Biography in English

Chou Tso-jen Orig. Chou K'uei-shou T. Ch'i-ming H. Chih-t'ang Chou Tso-jen (1885-), essayist, scholar, and translator of Western works into pai-hua [the vernacular]. With his brother Lu Hsün (Chou Shu-jen, q.v.), he brought new prominence to the essay form in the 1920's and 1930's. Born in Shaohsing, Chekiang, Chou Tso-jen, like his two brothers, Lu Hsün (Chou Shu-jen, q.v.) and Chou Chien-jen, received his early education in the traditional Chinese classics. However, the family's financial position was impaired by the arrest and conviction of his grandfather in 1893 on charges of attempting to bribe a provincial examination official and by the death of his father in 1897. Chou Tso-jen was forced to leave the private school he had been attending and was sent to live with more fortunate relatives in Hangchow.

In 1898 and 1899 he passed the initial qualifying examinations for the sheng-yuan degree. However, he did not pursue an official career. Rather, he entered the Kiangnan Naval Academy at Nanking. He learned English at the academy, as well as marine engineering and military technology. At this time, Yen Fu, Lin Shu, and others were translating Western works into Chinese, and Chou became more interested in Western social and cultural history than in naval studies. His translation of The Gold Bug appeared in the magazine Hsiao-shuo lin [a forest of fiction] in 1905. He also produced an undistinguished novelette, Ku-erh chi [the orphan], which reflected his reading of Su Man-shu's translation of Les Miserables. Late in 1905, Chou Tso-jen went to Peking, where he competed successfully in examinations for a government scholarship to study abroad. Six months later he was graduated from the naval academy at Nanking. He then accompanied his elder brother, Lu Hsün, to Japan, where he studied Japanese at Hosei University. Later, he transferred to Rikkyo University to begin the study of English literature. He also studied classical and modern Japanese literature and classical Greek literature.

Chinese political refugees in Japan stirred student interest in political and social problems. Ch'ien Hsuan-t'ung (q.v.) arranged for Chou Tso-jen, Lu Hsün, and a few of their associates to meet regularly with Chang Ping-lin (q.v.), who lectured to the group on both political and philological matters. Chou, Lu Hsün, and a few friends attempted unsuccessfully to found a literary magazine which would also aid national survival. Chou translated one of H. Rider Haggard's novels and Maurice Jokai's Egyaz Isten. These were published in Shanghai in 1907 and 1908, respectively. In 1910 he translated Jokai's A Sarga Rozsa, but his translation was not published until 1920. Chou's Yü-wai hsiao-shuo chi [a collection of foreign fiction], to which Lu Hsün contributed a preface and a few translations, appeared in 1909 in two volumes. The selections were drawn mainly from the works of Eastern European authors, and the work was intended to arouse the people of China by making known the spirit of resistance of other peoples who suffered under oppressive rule and outmoded social institutions. Although the collection attracted little attention at the time of its publication, it was later to win the acclaim of literary critics.

Chou returned to China in 1912 with his Japanese wife, Hata Nobuku, and joined the Chekiang provincial education bureau as an inspector of schools. Six months later, he accepted employment as a teacher at the Provincial Fifth Middle School in Shaohsing. In addition to his teaching duties, in 1914 he translated Charcoal Sketches by Henryk Sienkiewicz ; he wrote a number of essays which were later included in the Erh-Cung wen-hsüeh hsiao-lun [essays on children's literature], published in 1932; and he cooperated with Lu Hsün in the compilation, editing, and private publication of old literary records and notes relating to their native place in Chekiang.

