Butterfly literature


Butterfly literature
(Yuanyang hudiepai)
Literary revival
In the 1980s and 1990s, along with a nostalgic ethos for the flowering urban life and culture in the Republican era (1912–49), numerous reprints of that era’s ‘Mandarin Duck and Butterfly fiction’ (Yuanyang hudiepai xiaoshuo) appeared. Among the multi-volume collections of Butterfly literature, the most impressive were those edited by literary historians Fan Boqun, Wei Shaochang, Yuan Jin and Yu Runqi. While commercially catering to general readers, these collections served scholarly use, as the selected texts were noted for their original sources.
Rooted in the sentimental romance of early twentieth century, Butterfly fiction developed in later decades into diverse genres such as social fiction, science fiction, detective story and knighterrant fiction; it was popular in Chinese urban centres as it primarily entertained city-dwellers in their needs of diversion or pleasure. After 1949 Butterfly literature was condemned by literary historians as feudalistic, decadent and poisonous, and disappeared. So its revival suggests nothing less than an ironic turn after its repression and neglect for half a century.
The appearance of innumerable reprinted works and academic re-evaluations seems more than a literary phenomenon; it signifies a revival of popular print culture, reading pleasure and generic pluralism, a nostalgia for the bygone splendour of urban life and freedom from Communist ideology. Commercially, the label appeals to the reader not only with its images of ‘small cute animals’ as a kind of soft literature embedded in metropolitan nostalgia; implied is also a political message: Butterfly literature is a victim of May Fourth literature or the Chinese revolution.
Chow, Rey (1986/87). ‘Rereading Mandarin Ducks and Butterflies: A Response to the “Postmodern’ Condition”’. Cultural Critique 5 (Winter):69–95.
Fan, Boqun (ed.) (1991). Yuanyang hudie—‘Libailiu’ pai zuopinxuan [Mandarin Ducks and Butterflies—Selected Works of the ‘Saturday’ School]. Beijing: Renmin wenxue.
——(1993). Yuanyang hudie pai yanqing xiaoshuo jicui [A Collection of Love Stories of the Mandarin Duck and Butterfly School]. 3 vols. Beijing: Zhongyang minzu xueyuan.
Wei, Shaochang (ed.) (1982). Yuanyang hudiepai yanjiu ziliao [Research Materials for Mandarin Duck and Butterfly School]. 2 vols. Shanghai: Wenyi chubanshe.
CHEN JIANHUA

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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