Avant-Garde Anachronism: Dream of the Red Chamber in the Forty-Ninth Century

Fangdai CHEN*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


This article examines Chen Chuncheng, an up-and-coming mainland Chinese novelist emerging from the internet, as a representative case of a renewed manifestation of literary avant-gardism in the contemporary Sinosphere. It is an avant-gardism that challenges the status quo of the avant-garde's radical revolutionism and shields itself under a more sophisticated and adaptable aestheticism. In engaging with China's classical past, particularly in his imagined history of Dream of the Red Chamber in a fictitious forty-ninth century where futuristic digital motifs abound, the young novelist invokes the radical belief in the power of wen 文 (letters) to intervene in sociopolitical crises. It is a belief that aligns with the avant-garde's core spirit of coming to the rescue of a society through aesthetic means. In deconstructing the temporality and materiality of literary texts, Chen also enacts a meta-reflection on the existential condition of literature in cyberspace, where digital technologies make it possible for literary productions to take alternative forms, to roam around, and to dissolve when the exigency of socio-historical circumstances necessitates. The digital world therefore constitutes the most ideal site to host literature's omni-presence and omni-absence—two concepts that form the dialectical kernel of Chen Chuncheng's neo-avant-gardism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)297-314
Number of pages18
JournalPrism: Theory and Modern Chinese Literature
Issue number2
Early online date1 Sept 2023
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:


  • Anachronistic
  • Avant-Garde
  • Chen Chuncheng
  • Dream of the Red Chamber
  • digitality and materiality
  • Sinophone classicism


Dive into the research topics of 'Avant-Garde Anachronism: Dream of the Red Chamber in the Forty-Ninth Century'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this