CHINA HERITAGE QUARTERLY China Heritage Project, The Australian National University ISSN 1833-8461
Nos. 30/31, June/September 2012


The China Critic - 1934 | China Heritage Quarterly

The China Critic: a Chronology

William Sima
Australian Centre on China in the World

William Sima, whose research into the history and contents of The China Critic led to this combined issue of China Heritage Quarterly, has created a Chronology of the weekly. It follows the progress of The Critic from its first appearance in May 1928 through the highs and lows of the 'Nanjing Decade', and then through its various wartime permutations.

Will's Chronology, which is arranged by year below, accounts for the changing fate, and the friable editorial stance, of The Critic. It also provides numerous links to the articles under discussion allowing for them to be appreciated in an historical context.—The Editor

1928 | 1929 | 1930 | 1931 | 1932 | 1933 | 1934 | 1935 | 1936 | 1937 | 1938 | 1939 | 1940 | 1945


18 January

A short letter by the French writer Maurice Dekobra titled 'Chinese Girls on Toast' appears in the 'Public Forum' section of the journal, in response to Lin Yutang's 'open letter' of late December 1933. He accuses Lin of fabricating 'the mysterious Miss Pan', who purportedly led a boycott against Dekobra after his comments about the beauty of Chinese women. He defends his words were intended 'without any mockery':

Mr. Lin Yutang cannot believe anyone who says a good thing of China. He attributes Chinese girls' anger to their inferiority complex… . Let them wait until I write my impression of China. They will then discover that as a friend of China I am telling frankly what I like or dislike in their country.

(Dekobra published Confucius en pull-over this same year, an account of his travels in China. An English version appeared in 1935 under the title Confucius in a Tailcoat).

8 February

The editorial 'Good Earth Film Banned' criticizes the Nanjing government's decision to refuse Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer filming rights for a screen adaptation of Pearl Buck's celebrated 1931 novel:

It is rather unwise for the government to refuse the filming rights of this book. Let it be recalled here that the M-G-M people came to China some time ago so as to secure authenticity of people and place. Now if the government would help the film company in its difficulties and to leave out that which is 'prejudicial to the dignity of the Chinese race,' the film version can be made very beneficial to the understanding of the Chinese people.

22 March

'General Chiang is to be congratulated upon having initiated the New Life movement that promises to become presently the craze of the country', reads the Editorial 'The New Life Movement'. While supporting New life—a campaign initiated in February this year—on the grounds that it will provide a new moral foundation to a China in need of one, the writer of this editorial cautions against overzealousness:

While every right thinking person should endorse the movement and become its follower, yet it is important for the sponsors and the follows of the movement not to let enthusiasm carry them too far. It is absolutely important that the life of followers of the new creed should not be made too onerous. Now should they regard themselves in any way superior to those who for one reason or another refuse to join the new movement and make life unbearable for them.

Fig.1. A Yihua Film Company 藝華影業公司 advertisement, 22 March

5 April

Within the milieu of periodical literature that is reaching peak influence at this time—1934 was declared 'Year of the Magazine' 雜誌年—Lin Yutang's Renjian Shi 人間世 ('This Human World'), released today, was prominent in promoting xiaopin wen 小品文, or 'familiar essay'. Throughout this year The China Critic makes efforts tointroduce this kind of essay to English readers, with a number of translated familiar essays appearing in the 'Little Critic' column.

This week, T.K. Chuan 全增嘏 presents a translation of 'A Night on West Lake' by the late-Ming writer Chang Chung-chih 張宗子 (the courtesy name of Zhang Dai張岱. For more on Zhang and West Lake, see here:

It is only lately that his [Chang Chung-chih's] name has come into renown, since formerly the art of familiar essay was looked down [upon] by the literati as not worthy of cultivation by the followers of Confucius. This essay is taken from the anthology of familiar essays written during the Ming dynasty, edited by Mr. Sheng [ Shen] Chih-wu [沈啓无].

(For more on Zhang Dai and the xiaopin essay, see 'Interlude on Xiaopin and Genre', an extract from In Limpid Dream, by Philip Kafalas in the 'Features' section of this issue.)

5 July

Fig.2 A Bayer advertisement for dysentery medication, 24 May

This week's 'Special Number on Dictatorship' contains three articles that question the need for dictatorship in China. Conceding that China is 'hardly better off today than at the close of the last century', the Editorial 'The Rule of Dictatorship' welcomes the opportunity to discuss 'the latest fad in government, that of dictatorship.'

The special article 'Dictatorship vs. Democracy', structured like a bipartisan debate, pits Chiang Ting-fu 蔣廷黻 (for dictatorship) against Hu Shih 胡適 (in favour of democracy).

