C. T. Hsia on Chinese Literature

C. T. Hsia on Chinese Literature

C.T. Hsia
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 544
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    C. T. Hsia on Chinese Literature
    Book Description:

    Best known for the groundbreaking works A History of Modern Chinese Fiction (1961) and The Classic Chinese Novel (1968), C. T. Hsia has gathered sixteen essays and studies written during his Columbia years as a professor of Chinese literature. Wider in range and scope, C. T. Hsia on Chinese Literature stands beside his two earlier books as part of his critical legacy to all readers seriously interested in the subject.

    C. T. Hsia's writings on Chinese literature express a candor rare among his Western colleagues. Thus the first section of the book contains three essays that place Chinese literature in critical perspective, examining its substance and significance and questioning some of the critical approaches and methods adopted by Western sinologists for its study and appreciation. The second section has two essays on traditional drama -- one on the Yuan masterpiece The Romance of the Western Chamber and the other a sophisticated study of the plays of the foremost Ming dramatist T'ang Hsien-tsu.

    The third section is the richest and longest of the book, containing six essays on traditional and early modern fiction. At least four of these -- on "The Military Romance" and the novels Flowers in the Mirror, The Travels of Lao Ts'an, and Jade Pear Spirit -- are among the author's finest works. Finally, the fourth section of the book, covering modern fiction, includes one essay on the novel The Korchin Banner Plains, an essay on women in Chinese communist fiction, and three concise yet illuminating studies of the short story during the three republican decades before Mao, the first dozen years under Mao, and in Taiwan during the 1960s.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50347-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    c. T. H.
    (pp. xv-xviii)
    • Classical Chinese Literature: Its Reception Today as a Product of Traditional Culture
      (pp. 3-29)

      In this essay I am not concerned with modern Chinese literature, a literature both formally and ideologically indebted to western literature and in that sense less uniquely Chinese. That literature may be said to have begun in 1900, following the foreign occupation of Peking that fall, in the spirit of finally admitting China’s precarious position as a nation and her backwardness and stagnation as a civilization. This literature, and particularly that portion written since the Literary Revolution of 1917, is a vital, ongoing part of modern Chinese culture and history, and as such will always receive serious attention from students...

    • Chinese Novels and American Critics: Reflections on Structure, Tradition, and Satire
      (pp. 30-49)

      Since I cannot give an adequate description of all the genres of traditional Chinese fiction in this paper, I shall concern myself principally with the novel, taking into account the development of the genre until the late Ch’ing and providing a broader view of the novelistic tradition than I presented in The Classic Chinese Novel. I shall also take into account the work of some of my distinguished American colleagues showing a serious concern with the form or structure of major Chinese novels.¹ Since the aim of this conference is to promote a better understanding of East Asian literature, I...

    • On the “Scientific” Study of Modern Chinese Literature: A Reply to Professor Průšek
      (pp. 50-84)

      In his long review of my book,¹ Jaroslav Průšek has in effect outlined a program for the “scientific” study of modern Chinese literature; he has defined the historical character and function of that literature and recommended objective methods for its analysis and evaluation. Since, in his view, my book practically ignores all the premises and methods that should have guided an objective historian of modern Chinese literature, I appear to him the prime example of a subjective critic, and one with illfounded political prejudices at that. I am naturally disappointed that a distinguished sinologist should have found my work so...

    • An Introduction to The Romance of the Western Chamber
      (pp. 87-101)

      Through the centuries a number of love stories have delighted the Chinese both as literature and as popular entertainment. Among these the story of Scholar Chang and Ts’ui Ying-ying holds a unique place of honor not only because of its continuing popularity as a repertoire piece in the regionally diversified Chinese theater but also because, in the course of its evolution from roughly 800 to 1300, it has been thrice embodied in an imperishable masterpiece: Yuan Chen’s tale in the classical style, “The Story of Ying-ying” (Ying-ying chuan);¹ Tung Chieh-yuan’s (Scholar Tung’s) long narrative poem, The Romance of the Western...

