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Snakes' Legs

Snakes' Legs: Sequels, Continuations, Rewritings, and Chinese Fiction

EDITED BY Martin W. Huang
Copyright Date: 2004
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  • Book Info
    Snakes' Legs
    Book Description:

    Snakes' Legs examines sequels (xushu), a common but long-neglected literary phenomenon in traditional China. What prompted writers to produce sequels despite their poor reputation as a genre? What motivated readers to read them? How should we characterize the nature of the relationship between sequels and rewritings? Contributors to this volume illuminate these and other questions, and the collection as a whole offers a comprehensive consideration of this vigorous genre while suggesting fascinating new directions for research. Xushu as a discursive practice reinforces the paradox that innovation is impossible without imitation. It presents us with fertile ground for studying the intricate ties that bind the writer and reader of traditional Chinese fiction: the writer of xushu is always self-consciously assuming the dual role of author and reader and in the writing process must consider both the work in progress as well as its precursor(s). Snakes' Legs contains detailed discussions of some representative xushu works from the late Ming and Qing periods, many of which have received little scholarly attention. It will shed light on the development of Chinese fiction and the various textual practices in traditional China as well as account for the genre’s continuing vitality in modern times.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6433-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    In her study of eighteenth-century English fiction, Terry Castle asserts that “sequels are always disappointing” and that a sequel’s own destiny is a “tragedy” in that “it cannot literally reconstitute its charismatic original.”¹ This somber observation on English-language sequels by a modern scholar is reminiscent of an equally somber comment onxushu(the closest Chinese equivalent for “sequel”) by the seventeenth-century Chinese writer Li Yu (1611–1680), who believed thatxushuwere invariably an unrewarding project for any writer.

    It is not that one could not reviseXixiang ji[The romance of the western chamber] or that one could not...

  5. 1 Boundaries and Interpretations: Some Preliminary Thoughts on Xushu
    (pp. 19-45)

    Some may conclude that the definition ofxushuas “rewritings,” as suggested by the Chinese scholar Lin Chen (discussed in the introduction), is too vague or too inclusive to be a useful generic concept. However, this “inclusive” understanding ofxushudoes highlight the intimate relationship between “rewriting” andxushuin Chinese literary history. To better understand the generic nature ofxushuwe have to take into serious consideration the ramifications of “rewriting,” which had been the prevailing phenomenon in the history of Chinesexiaoshuo.

    Almost all the important long works of vernacularxiaoshuoin traditional China have undergone in one...

  6. 2 Transformations of Monkey: Xiyou ji Sequels and the Inward Turn
    (pp. 46-74)

    This chapter studies three sequels to the novelXiyou ji(The journey to the West), namelyXu xiyou ji(Sequel to the journey to the West),Hou xiyou ji(Later journey to the West), andXiyou bu(A supplement to the journey to the West).¹ Liu Tingji, in the 1715Zaiyuan zazhi(Zaiyuan’s random notes), discussed the practice of writing sequels to famous novels and cited, among others, two sequels toXiyou ji.He praisedHou Xiyou jigrudgingly, recognizing the author’s virtuosity in composition.Xu Xiyou jiis, in his opinion, no more than “a dog’s tail.”² Liu argued...

  7. 3 In the Name of Correctness: Ding Yaokang’s Xu Jin Ping Mei as a Reading of Jin Ping Mei
    (pp. 75-97)

    Ding Yaokang (1599–1669) completed his novelXu Jin Ping Mei,a sequel toJin Ping Mei,in 1660,¹ sixteen years after the Manchus took over Peking. At the time, the Qing government was concentrating on the restoration of social and political order as well as economic prosperity, and probably more than half a century had passed sinceJin Ping Meifirst began to circulate.² Mostly thanks to its eroticism,Jin Ping Meihad become the most controversial narrative in Chinese literary tradition. Its sequel did not enjoy any better luck. The author got himself into trouble and was sent...

  8. 4 Eliminating Traumatic Antinomies: Sequels to Honglou meng
    (pp. 98-115)

    We can see in the dozens of sequels toHonglou meng(Dream of the red chamber) the irresistible urge that authors felt to resurrect the mesmerizing world of Cao Xueqin’s original novel. Readers and sequel writers debated the opposing virtues of Baochai and Daiyu. They loved to resent Baochai, Wang Xifeng, and Xiren for “stealing” Daiyu from Baoyu.¹ The unrelenting flow toward dissolution in the latter half of the novel left writers and readers craving a resolution in which the dead came back to life, wronged victims were vindicated, and villains were punished. Sequel writers also longed for stability and...

