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Chen Wangyou’s Daughter-in-Law | 陳王猷子妇

'Pear Blossoms'. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Accession Number: 1977.79 [Public Domain]

Introduction to the Text

This story is one of five in the Global Medieval Sourcebook to have been selected from the Yijian Zhi (or, Record of the Listener, hereafter the Record) by Hong Mai (1123-1202). Like many well-educated men in the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279), Hong Mai grew up in a prominent family, passed the civil service examination, and obtained a post in the imperial government. However, due to misconduct during a diplomatic mission, his career came to an abrupt end. From then on, he retreated to his study and devoted himself to writing the Record.

The corpus of the Record originally consisted of 420 chapters. What we have today, however, is but a small fraction of the original text. The Record shows a remarkable degree of accuracy when we compare it with the official documents and other texts of the same period. Nevertheless, many stories in the Record are outright fictitious or based on highly unreliable sources. The Record preserved much information about the society, culture and religion of the Southern Song Dynasty and was a source of inspiration for generations of writers after Hong Mai. Writers in late imperial China, for instance, took up many stories in the Record and refashioned them into stories that met the demands and expectations of their own times.

Further Reading

Allen, Sarah M. Shifting Stories : History, Gossip, and Lore in Narratives from Tang Dynasty China. Harvard-Yenching Institute Monograph Series.  Cambridge (Massachusetts): Harvard University Asia Center, 2014.

  • Explores the tale literature of eighth- and ninth-century China to show how the written tales we have today grew out of a fluid culture of hearsay that circulated within elite society. Contains a chapter that explains the modern (mis)understanding of the tale literature as a genre.

Hansen, Valerie. Changing Gods in Medieval China, 1127-1276.  Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1990.

  • Uses the Yi Jian Zhi tales as historical documents and shows that social and economic developments underlay religious changes in the Southern Song (1127 - 1276).

Inglis, Alister David. Hong Mai's Record of the Listener and Its Song Dynasty Context. Suny Series in Chinese Philosophy and Culture.  Albany: State University of New York Press, 2006.

  • A comprehensive survey of the scholarship on Yi Jian Zhi

Luo, Manling. Literati Storytelling in Late Medieval China. The Modern Language Initiative. Seattle ; London: University of Washington Press, 2015.

  • Shows how the tales offer crucial insights into the reconfiguration of the Chinese elite, which monopoligzed literacy, social prestige, and political participation in tenth-century China.