Vol. 32, No. 1 & 2, 2005

Haunted Fiction: Modern Chinese Literature and the Supernatural

Anne Wedell-Wedellsborg, University of Aarhus, Denmark

Since the early 1980s a considerable number of self-consciously experimental, modernist, or postmodernist mainland Chinese writers have been describing weird and abnormal phenomena as part of their fictional universe. This emergence, or reemergence, of a modern Chinese literature of the fantastic1 is an evident departure from the predominantly realist aspirations or pretensions of the previous decades, and can be seen largely as inspired by, or in imitation of, translated writers such as Borges, Márquez, Kafka, and others.2 Viewing the modernity of Chinese literature in the twentieth century in terms of one long negotiation with Western influence, interrupted only by the years dominated by the Mao regime, has been the common view held by not only Western scholars but also Chinese writers and critics.3

However, it is often believed that foreign literary influence, besides its immediate impact, can be instrumental in reactivating already existing, all-but-obsolete indigenous genres, to produce new forms to express a modern experience. The most conspicuous example of this is perhaps the way in which the introduction of Western literary modernism in Latin America combined with local traditional themes and narrative structures to set off the whole wave of magical realism. In China in recent years we have witnessed a resurgence of interest in the rich and varied Chinese generic tradition of the zhiguai (lit.: "recording the abnormal") dating back from at least the fourth century, through Tang and Song chuanqi (lit.: "conveying the marvelous") to Ming and Qing tales, also appearing in biji (lit.: "writing brush notes") and vernacular stories. Since the 1980s, these traditional fantastic tales have received renewed attention in literary circles and are enjoying great popularity among readers. Numerous prints and reprints of original or newly adapted chuanqi or zhiguai stories featuring ghosts, fox-spirits, and other strange phenomena testify to the broad appeal of the genre.4

This article will focus on ways in which modern and contemporary writers have been utilizing parts of the zhiguai tradition for modernist or postmodernist purposes. To mention but a few well-known examples, early modernists such as Lu Xun and Shi Zhecun, and post-Mao writers such as Gao Xingjian, Mo Yan, Han Shaogong, Ge Fei, Can Xue, and Yu Hua have all published texts in which the supernatural element, or phenomena that would normally be described as pertaining to the supernatural realm, forms an integral part, and in which a number of well-known tropes and rhetorical figures from the zhiguai genre appear. This typically entails the breakdown of the unity of time, space, and character, of the distinction between animate and inanimate objects, and of life and death. Ghosts, fox-spirits, forebodings, dreams of premonition, metamorphoses, fortune-tellers, magical objects, and the like, as well as the deliberate blurring of borderlines between fantasy and reality, all appear in these texts, otherwise or at the same time characterized by modernist or postmodernist traits. Furthermore, structural strategies such as, for example, the literalization of metaphor or the mixing of literal and figurative truth, known from a number of zhiguai and chuanqi, find new functions in contemporary texts. And the dream, a staple theme of zhiguai and chuanqi from the inception of these genres, seems to have renewed its role as emblematic of the relationship between fiction and reality. As Mikhail Bakhtin notes, texts may draw upon conventions in a relatively straightforward way, but may also reaccentuate them by, for example, using them ironically, parodically, or irreverently.5 In the hands of a modern writer, the incorporation of supernatural material can hardly avoid becoming a play with convention. What interests me here is how these fantastic elements function in relation to the specific modern and/or postmodern character of these texts, and to what extent the fantastic is being culturally specific. What role do these elements play in the constitution of Chinese literary modernity?

