The stories presented here are selections from Chinese narrative genres known as chih-kuai (records of anomalies) and ch’uan-ch’i (accounts of the extraordinary). These are fictional narratives in classical language produced mainly during the Six Dynasties (317-589) and the T’ang (618-906) respectively, although the anecdotal tradition which included chih-kuai flourished until the beginning of the twentieth century. For the ch’uan-ch’i selections, only those that involve supernatural or supranormal phenomena (which we will refer to as T’ang chih-kuai) are included to maintain a sense of homogeneity of the materials that the terms “the supernatural” and “the fantastic” of the title hope to suggest. These terms are used to signal certain qualities detectable in these stories, but we must hasten to add that the tales collected here have features and characteristics distinct from the supernatural and the fantastic of the Western tradition.
In the West, the supernatural as a literary genre may include myths, the folktale, and the fairy tale: it features supernatural beings such as gods and goddesses, fairies and demons, and goblins and ghosts in an extended narrative. Events in the fantastic narrative often include manifestations of the irrational and the eerie which may evoke the sense of uncanniness and at times inspire horror. The fantastic is a mode of representation associated with works ranging from the gothic novel to the horror story, a mode practiced by such authors as Walpole, Poe, Hoffmann, Henry James, and Pynchon. Although differentiable in literary history, the supernatural and the fantastic both belong to the category of literary fantasies and share the same notion of otherness by providing an alternative to the experiences of the common-sense, mundane world. Recently there has been much interest shown in the supernatural and the fantastic by way of the study of myths and fairy tales. With respect to the fantastic in particular, these critical efforts have made possible the description of the subject in a rigorous manner.1 Despite overlapping in certain aspects, the supernatural and the fantastic can be differentiated in terms of the nature of the events presented and of the reader’s perception of the events--whether he accepts them as real, rejects them as illusory, or is left suspended in indeterminacy. The last of these, according to Tzvetan Todorov, is what distinguishes the fantastic from its neighboring genres.
In the present anthology, the terms “fantastic” and “supernatural” have their own particular areas of reference. To avoid confusion, it may be advisable to make a preliminary clarification of their specific usages at this point. First of all, the fantastic and the supernatural are to be understood primarily as referring to the types of reality represented rather than to the mode of representation employed. In Western literature, the supernatural and the fantastic, as their association with the term fantasy suggests, are conceived mainly from the angle of creative perception (the author’s projection of his vision) rather than from that of the reality represented. Within the Chinese context, the opposite orientation is assumed: Six Dynasties chih-kuai particularly are considered as the “records” of facts and observable natural phenomena (or hearsay). In the Chinese tradition, the distinction between “fantastic” and “supernatural” is based on the nature of these “facts.” Thus, some of the tales here may be considered as belonging to the category of the supernatural in that they represent phenomena that exist beyond the observable world or occurrences that apparently transcend the laws of nature; while other tales are fantastic because their stories involve what is supranormal or so highly extraordinary as to become unnatural, though not necessarily supernatural. Underlying the recording of the supernatural stories is a belief in supernaturalism and magic, as well as an acceptance of the unnatural and the supranormal at their face value as factual. These events were recorded in the first place, in fact, because of their testimonial value to supernaturalism. Insofar as that belief was never completely discredited in traditional Chinese culture (particularly in the popular strand of that culture), both the supernatural and the fantastic phenomena are accepted by the reader (or the author) as real due to their “origin” in the natural world.
In this sense, the distinction between the supernatural and the fantastic is not chronological: both the supernatural and the fantastic are to be found in Six Dynasties and Τ’ang works of chih-kuai. This point is important to bear in mind, for in the West the fantastic is distinctly a later product than the supernatural in literary history. If the Western supernatural shares with the Chinese species the belief in magic and the marvelous (where participation of gods and goddesses in human affairs and man’s communion with nature were still possible), the development of the Western fantastic is a corollary to a change of consciousness that began to be felt in the eighteenth century, a change which arose as part of a differentiation of the self and the other, as part of a new conception of the self and its relationship with the outside world. The fantastic was a product of an uneasy, “pulverized” consciousness resulting from the loss of faith in the unity of man and nature with the advent of the Enlightenment, when the belief in animism and magic was no longer possible. Upon the Chinese scene there was no such schism of consciousness; rather, in the Τ’ang dynasty, there was a change in literary awareness, in the attitude towards the processing of the represented reality (instead of the conception of reality itself).2 In addition, the Chinese supernatural and fantastic, never caught in the experience of alienation from nature, rarely inspire horror. Nor are they tormented by any indeterminacy in the character’s or the reader’s attitude towards the supernatural manifestation in the human world that characterizes the Western fantastic.
With these broad distinctions established, we may now turn to look at the phenomena of the supernatural and the fantastic (i.e., the kuai phenomena) more specifically by differentiating various types of kuai in terms of their cultural origins. Following that, we will briefly discuss the questions of the compilation and preservation of chih-kuai collections. The classification of types here will later serve as the basis for the description of the structures of chih-kuai narratives.
I. A typology of the kuai phenomena
The Six Dynasties chih-kuai (CK hereafter), as a genre, appeared in the form of collections of relatively short pieces of anomalous and supernatural events, and took the factor of kuai as the basic generic feature.3 Mostly narrative, CK pieces sometimes may be composed of nothing but descriptions of strange objects or accounts of some irregular state of affairs. This body of writing is considered to contain prototypes of Chinese fiction, or Chinese fiction in its first manifestation. It influenced and contributed to the formation of later fiction in both the classical and vernacular languages. In addition, it served as a source of allusions for poetry in later eras and often provided plots for the dramas of the Yüan and Ming dynasties.
Originating mainly in folk traditions, the CK narratives are legends and stories associated with popular culture and reflecting the belief systems of the people. But popular culture is often only the refraction of certain convictions and outlooks of high culture, as the two realms inevitably influence each other. Most of the kuai types can be traced back to cultural themes in the sanctioned belief systems of the state, and often appeal to conventional philosophical and religious authority. From the selections in this anthology six basic constituent types of the supernatural and fantastic can be identified,4 some of which are familiar in other cultures. In the Chinese context, they may appear independently or in conjunction with each other, and in a variety of shapes.5
1. Portents and augury: irregularities in the natural order seen as portents or signs with cosmological significance.
2. Necromantic communion: manifestations of ghosts and spirits and pneumatological communication.
3. Animistic phenomena: manifestations of animal transformations and transformations of the inanimate objects of nature, and their interactions with human beings.
4. Communion with transcendent beings: manifestations of fairies and deities and their trafficking with humans.
5. Thaumaturgic phenomena: manifestations of magic feats and transformations associated with fang-shih (thaumaturges) and Taoist magicians.
6. Retributive phenomena: divine retributions and miracles related to the Buddhist faith and native Chinese beliefs.
These phenomena are all associated with particular aspects of Chinese culture, and their origins are thereby traceable. They are however all quite complex: each of them could constitute a field of inquiry in itself. Our explanation and reference to them, of necessity, must be sketchy. In the list of types given above (which is not exhaustive), the first phenomenon, that of augury, is related to the Chinese cosmological theory that conceives of a correspondence between human affairs and the cosmic order of being. Human affairs (including the conduct of government), in other words, share the principles of operation that underly the workings of the universe, and must abide by the same set of rules. Violation of these rules is a violation of cosmic principles which will cause a disruption of the natural order and the appearance of irregularities in nature.6 Conceptualized in the yin-yang and wu-hsing (Five Phases) theories at the end of the Former Han dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 24), this belief took on the specific form of ch’an-wei (apocryphal interpretation of classics and deciphering of omens),7 a government supported trend not curbed until the Sui dynasty (581-618). Unusual occurrences in nature, interpreted as omens in accordance with the yin-yang and wu-hsing theories, were often recorded in official histories since the Han. The histories, in turn, became an important source for the CK compilers.8 Included in this class of signs are premonitory dreams (featured regularly in Chinese prognostications) and children’s ditties that, in the manner of a riddle, often foretell the downfall of a political figure or calamitous affairs of the state. In itself, the appearance of a portent does not usually have much potential for narrative development, and it often occurs together with, or is assimiliated into, other kuai types. The related phenomenon of the accurate prediction of the future by divination based on the I-ching or by Taoist arts, however, may be told independently for its own sake.
The second type of kuai phenomenon, the necromantic communion, derives from the belief in the existence of spirits, and in particular, of spirits as the manifestations of departed souls. Associated with various cultural phenomena such as ancestor worship, shamanistic cults, and the cult of fang-shu (alchemy and necromancy, see below), the belief is conceptualized in as early a text as the Mo-tzu (latter half of fifth century B.C.), if not earlier. The “Ming kuei” chapter of Mo-tzu affirms the existence of ghosts (many citations from earlier records are offered as “proofs” of their existence) for a moralistic purpose and stresses the precept of retribution: ghosts will reward the worthy and ineluctably punish the evil.9 The often-cited statement by Kan Pao , one of the most important of all CK authors, that his purpose in compiling the Sou-shen chi (In Search of the Spirits) was to provide evidence that “the way of spirits is not an illusion,”10 can be placed squarely in this tradition. The existence of ghosts is the basic issue, and in the CK accounts the “evidence” is often presented in the form of pneumatological communication between the living and the dead. Often the phenomenon is presented in terms of the crossing of the boundary between “the light” (ming ) and “the dark” (yu ) (or “the visible” and “the invisible”), with a sense of transgression suggested by its abnormality. As a realization of this evidence, marriage between a human and the spirit of a dead person (involving an after-life sexual union) and the transmission of a message from the world beyond to the human world through dreams are the most frequently encountered situations in CK tales. In this context, Mt. T’ai (or T’ai-shan ) is a common locale for the stories, as it is the place, in Chinese belief, to which the souls of the dead were taken (see footnote 2 to the first story, “Chiang Ch’i’s Dead Son”).
In the Chinese traditions, there are two kinds of ghosts, or kuei . Besides the apparitions of the dead, kuei also designates supernatural beings existing in the animistic world, where animal transformations and transformations of inanimate objects, the “emanations” from nature, are part of natural reality.11 These creatures are properly called yao , kuai and ching (goblins and demons), shan-kuei and shui-kuei (genii and nymphs), and ch’ih-mei and wang-liang (ogres, evil spirits of forests and waters). These creatures or beings inhabit the world of nature, the world beyond human civilization. They normally lurk in the wilderness, but occasionally may intrude into the human world to beguile humans (e.g., appearing in the form of a woman in order to seduce a man). Accounts of strange creatures from the lands peripheral to China or unfamiliar to its culture, such as those recorded in the works that follow the tradition of Shan-hai ching (Classic of Mountains and Waters), can also be considered as belonging to this type of story. Such creatures normally do not interact with humans, and the accounts of them are more descriptive than narrative (they are therefore only sparsely represented in this anthology).
The fourth type of supernatural tale presents trafficking between transcendent beings and humans. Sometimes the transcendent beings are female deities who come from a world opposed to the netherworld of type two mentioned above, and sometimes they are good fairies that may be contrasted with the wild creatures of the uncivilized world of type three. Their involvements and relationships with humans, again often by way of marriage, are mostly benevolent in nature. The relationships also involve a crossing of the boundary as in types two and three. Although such cross-boundary relationships are not considered a transgression, they tend to last only for a limited amount of time, as in the necromantic situation. Culturally, this type seems to stem from the same roots that gave rise to the myths of goddesses and divine women in China,12 but it tends to be conflated with the Taoist tradition when realized in CK. As a result, a human’s union with a female deity, or his sojourn in the land of the immortals, tends to become an act symbolizing the state of transcendence to which Taoist adepts aspire.
