresting twenty-four of the young shimin (urbanites) who had pledged themselves to eradicate hanjian.


Sun Yaxing's arrest failed to stop the attacks on hanjian simply because—as Sun admitted under interrogation— "[there is] more than one assassination group working on a line similar to that adopted by my squad."[140] On February 19, 1939, one of these other groups astonished the public by assassinating the heavily guarded foreign minister of the reform government, Chen Lu, in his own living room in the French Concession.[141] Liu Geqing led a team of Juntong assassins who shot down Chen Lu in front of his family and two guests.[142] As Chen Lu's body fell to the floor, Liu Geqing drew out a scroll and threw it over the traitor's body. It read in large black characters: "Death to the Collaborators. Long Live Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek!" Another sheet, unrolled across the sofa, read: "Resistance Will Result in Victory. Construction of the Country Will Succeed. Keep China's Property Forever!" Both were signed by the "Chinese Iron and Blood Army."[143]

Ten days later, the "Blood and Soul Traitor Extermination Corps" set off bombs simultaneously outside four Chinese dancing establishments: the Oriental Hotel, Ciro's, the Café and Paradise Ballroom, and the Great Eastern Ballroom. The terrorists left behind "A Warning to Our Dancing Friends" in the form of leaflets that read:

Dancing friends: some of you can dance the fox-trot, others the waltz. Why don't you go up to the front to kill? Some of you spend lavishly on brandy and whiskey. Why don't you give the money to our troops so that they can buy more munitions to kill the enemy?

Dancing friends: why spend your money for cosmetics when your bodies smell of the odor of a conquered people? The only way to remove that smell is to give your warm blood to the nation. You have been amusing yourselves over the Lunar New Year. Our meager gift tonight—bombs—will help to give you added pleasure.[144]

This mixed animus against the new bourgeoisie and political hanjian reflected the Blue Shirts' distaste for Westernized Shanghai. Clearly, the terrorists were enlarging

their range of targets to include "semitraitors" and the kind of "indirect assistants" that the Lixingshe propagandists had promised to wipe out in the first place. In other words, class hatred and xenophobia were converging—a nativist and Jacobin phenomenon that emerged most dramatically during the Cultural Revolution a little more than two decades later. As the late Lloyd Eastman once pointed out, in the eyes of Nationalist Blue Shirts and Communist Red Guards alike, Western styles of life rendered the treatyport bourgeoisie "traitors" (jian) to the rural "Chinese" (Han) values of the Volk just as much as their capitalist exploitation of the masses.[145]

In early March 1939 the Shanghai branch of the Nationalist Party formed a People's Mobilization Society "to develop a wide-spread mass movement in Shanghai to carry on military, political, [and] all anti-Japanese and National Salvation work provided they are [sic] not contrary to the laws and ordinances of the Government." The society's manifesto read, "We swear [that] hereafter we will not live with the enemy robbers under the same sky, and will demonstrate the strength of the various classes of the people. Not only will the obstinate enemy in the suburbs be caused to shrink and to conceal themselves and to return Chinese territory to us, but also in the foreign concessions we should make known the heroic and unyielding spirit of descendants of our Chinese ancestors…. Some may assume responsibility for detection and secret service work; some may undertake the work of assaulting and killing the traitors."[146] A few days later terrorists tried to kill Zhu Ganting, the head of the puppet tax bureau in Pudong.[147] Though that attempt failed, the Nationalist "heroes" did succeed in their next major attack on a prominent hanjian: Xi Shitai, chief secretary (mishu zhuren) of the puppet police force in Shanghai.[148]


Xi Shitai, a Japanese-trained physician, practiced medicine in his own Shitai Hospital.[149] After the Nationalists withdrew from Shanghai, Dr. Xi joined the Japanese military press section and became Police Commissioner Lu Ying's principal secretary.[150] Xi Shitai was thus a prime target for assassination by Chongqing agents.[151]

The leader of the three-man assassination squad was a twenty-two-year-old Songjiang native named Yuan Dechang.[152] His two coconspirators were Peng Fulin, a slim twenty-year-old waiter, and a clothing salesman named Zhao Zhixiang.[153]

Zhao Zhixiang, a typical Shanghai xiao shimin (petty urbanite), was also twenty-two years old. After an apprenticeship in a French Concession tailor's shop, he had worked for five years as a sales clerk in two other "foreign dress shops." He had earned enough to marry the daughter of a villager back home in Pudong, but at the height of the depression in 1937, Zhao was laid off and had to go back to live with his brother. His wife returned to her mother's home, and they remained apart

because Zhao had to live hand-to-mouth while war raged across the river in South Market.[154]

On March 5, 1939, Zhao Zhixiang decided to cross the river to try to find a job once again in the unoccupied International Settlement. After searching in vain, he recalled once meeting Yuan Dechang, a man with Pudong guerrilla connections, who often used to book rooms in the Nanjing Hotel on Shanxi Road.[155] When Zhao Zhixiang approached the Nanjing Hotel telephone operator, Yuan Dechang immediately emerged from a back room.[156]

Yuan Dechang recognized Zhao, and told him to rendezvous on the afternoon of March 14 in front of the Great World amusement center.[157] Zhao Zhixiang duly showed up and was immediately taken by Yuan to a boardinghouse off of Rue Lafayette, where Yuan rented an attic room. That same day, the third member of the team, Peng Fulin, moved in with them. Thereafter the three lived together as "bosom friends." The attic was even large enough for Zhao Zhixiang to bring his wife into the city to stay for a week before going back home to Pudong.[158]

On the afternoon of April 4, 1939, Yuan Dechang sent Zhao Zhixiang out to buy food. Zhao returned to find Yuan and Peng cleaning a couple of pistols. Five days later, the three men moved to the Nanjing Hotel. Yuan and Peng came and went. Returning late on the night of April 10, the two agents told Zhao that the following morning they were going to "assassinate a traitor."[159] Their secret mission was confirmed by a letter signed by one Zhou Jianhua and supposedly sent to Zhao Zhixiang at a Ningbo address.[160] Yuan read the letter aloud to the other two semiliterate men. It spoke about three men carrying out the duties entrusted to them by the "four hundred million citizens" of China, and enjoined them to be "brave, steady, enthusiastic, [and] clever," and to "take exercises to make [their] bodies strong." It urged them to lead their lives "in accordance with the principles of the New Life Movement laid down by General Chiang": piety (as comrades they should love each other), righteousness (as citizens they should be dutiful toward the nation by crushing "the traitors who are… betraying their mother country"), integrity (as heroes they should punish corrupt officials and traitors), and conscientiousness (as patriots they should take steps against not only those traitors who "aimed at securing high positions for themselves and obtaining money for their own pockets" but also those who enjoyed themselves "in dancing, gambling, and other amusements"). The letter concluded: "Kill the enemy and annihilate the traitor!"[161]

The next morning, April 11, the three men reassembled at the head of Juyili Alley, Lloyd Road. Yuan Dechang assigned Peng Fulin to take care of the watchman inside the lane.[162] Zhao Zhixiang was to keep an eye out for police patrolmen.[163] None of them knew that the watchman had already invited the beat patrolman inside his guard post for a cup of tea.[164]

At 9:15, Dr. Xi stepped out of his back door and started down the alley. Yuan Dechang waited in the shadows. As the doctor approached, Yuan stepped in front of him and started firing. 38-caliber dumdum bullets. Peng Fulin simultaneously

rushed toward the guard post. When he saw the police constable at the watchman's side he fired his weapon, striking the policeman in the right arm. The watchman drew his own gun and fired back, hitting Peng in the chest. Peng ran back out the alley, fleeing through the rear door of a tea shop. Behind him the mortally wounded Xi Shitai fell into the arms of family members who helped him back into the house where he died on the living room floor.[165]

Meanwhile, Yuan Dechang and Zhao Zhixiang escaped in separate directions. Zhao Zhixiang made the mistake of returning to the Nanjing Hotel on Shanxi Road, where he stood helplessly by as the badly wounded Peng Fulin stumbled into the hotel lobby supported by a fellow waiter Peng had appealed to for help.[166] Zhao had no choice but to rent three rickshaws and ask to be taken to nearby Paulun (Baolun) Hospital.[167]

When the hospital staff admitted Peng Fulin, they also phoned a gunshot report to Louza Station. By 11 A.M. Shanghai Municipal Police detectives were at Paulun Hospital. Peng Fulin had too deep a chest wound to be interrogated formally, but he did tell the investigators that he had been mysteriously struck by a stray shot along Lloyd Road. Zhao Zhixiang corroborated this fanciful tale at Peng's bedside, and was instantly detained and taken to Louza Road for questioning. Members of the Japanese Military Police attended the interrogation.[168]

While Zhao Zhixiang was being questioned, other Shanghai Municipal Police detectives searched Peng and Zhao's room at 11 Wenxian li, where they found the letter from Zhou Jianhua that incriminated them as members of a Nationalist secret service assassination squad.[169] Confronted with this evidence, Zhao Zhixiang broke down and confessed. At 2:30 that same afternoon the officers took him in handcuffs to Peng Fulin's hospital room, and when Peng—who was in "a very weakened condition" —heard Zhao's confession, he too admitted his complicity. At 3:00 the next morning Peng gave up the struggle and died. For Zhao Zhixiang, a greater ordeal lay ahead.[170]

On April 19, 1939, the Shanghai Municipal Police escorted Zhao Zhixiang across the boundary line at Suzhou Creek and, as a token of their "sincerity," handed Zhao over to the Japanese Military Police. The former tailor's apprentice was never to be seen again.[171]


There were many more deaths to come—hanjian to be exterminated—in 1940 and 1941, but patriotic terrorism and civil resistance ceased in Shanghai after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The polarized clarity of mutual opposition had by then been blurred by the Nationalist intelligence services' strategy of quxian jiu-guo ("saving the nation in a devious way"): that is, of both overtly working with the enemy's intelligence services and covertly infiltrating thousands of lower-ranking double agents into the puppet Special Work organization.[172] This policy of entwinement, according to mainland Chinese sources, was secretly adopted by

Chiang Kai-shek and Dai Li sometime between March 30, 1940 (when Wang Jing-wei was formally installed as the leader of a unified puppet government), and before January 1941 (when the New Fourth Army Incident occurred in southern Anhui).[173]

Wang Jingwei's puppet régime was roundly detested.[174]

Wang Kemin's provisional government and Liang Hongzhi's reform government were the senior generation that had formerly operated under the sign "traitor" [jian]. In the occupied zone everyone called them the "former Han traitors" [qianhan]. Naturally enough, Wang Jingwei's collaborationist régime was called the "latter Han traitors" [houhan]. Many of these treacherous scoundrels verbally acknowledged that they were "latter Han traitors" but quite unabashedly saw no cause for shame. But ever since the "latter Han traitors" took the "former Han traitors'" place as Japanese puppets, the people gnashed their teeth and hated them bitterly. This was because the "former" were actually no match for the "latter" in heinousness, especially since the "latter" had their den of monsters at No. 76 (the puppet secret service organ)—the mere mention of which turned one pale—where people were mowed down like fields of hemp.[175]

But Chiang Kai-shek's secret service units colluded with them nonetheless.

For Chiang Kai-shek had given the same orders to the civilian secret service under Chen Lifu and Xu Enzeng (director of Zhongtong, the Central Statistics Bureau). Xu was in direct and personal communication with Ding Mocun, former Zhongtong agent and now one of the heads of the Special Work Headquarters of the Nanjing régime. Whenever clerks in the Zhongtong Code Section in Nationalist Chongqing received a wireless message from Ding's transmitter, they hand-carried it immediately to Director Xu, who deciphered it for his and Chiang Kai-shek's "eyes only."[176]

Dai Li had an identical arrangement with Zhou Fohai, Nanjing's arch hanjian by all Guomindang public accounts. Dai also placed key agents such as Mao Sen (who was captured by the Japanese in occupied Shanghai) in the security services of the Nanjing administration, where their deeds sometimes served Juntong ends, and sometimes served the puppet government—including the arrest, torture, and execution of Chinese patriotic "warriors."[177] Meantime, puppet agents were also infiltrating Juntong on behalf of the Japanese, while Communist spies simultaneously cooperated with the puppets, the Japanese, and the American Office of Strategic Services, just as they also tried to place agents within Military Statistics. As a consequence of this fractured clandestine politics, most of which was totally impenetrable to the public, their ultimate loyalty remained very much in question throughout the war; and despite the extreme polarization between "warriors" and "traitors" there was not quite the same clarity of choice as one could imagine in the case of the French resistance to the Nazis.[178]

For, even though the resistancialist myth was quickly exposed in postwar France, certain fundamental polarities remained. "Whenever any party refers to the Occupation [in France], it invariably touches on the century's central issues:

society or nation, equality or hierarchy, state or individual, morality or efficiency, segregation or integration of alien cultures and ethnicities."[179] In postwar China, such stark binaries were often befogged by compromise and expediency. Mao Sen, for example, was redeemed by Dai Li and went on to become director of the Second Department of the Third Front Army.[180] Even more egregiously, the "four great traitors" (si da hanjian) of Guangdong—Guo Weimin, Zhao Guizhang, Xu Tingjie, and Li Fuqun—who together were responsible for so many patriots' deaths, received favorable treatment in the protective custody of General He Yingqin and Dai Li despite the outcries of the Guangdong provincial assembly.[181]

Historians in China have never fully explored the issue of wartime hanjian.[182] But when Chinese historians do address the subject, they will have to confront the question of clearness of choice, if only to show how motley people's aims were at the time, and how muddled were the distinctions between friend and foe when the agents of at least three seats of government—the Nationalist party-state in Chongqing, the Reform puppet-state in Nanjing, and the Communist rebel-state in Yan'an—competed among themselves for positional advantage in whatever settlement was likely to fall out after the Japanese were defeated.[183]


The postwar settlement further clouded the issue, if only because of the carpet-bagging of the Nationalists who took coastal China back from the Japanese. While Chiang Kai-shek assigned the task of sujian (eradicating traitors) to Dai Li, and while many leading "traitors" were tried and killed, a number of prominent collaborators were able to buy their way out of hanjian status on the spurious grounds of, say, having been secret members of Dai Li's Loyal and Patriotic Army (Zhongyi jiuguo jun).[184] Conversely, because of Dai Li's death in an airplane crash in the spring of 1946, those puppets who actually had been in secret communication with Juntong could not call upon General Dai as a witness to their ultimate loyalty when they were tried and sentenced to death for treason.[185]

The truth was that matters were never quite so distinctly drawn as implied by the polarization between "warriors" and "traitors." Many figures, including prominent Communists such as Pan Hannian and Nationalists such as Miao Bin occupied deeply ambiguous positions as they navigated the mined shoals of the wartime period.[186]

Miao, for example, was one of the founders of the Sun Yatsen Study Society at Whampoa in December 1925. Dismissed on corruption charges as Jiangsu chief of police, he returned to his hometown, Wuxi, married the niece of Rong Zongjing (whose son is now vice president of the People's Republic of China), and became chief manager of the magnate's flour mills. In 1937, Miao Bin joined the puppet régime in Beijing, directed the training unit of Wang Jingwei's Youth League (Qingnian xunliansuo), and organized the pro-Japanese New People's Society (Xinminhui). In 1940 he became president of Wang Jingwei's Examination Yuan,

vice president of the Legislative Yuan, and a vice director of the East Asia League, which promoted the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. According to his later testimony before the Jiangsu Higher Court, however, he had by January 1943 been in contact with Dai Li's intelligence organs, passing funds and information to Nationalist agents in Shanghai; and by August he had, he contended, become a regular working agent or officer (gongzuo renyuan) of Juntong. In March 1945, Miao Bin went to Tokyo to hold talks with Premier Koiso Kuniaki, passing himself off as a representative of the Nationalist government. Because he accepted this dubious claim, Koiso was overthrown in April 1945, and Miao returned to China.[187]

After VJ day, Miao Bin was at first not treated as a war crimes prisoner but rather was placed in protective custody. In April 1946, after clamorous public censure, Miao Bin was put on trial before the Jiangsu Higher Court. About to be judged guilty and sentenced, Miao was suddenly spared when a letter reached the court from Juntong, confirming that Miao had indeed become a special agent of the Military Statistics Bureau in August 1943. Yet, shortly after his release by the Higher Court, Miao Bin was just as suddenly taken back into custody, transported to Suzhou, rushed to trial, and executed as a traitor for reasons that will probably never be fully known.[188]

Such political murkiness is certainly not peculiar to the hanjian of the War of Resistance. What is specific, in a way that may help us understand what it means to become Chinese, is the paradoxical rigidity and flexibility of the boundary between embracing and renouncing allegiance or loyalty to "Chineseness."

Recognizing the problematical nature of allegiance to the Chinese nation-state after eight years of competing wartime régimes plus the civil war's legacy of divided sovereign entities, we can still roughly distinguish between three different modes of disloyalty: betraying one's primal "natural" identity ("you're a traitor to your race"), betraying one's vocation ("you're a traitor to your calling"), and betraying one's cause ("you're a traitor to your word").

Under the Qing dynasty, elite loyalty was mixed: the dynasty could claim primal allegiance from bannermen and demand vocational loyalty from Confucian officials. There was a degree of personalism, of course: the Qianlong emperor could reward loyal bureaucrats and posthumously punish disloyal ministers. But this discrimination publicly eschewed the issue of primal loyalties. The rise of the Tongmenghui revolutionary movement was about just that, though its ideological solution was insufficient to hold a polity together. In Republican China, a different dissolution formed: the strain between loyalty to one's cause and loyalty to one's identity. This was why Wang Jingwei was in such an excruciating position when he lamented the way in which "popular clamor" killed the "true patriots" of the Ming. "High sounding words are anathema, pride kills victory, modesty averts defeat."[189]

A quisling's lament, Wang's words were only persuasive if one ignored the full implications of what it meant to be a hanjian in the mid-twentieth century, a time in Chinese history in which once-universal cultural loyalty retained a central place, along with a particularly contemporary allegiance to folk and race. Identity—the

primal meaning—mattered above all. If you "stepped out," you lost your connectedness; but if you came back in, you could, in most cases, reassume it. More than "traitor" to a cause, hanjian meant betraying one's ethnocultural identity. The cost of exclusion was intolerably high, but the price of readmission was lower than a punishment based upon dishonor.

In other words, Hanness could get you back in, and the slate might be wiped clean. During and after the War of Resistance, it was the Chinese Communist Party's ability to take over the issue of identity—that is, adopt the cloak of Chinese ethnocultural centrality—that helped it win the hearts and minds of the people. The collaboration issue was thereby muted (though it emerged again in the spy scares and witch hunts of the Cultural Revolution), because all one had to do to remain within the vast mass of limin (black-haired people) was to acknowledge Chinese identity and make amends for past lapses "among ourselves": be it departure for abroad, life under a colonial régime, or service to a government in exile.

If the base meaning of treachery, of being a traitor or hanjian, is cultural and ethnic transgression, then political betrayal can be mitigated by primal loyalties, reasserted through cultural and ethnic integration. Outsiders may be put off by thinly veiled hints of this "we-they" division, but members of the Chinese ecumene can take heart in their capacity to let political bygones be bygones. That is why, in the most down-to-earth and current of ways, the authorities in mainland China continue so obdurately to expect, nay demand, eventual reunification with Taiwan. And that is also why Taiwanese exclusiveness—a refusal, in effect, to admit to being "just" Chinese—is viewed by those same mainland authorities as such a baneful threat to the One China that the two major political parties conjure on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.



CWR China Weekly Review.
RDS Records of the Department of State Relating to the Internal Affairs of
China, 1930–1939. Government Documents Library, microfilm 31217, U.S.
National Archives, College Park, Maryland.
RWSSZ Shanghai shi dang'an guan, comp. Ri wei Shanghai shi zhengf u (The Japanese
puppet government of Shanghai). Shanghai: Dang'an chubanshe, 1986. SB Shen bao.
SMA Shanghai Municipal Archives.
SMP Shanghai Municipal Police (International Settlement) Files. Microfilms from
the U.S. National Archives.
WX Wenxian (Documents). 8 fasc., 2 suppl. Shanghai: Zhonghua daxue tushu
youxian gongsi, October 1938 to May 1939.

I owe thanks to members of the "Becoming Chinese Conference," and especially to Prasenjit Duara and Hsü Ying-shih, and to Jonathan Spence, who served as commentator

on the paper. I also want to acknowledge the critical help proffered by members of the Center for Chinese Studies Colloquium, including Lowell Dittmer, David Johnson, Lydia Liu, and above all Wen-hsin Yeh, whose remarks as discussant of the paper helped me to explore several dimensions neglected in the original essay. Research on this paper was conducted with the help of the Center for Chinese Studies, the Committee on Research of the University of California, and the Walter and Elise Haas Chair Endowment for Asian Studies. Research assistance was provided by Elinor Levine, Jen Ling Liu, and Douglas Stiffler.

1. Luo Zhufeng, ed., Hanyu da cidian [The comprehensive Chinese dictionary], vol. 6 (Hong Kong: Sanlian shudian, 1990), 49. The verbally less flamboyant Zhongwen da cidian [The encyclopedic dictionary of the Chinese language] (Taibei: Zhongguo wenhua xueyuan chuban bu, 1967) compiled on Taiwan, whose editor in chief is Zhang Qiyun, defines it as a "term for someone who willingly harms his own country for the benefit of a foreigner" (20:79). [BACK]

2. Zhang, Zhongwen da cidian, 9:143; Luo, Hanyu da cidian, 4:349. [BACK]

3. Other related compounds include jianren (artful villain), jianqiao (double-faced, deceptive), jianxi (spy), jianmou (treacherous plot; to plot against), and zuojian (to act the spy). Like hanjian, the term jianxi (with the first form of the character) was first employed widely in the Song dynasty (though the usage can be found in the Jiu Tang shu) to mean a spy employed by the barbarian Jin dynasty. Zhang, Zhongwen da cidian, 9:145. [BACK]

4. Luo, Hanyu da cidian, 4:268–69. Pronounced gan, it was used in Zuo zhuan as a verb for usurping a king's throne. See also Zhang, Zhongwen da cidian, 9:53. [BACK]

5. Luo, Hanyu da cidian, 6:49. [BACK]

6. The ethnic component can be shifted. On Taiwan, one hears the term taijian applied to Taiwanese who do not favor independence. [BACK]

7. Pamela Kyle Crossley, "An Introduction to the Qing Foundation Myth," Late Imperial China 6, no. 1 (December 1985): 3–24; "Manzhou yuanliu kao and Formalization of the Manchu Heritage," Journal of Asian Studies 46, no. 4 (November 1987): 761–90; and Orphan Warriors: Three Manchu Generations and the End of the Qing World (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990); Joseph Richmond Levenson, Confucian China and Its Modern Fate: A Trilogy(Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1968); Frederic Wakeman Jr., The Great Enterprise: The Manchu Reconstruction of Imperial Order in Seventeenth-Century China, 2 vols. (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1985), all passim. [BACK]

8. In the early fifteenth century, during the Ming, "the battle line [along the southwestern frontier] was drawn not only between barbarians and civilians (min), but also between collaborators and other law-abiding residents." Leo K. Shin, "Contracting Chieftaincy: Political Tribalization of the Southwest in Ming China" (paper presented at the Center for Chinese Studies Annual Symposium, "Empire, Nation, and Region: The Chinese World Order Reconsidered," Berkeley, California, March 3–4, 1995), 37. [BACK]

9. Usually intermarrying with the Miao, hanjian acted as intermediaries in Miao contacts with Han officials and merchants. Jianmin (treacherous people), however, were the staff members, sergeants, and runners who served as advisors to the hereditary chieftains along the frontier. Donald Sutton, "Sinicizing and Signifying in the Eighteenth Century: Ordering the World of the Ethnic Frontier" (paper presented at the Center for Chinese Studies Annual Symposium, "Empire, Nation, and Region: The Chinese World Order Reconsidered," Berkeley, California, March 3–4, 1995; long version of the paper March 2, 1995, p. 12). [BACK]


10. Donald Sutton, "Sinicizing and Signifying in the Eighteenth Century: Ordering the World of the Ethnic Frontier" (paper presented at the Center for Chinese Studies Annual Symposium, "Empire, Nation, and Region: The Chinese World Order Reconsidered," Berkeley, California, March 3–4, 1995; short version of the paper March 2, 1995, p. 19). The most interesting aspect of this progression was the latitude afforded to ascriptive officials to deem transgressors as being traitors to the Han. [BACK]

11. Arthur Waley, The Opium War through Chinese Eyes (London: Allen and Unwin, 1958); Frederic Wakeman Jr., Strangers at the Gate: Social Disorder in South China, 1839–1861 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1966). [BACK]

12. Paul A. Cohen, China and Christianity: The Missionary Movement and the Growth of Chinese Antiforeignism, 1860–1870 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1963); Mark Elvin, "Tales of Shen and Xin: Body-Person and Heart-Mind in China during the Last One Hundred and Fifty Years," in Zone: Fragments for a History of the Human Body, ed. Michel Feher, with Ramona Naddaff, pt. 2 (New York: Zone, 1989), 267–349;Frank Dikötter, The Discourse of Race in Modern China (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1992); Wakeman, Strangers at the Gate, all passim. There was, to be sure, a "functional" side to this linkage between native treachery and foreign collusion. William C. Kirby has noted, "Efforts to control the internal effects of foreign penetration could take the form of castigating Chinese with foreign connections as traitors." Kirby, "Intercultural Connections and Chinese Development: External and Internal Spheres of Modern China's Foreign Relations," in China's Quest for Modernization: A Historical Perspective, ed. Frederic Wakeman Jr. and Wang Xi (Berkeley: Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, 1997), 208–33, citation on 215. [BACK]

13. In vernacular Chinese, han also means "man" and is gendered masculine, as in laohan (old man), hanzi (heman, brave fellow), dahan (big man), and haohan (brave man). [BACK]

14. Cohen, China and Christianity. [BACK]

15. SB, 24 December 1938, p. 2:6. [BACK]

16. Zhongyang zuzhi bu, tewuzu, diaocha ke, ed., "Zhou Enlai cansha Gu Shunzhang jiashu ji yiji fenzi sanshi yu ren maicang Shanghai zujie quyu zhi faxian" [Zhou Enlai's slaughter of Gu Shunzhang's dependents and the discovery of more than thirty deviate elements buried in the Shanghai concession region], Bureau of Investigation Archives document D112(276/7435B/19933), pp. 10 and 336–37; Li Tianmin, Zhou Enlai pingzhuan [A critical biography of Zhou Enlai] (Hong Kong: Youlian yanjiusuo, 1975), 104; Li Zhaochun, "Shenfen fuza de Pan Hannian" [The complicated identities of Pan Hannian], Gongdang wenti yanjiu 9, no. 3 (n.d.): 114–18, citation on 115;Roger Faligot and Remi Kauffer, Kang Sheng et les services secrets chinois (1927–1987) (Paris: Robert Laffont, 1987), 105; SMP, D-9319, 1939, pp. 2–3; Shen Zui, Juntong neimu [The inside story of the Military Statistics (Bureau)] (Beijing: Wenshi ziliao chubanshe, 1984), 64. [BACK]

17. Shen Zui, Juntong neimu, 92. [BACK]

18. Ibid., 63–64; Concession Française de Changhai, Direction des Services de Police, Service Politique, Document No. 237/S. Étude—le mouvement communiste en Chine, 1920–1933, Shanghai, December 15, 1933, pp. 40–41. [BACK]

19. Deng Yuanzhong, Sanminzhuyi Lixingshe shi [A history of the Sanminzhuyi Lixingshe] (Taibei: Sixian chubanshe, 1984), 110. [BACK]

20. Xu Youwei, "Lixingshe yu Riben (1932–1938 nian)" [The Vigorous Revival Society and Japan, 1932–1938] (paper presented at the Thirteenth International Association of Historians of Asia Conference, Sophia University, Tokyo, September 5–9, 1994), 5; T'ienwei

