ZHOU ZUOREN, A.K.A. CHOU TSO-JEN (1885—1967) - The Dictionary

Chinese Literature - Li-hua Ying 2010

The Dictionary

ZHOU ZUOREN, A.K.A. CHOU TSO-JEN (1885—1967). Essayist. Born in Shaoxing, Zhejiang Province, Zhou Zuoren was a leading intellectual in the 1920s, sharing the same fame as his elder brother Lu Xun as an important writer in the New Culture Movement. Like Lu Xun, he had received a traditional education before entering the Jiangnan Naval Academy in Nanjing. In 1906, Zhou joined Lu Xun in Japan. After coming back to China, he taught literature at Beijing University and was a founding member of the Literary Research Society. His work as editor of Xin qingnian (New Youth) and later Yu si (Words and Language), two major literary journals, as wells as his essays and translations, made him an influential figure in modern Chinese literature. Estranged from his brother because of a family dispute, Zhou became ideologically at odds with the mainstream literary trends, which his brother championed. He espoused traditional aesthetics that valued individualism rather than the national paradigm advocated by most of the May Fourth intellectuals, including his brother. In calling for tolerance in literature, he promoted freedom for writers to develop their own individual styles and themes, rather than subscribing to the set of formulas that dominated the intellectual and literary discourse of the day. In the 1930s and 1940s, he turned to writing humorous essays about the life of leisure, a major departure from the influential essays he had written in the 1920s. Further exacerbating his relationship with his fellow May Fourth comrades, Zhou collaborated with the Japanese during the Sino-Japanese War, for which he was sentenced to prison and his books were subsequently banned. Pardoned by the Communists in 1949, Zhou lived in obscurity, making a living by translating Greek and Japanese literature and writing about his famous brother. He died in Beijing.