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Ch'en Tu-hsiu's Unfinished Autobiography

  • Richard C. Kagan

There are two sources of world civilization: one is the study, another is the prison. We the youth must make up our minds to enter the prison once out of the study, and enter the study once out of the prison. Only these provide the most lofty and sublime life. And only those civilizations born in these two places are true civilizations with life and value.

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* I would like to express my gratitude to the staff and faculty of the Centre for Chinese Studies, University of Michigan, which helped to facilitate this work.

1. “The Study and the Prison,” by Ch'en Tu-hsiu. Cited from Chow Tse-tsung, The May Fourth Movement (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1960), p. 173b. Ch'en Tu-hsiu: 1879–1942. Despite his importance only three full-scale biographies have been written – all are so far unpublished: Julie Lien-ying Howe, “The development of Ch'en Tu-hsiu's thought, 1915–1938,” M.A. thesis, Department of History, Columbia University, 1949; Chih Yu-ju, “The political thought of Ch'en Tu-hsiu,” doctoral dissertation, Department of Government, University of Indiana, 1965; and Thomas C. T. Kuo, “Ch'en Tu-hsiu (1879–1942) and the Chinese Communist Movement,” Ph.D. thesis, Department of History, University of Pittsburgh, 1969. For brief biographical accounts see Howard L. Boorman, Biographical Dictionary of Republican China (Columbia University Press, 1967), Vol. I, pp. 240–8; Donald Klein and Anne Clark, Biographic Dictionary of Chinese Communism, 1921–1965 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1971), Vol. I, pp. 139–44; Chih Yu-ju, “Ch'en Tu-hsiu: his career and thought” in Chün-tu Hsüeh, Revolutionary Leaders of Modern China (London: Oxford University Press, 1971), pp. 335–66.

2. For footnote please see p. 296.

2. O. Brière, S. J. “Une carrière orageuse: la vie de Tch'en Tou-sieou (1879–1942): Idéologue et agitateur politique,” Bulletin de l'Université l'Aurore, Série III, Tome V-No. 2 (Shanghai, 1944), p. 393.

3. The stormy arguments concerning Ch'en's trial have been brought together by Ch'en Tung-hsiao, editor, Ch'en Tu-hsiu p'ing-lun (Commentaries on Ch'en Tu-hsiu) (Peking: Tung-ya, 1933). Julie Lien-ying Howe has translated Ch'en's ringing defence statement, see “The development of Ch'en Tu-hsiu's thought,” p. 172 et seq.

4. Kuo, , “Ch'en Tu-Hsiu and the Chinese Communist Movement,” p. 400.

5. Ibid. p. 413.

6. See Ch'en Tu-hsiu's Tsui-hou tui-yü min-chu cheng-chih ti chien-chieh (Last opinions on Democratic Government) (Hong Kong, 1950). This is included in the Taipei edition of Shih-an Tzu-chuan (The Autobiography of Shih-an (Taipei, Taiwan: Apollo Book Co., 1967). It has also been translated by U.S.I.S. One copy is in the East Asia Research Library, Harvard University.

7. For an elaboration of this analysis see Kagan, Richard C., “The Chinese Trotskyist Movement and Ch'en Tu-hsiu: culture, revolution, and polity,” unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Department of History, University of Pennsylvania, 1969.

8. “Shih-an Tzu-chuan,” Yü-chou feng (Shanghai), Nos. 51–3 (September–10 1937). Shih-an was Ch'en's pen-name (hao). This has been reprinted in the book with the same title (Taipei, Taiwan: Apollo Book Company, 1967).

9. Ch'en Tu-hsiu, “Tso-chia Shu-chien” (“Writer's Correspondence”) Yü-chou feng i-k'an (Cosmic Wind Journal), No. 4 (16 04 1939), pp. 195–6. Although published in 1939, this undated correspondence seems to have been written soon after Ch'en's release from jail. For instance, without giving the year, Ch'en mentions that Yü-chou feng was going to publish the autobiography in September. He lists some corrections and asks that the original or, if necessary, the proofs for the chapters be corrected. Or another example which testifies to a date soon after Ch'en's release is that Ch'en tells the publisher that Ya-tung Publishing Co. is considering publishing the autobiography as a single book but that Yü-chou feng has preferential rights if it wants them. The book was published by Ya-tung in 1938 under the title, Shih-an Tzu-chuan.

In this correspondence Ch'en mentioned a speech he had given in central China which was autobiographical. He told Lin Yu-t'ang that if the Shanghai Shen-pao or any other paper had not published it then Lin could. I have not been able to check any 1937 or 1938 issues of the Shen-pao. From the context of this letter, the speech might contain material different from the two chapters in the Shih-an Tzu-chuan.

10. The advertisement announcing Ch'en's autobiography also included the announcement that a serial autobiography was being prepared by the warlord Feng Yu-hsiang!

11. For fuller development of this idea see Lin Yu-sheng, “The crisis of Chinese consciousness: iconoclasm in the May fourth era,” unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of Chicago, 1970.

12. Quoted from Lin Yu-sheng with minor changes, pp. 134–5. Originally from the 15 09 1915 issue of Ch'ing-nien tsa-chih.

13. Quoted from Lin Yu-sheng with minor changes, p. 196.

14. For Ch'en's revised view of Confucius see, “K'ung-tzu yü Chung-kuo” (“Confucius and China”) Tung-fang Tsa-chih (Eastern Miscellany) 34: 1819 (1937), pp. 915. Ch'en praises Confucius and finds particular value in the sage's attack on superstition.

15. For a Trotskyist biography of Ch'en Tu-hsiu, see “Ch'en Tu-hsiu ti sheng-p'ing chi ch'i cheng-chih chu-chang” (“The life and political views of Ch'en Tu-hsiu”), Chih-kuang (Red Ray), 28 October 1943, as incorporated in Ch'en Tung-hsiao, Ch'en Tu-hsiu p'ing-lun (Commentaries on Ch'en Tu-hsiu). In conformity with the Trotskyist line that Communists should not join other political parties, Ch'en was described as refusing to join both the T'ung-meng-hui and the KMT. Many studies of Ch'en have unquestioningly used this source. In regard to the possibility of Ch'en's membership and his participation in the Kuang-fu-hui (one of the parties in the T'ung-meng-hui alliance) see Kagan, “The Chinese Trotskyist Movement and Ch'en Tu-hsiu,” ch. 3. It appears that although Ch'en shunned any active role in the KMT, he still joined. Sun Yat-sen officiated at his initiation!

16. Taken from Hume, David, “My own life,” Philosophical Works (Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1854), Vol. I, p. xiii. The Chinese translation was literal – there were no differences in emphasis or content with the original.

17. Taken from Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography (New York: Liberal Arts Press, 1953), p. 3.

18. Liu Wen-tien—tzu Shu-ya, 1893–. His native town was Hofei, Anhui. He studied in Japan, and was a pupil of Chang Ping-ling (T'ai-yen). Beginning in 1929, he taught in the Chinese literature department at Ch'ing-hua University.

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The China Quarterly
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  • EISSN: 1468-2648
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