Early Medieval China

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 7:35 am

Just for fun I have been reading Early Medieval China: A Sourcebook.1 It is a very good book, written by a collection of the superheros of the field. The advertising blurb from Columbia calls it “innovative” and it indeed is. Normally a sourcebook is a collection of primary sources aimed, mostly, at undergraduates. This book is rather more ambitious. There are probably a few places where undergraduates take courses specialized enough to merit assigning a book like this, but not many. Mostly it is aimed at scholars, being intended to summarize some of the most important recent work and suggest what might be done in the future. Thus we get Yang Lu explains and translates some of the wooden slips dealing with local administration found at Changsha in 1996, and we also get various tomb texts that have never been translated into English. The introductions to the volume and to the individual sections are the best short introductions to these topics2 available in English. The introductions and notes matter a lot. In a more traditional sourcebook editors often look for readings that an undergraduate would be able to get something out of without too much of an introduction or too many footnotes. Sometimes this is not too hard. Confucius talking about being a good person and Xunzi talking about good government are things that most students should be able to pick up on without too much hand-holding.  This period is different, however, and while the editors are at pains to point out that there was more going on in the culture of the period than “insect carving”, i.e. the incredibly recondite, allusive writing that the era is notorious for (although they do include Pei Ziye’s ‘Discourse on Insect Carving.’) they have put a lot of work into introducing the otherwise obscure readings and glossing everything that needs to be glossed.

There are, for instance, a whole set of texts that deal with topics that most people who teach the field talk about a lot. There is a nice reading from Ge Hong on the cultural differences between North and South, which is, of course one of the traditional themes of the period. The reading also gives something of the importance of Philology (and Phonology) in the scholarship of the time, as well as the importance of language, a theme that runs throughout the book.

Ge Hong
People of the Nine Provinces speak in different dialects. This has been the norm since the beginning of mankind. [ … ] The land and waters of the South are mild and gentle; [thus] the sound [of Southern speech] is bright and crisp. The shortcoming is its shallowness. Its expressions are mostly vulgar. The mountains and rivers in the North are solemn and deep; [thus] the sound (of Northern speech] is baritone and rotund, taking after the simplicity and ruggedness [of the landscape]. The expressions contain many ancient terms. However, Southern [speech] is finer when spoken by nobles and gentlemen; Northern [speech] is better when spoken by villagers and peasants. One could distinguish in a few words a Southern gentleman from a commoner, even if they exchanged clothes. One would have difficulty differentiating between a Northern courtier and a countryman even after listening [to them] all day from behind a wall. Moreover, Southern speech has been influenced by [the dialects of] Wu and Yue; Northern speech has [the languages of] barbarians and captives mixed into it. Both have deep flaws that cannot be discussed in detail here.[ … ] Since I arrived at Ye, I find only Cui Ziyue and his nephew Cui Zhan Li Zuren and his younger brother, Li Wei to be knowledgeable in speech and slightly more accurate [in pronunciation]. Resolving Doubts About Sounds and Rhymes composed by Li Jijie [lived during Northern Qi], contains many mistakes. The Classification of Rhymes, devised by Yang Xiuzhi is perfunctory. The [pronunciation of the] children of my house, since their childhood, has been watched and corrected. I take any mispronunciation of a character as my own fault. When determining what an object should be called, I dare not utter its name without first consulting books and records-this you know well.
[Yanshi jiaxun jijie, 529-45]

On the other hand they also have all sorts of things that don’t fit the traditional picture of the period as well. Shu Xi’s “Rhapsody on Pasta” is a good example.

…At the beginning of the three spring months
When yin and yang begin to converge,
And the chilly air has dispersed,
When it is warm but not sweltering,
At this time for feasts and banquets
It is best to serve mantou. 32

When Wu Hui governs the land,33
And the pure yang spreads and diffuses,
We dress in ramie and drink water,
Cool ourselves in the shade.
If in this season we make pasta,
There is nothing better than bozhuang. 34

When the autumn wind blows fierce, 35
And the great Fire Star moves west,36
When sleek down appears on birds and beasts,
And barren branches appear on trees,
Dainties and delicacies must be eaten warm.
Thus, leavened bread may be served.37

In dark winter’s savage cold,
At early-morning gatherings,
Snot freezes in the nose,
Frost forms around the mouth,
For filling empty stomachs and relieving chills,
Boiled noodles are best.

Thus, each kind is used in a particular season,
Depending on what is apt and suitable for the time.
If one errs in the proper sequence,
The result will not be good.

Ok, so just like in the ancient texts, you need to adopt your foods to the season. Obviously if one does not the results for your health and the balance of the universe will not be good. Is there anything that, like chicken soup with rice, is good all times of the year? Yes, there is.

That which Through winter, into summer,
Can be served all year round,

And in all four seasons freely used,
In no respect unsuitable,
Can only be the boiled dumpling. 38

And then, twice-sifted flour, 39
Flying like dust, white as snow,
Sticky as glue, stringy as tendons,
Becomes moist and glistening, soft and lustrous.

For meat There are mutton shoulders and pork ribs,
Half fat, half skin. It is chopped fine as fly heads,
And strung together like pearls, strewn like pebbles.
Ginger stalks and onion bulbs,
Into azure threads are sliced and split.
Pungent cinnamon is ground into powder,
Fagara and thoroughwort are sprinkled on.
Blending in salt, steeping black beans,
They stir and mix all into a gluey mash.

And then, when the fire is blazing and the hot water is bubbling,
Savage fumes rise as steam.
Pushing up his sleeves, dusting off his coat,
The cook grasps and presses, pats and pounds.
Flour is webbed to his finger tips,
And his hands whirl and twirl, crossing back and forth.
In a flurrying frenzy, in a motley mixture,
The dumplings scatter like stars, pelt like hail.
Meat does not burst into the steamer,
And there is no loose flour on the dumplings.
Lovely and pleasing, mouthwatering,
The wrapper is thin, but it does not burst.
Rich flavors are blended within,
A plump aspect appears without.
They are as tender as spring floss,
As white as autumn silk.
Steam, swirling and swelling, wafts upward,
The aroma swiftly spreads far and wide.

So now you have a recipe to try. Thoroughwort is, I think, Bone-set, and I would not use it in food, but the rest should be easy enough to find.
There are also readings on topics that have always been aspects of the Great Tradition, but have gotten less attention in the past. Thus we have a whole section on Auto-cremation. If you have been wondering how immolation fits into the Buddhist tradition there are readings here for you.


Huiyi was from Guangling. When he was young, he left home and followed his master to Shouchun During the Xiaojian period of the Song [454-456] he arrived in the capital [Jiankang] and resided at Zhulin si. He diligently practiced austerities, and he vowed to burn his body. When his fellow monks heard of this, some castigated him while others praised him. In the fourth year of Daming [460], he began by abstaining from cereals and ate only sesame and wheat. In the sixth year, he stopped eating wheat and consumed only oil of thyme.17 Sometimes he also cut out the oil and ate only pills made of incense. Although the four gross elements [of his body] became feeble, his spirit was clear and his judgment was sound.

