Literary Information in China:
A History

Edited by Jack W. Chen, Anatoly Detwyler, Xiao Liu, Christopher M. B. Nugent, and Bruce Rusk

Reviewed by Victor H. Mair

MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright September, 2022)

Jack W. Chen, Anatoly Detwyler, Xiao Liu, Christopher M. B. Nugent, and Bruce Rusk, eds. Literary Information in China: A History New York: Columbia University Press, 2021, xxxii + 672 pp. ISBN: 9780231195522 (Hardcover); 9780231551373 (E-book).

This is a hefty volume, with a total of 670 pages of closely spaced, compact, but still readily legible, type. It explicitly styles itself a “history,” as in the subtitle. Yet, at the head of the “Introduction,” the editors state that it is “For a History of Literary Information in China” (p. xxi, emphasis added), which might be interpreted as signifying something like “materials for, or toward, a history of literary information in China.” In other words, one could think of this volume, which I will henceforth refer to as LIIC, as constituting a collection of fundamental data and ideas that could be used in the making of a history of literary information in China. But that begs the question, because we still don’t know precisely what “literary information” is with reference to the Chinese tradition (history). The aim of this review is to extrapolate from its many chapters just what sort of history of literary information LIIC is pointing toward.


In her “Foreword,” Ann Blair has done a worthy job of succinctly tracing the growth of information sciences since the mid-twentieth century, but one still wants to know what literary information is. One thing is certain: LIIC is not a history of literature in China. If that is what the reader is looking for, they have come to the wrong place. Indeed, in LIIC one will find little reference to literary works and authors themselves. Instead, what one will find in abundance are data concerning the epiphenomena of written texts—their constituent symbols (what the authors mostly refer to consistently as “graphs” (wen 文 and zi 字), the nature and form of written texts, the ordering, storage, and retrieval of words, books, articles, and so forth. To be sure, we now have in English and other languages a plentiful assortment of histories of Chinese literature. Thus, there is room for a work like LIIC, which tells us about the “stuff” of written texts in China not the written texts themselves. The notion of “literary information” is quite a novel concept in Chinese studies, though it owes much to Endymion Wilkinson’s monumental Chinese History: A New Manual (1973/1998—2022; six editions), which strives to make available answers and access to all aspects of the written and material culture of Chinese civilization since it began. Rather than a history of literary information per se, however, one may think of LIIC almost as an encyclopedia or handbook for the study of literary information. The editors do make a serious attempt to come to grips with the phenomena of information theory and information studies, not merely as they have emerged in China, but globally.

LIIC has an impressively large number of editors (five), and they have jointly written the twelve-page Introduction. Counting the author of the Foreword, Ann M. Blair, the number of contributors amounts to 57, and there are 58 chapters all together, with an average length of 9.5 pages per chapter. Three chapters (8, 11, 15) have two authors each. Several authors wrote, or participated in the writing of, more than one chapter.

Because LIIC covers so much unusual ground, and does it in such a novel fashion, I view my major task as simply to describe the contents of the book, though I will also provide brief assessments of the quality of various chapters and will endeavor to draw attention to significant omissions. The book is divided into three parts, each of which is subdivided into three or four sections.

I. Information Management at the Level of the Word

A. chapters 1-4
B. chapters 5-10
C. chapters 11-14
D. chapters 15-19

II. Information Management at the Level of the Document

A. chapters 20-39
B. chapters 30-35
C. chapters 36-40

III. Information Management at the Level of the Collection

A. chapters 41-47
B. chapters 48-52
C. chapters 53-58

The backmatter includes an extensive bibliography (pp. 577-609), a list of contributors (pp. 611-613), an index of people and select institutions (pp. 615-623), and an index of documents, publications, and electronic resources (pp. 625-638). Now I shall attempt a zouma kanhua 走馬看花 (rapid survey) of the Foreword and all 58 chapters.

Foreword, by Ann M. Blair – The author discusses information and information theory writ large from the mid-twentieth century on. She begins with a general overview of the study of information in the Western world, but quickly moves to incorporate Chinese instances as counterexamples, drawing productively on the particularities of materials in the rest of the volume.

Introduction, by the five editors – A central theme of the authors is the sheer massiveness of the quantity of literary information that scholars and bibliographers had to contend with, especially in the Chinese tradition and how they have gone about organizing the materials with which they were confronted. This leads them to address the matter of the rise of iSchools (information schools) from the late 1980s onward. They admit (p. xxvi) that “To speak of literature as information may seem strange…,” but I find that a refreshing admission in light of their practical project in producing the book.

Looming like a haunting shadow behind their lucubrations are library schools and library sciences, but always tacitly, not explicitly. This History marks the beginning of a revolution, at least insofar as it has reached Chinese Studies (Sinology, except for a few indomitable holdouts, having already become a thing of the past).

In composing their Introduction, the five authors have achieved a virtuoso sonata that shifts between ponderous philosophical masters like Zhu Xi 朱熹 (1130-1200) and sprightly, trendy notions such as curation and online writers.

While not exactly perfunctory, the section introductions, which average around one and a half to two pages in length, are more workaday, nuts-and-bolts in their orientation, serving to prepare the reader for what they will find in the following chapters, so I will not describe them directly, though some of them are deft in concisely presenting the basic themes and concepts that are covered in their respective sections.

Ch. 1, Graphs, by Zev Handel – Focusing on Hanzi 漢字 (Chinese characters), this chapter provides a solid, reliable footing for the entire volume. Especially appreciated is the author’s diligence in making the technicalia of linguistics accessible to the nonspecialists who will be drawn to LIIC.

Ch. 2, Script Reform and Alphabetization, by Yurou Zhong. While adequately covering the basic facts of the history of script reform from the Qin dynasty (221-206 BC) to the present, this chapter—until the final two, long sentences—avoids the more rarefied notions of grammatology and related theories that the author wrote about in her monograph of that title, as has been reviewed by Diana Shuheng Zhang (in MCLC).

Ch. 3, Indexing Systems, by Uluğ Kuzuoğlu – A vexed subject in Chinese information science if ever there was one, this dense chapter boils down to a single conundrum: given the morphosyllabic, nonphonetic nature of their writing system, how have Chinese throughout the ages arranged bodies of information and by what means have they retrieved individual data points from them? This challenge has important implications for its obverse, how to enter characters into texts and databases, which is taken up in the following chapter.

