A masterpiece from the Ming dynasty, Wu Ching-tzu's The Scholars ranks with Dream of the Red Chamber, Journey to the West, and the Water Margin as one of the greatest classic novels of China. The Scholars is the first Chinese novel of its scope not to borrow any characters from history or legend and it is the first work of satiric realism to achieve an almost complete disassociation from the religious beliefs of the people. Departing from the impersonal tradition of Chinese fiction, Wu abandons such established narrative formulas as folk songs and poetic verse in favor of autobiographical experiences, descriptive realism, and characters modeled after his friends and relatives -- elements that combine to give this critique of the Confucian civil service system an unprecedented immediacy and humor.
What people are saying - Write a review
The best English edition of Mr Yang's translation is the hardcover Third Edition (1973) single-volume print from Foreign Languages Press, Peking. I bought it on May 5, 1975, and till today I'm still re-reading it. It contains a colour plate illustration of the author Wu Ching-tzu (in rich details, unlike the line drawing of the Columbia edition) and several more drawings, including a foldout!
The paper quality and binding is so good that even today the pages are clear and held together firmly. Only the edges are greyed from dust.
I will probably scan some of the drawings and post them online on Flickr.
The best part of the novel, in my opinion, is the "afterward" which is a collection of four short stories.
These stories each poke fun at the SILLY "scholars" who think that by being selected as officials of the empire they are somehow or other "superior". In each story, one of the traditional scholarly arts like calligraphy, chess, etc. is highlighted. In each story, a "humble" personage such as a tea-seller or herb dealer takes on the haughty "scholars" at one of their games, and kicks their asses.
This reminds me very much of how University Scholars in colleges of the West tend to think their PhD entitles them to tell everyone else what to do, as if they are somehow qualified to "rule the world". I call this type, and most ARE of this type, Mommy Professors.
Just like how the Confucian Scholars are the laughing stock and butt of Wu's jokes in "The Scholars", especially for thinking they are superior and are entitled to rule .... the Mommy Professors in "modern" universities are also a joke. They should be mercilessly laughed at for their presumption, the absolute SILLINESS, in claiming to know what's good for the rest of us.
village school Chou Chin passes the examination in
Ni Tinghsi finds a bride in Anching
friend After his fathers death Pao Tinghsi marries
Tingchu finds his brother
Shenching takes a concubine in Nanking
and the last words of Mr Lou
Number Three comes to grief
Puyi dies far from home at Wuhu
back to his old trade
and Chih Hengshan discusses ceremony with
peror summons a talented man
Shaokuang declines all posts and goes home
man becomes Master of Ceremonies in the Temple of