Journal of Modern Life Writing Studies

  No.6, Spring 2016


Center for Life Writing, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China



Special  Section

The Craftsmanship of Life Writing……Nigel Hamilton

Biography Studies in Holland……Hans Renders


Comparative Biography

A Ray of Light in the Darkness:  “Life of the Buddha” in Different Cultural Contexts ……Zou Guangsheng

The Narratives in Three Biographies of Wan Li…… Quan Zhan, Wei Xue


Theory Study

On the Democratization of Oral History ……Wang Jun

Transit, Tradition, Reflection: Life Writing Studies in the Anglosphere (2014 – 2015)…… Tang Xiumin


History of Life Writing

Critical Responses to Samuel Johnson’s Life of Savage: A Survey…… Sun Yongbin


 Text Study

From Ups and Downs of Zhang Chunqiao to the Rise and Fall of the Gang of Four: The Gains and Losses of Ye Yonglie’s Life Writing……Zhou Yunzhong

“Everywhere Flies that Chinese Dragon”: Bruce Lee in the Hong Kong Biographies…… Wang Anqi


 Autobiography Study

Marking the End of a Life: The Testament as an Essential Element of Life Writing…… Sang Fengkang

The Autobiographical Writings in Overseas Russian Literature in the Twentieth Century

……Wang Jiezhi

The Three Stages in the Development of Australian Autobiography ……Zhang Wenru


Letter Study

Stylistic and Critical: Zhou Zuoren’s Letters ……Tang Zhihui


Subject Study

Power and Vividness: the Chinese Painting Master Liang Kai’s Art ……Li Fushun

A Story of Lai Teck……Yang Zhengrun

The Russian Sinologist Boris L. Riftin: An Academic Career ……Li Mingbin

The Truth Hidden Underneath the Phenomena: On the Dramas and Life of Harold ……Wu Xiao


Image Life Writing

Manifesting the Uniqueness:the Textual and Graphic Narrative Principles in A Study of ZhuangyuanStories and Illustrations ……Liu Yunfei

 Humanising the Pathological Other: Documentary Photography and Biography in Zhang Lijie’s “The Rare”……Daniel Vuillermin



From Paper to Screen: Xiao Hong in the Biopic Golden Times ……Liu Tao


Academic Info

The International Conference: “Life Writing and Film Biography in the Trans-Cultural Context

 (29-30 October, 2016)”


From the Editor

We recently interviewed two prestigious authors respectively, Nigel Hamilton and Hans Renders, who brief on their academic careers and share some views on the development of contemporary life writing and theories concerned, evaluating the emerging types and elements of life writing. It is illuminating to read these foreign scholars’ opinions.

The same biographical subject may have similar or dissimilar representations by different biographers. This theme is explored by two papers in the section “Comparative Biography.” Zou Guangsheng focuses on the “commonality”, which he relates the narration of “consummation”,  by comparing several biographies of the Buddha produced in different periods and cultural contexts. Quan Zhan and Wei Xue, in contrast, examine the “discrepancy,” for the three biographers of Wan Li all demonstrate Wan’s unique personality and ideological value in their respective version despite their various identity, perspective and material selection. Since comparative biography is an emerging discipline, we look forward to more papers based on textual perusal and convincing theories.

The modern “oral history” has emerged in the West for less than 80 years and is increasingly popular in many countries, including China. Many theoretical and practical issues of oral history need to be coped with. Wang Jun’s “democratization” is one of the efforts. To the extent that China’s modern life writing and theories proper are attributable to the Western counterpart, we need to model on the West in an open-minded manner. Tang Xiuming tracks the development of the recent two-year English life writing studies. The two papers on theories both have practical significance.

Life writing history shall not be a forgotten field. Dr. Samuel Johnson is one of the most important Western life writers whose Life of Savage is an epoch-making classic. Sun Yongbin reviews Anglo-American researches on this work in recent 300 years, producing a good study for researchers on life writing history and theories.

New perspectives, concepts and discourses concerning life writing studies may emerge over years, but “truth” is invariably the potential topic at various levels or re-presented in new terms. Popular life writings tend to employ fictitious or unverified plots to attract readers or enlarge the market. Hence they are hard to live up to traditional standards in historiography. Nonetheless, popular life writings follow rules of their own. In this sense they are also the object of rigorous academic studies. Wang Anqi’s investigation of several Hong Kong biographies of Bruce Lee is an attempt that deserves encouragement. The truth in details has long been a difficult problem in life writing, particularly in the works with rich historical materials. More or less inaccuracy in details are hard to avoid. Nonetheless, life writers should keep alert to that. Zhou Yunzhong’s criticism of Ye Yonglie’s the Rise and Fall of the Gang of Four is pertinent to this point.

  The three papers in the section of “Autobiographical Study” further expand the scope of autobiographical studies. Sang Fengkang’s research on testaments interprets, examines, and explores the contents, styles, and personality of in works of five twentieth-century Chinese men of letters, sparkling with elegant taste here and there. Russian literature boasts numerous gigantic autobiographies. Meanwhile, the Russian Revolution poured a great number of Russian immigrants to Europe and America, giving birth to the overseas Russian literature, of which the autobiography inherits the Russian literature tradition. Wang Jiezhi’s “The Autobiographical Writings in Overseas Russian Literature in the Twentieth Century” presents a concise but comprehensive overlook of the field. Australian life writing has caught Chinese scholars’ attention in recent years. Zhang Wenru’s study examines the development of Australian autobiography over recent two centuries in three phases, touching upon such issues as identity, and uncertainty of truth. This provides another reference to life writing theories.

