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The Resurrected Skeleton

The Resurrected Skeleton: From Zhuangzi to Lu Xun

Wilt L. Idema
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  • Book Info
    The Resurrected Skeleton
    Book Description:

    The Chinese philosopher Zhuangzi (369--286 B.C.E.) encountered a skull that later in a dream praises the pleasures of death over the toil of living. This anecdote became popular with poets in the second and third centuries and found renewed significance with the founders of Quanzhen Daoism. These philosophers turned the skull into a skeleton, a metonym for death and a symbol of the refusal of enlightenment. Popular throughout the Ming dynasty (1368--1644) and reenvisioned by the fiction writer Lu Xun (1881--1936), the legend echoes transformations in Chinese philosophy and culture. The first book in English to trace the resurrected skeleton, this text translates major adaptations while drawing parallels to Jesus's encounter with a skull and the European tradition of the Dance of Death.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53651-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Religion, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-60)

    Once upon a time, the story tells us, the Daoist philosopher Master Zhuang, while traveling to the capital of the state of Chu, came across a skull by the roadside. After wondering aloud how the deceased may have come to his end, he laid himself down to sleep, using the skull as his headrest. The deceased thereupon appeared to him in a dream, praising the untrammeled pleasures of death over life. For all his vaunted relativism, Master Zhuang was not convinced and offered to bring him back to life, only to see his suggestion rudely rejected by the skull. We...

  5. 1 Two Narrative Daoqing
    (pp. 61-162)

    Du Hui’sMaster Zhuang Sighs over the Skeleton in Northern and Southern Lyrics and Songs(Xinbian zengbu pinglin: Zhuangzi tan kulou nanbei ciqu) provides us with the most detailed account of the legend of Master Zhuang’s encounter with the skeleton and its lack of gratitude once it has been revived. As such, it embodies the culmination in the development of this legend, which was widely popular throughout the Ming dynasty (1368–1644). Unfortunately, we have no information about the author or the publisher of the text, which makes it impossible to date its origin more precisely. All we can say...

  6. 2 One Late Ming Play
    (pp. 163-194)

    Dramatic literature flourished during the last century of the Ming dynasty (1368–1644). The most popular theatrical genre was thechuanqiplay.Chuanqiwere long plays that often counted more than forty scenes. While the genre could handle any subject, the basic plot frame was usually provided by a melodramatic love story. Like all other genres of Chinese drama,chuanqiwas a form of ballad opera, since the arias were written to existing tunes. In contrast tozaju, the dramatic genre that had been dominant for the two centuries from 1250 to 1450, which employed so-called northern music and, in...

  7. 3 One Youth Book
    (pp. 195-216)

    Following the Manchus’ conquest of China, a large number of Manchus settled in Beijing. As their number quickly increased over the following generations, the city became home to a large leisure class of unemployed Manchus, all of whom received a government stipend of some kind or another. Some of them became avid patrons of drama, especially Peking opera as it developed over the course of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; others became authors and/or performers of long narrative ballads known aszidishu(“youth books” or “bannermen tales”). The genre acquired its name because of its close association with thebaqi...

  8. 4 One Precious Scroll
    (pp. 217-254)

    Baojuan(precious scrolls) may well constitute the most long-lived and most prolific genre of prosimetric storytelling. The genre’s history can be convincingly traced back to theyinyuan(tales of causes and circumstances), one of the genres ofbianwen(transformation text) literature of the ninth and tenth centuries discovered at Dunhuang, while the earliest texts calling themselves precious scrolls date from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. In many parts of China (Gansu, Hebei, Zhejiang) the genre is still practiced. In some places, it has even been recognized by the authorities as an “intangible cultural heritage.”

    Baojuanare religious texts, and under...

  9. 5 One Modern Parody
    (pp. 255-268)

    Lu Xun (pseudonym of Zhou Shuren, 1881–1936) is widely recognized as the greatest writer of modern Chinese literature in the years following the Literary Revolution of 1917 and the May Fourth Movement of 1919. His fame as a writer of fiction is based on two collections of short stories that he published in the 1920s. Many of these stories have a strong autobiographical element and draw on his youth in Shaoxing or his experiences as a teacher in Beijing. After he left Beijing in 1926, he published mostly essays and columns, which were feared for their mordant wit. Throughout...

  10. APPENDIX 1. Three Rhapsodies
    (pp. 269-280)
  11. APPENDIX 2. Twenty-One Lyrics
    (pp. 281-292)
  12. APPENDIX 3. Ten Skeletons
    (pp. 293-296)
    (pp. 297-302)
    (pp. 303-314)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 315-328)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 329-334)