Mahatma Gandhi in Mainland China: Early 1920s-Late 1970s
The early interest in Mahatma Gandhi in mainland China began in early 1920s when Gandhi launched the first all India non-violent non-cooperation movement in 1920-1922. Since then up to present day Chinese interest in Gandhi has undergone several ups and downs. This paper focuses on the first two stages of ups and downs from early 1920s to late 1970s, from both a synchronical and diachronical perspective to uncover its courses, contexts, themes and features.
GANDHI STUDIES WORLDWIDE has been growing in both quantity and quality with the passage of time. The impressive body of works on Mahatma Gandhi produced so far include over 800 books, covering nearly all aspects of his life, deciphering every dimension of his mind, whether his religious views, his non violence, ‘Satyagraha’ strategy, his asceticism, or even his “fads” and foibles. The early interest in Gandhi in mainland China began in early 1920s. Since then, Gandhi studies in China has undergone almost a century-long course of development with several ups and downs. However, a systematic overview of the development and achievement of Gandhi studies in China is yet to be written. The wanting in such an overview is not only detrimental to the future development of Gandhi studies inside China but also leads to information gaps among foreign scholars in the same field about the works of their Chines colleagues. A comprehensive and systematic overview of the development of Gandhi studies in China is therefore necessary for both its further development inside China and its knowledge outside of China.
Shaped by both domestic and international politics, in the course of nearly a century the development of Gandhi studies in China has gone through three major stages: the first stage is from early 1920s to mid 1950s, the second from late 1950s to late 1970s, and the third from early 1980s till the present day. In turn, the three stages witness three waves of flourishment of Gandhi studies; while the first two waves both ended with a decline in interest and output, the third wave is gaining momentum and growing in strength. This paper will focus on the first two stages, aiming to make an overview of Gandhi studies in China during these stages from both a synchronical and diachronical perspective to uncover its courses, contexts, themes and features.
Stage one: from early 1920s to mid 1950s
The end of WWI witnessed a global surge of nationalism as independence movements in many countries and regions in the colonial and semi-colonial state gained momentum and grew in strength. Against such global context, India also experienced the outbreak of a series of independence movements led by Gandhi, including the first all India non-violence non-cooperation movement in the 1920s, the civil disobedience movement in the 1930s, and the individual anti-war movement and the Quit India Movement in the 1940s. Right from the start, the unique non-violent movements led by Gandhi attracted global attention. Due to geographical proximity between India and China, Chinese scholars followed closely the evolution of the Indian independence movement, focusing on the introduction and investigation of the series of non-violent movements led by Gandhi, Gandhi as an individual, as well as Gandhism.
Synchronically speaking, the period of the early 1920s to the mid 1950s was the first stage of Gandhi studies in China. It underwent the high tide from 1920s to 1940s and the low tide from the late 1940s to mid-1950s. After the initial budding period in the 1920s, Gandhi studies in China flourished in the 1930s, but in late 1940s it gradually declined. It is estimated that in the period of the high tide more than 27 books were published on Gandhi and Gandhism, among which 3 were published in the 1920s, 16 in the 1930s, and 8 in the 1940s. There was also a wide coverage of Gandhi and Gandhism in newspapers and journals, such as Oriental Magazine, National News Weekly, Guidiance, Pioneer, China Youth, etc. Oriental Magazine alone published more than 70 articles on Gandhi, Gandhism and Indian independence movement. Some were translated works and others were articles written by Chinese scholars. The magazine even devoted a special edition to Gandhi as well as a special column in another edition. It should be noted that as a multidisciplinary academic journal, Oriental Magazine had the longest history of publication in China and enjoyed great popularity among Chinese academia.In sharp contrast to the flourishment of Gandhi studies throughout the 1920s and 1930s, only a handful related articles were published in the 1940s.