Wu, "Contending Political Forces during the War of Resistance," in China's Bitter Victory: The War with Japan 1937–1945, ed. James C. Hsiung and Steven I. Levine (Armonk, N.Y.: M. E. Sharpe, 1992), 51–78, citation on 55–56;Taiheiyo senso gen'in kenkyubu, eds., Taiheiyō sensōe no michi [The road to the Pacific war], 8 vols. (Tokyo: Nihon kokusai seiji gakkai, 1962–63), citation in 3:250;Frederic Wakeman Jr., "Confucian Fascism" (paper given at the Modern China Seminar, Columbia University, April 1989); and Maria Hsia Chang, The Chinese Blue Shirt Society: Fascism and Developmental Nationalism (Berkeley: Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, 1985), passim. [BACK]

21. Xu Youwei, "Lixingshe yu Riben," 5. This is the author's synopsis and condensations of a half dozen Lixingshe tracts. [BACK]

22. Shanghai Municipality Public Security Bureau, Shanghai shi gong'anju yewu baogao [Shanghai Municipality Public Security Bureau report of affairs], vol. 5 (Shanghai: Shanghai Municipality Public Security Bureau, July 1931–June 1932), 54, 84–85, 214. [BACK]

23. Article translated from Xin wan bao (April 5, 1932), in SMP, D-3445, 5/4/32. See also Tan Shaoliang's April 5 report in the same file. [BACK]

24. Then, and later in 1937, hundreds of Koreans and Taiwanese came to work for the Japanese special services units in Shanghai. More than a thousand Koreans were settled in surrounding farmlands. Again, the linkage between hanjian and the alien was reinforced. [BACK]

25. Tan Shaoliang's report, "Citizen's Maintenance Association," SMP, D3445, 5/4/32, pp. 4–5; and D. S. Golder to Special Branch, SMP, D-3445, 7/4/32; Emily Honig, "The Politics of Prejudice: Subei People in Republican-Era Shanghai," Modern China 15, no. 3 (July 1989): 243–274; Emily Honig, "Creating Ethnicity: Subei People in Shanghai," Modern China 15, no. 3 (July 1989): 26; Emily Honig, "Migrant Culture in Shanghai: In Search of a Subei Identity" (n.p., n.d.), p. 10. [BACK]

26. Article translated from Xin wan bao in SMP, D-3445, 27/4/32. [BACK]

27. Feng denounced Chiang Kai-shek's government for failing to resist the Japanese. Howard L. Boorman, Biographical Dictionary of Republican China, vol. 2 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1967–1971, 1979), 42. [BACK]

28. Deng Yuanzhong, Sanminzhuyi Lixingshe shi, 110. Chiang actually declared domestic pacification the priority in a speech on July 23, 1931, after the Guangdong-Guangxi clique denounced Party Center. Ibid., 126–27. [BACK]

29. Parks M. Coble, "Super-Patriots and Secret Agents: The Blue Shirts and Japanese Secret Services in North China" (paper presented at the Center for Chinese Studies Regional Seminar, Berkeley, 21 March 1987), 18. [BACK]

30. Zhang Weihan, "Dai Li yu ‘Juntong ju,’" [Dai Li and the Military Statistics Bureau], in Zhejiang wenshi ziliao xuanji, ed. Wenshi ziliao yanjiu weiyuanhui, fasc. 23, Neibu publication (Zhejiang: Renmin chubanshe, 1982), 137. [BACK]

31. Gan Guoxun, "Guanyu suowei ‘Fuxingshe’ de zhenqing shikuang" [The true conditions and actual circumstances of the so-called Fuxingshe], Zhuanji wenxue, xia, 35, no. 5 (November 1979): 83. [BACK]

32. Haruke Keiin [Yasutane], Shanghai tero kōsaku 76 gō [Working it out in Shanghai's Number 76] (Tokyo: Mainichi shimbun sha, 1980), 33–35;Parks M. Coble, Facing Japan: Chinese Politics and Japanese Imperialism, 1931–1937 (Cambridge: Council on East Asian Studies, Harvard University, 1991), 228. According to Thomas Chao, a State Department informant, the Blue Shirts had gained control of "municipal and provincial police organizations in the capital and in important places throughout the country…. They practically dominate the armed forces of the government." "Blueshirts Organization," report from

Nelson Trusler Johnson, Nanking Legation, to secretary of state, May 8, 1937, in RDS, no. 00/14121, 10 June 1937, pp. 3–4. Shanghai Nichinichi reported that the Blue Shirts' twelve thousand members were mostly young officers. "‘Blue Shirts' to Suspend Anti-Japan Activities," Shanghai Times, January 21, 1936, p. 1. [BACK]

33. The shangtuan was formed in February 1937. [BACK]

34. "Shanghai Special Service Corps Arrest," report by Detective Sergeant Pitt, in SMP, D-8039a, 25/10/37, p. 1. [BACK]

35. "Deposition of Sung Yah Shing," in SMP, D-8635, 24/7/38, p. 7. The deputy chief was Liang Tongfang. [BACK]

36. Wang, born outside Ningbo, was the son of a captain in the Republican Army. After primary school in his village, he attended Nanjing Middle School for three years. Then, through an uncle's introduction, he was apprenticed to a machine factory in Pudong, where he had lived and worked until the Marco Polo Bridge Incident. He went to the Guandi Temple in response to the newspaper notice, and was posted to Sun Yaxing's section. "Deposition of Wong Tz Koo," in SMP, D-8635, 27/7/38, p. 1. Jiang, born in Nanjing, was the son of a Jinjiang shop assistant. He attended primary school in Jinjiang and then boarded at Shanghai Middle School (Nandao) where he studied Chinese literature from March 1936 to June 1937. The day he left school to move in with a friend of his father, he bought a copy of Central Daily News and saw the advertisement. He enrolled in the association without telling his mother. SMP, D-8597, 22/7/38, pp. 1–2. Zhou, a native of Chongming, where he received an elementary education, came to Shanghai by himself at the age of fourteen (fifteen sui) to serve an apprenticeship at a printing press in the French Concession. He worked in four different printing shops before becoming a printer at the Zhongguo dabao (China herald). "Deposition of Tsou Sue Kong," in SMP, D-8635, 26/7/38, p. 1. [BACK]

37. CWR, 19 February 1938, p. 321. [BACK]

38. "Deposition of Sung Yah Shing," 8–9; SMP, D-8597, 2–3; "Deposition of Wong Tz Koo," 1–2; "Deposition of Tsou Sue Kong," 2. [BACK]

39. Wang Fangnan, "Wo zai Juntong shisinian de qinli he jianwen" [What I experienced and learned about during my fourteen years in the MSB], in Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference Editorial Committee, ed., Wenshi ziliao xuanji [Selections of historical materials], fasc. 107 (zong) (Beijing: Zhongguo wenshi chubanshe, 1987), 144–45; Xu Zhucheng, Du Yuesheng zhengzhuan [A straightforward biography of Du Yuesheng] (Hangzhou: Zhejiang sheng xinhua shudian, 1982), 95; Zhu Zuotong and Mei Yi, eds., Shanghai yi ri [One day in Shanghai], vol. 1 (Shanghai: Huamei chuban gongsi, 1938), 133–36. [BACK]

40. "Emergency Period Service Group Report," SMP, D-8039a, 23/9/37, pp. 1–2; SMP, D-8039A, 10/9/37, p. 1, and D-8615, 22/9/39, p. 1; Xu Zhucheng, Du Yuesheng zhengzhuan, 100. [BACK]

41. Fu Duoma, twenty-seven years old and a native of Dinghai, joined the Special Action Corps on August 20, 1937—the very day the Public Security Bureau requested help from the Shanghai Municipal Police in arresting Chinese "traitors" believed to have poisoned public tea urns (a belief that aroused mobs on August 17 to beat several suspects to death). After hostilities had broken out on August 13, Fu Duoma had moved into the closed-down Xinguang Primary School (of which he was the former principal) at Changxingli in Zhabei. Fu was arrested by the police on September 16, 1937. SMP, D-8039A, 22/8/37, 26/8/37, and 10/9/37, passim. "[After the August 1937 bombings] patriotism in its most drastic guise ran through the city like fire in the form of ‘traitor hunts'; any poor wretch

who loitered about for no more nefarious reason that he had nowhere to go was liable to be trampled or beaten to death. For several days tea vendors were in peril because there was a wild rumor that traitors were poisoning the tea." Vanya Oakes, White Man's Folly (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1943), 174. [BACK]

42. "Deposition of Sung Yah Shing," 3–4; Emily Hahn, China to Me: A Partial Autobiography (Philadelphia: Blakiston, 1944), 54–55. [BACK]

43. Zhang Weihan, "Dai Li yu ‘Juntong ju,’" 100–101; Shen Zui, "Wo suo zhidao de Dai Li" [The Dai Li I knew], in Shen Zui and Wen Qiang, Dai Li qi ren [Dai Li the man] (Beijing: Wenshi ziliao chubanshe, 1980), 21–22; "Special Service Corps Arrest," 3;Xu Zhucheng, Du Yuesheng zhengzhuan, 99; Haruke Keiin, Shanghai tero kōsaku 76 gō, 48–50. [BACK]

44. Zhang Weihan, "Dai Li yu ‘Juntong ju,’" 100–101. [BACK]

45. SMP, D-8039a, 10/9/37. [BACK]

46. "Deposition of Wong Tz Koo," 1–2; "Deposition of Tsou Sue Kong," 1–2; "Deposition of Sung Yah Shing," 9–10. [BACK]

47. Xu Zhucheng, Du Yuesheng zhengzhuan, 100. [BACK]

48. Ibid., 100–101. [BACK]

49. Edgar Snow, The Battle for Asia (Cleveland: World Publishing, 1942), 52. See also Zhu Zuotong and Mei Yi, Shanghai yi ri, 1:101–11. [BACK]

50. "Woosung-Shanghai Special Chinese Corps Leaves Shanghai," Da mei wanbao, 1 February 1938. Translated in SMP, D-8039A, 4/2/38, pp. 6. [BACK]

51. RWSSZ, 1–2 (see also the first illustration in the frontispiece, a photographic copy of the founding announcement); Lynn White, "Non-governmentalism in the Historical Development of Modern Shanghai," in Urban Development in Modern China, ed. Laurence J. C. Ma and Edward W. Hanten (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1981), 48. [BACK]

52. Su Xiwen, forty-seven years old, was originally from Amoy and had been head of the Fujian Finance Bureau. RWSSZ, 13. Note, however, that Boyle and Zhu Zijia identify him as being brought over to Shanghai from Taiwan by the Japanese army. John Hunter Boyle, China and Japan at War, 1937–1945: The Politics of Collaboration (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1972), 112; Zhu Zijia [Jin Xiongbai], Wang Zhengquan de kaichang yu shouchang [The beginning and end of the drama of the Wang régime], vol. 4 (Hong Kong: Chunqiu zazhi she, 1961), 32;Robert Barnett, Economic Shanghai: Hostage to Politics, 1937–1941 (New York: International Secretariat, Institute of Pacific Relations, 1941), 19. [BACK]

53. This was also the symbol on the flag of the Xinminhui (New People's Society), which trained cadres and promoted the "kingly way" (ōdō or wangdao) of Confucianism on behalf of the provisional government in north China. The Xinminhui was patterned after the Manchurian Xiehehui (Concordia Society), used by General Kita Seiichi (the foremost "puppeteer" in north China) as part of the baojia of the North China Area Army's special services units and the system of local control by the Peace Preservation Committees. The Xinminhui's president, Miao Bin, also emphasized Buddhism as the common heritage of China and Japan. Boyle, China and Japan at War, 85, 91–94; George Edward Taylor, The Struggle for North China (New York: International Secretariat, Institute of Pacific Relations, 1940), 72–74. As Prasenjit Duara shows, some of these "modern redemptive societies" dated back to the second decade of the twentieth century and drew upon gentry syncretism. Others, such as the Yellow Way Society (Huangdaohui), enrolled former gangsters and engaged in assassinations and bombings on behalf of the Japanese. Prasenjit Duara, "Of Authenticity and Woman: Personal Narratives of Middle-Class Women in Modern China" (paper prepared for the conference "Becoming Chinese: Passages to Modernity

and Beyond, 1900–1950," University of California at Berkeley, June 2–4, 1995) 2–3; WX, fasc. 1 (10 October 1938): D45. [BACK]

54. SMA, Wang 1.1.10—Dadao file, cover sheet dated in both lunar and solar (24 February 1938) figures—" Jingchaju xiang zhangze" [Rules and regulations of the Police Bureau], pp. 2, 5–7. Cleaning up bodies and debris after the Japanese invasion was how the puppet régime of "traitors" (hanjian) commenced as well in 1932 in Shanghai. Zhu Zijia, Wang Zhengquan de kaichang yu shouchang, 4:32;Frederic Wakeman Jr., Policing Shanghai, 1927–1937 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1995), 197. See also RDS, 893.00 P.R. Shanghai/117 June 1938, p. 15. Photographs of the flag are to be found in the frontispiece photographs in RWSSZ, and in CWR, 8 January 1938, p. 152. To justify its rule, the puppet government accused both the GMD and Chinese Communist Party of spreading civil war across the country and promised to restore peace and tranquillity. RWSSZ, 6. [BACK]

55. SMA, Wang 1.1.10, pp. 5, 9b, 18, 24a. The head of the public health section was Fan Jimin, thirty-six sui, who had a degree in medicine from the Zhejiang Specialized Medical School (yiyao zhuanmen xuexiao). He had been head of the Songjiang county hospital. SMA, Wang 1.1.58—Dadao file (April 1938)— "Guanyu jingju neiwai yuanjing" [Long-term perspectives for the police], pp. 2b. The chief advisor for the detective squad was Li Jinbiao, a gangster who had been a detective in the Song-Hu police department (Song-Hu jingcha ting). Li was later assassinated by Nationalist agents on October 28, 1939. SB, 29 October 1939, p. 9. For an organizational chart of the Dadao government, see RWSSZ, 3–5. [BACK]

56. RWSSZ, 12. [BACK]

57. Ibid. [BACK]

58. SMA, Wang 1.1.58—Dadao file— "Guanyu jingju neiwai yuanjing," pp. 19. There is a complete roster of the Dadao police bureau for March 1938 in SMA, Wang 1.1.226— Dadao file— "Jingchaju sanyuefen qingce" [Police roster in March]. The inspectorate (including Chief Inspector Liu Wanqing and Chief Investigator Xu Wenbing) is listed in SMA, Wang 1.1.34—Dadao file— "Jingchaju weiren ji renmian" [Police department appointments and dismissals], pp. 66a; and other important positions (Hu Zhenggu, head of the Detective Brigade, and his deputy, Huo Liangchen) are noted in SMA, Wang 1.1.29— Dadao file— "Jingchaju cunren" [Police department personnel assignments], pp. 2b–3b. When people heard the term "Dadao Municipal Government" (Dadao shi zhengfu), they invariably smiled, because dao4 (way) was a homophone for the character dao4 (robber), making the phrase mean "the Municipal Government of the Big Robbers." Zhu Zijia, Wang Zhengquan de kaichang yu shouchang, 4:32. [BACK]

59. For lists of these municipal officials, along with records of their turpitudes, see WX, vol. 2 (10 November 1938): E42–E44. [BACK]

60. Wang Zihui later served as minister of industry (shiye buzhang) in the reform government. Qin Xiaoyi, Zhonghua minguo zhongyao shiliao chubian—Dui Ri zhanzheng shiqi [Initial compilation of important historical documents of the Republic of China—The period of the war with Japan], Di liu bian: Kuilei zuzhi [pt. 6: Puppet organizations] (Taibei: Zhongguo Guomindang dangshi weiyuanhui, 1981), 139. [BACK]

61. Cao Zhenwei, "Liang Hongzhi," in Wang wei shi hanjian [Ten Wang puppet traitors], ed. Huang Meizhen (Shanghai: Shanghai renmin chubanshe, 1986), 406–7; Zhu Zijia, Wang Zhengquan de kaichang yu shouchang, 5:108–9. For an intimate and artfully written portrait of Liang, see Zhu Zijia, Wang Zhengquan de kaichang yu shouchang, 4:36–37. Liang Hongzhi was born in Changle (Fujian) in 1881. His grandfather, the eminent scholar Liang Zhangju (jinshi,

1802), served as governor of Guangxi during the Opium War and helped defend Canton against the British. Liang Hongzhi got his own juren degree in 1903, but when he went to the capital for the metropolitan exams, they were abolished. He entered the jingshi daxue tang (Imperial University) instead. During the second decade of the twentieth century, he was a leading member of the Anfu clique. When the Anfu clique was overthrown in August 1920, Liang sought refuge in the Japanese legation. He returned to the government in 1924 when Duan Qirui resumed power. In 1925, the Duan régime fell, and Liang spent the next ten years in Tianjin, Shanghai, and Dalian. Zhu Zijia, Wang Zhengquan de kaichang yu shouchang, 6:108; Hummel, Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period (1644–1912), vol. 1 (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1943), 499. [BACK]

62. "Weixin zhengfu zuzhi xitong ji zhongyao zhiyuan biao" [Table of organization and important personnel of the reform government], in Zhonghua minguo weixin zhengf u zhenggang [Political program of the Chinese National Reform Government] (Nanjing: Zhonghua lianhe Tongxun she, 10 September 1939), attachment to p. 311; Qin Xiaoyi, Zhonghua minguo zhongyao shiliao chubian, 127–28, 132–38; Nashimoto Yuhei, Chūgoku no naka no Nihonjin [The Japanese in China], vol. 2 (Tokyo: Heibonsha, 1958), 65–74; Liu Qikui, "Wang Kemin," in Wang wei shi hanjian [Ten Wang puppet traitors], ed. Huang Meizhen (Shanghai: Shanghai renmin chubanshe, 1986), 342–43; Israel Epstein, The Unfinished Revolution in China (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1947), 315; T.K. Koo, "Some Economic Documents Relating to the Genesis of the Japanese-Sponsored Régime in North China," Far Eastern Quarterly 6, no. 1 (November 1946): 66;Boyle, China and Japan at War, 88–89 and 110–11; F.C. Jones, Japan's New Order in East Asia: Its Rise and Fall, 1937–45 (London: Oxford University Press, 1954), 72; Imai Takeo, Shina jihen no kaisō [Reminiscences of the China Incident] (Tokyo: Misuzu shobo, 1964), 282–83. Wang Kemin's government, it was said, was composed of "tired retired old scoundrels, forgotten petty warlords, people who have been smoking opium for the past ten years." Emily Hahn, The Soong Sisters (New York: Double-day, Doran, and Company, 1941), 306. [BACK]

63. Zhonghua minguo weixin zhengf u zhenggang, 1. See also Qin Xiaoyi, Zhonghua minguo zhongyao shiliao chubian, 140–41. For the "cleansing of villages" policy, see Qin Xiaoyi, Zhonghua minguo zhongyao shiliao chubian, 142–43; Huang Meizhen, ed., Wei ting yin ying lu—Dui Wang wei zhengquan de huiyi jishi [Chronicles of the secret shadows of the puppet court— records of the memoirs of the puppet Wang régime] (Beijing: Zhongguo wenshi chuban-she, 1991), 52–53. [BACK]

64. Zhu Zijia, Wang Zhengquan de kaichang yu shouchang, 4:33. The reform government initially operated out of the New Asia Hotel in Hongkou because the Japanese army had commandeered most important government buildings in Nanjing. Boyle, China and Japan at War, 112. [BACK]

65. SMP, D-8155D, 30/3/38, p. 1. "The real masters," Franz Michael has pointed out, "are the Japanese Special Service Bureau and the Military Police." Michael, "The Significance of Puppet Governments," Pacific Affairs Pro 4 (December 1939): 400–412. [BACK]

66. RWSSZ, 18–20. For the regulations governing the relationship between the Nanjing central government and the Shanghai Special Municipality (Shanghai tebie shi), see Zhonghua minguo weixin zhengf u zhenggang, 79–80; and RWSSZ, 18–19. The Supervisory Yamen was not even powerful enough to find office quarters in Shanghai. In October 1938 its representatives were still hunting, having discovered that "the most suitable accommodations [had] already been preempted by the Japanese authorities." RDS, 893.00 P.R. Shanghai/121, October 1938, p. 15. [BACK]


67. RWSSZ, 31, 38. For the organization of the Shanghai Special Municipality government, see ibid., 43–45; and SB, 15 October 1938, p. 10. [BACK]

68. Shanghai Evening Post and Mercury, 25 November 1938, p. 1, in SMP, D-8870, 25/11/38. Su Xiwen led a delegation of ten puppet officials, accompanied by ten Japanese military and special services officers, to Tokyo. WX, vol. 3 (10 December 1938): F40. [BACK]

69. Fu's original name was Zongyao. He was from Zhenhai (Zhejiang), and had been a client of the warlord Sun Chuanfang. He was also head of the board of directors of the Shanghai French Commercial Tramway Company (Shanghai Fashang dianche gongsi). Zhang Weihan, "Dai Li yu ‘Juntong ju,’" 138. [BACK]

70. Percy Finch, Shanghai and Beyond (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1953), 312. [BACK]

71. See, for an example of this puppet master imagery, "Wan kuilei ju kaimu" [Puppet show opens in Anhui], describing the Japanese ensconcement of a puppet government in Anhui on October 28, 1938. SB, 4 November 1938, p. 2b. When the resistance press reported that such-and-such a puppet had "taken power," the term invariably used was dengchang (coming on stage). See, for example, WX, vol. 6 (10 March 1939): D80. [BACK]

72. Wen Jingdao, "Saochu yimin qi" [Sweeping out the energy of the recluses], SB, 12 October, 1938, p. 4:16. Elsewhere in this volume, Pickowicz points out that most collaborators were presented as being "foreign" in terms of their dress and behavior. They participated in "an alien, capitalist culture of merchants" that denied people "their essential Chineseness." [BACK]

73. Ding San, "Xianshizhuyizhe" [Realists], SB, 19 November 1938, p. 4:16. [BACK]

74. Stanley Hoffman's foreword to Henry Rousso's The Vichy Syndrome is relevant in this regard. "What [Rousso] shows, explicitly and vividly, is how the French chose to believe that Vichy had been the creation of a small group of rather wicked (but still more misguided than evil) men, that the crimes committed were crimes of the Germans and of very small bands of collaborationists, and that most of the population had resisted the Occupation in some degree." Stanley Hoffmann, foreword to The Vichy Syndrome: History and Memory in France since 1944, by Henry Rousso, trans. Arthur Goldhammer (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1991), viii. [BACK]

75. The letters appeared a little more than a month after the United Front journal Wenxian reported that Wang Zuntong and her sisters had failed to keep their father, Wang Kemin, from serving as the head of the Beiping puppet régime. Subsequently, Zuntong had fled from the side of "this hanjian," abandoning the "spiritual prison" of her father's household to seek refuge in Hong Kong, where she planned to devote her energies to the nation and the people. WX, vol. 1 (10 October 1938): D69. Wartime propaganda repeatedly adjured wives and daughters to keep their menfolk from becoming collaborators: "Not only do we personally swear not to be hanjian, we also want to exhort our parents and brothers, our husbands and sons, our relatives and our friends not to do work that is harmful to our progeny and our people. We want to do [whatever is needed to make sure that] all around us there is not a single trace of hanjian." Funü wenxian supplement to WX, vol. 7 (April 1939): 3. [BACK]

76. Jian means "hard, firm, steadfast, determined." [BACK]

77. The Maintenance Association, which was usually congruent with the Self-Government Association (Zizhihui), was the local collaborationist law-and-order entity. For lists of local Maintenance Association members in a dozen Jiangsu counties—a presentation that invited assassination—see WX, vol. 2 (10 November 1938): E44–E45. [BACK]

78. Ye Shan, "Wo shi yige zhanshi le" [I'm a warrior now], SB, 18 November 1938, p. 4:14. [BACK]


79. The resistance press vaunted examples of "heroines" (nü yingxiong) such as Cai Yifei, the Lake Tai woman warrior who was killed in battle by Japanese bayonets. WX, vol. 3 (10 December 1938): F47. See also the supplement, Funü wenxian, vol. 7 (April 1939): 18–19, 23–24. [BACK]

80. This is a variant of the saying, "Murder someone with a borrowed knife" (jie dao sha ren)—that is, use someone else to kill an adversary. [BACK]

81. The term for this minute fraction is chana, a Buddhist term from the Sanskrit kshana. [BACK]

82. Ye Shan, "Wo shi yige zhanshi le," SB, 19 November 1938, p. 4:16. [BACK]

83. Ibid. [BACK]

84. The theme of ghosts and demons, or of tigers and their attendant chang, was prevalent in anti-Japanese and antipuppet propaganda. In a poster put up by the Guoji fan qinglüe yundong dahui Zhongguo fenhui (Chinese Branch of the International Anti-Aggression Movement Society) in 1938, there is a portrayal of a Chinese avenger thrusting a torch in the face of a tiger-monster thrown back against a heap of its victims' skeletons. Frontispiece to WX, vol. 3 (10 December 1938). [BACK]

85. The resistance press published as many examples it could find of sons renouncing their fathers for "turning traitor for personal gain" (maiguo qiurong). This was called "extinguishing family relationships for a greater cause" (dayi mieqin). WX, vol. 3 (10 December 1938): F47. [BACK]

86. Ye Shan, "Wo shi yige zhanshi le," p. 4:14. [BACK]

87. WX, vol. 3 (10 December 1938): F11. "Wavering elements" could be kept in place in occupied China and used as informants or secret agents by the United Front. Ibid., vol. 5, 10 February 1939, B38. [BACK]

88. A chang is the hungry ghost of a person eaten by a tiger who urges the tiger to eat others so that his or her soul may be freed. [BACK]

89. WX, vol. 5 (10 February 1939): D11. The repetition in this announcement of phrases such as sangxin bingkuang could be a matter of the government picking up then-current phrases to describe traitors, or it could suggest that the letters to Jian were actually written by government propagandists, who were probably men. Although the authenticity of the "Jian letters" is dubious, the movement of these stock phrases from government to populace and back again—a characteristic of good propaganda—is certain. [BACK]

90. Ibid. [BACK]

91. Wang's followers invariably described their becoming collaborators as "joining the peace movement" (canjia heping yundong). During his October 21, 1946, war crimes trial, Zhou Fohai told the court: "At that time we exerted ourselves to carry out the peace movement because we wanted to help the people out of their suffering in the Occupied Zones. It was not to conspire with the enemy or to oppose our country." SW, 156. [BACK]

92. For a sensitive portrait of Wang Jingwei as an ambivalent collaborator hoping to be a patriot to the end, see Boyle, China and Japan at War, 350–51. [BACK]

93. Wang Jingwei detested hanjian. In March 1937, after seeing Chinese puppet troops in action in Suiyuan, Wang declared, "When China was invaded in the past, it often happened that the despicable acts of traitors rather than the aggression of aliens inflicted the most deadly blow upon the country. That Chinese should be unfaithful to their own people is a disgraceful stain on the pages of our history, and if such humiliating acts should be repeated China would suffer early extinction." Lawrence K. Rosinger, "Wang Ching-wei— the Technique of a Traitor," Amerasia 4, no. 6 (August 1940): 271. [BACK]

94. Zhu Zijia, Wang Zhengquan de kaichang yu shouchang, 1:91. [BACK]


95. Ibid., 92. [BACK]

96. Ibid. [BACK]

97. SW, 277. Chu's altruism, however, has to be placed alongside the financial killing this popular health promoter made after his stint as foreign minister when his sister, Chen Bijun (Mme. Wang), got him appointed governor of Guangdong. Boyle, China and Japan at War, 279–80. [BACK]

98. SW, 583. [BACK]

99. Lit. Yan Huang—Emperors Yan and Huang. [BACK]

100. Zhu Zijia, Wang Zhengquan de kaichang yu shouchang, 4: ii–iii. [BACK]

101. WX, vol. 5 (10 February 1939): D11;vol. 8 (10 May 1939): B17. [BACK]

102. WX, vol. 5 (10 February 1939): B38. Fang Renzhi's father, Yanchu, was secretary of the puppet Self-Government Association (Zizhihui) of Qingpu. In July 1938, Renzhi ran the following notice in the Hankou Dagong bao: "My father returned to Qingpu after the National Army left Shanghai for the west, and occupied an important post in the Maintenance Association [Weichihui]. Renzhi has repeatedly reproved him to no avail…. This kind of behavior is shameless. Not only does it harm the country, it also brings disgrace upon the family. Now, because Renzhi is unwilling to be the descendant of a hanjian, he is placing in the newspaper this respectful warning to relatives and friends. From this day on Renzhi completely breaks off father-son relations (this does not extend to his mother). He is willing as well to contribute his service to the country in order to wipe away this oppressive humiliation." Ibid., vol. 1, 10 October 1938, D69. [BACK]

