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Pu Songling And Strange Tales of LiaoZhai

Pu Songling (164o-1715) was a native of Zichuan County, Shandong Province. He lived during a time of unprecedented sharp class confrontation. Pu Songling was born to an impoverished landlord-merchant family and was constantly unsuccessful in the imperial examinations. He didn't passed the examination and win the title"gongsheng" until he was 71. His frustrations and indignation drovehim to pour out his feelings on paper.

Strange Tales of Liaozhai includes 431 short stories written inclassical Chinese. Its content falls into four parts:

(1) Exposing and satirizing of corrupt officials, despotic landlordsand the feudal political system represented by these figures. Storiesbelonging to this category are represented by "The Cricket" and "XiFangping." These stories not only lash out at the hypocritical ruling classand feudal bureaucracy, but also depict many indomitable and rebelliouscommon people. The author despised the dark rule of the feudal systemand praised the common people's fighting spirit with well-honed loveand hate.

(2) Severely criticizing the rigid and unjust official examinationsystem. In "Siwenlang," "The Bookworm" and other stories, the authordelineated the examiners' fatuity and greed, pointing out the shacklingand corrosion of intellects' minds by the examination system, and at thesame time condemned the malpractices in the examination rooms.

(3) Tributes to pure and faithful love between men and women, aswell as to those who strive for love. Representative stories of this categoryinclude "The Crow Head" and "Xihou." Strange Tales of LiaoZhai tellsmany stories about fox-fairies and flower goddesses falling in love withhuman beings. The author portrays many beautiful female characters ofnoble mind, such as Hongyu, Yingning, Qingieng, jiaona and Lianxiang.These women disregard the feudal code of ethics, express their feelingsfrankly and bravely pursue the improvement of women's status. Theauthor extols and longs for true love between man and women. Thiskind of ideal held great progressive significance at the time.

(4) Expounding ethics and morals, with valuable educationalsignificance, such as "The Painted Skin" and "The Taoist Priest ofLaoshan."

Strange Tales of Liaozhai is a progressive romantic work. Its romanticspirit is above all reflected in the characterization of positive figures,especially the images of flower goddesses and fox-fairies. Then it is alsoreflected in the adoption of romantic expressive methods, for examplein the plenty of made-up stories.

Characters in Strange Tales of Liaozhai are adeptly and well-roundedly portrayed. And the language in the novel is fluent, vivid,exaggerate and satirical. Its well-knit structure and intricate plot providea precious model and resource for writers of later period.

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