‘Culture fever’ as the setting for 1989

Nicholas Jose

University of Adelaide

The years immediately preceding 1989 in China were marked by an atmosphere of experiment and speculation in many areas of life, not least in literature and the arts, starting, say, from the ‘culture fever’ (wenhua re) of 1986. Such experimentation was existential, extending to lifestyles and including speculation about leaving the country, with Australia as a destination. Salons, including democracy salons, were part of this fever, in which freedom of expression and freedom of association combined, sometimes cautiously, sometimes in free-wheeling ways. It was a poet friend who, for me, late in 1988, first predicted what would happen in 1989. New kinds of creative expression played a key role in what was happening, as I hope to show as I recall some of what I experienced in China at that time. The author was Cultural Counsellor at the Australian Embassy in Beijing from 1987 to 1990.


Nicholas Jose has published seven novels, three collections of short stories, Black Sheep: Journey to Borroloola (a memoir), and essays, mostly on Australian and Asian culture. He was Cultural Counsellor at the Australian Embassy Beijing, 1987-90 and Visiting Chair of Australian Studies at Harvard University, 2009-10. He is Professor of English and Creative Writing at The University of Adelaide.




The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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