Auto-commentary: The "Xiyou bu" and the "Shuihu houzhuan"
Some Chinese novelists apparently felt the anxiety attributed by Jin Shengtan and Zhang Zhupo to their authors that later generations might not understand their works, for they took the practical step of providing their own commentaries for their novels and short stories. In this chapter we will examine several examples of this, paying particular attention to the integral role of the commentary in the author's artistic conception of the fictional works.
Provision by creative writers of supplementary information as an aid to the reader's understanding has a long tradition in Chinese literature. Much Chinese poetry is of the occasional variety, and poets would often specify the occasion through long, detailed titles or prefaces, or identify places or persons in interlineal notes (for examples, see Dudbridge, p. 21; and Waley, Yüan Met, p. 171). Western scholars who deplore the lack of footnotes in modern Chinese scholarly works and applaud recent improvements in this area should not forget that the tradition of providing annotations to one's historical works dates back to the Shiji and the Hanshu.1 These annotations generally provided supplementary information, but material bearing on the author's life and the interpretation of his work was often included in the last chapter of a historical or philosophical work. The Shiji and the Lunheng (Balanced disquisitions) by Wang Chong (27-97?) are examples of this in a historical and a philosophical work, respectively. None of these cases, however, involves interpretive commentaries of the pingdian type.
In literary-language fiction, especially in chuanqi tales, it was common to append an epilogue in which the author commented on the tale, explained the origin of the story, and/or introduced himself. Although these passages almost always appeared at the end of the tales, they fulfilled some of the____________________