The ways the supernatural elements are manifested in the remaining two types of kuai are very much determined by their connections with the Buddhist and native religious traditions. What is labeled as the kuai of the thaumaturgic phenomena (type 5) arose largely from the immortality cult and the alchemical practices common to popular Taoism and its precursor, fang-shu (thaumaturgy).13 As seen in the present collection, this strand of stories comes mainly from the Shen-hsien chuan (Biographies of Deities and Immortals) by Ko Hung (280-340) (cf. the biography sections for fang-shih magicians in the Hou Han shu and San-kuo chih ). They relate primarily the thaumaturgic manifestations of fang-shih magicians and Taoist adepts or neophites engaged in magic transformations or the pursuit of the alchemic art of eternal life.
The kuai of divine retributions, the last type listed above, are of two kinds: that of the native origins and that associated with Buddhism. Buddhist stories of retributions are mostly manifestations of the working of the karmic law. As CK, they occur most often in the context of the “eyewitness” report of Buddhist hell (accounts of tortures and punishments meted out to sinners in Yama’s court according to the nature of their transgressions in life) and the revenge of the spirits who were wronged when alive. On the whole, tales of Buddhist retributions (and other features such as magic transformations) are assimilated into the vernacular, oral tradition, rather than the classical traditiion.14 The main element retained in the Buddhist tales composed in the classical language (particularly after the T’ang dynasty) is the manifestation of karma and predestination as they are conjoined with features of Taoist narratives. The indigenous conception of retribution may be considered as parallel to the social and ethical precepts of reciprocation that govern human relations in Chinese society in general. More specifically, belief in the divine retribution probably is related to the idea of a transcendent intelligence (Heaven) that controls human conducts by a system of reward and punishment.15 In CK stories, the working of retribution often takes the form of a good turn done to a supernatural being by a human who is later rewarded unexpectedly for what he did.
The above is an account of some of the most prominent of the themes seen in Six Dynasties CK. However, any particular story is likely to have two or more such themes combined in a single frame of presentation. This syncretic tendency is especially true of the CK in its later development, where, for example, originally distinct Taoist and Buddhist tales tend to become mixed. By the Τ’ang dynasty, necromantic wonders are often combined with natural aberrations from stories of immortality cults. In fact, with the Τ’ang CK, the issue is not so much what kinds of anomalies or supernatural themes are presented in a tale, as how they are represented (regarding this point, more below). Nevertheless, with respect to kuai typology, T’ang tales did introduce some types of anomalies of their own, as some of the Six Dynasties types gradually disappeared or were excluded from CK writings. The tales based on “true” Taoist biographies and Buddhist miracles, for instance, were recognized as distinct in subject and were removed from the category of fictional narrative in the T’ang to form specialized anthologies. On the other hand, the old notion of predestination, blending the Buddhist karmic law with the idea of cyclical alternation of wu-hsing theory, became increasingly prevalent. As for the newly introduced themes, the readily observable ones include the following, some of which were not really new, as their origins could be traced back to an earlier time.
1. Black magic that transforms humans into beasts.
2. The process of alchemical concoction manifested as a psychological trial of perilous encounters.
3. Dragon lore that features human involvement in the family feuds of dragon clans.
4. Predestination or revelation of what is in store for a man in the future.
5. New kinds of strangeness involved in dream phenomena.
6. Knight-errantry that admits supernatural/fantastic elements.
The first of these, the theme of black magic, may be considered in the larger context of magic transformations in CK. Three kinds of human transformations may be distinguished in CK stories: the self-induced transformation of the Taoist and Buddhist saints, the metamorphosis of man into beast or other creatures without apparent cause,16 and the transformation of humans into bestial forms caused by a third party, usually through the use of black magic. The first two kinds are common in the Six Dynasties; the third is new in the Τ’ang, but can be traced back to the black magic of wu-ku sorcery in the shamanistic tradition.17 Although occurring early in its folk provenance, the phenomenon does not appear often in the early CK. In this anthology, it is represented for the first time by the T’ang tale “Third Lady of the Wooden Bridge” (86).18
The second theme, the alchemical pursuit, which is somewhat similar to the trials of Taoist neophites, but depicted in terms of a psychological quest, is seen in tales like “Hsiao Tung-hsüan” (88).19 The source of this particular motif has been identified as the legend of the “Lieh-shih ch’ih” (The Pool of the Man of Fortitude) contained in the Hsi-yü chi (Records of the Western Regions) by Hsüan-tsang (596-664),20 an origin which explains the striking, foreign flavor of the psychological theme of these stories, one which would yield readily to a Jungian interpretation.
Type three, tales about the feuds of dragon clans and the involvement of human beings in these affairs, seems to be a new strand in the T’ang, but in fact it evolved out of earlier myths and legends of water gods and goddesses and animal lore.21 Originally a totem for many Chinese tribes, the dragon is generally presented in early philosophical texts as an auspicious symbol or as a real creature associated with rain and water. By T’ang times, dragon lore is found in a wide variety of sources (including Buddhist sources), which present the creature with various shades of meaning. The dragon is at once divine (hence superior to man) and bestial (hence inferior to man). It is considered as the most spiritual and intelligent (ling ) among the “scaly creatures” (of the “five categories of creatures”), as man is the most spiritual and intelligent among the “bare-skinned creatures;” and this is so because the dragon observes the ethical precepts and moral code of the human.22
Type four, predestination, is an old theme from the Six Dynasties, but it appeared there only occasionally and was often subordinate to other themes (such as in “Lu Chung” , where it appears as a secondary motif supplementing the necromantic theme). In the T’ang the theme became prevalent. Chinese belief in predestination probably has to do with the wu-hsing theory, but in the early stage, it was associated with the notion of the Heavenly Decree that controls the fate of a ruling house. We begin to have a distinct statement relating to the determination of a person’s fate in Pan Ku’s (32-92) Pai-hu t’ung, where three kinds of ming (destiny) are specified for a man, one of them, tsao-ming , being what will happen in his life.23 Predestination developed into a prominent theme in T’ang CK very likely due to the re-enforcement in the belief given by the Buddhist doctrin of karma. The manifestation of the concept in Τ’ang stories (e.g., a predetermined marriage) is often described with the Buddhist terminology, such as yüan (cause; a predestined relationship).
Types five and six, the kuai associated with dreams and knight-errantry, involve basically only human beings in the field of action (as opposed to other types which feature non-humans as agents of the supernatural occurrences). Accounts of strange phenomena generated in dreams seem to point to a conscious exploration of mental states as the source of supernatural “reality,” a reality derived from fantasy or originated within instead of without. As such, this represents a vein of psychologically oriented fiction in the direction of the Western fantastic and surrealism. In the Chinese tradition this vein has never been allowed to develop fully. The farthest it has gone has been the parapsychological dreams of CK stories.24 In T’ang tales, dreams occasionally are shown to consist of genuine kuai (see, for instance, “A Record of Three Dreams” ), but on the whole they are used primarily as an allegorical vehicle, to show the Taoist-Buddhist view of the ephemerality and the illusion of human life.
As for the presentation of the superhuman skills of hsia, or Chinese knight-errants, we can detect a tendency of the imagination to produce a wish-fulfillment type of fantasy from historical materials and earlier narrative genres. The hsia genre in the late T’ang is traceable to the literary accounts of yu-hsia (wandering men of martial skills, or swordsmen) recorded in the Shih-chi (Records of the Grand Historian) by Ssu-ma Ch’ien (145?-90? B.C.), and its popularity reflected socio-historical conditions similar to those of the late Warring States period (475-221 B.C.) when the yu-hsia first flourished. During the last half of the T’ang, local military governments (chieh-tu-shih or fan-chen ) grew increasingly more powerful and were more and more unruly in their rivalry for power as though they were autonomous states independent of the central government. Swordsmen were enlisted for their services in these rivalries. As a consequence, emphasis on the precept of “loyalty” and on the endeavor to “right wrongs by taking the law in one’s own hand,” which characterized the behavior of the original breed of knights-errant, is replaced in late T’ang tales by an emphasis on the display of superhuman prowess, sometimes so intensified as to become plainly supernatural. Here the rhetorical device of hyperbole, properly applied, has produced some of the most effective narratives in this anthology. An additional feature shown in these stories--the Taoist tendency to make the hsia hero or heroine retire from the human world after his or her accomplishment of a mission--indicates the unorthodox or non-Confucian nature of the solution the hsia provides to social and political problems.
As the nature of the supernatural and fantastic events plays a forceful role in determining the shape of the narrative, the six types discussed above also entail different narrative structures, which shall be discussed later. Before dealing with the structural question, we should briefly look into the question of the compilation of CK collections.
II. Compilation of Six Dynasties Collections
It was during the Six Dynasties that CK collections started to appear in great number.25 But what were the reasons for such a sudden surge, and who were the authors/compilers of these collections? Owing to the “unorthodox” status accorded by traditional scholars to fiction or hsiao-shuo (which literally means “small talks”), not much information about the circumstances surrounding the compilation of CK collections has been preserved. Understanding the CK as a narrative literature depends very much on clarifying the circumstances and motivations for the compilation of the collections, but few facts about them are available. The problem is aggravated further by frequent fabrications or false attributions of authorship. We often have to rely on indirect information and conjecture to relate the collections to their historical circumstances.
Literary activity in the Six Dynasties period was conducted mostly within circles of closely related men of letters, including sovereigns, members of the royal houses, and their ministers, usually scholar-officials. Coteries of educated men often engaged in intellectual exchanges on topics ranging from literature to politics and philosophical and moral issues. Their exchanges were conducted in the form of highbrow debates as well as social gossip.26 Some CK anthologies of the Six Dynasties and earlier were probably put together by men such as these, who were associated with the royal courts. Among them were literati-officials such as court historians as well as the peripheral members like fang-shih magicians, although it is not clear in what manner these men undertook the work and to what extent they can be said to have actually written the entries in these collections. For all we know, the work of compilation may have involved the gathering of hearsay and legends and recording them in one’s own words or those of one’s informant. Sometimes it may have been simply a culling and transcribing of materials from existing written sources. One of the earliest known collections, Lieh-i chuan (Display of Marvels) has been attributed to Ts’ao P’i (186-226), Emperor Wen of the Wei dynasty . Ts’ao Pi grew up under the influence of Ts’ao Ts’ao (155-220), a man who maintained a robust interest in many intellectual matters in addition to his political activities, and might well have had an intellectual curiosity about CK materials as a result of personal contact with fang-shih magicians at court. But it is unikely that he would have compiled such materials to advance the belief systems they represented.27 On the other hand, it is not unreasonable to think that fang-shih magicians or men connected with their profession might have been responsible for starting such collections as a way of propagating their beliefs and advancing their careers. They might have gathered or written the materials for the members of the ruling class, especially for the sovereigns themselves, for the purpose of entertaining them, courting their favors, or winning their faith in the magic arts.28 Collections with kuai phenomena of predominantly Buddhist and Taoist origins were apparently compiled by men who advocated and practiced the religious faith reflected in the collections. The author of the Shen-hsien chuan (Biographies of the Deities and Immortals), Ko Hung (280-340), also wrote the Pao-p’u-tzu (The Master Who Embraces Simplicity), a philosophical text which states an unequivocal belief in the existence of transcendent beings and in the possibility of humans achieving immortality through correct alchemical cultivation.29 His writing of the Shen-hsien chuan may be seen as an attempt to elevate the Taoist faith by creating a canon of hagiography to embody the mysteries of the faith. Similarly, the presumed author of the Shih-i chi (Records of Historical Remnants), Wang Chia (d. ca. 390), was a renowned hermit and Taoist adept versed in the art of pi-ku (abstinence from grains as part of the regimen of the immortality cult).30 Such collections as the Ming-hsiang chi (Manifestations from the Dead) by Wang Yen (5th Cent.) and Huan-yüan chi (Accounts of Requiting Grievances) by Yen Chih-t’ui (b. 531), were compiled by literati-officials with the explicit intention of propagating their Buddhist credo. Stories in some collections sometimes reflect the conflicts or rivalries between a belief system stemming from the native culture, such as shamanism or Taoism, and another stemming from a foreign culture such as Buddhism (see, for instance, “Shu Li,” )--indicating a religious motivation in their compilation. Liu I-ch’ing (403-444), Prince of Lin-ch’uan of the Liu Sung dynasty and author of the Shih-shuo hsin-yü (see n. 23), is credited (probably correctly) with the authorship of the Yu-ming lu (Records of the Dead and the Living) because he embraced the Buddhist faith near the end of his life.