  9. 5 Honglou meng Sequels and Their Female Readers in Nineteenth-Century China
    (pp. 116-142)

    Ian Watt’s classic study,The Rise of the Novel,charts a series of links between the English novel, its domestic subject matter, its female readers, and the emergence of fictions written by women.¹ Whereas his central preoccupation is with Defoe, Richardson, Fielding, and fictional realism, he also discusses ways in which women helped to shape the new genre. One important finding is the effect of extraliterary processes, such as mechanization, which in the eighteenth century began giving women more leisure time. Watt argues that despite all the artistry that went into its composition, the shaping of the English novel cannot...

  10. 6 Growing from the Waist: The Problem of Sequeling in Yu Wanchun’s Dangkou zhi
    (pp. 143-158)

    The famous Ming-dynasty novelShuihu zhuan(Water margin) is believed to have inspired the second-largest number ofxushu(sequels) in the history of Chinese fiction, next only toHonglou meng.According to a recent study, there are fourteen bona fidexushutoShuihu zhuan,seventy-four by a broader definition of the term.¹ Among all thesexushu,Yu Wanchun’s (1794–1849)Dangkou zhi(The suppression of the bandits) stands out not only for its literary sophistication, but also for its author’s ultraconservative political position and the “loyalist fanaticism and loyalist paranoia”² with which he has all 108 members of the Liangshan...

  11. 7 Rewriting the Tang: Humor, Heroics, and Imaginative Reading
    (pp. 159-189)

    Beginning in the sixteenth century, China’s readers were treated to a series of full-length novels, each recounting adventures and events from the Sui, Tang, and Five Dynasties periods, roughly the four centuries from 580 to 970. Several rewrote one or more predecessors to varying degrees; others were striking in the originality with which they developed convincing characters for historical figures from those periods. Most of these novels concentrated on political events, at court and on the battlefield. Martial heroes dominate a relatively late sequence of continuations produced during the Qing period that are sequels in the narrow sense of that...

  12. 8 Vindication of Patriarchy: Chen Tianchi’s Ruyijun zhuan as a Critique of the Ming Ruyijun zhuan
    (pp. 190-209)

    About three hundred years after the MingRuyijun zhuan(The lord of perfect satisfaction) was produced, a novel bearing the same title was in circulation in manuscript form among a small circle of readers. The twoRuyijun zhuanare diametrically different in terms of language, content, authorial stances, and reader responses. Yet the common title sets the two texts within a context of a reciprocally influencing reading and interpretative framework: titles, especially titles that allude to another text or other texts, by their very nature are anticipatory, recapitulative, and reflective. Such a title often rereads another text and insists on...

  13. 9 The Voices of the Re-readers: Interpretations of Three Late-Qing Rewrites of Jinghua yuan
    (pp. 210-236)

    In chapter 48 of Li Ruzhen’s (c. 1763–1830)Jinghua yuan(The destiny of flowers in the mirror, 1828), Tang Guichen, a flower fairy incarnated as a mortal being, arrives at Little Penglai, a Taoist paradise. In the Pavilion of Lamenting the Female Talents (Qihong Ting), she is presented with an enigmatic text. The text is written in the “tadpole”(kedou)calligraphic style on a jade tablet and contains details about the “one hundred talented women” (flower fairies banished from heaven for upsetting the seasonal order). However, this text is intelligible only to a very few of the “destined” ones.¹...

  14. 10 From Self-Vindication to Self-Celebration The Autobiographical Journey in Lao Can Youhi and Its Sequel
    (pp. 237-262)

    Ever since Lu Xun (1881–1936) identified it as a novel of exposure of the late Qing in his pioneering historical study of Chinese fiction, Liu E’s (1857–1909)Lao Can youji(The travels of Lao Can) has been read by many, not without justification, as a work that exposes the seamy aspects of late-Qing society (especially the ruthless behavior of the so-called “honest officials”[qingguan]).¹ However, what setsLao Can youjiapart from other late-Qing novels of exposure(qianzhe xiaoshuo)such as Li Baojia’s (Li Boyuan)Guanchang xianxing ji(The true portraits of the bureaucrats) is, among other things,...

    (pp. 263-276)
    (pp. 277-298)
    (pp. 299-300)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 301-311)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 312-312)