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Reviews 173© 1994 by University ofHawai'i Press There is no translator ofChinese classics more preeminent than D. C. Lau. It is difficult to find a publication in Chinese philosophy that does not acknowledge his work. That in this new publication he continues to refine his efforts, even admitting on occasion that sometimes he did not get it quite right in the earlier try, shows both his modesty and his honesty, and is to be much admired. Roger T. Ames University of Hawai'i $ m $ Wai-yee Li. Enchantment and Disenchantment: Love and Illusion in Chinese Literature. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993. 294 pp. Li Wai-yee's book, as its title suggests, promises a rich vintage of literary criticism that explores the classical tradition of ch'ing through the close reading of a diversity of genres in premodern Chinese literature—fu, poetry, drama, and narrative fiction. The author traces the development of the dialectics of ch'ing (i.e., desire, passion, enchantment) and its rival categories that negate and transcend the term in their various guises (i.e., order, detachment, disenchantment, or puch 'ing). The paradox of commitment to and transcendence of ch'ing—the term's mutual implication with its opposites—thus serves as the central framework for her discussion of the eighteenth-century masterpiece, the Hung-lou meng. Chapter 1 traces the prototype of Fairy Disenchantment (ching-huan) in the divine woman of the fu tradition, who conjures up the ambivalent aura of attachment and detachment by inviting her spectators to relish and resist temptation at the same time. By examining how the ambivalent divine woman emerges as a source of disequilibrium, Li highlights the problem of die relationship between desire and order, and explores the "historical" solution to this problematic in the next two chapters. Chapters 2 and 3 focus on the historical moment of the late Ming and on P'u Sung-ling's Liao-chai chih-i (Strange stories from the Chinese studio). The author addresses several overlapping issues: the tensions and reconciliations between the private (i.e., subversive passions of the self) and the public (i.e., sociopolitical order), the reappropriation of the "other world" for mundane reality, and the subtle process of the recontainment of desire—in short, the balance between enchantment and disenchantment. Chapters 4 and 5 treat the Hung-lou meng at length. The questions examined include Ts'ao Hsiieh-ch'in's simultaneous self-enchantment toward and detach- 174 China Review International: Vol. 1, No. 2, Fall 1994 ment from the aesthetic illusion he creates; the relationship between the narrator and Pao-yii in terms of their respective capacities for self-reAexivity; Aie representation of Pao-yü as fhe ideal oflyrical self-containment (the celebration of the moment as opposed to that ofhistorical continuity) in the Chinese tradition; and the rich semantics of the paradoxical epithet ch'ing-pu-ch'ing. The semiotic journey into the minute and exhaustive treatment of the dialectics of ch'ingand puch 'ingin the eighteenth-century novel then ends with Aie most interesting chapter of the book—"Disenchantment and Order in Hung-lou meng" By the time the reader reaches this chapter, the semiotic circle—intriguing and vicious at the same time—that the book has engendered risks exhausting even the most text-grounded reader while alienating those who are historically minded. It is not that the author has paid no attention to cultural and historical context. There are moments, especially where she deals wiAi Aie generic history oífu in chapter 1, when one detects the attempt of a literary critic, a brilliant one without doubt, to account for fhe historical background of the rise of a literary phenomenon. Such accounts, however, are fragmentary and shorthanded at best. For instance, in explaining the orderly vision embedded in the fu, the author repeats the following observation on more than one occasion: "Fu emerged into prominence in the age ofthe correlative cosmology (yin-yang wu-hsing) of Han Confucianism, which represents the most relenAess brand of order-building in Chinese cultural history" (p. 9). This simple one-to-one correspondence between text and context forms the basic strategy that the author adopts in her effort...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 173-180
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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