The Literary Configuration of the “Fake Foreign Devil” in Semi-colonial China

Social Sciences in China (Chinese Edition)

No.3, 2017


The Literary Configuration of the “Fake Foreign Devil” in Semi-colonial China



Li Yongdong


As a byproduct of semi-colonial China, the “fake foreign devil” was closely related to the complicacy of modern Chinese social culture, and reflected the wishes and symptoms of modern Chinese culture in transition. In literature, “fake foreign devils” can be divided into three types: the comic, the tragic and he tragicomic, and their image evolved from the “playboys mired in Chinese and Western depravity” to “pioneers of enlightenment hesitating between the old and the new” and “students studying abroad with indeterminate identities,” and thence to “highly priced slaves to foreigners boasting of their foreign connections.” Taking a semi-colonial society as its basic background, the unfolding image of the “fake foreign devil” was centered on cultural identity, flanked by the three dimensions of physical identity, national identity and social identity. The representation of the pigtail and intellectual enlightenment, of disguise and identification, and of power and reproduction of the era demonstrate the unique literary value of the image of the “fake foreign devil.” Implicit in this literary configuration were the particular life situation, awkward identity and aberrant cultural psychology of semi-colonial intellectuals, reflecting unavoidable setbacks, disputes and difficulties awkwardness in the construction of modern Chinese culture. To deeply analyze the literary image of the “fake foreign devil” with a scientific and critical eye is significant for the building of cultural confidence and the re-building of new Chinese culture.