Stories to Awaken the World
, the first complete translation of Xingshi hengyan, completes the publication in English of the famous three-volume set of Feng Menglong's popular Chinese-vernacular stories. These tales, which come from a variety of sources (some dating back centuries before their compilation in the seventeenth century), were assembled and circulated by Feng, who not only saved them from oblivion but raised the status of vernacular literature and provided material for authors of the great Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) novels to draw upon. This trilogy has been compared to Boccaccio's Decameron
and the stories of A Thousand and One Nights
. Peopled with scholars, emperors, ministers, generals, and a gallery of ordinary men and women - merchants and artisans, prostitutes and courtesans, matchmakers and fortune-tellers, monks and nuns, thieves and imposters - the stories provide a vivid panorama of the bustling world of late imperial China. The longest volume in the Sanyan trilogy, Stories to Awaken the World
is presented in full here, including sexually explicit elements often omitted from Chinese editions.
Shuhui Yang and Yunqin Yang have provided a rare treat for English readers: an unparalleled view of the art of traditional Chinese short fiction. As with the first two collections in the trilogy, Stories Old and New and Stories to Caution the World, their excellent renditions of the forty stories in this collection are eminently readable, accurate, and lively. They have included all of the poetry that is scattered throughout the stories, as well as Feng Menglong's interlinear and marginal comments, which convey the values shared among the Chinese cultural elite, point out what original readers of the collection were being asked to appreciate in the writer's art, and reveal Feng's moral engagement with the social problems of his day. The Yangs's translations rank among the very finest English versions of Chinese fiction from any period.