Going back to the Chinese literature of the 1920s and 1930s, the most interesting examples of the use of the fantastic, from an artistic point of view, are to be found in texts by Lu Xun and Shi Zhecun. In Lu Xun's collection of prose-poems Wild Grass (Yecao, 1926; Engl. trans. Peking, 1974), supernatural events and the dream, or the deliberate framing of a piece of narrative as a dream, are strongly associated with the world of the individual subconscious, often with Freudian connotations. It is a place of strong emotional intensity expressive of otherwise repressed or surrealist images and desires. The effect is one of underscoring the discrepancy between the inner and outer world, and of highlighting the complexity of individual psychology. In several of these short texts, the dream becomes a paradigm of art, rearranging personal experience into symbolic structures, aiming not at direct reflection, but rather at "imagistic distortion as an artistic way to project the suppressed traumas of the inner psyche."6 Likewise, in stories by Shi Zhecun from the 1930s, such as "Sorcery" ("Modao"), "Shi Xiu" ("Shi Xiu"), and "The General's Head" ("Jiangjun de tou"), motifs from the zhiguai are appropriated and psychologized.7 Shi Zhecun was one of the group of Shanghai writers called "new perceptionists" (xin ganjuepai), and it was Freudianism that provided him with a vocabulary that enabled him to translate the classical zhiguai tale into a type of Chinese surrealist fiction.8 For example, Shi's fantastic narrative in the story "Sorcery," which unfolds in contemporary surroundings, is couched in a language of realism, which carefully describes the psychological hesitation and questioning on the part of the first-person narrator. This story, which refers specifically to Pu Songling's famous eighteenth-century collection Strange Stories from Liaozhai (Liaozhai zhi yi, 1766; Engl. trans. Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio, London, 1880), as well as to some Western ghost stories, is a full-blown fantastic tale. It fluctuates between the real and the supernatural, that is, between presenting the strange-an ominous woman in black seen by the protagonist-as hallucination on the part of the protagonist, or as being indeed a ghost/witch/omen foreboding the death of his three-year-old daughter, mixing in themes of erotic desire and bad conscience. In "Shi Xiu," derived from the plot of the fourteenth-century novel Shui hu zhuan (Water Margin, Engl. trans. Outlaws of the Marsh, Peking and Bloomington, 1981), and in "The General's Head" the setting is a historical, or rather mythical, past, where strange things may be expected to happen. But in both cases, the supernatural events are clearly utilized to symbolize repressed forces of sexuality or guilt in the individual psyche.

This use of ghosts and the strange to represent psychological/mental phenomena reappeared in the late twentieth century and can be found in many stories otherwise taking place in realistic contemporary surroundings, for example, in the works of women writers such as Zhong Ling and Xu Xiaobin. Even a writer of popular novels like Wang Shuo occasionally weaves tantalizing scraps of fantasy into his narrative, to the effect of stressing the elusiveness of the individual's grasp of reality. Just one example: in his novel Playing for Thrills (Wan de jiu shi xintiao, 1989; Engl. trans. Playing for Thrills, London, 1997), the protagonist, who is searching for a lost memory and emotional identity, stays in a haunted, ghostlike apartment where events that the reader later identifies as fragments of the past or unrecognized memories materialize into mysterious sounds and broken images. At a pivotal point in the novel, the hero wakes up to find the place completely empty, all furniture gone, the taps rusty, and everything covered in a thick layer of dust, as if no one had lived there for years. Although the novel leaves a slight ambiguity as to whether this could all be a set-up to trick our hero, the scene is clearly a replica of one of the classical zhiguai situations, in which the protagonist wakes up to find magnificent mansions turned into crumbling ruins wrapped in cobwebs. Wang Shuo uses the ghostly voices, sounds, and invisible beings to represent repressed emotions and attachments in much the same way as Shi Zhecun did fifty years earlier. By letting the fantastic encroach on the real, appearing in an otherwise realistic, though mysterious, novel, the author injects a further note of uncertainty into an already unknowable modern world.9

But there are more sophisticated and complex ways of incorporating the supernatural realm. The imbedded, metafictional structure of Nobel laureate Gao Xingjian's Soul Mountain (Lingshan, 1990; Engl. trans. Soul Mountain, New York, 2000) contains a number of biji/zhiguai stories, which may or may not be invented by the narrator (whether in the form of first, second, or third person), on ghosts, shamans, or semihistorical figures. Set in the context of realist descriptions of life in late-twentieth-century China, these traditional narratives appear filled with strong emotions and powerful acts, creating a poignant contrast to the detached and observing modern narrator as well as to the undetermined, wavering women he meets on his way. The book is a cultural and personal search, and the effect of these interspersed tales is to evoke a multifaceted image of the richness of life and culture, woven into a horizontally and vertically intersecting network of time and layers of civilization.10

