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The Intimate and the Local: The Influence of the Oral Tradition on the Vernacular Songs of Feng Menglong (1574-1646)

2017/18 School of Chinese Research Seminar, The University of Hong Kong

The Intimate and the Local:
The Influence of the Oral Tradition on the Vernacular Songs of Feng Menglong (1574-1646)

Professor Anne E. McLaren
University of Melbourne

Venue: Room 730, Run Run Shaw Tower, Centennial Campus, HKU
Time: 4:30pm, Wednesday, June 6th, 2018

Abstract: In Chinese literature of the pre-modern era it is the writings in classical Chinese or in the literary vernacular that predominate. Unlike European nations during the Renaissance, China did not undergo a period where regional spoken languages became the cherished language of polished literary production. However, in China’s late imperial era, one does find greater use of regional languages in play scripts, novels, short stories, and collected songs. In his song and story collections, literati Feng Menglong 馮夢龍 (1574-1646) made an outstanding contribution to the popularisation of the language and culture of his home region of Suzhou. His collection of “mountain songs”, Shange,山歌, is particularly famous. However, the derivation of the songs and the extent of Feng’s revision remains a topic of hot contention today. Did the songs derive primarily from the illiterate rural classes or were they mostly the songs of the courtesans who plied their trade across the waterways of Suzhou? Or perhaps they were the common songs of both the urban and rural classes? How should we best interpret the frank language of love and passion found in this song collection? As yet largely unexamined is the extent to which Feng’s Shange collection reflects the oral traditions of shange lyricism and story-telling. This study will draw from both historical sources and the rich trove of shange that have been recorded in the contemporary period to offer fresh insight into how the oral tradition of the late Ming shaped Feng’s remarkable sense of both “the intimate” and “the local” in these songs of passion.

Anne E. McLaren is Professor of Chinese Studies at the Asia Institute, University of Melbourne. Her research specialty is the intersection of oral, written and printed traditions in late imperial China. Her earlier work, Chinese Popular Culture & Ming Chantefables (Brill, 1998) dealt with an early storytelling genre and its adaptation in Ming novels, especially the Sanguo yanyi(三國演義). She is also the author of a book on the bridal laments (kujia哭嫁) of the coastal Shanghai region (Performing Grief: Bridal Laments in Rural China (University of Hawaii Press, 2008). In 2017 she edited a special issue of Asian Ethnology (76-1) “Intepreting Sinitic Heritage: Ethnography and Identity in China and Southeast Asia”. In recent years she has completed numerous studies on the long shange song-cycles of the lower Yangzi delta, including a co-authored paper with Emily Yu Zhang, “Recreating ‘Traditional’ Folk Epics in Contemporary China: The Politics of Textual Transmission”, in Asian Ethnology (2017, 76-1).

All Welcome



The Digitization of the Archives of the Lyon Sino-French Institute 里昂中法大學 – Opportunities, Risks and Ghosts

2017/2018 School of Chinese Public Lecture Series

The Digitization of the Archives of the Lyon Sino-French Institute 里昂中法大學 – Opportunities, Risks and Ghosts

Gregory B. Lee 利大英

Date: 29 May, 2018 (Tuesday) 4:30-6:00pm
Venue: Room 730, Run Run Shaw Tower

The Institut franco-chinois de Lyon (Lyon Sino-French Institute, hereafter IFCL), a constituent part of the then University of Lyon, was an institution dedicated to the education and welfare of students from China. Its stated purpose was to mentor Chinese students and ensure their integration into the French higher education system. Subsequent to the unhappy experience of the Chinese Study-Work movement in France, the IFCL project was initiated by important intellectual figures from the Chinese “New Culture Movement” including Cai Yuanpei 蔡元培 (1868-1940), Li Shizeng 李石曾 (1881-1973) and Wu Zhihui 吳稚暉 (1865-1953). Founded in 1921, the Institute hosted 473 students during the twenty-five years of its existence. After their studies in France, graduates returned to China to provide the skilled intellectuals China lacked. At least a quarter of them obtained a doctorate. Many of them had outstanding careers as writers, artists, scientists, jurists, university professors or politicians, and made a considerable contribution to the advancement of the Chinese nation-state and its modern intellectual and epistemological landscape. The Institute left an extensive collection of documents, which are now the property of Lyon’s Jean Moulin University (Université Jean Moulin-Lyon 3). The main technical goal of my project will be the organization, classification, digitization, storage, and production of online database of the archives. The resultant digitized research data will constitute the core object of this particular research project, and also provide essential data for further projects. The collection constitutes a unique example of the cultural and scientific dimensions of the heritage of global modernity. Central to the project is the hypothesis that the Institute not only contributed to the development of the Chinese nation-state, but was was indeed also constitutive of the new national consciousness.

