Decadence in Modern Chinese Literature and Culture is the first monograph that comprehensively studies Decadence in Chinese literature since the 1920s.
Decadence in Modern Chinese Literature and Culture is the first monograph that comprehensively studies Decadence in Chinese literature since the 1920s. It uses the original notions of late nineteenth-century European Decadence as a critical lens to re-examine twentieth-century Chinese literature and to illuminate the changing status of China’s modern cultural elite. Ever since its introduction to China in the early 1920s, Decadence, or its Chinese translation “tuifei,” has been associated with a pessimistic worldview and an indulgence in physical pleasures, which has led to often simplistic and moralistic criticism. In contrast, European Decadents rebelled against the norms they believed in to brandish their free will and spiritual superiority because they were anxious about their loss of cultural and moral authority to the rising middle class. By examining seven prominent Chinese writers from different generations, this book demonstrates that it was not until the late 1980s and 1990s that Decadent literature in the original European sense emerged in China. This is because China’s modern cultural elite did not feel the real decline in their cultural and moral authority until then, when the socialist system, after fostering a strong sense of elitism in them, withdrew its ideological endorsement and material support. As a result, they turned to Decadent rebellion to reclaim their spiritual superiority yet in vain because of its internal and external paradoxes.
Hongjian Wang is an Assistant Professor of Chinese and Asian Studies at Purdue University. Her research interests include modern Chinese literature, cinema, theatre, media, and cultural history. She has published articles on a popular pictorial in the Republican era (1911–1949), contemporary Chinese independent documentary films, a Hong Kong comedy film’s cult following in mainland China, and contemporary Chinese avant-garde theatre. Her current project investigates the satiric skits in the Spring Festival Gala on the state-run China Central Television in the reform era (1983–present).