2012 Conference

China and Inner Asia Session 188

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Editors as Cultural Producers in Republican China

Organizer: Liying Sun, University of Heidelberg, Germany

Chair: Theodore D. Huters, Chinese University of Hong Kong, USA

Discussant: Theodore D. Huters, Chinese University of Hong Kong, USA

This panel addresses an important gap in the study of modern Chinese print culture: the working practices of editors. The names of famous editors of the Republican period are well known. We know who edited what, but we rarely know how they did it. The styles of writers and illustration artists have all been studied, but little has been said about editing styles, nor is there an established methodology for such studies. Yet editors occupy a key position in the cultural field. They are gatekeepers, sometimes censors, as they determine what goes into their publications. They are intermediaries, managing relations between authors, publishers, and readers. And they are creators, who consciously engage in selection, arrangement, and integration of textual and visual material. The papers in this panel examine in detail a number of specific editing projects. They shed light on distinct sectors of the Republican publishing industry, and on distinct cultural styles. The panel will also raise questions of method and seek audience engagement on how to approach a variety of source materials. Michael Hill’s paper will focus on Fong Foo Sec and Zhou Yueran and their involvement in both Anglophone and Sinophone publishing ventures at the Commercial Press. Shaw-Yu Pan will investigate famous novelist Zhou Shoujuan’s self-fashioning project as editor of the popular magazine Ziluolan. Liying Sun will deal with the ‘sophisticated entertainment’ pursued by the editor and photography enthusiast Lin Zecang. Michel Hockx will highlight the transgressive editing activities of the husband-and-wife team Xu Xiaotian and Gao Jianhua.

Teaching English, Defining Chinese: Fong Foo Sec and Zhou Yueran
Michael G. Hill, University of South Carolina, USA

This paper addresses the connections between Shanghai-based foreign-language publishing and the delineation of the categories of “modern” and “classical” Chinese language and literature in the early Republican period. I examine the work of two core members of the English Editorial Division of the Commercial Press (Shangwu yinshuguan Yingwen bianyisuo). The first case is Fong Foo Sec, an impresario of the English language in the 1910s and 1920s and the most visible face of the Commercial Press’s wide-ranging efforts to market English language textbooks and magazines to schools and leisure readers. Through internal documents available from this period, I show how Fong acted as the primary gatekeeper in all of the Press’s activities related to foreign-language books, especially in the selection of new books for translation into Chinese. In the second case, I look to the work of Zhou Yueran, a respected bibliophile and member of the Southern Society (Nanshe), who served as both the director of the Commercial Press’s English-language Correspondence School and as an editor of the famous encyclopedic dictionary of the Chinese language, the Cihai (Sea of Words). Through examination of memoirs and primary sources, I link Zhou’s work as a purveyor of English with his contribution to a monumental effort to index and define the written Chinese language. Ultimately, I argue, such editorial labors serve as an important point of entry for considering the material production of “Sinophone” language and literature in modern print media.

A Garden of One’s Own: Zhou Shoujuan and His Making of the Semi-Monthly Ziluolan
Shaw-Yu Pan, National Taiwan University, Taiwan (R.O.C.)

Apart from being a famous author of fiction, Zhou Shoujuan (1895-1968) was also one of the most active editors of popular magazines during the Republican period. Among the dozen of magazines that Zhou edited, the semi-monthly Ziluolan (Violet, 1925-1930) witnessed the maturity of his editorship and his life-time obsession with the icon “Violet.” Zhou’s tragic love affair with a girl named Violet (Zhou Yinping) had not only become the most important drive to his writing, but also inspired him to construct a world of “Violet” of his own. Most of the objects that Zhou owned, including his pseudonyms, his residence, garden, art collections, and stationery were related to this particular image that signified love and beauty to him. This paper investigates how Zhou combined his passion for “Violet” and bonsai with the promotion of popular literature and Western modernity in the magazine Ziluolan, which played an important role in shaping Shanghai urban culture in the 1920s. On the one hand, Zhou relied on English popular magazines as editing models and sources of translations; on the other, he endeavored to make Ziluolan his “garden of literature” that helped to advertize his fascination with “Violet.” By designing separate columns inside the magazine, Zhou provided “private” spaces for different groups of writers who were invited to his secret garden to share his romantic feelings. As a result, I argue, Ziluolan can be seen as an editing project that perfectly integrated personal/affectional and public/commercial purposes, while its success further enhanced Zhou’s act of self-fashioning.

“Sophisticated Entertainment”? Nudes and Lin Zecang’s Editorial Practice
Liying Sun, University of Heidelberg, Germany

As founder of the China Photographic Club and the San Ho Company, which sold photographic devices, Lin Zecang (1903-1961) devoted much of his lifetime to the exploration of photographic technology. He also published and edited a series of illustrated newspapers and magazines, including Sheying huabao (“Pictorial Weekly”, 1925-1937), Linglong (“Linloon Magazine”, 1931-1937), Diansheng ribao (“Radio Movie News,” 1932-1933), and Diansheng zhoukan (“Movie Tone,” 1934-1941). He enthusiastically promoted the notion of “sophisticated entertainment” (gaoshang yule) and clearly stated it to be his publishing goal, particularly in Linloon Magazine, normally regarded as a women’s journal. In this paper I look in detail at the ways in which Lin pursued his taste for sophisticated entertainment through specific editing and publishing practices involving the incorporation of photographic material into popular periodicals. On the one hand, sophisticated entertainment was meant to include aesthetic sensitivity towards new visual products (photographs, movies, pictorials) as well as appreciation of certain cultural practices (photography, singing, sports, socializing, interior design). On the other hand, the transgressive nature of some visual material, such as nudes, often required editorial reinterpretation and reframing in order for it to become “sophisticated,” especially for educated female readers. By examining how (mostly Western) nudes were selected, arranged, and contextualized in his journals, I argue that “sophisticated entertainment” was first and foremost a strategic category, which empowered editors like Lin to define what form and content of entertainment was tasteful, appropriate and desirable, for whom, and how.

The Joy of Editing: Transgression and Border-Crossing in Publications by Gao Jianhua and Xu Xiaotian
Michel Hockx, SOAS, University of London, United Kingdom

This paper shows how research into editorial activity can challenge established boundaries between different genres of Chinese cultural production. The joint career of the husband-and-wife editing team Gao Jianhua and Xu Xiaotian (1886-1948) spanned the entire Republican era. Their most recognizable editorial work was done in designing magazines. Their journals featured clever integration of different types of photographic material and a strong tendency to challenge conventional morality, especially with regard to nudity and the representation of women. Their first publication, entitled Meiyu (Eyebrow Talk, 1914–16), was banned because of the perceived vulgarity of its editorial style. Despite their anti-traditional credentials, their early work also fell foul of the standards of “May Fourth” cultural radicals. Nevertheless, Gao and Xu continued to develop their unique style well into the 1930s. I shall present material from three later journals to support this argument. Perhaps because of the transgressive nature of their magazines, the couple have not been subject to revived scholarly interest, unlike other publications representing “alternative” modernities. Yet they did much more than just edit journals with naughty pictures. They also produced numerous educational books, aimed at introducing modern urban lifestyles and common social and scientific knowledge. Moreover, they collated and annotated large numbers of classical texts, producing critical editions that are still in use nowadays. The couple, I argue, belonged to a cultural elite for whom such border-crossings were quite natural, and understanding their practices better will aid our insight into the complexities of modern Chinese culture.