Traditional Chinese Fiction and Fiction Commentary: Reading and Writing between the Lines

By David L. Rolston | Go to book overview

2
Dealing with Jin Shengtan and the Rest of the "Four Masterworks"

The Maos, Li Yu, and the Sanguo yanyi

We have already noted some of the connections between Mao Zonggang and Jin Shengtan. Both were natives of the Suzhou region, and they corresponded with each other. Contemporaries described Mao Zonggang as a follower of Jin Shengtan,1 and publishers worked Jin Shengtan's name into editions of the Mao Sanguo yanyi commentary. If the original edition had a literary patron, however, it was Li Yu, who wrote a preface for it dated 1680.2 Whether the commentary on that novel attributed to Li Yu appeared before or after Li Yu's death, it pays the Maos the compliment of borrowing from their textual revisions and comments.

The first commentary published by Mao Zonggang and Mao Lun, Diqi caizi shu (The seventh work of genius; prefaces 1665 and 1666), was on the Pipa ji. This commentary avoids mentioning Jin Shengtan even as it borrows his system of numbered "works of genius" for its title.3 The commentary is unusual in that it includes a selection of comments on the play by earlier critics, because, according to Mao Lun, "If one looks at the comments by the various gentlemen in the past, one will know that my praise of the Pipa ji today is not without foundation. Also, if one looks at the comments of the various gentlemen in the past, then one will know that my comments take an entirely different approach, and I have not dared to

____________________
1
See Liao Yan's biography of Jin Shengtan, JSTXXJ 311. The twentieth-century critic Xie Tao later referred to Mao Zonggang's father, Mao Lun, less politely as Jin Shengtan "echobug" (yingsheng chong) (Xiaoshuo hua [ "Talks on fiction"; 1919], Lunzhu xuan, 2: 473).
2
The preface is commonly dated to 1679, but the month given actually fell in 1680. See Chang and Chang, p. 126n152.
3
The preface by You Tong not only omits Jin Shengtan from the list of famous commentators (which includes Mao Lun), but also directly contradicts Jin Shengtan on the "continuations" of the Shuihu zhuan and the Xixiang ji he attributed to Luo Guanzhong and Guan Hanqing (ca. 1240-ca. 1320), respectively. In his own preface, Mao Lun refers to Jin Shengtan only as the "preface writer" to the Shuihu zhuan. See PPJZLHB273, 276.

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