Essay About Chinese Culture
For example, premodern anthologies such as the seventeenth-century generally favor formal essays of serious import that cleave to Confucian values, while more modern collections increasingly favor heterodox views, and include more “individualistic” essays on small, private matters.This is in part due to the gradual acceptance in the late imperial period that informal or casual writing possesses its own aesthetic value that can be appreciated by posterity.The anthology also includes portraits or photographs of many of the authors as well as their calligraphy or handwriting.Though not numerous, these illustrations very effectively convey the love of writing and the emphasis on personal style that tie together the many phases of the Chinese literary essay’s long tradition.The European essay was of course an important context for the modern Chinese essay, but Pollard is probably putting unnecessary emphasis on features peculiar to the European tradition (“absence of dignity,” “refining and directing sensibilities to create a polity that was new and particular,” “entertainment value,” [p. 7] etc.) in the effort to define the Chinese essay for the general English reader.It might have been more effective and engaging to discuss what prose essays in China are like and what they are used for, rather than comparing them (often unfavorably) to the European tradition that the reader may not be very familiar with anyway.Because of the infancy of the study of the Chinese essay in English, an anthology like this and its introduction are potentially seminal statements, situating this genre in the field of Chinese cultural studies in general, justifying our interest in it, and pointing the way to avenues of further inquiry.
What is missing from this explanation is why the prestige of the essay in modern and contemporary China, unlike the English speaking world, has declined.
Pollard’s effort is commendable, and should be interesting not only to the general reader but a great boon as well to instructors of courses devoted to Chinese literature or to the essay across cultures. As a much-published translator, and author of (Zhou Zuoren, the pioneer of the modern Chinese literary essay), there could hardly be a better choice for this task.
Not only are the translations faithful to the semantic meaning of the original texts (as far as I can tell), but Pollard’s clipped, dry, and often humorous style is also often perfectly suited to the spirit of the essays presented here.
I am not certain, but a general English readership (which has already proven itself lukewarm to Chinese fiction and poetry in translation) may not be inclined to delve into this anthology thus described.
Why not say more about the extraordinary personalities and intellectual genius evinced in included works by Tao Qian, Han Yu and Su Shi, Lu Xun, Zhou Zuoren, Feng Zikai and Zhang Ailing?