In January 1917, Chou Tso-jen moved his family to Peking, where he worked in the National History Compilation Office. In August of that year, he joined the academic staff of the college of arts of National Peking University. Under the administration of Ts'ai Yuan-p'ei, National Peking University was becoming a center of intellectual ferment. Ch'en Tu-hsiu (q.v.), the fiery radical and founder of the Hsin ch'ing-nien [new youth], was head of the college of arts; and Hu Shih (q.v.), an advocate of the language reform movement, was a member of the staff of the philosophy department. Chou Tso-jen began to write essays on current social and cultural issues, which regularly appeared in the Hsin ch'ing-nien and similar journals. As a proponent of language reform, he began to use the vernacular language in his essays, poems, translations, and scholarly publications. As early as January 1919, he began to experiment with new poetic forms. Many of his early experiments in pai-hua were written for children, and some had originally been written in Japanese. In 1922, a number of his vernacular poems were included in a book which also contained poems by Chu Tzu-ch'ing, Yü P'ing-po, Yeh Sheng-t'ao, Cheng Chen-to, and others. Although his poems were well received, Chou Tso-jen disclaimed any understanding of the requirements of poetic expression and henceforth devoted himself mainly to writing essays. The need for a Chinese literature freed from classical restraints and encumbrances and invested with a spirit of social realism was argued in many of his critical writings. Clear statements of the humanitarian principle that literature should strive to reflect the whole life of man, not avoiding the negative aspects of the human condition, were contained in essays entitled Jen ti wen-hsueh [humane literature] and P'ing-min ti wen-hsueh [literature of the common man]. His concern for the broader social aspects of the so-called Chinese renaissance movement was also clearly set forth in an essay in 1918 which advocated the emancipation of women and constituted one of the first clear expressions of principle in the movement to attain equality of the sexes. At the height of the anti-Confucian polemics following the May Fourth Movement, he deplored the superstitious and irrational elements of established doctrines, but recognized the human need for spiritual and moral nourishment.

The search for new values to replace the old stimulated interest in non-Chinese history and literature. The publication in 1918 of Chou's Ou-chou wen-hsueh shih [history of European literature], which dealt primarily with the Greek and Roman periods but also described pre-eighteenth century European literary developments, was followed during the next 15 years by 1 1 volumes of translations. These translations were significant for their use of the vernacular language but, even more, for their exploration of national literatures which had been ignored by the previous generation of Chinese translators. A Collection of Modern Fiction (1922), to which Lu Hsün and Chou Chien-jen also contributed, was drawn mainly from the shorter fictional works of Eastern European and Russian writers. A translation of Makar's Dream by V. G. Korolenko was published in 1926. These volumes were among the first of the great flood of translations of Russian and Eastern European novels, poetry, and drama produced in China in the 1920's and 1930's. A Collection of Modern Japanese Fiction (1923) was also a joint venture with Lu Hsün and contained 30 selections from the works ofsuch writers as Mushakqji Saneatsu, Mori Ogai, Akutagawa Ryunosuke, Natsume Soseki, Doppo Kunikada, and others. The attraction which ancient Greek literature had for Chou was reflected in his volume of translations of the lyric poetry of Herodes and Theocritus. Chou Tso-jen's stature as an authority on foreign literature was greatly enhanced by these publications and he was much in demand as a teacher and lecturer. During the years before the outbreak of war in 1937, he taught at Yenching University, National Peking University Women's College of Arts and Sciences, and Sino-French University.

Chou Tso-jen's prominence in modern Chinese letters was not solely attributable to his written works; he also played a major role in literary societies, which influenced the main literary trends of the period. In early 1921, the Wen-hsueh yen-chiu hui (Literary Research Society) was organized. Its constitution, drafted by Cheng Chen-to, and its inaugural manifesto, written by Chou Tso-jen, set forth the basic principles of the society. Other prominent members of the society were Mao Tun (Shen Yen-ping, q.v.), Kuo Shao-yü, Yeh Sheng-t'ao, and Sun Fu-yuan. In the early 1920's Sun Fuyuan was the editor of the literary supplement of the Peking Ctien Pao [morning post], to which Chou Tso-jen and Lu Hsün regularly contributed articles. A collection of Chou Tso-jen's essays, the Tzu-chi tiyuan-ti [one's own garden], which borrowed its title from Candide, was published in 1923. Containing some 50 essays embracing an extremely wide range of social and cultural comment, it became one of his most popular works. In November 1924, when the Literary Research Society was showing signs ofdisintegration, Chou Tso-jen, Lu Hsün, Ch'ien Hsuan-t'ung, Liu Fu (q.v.), Lin Yü-t'ang (q.v.), and Sun Fu-yuan formed the Yü-ssu she [threads of talk society]. In its founding statement of principles, the group denied any collective interest in the promotion of political ideals and declared its support of free thought and individual action. However, the contributors to its weekly journal, among whom Chou Tso-jen figured prominently, expressed themselves freely and frequently on cultural and political problems of the day. Chou strongly supported a literature which would encourage a revival of national morality and consciousness in order to restore international prestige to China. In other essays he lamented the corruption, self-deceit, lewdness, and self-abasing ways of the Chinese people, which, he argued, were responsible for social and political disorder.