Letters are an essential genre of autobiography like diary. They are impressive in numbers, yet they receive unproportionate attention. InStylistic and Critical: Zhou Zuoren’s Letters”, Tang Zhihui identifies, in a unique manner in Zhou Zuoren scholarship, the value of Zhou Zuoren’s letters. Paralleling Zhou Zuoren’s literary taste with his inherited literary tradition and his living environment, Tang analyzes Zhou’s styles which appeared “reclusive” and “noble” in his early letters and “practical” in his late letters. This issue newly establishes the section of “Letter Studies” to publish papers in this field. Welcome papers addressing letter issues herein.

Four papers are concerned with subject study in this issue, two of which are on artists. The problem discussed is the mutual interpretation and verification between artistic works and artist. Li Fushun reviews the representative works of Liang Kai, the painter of the Southern Song Dynasty against the background of China’s fine arts in association with his life story to explore his innovation to techniques and great vitality. Wu Xiao exploits the contemporary British dramatist Harold Pinter’s life experience to illustrate the truth hidden behind his drama, revealing his unique way of memory and interpretation of the world. As an influential figure in World War II, Lai Teck was the general secretary of the Communist Party of Malaya and also the triple intelligence agent for France, the UK and Japan. This aroused historians’ interest for over half a century. Yang Zhengrun has collected a variety of memoirs and academic research results, trying to uncover the myth’s of the subject’s nature through a comprehensive analysis. Boris L. Riftin, Russian academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences is prestigious in the international sinological circle. Having decades of friendship and partnership with him, Li Mingbin discusses this sinologist’s research field and analyzes his research approaches.

Popular at present time is also image life writing, in which images are indispensable. Unlike illustrations, words here are annotations of the images. This can be traced to centuries ago. For example, A Study of Zhuangyuan: Stories and Illustrations in early 17th century is a collective biography of all the top candidate examinees in the Civil Imperial Examinations in the Ming Dynasty. The biography is designed with one image for one subject. Liu Yunfei’s exploration of this collective piece involves issues of the author and various versions, focusing on the comparison between the work and its counterparts in terms of texts and images to reveal the narration principles. Zhang Lijie the photographer produced a unique photo biography series “The Rare”, a collection of patients’ photographs dubbed with texts. Daniel Vuillermin comments on Zhang’s works from the perspective of the historical development of documentary photography and its association with life writing. Humanistic concern is the essence of life writing. In the past issues we presented papers on “disabled lives” in the hope of calling more attention of the public to this group.

The mediation of life writing on screen is an important phenomenon in the development of life writing. Liu Tao reveals that the “present” fact conceals the “absent” fact in Golden Times, the biopic of Xiao Hong, as a form of subverting life writing in biopics. Liu’s viewpoint requires further exploration, for the interrelations between cinema/TV/theater and life writing is very complex. We will give a special elaboration on this issue in the international conference “Life Writing and Film Biography in the Trans-Cultural Context” to be held on 29-30 October, 2016.


                                                  February, 2016

Call for Articles


Life writing studies, which have moved onto the central stage in the academia, have gained ever more attention both in and outside China. The biannual journal entitled the Journal of Modern Life Writing Studiesaims to stimulate Chinese life writingstudies, provides a forum for scholars of various disciplines both at home and abroad, attracts and promotes specialists in the field.

In an attempt to bring out the latest development of the research for life writing, the Journal of Modern Life Writing Studiesseeks to, in modern visions and views, explore theoretical, historical, cultural aspects of life writing, focus on case studies, textual analysis, feature studies and deal withissues in the life writing practices. It also takes as its fundamental task expanding and enhancing the substance of life writing studies and stimulating live discussions of all the issues accordingly.The sections in the journal include interviews, book reviews, and biography-writings in the form of various media,in addition to articles. Long-length articles (10,000 Chinese characters; or 8,000 English words) or short essays (4,000 Chinese characters; or 2,000 English words) sparkling with insights and originality are welcomed.

The journal accepts submissions in Chinese or English. Articles and interviews should not exceed 10,000Chinese characters, or 8,000 English words, notes included.Reviews should be about4,000-5000 Chinese characters; or 2,000-3000 English words in length. Submissions should be double-spaced, in a Times New Roman 12 point font;or in Chinese Song character small 4font. Paragraphs should be indented, rather than separated with a space. Footnotes are serialized on each pageseparately, with the sign ①,②,③ …. Citations should be formatted according tothe MLA Style or the standard sheet in the author’s field.Acknowledgments (if applicable) should be given in afootnote at the beginning of the notes section.Please include a 150-word abstract and abiographical note.The journal follows a double-blind peer review policy. Submissions should be previously unpublished and should not currently be under consideration by other journals.

The author is in charge of his/her own academic honesty. All images must be used by permission only.

Work should be submitted by e-mail in Word format to the email address:

Two complimentary copies of the issue will be sent to the author when his/her work is published.

The Journal of Modern Life Writing Studies is based in SJTU Center for Life Writing. We welcom suggestions and proposals, from which we believe the journal will surely benefit.