Emperor Xiaowu [r. 454-464] had a profound regard for Huiyi and respectfully inquired [as to his intentions]. He dispatched his Chief Minister Yigong, Prince of Jiangxia. [413-465], to the monastery to reason with him. But [Hui] yi would not go back on his vow. On the eighth day of the
fourth month of the seventh year of the Darning reign period [May 11, 463], he prepared to burn himself.

He set up a cauldron full of oil on the southern slope of Zhong shan That morning, he mounted an oxcart drawn by humans and was going from the monastery to the mountain. But then he realized that the emperor was not only the foundation of the people but also the patron of the three jewels
He wanted to enter the palace under his own strength, but when he reached the Yunlong gate he could no longer proceed on foot. He sent a messenger to say, “The man of the Way, Huiyi, who is about to abandon his body, is at the gate and presents his farewells. He profoundly hopes that the
Buddha dharma may be entrusted [to his majesty].” When the emperor heard his message, he was upset and immediately came out to meet him at the Yunlong gate. When [Hui]yi saw the emperor, he earnestly entrusted the Buddha dharma to his care, then he took his leave. The emperor followed him. Princes, concubines, empresses, religious, laity, and officials flooded into the valley. The robes that they offered and the treasures that they donated were incalculable.

Huiyi now entered the cauldron, lay down on a little bed within it, and wrapped himself in cloth. On his head he added a long cap, which he saturated with oil. As he was about to apply the flame to it, the emperor ordered his chief minister to approach the cauldron and to try to dissuade him. (Yigong pleaded], “There are many ways to practice the path; why must you end your life? I wish you would think again and try a different track.” But Huiyi’s resolve was unshakable and he showed no remorse. He replied, “This feeble body and this wretched life, how do they deserve to be retained? If the mind of Heaven and the compassion of the sage [i.e., the emperor] are infinite, then my wish is merely that twenty people [be allowed to] leave home.” An edict ordering these ordinations was immediately issued. [Hui]yi took up the torch in his own hand and ignited the cap. With the cap ablaze, he cast away the torch, put his palms together, and chanted the “Chapter on the Medicine King.” As the flames reached his eyebrows, the sound of his recitation could still be clearly discerned. Reaching his eyes, it became indistinct. The cries of pity from the rich and poor echoed in the dark valley. They all clicked their fingers [in approval]; they intoned the name of the Buddha and cried, full of sorrow.

The fire did not die down until the next morning. At that moment, the emperor heard the sound of pipes in the air and smelled a strange perfume that was remarkably fragrant. He did not return to the palace until the end of that day. In the night he dreamed that he saw Huiyi, who came striking a bell. Again [the monk] entrusted to him the Buddha dharma. The next day, the emperor held an ordination ceremony. He ordered the Master of Ceremonies to give a eulogy for the funeral service. At the place of the autocremation was built Yaowang si in an allusion to [Huiyi’s recitation of] the “Original Acts.”

As I said above, I can’t imagine teaching a class where I would be able to assign this to students, but it is a great beach read.

  1. Swartz, Wendy, Robert Ford Campany, Yang Lu, and Jessey J. C. Choo. Early Medieval China: A Sourcebook. Columbia University Press, 2013. []
  2. “Relations with the Unseen World, Everyday Life, Imaging Self and Other, Cultural Capital, Governing Mechanisms and Social Reality, The North and the South” []


Orwell and China

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 3:44 pm

I have been meaning to blog about Ibisbill’s post on George Orwell and China, but as I have not come up with anything to say, I suppose I should just toss the link out. As he points out, Orwell, talked a bit about China. This seems mostly (to me) to have been in reference to India. Orwell spent the war years broadcasting propaganda to India, trying to convince Indians that siding with the Japanese was a bad idea. He eventually became disgusted with what he was doing and quit, His final transmission to India ended with

Perhaps the best answer to the propaganda which the Japanese put out to India and other places is simple the three words LOOK AT CHINA. And since I am now bringing these weekly commentaries to an end I believe those three words LOOK AT CHINA are the best final message I can deliver to India. 1

The post also talks a bit about Orwell’s enlightened ideas about the colonized as people. It is one of my regrets as a teacher that I can’t really ask students to read “Not Counting Niggers” since they always give me a funny look when I suggest they read it. Ibisbill goes on to talk about Chinese translations of 1984, Despite what he says, I struggle to think about how this book might be relevant to China today.



  1. W.J. West ed. Orwell: The War Commentaries New York: Pantheon, 1985 p.219 []


Confucius does Powerpoint

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 3:05 pm

 There is an old Chinese story concerning three young men who are too lazy to study. Their father builds them a hut on a mountain figuring that isolation will help them concentrate. It does not work. They meet a divine lady, who wants, of course, to marry them to her three beautiful daughters. She is also willing to give them study help.

The Lady said to the three youths: “What men treat seriously is life; what they desire is honor. Now before a hundred days have been lost to mankind, I shall bring life to you, lords, enduring beyond this world, and position far beyond that of any mortal magnate.” The three youths saluted once more and gave thanks, but were anxious lest their ignorance be a hindrance and their dull wits an obstacle. The Lady said, “Do not be anxious, milords, for this is a simple thing!” Then she enjoined her manager on earth, commanding him to summon K’ung Hsuan-fu (Confucius). In a moment Master K’ung came, equipped with hat and sword. The Lady approached the staircase, and Hsuan-fu presented himself with a respectful salutation. Standing erect, the Lady asked if she might impose a slight task on him, addressing him thus: “My three sons-in-law desire to study. Will you guide them, milord?” Then Hsuan-fu gave commands to the three youths. He showed the chapter titles of the Six Registers (The Six Classics) to them with his finger-and they awoke to an understanding of their overall meaning without missing a single detail, thoroughly conversant with all as if they had always been rehearsing them. Then Hsuan-fu gave thanks, and departed. Now the Lady commanded Chou Shang-fu to show them “The Mystic Woman’s Talisman and Secret Esoterica of the Yellow  Pendants.” The three youths acquired these too without missing anything. She sat and spoke with them again, and found that their studious penetration of all the civil and military arts was now as far-reaching as that of a Heavenly Person. Inspecting each other, the three youths were aware that now their air and poise were balanced and expansive, while their spiritual illumination was uninhibited and buoyant-they were in all respects equipped to become Commanders or Ministers.

 There are a couple of things that struck me here. One is Confucius’ mad Powerpoint skills.

He showed the chapter titles of the Six Registers (The Six Classics) to them with his finger-and they awoke to an understanding of their overall meaning without missing a single detail.

Apparently Confucius can teach someone the Rites Classic just by pointing his finger at the chapter titles. Suck on that Edward Tufte. Also, of course, we have magical learning. Students who have been goofing off all semester are magically transformed into people who know it all, or can at least pass the final. They (or their father) try isolating themselves from distraction (get away from your phone. Go to the library) but it does not work. But then a miracle occurs. My students are of course quite familiar with this idea, since they know that you can learn a lot in just one night of frantic studying. They are also not at all surprised that I, their teacher, once learned a whole semester of geography in one night. They always seem to understand the logic behind the Great Leap Forward, the idea that a red heart can achieve miracles, if you compare it to cramming for an exam.