Another metafictional tour de force is Mo Yan's Wine Country (Jiuguo, 1992; Engl. trans. The Republic of Wine, Arcade, 2001).11 This ebullient and irreverent satire is filled with fantastic events that serve to underscore and upset conventional concepts of fictionality and authorial command. In this novel on cannibalism, Mo Yan also presents his version of one of the basic archetypes of the fantastic: the monster-child. A creation of the writer-character Li Yidou, this monster-child is one of the escaped "meat boys," a little demon with a piercing look, who turns out to be extraordinarily fierce and resourceful, joining the herolike dwarf, Yu Yichi, who is himself a true zhiguai figure. Another remarkable archetypal figure in the novel is the beautiful, bewitching, and sexually attractive mother-in-law, who ends up exposing her real, demonic self as a cannibalistic gourmet cook of children.

Han Shaogong has written a number of short stories and novellas in which aspects of the supernatural interact with characters and events. His famous novella Dadadad (Bababa, 1985) also features a monster-child, the deformed and retarded Bingzai, who can be seen as representing the collective alien, the mythological forces of ignorance, which are marginalized at the same time as they are co-opted.12

Examples of a completely different, and much more subtle, use of the strange and supernatural are found in Ge Fei's enigmatic stories. He transposes both the structure and atmosphere of the fantastic tale with its blurring of borderlines to the realm of the seemingly real, where a hint of the fantastic-often rooted in folklore-becomes part of the elusive atmosphere enwrapping plot and characters. For example, the mysterious woman figure in the novella Brown Birds (Hese niaoqun, 1988) evokes doubt in the reader as to whether we are dealing with real people, ghost ladies, fox-fairies, or just psychological creations of the protagonist's mind.13 Ge Fei's texts are loaded with ambiguity and produce hesitation in both reader and characters, thus creating an enigmatic atmosphere even when nothing manifestly supernatural is around.

Among the most remarkable writers of the strange is Can Xue, whose writing is often simply referred to as guai (strange). While her texts contain many ingredients known from the zhiguai-metamorphoses, magic, ghostlike apparitions, people who fly or change into animals, or women who resemble fox-spirits-they are all imbedded in a dreamscape where things unfold according to the logic of the dream. But the dreamscape is total, there is no waking up, no recourse to a narrator/implied author who is outside and awake. Her method is to objectify, or materialize, thoughts and feelings. She exaggerates sensual impressions so that they appear as physical objects that defy realist explanation. It is the feared, the threatening, the imagined that turn "real," rather than the other way around.

Yu Hua (b. 1960) is one of the contemporary writers who consciously exploits elements of the fantastic genre and tropes of the zhiguai in his early work. In a series of stories, some of them direct pastiches of traditional genres, written at the end of the 1980s and the early 1990s, he incorporates strange events and bizarre coincidences into his specific narrative style, which has often been described as a Chinese mode of postmodernism. This is not only due to the metafictional aspect so conspicuously highlighted by his explicit exploitation of traditional motifs and textual devices, but also to his glaring omission of the moral center or didactic epilogue often found in the original generic model. Examples of stories that include some element of the fantastic or supernatural, be it ghosts, premonitions, magical swords, predetermined fate, or fatal coincidences, are "World like Mist" ("Shi shi ru yan," 1988) "One Kind of Reality" ("Xianshi yizhong," 1987), "Classical Love" ("Gudian aiqing," 1988), "Predestination" ("Mingzhong zhuding," 1993), "This Story Is for Willow" ("Ci wen xiangei shaonü Yangliu," 1989), and "Blood and Plum Blossoms" ("Xian xue mei hua," 1989).14 Like the majority of traditional zhiguai, Yu Hua's texts are two-dimensional in the psychological description of characters, and they also resemble traditional narratives in their matter-of-fact depiction of blood and violence.15 In keeping with "the conventions governing the zhiguai genre, according to which the text is taken as a report and the author as a recorder of actual events,"16 the style is, at least on the surface, detached and laconic.

