erwai tushuguan (2)For some time, it has been dawning on me that what I am really interested in is not so much what is written in and about China (as the old name of this blog writingchina would seem to suggest), but rather all sorts of narrative fiction written in the Chinese script(s). (I dare say the intelligent reader will have noticed this long before I did).

Taiwanese nature writing, postcolonial Hong Kong concept lit, Sinophone fantasies from European backwaters, Southeast Asian urban fables, Shanghai quotidian novels, borderless online scribleries in simplified character slang: I want to investigate and celebrate all of it!

IMG_2441The term xiaoshuo 小说 – which today means any kind of narrative fiction writing, from novels (long fiction 长篇小说) to novellas (medium fiction 中篇小说), short stories (short fiction 短篇小说) and flash fiction (tiny fiction 小小说) – has a long and complicated history in Chinese culture. The essentially diminutive term xiaoshuo (literally small talk), used traditionally to refer (somewhat derogatorily) to “minor philosophical discourse or a type of unofficial, inferior history” (Lu: 39), with strong negative connotations of rumour and gossip rather than of pure fabrication and artful creation as in the latin fictio.

Several scholars (see below) have written fascinating accounts of how the xiaoshuo genre (as well as the attitudes toward it) developed from Confucian warnings against its deceitful nature and the notoriety (and popularity) of the strange and supernatural zhiguai tales to the canonised masterpieces of Ming/Qing serial fiction and today’s cyber romances.

So – in an effort to make it simple and do what it says on the tin – welcome to the new cleaned up & ad free (I hope!) version of my blog on fiction in Chinese: xiaoshuo.blog


Lu, Sheldon Hsiao-peng (1994): From Historicity to Fictionality – The Chinese Poetics of Narrative.

Zeitlin, Judith (2006): ‘Xiaoshuo’ in Moretti, Franco (ed.): The Novel: History, geography, and culture.

4 thoughts on “Xiaoshuo.blog

  1. First reaction: I liked the old look better. The new photo up there is also from a city in the south, isn’t it? Shanghai? Yes, most people who come to your blog already know Chinese. But still, a title in Pinyin is somewhat less inclusive and maybe also less recognizable. Fiction and non-fiction, this distinction in English seems to pretend poetry. playwriting, essays etc. don’t exist. Xiaoshuo. What about oral storytelling? Rural traditions of music, acting and artistry etc. pop up often in famous contemporary novels and stories by Mo Yan, Liu Zhenyun etc., although they might be mostly gone now. I am mainly interested in poetry. Mostly today’s poetry. Kouyu shi etc.,口语诗等等,poetry in everyday language and everything else that hasbeen gravitating around Yi Sha 伊沙. Some other stuff. Taiwan. Hung Hung and others. My own stuff. Which is sometimes Chinese, often not. So I guess the title of my blog still fits in a way. Japanese, creating distance. Comes from a blog on a Japanese server, started for me by a Chinese friend in 2008. Her son went to local kindergarten with our daughter in Beijing. She had studied in Japan. Very random and confusing. Hier stehe ich, ich kann nicht anders. Anyway, of course I will continue to follow your blog. I’m sure there will be interesting postings. Hope we meet again some day.

  2. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, I guess “I liked the old one better” is a response you have to be ready for when you change things, still I needed something new.

    Since there is no world language (or even if there was), I think its impossible to be absolutely inclusive, but I appreciate that pinyin is as far from such a world language as anything.

    While fiction and xiaoshuo emerged from different traditions (and influenced each other, witness Goethe’s references to translations of Chinese ‘novels’ in his pioneering essay on world literature as well as translated short stories in the formation of Chinese modernism), what I am interested in and like reading can still usefully be described by the term xiaoshuo.

    The photo is from Taipei. I’m glad you like the name of your own blog, stick with it!

  3. I like the new look. Sparse, professonal. Good photo. And the title- well, maybe it’s a first one in English. Yeah, Goethe liked Ernü Yingxiong Zhuan, wasn’t it? He read it in French.

  4. Thanks for secondary thoughts as well, very pleased its not all for the worse. Anyway, its the content that counts right?

    Apparently there has been some discussion as to which translated Chinese text Goethe actually read: Most say Jean-Pierre Abel-Rémusat’s translation Les Deux Cousines of Yujiaoli 玉嬌梨 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iu-Kiao-Li) while this new article by Leslie O’Bell claims to have found that it was really Peter Perring Thoms’s translation Chinese Courtship of Huajianji 花笺记: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09593683.2018.1485352

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s