Ch. 4, Character Input, Thomas S. Mullaney – This is the most dubious chapter of LIIC. The author devotes a lot of attention (and space) to Lin Yutang’s 林語堂 (1875-1976) ill-fated MingKwai typewriter, without understanding the real reasons why it was such a disaster, but says not a word about the first generation of Chinese typewriters, which were essentially personal typesetting fonts and were used widely across the Sinographic world, including in large numbers at the United Nations for decades until they were recently displaced by electronic computers. See my “Chinese Typewriter” (6/30/09) and “Chinese typewriter, part 2” (4/17/11). Although he does not provide empirical evidence that “text input in Chinese [is] as efficient as input in alphabetic scripts,” somehow he has influenced Ann Blair to make that claim (p. xix).

Ch. 5, Early Lexicons, by Zev Handel – For the early period, the author commendably sticks to dictionaries of zi 字 (graphs). He begins with Erya 爾雅 (Approaching the elegant; ca. 3rd c. BC), which is based on meaning, then moves on to Shuowen jiezi 說文解字 (Explaining simple graphs and analyzing complex graphs; 100 AD), which is based on character structure. From there, he moves on to the third major stage of Chinese lexicons, that of Qieyun 切韻 (Tomic rimes; 601), and ends by hinting at later developments of these three lexicographic strands.

Ch. 6, Rime Tables, by David Prager Branner – This is likely the most highly technical chapter of LIIC. Although amply illustrated with traditional tables, I suspect that few readers will be able to follow the author’s documentation and analysis (aside from those who are already advanced in Sinitic phonetics and phonology). Even such a key term as fanqie 反切 (countertomic [spelling]) is not explained as the combination of the initial sound of one character and the final sound of a second character. Instead, the author renders qie 切 as “pronounced close together” (p. 67) and elsewhere as “fine” (p. 74; Handel follows him in that usage [“finely distinguished”], p. 54).

Ch. 7 Later Imperial Lexicons, by Nathan Vedal – This is an exemplary treatment of dictionaries that appeared primarily during the second millennium AD. The author sensibly divides these dictionaries according to their phonological, script-based, and thematic organization. A major emphasis is on the six principles of graph formation (liushu 六書), which go back to Shuowen jiezi (see ch. 5). In his account of historical phonology, where the author speaks of “forced rhyme” (xieyun 叶韻), though I would propose “harmonic rhyme” as an alternative translation.

Ch. 8 Early Twentieth-Century Dictionaries, by Yue Meng and Xi Chen – At five pages, this is one of the shortest chapters of the book. That is regrettable because, although they do a credible job of accounting for the transition to the information age of the twentieth century, the authors fail to recognize that it was during this period that the big jump was made from character dictionaries of the past to word dictionaries of the first half of the twentieth century. Indeed, it was during this very period that the Chinese invented the word for “word” (ci 詞). Ciyuan 辭源 (Fountain of phrases) and Cihai 辭海 (Sea of Phrases), which the authors properly mention, played a key role in the monumental shift from graph-centric to word-centric lexicography and linguistics.

Ch. 9 Post-1949 Dictionaries, by Jennifer Altehenger – Although the author dutifully refers to Xiandai Hanyu cidian 现代汉语词典 (Contemporary Chinese [word] Dictionary), this chapter is really all about the phenomenal Xinhua zidian 新华字典 (New China [character] Dictionary), which has sold over half a billion copies. She narrates the history, contents, and other features of this little lexicographical icon. One of the most amazing aspects of Xinhua zidian is that, while it is indubitably a dictionary of graphs, it ingeniously manages to incorporate thousands of words, including many with example sentences. If I may be permitted to add a word of my own praise not touched upon by Altehenger, I would like to point out the existence of the superlative Han-Ying shuangjie Xinhua zidian 汉英双双新华字典 (New China bilingual Chinese-English character dictionary).

Ch. 10 App-Based and Online Dictionaries, by Michael Love – Given the trajectory of current developments in information science, this is a necessary chapter. It may be telling that this is the only chapter that lacks notes. That does not prevent it from being a helpful and up-to-date guide to current developments in electronic and digital resources for the study of Chinese literature.

Ch. 11 Sentences, Paragraphs, and Sections, by Dirk Meyer and Lisa Indraccolo – Like ch. 8 and ch. 12, this is also one of the shortest chapters in LIIC. It is also the first of four to tackle the problem of what constitutes a text. Apparently, the authors draw many of their examples from bamboo strip manuscripts, especially from the Guodian 郭店 corpus inasmuch as it is from such seminal sources that early Chinese texts began to coalesce from disparate building blocks.

Ch. 12 Lines, Couplets, and Stanzas, by Jack W. Chen – The author begins by tackling the ticklish problem of what is and is not “poetry,” as opposed, say, to “prose” in the Chinese literary tradition. In five brief pages, he demonstrates—complete with technical terminology and illustrative examples—how a poem (as well as poem series and poem cycles) is put together, viewing poetry as “a complex information system” (p. 121).

Ch. 13 Premodern Punctuation and Layout, by Imre Galambos – Although he alludes to punctuation practices from as early as the Warring States period, the author draws the bulk of his examples from Dunhuang manuscripts. Here we may say that he gets into the realia of marks used on actual manuscripts (with two dozen thumbnail photographs illustrating marks that indicate new sections, duplication, deletion, and reversal). He also provides three beautiful, sharp photographs showing the visual arrangement and layout of running texts on scrolls and a charming booklet of the Lotus Sutra that amounts to a forerunner of the illustrated narrative and dramatic texts of later imperial times, with woodcuts or drawings on the top portion of each page and text below.

Ch. 14 Modern Punctuation and Layout, by John Christopher Hamm – This chapter is centered on the “Proposal for the Implementation of New Style Punctuation” brought forward in April, 1919 by a group of scholars, including Hu Shih 胡適 (1891-1962). Already with vernacularity espoused by many of the same scholars, the implementation of this proposal marked a sea change in Chinese literature. My favorite sentence in the chapter, as well as in the whole book, is by Lu Xun 魯迅 (1881-1936), who compared the imposition of ill-advised punctuation on classical texts to “placing dung upon the head of the Buddha” (fo tou zhuo fen 佛頭着糞).

Ch. 15 Early to Middle Period Classical Commentaries, by Michael Nylan and Bruce Rusk – The key point of this chapter is the autonomy and non-secondary nature of early to middle period classical commentaries. The towering figure around which the galaxy of stars cited here circles is Zheng Xuan 鄭玄 (127-200), and rightly so in light of his prolific, influential exegetical writings. Much of the erudite chapter is occupied with discounting what the authors view as common misconceptions concerning the nature of commentaries and annotations. This is crystallized in their trenchant remarks on zhangju 章句 (commentaries by chapter and verse).

