Zhang Henshui and Popular Chinese Fiction

Non-fiction by T.M. McClellan.

All about Zhang Henshui, one of the most prominent Chinese novelists of the 20s and 30s, and a renowned chronicler of Beijing's changes. See the publisher's page, and this review from The Free Library.

Michel Hockx, Professor of Chinese, University of London:

Zhang Henshui was undoubtedly the most successful Chinese novelist of the first half of the twentieth century. T. M. McClellan’s study breaks new ground and has laid the foundation for further work on this unique author. Throughout his study, McClellan combines insightful close-reading with meticulous documentation of the publishing history of the works. His critical judgments are outspoken but fair and maintain a healthy distance from his subject. His attention to linguistic detail in these difficult texts is superb, based on a uniquely confident command of the various registers of the classical and modern Chinese language. Being the first English-language study of this major modern Chinese author to be published in almost two decades, [this book] will find an enthusiastic audience among scholars of modern Chinese literature and will become a standard entry on course reading lists. It will also be of interest to scholars of Republican-era Chinese culture and history in general, as well as to scholars of comparative literature and general literary theory.

Dr. Roland Altenburger, University of Zurich, Institute of East Asian Studies:

Dr. Tommy McClellan’s book clearly overshadows any previous Western work on this author as it presents a very thorough survey study of Zhang Henshui’s extensive oeuvre. … McClellan’s book ... includes generous excerpts from the most outstanding novels in exquisite English translation, which offer a lively impression of the experience of reading Zhang Henshui novels. The bibliography includes a most valuable chronological list of this author’s major works (as well as [wrongly] ascribed works), indicating the years of their first serial publication and first book edition. This appendix ... demonstrates the rigorous scholarship on which McClellan’s study is based.

from the Commendatory Preface by Professor Bonnie S. McDougall:

It is rare indeed to find an academic work which is as much a pleasure as it is a profit to read…. As a literary scholar, Dr. McClellan brings much more to his research than an exhaustive knowledge of Zhang Henshui’s life and writing: he also moves with ease between traditional classical and vernacular Chinese literature; between traditional and modern Chinese fiction; between elite and popular literature; and between Chinese and Western audience expectations. In particular, the parallels he draws between traditional Chinese fiction and poetry on the one hand and Zhang Henshui’s literary techniques on the other show conclusively that the borders between classical and popular literature in China are infinitely flexible. For this reason alone, this book is a significant contribution to research on popular Chinese fiction.

Dr. McClellan’s study of Zhang Henshui’s place in the literary world of the 1920s and 1930s also provides a reassessment of modern Chinese literature and the tyranny of the leftist literary canon that for long dominated the discursive field in China, even to the extent of determining publication. Although such reassessment is becoming acceptable among Chinese and Western scholars, there is still a lack of full-length studies of individual authors whose work was excluded from the canon. It is too soon to tell what literary historians of the 21st century will make of 20th century Chinese literature, but McClellan’s meticulous scholarship will guarantee attention to this work in the continuing debates.

Original Publications:

Zhang Henshui and Popular Chinese Fiction Edwin Mellen Press 2005, July (UK)

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