Which Classic? is a ten-chapter comic novella written in the traditional linked-chapter form. Circulated in manuscript form for several decades, it was first published by Shenbao Guan in 1878 and remained an obscure book until it was rediscovered by May Fourth scholars, such as Liu Bannong 劉半農, Lu Xun 魯迅, and Wu Zhihui 吳稚暉, who recognized it as one of the earliest extant novels to make extensive use of Wu-dialect vocabulary. Which Classic? is composed in a peculiar hybrid language that makes use of Wu vernacular vocabulary, classical Chinese, and plain Chinese (白話文). Its heterogeneous language is the source of much of the novella’s humor. Frequently a given phrase will have one meaning when read as plain Chinese but another when read in Wu vernacular. This implied second reading is often silly or obscene and serves to add to the irreverent and tongue-in-cheek tone of the work as a whole. In this translation of the first chapter of Which Classic?, the translators have attempted to convey these multiple linguistic levels as often as possible, but such plays on words are, of course, a particular challenge to the translator. The translators are working on a rendering of the entire novella.
The translation can be accessed here: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/online-series/which-classic/
Kirk Denton, editor