The China Quarterly



research article

virtual chinese literature: a comparative case study of online poetry communities a


michel  hockx 

Abstract

this article looks at the practices of communities that employ internet technologies in order to produce, distribute, consume and value chinese poetry. the article is in three parts. the first part provides a brief general overview of the current state of research about the chinese internet. i take issue with the dominant tendency of english-language research to focus almost exclusively on questions of censorship. the second part looks at the development of “web literature” (wangluo wenxue) in china, briefly outlining the meaning of the term and the content of a protracted debate about web literature that took place in 2001. the debate illustrates the limited extent to which web literature is able to distinguish itself from conventionally published literature. paradoxically, this has led to “web literature” becoming a recognized genre within print culture. in the final part, i compare a prc online poetry community with a similar community based in the usa. i conclude by arguing that previous scholarship's biased focus on the transformative aspects of cyber culture has made it difficult to gain a clear insight into the many positive and culture-specific features of chinese web literature.



Footnotes

a i am grateful to charles laughlin for his perceptive comments as the discussant for the first draft of this paper during the iias workshop in october 2004.