Fine China by Jonathan Chavesn”In this age of decadence people love antiques andnwillingly submit to deception. “n—Cheng Hsieh, 18th-century Chinesenpoet and painternThe Burning Forest: Essays onnChinese Culture and Politics bynSimon Leys, New York: Holt,nRinehart & Winston.nAnyone who fondly supposes thatnthe Chinese Communists are then”good” Communists should read thisnexciting, powerful book by the Belgiannsinologist Pierre Ryekmans, writingnunder his nom de plume, Simon Leys.nAs far back as 1974, Leys’s book ChinesenShadows (originally published innFrench; translated into English inn1977) was the first by a Western sinologistnto tell the truth about the “CulturalnRevolution”: that it represented anchaotic explosion of totalitarianismnrun amuck, undermining virtually allnChinese values, both moral and aesthetic.nIt took immense courage fornLeys to issue his passionate yet elegantncri de coeur. Why? Because most othernsinologists and “China Watchers”nwere then engaged in the same selfdelusorynintoxication with the GreatnIdea that had entrapped so many intellectualsndecades earlier with regard tonthe Soviet Union. I personally knownscholars in the China field who wouldnstop talking to a colleague who saidnanything kind about Chinese Shadows.nBut surely, one would think, nownthat the CCP itself has admitted thatnhorrors were perpetrated during thenCultural Revolution (1966-76), thenway has been cleared for the “ChinanExperts” to step forward and openlynacknowledge that they were wrong.nActually, only those unfamiliar withnthe writings of Solzhenitsyn, Paul Hollander,nRaymond Aron, or Jean FrangoisnRevel will be surprised to learnnthat nothing could be further from thencase. Of course the Experts echo thenJonathan Chaves is associate professornof Chinese at The George WashingtonnUniversity and author of ThenColumbia Book of Late ChinesenPoetry (Columbia University Press).nparty line by bemoaning the CulturalnRevolution as an unfortunate aberration,nbut never do they apologize fornmisleading their public, let alonenthink through the rather obvious implicationsnof the period now known asnthe “Ten Years Holocaust” in Chinese:nnamely, that the ideas which had thenCultural Revolution as their inevitablenconsequence were those of Marx,nLenin, and Mao.nAnd so Leys’s scathing indictmentnof the China Experts in this bookn—beyond doubt one of the most definitivenpolemics ever written againstnthe tolerance among Western intellectualsnfor Marxist totalitarianism—is,nsadly, relevant and necessary even atnthis late date. Small wonder that thendoyen of the Experts, John K. Fairbankn(for whom Harvard University’snprestigious center of East Asian studiesnis named), in a recent review of thisnbook in the New York Times, concludesnby complaining that Leys’s admirationnfor the traditional culturendecimated by the CCP is elitist andntherefore morally suspect. This isnequivalent to castigating a scholar whonprofesses admiration for the poetry ofnDante or the painting of Rembrandtnon the grounds that these artists didnnot live in “egalitarian” societies! Afternall, was that culture not built upon thenbacks of the oppressed peasantry? Besides,nFairbank’s assumption that thenCCP has in fact made things better fornthe peasants is highly disputable. StephennMosher’s Broken Earth — ThenRural Chinese (1983) paints a differentnpicture.nLeys is, as it happens, a true connoisseurnof the rich traditions of poetrynand painting in China, and he is antrustworthy guide through the complexitiesnof these arts. The openingnessay of the book is as good an introductionnto the poetry-painting relationshipnthat was so important innChina as has ever been published.nUnfortunately, Leys does overstate thenvagueness or looseness of syntax innnnlines of Chinese verse (apparentlynunder the influence of FranqoisnCheng’s ill-conceived attempt to imposen”semiotics” upon Chinese poetry);nin so doing, he goes to the oppositenextreme from such scholars asnEdward Schafer, who insists on a tightnrigidity of syntactic structure in Chinesenpoetic diction. Leys is on thenright track when he emphasizes a certainnflexibility but pushes the conceptntoo far. A related mistake is his attemptnto rehabilitate Pound’s discredited reputationnas a Chinese translator; surelynLeys is intelligent enough to’ comprehendnthat there can be no good translationnwithout a firm grasp of thenoriginal language, which Pound bynLeys’s own admission utterly lacked!nBut the essay is redeemed in the endnby Leys’s sensitivity and his obviouslynsincere love for Chinese culture.nThere is, however, a serious problemnwith this book, one which I believento be of broad significance inncontemporary Western intellectualnlife. For many years, those like Leysnand myself who admired the achievementsnof Chinese culture felt an almostnmissionary zeal to proselytize onnits behalf in a world where the primacynof Western culture was supposedlyntaken for granted. But as early as thenfirst decade of this century, G.K.nChesterton was describing the bizarrenphenomenon of a sizable number ofnenthusiasts for things Eastern whonwere actually arguing (explicitiy or implicitly)nfor the moral and aestheticnsuperiority of the East to the West! In/’:#^*”%-A,nJULY 1987/27n