Let us take a more detailed look at one of Yu Hua's better-known works, "World like Mist" (1988), a meticulously crafted and definitely experimental novella (zhongpian xiaoshuo), which I consider emblematic of a postmodern fantastic.17 It is a weird piece of writing. The characters in it do not have names but are known by Arabic numbers or by their functions, like the midwife, the fortune-teller, the woman in grey, the truck-driver, the blind man, etc. The cipher-designation of the characters may at first seem a typical device to defamiliarize the familiar: they immediately stand out, strange and dehumanizing, yet one need only add the prefix lao to change them into ordinary Chinese names. The plot is a countdown to the inevitable death of most of the characters, notably the young ones. It is a world of death in which the survivors are people like a ninety-year-old fortune-teller, an almost seventy-year-old women pregnant by her grandson, and parents selling their children or assisting in their rape. The text abounds with incest, rape, suicide, and murder, all woven together with traditional ghost-lore, death rites, spirit-weddings, dreams of premonition, and the idea of inescapable fate. People meet accidentally; they separate and die at random; ordinary, tragic, gruesome, weird things happen-all told in the same laconic tone of voice, recording (zhi) the strange (guai) as matter of fact.

The fortune-teller at the center of the plot is a truly ghastly figure. He sits, like a spider in its web, waiting for people. Ninety years old, he has drained the life out of his own five children, taking over their remaining life-force, and further reinvigorates himself by raping an eleven-year-old girl on the fifteenth day of every month. During the course of the story he manages to take possession of two more children to prolong his life. While there is more than a hint of the image of an aged and lustful Communist Party leader here-seemingly omniscient and directly or indirectly affecting and manipulating the lives of everyone-the general allegorical gist suggests a deadly embodiment of a traditional culture of superstition and deceit, nourished by the destruction of the people who seek it to guide their lives. Though old and feeble, the deadly embodiment of a traditional culture of superstition and deceit lives on as long as there are people who submit to its power.18

In many ways "World like Mist" is a true ghost story. Ghosts appear without being explained away as illusion or dream. They are mostly seen at night and are described as lacking legs, yet moving freely about. The father who sells his daughters sees two identical ghosts fishing by the river in the early morning, at the very place where his youngest daughter drowns herself later on. The midwife is taken in the middle of the night to a strange place where she assists a cold, pale, tranquil woman with a blurred face and invisible legs in childbirth; the woman and child feel like "a ball of water" in the midwife's hands. Later she finds out that the place she went to was in fact the graveyard, and she herself dies soon after.

But the people who die in the course of the story also turn into ghosts or appear in other people's dreams. A truck driver tries to avert the fulfillment of a foreboding dream in which he runs over a woman in grey by buying the woman's grey jacket and driving over it. But the woman picks up the jacket and dies for no apparent reason. The truck driver himself commits suicide and returns as a ghost to ask for a wife, which he gets in the end when his ashes are "married" to the ashes of the girl who drowned herself. The ghosts in the story are not metaphors; in a sense they are just as real as the persons who are alive, or rather those alive are just as unreal as the ghosts. None of the deaths and "tragedies" cause horror or anxiety in the characters; at the most they cause a slight unease or physical discomfort like dizziness or heaviness.

Thus, at the same time as superstition is exposed, mocked, and criticized, especially in the scathing portrait of the manipulating and ruthlessly self-serving fortune-teller consulted by most of the characters during the course of the story, with invariably disastrous results, this criticism is contradicted by the fact that ghosts and omens are as real and unquestioned in the story as are the living persons. The supernatural events are treated with the same degree of detachment and factuality as are those that correspond to ordinary, common-sense, empirical reality.