Many of the CK anthologies are works by official or self-appointed historians. As Kenneth J. DeWoskin has argued, the origin of CK collections had much to do with the historians’ gathering of materials for writing the dynastic histories. The rapid expansion of fields of learning at the time gave historians license to admit non-canonic subjects into their purview, including expertise in foreign things and exotic places and objects.31 The best example of this is Kan Pao, who was appointed by Emperor Yüan of the Chin dynasty (r. 317-323) to compile a history of the Chin: the materials collected in the Sou-shen chi may well be the by-product of what DeWoskin has described as an “ethnographic” endeavor carried out primarily for the official work. Another historian-compiler of a CK anthology is Wu Chün (569-519), who was also a well known literary stylist of his time.
From these various cases, it may be generalized that the motivations of the Six Dynasties compilers are of three types: they were either explicitly tendentious, disinterested, or implicitly tendentious. Anthologies with an explicit tendentious purpose are mostly religious in nature; whereas the disinterested collections comprise mainly the ethnographic field work undertaken by historians (i.e., disinterested, at least theoretically speaking). Within this group may also be placed collections such as the Sou-shen hou-chi (Sequel to the Search for Spirits) and Shu-i chi (Records of Marvels). Although it may be assumed that materials in these have been preserved mainly with an “objective” attitude toward their value as “historical facts,” the material is by no means unrelated to the subjective persuasion of the collectors, since the very nature of the materials themselves (fiction given the credibility of fact) involves such a question. Kan Pao’s Sou-shen chi is a case in point: in his effort to preserve all materials, including those of supernatural phenomena, he was also guided by his personal belief in the factuality of the supernatural.32 In a less obvious manner, the intellectual curiosity of the ruling class concerning those folk materials may well have been mixed with the practical consideration of using them to observe the common people’s values and beliefs, as well as their attitudes toward the ruling house, as in the tradition of collecting folk songs. The theory suggested by various scholars that these materials were used by the displaced northern ruling class as an aid to their understanding of the local southern culture is grounded in this practical consideration.
Be it implicitly or explicitly motivated, the Six Dynasties attitude towards the CK revolved essentially around the question of facticity: the phenomena recorded were in general accepted as real. The possibility of considering CK materials as figments of the imagination, as pure literary fantasy, was a problem that never rose to the level of conscious consideration (this is the main point that distinguishes the Six Dynasties attitude from that of the T’ang). Moreover, there was an unconscious motivation for the interest in CK that underlies this attitude of unquestioning facticity. The phenomena recorded in CK literature carried with them the assumption that the natural world (including the supernatural) was governed by the same set of laws as that of the human world. Recognition and acceptance of the supernatural as part of the reality of the natural world allowed man to participate in a larger reality beyond the rationalistic one. Such a “naturalization” of the human world allowed for the maintenance of a holistic view of life; it made possible a sense of unity with the entire environment, both internal and external.
III. The rise of T’ang chih-kuai
Criticism of CK as unreliable sources of history by later historians developed gradually,33 but by the T’ang the change was complete, and with it there occurred a shift in the attitudes of T’ang authors towards their own writing of CK. Apparently the quality of being fantastic and supernatural still distinguished the narrative fiction of T’ang CK, but on the whole, the perspective had changed from that of a fact/fiction dichotomy to an orientation which was concerned essentially with the esthetic of presentation. The Six Dynasties writers presented their materials as given or found, and except for a few cases, there was a lack of self-consciousness in the process of presentation. For T’ang writers, matters of presentation in general came to occupy the forefront of their consideration. In literary transmission the holistic perception of nature and the sense of unity with supernatural realities that characterized the Six Dynasties attitude persisted in most of the T’ang CK.34 Nevertheless, there was a growing tendency in literature to feed on the cultural themes found in CK tales, rather than looking to nature as the only source of literary creativity. The new CK literature was now generated mostly through the reprocessing of old literature and the explorations of its linguistic properties and literary conventions. It is a creativity based on the use of literary motifs, instead of reference to the external reality. In other words, even as “naturalization” remained an accepted stance towards the facticity of supernatural events, the process of their assimilation into the “natural” was seen from a new point of view: the “raw materials” of kuai were being transformed by the newly evolving T’ang literary imagination into the products of a “civilized” world.35
From the vantage point of literary history, the rise of ch’uan-ch’i has been attributed to a number of factors and conditions or stimuli. These can be summarized as follows: (1) the conditions bequeathed by the narrative tradition of Six Dynasties CK and the descriptive skills developed in p’ien-wen (parallel prose); (2) a reinforcement of the use of the narrative mode by the ku-wen (archaizing prose) movement; (3) the stimulus provided by the oral story-telling tradition; and (4) the increasing importance to men of letters of the civil service examinations and particularly of the chin-shih degree examination which tested, among other subjects, the ability to write literary compositions.
The legacy of the Six Dynasties CK provided T’ang writers with examples of a new narrative outside the orthodox historiographic tradition, as well as a storehouse of story materials for reworking. These materials, which possessed the inherent interest of being fantastic, provided an appealing alternative to the subject matter of history and work-a-day reality. Six Dynasties p’ien-wen also contributed to the development of the ch’uan-ch’i. A T’ang attempt to press the parallel structures of p’ien-wen into the service of both narrative and descriptive purposes can be seen in the story, “Yu-hsien к’u” (Abode of the Playful Goddesses).36 Although the form failed to prove effective for narrative, and the endeavor was not repeated again until the Ch’ing dynasty, the effect of parallel structure on description in T’ang CK is evident. (Indeed, the use of parallel prose manifested itself even in the vernacular fiction in later ages.) The influence of p’ien-wen was thus on stylistic refinement and literary elegance rather than on the practice of narrative per se. The ku-wen movement, a reaction against the artificiality and ornamentation of p’ien-wen, may also have contributed to the writing of ch’uan-ch’i. Han Yü (768-824) and Liu Ts’ung-yüan (773-819), two influential ku-wen writers of the T’ang, for example, composed some of the most refreshing and ingenious narrative fantasies and “biographies” (chuan ) of the contemporary plebeians.37 The best way to evaluate the relation, however, is to say that the movement provided a flexible style and effective tool for recounting events in the form of ku-wen prose. Story-telling, known to have been popular at least from the mid-T’ang on, seems also to have supplied a stimulus for fiction in classical prose: besides the stories given during the Buddhist sermons, for instance, “Li Wa chuan” commonly recognized to be based on a story transmitted orally.38 Finally, there was the external condition of the civil service examination system. After the late seventh century, the examination system was the main channel through which the government recruited its civil servents and the literati sought advancement in officialdom. Insofar as the practices of t’ou-chüan “presentation of scrolls” (to the prospective examiners), and wen-chüan, , “warming-up of scrolls,” did encourage the writing of fictional narrative as a demonstration of a candidate’s literary skills, desire for a career in the civil service may have been one of the most immediate and powerful incentives for the actual production of ch’uan-ch’i, a large number of which are in the CK genre.39
How and to what extent the factors discussed above may have contributed to the rise of T’ang ch’uan-ch’i and chih-kuai remains a subject of debate and speculation. A possible area of related inquiry is the question of personal motivation as seen from the internal evidence of the works themselves. As in the Six Dynasties collections, the motivation may be of two general classes: it may be with or without pragmatic purpose. Included in the former is the practical use of literature for career advancement mentioned above (this may also be the most compelling motivation). More specifically, stories may be used pragmatically for entertaining one’s superior, courting favors from someone in power, or attacking one’s political enemies, the last of these often appeared in allegorical mode. Considering the fact that political allegories are found so commonly in the poetry of the T’ang and before, such a pragmatic application of the fictional genre is only to be expected; what is surprising is that there are no more than a few examples that can be readily identified as such.40 Under the category of non-pragmatic purposes may be given the moralistic (or didactic) uses of the genre (e.g., “The World inside a Pillow,”41 which preaches the Taoist outlook by showing the ephemeral and illusory nature of worldly successes in officialdom) and also the use of the form simply for self-expression or the display of artistic skills. This last attitude is best illustrated by Han Yü’s in his writingof “Mao Ying chuan” (The Biography of Fur Tip) which, as Liu Tsung-yuüan sees it, is primarily an expression of the vivacity of literary imagination and a literary play on the subject of literature itself. To this category also belongs most of the T’ang narrative fiction that makes use of the CK motifs transmitted by Six Dynasties stories.
With this kind of writing, attention is turned away from the question of what is represented to the intrinsic matter of literary processing--the processing of existing motifs, either by recombination or accretion, or their use as a framework for the insertion of poetic passages or the display of descriptive skills in parallel prose. (It is in this sense that the p’ien-wen heritage and the ku-wen movement may be seen to have contributed to the development of this narrative form to a full-fledged art.) Just as the conflicting ideas of Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism were being integrated by the philosophical syncretism of the time, the question of fact or fiction was viewed in terms of a tale’s historicity rather than its factuality. In this view, a fictional figure may be seen to have the same value as a historical personage insofar as the figure embodies certain historically affirmed qualities. Both kinds of materials, fictional and historical, were absorbed by the literary imagination as valid substance for the ch’uап-ch’i narrative. Through this process the “raw materials” of the supernatural/fantastic were “civilized” for the presentation of a coherent perception of the cultured world of the T’ang.
This phenomenon may be better grasped by examining the narrative structure itself, as the structures of CK closely reflect, and are dictated by, the thematic contents. In the next two sections we shall turn our attention to the formal properties of CK. Before proceeding to the next two sections, the reader without previous acquaintance with CK writings is urged to sample some of the stories so that he may follow the discussion more easily.
IV. Narrative structures of Six Dynasties chih-kuai
There are two types of structural organization in Six Dynasties CK that need to be considered: the arrangement of the entries in the collection and the narrative structures of the individual pieces. The organization of a collection may follow a geographical arrangement (as in the case of collections in the Shan-hai ching tradition) or a chronological one (e.g., the Shih-i chi and certain chapters of the Shou-shen chi). If we take the example given by the 20-chüan edition of the Sou-shen chi as proof, a collection’s arrangement can be of importance for the reading of individual entries in that the correct understanding of an entry sometimes requires elucidation from the context of the chapter in which it is found.42
The early CK entries vary greatly in length: the shortest may consist of two or three dozen words and the longer ones may run to four or five hundred. The majority of the entries relate some kind of action or event, although a few are simply descriptions of objects and living creatures. Since early CK were intended to record strange happenings and emphasized the quality of the events (their strangeness) rather than their presentation or representation, the propositional content of the entries may have a more direct bearing on their organization than the medium or the form of expression. In this view the language of early CK may be seen as a direct, unmediated representation of reality rather than as a symbolic system with its own conventions and its own pattern of organization. Consequently, the structures of a narrative may be taken to follow the “dictates” of events (despite the unconscious mediation by the use of the verbal medium) and are determined by the nature of the strange events transcribed. The type of narrative form inherited becomes correlative with the kind of kuai represented (although a few elaborated and sophisticated pieces obviously bear the mark of literary processing; see below). Thus detailed analyses of the narrative shape of early CK tales may be conducted according to the major types of CK delineated above in section I. This, however, is not the place to go into analyses of all the types in detail; we will give only a general scheme of description conceived in terms of the narrative factors and an application of that scheme to individual stories as an illustration of its contours. The factors most essential to the description and analysis of the structural characteristics of a CK text include: (1) the settings, (2) the participants, and (3) the nature of events and change of the state of affairs that take place in the course of events or at the end.
