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Xu, Guoqi. Strangers on the Western Front: Chinese Workers in the Great War. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2011. viii, 336 pp. $39.95 (cloth)

By Edward Rhoads

Unlike the Second World War, China’s participation in the First World War is little known. Initially neutral, China did not declare war on Germany until mid-August 1917. Its major contribution was to send 140,000 contract workers to France to free up Allied soldiers for the battlefront. Two-thirds of the Chinese workers were recruited by the British; one-third, by the French. When the United States joined the war, also in 1917, the French assigned about 10,000 of their Chinese laborers to the Americans. For the British and Americans, the Chinese transported munitions and dug trenches; for the French, they worked in factories. When hostilities ended in November 1918, the Chinese stayed behind for close to two more years, clearing still-live ammunition and burying dead soldiers’ bodies.

The French and British recruited the workers separately. The French did so through a Chinese intermediary, the Huimin Company; the British, through their own agents. Most of the recruits were in their twenties and thirties and came from northern China. Their term of service was either three years (with the British) or five (with the French). They were apparently all men. The two sets of contracts are reproduced at the back of the book. Their experiences may profitably be compared and contrasted with those of other overseas Chinese.

The book seems to be an elaboration of a chapter in the author’s monograph, China and the Great War: China’s Pursuit of a New National Identity and Internationalization. It bears a similar title with another of his recent publications, Wenming de jiaorong: Huagong he diyici shijie dazhan (A fusion of civilizations: Chinese laborers and the First World War), though to what extent the work under review overlaps with its Chinese predecessor is unstated. There is yet an earlier study of the topic in Chinese, Chen Sanjing’s Huagong yu Ouzhan (Chinese laborers and the European war), but Xu Guoqi’s is the first book-length treatment in English.

A prodigious amount of research has gone into this book. The archives that the author consulted include the No. 2 Historical Archives in Nanjing, the British National Archives in Kew, the Imperial War Museum in London, the University of Leeds Library, the French Foreign Ministry Archives in Paris, the U.S. National Archives in College Park, Maryland, the YMCA Archives in Minneapolis, and the Canadian Library and Archives in Ottawa. Contemporary periodicals in Chinese and English were another major source.

One of the interesting findings of the book is that the sending of Chinese laborers to Europe predated China’s declaration of war on Germany and that the initiative came not from the manpower-starved French and British but from the Chinese themselves, specifically from Liang Shiyi, an advisor to President Yuan Shikai, in response to Japanese intimidation. According to the author, “the Japanese Twenty-One Demands made China determined in 1915 to win a place at the eventual peace conference” (p. 14). The way to bring this about was for “workers to take the place of soldiers,” as Liang Shiyi put it. When Liang proposed the idea to the Europeans, the French accepted promptly and the British less readily. The first French-recruited workers reached Europe in August 1916; the ones recruited by the British had arrived by April 1917. As a result, China did win a place at the postwar peace conference, but, as is well known, it failed to persuade the other conferees to stop Japan from taking over the German concessions in Shandong.

If the research for the book is faultless, the same cannot be said for its content. First of all, the book leaves out two major aspects of the story of the Chinese workers on the Western front. One is “the social and everyday lives of these laborers,” with the result that much of the book focuses on how they were “managed” rather than on what they themselves did during their several years in Europe. The other is “what happened to the laborers after they returned” to China. This information should have been set forth in the introduction and not relegated to an endnote (p. 255, n. 21).

With hardly any exceptions, the workers themselves are portrayed as a faceless, anonymous mass. Even so, more might have been said about their demographic background, e.g., native place, socio-economic status, family background. Once recruited, the workers were subject to military discipline and placed into 500-men companies, each commanded by a set of Western officers. But how were the workers organized below the level of the company? What, for example, was the role of the “ganger,” or gang boss, specified in the British recruitment contract? And where, for that matter, were the workers stationed along the Western front? The book never says.

