Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Xi’an (shee-AN). Walled city on the right bank of the Wei river, about eighty miles west from its confluence with the Huang He. The old capital of what later became known as the western Zhou Dynasty. From this city, the Zhou ruled their vast domain by granting their vassals hereditary rights to rule the lands adjacent to their individual fortified towns. This inadvertently led to the foundation of new local states on the Zhou lands.

The epic dramatizes the fall of Xi’an to a coalition of neighboring lords and “barbarians,” which all non-ethnic Chinese of the region were called, in 770 b.c.e. The story turns the destruction of Xi’an into a moral lesson. Xi’an’s magnificent lighthouse fails to summon loyal defenders, because the last king turned on its light merely to entertain his favorite concubine. After the city’s destruction, it loses importance until the new Qin (Ch’in) Dynasty builds its capital there at the end of the epic. Thus, narrative closure comes when power returns to the place from which foolish human behavior had driven it five centuries earlier.


*Luoyang (lew-oh-YANG). Capital of the eastern Zhou, who move there after the fall of Xi’an. Roughly two hundred miles east of Xi’an and on the southern bank of the Huang He, the new location provides more safety from raiders and lies in the fertile river plain, with floods presenting a major natural danger. As the eastern Zhou gradually lose real power, their capital also loses importance and splendor.


*Qi (kee). Duchy based in the current province of...

(The entire section is 676 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Feng Menglong. Tung Chou lieh-kuo chih. Tai-pei shih: Hua I Shu Chu, 1985. A selection of 23 chapters. In finely written Chinese script with beautiful colored illustrations.

Giles, Herbert A., trans. Excerpt from Lieh-kuo chih chuan, by Yü Shao-yü. In A History of Chinese Literature. New York: Grove Press, 1958. Useful for comparison.

Lu, Sheldon Hsiao-peng. From Historicity to Fictionality: The Chinese Poetics of Narrative. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1994. Proposes that history is the ground of narrative and ties it inevitably to time and space as well as to ideology and relativity.