The development of Gandhi studies in China in its first stage was much influenced by the political context where China found herself, both internally and externally. Inside China, from the early 1920s to the late 1940s the Chinese national independence movement swept across the whole country and unfolded in full swing, jus as what went on in India. In this process, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Chinese Nationalist Party (CNP) twice joined force to fight against imperialism and feudalism dispite their different visions and approaches, but twice the collaboration ended with each party pursuing its own course. In their struggle for national independence, both China and India shared similar goal. However, the two nations had adopted entirely different approaches for the realization of national self determination; independence through armed struggle in China stood in sharp contrast to the advocacy of non-violence approach in India. India became independent in 1947, two years later the People's Republic of China was founded. Since then, China and India uphold different ideologies and follow different paths of development. While similar grievances and national aspiration led to flourishment of Gandhi studies in China, ideological and strategic differences eventually led to its decline. The rise and fall of Gandhi studies in China was further shaped by the changes in the international context. Speaking at the Second Convention of the Comintern in the 1920s, Lenin positively affirmed Gandhi's role in the Indian independence movement and regarded him as a true revolutionary. Lenin's affirmation of Gandhi, however, was completely rejected by Stanlin in the Soviet Communist Party 12th Congress in the 1930s. In Stalin's opinion, Gandhi was an accomplice of the imperialists. This definition of Gandhi remained prevelant in the Comintern for a long time.After the foundation of the PRC, the CCP adopted the"leaning to one side (i.e. USSR)" foreign policy. When it comes to the evaluation of Gandhi, the CCP adhered to the position of the Soviet Communist Party and Comintern.
From a diachronical perspective, Gandhi studies in China in the first stage shows some common features. Most publications in this period provided only introductory accounts or preliminary investigations of Gandhi, Gandhism and Indian independence movement. These publications either fall into the category of news reports and commentaries or carry strong subjective flavor where the introductions and investigations often serve as a mirror for the authors to reflect upon the reality in China. Objective academic publications in the field remained small in number. At the same time, as Gandhi studies flourished, the three decades in this stage each displayed some unique features.
The 1920s marked the beginning of Gandhi studies in China. In this period, three books were published on Gandhi and Gandhism, of which two were biographies of Gandhi and one was an edited volume on Gandhism. One of the two biographies was a translation and the other was written by Fan Zhongyun.The edited volume on Gandhism is a compilation of seven articles which introduce on the one hand Gandhi's outlook of truth, Gandhi and social reform in India, and the non cooperation movements, and present on the other hand Gandhi's self-defence in court, the two letters to Bombay people by Gandhi, and interview with Gandhi.These books all hold a positive opinion of Gandhi and Gandhism.
In this period, journal publications related to Gandhi studies continued to grow in number. Oriental Magazine alone published nealy twenty articles related to Gandhi, seven of which formed a special column entitled "Gandhi and New India" (1922.5:19(10). Authors of these journal articles debated heatedly on Gandhi the person and Gandhism. The debate covers several themes. How to evaluate Gandhi is the first theme. While most authors held a positive opinion of Gandhi, negative voices were also found. For the proponents, Gandhi was the "intellectual leader" in India, a "saint", "the king of India", "the brain of Indian national self determination movement" and the "innovator of non cooperation strategy". For some, Gandhi was the "Rousseau in India" because of his advocacy of naturalism and opposition to modern civilization; for others Gandhi was the "Tolstroy in India" because of his relentless pursuit of truth and opposition to violence. While respecting Gandhi's noble character, opponents perceived him as "a religionist wanting in political talents"; the end of the Satyagraha movement only proved that he was behind the time and that capitalist class could not lead India to victory.
The second theme in the debate was concerned with the evaluation of the Satyagraha movement led by Gandhi. Again, opinions were divided. Appraising the Satyagraha movement, prononents had high hope for the creation of an independent India via the non violent approach. For them, to"oppose the evil forces and eradicate the oppressors", both violent and non-violent approaches were feasible. While revolution in Russia featured the "concentrated violence" approach, revolution in India strived to revolve social problems through "individual personality and non-violent struggle." Such a difference in approach was in effect a difference between the occidental and the oriental visions of the ideal society. Gandhism was the embodiment of the oriental civilization featuring serenity and peace. The Satyagraha movement was in fact "set in motion by the inapproapriate measures and policies of the British government in the post WWI India."By contrast, the opponents asserted that the non-violent approach in the Satyagraha movement would not bring India independence. For them, the movement was "passive in nature, lack of constructive elements" and the advocacy of non-violence entailed a readiness to "make adjustment and compromise in accordance with changing circumstances."
The third theme in the debate revolves around the evaluation of Gandhi's promotion of homespun khadi clothing. Finding it understandable, most authors considered it an effective economic tactic to mobolize the geneal public. Nevertheless, for some critics, Gandhi's promotion of manual textile production instead of modern industry and his rejection of western civilization "defied the tendency of modernization". It was a fruitless move to "turn back the clock."
