Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
How to Read the Chinese Novel

How to Read the Chinese Novel

Edited by David L. Rolston
Shuen-fu Lin
Andrew H. Plaks
David L. Rolston
David T. Roy
John C.Y. Wang
Anthony C. Yu
Copyright Date: 1990
Pages: 552
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    How to Read the Chinese Novel
    Book Description:

    Fiction criticism has a long and influential history in pre-modern China, where critics would read and reread certain novels with a concentration and fervor far exceeding that which most Western critics give to individual works. This volume, a source book for the study of traditional Chinese fiction criticism from the late sixteenth to the early twentieth centuries, presents translations of writings taken from the commentary editions of six of the most important novels of pre-modern China. These translations consist mainly of tu-fa, or "how-to-read" essays, which demonstrate sensitivity and depth of analysis both in the treatment of general problems concerning the reading of any work of fiction and in more focused discussions of particular compositional details in individual novels.

    The translations were produced by pioneers in the study of this form of fiction criticism in the West: Shuen-fu Lin, Andrew H. Plaks, David T. Roy, John C. Y. Wang, and Anthony C. Yu. Four introductory essays by Andrew H. Plaks and the editor address the historical background for this type of criticism, its early development, its formal features, recurrent terminology, and major interpretive strategies. A goal of this volume is to aid in the rediscovery of this traditional Chinese poetics of fiction and help eliminate some of the distortions encountered in the past by the imposition of Western theories of fiction on Chinese novels.

    Originally published in 1990.

    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: 978-1-4008-6047-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. xiii-1)
  5. CHAPTER I Traditional Chinese Fiction Criticism
    (pp. 3-123)

    The bulk of traditional Chinese fiction criticism takes the form of commentary editions on individual works. Aside from prefaces and essays of a more general nature that appear as front matter, the commentaries themselves consist of comments attached as closely as possible to that section of the text to which they refer. This type of criticism is referred to in the titles of the commentary editions by a variety of terms usually consisting of combinations of the following words:p’i批 (to add a remark to a document),p’ing冲 (to evaluate),yüeh閱 (to read or peruse), andtien...

  6. CHAPTER II Chin Sheng-t’an on How to Read the Shui-hu chuan (The Water Margin)
    (pp. 124-145)

    Chin Sheng-t’an 金聖歎 (1608–1661, personal name originally Ts’ai 采, courtesy namejo-ts’ai 若采) is an extremely important and pivotal figure in the history of traditional Chinese fiction and fiction criticism. Even though the elevation of fiction and drama to an equal position with classical literature was already championed by figures like Li Chih 李賛 (1527–1602) and Yüan Hung-tao 袁宏道 (1568–1610), we can attribute a large portion of the eventual success of this endeavor to Chin Sheng-t’an. He provided later commentators with an almost larger-than-life image of a practicing fiction commentator and left readers with a new method of...

  7. CHAPTER III Mao Tsung-kang on How to Read the San-kuo yen-i (The Romance of the Three Kingdoms)
    (pp. 146-195)

    Mao Tsung-kang 毛宗岗 and his father, Mao Lun 毛綸, are a literary team similar to that of Ssu-ma Ch’ien 司馬遷 (b. 145 B.C.) and his father, Ssu-ma T’an 司馬談 (d. 106 B. C.), the authors of theShih-chi史言己 (Records of the Historian). The credit for the authorship of theShih-chiis almost always given to the son alone, and Mao Tsung-kang is likewise given primacy over his father more often than not. Together they completed two projects, a commentary on theP’i-p’a chi琵琶言己 (Story of the Lute; a Southern-style play by Kao Ming 高明, fl. 14th century) and...

  8. CHAPTER IV Chang Chu-p’o on How to Read the Chin P’ing Mei (The Plum in the Golden Vase)
    (pp. 196-243)

    Until quite recently, information concerning the life and career of Chang Chu-p’o 張竹坡 was not readily accessible. His personal name (Chu-p’o is his style), for instance, was not widely known. Aside from his extensive commentary on theChin P’ing Mei(of which thetu-faessay forms the lengthiest section), only scattered comments attributed to him in works such as theYu-meng ying幽夢影 (Quiet Dream Visions) compiled by Chang Ch’ao 張潮 (1650–ca. 1703)¹ and theTung-yu chi東遊記 (Journey to the East)² plus various letters and poems were available to the scholarly community.³ This situation radically changed in 1984...

  9. CHAPTER V The Wo-hsien ts’ao-t’ang Commentary on the Ju-lin wai-shih (The Scholars)
    (pp. 244-294)

    The Wo-hsien ts’ao-t’ang Commentary onThe ScholarsOf the six novels that are the focus of this volume, theJu-Un wai-shih儒林外史 (The Scholars; or The Informal History of the Literati) is the only one that lacks atu-fa essay.However, a fairly high-quality preface and set of anonymous chapter comments from the Wo-hsien ts’ao-t’ang 臣卜閑草堂 edition can serve as a substitute. The preface and the chapter comments, of course, represent quite a different sort of genre from thetu-faessay, and they in turn are representatives of two quite different genres themselves. The preface tries to establish an overall...

  10. CHAPTER VI Liu I-ming on How to Read the Hsi-yu chi (The Journey to the West)
    (pp. 295-315)

    Liu I-ming 劉 明 (style Wu-yüan-tzu 悟元子 or Wu-yüan lao-jen 悟元老人1734–1820 +) was a Taoist priest who resided for the majority of his life in the Chin-t’ien Monastery in Lan-chou, Kansu Province. He completed a commentary onThe Journey to the West entitled Hsi-yu yüan-chih西遊原旨 (The Original Intent of theHsi-yu chi) by 1778, but it was not published until after 1808. An undated postface indicates that it was because of the expense of the endeavor that the commentary, although one of the earliest of Liu I-ming’s writings to be completed, was the last to be published in...

  11. CHAPTER VII Chang Hsin-chih on How to Read the Hung-lou meng (Dream of the Red Chamber)
    (pp. 316-340)

    Chang Hsin-chih 張新之 (studio name Miao-fu hsüan 妙復軒; fl 1828–1850) completed an extended commentary on the Hung-lou meng 紅樓夢 (Dream of the Red Chamber; also known as theShih-t’ou chi石頭言己 [Story of the Stone]) in 1850. The earliest extant version of his commentary,Miao-fu hsüan p’ing Shih-t’ou chi妙復軒評石頭記 (Commentary on theStory of the Stonefrom Miao-fu Studio), is a manuscript copy held in the Peking Library. The first section of that copy consists of various prefaces as well as thetu-faessay translated below.¹ According to his 1850 preface and the notes to three poems appended...

  12. Appendixes

    • APPENDIX 1: Finding List of Terminology Used by Chinese Fiction Critics
      (pp. 341-355)
    • APPENDIX 2: The Authenticity of the Li Chih Commentaries on the Shui-hu chuan and Other Novels Treated in This Volume
      (pp. 356-363)
    • APPENDIX 3: Conversion Table from Wade-Giles to Pinyin Romanization of Chinese
      (pp. 364-364)
  13. Bibliographical Material

    • Contents of Bibliographical Material
      (pp. 367-370)
    • List of Journals and Anthologies Cited More than Once in the Bibliographies
      (pp. 371-376)
    • General Bibliography
      (pp. 377-402)
    • Descriptive Bibliography (for Commentary Editions and Traditional Works of Criticism on the Six Novels)
      (pp. 403-484)
    • List of Commentary Editions of Traditional Chinese Fiction Other than the Six Novels
      (pp. 485-487)
    (pp. 488-490)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 491-534)