In this Book

summary

Personal accounts help us understand notions of self, interpersonal relations, and historical events. Chinese Autobiographical Writing contains full translations of works by fifty individuals that illuminate the history and conventions of writing about oneself in the Chinese tradition. From poetry, letters, and diaries to statements in legal proceedings, these engaging and readable works draw us into the past and provide vivid details of life as it was lived from the pre-imperial period to the nineteenth century. Some focus on a person’s entire life, others on a specific moment. Some have an element of humor, others are entirely serious. Taken together, these selections offer an intimate view of how Chinese men and women, both famous and obscure, reflected on their experiences as well as their personal struggles and innermost thoughts.

With an introduction and list of additional readings for each selection, this volume is ideal for undergraduate courses on Chinese history, literature, religion, and women and family. Read individually, each piece illuminates a person, place, and moment. Read in chronological order, they highlight cultural change over time by showing how people explored new ways to represent themselves in writing.

The open access publication of this book was made possible by a grant from the James P. Geiss and Margaret Y. Hsu Foundation.

Table of Contents

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  1. Cover
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  1. Cover
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  1. Title Page, Copyright
  2. pp. i-iv
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  1. Title Page
  2. p. iii
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  1. Contents
  2. pp. v-viii
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  1. Copyright
  2. p. iv
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  1. Preface and Acknowledgments
  2. pp. ix-x
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  1. Contents
  2. pp. v-vii
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  1. Translation Conventions
  2. pp. xi-xii
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  1. Preface and Acknowledgments
  2. pp. ix-x
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  1. Chronology of Imperial China with Authors of Autobiographies
  2. pp. xiii-xvi
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  1. Translation Conventions
  2. pp. xi-xii
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  1. Introduction
  2. pp. 1-19
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  1. Chronology of Imperial China With Authors of Autobiographies
  2. p. xiii
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  1. 1. A Son's Tribute to His Mother: An inscription on a bronze vessel (10th c. BCE)
  2. pp. 20-22
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  1. Introduction
  2. pp. 1-19
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  1. 2. Crime and Punishment: Personal testimony given in four legal cases (3rd-2nd c. BCE)
  2. pp. 23-28
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  1. 1. A Son’s Tribute to his Mother | An inscription on a bronze vessel (10th c. BCE)
  2. pp. 20-22
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  1. 3. A Han Emperor Accepting the Blame: Edict by Emperor Wu 武帝 (r. 141–87 BCE)
  2. pp. 29-32
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  1. 2. Crime and Punishment | Personal testimony given in four legal cases (3rd–2nd c. BCE)
  2. pp. 23-28
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  1. 4. Letters Home: Three letters sent by ordinary men and women (3rd c. BCE and 9th-10th c. CE)
  2. pp. 33-37
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  1. 3. A Han Emperor Accepting the Blame | Edict by Emperor Wu 武帝 (r. 141–87 BCE)
  2. pp. 29-32
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  1. 5. A Natural Philosopher's Account of His Life: Last chapter of his collected essays by Wang Chong 王充 (27–ca. 97 CE)
  2. pp. 38-48
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  1. 4. Letters Home | Three letters sent by ordinary men and women (3rd c. BCE and 9th–10th c. CE)
  2. pp. 33-37
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  1. 6. A Father Writing to His Son: A letter by Zheng Xuan 鄭玄 (127–200)
  2. pp. 49-52
