Our decision to develop a repository of East and Central Asian literature grew from our observation that men of Asian letters tend to be skilled amateurs in the first meaning of the word—persons whose incentive is Part pour Part. Such persons tend to have at least one or two well-made translations languishing in a desk drawer. We hope to rescue any such works and to stimulate others.
This volume of K’uei Hsing is a trial balloon and has allowed considerable variety in methods of translation as well as in the extent of commentary and annotation. If our adventures are successful, we trust that other volumes will follow, each subsequent volume specific in theme.
The story is told of a Chinese scholar named K’uei, as famous for his literary talent as for the deformity of his face, who attained first rank in the Literary Examinations at the Capital. It was customary for the Emperor to present, with his own hand, a golden rose to the lucky candidate. Therefore, according to the ritual, K’uei stepped forward to receive the reward that was due to him. But the Emperor, repelled by his ugly face, refused to bestow on him the golden rose. Heartbroken, the poor scholar went off to drown himself. When he was about to expire at the bottom of the river, a mysterious fish named Ngao took him upon its back and returned him to the surface. K’uei then ascended to heaven and became a star (hsing) and was worshipped as the Patron of Literature. His palace is located in the square of the Big Dipper.
This is the explanation of our somewhat cryptic title.
K’uei Hsing is not intended to be a scholarly publication in the strict sense of the word, but rather to provide leisurely and enjoyable reading for scholars and artists who, led by their curiosity, have discovered the charms of Central and East Asian cultures. May K’uei Hsing’s Repository encourage us to enjoy more assiduously the puzzle of the quadrature of the circle, to which Max Müller compared the rendering of Oriental texts into a Western language.
F. A. BISCHOFF