Randall Gould, a regular contributor to The China Critic, likens the appeal of dictatorship to the allure of a rural witchdoctor'smedical cure-allin 'Dictatorship as a Panacea'. Gould cautions that 'the dictator notion is just another notion, attractive but illusory', arguing that: 'What China needs … is someone approximating the type of President Roosevelt; which is to say that China needs a group of experts rather than a single opinionated individual.'

26 July

'The Little Critic' this week features a translation of an essay by Lin Yutang, 'The Right to Enjoy Oneself', originally published in Chinese in This Human World under the title 論玩物不能喪志 on 5 July. The translation, initialed 'S.P.C', begins as follows:

Everywhere one goes, one is bound to come across people who are fond of saying that to enjoy oneself is to lose all ambition in life (玩物喪志). In the eyes of these self-righteous men, the reading of old books and the writing of familiar essays are to be looked down upon with disfavor, for they are of the opinion that those who cultivate them must have first of all sold their souls to the devil.

9 August

Disappointed with Chiang Ting-fu's 'historical survey' in his July article advocating dictatorship, Y.S. Tsao 曹雲祥 this week offers a more contemporary account of why 'China Needs a Dictator', one based on his conviction that 'the reasons for advocating dictatorship is [are] due to the political exigencies of the time.'

16 August

Fig.3 Datong University middle school advertises student recruitment, 26 July

Also addressing the question of dictatorship Lowe Chuang-hua 駱傳華 argues against autocratic rule in 'China Has a Dictator'. Lowe posits that 'China has rarely found dictatorship a workable form of government' since the days of Qin Shihuang 秦始皇; he dispels the European roots for the 'latest fad' of dictatorship as being incompatible with conditions in China—('China's problems are far more complicated than Germany's or Italy's')—and concludes that 'the masses of China must be given a chance to obtain proper political training and experience' for effective and democratic government to be achieved.

30 August

After a public holiday was observed this week in honour of Confucius' birthday, with government dignitaries visiting his memorial at Taishan to pay their respects to the great Sage, The China Critic Editorial 'Confucius Re-discovered' questions the sincerity of this new craze, wondering if it might 'not born of conviction but fostered as a political gesture.'

4 October

This week's 'Special Number on Chinese Womanhood' contains three articles written by Chinesewomen. The Editorial 'Chinese Womanhood Self-Glorified' introduces this topic by paying homage to Chinese women for their role in 'maintaining racial solidarity', quoting the terms ' “domestic policy” (內政)' and ' “education in conception” (胎教)' as examples of abundant classical references concerning the importance of women. In the modern world, this writer proposes, the pivotal role of Chinese women in society is becoming evermore complex:

With the advent of occidental civilization the responsibility imposed upon and accepted by the Chinese woman has assumed even greater proportions. Here is the duty, on the one hand, to cherish the great old traditions on which the nation has relied from time immemorial for power and strength and, on the other, to assimilate what other civilizations may offer for the elevation of China's standing in the world.

Miss Ah-huna Tong 唐羅歡 poses the question 'Are Men and Women Equal?' in her article focussing on a recently held convention of the International Council of Women in Paris. Tong argues that it was 'unnecessary' for China to send a delegate to this conference: 'all women in China know for a practiced fact that they are always on an equal footing with men, when they so attain for themselves the standard, intelligence and ability of the men folk.'

'The Married Women's Problem' is contributed by an unnamed 'Married Women' who professes a dislike of Dorothy Dix, an American journalist well known at the time for her provocative columns about women's affairs.Arguing that it is 'childish to divide men and women into two hemispheres', this writer has only contributed to this special issue to 'oblige the editors of The China Critic who still believe that women are women and that there must be a special article about them.' She concedes that there are problems in married life—domineering in-laws, neglectful husbands—but she considers that women are often responsible for such problems: 'I may be causing a controversy; but that is so much the better. Let us discuss the matter in [the] open.'

20 December

Following a welcome circular telegram from Chiang Kai-shek 蔣介石 and Wang Jingwei 汪精衛 stating their intention to relax press censorship in China, the Editorial 'A Free Press' proposes suggestions about how this might be achieved.

As a modus vivandi [vivendi] may we tender one suggestion: If censorship is as yet indispensable, a board of censors may be appointed by the press association in each city from among its members, and it will devolve upon this board to carry out the instructions laid down by the government… . In this wise way the government will be able to demonstrate its sincerity in wishing to protect the press, and the press will enjoy and opportunity to prove itself worthy of the trust reposed by the government… . If both General Chiang Kai-shek and Mr. Wang Ching-wei will approve of this intermediary step, they will inject substance into their well-intentioned pronouncement.

1928 | 1929 | 1930 | 1931 | 1932 | 1933 | 1934 | 1935 | 1936 | 1937 | 1938 | 1939 | 1940 | 1945