103. Ibid., vol. 3, 10 December 1938, H14. [BACK]

104. Ibid., vol. 510 February 1939, B38. [BACK]

105. Ibid., vol. 8, 10 May 1939, E23–E24. [BACK]

106. Hanjian and "treacherous merchants" (jianshang) were engaged in smuggling rice along the coast of Zhejiang and Jiangsu. SB, 3 December 1938, p. 2:7. High rice prices were blamed upon "underhanded control of the rice market by certain traitorous merchants who, in conspiracy with the Japanese and puppet authorities, are making handsome profits." SMP, D-8039, 7/3/39, p. 1. [BACK]

107. Contemporaries frequently used the term duhua to refer to the poisoning of China with heroin and opium as part of a Japanese and puppet plot to weaken the Chinese race. See, for example, the article, "Duhua Jiashan" (Poisoning Jiashan), which describes the opium sales bureau set up by the Japanese and the puppet magistrate in the county seat. SB, 22 November 1938, p. 2:7; M. S. Bates, "The Narcotics Situation in Nanking and Other Occupied Areas," Amerasia 3, no. 11 (January 1940): 525–27; WX, vol. 1 (20 October 1938): D43; vol. 2 (10 November 1938): E40; and vol. 3 (10 December 1938): F43. The Chongqing authorities accused the Japanese of encouraging this drug abuse for three reasons: (1) revenue; (2) maintaining the livelihoods of undesirable Japanese and Korean elements, thereby keeping them out of Japan; and (3) weakening Chinese wartime resistance by poisoning the people. Joyce Ann Madancy, "Propaganda versus Practice: Official Involvement in the Opium Trade in China, 1927–1945" (master's thesis, Cornell University, 1983), 29–30, 33. The connection between drugs and treachery was obvious to the Japanese. "Spies were generally gangsters. Bright gangsters. Paper money had no value for them. They wanted opium. In big cities or large villages there were always pariahs. We'd find them and train them, threaten them, cajole them. We'd tell them, ‘If you take the wrong course we'll kill you, but if you do what you're told you'll have to build warehouses to hold your fortune.’ Then we'd bring out the opium. ‘I'll do it!’ they'd say in a minute." Statement by Uno Shintaro,

in Haruko Taya Cook and Theodore F. Cook, comp., Japan at War: An Oral History (New York: New Press, 1992), 154. [BACK]

108. Hanjian, serving as district officials in Songjiang, were described as increasing taxes, collecting all the white rice, and extorting money and goods from the peasants and townsfolk. SB, 26 November 1938, p. 2:7. When Wang Zihui, the reform government's minister of trade and industry (shiye buzhang), returned from an economics conference in Tokyo, he was described in the Shanghai press as having gone "to sell out the people's interests" (chu mai minzu liyi). SB, 6 December 1938, p. 3:10. [BACK]

109. WX, vol. 1 (10 October 1938): D51. [BACK]

110. Ibid., D49–D50; and vol. 2 (10 November 1938): E41–E42. The newspaper also published a list of the "excesses" committed by these "dogs" in order to ridicule them: the governor of Jiangsu ordering everyone to worship Confucius on the grounds that Confucius was the teacher of "Oriental culture" (Dongfang wenhua), the mayor of Haining conducting a lantern procession and shouting, "Long live great Japan! Long live the reform government!" and so forth. Ibid., vol. 2 (10 November 1938): E44–E46. [BACK]

111. Ibid., vol. 5 (10 February 1939): D59, and vol. 7 (10 April 1939): D82. [BACK]

112. Ibid., vol. 6 (10 March 1939): D80, and vol. 7 (10 April 1939): D83–D86.D88–D89. [BACK]

113. At the same time, Wenxian published lists of "eliminated traitors" (chujian), who were typically local Maintenance Association heads assassinated by Nationalist death squads. See ibid., vol. 2 (10 November 1938): E46;vol. 3 (10 December 1938): F41–F42;vol. 5 (10 February 1939): D59–D60;vol. 6 (10 March 1939): D80; and vol. 7 (10 April 1939): D84. [BACK]

114. RWSSZ, 63–64. [BACK]

115. British Foreign Office Records, Her Majesty's Public Record Office, London, FO371–24663; Zhang Weihan, "Dai Li yu ‘Juntong ju,’" 138–39; Confidential U.S. State Department Central Files, China: Internal Affairs, 1940–1944, 893.00 P.R. (Political Reports)/Shanghai, 145, October 1940, p. 15; CWR, 11 October 1940, p. 168. A fifty thousand dollar reward was put on Zhu's head, and the Japanese launched a manhunt throughout all of occupied China, but Zhu was never caught. RWSSZ, 64–65; Cheng Shuwei and Liu Fuxiang, Daoguang jianying: Minguo ansha jishi [The glint and flash of cold steel: An actual record of assassinations during the Republic] (Beijing: Tuanjie chubanshe, 1989), 168–74. [BACK]

116. The impact of terrorism on collaborators living in Shanghai was severe. Zhou Fohai compared the fear of air raids in Chongqing with the dread of terrorism in Shanghai: "Plainly speaking, a man of my standing would have been safe anywhere [in Chongqing] in case of air raids, being provided with the strongest of bombproof dugouts…. My life [in Shanghai in 1939] is constantly being threatened by the Communists and the ‘special service’ element of the Chongqing régime. As there is no warning of an approaching assassination…, I think the danger to life created by these terrorists is much more serious than a Japanese air raid." Boyle, China and Japan at War, 261. [BACK]

117. For the same reason, Chen Lifu and Chen Guofu also ordered Wu Kaixian, in the summer of 1939, to clear up the party "underground organization" in Shanghai. Wu established the Shanghai Party Political Unification Committee (Shanghai dang zheng tongyi weiyuanhui), and through Du Yuesheng secured the help of the racketeer Huang Jinrong to curb or eliminate collaborationist elements. Jiang Shaozhen, "Du Yuesheng," in Minguo renwu zhuan [Biographies of Republican personages], ed. Li Xin and Sun Sibai, vol. 1 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1978), 317. [BACK]

118. Wang Fangnan, "Wo zai Juntong shisinian de qinli he jianwen" [What I experienced and learned during my fourteen years in the MSB]. In Chinese People's Political Consultative

Conference Editorial Committee, ed., Wenshi ziliao xuanji [Selections of historical materials], fasc. 107 (zong) (Beijing: Zhongguo wenshi chubanshe, 1987), 144. General Zhou Fengqi was slated to become minister of defense in the reform government when he was killed in the French Concession by two Juntong agents on March 7, 1938. RDS, 893.00/14214, report of assistant naval attaché, Shanghai, 7 March 1938. Lu Bohong was killed on December 30, 1937, after forming the collaborationist South Market Local Self-Government Committee. [BACK]

119. More than forty Japanese military officers were also shot down. Chen Gongshu, Yingxiong wuming: Beiguo chujian [Anonymous heroes: Weeding out traitors in north China], pt. 1 (Taibei: Zhuanji wenxue chubanshe, 1941), 10. There were other operations conducted by the Guomindang's civilian secret service, the Central Statistics Bureau, or Zhongtong, quite apart from Dai Li's organization. Huang Meizhen and Zhang Yun, Wang Jingwei guomin zhengf u chengli [The establishment of the Wang Jingwei National Government] (Shanghai: Shanghai renmin chubanshe, 1984), 297. "Was Juntong more active than Zhongtong in occupied areas? They were both active. Was there more coordination between Juntong and Zhongtong in occupied areas than in free areas? We did not want them to know one another. In case one system was exposed, the other would be exposed also [if there were coordination]. In underground work in enemy areas it is better to keep two systems separate." "Ting Mots'un, Chün-t'ung, and Chung-t'ung during the War," 1, in Ch'en Li-fu Materials (Materials relating to the oral history of Mr. Ch'en Li-fu, done with Miss Julie Lien-ying How as part of the Chinese Oral History Project of the East Asian Institute of Columbia University between December 1958 and July 2, 1968). [BACK]

120. Jonathan Spence, "Goodfellas in Shanghai," New York Review of Books 45, no. 9 (May 28, 1998): 36–38 passim. [BACK]

121. Hung Wu, The Wu Liang Shrine: The Ideology of Early Chinese Pictorial Art (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1989), 168–69. [BACK]

122. Transl. in ibid., 190. [BACK]

123. After joining Sun Yatsen's group, Shi—who was from Panyu—made three attempts to blow Deshou up. He was caught and executed on the third try. Edward S. Krebs, "Assassination in the Republican Revolutionary Movement," Ch'ing-shih went'i 4, no. 6 (December 1981): 49–50. "Political assassination is a form of death that occurs suddenly to an individual who is involved in politics as the result of covert planning by one or more individuals." Daniel Tretiak, "Political Assassinations in China, 1600–1968," in Assassination and Political Violence: A Report to the National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence, ed. James F. Kirkham, Sheldon G. Levy, and William J. Crotty (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1970), 637. [BACK]

124. Yang, who wrote Xin Hunan (New Hunan), the chief manifesto of Huang Xing's China Revival Society (Huaxing hui), believed, "In reconstructing society, we cannot simply reorganize the old society. We must destroy the old society and cleanse it." Krebs, "Assassination in the Republican Revolutionary Movement," 53–54. [BACK]

125. Ibid., 45, 55. [BACK]

126. Tretiak, "Political Assassinations in China," 644. Although rumor had it that Wang Jingwei was spared execution because his handsome looks captivated the empress, a likelier explanation is that the Japanese secretly intervened to prevent his death. As far as the public knew, Prince Su, president of the Board of Civil Administration, was moved by Wang's passionate statement of his motives to reduce the sentence to life imprisonment. Prince Su subsequently visited the prisoner in his cell. Boyle, China and Japan at War, 17–18; Barbara Brooks, "Spies and Adventurers: Kawashima Yoshiko" (paper presented at the Center for Chinese Studies Regional Seminar, Berkeley, 21 March 1987), 2–3. [BACK]


127. "Deposition of Sung Yah Shing," 13. [BACK]

128. Zhao Liang, thirty-four years old, was a native of Hangzhou. He had worked as a cardboard box maker for twelve years in Nandao before war broke out in 1937, and he volunteered to serve under Sun Yaxing. "Deposition of Zau Liang," in SMP, D-8635, 26/7/38. Microfilms from the U.S. National Archives, p. 1. [BACK]

129. "Deposition of Sung Yah Shing," 13–14. [BACK]

130. Zhang Weihan, "Dai Li yu ‘Juntong ju,’" 132; "Deposition of Wong Tz Koo," 2. [BACK]

131. SMP, D-8597, 22/7/38, pp. 7–8; "Deposition of Sung Yah Shing," 15. [BACK]

132. "Deposition of Zau Liang," 2. Jiang Haisheng said that they were explicitly told that they had to carry out Sun's assassination orders directly. SMP, D-8597, 22/7/38, p. 8. [BACK]

133. "Deposition of Sung Yah Shing," 15–16. [BACK]

134. "Deposition of Tsou Sue Kong," 1–2; "Deposition of Zau Liang," 2–3. [BACK]

135. Alias Chen Yuanliang, he was a native of Shanghai whose parents came from Guangdong. His father was a private watchman in the French Concession. "Deposition of Zong Kwei Kong," in SMP, D-8635, 25/7/38. p. 1. [BACK]

136. Ibid., 2. [BACK]

137. Ibid., 3; "Deposition of Zau Liang," 3–5. [BACK]

138. RDS, 893.102 S/1654, 11 July 1938. [BACK]

139. Ibid., 9–10. [BACK]

140. "Deposition of Sung Yah Shing," 27. [BACK]

141. WX, fasc. 6 (March 10, 1939): D-81. [BACK]

142. "Further Assistance to Japanese Military Police," report by D. S. I. Crighton, in SMP, D-9037, 18/3/39, pp. 5–7. [BACK]

143. "Deposition of Dan Pau Nyi," in SMP, D-9037, 3/11/39, pp. 3–4; "Deposition of Ping Foh Chang," in SMP, D-9037, 3/11/39, pp. 3–4; "Further Assistance to Japanese Military Police," 7–8; "Assassination of Reformed Government Official," Miscellaneous Report no. 89/39, dated February 19, 1939, in SMP (International Settlement) Files, D-9037, 9/11/39, pp. 4–6; "How the Foreign Minister Was Assassinated,"Xin shenbao, November 9, 1939, translated in SMP, D-9037, 9/11/39;Wen-hsin Yeh, "Dai Li and the Liu Geqing Affair: Heroism in the Chinese Secret Service during the War of Resistance," Journal of Asian Studies 48, no. 3 (August 1989): 551;Yeh, "The Liu Geqing Affair: Heroism in the Chinese Secret Service during the War of Resistance" (paper presented to the Regional Seminar, Center for Chinese Studies, University of California at Berkeley, 21 March 1987), 23; China Post, 21 February 1939, p. 1; North China Daily News, 21 February 1939, p. 1; Shanghai Times, 21 February 1939, p. 1; CWR, 25 February 1939, p. 3. [BACK]

144. CWR, 4 March 1939, p. 12. See also WX, vol. 7 (10 April 1939): D90. [BACK]

145. Lloyd E. Eastman, The Abortive Revolution: China under Nationalist Rule, 1927–1937 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1974). [BACK]

146. Regulations of the Shanghai People's Mobilization Society enclosed in Foreign Relations of the United States. Diplomatic Papers, 1939, Volume 4, the Far East, the Near East, and Africa (16 May 1939) U.S. Department of State. (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1955), pp. 50–51. [BACK]

147. CWR, 11 March 1939, p. 48; SB, 28 February 1939, p. 11; and 7 March 1939, p. 11. Zhu, a graduate of the Baoding Military Academy who had served the Beiyang warlords, was one of the leading officials in the Finance Bureau (Caizheng ju) of the Dadao régime. Members of the Liang Hongzhi reform government had been promised generous payments to their family survivors should they fall prey to terrorists' guns. CWR, 4 March 1939, pp. 10, 47. [BACK]


148. SB, 12 April 1939, p. 10. [BACK]

149. He was a native of Suzhou. During his period of study at the Tokyo Ika Daigaku, Dr. Xi had taken a Japanese wife. In Shanghai she became the senior of his two concubines, the principal wife and other concubine being Chinese. Ibid.; SMP, D-9122, 4/11/39. [BACK]

150. According to Shen bao, Dr. Xi's eldest son, Xingzhi, was in charge of a special radio broadcasting station "engaged in spreading strange reports" and acting as an agent on behalf of Japan. SB, 12 April 39, p. 10. [BACK]

151. Tairiku shimpo, 12 April 1939, translated in SMP, D-9122, 13/4/39. [BACK]

152. Yuan's native place was either Songjiang or Kunshan. He was described as being about five and a half feet tall with "thin build, thin face, pale complexion, long hair brushed back, wears foreign clothes, no hat, speaks Shanghai dialect." SMP, D-9122, 15/4/39, pp. 2–3. [BACK]

153. Peng, who was from Liyang, recalled first meeting Yuan and Zhao at the Wing On (Yongan) Department Store roof garden. Ibid., 12/4/39. Zhao Zhixiang later told the police, however, that he had known Peng before the war broke out in Shanghai, and that Peng (who was then a waiter at the Dadong xin lüguan) and he would often rent a room with a couple of friends to play mahjongg. Ibid., 11/4/39. Peng, who most likely was a trained Juntong agent, also later told the police that he had just happened to bump into Yuan Dechang outside a Chinese movie theater on Avenue Edward VII on April 7, and that he had told Yuan that he had no interest in participating in "patriotic activities." [BACK]

154. Ibid., 11/4/39. [BACK]

155. Zhao had met Yuan in the first place through a Pudong guerrilla section chief surnamed Zhang, who had defected to the Japanese in January 1939. Ibid., 11/4/39. [BACK]

156. Ibid. The telephone operator was probably an agent of Juntong, which had an excellent telephone and telegraph monitoring section, and which often used Shanghai hotels as listening posts. Shen Zui, Juntong neimu [The inside story of the Military Statistics (Bureau)] (Beijing: Wenshi ziliao chubanshe, 1984), 46–47. The operator in this case, one Pu Fuxin, was interrogated by the Shanghai Municipal Police after the assassination and released. The Japanese Consular Police later claimed that he was a key figure in the assassination ring, but even with the help of the Shanghai Municipal Police they were unable to run him down. SMP, D-9122, 13/4/39, p. 1, and 12/5/39, p. 1. [BACK]

157. Zhao's account of this haphazard encounter is dubious. The letter from Zhou Jianhua (see below), later found by the police in Peng Fulin's hotel room at the Nanjing Hotel, referred to an earlier "matter" that Yuan, Peng, and Zhao had successfully carried out, strongly suggesting that Zhao had worked together with the other two Juntong agents in an earlier operation. Ibid., 11/4/39. [BACK]

158. Ibid., 11/4/39 and 12/4/39. [BACK]

159. Ibid. [BACK]

160. The envelope had part of a three-cent stamp, which Zhao noticed was not postmarked. This was corroborated later by the police when they found the letter in Peng Fulin's hotel room. Ibid., 15/4/39. The name reads "Zhou [the dynasty] Sword China." The return address on the envelope was the Guansheng yuan shop at 416 Rue du Consulat. When Shanghai Municipal Police detectives later visited this store, they were not surprised to find no one named Zhou on the premises. Ibid., 11/4/39 and 15/4/39. [BACK]

161. Cited in ibid., 11/4/39. See also the testimony dated 14/4/39. [BACK]

162. Xi Shitai's house was located at No. 12, Lane 127, Lloyd Road, but the back door opened onto Lane 139. Ibid., 11/4/39. [BACK]


163. One of the interrogations suggests there may have been a third lookout, Peng Fulin's younger brother, Jinyi, who escaped with Yuan Dechang. Ibid., 13/4/39. [BACK]

164. The forty-year-old Shandong guard, Song Jiangrong, was a police watchman, Chinese police watchman no. 277, licensed to bear firearms. Zhao, the Chinese beat policeman, Chinese police constable no. 730, was armed only with his whistle. Ibid., 11/4/39. [BACK]

165. Ibid., 11/4/39. [BACK]

166. The twenty-three-year-old waiter, a tea boy at the Dadong xin lüguan (94 rue Palikao), was named Li Xinghe. The police initially mistook him to be Peng Jinyi, Peng Fulin's brother; but they soon discovered his real identity. Li Xinghe claimed to have met the wounded man along Lloyd Road, where he had hired two rickshaws to take them to the Nanjing Hotel. On the way, however, the two had stopped by Yuan Dechang's place where Peng Fulin had given him back his pistol. Ibid., 11/4/39. 12/4/39, 15/4/39. [BACK]

167. Ibid., 11/4/39. [BACK]

168. Ibid. [BACK]

169. One of the men must have returned to the boardinghouse with their luggage after checking out of the hotel. [BACK]

170. Ibid., 11/4/39, 15/4/39 [BACK]

171. Ibid., 20/4/39. This was two days after a Nationalist assassin "executed" Wang Xianming, a section chief (kezhang) in the puppet municipal government, in the French Concession, and on the very day that Yang Qiguan, chief of the municipal Department of Statistics and Taxes (tongshui chu), was repeatedly stabbed by a "heroic Han" (zhuang Han). SB, 18 April 1939, p. 12, and 21 April 1939, p. 11. On July 21, 1939, the Japanese Military Police informed the Shanghai Municipal Police, who had handed Zhao over to them, that the prisoner had been sentenced to death on July 10. SMP, D-9122, 22/7/39, p. 1. [BACK]

172. Cheng Yiming, "Juntong tewu zuzhi de zhenxiang" [The truth about the special services organization of Juntong], in Guangdong ziliao, vol. 29 (Guangzhou: Wenshi ziliao chuban-she, 1980), 231–33; Shen Zui, Juntong neimu, 83; Zhang Weihan, "Dai Li yu ‘Juntong ju,’" 146. Emily Hahn poked fun at the public rumors in the 1940s that Chiang Kai-shek was "in constant secret communication with Wang Ching-wei [Jingwei]" as an emblem of the Chinese obsession with espionage, but the truth was not far removed insofar as Dai Li was concerned. Emily Hahn, China to Me: A Partial Autobiography (Philadelphia: Blakiston, 1944), 96. [BACK]

173. Xianggang qunzhong chubanshe, ed., Dai Li zhi si [The death of Dai Li] (Hong Kong: Xianggang qunzhong chubanshe, n.d.), 16. [BACK]

174. One letter to the editor of China Weekly Review read: "Since the occupation of the Shanghai outskirts by the Japanese invaders and their ‘running dogs,’ headed by Wang Ching-wei [Jingwei], this city, which was formerly known as a metropolis of peace and order, has now become a place of horror." CWR, 29 March 1941, p. 109. [BACK]

175. Tao Juyin, Tianliang qian de gudao [The isolated island before daybreak] (Shanghai: Zhonghua shuju, 1947), 1. [BACK]

176. The messages were thereafter kept in a special file numbered 0042 (42 being the multiplication of 7 times 6 or "76") in a green safe in his office. Liu Gong, "Wo suo zhidao de Zhongtong" [The Central Committee Statistics Bureau that I knew], Wenshi ziliao xuanji, no. 36 (Beijing: Wenshi ziliao chubanshe, December 1962), 79; Zhu Zijia, Wang Zhengquan de kaichang yu shouchang, 2:68–74. [BACK]

177. Xu Zongyao, "Zuzhi Juntong Beiping zhan heping qiyi de qianqian houhou," Wenshi ziliao xuanji, no. 68 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1980), 206; Xu Zhaoming, "Hanjian Zhou Fohai goujie Juntong ji qi xiachang" [Chinese traitor Zhou Fohai's unsavory alliance

with the BIS and his final outcome], Wenshi ziliao xuanji, no. 64 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1979), 204–8;Poshek Fu, Passivity, Resistance, and Collaboration: Intellectual Choices in Occupied Shanghai, 1937–1945 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993), 152–53; Cheng Yiming, "Dui Shen Zui ‘Wo suo zhidao de Dai Li’ de buchong, dingzheng," in Guangdong wenshi ziliao, vol. 22 (Guangzhou: Wenshi ziliao chubanshe, 1979), 248. [BACK]

178. Mao Dun [Shen Yanbing], Fushi [Corrosion] (Chengdu: Sichuan renmin chuban-she, 1981), passim; Henry Rousso, The Vichy Syndrome: History and Memory in France since 1944, trans. Arthur Goldhammer (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1991), 114. But see also Ralph Hewins, Quisling: Prophet without Honor (London: W. H. Allen, 1965), 20; and H. R. Kedward, Occupied France: Collaboration and Resistance, 1940–1944 (London: Basil Blackwell, 1985), 32–33. [BACK]

179. Rousso, Vichy Syndrome, 300. [BACK]

180. Cheng Yiming, "Dui Shen Zui ‘Wo suo zhidao de Dai Li’ de buchong, dingzheng," 249. [BACK]

181. Xianggang qunzhong chubanshe, ed., Dai Li zhi si, 13–14. [BACK]

182. Collaboration, however, was the main subject of a long-running television series in mainland China in the 1980s about wartime Beiping. The series, based upon a work by Lao She, was called Four Generations under the Same Roof (sishi tongtang). One major exception is the research group under Professor Huang Meizhen at Fudan University. See, e.g., Huang Meizhen and Zhang Yun, Wang Jingwei guomin zhengf u chengli, passim. [BACK]

183. This discussion owes much to Poshek Fu's subtle analysis in Fu, Passivity, Resistance, and Collaboration, 162–65; and in Poshek Fu, "Intellectual Resistance in Shanghai: Wang Tongzhao and a Concept of Resistance Enlightenment, 1937–1939" (paper delivered at the Association for Asian Studies meetings, San Francisco, March 24, 1988), 7. [BACK]

184. Cheng Yiming, "Dui Shen Zui ‘Wo suo zhidao de Dai Li’ de buchong, dingzheng," 247. For an example of an "arch traitor" escaping capital punishment after turning over five tons of gold and silver, see the case of Wang Shijing. Wenhui bao, 16 October 1946, p. 1. [BACK]

185. This ambiguity is present throughout the war crimes cases detailed in Nanjing shi dang'an guan, ed., Shenxun Wang wei hanjian bilu [Records of the interrogations of the Wang puppet traitors] (Jiangsu: Jiangsu guji chubanshe, 1992). [BACK]

186. Li Zhaochun, "Shenfen fuza de Pan Hannian" [The complicated identities of Pan Hannian], Gongdang wenti yanjiu 9, no. 3 (March 15, 1983): 114–18. [BACK]

187. Cheng Yiming, "Dui Shen Zui ‘Wo suo zhidao de Dai Li’ de buchong, dingzheng," 16;Howard L. Boorman, Biographical Dictionary of Republican China, 3:36. Koiso Kuniaki, a member of the Tasei (Control) faction and former commander of the Japanese military forces in Korea, was trying to wrest control of the army from the militarists then in command. The Miao Bin affair provided his enemies in the cabinet with a pretext to call for his dismissal. Information supplied by Dr. Irwin Scheiner. [BACK]

188. Cheng Yiming, "Dui Shen Zui ‘Wo suo zhidao de Dai Li’ de buchong, dingzheng," 17;Howard L. Boorman, Biographical Dictionary of Republican China, 3:37. Though there is no evidence to support the hunch, Dai Li's accidental death after Miao Bin's release may have had more than a little to do with his rearrest. [BACK]

189. Cited in Boyle, China and Japan at War, 33. [BACK]


10. Of Authenticity and Woman

Personal Narratives of Middle-Class
Women in Modern China

Prasenjit Duara

The iconoclastic modernism of the May Fourth Movement was scarcely the only vision of modernity in Republican China. While the intellectual history of these alternative views has received some attention in the scholarship, the social history of these views has not.[1] Urban, middle-class social forms in the Republic—from charitable societies to the family—were dominated by models of modernity that have been obscured by the narrative of radical emancipation, which found little place for "tradition" in its ideal of the emancipated individual. At about the same time that May Fourth ideals were galvanizing a certain segment of the intelligentsia, a new, much more broadly based type of association was emerging in urban China with ties that linked it (to a greater or lesser degree, depending upon the particular association) organically to rural and popular culture. In this essay I shall discuss the construction of women's identities within this middle-class milieu. I will argue that the reconceptualization of morality and spirituality in this milieu had profound implications for the identities of women. In the second part of the essay, I will focus on the gap between the pedagogy of the leadership and the life stories of the women themselves in one of these associations, the Daodehui, or Morality Society.

I call these associations modern, redemptive societies. The most well known of these, apart from the Morality Society, were the Dao Yuan (Society of the Way) and its partner, the Hongwanzihui (Red Swastika Society), the Tongshanshe (Fellowship of Goodness), the Zailijiao (Teaching of the Abiding Principle), the Shijie Zongjiao Datonghui (Society for the Great Unity of World Religions, first organized in Sichuan in 1915 as the Wushanshe), and the Yiguandao (Way of Pervading Unity), among many others. To be sure, these societies were significantly different from one another, but what they had in common was a remarkable indicator of the new milieu of urban life across China. A distinctive feature of these societies was their division of the civilized world into the East and the West, where the West represented science and material culture, and East Asian civilization represented the hope for

the spiritual and moral regeneration of the world. In many ways these societies represented a development of the late imperial syncretist tradition (sanjiao heyi)—which first gained popularity among the Confucian gentry as well as the Buddhist and Daoist laity in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries—particularly in their emphasis on a redemptive universalism and moral self-transformation.[2]

However, the new global context of the twentieth century significantly transformed the meaning of their project. Many of these societies were established, or flourished, during World War I, when a discourse criticizing Western civilization as being overly materialist and violent began to emerge globally. These societies sought to supplement and correct the material civilization of the West with the spiritual civilization of the East. This supplement took the shape of a religious universalism in which Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity all supposedly embodied the same universal spirituality. Like other modern religious and morality societies the world over, these societies were outfitted with charters and bylaws, and their goal of world redemption was matched by a strong this-worldly orientation, exemplified perhaps best of all by the Red Swastika Society. While the name of this society referred to a Buddhist symbol, it should also be seen as an Eastern equivalent of the Red Cross Society, which it was modeled upon.[3] Discursively, the older conceptions of time embodied in Buddhism and Confucianism were exchanged for an evolutionary vision of history (jinhua). Indeed, these societies justified their raison d’être in the language of evolutionary history, arguing that without the moral and spiritual regeneration that they promised, not only would human evolution stall but it would turn still more hedonistic and violent.[4] In their conception, human society was expected to evolve to moral perfection, but only by way of Eastern spirituality.