Sadly, unlink most things on this blog this is not something I will probably ever use to teach with. It comes from Edward H Schafer’s Pacing the Void: Tʻang Approaches to the Stars. ((The lady is in fact a star-lady. Of course the boys end up telling their father about her, as she had told them not to, and she makes them drink something that makes them stupid again.)) As always with his many1 works I feel entirely inadequate to do anything with them in class other than say “cut class next time and go read all his books.”


On Amazon I see

Schafer, Edward H. Pacing the Void: Tʻang Approaches to the Stars. [Warren, Conn.]: Floating World Editions, 2005.

———. Shore of Pearls. [Warren, Conn.]: Floating World Editions, 2010.

———. The Divine Woman: Dragon Ladies and Rain Maidens in Tʻang Literature. San Francisco: North Point Press, 1980.

———. The Vermilion Bird: T’ang Images of the South. Warren, Conn.; Abingdon: Floating World ; Marston [distributor], 2006.

Schafer, Edward Hetzel. The Golden Peaches of Samarkand: A Study of T’ang Exotics. Berkeley Calif.; London [etc.]: Univ. of California Press, 1985.

  1. often reprinted []



Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 9:38 am

Now is the time in my Early China class when I get to the Three Kingdoms. This is usually a time some of the students have been waiting for, since they know the Three Kingdoms, having reunified China themselves, playing on hard level, as the ruler of Shu, Wei, AND Wu

68You might think that I don’t like having lots of kids come to my classes because of a video game,1 but you would be wrong. Part of it is that I like anyone who is interested in history to come to my classes and help feed my kids. A bigger part is that the Three Kingdoms types are usually pretty good. One thing that stinks about teaching Asian History is that there is not that much popular history in English that is any good.  There are a few exceptions. Next semester I will be using Toni Andrade’s The Lost Colony: The Untold Story of China’s First Great Victory over the West which is a good book written by a fine scholar who realized that in addition to being an important part of Chinese and Asian history the story of Koxinga is also a ripping yarn that people would like to read. My Americanist colleagues have lots of stuff like this to draw on, plus some pretty serious stuff written by non-academics, plus lots of primary sources on-line. We Asianists mostly have to teach with academic stuff or rubbish about ninjas.

I bring this up because as I was looking around for an English-language translation of the biography of Cao Cao for a student I found Kongming Archives They have lots of video game stuff, but also English-language translations of the biographies from 三國志! They don’t look too bad either. I suspect that as Americans get more interested in China (and the internet makes this stuff easier to find) there will be more and more of these type of things.

For an explanation of the post title go here




  1. yes, the card is not from the video game []


Commander Bradshaw goes to China

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 8:07 am

Lately I have been going through Project Guttenberg and reading old books set in China. Late at night when you are too tired to go to bed, or in the odd quarter of an hour before lunch there is nothing to touch a ripping yarn like

BlueDragon cover

You may not know the book,1 but you may be familiar with some of the author’s other work like the “Mates Series” the “Pacific Coast Series” “Forward March” etc. It may not be deathless prose, but if the action lags you can always think about what it shows about the people who read this stuff.

Our story is a about Joseph Lee (Li Ching Cheng, usually referred to in the story as Jo, or Chinese Jo) son of a progressive mandarin, and his friend Rob Hinckley, son of an American missionary. These two end up seeing most of the Boxer Uprising. Our Lads get to steal a locomotive (which blows up at just the right time in a chapter entitled The Timely Explosion of a Boiler), witness the death of the German Ambassador to China, and die and get wounded at just the right points to be dramatic without messing up the story. It is fun to read a story where the author does not worry too much about things like plausibility and can beam his characters around as he wishes. We get all the things you might expect, including plot convenient language ability or inability, disguises (Rob passes himself off as a Chinese monk), mocking of Chinese superstition, and a bad guy who is defeated through pulling him down by his pigtail.

One thing I found interesting about the book is how pro-Chinese it is. Missionaries die, but always offstage, and  most of the blame for the Uprising is placed on the poverty and desperation of the peasants of drought-stricken China and a handful of evil people like Cixi.The post-Boxer looting is not glossed over

So Pekin fell, almost without a struggle, and for a year afterwards the city was misruled and looted by foreign soldiers, who destroyed many of its most beautiful structures and carried away its most precious works of art. From it also they ravaged the surrounding country, sending out punishment expeditions to kill, burn, and destroy in every direction.

Jo is the most interesting character, and he

was not quite certain that he did not approve of the plan for driving all foreigners from China. Foreigners expelled Chinese from their countries, so why should not his people in turn expel foreigners from China? Still, he did not express any views on the subject at that time, but changed the topic of conversation

His antipathy towards foreigners is not surprising, as at the beginning of the book he was sent to Connecticut to study. Needless to say, he is assaulted by a mob on his first day, and while the mob are “Dageos” and “Imitation Americans” even the right sort, like his friend Rob and his missionary uncle point out that he was asking for it by going out in a skirt. Jo turns against the Boxers after they kill his father, of course, and dies before he might be called on to express an opinion on the outcome of the whole Uprising, but he is a remarkably sympathetic character for someone who never shows any interest in Christianity and is arguably anti-American.

Monroe did his homework pretty well, and there are surprisingly few howling errors for a book like this. Its a fun enough read, and worth every penny.


  1. published in 1904 []


Yellow Peril 3.1

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 4:31 pm

Via Cameron Campbell’s Facebook feed I found a link to How Social Darwinism Made Modern China: A thousand years of meritocracy shaped the Middle Kingdom  from The American Conservative It is…odd.  The author (Ron Unz) is arguing that the Chinese have been becoming genetically more intelligent due to the long term effects of economic scarcity and competition. Unz claims that his type of thinking will automatically be rejected by the Soviet-style totalitarian system of intellectual conformity that dominates American life, banishing the racialist truths that would be self-evident to anyone but an American. He’s actually right about that. Every time I tried to think about his argument the chip that they implanted in my skull freshman year give me a little electrical shock.

A lot of the piece is just looney. We get a suggestion that “the socially conformist tendencies of most Chinese people might be due to the fact that for the past 2,000 years the Chinese government had regularly eliminated its more rebellious subjects.” I’m pretty sure that if the Chinese people had been selected for non-rebelliousness from the Han Dynasty on we would be seeing some signs of this by, say 1850.

The thing that makes the piece interesting is that it is actually pretty good. It’s a re-written undergraduate paper, but Unz has read a lot of stuff since then. He is essentializing the Chinese, but in a way that shows a some engagement with the literature.

The cultural and ideological constraints of Chinese society posed major obstacles to mitigating this never-ending human calamity. Although impoverished Europeans of this era, male and female alike, often married late or not at all, early marriage and family were central pillars of Chinese life, with the sage Mencius stating that to have no children was the worst of unfilial acts; indeed, marriage and anticipated children were the mark of adulthood. Furthermore, only male heirs could continue the family name and ensure that oneself and one’s ancestors would be paid the proper ritual respect, and multiple sons were required to protect against the vagaries of fate. ….

