The Pragmatic Tradition of Chinese Literature and the Current ‘Spirit of the Times’
The role of Chinese writers, during the Maoist period, was mainly that of educating the masses to the official ideological values promoted by the Communist Party (CCP), in order to mould their attitudes and behaviours in accordance to the social goals pursued by the Communist state. Since the inception of the Reform Era (1978), however, and especially since the rise of the market and the consequent commercialization of the cultural production in the Nineties, the majority of the Chinese writers increasingly declined their previous role of social educators preferring to devote instead to the pursuit of a politically detached, and socially disengaged, ‘pure’ literature. The CCP, nevertheless, continued all along to encourage the Chinese writers and artists to educate the people fostering their social values and shaping their worldview according to the correct ‘spirit of the times’. How could literature continue to perform, in this period, this educational task despite the depoliticization of many Chinese writers and the commercial logic that came to dominate the literary field? What kind of social values and goals constituted the current ‘spirit of the times’? What literary genres and narratives did in fact contribute to the propagation of this spirit? These are the central questions that will be addressed in this article, whose main purpose is to observe how certain expressions of popular literature, in today’s China, are renewing some older didactic conceptions of literature in order to provide new types of teachings suitable to the demands of the current Chinese society.