The pervasive nature of this symbiotic formulation of modernity in China does not need much demonstration. The Kuomintang (KMT) regime of the 1930s subscribed precisely to such a dualistic formulation, and the New Life Movement exemplified the urge to revitalize the material conditions of modernity through a muscular, or rather, ascetic, Confucian moralism. This conception is most strikingly identified with a modernist, evolutionary framework in Chen Lifu's philosophy of a parallel material and spiritual evolutionism. Chen's parallelism also represents one of the more creative means of accommodating the nation's past in a modern future so characteristic of nationalist ideology the world over. Chen argues that the evolution of material civilization without spiritual progress inevitably leads to the enslavement of humankind by things.[5] Even while it recognizes the livelihood of the people as the supreme goal, the New Life Movement will inject moral qualities from the essence of Chinese civilization into this effort so that history can be propelled into civilizational perfection—Datong, or the Great Unity.[6]

Given the discursive affinities between many of these societies and the KMT, it is surprising to find that from 1927 on, the KMT outlawed and persecuted many of these societies, including the Morality Society.[7] The KMT regime condemned these societies as riddled by superstition and dominated by local bullies and warlords. Central to understanding this hostility, I believe, is the way in which the

KMT devised its representation of tradition to exclude popular religious practices—in part at least to excise and contain the power of religious heterodoxy. Thus, I have argued elsewhere that the KMT characterization of the spiritual as part of China's national essence incorporated modern, licensed religions, while it proscribed as superstition a range of religious societies from the heterodox to those it suspected of political opposition.[8] Included among these were not only sectarian and several secret societies but also most of the modern, redemptive societies. In keeping with their syncretist heritage, many of the religious practices of these redemptive societies were, in fact, drawn from popular culture; for instance, the popularity of the Daoyuan, or the Red Swastika Society, was often attributed to its practice of divination and planchette.[9] Thus several of these societies drew from late imperial syncretism not only by synthesizing different religious teachings but also by accommodating popular gods and practices, which made them a much more organic part of Chinese society.[10] In contrast, the KMT appears to have espoused a more elitist variant of the dualistic formulation of modernity.

Apart from the East versus West, or spiritual-moral versus material, duality, these societies were also premised upon another duality: the outer versus the inner. In the outer realm, these societies not only conducted philanthropic activities associated with traditional charities (cishan shiye), such as establishing and managing soup kitchens and poorhouses, but expanded their sphere to include modern hospitals, schools, and contributions to international relief works. Thus, for instance, the Hongwanzihui, which had professors of Esperanto among its members and branches in Paris, London, and Tokyo, contributed substantially to relief works in China and abroad, such as those conducted after the Tokyo earthquake and natural disasters in the Soviet Union.[11] The Zailijiao, which may have had a membership of between three hundred thousand and several million (it had forty-eight centers in Tianjin alone) developed drug rehabilitation centers using herbal medicines and self-cultivation techniques (zhengshen), which were said to fully cure over two hundred opium addicts a year.[12] As we shall see below, external or "public" service was not only significant in itself, but the discourse of "public service" would generate new possibilities of selfhood, which was so important to most of these societies.

This inner realm of selfhood was focused on producing the self-cultivating subject. Such self-cultivation practices (ziji xiuyang, xiushen) ranged from the exercise of a strict disciplinary regimen to cultivating the habit of close moral and spiritual introspection designed to produce the self-cultivating subject as the moral citizen of the new world. Some societies emphasized strict vows of abstinence from drugs, meats, and alcohol; others, quasi renunciation of the family; and still others, detailed codes of moral behavior and bodily comportment.[13] Most societies combined all three.


In this essay, I am centrally concerned with the production of this interior space in which the self is constituted, or interpellated, in Louis Althusser's terms.[14] Interpellation

is the act by which the individual recognizes himself or herself in the appellation pronounced by the other, as when we turn around upon hearing the policeman call out "Hey, you." How do social powers authorize themselves to pronounce that name, to define that representation with which the individual is prepared to identify or to negotiate her identification? Thus my first concern is with the manner in which a space of inviolability is created that authorizes certain powers to define a representation of the self and render it immune to challenges from alternative discourses.

The inviolability of this space is secured by the symbolization of certain activities or practices—such as the rites of a nation, the vanishing festivals of a village, the self-sacrifices of women—as sacred or authentic. Within this space, social power can be cloaked in the robes of a pure and inner authenticity, the sacred space of (or in) the secular and modern. While this space exists in all societies, modern and premodern, it serves a rather special function in modern societies dominated by the discourse on evolutionary history and the conception of linear time it embodies. The anxiety produced by a conception of time that has potentially no end, goal, or moral purpose generates as much a need for faith in the future (progress), as for a secure identity symbolized by the unchanging essence. The space of inviolable authenticity is equivalent to the unchanging essence. Like the national flag, it is the sacred core of identity.[15]

What nationalists and others refer to as the unchanging essence of a nation or civilization is a repeatedly reconstituted representation whose historicity is concealed by its pace of change, which is not synchronous with change in other spheres.[16] In locating this sphere of authenticity within the problematic of linear history, I wish to separate it from a purely or primarily psychologistic reading of these essences and traditions. Thus, while Joseph Levenson's interpretation of the recreations and manipulations of "tradition" —as being psychologically comforting to modern Chinese intellectuals who needed to assert the particularity of Chinese history in the face of the overwhelming superiority of scientific civilization and values—may have been true for some intellectuals at some time and place, the reconstruction of tradition had other meanings and functions not reducible to salving the inferiority complex of Chinese intellectuals. All nations and societies that see themselves as subjects progressing or evolving through linear time need to constitute an "unchanging core" in order to recognize themselves in their ever-changing circumstances. Hence the role of tradition or sacred national symbols or core values in Britain or France or America. What is interesting about the Chinese and other non-Western cases is that the aporia of having to be of the past and also not of it is presented as having to be both Eastern and Western. Thus there is an imbrication between Easternness, national or cultural essence, and the space of authenticity, each functionally different, but each authorizing the other.

The homology between East versus West and essential versus evolving was characteristic of much non-Western modern thought in the first half of the twentieth century, and typically it authorized the space of authenticity in several Asian

societies of the time. Partha Chatterjee's work on the colonized middle class in Bengal shows us how nationalist ideology in late-nineteenth-century India appropriated the middle-class production of a sphere that he calls the inner domain of sovereignty of nationalist ideology. Like so much Chinese nationalism discussed above, Indian nationalism was built upon a duality of the scientific and material versus the spiritual and cultural. Thus, while the Indian nation had much to learn from the material and scientific civilization of the West, in spiritual matters India had the upper hand and a contribution to make to world civilization.[17]

Chatterjee's particular contribution is to show how this dualism was organized in a way that created an inner realm of national life that could not be contested by the colonial power. Nineteenth-century Bengali middle-class intellectuals had reworked certain historical texts to define the ideal "woman" and distinguish her from depictions of the "traditional" (i.e., recent historical, rather than the quintessential) Bengali woman, from depictions of contemporary lower-class women, and from the figure of the Western, materialist, and masculinized woman. Modern Indian nationalism found this trope of the enlightened but "traditional" woman to be highly congenial and appropriated it as the core of the essential nation. Tradition thus came to mark a realm of inner sovereignty that was simultaneously demarcated as domestic, spiritual, and feminine. The Hindu nationalist representation of woman—educated and educating, but personifying the spiritual virtues of domesticity—gave body to this national essence. While on the one hand, this lofty idealization of the Hindu woman provided new aspirations for some women, it also represented a new nationalist patriarchy and produced a sense of failure for women whose real lives could not match this idealization.[18]

The creation of an inner realm of authenticity in the modern discourses of Republican China was important in authorizing a space that was off-limits, less to colonial powers than to Westernizing forces within China—most significantly the social forces spawned by the May Fourth Movement. It is hardly a coincidence that many of these redemptive modern societies emerged in the last years of the second decade of the twentieth century or in the early 1920s, and that Sun Yatsen's valorization of Chinese traditional virtues within nationalist rhetoric took place at around the same time as the May Fourth Movement. As a result, two very different representations of women emerged in China. On the one hand, there was the May Fourth representation of the radically anti-Confucian, indeed, anti-familial, nationalist woman, and on the other, the variety of more conservative constructions of woman as the representative of the soul of tradition, with which we are concerned here. These two conceptions tended to be deeply inimical to each other, and after the KMT-Communist split in 1927, thousands of "modern" women were killed because they were accused of participating in free love or simply because they had bobbed hair and unbound feet.[19] Throughout the Republic, the image of the modern Westernized woman was associated at various different levels of society with promiscuity and impurity, an image conveyed effectively in

the stories of Mao Dun and others.[20] Lu Xun also wrote bitter denunciations of modern Confucianists such as Kang Youwei who insisted on reifying the traditional image of the self-sacrificing woman, and who thereby sought to perpetuate their domination over women.[21] In the short story "Soap" (1924), Lu satirizes such middle-class Confucianists who were disturbed by modern, Westernizing influences in Chinese life. Lu's protagonist is particularly agitated by the mixing of gender roles—girls sporting short hair, attending schools with boys, and the like. He finds in a beggar girl on the street the means to revive Confucian values, not by addressing her poverty, but by elevating her to serve as a model of self-sacrificing, filial piety.[22]

The conservative view of women was by no means simply a throwback or a resistance to modernity. Nationalists and social reformers of all stripes sought to bring about reform of the traditional social order in which women were seen to have been oppressed. The need for women's education, the abolition of foot binding, and the urgency of prenatal care were espoused by Kang Youwei and others who were considered conservative.[23] Rather, what was being constructed here was a trope of woman as embodying "tradition within modernity." Women were to participate as modern citizens in the public sphere of the nation, but they were also expected to personify the essence of the nation or civilization. Wang Jingwei's lecture in a girls' school in 1924 expresses this conception aptly. Wang exhorts the girl students not to give in to the demands of the family but rather to use their education to rid society of its evil customs and build a progressive nation in China.[24] Wang next goes on to suggest, however, that although the Chinese tradition is rife with noxious customs, the women of China have an admirable and long tradition of self-sacrifice (xisheng), whether in their natal home where they willingly sacrifice their happiness for the sake of their parents, or in marriage for the sake of their husband, or in old age for the sake of their sons. Wang is aware that many in the old society often exploited this tradition to deprive women of their freedom, but he also believes, he says, that women sacrificed their desires from a voluntary and deeply felt conviction (zhenzhende qinggan) for the good of the community: "Chinese women are rich in the spirit of self-sacrifice. If we can properly direct this spirit toward… [the collectivity] and use it, then we can, on the one hand, perhaps preserve a little of the essence [jingsui] of the teachings of several thousand years and, on the other, still plant the roots of modern liberatory thought. In seeking education for girls, I hope we can uphold our mission to inherit the past in order to enlighten posterity [chengxian qihou]."[25] Thus Wang identifies woman as the locus of unchanging authenticity not by sanctifying the home and domesticity—as in India—but by redirecting the virtue of self-sacrifice to the nation.


I shall examine here the views of the Morality Society (the Daodehui) about women and the narratives of its women lecturers during the early 1930s in the

Japanese puppet state of Manzhouguo. The Society was founded in Shandong in 1918, and Kang Youwei served as its president in the 1920s, until he died in 1928.[26] The Society had a strong syncretic religious character through much of the 1920s (presumably when Kang was alive), but the religious component seemed to have waned by the 1930s, when its focus on morality and charity gained salience. Nonetheless, in identifying its source of moral inspiration, the founder of the Society, Wang Fengyi, declared that all three historical religions in China pointed to the permanence of the moral: Confucianism holds that without righteousness, wealth and nobility are like passing clouds; Buddhism, that that which has form must die; Daoism, that only good and evil are without form and so have a long existence. Thus morality persists and gives meaning to the universe, and it is the morality of the East that will save the universe from the materialism and destructiveness of the West.[27]

The Morality Society flourished in Manzhouguo—as did other similar organizations—because of state support and patronage of its activities. As organizations that promoted a civilizational ideal, these redemptive societies, as well as many secret societies that valued traditional Confucian ideals like zhong and yi, were attractive to the Japanese imperialists from the early 1930s, when they developed the ideology of pan-Asianism and Eastern civilizational values versus Western materialism. According to Japanese researchers and officials of the puppet administrations in north China, these societies claimed to command enormous followings. Thus the Fellowship of Goodness claimed a following of 30 million in 1929, and the Red Swastika Society, a following of 7 to 10 million in 1937.[28] However, Chinese nationalist intellectuals and scholars have tended to ignore them, and those who do care to mention them cite lower figures. Thus Wing-tsit Chan cites a figure of thirty thousand members (not followers) for the Red Swastika Society in 1927.[29] Further he dismisses these societies as "negative in outlook, utilitarian in purpose, and superstitious in belief."[30]

Given the paucity of Chinese data on these societies, the best we can do is to interrogate the Japanese records. While we can assume that the Japanese researchers may have wanted to exaggerate the numbers in these groups, there was also a concern for accuracy since these surveys were conducted principally to assess the potential for support for and opposition to their rule. The figures cited above refer to the spread of these societies all over China largely before the Japanese Occupation. A cursory glance at materials in the Number Two Historical Archives in Nanjing originally compiled at the county and city level during the Japanese Occupation of north China reveals an enormous number of these and other religious societies registered with the local government during this period; the total figure for participants or followers of all societies within a single county or city often reached beyond tens of thousands. Given that many of these were first registered only after 1937, it is not clear to what extent they may have emerged in response to the Occupation itself; but many, especially the many religious societies, clearly predated the Occupation.


Although a fuller analysis of this problem is the subject of another essay, my provisional interpretation of these materials is that a good number of traditional religious societies—secret societies as well as modern redemptive societies—existed and flourished during the Republic; but because of nationalist disapproval and governmental repression, they were forced into clandestine or semiclandestine status. As we shall see below, the Japanese regime in both Manzhouguo and north China sought to utilize these societies selectively, but I do not think that this should, ipso facto, disqualify these societies from being considered seriously.[31] As societies with civilizational or religious ideals, they may have considered the issue of a national government as less important than the ability to pursue their vision of a transnational community. However disingenuous the Occupation regime may have been, these societies must have seized the opportunity to operate openly in public, often for the first time. To disregard or condemn them would testify to our complicity with a nationalist narrative that imposes the stark choice of collaborator or patriot upon those who sought to live their lives as they might in any society.

At the time the Morality Society encountered the Manzhouguo regime, there was a remarkable convergence of ideological interests between it and certain currents in Japan. Similar "redemptive" societies in Japan, such as the Shibunkai, offering Confucianism and Shinto as the spiritual alternative to excessive materialism and individualism had begun to grow in strength during the 1920s, particularly as economic conditions worsened and social unrest grew. Asiatic moral systems emphasizing ethical responsibilities were celebrated as alternatives to capitalism and Marxism, both Western doctrines.[32] In the 1930s, the redemptive rhetoric of elite Confucian societies and the right-wing nationalists and militarists not only began to come together but was also assimilated in an active political and educational program by the Japanese government.[33]

By the 1930s, the Manzhouguo state, which drew its real power from the Japanese military, inherited an ideology and language with which to forge an alliance with the redemptive societies in northeast China. Like the KMT government in Nanjing, the Manzhouguo government censured the "superstitious" character of the redemptive societies, but instead of seeking to eradicate the societies themselves it saw the potential for their transformation into state-controlled civic organizations.[34] In this new political framework, the Manzhouguo branch of the Morality Society, which severed ties with its headquarters in Beijing in 1932, became, under the supervision of the Manzhouguo government, a jiaohua (kyōka in Japanese) organization—an agency engaged in the welfare and enlightenment of the people.[35] Indeed the transition from a more religious orientation to morality and charity in this Society is probably attributable to its closer supervision by the state.[36]

The Morality Society was perhaps the most elite Chinese organization among all such societies in Manzhouguo. Its membership and officeholders boasted top officials, merchants, and landowners at all levels of Manzhouguo society, from the

major cities to the subcounty townships. The message of peace, morality, and spiritual salvation of the world by the East befitted these successors of the old gentry elite. As a jiaohua agency it revealed a strong propagandist urge. It put great stock by its cadres or activists (shi), who were characterized as benevolent and resolute.[37] Through their activities in schools, their lectures, their spreading of baihua (vernacular) commentaries of classical morality, and through establishing popular enlightenment societies to "reform popular customs and rectify the people's minds and hearts," the Society propounded a strong rhetoric of reaching out to all—rich and poor, men and women.[38] By 1934, the 312 branches of the Manzhouguo Society operated 235 "righteous" or "virtuous" schools, 226 lecture halls, and 124 clinics.[39]

The records of this Society allow us to see how it evolved historically from the gentry culture of the late empire. In the biographies of model figures honored in the 1930s for their virtuous and moral actions frequently undertaken in the first two decades of the twentieth century, before the Society was founded, filiality and loyalty are often cited.[40] But the bulk of such honors are granted to men and women who established, managed, or contributed money for "virtuous and chaste girls' schools" (zhennü yixue; baonü yixueyuan). Moreover, while the biographies of model individuals traceable in these records to the late nineteenth century indicate that temple building and repairs were common activities in the last years of that century, by the Republican period the establishment of these schools may have become a more common virtuous activity than contributions to building temples or arches dedicated to chaste widows. Doubtless, the emphasis upon virtuous girls' schools developed with the spread of female education in public institutions. The pages of the journal Funü zazhi in the early 1920s are filled with essays about the problem of having boys and girls in the same class, and Lu Xun both records and satirizes this anxiety among gentry men in "Soap."[41] Virtuous girls' schools represented a core institutional means to manage a generalized anxiety about the loosening of morals and fundamental values, an anxiety that became increasingly focused upon the bodies of females. Thus, one woman claimed that she only really understood what it meant to read after her father transferred her from a regular school to a virtuous school. Learning to read was not true learning unless reading could shape the body and its conduct (xing dao shenshang, na jiao shizi).[42]

The twentieth-century discourse on female virtue found here is clearly continuous with the cult of chaste widows and virtuous wives of late imperial times.[43] Descriptions of the establishment of the virtuous schools are couched in the language of this tradition: model men and women who had established virtuous schools were inspired by chaste women's biographies in the Lienü zhuan (Records of Chaste Women), as well as by the personal examples of chaste widows and virgins in the family. But inevitably, there was also a shift in the meaning of female virtue. Just as nationalists like Wang Jingwei in the KMT reorganized the role and meaning of the ideal women, so too in the Morality Society; as the figure of woman pervaded the space of authenticity, it became the site for reconstructing tradition. It is hardly possible to characterize the attitude of this Society as an expression of nationalism,

since the Society operated under a puppet regime, but many of these modern redemptive societies in Manzhouguo developed an authenticity derived from the same sources as did KMT nationalism or the kind of conservative middle-class ideology that Lu Xun satirized. While nationalists sought to preserve a national essence in the evolutionary process, the Morality Society sought to preserve an East Asian essence while acknowledging the necessity of material evolution.[44]

Among the records of the Society, the Oral Records of Morality Seminars of the Third Manzhouguo Morality Society, held in 1936 in Xinjing (Changchun), comprise an extraordinarily revealing text of over three hundred pages of personal narratives and testimonials of the leaders and teachers of the Society, who taught in its righteous schools and went around the country giving lectures on morality. The bulk of these narratives is organized around five categories drawn from the classical tradition: zhiming (to know your fate), zhixing (to know your nature), jinxin (to devote your heart and mind, to devote yourself), and lishen (to establish your self or body); in turn lishen is often divided into lizhi (to resolve your will) and liye (to fulfill an enterprise or profession). Finally, there is the category zhizhi (to know your limits).[45] Participants in the seminar made presentations about how their lives were guided by the appropriate morality within each of these categories. We hear the life stories of about twenty-five women and an equal number of men, although the total number of speaking men was greater because of the many introductory speeches made by Manzhouguo civil and military officials. From the speeches and narratives of both the men and the women, I shall try to construct an image of how woman is constituted as a subject. From the personal narratives of the women I will try to demonstrate the gap between the constituted subject and the enunciating subject. The enunciating subject seeks to negotiate this interpellative gap in a variety of ways, even as she derives meaning and spiritual sustenance—identity—from the constituting ideology or pedagogy.[46]

The introductory lectures by officials inevitably stressed the mediating role of the Society between the state and the family. The Manzhouguo police were closely associated with the project for moral renewal of the citizenry. The head of the Capital Police Bureau declared that in order to attain national goals and renew the people, it was first necessary to cleanse the people's hearts. While this was the indirect responsibility of the nation-state, it was more directly the responsibility of such agencies as the Morality Society. Such societies should bond the people to the state (guanmin yizhi) by nourishing ethical attitudes and duties toward the family, society, and the nation.[47] Employing an orthodox Confucian rhetoric, these officials repeatedly emphasized the central importance of the five ethical relationships in constructing a chain of loyalty to the state.[48] This is how Tachibana Shiraaki formulated the logic: "Morality is the basis of belief, whereas superstition has no basis in morality. The youth at home must believe in the elders, the wife in the husband, and the husband in the wife. If there is no harmony within the family, then there will be no harmony in society and no harmony in the nation. The Morality Society thus represents the progress [jinbu] of morality."[49]


The goals of the nation-state could be fulfilled only when the family was strong, when husbands were righteous and wives obedient. Within the family, the ideal moral roles for men and women were very different. Masculine virtues were represented by loyalty, incorruptibility, bravery, and self-restraint. On several occasions in their narratives, men recounted as virtue the self-control by which they restrained the urge to beat their wives. One of them indicated that in showing restraint he was expressing his filiality because both of his marriages had been arranged by his mother.[50] Director Feng (Feng zhuren) was once faced with a serious moral crisis when his youngest wife threw his baby son on the floor: seized by a desire to avenge his progeny, he was about to strike her when he recognized the virtue of self-restraint.[51] Female virtue often entailed following the three obediences (sancong). The locus classicus of this doctrine is the Book of Rituals (Yili sangf u zhuan), which says that a woman should obey her father before marriage, her husband upon marriage, and her son upon the husband's death. But in the pedagogy of the Society, as we shall see, obedience on the part of women did not necessarily entail confinement to the household. It was more that the ideal woman was shaped (or regulated) by the virtues of the family and by the reproduction of these virtues in the righteous schools and the Morality Society itself.

It was thus in the representation of the family, and the special role of women within it as repositories of the essence of (all that was good in) tradition, that the new middle-class patriarchy made common cause with the Manzhouguo state. Woman became the upholder of the "new family" that was the basis of citizenship.[52] The new family was morally pure, selfless, and committed to moral regeneration of the world by adhering to the "kingly way" (wangdao).[53] Thus weddings were to be frugal and unostentatious since the goal was for the couple to achieve love and righteousness.[54] Women (and, to a lesser extent, men) were encouraged to rid themselves of jewelry and other accoutrements so that they could come to know their inner selves.[55] The Morality Society not only conducted lectures and ran schools but also organized many family research groups (jiating yanjiushe) in which the role of model wives and mothers was investigated. It was from these research societies that the righteous girls' schools received the knowledge necessary to improve women's service to the family and nation without their having to leave the home.[56]

The pedagogy of the Morality Society by no means merely reproduced the historical image of the ideal Confucian woman—whatever that may have been. It involved a representation of woman that was neither abject nor liberated in the way of the "Western woman." Wang Fengyi reported a conversation with a Christian pastor in which Wang reveals the inadequacy of historical religions. Wang declared that he believed in all religions since they all pointed to the same Way (dao), but he protested that these religions neglected or demeaned women in the education of the Way. He insisted that women should be educated and independent (liye) so that they could understand the Way.[57] Thus women's education was necessary both from the state's perspective of improving the family and home and from the Society's perspective of having them understand morality. The reconstructed tradition

here mobilized an image of woman that redefined her in accordance with modern discourse even while claiming a pristine traditionalism–East Asianism at the heart of the culture-and nation-building project.


Who were the women who joined these societies, particularly the lecturers? As lecturers, they must, at some level, have believed in the pedagogy. Like teachers everywhere, they expressed demoralization when few attended their lectures, and were gratified by a large turnout. Many of them were women with much grief in their lives. There were, among many others, those whose children had died young, those locked in loveless marriages, those who sought solace because a younger wife or concubine had been brought in to replace them, and those who were younger wives bullied by older wives and in-laws. Many were devout Buddhists and found the Society to be basically compatible with their Buddhist faith. These were women for whom the Morality Society offered a rationalization or justification of their fate, a means of coping with their difficult lives, and, often, spiritual solace. A woman named Tu declares that hers is the fate (ming) of a stepmother. At first neither the old nor the children treated her well no matter how hard she tried. But she has now come to understand her fate and has resolved her will (lizhi). Whereas earlier she had been addicted to drugs, now she is a vegetarian and feels no need for drugs. Indeed, she has acquired such strength and influence in her household that no one in her household takes drugs. A Mrs. Zhao states simply that earlier she would be sad when people called her "wife number two" (er taitai). Now she has learned to live with her fate (tianming), and she is happy. Mrs. Liu's in-laws got a "little sister" (a concubine) for her who was filial and sisterly, and so she had to learn to be a good elder sister. She decided to make up to her in-laws and husband by performing service to society, which she has done for the past ten years.[58]

But resignation, coping, and solace from grief and mistreatment were not the only meanings that women derived from their participation in the Morality Society. These narratives also reveal various strategies whereby women were able to maneuver the goals of the Society to secure advantage for themselves and for other women. This was hardly easy, because many women must have experienced the interpellative or constituting activity as a form of objectification. Counterrepresentations of the modern, Westernized woman were readily available to these women. Newspapers in Manzhouguo debated the issue of women's liberation, and until 1941 at least, often carried positive images of liberated, Western, and Westernized women. Indeed, it was the often unacknowledged irruption of elements of this discourse of the liberated woman into their own that enabled some of their maneuvers. Yet it is also clear that they accepted the virtue of filiality and even obedience to patriarchs. Most of all, they appeared to derive their inspiration and strength from the spirit of devotion and self-sacrifice—from that space of authenticity carved out by the pedagogy of the Society. For us, the challenge is to see

how they could be true to their subjectivity inscribed by the Morality Society while recovering some agency as enunciating subjects.