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  1. 5. A Natural Philosopher’s Account of his Life | Last chapter of his collected essays by Wang Chong 王充 (27–ca. 97 CE)
  2. pp. 38-48
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  1. 7. An Abducted Woman on Returning Home: Poems by Cai Yan 蔡琰 (ca. 177–ca. 249)
  2. pp. 53-58
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  1. 6. A Father Writing to his Son | A letter by Zheng Xuan 鄭玄 (127–200)
  2. pp. 49-52
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  1. 8. Military Men Touting Their Merits: Essays by Cao Cao 曹操 (155–220) and his son Cao Pi 曹丕 (187–226)
  2. pp. 59-66
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  1. 7. An Abducted Woman on Returning Home | Poems by Cai Yan 蔡琰 (ca. 177–ca. 249)
  2. pp. 53-58
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  1. 9. The Pain of Separation: Poetic writings by Imperial Consort Zuo Fen 左芬 (ca. 253–300)
  2. pp. 67-71
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  1. 8. Military Men Touting Their Merits | Essays by Cao Cao 曹操 (155–220) and his son Cao Pi 曹丕 (187–226)
  2. pp. 59-66
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  1. 10. An Emperor's Discourse on Karma and Vegetarianism: Preface by Emperor Wu 梁武帝 (r. 502–549) of the Liang
  2. pp. 72-77
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  1. 9. The Pain of Separation | Poetic writings by Imperial Consort Zuo Fen 左芬 (ca. 253–300)
  2. pp. 67-71
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  1. 11. Late Tang Writers on Life beyond Office-Holding: Accounts by Bai Juyi 白居易 (772–846) and Lu Guimeng 陸龜蒙 (ca. 836–881)
  2. pp. 78-85
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  1. 10. An Emperor’s Discourse on Karma and Vegetarianism | Preface by Emperor Wu 梁武帝 (r. 502–549) of the Liang
  2. pp. 72-77
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  1. 12. Mourning Friends and Relations: Elegies by Han Yu 韓愈 (768–824) and Han Qi 韓琦 (1008–1075)
  2. pp. 86-93
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  1. 11. Late Tang Writers on Life Beyond Office-Holding | Accounts by Bai Juyi 白居易 (772–846) and Lu Guimeng 陸龜蒙 (ca. 836–881)
  2. pp. 78-85
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  1. 13. An Advocate of the Simple Life: Autobiography by Liu Kai 柳開 (948–1001)
  2. pp. 94-100
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  1. 12. Mourning Friends and Relations | Elegies by Han Yu 韓愈 (768–824) and Han Qi 韓琦 (1008–1075)
  2. pp. 86-93
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  1. 14. Records of Things Seen and Heard: Prefaces to five Song miscellanies (11th-13th c.)
  2. pp. 101-106
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  1. 13. An Advocate of the Simple Life | Autobiography by Liu Kai 柳開 (948–1001)
  2. pp. 94-100
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  1. 15. Chanting about Oneself: Poems by four Song scholars (11th-13th c.)
  2. pp. 107-110
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  1. 14. Records of Things Seen and Heard | Prefaces to five Song miscellanies (11th–13th c.)
  2. pp. 101-106
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  1. 16. An Envoy's Trip to the Jin Court: Travel diary by Lou Yue 樓鑰 (1137–1213)
  2. pp. 111-115
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  1. 15. Chanting About Oneself | Poems by four Song scholars (11th–13th c.)
  2. pp. 107-110
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  1. 17. Women and Suicide: Writing on an inn wall by Qiongnu 瓊奴 (11th c.) and a poem by Han Ximeng 韓希孟 (mid-13th c.)
  2. pp. 116-120
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  1. 16. An Envoy’s Trip to the Jin Court | Travel diary by Lou Yue 樓鑰 (1137–1213)
  2. pp. 111-115
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  1. 18. Witnessing Dynastic Collapse: Writings by Yuan Haowen 元好問 (1190–1257) and Wen Tianxiang 文天祥 (1236–1283)
  2. pp. 121-128
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  1. 17. Women and Suicide | Writing on an inn wall by Qiongnu 瓊奴 (11th c.) and a poem by Han Ximeng 韓希孟 (mid-13th c.)
  2. pp. 116-120
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  1. 19. Peaceful Abodes: Accounts of their homes by Yelü Chucai 耶律楚材 (1190–1244) and Xie Yingfang 謝應芳 (1296–1392)
  2. pp. 129-134
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  1. 18. Witnessing Dynastic Collapse | Writings by Yuan Haowen 元好問 (1190–1257) and Wen Tianxiang 文天祥 (1236–1283)
