An Entire Era in a Single Volume: What Have I Done in My Life? Wang Jingwei’s Decisions in Troubled Times

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His words about Chinese and foreign affairs are so complete, they allow the Chinese people to wake up to the truth.SUN YAT-SEN

Wang Jingwei’s writings and speeches have been the subject of admiration for decades. His 〈被逮口占〉 “Impromptu Verses Upon My Arrest” soon became one of the most recited poems in China and remains frequently quoted to this day. Wang’s writing illustrates how a good verse can rise above politics. So long as the words elicit a sympathetic response, people will remember and use them in their own writing.

The broad range of thoughts and feelings that guided Wang’s political decisions and intellectual point of view is not limited to what can be casually found on the Internet. Filling this gap in our understanding, the book What Have I Done in My Life? Wang Jingwei’s Decisions in Troubled Times provides a concise and meaningful selection of Wang’s thoughts and feelings across a broad range of topics in the form of 365 memorable quotations. The title comes from the poem 〈述懷〉 “A Recount of my Vision and Sentiments” which Wang wrote in 1910, while in prison for an attempt on the Prince Regent Zaifeng’s life. In the first two verses Wang discussed the meaning of life, and how actions should follow. With the words of a poet, Wang described his singular vision paved the way for countless decisions throughout life.

In the book, 365 quotations are excerpted from Wang’s official writings, speeches, poetry, personal letters, etc. and are categorized under various subjects such as government and people, nations and nationalities, war and peace, revolution and sacrifice, philosophy and culture, love and virtue. The book will be published by Eight Corners Books on January 31, 2023.

Why do we need to read century-old words today?

“Ancestors who don’t destroy their own sins burden their descendants with their wrongdoings.” This thinking fools them into believing they are objective; but in fact, they are trying to win favors from Europeans and Americans, despising their own people. When this talk flourishes, it can encourages young people to forget where they came from, in the end sacrificing their own country and people without regret…this is very painful.WANG JINGWEI, “The Importance of Remembering Confucius,” 27 August 1940
Wang Jingwei used words that are easy to understand but deep in meaning. Whether expressing encouragement or reprimand, personal affection or the meaning of life, his words are timeless. Born in tumultuous times in the late Qing dynasty, he lived through the unstable Republican period. As a young revolutionary dedicated to overthrowing imperial rule, he became a statesman in charge of governing a vast and unruly nation. He shouldered immense responsibilities his entire life: from his role as the head of the northern branch of the Tongmenghui and head of education in Guangdong, to Chairman of the Nationalist Government, President of the Executive Yuan, and as Foreign Minister. Thoroughly familiar with affairs of the country and the people., his words endure and are still relevant today.

Who should read this book?

  • Those familiar with Wang Jingwei, who seek a quick reference to his most famous quotations.
  • Those not yet familiar with Wang, seeking an easy introduction to his thoughts and expression in a quotation-per-day format.
  • Those seeking material for speech-making, teaching or as inspiration for social media content.
  • Those who have little time to read books and those who are interested in books of quotations.

The 365 quotations in What Have I Done in My Life? are excerpted from the 2019 book series Wang Jingwei & Modern China and Wang Jingwei’s Political Discourse— Newly Compiled and Revised Edition and Wang Jingwei Nanshe Poetry— Newly Compiled and Revised Edition. Each quotation is fully annotated with background information and sources, providing context and a detailed look at the history of China during the Republican Era. Even those who are not students of Wang Jingwei will find this an easy, accessible, and enlightening read.