| Language



This authoritative collection contains writings by some thirty of the most significant Chinese writers of the period between 1919 and 1949. The three decades from which these pieces are drawn encompass most of the Republican period, a tumultuous era in Chinese history in which modernization and republicanism coexisted with classical culture. Thematically, these xiaopin wen, or modern Chinese essays, differ significantly from the more social and political fiction of the May Fourth movement. Their scope varies, from ruminations on broader existential issues to more personal contemplations on everyday life, often delving into issues of morality and interpersonal relations. Although described as “essays,” they are not restrained by the formal, expository connotations of this English term; rather, their tone is more intimate, reflective, and at times witty or tinged with melancholy.

Table of Content








Tam’s erudite introduction situates the modern genre of xiaopin wen in the context of modern Chinese cultural thought as well as of Chinese literature in general, quite necessary for this traditionally resonant yet distinctively modern genre. The excellent selections illustrate the introduction’s explorations of the genre’s unique aesthetics, and span the genre’s development from the 1920s to the 1940s. Tam translates the works into fluid and idiomatic English that yet does full justice to the subtleties of the original texts. — Charles Laughlin, Weedon Chair in Asian Studies, University of Virginia 

This volume features an exquisite translated collection of modern Chinese xiaopin wen, a genre defined by the translator as “creative, personal, meditative prose about everyday experience.” The xiaopin wen was highly developed in the first half of the twentieth century, and writers better known in other genres like poets, novelists, playwrights, and scholars have also contributed to its development. The representativeness of selections by a literary scholar and the simple style of translations reflect the essence of the genre at both word and sense levels. — Chu Chi-yu, Professor, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University