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Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese
Literal meaning transmission [of the] strange

Chuanqi was first a form of short story in the classical language which developed in the Tang dynasty, and then a form of Chinese opera from then onwards.

Short story in the classical language[edit]

In the early 1920s the prominent author and scholar Lu Xun prepared an anthology of Tang and Song chuanqi which was the first modern critical edition of the texts and helped to establish "chuanqi" as the term by which they are known, though later scholars have argued that it is not to be used as a general term for all Tang dynasty stories.[1] The scholars Wilt Idema and Lloyd Haft, however, see "chuánqí" as a general term for short stories written in classical Chinese during the Tang and Song dynasties (excluding Bianwen Buddhist tales written in the colloquial). These stories consisted of anecdotes, jokes, legends, and tales involving mystical, fantastical or legendary elements. The authors, they continue, did not want to present their works as fiction, but modeled themselves on the literary style of the biographies in the official histories. They went so far as to credit specific people as authorities for the story, however fantastic, and give particular times and places as settings. The authors of these tales were also more careful about the art of storytelling than authors of earlier works, and a number of them have well developed plots.[2]

The chuánqí of the Tang period frequently use incidental poems, set their story in the national capital, finish with an instructive moral, and are narrated by someone who claims to have seen the events himself. One of the most widely read of these stories was Yuan Zhen's Story of Yingying, concerning the romance of a young scholar and an alluring young lady. This story helped to establish the genre of Caizi jiaren (Scholar and beautiful lady).

There is some difference of opinion whether stories from later dynasties should be called chuánqí, but most scholars accept many of the stories in Pu Songling's 17th century collection, Liaozhai Zhiyi (Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio) as such.[3] In this case, chuánqí is sometimes translated as "marvel tales."[4]

Many were preserved in the 10th century anthology, Extensive Records of the Taiping Era (Taiping Guangji).[5]

Chinese opera[edit]

The short tale chuánqí is distinct from the dramatic form of chuanqi,[6] though both are written with the same characters. An example of a dramatic chuanqi is The Governor of Nanke, where a man lives a whole generation in one afternoon as an ant.

The opera form became popular in the Ming dynasty, when the collection of Tang dynasty stories in the Song-era Taiping Imperial Reader was reprinted. Opera writers were intrigued by these stories of romance among young scholars preparing for the examination.[7]

Translations and studies[edit]

  • Nienhauser, William H., Jr. Tang Dynasty Tales: A Guided Reader (Singapore and Hackensack, NJ: World Scientific, 2010). ISBN 9789814287289 Annotated translations of six tales. The Introduction, "Notes for a History of the Translation of Tang Tales," gives a history of the translation of the tales and the scholarship on them.
  • Y. W. Ma and Joseph S. M. Lau. ed., Traditional Chinese Stories: Themes and Variations. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1978). Reprinted: Boston: Cheng & Tsui, 1986. ISBN 023104058X. Includes 26 selections, ranging from the Tang dynasty to 1916.
  • Wolfgang Bauer, and Herbert Franke, The Golden Casket: Chinese Novellas of Two Millennia (New York: Harcourt, 1964 Translated by Christopher Levenson from Wolfgang Bauer's and Herbert Franke's German translations.)
  • "The World in a Pillow: Classical Tales of the Tang Dynasty," in John Minford, and Joseph S. M. Lau, ed., Classical Chinese Literature (New York; Hong Kong: Columbia University Press; The Chinese University Press, 2000 ISBN 0231096763), pp. 1019-1076.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Nienhauser (2010), p. xiii.
  2. ^ "The form and content of Chuanqi," in Wilt Idema and Lloyd Haft. A Guide to Chinese Literature. (Ann Arbor: Center for Chinese Studies, The University of Michigan, 1997; ISBN 0892641231), pp. 134-139.
  3. ^ Y. W. Ma and Joseph S. M. Lau. ed., Traditional Chinese Stories: Themes and Variations. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1978; Reprinted: Boston: Cheng & Tsui, 1986. ISBN 023104058X), pp. xxi-xxii.
  4. ^ "Pu Songling". Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature. Springfield, MA: Merriam-Webster. 1995. ISBN 0-87779-042-6. 
  5. ^ Idema and Haft, p. 139.
  6. ^ "The Development of Kunqu Opera". Archived from the original on 2011-10-05. Retrieved 2010-07-18. 
  7. ^ Shen, Jing (2010). Playwrights and Literary Games in Seventeenth-Century China: Plays by Tang Xianzu, Mei Dingzuo, Wu Bing, Li Yu, and Kong Shangren. Lanham, Md.: Lexington Books. ISBN 9780739138571. 

External links[edit]