  2. pp. 121-128
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  1. 20. A Female Doctor's Life and Work: Preface and postfaces to a book by Tan Yunxian 談允賢 (1461–1556)
  2. pp. 135-140
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  1. 19. Peaceful Abodes | Accounts of their homes by Yelü Chucai 耶律楚材 (1190–1244) and Xie Yingfang 謝應芳(1296–1392)
  2. pp. 129-134
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  1. 21. An Eccentric Considers Suicide: Self-authored funerary biography by Xu Wei 徐渭 (1521–1593)
  2. pp. 141-145
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  1. 20. A Female Doctor’s Life and Work | Preface and postfaces to a book by Tan Yunxian 談允賢 (1461–1556)
  2. pp. 135-140
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  1. 22. Life in the Examination Hell: Preface to a set of examination essays by Ai Nanying 艾南英 (1583–1646)
  2. pp. 146-152
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  1. 21. An Eccentric Considers Suicide | Self-authored funerary biography by Xu Wei 徐渭 (1521–1593)
  2. pp. 141-145
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  1. 23. A Royal Consort's Song: Music for the zither by Madame Zhong 鐘氏 (fl. 1570–1620)
  2. pp. 153-165
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  1. 22. Life in the Examination Hell | Preface to a set of examination essays by Ai Nanying 艾南英 (1583–1646)
  2. pp. 146-152
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  1. 24. Environmental Catastrophes: Harrowing reports by Chen Qide 陳其德 (fl. 1640s) and Pu Songling 蒲松齡 (1640–1715)
  2. pp. 166-175
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  1. 23. A Royal Consort’s Song | Music for the zither by Madame Zhong 鐘氏 (fl. 1570–1620)
  2. pp. 153-165
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  1. 25. A Con Man Posing as an Official: Legal Confession of Luo Fenpeng 羅奮鵬 (b. 1726)
  2. pp. 176-180
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  1. 24. Environmental Catastrophes | Harrowing reports by Chen Qide 陳其德 (fl. 1640s) and Pu Songling 蒲松齡 (1640–1715)
  2. pp. 166-175
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  1. 26. A Private Secretary's Itinerant Life: Year-by-year autobiography by Wang Huizu 汪輝祖 (1730–1807)
  2. pp. 181-207
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  1. 25. A Con Man Posing as an Official | Legal Confession of Luo Fenpeng 羅奮鵬 (b. 1726)
  2. pp. 176-180
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  1. 27. Tributes to Close Relatives: Appreciations written by a woman for her husband and a man for his elder sister (18th and 19th c.)
  2. pp. 208-212
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  1. 26. A Private Secretary’s Itinerant Life | Year-by-year autobiography by Wang Huizu 汪輝祖 (1730–1807)
  2. pp. 181-207
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  1. 28. A Teenager Captured by the Nian Rebels: Record of a fifteen-week ordeal by Liu Tang 柳堂 (1844–1929)
  2. pp. 213-226
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  1. 27. Tributes to Close Relatives | Appreciations written by a woman for her husband and a man for his elder sister (18th and 19th c.)
  2. pp. 208-212
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  1. 29. Keeping Family Members Informed: Letters to his eldest son by Zeng Guofan 曾國藩 (1811–1872)
  2. pp. 227-240
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  1. 28. A Teenager Captured by the Nian Rebels | Record of a fifteen-week ordeal by Liu Tang 柳堂 (1844–1929)
  2. pp. 213-226
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  1. Appendix. A Select List of Widely Available Translations of Prose Personal Accounts to 1880
  2. pp. 241-248
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  1. 29. Keeping Family Members Informed | Letters to his eldest son by Zeng Guofan 曾國藩 (1811–1872)
  2. pp. 227-240
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  1. Index
  2. pp. 249-256
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  1. Appendix | A Select List of Widely Available Translations of Prose Personal Accounts to 1880
  2. pp. 241-247
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  1. Back Cover
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  1. Index
  2. pp. 249-256
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  1. Back Cover
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