Chinese Literature - Li-hua Ying 2010

The Dictionary

LITERARY RESEARCH SOCIETY (WENXUE YANJIU HUI). One of the earliest literary organizations in 20th-century China, the Literary Research Society was founded in 1921. Even at its inception, it was unambiguous about its undertaking: to inject a dose of seriousness into contemporary literature. This stance was in part a response to the so-called Mandarin Ducks and Butterflies school (yuanyang hudie pai) of literature, the main purpose of which was entertainment. Many of its founding members, including Zheng Zhenduo, Mao Dun, Ye Shengtao, and Zhou Zuoren, were prominent figures in the May Fourth New Culture Movement. Through their efforts, the Literary Research Society soon became the country’s most influential literary association, attracting a large number of well-known writers and intellectuals such as Wang Luyan, Xie Bingxin, Lao She, Liu Bannong, Xu Zhimo, and others.

Mao Dun, a leading literary critic and a fiction writer, transformed Xiaoshuo yuebao (Fiction Monthly) after he became its editor in 1921, making it the main platform to promote the missions of the Literary Research Society by publishing works of authors who believed in “literature for life” (wenxue wei rensheng), a literature that offered realistic portrayals of contemporary life and sober examinations of social problems in an attempt to advance changes in society. To steer the development of modern Chinese literature in that direction, the Literary Research Society used its publications and various book clubs to introduce foreign literatures to its members and the general public, particularly realist works from Russia, Europe, Japan, and India. Writers whose works the Literary Research Society translated included Hans Christian Andersen, Lord Byron, Leo Tolstoy, Anton Chekhov, Maxim Gorky, Ivan Turgenev, Roman Roland, Guy de Maupassant, Henrik Ibsen, Henryk Sienkiewicz, Rabindranath Tagore, George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, and many others. When Fiction Monthly stopped publication in 1932, the Literary Research Society was also dissolved.