Ch. 16 Poetry Commentaries, by Michael Fuller – The author makes a sustained, earnest effort to view poetry commentaries as a form of information management. The chief models upon which he draws are Wang Yi’s 王逸 (89-158) commentary on the Chu Ci 楚辭 (Elegies of Chu), Li Shan’s 李善 (d. 689) commentary on the Wenxuan 文選 (Selections of refined literature), and Guo Zhida’s 郭知達 (dates not known) collection of commentaries on Du Fu’s 杜甫 (712-770) poetry.

Ch. 17 Fiction Commentaries, by Martin Huang – The author points out that a salient feature of fictional works as originally published in Ming-Qing (late imperial) times is that they came accompanied by xiaoshuo pingdian 小說評點, i.e., with built-in commentaries. This is a fascinating phenomenon that leads one to ponder why the obsession and compulsion to explicate what one would have thought were manifestly made-up texts. The style of the chapter is relaxed and readable, yet without decreasing its learned quality.

Ch. 18 Drama Commentaries, by Yuming He – The author develops the notion of an information gap between a given text and a vision of its interpretation. This is not fully adumbrated in the commentarial work of Li Zhi 李贄 (1527-1602). Such drama commentaries make use of visual materials in an attempt to close the gap between text and performance. This reminds one of the tradition of illustrated narrative chronicled in Victor H. Mair, Painting and Performance: Chinese Picture Recitation and its Indian Genesis (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1988). Also emphasized in this chapter is Jin Shengtan’s 金聖嘆 (1608-1161) concept of genius.

Ch. 19 Reader’s Guides, by Maria Franca Sibau – Along with modern punctuation (ch. 13), the proliferation of duben 讀本 (reader’s guides) with their Modern Vernacular translations and detailed annotations, constitutes a radical break with the past in Chinese literary information. To my mind, one may view these vast changes as amounting to a rupture with the ontology and epistemology of the classical, traditional world. As a type of this genre, the author focuses on works concerning the Mencius.

Ch. 20 Early Anthologies, by Michael Hunter – This chapter does not begin on a promising note: “The first thing to realize about the early Chinese anthology is that there is no such thing as the early Chinese anthology.” Yet it is fundamentally organized around a single document, the biography of Confucius (“Kongzi”; trad. 559-479 BC) by Sima Qian 司馬遷 (ca. 135-ca. 90 BC) in his Shiji 史記 (The Grand Scribe’s Records), in particular Confucius’ compilation of the Six Classics (liujing 六經). Because the author strives to repackage what Sima Qian has left us as information management for the purposes of the present volume, his account is rather iconoclastic and nontraditional. He achieves this partly by fairly extensive parenthetical interpolations, but also by quotable ex cathedra statements such as this one: “The divination manual of the Zhouyi 周易 (Zhou changes) or Yijing 易經 (Classic of changes) requires the least amount of editing of any canonical tradition and therefore could be bound and read as a book.” As someone who has struggled with the refractory, protean nature of the Changes for decades, I beg to differ. Perhaps we can put it this way: because of its maddeningly impenetrable nature, the Changes has received the least amount of editorial intervention of any of the Six Classics, which doubtless accounts for the reluctance of most Sinologists to grapple with it.

Ch. 21 Medieval Literary Anthologies, by Xiaofei Tian – The author divides her chapter into three issue-oriented sections: sources of anthologies and anthologies as sources; competing anthologies and competing values; prose anthologies and the diffusion of wen. The first has to do primarily with the emergence of poetry collections by diverse authors, the second with more scholarly selected collections of poetry, and the third with what she refers to as belletristic literature, including multi-genre works such as what became the eponymous anthology, Wenxuan 文選 (Selections of refined literature), by Xiao Tong 蕭統 (501-531), but devoting more attention to prose.

Ch. 22 Later Imperial Poetry Anthologies, by Gregory Patterson – In this chapter, the author shows how Ming-Qing poetry anthologies and collections shaped the entire poetic tradition and values of the preceding centuries. By defining the poetic canon, the activities of these later imperial editors determined what was considered to be the quintessence of Chinese poetry, the primus inter pares being the famous Tang shi sanbai shou 唐詩三百首 (The three hundred Tang poems), which was intended for beginning pupils, and its chief competitor was Qianjia shi 千家詩 (Poems of a thousand masters), which was more eclectic and tightly organized.

Ch. 23 Later Imperial Prose Anthologies, by Timothy Clifford – A hidden gem, this chapter begins with the emergence of the first true prose anthologies during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries and culminates with the phenomenally popular Guwen guanzhi 古文觀止 (Pinnacle of ancient style prose) compiled by Wu Chengquan 吳乘權 (1655-1719) and his nephew Wu Dazhi 吳大職 (dates unknown) in the late seventeenth century. The author points out that such anthologies had two main goals: 1. To help students prepare for the civil service examinations; 2. to improve their moral cultivation.

Ch. 24 Religious Literary Anthologies, by Natasha Heller – This chapter compares the organizational strategies of Chan 禪 (Meditation School; Zen) and Quanzhen 全真 (Complete Perfection) literary anthologies. The former, of course, is Buddhist, the latter Daoist. It is significant that Quanzhen borrowed the genre of yulu 語錄 (recorded sayings) from Chan. During the same time frame, Neo-Confucianism also adopted this form, which links all three in the vernacularization I have mentioned a number of times in this review and elsewhere. This was the first widespread stage of vernacularization after it was initially promoted by Buddhists during the medieval period (Mair [1994]). The second, and far more consequential, stage is noted in ch. 14 and ch.19.

Ch. 25 Premodern Fiction and Fiction Collections, by Ling Hon Lam – If ch. 15 is about longer fiction, this chapter is about short fiction – short stories, anecdotes, sketches, tales, and so forth. A leitmotiv that runs through this chapter is that of entropy, though I am somewhat hesitant about the author’s command of this concept promoted by Claude E. Shannon, since it is here defined as “information overabundance,” whereas Shannon meant by it loss of information in telecommunication signals. In any event, as used in this chapter, it is tantamount to the notion of involution proposed by Diana Shuheng Zhang (see ch. 2). Be that as it may, with regard to fiction overload, as it were, editors and anthropologists managed entropy by four strategies: “From the dawn of xiaoshuo to the seventeenth century commercial boom, one can trace a development of four techniques for coping with entropy, moving from comprehensive coverage to focalized exclusion, from elaborated categorization to designs of parallel correspondence” (p. 252).

