The Columbia Anthology of Modern Chinese Literature

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The Columbia Anthology of Modern Chinese Literature is a 1995 anthology of Chinese literature edited by Joseph S. M. Lau and Howard Goldblatt and published by Columbia University. Its intended use is to be a textbook. [1]

In book publishing, an anthology is a collection of literary works chosen by the compiler. It may be a collection of poems, short stories, plays, songs, or excerpts by different authors. In genre fiction, anthology is used to categorize collections of shorter works such as short stories and short novels, by different authors, each featuring unrelated casts of characters and settings, and usually collected into a single volume for publication.

Columbia University private Ivy League research university in New York City

Columbia University is a private Ivy League research university in Upper Manhattan, New York City. Established in 1754, Columbia is the oldest institution of higher education in New York and the fifth-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. It is one of nine colonial colleges founded prior to the Declaration of Independence, seven of which belong to the Ivy League. It has been ranked by numerous major education publications as among the top ten universities in the world.


This anthology includes works from Mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong, [2] and also Chinese-speaking authors of other places, [3] originally published in Chinese between 1918 and 1992. The works include poetry, essays, and fiction, with most fiction being short stories. Novels and drama pieces were too long, and therefore were not included. These works would be classified by Chinese literary critics as being dangdai (contemporary) and xiandai (modern). [4] Some of the works had already been translated prior to the publication of this book, while other translations were newly published. [5]

Modern history Era from ca. 1500 until present

Modern history, the modern period or the modern era, is the linear, global, historiographical approach to the time frame after post-classical history. Modern history can be further broken down into periods:

Martin W. Huang of the University of California, Irvine wrote that despite the omission of drama and novels, this was the first single book in which one is "able to read in English some of the most representative works in major genres written by modern Chinese writers and enjoy a relatively complete picture". [2]

University of California, Irvine public research university in Irvine, California, United States

The University of California, Irvine, is a public research university located in Irvine, California. It is one of the 10 campuses in the University of California (UC) system. UC Irvine offers 80 undergraduate degrees and 98 graduate and professional degrees. The university is classified as a Research I university and in fiscal year 2013 had $348 million in research and development expenditures according to the National Science Foundation. UC Irvine became a member of the Association of American Universities in 1996 and is the youngest university to hold membership. It is considered to be one of the "Public Ivies", meaning that it is among those publicly funded universities thought to provide a quality of education comparable to that of the Ivy League.

The anthology presents accompanying biographies of poets and writers before presenting the actual works. [5] Bonnie S. McDougall of The China Quarterly stated that in the original edition of the book's introduction and biographies, there is incorrect information, "especially dates," present in the factual material, [6] but that "it must be stressed" that the errors in the factual information "are few in number." [7]

<i>The China Quarterly</i> journal

The China Quarterly (CQ) is a British double-blind peer-reviewed academic journal which was established in 1960 and focuses on all aspects of contemporary China and Taiwan. It is the most important research journal about China in the world and is published by the Cambridge University Press. It covers a range of subjects including anthropology, business, literature, the arts, economics, geography, history, international affairs, law, politics, and sociology. Each issue contains articles and research reports, and a comprehensive book review section. The China Quarterly is owned by the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Its current editor-in-chief is Tim Pringle.


The anthology divides its works into fiction, poetry, and essays, and within each division sub-divides the works into 1918-1949, 1949-1976, and "since 1976" time periods. [1] The works made in 1918-1949 focus on Mainland China, while those from 1949-1976 focus on Taiwan. [4] The sole works from 1949-1976 produced in Mainland China were two poems written by Mu Dan. [2] Works from 1976 onwards include Mainland, Taiwan, and Hong Kong works. [4] The works of 21 authors, including 12 from Mainland China, are in this part. [3] The book devotes more space to fiction than it does to essays and poetry. The book has the works of nine poets in the pre-World War II era, and it includes works of twelve Taiwanese poets published in a period of 27 years. [6]

Zha Liangzheng, better known by his pen name Mu Dan, was a Chinese poet. Born in Tianjin, he attended Tsinghua University at the age of 17, and graduated from National Southwestern Associated University in 1940. He served as an assistant lecturer of English at his alma mater for about two years. During World War II, he joined the Chinese Expedition Force in Burma and fought alongside the Allied forces against the Japanese. After the war ended, he attended the University of Chicago, where he obtained a master's degree in English literature. He was a distant paternal relative of the wuxia novelist Louis Cha.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

In regards to works in the pre-1949 period, the book contains essays including those from Lin Yutang and Zhou Zuoren, poetry including that from Ai Qing and Xu Zhimo, and stories including those from Ba Jin and Lu Xun. [4]

Lin Yutang Chinese writer

Lin Yutang was a renowned Hokkien Chinese writer, translator, linguist, philosopher and inventor. His informal but polished style in both Chinese and English made him one of the most influential writers of his generation, and his compilations and translations of classic Chinese texts into English were bestsellers in the West.

