Zidishu was a genre of verse narrative which flourished in north China during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as both a form of literature and a performing art. With data gathered from the Xinbian zidishu zongmu 新編子弟書總目 (Newly compiled complete catalog of zidishu; 2012) and employing digital tools, this article surveys over three thousand extant items to examine the production of books in this genre in manuscript and print from the Qing to the Republican era. It clearly shows that handwritten production far exceeded woodblock print production of zidishu in the Qing, and draws attention to a niche market for entertainment literature dominated by scribal publishers of Beijing. The small group of dated items reveal woodblock print production of zidishu to have continued through the last two decades of the Qing, while personal manuscripts dated to the end of the Qing and the Republican era signal the continued handwritten transmission of zidishu through changing times. Following a brief discussion on lithographed zidishu from this same period, the article concludes with reflections on broader implications of the findings for the study of book culture in late imperial China.


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pp. 95-127
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