eCite Digital Repository

Fragile Polyphony: Takeda Taijun's Longing for Asia through the Landscape of Shen Congwen


Hartley, B, Fragile Polyphony: Takeda Taijun's Longing for Asia through the Landscape of Shen Congwen, Asia Through Art and Anthropology: Cultural Translation Across Borders, Bloomsbury Academic, F Nakamura, M Perkins and O Krischer (ed), UK, pp. 134-149. ISBN 9780857854490 (2013) [Research Book Chapter]

Copyright Statement

Copyright 2013 Fuyubi Nakamura, Morgan Perkins, and Olivier Krischer

Official URL:


In 1934, a group of young men in Tokyo formed the Chitgoku bungaku kenkyukai (The China Literature Study Society). The aim of this society was to circulate information about cultural production in modern China - that is, China after the May Fourth Movement of 1919 - among intellectuals, scholars, and writers in prewar Japan. This objective, which accorded cultural value to contemporary China, was a clear subversion of the hegemonic Japanese view at the time of China as the "sick man" of Asia (Heinrich 2008: xiii). While acknowledging China's magisterial classic tradition, this view dismissed that site as having little to offer the modern world. One of the young men who attended the inaugural meeting was Takeda Taijun (1912-1976). The son of a Pure Land (jōdo) Buddhist priest, Takeda himself was ordained into that order in 1933 at the age of twenty-one. He had previously enrolled in the Chinese Literature Department at Tokyo Imperial University, but withdrew following his arrest for political activism. In the postwar era, Takeda became a prominent member of the Japanese literary establishment, recognized for his ability as a novelist, playwright, and essayist. First traveling to China as a conscript of the Imperial Japanese Army, he visited China several times throughout his life and drew repeatedly on tropes of continental East Asia in his literary production.

This chapter examines how, in a relatively early and little-known work, Takeda evokes the landscape of the West Hunan region of China in order to render tolerable the memory of Imperial Japanese Army atrocities on the Asian mainland. In other words, the writer evokes landscape to elide-although not necessarily completely evade-the issue of Japan's war responsibility. The specific text discussed here is a 1941 essay entitled "Wakaki heishi no tabi" ("The Journey of a Young Soldier"), a commentary on and partial translation of the 1932 autobiography of the pre-1949 Chinese literary luminary Shen Congwen (1902-1988). While entitled "autobiography" and produced when Shen was thirty years old, this text in fact deals with Shen's life only until he left West Hunan for Beijing at the age of twenty. Particularly important for Imperial Army soldier Takeda was the account by the Chinese writer of his days as a boy soldier in the army of a local warlord. I argue that Takeda constructed "The Journey of a Young Soldier" as a precarious attempt to mediate between Japan, the homeland, and China, the discursive construction that repeatedly featured in his texts. In doing so the former Imperial Army soldier created a landscape of solace that might occlude and thereby suppress the memory of actions tl1at he most certainly witnessed, and in which he perhaps even participated, during Japan's war of aggression against China.

Item Details

Item Type:Research Book Chapter
Research Division:Language, Communication and Culture
Research Group:Cultural studies
Research Field:Asian cultural studies
Objective Division:Expanding Knowledge
Objective Group:Expanding knowledge
Objective Field:Expanding knowledge in language, communication and culture
UTAS Author:Hartley, B (Dr Barbara Hartley)
ID Code:80646
Year Published:2013
Deposited By:School of Humanities
Deposited On:2012-11-06
Last Modified:2017-11-21

Repository Staff Only: item control page