Chapter Three Divided Ibsenism in Divided China
Unlike in Europe, where Ibsen built his reputation amidst voices of opposition, in China he was right at the beginning unreservedly accepted by the critics. This might be explained by the fact that Ibsen came to China relatively late after he had achieved posthumous fame as a giant in European drama. By the late 1910s Ibsen was no longer controversial in Europe. His posthumous fame had reached its peak in the 1910s. Thus China was able to adopt from Europe generally favourable views on Ibsen. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s there was in China an overwhelming duplication of efforts in the introduction of European views on Ibsen, whose place as the father of modern drama, including the slowly emerging Chinese spoken drama, and as an important advocate for individualism, was firmly established. However, the political split in China between the Nationalists and the Communists since 1928 led to divided views on Ibsenism, especially on whether women should leave home and join the working forces for the cause of socialist revolution which the Communists called for, or stay at home and maintain the family-social order which the Nationalists advocated. Ibsenism became a site of contestation between opposite ideologies, not so much on women’s independence as on women’s role in joining the working class. Ibsenism became a subject of heated debate in the 1930s when women’s leaving home was politicised for socialist revolution.