Among the numerous works on Gandhi studies produced in this period, the opinions of Sun Yat-sen and left-wing intellectuals on Gandhi and the Satyagraha movement are worth special attention. As the leader of Chinese nationalist movement, the status of Sun Yat-sen in China is similar to that of Gandhi in India. Right from the start, Sun Yat-sen had followed closely the Satyagraha movement led by Gandhi and referred to this movement in several public speeches delivered between 1922 and 1924. Departing from the strategic perspective of national movement, Sun spoke highly of the Satyagraha movement led by Gandhi. As Sun saw it, "there are two approaches to resist foreign rule, an active one and a passive one. To fend off foreign invaders, the active approach seeks to promote civil rights and people's livelihood through awakening the national spirit. The passive approach is non cooperation. As a passive form of resistance, non cooperation can help deminish the dominance of foreign imperialism in a nation, thus preserving the independent status of the nation and saving it from perishing." Sun further asserted that "if we Chinese would all adopt the non cooperation approach like the Indians and then form a national community based on some religious communities, we would have no fear of any kind of foreign oppression, be it military, economic or demographic."However, when it comes to concrete tactics in the national struggle, there are some divergences between Sun and Gandhi. For instance, in resisting imperialist "economic oppression", Gandhi advocated a boycotte of foreign goods to stimulate national spirit and called for the burning all foreign textile and the use of handmade cloth. For Sun Yat-sen, before addressing economic problems, some political problems must be solved, such as abolition of unequal treaties forced upon China, takeover of Chinese customs controlled by foreign countries, and implementation of tariff protection. Sun Yat-sen's ambivalent views of Gandhi and the Satyagraha movement are the clear manifestation of both unity and diversity among various nationalist movements in the east. In the 1920s, under the strong influence of Marxism, the left-wing intellectuals in China held a critical and negative view of Gandhi's principle of non-violence. Only then these intellectuals were yet to formulate their own systematic theory of Marxism, the influence of their critisms on Gandhi and Gandhism remained limited.
The 1930s saw increased interest and greater number of output in Gandhi studies in China. Generally speaking, the books published in this decade fall into four categories. The first category of books are various biographies of Gandhi, including four versions of Chinese translation of Gandhi's autobiography,three versions of Chinese transaltion of Biography of Gandhi written by Roman Roland,and several biographies of Gandhi written by Chinese scholars. The second category of books are academic works on Gandhism, either written by Chinese scholars or translated from abroad. The third category of books – including again both translated works and works authored by Chinese scholars – are comparative studies where Gandhi is compared with Lenin and/or Sun Yat-sen.And the fourth category of books focus on the relationship between Gandhi and Indian nationalist movement.Again Oriental Magazine took the lead in the publications of articles on Gandhi studies. Its coverage of the civil disobedience movement led by Gandhi amounted to more than 30 articles. Other newspapers such as National News Weekly and Da Gong Bao also joined in the debate on Gandhi and Indian independence movement. Compared to the preceding decade, the academic debate on Gandhi and Indian independence movement in China displays the following two features.
First, whether in terms of the materials used or the opionions voiced the debate in the 1930s is more in-depth and thorough than that in the 1920s. While in the 1920s most Chinese scholars were busy introducing and (re)presenting the fruit of Gandhi studies done by western scholars, the 1930s saw more original works done by Chinese scholars. A good case in point was Tan Yunshan, a Chinese professor teaching in Visva Bharati University. He not only provided large amount of first hand material on the civil disobedience movement led by Gandhi but also made insightful analyses on some controversies revolving around Gandhi. At the time when many Chinese failed to understand why Gandhi started the civil disobedience movement with the Salt March, Oriental Magazine invited Tan to write a feature story. Based on his front line close observation, Tan gave a lucid and brilliant account of the movement. As the debate grew in depth and became more thorough, the strong emotional and subjective flavor in the earlier years gradually yielded to a more rational approach. Rational analyses enabled Chinese scholars to pinpoint the new characteristics of the civil disobedience movement and to examine the Indian independence movement from an all-around way.Chinese scholars not only linked up the civil disobedience movement with the nationalist movements in other Asian countries such as Korea, Vietnam and Phillippines but also set their discussion of Gandhism against contemporary ideological trends. Such comparative angle thus unveiled a story of India which was both similar to many other nations but also unique.