What is more, at the thematic level the text even seemingly confirms the laws of superstition. For example, the fortune-teller, who is not explicitly given a number in the story, is implicitly associated with the number five: he has five roosters and his son dies at fifty. When one of the characters falls ill on his son's fifth birthday, the reader of a traditional fantastic is bound to assume that the logic of fate has assigned the little boy to the fortune-teller-a fact that is indeed confirmed later in the plot.

This duality invests the text with an ambiguity that would have been disturbing if it had to do with a psychological story of individual characters searching for meaning. In the postmodern universe of Yu Hua, the effect is rather the representation of a condition of indifferentiation-often mentioned as a central feature of literary fantasy-but here identified as a cultural phenomenon, not as something located in the individual.19

One often recurring trait, known also from traditional zhiguai texts, is to let figurative expressions be realized literally. As Judith Zeitlin has shown, one of Pu Songling's most common mechanisms for generating fantasy in Strange Stories from Liaozhai (Liaozhai zhi yi) is the literal realization of metaphoric language.20 In "World like Mist" there are several instances of this. For example, the young girl, 4 (whose cipher si is homophonous with the word for death and therefore traditionally considered an ill omen), is taken to the fortune-teller by her father because she talks in her sleep and her father fears that she is possessed. The demonic fortune-teller confirms this, saying that a demon has indeed entered her private parts, whereupon he goes on to literally reenact his own diagnosis by raping her. She subsequently goes crazy and finally drowns herself.

In another scene, the truck driver is humiliated, and, during a kind of ritual game at a wedding, his face is rubbed over and over again by the bride, so that he literally almost "loses face," and subsequently commits suicide. Afterwards the person who implicitly teased him to death is not just haunted by a bad conscience but literally haunted by the ghost of his victim. The haunting, however, stops after he brings the dead driver a "spirit bride."

The fictional dream as a natural place for events or images that transcend reality and somehow set off the rest of the plot has been a recurrent device in fiction of all times. In Liaozhai zhi yi, more than eighty tales out of the almost five hundred incorporate dreams. As Judith Zeitlin has shown in her study, one of the chief attractions of the dream for writers like Pu Songling was that it allowed them to explore their interest in the paradoxical nature of fiction, the relationship between story and dream corresponding to the relationship between reality and fiction.21

In "World like Mist," we find the dream employed in a similar function, though with postmodern connotations. The aforementioned ambiguity in terms of the implied author's attitude to supernatural phenomena and superstition is reflected ironically on the textual level. This is done in a typical metafictional, self-reflexive manner by way of the contrast between two dreams that appear inside the text. Both dreams are taken by the dreamers to be an important omen that needs interpretation. One dream is interpreted through what seems a random semantic and phonetic pun, but afterwards is left dangling in the fictional universe without further mention. However, the interpretation of the other, that of the truck driver, is fulfilled. Not only is the dream reenacted in "real" life despite the driver's attempt to avoid it, but the interpretation by the fortune-teller of the driver already standing at death's door-reinforced in the text through images of black and white, shadow and light-turns out to correspond to what later happens. Transposed to the level of the implied reader, this ambiguous relationship between dream and "reality" calls attention to the randomness or contingency of the idea of getting one "truth" or final meaning out of the text. (Mis)reading the dream corresponds to (mis)reading the text. Thus, the juxtaposition of the two dreams and their interpretation can be understood as a comment on the process of reading and interpreting.

The use of fantastic elements has been a prominent feature of much Chinese literature from the traditional zhiguai tales to contemporary works, and their functions have varied. In the early modern period, in texts by Lu Xun and Shi Zhecun, ghostly apparitions and supernatural events served mainly as metaphors of the subconscious, enabling the writer to represent repressed forces of sexuality or guilt while creating an atmosphere of ambiguity and hesitation in both readers and protagonists. This effect has been further exploited by contemporary writers such as Ge Fei, Mo Yan, and Gao Xingjian, resulting in the blurring of the borderlines between reality and fiction, outer and inner, material and spiritual. But the postmodern fantastic, such as the text by Yu Hua, seems to take the incorporation of the supernatural one step further.

