Yu Pingbo

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Yu Pingbo
Yu Mingheng
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese

Yu Pingbo (俞平伯) (January 8, 1900 – October 15, 1990), former name Yu Mingheng (俞銘衡) and courtesy name Pingbo (平伯), was an essayist, poet, historian, Redologist, and critic.

Life and scholarly career[edit]

Yu Pingbo's ancestry can be traced to Deqing, Zhejiang. His pet name as a child was Sengbao (僧寶). He was a descendant of Yu Yue, a renowned scholar during the late Qing period, and as such Yu Pingbo was trained in the Chinese classics from an early age. In 1915, he qualified by examination for a preparatory course at Peking University, where he became one of Hu Shih's most prominent students. In 1917, he married Xu Baoxun (許寶馴), a gifted female scholar from Hangzhou, and then commenced composing melodies for Kunqu operas. Meanwhile, he temporarily immersed himself in the New Culture Movement, and in 1918 his first New Culture period poem Spring Waters (春水 Chūnshuĭ) was published alongside Lu Xun's Diary of a Madman in La Jeunesse, becoming one of the pioneering compositions to be written in contemporary Chinese vernacular. That same year, he established with classmates Fu Sinian, Luo Jialun and others the New Wave Society. Other intellectual friends or writers included Zhu Ziqing, Feng Youlan, and Ye Shengtao. He then went on to publish such compositions as the poem Winter's Night (冬夜 Dōngyè). Yu Pingbo graduated from Peking University in December, 1919. After graduation, Yu took a brief trip to Europe, and in 1922 spent an equally brief period in the United States, but found neither place attractive. [1]

In 1923, Yu Pingbo published Debating Dream of the Red Chamber (紅樓夢辨 Hónglóumèng Biàn), giving evidence for his claim that only the first eighty chapters of the original Dream of the Red Chamber had been authored by Cao Xueqin, the later forty chapters being penned by Gao E. He thereby came to be known, along with Hu Shih, for establishing a new field in redological studies. These studies were not only important in developing an understanding of the text and its complexities, but in advancing the New Culture Movement's nationalistic project of using scientific methodology to replace old Chinese culture with a westernized version. [2]

In 1925 he took up post as a lecturer at Yenching University. In 1928 he went to Tsinghua University. In 1935, he founded the Tsinghua Valley Music Society (清華谷音社 Qinghuá Gŭyīnshè) at Qinghuayuan (清華園, "Tsinghua Gardens") to popularise his Kunqu compositions. In 1946, he transferred to Peking University for the post of professor. In 1935, he entered the Classical Literature Research Unit (古典文學研究室 Gŭdiăn Wénxué Yánjiūshì) at the Literary Research Institute (文學研究所 Wénxué Yánjiūsuŏ) of the Chinese Academy of Science, there revising his old publication Discussing Dream of the Red Chamber and redistributing it under the title Researching Dream of the Red Chamber (紅樓夢研究 Hónglóumèng Yánjiū), in 1954, Mao Zedong personally launched a nationwide campaign criticising this work along with Hú Shì's Reactionary Thought (反動思想 Făndòng Sīxiăng), a major incident of the time.[3] During the Cultural Revolution, Yu Pingbo was persecuted further, being sent to one of the so-called 'cadre schools' in Xi County, Henan for manual labour. On 15 October 1990, at ninety years of age, he died at the Běijīng Sānlĭ Hénán Shāgōu Yùsuŏ (北京三里河南沙溝寓所).


  1. ^ Howard L. Boorman, Biographical Dictionary of Republican China Vol 4 (New York,: Columbia University Press, 1971), pp. 67-70.
  2. ^ Louise Edwards, "New Hongxue and the 'Birth of the Author': Yu Pingbo's 'On Qin Keqing's Death'," Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, Reviews (CLEAR) 23 (2001): 31-54. [1]
  3. ^ Joey Bonner, "Yü P'ing-Po and the Literary Dimension of the Controversy over Hung Lou Meng," The China Quarterly.67 (1976): 546-581; Merle Goldman, Literary Dissent in Communist China (Cambridge,: Harvard University Press, 1967).