Nearly all peasant societies sanctify filial loyalty, marriage, family, and children, while elevating sons above daughters, but in traditional China these tendencies seem to have been especially strong. [emphasis mine]

See? Chinese peasants are peasant-y, but then so are most peasants. China is different than other places, but not that different. He has read and thought about some stuff, and has even read, or at least cited, some staggeringly dull stuff on Chinese historical demography. He suggests that the exam system may have led to increased competitiveness, but then concludes that not enough people participated for that to be the case. He suggests that culture may matter, and while he does not really follow up on this he does at least mention it. This is a cut above the Yellow Peril stuff you ordinarily get on the Internet.

This made me think a bit about how this is different from the earlier Yellow Perils. He is arguing that Chinese have, for the last several centuries, becoming smarter and more competitive. Is that what the original Yellow Peril was? For me that mostly means going back to Jack London.1 In The Unparallelled Invasion  London suggested that the Americans might have to exterminate the Chinese in self-defence, but the reason for this is not their intelligence but their industry. Mark Twain also agrees that the Chinese were hard workers.

They are a harmless race when white men either let them alone or treat them no worse than dogs; in fact they are almost entirely harmless anyhow, for they seldom think of resenting the vilest insults or the cruelest injuries. They are quiet, peaceable, tractable, free from drunkenness, and they are as industrious as the day is long. A disorderly Chinaman is rare, and a lazy one does not exist.
Roughing It

London is, of course, a good Social Darwinist, who thinks that history is a constant process of racial competition.

The history of civilisation is a history of wandering, sword in hand, in search of food.  In the misty younger world we catch glimpses of phantom races, rising, slaying, finding food, building rude civilisations, decaying, falling under the swords of stronger hands, and passing utterly away.  Man, like any other animal, has roved over the earth seeking what he might devour; and not romance and adventure, but the hunger-need, has urged him on his vast adventures.Whether a bankrupt gentleman sailing to colonise Virginia or a lean Cantonese contracting to labour on the sugar plantations of Hawaii, in each case, gentleman and coolie, it is a desperate attempt to get something to eat, to get more to eat than he can get at home.2

So London has the proper old racialist ideas, and at least in one case he suggests that this is genetic. Check the bold bit (mine) below in The Tears of Ah Kim

Honourable, among labourers, had Ah Kim’s rating been as a towing coolie. In Hawaii, receiving a hundred times more pay, he found himself looked down upon as the lowest of the low–a plantation coolie, than which could be nothing lower. But a coolie whose ancestors had towed junks up the eleventh cataract of the Yangtse since before the birth of Christ inevitably inherits one character in large degree, namely, the character of patience.

The Yangzi does not have 11  cataracts, or at least not before you get to the Three Gorges, although Egypt of course had a lot of them. Still there is at least a suggestion of improvement through breeding.

Ah Kim is actually pretty modern

Ah Kim himself, a generation younger than his mother, had been bitten by the acid of modernity. The old order held, in so far as he still felt in his subtlest crypts of being the dusty hand of the past resting on him, residing in him; yet he subscribed to heavy policies of fire and life insurance, acted as treasurer for the local Chinese revolutionises that were for turning the Celestial Empire into a republic, contributed to the funds of the Hawaii-born Chinese baseball nine that excelled the Yankee nines at their own game, talked theosophy with Katso Suguri, the Japanese Buddhist and silk importer, fell for police graft, played and paid his insidious share in the democratic politics of annexed Hawaii, and was thinking of buying an automobile. Ah Kim never dared bare himself to himself and thrash out and winnow out how much of the old he had ceased to believe in. His mother was of the old, yet he revered her and was happy under her bamboo stick. Li Faa, the Silvery Moon Blossom, was of the new, yet he could never be quite completely happy without her.

In general, (and I look forward to a real Londoner correcting me here) Jack does not seem to be saying that the Chinese have been selected to be genetically superior to others. They are hard-working, phlegmatic3 but not all that bright. Like Fu Manchu you need to keep them away from the superior technology that the West has, but which does not seem to be really Western in the sense that it is the product of a more intelligent race that only they can use. Unz seems to be not taking the Chinese seriously and using them more as an attempt to convince Americans to get back to their racialist roots. Still, I think this ‘The Chinese are genetically modified super-folk’ might be an important meme going forward.

  1. I’m not actually writing a monograph on western thought about Asia here, just thinking about stuff []
  2. from The Human Drift. I wish the people here http://www.jacklondons.net/jackLondonWritings.html would make a single Kindle edition of all his stuff . There are lots of Chinese in there []
  3. and I swear I saw Ah Choon grin at me with philosophic resignation as he cleared the rail and went under. (From The Heathen) []


Rustic poetry

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 11:22 am

The contrast between the center and the periphery is a common theme in Chinese literature. To be an official sent from the capital to the provinces, or a sent-down youth sent from Beijing to a village in the Northeast is a great inspiration for art. A very fine example of this comes from, Pricne Dan, as discussed by Andrew Chittick. ((Chittick, Andrew. Patronage and Community in Medieval China: The Xiangyang Garrison, 400-600 Ce. State Univ of New York Pr, 2010.)) The Xiangyang garrison was an outpost of central power along the middle Yangzi, and thus the relationship between the local elite and central power (the capital in what is now Nanjing) was very important both for the central power (who needed local support to hold of the northern hordes) and for local elite (who were legitimated by connections to central power.)  First, the poem

At dawn depart from Xiangyang town, by evening  lodge at Big Dike inn.
All the girls of Big Dike bloom voluptuous, startling  young men’s eyes.
Going upstream one’s job is poling, downstream row a pair of oars;
Four-cornered dragon streamers encircle  the pole in the river’s midst.
Jiangling’s three thousand  three hundred  li, midpoint  of the west pass road,
But whether  it is clear or blocked-how can you figure how long it takes?
Men praise Xiangyang music, but the music made is not that of my country.
Guided by stars, braving the wind, I’ll sail back to my Yang province.
Lustrous unrestrained girls like creeping vines tangle around  the long-lived pine.
Though  their loveliness perseveres in spring, when the year is cold they are no use to me.
The  yellow goose joins heaven  to fly, anxiously pacing the middle way.
The cartwheels  turn  in my guts; whom must my love be with now?
Yang province rushes wrought in circles; a hundred cash buys two or three thickets’  worth.
If I cannot  buy then  I will return; empty hands will clutch  and embrace me.
Creeping  vines arise from baseness; they rely on the   surface of the long-lived pine.
Yet can one slight a death  by frost? The noble becomes entangled with another.
I hate to see so much lust and pleasure, stop me, don’t speak to me.
I won’t be a crow that flocks in the forest; suddenly I feel I am called to go.
Chittick points out that this poem seems to echo many elements of provincial culture. Xiangyang elite culture centered around violence, song, and dance, rather than the literary culture that dominated the center, and there are elements of this in here.1 More significantly for me it gives an almost timeless view of the Chinese elite’s view of the provinces. Voluptuous girls trying to entangle you genders the relationship between a properly ordered, patriarchal center and the more loose provinces. People in the provinces are poor, so your money (and status) go further there. The poet/prince is tempted by the idea of staying here and raising a rebellion, but of course he decides to go back to the center, just as so many sent-down youth did.
  1. Chittick explains the provincial grammar and usage in the poem []


Thurify yourself

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 12:49 pm

One of the things we have read for the May Fourth class I am teaching is Liang Qichao’s On the Relationship between Fiction and the Government of the People (論小說與羣治的關係)1  It is a good reading if you want to explain to students why May 4thers cared so much about literature, and also why everyone should care about literature.

