Chinese Literature: A Historical Introduction

Chinese Literature: A Historical Introduction

Chinese Literature: A Historical Introduction

Chinese Literature: A Historical Introduction

Excerpt

Recent years have seen a remarkable surge of interest in things Oriental, not the least in Chinese poetry and prose. But this interest has been frustrated by a lack of an up-to-date, comprehensive survey of the field. This volume provides for Western readers the material necessary to appreciate the literature of China.

Presented in chronological order, here is the entire range of Chinese literature, from the earliest truly historical period to the end of the Chinese Empire in 1911 and the effects of Western influence in the 1920's and 1930's. Literary trends, of course, have been discussed, but I have tried to devote enough space to the lives and works of particular writers so that my readers will see these men as individuals interesting in their own right and not merely as steps in a historical progression.

I have tried conscientiously to make use of the most recent scholarship. It is, after all, over half a century since Professor Herbert A. Giles wrote what he characterized as "the first attempt made in any language . . . to produce a history of Chinese literature." Since then, almost every aspect of the subject has been treated by numerous scholars in China, Japan, and the Western world; yet, as specialists will, these scholars have addressed themselves to other scholars. I have tried to give enough detail to enable the reader to put into perspective the major authors and literary trends, but I have attempted to avoid tedious controversies and unnecessary critical apparatus.

Many translated examples are given of the Chinese poetry and prose of each period in order to bring out the full flavor of the Chinese literary achievement. Many of the translations are my own; where I have used the translations of others, these are gratefully acknowledged in the text.

No man's view is broad enough to enable him to sketch out, unassisted, the dimensions of the great Chinese literary tradition. I have culled the work of many literary historians and various translators. Among literary historians, I owe a special debt of gratitude . . .

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