Settings are of two kinds: temporal and spatial, both of which may contribute to the kuai quality of the narrative. Temporal setting is the range of time in which the events take place. It does not normally perform any CK function except occasionally to register a kuai phenomenon in, for instance, the contrast of macrocosmic and microcosmic times, when the story moves from one realm of experience to another (one day in fairyland is equivalent to one year in the human world; or a life time in a revelatory dream is only a few minutes in awakened life). So conceived, time is an index of the strangeness of a state of affairs in a spatial setting marked by the presence of kuai, while the spatial setting, paired with time as its correlative, may be more basic to the manifestation of kuai than the temporal setting as such.
Participants are the characters (human and non-human beings) involved in the events. The factors relevant to the distinguishing of the narrative structure are: the kind of beings involved, their sex, their role-type, the element of volition, and sometimes their numbers. CK stories usually feature at least one non-human of one kind or another (fairy, deity, goblin, spirit of the dead, etc.; see section I above) or a human with the attributes of a supernatural being, such as the capacity for transformation. Inanimate objects with extraordinary qualities may sometimes be the subjects of certain types of entries. If there are other participants, they are normally ordinary humans and the relationship between the two sets of characters may be defined by role-relations.
The two sets of characters, first of all, may be related in either a friendly, inimical, or neutral manner (we will call the first two commutual and competitive respectively). If commutual, a non-human being may be a benefactor or an aid (as a good fairy or transcendent being married to a human); if competitive, he, she, or it may be a malefactor or adversary, for example, an evil fox fairy or a turtle spirit transformed into the shape of a woman to seduce a man.43 Correspondingly, the human being is either a beneficiary or a victim in the relationship. If the events involve marriage, the female party would normally come from the “other world,” and her relationship to the man would be that of the benefactor or sometimes that of an aid or an instrument (a fairy sent to marry a human for a limited duration of time as a reward for his good character). If the male is a supernatural being seeking a human maiden for marriage, the tables are turned, and the male is perceived as an evil spirit or a malefactor. A union between the human and non-human often may be perceived as neutral in nature, as in a cross-boundary marriage that acts out a predestined course of events. It is possible to have a third party who functions as a helper or an obstacle to the accomplishment of an action. The helper sometimes appears as a mediator (a messenger, herald, or conducer to the union), a role which is often played by an animal participant.
An event that fulfills a pre-ordained relationship is in the final analysis brought about by an external force, even though the parties immediately concerned may have contributed to its happening. In this sense the event does not depend on the character’s will. Such events may be said to have been externally motivated and, as things befall the character, he or she is a patient (either a victim or beneficiary) or an experiencer (i.e., in a neutral situation). On the other hand, when the characters themselves are directly responsible for an event or action, they are the agent of the action, and the events in such a case can be said to be internally motivated (i.e., they are brought about by the character’s own volition). Sometimes an agent may become an experiencer, as in the self-induced auto-transformation of, for instance, a Taoist magician. More often than not, the role of agent in CK is played by the non-human participant, while the human is more likely to be a patient or an experiencer. A volitional human character tends to make a story an anti-type (a human challenges the existence of ghosts or stages a “show-down” with supernatural beings by intentionally going to confront them). And finally, the main participants are usually perceived and presented as individuals and seldom act as a group, although the role of instrument or adversary may be performed by an anonymous body of characters which often represent society as a whole. The “sojourn in fairyland” story sometimes may present an exception to this by showing a pair of humans acting together in their visit with the fairies.
The nature of events is also related to, and, to an extent, determined by, the types of kuai phenomena involved. From the structural point of view, they may be classified either as transitive or intransitive in their sphere of manifestation, each resulting in a change in the state of affairs, in a different manner. A transitive event involves two parties with the action of one affecting the other, which may in turn cause a reaction (as in the case of an intrusion of a supernatural being into the human world, which tends to provoke a reaction from men, or the revenge of a ghost upon a human enemy who has been the agent of its unjust death). The two parties so involved may entertain different kinds of relationships (commutual or competitive, as described above). A commutual event in the kuai phenomenon shows the interactions of the two parties carried out in a friendly or reciprocal manner, as in the fulfilling of a common desire. A competitive event, on the other hand, involves the two parties in an antagonistic relationship or that of rivalry, as in the bewitching of a human by an evil spirit or a contest of learning between a human scholar and a fox fairy.
These two kinds of engagements may result in a change in the state of affairs, i.e., a disruption of the natural order which may or may not be restored afterwards. Sometimes the restoration is shown as the establishment of a new equilibrium. Normally a necromantic marriage, for instance, will end in the return of the human participant/experiencer to the normal human world (or the departure of the ghost from the human setting), with a token brought back from the “other world” as a reminder of the experience (a pearl from the tomb, a son born to the human father by the ghost mother). The union between a man and a goddesss or fairy likewise tends to end in separation (with either the man returning from fairyland or the goddess leaving the human world). But it may also happen that the human character is in the end integrated into a “transcendent state” and leaves the human world, as often occurs in stories of later date, when the encounter with the fairies is often combined with elements of the Taoist immortality cult. In a competitive situation, the human participant usually wins the day at the end and thereby restores the “natural” or human order disrupted by the appearance of the supernatural being, but occasionally the force of the “other world” may prevail. The tale then ends in an upset or suspension of the human order, in a new integration which brings about a new order (a new mode of sericulture; the creation of a new human race or tribe).
The factors and configurations of relationships presented above may be regarded as a composite scheme serviceable for the description of the majority of the CK tales. In actual analysis, any individual story will generally bear out only a few of these relationships, and additional differentiations and refinements to the general scheme will often be needed to describe the specific features of the story. We will analyze a few examples by way of demonstrating the application of the descriptive scheme. It should be borne in mind that the elements and relations enumerated above are perceptual categories, not conceptual or literary categories. Generally speaking, they reflect consciousness at the perceptual level, and do not entail processing by literary consciousness. But this distinction is only relative, as incipient traces of conceptual and literary processings are evident in some of the more “advanced” pieces. The first story to be discussed, “The Daughter of the King of Wu” (21), shows some traces of such processing.
This is a story representative of many necromantic types of kuai featuring the marriage between a living man and the spirit of a dead girl. From the connection of events, the story can be seen to consist of two distinct event-lines: the necromantic marriage and its aftermath. For the sake of convenience, they can be identified as the “inner story” and the “outer story,” respectively. The temporal and spatial settings of these two levels of story seem to be the same, but the outer story is in fact set explicitly in a “historical background” in the reign of Fu-ts’ai, the King of Wu (r. 495-473 B.C.), while the inner stroy is marked by a movement from the human world to the “other world” in Purple Jade’s tomb. Participants in the inner story include the commutual pair, of which the one from the “other world” is a female (yin element) who also acts as an agent in taking the initiative to bring about the supernatural union. (Her presentation of the gift of a pearl seems to make her a benefactor, but seen from the logic of the events, the gift is to serve as the connector to the outer story; it is not as a consequence of the union that Han Chung is given the pearl.) Besides the main characters, another participant of significance is the king, who, in obstructing the marriage, is an obstacle that blocks the way for a normal consummation of love (thereby driving the couple to seek consummation in an abnormal manner). This is a role commonly featured in this type of story (cf. the parents in “Wang Tao-p’ing” ). Han Chung’s parents, on the other hand, are atypical in their mediation for the relationship and need not receive role assignment. The inner story ends in a typical return of the male human character to the world of men after a brief sojourn in the “other world,” bringing back with him “evidence” (the gift) of his unusual experience.
From the perspective of the outer story, which puts the necromantic story in a new context, the king and the lovers can be construed on the surface as representing two sets of characters pitted against each other in an antagonistic relationship. This is not because the king is the cause of his daughter’s death, but because his belief is in conflict with that represented by the young lovers in the experience of their union. The events on this level are related in a competitive manner as a conflict of beliefs regarding matters of the supernatural which ends in the conversion (defeat) of the king by the supernatural “evidence”---the manifestation of Purple Jade’s spirit and her account of the marriage inside the tomb. That is to say, besides the restoration of the human order, there is a change of the state of affairs in terms of the altered attitude towards the supernatural. Such a change of attitude (from disbelief to belief of the supernatural) is typical of this kind of necromantic kuai (cf. “Lu Ch’ung” ). This story is also an apt example of a CK presented as “data” gathered in support of the reality of the spirits. It uses a “testimonial structure” in its presentation of the necromantic marriage (the inner story) as fact; its facticity is then brought to confront the non-believer and presumably effects a conversion at the end (the outer story). In this sense, the story already shows a simple but subtle processing of the material on the structural level.
The sojourn inside the grave has a counterpart in the encounter with transcendent beings, or the sojourn in fairyland, shown, for instance, in “Liu Ch’en and Juan Chao” (40). The elements of time and space in this story function as an index of the otherness of the fairyland by their difference in value from the dimensional scale of the ordinary world. The T’ien-t’ai Mountains the locale of the “fairyland,” are marked off from the secular world by their association with Taoist legends of revelations and miracles of Taoist adepts “ascending to heaven.” Likewise, time there is given a macro-value: one day in the fairyland equals the span of one year in the human world (in the story, Liu and Juan spend about seven months inside the mountains and return to find that seven generations have passed). The characters interestingly are given in pairs, two human beings matched with two transcendent beings.44 The latter act again as the agents, for it was they who plan the meeting and direct, albeit cryptically, the herb seekers to enter the fairy’s realm. Like the necromantic type of character, the humans are experiencers, but, unlike the necromantic type, they are also beneficiaries in that, once having had contact with the transcendent beings, in the end they also attain immortality (as signaled by their sudden disappearance), despite their temporary, un-enlightened attachment to the human world and their desire to return to it (cf. “Yüan Hsiang and Ken Shih” ).
Although basically a kuai story of the “transcendent being” type (type 4), this tale apparently represents a Taoist variant of it. The commutual liaison here is temporary, like a human relationship with a goddess of shamanistic origin (cf. “The Jade Maiden from Heaven”  and “The Pure Maiden of White Waters” ), but on the other hand, the events affect a change in the human participants, who at the end are “assimilated” into the other world, in this case the “transcendent world” of Taoist conception.
The action of the commutual and competitive stories normally involves two parties, and the tension and suspense generated in their interaction become the main source of interest to the latter day readers of CK stories. Since CK in its original stage is meant as a record of any supernatural or fantastic event, however, many entries, such as the Taoist and Buddhist thaumaturgic pieces, feature only one main character (as hero). Their events, revolving around the single actor, are non-interactional or non-confrontational. “Chang Tao-ling” (29), a story about the founder of the Five Pecks of Rice Taoist sect, has just such a single-figure event structure. Divided into two parts, the story recounts Chang’s activities up to his attainment of magic power (which enables him to perform self-reduplications and other feats of magic) and then shifts to tell of his disciple Chao Sheng’s initiation and attainment of immortality with him. In this part, Chang himself recedes into the background.45 Character structure in the second part is based on similarity and contrast rather than on conflict: Chao is shown to be comparable in his qualities to another exemplary disciple, Wang Ch’ang, on the one hand, while both are distinct from the rest of the disciples who lack the proper qualities and faith to attain enlightenment. Such attainment of a state that transcends the human condition is characteristic of the change effected at the end of most Taoist tales.
Six Dynasties CK are presented basically for their “news value,” and literary refinement is not the primary consideration in the transmission of the “facts.” As soon as a story is given verbal expression, however, it inevitably receives some kind of literary processing, whether it is done consciously or not. Such processing, found in some of the Six Dynasties pieces included in this anthology, reveals itself on various levels and aspects. “The Daughter of the King of Wu” shows this in its overall design, while “Chang Tao-ling” exemplifies a processing on the level of event structure in a crude fashion which, to the modern reader, amounts to a failure to achieve unity. The fact that the story as it exists in the Shen-hsien chuan was formed by combining two separate legends about the early Taoist patriarchs explains the ill-integrated organization of the two parts of events. This method of enlarging a story by the accretion of disparate pieces is a common operation in the early stage of the development of Chinese fiction.
