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Decadence in Modern Chinese Literature and Culture: A Comparative and Literary-Histor ...

Chapter :  Introduction
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Decadence in Modern Chinese Literature and Culture:


Decadence Versus Tuifei

Brief yet extremely controversial, the Decadent movement that flourished in late nineteenth-century France and Britain has generated lasting fascinations even till this day. Marked by the work of prominent figures like Charles Baudelaire (1821–1867), J. K. Huysmans (1848–1907), Arthur Symons (1865–1945), and Oscar Wilde (1854–1900), the rebellious movement in art and literature was intriguingly contradictory. It featured characters, real and fictional, who chased sensuous, sexual highs and eccentric indulgences but seemingly suffered from endless apathy and boredom. At the same time, beneath the surface of sensual excitement, European Decadents sought intellectual pleasure. Under the guise of apathy and boredom, they harbored a keen interest in their audience’s responses to their works and had a proud sense of triumph. Despite the movement’s energy and rigor, it essentially came to a hasty end with Wilde’s death in 1900.

Despite its short life, the Decadent movement has influenced Chinese literature and culture since its introduction to the country in the early 1920s. Many writers and scholars have noticed the similarities between twentieth-century Chinese literature and European Decadence, but they tend to focus on the obsession with hedonism and pessimism while