Secondly, as the left-wing in the Comintern gained upper hand in the 1930s, a number of left-winged Chinese intellecturals lauched severe criticism on Gandhi from the perspective of class struggle. Although in some publications Gandhi's personality continued to be held in high esteem ("a great man of our time, a saint in the east") and his contribution to Indian nationalism acknowledged, some radical left-winged Chinese scholars, in concordance with Communist Party of India, labeled Gandhi as the representative of the right wing in the Indian nationalist movement. Such was the opinion of Yu Zhi, the author of a lengthy serialized article running over three issues of Oriental Magazine entitled "On Indian Revolution". For Yu Zhi, Gandhi represented the interest of "big landlords and businessmen" who "demand autonomy of India instead of independence and as long as they could achieve their goal of political reform, social and economic reforms are non-issues. They are therefore fearful of mass mobilization." As Yu Zhi saw it, the right wing forces represented by Gandi was not only the "meekest political party most ready to compromise", they were also blamed for the number of setbacks in the Indian nationalist movement because such "appeasers" fell ready to the prey of the manipulative Bristish government.
By the 1940s, the debate on Gandhi, Gandhism and the Indian nationalist movement led by Gandhi diminished greatly in intensity. The whole decade only saw the publication of two books and some newspaper articles. Besides the scholarly publications, this period also saw the creation of one satirical time-travel Cantonese opera featuring Gandhi. The works produced in this period mainly focus on the following three themes.
First, a number of works introduced the life and thought of Gandhi and/or lamented for the loss of Gandhi. Taking the question and answer format, On Gandhi presented to the readers Gandhi's political thinking and the movements he championed. The book also included "Gandhi's Letter to Chinese People" as its preface and attached in appendix "Constructive Programme - Its Meaning and Place" by Gandhi, "A Letter to the American People from Gandhi" and "A Letter to the Japanese People from Gandhi".In Days with Mr. Gandhi, the author reviewed the life of Gandhi, looking into his personality, religious thoughts, ethics, political thinking and ideas about the society. The author also included a full transcript of "Hail to Mahatma Gandhi" by Dai Chuanxian before his own preface and attached six articles in the appendix.After Gandhi passed away, Oriental Magazine again took the lead in mourning the loss of such a great man with a special edition In Mourning for Gandhi (1948.5: 44(5). There were altogether 13 articles, including "The Life of Gandhi" by Xue Baisheng , "Gandhi's Asceticism and Non-Violence" by Xu Yasheng, "Storeis of Gandhi"by Luo Jialun, "The Funeral Ceremony for Gandhi" by Mi Wenkai, "Words of Wisdom by Gandhi" by Wu Zeyan, "A Letter from Tolstroy to Gandhi" by Mi Liuli, "Comments on Gandhi in the West" by Wang Jiazhen, "The History of Relationship between India and China" by Zheng Hesheng, "Edgar Snow on Gandhi", "The Influence of Three Western Philosophers on Gandhi", "A Brief Chronicle of Gandhi", "Collected Essays in Mourning for Gandhi from across China", etc.
Second, the publications in this period were divided in their evalution of Gandhi. On the one hand, contributors to the special edition In Mourning for Gandhi gave Gandhi their full acknowledgement. They regarded Gandhi as "more than the pioneer of Indian nationalist movement for he shines like a beacon in this dark world plagued by power with his love of truth, his advocacy of tolerance and his assailment of violence. The body of Gandhi might perish, but his spirit and his vision shall continue to exist."On the other hand, most Chinese scholars in the 1940s held a negative opinion of Gandhi, especially of his Satyaraha movements. As one scholar sharply argued, "a nation bestowed with vast land, abundant resources and a huge population, should the Indian nation unite in some active and effective resistance, they would have long succeeded in forcing the British to leave. Even if the British are not driven out, they would have a hard time ruling India. For what the invaders, the oppressors and the exploitators fear most is retaliation, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth; they are not afraid of the policy of non-resistence in the Tolstoyan style or the non-cooperation movement in the Gandhian style. That's why the British Empire can still put up with Gandhi and that's why India still cannot rid itself of the British imperial rule."