Admittedly, more Chinese worked for the British than for the French; nevertheless, the Chinese experience with the French is given short shrift. For example, how the workers recruited by the French traveled to Europe goes unmentioned, in contrast to the chapter devoted to those recruited by the British and traveling through Canada. Whereas the Chinese under British control were dealt with “like prisoners” (p. 114), “The Chinese working under the French enjoyed more freedom and they also had opportunities to work side by side with French women in the factories” (p. 147). More might have been said on this latter point.

The book contains assertions that are contradicted by the facts. Two examples will suffice. At the time the first laborers arrived in France, China was still ostensibly neutral. When the Germans lodged diplomatic protests, the author states, “the Chinese were able to deflect them with the argument that the British and French recruitments were organized by private agencies, not military agencies” (p. 34). But in fact British recruitment “was carried out by agents of the British government” (p. 28) and not by private agencies. In the conclusion, the author claims that the British and French had never been “honest” with the Chinese workers, who had been “promised … that they would not be sent to the battle zones” (p. 241). But in fact both the British and French recruitment contracts had specified only that the workers would not be “employed in military operations” (pp. 246, 251), not that they would be kept from battle zones.

There are yet other problems with the text. Fatuous generalizations: “The Chinese laborers by nature were cheerful folks” (p. 130). Factual errors: Wang Jingwei’s attempted assassination of a Manchu official was in 1910, not 1905 (p. 202); Ray Lyman Wilbur in the 1930s was the American Secretary of the Interior, not Education (p. 211). Unexplained references: “the William Head cantonment” (p. 76); “the R.E.” (p. 107); “the measures taken at Dunkirk for their safety” (p. 112); “the O.C.” [Officer in Charge?] (p. 123); and “trench art” (p. 138). Sloppy proofreading: The YMCA secretary Shi Yixuan “received a boxing scholarship [actually, a Boxer Indemnity scholarship] in 1911 to study in the United States” (p. 290, n. 22). And, throughout, inconsistent Romanization: e.g., the failure to distinguish between lu and .

Such carelessness on the part of the author and the publisher greatly weakens the scholarly value of the book.

Works Cited
Chen Sanjing, Huagong yu Ouzhan [Chinese laborers and the European war], (Taibei, 1986).
Xu Guoqi, China and the Great War: China’s Pursuit of a New National Identity and Internationalization (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005).
Xu Guoqi, Wenming de jiaorong: Huagong he diyici shijie dazhan [A fusion of civilizations: Chinese laborers and the First World War], (Beijing, 2007).

Edward Rhoads is Professor Emeritus in the Department of History at the University of Texas at Austin.

© 2012 by Twentieth-Century China Editorial Board. All rights reserved.

Schneider, Helen M. Keeping the Nation’s House: Domestic Management and the Making of Modern China. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2011. xii, 321 pp. $94.00 (cloth); 34.95 (paper)

By Elizabeth LaCouture

In 1940, China’s Nationalist Ministry of Education issued a decree from its wartime capital of Chongqing. At a time when Japan occupied China’s eastern seaboard and the Communists controlled the north, the Ministry called on educators and homemakers to “cultivate children’s happiness.” Doing more with less, teachers and mothers were supposed to make children believe that “even if the food is unsatisfactory, the clothes are inadequate, or the habitation is insufficient… it is still very good” (p. 1). In Keeping the Nation’s House, Helen Schneider explores how Chinese educators and the Chinese state transformed the seemingly frivolous and individualistic bourgeois concept of domestic happiness into a political ideology that promised to save the Chinese nation. Schneider’s methodically researched monograph charts the rise and fall (and rise again) of home economics in twentieth-century China, arguing that home economics became an academic discipline when it introduced new modern and political meanings into the Chinese home. Using women’s magazines, educational debates, and home economics curricula as evidence, Schneider suggests that happy homes in Republican-era China were hygienic, healthful, efficient, and above all, the cornerstone of national salvation.

