Chinese Narrative

Chinese Narrative: Critical and Theoretical Essays

ANDREW H. PLAKS EDITOR
With a Foreword by Cyril Birch
Kenneth J. DeWoskin
Eugene Eoyang
Patrick Hanan
Robert G. Hegel
C. T. Hsia
Yu-kung Kao
Peter Li
Shuen-fu Lin
Andrew H. Plaks
David T. Roy
John C. Y. Wang
Kam-ming Wong
Copyright Date: 1977
Pages: 378
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7zv263
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  • Book Info
    Chinese Narrative
    Book Description:

    Although Chinese narrative, and especially the genres of colloquial fiction, have been subjected to intensive scholarly scrutiny, no comprehensive volume has provided a framework that would permit an overall view of the tradition. The distinguished contributors to this volume have taken an important first step in making possible the consideration of Chinese narrative at the level of comparative and general literary scholarship.

    Originally published in 1987.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5646-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. FOREWORD
    (pp. ix-xii)
    CYRIL BIRCH

    The scholarly studies assembled here testify to the recent surge of interest in Chinese narrative. Various factors underlie this phenomenon, but two are particularly worth noting. First, we must acknowledge the preeminence of fiction among the arts of revolutionary China in this century. Of all civilizations the Chinese has always been the most intensely literary. Sensing the need for revitalized cultural forms to guide the emergence of their country into the modern world, intellectuals from Liang Ch’i-ch’ao on called most insistently for serious new works of fiction. Hand in hand with the creation of new fiction went the study of...

  4. I. EARLY HISTORICAL AND FICTIONAL NARRATIVE
    • EARLY CHINESE NARRATIVE: THE TSO-CHUAN AS EXAMPLE
      (pp. 3-20)
      JOHN C. Y. WANG

      If we may define narrative in its broadest sense, as literature that consists of both a story and a storyteller,¹ then early Chinese literature certainly contains a variety of narrative forms. In addition to the more obvious forms, such as early myths, legends, and historical writings, many of the pre-Han philosophical works as well—the book ofMencius, for example—might be read as “stories” relating what a given philosopher did, said, and thought. A full and detailed treatment of early Chinese narrative so defined would of course require a book-length study, something far beyond the scope of the present...

    • THE SIX DYNASTIES CHIH-KUAI AND THE BIRTH OF FICTION
      (pp. 21-52)
      KENNETH J. DEWOSKIN

      The forced abdication of the last Han emperor Hsien-ti in a.d. 220 at the hands of Ts’ao P’ei ended China’s first prolonged era of unity and centralized government control. During the three and one-half century interregnum that followed, known as the Six Dynasties, dozens of families vied for control, but even the most powerful were unable to hold onto the throne for more than a few decades or to extend their administration beyond a nuclear region. The main territory of China, trisected during the Three Kingdoms Period (220–265), was reunited briefly under the Western Chin (280–307), only to...

    • A TASTE FOR APRICOTS: APPROACHES TO CHINESE FICTION
      (pp. 53-70)
      EUGENE EOYANG

      One of the most popular and literate poets in Chinese began a private poem—addressed to his nephews and nieces—with the following lines:

      The world cheats those who cannot read, But I apply myself to the written word.¹

      In 835, Po Chü-yi 白居易 was sixty-three when he wrote these lines, an age we would consider close to retirement. He had completed a successful literary and official career; his poetry was read by literati and sung by the common people. By his own estimation, he had risen higher in the official hierarchy than many poets before him; yet his songs...

  5. II. MING AND EARLY CH’ING FICTION
    • NARRATIVE PATTERNS IN SAN-KUO AND SHUI-HU
      (pp. 73-84)
      PETER LI

      San-kuo yen-iandShui-hu chuanare the earliest examples of extended prose-fiction (畏篇小睨) in China. The appearance of these works in the latter part of the fourteenth century is an unprecedented literary event that deserves our special attention. This essay, however, will not be concerned with the long period of “gestation” that must have preceded their appearance, but will present only some preliminary reflections on the organizational patterns of these narratives. No attempt is made to relate these patterns to sociopolitical and ideological structures, or to other cultural complexes that lie outside these works. My main concern will be to...

    • THE NATURE OF LING MENG-CH’U’S FICTION
      (pp. 85-114)
      PATRICK HANAN

      If Ling Meng-ch’u’s 凌濠初 (1580–1644) fiction* evokes any image at all in our minds, it is a vague one. The most prolific writer in the history of the Chinese short story, he has been avidly read but only rarely and inadequately appraised. His critics have concerned themselves mainly with the questions of how he reflected the social reality of his time and whether he was on the side of history’s angels.¹ He has been blamed for an obsession with the metaphysics of fate, for his mundane values, and for the sordidness of his world, and praised for his enlightened...

