May be you will be interested in other books by Songling Pu:

Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio (Volumes I of II)
Songling Pu


Title: Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio (Volumes I of II)

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ISBN: 1230000176766, 9780149108720

I.­—Personal. —The public has, perhaps, a right to be made acquainted with the title under which I, an unknown writer, come forward as the translator of a difficult Chinese work. In the spring of 1867 I began the study of Chinese at H.­B.­M.­’s Legation, Peking, under an implied promise, in a despatch from the then Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, that successful efforts would be rewarded by proportionately rapid advancement in the service of which I was a member. Then followed a long novitiate of utterly uninteresting and, indeed, most repellent labour,­—inseparable, however, from the acquisition of this language, which throughout its early stages demands more from sheer memory than from the exercise of any other intellectual faculty. At length, in the spring of 1877, while acting as Vice-­Consul at Canton, I commenced the translation of the work here offered to the English reader. For such a task I had flattered myself into the belief that I possessed two of the requisite qualifications: an accurate knowledge of the grammatical structure of the language, and an extensive insight into the manners, customs, superstitions, and general social life of the Chinese. I had been variously stationed at Peking, Tientsin, Takow, and Taiwan Fu (in Formosa), Ningpo, Hankow, Swatow, and Canton, from the latter of which I was transferred—when my task was still only half finished—to Amoy. I had travelled beyond the Great Wall into Mongolia; and I had made the journey overland from Swatow to Canton, a distance of five hundred miles; besides which, in addition to my study of the language, my daily object in life had always been to familiarise myself as much as possible with Chinese sympathies and habits of thought. With these advantages, and by the interesting nature of the subject-­matter, I hoped to be able on the one hand to arouse a somewhat deeper interest than is usually taken in the affairs of China; and, on the other, to correct at any rate some of the erroneous views, too frequently palmed off by inefficient and disingenuous workers, and too readily accepted as fact. And I would here draw attention to one most important point; namely, that although a great number of books have been published about China and the Chinese, there are extremely few in which the information is conveyed at first hand; in other words, in which the Chinese are allowed to speak for themselves.­[1] Hence, perhaps, it may be that in an accurately-­compiled work such as Tylor’s Primitive Culture, allusions to the religious rites and ceremonies of nearly one-­third of the human race are condensed within the limits of barely a dozen short passages. Hence, too, it undoubtedly is that many Chinese customs are ridiculed and condemned by turns, simply because the medium through which they have been conveyed has produced a distorted image. Much of what the Chinese do actually believe and practise in their religious and social life will be found in this volume, in the ipsissima verba of a highly-­educated scholar writing about his fellow-­countrymen and his native land; while for the notes with which I have essayed to make the picture more suggestive and more acceptable to the European eye, I claim only so much authority as is due to the opinion of one qualified observer who can have no possible motive in deviating ever so slightly from what his own personal experience has taught him to regard as the truth. II.­—Biographical. —The barest skeleton of a biography is all that can be formed from the very scanty materials which remain to mark the career of a writer whose work has been for the best part of two centuries as familiar throughout the length and breadth of China as are the tales of the “Arabian Nights” in all English-­speaking communities. The author of “Strange Stories” was a native of Tzu-­chou, in the province of Shan-­tung. His family name was P‘u; his particular name was Sung-­ling; and the designation or literary epithet by which, in accordance with Chinese usage, he was commonly known among his friends, was Liu-­hsien, or “Last of the Immortals.­” A further fancy name, given to him probably by some enthusiastic admirer, was Liu Ch‘üan, or “Willow Spring;­” but he is now familiarly spoken of simply as P‘u Sung-­ling. We are unacquainted with the years of his birth or death; however, by the aid of a meagre entry in the History of Tzü-­chou it is possible to make a pretty good guess at the date of the former event. For we are there told that P‘u Sung-­ling successfully competed for the lowest or bachelor’s degree before he had reached the age of twenty; and that in 1651 he was in the position of a graduate of ten years’ standing, having failed in the interim to take the second, or master’s, degree. To this failure, due, as we are informed in the history above quoted, to his neglect of the beaten track of academic study, we owe the existence of his great work; not, indeed, his only production, though the one par excellence by which, as Confucius said of his own “Spring and Autumn,­” men will know him. All else that we have on record of P‘u Sung-­ling, besides the fact that he lived in close companionship with several eminent scholars of the day, is gathered from his own words, written when, in 1679, he laid down his pen upon the completion of a task which was to raise him within a short period to a foremost rank in the Chinese world of letters. Of that record I here append a close translation, accompanied by such notes as are absolutely necessary to make it intelligible to non-­students of Chinese.

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