Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

A Paradox In-Between: The Dian-shi-zhai hua-bao and late 19th Century Chinese Literature

Gang Song.

Chinese literature in the last quarter of the 19th century laid in a special political, economic, and social context. On the one hand, it is a period of national humiliation when foreign powers invaded China and tried by every means to seize more political and economic benefits from the already declined Qing government. The unequal pattern of foreign relations during this period became one of the major concerns in literary writings, in which people started looking at the foreign powers with new eyes. On the other hand, because of those early enlightened Chinese elite who aimed at any reformation to make their homeland “wealthy and strong”, modern political concepts as well as science and technology were introduced to China, either by direct or indirect contacts with the West. New genres of literature, including journals and the translated literatures,” were brought in as effective media to transmit these ideas. These reformists hoped that in this way they could both rescue the Qing government from corruption and transform the mind of the common people. In this regard, the appearance and popularity of the Dian-shi-zhai hua-bao (1884-1898) was not an accidental phenomenon in the last days of Qing literature. It reflected a tendency of the Chinese to look for their national identity in a modern world through first learning from and then competing with the others.
The purpose of my paper on the Dian-shi-zhai hua-bao is to use it as a case study by which I can answer the following questions: As a cultural media, how does this new type of illustrated newspaper manage the balance between the traditional Chinese thoughts and the newly introduced Western thoughts? How can the adaptation or rejection of the editors be fit into the late Qing political, economic, and intellectual background? What are some key elements that contribute to its popularity and in what ways? What is the social identity of the editors and artists, such as Wu youru, Jin Chanxiang, Zhou Muqiao, and Tian Zilin, etc.? What could be its relation to the “new novels” as well as traditional Chinese novels? What is the function of the selected stories from Wang Tao’s Song-yin man-lu in this newspaper? By answering these questions I want to examine the transitional period of Chinese literature in which a hybrid pattern represented the paradox between tradition and modernity, between China and the West, as well as between self and others.


Gang Song  (United States)
PhD candidate
East Asian Languages and Cultures
University of Southern California

  • The Dian-shi-zhai hua-bao
  • Late 19th century Chinese literature

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)