The Subtle Revolution: Poets of the "Old Schools" during Late Qing and Early Republican China

Book Cover


Kowallis, Jon
China Research Monograph 60
2006. 299 pp.
ISBN 1-55729-083-0

Conventional approaches to Chinese literature have presented the late nineteenth century as an era in which the traditional literary forms, particularly classical-style poetry, ground to a halt, having petered out like the political fortunes of the "moribund" Qing dynasty. Only the infusion of new images from abroad and ultimately the language and ideas of the West, it has been held, served to propel Chinese poetry in the direction of the "modern." In this study, Jon Kowallis attempts to question the objectivity of that view, arguing that poetry in the classical language could and did serve its writers and their intended readership as a vehicle to articulate a complex and sophisticated understanding of as well reaction to the entry of modernity.

"The Subtle Revolution tackles a most challenging dimension of Chinese literary modernization. By examining the resurgence of classical-style poetry at a time of radical transformation, Jon Kowallis has ushered us into a world beyond the conventional boundary of the modern..."
              —David Der-wei Wang, Harvard University

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