Ch. 26 Premodern Drama Anthologies, by Ariel Fox – This chapter is based on case studies of the two most influential drama anthologies, Yuanqu xuan 元曲選 (Selection of Yuan plays; 1615-16), edited by Zang Maoxun 臧懋循 (1550-1620), and Zhuibai qiu 綴白裘 (A patchwork coat of white fur; 1764-74). These collections represent opposing anthological modes, one drawing on an ostensibly dormant genre, the other from a thriving corpus.

Ch. 27 Modern Literary Anthologies, by Charles A. Laughlin – The components of this chapter are relatively straightforward: xuanji 選集 (selected works), quanji 全集 (complete works), and Zhongguo xinwenxue daxi 中國新文學大系 (Compendium of new Chinese literature). It pays due attention to most of the major Chinese authors of the twentieth century up to the founding of the PRC. Much of the accomplishments in this field were the result of efforts by literary entrepreneurs such as Zhao Jiabi 趙家璧 (1908-1997) and Ah Ying 阿英 (1900-1977).

Ch. 28 Modern Drama Script Anthologies, by Tarryn Li-Min Chun – As might be expected, this chapter pays a good deal of attention to the issue of the sweeping reform of drama from operatic to spoken and from marvelous to realist. This (late Qing and early Republican era) was the time of the vernacularization of all genres and the democratization of politics and society. The embodiment of these vectors on the stage was the rise of huaju 話劇 (spoken drama). The author does an outstanding job of covering the salient figures, texts, and movements involved in this transformation of drama in light of its historical background. Key takeaway: the utilitarian nature of the modern drama anthology.

Ch. 29 Textbook Anthologies, by Michael Gibbs Hill – One might think that a chapter on texts for public school education would be mundane and perhaps even boring, but such is not the case with this one. From start to finish, the author offers a hard-hitting confrontation with fundamental issues of language, society, and politics. Opening sentence: “At the heart of modern debates about language reform lies the question of whether written Chinese can convey the information that makes up the building blocks of modern knowledge, which in turn are needed to form a modern state and people” (p. 284). In other words, how can the classical learning and literary texts of past millennia be incorporated in and made relevant to the curricula of materials for shaping the minds and modes of expression of China’s youth, who are also the backbone of China’s citizenry? Such questions have persisted to the present day, with intense scrutiny being exerted on what is included or excluded from the school canon, and the implication this has for “deep thinking” (p. 290, n. 15).

Ch. 30 Medieval Encyclopedias, by Christopher M. B. Nugent – Though touching on other works as well, the two stars of this essay are Yiwen leiju 藝文類聚 (Collection of literature arranged by categories), compiled by Ouyang Xun 歐陽詢 (557-641), and Chuxue ji 初學記 (Record of early learning), compiled by Xu Jian 徐堅, et al. in 729 AD. With the former, we encounter the ubiquitous, though hazy, concept of lei 類 (category), which constitutes the key component of the general Chinese rubric for premodern encyclopedic works, viz., leishu 類書 (categorized writings). Focusing specifically on their circumlocutory entries for “moon,” the author compares the Yiwen leiju and the Chuxue ji, showing that the latter “uses a more complex method of organizing the literary inheritance that shows a sophisticated understanding of mnemonic structures” (p. 300) and employs a larger quantity of shidui 事對 (parallel matters), and that this works as an “indexical system” (p. 303).

Ch. 31 Middle Period Imperial Encyclopedias, by Sarah M. Allen – This chapter provides an introduction to three encyclopedic compilations, the tenth-century Taiping guangji 太平廣記 (Wide-ranging records compiled in the Taiping Era), the late tenth-century Taiping yulan 太平御覽 (Imperial readings compiled in the Taiping Era), and the early fifteenth-century Yongle dadian 永樂大典 (Great compendium of the Yongle reign). While the latter is stretching the notion of “middle period,” it is surprising that the author does not include the awesome Tongzhi 通志of Zheng Qiao 鄭樵 (1104-1162), which inexplicably gets shunted off into ch. 50 on “Later Imperial Bibliographies” (also mentioned on p. 330 in ch. 33, “Qing Dynasty Imperial Encyclopedias”). This would have given her an opportunity not only to discuss Tongdian 通典 (Universal compilation of governmental institutions) by Du You 杜佑 (735-812), which does belong squarely in the middle period, but the whole concept of tong 通 (universal) that is so essential in the history of information management in China, e.g., Shi tong 十通 (Ten universals).[1]

Ch. 32 Later Imperial Vernacular Encyclopedias, by Cynthia Brokaw – The author breaks new ground in presenting materials that were hitherto unknown in traditional Sinology. She goes beyond the boundaries of conventional conceptions and categories of the elite, bringing us face-to-face with popular notions and works that were shaped by commercial publishing made possible by the rapidly expanding urban economy of the Ming period (1368-1644).

Ch. 33 Qing Dynasty Imperial Encyclopedias, by Stefano Gandolfo – This is the age of the ultra-comprehensive encyclopedias, Gujin tushu jicheng 古今圖書集成 (Collected writings and illustrations, past and present) and Siku quanshu 四庫全書 (Complete writings of the four repositories), both compiled in the eighteenth century. Their structure, however, differed in that the former was composed of six main categories divided into thirty-two sections that were in turn divided into the stupendous number of more than six thousand subsections, whereas the latter was prepared on the hoary fourfold bibliographical classification scheme dating back fourteen centuries. Be that as it may, the impact of these two mega encyclopedias on subsequent classification of information and knowledge can hardly be overstated.

Ch. 34 Twentieth-Century Vernacular Encyclopedias, by Joan Judge – Weighing in at barely six pages, this is a tour de force of essential information about such vital topics as shuxin 書信 (letters), wenyi 文藝 (literate composition [which I would gloss as “literary composition”), wenxue 文學 (literature)—which is a “round-trip word” (laihui ci 來回詞) from Japan—and so forth. She describes the field of encyclopedias in the early twentieth century as “richly chaotic.”

