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Imperfect Understanding: Intimate Portraits of Modern Chinese Celebrities By Christop ...

Chapter :  Introduction
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Imperfect Understanding:


Intimate Portraits of
Chinese Celebrities

Christopher Rea

“Whom shall we next summon from the dusty dead, in whom common qualities become uncommon?”

—Charles Lamb, “The South-Sea Horse,” The Essays of Elia

On January 4, 1934, The China Critic [Zhongguo pinglun zhoubao] 中國評論週報 (1928–1940, 1946), China’s leading English-language weekly, inaugurated a series of “Unedited Biographies” of contemporary Chinese celebrities. The column, later retitled “Intimate Portraits,” was a hit, featuring fifty celebrity sketches—and one rebuttal from an incensed reader—over the course of the year. In 1935, seventeen of these essays were published as the book Imperfect Understanding.

The Critic series offers idiosyncratic profiles of a panorama of elites, including painters, composers, poets, academics, diplomats, politicians,