Third, this period also saw the first presentation of Gandhi in an artistic creation. After hearing the assassination of Gandhi in the news, the master of Cantonese opera Liao Xiahuai composed and staged the opera When Gandhi Meets Xishi. In this imaginative piece of work, Gandhi travels to China in his dream and meets Xishi – one of the four beauties in ancient China 2000 years ago who played an active role in reviving her native country, Yue. Travelling across the time from a foreign land, Gandhi found in conversing with Xishi the same aspiration for national independence. Though the dialogues between Gandhi and Xishi, the opera criticized the existing social evils, attacked the darkness and corruption in the old days, and called upon the audience to rise up to build a prosperous and strong nation. The strong patriotism and artistic innovation had won the piece some positive reviews in the newspaper. The Indian consular officiers in China at the time also went to the show and spoke highly of it.
The poor performance of Gandhi studies in the 1940s as compared to that in the 1920s and 1930s had much to do with the bleak situation inside China. In the first half of the 1940s, China engaged in the final stage of the extremely bitter war against the Japanese invasion; then in the second half of the 1940s as the second cooperation between the CCP and Chinese Nationalist Party broke down, the two parties were locked in a life-or-death civil war. Any discussion of Gandhi was drowned in the roar and thunder of guns. The earth shattering historical changes kept all Chinese captivated. In 1949, the People's Republic of China was founded. From then till the mid 1950s, Gandhi studies in China fell into a dormant state.
Stage Two: from the late 1950s to the late 1970s
Chronologically speaking, the period of the late 1950s to the late 1970s constituted the second stage of development of Gandhi studies in China. Toward the late 1950s, Gandhi studies in China began to revive. In less than five years, the revival generated an outpour of related publications. It was estimated that a total of twenty-one articles were published from 1956 to 1959. Of these articles, 10 were translated from abroad, with four published in 1956, four in 1957, and 2 in 1958. The remaining eleven articles were academic articles written by Chinese scholars, eight of which were published in 1957 and three published in 1958. Besides these articles, a new version of Chinese translation of Gandhi's autobiography came out in 1959. However, the revival was short-lived. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Gandhi studies again declined sharply. The two dedades saw only the publication of one translated book and three articles in the field.
Again, domestic and international political contexts exerted great impact on the up and down of Gandhi studies in the second stage. The short-lived revival of Gandhi studies in China was mainly caused by the political changes in the Soviet Union. The death of Stalin in 1953 ushered in the post-Stalin era in the Soviet Union. Stalin and his regime have been condemned on numerous occasions, the most significant being in 1956, when Stalin's successor Nikita Khrushchev denounced his legacy and initiated a process of de-Stalinization. In this process, the Soviet authorities rejected the negative evaluation of Gandhi under Stalin. As a result, Soviet and Chinese intellectuals showed renewed interest in Gandhi studies.Only such an interest was shelved with the arrival of a series of polticial campaigns in China in the next two decades, noteably the ten-year-long Cultural Revoltuion. Gandhi's advocacy of non-violence and cross-class coalition was simply out of tune with the political climate inside China. Actually the two-decade-long intensified political campaigns in China put all academic research activities on halt.
From a diachronical perspective, Gandhi studies in the second stage differ from those in the first stage in some significant ways. In terms of quality, the publications in this period are more academic in nature as compared to the large number of publications either in the form of commentaries or carring strong subjective color. In terms of quantity, the publications in the first stage far outnumber the second stage. While many scholars debated heatedly on Gandhi, his ideas and Indian independence movemen in the first stage, the scale of debate in the second stage was much limited, with only one translated book and less than a dozen articles written by Chinese scholars. Below is a more detailed account of the works generated in the shorted-lived revival period.