Ch. 35 Online Encyclopedias and Wikis, by Shaohua Guo – Barely five pages in length, this is one of the shortest chapters in the book. It opens with an account of the state-funded Zhongguo dabaike quanshu 中国大百科全书 (The encyclopedia of China), 1st ed. 1993 (launched in 1978). The author neglects to emphasize that Zhongguo dabaike quanshu is divided into thematic volumes, which preserves the overall traditional organizational scheme of Chinese reference works by categories. This is quite different from Western encyclopedias that are arranged alphabetically, which brings me to another key omission—namely, even though the volumes are organized thematically, the entries within each volume are arranged alphabetically. The volumes and entries of the Chinese version of Encyclopaedia Britannica are also arranged alphabetically. This is a monumental change in the history of information management in China. In both cases, it was Zhou Youguang 周有光 (1906-2017), the chief architect of Hanyu Pinyin 汉语拼音 (Sinitic alphabetical spelling), who was responsible for the alphabetical arrangement, and he considered this one of his most important achievements. The chapter concludes by bringing us up to the present with a survey of online encyclopedias, which are mostly sponsored by commercial enterprises such as Baidu 百 度 (Hundred times), which, unlike Wikipedia, is not compiled and supervised by volunteers. Though—like so many other important sources of universal information and data—blocked in China, there is a Chinese version of Wikipedia that circulates in the West and can sometimes be visited by netizens using illegal (to the CCP) VPNs. The author acknowledges the heavy hand of political censorship and manipulation, and insightfully highlights the role of the information economy in shaping and sharing online resources in China.

Ch. 36 Early Histories, by Griet Vankeerberghen – The author could hardly avoid beginning with Zuozhuan 左轉 (Zuo tradition; compiled 4th c. BC; no mention of the supposed compiler, Zuo Qiuming 左丘明 [556-452 BC]), Shiji 史記, and Hanshu 漢書 (History of the Han; 1st c. AD). He efficiently describes the differing natures of the three texts by comparing and contrasting their treatment of a single incident, i.e., a regicide in the state of Zheng. All three texts imparted to the Chinese historiographical enterprise key characteristics—Zuo: narrative expansion and valorization; Shiji: distinctive organization into “Annals” (benji 本紀), “Tables” (biao 表), “Monographs” (shu 書), “Hereditary Houses” (shijia 世家), and “Arrayed Traditions” (liezhuan 列傳) that establish the template for all later official dynastic histories; Hanshu: narrower focus and intense adducement of evidence (broadly construed).

Ch. 37 Early Medieval Histories, by Zeb Raft – Once the historiographical enterprise was set in motion by the three foundational texts described in ch. 36, it continued forward to the end of the imperial tradition. Aside from the characteristics outlined in the previous chapter, official Chinese histories also display another attribute—namely, the inclusion of documents. This chapter, which focuses on this attribute, has a look that is different from all other chapters in LIIC, viz., three full pages of its ten total pages are occupied by striking bar graphs that show the proportion of documents in the biographical sections of twenty official histories from the first century BC to the fourteenth century AD. Using a method called Docanalysis, the author shows that Songshu 宋書 (History of the Liu-Song; completed in 659) has the lowest percentage, merely 5%. The author grapples with the literary quality of the writing with which he is dealing, taking into account the distinction between spoken and written as identified by the Tang historiographical critic, Liu Zhiji 劉知幾 (661-721), i.e., zaiyan 載言 (on including speech) and zaiwen 載文 (on including writing), but comes to no firm conclusion about what is literary and what is not.

Ch. 38 Dynastic Histories from Tang to Song, by Anna M. Shields – At thirteen pages, this chapter allows the author to be a bit more expansive in expressing her ideas than the authors of the shorter chapters. Table 38.1 shows the “Conventional Components of a Dynastic History Biography,” breaking them down into their common documentary sources (cf. ch. 37) and whether or not they use quotations. The author concludes that the composition of a dynastic biography is modular. A test case of this model is Song Qi’s 宋祁 (997-1061) biography of Liu Zongyuan 柳宗元 (773-819), which contains four thousand characters (out of a total of four thousand five hundred) quoted from Liu’s own works, with two-thirds of the remaining five hundred characters taken from Han Yu’s 韓愈 (768-824) laudatory epitaph on Liu Zongyuan, which the author further identifies as coming from various literary sources.

Ch. 39 Late Imperial Histories, by Devin Fitzgerald – The aim of the author is to explain what a zhengshi 正史 (standard / official history) is. In addition, he wishes to point out how a dynastic history (guoshi 國史// Manchu gurun i suduri) is constructed from its readily identifiable sources, such as shilu 實錄 (veritable records), as well as memorials and edicts stored in archives. Indeed, there was a whole regular process and bureaucracy for the writing of a standard history, exemplified by the establishment of a guoshi guan 國史館 (national history office). It was, in short, an editorial project, paying attention even to the style of prose, which should be unadorned à la the Tang guwen 古文 (ancient style prose) masters, Han Yu and Liu Zongyuan (see ch. 38).

Ch. 40 Literary Histories, by Theodore D. Huters – It is no secret that the first histories of Chinese literature were written by Japanese scholars, Kojō Teikichi (or Sadakichi) 古城貞吉 (1866-1949) and Sasakawa Taneo [Rinpū] 笹川種郎[臨風] (1870-1949), both titled Shina bungaku shi 支那文学史 (A history of Chinese literature) and published respectively in 1896/7 and 1898. A Chinese scholar, Lin Chuanjia 林傳甲 (1877-1922), followed in their footsteps and published his Zhongguo wenxue shi 中國文學史in 1904 (A history of Chinese literature).[2] This happened around the same time that China borrowed the term bungaku 文学 for “literature.” A goodly portion of this chapter is borrowed from the research of a contemporary Chinese scholar, Chen Pingyuan 陈平原. The author emphasizes that much of the development of twentieth-century research into literary history, such as Lu Xun’s Zhongguo xiaoshuo shilue 中国小说史略 (A brief history of Chinese fiction), had a close connection with pedagogical purposes.

Ch. 41 Libraries from the Early Period to the Tang, by Michael Nylan – The first person named in this chapter is the Han emperor Chengdi 成帝 (r. 33-7 BC); he is also the last person named in this chapter. This is because, in 26 BC, he named the members of a commission to create what was essentially the initial imperial library in China. The title of the chapter states that it is to cover libraries for the early period to the Tang, but the author actually takes into account developments up to the Song and Ming. She is particularly intent on demonstrating that, in addition to the palace libraries of the various dynasties from the Han to the Tang, there were also estimable private libraries. Another concern of the present chapter is to show how the establishment of libraries contributes to the elaboration of editorial and bibliographical systems, a concern she revisits in ch. 48.