As a good Confucian Liang of course sees no need to explain that literature can have a transformative effect on someone’s mind and morals, or that this can be connected to the stability of the state. Claiming that fiction (rather than, say, poetry) can do this will take more proving for his audience.

He claims that people enjoy fiction, of course, and it is easy to get them to read it. Besides being enjoyable, it lets us experience things outside our own lives.

..human nature is such that it is often discontented with the world. The world with which we are in physical contact is spatially limited. Thus, apart from direct physical or perceptual contact with reality, we also often desire to touch and perceive things indirectly; this is the life beyond one’s life, the world beyond one’s world. This sort of vision is inherent in both the sharp and the dullwitted. And nothing can transcend the power of fiction in molding the human into more intelligent or duller beings.  Thus, fiction often leads us to a different world and transforms the atmosphere with which we are in constant contact.

It was through fiction that the May Fourthers met Nora Helmer, and Young Werther and it is nice to have Liang make this point for me. Fiction goes beyond this to have various powers to transform the individual.

The first power is called thurification. It is like entering a cloud of smoke and being thurified by it, or like touching ink or vermillion and being tinted by it. As mentioned in the Lanikavatara Sutra, the transformation of deluded knowledge to relative consciousness and of relative consciousness to absolute knowledge relies on this kind of power. When reading a novel, one’s perception, thinking, and sensitivity are unconsciously affected and conditioned by it. Gradually, changing day by day, it makes its effect felt. And although the effect is momentary, alternating interruptions and continuations, over the course of a long period of time the world of the novel enters the mind of the reader and takes root there like a seedling with a special quality. Later, this seedling, being daily thurified by further contact with fiction, will become more vigorous, and its influence will in turn spread to others and to the entire world. This is the cause of the cyclical transformation of all living and non-living things in the world. Thus, fiction reigns supreme because of its power to influence the masses.

My students did not know what thurification () meant, so I had to explain it.2 This point fits in with a lot of stuff on the impact exposure to fiction  has on one’s world-view, a point that goes back, for me, to Orwell’s Boy’s Weeklies. The stuff you read creates your world-view in ways that you are not always consciously aware of. Thus if you read lots of British Boys Weeklies of the 1930’s you soak up a lot of old imperialist attitudes without realizing it.3  If you were a regular reader of the satirical and irreverent Mad Magazine of the late 70’s then…..Obviously the May 4th crowd wanted to transform the people, and reforming fiction was able to transform not only the masses, but non-living things as well!

While fiction can transform you without you knowing it, it can also do so more consciously.

The second power is known as immersion. Whereas thurification is spatial and hence its effect is proportional to the space in which it acts, immersion is temporal, and its effect varies according to the length of time it operates. Immersion refers to the process in which a reader is so engrossed in a novel that it causes him to assimilate himself with its content. When one reads a novel, very often one is unable to free oneself from its effect even long after having finished reading it. For instance, feelings of love and grief remain in the minds of those who have finished reading The Dream of the Red Chamber, and feelings of joy and anger in those who have finished reading The Water Margin. Why is it so? It is because of the power of immersion. It follows that if two works are equally appealing, the one that is longer and deals with more facts will have the greater power to influence the reader. This is just like drinking wine. If one drinks for ten days, one will remain drunk for a hundred days. It was precisely because of this power of immersion that the Buddha expounded on the voluminous Avatamsaka Sutra after he had risen from under the Bodhi Tree.

I have not yet experimented with drinking for ten days and seeing if it keeps me drunk for 100. Perhaps the undergrads can try that one. I have, however, lived in novels and been influenced by them. So have my students. They are selling IUP Quiddich t-shirts at the bookstore, I assume because some of our students wish they were going to to Hogwarts instead of here. Nor has fiction done for me what the Bodhi Tree did for Gautama, and transformed me into the God of Gods, Unsurpassed doctor or surgeon, or Conqueror of beasts, although I suppose I could lay some claim to Teacher, if not Teacher of the World.  So the idea that one’s reading turns one into a new person makes sense to us as well, and is in fact the foundation of Liberal Education.

Of course in some respects Liang is not a modern Liberal.  While he does not quite call for banning books he is not one of those (like almost all American teachers) who sees reading as either good or a waste of time, but certainly not something that could hurt you. There is a long tradition of condemnations of bad literature in China, and Liang is part of it

Nowadays our people are frivolous and immoral. They indulge in, and are obsessed with, sensual pleasures. Caught up in their emotions, they
sing and weep over the spring flowers and the autumn moon, frittering away their youthful and lively spirits. Young men between fifteen and thirty
years of age concern themselves only with overwhelming emotions of love, sorrow, or sickness. They are amply endowed with romantic sentiment
but lack heroic spirit. In some extreme cases, they even engage in immoral acts and so poison the entire society. This is all because of fiction. ……One or two books by frivolous scholars and marketplace merchants4 are more than enough to destroy our entire society. The more fiction is discounted by elegant gentlemen as not worth mentioning, the more fully it w ill be controlled by frivolous scholars and marketplace merchants. As the nature and position of fiction in society are comparable to the air and food and indispensable to life, frivolous scholars and marketplace  merchants in fact possess the power to control the entire nation! Alas! If this situation is allowed to continue, there is no question that the future of our nation is doomed! Therefore, the reformation of the government of the people must begin with a revolution in fiction, and the renovation of the people must begin with the renovation of fiction.

If you want a clear analysis of the role of literature in human society, some Buddhist references, a denunciation of pop culture that might come from Big Hollywood, with a bit of the Great Learning at the end Liang Qichao is your man.


  1. published in 1902. Translation by Gek Nai Cheng from Denton, Kirk, ed. Modern Chinese Literary Thought: Writings on Literature, 1893-1945. 1st ed. Stanford University Press, 1996. []
  2. Google is your friend. []
  3. For instance, simplistic and outdated stereotypes. From Orwell ” In papers of this kind it occasionally happens that when the setting of a story is in a foreign country some attempt is made to describe the natives as individual human beings, but as a rule it is assumed that foreigners of any one race are all alike and will conform more or less exactly to the following patterns:….

    Spaniard, Mexican, etc.: Sinister, treacherous.

    Arab, Afghan, etc.: Sinister, treacherous.

    Chinese: Sinister, treacherous. Wears pigtail. []

  4. 華士坊賈 I might translate that as ‘alleyway merchants’ or something like that []


Boxers and history

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 5:07 pm

Via Jeremiah Jenne, a link to an Economist article on the legacy of the Boxers. It is without a doubt the best article on Chinese history I have ever seen in a mainstream magazine.