Gregory B. Lee 利大英 is an academic, author, and broadcaster. He is Professor of Chinese and Transcultural Studies at Jean Moulin University Lyon 3 and Director of the French research institute, IETT or Institute for Transtextual and Transcultural Studies, www.iett.world .

Lee previously taught at the universities of London (SOAS), Cambridge, Chicago, Hong Kong, and City University Hong Kong. His publications include Dai Wangshu: The Life and Poetry of a Chinese Modernist (1989), and China’s Lost Decade (2009, 2012). His forthcoming book is entitled China Imagined: From Western Fantasy to Spectacular Power (2018)

All are welcome



Monkey and the Novelization of Xiyouji

2017/2018 School of Chinese Research Student Seminar

Monkey and the Novelization of Xiyouji

蔡燕賓 Cai Yanbin

May 25, 2018 (Friday); 5:30-6:45pm
Run Run Shaw Tower, Centennial Campus
Language: English


Is zhanghui xiaoshuo really novel? When modern scholars keep returning to the question, their efforts of justification points to other possibilities in the cross-cultural reading of zhanghui xiaoshuo, especially before the xiaoshuo/novel alignment established. As the most successful English translation of Xiyouji, Arthur Waley’s MonkeyA Chinese Folk Novel provides an intriguing example of how one of the best pre-modern Chinese xiaoshuo is novelized. This talk reviews the intertwining process between the cross-cultural xiaoshuo/novel alignment and the birth of the Chinese national literary ecology. In the early years of the twentieth century, Hu Shi called for vernacular Chinese to be recognized as the national literary language, bestowing per-modern vernacular xiaoshuo a canonical status unprecedented. This position is consolidated with the national history on Chinese xiaoshuo written by Lu Xun, their combined efforts forming a link between the Chinese literary term with its counterpart in the English language and culture. The final alignment was completed in translation. Fine specimens in the xiaoshuo genre were translated into English, among which Waley’s rewriting on Xiyouji becomes an unparalleled success. I will focus on how Waley’s strategies transform the hundred-chaptered xiaoshuo in the target language, especially with deliberate abridgment and careful selection of texts for translation. With his effort, not only is Xiyouji novelized in Monkey, this reincarnation of the Chinese xiaoshuo also obtains an independent literary life as a distinguished English novel.




Under the sponsorship of Tin Ka Ping Foundation, a Tsz Shan Monastery Visit was organized by the School of Chinese for full time undergraduate, postgraduate students and alumni. Details of this event are available in the following call circular.




日期:2018年6月16日 或 7月7日
時地:10:00am-3:30pm 大埔慈山寺
費用:$50 (包括茶禪/午膳/茶點/來回大埔旅遊車費用)
查詢:中文學院廖舜禧老師(港大百週年校園B702室 電話:39175204 電郵:hayliu@hku.hk


HKU Translation student wins the Hong Kong Regional Final of the 7th Cross-Strait Interpreting Contest

Miss Yang HE, a final-year student in Translation, won the First Prize in the Hong Kong Regional Final of the 7th Cross-Strait Interpreting Contest on 10 March 2018. Together with the other First-Prize winner from CUHK, she will represent Hong Kong in the 7th Cross-Strait Interpreting Contest to be held on 28 April 2018 at the City University of Hong Kong.


Newssary – from a KE impact project
Available on Apple Store and Play Store for FREE!

Newssary – from a KE impact project


A mobile app for learning bilingual Chinese-English terms from the news

Available on Apple Store and Play Store for FREE!

Press release and media coverage

HKU scholar launches new translation app ‘Newssary’
A vital resource for interpreting in English and Chinese combining news and glossary — HKU

含7700中英時事詞彙潮語 殺無赦、火箭人都有 — 明報新聞網

提供中英對照時事詞彙 — 大紀元時報

Newssary APP錄8千詞彙 — AM730

港大研發時事詞彙app有答案 — 明周文化

Resources for Interpreting


中文學院 90 周年慶祝活動
90th Anniversary Celebration Series of the School of Chinese


活動名稱 舉行時間
International Conference on “The Ming and Qing in the 21st Century: New Discoveries, New Perspectives, and New Horizons”

會議海報 Poster
日期及時間:2017年10月20日(星期五)至21日(星期六)October 20–21, 2017
Periodization of Hong Kong History and Its Special Topics

香港大學中文學院90周年慶典Facebook專頁 香港大學中文學院90周年慶典
香港大學中文學院90周年慶典晚宴 日期及時間:2017年10月21日(星期六)19:00-22:00
足迹: 香港大學中文學院九十年展覽