Generally speaking, we may describe the works by Yu Hua and others the way Tzvetan Todorov has described Kafka's fiction, namely, as "generalized fantastic" that swallows up the entire world of the book and the reader along with it. That kind of purely fantastic text establishes what can be termed "absolute hesitation" in protagonist and reader alike.22 One can neither come to terms with the strange events nor dismiss them as supernatural phenomena. But this is not to say that the confusion the protagonist feels affects the reader in similar ways. In Yu Hua's text, the hesitation is canceled out by force of the textual universe, enwrapping both reader and characters in the realm of the uncanny and marvelous. David Wang once suggested the term "the familiarization of the uncanny" to describe writers' response to the forced repression of the grotesque events in modern Chinese history.23 In Yu Hua's case, it can be taken even further and seen as an inversion of real and unreal. Yu Hua not only treats the unreal as real, but also treats the real as unreal. The anxiety or wonder is suspended. Dreams, hallucinations, ghosts, and the like are part of the textual universe, but they function neither as media for the supernatural, nor as stand-ins for the subconscious.

In sum, if the (post)modern fantasies in Chinese literature of the 1980s and 1990s are not to be understood in Freudian terms as representations of the suppressed subconscious, how are we to understand them? At the risk of broadly generalizing very diverse texts, and with Yu Hua's text as point of departure, I would suggest that we read them as allegories in the modern sense.

First of all, there is an obvious difference in terms of the reader's expectations between the mechanisms of the fantastic in a contemporary avant-garde-style text, which flaunts its literariness in a number of ways, and a more traditionally presented plot. As in the case of much poetry, with its semantic and syntactical play, the reader does not actually hesitate to accept the strange. We do not really react to Yu Hua's stories as stories of the strange, since we never expected them to be realist in the traditional sense of the term. Furthermore, the boundaries between what is real and what is strange have shifted. Sex change, cloning, giving birth to a child conceived by another person-all these are now possible phenomena, while they were stock events and recurrent devices in traditional fantastic literature in the West and in zhiguai in the East.

Thus, the strange and the fantastic are cultural and time-bound constructs. Furthermore, they are psychological effects produced through literary or artistic means. Among the many modern Western studies of fantastic literature, the most influential has been Todorov's work, in which he develops a structuralist reader-response theory to describe the poetics of the fantastic. Here the fantastic is a limited genre, marked by a moment of hesitation on the part of the reader, and often the characters, as to how to explain a particular event or occurrence that appears to be impossible. According to Todorov, allegory and fantasy are in opposition because the inherent duality of allegory cancels out the hesitation that is the defining characteristic of fantasy. The referential nature of allegory destroys the fantastic. However, in modern allegory, as opposed to traditional allegory, we can no longer distinguish between a literal and an abstract meaning. The literal text does not just have a referring function, it is in itself a new creation of meaning.

In China and in the West, the modern fantastic allegory can be read as a reaction to modernity. It is a site of difference, one that privileges the alien, the illusory, and the irrational in contrast to a vision of modernity that subsumes everything under a rubric of ideological homogeneity, rationalism, and materialism. The fantastic inherently recognizes the complexity and unknowability of the modern world.24


