TheShih-shuo hsin-yu,conventionally translated asA New Account of Tales of the World,is one of the most significant works in the entire Chinese literary tradition. It established a genre (theShih-shuo t'i) and inspired dozens of imitations from the later part of the Tang dynasty (618-907) to the early Republican era of the twentieth century. TheShih-shuo hsin-yuconsists of more than a thousand historical anecdotes about elite life in the late Han dynasty and the Wei-Chin period (about A.D. 150-420).
Despite a general recognition of the place of theShih-shuo hsin-yuin China's literary history (and to a lesser extent that of Japan), the genre itself has never been adequately defined or thoroughly studied.Spirit and Self in Medieval Chinaoffers the first thorough study in any language of the origins and evolution of theShih-shuo t'ibased on a comprehensive literary analysis of theShih-shuo hsin-yuand a systematic documentation and examination of more than thirty imitations. The study also contributes to the growing interest in the Chinese idea of individual identity. By focusing on theShin-shuogenre, which provides the starting point in China for a systematic literary construction of the self, it demonstrates that, contrary to Western assertions of a timeless Chinese "tradition," an authentic understanding of personhood in China changed continually and often significantly in response to changing historical and cultural circumstances.
Subjects: History, Philosophy
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