Zhou Zuoren Chinese writer

Zhou Zuoren was a Chinese writer, primarily known as an essayist and a translator. He was the younger brother of Lu Xun, the second of three brothers.

Ai Qing Chinese poet

Aì Qīng, is regarded as one of the finest modern Chinese poets. He was known under his pen names Línbì, Kè'ā and Éjiā.

Tatiana Fisac of the Autonomous University of Madrid argued that the book uses the Taiwanese authors of 1949-1976 "as the truly significant contributors to the Chinese literary canon during that time" and ""alternative worlds" to the asphyxiating political atmosphere for creative writing that prevailed during the Maoist era on the mainland, when the subordination of literature to official politics was enforced." [4] Huang argues that even though the authors from 1949-1976 were mainly in Taiwan, the time period 1949-1976 was relevant to the Mainland and not Taiwan, and he argued that the exclusion of the Mainland works "only adds to the inadequacy of their overall "historical scheme"". [1] He also stated that not including Communist literature during the 1949-1976 period results in "a disruption in the anthology's implied historical presentation, and therefore, undermines to a degree its comprehensiveness" and that this is the case "[e]ven if one agrees with the editors that the literature produced in China during this period generally lacks genuine literary appeal". [2] McDougall argued that by omitting almost all Mainland authors from 1949-1976, "readers are deprived of flawed but nevertheless compelling examples of political fiction struggling to make sense of drastic social change." [3]

Genres of post-1976 works include xianfeng (avant garde) works, works by women, and "misty" (menglong) poetry. Works in the first category include those of Can Xue and Yu Hua. Those in the second include those of Li Ang, Tie Ning, and Xi Xi. Those in the third category include Bei Dao and Shu Ting. [4]


Fisac wrote that "No doubt, the authority of this volume relies to a large extent on the distinguished previous work done by Professors Lau and Goldblatt, and on the work of the many other good translators who are represented here." [5] She also stated that she would have wanted to see a list of original references in order to check accuracies of translations an appendix listing the names of authors and original Chinese titles in order to aid translation studies. [5]

Huang concluded that the book "will be indispensable to any student of Chinese literature" and he believed it would "become a very popular textbook for classes on modern China and modern Chinese literature for many years to come." [1] Huang stated that he wished that there would be "relevant bibliographical information" since the work's intended use is that of a textbook. [1]

McDougall argued that the book was "a very worthwhile endeavour"; she congratulated the authors and press and stated that "We should all welcome the appearance of this anthology, and if we have ourselves an alternative vision of what constitutes Chinese literature this century it is up to us to compile and publish our own anthologies." [7]

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The history of Chinese literature extends thousands of years, from the earliest recorded dynastic court archives to the mature vernacular fiction novels that arose during the Ming dynasty to entertain the masses of literate Chinese. The introduction of widespread woodblock printing during the Tang dynasty (618–907) and the invention of movable type printing by Bi Sheng (990–1051) during the Song dynasty (960–1279) rapidly spread written knowledge throughout China. In more modern times, the author Lu Xun (1881–1936) is considered the founder of baihua literature in China.

Japanese literature literature of Japan

Early works of Japanese literature were heavily influenced by cultural contact with China and Chinese literature, often written in Classical Chinese. Indian literature also had an influence through the separation of Buddhism in Japan. Eventually, Japanese literature developed into a separate style, although the influence of Chinese literature and Classical Chinese remained until the end of the Edo period. Since Japan reopened its ports to Western trading and diplomacy in the 19th century, Western and Eastern literature have strongly affected each other and continue to do so.

Cleanth Brooks American literary critic and academic

Cleanth Brooks was an American literary critic and professor. He is best known for his contributions to New Criticism in the mid-20th century and for revolutionizing the teaching of poetry in American higher education. His best-known works, The Well Wrought Urn: Studies in the Structure of Poetry (1947) and Modern Poetry and the Tradition (1939), argue for the centrality of ambiguity and paradox as a way of understanding poetry. With his writing, Brooks helped to formulate formalist criticism, emphasizing "the interior life of a poem" and codifying the principles of close reading.

W. W. Norton & Company American publishing company

W. W. Norton & Company is an American publishing company based in New York City. It has been owned wholly by its employees since the early 1960s. The company is known for its Norton Anthologies and its texts in the Norton Critical Editions series, both of which are frequently assigned in university literature courses.

