Yuan Mei’s literary achievements are multifaceted. As a master of poetry and poetic criticism, his influence was unmatched by anyone of his time. His poetic theory and criticism is undoubtedly worth studying, but the writing of the Suiyuan shihua itself is also worth noting. Up to this day, however, only a few scholars have paid attention to this aspect of Yuan’s work. In his critical biography of the writer, Wang Yingzhi discussed Suiyuan shihua’s standards for poetic selection and its characteristics in recounting events; the Canadian scholar J. D. Schmidt in his book on Yuan’s life and poetry mentioned ZhaoYi and Zhang Xuecheng’s critique of the financial motivations in the writing of the work but remained suspicious of the credibility of the criticism. In addition, the Taiwanese scholar Wang Yirong conducted a cultural analysis of the work from the perspectives of communication and gender studies. These studies are valuable for us to understand Yuan’s poetic criticism but at the same time have left room for a further investigation of Yuan’s writing process from a sociological perspective, a question that we cannot avoid in discussing the work. If we do not understand how Yuan worked—where the Suiyuan shihua’s materials come from and how they enter into the work—and consider it a specimen of pure literary criticism, we will not only overlook the nonliterary elements of the work but also mis-represent shihua writing after the middle of the Qing.


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pp. 90-124
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