Since Edward Said published his seminal study on Orientalism, the notion of the Orient has been heavily discussed and hotly debated in both the Eastern and Western worlds. While early studies of Orientalism mainly underline Western fantasies of an exotic East as the West's “other,” Chinese scholars have also been inspired to reconceptualize the notion of the Orient in recent decades. By examining the formation of the notion of dongfang 東方 (the Orient) through journal publications, academic disciplinary construction, and the writing of oriental history, this article observes how the Chinese world of letters identified China with the Orient when China attempted to accommodate itself to a Eurocentric historical narrative in the 1920s. The article further investigates how the Chinese achieved a strategic alliance with Soviet Russia in the 1950s to confront the Western cultural centers of Europe and the United States and how Chinese academia repositioned itself in response to the adoption of Western criticism on Orientalism in the 1980s. This article also traces the institutionalization of oriental literature studies in modern China under the influence of both Soviet Russian and Western European academia to investigate how reimagining the Orient has enabled Chinese scholars to reorient Chinese literature within the genealogy of world literature. This article thus aims to shed light on the Chinese reconfiguration of Chinese cultural identity in an ongoing negotiation between East and West.

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