Chinese View Of The Contemporary Russian Literature


The article attempts to reconstruct receptive settings that determine the interpretation and evaluation of works of contemporary Russian literature in China. In the scientific use, studies of Chinese scholars on Russian contemporary literature are being introduced. The Chinese perception of Russian literature, language, history at different stages reflects the evolution of receptive preferences and value orientations. Interpretation and evaluation of works of contemporary Russian authors is determined by cultural codes, which are actualized in the process of reception: the understanding of tradition as a cultural code of the nation and the conditions for preserving the national identity in the current situation of globalization; the principle of the "golden mean", which removes the extremes in opposition "tradition - novelty", "female - male", etc. and focuses on dialogue; estimation of realistic aesthetic tradition as perspective. The authors of the article reveal the manifestation of such codes in the texts of Chinese specialists in Russian philology.

Keywords: Modern Russian literaturereceptioninterpretationreaderChina


The history of the reception of Russian literature in China covers more than a century and includes the steps (stages) of copying, creative rethinking, adaptation, critical thinking. Each stage is characterized by a special receptive situation that predetermined the direction of cross-cultural communication, as well as the perspectives of professional understanding of other cultures (foreign) texts.

Problem Statement

A study of the reception of modern Russian literature in China - a problem, which implies immersion in the field of intercultural communication. This problem is relevant since the study of the perception of Russian works will give an idea of the Chinese reader, clarify the communicative situation, namely, the attitudes that predetermine this or that understanding of contemporary Russian literature. The reception of the intercultural culture text in this case is a complex hermeneutic act, in the process and result of which some meanings are lost and others arise, generated by specific cultural codes.

Research Questions

The realization of the task presupposes the solution of the following questions: what is the receptive situation in modern China; what socio-cultural factors influence the perception of Russian literature; what attracts the Chinese reader in contemporary Russian literature.

Purpose of the Study

Purpose of the Study - the study of the Chinese experience of interpretation, analysis and evaluation of contemporary Russian literature.

Research Methods

The work is based on a complex methodological paradigm that allows studying the features of the reception of modern Russian literature by the Chinese reader, after encompassing the phenomena of stereotype, self-understanding, conflict of interpretations, etc. It includes the methodological provisions of comparative literary and receptive aesthetics. Under the receptive situation, we mean the cultural context in which the reception is carried out. It sets the boundaries, limits and prospects of the evaluation and interpretation of the perceived phenomenon. In the literary works of Chinese authors there are confessions about the complexity of understanding, sometimes even the misunderstanding of modern Russian literature, about the erroneous understanding of a number of texts. Apparently, in this case we are faced with the phenomenon of conflict / discrepancy of cultural codes. Such cases and their reflection by Chinese recipients are of special value to us, since they most clearly manifest the specificity of cultural contexts. In connection with this, the following methodological position turns out to be productive: there is no misunderstanding, there is something different; the sphere of pre-understanding opens and at the same time limits the process of interpretation; understanding is embedded in a particular cultural tradition.


The analysis of articles, monographs, dissertations of Chinese philologists that are dedicated to contemporary Russian literature made it possible to reveal the following sociocultural receptive attitudes of a professional Chinese reader: - awareness of the existence of lacunae in the notion of Russian literature; - awareness of the danger of ideological reading of the text; - receptive openness, readiness to learn new artistic and literary experience, at the same time, understanding of the danger of loss of national specifics.

The problem of tradition and originality is one of the most debated in China. It is traditionally included in the problem field of scientific conferences at the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries. The main discussed aspects: the place of tradition in the conditions of modernization of Chinese society (the phenomenon of tradition is understood by Chinese scientists in two ways: as a cultural code, the basis of national self-identity, as a brake in development). The path to pluralism is more often estimated as productive for modern China. Westocentrism and a conscious crisis of national identity caused a critical reaction of famous Chinese writers. Wang Meng, Jia Pinwa, Han Shaogong, Mo Yan and others are concerned about the loss of tradition, respect for Chinese classical literature. Li Xiaozhen writes about the saving tradition: "The Chinese intellectuals from the beginning of the twentieth century to the 80's had a sober understanding of traditional culture, but after the 1980s, Western culture rapidly entered Chinese society, which led to the fact that the cultural base of our generation has become very unsteady. Our generation is too frivolous, it has lost its precious cultural essence" (Liu, 2013, p.35).