As Schneider notes, the idea that the household was central to political authority was nothing new in China. During the late imperial period, Neo-Confucian socio-political ideals connected household to state through an ideology of “inner” and “outer,” in which the health of a household (“inner”) helped determine the political stability of the state (“outer”), and vice versa. Recently, Susan Glosser (2003) has argued that family continued to be central to both Republican and early Communist political ideology. Schneider builds on Glosser’s arguments about ideology by factoring in the materiality of home economics, explaining how educational practices transformed discursive ideas of a happy home into concrete plans to re-engineer Chinese society.

Through illuminating sources and captivating anecdotes, Schneider reveals the twists and turns that led Chinese people to focus on “keeping the nation’s house,” suggesting that the rise of domestic science as a force for national salvation was not a foregone conclusion. The story begins in the late Qing, when self-strengtheners called for educated women to take the lead in raising the next generation of Chinese citizens. In the wake of the Sino-Japanese War, these early reformers turned to Japanese models of female education, particularly the “good wife and wise mother.” Educational reformers of the early Republic uniformly advocated for schools to educate girls and women outside the home, but they lacked consensus on what that education should look like, and on how female education could best reform Chinese society. Should education enhance women’s natural talents, or tianzhi, as housekeepers, caretakers, and mothers? Or should women receive the same education as men, training them to enter society in a variety of careers?

In the 1920s and ’30s, home economics educators forged a compromise by developing a curriculum that transformed the “natural” female talents of domestic nurturing and management into new public careers for women in education, nutrition, and health. “Keeping the nation’s house” no longer simply meant asking women to modernize their own homes to serve the state, but instead meant calling upon women to pursue professional careers that could reform the nation’s house at all levels of Chinese society. Infusing social reform into domesticity, home economics thus emerged as a formal academic discipline in the 1920s. Schneider suggests that this social turn in domestic education was due in part to an epistemological shift in female education away from Japan and toward the United States. The American Christian-founded Yenching University, for example, established the first long-running department of home economics in 1924, and like their colleagues in the social sciences, home economists at Yenching promoted social scientific education as a vehicle for enacting social change in China. But it took the crisis of war to transform the home from a site of social reform to the center of national salvation. In wartime, the Guomindang state asserted the power to mobilize all levels of society, right down to individuals and homes, leveraging patriotic nationalism to demand that female citizens serve the state by helping their families deal with wartime scarcity. Indeed, Schneider posits that the academic discipline of home economics had become so intertwined with Guomindang political authority that once the Communists came to power, they swiftly disbanded all home economics departments—even as they continued to employ home economics professionals in education, public health, and early childhood development.

The breadth of Schneider’s research opens the door for further studies on female education, female careers, domesticity, and housing in Chinese, East Asian, and world history. Schneider has combed local and national archives in Beijing, Chongqing, Hunan, Nanjing, Shanghai, and Tianjin, revealing how extensively home economics stretched across China. Yet at times her sources seem in tension with this evidence. For example, Schneider cites the 1919 observations of Ida Belle Lewis, an American authority on Chinese education, suggesting that domestic science played only a minor role in Chinese girls’ schooling, and notes that as late as 1932, only 10% of female students at Hebei Provincial Women’s Normal College majored in home economics (pp. 83, 127). Thus, further studies might examine the extent to which this new discipline actually filtered into Chinese homes. And while the global history of home economics is beyond the scope of Schneider’s research, she offers tantalizing examples of the ways in which Chinese home economics education played out on regional and global stages: China not only translated knowledge from Japan, Europe, and the United States but also introduced curricular innovations at the same time as the United States.

By illuminating how politics built the nation’s house and how home shaped national politics, Schneider effectively demonstrates that home economics education meant much more than lessons in swaddling plastic dolls. But perhaps her greatest contribution lies beyond politics—in the histories of the individual women we encounter inside the nation’s house. In listening to the voices of girls who took home economics courses to save their country and professional women who toiled at keeping the nation’s house long after their academic discipline had become politically incorrect, Schneider shows us that while intellectuals and government elites may have been the architects, Chinese women built the nation’s house themselves.

Glosser, Susan L. Chinese Visions of Family and State: 1915—1953. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003.

Elizabeth LaCouture is Assistant Professor of History and East Asian Studies at Colby College.

