Tale of the Strange
Pu Songling and His Tale of the Strange.
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At the beginning of the eighteenth century, there appeared an extremely famous novel called Liaozhaizhiyi, which may be translated as Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio. It is about the fairy-tales of ghost-fox.
Pu Songlin (1640-1715) was a litterateur in Qing Dynasty. He was born in a merchant family, and lived on teaching for his whole life. He had produced a large number of literature works, and Liaozhai zhiyi was one of those.
There are altogether four hundred and thirty-one chapters, the shortest of which has only two to three hundred words, while the longest has thousands of words. The book, on one hand, criticizes the bondages of feudal courtesy and the corruption of imperial examinations, and on the other advocates freedom and personality. The love stories are the favorite part of the readers. These stories feature in the love between humans and ghost-foxes, showing the wishes of the young men and women to break those feudal bondages.
The ghost-foxes in this novel are mostly beautiful and virtuous girls. The character named xiaocui perhaps is the most attractive one. The story, which shares the same name with xiaocui, has fantastic plots. The writer has created an innocent, kind and clever image of a young lady. Not until the end of the story, it is pointed out that xiaocui was originally a fox, and she came for the Wangs as a kind of repay because her mother once hided in their house from disasters.
In another story called Fox Girl, the writer describes the warm scenes when a daughter of the fox family gets married. The families are gentle and cultivated. They treat their human friend with hospitality and warm welcome. Such descriptions have made the readers forget the ups and downs in real life.
Besides these beautiful foxes, there are also ugly but kind ones. The story Ugly Fox is such an example. The ugly fox pays pity on a very poor scholar, thus she gives financial support to all his families. However, after the families had beautiful clothes and a comfortable house, the scholar invites a wizard to drive their benefactor away. The fox becomes extremely furious with him, so she took back all she has given to the scholar and sends monsters to punish him. The writer borrows the story to show condemn for human deviltries.
There are also some pretty but cruel foxes. Hua Pi, which may be literally translated into Drawing Skins, describes such a fox, who wraps herself around with a piece of human skin. She lived on sucking human blood, but finally was killed.
In a word, Pu Songling has written many female characters in the name of foxes, but placed on them some virtues, which may not be found in humans.
Liaozhai yizhi is a success in the history of Chinese literature. It has been translated into versions in more than twenty languages, which are now very popular worldwide. Some chapters of this novel have even been made into movies and televisions, liked by many people.