Nanjing Literature in the 20th Century

Famous Writers and Great Achievements

In recent history, Nanjing has been visited and gifted with the ideas of a great many new literary masters who have also turned their pens to portraying the city itself. Lu Xun, Zhou Zuoren, Ba Jin, Zong Baihua, Wen Yiduo and American writer Pearl S. Buck all studied, worked or lived in Nanjing while such influential writers as Zhu Ziqing, Yu Pingbo, Zhang Henshui and Zhang Ailing have all produced timeless literary works that are rooted in the metropolis. Retreating Figure, Paddling Sound in the Qinhuai River, Danfeng Street and Half a Lifelong Romance are only a handful among them.In August 1923, Zhu Ziqing and Yu Pingbo visited Qinhuai River together and each wrote a prose piece based on their experience. Paddling Sound in the Qinhuai River and Lantern-illuminating Qinhuai River are the results of that day. Even today the two proses are recognised for their distinctive styles and how they came about remains anecdotal in the history of modern literature.

Nanjing Literature in the 20th Century

Lu Xun and Nanjing

The location of the “Nanjing Lu Xun Memorial” in the High School Affiliated to Nanjing Normal University is the former site of Jiangnan School. In 1898, Lu Xun was admitted to the school and graduated three years later as the third best student in his year. After leaving he travelled to Japan for study and the rest is, as they say, history.

Nanjing Literature in the 20th Century

Ba Jin and Nanjing

In 1923, Ba Jin was admitted to the Affiliated Middle School of the National Southeast University (now, the High School Affiliated to Nanjing Normal University). The author has donated books to the Affiliated Middle School of Nanjing Normal University on more than ten occasions and given an inscription to the school too – “Speak from your heart”.

Nanjing Literature in the 20th Century

Pearl S. Buck and Nanjing

American writer Pearl S. Buck spent many years living in the area od Nanjing and won the Nobel Prize for Literature for her many books on the locals’ lives. During her tutelage at Nanjing University, she wrote The Good Earth, a full-length novel describing the life of Chinese peasants for which she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

Nanjing Publishing

From 1911 until 1949, Nanjing served as both China's capital and the publishing center of the country. At that time, Buddhist scriptures published by the Jinling Sutra Printing House and the Nanjing People's Daily, founded by Zhang Henshui, both exerted a far-reaching influence across China.

Nanjing Literature in the 20th Century

The Jinling Sutra Printing House was established in 1866. Its ancient printing technology, woodblock printing, has been inscribed in the list of Oral and Intangible Heritage.

Modern times: Literature’s far reach

The study of classical literature in Nanjing flourished during the Republic of China era. During the May Fourth Movement, Nanjing served as the research centre of national classical literature. In 1921 in Nanjing, Mei Guangdi, Hu Xiansu, Liu Yizhi and Wu Mi founded the magazine Xueheng and a school of the same name. Xueheng school resisted westernization and the anti-traditional tendency of the time.

A portrait of Chen Sanyuan painted by Xu Beihong. Chen Sanyuan, also named Sanli, was an important figure of Tongguan style poetry.

Wu Mi, former professor of Nanjing University’s School of Arts, , was a central member of the Xueheng school.

The Guofeng movement is regarded as Xueheng’s continuation of as its main member writers were essentially the same who had begun the predecessor school in Nanjing.

In 1911, Jinling University (which was later merged into Nanjing University) issued the first batch of Chinese undergraduate diplomas in literature.

In 1921, Wu Mi, appointed as a professor on western literature at Nanjing National Southeast University (now Nanjing University), established the course "Comparison of Chinese and Western Poetry" and founded China's first comparative literature curriculum.

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