For the last example of Six Dynasties CK, we turn to look at one with a relatively advanced degree of processing on more than one level. This examination will also prepare us for the discussion of the more conscious operations seen in the T’ang stories. “Chang Hua and the Fox” (24) from the Sou-shen chi is a story with the kuai of animal manifestation, a fox fairy contesting with Chang Hua, the renowned scholar of the Chin dynasty, in talent and intelligence. Here neither the spatial nor the temporal setting contributes to the supernaturalness of the events except in the way time is taken to be a correlative measure of the prowess attained by the fox spirit: the longer an object or an animate being exists, the higher its spiritual attainment will be. In terms of participants, we have the fox fairy acting as the agent (initiator of the action) seeking to compete with the human scholar in erudition as well as in “spiritual attainment” (the last point is illustrated by the fox-scholar’s resistance to Chang’s attempts to see through the guise and make him reveal his true form). They are related in an adversary situation. In addition to the main pair of characters, there is an auxiliary pair: the spirit of the memorial post associated with the fox on the side of the non-human realm, and Lei Huan, associated with Chang as his friend on the side of the human world. The events, which develop around the contest of learning, are transitive in that the fox spirit has encroached upon the human order; they are also competitive in that the spirit tries to claim supremacy of learning in its discourse with humans. The rivalry is concluded in a change of the state of affairs by the riddance of the supernatural intruder and the reestablishment of the natural (i.e., human) order which has been temporarily disrupted by the “defeat” of the human representative. It is interesting to note that Chang, the most learned man of his time,46 is bettered at his own game at first, but is eventually able to vanquish his challenger through his knowledge of the lore of the supernatural, a knowledge apparently related to wu-hsing (five elements) theories of mutability involving the cyclical conquest of elements, where one element must give rise to, or yield to, the adjacent element in the series.47
In this light, the symmetrical pairing of the auxiliary characters becomes significant. Both pairs--Chang Hua and his friend, Lei Huan, the memorial post and the fox--are related in a “graded relationship” with differences in degree of perceptiveness. The memorial post correctly predicts the outcome of the contest, while Lei Huan less acutely suggests the use of hunting dogs as a test for the fox fairy, which can be subjugated only by the more powerful fire of the memorial post.48 This suggests a view conforming in a general way to the mutual conquest theory of wu-hsing. Hence the restoration of equilibrium at the end has significance in the cosmological order, as well as in the human. The symmetrical arrangement of characters, so understood, need not necessarily be a sign of artistic arrangement; it can be a consequence of the influence of this cosmological theory, a consequence of the mode of perception to which the theory conditions its adherents. The tale, featuring a man reputed for his learning in exotic and esoteric lore, has nonetheless too strong a hint of contrivance to be simply a recording of found fact, and in this sense, it points to the idea that imagination and facts are not to be divorced even in the early examples of CK.
This last point brings us to the complex problem of the blending of fact and fantasy in literary creation. In this regard, a comparison of the Chang Hua story translated in this anthology with a much simplified and laconic version found in the T’ai-p’ing yü-lan will show some of the features interesting for descriptive purposes. This will illustrate at the same time some aspects of intertextual relationships prominent in the T’ang tales to be discussed below. The simplified version may be translated as follows:
In front of the tomb of King Chao of Yen [r. 311-279 B.C.], there lived a fox. [One day] it transformed itself into a man and visited Chang Hua to engage him in a discussion. Hua was taken by surprise [by his erudition?] and said to Кung-chang, “There is a man who is young and handsome, and yet very learned in his discourse.” K’ung-chang said, “He must be a long-lived goblin. I heard there was a memorial post at the tomb of King Chao of Yen, which has been there for a thousand years. Have someone fetch it [and burn it] to shine on [the visitor]. He will be shown up in his true form.” His words were carried out, [and the young man] turned into a fox.49
A comparison of this with the longer version shows differences not only on the level of surface style (wording) but also on the level of the structuring of characters and representation of events. Stylistic issues aside, we notice that the event represented by one text as “engage him in a discussion” is realized in the other, fuller version through exemplification (of the “discussion”) by reference to a series of classics, while details of the fox’s dialogue with the memorial post, the first test of the transformation with a dog, and so forth, are omitted in the shorter version. With this reduction, the symmetrical structuring of characters and the implication of degree of perceptiveness are also gone. The realization of basic story-stuff or events in different manners (histoire realized as discours) becomes a central issue in later adaptations of CK stories (or their motifs) into other genres such as vernacular fiction and drama. In the context of T’ang tales and their relationship to Six Dynasties CK, such adaptations are likewise of the highest importance, and we will consider them in terms of the contrasting operations of generalization and particularization, condensation and elaboration, and other rhetorical procedures.
V. Narrative structures of T’ang chih-kuai
Generally speaking, T’ang fiction in the classical language is an enriched form of Six Dynasties CK. It is distinguished by the self-consciousness of its representation, as opposed to the earlier CK which simply report or transcribe something “given.” One of the earliest examples of T’ang tales, the “Ku-ching chi” . (The Story of the Ancient Mirror), with its relatively crude method of linking the episodes by the itineration of a character, already bears such marks of processing. Another example, the “Yu-hsien к’u” (The Abode of the Playful Goddesses), uses the basic situation of a visit to the fairies’ abode ostensibly for playful displays of verse and parallel prose in a narrative frame. To account for this shift of conception and attitude, we need to introduce the notion of narration (the act of narrating) as another element in the analysis of CK structures. This element refers to the conscious use of a voice both for the presentation of the story and for evaluating and commenting on the events narrated. Thus in addition to the structure of narrated contents, with the T’ang classical short story, there exists a dimension of formal organization in the process of presentation.
As has been observed by other critics, the formal organization of a standard T’ang tale may be seen to consist of three parts: (1) an introduction which identifies the main character (or characters) by a somewhat formulaic enumeration of temporal and spatial setings, the main character’s occupation and personal qualities (the last two items are not obligatory); (2) the main body of the narrative with one or more event sequences (the story itself); and (3) an epilogue which contains a meta-textual appraisal of the story recounted, an explanation of the source of the story, and, sometimes, a brief mentioning of the descendents of the main character, in the fashion of a historical biography.50 The tripartite form suggests the influence of the lieh-chuan (biographies) format of official histories, the application of which in an inchoate manner was already visible in Six Dynasties CK. But it was in T’ang times that this format started to be codified and regularly observed like a generic convention (although the introduction and epilogue in T’ang CK are sometimes given cryptically, without clear distinction of, to use the terms of the French structuralists, the diegetic and extra-diegetic levels--the level of the “represented story” and that of the “act of presentation”).
As in earlier CK, the structural patterns of the main body--the most important part of the narrative--vary with the type of kuai in question (including the new types introduced in the T’ang). The structural factors of participants, settings, and the nature of the event mentioned above can still be used for the description of the individual tales. Unlike the early CK, however, T’ang tales are narratives produced by literary conventions: they are works that follow their own rules of operation and are not merely transcriptions of facts. From this conventionalization there emerge certain general principles that govern the event organization and affect the narrative development in T’ang tales in a general (as well as a specific) sense. Most of the events that make up a story are no longer perceived as “natural” and may now be more appropriately called topoi or motifs (which may be defined as units or sequences of events identifiable as adapted from existing literary or cultural sources, or sequences recognizable as recurrent in contemporary works of T’ang literature; see below). These motifs mainly appear in T’ang tales by the application, individually or simultaneously, of two basic operations: accretion (including recombination of existing motifs) and transformation (allotropic variation, elaboration, condensation, and qualitative change).
Accretion is the more common of the two, and many T’ang CK show upon analysis that they are constructed of a combination of motifs accumulated in the narrative tradition. “Li Chang-wu” (65) is such a case. This story has as its basic motif the sexual reunion of a living person with the spirit of a deceased lover (derived from the necromantic kuai). The presentation of the “pneumatalogical” reunion is preceded, however, by an elaborate description of the lovers’ initial meeting (which resembles the courtship of a non-CK story),51 and followed, first, by a ritualistic exchange of poems at the parting after the reunion (a motif existing both in the CK and non-CK traditions), and, then, the longing of the male character expressed in the chanting of poems (cf. “Huang Yüan”  and “Lu Ch’ung” ). The story then ends with the motif of the recognition of the out-of-this-world gift by a man with esoteric knowledge (cf. ending of “Lu Ch’ung”). The accrued motifs, however, have all undergone some kind of transformation. When we compare the main unit of the “reunion with the spirit” in this story with that of, say, “The Daughter of the King of Wu,”52 we clearly see that the motif has been elaborated by the addition of the neighboring woman as the “helper” or mediator and the old sweeping maid as the “harbinger” of the arrival of the mistress, as well as by the specification of other details such as the manner of the spirit’s appearance and disappearance, the movement of the Morning Star as the marker of the end of the respite for the ghost, etc. Besides elaboration and specification, transformation of motifs may be manifested in the opposite direction: by condensation and generalization which are similarly perceived by the reader as stylistic variations (cf. the two versions of the Chang Hua story cited above). Furthermore, a motif may be transformed in a qualitative sense by a change of perception regarding the same set of events--as, for instance, in “Kuo Yüan-chen” (73), where the rite of sacrifice associated originally with the fertility cult is viewed in the story as a beast-monster’s victimization of the village people.
Event-sequences seen as motifs may be appreciated in connection with what we have discussed above under the topic of CK typology. In the context of T’ang CK, however, they can be more adequately re-classified according to different principles that take into consideration the factors of authorial control (as a dimension of narrative) and reader perception. These considerations start with the question of what underlies or motivates the selection of events and event-sequences for representation in the story. In other words, what are the reasons that determine the author’s choice of certain events that result in the actualized text as well as in the structural pattern of the narrative? Three kinds of determinants can be discerned in the selection decision with respect to T’ang tales: they may be loosely distinguished as cultural (or generic), social, and personal dictates.
The culturally determined selection of events (and the resultant pattern) includes the adaptation of modes of action and events derived from myths, legends, the occult, and other ritually based courses of action, as well as literary prototypes (motifs) bequeathed by the earlier CK narratives themselves. The choice of events here is determined by the tradition (or the chosen prototype) and follows a prescribed course endorsed by the traditional perception of the phenomenon or relationship. A relatively simple and unadulterated example of this is “Chang Feng” (74), where the “man-transformed-into-tiger” motif (including the devouring of some human victims) is followed by the “confrontation” of the re-metamorphosed man by the descendant of one of his victims, years later (cf. “Hsüeh Tao-hsün” ; “Huang Miao” ). This is the most prevalent type of dictate (or plotting) in T’ang CK, but the manifestations are often complicated by the combination and transformation of motifs (see below).
Also ritualistic in a way, the second type of pattern derives from some set course of action sanctioned by society. It may have been passed down through the tradition or taken from a contemporary trend, such as the pursuit of an official career by following a prescribed series of actions. This type of pattern is well illustrated by the young traveler’s “dream” in the “World Inside a Pillow” (Ma and Lau, pp. 435-38), which reflects the “ideal career” of any ambitious young man in T’ang society (i.e., passing the chin-shih exam, marriage with a girl from one of the powerful clans, rise in the officialdom to the highest positions both in the military and civil branches, etc.).53 One would expect that such a publicly sanctioned human course of action would have little to do with the kuai phenomenon, but T’ang writers often achieve a fantastic effect simply by couching the social pattern of events in a supernatural/fantastic frame of perception: in “World inside a Pillow,” the essential events of a lifetime are made to unfold in an unnaturally induced dream. Another good example is “Wei Tan” (87), in which the “strangeness” of the story is achieved simply by taking the life story (official career) of a historical personage and framing it within a “preordination” motif, making the events appear to conform to some prescribed course.
