Yan’an Writings by Writers from Abroad (1934-1949)

Social Sciences in China

Vol. 41, No. 2, 2020


Yan’an Writings by Writers from Abroad (1934-1949)



Zhao Xueyong and Wang Xin


In the 1930s and 1940s, foreign writers gathered in Yan’an drew the curtain back on recognition of China’s international image through their writings on the “red Mecca.” The international perspective on the image of Yan’an was shaped by the combined efforts of Yan’an writings by foreign writers and journalists in the interlocking cultural context of history and society. With revolutionary individual consciousness and high artistic creativity, the Yan’an narration of foreign writers had striking shared characteristics: a real sense of presence and a realistic significance beyond their times. Their discovery of the revolutionary power generated by the Chinese people and their calling for and shaping of “heroes of the masses” and their pursuit of “the character of the people” represented the spiritual dimension of their Yan’an writings, a dimension that was distinct from that of local writers. The foreign writers’ creative practice and the creative experience of local writers refracted off each other, juxtaposing mirror images of Yan’an at home and abroad and promoting the modernity and cosmopolitanism of Yan’an literature in the intertextuality between reality and literature.

Together with local writers, writers from abroad participated in the creation of Chinese revolutionary history and culture, bringing their personal discourse into the discourse of China’s new era and completing the restatement of their cultural identity. The global identity of Yan’an went through a difficult process of historical self-creation, breaking through the limitations of its international image and realizing the self-proving nature of modern Chinese history.


Keywords: writers from abroad, Yan’an writings, international image, cultural identity