It made me think of one of my favorite scenes from Wang Shuo’s Please Don’t Call me Human Old man Tang, the last living Boxer, has been brought it for an interview because the powers that be are thinking of using his son to represent China in physical combat against a Western circus strongman. I think it’s a nice piece that sums up (and makes fun of) a lot of popular ideas about the Boxers, the past, and Chinese History. …

“Do you know why we brought you here?”
“Yes, you want to learn about my participation in the Boxer movement.”
In an otherwise empty, soundproof room, the bald, fat man sat behind a desk in the shadow of a desk lampshade. Light from the lamp shone directly into old man Tang’s face, whose hands rested in his lap as he sat respectfully on a stool fastened to the floor.

“Your name?”
“Tang Guotao.”
“One hundred and eleven.”
“Where did you live before you were taken into custody?”
“Number thirty-five, Tanzi Lane.”
“When did you join the troops?”
“In March 1899.”
“What were your ranks?”
“Team leader, guard leader, Second Elder -Apprentice, First Elder Apprentice, and First-rank Master.”
“Decorations or punishments?”
“I was sentenced to death in 1900”

“On that night eighty-eight years ago, that is, the night the Allied forces entered the city, where were you?”
“I was home,” old man Tang replied, looking perfectly calm in the lamplight.
“Why weren’t you out fighting? Big Sword Wang Five was, as was the father of the novelist Lao She.”
“I had a far more important duty.”
“What was that?”
“I ran home and strangled my parents, my wife, and my son. It was as dark then as it is tonight, and as cold, and I had no sooner eliminated my family than I heard a knock at the door. ‘Master’s wife, open the door, hurry.’ I opened the door, and the person rushed inside, carrying an infant in her left hand and a red lantern in the right. . .”
“Who was it?”
“My wife, the woman you saw at my house. At the time she was one of the Red Lanterns.”
“And the child in her arms?”
“Huo Yuanjia, the future martial-arts master.”
“My God, how come this is the first I’ve heard of that?”
“As soon as my wife saw me, she fell to her knees and mumbled, ‘Master, Master, the master’s wife, my sister-in-law, they’re all dead.’ And I said, ‘Yes, I killed them.’ And she said, still crying, ‘From today on, l am yours, and this child. . .’ I
interrupted her, ‘You take this child back where you found it ”
“Then what?” the fat man said as he wiped his tears.
“Then gunfire erupted and a Japanese soldier rushed, in shouting bakayaro [son of a bitch]! He asked me, ‘What you do?’ Everything happened faster than it takes to tell, but when he barged in, I’d already crawled into bed, and my new wife was still on her knees, facing the other way. She kowtowed to the Japanese. ‘Your honor,’ she said, ‘he’s a bean-curd maker, a common, law-abiding citizen.’ The Japanese smirked—heh heh heh—and nudged her with his bayonet. ‘Pretty lady’ he shouted. That’s when I threw back the covers and roared, ‘Let her go! I’m one of those Boxer leaders you’re looking for! This has nothing to do with the common folk!’ ”

“Elder Tang, you’re spreading it a bit thick, I’m afraid,” said the fat man with a frown. “To the best of my knowledge, the Boxers had no grassroots party organization.”
“That’s where you’re wrong, young man. A hundred years ago, we were already laying down our lives for the Cause.”

“That’s not what the book says. Let’s turn to page forty-four, fourth line from the bottom.”
In the interrogation room, the bald, fat man read aloud, “On that night, the city was ablaze, the sound of gunfire like thunder. The foreign soldiers advanced like a tiger attacking a herd of sheep, torching and killing. The soldiers and the Boxers scattered like birds and beasts, and all the first-rank masters fell into the hands of the French soldiers at Hadamen, who trussed them up, despite their ferocious resistance. Shortly after dawn, I was beheaded by the French in the marketplace, along with over a hundred Boxer bandits, including leaders like Big Sword Wang Five and Little Sword Zhao Six …”

The bald, fat man looked up and said to old man Tang, who was wearing a pair of reading glasses as he followed along, his finger stopping at each word, “Naturally, if you believed everything in books, we’d be better off without them. This Memoirs of the Green Tower is nothing but a collection of ghost stories and fantastic tales, but there’s no harm in keeping it around, since it represents one way of looking at things. We all understand that rumor is the twin sister of fact.”
“Are you saying I’m wrong?” old man Tang asked blankly, looking up from the page. “I clearly recall being taken into a blockhouse by the Japanese and shot.”
“You’ve read The Little Soldier Zhang Sha, haven’t you?”
“Yes,” old man Tang said with a nod.
“I’m not surprised. A few days ago, we interrogated the fat interpreter, and he couldn’t remember if he stood with the Japanese or against them.”
“Why couldn’t I have been executed once by the Japanese and again by the French? It’s already been settled that I came back from the dead.”
“I didn’t say you couldn’t. The question is whether or not you had time to be executed by the Japanese and then rush over to be executed again by the French.”
“Why not? There’s nothing illogical about it. When the bullet hit me, I fell to the ground and closed my eyes, pretending to be dead. Then, after the Japanese left, I crawled out of the execution pit, stood up and cleaned the blood off, filled with hate and a taste for vengeance against the imperialists. I ran off and rejoined the battle.”

Cocking his head, the bald, fat man pondered what old man Tang had told him. “I see nothing wrong so far.”
“I went down East Fourth Avenue, killing the enemy along the way as I headed to wherever the sounds of battle were the loudest. When my guts began spilling out, I stuffed them back in. When one of my eyes fell out, I picked it up and swallowed it. I was possessed by a single thought: Don’t fall, keep going. If you fall, China is done for!”

“Then what?”
“Eventually I did fall. I lay on the ground, seeing spots before my eyes. Then the world began to spin, and I blacked out. …”
“What do you recall about the beheadings at the marketplace?”
“That’s where I was when I came to. People were lined up to be beheaded. Before I could say a word, it was my turn. As to methods, it wasn’t much different than cutting up a rack of ribs—holding it down with one hand and chopping with the other.”

“You must have said something, a farewell to your comrades or last words before the executioner’s sword fell. That’s common sense.”
“I’m not sure, but I might have said, ‘Long Live World Revolution.’ ”


“Oh, now I remember. I shook hands with Wang Five, and we exchanged knowing looks. Then I turned and growled at the executioner, ‘China will be destroyed by the likes of you!’
“Now that sounds more like it. The executioner was Chinese?”
“No, he was French.”


Tears and sincerity

Filed under: — Alan Baumler @ 6:59 pm

A while back I was wondering why people in classical Chinese texts seemed to cry so much. Was being able to shed tears on demand something that people were supposed to be able to do? It turns out that Qian Zhongshu had already written about tears and their role in partings, which were an important ritual in elite society. Qian at least seem to support the idea of a gradual transition towards a more “”masculineist” view that tears are just for women. But really his piece is worth reading just for itself.


That is why people about to part clasp each other’s arms affectionately, and urge the other to take care after they separate. When we parted, your display of love was like that of Zou Wen and Ji Jie, so that your eyelashes were soaked with tears. Yet I merely clasped my hands in a gesture and turned away, ashamed to act like a woman.