© 2012 by Twentieth-Century China Editorial Board. All rights reserved.

Hershatter, Gail. The Gender of Memory: Rural Women and China’s Collective Past. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2011, xii, 455 pp. $49.95 (cloth).

By Nicole Elizabeth Barnes

Gail Hershatter and her Shaanxi-native research collaborator Gao Xiaoxian (of the Shaanxi Provincial Women’s Federation) spent ten years interviewing 72 women and a few men in rural Shaanxi province in northwest China. The Gender of Memory, Hershatter’s sole-authored product of this joint effort, fills a crucial gap in historiography of the 1950s, providing the first personal stories of land reform, the 1950 Marriage Law, collectivization, and the Great Leap Forward. Moreover, through incisive gender analysis, Hershatter illustrates how gender determined not only how Chinese women and men lived their lives, but also how they remember them. Whereas male interviewees used political events as the primary signposts of their lives, women tabulated their life narratives with personal events such as marriage, childbirth, and family deaths, sometimes re-ordering or re-naming political campaigns.

Women’s narratives of the past alternately troubled and reinforced state discourse. Interviews uncovered a tension between the reality, in pre-Liberation days, of poor farming women left unprotected as they worked and traveled outside the home, and their characterization of this era as one of “feudal” seclusion within the home, in a manner coinciding with Communist propaganda of women’s liberation. Faced with this tension between the women’s self-characterization with a post-’49 vocabulary and their actual pre-’49 experiences, Hershatter and Gao concluded that women may have preferred imagining themselves as having been constrained under “feudalism” rather than left alone to fend for themselves and their children without the help of menfolk, too poor to afford the luxury of seclusion at home (p. 37). Yet other interviewees emphasized the absence of men, in both the pre-Communist and Communist eras, and hence the extreme hardships they faced as single mothers solely responsible for both farm work and housework. Regardless of whether their memories confirmed or contradicted the Communist narrative of women’s liberation, the interviews showed that rural women generally ordered their lives around family and local relationships, with political campaigns in the interstices.

Here Hershatter contributes to the long-lived state-and-society debate in Chinese historiography. Drawing on Timothy Mitchell’s theory of the “state effect” to trouble the Communist state’s self-narrative of reforming a society from which it stood separate and apart, Hershatter explores how rural women were incorporated into the state as both agents and targets of state reforms. For many rural women, relations with female labor models or dundian cadres (non-local officials residing with local families) constituted their interactions with “the state.” For the labor models and cadres themselves, taking on a state-defined role as an agent of reform both set them apart from local society and enmeshed them much more deeply in local relationships and national politics. As local embodiments of the state, these women transformed state projects into local projects, bringing national politics into village life and domestic spaces (p. 68, 210).

Allowing her interviewees to speak for themselves in frequent and often long quotations, Hershatter illustrates that women were incorporated into the state in moments, spaces, and modes that differed from those of men. Women earned fewer work points than did men for the same labor; agricultural collectivization effaced and discounted women’s reproductive, domestic, and handicraft labors; reforms in midwifery left farming women thoroughly exhausted with more children surviving gestation and infancy; political reforms hewed generational cleavages between mothers and daughters as younger women were more likely than their elders to fight gender discrimination in work point allotments or to resist arranged marriages; female labor models who attended mixed-sex meetings came under intense scrutiny even while exercising extreme caution to protect their chastity. As narrated by the women themselves, political campaigns touched women’s lives in very personal ways that tell of continued gender discrimination within the very legislation that has nearly eradicated the greatest threats to women’s wellbeing: chronic poverty, banditry, illiteracy, and disease.

Hershatter’s analysis of these narratives, with gender at the center, uncovers an entirely new picture of 1950s China. Moving beyond her first question, “Did women have a Chinese revolution?” (p. 7), she troubles the narrative of progress and reveals the gender-contingent contours of China’s socialist reforms. Her gender analysis of land reform and collectivization illustrates that rural women’s agricultural and domestic labors enabled the success of the Communist revolution, the very revolution that in many ways left this generation of rural women behind. Hershatter shows convincingly that we cannot understand twentieth-century China without appreciating the particular contributions and social position of these women (pp. 264-65, 287).

