The discourse of science and Chinese detective fiction by Cheng Xiaoqing

Document Type


Source Publication

AAS (The Association for Asian Studies) annual meeting 2009

Publication Date



Sheraton Chicago


This article focuses on the detective stories written by the Chinese writer Cheng Xiaoqing (1893-1980), and studies the dialectical relationship between the discourse of Science and modern Chinese detective fiction in the Republican China. Western detective fiction was introduced into China in the end of the 19th century and soon acquired immense popularity because of its close affiliation with science and rationality. From the 1920s through the 1940s, a group of native Chinese detective writers appeared among whom the most famous one was Cheng Xiaoqing, the creator of the Chinese detective character Huo Sang, who was regarded as “the Oriental Sherlock Holmes.” Claiming his detective fiction as “disguised textbook for science,” Cheng Xiaoqing’s success is closely related to a particular cultural context when science gained an unprecedented level of respect in China since the May Fourth Movement. In this article, I first compare the differences and connections between Huo Sang and his literary model Sherlock Holmes, and discuss the significance of their popularity in the Republic China when science became a nationwide worship at that time. In the second section of this article, I focus on a Cheng Xiaoqing’s detective story called “The Bloody Knife” (Shuangren bixue). In this story, the detective found a crucial evidence of fingerprints and identified the criminal as a female athlete. By introducing the history of fingerprinting, I illustrate how Cheng Xiaoqing combined forensics literacy with his detective narratives.



Recommended Citation

Wen, Y. (2009, March). The discourse of science and Chinese detective fiction by Cheng Xiaoqing. Paper presented at AAS (The Association for Asian Studies) annual meeting 2009. Sheraton Chicago, United States.

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