Ch. 42 Libraries from Song to Qing, by Ronald C. Egan – This chapter is a gleaming, glistening pearl in the alaṃkāra / zhuangyan 莊嚴 (dignified ornamentation, including in rhetoric) that we have in LIIC. It comprehensively, yet succinctly, covers the intellectual, technical, and institutional parameters that were operative in the growth of libraries during the period in question. The author describes a debate that has emerged in contemporary studies of Chinese libraries during the late imperial period, that between those who emphasize the proliferation of books, libraries, lending, and reading, on the one hand, and limited access to books that frustrated aspiring scholars, on the other hand. Above all, this inimitable chapter may be best appreciated through its fond, intimate description of Tianyi Library (Tianyi ge 天一閣) in the city of Ningbo, which was established by Fan Qin 范欽 (1506-1585). The author’s account of the Tianyi Library is replete with numerous illuminating details, but I shall limit myself to two. First is the name of the library, which is based on a statement in Zheng Xuan’s 鄭玄 (127-200) commentary on the Yijing 易經 (Classic of changes) where it essentially means “water,” which would protect the library and its books from fire (see p. 428 for the intricate explanation). Second is the observation that the books were kept in enclosed, locked camphor (as a fumigant against insects) bookcases labeled in what amounts to a half Dewey decimal system that we might style as “Fan pentamerous” system of library classification.

Ch. 43 Late Imperial Literary Archives, by Kaijun Chen – It might have been better to title this chapter “A Late Imperial Literary Archive,” inasmuch as it is almost entirely about a single exemplar, the Shengping shu 昇平署 (Bureau of ascending peace), which existed from the 1820s to 1911. The two most eye-opening things I learned from this chapter are that the Shengping shu theatrical archive was sorted according to the sequence of the characters in the Qianzi wen 千字文 (Thousand character classic; early 6th c.), a serialization system that goes back to the Song period (960-1279) and was used for many other sequencing purposes, and that the all-important term for archival documents, dang 檔, probably derives from Manchu dangse (record; dossier).

Ch. 44 Modern Libraries, by Jidong Yang – A well-documented chapter, it takes us from the mid-19th century to the present day. Few would know that the great anti-Opium hero, Lin Zexu 林則徐 (1785-1850), had ordered the translation of a British work that included detailed accounts of public libraries in the West. The author stresses the stark differences between traditional Chinese book repositories and Western libraries. One indicator of this distinction is the proliferation of special neologisms for Western libraries before Japanese toshokan 図書館 became the accepted Mandarin word, tushuguan 圖書館, signifying Western-style libraries. With the new conceptualization of libraries came the need for a new taxonomy of knowledge that could not be embraced under the old fourfold classification (sibu 四部 or siku 四庫): jing 經 (classics), shi 史 (histories), zi 子 (masters), and ji 集 (collections). Most importantly for this volume, during the late Qing period, Chinese readers and writers started to use the repurposed term wenxue for the Western notion of “literature.” Like so many other key terms in modern scientific, cultural, and sociopolitical spheres, this wenxue too was borrowed from Japanese (bungaku 文学) all “round-trip words.” Other topics pursued by the author are the reclassification of literary types and genres to match Western concepts, library and literary information in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), and the remarkable transformation of libraries that has taken place in the Digital Age.

Ch. 45 Modern Literature Museums and Archives, by Kirk Denton – The focus of this chapter is on two national literature museums, the National Museum of Modern Chinese Literature (NMMCL) (Zhongguo xiandai wenxue guan 中国现代文学馆) in Beijing and the National Museum of Taiwan Literature (NMTL) (Guoli Taiwan wenxue guan 國立台灣文學館) in Tainan, together with their respective archives. The contrast between the two museums could hardly be more stark. The NMMCL in Beijing is clearly intended for the post-Cultural Revolution era, to uphold the tradition of realism and the ethical value system upon which the PRC was ostensibly founded. The NMTL, on the other hand, is premised on the shaping of a Taiwan identity for the future:

Although the inception of the museum may have been driven by a Taiwan nativist political agenda, the resulting museum and its exhibits project an inclusive and multicultural framework. In that sense, it reflects the more mature and less narrowly Hoklo-centric vision of Taiwan cultural identity that characterized some early strains of Taiwanese nativism. (p. 452)

What we see in the NMTL, then, is the shaping of a new nation as seen through the growth of its literature. This contrasts with the NMMCL, which aims to put the trauma of the Cultural Revolution behind the nation by going back to its founding principles.

Ch. 46 Document Services, by Xiao Liu – Two services in the PRC are highlighted in this chapter. The first is the Fuyin baokan ziliao 复印报刊资料 (Periodical and newspaper materials reprint series), which formerly was well known in English as the Information Center for Social Sciences of Renmin University of China (or “Information Center” for short). The Information Center had a complicated institutional background in the university’s Jianbao gongsi 剪报公司 (Newspaper clipping company) and other entities. The second is the recently risen Zhongguo zhiwang 中国知网 (China National Knowledge Infrastructure; CNKI; databases. The chapter ends on a somewhat unanticipated note: “The Information Center’s reprinted materials series serves as a case study showcasing the transformation of information management from a socialist cultural system to a postsocialist cultural industry.”

Ch. 47 Thematic Research Collections, by Donald Sturgeon – In my estimation, of all the chapters in LIIC, this is the most essential for careful reading by anyone who is interested in the future of Chinese literary studies. Pride of place in the chapter, though humbly presented, is the Chinese Text Project, the maestro behind which is Sturgeon himself. He offers an overview of digitization projects going back to 1984 with the founding of Scripta Sinica by Academia Sinica in Taiwan and CHANT (Chinese Ancient Texts project at Chinese University of Hong Kong in 1988. He also mentions the CBETA (Chinese Buddhist Electronic Text Association) digitized version of the Dazangjing / Daizōkyō 大藏經 (Great Chinese Tripiṭaka) from Taiwan and a similar project in Japan, both established around 1998. The remainder of the chapter deals with challenges to digitization, moving beyond full-text searches to other types of text analysis and annotation, and the problem of what the author calls “information silos.” Among the last topics addressed in the chapter is the Chinese Biographical Database Project, now housed at Harvard, but originally conceived and created at the University of Pennsylvania by Robert M. Hartwell (1932-1996), which enables researchers to search a vast amount of biographical data and, through the Chinese Historical GIS (Geographical Information System) to which it is linked, to identify and locate historical place names on a map. I personally can attest to the wealth of easily available information in these resources, such as the literacy level of individual Buddhist monks during middle period history and where they were from.