—Wang Sengru (465-522),
Letter to He Jiong

The reference here to HeJiong’s weeping is reminiscent of several lines in “Rhapsody on Partings,” byJiang Yan (444-505): “He pushes aside the jade-fretted lute, tears wet the carriage bars,” “When it is time to let go hands, they choke back tears,” “They weep as they say good-bye,” “Kin and companion are bathed in tears.”1

In his essay “On Wailing as a Ritual” Yu Zhengxie (1775-1840) examines the ritual use of “crying facilitators” in ancient funerals, and he observes, “According to the ritual prescriptions, one did not necessarily have to shed tears when crying.”2 I would venture to add that crying was a propriety required not only at funerals. It was also required at partings among the living, although as such it may not have been as universally observed or as ancient as crying at funerals. Furthermore, if a person’s crying at a parting did not include the shedding of tears, he was likely to be faulted for violating propriety. On this point the standards seem to
have been even stricter than those for crying at funerals.

The expectation that one must cry at partings seems to have become widespread only in Jin times (265-420). The narrative of an event that took place shortly earlier is revealing in this regard:

Once when the king of Wei (Cao Cao, 155-220) set off on a campaign, his two sons, the crown prince and Zhi, the lord of Linzi, saw him off at the side of the road. Zhi proclaimed the virtue and merit of the mission with words that were elegant and decorous. Everyone fixed their eyes upon him, and the king himself was pleased with him. The crown prince, by contrast, had a sorrowful expression and seemed not to know what to do. Wu Zhi whispered in his ear, “The king is about to depart. It is permissible to shed tears.” When he said his farewell, the crown prince wept as he bowed. The king and his attendants sighed audibly, so moved were they by this display. Later, everyone said that the lord of Linzi’s speech was excessively florid, while the genuine affection in his heart was insufficient.3

From this we may infer that at the end of the Han dynasty it was not yet customary to cry at partings. That is why Wu Zhi’s clever ploy was effective and caused the crown prince to outshine his younger brother. The Old Tang Dynasty History says, “When Emperor Tai (r. 62,7-649) decided to lead an attack upon the Korean kingdom of Koguryo, he ordered the crown prince to stay behind and guard Dingzhou, Once a date had been set for the emperor’s departure from Dingzhou, the crown prince cried sorrowfully for several days.”4 Was this crown prince also heeding Wu Zhi’s advice of long before?

The failure to produce tears with one’s crying has been variously criticized, explained, or even excused. Forest of Sayings (fourth c.) records the following: “A man went to take leave of Master Xie. Xie shed tears but the other man showed no sign of emotion. Once he left, the attendants said, ‘That guest only showed
gloomy clouds.'” Xie commented, ‘It was even less than “gloomy clouds.” It was “dry thunder.”‘ “5 “Gloomy clouds” is like what is recorded about Empress Lu in Records of the Grand Historian and The Han Dynasty History: “The empress cried but did not weep.”6 Yan Shigu explains in his commentary that “weep” means to produce tears.7 “Dry thunder” is like one of the “three kinds of crying” described in Chapter 25 of The Water Margin’. “To make noise without producing tears is called ‘howling’… ‘dry howling'” and what Monkey says in Chapter 39 of Journey to the West: “There are several types of crying. If the  mouth makes noise but the eyes remain dry, that is called ‘howling.'”8

Family Instructions of the Yan Clan (sixth c.) says:

Separations occur frequently, whereas reunions are difficult to bring about. That is why the ancients assigned great importance to partings. At farewell banquets in the South, one weeps when speaking of the imminent departure. There was, for example, the case of a prince who was the younger cousin of Emperor Wu of the Liang dynasty. When the prince was leaving to take charge of Dong Prefecture, he bid farewell to the emperor. The emperor … wept tears that covered his face, but the prince only showed “gloomy clouds”
and then left, blushing with embarrassment. For this reason he was punished (by winds that would not let his boat depart).. .. Northern customs, by contrast, pay no regard to this convention. Standing at a crossroads, friends say good-bye with a merry laugh.

There are, however, also people who, by nature, are not given to shedding tears. Their heart may be breaking but their eyes remain perfectly clear. This type of person should not be blamed for failing to weep at a departure.9

A person who sheds no tears though the heart is afflicted is said to have “a soft heart and stiff eyes.” This is the terminology used in Zhu Shuzhen’s (fl..1095-1131) couplet, “Although a woman’s eyes are said to be soft, / Tears do not flow forth for no reason” and in the anonymous early Ming song, “I’ve always had stiff eyes, / Which don’t show sadness before lovely scenery.”10 Classified Sayings (1136) quotes an account of Liu Xiaochuo’s farewell to Wang Yuanjing, when Yuanjing was departing on an official mission: “Xiaochuo wept, but Yuanjing had no tears. He apologized for this, saying, ‘Please don’t hold it against me. After we separate, tears will stream down my face.'”11 He means that although at the moment he has no tears, later he is bound to weep, fulfilling the required response. When Wang Seng-u parted from He Jiong, as we have seen earlier, Jiong wept but Sengru had “stiff eyes” and thus was in violation of the Southern custom. Moreover, unlike Wang Yuanjing, Sengru neglected even to excuse himself by promising to cry subsequently. That is why he subsequently sought to justify his conduct in a letter.

Despite the social convention of crying at partings described above, there was also a tradition of viewing tears shed by men as being “womanly” or even disingenuous. Wang Sengru’s letter says, as we have seen, “your display of love was like that of Zou Wen and Ji Jie…. Yet I merely clasped my hands in a gesture and
turned away, ashamed to act like a woman.” The allusion is to The Kong Family Masters (third c. B.C.):12

Zigao traveled to Zhao, where among the retainers of the Lord of Pingyuan there were Zou Wen and Ji Jie, who befriended Zigao. When it was time for Zigao to return to Lu,… as he took his leave. Wen and Jie had tears all over their cheeks, but Zigao merely clasped his hands in a gesture…. Later, Zigao said, “At first I thought that these two were true men of stature. Today I see that they are just women.” … His attendant asked, “Is there no good to be found in weeping?” Zigao replied, “Weeping has two uses. Men of great treachery use it to persuade others of their sincerity. Women and cowards use it to make a show of their

Similarly, A New Account of Tales of the World says, “When Zhou Shuzhi was appointed prefect of Jingling, his older brothers, Zhou Hou and Zhongzhi, went tobid him farewell. Zhou Shuzhi cried and wept without stopping. Zhongzhi said indisgust, ‘This man acts for all the world like a woman. When he parts from some-body, he does nothing but yammer and blubber.’ Whereupon he removed himselfand left.”14 Zhou Shuzhi knew that weeping was a propriety required at partings,but he did not realize that the same propriety, carried to extremes, could provokedisgust and enmity rather than affection. (Luo Yin’s [833-909] poem, “Tears,” says,”Ever since the realm of Lu disappeared / It has either been treacherous men orwomen [who shed tears]” clearly also drawing upon The Kong Family Masters pas-sage.15 Li Yu’s [937-978] farewell to his younger brother, the prince ofDeng, says”Sorrowful tears and sweet words are the habitual manner of women and girls, I willhave none of it.”16 The use of such language in a farewell composition is likewise a veiled allusion to The Kong Family Masters.)