Understanding the need to preserve tradition has made relevant the following aspect: the search for productive forms of incorporating tradition into the modern cultural context. Pan Jiunlai (Heihai University) suggests proceeding from an attitude of pragmatism: to compare history with modernity, to find similar contexts, to discover the actual moments in the tradition. At the same time, the tradition should be viewed from the point of view of globalization, productivity for the whole world (Pan, 2010, p.48).

The material of scientific conferences, studies that are devoted to the problem of tradition and modernity makes it possible to isolate a number of important receptive (cultural) attitudes that determine the interpretation and evaluation of contemporary Russian literature: the perception of tradition as a cultural code of the nation, the conditions for the preservation of national identity in the situation of globalization; understanding the tradition as an open phenomenon that can be renewed; the search for ways to introduce tradition into a modern plural culture. The presence of these attitudes in the minds of professional Chinese readers is proved by the interpretations of contemporary Russian works in which researchers see the "trace" of classics, singling out rethinking, updating the literary tradition (more often the tradition of Russian classics), and the results of a conscious rejection of it.

Thereby, the specialists in Russian philology fix the thematic continuity of the classics in contemporary Russian literature. Zhao Yang in the monograph "Rural Consciousness and Nationality in Contemporary Russian Literature (on the Example of V. Rasputin's Work)" explains the presence of moral issues in Russian rural prose by the influence of the tradition of Russian classics, the works of FM Dostoyevsky and Leo Tolstoy (Zhao, 2014, p.43). Such an experience of actualization of classical eternal questions Zhao Yang considers worthy for borrowing by Chinese literature. Chinese scholars also read out thematic similarity with the Russian classics, in the "literature of introspection". In the article "Phenomena of Generalization in Russian Prose of the End of the Century: Russian Prose of the 1990s" Zhang Jianhua asserts that the Russian novels of the 1990s ("Cursed and killed" by V. Astafyev, "The General and His Army" by G.Vladimova , "Do not die before death" E. Evtushenko, etc.), continuing the path of traditional realism, are addressed to the theme of the tragedy of man in history (Zhang, 2001, p. 85). It is important to note that the scientist appraises the modern tendency of limiting self-analysis to the modern context, relevant here and now problems as an unproductive departure from the classics with its experience of a more large-scale historical thinking (ibid.).

Chen Jianhua sees thematic continuity in the artistic study of the "little man" in contemporary Russian prose (for example, in the works of V. Rasputin "In the Same Land", "Women's Conversation", "Izba", "At Home"): "The tradition of preoccupation with the destiny of a small man persists in modern Russian literature, but at the end of the twentieth century this tradition was painted with colours of more acute anxiety, anxiety (restlessness), sadness" (Chen, 2003, p.70). The tradition of narrating about the social "bottom", about the life of the "little man" is traced in modern women's literature. Chinese feminism is elite, Chinese feminist writers do not know about life, for example, of Chinese peasant women, are not immersed in it. The Russian experience of depicting the life of women "at the bottom" seems valuable, especially when this image is imbued with humanism.

Continuity of tradition is most evident for Chinese specialists in Russian philology in Russian "village" prose. The popularity of studying in China is due to a similar situation with the Russian national cultural collision of tradition and scientific and technological progress of civilization. The specialists in Russian philology emphasize the closeness of rural prose and realistic classics, which is manifested in attention to the problems of spirituality (Dostoevsky's "footprint"), the theme of memory (Bunin), elements of folk poetics (Sholokhov) (Sun, 2009, p.3).

