Liu E

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Liu E
劉鶚 / 劉鉄雲 / 鴻都百煉生
Born(1857-10-18)18 October 1857
Dantu, Jiangsu
Died23 August 1909(1909-08-23) (aged 51)
Dihua, Xinjiang
Pen nameHong Du Bai Lian Sheng
Chinese: 鸿都百炼生
OccupationWriter, scholar, politician
Periodlate Qing era
GenreIllustrated fiction
Notable worksThe Travels of Lao Can

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Liu E (simplified Chinese: 刘鹗; traditional Chinese: 劉鶚; pinyin: Liú È; Wade–Giles: Liu E; also spelled Liu O; 18 October 1857 – 23 August 1909), courtesy name Tieyun (simplified Chinese: 铁云; traditional Chinese: 鐵雲; pinyin: Tiěyún; Wade–Giles: T'ieh-yün), was a Chinese writer, archaeologist and politician of the late Qing Dynasty.

Government and politics[edit]

Liu was a native of Dantu (modern day Zhenjiang). In the government he worked with flood control, famine relief, and railroads. He became disillusioned with official ideas of reform and became a proponent of private economic development modeled after western systems. During the Boxer Uprising he speculated in government rice, distributing it to the poor. He was cashiered for these efforts, but shrewd investments had left him wealthy enough to follow his pioneering archaeological studies and to write fiction.


The language in Liu E's novels borrowed illusions and images from classical Chinese literature and Liu E used symbolism in his novels. Therefore, his works appealed to readers who had a classical education and were considered sophisticated in their society.[1]

One of Liu's best known works is The Travels of Lao Can.

Oracle bone archeology and scholarship[edit]

Liu collected five thousand oracle bone fragments, published the first volume of examples and rubbings in 1903, and correctly identified thirty-four oracle bone script characters.

Exile and death[edit]

Liu was framed for malfeasance related to his work during the Boxer Rebellion and was exiled in 1908, dying within the next year in Dihua of the Xinjiang Province (today known as Ürümqi).


  1. ^ Doleželová-Velingerová, p. 724.


  • Doleželová-Velingerová, Milena. "Chapter 38: Fiction from the End of the Empire to the Beginning of the Republic (1897–1916)" in: Mair, Victor H. (editor). The Columbia History of Chinese Literature. Columbia University Press, 13 August 2013. p. 697–731. ISBN 0231528515, 9780231528511.
  • Shen, Tianyou, Encyclopedia of China, 1st ed.
  • The Travels of Lao Ts'an, Liu T'ieh-yün (Liu E), translated by Harold Shadick, professor of Chinese literature in Cornell University. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1952. Reissued: New York; London: Columbia University Press, 1990. 277p. (A Morningside Book).
  • The travels of Lao Can, translated by Yang Xianyi, Gladys Yang (Beijing: Panda Books, 1983; 176p.)

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