In March 1926, following riots and labor strife which resulted in the death of 50 students, Chou Tso-jen and other Peking teachers and intellectuals were blacklisted for radical activities by the government of Tuan Ch'i-jui. Following the entry of Chang Tso-lin into Peking in April 1927, the Pei-hsin Book Company, the publisher of many of Chou Tso-jen's essay collections, was closed; the Yü-ssu journal was banned; and Li Ta-chao was arrested and executed. In October, Chou and Liu Fu were forced to take refuge in the home of the Japanese military attache. These experiences, combined with harsh attacks from leftist writers for his criticism of class and propaganda literary doctrines, resulted in Chou's gradual withdrawal from the main scene of literary life. Thereafter, he lived quietly in Peking, studying foreign and Chinese literature. He founded the magazine Lo-t'o ts'ao [camel grass] with his friends Yü P'ing-po and Hsu Tsu-cheng and continued to write essays, but the burden of his comment became increasingly narrow and personal. The essay Pi-hu tu-shu lun [on reading behind closed doors], dated 1927, reflected this shift from the critical essay to personal reflections on recondite matters and recollections of the past. In the work Chung-kuo hsin wen-hsueh tiyuan-liu [the origins of modern Chinese literature], which grew out of a series of five lectures delivered at Fujen University in March 1932, Chou argued that the emergence of the so-called proletarian literature movement in China represented a reversion to authoritarian concepts of the past. After the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese war in the summer of 1937, Chou Tso-jen remained in north China. Late in 1939 he was appointed dean of the faculty of literature at Peking University. A year later, he was named to head the bureau of education in the Japanesesponsored government in north China. Chou's reasons for remaining in north China during the period of the Japanese occupation remain a matter of dispute. He doubtless was influenced by personal and family considerations, and may have felt that his presence there would help to preserve Peking University from Japanese depredations. He also had a deep regard for some aspects ofJapanese culture. In any event, he continued to write essays, and several volumes of his writings were published at Shanghai, Tientsin, and Peking during the war years. That he also retained his interest in traditional Chinese culture was evinced by his detailed review of a book translated by Derk Bodde, Annual Customs and Festivals in Peking, which appeared in the first number of the Kuo-li hua-pei pien-i-kuan kuan-k'an [journal of the north China translation bureau] in October 1942. After the cessation of hostilities in 1945, Chou Tso-jen was arrested by the National Government authorities, tried in Nanking as a collaborator, and sentenced to death. He was not executed, however; his sentence was reduced to 15 years imprisonment, allegedly on the intercession of Li Tsung-jen and Hu Shih. A full pardon was accorded him by acting President Sun Lien-chung in February 1949. After his release, he lived in Shanghai for a time and then moved back to his old house at Peking. His wife died at Peking in 1962. Advancing years did not dim Chou's interest in literary matters, and in 1953-54 he published two volumes dealing, respectively, with Lu Hsün's early life in Chekiang and with the prototypes of Lu Hsün's fictional characters. He published a new Chinese translation of the Kojiki [record of ancient matters], an eighth-century Japanese work dealing with early Japanese myths and legends.

In the course of a varied and versatile literary career, Chou Tso-jen completed some 30 separate collections of prose essays, upon which his fame as a writer rests. In essays published before 1930 Chou helped to define the new literature in moral and psychological terms, much as Hu Shih had done in historical perspective. Chou's writings of this period reflected the influences of Freud, Frazer, and Havelock Ellis. As a member of Lin Yü-t'ang's circle in the 1930's, Chou became a spokesman for a skeptical Confucianism, tolerant of everything except stupidity and barbarism. With Lu Hsün, Chou Tso-jen brought the essay to new prominence in the 1920's and 1930's and thereby made a distinctive contribution to his era. An analysis of Chou's literary development by D. E. Pollard, "Chou Tso-jen and Cultivating One's Garden," appeared in Asia Major in 1965.

Chou Chien-jen (1889-), Chou Tso-jen's younger brother, was trained as a biologist and worked as an editor of the Commercial Press at Shanghai. His Chinese translation of Darwin's Origin of Species appeared in 1947. In 1948 he served in the education department of the Communist North China People's Government. After 1949 Chou Chien-jen held editorial, scientific, and cultural posts in the Central People's Government. From 1954 to 1958 he served as vice minister of higher education at Peking. In January 1958 he succeeded Sha Wen-han as governor of his native province of Chekiang. That year he also became president of the provincial branch of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Chekiang. During the post- 1949 period Chou played a prominent role in two non-Communist political parties, the China Democratic League and the China Association for Promoting Democracy, rising to become a vice chairman of the latter organization in 1955. He became head of the China-Nepal Friendship Association in 1956.

Biography in Chinese

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