This book is powerful in yet another way: it is startlingly frank about the historian’s positionality in the production of (oral) history. Hershatter challenges the myth of uncovering a raw and unmediated history via interviews with “the subaltern who speaks” (p. 204), and occasionally shares interview segments with the reader that strained her and Gao Xiaoxian’s interpretive powers. She thereby identifies herself as simultaneous consumer and co-creator of the documents (in this case, oral history interviews) from which she crafts her own historical narrative. Such honesty carries the historian’s craft far beyond the linguistic turn and brings Hershatter into dialogue with theorists and scholars who are shaping the future of the field.

Because so many men died in China’s twentieth-century wars (between warlords in the 1920s and 30s, with Japan from 1937 to 1945, and between the Communists and Nationalists from 1947 to 1949), Hershatter and Gao were only able to interview a small number of elderly men. Therefore the book’s comparison between male and female narrations of the past relies on a sex-skewed interview sample that may beg revision if future scholarship applies it to a different source base. Nonetheless, Hershatter’s gender analysis of memory, her introduction of personal narratives of rural life in the early Communist era, her theorization of the gendered inflection of state-society relations, and her refreshingly candid model of oral history make The Gender of Memory a path-breaking work in Chinese studies.

Nicole Elizabeth Barnes is PhD candidate in modern Chinese history at the University of California, Irvine.

© 2012 by Twentieth-Century China Editorial Board. All rights reserved.

Chen, Zhongping. Modern China’s Network Revolution: Chambers of Commerce and Sociopolitical Change in the Early Twentieth Century. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2011. xxi, 289 pp. $55.00 (cloth)

By Brett Sheehan

The title of Zhongping Chen’s new book has a double meaning. Modern China’s Network Revolution refers both to his claim for new, revolutionary forms of networking among lower-Yangzi Chinese elites at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries and to the revolutionary roles of those networks in elite mobilization, especially in the 1911 revolution which overthrew the Qing. As such, the book makes a meaningful contribution to debates on the nature of Chinese organizational practices, especially merchant organizational practices, and to debates about the nature of late-Qing elite mobilization and the relationship of those mobilized elites to the state.

The first three chapters focus on the new organizational forms, or what Chen calls associational networks (p. 7). Chen traces the beginnings of chambers of commerce, their growth and their bourgeoning relationships with each other. Specialists will appreciate the detailed information on specific merchants and organizations in these chapters, though general readers might find the number of names daunting. In theorizing about new organizational forms, Chen does not dismiss particularism as important in network formation, but he does argue for the importance of formal organization. Chen summarizes the gist of this organizational revolution as a series of new institutional norms and links: “formal leadership, membership, periodic meetings, competitive elections, network hierarchy” (p. 208). The result was organizations which were neither natural results of earlier guild evolution nor simple imitations of Western counterparts (p. 18).

Chen shows the “revolutionary” results of these new institutions in a series of fascinating case studies. Chapter four discusses the extension of relationships among chambers of commerce as they banded together for the 1905 anti-American boycott, became involved in municipal governmental affairs, especially in Shanghai, and as they helped found other new organizations such as the extremely important merchant militias. Chapter five portrays chamber activities in the commercial and industrial realms as chambers organized tax protests, became involved in the Railroad Rights Recovery Movement, organized the Nanyang industrial exposition, and negotiated with American business interests. Chapter six provides an absorbing account of chamber involvement in the growing constitutional movement and then eventually in the revolts and secessions of the 1911 revolution which overthrew the Qing dynasty. Chen argues that the revolution did not, as some have claimed, grow out of the railway rights recovery movement which peaked in 1907, four years before lower-Yangzi businesspeople broke from the Qing (pp. 158-159). Chapter seven carries the story beyond 1911 to discuss the fates of lower Yangzi chambers in the republican period after 1911, but this chapter has less detail and is less satisfying than the other rich cases studies.