The Chinese view not only isolates traces of continuity; the latest literary texts are interpreted and evaluated as productive or unproductive, significant or minor deviations from tradition. Chinese reader correlates even the modern unrealistic prose with classical texts. Assessing the gap with the tradition as a defeat and a dangerous trend, Zhang Jianhua notes: "Unlimited cultural pluralism has led to a crisis of traditional culture, the cultural elite has become marginalized. At the same time, post-Soviet literature is losing its confidence and moving towards nihilism" (Zhang, 2008, p.109).

It is not accidental that the traces of the Russian tradition are revealed in postmodern works. Chinese specialists in Russian philology are sure: since the 1990s, Russian postmodernists are gradually returning back to the classics. As an example, the "Yellow Arrow" by V. Pelevin is named. Wang Xian believes that this text returns the classical understanding of "literature as a human science" (Wang, 2009). According to Liu Tao, Pelevin inherited the tradition of Russian realism with his awareness of his public purpose, the search for truth, open to a brutal reality, the concern for the future of mankind (Liu, 2008).

The content of the postmodern text is often inaccessible to the Chinese reader. "White spots" of the history of Russian literature of the twentieth century (the Silver Age, the "thaw", "returned literature") is also a lacuna in the interpretation tools. As a result, Chinese researchers choose more obvious (realistic) ways of analyzing the unrealistic text. According to Wu Zelin, "the Russian realistic literary tradition will penetrate all-round into postmodern literature, so we often interpret postmodern texts taking into account the realistic form" (Zhelin, 2004, p.56).

Specific cultural code also determines the reception by the Chinese reader of modern Russian women's literature. Perceiving the ideas of Western feminism, China softens the main feminist judgments. Hence the nomination of "soft feminism" appeared which reflected the conceptual avoiding the sharp "women's" issues, "soft" evaluation of male / masculine, the close relationship of feminism to public policy. The influence of Confucianism with its idea of harmony, the rule of the "golden mean", the principle "the family as the most important", etc., is also traced. In female Chinese literature, "soft" feminism manifests itself in the principle of parasexual harmony. The Chinese writer Te Ning in the book "The Door of the Rose" writes: "When I address women's themes, I try to get rid of the female approach. I want to use the point of vision of the "third sex", or parasexual view, in order to comprehensively and deeply understand the real life of a woman" (Те, 2003, p.1). Another influence of "soft feminism" means going beyond the actual "female" problems into a broader social field that removes the difference between the sexes. Comparing Russian and Western women's literature, Professor Zhang Jianhua of the Beijing University of Foreign Languages sees the advantage and significance of the first that it "does not have the background of the feminist movement of Western women's literature <...>". A powerful tradition of Russian social literature allows Russian writers to take on the awareness of social mission and does not limit themselves to "female writing"" (Zhang, 2014b, p.38).

The formation of a harmonious society is China's exceptional strategic task in the 21st century. One of its manifestations assumes gender harmony. That is why the experience (and artistic included) of overcoming the opposition "male-female" seems useful to the Chinese scientists. They are focused on searching the examples of the successful resolution of gender conflicts, choosing a parasexual perspective. Thus, Chen Fang is inclined to see a productive rejection of the trend of deconstruction in the development of Russian women's literature, which once gave birth to the type of "new Amazons", "women playing", in favor of reconstruction and liberation from binary gender oppositions (Chen, 2007a). To any forms of imbalance in the "male-female" pair, the Chinese scientist prefers harmonization, not the reduction of the role of men, but improving oneself as a person. The same idea is developed by Zhang Jianhua in the article "The Modern Russian Feminist Movement and the Female Narrative in Literature":"Modern Russian women's literature reveals not the struggle for rights and inter-gender conflict, but <...> the assertion of the subject status of women in modern society" (Zhang, 2014a, p.122). In the contemporary Russian women's literature, it is not the struggle for rights, not the conflict of the sexes that take place, but ... it is the affirmation of the subject status of women in modern society.

