wénjiè ɡémìnɡ 文界革命
The Revolution in the Literati Circle
The Revolution in the Literati Circle, which took place in early modern China, was a cultural movement aimed at transforming classical Chinese language and literature. In 1899, Liang Qichao (1873-1929), frustrated by the failure of the Reform Movement of 1898, saw an urgent need to reform and uplift the national character of the Chinese people. He used writing to introduce new ideas from the West, hoping that this would help enlighten and educate his fellow countrymen and change their ways of thinking. One target of this revolution was the Tongcheng School of literary prose, which was founded by some natives of Tongcheng County, Anhui Province in the early years of the Qing Dynasty. Another target was Pianwen, rhythmical prose characterized by parallelism and ornateness. This revolution aimed to merge classical oral Chinese and classical written Chinese into one form and use a new style and wording to convey modern Western concepts and ideas. Liang Qichao created a new style by employing many colloquial expressions and the grammar of foreign languages. His writings were full of emotion. The Revolution in the Literati Circle shared goals of the Revolution in the Circle of Poets and the Revolution in the Circle of Fiction Writers: to promote a reform in the style of writing. It enhanced the popularity of vernacular Chinese, inspired the literary revolution of the May 4th period (1919), and paved the way for vernacular poetry and prose to gain dominance in the Chinese literary writing.
Tokutomi Sohō is one of Japan’s three great journalists. His writing is free, unrestrained, profound and graceful in style, incorporating the Western way of writing into Japanese literature. He created a new horizon for the literati circle. I love his writing. If a literary revolution is ever to happen in China, this should be the way it starts. (Liang Qichao: My Days in Hawaii)
I never liked the Tongcheng style of prose. When writing while I was a boy, I imitated the style of Wei and Jin literati and adored their meticulous and concise way of writing. Now that we have liberated ourselves, we can pursue ease and facility by using some slang, rhyming expressions, and foreign grammar. I am uninhibited in my writing. Many scholars take pride in imitating me, calling my writing a “fresh and new style.” People of the older generation, however, hate it, deriding it as being “shamelessly deviant.” But what I write is logical, well laid-out and full of passion. It has a magical appeal to my readers. (Liang Qichao: An Outline of Qing Dynasty Academic History)