Ch. 48 Early Bibliographies, by Michael Nylan – This chapter is naturally paired with the author’s ch. 41 (“Libraries from the Early Period to the Tang”). The main characters and their works are Liu Xiang 劉向 (77-6 BC) and his “Bielu” 別錄 (Separate record; ca. 20 BC), his son Liu Xin 劉歆 (53/20 BC-23 AD) and his “Qilüe” 七略 (Seven epitomes; ca. 6 BC), and Ban Gu 班固 (32-92) and his “Yiwenzhi” 藝文志) (Treatise on bibliography) in the Hanshu, which drew heavily on the former two. The chapter provides just recognition for these giants of the tradition.

Ch. 49 Medieval Bibliographies, by Evan Nicoll-Johnson – The next great bibliographic treatise after Ban Gu’s “Yiwen zhi” (see the preceding chapter) is the “Jingji zhi” 經籍志 (Treatise on bibliography [hereafter JJZ]) of the Sui shu 隨書 (History of the Sui), compiled under the supervision of Wei Zheng 魏徵 (580-643). Aside from innovations such as the quadripartite classification of Classics, Histories, Masters, and Collections, which replaced the six main subject headings of Ban Gu (Six arts or classics; philosophical masterworks; verse; military works; treatise on the technical and quantitative arts, including divination; medicine) and became the de facto standard for bibliographies throughout the later imperial period, the JJZ has a wealth of treasures, the depths of which have not been adequately plumbed, e.g., references to lost writings in the Xianbei 鮮卑 (*Särpi) national language (Guoyu 國語). In parallel with the JJZ, but earlier, the Buddhists also developed an elaborate bibliographical tradition, the fountainhead of which began with Chu sanzang ji ji 出三藏記集 (Collected records of the production of the Tripiṭaka; CSZJJ), compiled by Sengyou 僧祐 (445-518) and organized not on doctrinal grounds, but on aspects of translation, since all genuine Buddhist scriptures were supposed to come from India.[3] The situation is similar for Daoist scriptural catalogs, an example of which being Zhengao 真誥 (Declarations of the perfected; ZG).[4]

Ch. 50 Later Imperial Bibliographies, by Stefano Gandolfo – This chapter takes up the case of Zheng Qiao 鄭樵 (1104-62), the great encyclopedist and phonologist, whom we briefly encountered in ch. 31 and ch. 33. Zheng Qiao’s bibliographical legacy is typified by his establishing twelve categories for its organization in contrast to the six of Ban Gu in the Han and the four of the JJZ in the History of the Sui. Although Ming bibliographers did not slavishly follow Zheng Qiao in all respects, they did break with tradition in not adhering to the fourfold classification of the JJZ and in other aspects of his classificatory practice (which strove for clarity and precision) that the editors of the Siku quanshu (who favored hierarchical practice) frowned upon.

Ch. 51 Twentieth-Century Bibliographies, by Anatoly Detwyler – The tone and approach of this chapter are well reflected in its opening sentence: “Over the course of the twentieth century, the practices of classifying and cataloging texts in China reflected larger, architectonic shifts in epistemology, cultural authority, and institutional power” (p. 500). The author engages with conceptual categories (e.g., metadata) and theoretical approaches (e.g., virtual collections) that make the head spin. Thankfully, the more rarefied aspects are balanced by being grounded in such notions as mulu 目錄 (bibliography; catalog; index), which he traces back to its very beginning with Zheng Xuan 鄭玄 (127-200). His focus on Lu Xun’s articles on handwriting and book collection also lends it a sense of intense realism. Above all for me, the most salient moment in the chapter was the author’s mention of an index of pen names published in 2002 (see n. 14) that lists more than 237 pen names for Lu Xun. When I worked on an earlier version of that index during the 1970s, it only had around 150 pen names for Lu Xun, and an index published in 1936 had managed to collect a mere 58!

Ch. 52 Indices and Concordances, by Donald Sturgeon – By the author of the most forward-looking chapter in LIIC, number 47, this essay is an appreciative look backward to research tools that served us well during the twentieth century. The author affords due attention to the role of William Hung (Hong Ye 洪業; 1893-1980) in getting the first large-scale indexing project off the ground, the initial offering being delivered in 1936. Hung’s efforts resulted in the production of the Harvard-Yenching Index Series of 64 premodern literary works. The next generation of concordances was made by the Chinese University of Hong Kong Institute of Chinese Studies (ICS), which issued its first concordance in 1992. Even in this largely retrospective chapter, the author takes a peek at the future by concluding with a section on indices in the digital era. An apparent omission is the absence of any mention of the Zhong-Fa Hanxue yanjiusuo 中法漢學研究所 (Centre Franco-Chinois [CFC]). It was founded in 1937 with the endorsement of Paul Pelliot and lasted until 1953, publishing more than a dozen valuable indices.

Ch. 53 Premodern Literary Collectanea, by Suyoung Son – Typically called congshu 叢書, these mostly mammoth assemblages of literary texts in serial publication have always been daunting to me. Looking at their innumerable fascicles arranged on library shelves, I knew they were filled with inestimable riches, but I always quaked at the prospect of trying to find the word or passage in them that I was looking for. It was like going into a museum but not having the slightest idea where the object I wanted to see was located. The author partially remedies that lack of organization for two late seventeenth-century-early eighteenth-century collectanea by listing their categories and contents (pp. 525-527). The list of topics is a combination of whimsy and mundanity that tickled my fancy, e.g., investigations of women’s shoes and stockings, history of eyebrow cosmetics, registers of snakes, and so forth. One subject that was particularly meaningful to me was “Qi liao” 七療 (Seven remedies), in imitation of Mei Sheng’s [Cheng’s] 枚乘 (d. 145 BC) immortal “Qi fa” 七發 (Seven stimuli). In short, the materials one can find in collectanea range from the arcane to the sublime.

Ch. 54 Modern Literary Collectanea, by Robert J. Culp – The two great intellectually oriented publishing houses of the twentieth century were Shangwu yinshuguan 商務印書館 (Commercial Press) and Zhonghua shuju 中華書局 (Zhonghua Book Company). Both have continued to the present day, though greatly transformed as a result of the sweeping historical changes of the past century. One of the most fascinating aspects of these developments is the existence of parallel companies with the same name in Taiwan and the PRC. Each of these houses sponsored major collectanea, e.g., the former Wanyou wenku 萬有文庫 (Complete library; lit., literary repository that contains all things) and the latter Sibu beiyao 四部備要 (Essential writings from the four categories). They also published other collectanea that reveal interesting similarities and differences between the two houses. The leading figure in the advancement of such enterprises was Wang Yunwu 王雲五 (1888-1979), an autodidact of enormous creativity and entrepreneurial spirit. He was the editor-in-chief of Commercial Press for many years and held important positions in the government of the Republic of China. Among his other prodigious achievements, two that mean the most to me are his sponsorship of the publication of a modern edition of the Shi tong (see ch. 31) and the ingenious lookup method called Sijiao haoma 四角號碼 (four-corner method), which he used to great advantage in the compilation of invaluable indices for Shi tong, Peiwen yunfu 佩文韻府 (Rime storehouse of esteemed phrases), and other reference works.

