Last Updated September 5, 2023.
Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio by Pu Songling is a collection of over 400 stories, all of which have supernatural or mythical literary elements. From an ethnographic or historical point of view, Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio offers valuable insights on Chinese mythology, superstitions, and storytelling traditions before the Cultural Revolution. In particular, many of the stories in this collection were written during the Manchu Dynasty, therefore offering historians and Sino scholars insights on cultural beliefs during that period.
The subtexts and themes of the 400-plus stories vary—and some have more literary merit and depth than others—but the cohesive element is that the stories reflect the intricacies of human psychology and the human condition. Despite its supernatural context, like many other literary works, the stories in Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio have universal themes such as love, redemption, and heroic deeds.
One of the fascinating aspects of Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio is that the whole collection shows consistency in the laws that govern the narratives. For example, humans and spirits and demons all live under the same universal laws, and they all are rewarded for being good and punished for being bad. This is similar to Greek and Hindu mythologies in which the characters operate in their own universe that may seem illogical to us in the real world.
Another literary technique Pu Songling uses is using poetic language, symbolism, and allegories to comment on human behavior, society, and philosophical concepts like morality. For instance, even the non-human entities in the stories are personifications of human traits, or are archetypes that represent an element of the human psyche.