The Unworthy Scholar from Pingjiang

Republican-Era Martial Arts Fiction

John Christopher Hamm

Columbia University Press

The Unworthy Scholar from Pingjiang

Pub Date: August 2019

ISBN: 9780231190565

312 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $70.00£54.00

Pub Date: August 2019

ISBN: 9780231549004

312 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $69.99£54.00

The Unworthy Scholar from Pingjiang

Republican-Era Martial Arts Fiction

John Christopher Hamm

Columbia University Press

Xiang Kairan, who wrote under the pen name “the Unworthy Scholar from Pingjiang,” is remembered as the father of modern Chinese martial arts fiction, one of the most distinctive forms of twentieth-century Chinese culture and the inspiration for China’s globally popular martial arts cinema. In this book, John Christopher Hamm shows how Xiang Kairan’s work and career offer a new lens on the transformations of fiction and popular culture in early-twentieth-century China.

The Unworthy Scholar from Pingjiang situates Xiang Kairan’s career in the larger contexts of Republican-era China’s publishing industry, literary debates, and political and social history. At a time when writers associated with the New Culture movement promoted an aggressively modernizing vision of literature, Xiang Kairan consciously cultivated his debt to homegrown narrative traditions. Through careful readings of Xiang Kairan’s work, Hamm demonstrates that his writings, far from being the formally fossilized and ideologically regressive relics their critics denounced, represent a creative engagement with contemporary social and political currents and the demands and possibilities of an emerging cultural marketplace. Hamm takes martial arts fiction beyond the confines of genre studies to situate it within a broader reexamination of Chinese literary modernity. The first monograph on Xiang Kairan’s fiction in any language, The Unworthy Scholar from Pingjiang rewrites the history of early-twentieth-century Chinese literature from the standpoints of genre fiction and commercial publishing.
In The Unworthy Scholar from Pingjiang, Hamm traces the life and work of Xiang Kairan, one of the most important martial arts novelists of the Republican period. Hamm broadly situates Xiang Kairan into the larger cultural and political landscape of Republican China and investigates the intricacies of the martial arts fiction genre. Hamm is one of the most important literary critics studying martial arts fiction, and this book is a most "worthy" contribution to our understanding of this understudied corner of the modern Chinese literary world. Michael Berry, University of California, Los Angeles
Hamm has written a fascinating study of Xiang Kairan, one of the most influential practitioners of the Chinese martial arts (wuxia) novel. In addition to being an exemplary literary biography, The Unworthy Scholar from Pingjiang is a meticulous history of the modern development of the wuxia genre and an insightful reconsideration of the capacious literary category of xiaoshuo (“fiction”). Christopher Rea, author of The Age of Irreverence: A New History of Laughter in China
Hamm’s illuminating book paints a vivid picture of the complex literary world of early Republican China, beyond the well-known narratives of New Literature. Like its subject, it bridges traditional and modern Chinese fiction, exploring the literary, economic, and political values mediated by the periodical press and the dominant discourses of the era. An engaging, fresh approach. Margaret Wan, University of Utah
An exquisite literary biography, The Unworthy Scholar from Pingjiang is also a definitive study of genre. Hamm demonstrates that Republican-period martial arts fiction was as much part of Chinese modernity as were the highbrow oeuvres of the New Culture movement. His masterful study changes our perception of contemporary Chinese culture. Meir Shahar, Tel Aviv University
Acknowledgments
Notes on Conventions
Introduction
1. The Writer’s Life
2. Xiang Kairan’s Monkeys: Xiaoshuo as a Literary Genre
3. Thematic Subgenre: Martial Arts Fiction
4. Form and Medium: The Serialized Linked-Chapter Novel and Beyond
5. Marvelous Gallants of the Rivers and Lakes
6. Chivalric Heroes of Modern Times
Conclusion: The Unworthy Scholar from Pingjiang
Notes
Bibliography
Index

About the Author

John Christopher Hamm is associate professor in the Department of Asian Languages and Literature at the University of Washington. He is the author of Paper Swordsmen: Jin Yong and the Modern Chinese Martial Arts Novel (2005).