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Stories Old and New

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Country  Ming dynasty
Publication date  1620
Author  Feng Menglong
4.3/5 Goodreads

Language  Written Chinese
Originally published  1620
Genres  Short story, Anthology
Stories Old and New t1gstaticcomimagesqtbnANd9GcRsSx6JVXkNSIDPyl
Followed by  Stories to Caution the World
Similar  Feng Menglong books, Short Stories

Stories Old and New, also known by its later name Stories to Enlighten the World (喻世明言), is a collection of short stories written by Feng Menglong during the Ming dynasty. It was published in Suzhou in 1620. It is considered to be pivotal in the development of Chinese vernacular fiction.

Contents

Background

Feng Menglong collected and slightly modified works from the Song, Yuan and Ming dynasties, such as changing characters’ names and locations to make stories more contemporary. The writing style of the series of stories is written vernacular, or baihua, the everyday language of people at that time. The 40 stories are divided into 3 sections, one section collects Song and Yuan dynasty tales, one collects Ming dynasty stories, and the last is the stories created by Feng Menglong himself. The success of Stories Old and New published (1620), also known as Yushi Mingyan (Illustrious Words to Instruct the World) led Feng to edit and publish JIngshi Tongyan (Stories to Caution the World) in 1624, and Xingshi Hengyan (Stories to Awaken the World) in 1627. Each collection contained forty stories. The title of each collection ended with the word "yan" (word), so they are often referred to as a group: Sanyan (Trois Recueils d'histoires). The stories in these three books are in a format called Huaben (话本), a novella or short novel.

About the author

Feng Menglong (1574-1646) passed the lowest level of national exams at the age of 57. Although he had not done well on previous exams, he did have the ability to impress people with his writings. When he was 70, the dynasty was almost a its end and the Qing army invaded the country. He attempted to awaken people with his writings but failed to do so, and died in 1646. There are two theories about how he died. One is that he was killed by the Qing forces and another that his worries about the country made him sick.

Feng's works included not only fiction but drama and music as well. He played a major role in enhancing Ming dynasty drama and brought it into a thriving state. Nevertheless, he was mostly known for his fiction. The motivation and central idea of his work was illustrating real emotion and undermining false ethics. One common characteristic of Feng’s works is realism, dealing with daily life so that readers feel close to the story and enjoy reading it.

List of Stories

Translated titles in this table mainly follow those by Shuhui Yang and Yunqin Yang in Stories Old and New: A Ming Dynasty Collection. University of Washington Press. 2000. ISBN 978-0295978444.  Titles used by other translators are listed as bullet points.

References

Stories Old and New Wikipedia


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