JIANG GUANGCI, A.K.A. JIANG GUANGCHI (1901—1931) - The Dictionary

Chinese Literature - Li-hua Ying 2010

The Dictionary

JIANG GUANGCI, A.K.A. JIANG GUANGCHI (1901—1931). Novelist and poet. One of the most prominent Communist writers, Jiang Guangci, a son of a salt merchant in Anhui Province, went to Moscow in 1921 to study political economics and there he joined the Communist Party in the following year. In 1924, he returned to China to play a key role in promoting a proletarian revolutionary literature that would express the needs and sentiments of the great masses during the critical juncture of the nation’s political transformation. Jiang became a member of the Creation Society and the Left-wing Association of Chinese Writers. Shaonian piaopo zhe (A Young Drifter), a novella published in 1925, features a country boy who goes to the city in search of a good life but dies in an uprising. The story exposes dark social realities and points out a path of hope for change in the form of radical revolution. In 1927, Jiang finished Duanku dang (Des Sans-culottes: The Party without Knee Breeches), about a workers’ uprising in Shanghai. The title of the story, which emphasizes the inherent link between economic poverty and revolution, comes from a name referring to a group of impoverished rebels during the French Revolution.

Jiang’s most complex work is Lisa de aiyuan (Lisa’s Sorrows), published in 1929. The story is told from the perspective of a Russian aristocratic woman whose romantic dream is shattered by the Bolshevik victory, which took away her privileged lifestyle and sent her and her once dashing husband into exile in Shanghai. In the Chinese city, economic destitution forces her into prostitution and finally death from syphilis. The story’s professed objective is to demonstrate that communism, not monarchy, is the future, a theme driven home through the positive example of the protagonist’s sister, a revolutionary who has chosen a very different path. At the time of its publication, however, the story and its author received sharp criticism from the leftist camp, which accused Jiang of showing sympathy for Russian aristocracy. Lisa de aiyuan became one of the reasons for the CCP to revoke Jiang’s membership, which, however, did not stop Jiang from continuing to promote Communist ideals.

Jiang’s last work, Paoxiao le de tudi (A Roaring Land), later renamed Tianye de feng (The Storm from the Fields), portrays a peasant uprising in Jiangxi led by the Communist Party. Jiang’s other publications include Xin meng (A New Dream), known as the “first collection of revolutionary poetry” in Chinese literature. Jiang’s fictional works tend to follow the formula of the so-called revolution plus love, which places a romantic love story in the midst of revolutionary activities, whereas his poems express strong emotions of a rebellious youth who detests traditional values and embraces radical communist ideology. Jiang’s detractors dismiss his work as simplistic and hollow, charging that his “literature for the masses” was cooked up in the cafés of Shanghai and his proletarian characters do not speak the language of the common people.

In many ways, Jiang was a man of his times, extremely popular in his lifetime; his novel Chongchu yun wei de yueliang (The Moon That Breaks out of the Clouds), written when he was recovering from tuberculosis in Japan, was reprinted six times in 1930 alone. Since then Jiang’s reputation has taken a downward turn. The dismissal from the party made Jiang a suspect in the Mao era, and in the post-Mao period his political literature no longer holds the same appeal as it did in the 1930s; his is an all but forgotten name talked only about in literary history books. Jiang died of illness in Shanghai. See also MAY FOURTH MOVEMENT; NEW CULTURE MOVEMENT.