Tecnologia e immaginazione

Il lessico dell’utopia e della fantascienza nella Cina del tardo impero

Lorenzo Andolfatto    



Among the many different literary genres that developed during the late Qing period, the science-fiction and utopian novel is one of the most interesting. Blossoming after the epochal failure of the Hundred Days’ Reform, this genre collects within the form of the xin xiaoshuo 新小說 the ideals, the expectations and the anxieties of the literati of a time gone out of joint. The condition of ‘colonial modernity’ of late-Qing China is transcended in the utopian text through the imagination of allegorical scenarios of social perfection and national revanchism. These texts can be considered ‘attempts’ at the imagination of the Chinese modernity, which is a schizophrenic construct oriented both toward the invention of the past, and projected to the unattainable ‘futuribility’ of the present. In this perspective, the lexicon of these novels – and of Wu Jianren’s Xin shitou ji (1908) and Lu Shi’e’s Xin Zhongguo (1910) in particular – acquires particular importance: their neologisms emerge as figurative ‘empty words’, metonymies of this time gone out of joint. While the reader is introduced to the reveries of flying cars, laser rays and other fantastic new inventions, the emptiness of these new words, which is revealed in the reticence on the part of their authors to substantiate them outside their prima facie exoticism, rather reveals their incapacity to make sense of the present.


Keywords: Lexical innovationChinese literatureLate Qing science fiction

Copyright: © 2015 Lorenzo Andolfatto. This is an open-access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction is permitted, provided that the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. The license allows for commercial use. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.