1. I consider these texts to be examples of the modern fantastic, belonging to the mode of the fantastic as defined by theorists like Christine Brooke-Rose in A Rhetoric of the Unreal (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), Rosemary Jackson, Fantasy: The Literature of Subversion (London: Routledge, 1981), and Susan Napier, The Fantastic in Modern Japanese Literature (London: Routledge, 1996). While some of these correspond to the requirements set up by Tzvetan Todorov in his classic study The Fantastic: A Structural Approach to a Literary Genre (New York: Cornell University Press, 1975), others do not. As I shall note at the end of the article, I find that this Chinese, explicitly (post)modern version of the fantastic can be described in terms of modern allegories.
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2. For an analysis of Kafka as a source of inspiration for Can Xue and Yu Hua, see my article "La littérature chinoise postmaoïste et le défi de l'Occident," in Littérature chinoise: Le passé et l'écriture contemporaine, ed. Annie Curien et Jin Siyan (Paris: Edition de la Maison des sciences de l'homme, 2001) 119-30.
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3. See Shih Shumei, The Lure of the Modern: Writing Modernism in Semicolonial China 1917-1937 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001).
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4. While the enduring popularity of the most famous collection of fantastic tales, Pu Songling's Liaozhai zhi yi (seventeenth century), in the original wenyan, in baihua, and in adapted versions can hardly be questioned, older and less well-known collections such as Gan Bao's Sou shen ji (fourth century), Dai Fu's Guang yj ji (eighth century), and Ji Yun's Yuewei caotang biji and Yuan Mei's Zi bu yu (both eighteenth century) have also been reprinted and adapted into baihua. I might add that this popular as well as academic focus on the genre in China is complemented by a number of excellent scholarly publications by Western sinologists, notably Glen Dudbridge, Religious Experience and Lay Society in Tang China: A Reading of Tai Fu's Kuang-i-chi (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995); Robert Campany, Strange Writing: Anomaly Accounts in Early Medieval China (New York: SUNY Press, 1996); Judith Zeitlin, Historian of the Strange: Pu Songling and the Chinese Classical Tale (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1993).
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5. Mikhail Bakhtin, Problems of Dostoevsky's Poetics (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1973).
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6. See Leo Oufan Lee, Voices from the Iron House: A Study of Lu Xun (Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1987) 92.
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7. These stories can be found in the collections Jiangjun de tou (1932) and Meiyu zhi xi (1933).
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8. See Lydia Liu, Translingual Practise (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1995) 136.
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9. Wang Shuo, Wan de jiu shi xintiao (Beijing: Zuojia chubanshe, 1989; Engl. trans. Playing for Thrills, London: No Exit Press, 1997).
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10. Gao Xingjian, Lingshan (Taibei: Lianjing chubanshe, 1990).
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11. Mo Yan, Jiuguo (Taibei: Hongfan shudian, 1992).
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12. Han Shaogong, "Bababa," Renmin Wenxue 6 (1985): 83-102.
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13. Ge Fei, "Hese niaoqun," in Mizhou (Bejiing: Zuojia chubanshe, 1989) 28-63.
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14. "Xian xue mei hua," a direct pastiche of a wuxia tale, makes an interesting comparison to a story by Lu Xun, "Forging the Swords" ("Zhu jian," from Gu shi xin bian [Old Stories Retold], 1936). Both deal with a young boy who wakes up one morning and is told by his mother that he must immediately go and seek revenge for his long-dead father, who was killed after manufacturing a magical sword. In both cases, the son accepts the demands of the code of filial piety without question, entirely emptied of emotional content, yet fails to live by it himself. In Lu Xun's story (adapted from Lie yi zhuan), the boy sacrifices his life for the sake of abstract revenge, whereas Yu Hua lets his protagonist roam the land dutifully, but without any sense of purpose.
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15. For English translations of "World like Mist," "Classical Love," "Predestination," and "Blood and Plum Blossoms," see Yu Hua, The Past and the Punishments, trans. Andrew Jones (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1996). For an English translation of "One Kind of Reality," see Running Wild: New Chinese Writers, ed. D. W. Wang (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994). For "This Story Is for Willow," see China's Avant Garde Fiction, ed. Jing Wang (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998).
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16. See Zeitlin 174.
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17. Yu Hua, "Shishi ru yan," rpt. in Shiba sui chu men yuanxing (Beijing: Zuojia chubanshe, 1989).
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18. At the beginning of the story, one of the characters thinks of the fortune-teller with his face "as white paper" and his fingers as "five sticks of white chalk." This linking of white chalk and white paper evokes an ironic image of invisible writing.
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19. For indifferentiation as a central feature of literary fantasy, see Rosemary Jackson 166.
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20. Zeitlin 132.
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21. Zeitlin 164.
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22. Todorov 174.
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23. Wang 244.
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24. See Susan Napier,1996.
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