The first and perhaps most important difference between the discourse of these redemptive societies and the historical Confucian or patrilineal discourse on women was that the rhetoric of confining women to the home in these societies was balanced or countered by a valorization of public or social service.[59] Not only did these societies have an ideology of public service, but they were themselves part of the public sphere. As such, women who participated in them as members, whether as audience or lecturers, were, ipso facto, involved in activities outside the home. Recall that, even in the official articulations of the duty of the Society to create a nested hierarchy of moral obligation linking the individual to the state, the family was not directly linked to the state. This relationship was mediated by the need to fulfill a moral obligation to society. The view of society, or shehui, as a positively evaluated sphere of human—male and female—interaction represented a significant, though not necessarily recognized, departure from earlier historical discourses containing women within the domestic sphere.[60] Mrs. Zhao was one who did recognize the significant difference: "Those of you under the age of forty have had the benefit of a modern education and may work outside the home. Those of us over forty are barely literate and we know little about affairs outside the home. Now this [Morality] society allows us to exchange knowledge: I can go to your home and you to mine; we are not restricted by being rich or poor…. From this it is clear that the future of women is bright. We can come and hear lectures everyday; we can obtain morality: the young can be filial to the old and the old can be kind. I hope my sisters will strive to build the future."[61]

The realm of the social, however, was rife with ambiguity and was emerging as an object of contestation. Even in Mrs. Zhao's comments, which reveal a deeply felt sense of liberation, moral development afforded by the emergence of the social was ultimately brought to bear to restore filiality. While many of the men acknowledged the importance of service to society, they believed that confining women, though not necessarily to the home, was the best possible way for society to develop. Just as the virtuous girls' school was the way to regulate the behavior of girls who were exposed to society, so too, for some of these men, women's participation in the Morality Society was itself an ideal way to control their activities outside the home. The director of the Society, Mr. Feng, had four wives, all of whom, he claimed, were happily involved with the Morality Society, and who regularly ketou (kowtowed) to its teachers.[62] Not everybody in the Society accepted this pattern of containment. Indeed, even among the leadership Wang was prominent in espousing women's education and independence. Girls and women sometimes reacted against efforts at containment. The investigator of a survey of social welfare organizations in Manzhouguo reported an episode at one of the virtuous schools that he witnessed in 1937 in Liaoyuan county.

The investigator, Takizawa Toshihiro, reported that the school and its dormitories were basically well maintained. It derived its income from a wool-weaving

workshop and a grain store. It had separate lecture halls for women citizens (funü shimin) appointed with a picture of the emperor Puyi and an altar to Confucius. On one of the days he was there, a vigorous discussion on the subject of "the spirit of nation-building and women in the family" (jianguo jingshen he jiating funü) followed a talk given by a lecturer from Fengtian (Shenyang). Takizawa was impressed by the dedication of the students and teachers to popular enlightenment and the way in which they criticized the old-fashioned attitude of the lecturer. Takizawa recommended that rather than preach homilies to these children, the Society should emphasize the teaching of practical life skills. In this way, they would learn from the scientization (kagakuka) of everyday life.[63]

Such reactions to the discursive and institutional efforts to channel women's behavior are less visible in the personal narratives. Nonetheless, the positive evaluation of the realm of the social or public in modern discourse, together with the ambivalence of the leaders (contrast Feng's behavior with Wang's comment on religions denying women), created opportunities that these women seized and utilized to the fullest extent.[64] A Mrs. Bai decided to give up the life of the inner quarters because she realized that the world of women was a very grasping one in which one could not be ethical. By giving lectures in society she can make a living, which permits her to support both her mother and mother-in-law. Thus she can be filial and moral without being dependent upon anyone, neither husband nor children.[65] A recently married woman accepted the foreordained role of the daughter-in-law to be like water: to serve all in the family with devotion—to be filial to her in-laws, help her husband attain a Buddhist nation, be kind to her children—and rid herself of vain desire. At the same time, women can follow the men and devote themselves to social good. Indeed, once one has satisfactorily served the in-laws, it is incumbent in the next phase to serve the world.[66]

Mrs. Chen reveals the significance of public service and the independence that it can bring to women. She emphasizes the utility and value of women in the family and the importance of these qualities in purifying the world and resolving to do good for society. She begins her narrative with an account of how her father-in-law brought her into the household because the education she received from her mother would bring good values into their home. These were the qualities that permitted lishen, the ability to establish oneself. In earlier periods, lishen, to the extent that it referred to women, referred to feminine bodily comportment within the domestic sphere. In a booklet of moral instruction for women that circulated in the late imperial period, lishen is described as a "way of being tranquil [qing] and chaste [zhen]. Tranquillity brings purity [jie] and chastity brings honor [rong]. While walking do not turn back your head; while speaking do not expose your teeth; while sitting, do not move your knees; while standing, do not raise your voice…. When of necessity you have to go out, be sure to veil your face…. Only when you establish your body in such proper and upright ways [lishen duanzheng] can you be a person [fang ke weiren]."[67]

The close connection between personhood and bodily comportment did not disappear during the Republic. Recall the comment of the woman who had

learned the true meaning of reading only after applying it to her bodily conduct. But this is not how Mrs. Chen uses lishen. Personhood for her depends on material independence. According to her, the best route to lishen is to set up a livelihood of one's own (liye). Now that Manzhouguo has entered the era of Datong, or the Great Unity, Mrs. Chen avers, women have plenty of opportunity to make a livelihood. Once they have set up a living, they can then devote themselves to the task of purifying the world (huozhe neng sheshen shujie). In this way, because one would not be working for money or fame, one could rid oneself of greed. Was this not the best way to lishen?[68]

Several points in this personal narrative deserve attention. First, observe the ease with which the meaning of lishen in one context (home) is transferred to another (society), where it may be subversive of the original context. Crucial to this transfer (and subversiveness) is not simply the valorization of social service but the corollary notion of financial autonomy. The notion of liye, often treated in these narratives as a subset of lishen, becomes one of the most important concerns of these women as they seek to establish a material base to enable their role as moral citizens of the Society and the world. Second, note the appropriation of the rhetoric of the Manzhouguo state. Many women were purposeful in their use of state rhetoric and tended to seize any rhetorical openings to advance the condition of women. Finally, there is the conflation of service in the outside world and moral purification of this world. It suggests that participation in the social world is subordinated to ethical and religious goals. These goals occupy the space of authenticity and inner meaning for the individual woman, but it is a space framed by the new patriarchy of the middle class and the state.

The interweaving of these three elements—appropriation of the rhetoric; the act of carving out a space, role, and basis for independent social action; and the employment of this autonomy to achieve the moral and religious goals of the Society—is, adjusting for individual details, a recurring pattern in the women's narratives. Note how Grandmother Cai elides over her unfiliality in an era when universal education has become an unquestioned value: at the age of thirty-three, Grandmother Cai confesses, she defied the wishes of the elders and went off to study. Now she is a grandmother and it is her responsibility to devote herself (jinxin) to the education of her children and grandchildren. She closes with the comment that she is a vegetarian, is deeply religious, and has tried to rid herself of vain desires. Here the value of women's education in wider society, in the modernist rhetoric of the Manzhouguo state as well as in strains within the Morality Society, allows her to justify an earlier act of unfilial behavior. She finesses filiality, however, not only with the superior card of universal education but also with the end play of devotion to spiritual virtues.[69]

The strategy, if it can be called such, is to detach oneself from one kind of pedagogical value but continue to derive meaning from the constitutive representation by emphasizing another of its qualities or values. Thus, while Grandmother Cai concluded her game by leaving the antagonist with the finessed filial card in

his hands, Mrs. Li, like several others, uses filiality to trump unquestioned obedience to her husband. Ever since she heard a leader of the Society talk about caring for his own mother, Mrs. Li determined to set up her own source of livelihood (liye) to care for her ailing mother. Since she had to go out of the home, her husband yelled at her and accused her of being unfaithful. She says that she has never loved any man other than her husband. But now her loving heart has set.[70] Mrs. Sun has had to care for her sick father and student brother. Her husband has had problems at work and cannot provide for all of them. She has been inspired by these wise words of the leader (shanren): "In devoting herself, the woman must not weary the husband; rather she should be able to help the husband obtain virtue," to set up an independent means of livelihood.[71]

The ideal of moral autonomy within lishen is sometimes interpreted in such a radical way that it subverts the very basis of the pedagogy: family values. Thus one Ms. Liu declares that her understanding of lishen includes the philosophy of single living—the merits of remaining unmarried (dushen zhuyi sixiang). We also see a kind of feminist filiality overcoming patriarchy. A Mrs. Liu recalls that her mother was ordered back to her natal home. She and her brother were not permitted to visit her. Later she and her brother devoted themselves to restoring the family and she established a source of livelihood for her mother. This woman goes on to challenge the sages. She says, "The sages ask us to follow the three male figures [sancong] and learn from our husbands. We listen to our husbands, but they do not hear us. My husband eats meat and is not very virtuous, whereas I have only eaten meat once and I am a filial daughter-in-law. Should I not be the one from whom he should learn the Way? But he was formed early, and I am incapable of helping him. Anyway, I am not much concerned about my marriage."[72] Note, however, even in this last episode, the filial link to the mother appears to be the driving sentiment for Mrs. Liu.

Perhaps the episode that best reveals the inseparability of the search for autonomy and the commitment to the moral values of the Society is narrated by the same Mrs. Chen who urged women to take advantage of the job opportunities for them in Manzhouguo. "I was once sent to Beijing to lecture, but my husband followed me and insisted that I return home. Why is it that men can bully women so? I asked the teacher [shanren] if I should return. He replied, ‘You may return. What do you have to fear? All you have to know is whether or not you have the will.’ I returned. In Tianjin I was asked whether I returned of my own will. I nearly wept. I had resolved to return because I remembered that I could not violate my parents' will [ming]. The next time I left, I went away for four years. And so I am what I am today. The important thing is to know your own will [zhi]. It is how and why people make up their minds that is important, not the decision itself. I believe it is important to be filial…. When you have an independent income you are not only, as the teacher says, the iron master [tie caizhu], you become the golden master [jin caizhu]."[73]

I want to dwell on this moving and complex narrative not because of the way this woman, like so many others, has grasped the importance of outside service

and financial independence, or because of her perception of the continued importance of filiality. Rather I am struck by the thought that the source of strength and resolve for this last woman derives precisely from the very ideology that constrains her in so many other ways. It is by knowing her mind and cultivating her resolve (lizhi) that she is able to establish her independence from her husband despite the constraints. The ideas in the proceedings of the conference that most restrict women are contained in the segment entitled zhizhi, to know the limits. The doctrine invoked most often as a constraint, and indeed, as self-constraint, is that of the three obediences, or sancong. When faced by such constraints, one as strong and gifted as Mrs. Chen can still pick her way around them, but that is not necessarily true for many other women. Mrs. Chen acknowledges the importance of these obediences but does not dwell upon them at length. From our fathers, she says, we can know our nature, from our husbands our fate, and through our sons we can establish ourselves (lishen). She does not elaborate upon what she means by lishen here, but moves immediately to the differences in the ways in which her parents were "good people" and the way she can be a morally pure person. Her parents were good people of a village or county; she is a good citizen of the entire nation, and indeed the world.[74] Once again she invokes the expanded community of moral service to elude these constraints.

But not all the women were as skillful as Mrs. Chen. Mrs. Zhao says that her greatest aspiration is to be a man, so much so that she sometimes forgets that she is a woman. But her nature is that of a woman, her mind is that of a woman, and her body is that of a woman. She needs to remind herself constantly about these constraints. Another woman cites the sages to acknowledge to herself that a woman, in her duty to observe the three obediences, must recognize the limits of her freedom. Mrs. Liu believes that having a woman's heart, she was not filial to her in-laws and did not obey her husband (congf u). Consequently, they brought a "sister" into the household. Now she tries to be a good wife and obeys her husband dutifully. Although they are poor, they are pure inside.[75] Thus we are returned to the pedagogy of authenticity.


What difference does it make that the alternative vision of modernity and modern subjectivity espoused by the redemptive societies flowered under a Japanese rule that conducted brutal military experiments and engaged in horrifying violence in its occupation of China? While we ourselves may not be particularly sympathetic to their redemptive vision, to tar these people with the brush of collaborationism is to slip into an easy nationalist moralism that was immoral to them. The goal of these societies was to attain a level of moral and spiritual commitment that would enable the individual to transcend the walls of nationality and ethnicity. The Manzhouguo government constructed a space for them—for the first time—in which to operate and flourish, and they responded, I believe, with considerable enthusiasm.

Indeed, the nationalist condemnation forces the question: can a Chineseness be denied to those who seek their identity in their own cosmopolitan traditions? At the same time, it is undeniably true that this regime often subverted these ideals for its own imperialist or militarist purposes. But how far can we go in holding a people responsible for the state's manipulation of their ideals? Does this responsibility authorize our dismissal or condemnation of the varied, and even mixed, motives behind a mostly ordinary people's pursuit of their goals and ideals?

Similarly undeniable is the reality of women's subjugation within the Morality Society. I have cited the constraints on the women toward the end of my essay in order to remind myself of the limits of interpretation, to acknowledge the extent to which the pedagogy did shape the women's subjectivity. Yet just as I believe that an abstract master narrative of the nation cannot deliver the full or final judgment on a person's sense of value, I am impressed by the extent to which the enunciating woman was able to carve out an autonomy within the modern patriarchy.

To be sure, there were divisions of opinion among the men of the Morality Society itself that gifted women were able to exploit. But I would like to propose that discourses and representations that structure the reality of the individual are unable to prevent the irruption of elements from alternative or ambient discourses into their language, in this case the irruption of elements from the discourse of the modern woman and, even more, from the discourse of the ideal of universal public service and economic independence. This transformation is often disguised metaleptically—by the continued usage of an older language that has come to signify a different, newer meaning—as with the transformation of lishen and liye, which accompanied the emergence of the social realm. Discursive irruption into the interior space of authenticity from alternative discourses did not occur only among conservative or traditionalizing societies. While the May Fourth view of the nation had little place for the tropes of the past, there was a discursive split in its imagery of woman. In the wartime writings and propaganda of many May Fourth activists, the nation was depicted in the historical figure of a chaste woman raped by an aggressor—an irruption of both past and contemporary, conservative representations of woman and nation into the May Fourth Movement's vision of modernity.[76]

At the same time, the women's enunciation of the rhetoric of the Morality Society should not be mistaken as purely instrumental manipulation. These women were not one-dimensional rational actors who manipulated language to maximize their utility. Some critiques of the idea of hegemony come dangerously close to such a position. James Scott's interesting work on subaltern groups who pay lip service to or use the "hegemonic" ideology to pursue practices from a hidden transcript suggests a flexible view of ideology that is welcome, but its instrumentality is overdrawn.[77] The women lecturers of the Morality Society were people who maneuvered the language in the same moment in which they were constituted by it. The moral and spiritual goals that pervaded the space of authenticity enabled a defiance of pedagogy even while they limited the behavior and identities of these

women. As spirituality and filiality were reinforced in deeply personal ways, the authentic space continued to both inspire and constrain subjects, and its inviolability itself was not challenged. But its meaning was changed.


I am particularly thankful to Li Haiyan for her superb help as a research assistant on this project. I am also thankful to the participants of the conference on "Becoming Chinese" who commented on the paper I presented, which became this chapter. Thanks are also due Susan Mann, Thomas Pixely, Joan Scott, Mayfair Yang, and others who gave me valuable comments. Some of the materials in this paper have also appeared in Prasenjit Duara, "The Regime of Authenticity: Timelessness, Gender, and National History in Modern China," History and Theory 37 (October 1998), 287–308; and in Duara, "Transnationalism and the Predicament of Sovereignty: China, 1900–1945," American Historical Review (October 1997): 1030–51.

1. On the intellectual history, see Charlotte Furth, The Limits of Change: Essays on Conservative Alternatives in Republican China (Cambridge, Mass., 1976). [BACK]

2. Kai-wing Chow, The Rise of Confucian Ritualism in Late Imperial China: Ethics, Classics, and Lineage Discourse (Stanford, Calif., 1994), 21–25. [BACK]

3. Takayoshi Suemitsu, Shina no mimi kaisha to jishan kaisha (China's secret societies and charitable societies) (Dalian, 1932), 354. [BACK]

4. Wanguo Daodehui Manzhouguo zonghui bianjike, ed., Manzhouguo Daodehui nianjian (Yearbook of the Manzhouguo Morality Society), vol. 4 (Xinjing: Wanguo Daodehui Manzhouguo zonghui bianjike, 1934), 1. Hereafter known as MDNJ. See also Takizawa Toshihiro, Shūkyōchōsa shiryo (Materials from the survey of religions), vol. 3: Minkan shinyō chōsa hokokusho (Report on the survey of popular beliefs) (Xinjing, 1937), 67. [BACK]

5. Chen Lifu, Xin shenghuo yu minsheng shiguan (New Life and the Minsheng conception of history), Geming wenxian, vol. 68: Xin shenghuo yundong shiliao (Taipei, 1976), 128. [BACK]

6. Ibid., 133. [BACK]

7. Otani Komme, Shyūkyō chōsa shiryo (Materials from the survey of religions), vol. 2: Kirin, Kento, Binko, kakosho shūkyō chōsa hōkoku (Report on religious surveys of the various provinces of Jilin, Jiandao, and Binjiang) (Xinjing, 1937), 69, 123; Suemitsu, Shina no mimi kaisha, 251, 255. [BACK]

8. Prasenjit Duara, Rescuing History from the Nation: Questioning Narratives of Modern China (Chicago, 1995), chap. 3. [BACK]

9. Suemitsu, Shina no mimi kaisha, 302. [BACK]

10. See Chow, Rise, 22–24, for late imperial syncretism. [BACK]

11. Suemitsu, Shina no mimi kaisha, 292–305. [BACK]

12. Ibid., 262–63. [BACK]

13. Ibid., 266, 326–28;Takizawa, Shūkyō chōsa shiryo, 76–78;Wing-tsit Chan, Religious Trends in Modern China (New York, 1953), 164–67. [BACK]

14. Louis Althusser, "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes towards an Investigation)," in Lenin and Philosophy (New York, 1971). [BACK]

15. The anxiety associated with the linear representation of phenomenological time— time as a succession of instants, of nows—seeks resolution through structures of continuity.

This is the role of the unchanging in evolution or what Derrida has called the "intemporal kernel of time." In Derrida, this intemporal kernel is the elusive "now," which is related to other categories of presence such as being, essence, and substance. Yet like them, the now can never truly escape time, that is, cannot escape being-past or being-future, rather than being-present (Jacques Derrida, "Ousia and Gramme: Note on a Note from Being and Time," in Margins of Philosophy, trans. Alan Bass [Chicago, 1982], 40). Linear history, which recapitulates the aporia of linear time, has to develop an artifice that allows it to narrate over the succession of "nows," to negotiate or conceal the gap between the deadness of the past and the need for it (Paul Ricoeur, Time and Narrative [Chicago, 1984, 1988], 1 [1984]: 1–30; 3 [1988]: 138–41). For linear histories this artifice is the subject of history—the nation, race, or class. At the same time that the subject enables history as the living essence of the past, it also enables a freedom from the past: that which evolves is that which remains even as it changes. For a more detailed examination of the relationship between authenticity and time, see Duara, "Regime." [BACK]

16. Similarly, by "tradition" I refer not to some abiding essence or primordial inheritance, a view found both in nationalist and modernization paradigms of our times. I see it rather as a discursive production, an inheritance that is resignified in the inheriting process—a representation (See Duara, Rescuing History, chap. 3). It is precisely because the past is reproduced or coproduced by the present that there is so much diversity and contestation over tradition, and that characterizations of this tradition are so changeable over time. [BACK]

17. Partha Chatterjee, The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories (Princeton, 1993), chap. 6. [BACK]

18. Ibid., chaps. 6–7. [BACK]

19. Norma Diamond, "Women under Kuomintang Rule: Variations on the Feminine Mystique" Modern China 1, no. 1 (1975): 6–7. [BACK]

20. Mao Dun, "Mud," in Furrows: Peasants, Intellectuals, and the State: Stories and Histories from Modern China, comp. and ed. Helen F. Siu (Stanford, 1990), 33–39. [BACK]

21. Lu Xun, "Wozhi jielieguan" (My views on chastity), in Fen, in Lu Xun Quanji, vol. 1 (1918;reprint, Taipei, 1989), 101–13. [BACK]

22. Lu Xun, "Feizao" (Soap), in Panghuang, in Lu Xun Quanji, vol. 2 (1924;reprint, n.p., Lu Xun Quanji chubanshe, 1927), 189–207. For a fuller interpretation of Lu Xun's writings on this subject, see Prasenjit Duara, "Regime." [BACK]

23. Kazuko Ono, Chinese Women in a Century of Revolution, 1850–1950, trans. and ed. Joshua Fogel (Stanford, 1989), 27. [BACK]

24. Wang Jingwei, "Duiyu nüjiede ganxiang" (Reflections on women's world), Funü zazhi 10, no. 1 (1924): 106–7. [BACK]

25. Ibid., 108. [BACK]

26. MDNJ, 1:1. [BACK]

27. Hailing from Chaoyang county in Rehe, Wang Fengyi (1864–1937) was a self-educated, rural intellectual who synthesized the theory of the five conducts (based on the five elements) and yinyang cosmology with the teachings of the three religions into a single doctrine. The careers of Wang and intellectuals like him (and the adoption and promotion of Wang and others by metropolitan elites) need to be studied much more fully (see Lin Anwu, "Yin dao yi li jiao—yi Wang Fengyi ‘shierzi xinchuan’ wei gaixin zhankai" [Establishing the "way" as religion—explorations of Wang Fengyi's "twelve character teachings"], in Zhonghua minzu zongjiao xueshu huiyi lunwen fabiao [Publication of the conference on

the study of Chinese religion] [Taipei, 1989], 11–19). See also Manzhouguo Daodehui bianjike (Manzhouguo Morality Society editorial department), ed., Disanjie Manzhouguo Daodehui daode jiangxi yulu (Oral records of morality seminars of the third Manzhouguo Morality Society), pt. 3 (Xinjing, 1936), 1. Hereafter known as DMDY. [BACK]

28. The membership figure for the Fellowship of Goodness comes from Suemitsu, Shina no mimi kaisha, 252. The figure for the Red Swastika Society comes from Takizawa, Shūkyō chōsa shiryo, 67. [BACK]

29. Chan, Religious Trends, 164. However Wing-tsit Chan does note that the Fellowship of Goodness claimed more than a thousand branches in all parts of China proper and Manchuria in 1923 (165). Suemitsu believes that the Red Swastika had a following of 3 million in 1932 (Suemitsu, Shina no mimi kaisha, 302). [BACK]

30. Chan, Religious Trends, 167. [BACK]

31. To be sure, many of these societies—especially the religious societies—were also militarily opposed to Japanese rule. See especially Takizawa, Shūkyō chōsa shiryo, on the Zaijiali. [BACK]

32. Warren H. Smith Jr., Confucianism in Modern Japan: A Study of Conservatism in Japan's Intellectual History (Tokyo, 1959), 123–26. [BACK]

33. Ibid., 154–66. To be sure, this was a synthetic rhetoric that not only sought to combine Eastern spirituality with Western civilization but also Confucianism with native Japanese traditions. Japan was depicted, especially after the Chinese Republican revolution, as the true leader and champion of Confucianism and Eastern morality—a depiction used to justify intervention in China (145). [BACK]

34. Takizawa, Shūkyō chōsa shiryo, 82–86, 100–102. [BACK]

35. Carol Gluck, Japan's Modern Myths: Ideology in the Late Meiji Period (Princeton, 1985), 103; and Sheldon Garon, "Women's Groups and the Japanese State: Contending Approaches to Political Integration, 1890–1945," Journal of Japanese Studies 19, no. 1 (1993): 5–41. [BACK]

36. The story of the tensions between the Society and the Manzhouguo government over religious worship, account-keeping, school curricula, and ties with secret societies, as well as ideological clashes with progressive groups within Manzhouguo, is a very revealing one and belongs to another history (MDNJ, 2:14–16, 25–35, 42–45). [BACK]

37. Ibid., 4:2. [BACK]

38. Ibid., 2:36–42; 4:117, 118; 8:22–23. [BACK]

39. Ibid., 1:21. [BACK]

40. DMDY, 1:10–58. [BACK]

41. Lu, "Feizao"; Kang Baiqing, "Du Wang jun Zhuomin daxue buyi nannü tongxiao lun shangdui" (A response to Mr. Wang Zhuomin's essay on the inappropriateness of coeducation in our universities), Funü zazhi 4 (1918): 11;Wang Zhuomin, "Lun wuguo daxue shang buyi nannü tongxiao" (On the inappropriateness of coeducation in our universities), Funu zazhi 4 (1918): 5;Yan Shi, "Nannü tongxue yu lian'ai shang de zhidao" (Coeducation and guidance on amorous relationships), Funu zazhi 9 (1923): 10. [BACK]

42. DMDY, 4:142. [BACK]

43. Mark Elvin, "Female Virtue and the State in China," Past and Present 104 (1984); Charlotte Furth, "The Patriarch's Legacy: Household Instructions and the Transmission of Orthodox Values," in Orthodoxy in Late Imperial China, ed. Kwang-ching Liu (Berkeley, Calif., 1984); Dorothy Ko, Teachers of the Inner Chambers: Women and Culture in Seventeenth Century China (Stanford, 1994). See also Chow, Rise. [BACK]


44. MDNJ, 1:1; 4:1–2. Although we do not think of Manzhouguo as a nation-state, it did, in fact, possess a highly developed rhetoric of a new type of nation unifying the different races of the area (xiehe guojia). However, since its rhetoric had to balance the assertion of national independence with its political dependence upon Japan, the nation was only one of the "ultimate" communities that it emphasized; the other was East Asia. [BACK]

45. Hanyu da cidian quotes passages from the representative texts in which these categories occur: zhiming can be found in the text Yijing, zhixing and jinxin in Mengzi, zhizhi in Liji, lishen in Xiaojing, lizhi in Hou Hanshu, and liye in Hanji. [BACK]

46. See Homi Bhabha on enunciation: "The reason a cultural text or system of meaning cannot be sufficient unto itself is that the act of cultural enunciation—the place of utterance—is crossed by the difference of writing…. It is this difference in the process of language that is crucial to the production of meaning and ensures, at the same time, that meaning is never simply mimetic or transparent." See Bhabha, The Location of Culture (London, 1994), 36. [BACK]

47. DMDY, 3:4–5, 38. [BACK]

48. Three of these relationships—between father and son, older and younger brothers, husband and wife—concern stabilizing family ties; the fourth relationship between friends connects horizontally across families; and the fifth between subject and monarch links the family to the state. [BACK]

49. MDNJ, 11:29. [BACK]

50. DMDY, 4:221–23. [BACK]

51. Ibid., 4:97. [BACK]

52. It is interesting to explore the extent to which this discourse on family and the nation-state in Manzhouguo, especially before 1941, paralleled or was influenced by other midcentury nationalist and fascist discourses in Europe and Asia. [BACK]

53. DMDY, 4:134. [BACK]

54. MDNJ, 10:6; 12:24. [BACK]

55. DMDY, 4:151. [BACK]

56. MDNJ, 2:41; 4:27. Thus, the weekly curriculum of the virtuous girls' schools was standardized to devote 2 hours for self-cultivation; 3 for the study of the classics; 5 for art, needlework, and music; 8 for Chinese; 2 for Japanese; 2 for history; 2 for geography; 6 for math; and 2 for nature study (MDNJ, 2:1–3). [BACK]

57. DMDY, 4:207. Note, however, that Wang's household was probably very patriarchal. When his daughter-in-law was brought in marriage into their home, she fell into a depression and returned to her uncle's home. Wang claims that after he spoke to her, she happily returned to their home (4:157). [BACK]

58. Ibid., 4:90, 94, 138. [BACK]

59. See Furth, "Patriarch's Legacy"; Chow, Rise; Elvin, "Female Virtue"; and Susan Mann, Precious Records: Women in China's Long Eighteenth Century (Stanford, 1997). [BACK]

60. Furth, "Patriarch's Legacy." [BACK]

61. MDNJ, 11:30. To be sure, the recent work of Susan Mann and others has shown that the high moralism confining women to the home was a consequence of the Confucian "classical revival" of the eighteenth century and should not be viewed as an eternal feature of imperial Chinese society (Mann, Precious Records, 22–31). These writers have also shown that despite all the rhetoric and measures designed to confine women to the home, there was still a great deal of physical mobility among women in late imperial society. [BACK]


62. DMDY, 4:53. [BACK]

63. Takizawa, Shūkyō chōsa shiryo, 94–95. [BACK]

64. In some ways, the realm of the social functioned like the nation as a legitimating force in providing alternative roles for women. As the sphere of collective activity it was certainly a most important component or building block of nationalist discourse. [BACK]

65. DMDY, 4:185. [BACK]

66. Ibid., 4:134–35. [BACK]

67. Song Ruohua, Nü Lunyu (The analects of women) (Shanghai, [780?]), 3–5. [BACK]

68. DMDY, 4:181. [BACK]

69. Ibid., 4:137. [BACK]

70. Ibid., 4:140. [BACK]

71. Ibid., 4:139. A Mrs. Zhu recalled being so driven by anxiety when her stepmother arrived after her mother died, that she wore out fifteen pairs of shoes. Later she realized that her stepmother was not unkind and she herself had been unfilial. So, in order to make up for it, she set up a business for the two of them, and her selfish feelings dissolved (4:130). [BACK]

72. Ibid., 4:132, 188, 231. [BACK]

73. Ibid., 4:181–82. [BACK]

74. Ibid., 4:227–28. [BACK]

75. Ibid., 4:219, 220, 236. [BACK]

76. In many ways, we may consider the simultaneously alternative and ambient discourses on women in Buddhism and Daoism in the late imperial period to have played a similar role in relation to the Confucian orthodoxy. Thus, despite the heavy rhetoric of "familial moralism" that redefined the position of the wife and marginalized the courtesan in the eighteenth century, women continued to find in Buddhism and Daoism an alternative sphere and the means to escape confinement to the home and patriarchy (Mann, Precious Records, 224–25). [BACK]

77. James C. Scott, Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts (New Haven, 1990). [BACK]


11. Victory as Defeat

Postwar Visualizations
of China's War of Resistance

Paul G. Pickowicz

There was an extraordinary amount of violence in China during the first fifty years of the twentieth century, but the War of Resistance was by far the worst instance. Tens of millions experienced that conflict as nothing less than a holocaust. Death, destruction, privation, and persecution were daily occurrences. Communities were ripped apart. Individual incidents of terror and agony were reported in the press, but, so long as the struggle was still unfolding, it was difficult for participants to evaluate the devastating impact of the war on Chinese society. Not until the defeat of Japan was it possible to craft epic narratives that reflected critically on the "national" meaning of the endless nightmare.

