Other Literary Forms

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Although Pu Songling’s literary fame rests solely on his collection of short fiction, Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio (composed of 431 stories), he was a versatile writer in both classical and colloquial Chinese. He was the author of various works, including a remarkable novel written in the vernacular titled Xingshi yinyuan zhuan (1870; the story of a marriage to rouse the world). Written under the pseudonym Xizhoushang (Scholar of the Western Chou Period), this novel’s author remained anonymous for two centuries, until Dr. Hu Shih, in the course of his important studies in the history of Chinese vernacular literature, revealed that the real name of the author was Pu Songling. The earliest known printed edition is dated 1870, but in 1933 a punctuated edition was published to which were added some discussions of the authorship problem by various authors who were in agreement with Hu Shih’s finding. Pu Songling’s literary efforts were by no means confined to the writing of fiction, whether short or long. A man of parts, he wrote several kinds of poems: Shi poems in regular meter; folk musical narratives; drum songs; and folk songs. He wrote plays and numerous essays. He indulged in miscellaneous writings (tongchu); a lexicon of colloquial expressions in daily use in the Zichuan district; a treatise on agriculture and sericulture; a treatise on grass and trees; a manual on truancy; a satire on the examination of the self; books on dealing with hungry ghosts; correspondence; and desultory and neglected pieces. Apart from the Liaozhai zhiyi and the novel mentioned above, all the works subsequently attributed to Pu Songling are included in the two-volume collection, Liaozhai quanzhi (1936; complete works from the Chinese studio).