In the typology of the characters of Russian women's literature, Chinese specialists in Russian philology distinguish particularly the type of "holy/ideal", represented, for example, by the images of Medea, Sonechka, Elizaveta Ivanovna in the works of L. Ulitskaya. Chen Fang introduces the nomination "(anti) Medea": "In appearance, these heroines, it would seem, are similar to traditional female images, but have greater independence. They have their own spiritual space and rules of existence" (Chen, 2007a, p.112). Analyzing the image of Medea in the novel "Medea and her children," she notes: "Formally Medea corresponds to traditional culture and «male» moral norms. However, she does not belong to the male world, she defends her spiritual positions, preserves the integrity of the spiritual life" (Chen Fang, 2007a, p.115). Chen Fang finds in Ulitskaya's works the answer to the question "how to become a happy woman": not to consider the happiness of a man as the main desire of women, but to create her own spiritual world. The preference of the "holy/ideal " reveals manifestation of the "soft" feminism, as well as the traditional Chinese concept of the "golden mean".

Another aspect of the research of Chinese Russian studies, studying the modern Russian women's prose, is the specificity of female writing. As Duan Lijun notes in the article "Contemporary Russian Feminist Literature", "the female discourse of contemporary Russian feminist writers reveals an obvious politically colored tendency of detection trend and deconstruction. Due to the principle of "women describe women" Russian writers freed from the wrath of the patriarchal culture, and show their opinion " (Duan, 2006, p.81). So, Chinese scientists consider female "intimate writing" as a way of deconstructing male logocentrism and patriarchal culture and as the main way of direct female speaking out. Interpreting the description of sexual scenes in women's prose, Xu Li comments: "Female writers, portraying women's passion, show the importance of the body and the beauty of sexual intimacy. On the one hand, it is a deconstruction of traditional culture, on the other hand, it proves that women's self-knowledge has already reached a certain level. Russian women have already emerged from the shadow of patriarchal consciousness and are entering a relatively free world, which is based on self-perception" (Xu, 2007, p.49). At the same time, Chinese literary scholars avoid extremes in the study of "intimate writing", they try to find continuity in this sphere as well. For example, Chen Fang in the monograph "Study of Contemporary Russian Women's Prose", investigating the description of sexual intimacy in V. Narbikova's prose, comes to the conclusion that "she does not describe sexual love for the sake of breaking the tradition, but gives a deeper meaning to sexual love. She emphasizes the combination of the body with the spirit, which exceeds time and space" (Chen, 2007b, p.67). In the article "Corporal narration by contemporary Russian writers," said Chen Fan productive experience Petrushevskaya and Tolstoy, who include the body image as a metaphor in the text (ibid.). At the same time the scientist expresses the danger of overuse of "intimate writing". The physical narration, according to Chen Fang, can lead to the transformation of the female body into a "political" one: "With the help of this method it is easy to separate the men and women at opposite and aggressive poles. The emphasis on body image can lead to vulgarization and commercialization. Writers do not hide the sexual desire and nature of women, portray sex, but it implicitly satisfies the male desire to spy. In this case, women again fall into the trap of male culture " (ibid.).


Specific cultural codes that determine the receptive attitude of the Chinese reader, thus, guide the interpretation and evaluation of works of contemporary Russian literature. The most important, in our opinion, are: the understanding of tradition as a cultural code of the nation and the conditions for preserving the national identity in the current situation of globalization; the principle of the "golden mean", which removes the extremes in opposition "tradition - novelty", "female - male", etc. and focuses on dialogue; estimation of realistic aesthetic tradition as perspective (more information: Zhao, 2015, 2017).


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30 April 2018

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Sociolinguistics, linguistics, semantics, discourse analysis, translation, interpretation

Cite this article as:

Govorukhina, Y. A., & Xue, Z. (2018). Chinese View Of The Contemporary Russian Literature. In I. V. Denisova (Ed.), Word, Utterance, Text: Cognitive, Pragmatic and Cultural Aspects, vol 39. European Proceedings of Social and Behavioural Sciences (pp. 342-348). Future Academy.