Elite nation builders had their own grand interpretations of the "meaning of the war." Their views, embodied in a variety of official mythologies, have been studied quite carefully. One wonders, however, how ordinary people, including those who lived in the vast areas under direct Japanese occupation and who were cut off from detailed news about the course of the war, thought about the hardships they had suffered during the long ordeal. Once the struggle was over, many prominent Chinese, including politicians, historians, novelists, and journalists, were eager to tell the people about the ultimate meaning of their sufferings. But few were as successful in the role of "voice of the people" as the leading filmmakers. In a word, they captured the imagination of the urban population. Visual images produced at this time were so potent that many decades later, elderly and middle-aged Chinese still remembered the holocaust in the vivid terms spelled out in highly popular postwar film epics.


In the mid-1930s the Chinese film industry was flourishing. Everything changed when the war spread to Shanghai in August 1937. Many film personalities fled into

the interior to aid the resistance. Those who stayed behind did the best they could to make "Orphan Island" films in Shanghai in the foreign concessions, which were beyond direct Japanese control, from 1937 to late 1941. For obvious reasons, however, these works did not deal explicitly with warrelated themes.

Throughout the war, and particularly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Chinese films were made under Japanese auspices in Shanghai and elsewhere. This work had entertainment value but was incapable of considering the impact of the war on ordinary citizens. By late 1944 and early 1945, as the Allies closed in on Japanese forces, relatively few Japanese-sponsored works were produced. Chinese who worked in that sector of the film industry were afraid of being accused of collaboration when the war was over. During the war the Nationalist government tried to encourage filmmaking in the interior. Due to poor production environments and inadequate means of distribution, however, these works, almost all of which fell into the category of patriotic mobilization propaganda, attracted little attention.[1] In short, none of the films made in China between 1937 and 1945 took a comprehensive look at the war and its social consequences. By the end of the conflict, Chinese filmmakers in both the interior and the occupied zones were almost completely idle.

Once victory was in hand, there was an enormous demand for new Chinese-made films, especially works that talked about the war. But the film world responded very slowly. In the twelve months that followed the Japanese surrender on August 14, 1945, not a single Chinese film was completed. Consumers demanded, but did not get, new Chinese productions. Instead, they got old Chinese films and American films.

The situation was so tense that in early June 1946 a riot broke out at the Strand Theater (Xinguang da xiyuan) on Ningbo Road in Shanghai, when patrons violently protested yet another screening of an old Charlie Chaplin movie.[2] Consumers looked forward to seeing new Hollywood films, but ticket prices were exceedingly high and lines unbearably long. As a result, there was a booming black market for tickets to the most popular American movies.[3] Local papers demanded to know why there were no new Chinese films.

The lack of new film production activity was related to the threat of full-scale civil war and frustrating delays in the takeover of Shanghai and other Japanese-occupied cities. It is sometimes forgotten that the government did not make an official return to its prewar capital in Nanjing until May 5, 1946.

Ordinary film fans had no way of knowing that both the state and private sectors had ambitious agendas for the postwar film industry. For the state, the first step involved nationalizing the Japanese-controlled film studios in Shanghai and Beijing and confiscating their equipment, by far the best moviemaking hardware available in China. By nationalizing these units and refusing to make the equipment available to private sector filmmakers, the state was declaring its intention of going into the postwar motion picture business. This was a first for China. The Nationalist state had been largely uninvolved in the sprawling prewar film industry.

When the state began taking over Japanese studios in late 1945, its filmmaking experience was limited to a few crude and highly forgettable wartime propaganda works turned out in Wuhan and Chongqing.

Two of the new state-owned units, China Film No. 1 and China Film No. 2, were located in Shanghai, and one studio, China Film No. 3, was set up in Beijing. To increase its chances of success, the state retained (and thus monopolized) the services of the Chinese technicians and production crews of the former Japanese studios.[4] Lists of Chinese stars who had worked with the Japanese were published, and a few high-profile arrests were made, but no one was tried for treason. Film workers who had cooperated with the Japanese were spared after the war.

The new state studios also offered employment to the many stage and film workers who had served the resistance so valiantly in the interior. With the war at an end, these people now needed jobs. As a rule, however, directors and film workers who had served in the interior were kept apart from those who had remained in Shanghai.

Filmmakers who desperately wanted to revive the private sector after the war had a hard time competing with the state. They had difficulty attracting investors, they had to order new equipment from abroad, and they were unable to offer immediate employment to film workers, most of whom had families to support.[5]

Well before any state or private-sector films were actually produced, there was a good deal of discussion in the popular press about the hopes of postwar filmmakers. Using time-honored neo-Confucian standards, some commentators argued that both state and private filmmakers had a moral obligation to play an uplifting role in the postwar industry. In general, there was a greater awareness of the extraordinary power of the film image than there had been before the war. In May 1946, for instance, one film writer asserted that there was "no agency in the world so capable of being used for adult education as the motion picture." The "propaganda possibilities" of film, he solemnly concluded, "make it one of the strongest and most penetrative influences in human history."[6]

Those who emphasized educational goals (and there were both conservatives and liberals in this camp) tended to be critical of the purely commercial orientation of most prewar private-sector filmmakers. When the overriding concern was moneymaking, critics said, the result was often worthless trash that weakened public morals. It was necessary to look upon films "as something aside from a means of entertainment."[7] In a word, filmmaking was too important to be left exclusively in the hands of greedy merchants and capitalists.

Although the rhetoric was high-minded, the first few postwar films, almost all produced in the new state-owned studios, failed to offer anything new or innovative. Disillusionment and despair were already facts of postwar life, but none of the new works confronted the problem of urban malaise and its connection to the dislocations of war. The very first state-funded postwar production, Loyal and Virtuous Family (Zhong yi zhi jia), released on August 27, 1946, was written and directed by Wu Yonggang (1907–82), a well-known leftist whose prewar work had been

praised by Communist critics. A one-dimensional story of the wartime sacrifices of a patriotic Shanghai family, it differed in no significant way from the simplistic pro-Guomindang and pro-American propaganda films produced by the state during the war. Another early postwar state project was Songbird on Earth (Ying fei renjian), directed by Fang Peilin and released on November 7. It was precisely the sort of formulaic entertainment musical churned out in large quantities by prewar commercial studios.

The box office success of some of these early postwar films was due, in large part, to their novelty. They were advertised in the newspapers as the "first" postwar this or the "first" postwar that, and people naturally turned out to take a look. Some critics complained that the films were poorly made imitations of Hollywood originals, but the film-hungry audience was understandably curious.

Only a relative handful of film-world insiders knew that, even as these disappointing early postwar movies were making the rounds, startlingly different works were already in production in the state-owned studios and, shortly thereafter, in the private studios. These stunning works, fashioned without exception by filmmakers who had worked in leading Nationalist cultural organizations during the war, boldly asserted that the social disruptions caused by the war were so severe that victory felt like defeat. Despite the depressing nature of these postwar epic narratives, the films were phenomenally popular. Indeed, they caused a sensation that propelled the film industry to the forefront of the Chinese cultural world in early 1947.


Chen Liting, Shi Dongshan, Cai Chusheng, and Zheng Junli were especially prominent among the screenwriters and directors responsible for the astonishing surge of creativity that swept through the Chinese film world in late 1946 and early 1947. The four men shared much in common. All four were veterans of the robust stage and screen worlds of prewar Shanghai. Chen Liting and Zheng Junli were leaders of the Shanghai Amateur Experimental Drama Troupe (Shanghai yeyu shiyan ju tuan) in the late 1930s, while Shi Dongshan, Cai Chusheng, and Zheng Junli were well-known film personalities associated with Shanghai's glamorous Lianhua Film Studio (Lianhua dianying zhipianchang) in the prewar years. All four had contacts in Nationalist government offices, in the business world, and in left-wing cultural circles. All four held moderate political views and refrained from joining political parties. All four fled Shanghai prior to the Japanese occupation in November 1937 and passed many difficult years in the interior working for various Nationalist cultural organizations engaged in resistance activities. All four spent considerable time in wartime Chongqing, returning to Shanghai by early 1946 to breathe life into a postwar reincarnation of the old Lianhua Film Studio called Kunlun (Kunlun yingye gongsi).[8] Most important, all four had ambitious plans to film unsettling accounts of the holocaust experience.


A native of Shanghai, Chen Liting (1910–), the most intellectual of the group, was swept up by the post–May Fourth surge of interest in modern drama. In 1931, while attending Daxia University in Shanghai, Chen translated The Rising of the Moon, a highly influential early-twentieth-century play by the noted Irish dramatist Lady Gregory.[9] This famous work helped launch a renaissance in Irish drama; it featured lively, direct, and powerful dialogue that was rooted in Ireland's rural folklore. Chen directed and acted in the first Chinese production of The Rising of the Moon.

In late 1931 and early 1932 Chen worked as an elementary schoolteacher in rural Nanhui county, east of central Shanghai. Chen began at once directing experimental "street theater" (jietou ju) that dispensed with stages, sets, artificial lighting, and other conventions. Actors and audience were in direct contact. Inspired by Lady Gregory's example, Chen emphasized simplicity and clarity of message. His most famous production, Lay Down Your Whip (Fang xia ni de bianzi), caused an immediate uproar. Years later, during the War of Resistance, it was performed countless times throughout China.[10]

Back in Shanghai by mid-1932, Chen worked for several years organizing and directing amateur theater groups that were loosely affiliated with the League of Left-Wing Dramatists. He also wrote film reviews for Chen bao and Ming bao, and translated a number of Soviet books on filmmaking, including Vsevolod Pudovkin's On Film Acting (Dianying yanyuan lun).[11] It was in the mid-1930s that Soviet films began to be screened in China.

When the war erupted, Chen was one of the primary leaders of the Shanghai Amateur Experimental Drama Troupe. His company immediately joined the resistance by breaking into two groups to form the third and fourth brigades of the Shanghai Salvation Drama Troupe (Shanghai jiuwang yanju). Chen served as the leader of the fourth brigade. After putting on numerous street performances, including Lay Down Your Whip, the troupe fled Shanghai before it fell, in September. For the next three years Chen and his compatriots traveled under harsh conditions through central and southwest China, performing innumerable patriotic plays.

In 1941 Chen arrived in Chongqing and was immediately invited by the Nationalist authorities to join the state-run China Film Studio (Zhongguo dianying zhipianchang) and the Central Cinematography Studio (Zhongyang sheying chang). But Chen's main contribution continued to be in the theater world. As a member of such state-sponsored groups as the China Art Theater Society (Zhongguo yishu ju she), Chen directed leading plays by Wu Zuguang (1917–), Xia Yan (1900–1995), and Chen Baichen (1908–). Chen Liting's most impressive wartime effort was his staging of Guo Moruo's (1892–1978) famous 1942 play, Qu Yuan.

Chen Liting was back in Shanghai by early 1946. He was invited to join the state's new China Film No. 2 Studio, and began at once to write and then direct Far Away Love (Yaoyuan de ai), the first in a series of controversial epics on the social dislocations caused by the holocaust. The premiere, held in Shanghai's well-known Huanghou Theater on January 18, 1947, was a landmark event in postwar filmmaking. Such

prominent actors and actresses as Zhao Dan (1915–80), Qin Yi (1922–), and Wu Yin (1909–91), all of whom had worked with Chen before or during the war, were recruited by the state-run studio to play leading roles. The Ministry of Defense supported the production by putting units of uniformed soldiers at Chen's disposal.

Chen Liting made a second film at China Film No. 2 Studio, Chen Baichen's A Rhapsody of Happiness (Xingf u kuangxiangqu), in late 1947, before moving on to Kunlun, the new private studio, to direct Women Side-by-Side (Liren xing) in early 1949, a work based on a screenplay cowritten by Chen and the noted dramatist Tian Han (1898–1968). After 1949 Chen served the new socialist regime in many capacities, including a long stint as director of the Haiyan Film Studio in Shanghai from 1957 to 1966. There is no evidence that Chen Liting ever joined the Communist Party, even though many leading film personalities did so in the 1950s.

Shi Dongshan (1902–55), whose original name was Shi Kuangshao, was raised in Hangzhou. His father was an accomplished local artist and musician, but the family was of modest means. Shi left Hangzhou in 1922, finding work as a set designer at the Shanghai Yingxi Film Company (Shanghai yingxi gongsi).[12] He directed his first film for Yingxi in 1925, at the age of twenty-three, and in 1930 Shi began working for the legendary Lianhua Film Studio, one of the two most important film companies of the 1930s. Prior to the Japanese occupation of Manchuria, Shi's finely crafted works did not have a particular political orientation. On the contrary, one of Shi's specialties was directing the sort of flashy martial arts thriller that was so popular in the late 1920s.

Beginning in 1931, however, his films took on a more pronounced patriotic tone as the Japanese threat intensified. In 1937 he fled Shanghai for Wuhan and later Chongqing, where he, like Chen Liting, worked for the China Film Studio, an arm of the Political Bureau of the Nationalist government's Military Affairs Commission (Junshi weiyuanhui zhengzhi bu). Shi produced a number of highly patriotic wartime propaganda films and directed a few stage plays.

In 1946 he returned to Shanghai and helped found the Kunlun Film Studio. In August 1946 he completed the controversial screenplay Eight Thousand Miles of Clouds and Moon (Ba qian li lu yun he yue), a narrative thematically consistent with Chen Liting's Far Away Love. It was Kunlun's first postwar production. This film, directed by Shi himself, was released simultaneously at the Carlton, Huguang, and Huanghou theaters in Shanghai on February 21, 1947, a month after the triumphant appearance of Far Away Love.

Shi Dongshan resided in Hong Kong in 1948, but returned to Beijing in 1949 after the revolution, and was appointed head of the Technology Committee of the Ministry of Culture's Film Bureau (Wenhua bu dianying ju jishu weiyuanhui).[13] After 1949 Shi's directorial activities were limited. Shi never joined the Communist Party, and by late 1951 he became the target of political criticism. On February 23, 1955, at the age of fifty-three, Shi Dongshan committed suicide. According to one of his sons, his farewell note was confiscated on the orders of Zhou Enlai, and news of the suicide was suppressed.


Cai Chusheng (1906–68) was born in Shanghai, but returned with his parents to their native place, Chaoyang, Guangdong, when he was six. His formal education was limited to four years in an old-style private school. At age twelve Cai was sent by his father to Shantou to learn a trade, first in an old-style bank (qian zhuang) and then in a small shop. Cai was far more interested, however, in amateur theater activities. In 1926 he helped make local arrangements for a Shanghai film company that was shooting a movie in Shantou. In 1929 he moved to Shanghai and, like Shi Dongshan before him, worked at a number of odd jobs in the film industry. Cai's big break came in 1929, when at the age of twenty-three he met the famous actor and director Zheng Zhengqiu (1888–1935), who was also a native of Chaoyang. Zheng immediately brought his compatriot into the well-known Star Film Company (Mingxing yingpian gongsi), where Cai directed six pictures. In summer 1931 Cai Chusheng began working at the Lianhua Film Studio, where he met Shi Dongshan.[14] Like Shi, Cai's films of the early 1930s had no pronounced political characteristics. Works like A Dream in Pink (Fenhongse de meng, 1932) were the sort of mainstream butterfly works that Cai's mentor, Zheng Zhengqiu, had mastered years before. Some of his films were criticized by leftist writers.

It was only after the Japanese attack on Shanghai in 1932 that Cai's films became overtly patriotic. By the mid-1930s he was making a greater impact on the film world than Shi Dongshan was. Cai's masterpiece, Fisherman's Ballad (Yu guang qu, 1934), written and directed when he was twenty-eight, was the first Chinese film to win an international award.[15]

In 1937 Cai fled the occupation of Shanghai and spent more than four years making Cantonese-language resistance films in Hong Kong. Following the occupation of Hong Kong he fled to Guilin, and finally to Chongqing in late 1944, where he met up with his old friend Shi Dongshan. Cai was seriously weakened by tuberculosis following his departure from Hong Kong, but by February 1945 he was able to serve as a member of the committee on writing and directing of the Nationalist's Central Cinematography Studio. Chen Liting also served on that committee.

In January 1946 Cai returned to Shanghai to help organize the privately run Kunlun branch of the old Lianhua Film Studio. Kunlun's second film, A Spring River Flows East (Yi jiang chun shui xiang dong liu, 1947), a spectacular two-part account of holocaust dislocation released in three Shanghai theaters (Lidu, Huguang, and Meiqi) on October 9, 1947, on the eve of National Day, was written primarily by Cai Chusheng. The film was so popular it played continuously in Shanghai for almost a year.

Like Shi Dongshan, Cai Chusheng went to Beijing in 1949 and assumed a number of leadership positions in the new cultural organizations, including the vice directorship of the Film Bureau under the Ministry of Culture (Wenhua bu dianying ju). Cai did not join the Communist Party until 1956. Owing to harsh treatment during the Cultural Revolution, Cai Chusheng died on July 15, 1968, at the age of sixty-two.

Zheng Junli (1911–69), whose family hailed from Zhongshan county, Guang-dong, was born in Shanghai. Fond of art in his early years, Zheng dropped out of

middle school during his second year and eventually enrolled in the theater department of the famous Southern Art Institute (Nanguo yishu xueyuan). In the 1930s Zheng established himself as one of China's leading stage and screen actors. In 1932 he joined the Lianhua Film Studio, came into close contact with Shi Dongshan and Cai Chusheng, and appeared in many outstanding films. Some films, like The Big Road (Da lu, 1934, d. Sun Yu), were associated with the left, while others, like Filial Piety (Tian lun, 1935, d. Fei Mu), were associated with neoconservative causes. There can be no doubt, however, that Zheng was ardently patriotic. On the eve of the war Zheng, like Chen Liting, was a leader of the Shanghai Amateur Experimental Drama Troupe, which formed the third and fourth brigades of the Shanghai Salvation Drama Troupe once the war was under way. Zheng Junli was leader of the third brigade, which also included the well-known actor Zhao Dan. Chen Liting was in charge of the fourth brigade. After doing considerable propaganda work in Shanghai proper, these groups moved into the interior to do long-term resistance work once Shanghai fell.

At Guo Moruo's urging, Zheng served in Chongqing as director of China's wartime Children's Theater Troupe (Haizi jutuan). From 1940 to 1942 he worked outside the wartime capital on a documentary film project for the Nationalist government's China Film Studio, returning to Chongqing and the stage as a director and actor in the last few years of the war.[16]

Zheng Junli returned to Shanghai in 1946, joining immediately in the effort to establish the Kunlun branch of the old Lianhua Film Studio. There he worked with Cai Chusheng on the epic film A Spring River Flows East. The screenplay, written primarily by Cai, was finished in the summer of 1946. The direction of the film was left primarily to Zheng.

After 1949 Zheng Junli continued making films at the Kunlun Studio. In 1951 his movie Between Husband and Wife (Women fu fu zhi jian) was severely criticized for presenting a "distorted view of life in the liberated areas" after 1949, and Zheng was forced to write a self-criticism entitled "With Deep Remorse I Must Reform Myself" (Wo bixu tongqie gaizao ziji). Zheng was allowed to continue working, and he eventually joined the Communist Party in 1958. In 1961, however, his film on the life of Lu Xun was banned before its release, and in 1967, at the outset of the Cultural Revolution, Zheng was jailed. Owing to mistreatment, he died in prison in 1969 at the age of fifty-eight.


The remarkable postwar works of Chen Liting, Shi Dongshan, Cai Chusheng, and Zheng Junli pose a major question. How was it possible for films that treated victory as defeat to be so popular? To answer this question, it is extremely important to go over almost every detail of their elaborate narrative reconstructions of the war years. This method allows us to appreciate patterns of appeal that link the texts to the popular audience. As Robert Darnton has pointed out, reconstructions

of this sort are not objective, historically accurate, or "true" in any strict sense.[17] We study them because they are "meaningful fabrications" that often reveal much about popular perceptions. The point about these works is not that they were historically accurate accounts of the holocaust years, but rather that they were extremely influential and came to be accepted as valid representations by millions of ordinary urbanites in the postwar period. In a word, the films captured a psychological reality that was pervasive in urban society after the war.

The first narrative, an amusing satire called Far Away Love, opens in Shanghai in late 1927. Chen Liting believed that a full understanding of the disruptive social dynamics of the war years required a grasp of prewar conditions. As the account opens, the audience sees a respected young professor named Xiao Yuanxi lecturing on the subject of "women and society." Xiao presents himself as a modern-minded intellectual who supports the cause of women's rights.

One day Xiao catches a female servant named Yu Zhen taking a book from his study. She claims she is only borrowing it. Given her rural background, Xiao is amazed the young woman can read. Later he tells a female colleague named Wu Ya'nan that he has a grand experiment in mind. Xiao proposes to take personal charge of the servant's reeducation. He is confident he can mold such fine raw material into a "modern young lady" (modeng xiaojie). At first Yu Zhen misunderstands. When she was still in her village, a landlord's son wanted to convert her into a xiaojie, that is, his concubine. The two intellectuals convince her that Xiao has nothing but the best intentions.

Yu Zhen finally agrees, and Professor Xiao lectures her on the role of women in modern society. Since "modern" is defined as "Western," the servant is taught Western table manners and the correct way to shake hands with men. Her peasant garb is exchanged for modern, urban clothes. Still, throughout her rigorous training, Yu Zhen continues to function as a servant. For example, Xiao insists that Yu Zhen sit with him at the breakfast table, but he still expects her to serve the meal.

The professor eventually writes a book entitled On New Women (Xin funü lun) about his experiment, and his fame spreads. He confesses to Yu Zhen, however, that her progress has not been totally satisfactory. She is not an "ideal" woman, he proclaims, because she is insufficiently "independent." Xiao complains that she obeys his commands a bit too mechanically. That problem is addressed, however, when Wu Ya'nan, known throughout the picture as Big Sister Wu, convinces Yu Zhen to go to a public meeting (on the Japanese threat) that the busy professor has no time to attend. Yu Zhen goes in order to show more "independence."

The narrative leaps ahead to 1931. Xiao has married his "ideal" woman and a son is born. Unfortunately, their domestic tranquillity is disturbed by the Mukden Incident. Influenced by Big Sister Wu, Yu Zhen attends ever more meetings. She also enrolls in a class that provides her with some leadership training. Xiao begins to resent the fact that his wife is never home. She justifies her absences by referring to his own remarks about the need for women to show "independence." When Japanese forces attack Shanghai in January 1932, Yu Zhen's father is killed in a

bombing raid. Her brother joins the Nationalist army and is killed in the fierce fighting. Throughout the struggle Yu Zhen works as a volunteer nurse. When an armistice brings the fighting to an end in May, the professor is delighted that Yu Zhen will be returning home. But Yu Zhen is depressed because there was no clear victory. She says her brother "died for nothing." Eager to regain control of his wife, Xiao orders Big Sister Wu to keep away from the family.

The narrative leaps ahead to July 1937. The couple has another son and war threatens once again. And once again Wu Ya'nan shows up to recruit Yu Zhen for war preparation. Xiao claims that the war will never reach Shanghai, and when it does he is shaken to the core. When a friend offers him a comfortable military desk job in Hankou, Xiao agrees to flee the city. Yu Zhen insists on staying in Shanghai as long as possible to do dangerous work at the front. Husband and wife separate, but Xiao refuses to take either of the children, even though he is headed for a safe rear area.

Xiao lives a life of great comfort in Hankou. He wears a fancy Nationalist uniform and lives in a spacious home once occupied by Japanese residents. He has servants and an expense account. When he is not attending meaningless meetings, he plays cards in his office. Enthusiastic young people plead for a chance to go to the front, but Xiao urges them to be "logical" and refuses to process their papers. At night Xiao spends his time in Hankou's best nightclubs.

When the Japanese occupy Shanghai, Yu Zhen retreats with other resistance activists. Along the way her infant child is killed in a Japanese strafing assault. Yu Zhen later joins a Nationalist military unit and puts on the crude uniform of infantry regulars. Every day she hikes along with the troops, helping wounded soldiers, refugees, and orphans.

One of the most visually interesting sequences in the film involves the reunion in Hankou between Xiao and Yu Zhen. The gap that now separates them is apparent in everything that happens. She is wearing rough straw sandals and a tattered uniform; he has expensive leather shoes and a full cape. He wants to pay for a rickshaw; she prefers to walk. He wants her to wear women's clothing; she insists on staying in her battle fatigues. He takes her to Hankou's most elegant restaurant; she says she is not hungry. (See figure 11.1.)

The restaurant scene is especially effective. Xiao spends a small fortune on a wasteful dinner while starving children gape through the window. Yu Zhen is appalled by the decadence of the restaurant culture. She asks Xiao when he started smoking and drinking so much. When the bill comes, Yu Zhen says that a soldier at the front could live for a month on what Xiao has spent.

Back in his lavish home, Xiao tries to tell Yu Zhen that life in the rear is different from life at the front and urges her to adjust. But even Xiao's pet dog does not like Yu Zhen. The dog smells Yu Zhen's feet and immediately begins an angry bark before jumping up on Xiao's lap. One evening they go out to a dazzling nightclub for an evening of drinking and dancing to Western music. The party ends abruptly when Yu Zhen slaps a man who is harassing her.


Figure 11.1. Wearing battle fatigues and straw sandals, an embarrassed Yu Zhen (left) enters an elegant Hankou restaurant with her corrupt husband (center), in Far Away Love (d. Chen Liting, China Film No. 2, 1947). Courtesy of the Film Archive of China, Beijing.

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As the war gets closer to Hankou, Yu Zhen wants to return to the front. Xiao is opposed to her plan. Late one night her thoughts return to the warm feelings of community she enjoyed with her comrades in the army. Before dawn she slips out and returns to the "women's work brigade" at the front, leaving a note that tells Xiao she will return whenever she can.

The war drags on and the paths of husband and wife do not cross. With the fall of Hankou, Xiao drifts to Guilin, where he takes up a minor teaching post. Xiao's dignity continues to slip away. Students sneak out of his meaningless lectures, and a new article of his, entitled "Women's Heaven and Earth Is Still in the Family," is severely criticized in the press.

Yu Zhen, it seems, has a new family. She is working feverishly on the outskirts of Guilin with Big Sister Wu and many others who comprise a wartime Nationalist military collective. The group treats the elderly like parents, soldiers like brothers, and orphans like their own children.