Chen’s topic fits within a series of important debates about local elites in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. Taking a middle ground in terms of the balance between state and local power, the book portrays chambers as a combination of state-down direction and bottom-up mobilization on behalf of merchants (p. 56). Thus, initially the Qing court preferred merchant leadership for chambers so these new organizations would not enhance the power of the government’s own provincial officials at the expense of the center (p. 52). At the same time, once formed, “official attempts to divide and rule chambers failed” (p. 76). The chambers were creatures of the state and simultaneously tools of local elites. Merchant elites, however, were not just interested in local dominance, but also showed public interests and joint actions with the populace against both the Qing government and foreign encroachment (p. 14).

Although this last conclusion echoes the public sphere debates of two decades ago, Chen is careful to avoid this terminology. He shows that the relationship between merchants and the state is more complex than many arguments about the public sphere allow, and he presents a picture of “interactive dynamics and changeable relations with the state” (p. 16). Some of Chen’s more interesting examples of this interaction come when chambers cooperate with the state in some areas while simultaneously protesting against the state in others. During the railway rights recovery movement, merchants approached the Qing court for an under-the-table loan to finance joint projects with Americans in spite of their disgust with the government over the railway issue (pp. 156-159, 167).

In some places Chen’s terminology is hard to pin down. For example, he excludes “old style” shops from his list of capitalist enterprises without defining capitalism (p. 92). The reader is left with the impression that capitalist simply means Western. More central to Chen’s argument, he divides merchants as either “elite” or “common” with the former having elite connections and gentry training (p. 77), but throughout the book there are references to elite merchants, chamber leaders, gentry, and sometimes just “elites” without any clear sense of discrete groups.

In addition, Chen argues for connections between merchant elites and the populace through shared provincialism, nationalism, and economic interest (p. 156). While large crowds showed up at chamber-sponsored patriotic events and people subscribed to railway shares in fairly large numbers, it is hard to see what shared economic interest elite merchants and ordinary Chinese shared. Chen himself acknowledges elsewhere that chambers’ primary concern was for elite merchant interests (p. 148).

Most importantly, it is clear from the evidence in this book that chambers of commerce were only part of the story of elite networks. At almost every turn, the chambers of commerce cooperated with other elite groups such as education associations and local gentry. Chamber of commerce organizations were clearly only one manifestation of larger elite networks and a fuller description of those networks might show more personal links and less reliance on formal organization. Thus, the book effectively proves that late Qing chambers of commerce were important both at the local and national levels, but the claim of “institutionalized and irreversible change” (p. 207) is less convincing.

Brett Sheehan is Associate Professor of Chinese History at the University of Southern California

© 2012 by Twentieth-Century China Editorial Board. All rights reserved.

Jones, Andrews F. Developmental Fairy Tales: Evolutionary Thinking and Modern Chinese Culture. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2011. 259 pp. $49.95 (cloth).

By Nicole Kwoh

At the 1996 APEC Economic Leaders Meeting, Jiang Zemin concluded his speech on economic development with a quote from Lu Xun: “For actually the earth had no road to begin with, but when many men pass one way, a road is made” (1921). This quote highlights the important role played by the first generation of modern Chinese literature in shaping the current rhetoric of building a road to progress. In Developmental Fairy Tales: Evolutionary Thinking and Modern Chinese Culture, Andrew F. Jones explains the construction of this ubiquitous concept of cultural and historical progress. With a focus on Lu Xun (1881-1936), Jones broadens the influence of evolutionary theory beyond short stories and essays to include narratives of “everyday discourse” (p. 8), and skillfully pieces together widely circulated academic journals, film, print advertisements, and children’s literature of the Republican Era. Jones’s fresh interdisciplinary approach sheds light on the extent to which artistic and political reverberations of developmental social theory shaped modern Chinese culture, with the crucial help of the contemporary growth of print culture, Western science, and commercial media. The five chapters of the book are organized to show the broadening of developmental theory’s impact on literature, politics, and economy.