Both the cultural and social modes of event pattern are prescribed, because of their ritualistic and public provenance. Therefore, even when the participants are seen to be the agents of their own action, and engaged in active pursuit of certain goals, the course of events in terms of narrative development is nevertheless pre-determined and externally determined--the authorial choice of action has to conform to the prescription. In contradistinction, the third kind of event pattern, the personal, can be seen to originate from the character himself, and in this sense depends on an internal motivation in the development of events. Here, the motor force of the action can be seen to lie with the participant--as it is related to the person’s desires, the volitional upholding of certain principles, or the pursuit of an individualized goal. Such internally motivated action sequences, relatively rare among tales of the mid-T’ang, are found mostly in stories with characters of the anti-type; but, in the late T’ang they start to appear in greater numbers in the “knight-errantry” and “swordsman” stories. In one example, “The Merchant’s Wife” (80), the actions of the title character (her unconventional way of cohabiting with a stranger; her shocking act of infanticide at the end) are seen to be dominated by the motive of personal revenge, by which her behavior is later explained. The author’s use of a character’s motivation for the selection of events is a technique rarely seen in the Chinese tradition, but, when properly utilized, it often achieves a striking narrative effect. (See editor’s note to the “Merchant’s Wife” for other examples).
It must be noted that the three kinds of event patterns (and their constituent units) discussed above tend to be used in combination rather than in isolation, as seen in the example of “Li Chang-wu” (65). How are the accrued motifs then integrated to form a coherent narative? To describe the process of integration, we need to introduce the notion of hierarchical relation and the concept of framing in the reading of T’ang tales. Combinations of narrative units, or motifs taken from different sources, are not carried out in a haphazard manner. They are organized either with a sense of coordinate relationship or by means of a hierarchical subordination where one of the motifs assumes the position of the highest node under which the others are integrated or subsumed. The motif that occupies the highest node becomes the matrix of the story in terms of event layout. For example, the “harbinger” motif (represented by the old sweeping lady) in the “Li Chang-wu” story mentioned above, may be described as a unit in a ritualistic sequence of events which has been fitted into the higher unit of “necromantic reunion;” the latter may be understood as the matrix of the story. Subsumption of different units under the top-most unit of motifs gives coherence to the narrative by the integration of all units to form a larger single one. This top-most matrix unit in turn serves as the frame through which the significance of the events is to be perceived, interpreted, and understood.54 The recognition of the matrix status of a motif in the narrative (and its cultural association) is a process required for a correct reading of the text.
As is to be expected, the event matrices passed down from the Six Dynasties CK tradition become the most common types of frames used in T’ang tales. Other non-CK matrices are often subsumed under them. Examples of this are too numerous to mention. But there are a few exceptions or ambiguous cases that deserve attention. In “Huo Hsiao-yü” (67), for instance, a love story based on a social pattern of events is followed by a manifestation of the supernatural; but the latter (the supernatural) is integrated into the former, which then forms the highest level unit in the hierarchy, rather than the other way round.55 The supernatural manifestation becomes a metaphoric statement for the intensity of the heroine’s passion that sustains itself after her physical demise, or, if one prefers, a dramatization of the protagonist Li Yi’s jealousy (see n. 1 of the story). This reversal also explains why the story seems basically different from the others in the anthology. An even more problematic example is “Wang Chih-ku” (96), where the main body of the narrative is composed of two parts--Ch’ang Chih-fang’s notorious indulgence in hunting (based on history) and Wang Chih-ku’s nocturnal adventure (based on the lore of the fox fairy and a qualitatively transformed motif of necromantic communion). Each of the two parts, in fact, could stand independent of the other because each is structurally self-contained.56 However, in the final analysis, the second part must be subsumed under the first, i.e., the supernatural episode must be lodged inside that part of the narrative which uses a human, social matrix. This is a case of literary derivation that verges on parody, and it is this understanding that allows the unrelated event patterns (each of which has the potential of serving as a matrix) to be fused in order to achieve a kind of coherence for the story (see also editor’s note to the story).
Accretion of matrix-like motifs such as those seen in “Wang Chih-ku” sometimes leads to an unstable hierarchical structure, where events are framed by more than one structure, each exerting force on the other. This results in a situation which calls for or requires multiple perspectives in reading. In such a case, one may either resort to a subjective choice for the interpretation of the piece or let the multiple frames stand in competition and accept the possibility of conflicting significances. “Ts’ui Wei” (92), for instance, has this characteristic. But “The Story of Ling-ying” (68), the longest entry in the anthology, appears to be especially confusing in its assimilation of a great variety of CK motifs. In addition to the many allusions to the dragon lore of the time and an assortment of motifs such as family feuds, transboundary communication, the extension of human assistance to a different kind of being in the “invisible” world, and the themes of chastity and loyalty, the text also provides the matrix for a display of literary skills (speech constructed in parallel prose) and argumentative eloquence. Overall, the story is probably best interpreted from a thematic perspective according to which the defense of chastity is the ultimate consideration that motivates the other actions. It is because of her desire to remain faithful to her dead husband’s memory that Lady Ling-ying is forced into exile. The exile in turn brings about other sequences of self-defense and requests for help from the human administrator of the region. In this sense, the motivation coincides with the thematic notion that serves as the frame of the story to tie in all the details. From this perspective, the story may be seen as an “answer” to the pattern of significance plotted out in the most famous of all T’ang stories about dragons: “Liu Yi chuan” (or “The Legendary Marriage at Tung-t’ing” in Ma and Lau, pp. 346-54). There the dragon lady’s marriage with Liu Yi at the end violates the notion of female chastity despite the faithful adherence by both the human and the draconic characters to other Confucian principles much lauded elsewhere in that text.57 Thus, not only may a motif constituted of events serve as the frame of reading, but so may a thematic viewpoint; the story of Ling-ying, in this light, represents a “rectification” of the Taoist outlook dominant in the “Liu Yi chuan” by a more orthodox Confucian stance.
As a conclusion to our consideration of the structural properties of T’ang CK, it should be pointed out that the mode of “interpretation” discussed above pertains primarily to the reading of event sequences in terms of a meaningful or coherent plot. It does not deal with questions of the psychological and sociological significance of the motifs, nor does it view the materials in the collection from the folklorist or religious perspectives--these have seemed the “natural” approaches to the CK materials, and previous studies have usually assumed such approaches. We leave such an undertaking to the specialists in those fields and to the readers who are so inclined.
After the T’ang, Chinese fiction in the classical language suffered a decline in quality, if not in quantity. Despite the new interest in chih-kuai in the Sung, fiction in the classical language had to await the revival of artistic creativity during the Ming and Ch’ing to achieve renewal. However, the literary legacies of Six Dynasties and T’ang narrative fiction were inherited by other genres popular during the Sung dynasty and later. The earlier classical fiction provided the newer genres with both source materials and with narrative inspiration. Many of the plots and motifs of chih-kuai and ch’uan-ch’i lived on in vernacular fiction in the form of hua-pen (story-telling) adaptations and in drama of both the tsa-chü (variety play) and ch’uan-ch’i (play about extraordinary affairs) types. They also survived in a variety of prosemetric narrative forms that were part of the gamut of popular entertainments. These transformations of motifs involve cross-generic operations and constitute an interesting area of study in themselves. In the Ming and Ch’ing revival of fiction in the classical language, self-reflexive derivation of narrative from the linguistic and literary properties of the genre became an increasingly more prevalent phenomenon. Following Ch’i Yu’s (1341-1427) Chien-teng hsin-hua (New Tales Told under the Lamp) and other Ming works, Ρ’u Sung-ling’s (1640-1715) Liao-chai chih-i (Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio) achieved a new height of narrative art that emulated and at times surpassed the standard of T’ang authors. In large part, it did so by transforming motifs new and old and by the application of rhetorically informed literary processing. This method was followed by the best authors among the subsequent host of Ch’ing pi-chi hsiao-shuo (notebook fiction)writers, including Shen Ch’i-feng (b. 1741) and Hao-ko-tzu (fl. 2nd half of 18th Cent.).
VI. The anthology and the translations
According to different counts, at least forty, and perhaps as many as sixty CK collections were produced before and during the Six Dynasties. Although the contents of many of these are completely lost or have been recovered only in part, all together about three thousand items of various length have been preserved.58 About sixty ch’uan-ch’i collections with CK items also are known to have been produced in the Τ’ang--approximately half of them are extant in their entirety or in part--as well as thirty or so pieces that circulated individually.59 Even without counting those in such extensive but uneven collections as the Yu-yang tsa-tsu by Tuan Ch’eng-shih (d. 863), T’ang CK tales also run to at least several hundred in number. The ninety-odd pieces selected here represent a rather limited sampling of the entire extant corpus. In selecting these pieces, my first consideration has been the story quality of the entries. As a great many of the CK from the Six Dynasties were not necessarily chosen for inclusion in their original collections for their narrative interest, the representation of the genre here may be said to be biased: it does not try to capture the impression one might have in reading the original collections as a whole. The second criterion used in the selection is the representativeness of the pieces with regard to the CK typology discussed in the earlier section of this introduction. Even so, certain types may be disproportionately represented due to their greater narrative interest. Since the anthology is intended to show the development of the supernatural and the fantastic in the classical language from the formative period to their maturity in T’ang, I have not avoided the inclusion of pieces that have previously been translated, except for a few that are readily available in the excellent anthology Traditional Chinese Stories: Themes and Variations, often cited above. Space limitations have forced the elimination of many interesting pieces worthy of inclusion.
A classification of the entries according to thematic grouping has been rejected in favor of the more traditional arrangement by chronological order, although only approximate dates can be assigned to many of the items or the collections from which they are taken. Selections from the Six Dynasties are given as running entries under the title of each collection. Those from the T’ang are given by separate entry, each starting with a new page, to suggest their status as individual works with a certain degree of literary refinement. In the T’ang section, independently circulated pieces (including those by Shen Ya-chih and Liu Tsung-yüan, taken from their collected works) are given before the selections from various ch’uan-ch’i collections. Arrangement of the entries without a thematic classification may be disorienting to some readers, but the discussion of the basic CK types and the composite forms of their narrative structures given above, as well as sundry information supplied in the comments (translator’s and editor’s endnotes) attached to the entries, may help situate each piece in its context and serve as an orientation.
Regarding the translations, the variety of styles presented by the many participants in the project will, I hope, suggest the range of the originals. Most of the translations were done with the general guideline of rendering the original as faithfully as readability would permit. There are a few specific points that require explanation. The Six Dynasties entries (and some from the T’ang) do not have titles; the titles added in the translation are, for the most part, those given in the T’ai-p’ing kuang-chi or other modern editions, which usually follow the convention of referring to a piece by the main character’s name, to which we often add an epithet or appendage for mnemonic purposes. This is done for easy reference to the original. The temporal and spatial settings, often formulaic and seemingly irrelevant to the action of the story, constitute background factors significant for the reader familiar with the cultural and physical associations of the time and place specified. Sometimes a story (e.g., “Ts’ui Wei” ) is as much about the locale as it is about the legend associated with the place. At the risk of being obtrusive, modern equivalents for places and dates have been inserted to provide the context and give some sense of these relationships. Regarding the character’s age, the number of sui or nien (years) is rendered directly without subtracting one for closer approximation (except in “Hsiao Tung-hsüan” , where a strict identification of the child’s age towards the end is required by the nature of the story). For the terms of weights and measures, both approximation in Western systems and transliteration of the Chinese terms are allowed insofar as they do not violate the general sense of the original (a chang is a little more than ten feet; a li about one third of a mile, which is sometimes rendered as a “mile;” a tan about one hundred and ten pounds). The night hours (7P.M. to 5A.M.) are divided into five watches. Each watch covers two hours, the third watch being the midnight period. Translations of official titles in different pieces likewise have not been coordinated and made uniform. The sources of the selections and the texts used for translation are indicated at the end of each entry. Besides the text upon which the translation is based (the first item given), other sources are suggested for purposes of comparison when textual discrepancies exist or annotations are available.