The film ends when a Japanese assault on Guilin leads to a mass exodus of terrified refugees, including Professor Xiao, who looks quite pathetic. His clothes are

disheveled, his glasses are broken, and he has lost almost all his personal possessions. Worst of all, he is not getting the respect he thinks he deserves. He complains that being in a refugee column is like being in the army: "There is no individual freedom!" Actually, the column consists primarily of women, children, and the elderly. Xiao is one of the few adult males in the group.

The refugees finally make it to an evacuation center where Yu Zhen's women's brigade has arranged for a caravan of trucks to take the women and children to safety. It is here that Big Sister Wu spots the wretched Professor Xiao among the women and children. She then brings Yu Zhen and Xiao together in the final scene of the movie.

Xiao wants to get back together with Yu Zhen. He says he needs her and cannot understand how she can get along without her husband and family. He wants her to go to Chongqing with him. When she declines, he asks if she has another man. She answers that she "loves all of those who have died and all who are still fighting." She pities him because he "loves only himself." His is a "selfish love." Still, she promises to talk to him about their relationship once the war is over. Xiao then jumps on a truck and goes off with the women and children.


The second narrative, Eight Thousand Miles of Clouds and Moon, begins in Shanghai in the summer of 1937, immediately following the Japanese invasion.[18] Like Far Away Love, this account of the holocaust is particularly interesting because it dwells on the experiences of a young woman, this time a seventeen-year-old college student named Jiang Lingyu. Inspired by the patriotic appeals of actors who visit her campus, she wants to join a mobile drama troupe being put together by resistance organizers. She is both innocent and idealistic, and never asks how she can gain by actively supporting the war effort.[19]

Lingyu, a native of Jiangxi, lives in Shanghai with her aunt (her mother's sister), uncle, and two cousins (one is a female, a bit younger than Lingyu, and the other, Zhou Jiarong, a male, is older). The problem for Lingyu, played by the famous actress Bai Yang (1920–96), who spent the war doing cultural work in the interior, is that her relatives firmly oppose her plan to join the troupe and leave Shanghai. Lingyu's uncle expresses negative stereotypes of actors and stage people. He protests that it is immoral for young men and women to be thrown together in this fashion beyond the supervision of their families, and sternly warns that "good people will be transformed into bad people" in such circumstances. Lingyu's aunt asserts that the theater people have unacceptably low social and cultural status. Lingyu insists that they are people of "learning" (xuewen) and "standing" (diwei). Even her cousin, Jiarong, is opposed. He says the issue is not patriotism ("We are all patriotic"), but rather the illogic of running off with a bunch of "stars" (mingxing).


But the narrative strongly suggests that the issue is, in fact, patriotism. The choice seems to be between family and country, an extremely complicated choice for most people. In this blatantly manipulative account, as in Far Away Love, the characterizations of the family members are so uniformly negative that the choice is easy. The narrative applauds Lingyu, a teenage female, when, to the shock and dismay of her relatives, she sneaks out to run away with the troupe of actors, a group that is clearly linked to the Nationalist government and military. Indeed, during much of the story troupe members wear Nationalist military uniforms. They regard themselves as "cultural soldiers" (wenhua zhanshi).

The story follows the troupe as they move from Shanghai to Suzhou, Wuxi, Changzhou, and Wuhan. Although the material living conditions of the troupe are austere, its sense of solidarity is great. In a word, the troupe is Lingyu's new family, a family born of wartime privation. The group tirelessly performs outdoor skits (including a fascinating production of Chen Liting's Lay Down Your Whip) to arouse the anti-Japanese indignation of the masses. They also do indoor patriotic plays for the enjoyment of infantry soldiers. Great pains are taken to show that the actors are not at all like the stereotypes imagined by Lingyu's relatives. They are cultured, disciplined, and selflessly dedicated to national salvation.

During the course of the struggle a love relationship develops between Lingyu and a classmate named Gao Libin, who also joined the drama troupe. It is a special love, born of war and sacrifice. Their bond is based on mutual respect and their united contributions to the resistance. As they move farther inland the couple experience every imaginable warrelated hardship. One time they see a member of their troupe shot dead by the enemy. Another time Lingyu falls ill and is cared for by Libin and the group.

After the troupe arrives in Chongqing, Lingyu receives a letter from her father in rural Jiangxi. In sharp contrast to the maternal relatives in Shanghai, her father writes approvingly of her patriotic activities and her relationship with Libin. He agrees that they should marry, but urges them to wait until the war is over. The couple accepts his view. "China's victory will be our victory!" they say. Libin, played by the popular actor Tao Jin (1916–86), who spent most of the war doing cultural work in Chongqing, fantasizes about what China will be like when victory is achieved. The country, he predicts, will be peaceful (heping), democratic (minzhu), and free (ziyou), and the people will be happy (xingf u). Filial to the core, they plan to invite her father to live with them, and to produce a grandson for his enjoyment.

Suddenly Lingyu's cousin, Jiarong, played by the young actor Gao Zheng, shows up in Chongqing.[20] He claims that he, too, is participating in the resistance, but it is clear from his comments that he is enriching himself by engaging in war profiteering. He even offers to supply Lingyu with coffee, powdered milk, candy, and other delicacies. Jiarong is shocked to find that Lingyu and Libin are not benefiting personally from the war. He cannot understand their selfless dedication. For her part, Lingyu is repulsed by Jiarong's animated description of Chongqing's lively (renao) dance and party scene. Interestingly, the growing gap between the two

cousins has pronounced "national" and cultural dimensions. The filmmakers take pains to show that Jiarong and his corrupted friends (like Professor Xiao and his cronies in Far Away Love) live, dress, and socialize in what is portrayed as the Western manner, while the members of the Nationalist drama troupe (like Yu Zhen's medical team in Far Away Love) live and work in ways that are shown to be consistent with essentialistic Chinese customs and morality.

As soon as Japan surrenders in August 1945, Lingyu and Libin get married in a ceremony attended by all their resistance-war comrades. Jiarong stumbles, uninvited, into the wedding party, dressed in a Western suit and tie. Disappointed to learn that Lingyu has married Libin, he invites Lingyu to join him on a special early flight back to liberated Shanghai, where new "postwar" business opportunities await. Needless to say, Lingyu declines.

But the end of the war brings nothing but difficulties for the newlyweds. First, dressed in simple Nationalist military uniforms, they travel to Jiangxi to see Lingyu's father. The couple is shocked to discover that Lingyu's father is dead and the family property has been sold. Morale in her native village is low.

Later, in Shanghai, they visit her aunt and uncle, who now live with Lingyu's cousins in a splendid foreign-style house that Jiarong got from a German national whom he protected just after the war. The reunion does not go well. Jiarong is now dressed in a fancy Western-style military uniform that suggests he is an officer involved in the postwar government takeover of Shanghai. His new girlfriend, shallow and stupid, spends most of her time applying makeup. Lingyu's female cousin has married a well-dressed businessman.

Lingyu and Libin are embarrassed by the comments of their relatives. During a majiang game, Lingyu's aunt asks how much money they made during the war performing plays. Jiarong says that people like them who got nothing for "serving the people" (wei renmin fuwu) were fools. The uncle adds that many people who lived in the interior (houfang) made money. The couple missed one golden opportunity during the war, he points out, but they should not miss another one in postwar Shanghai. Jobless and without the means to secure housing of their own, Lingyu and Libin are forced to live with their relatives for a time, but their relations with the family steadily decline.

One of the most interesting aspects of this film is its perspective on the lives of people who remained in Japanese-occupied areas during the war. With the important exception of Lingyu's relatives and their circle of friends, the portrayal of those who lived under the occupation is surprisingly sympathetic. For instance, Lingyu and Libin are thrilled when they reestablish contact with a group of former classmates who remained in Shanghai during the war. A number of them now work as respected journalists and teachers. Indeed, their close relations with this group of people who suffered under the occupation reminds one of the intimate collectivistic bonds that united resistance activists in the interior. In the end, Lingyu takes a job as a journalist and Libin works as a primary school teacher. (See figure 11.2.)


Figure 11.2. Lingyu (center right) and Libin (center left) are among disillusioned youth who experience hopelessness in postwar Shanghai, in Eight Thousand Miles of Clouds and Moon (d. Shi Dongshan, Kunlun Film Studio, 1947). Courtesy of the Film Archive of China, Beijing.

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In an especially graphic episode, Lingyu shows great compassion for a desperate widow whose home and property have been confiscated by Lingyu's cousin, Jiarong, in the postwar takeover. Because the widow's husband died at the end of the war, she is now easy prey for people like Jiarong, who use any excuse to charge that people who lived in Shanghai during the occupation are traitors (hanjian) who deserve punishment. The homeless widow insists that her husband was not a collaborator. "You think that anyone who remained in Shanghai must have been a traitor!" she cries. Jiarong responds that the old man sold goods to Japanese consumers in his shop and rented rooms to Japanese tenants. The issue in the narrative is not so much the innocence or guilt of the accused traitor's family, but the perspective that the audience is being encouraged to accept. The morally upright Lingyu and Libin show compassion for the plight of the woman. They seem to be saying that ordinary people who remained in Shanghai and who encountered the Japanese every day ought to be viewed sympathetically, while those like Jiarong who pretended to "participate in the resistance" in the interior deserve to be scorned.[21]

Lingyu and Libin decide to move from their relative's luxurious home to a dilapidated one-room flat. Still, their postwar difficulties mount. Lingyu's work as a

journalist gets her involved in the effort to expose people like Jiarong and, thus, intensifies family conflict. At one point she confronts her cousin: "Even though you are a relative, I'll write about all your activities unless you return the things you took." Libin works hard as a teacher, but, weakened by years of wartime hardship and postwar scarcity, he contracts tuberculosis.

Toward the end of the narrative Lingyu discovers she is pregnant. Normally this would be a joyous way to begin postwar life. But given the unexpected circumstances, she wonders whether it is a good thing. For a time, their spirits are buoyed by the return to Shanghai of the rest of their comrades in the drama troupe.

The narrative ends months later when Lingyu, alone at night, collapses on a rain-soaked street. Libin panics when she fails to return, and mobilizes the wartime veterans, most of whom are still wearing rough military garb, to fan out through the city to find her. They finally locate her and bring her to a hospital. The cost for her care and the delivery of the baby is five hundred thousand yuan. The leader of the troupe has two hundred thousand yuan, and the rest of the members contribute the remainder. Libin finally arrives at the hospital as a healthy baby is born. But the story closes on a highly ambiguous note. It is not at all clear that Lingyu will survive. The doctor says her only hope is to rest for a year in "a place where the air is clean." The group resolves to care for the baby. "This child is our child," they pledge. Still, the final image is a huge question mark on an otherwise blank screen, followed by a text that invites the audience to participate in the resolution of the problem. It asserts that the actions of the audience will determine whether people like Lingyu live or die.


The third and most powerful narrative, a two-part film entitled A Spring River Flows East, features many of the same lead actors and actresses, but this account of the holocaust experience heads in a number of new directions.[22] The first part, "Eight Years of Separation and Chaos" (Ba nian li luan), begins not in 1937, but on National Day, October 10, 1931, in the immediate aftermath of the Japanese occupation of Manchuria. As in Far Away Love, a serious effort is made to locate warrelated issues in the broader context of prewar conditions. In this story the protagonist is a young man named Zhang Zhongliang, who works as a night-school teacher in a class attended by female textile workers in Shanghai.

Zhang, an ardent patriot who advocates immediate resistance to Japanese aggression, has organized a gala National Day talent show in a factory union hall. At the end of the show he is urged by young workers to make some patriotic remarks. His passionate anti-Japanese speech elicits two different responses. The majority applauds wildly and throws money on the stage; one female worker, Sufen, idolizes the dashing and heroic teacher. But a small minority seated at the front, consisting

of management and staff, is alarmed by the spontaneous political demonstration. Zhang (played by Tao Jin) is summoned by the factory's manager, who claims to be as patriotic as the next fellow. He insists, however, that Zhang's political activities will irritate the Japanese and bring unwanted attention to the factory, thus threatening the livelihood of the workers.

After this opening tone is set, the narrative turns to the romantic relationship between Zhang Zhongliang and Sufen. Showing the utmost respect for the family matriarch, Zhang invites Sufen to come home for dinner one night to meet his mother. Naturally, the mother takes an immediate liking to the shy and highly "traditionalistic" young woman (played by Bai Yang). Zhang proposes marriage to Sufen later that night and, as he presents her with a ring, is heard promising that the couple will "be together forever" (yongyuan zai yiqi). The couple get married and before long a son is born.

Unfortunately for them, full-scale war breaks out in mid-1937, and Japanese forces are fast approaching Shanghai. Their dreams of family unity are smashed. Determined to join a Red Cross unit, Zhang tells his mother and wife that they should stay behind in Shanghai, but that if the situation becomes intolerable, they should flee to their native village in the countryside, where Zhang's father and younger brother, Zhongmin, are living. "I'm leaving you only because of the resistance war," Zhang tells Sufen.

Zhang's Red Cross group gets caught in the middle of the bloody struggle for Shanghai and then retreats west when the city is lost. His family flees to the countryside and links up with Zhongmin and his fiancée, who belong to a guerrilla unit based in the hills. Zhongmin, played by Gao Zheng (the evil cousin in Eight Thousand Miles of Clouds and Moon!), is a paragon of Confucian virtue. When the Japanese close in on the village, Zhongmin respectfully asks his father's permission before escaping with his fiancée to the guerrilla base.

In 1938–39 Zhongliang travels with Nationalist units to Hankou and then Nanchang, all the while doing exhausting and dangerous Red Cross work. But life is much worse for his family under the Japanese occupation. Japanese forces confiscate grain, property, and livestock and require the people to do backbreaking forced labor. When a merciless new grain tax is announced, villagers plead with Zhongliang's father, the village school principal, to appeal to the enemy. Instead of reconsidering, the Japanese execute the old man. The local guerrilla unit gets revenge by wiping out the Japanese post in the village, but Sufen, her son, and mother-in-law decide to return to Shanghai to wait out the war.

Meanwhile, Zhang Zhongliang has been captured by the Japanese in the interior and forced to do slave labor. He escapes, however, and, dressed in rags and penniless, arrives in Chongqing in 1941. He tries to find resistance-related work, but fails. He is also frustrated in an attempt to secure factory work in one of the war industries. In a deep depression, he looks up an acquaintance from Shanghai by the name of Wang Lizhen, played by the famous actress Shu Xiuwen (1915–69), who made resistance movies in Chongqing during the war. Wang offers

to let Zhang live in her spacious house and promises to use her influence with a wealthy businessman named Pang Haogong to get him a meaningful job.

Zhang is shocked to discover, however, that Pang's company is not helping the resistance at all. Pang is a war profiteer. His employees hang around all day, while his lieutenants enjoy a carefree life of dancing, partying, eating, drinking, and romancing. Zhang complains to Wang Lizhen that "there's not an iota of resistance spirit at the company." Wang laughs hysterically and tells him he needs to relax and adjust to life in Chongqing. His spirit weakened, Zhang finally gives in to temptation. Not only does he accept her advice, he also succumbs to her seductions. After several rounds of heavy drinking, Zhang ends up in Wang's bed. Wang is unaware that Zhang is married.

At the end of part one the story returns briefly to Shanghai, where Sufen and Zhang's son and mother are struggling to survive under a cruel occupation. Even though they live in a simple shack and have barely enough to eat, Sufen and her mother-in-law help out at a school that tends to war orphans. One night, at a moment when Zhang is in bed with Wang in Chongqing, Sufen wonders why the family has not heard anything from him for years.

Unlike the first part of this epic narrative, which covers the period from 1931 to 1944, the second part, entitled "Before and after Dawn" (Tian liang qian hou), takes place almost entirely in the summer and autumn months of 1945. The beginning of this segment is dominated by the story of Zhang Zhongliang's meteoric rise in the ranks of Pang Haogong's elaborate business organization. Before long he becomes Pang's chief aide, fully complicitous in a web of corrupt wartime profiteering and influence peddling. While Zhang and his new friends and cohorts feast on lobsters and crabs flown into Chongqing from occupied Shanghai, Zhang's mother, wife, and son are barely managing to make ends meet under the Japanese occupation. To make matters worse, toward the end of the war Zhang decides to marry Wang Lizhen at a lavish wedding ceremony in Chongqing. During the wedding feast a letter addressed to Zhang arrives from his wife. Fearful that his prewar past will be revealed, he destroys the letter.

In his capacity as Pang's most trusted assistant, Zhang is among the first to fly back to Shanghai when the war ends. Pang has used his influence to get Zhang designated as a "takeover official" (jieshou dayuan). Their goal is to get off to a fast start in exploiting postwar economic opportunities. In liberated Shanghai, arrangements have been made for Zhang to live in the home of Wang Lizhen's cousin (biaojie) He Wenyan, played by the well-known actress Shangguan Yunzhu (1920–68). At first, He Wenyan courts Zhang's favor because she wants him to help get her husband, who has been arrested for collaborating with the Japanese, released from jail. Later she discovers that her husband has been seeing other women, so she allows him to languish in prison while she focuses on yet another seduction of Zhang, the rich newcomer from Chongqing. Zhang instantly agrees to the new arrangement but asks Wenyan what they will do when Lizhen arrives

from Chongqing. Wenyan says it will be no problem: Lizhen will be his "resistance-war wife" (kangzhan furen); she will be his "secret wife" (mimi furen).

Zhang's first wife, Sufen, and his mother and son are worried sick because they have heard nothing from him in the first few weeks of the postwar period. Although the war is over, the family's economic situation steadily worsens. Desperate for work, Sufen looks for a job as a domestic servant. As fate would have it, she gains employment as a day worker in the large house run by He Wenyan. Indeed, her husband is in bed with Wenyan on the morning Sufen arrives to be interviewed for the job. The lipstick-stained bed clothes she will have to hand wash belong to her own husband, who once promised her that they would be together for eternity.

Soon thereafter Wang Lizhen arrives from Chongqing and takes up residence with Zhang at Wenyan's house. Now, for the first time, all three of Zhang's women are under the same roof. Wenyan knows about Lizhen, but not about Sufen. Lizhen knows nothing of Zhang's connections to Sufen or Wenyan. Sufen knows nothing about her husband's presence in the house. Zhang, of course, is unaware of Sufen's work in the servants' quarters.

A major crisis explodes at a sumptuous National Day banquet held at the house on October 10, 1945. The guest of honor is Pang Haogong. Just as Pang is about to force Zhang and Lizhen to do a tango for everyone, Sufen, who is serving drinks to the guests, spots Zhang. A major scandal then erupts in front of all the guests. Sufen collapses on the dance floor, Lizhen screams hysterically, and Wenyan cracks a wicked smile when it becomes clear that Zhang is indeed married to the servant. Lizhen runs upstairs, threatening suicide if Zhang does not divorce Sufen. Zhang promises her he will get a divorce. Sufen runs home to break the bad news to her son and mother-in-law. The mother is numbed by Sufen's disclosures. By coincidence, the old lady has just received a letter from her younger son, Zhongmin, the upright guerrilla fighter who sacrificed for the nation throughout the war. He has written to announce his marriage to his prewar sweetheart, who worked alongside him throughout the difficult years of national struggle. Zhang's mother pulls her grandson over and tearfully tells him to learn from the example of his uncle Zhongmin rather than his father. (See figure 11.3.)

In a highly emotional final sequence, the old lady takes Sufen and the young boy to a confrontational meeting with Zhongliang, who is now caught in the middle; his mother, wife, and son are downstairs, while his second wife and mistress are upstairs. At this point the narrative centers on the issue of Zhang's choice. Will he go back to his old life or continue to embrace his new life?

Disgraced by her husband's conduct, Sufen commits suicide by jumping into a nearby river. The old lady and the young boy rush to the waterfront, but it is too late. A distraught Zhongliang arrives on the scene, but seems incapable of assuming responsibility for his grieving family members. Before long, Lizhen and Wenyan arrive in a fancy American automobile to urge Zhongliang to leave with them. Viewers are not allowed to learn what Zhongliang decides to do. As the


Figure 11.3. Postwar dreams are shattered when Zhang Zhongliang's "wartime" wife (right) contemplates suicide after discovering that he has a "prewar" family, in A Spring River Flows East (d. Cai Chusheng and Zheng Junli, Kunlun Film Studio, 1947). Courtesy of the Film Archive of China, Beijing.

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story ends, his mother looks into the camera, as if addressing the audience, and wails, "In times like these, decent people can't survive, while villains live for a thousand years!"


One of the first (and rather odd) things one notices about these popular resistance-war narratives is that very little is said about the massive violence of the war itself. The enemy is almost never seen. No Japanese appear in either Far Away Love or Eight Thousand Miles. In A Spring River, Japanese atrocities are shown in detail only in the relatively brief episodes involving Zhang Zhongliang's capture, the occupation of his native village, and the closing of the school for orphans in Shanghai. Postwar Japanese films like The Human Condition (Ningen no joken, d. Masaki Kobayashi, 1959) contain many more details about the brutality of Japanese forces in China.

The most obvious explanation for such an omission is that postwar filmmakers simply did not have the budgets or the technical means to recreate the sort of

large-scale battle scenes one normally associates with war epics. Instead, the directors of these works skillfully inserted bits of wartime documentary footage in a few strategic places to give a graphic sense of the terror that engulfed combatants and noncombatants alike. But it is not these explicit treatments of violence that make the three films successful and convincing as holocaust narratives.

Rather than focus on violence, these directors, and the many who followed their lead in 1947 and 1948, decided to emphasize the social consequences of protracted war. This appears to be what the postwar audience wanted. More specifically, all three films dwell almost exclusively on the fate of the family unit in the holocaust environment. Telling the story of the war in the form of family histories made sense in basic production terms. Postwar filmmakers had the means of executing such a plan. More important, however, the decision resonated with a long family-centered tradition of Chinese cinema.[23] Nothing was more important in the mid-twentieth-century social structure of China than the family unit. And, more than anything else, ordinary people experienced the war as members of family groups.

All three films adopt the view that in experiential terms it was not the nation as a whole that suffered during the war, it was Chinese families that suffered. And the losses were staggering. Families were ripped apart and then reconfigured in a variety of unfamiliar ways. In Far Away Love, Yu Zhen loses her father, her brother, and her son. Morover, the war forces her to confront issues of legitimate and illegitimate authority in family life. In the end her marriage is destroyed. In Eight Thousand Miles, Jiang Lingyu's family disintegrates before her eyes. When she returns to her native village, her father is dead and the family dwelling has been sold. During the course of the war she loses all respect for her relatives in Shanghai, who fail to support her plan to join the resistance. Her cousin Jiarong becomes a war profiteer.

Wartime dreams about reuniting families are dashed when the war is over. Lingyu's family exists in name only. When Lingyu learns of her family's corrupt and exploitative postwar activities, she moves out and rejects her relatives. Indeed, when she turns to journalistic work, her own family becomes a target of her scathing investigative reporting.

Lingyu's attempt to start a family of her own is frustrated. She has a child, but it is by no means clear that she will live to see the child grow up. The prewar Chinese family seems to have no future. For people like Yu Zhen (in Far Away Love), Lingyu, and Libin, its role has been assumed by the collective surrogate family of friends and comrades that evolved in the interior during the war. It is this group that plays the nurturing and support roles normally associated with the consanguine family, and that commands the loyalty and respect of people like Yu Zhen, Lingyu, and Libin.

The account of wartime family breakup in A Spring River is even more devastating. This is because the fascinating protagonist, Zhang Zhongliang, is markedly different from the positive characters (Lingyu and Libin) that one encounters in

Eight Thousand Miles. The story of Zhang Zhongliang and his family is more interesting and more painful precisely because Zhang appears first in "Eight Years of Separation and Chaos" as a heroic figure. His heroism has two interrelated dimensions. First, he is an ardent patriot, willing to sacrifice to defend the nation from Japanese aggression. Second, despite his youth, he is an old-fashioned, Confucianstyle family man. He is devoted to his equally traditionalistic wife and son (promising that they will be together "forever") and profoundly filial in his interactions with his kindly mother. Zhang's excellent relations with his family are central to the subsequent development of the narrative. He is willing to sacrifice for the nation-state because, by doing so, he will be protecting and defending his family way of life. In this film (and in Eight Thousand Miles) the dominant vision that positive characters have of postwar life entails a "great reunion" that will bring decent families back to where they were in the prewar period. Victory meant family restoration.

One of the greatest tragedies of the war is that for millions of people the "great reunion" never happened. There was no return to prewar modes. Indeed, in Far Away Love, hopes for a family reunion are dashed well before the end of the war. The case of Zhang Zhongliang in A Spring River is particularly poignant (and more complex than the cases of Lingyu and Libin in Eight Thousand Miles) because he is a "good" man who went "bad" during the war itself. The visions he had of a "great reunion" are not simply denied to him (as they were to Lingyu and Libin), but he abandons them once he becomes entangled in a web of wartime corruption, greed, and moral depravity. Most disturbing of all, it is by no means clear at the end of the narrative that the corrupted hero can be reformed and returned "home" to his mother and son. The whole meaning of the term "family" has been distorted beyond recognition when Zhang, confused and panicky, is shown together on (of all days) National Day with his prewar wife, his wartime wife, and his postwar "secret" wife.


These three family narratives, and especially Eight Thousand Miles, were clearly inspired by the personal wartime experiences of the screenwriters and directors who had joined the resistance. Shi Dongshan, for instance, worked in a traveling theater troupe during the early years of the war and eventually reached Chongqing, just like the characters in his movie.[24] It does not follow, however, that the primary audience for these films was people like themselves who had traveled to the interior.

By failing to ask questions about the audience, scholars have failed to note the obvious. The primary target audience for these films was people who stayed behind and endured the harsh Japanese occupation. In large cities like Shanghai, most people had stayed behind. After the war they were by far the largest potential audience for the new epic accounts of the war. They may not have participated

in the resistance, but they too experienced the war as separation and deprivation. They too experienced the immediate postwar period as disappointment and disillusionment.[25] Victory did not feel like victory when families remained fragmented and when innocent people were accused of collaboration.

People returning from the interior had much to learn about how ordinary citizens had suffered under the occupation, and the movies under review provided such information. But it appears that these films primarily addressed the needs of the people who had stayed behind. Cut off from reliable news during the war, they had many questions about events that had unfolded "out of view" in the interior. Therefore, they were strongly attracted to epic narratives that "recreated" the war and, thus, allowed them to "see" the disorienting social forces that it had unleashed. They needed answers to nagging questions about family defeats that followed national victory.

After the war many ordinary Shanghai residents felt stigmatized by their decision to remain in Shanghai during the years of conflict. Many were defensive about their personal histories. Some of the people who returned from the interior felt superior and treated those who had remained behind in condescending fashion. One of the most striking things about the grand holocaust narratives under review here, and especially Eight Thousand Miles and A Spring River, is that they view the ordinary people who lived under the Japanese (the very same people who made up the audience for these films) in a sympathetic light. These narratives firmly rejected the view that people who had stayed behind were unpatriotic collaborators. It is easy to understand why such films were so popular.

This is not to say that these films contained no criticism of those who lived under the occupation. In Eight Thousand Miles the portrait of Lingyu's aunt and uncle is most unflattering. They are clearly greedy war profiteers. But more important are the sympathetic characterizations of the old woman (whose property is seized by Jiarong on the pretext that her husband was a traitor) and the patriotic classmates who are reunited with Lingyu and Libin after the war.

In A Spring River the brief representations of traitors like He Wenyan's husband are striking, but far more vivid are the visual portraits of those who were victimized by the foreign aggressors. Zhongliang's father and the other patriotic villagers are exploited mercilessly by the Japanese, and his mother and wife suffer unspeakably in urban Shanghai. They have atrocious housing, they lack adequate food supplies, and they are humiliated by the enemy time and again. These compassionate accounts of the misery of Sufen and her mother-in-law were warmly welcomed by postwar moviegoers. It was gratifying to "see" their own story on screen.

