Yuan Shih-k’ai by Jerome Chen

Ah, hostile biography. Today I’ll be discussing what I’ve picked up reading a book about Yuan Shih-k’ai (now just Yuan Shikai), the first President of post-revolutionary China. He’s one of those figures I’d never even heard of, and when I stumbled upon Jerome Chen’s eponymously titled  biography of the man, I decided to read it mostly out of […]

The Status of Fiction in Traditional Northeast Asian Literary Culture

A while back, I mentioned how, in 1632, the commoners around Shaoxing (in China) had planned to cosplay the characters from the famous wuxia novel The Outlaws of the Marsh, hoping to appease the gods into making it rain so a famine could be avoided, and some of the local literati had gotten involved, donated some cloth and lots of money, and […]

Zhang Dai on Civil Service Exams (And South Korea Today)

As I continue reading the book I mentioned the other day, Jonathan Spence’s Return to Dragon Mountain, I keep running across little passages that scream out to be shared, along with a little commentary. Here’s one, comprising the observations of Zhang Dai and his contemporary Ai regarding the horrors of the Imperial examination system, the civil service exams […]

The Five Types of Moon Viewers, According to Zhang Dai

I’m reading Jonathan Spence’s book about Zhang Dai at the moment, and Spence certainly succeeds early on in making Zhang seem like the guy of person you would want to hang out with… at least for a while. He was swept up by random, sweeping passions, and a powerful drive to write and write and […]