Jones links vernacular developmental narrative forms with Late Victorian “science fiction” (p. 48), in particular that of Edward Bellamy and Jules Verne. Their works, Jones explains, explore evolutionary social theory by questioning the relationship between a “backward” reality and a utopian destination, a narrative that came to be appropriated by Lu Xun and fellow participants in experimental fiction such as Wu Jianren, author of The New Story of the Stone (1908). Jones shows that this narrative structure often also worked as a framing device in which plots and characters come full circle, inevitably ending where they had started despite their efforts. In their journey, the final part of a chain of events is presented both as an avoidable crisis and an inevitable natural process. The opening line from Lu Xun’s “The Misanthrope” (1925) illustrates this circularity in its stark declaration: “My acquaintance with Wei Lianshu began with a funeral, and ended with a funeral.”

Jones keenly argues that the politicization of these developmental narratives was grounded in the tenet that literary creation has the ability to influence the historical path of the nation. Chinese nationalist intellectuals perceived a decline in China’s sovereignty in the face of increasing reliance on goods and technology imported from the West, foreign political control, and a fractured central government. China’s powerlessness in attaining modern nation-state status in the imperialist world order came to be viewed by Lu Xun and his contemporaries as a consequence of an inherited cultural tradition that appeared inexorable, but from which a rupture was needed if ever China was to overcome a stalled modernity. Jones subscribes to the prevailing view that developmental theories informed nationalist intellectuals, who believed it was their responsibility to take the lead in awakening the nation to action (or, at least, to its predetermined condition) and, consequently, turned to vernacular fiction as an instrument of social change. Significantly, Jones comes to the provocative conclusion that this developmental narrative was understood not merely as a parable to convey tensions emerging from a desire for agency against Western imperialism and from a need to confront an inevitable modernization. It also, in itself, served as an “act” that re-captured historical agency from the steady pace of the evolutionary view of human history.

The author’s insightful examination of literature, film, and artwork reveals that these narrative acts converged on the recurrent use of the image of a captive animal or child receiving education in his or her formative years, a scene in which the shape of the child’s future is reliant on adult intervention. Indeed, posits Jones, the child or beast, as determiner of the nation’s future and embodiment of the consequences of both “nature and nurture,” becomes the “primary object of literary representation” (p. 10). This is especially convincing in a detailed analysis of Lu Xun’s essay “How to Train Wild Animals” (1933) inspired by “A Narrow Cage” (1921) by Vasilii Eroshenko (1890-1952), an advocate of developmental theory with whom Lu Xun forged a close friendship. Looking at the expanding commercial publishing industry, Jones points to the launch of children’s magazines in 1921 by publishing giants Commercial Press and Chunghwa Books as further evidence that the image of the child became central to the discourse on development in popular culture and mass media. Jones expands the scope of analysis of these magazines beyond their article content to analyze advertisements, cover illustrations, and photomontages. By examining this intersection of child education, national development, and print capitalism, Jones reveals a fascinating Republican Era discourse on child development. It is in children’s literature itself that we detect a form of “the vernacularization of evolutionary narrative” (p. 82). Jones goes one step further to argue that this expanding market for products aimed at educating children catalyzed the rise of the entire print industry.

In one of the most intriguing sections of the book, Jones provides a comprehensive and reliable study on the rise of Western taxonomy and natural science as institutional disciplines in China, highlighting the role of Lu Xun’s younger brother Zhou Jianren (1888-1898), a zoologist and advocate for the importance of external conditions to child development. Western scientific texts, especially those pertaining to biology or zoology, were translated and disseminated in China, primarily through the efforts of a network of New Culture writers. According to Jones, this enabled the indigenization of foreign texts, which took on meanings specific to the Chinese condition.

This provocative study pushes open the boundaries of developmental theory in the formation of modern Chinese literature and media culture. It is a valuable resource for scholars interested in twentieth-century China’s comparative literary history, intellectual history, children’s literature, translation, and cultural studies.

Nicole Kwoh is a graduate student in modern Chinese history at Columbia University.

© 2012 by Twentieth-Century China Editorial Board. All rights reserved.

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