Finally, the notes at the end of the entries provide various kinds of information (textual background and intertextual relationships) and short critical comments (topics related to theme, structure, and other points of interest and significance). Unless indicated as “Translator’s Notes,” they are provided by the editor. For these notes, I have benefited from previous studies of chih-kuai and ch’uan-ch’i and from the existing Chinese and Japanese anthologies, especially the recent annotated selections from T’ai-p’ing kuang-chi edited by Wang Ju-t’ao and his colleagues. A section of brief bio-bibliographic information about the collections and the authors is given at the end of the book, together with maps and a chronological chart of the periods covered by the events of the stories.
1 For recent critical studies of the fantastic and the supernatural in the West, see, for instance, Eric S. Rabkin, The Fantastic in Literature (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1976); Tzvetan Todorov, The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre, tr. Richard Howard (Cleveland: Press of Case Western Reserve Univ., 1973) and Rosemary Jackson, Fantasy: The Literature of Subversion (London: Methuen, 1981). The last two are especially useful not only for their rigorous analyses of these genres and modes, but for their observations on the relationship of the genres to the psychological and epistemological outlooks of the time.
2 Although the dichotomy of fact became a problem that called and fantasy eventually for a resolution, early chih-kuai existed primarily as records of supernatural and fantastic phenomena. This point will be picked up again later.
3 Although the term chih-kuai was used in some of the titles of the Six Dynasties collections of the fantastic and the supernatural, it was not considered a generic term then. Hu Ying-lin (1551-1602) was the first critic to use it as a generic label in his classification of fictional and miscellaneous writings in the classical language.
4 Previous studies of the early CK, such as Liu Yeh-ch’iu , Wei Chin Nan-pei-ch’ao hsiao-shuo (Shanghai: Ku-chi ch’u-pan-she 1961); Lawrence Chapin Foster, “The Shih-i chi and Its Relationship to the Genre Known as Chih-kuai hsiao-shuo,” (Diss. University of Washington [Seattle], 1974); and Kenneth J. DeWoskin, “The Sou-shen chi and the Chih-kuai Tradition: A Bibliographic and Generic Study,” (Diss. Columbia University, 1973), have clarified the nature and the types of supernatural phenomena to an extent. The following is an attempt to achieve a greater refinement and systematization in the distinction of the types by tracing them back to their cultural sources.
5 Any attempt at the categorization will be in competition with the traditional systems such as those registered in the T’ai-p’ing kuang-chi . (A Comprehensive Record Compiled in the T’ai-p’ing Reign Period), a work compiled in 977-978, today the largest single reservoir of the pre-Sung fictional materials in the classical language. Divided into ninety-one categories (about two-thirds of them have to do with the supernatural and the fantastic), the classification system used is unsatisfactory, not to say unwieldy, for critical and descriptive purposes. For a translation of these categories, see Edward H. Schafer, “The Table of Contents of the T’ai-p’ing kuang-chi,” CLEAR: Chinese Literature, Essays, Articles, Reviews, 2:2 (July 1980), 258-63.
6 References to unusual natural phenomena are not infrequent in early Chinese history. A well known example is the one alluded to in the “Metal-bound Casket” (Chin-t’eng) chapter in the Book of Documents which relates how an unseasonal storm uprooted and flattened the trees and grain when the Duke of Chou was slandered and how they were restored miraculously when his name was cleared.
7 For a theoretical exposition of the yin-yang and wu-hsing theories and their analogical application in human relationships and other fields of human activity, see Shih-chi 74, “Tsou Yen" ; Tung Chung-shu’s (l87-104 B.C.) Ch’un-ch’iu fan-lu chs. 42-64; and the “Wu-hsing” chapter of Pan Ku’s (32-92) Pai-hu t’ung .
8 Chapter 6 of the 20-chüan edition of Sou-shen chi for instance, is taken from the “Wu-hsing chih” sections of Han shu 27 and Hou Han shu 23-28. Although this edition comes down to us from the Ming (1368-1644), it probably reflects the contents of the original edition rather closely.
9 See Mo-tzu chi-chieh ch. 31, “Ming kuei” . (Clarifying the Matter Regarding Ghosts) (Shanghai: Shih-chieh shu-chü , 1936), pp. 197-218.
10 See Preface to Kan Pao’s Sou-shen chi.
11 The “Ming kuei” chapter of Mo-tzu differentiates three kinds of kuei: besides the spirits of the dead and the emanations of nature, there are “celestial spirits” (t’ien-kuei ), most of them being the spirits of dead persons who had eminent careers when alive. (See Mo-tzu chi-chieh, p. 216).
12 See Edward H. Schafer, The Divine Woman: Dragon Ladies and Rain l1aidens in T’ang Literature (San Francisco: North Point Press, 1980).
13 Originating in the Warring States period (465-221 B.C.) and closely related to shamanistic practices, fang-shu was a major cult of indigenous origin. Its magic arts include astrology, divination, necromancy, geomancy, alchemy, and communication with the dead and with transcendent beings, many of these later to be assimilated by popular Taoism. Among the early devotees to the occult were the First Emperor of Ch’in (r. 246-210 B.C.) and several of the Han emperors and royal princes (Emperor Wu-ti and the Prince of Huai-nan, Liu An were the most famous). For a study of its relationship with CK, see Wang Yao “Hsiao-shuo yü fang-shu” in Chung-ku wen-hsüeh lun-chi (Shanghai: Ku-tien wen-hsüeh ch’u-pan-she 1956), pp. 85-110.
14 For a study of the spread of Buddhism in China from early times to the Six Dynasties, see E. Zürcher, The Buddhist Conquest of China (Leiden, E. J. Brill, 1959).
15 In the Shu-ching, “K’ang kao” for instance, it is stated that Heaven will punish the bad and bless the good, much as the spirits would do, as explained in the Mo-tzu referred to above. For a discussion of retributions in general in Chinese tradition, see Lien-sheng Yang, “The Concept of Pao as a Basis for Social Relations in China,” in Chinese Thought and Institutions, ed. John K. Fairbank (The University of Chincago Press, 1973), pp. 291-309.
16 An implicit cause might be found in the concept of retribution, such as suggested in entry (52), “Huang Miao.” Cf. type six of the Six Dynasties kuai, above.
17 Ku is a kind of black magic usually practiced by female shamans which inflicts harm on the victim with poisonous insects normally administered secretly with food. The ghosts of the victims dying from certain kinds of such ku witchery also become the slaves of the witch. For a study of ku black magic, see John K. Shryock and H.Y. Feng, “The Black Magic in China Known as Ku,” Journal of the American Oriental Society, 55 (1935), 1-30.
18 From the similarity of the transformation motif in this story with that of the Circe episode in the The Odyssey (ch. 10) and some of Apuleius’tales, Yang Hsien-i considers its source to have been in northeastern Africa and suggests that the story came to China with merchants from the Middle East. He points out that Pan-ch’iao (“the Wooden Bridge” of the title), the locale of the story, was a seaport where foreign traders congregated in T’ang times. See his “I yü ou-shih” (Incidental Notes Gathered from the Work of Translation), Tu-shu’, 9 (1979), 118-24, esp. pp. 121-23. But cf. “Tsao tz’u” (Animal Husbandry) in Liao-chai chih-i ’ where such witchery was said to be native to certain parts in southern China.
The number in parentheses following the title is the story’s entry number in this anthology.
19 The best known of them is probably “Tu Tzu-ch’un” translated and anthologized in Y. W. Ma and Joseph S. M. Lau, ed., Traditional Chinese Stories: Themes and Variations (New York: Columbia University Press, 1978), pp. 416-19.
20 See Hori Kentoku ed. Kaisetsu Saüki (Tokyo, 1912), pp. 507-510
21 See Schafer, The Divine Woman, esp. ch. 5; and Wen I-to , “Fu-hsi k’ao” and “Lung feng” in his Shen-hua yü shih (Peking: Ku-chi ch’u-pan-she , 1956), pp. 3-68, 69-72. For dragon lore current in T’ang, see the entries concerning the creature preserved in T’ai-p’ing kuang-chi (chs. 418-25), esp., the entry “Chen-tse tung” in 418 and “Liu Yi chuan” in 419.
22 Regarding the five categories of creatures, see Ta Tai Li-chi 5.5; cf. the portrayal of the dragon given in “The Legendary Marriage at Tung-t’ing” (i.e., “Liu Yi chuan”) in Ma and Lau, pp. 346-54. The other three being: feathered, furred, and shelled.
For a study of this story and its sources of influences, see Uchida Michie , “‘Ryu Ki den’ni tsuite” Tohoku daigaku bungakubu kenkyu nempo 6 (1955), 107-41; and Curtis P. Adkins, “The Hero in T’ang Ch’uan-ch’i Tales,” in Critical Essays on Chinese Fiction, ed. Winston Yang and Curtis P. Adkins (Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 1980), pp. 17-46.
23 See Pai-hu t’ung, “T’ien-ming lun” . The other two of the three ming are shou-ming (alloted span of life) and sui-ming (fortunes incurred according to one’s deeds in life). See also Wang Ts’ung (27-97), Lun heng “Ch’u lin p’ien" “Ming i p’ien” , and “Ming lu p’ien” , where a person’s destiny is thought to be determined by the mixture of different ch’i at the point of his conception.
24 The only major example of a novel that makes an attempt to liberate itself from the rationalistic tradition in the dream narrative is the Ming work Hsi-yu pu (Supplement to Journey to the West) by Tung Yüeh f (1620-1686) (translated as Tower of Nyriad Nirrors by Shuen-fu Lin and Larry Schulz. [Berkeley: Asian Humanities Press, 1978]). On the dream phenomena in T’ang fiction, see Y. M. Ma, “Fact and Fantasy in T’ang Tales,” CLEAR, 2:2 (July 1980), 167-81, and David R. Knechtges, “Dream Adventure Stories in Europe and T’ang China,” Tamkang Review, 4 (Oct. 1973), 101-119.
25 According to Yen Mao-yüan , “Wei Chin Nan-pei-ch’ao chi h-kuai hsiao-shuo shu-lu fu k’ao-cheng” , Wen-hsüeh nien-pao , 6 (Nov., 1940), 45-72, there are altogether sixty-four collections extant in partial or complete form. Fu Hsi-hua “Liu-ch’ao chih-kuai hsiao-shuo chih ts’un-i” Han-hsüeh 1 (1944), 169-210, lists thirty-two. Cf. n. 58.
26 See, for instance, anecdotes recorded in Shih-shuo hsin-yü by Liu I-ch’ing (403-444) which also reveal much about the value systems of the day. This text has been translated in its entirety by Richard B. Mather as A New Account of Tales of the World (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1976), with detailed notes added.
A good example of intellectual debates held in the southern courts is the controversy associated with Fan Chen’s (fl. 487) argument against the Buddhist idea of reincarnation, presented in the “Shen mieh lun” (Discourse on the Extinction of the Spirit after Death). This presentation of his thesis provoked a series of attacks and counter-attacks.
27 See Ts’ao Chih, “Pien-tao lun” (Discourse on the Differentiation of the Tao) in Ts’ao Tzu-ehlen chi p’ing-chu erh-chung , ed. Ting Yen (Taipei: Shih-chieh shu-chü , 1973), pp. 155-5 9, for an account of the summoning of the fang-shih to the capital by Ts’ao Ts’ao and Chih’s own contacts with them. Ts’ao Ts’ao’s purpose of calling them to the capital, according to Chih, was to prevent the fang-shih from “beguiling the people with their witchery.” The Ts’ao brothers, including P’i and Chih, were said to be susp1c1ous, even contemptuous, of these thaumaturges, although Ts’ao Chih admitted that some of the magicians had suprahuman abilities because of their long periods of devoted self-cultivation. Cf. commentaries on San-kuo chih, Wei shu , 1, “Wu-ti” , and 29, “Fang-shih chuan”
28 For an argument in support of this theory, see Wang Yao, “Hsiao-shuo yü fang-shu.”
29 See Pao-p’u-tzu, 2, “Lun hsien” (Discourse on the Immortals). For a translation of the text, see James R. Ware, tr. Alchemy, Medicine, Religion in the China of A.D. 320: The Nei P’ien of Ko Hung (Pao-p’u tzu) (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1966), pp. 33-52.
