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The origin of the Westernized vernacular Chinese baihuawen: A re-evaluation of the influence of Western missionaries on Chinese literature

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image of Frontiers of Literary Studies in China

The New Literature (xin wenxue 新文学), can be dated to modern China of the 19th century, when missionaries from the West wrote their own poems, essays and stories in a sort of European-styled vernacular Chinese known as the ouhua baihua 欧化白话 (Europeanized vernacular written language), different from the gu baihua 古白话 (“old” or antique vernacular). Western missionaries were part of the language modernization campaigns during the Late Qing and the May Fourth Movement (1919). They also participated in the New Fiction (xin xiaoshuo 新小说) and National Salvation by Literature (wenxue jiuguo lun 文学救国论) movements and exerted considerable influence upon modern Chinese literature. Their contribution used to be ignored or underestimated by a restricted perspective of inquiry, which should have been corrected by now.


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