Firstly, the revival of Gandhi studies in the second stage started with the publications of ten translated articles. In terms of thems, these articles can be cateogorized into three groups, seven articles discussing the historical role of Gandhi in the Indian national liberation movement, one commemorating the tenth anniversary of Gandhi's death, and two analyzing the correspondences between Gandhi and Tolstoy. In the article commemorating the tenth anniversary of Gandhi's death, the author analyzed Gandhi's notion of "united front", that is, the formation of an anti-imperalist united front by the entire Indian nation inclusive of all Indians, regardless of class, caste and religious differences. As the author saw it, although such a notion helped explain Gandhi's success in rallying the nationalist movement, it also forecast the limitation of the movement and the eventual tragedy of Gandhi's assassination.In the two articles analyzing the correspondence between Gandhi and Tolstoy, the authors focused on exposing the influence of the latter upon the former.The seven articles discussing the historical role of Gandhi in the Indian nationalist movement were all written by Soviet historians, representing the positive evaluation of Gandhi in the post-Stalin era. For instance, Zhukov called for accurate and objective assessment of the historical role of Gandhi. For Zhukov, "a fearless warrior, Gandhi devoted his whole life to an independent, prosperous and happy India; he is the true leader of the Indian national liberation movement" and the national movement championed by him was "an anti-imperialist people's movement."In a contextualized analysis of the role of Gandhi and the National Congress Party in the Indian nationalist movement, Dyakov labeled Gandhi as "a patriot who remained conditionlessly loyal to the cause of national liberation." That Gandhi's action was determined by his capitalist outlook should not in itself be condemned as "treachery". Gandhi had played an "essentially positive role" in the Indian nationalist movement and his non-violent policy succeeded in awakening the Indian people.Other articals also gave similar positive evaluation of Gandhi.
Secondly, the publication of eleven articles by Chinese scholars marked the second wave of Gandhi studies. These articles can be divided into two types, introduction of the re-evaluation of Gandhi by Soviet acamdemic circle and a series of debate over various issues in Gandhi studies. The first type of articles included two newspaper publications which briefly introduced the new changes in the evaluation of Gandhi in the Soviet Union. The rejection of Gandhi in the previous period was criticized and reevaluation of Gandhi was urged.The series of debate over Gandhi between Wang Chunliang and Wang Cunhua in nine articles touched upon three different issues. The two authors disagreed on the historical role of Gandhi and the definition of the social context where he lived and operated. For Wang Chunliang, around the time Gandhism was developed, i.e. the seond half of the 19th century and the early 20th century, the emergence of new social elements in India marked its transformation from a feudal society to a modern one. In this process, Gandhi and the National Congress Party played the decisive role in the awakening of the general public, especially the peasantry. For Wang Cunhua, despite important changes India experienced in the late 19th and the early 20th century, such changes failed to bring about new economic and social institutions conducive to fundamental social transformation; to the extent that Gandhi and the National Congress Party played an important role in the process of awakening general public, especially the peasantry, the significance of such a role should not be exaggerated.In another two articles published later, Wang Chunliang further elaborated his critical evaluation of Gandhi's historical role, challenging a number of viewpoints made by two Indian experts in the Soviet Union. In Wang Chunliang's opinion, among the nationalist-minded capitalists, there was indeed a group of appeasers; although Gandhi was never part of this faction, the Harijan movement under his leadership had to some extent hindered the Indian nationalist movement because when national independence was in peril, it should precede the mission of class emancipation. After a systematic analysis of Gandhi's ideas and activities, Wang Chunliang came to the conclusion that Gandhi had exerted greater influence on Indian politics in the 1920s than in the 1930s and that Gandhi's role of a patriot and the leader of nationalist movement was far greater than that of a philosopher and social reformer.
Gandhian economics centred around hand-spining and weaving was the second topic of interest in the debate. Both Wang Cunhua and Wang Chunliang concurred that as a key manifestation of Gandhi's economic ideas, hand-spining and weaving was backward or even reactionary at a theoretical level, but in practice it had exerted active and progressive influence in stimulating the Indian people's patrioticism and advancing the independence movement. The two scholars, however, adopted different approaches in their analyses. In his analysis, Wang Cunhua traced the "historical origin" of the hand-spining and weaving to find out how Gandhi developed this economic idea and the influence it had. For Wang Chunliang, to explain this specific idea of Ganhi, one should first pay attention to the historical context at the time and the class origin of Gandhi. While both scholars found Gandhi's economic ideas to be negative, their criticism showed degree of difference. For Wang Cunhua, "in a certain sense, Gandhi's hand-spining and weaving movement goes against the requirement of social development in India; it is therefore severely backward in nature."For Wang Chunliang, "viewed against the law of social development, the hand-spining and weaving movement is both reactionary and utopian, far worse than simply being backward."The two scholars also differed on the positive effect of the hand-spining and weaving movement. For Wang Cunhua, the movement had some significant effect in achieving unification between the Hindu and the Muslim communities; for Wang Chunliang, such significant effect was not generated by the movement per se, rather it was derived from the anti-imperalist nature of the movement. For Wang Chunliang, due to the close attention to the problems of the peasant, Gandhi's economic ideas played a significant role in rallying the rural population to the course of anti-imperialist struggle. However, in Wang Cunhua's opinion, "the success of Gandhi in rallying the general public behind him cannot be explained as the result of Gandhi's economics. Any exaggeration of the effect of Gandhian economics would result in inaccurate evaluation of Gandhi."In another article published later, Wang Chunliang made a comprehensive analysis of the hand-spining and weaving centred Gandhian economics, expounding in details the social background against which Gandhi developed his economic ideas, the practical significance and influence of such ideas in colonial India. Wang Chunliang conclcuded that the class interest reflected in Gandhian economics was not that of the big landlords and big bourgeoise but that of the peasantry.
