chapter  1
41 Pages


Depending on one’s definition of fiction, the novel form can in any country be traced to the dawn of its art. Narrowing the concept to imaginative non-metrical narrative, one can still track it to a nation’s earliest sustained prose. Unsurprisingly, then, the Chinese novel’s distant antecedents include consciously fictive elements in pre-dynastic classics: the SHU CHING (BOOK OF HISTORY), for example; the CH’UN CH’IU (SPRING AND AUTUMN CHRONICLES); the ANALECTS; the BOOK OF MENCIUS; the TSO CHUAN COMMENTARY; or the BOOK OF CHUANG-TSE, and, later, the SHIH CHI (RECORDS OF THE HISTORIAN), compiled by Han Grand Historians Ssu-ma T’an and his more famous son Ssu-ma Ch’ien.