Crying and weeping were frequently used as a shortcut up the mountain of officialdom, which is one reason they were so often viewed with suspicion. The earliest record of this occurs in the biography of Wang Mang in The Han Dynasty History. In the autumn of the fourth year of the Dihuang period (A.D. 23), Mang
led his assembled ministers to the southern suburb to lift their eyes toward Heaven and cry aloud in an effort to suppress the national calamity. “Students and commoners gathered in the morning and cried out until the evening…. Those who showed extreme grief and those who could recite his Announcement to Heaven from memory were promoted as court attendants. Over five thousand men earned appointment this way.”17 The Old Tan^Dynasty History says, “Erudite Wei Chifen requested that Li Jifu be given the posthumous epithet ‘Respectful of Regulations.’ Zhang Zhongfang objected and criticized Jifu’s character, saying, ‘Fawning tears hung upon his eyelids and flowed our at every convenience. Clever words served him like the reed mouthpiece of a musical instrument, which sings out soothingly whenever blown upon.'”18

Chen Jiru (1558-1639) comments, “Whenever I read this, I smile, thinking it should be posted on-the walls of pleasure quarters everywhere as a warning.”19 He is equating “treacherous men” with “women,” saying that their behavior in this respect is interchangeable: the treacherous man’s tears are like those of the courtesan, and the courtesan’s tears are themselves a form of treachery. Yuan Mei’s Remarks on Poetry quotes lines thatJiang Sunfu addressed to a courtesan, “I ask that you not wipe away those lovesick tears, / Save them to send off another man tomorrow morning.”20 This shows the reality of “crying at the time of parting” in the pleasure quarters!

The association of tears with opportunistic men who are anxious to display their “loyalty,” and likened to insincere women eager to prove their “love,” continues in later periods. Shen Defu (1578-1612) observes:

Shamelessness among men of learning has never been more pronounced than during the Chenghua period (1465-1487). Since the Jiajing period (1522.-1566), it has manifested itself again. Wang Hong knocked his head on the floor and wept as he pleaded with Grand Secretary Zhang Fujing; Zhao Wenhua bowed a hundred times as he wept and beseeched Grand Secretary Yan Song; and Chen Sanmo knelt and wept on and on before Grand Secretary Zhang Juzheng, Each of these men regained favor and salary because of a few streaks of glistening tears. The ancients said, “Women sell love by weeping, and vile men peddle treacherous schemes by weeping.” It is really so!

(The reference here to “the ancients” is also to the passage in The Kong Family Masters.) Wang Shizhen (1634-1711) says:

When Dong Na was leaving his post as censor to become governor-general of Zhejiang and jiangxi, one of his former colleagues in the Censorate went to say farewell and, sitting down close beside him, burst out crying and would not stop. Dong was very moved by this display and everyone present considered it most extraordinary. When he was done, the man went directly to visit Yu Guozhu, the minister from Daye, and as soon as he entered the room and bowed, he burst out laughing. Startled, Yu Guozhu asked him why he
laughed. The man replied, “Dong is gone. The nail has been extracted from my eye!

This may serve as a gloss upon Chen Jiru’s remark about the warning that should.
be posted on the walls of pleasure quarters.

In fact, the usefulness of “selling tears” is no less than that of the courtesan’s ploy of “selling smiles.” Moreover, the sheer volume of the “bribes by tears” and “proprieties of tears” that have been offered by men through the ages may exceed that of the “three pools of tears” mentioned by Tang Chuanying (1620-1644) as well as the celebrated “debt of tears” that must be repaid by Lin Daiyu in Tbe Story of the Stone.24 (As for the latter, it may be noted that such notions as the “repayment of tears” and the “owing of tears” mentioned in Chapters 1 and 5 of the novel may be traced to Meng Jiao’s [751-814] lines, “You owe me ten years of love/I must have a debt to you of a thousand streams of tears,” in a poem lamenting the death of his son, and Liu Yong’s [mid eleventh c.] lines, “You have tied my heart to you for a lifetime /1 must owe you a thousand streams of tears.” These are the first occurrences in literary works of the idea of a debt of tears.)23

Notes (not copyedited)

SOURCE: Guanzhui Uan 4:1435-38; cf. the addendum, ibid., 5:251-252.
EPIGRAPH; Wang Sengru, “Yu HeJiong shu,” Qyan Liang wen 5l.4a.

1. Jiang Yan, “Hen fu,” Wen xuan i6.27b, 28a, 28b, and 2gb; trans. Burton Watson,
Chinese Rhyme Prose, pp. 97-99, modified.

2. Yu Zhengxie, “Ku wei liyi shuo,” Gwisi leigao 13.504-505. Qian’s quotation is actu-
ally a paraphrase.

3. Pei Songzhi’s commentary on Sanyo zbi 21.609, quoting Shi yu.

4. JIM Tangs(iM4A.65-66.

5. Yiwen leiju 29.512.

6. Shi ji9.388andHansfow97A.3938.

7. Yan Shigu commentary on Han sbtt 97A.3939.

8. Shi Nai’an, Shuihu quanzfcuan 25,400; and Wu Cheng’en, Xiyouji 39.535.

9. Yan Zhitui, Yanshi jiaxun jijie 6,91; cf, trans. by Ssu-yii Teng, family Instructions for
the Yen Clan, p. 31.

^  10. Zhu Shuzhen, “Qiuri shuhuai,” Zhu Shuzhen ji 6.103; and “Xiaoyao Ie,” quoted in Li
Kaixian, Ci nue, p. 938.

11. Zeng Zao, Lei shuo 53.2a.

12. Qian notes parenthetically that the quotation of Wang Sengru’s letter in Yiwen leiju

26.481 erroneously gives “Guo Li” for “Zou andJi” (my “Zou Wen andJiJie”), an error he
attributes to a copyist who did not recognize the KongFamily Masters.

13. Kongcongzi, “Rufu,” 8.13.86-87.

14. Liu Yiqing, Shishuo xinyu, “Fangzheng,” 5.26.308 (following Liu’s text); trans. Rich-
ard B. Mather, A New Account of Tales of tile World, p. 164, modified.

15. Lo Yin, “Lei,” Qyan Tangshi 658.7561.

16. Li Yu (Houzhu), “Song Deng wang ershiliu di mu Xuancheng xu,” Qyan Tang wen

17. Han shu 990.4188.

18. Jro Tangshu 171.4443.

19. ChenJiru, Taiping qinghua 2.5b.

20. Jiang Sunfu, “Zeng zhi,” quoted in Yuan Mei, Suiyuan shihua 1.22.

21. Reading “Chenghua” instead of “Chengzheng” (in both Shen’s text and Qian’s
quotation), which must be a mistake. Cf. a similar reference to the Chenghua period earlier
in Shen’s work: Shen Defu, Wanliyehuo bian 21.541.

22. Shen Defu, ibid., 21.549. Qian abbreviates and paraphrases the original,

23. Wang Shizhen, Gufuyu ting zaiu 1.11, following Wang’s text.

24. For Tang Chuanying, see Xianyu bihua, p. 3a-b. For Lin Daiyu, see the citations to
Honglou meng below.

25. MengJiao, “Diao youzi,” Qyan Tang shi 381.4273; and Liu Yong, “Yi dying,” Qyan
Song ci 1:49. Cf. Cao Xueqin, Honglou meng 1.5 and 5.78.

Tears and sincerity

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