Blogs on Chinese Literature beta version

IMG_2004I am adding a section with links to other blogs dealing with Chinese fiction to this site.

You can find it in the right sidebar below the tag cloud.  Below are some that I have come across so far, but more will follow.

Suggestions more than welcome!

Poems, the social media of Heian Japan

Many of us tend to categorize the transplantation of our private lives into the public sphere through social media as a recent phenomenon. Reading Sei Shōnagon‘s 清少納言 Pillow Book 枕草子 dating from the 10th century however, I became aware of a similar trend among the Heian aristocracy of a thousand years ago:

A gentleman (Tadanobu) has written a poem letter to Sei Shōnagon to test her, and finds her reply couplet so ingenious that he immediately shares it with his assembled friends. The following day, the news have reached every corner of the palace:

As soon as I was in her [Majesty’s] presence I realized that she had called me to discuss what I had written to Tadanobu. ‘The Emperor has been here,’ she said, ‘and he told me that all his gentlemen have your reply written on their fans.’ I was amazed and wondered who could have spread the news.

Sei Shōnagon (1971). The Pillow Book of Sei Shōnagon. trans. Ivan Morris. London: Penguin Books. pp. 92)

The exchange of poem letters were quite as public and almost as quickly distributed within the limited world of the court, as tweets and other online social updates are today. And as this example shows, they even had the capacity to ‘go viral’.

A Hammet and a drink before breakfast

Just found Dashiel Hammet‘s The thin man on a summer flea market. After the first chapter it is already becoming my new favourite because of dialogues such as this one:

“She lived with him?” “Yes. I want a drink, please. That is, it was like that when I knew them.” “Why don’t you have some breakfast first? Was she in love with him or was it just business?” “I don’t know. It’s too early for breakfast.”

Sitting reading with a small glass of red wine in one hand, I feel embarrassingly sober, when the narrator has had five whisky and sodas in as many pages.

Though Hammet was born in the United States in 1894 his attitude toward drink reminds me of the poet 阮籍 Ruan Ji, who lived in China in the 3. century CE:

Fleet worldly matters: I laugh at the strain. Quiet, sad feelings are wasted pain.
How to cure sadness: call for wine! When drunk all day bad manners are fine.
Each day of my whole life through, I should drink great pots of brew.
It is such bliss, to cruise the Land of Booze;
Sober, then drunk; drunk and wild as I choose.
Once in the hills I forget big news.”

(Coulombe, Charles A. (ed.): The Muse in the Bottle. New York: Citadel Press, 2000)