Yuan Mei: Eighteenth Century Chinese Poet

Yuan Mei: Eighteenth Century Chinese Poet

Yuan Mei: Eighteenth Century Chinese Poet

Yuan Mei: Eighteenth Century Chinese Poet

Excerpt

This book is meant chiefly for the general reader with no knowledge of pre-Soviet China. I have assumed that he will not have heard of any of the people mentioned, except possibly the Emperor Ch'ien Lung, and I have explained, either in the text or in the glossary, all specifically Chinese terms and allusions. Chinese names, for those unfamiliar with the language, are hard to remember and I have tried, on principles explained below (p. 213), to reduce to a minimum the number of persons mentioned. When possible I have given the dates of people who figure in the story, partly to indicate whether they were contemporaries or belong to past history, and partly because it may be inferred, if the dates are known, that they were people of some reputation and importance.

I have not attempted to put down seriatim everything that happened to Yuan Mei or to discuss everything that he wrote. There is still scope for a full-scale biography, addressed to specialists, and dealing with every aspect of his life and writings. I have concentrated rather on whatever in his story has a general human interest, and on translating such of his poems as can be made intelligible without an undue amount of explanation.

Personally, I find him a lovable, witty, generous, affectionate, hot-tempered, wildly prejudiced man; a writer of poetry that even at its lightest always has an undertone of deep feeling and at its saddest may at any moment light a sudden spark of fun. My hope is that this book will make a certain number of readers feel about him as I do.

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