Bo Yang, sometimes also erroneously called Bai Yang, was a Chinese poet, essayist and historian based in Taiwan. He is also regarded as a social critic. According to his own memoir, the exact date of his birthday was unknown even to himself. He later adopted 7 March, the date of his 1968 imprisonment, as his birthday.

Zheng Keshuang, Prince of Yanping, courtesy name Shihong, art name Huitang, was the third and last ruler of the Kingdom of Tungning in Taiwan in the 17th century. He was the second son of Zheng Jing and a grandson of Koxinga. After surrendering to the Qing dynasty in 1683, he was ennobled as Duke Haicheng, and lived the rest of his life in Beijing.

Taiwanese literature refers to the literature written by Taiwanese in any language ever used in Taiwan, including Japanese, Taiwanese Han and Austronesian languages.

Huang Chunming Taiwanese writer

Huang Chunming is a Taiwanese literary figure and teacher. Huang writes mainly about the tragic and sometimes humorous lives of ordinary Taiwanese people, and many of his short stories have been turned into films, including The Sandwich Man (1983).

Liang Shih-chiu Chinese writer

Liang Shih-chiu, also romanized as Liang Shiqiu, and also known as Liang Chih-hwa (梁治華), was a renowned educator, writer, translator, literary theorist and lexicographer.

Literature written work of art

Literature, most generically, is any body of written works. More restrictively, literature refers to writing considered to be an art form or any single writing deemed to have artistic or intellectual value, often due to deploying language in ways that differ from ordinary usage.

Howard Goldblatt is a literary translator of numerous works of contemporary Chinese fiction, including The Taste of Apples by Huang Chunming and The Execution of Mayor Yin by Chen Ruoxi. Goldblatt also translated works of Chinese novelist and 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature winner Mo Yan, including six of Mo Yan's novels and collections of stories. He was a Research Professor of Chinese at the University of Notre Dame from 2002 to 2011.

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Hualing Nieh Engle, née Nieh Hua-ling, is a Chinese novelist, fiction writer, and poet. She is a professor emerita at the University of Iowa.

Chinese crime fiction is an umbrella term which generally refers to Sinophone literature concerned with the investigation and punishment of criminal acts. In mainland China the most popular subgenre is "detective fiction".

Modern Chinese poetry, including New poetry, refers to post Qing Dynasty Chinese poetry, including the modern vernacular (baihua) style of poetry increasingly common with the New Culture and 4 May 1919 movements, with the development of experimental styles such as "free verse" ; but, also including twentieth and twenty-first century continuations or revivals of Classical Chinese poetry forms. Some modern Chinese poetry represents major new and modern developments in the poetry of one of the world's larger areas, as well as other important areas sharing this linguistic affinity. One of the first writers of poetry in the modern Chinese poetry mode was Hu Shih (1891–1962).

Sunflower Splendor: Three Thousand Years of Chinese Poetry is an anthology of around 1,000 Chinese poems translated into English, edited by Wu-chi Liu and Irving Yucheng Lo and published in 1975 by Anchor Press/Doubleday. Wu-chi Liu served as the anthology's senior editor. As of 2002 the book had been widely used in Asian literature studies. In 2002 Stacy Finz of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote that the book "was a best-seller".

The Columbia History of Chinese Literature is a reference book edited by Victor H. Mair and published by the Columbia University Press in 2002. The topics include all genres and periods of poetry, prose, fiction, and drama but also areas not traditionally thought of a literature, such as wit and humour, proverbs and rhetoric, historical and philosophical writings, classical exegesis, literary theory and criticism, traditional fiction commentary, as well as popular culture, the impact of religion upon literature, the role of women, and the relationship with non-Chinese languages and ethnic minorities. There are also chapters on Chinese literature in Korea, Japan, Vietnam.

The Columbia Anthology of Modern Chinese Drama is a 2010 book edited and introduced by Xiaomei Chen and published by the Columbia University Press.

Rong Zi is the pen name of Wang Rongzi, a Chinese-Taiwanese writer who is considered one of the leading modern day Taiwanese poets.

The Big Red Book of Modern Chinese Literature is an anthology of Chinese literature edited by Yunte Huang and published in 2016 by W. W. Norton & Company. Huang, a professor of English at the University of California, Santa Barbara, described the book as a "search for the soul of modern China" in the introduction.



  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Huang, p. 1090.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Huang, p. 1089.
  3. 1 2 3 McDougall, p. 654. "The editors claim two special innovations: its broad geographic spread, with works by authors from the mainland, Hong Kong and Taiwan (and even outside these areas), and the inclusion of essays along with fiction and poetry."
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Fisac, p. 476.
  5. 1 2 3 4 Fisac, p. 477.
  6. 1 2 McDougall, p. 655.
  7. 1 2 McDougall, p. 656.