    • CHANG CHU-P’O’S COMMENTARY ON THE CHIN P’ING MEI
      (pp. 115-123)
      DAVID T. ROY

      In 1644 Chin Sheng-t’an 金型咦 (d. 1661) published an edition of theShui-hu chuan水溘傅, the text of which was accompanied by his own critical commentary.¹ Although rudimentary commentaries on works of vernacular fiction had appeared as early as the second half of the sixteenth century, this work of Chin Sheng-t’an eclipsed all its predecessors in popularity and established a vogue that resulted in the production of commentaries for all the major novels. As a result, from the late seventeenth century until the 1920’s the most popular works of vernacular fiction were nearly always published with accompanying commentaries, and it...

    • SUI T’ANG YEN-I AND THE AESTHETICS OF THE SEVENTEENTH-CENTURY SUCHOU ELITE
      (pp. 124-160)
      ROBERT G. HEGEL

      Chinese historical novels fall into four distinct categories, according to Sun K’ai-ti 琛揩第: those which narrate the events of a specific period of time, usually the duration of a single ruling house in imitation of the coverage of individual dynastic histories; those which narrate the career of a single historical individual or of a single family, rather like the biographies (lieh-chuan列傅) in the dynastic histories; those which narrate a specific event, e.g., the restoration of a ruling house or the fall of a dynasty; those which narrate events of past and present rather like a Chinese general history.¹Sui...

  6. III. MIDDLE AND LATE CH’ING FICTION
    • ALLEGORY IN HSI-YU CHI AND HUNG-LOU MENG
      (pp. 163-202)
      ANDREW H. PLAKS

      There are a number of works of Chinese narrative, among themHsi-yu Chi西避韶 andHung-lou Meng杠懊萝 which we shall discuss at length below,¹ that seem to lend themselves to treatment in terms of the critical concept of allegory. Beyond the simple statement of this fact, however, few recent critics of these central works have gone on to elucidate the specific substance and functioning of the allegorical dimension which many readers sense to be present. Part of the problem, no doubt, lies in the inherent dubiousness of attempting to apply a conceptual category extracted from one narrative tradition to...

    • POINT OF VIEW, NORMS, AND STRUCTURE: HUNG-LOU MENG AND LYRICAL FICTION
      (pp. 203-226)
      WONG KAM-MING

      After Henry James published the Prefaces to his various novels, “point of view” as a critical concept received increasing emphasis in the study of Western fiction. By 1921, Percy Lubbock, the foremost exponent of James’s theory of the novel, asserted: “The whole intricate question of method, in the craft of fiction, I take to be governed by the question of point of view—the question of the relation in which the narrator stands to the story.”¹ Since James and Lubbock, numerous attempts have been made to refine the concept. Two of these are more relevant than others to our present...

    • LYRIC VISION IN CHINESE NARRATIVE TRADITION: A READING OF HUNG-LOU MENG AND JU-LIN WAI-SHIH
      (pp. 227-243)
      YU-KUNG KAO

      This essay attempts to examine the “lyric vision” evolved in the Chinese poetic tradition, and its influence on the narrative genres, both classical and vernacular, with particular reference to the two novels Ts’ao Hsuëh ch’in’sHung-lou Mengand Wu Ching-tzu’sJu-lin Wai-shih.¹ I shall focus attention on both the continuity of this vision when transplanted to a radically different genre, and the modifications in both content and technique necessitated by different conventions and changing cultural conditions. Needless to say, this interpretation may seem to place too much emphasis on lyricism. Yet in view of the overwhelming importance of this lyric...

    • RITUAL AND NARRATIVE STRUCTURE IN JU-LIN WAI-SHIH
      (pp. 244-265)
      SHUEN-FU LIN

      Many twentieth-century readers of the Chinese novel have foundJu-lin Wai-shih儒林外吏 (An Unofficial History of the Scholars) disturbingly deficient in overall structure. They have often described the eighteenth-century satirical work as a series of loosely connected short stories without a grand integrative design. This general criticism has derived, however, from a predilection for centralized and monolithic plot structure, which is more typical of the Western novel, rather than from sympathetic understanding of the internal coherence peculiar to novels likeThe Scholars.

      To my knowledge, no attack on the structure ofThe Scholarscan be found in the criticism of...

    • THE SCHOLAR-NOVELIST AND CHINESE CULTURE: A REAPPRAISAL OF CHING-HUA YUAN
      (pp. 266-306)
      C. T. HSIA

      In this essay I propose to discussChing-hua yuan镜花椽 (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 yuanis 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...

  7. IV. CHINESE NARRATIVE THEORY
    • TOWARDS A CRITICAL THEORY OF CHINESE NARRATIVE
      (pp. 309-352)
      ANDREW H. PLAKS

      This book has attempted to provide a broad range of specialized studies covering the major works and genres of the Chinese narrative tradition, from the classic textTso-chuanto the late-Ch’ing “scholar-novel”Ching-hua Yuanin the nineteenth century. While it is hoped that the specific findings of the individual contributions may in themselves justify the enterprise, the question may still arise at this point as to whether all of these widely varying literary pieces should rightly fall together within a single framework of critical inquiry—that is, whether all of the works brought together here under the narrative rubric are,...

  8. List of Contributors
    (pp. 353-356)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 357-365)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 366-366)