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 […]

The Cosplayers of the Late Ming Dynasty

Wait… cosplay? In the late Ming Dynasty? Apparently, yes. And I don’t just mean dressing up in costumes, which is a universal and ancient activity. I mean cosplay. What’s the difference? I’ll let Jonathan Spence lay out the dots, before I connect them. Here’s a passage from Return to Dragon Mountain: After his dismissal by the prince of Lu, […]

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 […]