30 The Shih-i chi is sometimes considered to be outside the chih-kuai tradition, due to both its contents and form of presentation. It lists pre-historical and historical figures and their deeds, which may or may not be supernatural/fantastic, in a chronological order from the legendary Three Emperors to the Chin dynasty. The last (tenth) chapter is devoted to descriptions of exotic mountains and fairy islands. For a study and translation, see Foster, “The Shih-i chi."
31 See Kenneth J. DeWoskin, “The Six Dynasties Chih-kuai and the Birth of Fiction” in Chinese Narrative, ed. Andrew H. Plaks (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1977), pp. 21-52.
32 According to Chin shu , Kan Pao was said to have been moved to compile the Sou-shen chi by two extraordinary events he had witnessed: one was a maid of his father’s being discovered alive after more than ten years of entombment in his father’s grave; the other was his brother’s revival afte r appearing to be dead f or several days.
33 The most outstanding critique being presented Chih-chi’s (661-771) Shih-t’ung . For a discussion of the process, see DeWoskin, “The Six Dynasties Chih-kuai.”
34 In contrast, historiography came to deem the supernatural as fictitious and therefore unsuitable for inclusion in histories.
35 Hu Ying-lin perceived this shift of literary consciousness which he considered to be the distinguishing characteristic of T’ang ch’uan-ch’i (see his Shao-shih shan-fang pi-ts’ung 36. Taipei: Shih-chieh shu-chü, 1963, p. 486). Lu Hsün later gave further prominence to this observation; see his A Brief History of Chinese Fiction, tr. Hsien-yi Yang and Gladys Yang (Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1976), pp. 80-81.
36 For a translation of this story, see The Dwelling of Playful Goddesses, tr. and ed., Howard S. Levy (Tokyo: Dai Nippon Insatsu, 1965).
37 Han Yü’s Preface to “Shih-ting lien-chü” (Linked Verse on the Stone Tripod) (Han Ch’ang-1i chi 21. Peking: Commercial Press, 1958) is a well known example of fantasy; it also creates a fictional situation for the display of some striking verses. His “Mao Ying chuan” is an allegory given in the format of a biography. Liu’s biographies of the common people with an interesting personality, such as the “sung ch’ing chuan “T’ung ch’ü-ch chuan” , and “Li Ch’ih chuan” (see also “Biography of ‘Red’ Li” [63)) are adroit narratives influential in establishing such a biographical sub-genre.
The relationship of the ku-wen movement to the flourishing of T’ang fiction in classical language has been the subject of many studies; see, e.g., Ch’en Yin-k’o (Tschen Yinkoh), “Han Yü and the T’ang Novel,” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 1:1 (1936), 39-43; Wang Yün-hsi” , “Shih-lun T’ang ch’uan-ch’i yü ku-wen yün-tung ti kuan-hsi” rpt. in Wen-hsüeh i-ch’an hsüan-chi (Peking: Chung-hua, 1960), pp. 321-32; and Y. W. Ma, “Prose Writings of Han Yü and Ch’uan-ch’i Literature,” Journal of Oriental Studies, 7:1 (Jan., 1969), 195-220.
38 For a translation of the story see Ma and Lau, pp. 163-71.
39 The practice of t’ou-chüan and wen-chüan as a means of self-advertisement by the candidates to the prospective examiners was previously thought to have encouraged or called for the writing of ch’uan-ch’i stories (particularly in the case of wen-chüan). This notion was first suggested by Ch’ao Yen-wei (fl. 1195) in his Yün-lu man-ch’ao , and advanced in modern times by Ch’en Yin-k’o and Liu K’ai-jung;; recently it has been co;tested by most scholars. For an account, see e.g., Victor H. Mair, “Scroll Presentation in the T’ang Dynasty,” HJAS, 38:1 (1978), 35-60, esp. n. 17.
Despite the argument against the importance of tou-chüan in relation to ch’uan-ch’i, there is evidence of young scholars presenting their fictional writings to the established literary figures and officials of the day as a means of “self-advertisement,” particularly in the latter part of the dynasty. In this respect the practice did contribute to the production of the stories, although it may not necessarily have contributed to the establishment of ch’uan-ch’i as a popular genre from the very start
For the portrayal of the T’ang literati in general and their attempt to advance their careers by association with, and through the patronage of, the established literary figures of the time, see Hans H. Frankel, “T’ang Literati: A Composite Biography,” in Confucianism and Chinese Civilization, ed. Arthur F. Wright (Stanford: Stanford Univ. Press, 1975), pp. 103-21.
40 “Chou Ch’in chi-hsing” (Journey in the Chou and Ch’in Regions) was said to have been attributed to Niu Seng-ju (779-847) by his political enemy as a way of implicating him--since the story contains irreverant references to the deceased members of the T’ang royal family. “Pai-yüan chuan” (story of the White Ape), as has been suggested by some critics, was composed to ridicule Ou-yang Hsün (557-641) for his looks. Although not always representing valid interpretations, cases such as these do point out the traditional reader’s tendency to see the pragmatic use of the genre by the authors.
41 Ma and Lau, pp. 435-37.
42 “Kan Chiang and Mo Yeh” (11), a story made famous by Lu Hsün’s adaptation, “Forging the Swords,” in his Old Tales Retold (Ku-shih hsin-pien “Chih chien”, has an elaborate nexus of motifs--legendary swords, revenge, a riddled message, yu-hsia (knight-errantry), head boiling, etc. Only in light of the chapter context does it become clear that the basic kuai phenomenon intended is the severed head retaining its life and volition.
For a discussion of the organization of the SSC, see DeWoskin, “The Sou-shen chi and the Chih-kuai Tradition,” ch. 4, pp. 193-296.
43 For the role-types and the terms of classification used here, cf. Vladmir Propp’s study of narrative, Morphology of the Folktale, tr. Laurence Scott, 2d ed. (Austin and London: Univ. of Texas Press, 1968); also studies in case grammar by Charles J. Fillmore, “The Case for Case,” in Universals in Linguistic Theory, ed. E. Bach and R. Harms (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1968), pp. 1-88; and idem, “Subjects, Speakers, and Roles,” in Semantics of Natural Language, ed. Donald Davidson and Gilbert Harman, 2nd ed. (Dordrect and Boston: D. Reidel, 1972), pp. 1-24.
44 A possible source of influence of this “in pair” motif might be Cheng Chiao-fu’s encounter with the two goddesses by the river bank from the Lieh-hsien chuan (Biographies of the Immortals). See n. 3 of “Cheng Te-lin” (90) for an account of the story.
45 The tests of Chao in the second part may be read as a confrontation of two forces, but in successfully completing the trials, he has demonstrated his inner strength rather than in fact vanquishing any eternal adversaries.
Notice that this story is a combination of two independent stories, the first of which is taken from the life of another Taoist patriarch, Chang Lu see endnote to this story (29).
46 Mather describes him as a man with “an enormous reputation for erudition” (A New Account, p. 501).
47 Seen. 7 above.
48 Lei Huan, styled K’ung-chang, was known for his art of observing the “cosmic auras” by which he had discovered a pair of magic swords. He sent one of them to Chang Hua who had first detected the irregular light in the atmosphere emitted from the buried swords and consulted Huan about it. After Hua died, the swords were eventually reunited and were seen to have been transformed into a pair of dragons that disappeared into the ford at Yen-p’ing. See Chin-shu 36, “Chang Hua.”
49 The T’ai-p’ing yü-lan version indicates the source as the Sou-shen chi. There are two possible reasons for the differences in wording: either the version of SSC used by the Sung compilers differs from that of the 20-chüan edition of SSC that we have (on which the translation in this anthology is based), or the compilers of TPYL condensed and altered the wording of the s arne version. The story is found in four other sources: Hsü Ch’i-hsieh chi , Tiao-yü chi , chi-i chi (preserved in T’ai-p’ing kuang-chi, 442.11), and the Pai-hai edition of SSC (see Wang Shao-ying, ed. Sou-shen chi, [Peking: Chung-hua, 1979], p. 220). The version in Hsü Ch’i-hsieh chi is the same as that in Chi-i chi (compiled in late T’ang by Hsüeh Yung-jo . fl. 820); the version in Tiao-yü chi (believed to have been compiled in the early T’ang) is more or less similar to that of the 20-chüan SSC. Wang Shao-ying believes that the first half of the version in the 20-chüan sse is based on the wording of Chi-i chi and the second half on that of the Pai-hai sse version, which differs from the Chi-i chi version mainly in that Lei Huan is the one who recognizes the efficacy of the memorial post, instead of Chang Hua. The TPYL version cited here agrees with the Chi-i chi on this point, and owing to its cryptic style, it reads much like a condensation of a fuller story like that preserved in the Chi-i chi.
50 See Kondō Haruo, Tōdai Shōsetsu no kenkyū (Tokyo: Kasawa shoin"ti’. 1978); and Sarah Yim, “Structure, Theme and Narrator in T’ang Ch’uan-ch’i,” Diss. Yale Univ. 1979. For a structural study of the narrative in biography format, see William H. Nienhauser, Jr., “A Structural Reading of the Chuan in the Wen-yüan ying-hua,” Journal of Asian Studies, 36:3 (May 1977), 443-56.
51 See, e.g., “The Courtesan Li Wa,” in Ma and Lau, pp. 163-171.
52 The notions of transformation and the comparative procedure necessarily presuppose the concept of the norm, which is a complex problem that we cannot pursue here. “The Daughter of the King of Wu” is chosen because it is representative of the type, with its nexus of necromantic motifs; the op~rations mentioned are seen relative to this story, not to a norm.
53 In this regard, it is interesting to note that many of the T’ang chih-kuai feature a hero who becomes the experiencer of the strange events often right after he has failed the civil service exam; see, for instance, “Kuo Yüan-chen” (73), “Sun K’o” (89), etc.
54 A frame unifies a series of discrete event units by giving them a name. Take, for instance, the following series: a housewife getting into a car, driving to the gas station, filling the car with gas, driving to a supermarket, parking the car, going into the building, picking up grocery items, paying for them at the check-out, etc.,--these can be given the name of “grocery shopping.” Outside this frame, the act of “taking the car to the gas station,” or “picking up items of groceries,” can be part of something else or a self-contained act in itself.
For a theoretical examination of the concept of frame and our perception of reality and action, see Erving Goffman, Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard Univ. Press, 1974); and for a study of this cncept from a linguistic perspective, see Wallace Chafe, “The Recall and Verbalization of Past Experience,” in Current Issues in Linguistic Theory, ed. Roger W. Cole (Bloomington and London: Indiana Univ. Press, 1977), pp. 215-36.
55 Theoretically it is possible to determine the hierarchy and establish the frame in a formal procedure, but this is not the place to discuss such a problem. For a model of the process, see Teun van Dijk, “Action, Action Description, and Narrative,” New Literary History, 6:2 (1975), 273-94.
56 Cf. “Chang Tao-ling” (29) discussed above. The differences in the processing and the degree of integration between the two are nonetheless obvious.
57 The story contains a hint of a conflict between the Confucian and Taoist outlooks, with a resolution favoring the latter. Note, for instance, the specifics of Liu Yi’s failing the exam at the beginning and his gaining immortality at the end.
58 According to Foster; see his “Shih-i chi,” p. 43 and Appendix I, where sixty-four titles of CK collections are given. Yüan Hsing-p’ei and Hou Chung-i, ed. Chung-kuo wen-yen hsiao-shuo shu-mu (Peking: Peking University Press, 1981) lists about sixty from the Six Dynasties, of which forty-four are extant partially or in their entirety.
59 About ninety titles of T’ang CK are given in Yüan and Hou (see preceding note), of which about thirty a r e individual pieces (ten no longer extant) and sixty are collections (about half are extant in the i r entirety or in part).