Liu Yiqing Analysis


(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

A kinsman of Emperor Wendi (r. 424-453 c.e.) of Song and king of Linchuan in Jiangxi, Liu Yiqing (lee-EW YEE-ching) was an aide-de-camp to the emperor, imperial decree announcer, commander in chief, and concurrently governor of Yanzhou in Shandong, with the privilege of constructing his own mansion and appointing his own subordinates.

Historians credit Liu Yiqing with distinctive literary attainments. He liked recruiting literati, understandably so, because he was living in an age of unconventionality when orthodox Confucianism gradually yielded to Daoism. This philosophical transition was reflected in his influential novel Shishuo Xinyu (fifth century c.e.; new sayings of the world). Its eight volumes were divided into thirty-six chapters, including chapters on moral integrity, discourse, government affairs, and literature. This novel contained anecdotes regarding the aristocrats from the end of the Han Dynasty (220 c.e.) to the Eastern Jin Dynasty (420 c.e.), reflected on their life and thoughts, and presented satirical accounts of their lordly, luxurious, loose behaviors and the vogue of qingtan (idle, metaphysical discourse).

The novel was annotated with more than four hundred references by Liu Xiaobiao (462-521 c.e.), a noted writer of the Liang Dynasty (520-557 c.e.), but only some of the annotations have survived. What survived is the three-volume edition of the original work reorganized by Yanshu (991-1055 c.e.), a famous Ci poet (one who wrote poetry to certain tunes) of the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127 c.e.).


(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Shishuo Xinyu pioneered the genre of the sketchbook, invited many later novels of its kind, and offered rare information on the ancient Chinese aristocracy.

Additional Resources

(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Dudbridge, Glen. Lost Books of Medieval China. London: British Library, 2000.

Qian, Nanxiu. Spirit and Self in Medieval China. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2001.