China Beat Archive


Date of this Version


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2012 Jan 10 in The China Beat


Copyright 2012 Nicole Kwoh.


At the 1996 APEC Economic Leaders Meeting, Jiang Zemin concluded his speech on economic development with a quote from Lu Xun: “For actually the earth had no road to begin with, but when many men pass one way, a road is made” (1921). This quote highlights the important role played by the first generation of modern Chinese literature in shaping the current rhetoric of building a road to progress. In Developmental Fairy Tales: Evolutionary Thinking and Modern Chinese Culture, Andrew F. Jones explains the construction of this ubiquitous concept of cultural and historical progress. With a focus on Lu Xun (1881-1936), Jones broadens the influence of evolutionary theory beyond short stories and essays to include narratives of “everyday discourse” (p. 8), and skillfully pieces together widely circulated academic journals, film, print advertisements, and children’s literature of the Republican Era. Jones’s fresh interdisciplinary approach sheds light on the extent to which artistic and political reverberations of developmental social theory shaped modern Chinese culture, with the crucial help of the contemporary growth of print culture, Western science, and commercial media. The five chapters of the book are organized to show the broadening of developmental theory’s impact on literature, politics, and economy.