But postwar film fans saw much more on the screen than sympathetic images of their own wartime sufferings in occupied Shanghai. They also learned from these powerful narratives that not all the people who traveled to the interior were motivated by selfless patriotism. Professor Xiao Yuanxi is presented in Far Away Love as a cowardly man whose acceptance of a government desk job in Hankou is motivated more by fear than patriotism. The detailed accounts of the activities of

Pang Haogong and his corrupt associates in A Spring River revealed a disgraceful life of wartime comfort and privilege. The tales of the moral decline of people like Zhang Zhongliang in A Spring River and Xiao Yuanxi in Far Away Love are particularly gripping because they make it clear that many well-regarded citizens who traveled to the interior did not behave patriotically. One of the most effective editing techniques used in A Spring River to accentuate the failings of people like Zhang Zhongliang in the interior involved a constant cutting back and forth from scenes of brutality and hardship in occupied Shanghai to scenes of luxury and decadence in Chongqing. This allowed the audience to "see" what was blocked from view during the war. After viewing these movies it was easy to conclude that people who lived in the occupied areas sacrificed more than those who sat out the war in the interior.


Characterizations such as good and evil, strong and weak, selfless and selfish had definite class and gender dimensions in these popular family narratives. In terms of social class, intellectuals (with the important exception of Professor Xiao), artists, factory workers, and peasants are cast in an exceedingly positive light in all three films. The urban bourgeoisie, however, is treated very harshly in all three narratives. It is to this class that Professor Xiao is assigned. In Far Away Love he is cast as a self-centered, petty bourgeois snob. In Eight Thousand Miles, Jiarong, his parents, and friends are revealed as wartime and postwar profiteers who have no patriotic inclinations whatsoever. In A Spring River, the factory owner who is upset by Zhongliang's patriotic speech on National Day, the businessman Pang Hao-gong, and, finally, Zhang Zhongliang himself are portrayed as greedy and heartless opportunists who prey on the poor and defenseless. None of the films offers even one example of a patriotic capitalist. Most interesting of all, the bourgeoisie is indicted as a class not because it is incompetent in professional terms, but rather because of its moral failings. In the end, the problem of the bourgeoisie in Chinese society is treated more as a moral problem than as an economic or political problem. The individualism of businessmen and petty bourgeois professors prevents them from behaving patriotically. These sorts of representations of class are, of course, quite familiar. Prewar films and fiction were filled with similar images of upright working people, patriotic students, and selfish bourgeois elements.

A far more provocative aspect of these grand narratives is their treatment of gender issues. Indeed, the characterizations of men, and particularly men in the prime of life, are highly critical. The narratives seem to hold men responsible for China's plight: men were not able to prevent the Japanese invasion and, after the war, were not able to reunite the nation. The failings of China, in this controversial reading, are the failings of its men. Some men, like Jiarong, the young businessman, are greedy and corrupt. Some, like Pang Haogong, are crude bullies. Some, like Professor Xiao, are shameless hypocrites. Others, like Zhang Zhongliang

are simply weak, indecisive, and ineffectual until they link up with people like Pang. They value a social life that stresses the pleasures of wine, women, and song.

According to patriarchal norms, men are ultimately responsible for the well-being of the family, and by extension, the nation. But in these family narratives most of the males who are central to the stories are not seen in such time-honored roles. Very little information is supplied about their family life: nothing is known about Professor Xiao's background, Jiarong has no wife or children, nothing is known about Pan Haogong's family, and Zhang Zhongliang's relations with women are motivated primarily by lust once he leaves his family. In short, the viewer is led to believe that wartime conditions brought out the worst in China's men. There are positive portrayals of men in these narratives, including the characterizations of Libin in Eight Thousand Miles and Zhang Zhongmin in A Spring River, but in both films these attractive male figures are of secondary importance.

If war brought out the worst in men, it appears to have brought out the best in Chinese women, at least according to these popular postwar visualizations. On the whole, women seem stronger and more capable than men under wartime circumstances. In Far Away Love, Yu Zhen, a rural servant "trained" to be a middle-class housewife, sacrifices everything for the resistance while her cowardly husband runs away. In Eight Thousand Miles the entire story of the holocaust and its social consequences is seen from the perspective of a remarkably resilient and persistent young intellectual woman, Jiang Lingyu. In A Spring River, the most important women, Sufen and her mother-in-law, are not at all like the modern and progressive-thinking Lingyu, but, like Lingyu, they have a remarkable ability to endure hardship and survive without the help of their husbands and adult sons. These images of strong, independent, and patriotic women are among the most intriguing aspects of postwar cinema. Characters like Yu Zhen, Lingyu, and Sufen stand in sharp contrast to the negative and threatening images of the femme fatale that were so prevalent in prewar cinema.

Even the negative female figures, the bourgeois women, are not exactly a recycled version of the 1930s screen vamp. They too seem stunningly independent and resourceful in the harsh wartime environment. Confused and weak, Zhang Zhongliang is no match for the tough-minded Wang Lizhen. Similarly, He Wenyan proves to be unusually capable of adjusting and adapting to a wartime and postwar world in which relations with men are fleeting and unreliable.

Given the highly patriarchal norms of Chinese society in the mid-twentieth century, it is striking to see the extent to which cultural decency, wartime strength, and anticolonialism are gendered female in these films, all of which were written and directed by men. Similarly, it is surprising to see the extent to which cultural degeneration, weakness under wartime conditions, and the failure to resist colonialism are gendered male. This picture of wartime China shows patriarchal norms and the family institution itself to be in serious disarray. With a couple of important exceptions (Libin and Zhang Zhongmin), men are irresponsible and unpredictable, while women are strong and capable.



For decades the classic films Far Away Love, Eight Thousand Miles of Clouds and Moon, and A Spring River Flows East have been thought of as "leftist" works fashioned by filmmakers who supposedly were under the control of the Communist Party. Critics close to the Nationalist Party accepted this view and, thus, questioned the credibility of the filmmakers and dismissed the films.[26] They never attempted to explain the astounding popularity of the movies or, more important, to appreciate the extent to which the filmmakers had close links to the Nationalist state and party during and after the war. Critics close to the Communist Party accepted the view that the films were "leftist" and celebrated the "progressivism" of the artists, thereby claiming these important artifacts as their own.[27]

In fact, the cultural politics of these holocaust narratives are not so clearcut. The political and cultural content of the films is neither as pro-Communist nor as anti-Nationalist as most observers would have us believe. The films have a highly critical tone, but the social criticism is consistent with perspectives associated with both the Nationalist and Communist Parties. Far Away Love was made by the Nationalists themselves in a state-run studio. All three movies were officially reviewed and approved by Nationalist state censors.[28] In recent years, industry personalities familiar with these films have asserted that state censors had been bribed. But this is not a very convincing explanation of why they were passed by the censors. Daily advertising in local newspapers reveals that all three films had extremely long runs in Shanghai and other major cities. The state certainly had the means to shut down theaters that showed offensive films, but no serious effort was made to discourage repeated screenings of the three epics under review here.

Communist and Nationalist cultural historians have failed, each for their own reasons, to mention that Far Away Love, Eight Thousand Miles, and A Spring River were among the ten films made in 1947 that received the coveted Zhongzheng Culture Prize named in honor of Chiang Kai-shek himself. All recipients got a cash award and a handsome Oscar-like trophy. A Spring River, the most critical of the three films discussed here, was listed first among the ten "glorious" winners by Shen bao, hardly an antigovernment newspaper.[29] Actress Bai Yang, who joined the Communist Party in 1958, won the first Chiang Kai-shek best actress award in 1947 for her performances in Eight Thousand Miles and A Spring River. For nearly fifty years the two sides in the civil war have been too embarrassed to acknowledge this unsettling fact.

Scholars in the People's Republic account for the production and public release of these films by emphasizing the ability of the filmmakers to outsmart Nationalist bureaucrats who were eager to crush works critical of wartime and postwar social disarray. Actually, the critical thrust of these movies was well known. There was no revolutionary conspiracy. Spectacular newspaper advertising that appeared long before the films were first shown was remarkably explicit. Ads for Far

Away Love, a government-made movie, proclaimed, "All men are selfish; women struggle for liberation!" (nanren dou shi zisi; nuzi lizheng jiefang), "How will women of today find a way out?" (shidai nuxing chulu hezai), and "The ideal wife turns out to be more than anyone imagined!" (lixiang taitai chuchu chaochu lixiang). Ads for Eight Thousand Miles declared, "So many sorrows and tears before and after victory!" (shengli qianhou xing suan lei) and "See never-ending waves of ugliness; curse never-ending and ferocious corruption!" (kan wuwan de jieshou choutai; ma wuwan de tanwu ezhuang). Ads for A Spring River stated, "An epic production that shakes the Chinese film world" (zhenhan Zhongguo yingtan de wenyi ju zhi) and "A beacon that can be seen for ten thousand miles; eight years of separation and chaos; heaven is in distress, earth is in misery; ghosts and spirits are moaning!" (fengyan wanli; ba nian li luan; tian cho di can; gui shen wu yan).[30] Advertising campaigns, some of which were funded with government money, underscored rather than concealed the critical thrust of these painful narratives.

The praise heaped on these films by the mainstream popular film press suggests that the community was acutely aware of the critical and controversial approach to the war taken by Chen Liting and other postwar directors. For instance, the April 1947 edition of the popular film magazine Dianying, a nonpolitical publication that normally concerned itself with the divorces of film stars, the number of kissing scenes in American movies, the shape of Bai Guang's legs, and the kinds of cosmetics used by Hollywood matinee idols, boldly asserted that Far Away Love, Eight Thousand Miles, and Heavenly Spring Dream (Tiantang chun meng, d. Tang Xiaodan, March 1947), another controversial warrelated film produced in a state-run studio, were fine examples of postwar films that "illustrated reality and gave voice to the people."[31]

The Dianying article, which appeared before the release of A Spring River, asserted that these films were popular because the screenwriters were attuned to "the inner feelings" of the film audience. By contrast, many veteran screenwriters were said to be out of touch. They had the "connections" to get their stories made into films, but they were interested in cinema only as "a tool to make a fortune." They exploited the postwar demand for films, but their scripts were "terrible." The magazine called explicitly for more films like Eight Thousand Miles, which it claimed was the "first postwar Chinese film" purchased by foreign buyers for distribution in Europe. As for the moneygrubbers whose films failed to deal with the real concerns of the audience: "These scum who hurt the Chinese film industry should be sent to the gallows that has been set up by the people. They should be purged!"[32]

Nationalist authorities allowed the films to be screened in part because they were consistent with critical perspectives held within the Nationalist Party and government.[33] Disillusioned elements within the Nationalist movement realized that the cultural and political messages of the films struck a responsive chord among the millions who had resided in enemy-occupied areas during the war. This was an audience that desperately wanted to "see," and thereby "experience,"

events that had taken place in the interior. These were people who wanted to understand the connection between wartime dislocations and the bitter disappointments that ordinary people experienced immediately following victory. The films ask the questions: Why did victory not feel like victory? Why did the people who sacrificed the most seem to benefit the least? And why did those who sacrificed the least seem to benefit the most?

It is time to look at such works not solely in terms of the highly polarized politics of the civil war era and after, but also in terms of the complex relationship between commercial filmmakers working in the state and private sectors and their vast film audience. When the films are analyzed from this perspective, is it possible to see that the cultural politics of these epic narratives were far from radical or "progressive." They were decidedly conservative. All three films argue that certain core Chinese values, especially those governing social relations within the family, were broken down and forgotten during the long years of wartime separation and dislocation.

Without exception the positive characters in all the films (Yu Zhen, Lingyu, Libin, Sufen, Zhongmin, and even Zhongliang before his moral decline) were people who cherished "traditional" family values: respect for parents and devotion to spouse and children. Their patriotism and unselfish public-spiritedness were natural extensions of their old-fashioned, neo-Confucian cultural orientation. There is nothing left wing about the mores of these people.

The negative characters (Professor Xiao, Jiarong, Pang Haogong, Lizhen, Wenyan, and Zhongliang after his moral demise) are people who betrayed time-honored family values and adopted alien ways that make them decadent, irresponsible, and greedy. Their wartime behavior, according to the logic of these narratives, was also an extension of their immoral family relations. They are incapable of acting patriotically, it seems, because they do not accept "real" Chinese cultural values. Some are cowards, and some actually betray the nation, while others participate in the resistance only because they are motivated by personal gain.

The audience is being told that people who had been faithful to traditional Chinese family values sacrificed selflessly in the interior or suffered unjustly in the occupied territories. People who had abandoned old-style family values were hedonistic profiteers, shameless collaborators, or cowards. After viewing narratives of this sort, the audience, comprised essentially of ordinary people who suffered under the occupation, knew who to blame for their wartime and postwar miseries. The underlying argument of these films, one usually not associated with "leftists," is that the erosion of traditional family values during the war was a destructive phenomenon that weakened the entire society. Nowhere is the state or Nationalist Party blamed for the moral decline. Still, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that these films eroded public confidence in the postwar state nevertheless.

It is not enough, however, merely to point out that the family values embraced by the negative characters are simply "untraditional." They are foreign. Every effort

is made in these works to show that the negative characters responsible for much of the wartime and postwar misery of common people behave, look, and even dress in a "Western," "bourgeois" manner. Their culture is an alien, capitalist culture of merchants. The narratives seek to deny these people their essential Chineseness. Stripped of their Chinese identity, these personalities behave, not surprisingly, in ways that are incompatible with the national interest. The films, therefore, are anticolonial in two senses: they resist Japanese imperialism and they reject Western bourgeois culture.

It is inadequate, however, simply to dismiss these characterizations as so much Marxist anticapitalism. There is something very Confucian and culturally conservative about the antimerchant thrust of these popular visualizations. When it comes to denouncing capitalism and the bourgeoisie, there is much that Chinese Marxism of the 1930s and 1940s shared in common with the neoconservative approaches that surfaced in urban China in the 1930s.[34] In August 1948, ten months after the release of A Spring River, Jiang Jingguo himself blasted Shanghai's big-money interests: "Their wealth and their foreign-style homes are built on the skeletons of the people. How is their conduct any different from that of armed robbers?"[35]

But what about the image of the collective family that emerges so prominently throughout Far Away Love and at the end of Eight Thousand Miles? Surely this a revolutionary vision of the new socialist society that awaited China. Surely it justifies the view that these films are the work of leftists. The problem is that while the image is definitely "collective," it is far from revolutionary. The "collective" or surrogate family espouses most of the old family values advocated by the positive and patriotic characters! The audience is told there is a need for drastic social change, but it should be a transformation that will restore real Chinese family values rather than reject them.[36] It will be a change that eradicates the pernicious influence of the alien culture of greedy merchants.

Women appear in these films as remarkably strong and independent survivors of the holocaust experience. These images were undoubtedly welcomed by women viewers, said to comprise a majority of the audience for postwar Chinese films.[37] Yu Zhen and Lingyu are "liberated" from oppressive families, and find happiness and fulfillment in wartime Nationalist collectives. But their liberation is from the unpatriotic, bourgeois, foreign-style family, not from patriarchal authority in general. The new surrogate families to which they bond allow for an active role for women, but they remain essentially patriarchal. Women who liberate themselves from alien bourgeois families have only one option: to resubmit to the "Chinese-style" patriarchal authority of the patriotic collectives. These collective groupings embrace what are viewed as essentialistic Chinese family values. They are values linked to the rural pasts of Yu Zhen, Lingyu, and Sufen.

China won the war. China defeated Japan. But the social consequences of the holocaust were most profound. When the war was over, victory felt like defeat, not only for many of those who joined the resistance, but especially for those millions

who endured the hardships of enemy occupation. Far Away Love, Eight Thousand Miles, and A Spring River were early postwar attempts to explain that feeling.


During the early phases of the war there was a tactical need for a popular culture that mobilized people and showed how defeat could be turned into victory. As Changtai Hung has pointed out, wartime popular culture made a significant contribution to the resistance effort.[38] Personal and family losses were staggering, but millions of people were determined to sacrifice for national salvation. Of course, most wartime popular culture was state-directed propaganda. It resisted Japanese imperialism quite effectively by building a strong sense of community, but its approach to Chinese society was largely uncritical.

The popular culture of the immediate postwar period discussed in this chapter headed in new directions because it was responding to different needs. Now the challenge was to explain why victory felt like defeat. Even though cultural workers in the state sector were among those who addressed this question, the most vibrant postwar popular culture can hardly be characterized as state-directed propaganda. In fact, those who produced the new popular culture took pride in their relative independence from the state. Some directors accepted state financial support but continued to function as independent-minded and critical artists nevertheless.

One is tempted to say that controversial postwar films are better characterized as an example of popular culture directed by intellectual elites who had close ties to the literary world. But the story of postwar popular culture is more complex (and more interesting) than that. Most popular postwar films, including state and private-sector productions, are interesting examples of top-down and bottom-up cultural cross-fertilization. Intellectual elites like Chen Liting and Shi Dongshan definitely did not pull the victory-as-defeat theme out of thin air and then impose it on a politically docile public in a top-down manner. The popular culture they produced fed on discontent that was already a pronounced fact of postwar life. The filmmakers did not create the disaffection.

But just because postwar filmmaking was not a clear case of top-down cultural imposition by the state or by independent cultural elites does not mean that it was a matter of filmmakers blindly chasing public opinion. That is to say, the most popular postwar productions cannot be regarded as instances of purely commercial activity in which filmmakers contribute little or nothing of their own, preferring instead to give the masses whatever they seem to want. Postwar filmmaking involved an intersecting of elite and mass cultural currents. The ideas and concerns one finds expressed in these works are a combination of elite and popular views.

The Guomindang claimed in the immediate postwar period that it wanted a high-minded, morally engaged, and educational film industry. It wanted a curtailing of what it viewed as degenerate pulp filmmaking. Ironically, the response to

this plea was Far Away Love, Eight Thousand Miles of Clouds and Moon, and A Spring River Flows East, films that destabilized Chinese society.

The movies discussed here were surprisingly independent and critical, but they were not intended to be revolutionary. Their original purpose was to address injustices and stimulate reform. But as the political situation in China spun out of control, these films had the longer-term, but unintended, effect of being oppositional and even subversive.

The case of postwar filmmaking is more complicated and ambivalent than writings by Nationalist and Communist scholars allow, because there was a clear connection between the Nationalist state and the production and distribution of controversial films. Some of the most disturbing films made in 1947, pictures like Far Away Love, Heavenly Spring Dream, and Diary of a Homecoming (Huan xiang riji, d. Zhang Junxiang), were produced in government studios, funded with government monies, and distributed with government support.

The state had ample means of cracking down on these and the most disturbing private-sector films. But the fact is that the state did little or nothing to prevent production and distribution, and its failure to get tough had little to do with bureaucratic inefficiency or corruption. A more convincing explanation, but one that has been resisted by Nationalist and Communist scholars alike, is that the sentiments of despair and disillusionment conveyed by the films were consistent with the views of many state and Nationalist Party insiders. Clearly, in early 1947 there were state cultural elites who regarded these works as constructive calls for reform, rather than as conscious attempts to subvert state and party authority. Like the filmmakers themselves, they had no idea that these popular films would serve to deepen the mood of disillusionment and cynicism and thus further undermine government credibility.

In brief, the case of popular culture under review here does not fit into any readymade analytical paradigm. The lines between official and unofficial, state and private, elite and popular, commerce and art, and loyalty and disloyalty are too blurry here to be accounted for by any readymade theory of popular culture, including that of the influential Frankfurt school. As Chandra Mukerji and Michael Shudson have observed, Frankfurt school thinkers "perceived mass culture as aesthetically and politically debilitating, reducing the capacities of audiences to think critically and functioning as an ideological tool to manipulate the political sentiments of the mass public."[39] Postwar Chinese films definitely fall into the category of commercial mass culture, but their critical/democratic essence cannot be accounted for by the Frankfurt school model.

These popular films also fail to fit into any single aesthetic format. Chen Liting called Far Away Love a "tragicomedy" (bei xi ju), but it is better characterized as a rare example of film satire. Eight Thousand Miles of Clouds and Moon, A Spring River Flows East, and Heavenly Spring Dream were classic melodramas (tongsu ju), and Diary of a Homecoming was a playful farce. But, in sharp contrast to what Chinese Marxist scholars say, none of these works had much to do with cinematic "realism."

They distorted, collapsed, and simplified events in a variety of highly sensational ways. They are the "meaningful fabrications" referred to by Darnton. But while the images may not have been "realistic," they were incredibly powerful. In the end, it is their power that intrigues. The filmmakers discussed here were successful (in ways they could not be after 1949) because they knew the anxieties and concerns of their audience (that is, they were in touch with the psychological realities of those troubled times), they knew how to distill, process, and package the information that was "coming up from below," and they knew how to "sell" the final product.[40] Their epic holocaust narratives were not a mirror reflection of popular opinion, but neither were they unconnected to the mood of postwar bitterness and despair.

Alfred Hitchcock supposedly said, "Movies are life with the boring parts cut out." This is another way of saying that movies are not real life at all. The popular films under review here may not have been "realistic," but they clearly captured the public imagination. They created the illusion of reality. They were powerful and, ultimately, subversive because they explained why ordinary people felt defeated after the victory over Japan. In late 1946 the director Shi Dongshan referred explicitly to the new challenges of postwar filmmaking when he wrote that he and his friends found "reason and justification" for the hardships suffered during the war. "It was more difficult," Shi confessed, "for us to understand why, in the months after victory, we felt defeated."[41]


1. Some important wartime films produced in the interior include The Light of East Asia (Dong ya zhi guang, d. He Feiguang, 1940), Young China (Qingnian Zhongguo, d. Su Yi, 1940), Storm on the Border (Saishang fengyun, d. Ying Yunwei, 1940), and Japanese Spy (Riben jiandie, d. Yuan Congmei, 1943), all completed at the China Film Studio (Zhongguo dianying zhipianchang) in Chongqing. [BACK]

2. "Strand Theater Incident," China Weekly Review 102, no. 3 (June 15, 1946): 51–52. [BACK]

3. Dianying 1, no. 6 (October 20, 1946): 19. [BACK]

4. Ibid. [BACK]

5. Ibid. [BACK]

6. V. L. Wong, "Motion Pictures Today Important Agency in Education—of Old and Young," China Weekly Review 101, no. 11 (May 11, 1946): 230. [BACK]

7. Ibid., 231. [BACK]

8. For an account of the Lianhua Studio in the early postwar period, see You Ming, "Lianhua dianying zhipianchang xunli" (A tour of the Lianhua Film Studio), Dianyi huabao (December 1, 1946): 8. [BACK]

9. Zhongguo dianyingjia xiehui, Dianying shi yanjiu bu, ed., Zhongguo dianyingjia liezhuan (Biographies of Chinese filmmakers), vol. 2 (Beijing: Zhongguo dianying chuban she, 1982), 237–44. [BACK]

10. Changtai Hung, War and Popular Culture: Resistance in Modern China, 1937–1945 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1994), 55–64. [BACK]


11. Zhongguo da baike quanshu: dianying (The great encyclopedia of China: Cinema) (Beijing, Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chuban she, 1991), 51. [BACK]

12. Ibid., 357–58. [BACK]

13. Zhongguo dianyingjia xiehui, Dianying shi yanjiu bu, eds., Zhongguo dianyingjia liezhuan, 1:15–23. [BACK]

14. Ibid., 1:338–49. [BACK]

15. Zhongguo da baike quanshu: dianying, 44. [BACK]

16. Zhongguo dianyingjia xiehui, Dianying shi yanjiu bu, eds., Zhongguo dianyingjia liezhuan, 2:286–97; Zhongguo da baike quanshu: dianying, 482. [BACK]

17. Robert Darnton, "Workers Revolt: The Great Cat Massacre of the Rue Saint-Severin," in Rethinking Popular Culture: Contemporary Perspectives in Cultural Studies, ed. Chandra Mukerji and Michael Schudson (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1991), 100. [BACK]

18. A published text of Eight Thousand Miles of Clouds and Moon can be found in Zhongguo dianying gongzuozhe xiehui, ed., Wusi yilai dianying juben xuanji (An anthology of screenplays of the post–May Fourth era), vol. 2 (Hong Kong: Wenhua ziliao gongying she, 1979), 1–81. The dialogue in the film itself does not always follow the text of the screenplay. The title of the film is taken from a line in the famous poem entitled "Man jiang hong," by Yue Fei (1103–41). [BACK]

19. For a contemporary review of the film, see Man Jianghong, "Ba qian li lu yun he yue" (Eight thousand miles of clouds and moon), Dianyi huabao (December 1, 1946): 2–3. [BACK]

20. For a sketch of the young actor Gao Zheng, see Xi Zi, "Lianhua wu xin ren" (Five new faces at Lianhua), Dianyi huabao (December 1, 1946): 14–15. [BACK]

21. For a sensitive and sympathetic portrait of people who lived under the Japanese occupation of Shanghai, see Poshek Fu, Passivity, Resistance, and Collaboration: Intellectual Choice in Occupied Shanghai, 1937–1945 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1993). [BACK]

22. A published text of A Spring River Flows East can be found in Zhongguo dianying gongzuozhe xiehui, ed., Wusi yilai dianying juben xuanji, 2:85–230. The dialogue in the film does not always follow the text of the screenplay, especially in the concluding scenes. The title of the film is taken from a line of a poem by the famous Tang poet Li Bai. [BACK]

23. Zheng Junli's own lengthy discussion of A Spring River Flows East is contained in his book Hua wai yin (Sound beyond the image) (Beijing: Zhongguo dianying chuban she, 1979), 1–18. [BACK]

24. See Jay Leyda, Dianying: An Account of Films and the Film Audience in China (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1972), 166. [BACK]

25. One of the best studies of the immediate postwar mood of Shanghai is Suzanne Pepper, Civil War in China: The Political Struggle, 1945–1949 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1978). [BACK]

26. See Du Yunzhi, Zhongguo dianying shi (A history of Chinese cinema), vol. 2 (Taibei: Taiwan shangwuyin shuguan, 1978), 96–101. [BACK]

27. See Cheng Jihua, Li Shaobai, and Xing Zuwen, eds., Zhongguo dianying fazhan shi (A history of the development of Chinese cinema), vol. 2 (Beijing: Zhongguo dianying chuban she, 1963), 210–14, 217–23. [BACK]

28. For a new study that sheds light on the complexities of the censorship institution, see Xiao Zhiwei, "Film Censorship in China, 1927–1937" (Ph.D. diss., Department of History, University of California, San Diego, 1994). [BACK]


29. Shen bao, February 15, 1948. See the Sunday supplement entitled Mei zhou huakan (Weekly pictorial). [BACK]

30. All of these advertising texts can be found in the film advertising sections of Shen bao in 1947, especially in the January, February, and October issues. [BACK]

31. Dianying 1, no. 8 (April 1, 1947): 16–18. [BACK]

32. Ibid. [BACK]

33. For a fascinating discussion of the antimerchant, antibourgeois sentiments of both Chiang Kai-shek (Jiang Jieshi) and Chiang Ching-kuo (Jiang Jingguo) in the postwar period, see Lloyd Eastman, Seeds of Destruction: Nationalist China in War and Revolution, 1937–1949 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1984), 172–215. [BACK]

34. For a discussion of similarities between leftist, centrist, and rightist films of the prewar 1930s, see Paul G. Pickowicz, "The Theme of Spiritual Pollution in Chinese Films of the 1930s," Modern China 17, no. 1 (January 1991): 38–75. [BACK]

35. Quoted in Eastman, Seeds of Destruction, 182. [BACK]

36. Leftists in the Chinese countryside in the 1940s also espoused traditionalistic cultural criticism of postwar society. See Edward Friedman, Paul G. Pickowicz, and Mark Selden, Chinese Village, Socialist State (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991). [BACK]

37. Dianying 1, no. 9 (June 1, 1947): 3. [BACK]

38. Hung, War and Popular Culture, 270–85. [BACK]

39. Chandra Mukerji and Michael Schudson, eds., Rethinking Popular Culture: Contemporary Perspectives in Cultural Studies (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1991), 38. [BACK]

40. I would like to thank Professor Tu Weiming for suggesting the use of the term "psychological reality." [BACK]

41. This statement by Shi Dongshan is contained in a handout distributed to all ticket holders when they entered the theater to see Eight Thousand Miles of Clouds and Moon in 1947. An original copy of the handout survives in the Film Archive of China (Zhongguo dianying ziliao guan) in Beijing. [BACK]

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