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


The China Critic - 1940 | 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


11 January

Fig.1 Advertisement for Shanghai's 'Park Hotel'

The Editorial 'Moral Re-armament in Action' reports on a recent decision made by the Shanghai Branch of the Chinese Medical Association to annul the practice of 'prescription rebates' and similar benefits that doctors and pharmaceutical companies had previously enjoyed. Perhaps, the author opines, this practical demonstration of 'moral re-armament' will influence others:

It is to be hoped that the leaders of other professions and the business world, educators and administrators in this city will follow the example of the Medical Association and inject Moral Re-armament principles into their daily activities, thus reducing greed and self-seeking, and substituting service to the common good in their place.

29 February

Huang Chu Wei 黃聚韡 argues in favour of radical language reformin his special article 'Latinization and Mass Education'. He identifies 'three different kinds of opinion about the problem of Chinese characters'. First, there are elitist 'individualists' who write in old-form characters—using, for instance, fa 灋 instead of 法, hua 蘤 rather than 花, he 龢 for 和—'to exhibit their "profoundness" ' without concern for the less educated. Secondly, there are those who promote simplified characters and a simple-form dictionary: 'though this opinion is better than the above one, it is not a fundamental one. The "Han squares" have their unavoidable defects and inconvenience. To simplify the dictionary or utilize the abbreviated form of words is just like to build a house with rotten pieces of timber.' Huang endorses the third option for the Romanization of Chinese characters: 'The people who hold this opinion are very clever. They have found the most suitable method to decrease the percentage of illiteracy in China.' The author goes on to discuss proposals for 'Sinwenz' 新文字, taking care to extricate this language reform movement from Communist politics:

Other people say, 'Sinwenz is promoted by the Communists and it must have something to do with communism. This is also a very short-sighted opinion … [Sinwenz] can be used by the communists as well as any other 'ists.' It is just like a gun which can shoot a good man as well as a bad man.

14 March

'Shanghai was the center of literature in China', Henry H. Huang 黄聚韓 laments in his special article 'The Literary Magazines in Shanghai':

Three or four years ago there were many magazines printed in Shanghai. At that time the famous writers gathered in this place. They wrote splendid articles, novels, short stories, poems and many other types of literature. In the altar of literature there were many arguments about the principles as well as the methods of thinking and writing. The flower of literature seemed quite beautiful and fragrant at that time. But now it faded.

Huang's article traces the destruction of Shanghai's periodical culture from the Japanese invasion until now. While noting two attempts at its revival after 1937—

Lu-sin Wind 魯迅風, which Huang believes was 'the best magazine that appeared in Shanghai after the Sino-Japanese war had broken out', and Pao Sheng—this writer believes that there has been a precipitate decline in the city's periodical culture since the start of the war. Huang lists 'three classes' of new magazine that have appeared since 1937, those 'managed by youths who are very patriotic and have the most advanced thoughts' (Red Leaves 紅葉 is such magazine); a second kind 'containing translations of foreign magazines, especially those printed in America' (The West Wind 西風 is given as an example); and, thirdly, magazines 'devoted to "pure literature" ' (of which Huang believes Literary Pen 文筆to be the best).

Fig.2 An advertisement for the West Wind Supplement and Book Digest, 21 March

18 April

The editorial 'Kuomintang-Communist Co-operation' reports on a recent session of the People's Political Council in Chongqing which passed 'several important resolutions' relating to strengthening cooperation within the United Front; 'a welcome piece of news in view of the reports in recent months of recurrent friction and minor clashes between Communist troops and those under general Yen His-shan [閻錫山] in Shansi [山西].' The tone of this article suggests that by this time The China Critic Group, or at least this editor, had abandoned earlier 'red bandit' rhetoric in favour of portraying the Communists more positively, as one equal and necessarily half of a united front:

The Kuomintang and Communist Party have a common aim to which their efforts are being directed, namely, the salvation of the nation through resistance to Japan and national reconstruction. As long as the welfare of the nation is their common goal no difficulties cannot be overcome… . As long as the Kuomintang and the Communist Party can work in unity, there is no need to worry about the outcome of the war. Both are needed and each supplement the other in the great work of national salvation.

23 May

The American journalist Randall Gould writes on 'Europe's War and the Fate of Asia' this week. Gould was active in both China and Japan during the war years, and he gives an account of views of the European war from the perspectives of both countries:

If Japan can win a conclusive victory while the rest of the world is in turmoil, that will be a great thing for her. But it has been China's plan—thus far carried out successfully—to prevent this, on the assumption that sooner or later that either Japan would defeat herself (in effect) or others might come in to swing the balance China's way. Recent intensification of the European struggle gives hope to the Chinese that there may be an early settlement elsewhere which will pave the way to a settlement in Asia of the sort tolerable to China.

4 July

'While in Europe, one country after another, both great and small, is capitulating before the forces of aggression, it is with quiet confidence that the people of China celebrate the third anniversary of resistance against Japan', reads this week's headline Editorial 'The Third Anniversary'. The editorial recounts a number of recent statements of Chiang Kai-shek, urging resistance to Japan and proclaiming the importance of the Chinese theatre to the European war.