Ch. 55 Literary Newspapers and Tabloids, by Alexander Des Forges – This is an account of literature as it appeared in ephemeral (mostly daily) printed material other than journals and magazines. It is no accident that the leading early exemplars of this type of publication were located in Shanghai—it is worth reading this chapter carefully and pondering why that is so. Although the author mentions supplements, he does not cite the term fukan 副刊 per se. Also missing is notice of the important genre of baogao wenxue 報告文學 (reportage).

Ch. 56 Literary Journals, by Jianli Li, tr. by Anatoly Detwyler – The most interesting aspect of this chapter, suitable for being the only one in this volume translated from Chinese, is the intricate intertwining of Chinese writing in characters and in Romanization (Hanyu Pinyin) with English. Two examples will suffice to show that this phenomenon evinces the fundamental aspect of the nature of writing in journals and magazines during the twentieth century. One is the switch (on August 16, 1952) from zazhi 雜誌 to qikan 期刊 (periodical) as the official designation for this type of publication. The niceties of this changeover lead the translator to expatiate on the etymology of magazine in n. 7 and zazhi (miscellaneous records) on p. 550. Another is the playfulness of the samizdat journal Jintian 今天 (Today), which was among the most influential publication venues during the post-Mao literary scene. On its cover, it had the characters 今天 together with the Pinyin JIN TIAN and English THE MOMENT, though there was much discussion among the editors over whether it should be “today” or “the moment.” Although the first issue came out with the English title “The Moment.” it was later changed to “Today.” Other journals, like the venerable Dushu 读书 (Reading), established in 1979, had only the Chinese characters and Pinyin, but no English. (Co)incidentally, one of the editors of Jintian had the English nickname “Monkey.” This was transcribed into Chinese as Mangke 芒克, which ironically still has a pronounced foreign flavor.

Ch. 57 Overseas Chinese Newspapers, by Carlos Rojas – The author makes the important point that the first Chinese newspaper in the world was published overseas, in Malacca, as early as 1815, by a Western missionary. With a worldwide vision—Southeast Asia, the United States, France—this would have been a good opportunity to make the case for the relevance of the new field of Sinophone Studies for contemporary Chinese studies. The author’s account of a business-oriented newspaper in Singapore that aspired to broad circulation is most intriguing and fits right into the Sinophone theme manqué:

…it wasn’t until 1881 that See Ewe Lay 薛有禮 (1851-1906), a Peranakan (Straits Chinese) merchant in Singapore, established the region’s first long-running Chinese-language daily newspaper, Lat Pau 叻報 (the first character in Lat Pau being derived from Hokkien and Cantonese renderings of the Malay word selat 石叻, meaning “straits”). (p. 564)

Ch. 58 Internet Literature, by Jin Feng – LIIC appropriately concludes with a futuristic type of literature and literary information—namely, that which takes place in the cyberworld. Perhaps significantly, my impression is that, of all the chapters in the book, this one has proportionately the least amount of Chinese characters and transcribed Chinese language. This conforms to another characteristic of online literature, where readers get involved by sharing their opinions “on a variety of controversial topics such as homosexuality, occasionally branching into political satire and social criticism” (p. 573). Now, save for the brief conclusion that follows, I will make a prediction: the internet, and the literature it spawns, will transform Chinese writing in unimaginable ways, more so than it has changed in the 3,200 years since it came into being.


I have devoted so much time and energy to this review because I believe that LIIC is a significant work of contemporary Sinology. How so? First, it brings together 57 of the currently most active scholars in Chinese literary studies and affords a good picture of the state of the field. Second, it divides the field up in a completely new way—namely, examining and explaining it in terms of how information about Chinese literature was / is managed and organized, which is a quite different matter from studying literary works and their history per se. Third, I marvel at the intricacies of how this project was itself organized, managed, and executed, making LIIC conspicuously consistent and coordinated throughout. No wonder it required the collaboration of no fewer than five capable editors!

LIIC is carefully written and edited. I have noticed a few errors and typos here and there (I’ve mentioned a few in the above paragraphs), but overall, considering the fact that it has so many editors and contributors, this is a remarkably accurate and meticulous volume.

On the whole, I have plenty of praise, as lavished above, and few complaints for LIIC. I would have appreciated greater attention to corpus linguistics, inasmuch as it is the cornerstone of much pathbreaking research that is being done in literary studies today, still haltingly in China, but growing exponentially in a way that is commensurate with its increasingly widespread usage in the West.

LIIC is an ambitious undertaking. It amounts to no less than an attempt to reconstruct Sinology from the ground up. Some of us will still hang on to that grand old discipline, but I suspect that it will gradually be replaced by the new profession we see arising in LIIC.

Victor H. Mair
University of Pennsylvania


[1] Endymion Wilkinson, Chinese History: A New Manual (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center, 2012), 51.2.4, pp. 647b-648a. An enlarged, sixth edition in two volumes was published on August 9, 2022, just after I finished this review.

[2] Much of what I say about the earliest histories of Chinese literature in Japanese and Chinese is at variance with what the author of this chapter writes about them. This is not surprising in light of the fact that there is a great deal of misinformation concerning these histories circulating on the internet. Although I spent a couple of hours trying to straighten things out, I cannot be certain that I have them exactly right even now.

[3] See notes 4 and 11 for research by Tanya Storch and Daniel Boucher.

[4] See notes 15 and 16 for research by Stephen R. Bokenkamp and Michel Strickmann.


Mair, Victor H. “Buddhism and the Rise of the Written Vernacular in East Asia: The Making of National Languages,” Journal of Asian Studies 53, no. 3 (August, 1994): 707-751.

—–. “Anthologizing and Anthropologizing: The Place of Non-elite and Non-standard Culture in the Chinese Literary Tradition.” Working papers in Asian/Pacific studies) Asian/Pacific Studies Institute, Duke University (January 1, 1992). Also available in Eugene Eoyang and Yao-fu Lin, eds., Translating Chinese literature (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995), 231-261.