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