Unspoken desire: Zhang Xianliang's autobiographical trilogy and the contemporary Chinese intellectual




Zhou, Kefen

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Zhang Xianliang's writing, best known for breaking sexual taboos, is also praised for its exposition of the Communist Party of China's persecution of male intellectuals, which led ultimately to their physical and psychological emasculation. Since the founding of the Qin dynasty in 221 BCE, Chinese intellectuals have been a primary target in the political campaigns of whatever elite happened to be in power, and Zhang's fictionalized autobiography apparently minors this narrative. However, it is the purpose of this thesis to offer a radically different reading, one that examines what is left unsaid in Zhang's texts. what falls under the mark of erasure- the status, role, and function of women in Chinese society . Drawing upon analytical techniques from Deconstruction, Feminist criticism and Freudian analysis I explore the following questions: (I) why are Chinese male intellectuals obsessed with having political power? (2) What is the relationship between politics and sexuality in the People's Republic? (3) What is it in the psychological make-up of male intellectuals which allows them to victimize women after they themselves were victimized? (4) How is it possible for the author to reconcile his criticism of state policies while supporting the rhetoric of the Party's propaganda? A close examination of the three texts under review yields a wealth of information, some of which answers questions, some of which raises other questions. However, in reading Zhang Xianliang's trilogy two things become apparent: his protagonist, Zhang Yonglin, only regains his "manhood" both psychologically and sexually through the intervention of women; and the unspoken truth that their insatiable desire for political and sexual power contributed to the "tragic" fate of male intellectuals in modern Chinese society.



intellectuals, China, Zhang, Xianliang