Reading ivanhoe in midnight: Walter scott and the rise of modern Chinese fiction

Kang Yen Chiu*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mao Dun (the pen name of Shen Dehong, 1896–1981), a prolific translator, novelist and literary critic, was one of the most influential figures in modern Chinese literature. Mao Dun was also Walter Scott’s first Chinese critic who, in 1924, systematically presented Scott’s works to the Chinese through his work, ‘A Critical Biography of Walter Scott’. He was therefore regarded as the first Scott expert in China. In his masterpiece and best-known novel Midnight (Ziye, 1933), a comprehensive account of life in Shanghai in the uneventful period from May to July 1930, Mao Dun not only embedded Ivanhoe into the narrative of the story but also emulated Scott’s approach in illustrating enormous changes in society within a short period of time. This mode of writing is not to be found in classical Chinese novels, and this technique is most likely borrowed from Scott and other European writers. It is therefore this paper’s intention to carry out research on Scott’s influence on the fictional writing of Mao Dun, as well as to explore the impact of Scott’s novels on the rise of modern Chinese fiction in the early decades of the twentieth century.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalScottish Literary Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 2020


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