    • Time and the Human Condition in the Plays of T’ang Hsien-tsu
      (pp. 102-132)

      Before the launching of the “Proletarian Cultural Revolution,” T’ang Hsien-tsu (1550–1616) had received attention as a thinker in his own right among Chinese Communist scholars actively concerned with late Ming thought.¹ The greatest playwright of the Ming period, T’ang was of course a leading figure in the literary and intellectual world of his time. Among his older contemporaries Li Chih and Hsü Wei were his friends, and among his younger, the Yüan brothers. He was affiliated with the Tung-lin clique, and his submission of an outspoken memorial to the throne on one occasion speaks for his political bond with...

    • The Military Romance: A Genre of Chinese Fiction
      (pp. 135-170)

      Students of traditional Chinese fiction have customarily divided historical novels into two categories: those that approximate the spirit and form of a popular chronicle and those that, despite their celebration of historical personages and events, make no pretensions to be serious history. Most, if not all, of the titles forming the latter category could be properly called military romances insofar as they tell of an individual, a family, a brotherhood, or a new dynastic team engaged in a large-scale campaign or a series of such campaigns. The popular chronicle, too, has frequent occasion to depict military engagements, but it rarely...

    • Archetype and Allegory in the Dream of the Red Chamber: A Critique
      (pp. 171-187)

      Of the younger American scholars who have written on traditional Chinese fiction in recent years, Professor Andrew H. Plaks of Princeton University is clearly the best trained in comparative literature and the most ambitious as a theoretician. On the evidence of the book under review (Princeton University Press, 1976) and the two long essays in the symposium volume under his editorship (Chinese Narrative: Critical and Theoretical Essays, Princeton University Press, 1977), “Allegory in Hsi-yu Chi and Hung-lou Meng” and “Towards a Critical Theory of Chinese Narrative,” one cannot but be impressed by his earnest scholarship and his wide-ranging knowledge of...

    • The Scholar-Novelist and Chinese Culture: A Reappraisal of Ching-hua yuan
      (pp. 188-222)

      In this essay I propose to discuss Ching-hua yuan (Flowers in the Mirror) as a ripe example of the scholarly novel and what that term implies in our understanding of its thought and structure. Ching-hua yuan is best known for its wit and humor, its erudition and wide coverage of miscellaneous information; but, far more intrinsically, it is an allegoric romance in total support of Confucian morality and Taoist wisdom. If it is, as has been enthusiastically proclaimed by modern scholars of the May Fourth era, a satire of women’s position in traditional Chinese society,¹ it is far less ambiguously...

    • Yen Fu and Liang Ch’i-ch’ao as Advocates of New Fiction
      (pp. 223-246)

      Many scholars and journalists of the late Ch’ing period championed the novel as an instrument for national reform. In 1897 Yen Fu (1853–1921), then editor of the Tientsin Kuo-wen pao, wrote with his close friend Hsia Tseng-yu (1865–1924) a long essay entitled “Pen-kuan fu-yin shuo-pu yüan-ch’i” (Announcing our policy to print a supplementary fiction section), which has been generally regarded as the first piece of criticism to affirm the social function of fiction in modern times.¹ This was followed by Liang Ch’i-ch’ao’s (1873–1929) much shorter “Yi-yin cheng-chih hsiaoshuo hsü” (Foreword to our series of political novels in...

    • The Travels of Lao Ts’an: An Exploration of Its Art and Meaning
      (pp. 247-268)

      The Travels of Lao Ts’an (Lao-ts’an yu-chi) is the most beloved of all Chinese novels produced during the last decade of the Ch’ing dynasty. Among other signs of its popularity, it has attracted a larger amount of scholarly attention than any other novel of the same period,¹ and yet with all this commendable industry, it would seem that its incontestable human appeal and artistic excellence have not yet been adequately accounted for in critical terms. Its champions have been content to isolate for inspection its major ideas and its more obvious kinds of literary beauty readily supportable by quotations,² not...