The third topic in the debate involves Gandhi's non-violent resistance. In Wang Chunliang's opinion, Satyagraha was the foundation of Gandhism; its great popularity in the Indian national liberation movement as the guiding idealogy could be explained on the one hand by the specific historical context both inside and outside of India, and on the other hand by its multiple-sourced philosophical origin which combined traditional Indian thinking, Hindu doctrines, early Christian thinking as well as contemporary pacifism represented by Tolstoy.As Wang Chunliang saw it, it was utopian and reactionary not to mention essentially wrong to adopt Satyagraha as the guiding principle and ideology in the struggle of national liberation as it tended to lead the people to deviate from the revolutionary course in the pursuit of a reformist path. Although under the specific historical circumstances in India the anti-imperalist Satyagraha movement had achieved some positive progress, it still had its limitations and negative effects.
Thirdly, book publication.1959 saw the publication of the first full version of Autobiography of Gandhi in Chinese translateded by Du Wei and Wu Yaozhong, published by Commercial Press, the oldest in Mainland China. Earlier translations of Gandhi's autobiolograhy were all abridged versions.The only one of its kind until 2002 this book was used as a key source of reference for Gandhi studies.
As Gandhi studies entered into the trough period, the meager output included only one translated book and three articles. The translated book Mahatma Gandhi and Gandhism was a collection of essays written by the leader of Indian Communist Party E.M.S. Namboodiripad.The three articles were "Gandhi's Philosophy of Life", "The Change of Soviet Indologists' Evaluation on Gandhi" and "Discussion on Tolstoy and Gandhi by Indian Writer Abbas".The translated book Mahatma Gandhi and Gandhism and article "Gandhi's Philosophy of Life" were published in the early 1960s, indicating the decline of Gandhi studies from its short revival in the 1950s; published in the late 1970s, the remaining two articles heralded the third climax of Gandhi studies which was to commence in the early 1980s.
To sum up, the first two stages witnessed the ups and downs of Gandhi studies in China shaped by both national and international contexts. In spite of that, the first two stages did lay the foundation and displayed promising trend for the boosting of Gandhi studies in the coming stage.
First, the course of Gandhi studies underwent one from superficial to deep, from emotional and subjective to more rational and objective. In the first stage, Gandi studies was marked by then political imprint, either falling into the category of news reports and commentaries or carrying strong subjective flavor. The second stage witnessed a gradual moving toward more rational and academic track. But a series of polticial campaigns in China in the following decades put this move on halt suddenly. However, this move would resume strongly once the political situation changed. Actually, in the coming stage in post-Mao era, Gandhi studies emerged from the low ebb, urshered in new wave of flourishment, and entered into the track of objective and rational academic research.
Second, the cope of participants of Gandhi studies enlarged. In the first stage, the participants were basically intellectuals and nationalists and revolutionaries. In the second stage, the participants were mainly experts and scholars and intellectuals, especially those in universities and research institutions. In the coming stage in post-Mao era, the scope of participants would be unprecedentedly enlarging, showing a trend of popularization, extending to graduates, undergraduates, middle school teachers, freelances, NOGs etc.
Third, the field of research interests has been deepeneing. In the frist stage, the research interests mainly covered Gandhi's life, Gandhism and Satyagraha movements, etc. In the second stage, though the field of research was not extended, yet the debate over certain topics was more deepened. In the coming stage in post-Mao era, the field of research interests would be unprecedentedly expanding and deepening.
Notes and References:
NOTE: I'm so grateful to my colleague Associate Professor Song Xiaokun for her great contribution to the English version of the paper.
SHANG QUANYU is history professor at South China Normal University's School of Foreign Studies, Guangzhou, PRC, a Gandian scholar, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.