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


Barking Humanely | China Heritage Quarterly

Barking Humanely

Geremie R. Barmé

The editors of The China Critic announced that, for some time, they had felt the necessity to produce 'a representative publication independent alike of governmental control and popular prejudices' in China. This section of Features offers an overview of the weekly magazine that they launched in January 1928.

We start with an essay by Shuang Shen 沈雙, a scholar who has specialized in the cosmopolitan publications of China's Republican era. In her study, Shen discusses the stance and place of the editors of The China Critic in the context of bilingual writing in Republican China (for more on English-language publications in the Late-Qing and Republican eras, see Rudolf Wagner's magisterial account, also in the Features section of this issue).

Will Sima's extensive Chronology of The China Critic offers a history of the weekly and its era and includes links to relevant editorials and articles (many of which also appear in Features under The Critic at Work). The Chronology is followed by four editorial announcements published at various points in the history of the weekly: in 1928 (Foreword); in 1932 (What We Believe); one dated 1937 (Entirely About Ourselves) and another that was published at the time of the reappearance of The China Critic following a war-induced hiatus (Once Again).

Lin Yutang, an editor and writer whose name is closely associated with The China Critic remarked at the time of the inauguration of 'The Little Critic' in the pages of the weekly that:

… respectability always wears a dog-collar. The thing has gone so far now, that they have put a few censors to see that a few natural human barks issuing from the dog-collar be neither so loud as to disturb the extremely sensitive nerves of the censors' masters, nor should they take place when all villadom and officialdom are getting ready to sleep. The net result is, of course, extremely disgraceful. Such low, inaudible whining and wheedling is really unbecoming for grown-ups, and now they have lost even the capacity to pronounce a 'damn' as humanity ought to pronounce it. We do not mean to say that we are going to bark louder, but let us bark more humanely. After all a man can be quite a human being when he takes off his dog-collar and his stiff shirt, and comes back home sprawling on the hearth-rug with a real relief. In our un-buttoned moods shall we speak.

As we note throughout this issue of China Heritage Quarterly, the political stance, and independence of The China Critic reflected the complex realities of Republican China, as well as the finances of aligned and semi-aligned journal publication. Nonetheless, Lin's hope that there would be room in China to 'bark humanely' was a wish repeated by writers and citizens throughout the Republican era, and indeed long after the fall of the Republic and the national ascendancy of the Chinese Communist Party in 1949.