    • Hsü Chen-ya’s Yü-li hun: An Essay in Literary History and Criticism
      (pp. 269-310)

      Now that an increasing number of scholars are turning to late Ch’ing and May Fourth fiction as rewarding subjects for study, the fiction of the intervening years, 1912–1918, appears all the more negligible for lack of critical attention. Conditioned by what we read in the available literary histories, we are content to dismiss that period as of little interest since it is mainly identifiable with the rise of “mandarin duck and butterfly” fiction (yüan-yang hu-tieh p’ai hsiao-shuo) and “black curtain” fiction (hei-mu hsiao-shuo)—two pejorative labels seemingly designed to ward off all but the most determined students of Chinese...

    • Introduction to Modern Chinese Stories and Novellas, 1919–1949
      (pp. 313-331)

      In this companion volume to Traditional Chinese Stories: Themes and Variations (ed. Y. W. Ma and Joseph S. M. Lau), my co-editors and I have chosen forty-four works by twenty authors to represent the achievement in fiction during the three decades, 1919–1949. Forty-one of these are short stories of various lengths while three can be safely called novellas: Hsü Ti-shan’s “Yü-kuan,” Lao She’s “An Old Tragedy in a New Age,” and Eileen Chang’s “The Golden Cangue.” Even in an anthology of this size, of course, we cannot include a full-length novel without sacrificing diversity of representation; fortunately, many novels...

    • The Korchin Banner Plains: A Biographical and Critical Study
      (pp. 332-375)

      Tuan-mu Hung-liang (Ts’ao Ching-p’ing, known at birth as Ts’ao Han-wen, also known as Ts’ao Chih-lin, b. 1912), a writer from Manchuria, rose to national fame when his first short stories appeared in leading Shanghai magazines in 1936. By 1940, at the age of twenty-eight, he had completed four novels—The Korchin Banner Plains (K’o-erh-ch’in-ch’i ts’ao-yuan, composed in 1933), The Sea of Earth (Ta-ti-te hai, 1936), The Great River (Ta-chiang, 1939), and A Fluffy Tale of the New Capital (Hsin-tu hua-hsü, 1940)—at least three of which were already in print, along with three story collections: Hatred (Tseng-hen, 1937), Feng-ling Ferry...

    • Residual Femininity: Women in Chinese Communist Fiction
      (pp. 376-397)

      In Chinese Communist literature, men and women are primarily seen in their similarity as workers rather than in their sexual and emotional difference as human beings. Women, as much as men, are praised for their socialist zeal and heroic capacity for work and condemned for being socialist sluggards indifferent to production. But despite its repudiation of “human interest” as a symptom of capitalist or revisionist decadence,¹ even this supremely practical literature cannot begin to exist without some superficial attention to personal problems, and these problems inevitably attest to the persistence of biological instincts and immemorial habits of human civilization. Until...

    • Foreword to Chinese Stories from Taiwan: 1960–1970
      (pp. 398-413)

      Because only three writers from Taiwan (Nieh Hua-ling, Shui Ching, and Pai Hsien-yung) are included in my Twentieth-Century Chinese Stories (1971), I expressed my hope in the preface that “it will be possible for me or some other scholar to prepare in the near future an anthology exclusively devoted to Taiwan fiction.” I am very pleased to report that in less than five years my hope has come true with the publication of Joseph S. M. Lau’s Chinese Stories from Taiwan: 1960–1970, which includes, in addition to Pai Hsien-yung, ten important authors brought up and educated in Taiwan. A...

    • Black Tears: An Introduction to Peng Ko’s Stories
      (pp. 414-426)

      Peng Ko (P’eng Ko, pen name of Yao P’eng, 1926– ) is one of the most prolific writers of the Republic of China. His publications from 1953 to 1982 included eight novels, eight collections of short stories (though previously collected stories reappear in later volumes), twenty-five volumes of essays that first saw print as newspaper columns, translations of eleven books by mostly American authors, eight books on writing, reading, and reporting, and three travel books. In the last three years he has published at least two new books—the story collection Specks of Dust (Wei-ch’en, 1984), of which only the...

  9. NOTES
    (pp. 427-494)
    (pp. 495-510)
  11. Index
    (pp. 511-532)