Academic journal article Chinese Literature, Essays, Articles, Reviews

Authorship and Transmission in Kong Shangren's Self-Commentary of the Peach Blossom Fan *

Academic journal article Chinese Literature, Essays, Articles, Reviews

Authorship and Transmission in Kong Shangren's Self-Commentary of the Peach Blossom Fan *

Article excerpt

(ProQuest: ... denotes non-USASCII text omitted.)

The play Taohua shan (Peach Blossom Fan) is unique in the Chinese chuanqi tradition insofar as no chuanqi text has ever been composed in such a scholarly fashion, heavily furnished with different strata of textual and exegetical apparatus.1 There are two opening editorial prefaces (Taohua shan xiaoyin/xiaozhi ... followed by five editorial notes (kaoju ... evidential basis, gangling Щ ?K organizational chart, fanli ... editorial principles, benmo ... origin and formation of the play and qimo ... role-type and prop table), all penned under the playwright Kong Shangren's (1648-1718) name. On the textual plane, the script is densely surrounded by unsigned marginalia and interlinear comments, and each act is concluded with a postact overview.

Kong Shangren broaches the issue of his textual apparatus in his benmo note:

Those who read Taohua shan came up with prefatory dedications and postscripts, which I have appended to the beginning and end of the text. There are also critical and poetic comments. Now the marginalia are placed at the top of each page and the general observations on scenes at the end of each scene. These comments carefully ponder my original intentions, and have not missed even one part of a hundred, in every case I have availed my readers' trusted pens to write them, and they are found across the length and breadth of these pages. I can no longer recall which comes from which reader's hand; now I preserve them all to show my respect for those who know my intentions. (p.20-21)


Declaring that these commentaries are gathered from his readers' responses, Kong also acknowledged losing the record, in the circulation process, for tracking down who wrote each one. He used this occasion to acknowledge his indebtedness to the readership of his circle. Moreover, under this "compiler's" guise he is transmitting the critical responses from those who know him (zhiji), as a part of his quest for being understood. Under the guise of recording and compilation, he can present himself as following his ancestor Confucius's model: "transmitting instead of authoring."2

After completing his annotations for the 1925 printing of Taohua shan, Liang Qichao ... (1873-1929) followed Li Ciming's ... judgment in his diary Yueman tang riji (the third day of the twelfth month of the year 1886 entry) to conclude that the commentary was penned by Kong Shangren himself over many months. Wu Xinlei ..., the first modern scholar to seriously investigate the question, presents several points confirming Liang's proposition :3 (1) The marginal gloss in the final scene stated that Master of Ritual is Kong Shangren himself, followed by another marginal gloss telling Kong Shangren's birthday, as a response to the chuanqi text's statement about Master of Ritual's birthday; (2) His review of the post-act-26 observation found that the date of Kong Shangren's interview of Madam Hou chronologically matches his career recorded in his biography (my article will elaborate on this); (3) His stylistic analysis of Kong Shangren's diction observed in the commentary a certain common pattern of usage, characteristic of the playwright's writing,; (4) Some marginal comments, as in act 27, made references to certain lines of Kong Shangren's poems included in his extant corpus such as Huhai ji ... Although Wu's arguments for Kong Shangren's selfcommentary are based on intra- or inter-textual instead of historically documented evidence, together they form a convincing whole. If that is the case, then the entire textual apparatus can be considered the playwright's self-exegesis. In this essay, I will follow Wu Xinlei's line of argument and investigate some critical issues concerning playwright's self-exegetic practice: could this textual apparatus be considered an organic whole, manipulated by the playwright? What hermeneutical mode operates behind his self-exegesis? Most importantly, how does this self-exegesis contribute to our understanding of his "authorship? …

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