22 August

An anonymously authored special article 'Lin Yutang and His Novel' discusses the recent publication of Moment in Peking in the context of Chinese literature more generally. In lieu of Pearl Buck's Nobel acceptance speech, and the publication of her book The Chinese Novel, the author poses the question: 'But is this novel on Chinese life a Chinese novel? Is "Moment in Peking" comparable to such well-known Chinese novels as "The Dream of the Red Chamber"?' The author offers the following appraisal:

It is taken for granted that a novel on Chinese life written in the English language finds its readers among the English speaking people. Knowingly or unknowingly, the novelist is called upon to play the part of an interpreter. The success of such a mission is conditioned by several factors: (1) command of English, (2) a worthy theme, (3) and interesting story, and (4) reading without difficulty. Judging from these standards, "Moment in Peking" is strong in the first three, but rather weak in the last… . "Moment in Peking is a Chinese novel, even though it dons English garments and gives striking resemblance to a translation. It is not strictly comparable to the typical Chinese novel, like the Red Chamber Dream. It belongs to a class of its own—the Chinese novel for foreign readers.

29 August

In 'Chungking Spirit Amid Daily Bombings' C.Y.W. Meng 孟張泳 writes of his tour of Chongqing, a city which, since Japanese air raids began in May 1939, was well on its way to becoming the most bombed city in history. Meng describes the heavy civilian toll, including piles of corpses burned by Japanese incendiary attacks and emergency efforts to alleviate the destitute and war refugees. The latter includes an instruction from Chiang Kai-shek to General Liu Chi 劉峙, and Chongqing's mayor Wu Guozhen 吳國楨 'to the effect that "不得使一個難民流離失所" meaning "there should not be a single victim who should become destitute after the bombing"'. Meng's tone is optimistic and, after detailing the heroic rescue efforts of local air-force volunteers and the Three Principles Youth Corps, he describes the positive, forward looking 'spirit' of local shop owners:

A walk around the city is most inspiring to us. All shops post special notices on the door informing the public 'Business As Usual' with only a change of the business hours. I never found a shop which was closed down or suspended the business simply due to fear of being bombed out of existence. The reason, as one of the proprietors informed me, 'such sufferings are only temporary, and after the summer, there is no more,' adding that 'we always look for the future but not for the present.' Such is the 'Chungking Spirit' today!

Fig.3 Advertisement for the Bank of Communications 交通銀行, 19 September

Also in this issue, the essay 'China Bans Latinization', by 'A Chinese Commentator', praises the 12 July decision of the National Ministry of Education that 'traditional Chinese is more advantageous than the experimental system, technically, pedagogically and politically.' He begins by tracing the history of the Chinese language, both its resilience and preservation, and attempts to reform it. Qin Shihuang's 秦始皇 notorious book-burning and scholar-burying is cast as 'a serious blow to our traditional language and literary treasure'. Later, according to this writer, the preservation of language 'enabled the Chinese people to kindle their patriotic sentiment and overthrow foreign domination, as evidenced by the successful revolution in 1368 against the Yuan (Mongol) Dynasty (1277-1367) and in 1911 against the Ch'ing (Manchu) Dynasty (1644-1911).' This 'Chinese Commentator' then describes what he perceives to be inherent flaws in the current Latinization system, and congratulates the government for officially banning it:

Modern Chinese, as it is known today, may be perfectly modern but decidedly not Chinese. Near-sighted leadership and blind-folded following have reduced the Chinese language, both spoken and written, to the lowest plane of its cultural existence in centuries… . To speak, read and write Chinese properly we have kept the Chinese language free from all foreign influences. Insofar as no English-speaking person is advocating the 'Chinesification' of English, the Chinese Ministry of Education should be heartily congratulated for placing an official ban on the 'Latinization' of the Chinese language.

24 October

The Editorial 'The End of Far Eastern Appeasement' predicts that the recent reopening of the Burma Highway on 17 October will 'go down in history' as a decisive turning point in the war, 'mark[ing] an end of British appeasement in the Far East and the beginning of Anglo-American cooperation to check Japanese aggression.' The writer discusses aspects of contemporary British and American policy towards China and the mounting pressure in both countries to impose stronger trade embargoes on Japanese goods.

Also in this issue, C.Y.W. Meng's 孟張泳 article 'Chinese Tea in Sino-Soviet Relations' provides a highly detailed account of the unprecedented importance that tea exports are now playing in Sino-Soviet relations. The author includes a number of statistical tables and other data that show how the trade has developed in recent years, and comments upon a barter contract, implemented in 1938, 'providing for the exchange of tea for the supplies needed by the Chinese'—at this time, approximately seventy percent of China's tea exports went to the Soviet Union:

China, the Soviet Union and the United States—three Great Democratic Nations bordering the Pacific—have now re-invoked the friendly and commercial relations among the nations. This famous principle provides: 以其所有易其所無, meaning 'To exchange with one another what we have for what we don't have'… . Such an arrangement is the conclusive evidence of the cordial relations which must have been existing between China and the Soviet Union, arising not from sentimentality, but rather from mutual understanding, mutual sympathy and mutual assistance. [For more on tea, see the March 2012 issue of China Heritage Quarterly LINK.]

In his article 'Appreciation of Art in the Chinese Opera' Hsu Tao-ching 許道經 introduces the fundamental musical principles of Chinese opera, including the various forms of 'meter' (板), and he remarks that 'like many other Chinese fine arts, the Chinese opera is today neglected by many people'. Hsu also discusses the importance of plot and setting in Chinese opera and he does so, like previous discussions of Chinese art forms that have appeared in The China Critic, with the intention of introducing the fundamentals elements of opera to the interested foreign novice.

The China Critic suspended publication from 7 November 1940. It did not reappear until August 1945.

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