The Fugitive Self: Writing Zheng Xiaoxu, 1882–1938

  • Marjorie Dryburgh


Bureaucrat, calligrapher and — latterly — wartime collaborator Zheng Xiaoxu kept a diary between 1882 and his death in 1938. In daily entries that run to nearly 2,000,000 characters,1 he charted a life that encompassed service in the imperial bureaucracy before the 1911 revolution, retirement and then a return to officialdom as premier of the Japanese puppet state of Manzhouguo. At first reading, the diary offers a wealth of fragmentary insights into the political and social life of one elite Chinese male in the late empire and early Republic. At the same time, the trajectory of Zheng’s career allows us to examine his progress from the public service, structured by largely Confucianised values, that was expected of his generation, through the shocks and disappointments of his middle age, to the transgres- sive and highly stigmatised political choices that led him to wartime collaboration with the Japanese.


State Council Qing Dynasty Diary Entry Scarlet Fever Political Choice 
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© Marjorie Dryburgh 2013

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  • Marjorie Dryburgh

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