Fate and Prognostication in the Chinese Literary Imagination 9789004427

The essays collected in Fate and Prognostication in the Chinese Literary Imagination deal with the philosophical, psycho

122 93 2MB

English Pages 206 [233] Year 2020

Report DMCA / Copyright

DOWNLOAD FILE

Polecaj historie

Fate and Prognostication in the Chinese Literary Imagination
 9789004427

Citation preview

Fate and Prognostication in the Chinese Literary Imagination

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

Prognostication in History Edited by Chia-Feng Chang (Taiwan National University) Michael Lackner (Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nürnberg) Klaus Herbers (Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nürnberg) Alexander Fidora (ICREA – Autonomous University of Barcelona)

volume 4

The titles published in this series are listed at brill.com/prhi

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

Fate and Prognostication in the Chinese Literary Imagination Edited by

Michael Lackner Kwok-kan Tam Monika Gaenssbauer Terry Siu-han Yip

LEIDEN | BOSTON

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

Cover illustration: Drawing of a set of moon blocks or jiaobei, wooden divination tools originating from China, which are used in pairs and thrown to answer a yes or no question. The Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available online at http://catalog.loc.gov LC record available at http://lccn.loc.gov/2020003864

Typeface for the Latin, Greek, and Cyrillic scripts: “Brill”. See and download: brill.com/brill‑typeface. ISSN 2589-4404 ISBN 978-90-04-42734-1 (hardback) ISBN 978-90-04-42757-0 (e-book)

Copyright 2020 by Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands. Koninklijke Brill NV incorporates the imprints Brill, Brill Hes & De Graaf, Brill Nijhoff, Brill Rodopi, Brill Sense, Hotei Publishing, mentis Verlag, Verlag Ferdinand Schöningh and Wilhelm Fink Verlag. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, translated, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission from the publisher. Authorization to photocopy items for internal or personal use is granted by Koninklijke Brill NV provided that the appropriate fees are paid directly to The Copyright Clearance Center, 222 Rosewood Drive, Suite 910, Danvers, MA 01923, USA. Fees are subject to change. This book is printed on acid-free paper and produced in a sustainable manner.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

Contents Foreword: Chinese Literati and Intellectuals on Mantic Arts: A Philosophy of Divination? vii Michael Lackner Preface xxii Notes on Contributors xxiii Introduction: Fate and Prognostication in the Chinese Literary Imagination 1 Kwok-kan Tam, Michael Lackner, Monika Gaenssbauer and Terry Siu-han Yip 1

Fate and Destiny: Yuan as Ming in “Matrimony Inn” and Eileen Chang’s Half a Lifelong Romance and “Love in a Fallen City” 17 Terry Siu-han Yip

2

Prophecy, “Ming” and the Lost Self in The Legend of Mi Yue Qun Xie

3

Flood Disaster in Eighteenth-Century Shandong: Interpretations of Fate in a Drum-Song Ballad 64 Roland Altenburger

4

Fate, Reincarnation and Medicinal Cannibalism in Lillian Lee’s Dumplings 86 Jessica Tsui-yan Li

5

Recurring Fate in Two Hong Kong Films: Life after Life and Reincarnation of Golden Lotus 99 Kaby Wing-Sze Kung

6

Dream-Scenes, the Concept of Time and Prognostication in Wong Kar-wai’s Ashes of Time 117 Monika Gaenssbauer

7

Psycho-Fatalism in Xi Xi’s Story “A Girl Like Me” Kwok-kan Tam

46

129

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

vi

contents

8

The Clash between Personal Fate, the Future, and Society in Ge Fei’s Jiangnan Trilogy 144 Nicoletta Pesaro

9

Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Historical Allusions and Oracles Yan Xu-Lackner

10

Divination or Death Traps? The Semiotic Language in Chinese Folklore and Fortune-Telling 177 Anna Wing Bo Tso Index

162

197

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

foreword

Chinese Literati and Intellectuals on Mantic Arts: A Philosophy of Divination? In the Chinese-speaking world, traditional ways of predicting the future are still deeply rooted in everyday life; and it can be rightly said that sooner or later in their life, most part of people with Chinese as their mother tongue have somehow come into contact with methods for choosing an auspicious day (zeri 擇日) for important events like weddings, funerals etc., for calculating fate (suanming 算命), for selecting an appropriate place for the dwelling of the living and the dead (fengshui 風水), or for consulting the “temple oracle” by means of fortune sticks (chouqian 抽籤) and throwing moon blocks (jiaobei 筊杯) to obtain an answer to a vital question. These and other related practices are widely shared in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Southeast Asia and overseas Chinese communities, but they have also survived in mainland China, albeit in a grey zone, where many people are reluctant to admit they have recourse to one of these methods, especially when belonging to the intellectual élite. However, no sharp distinction between élite and the lower strata of society with regard to their attitude towards divination can be found in traditional China: the use of heat to crack scapulae (pyromancy) dates back to the 4th millennium BCE, and we have inscribed oracle bones (jiaguwen 甲骨文) as early as from the 13th century BCE. These inscriptions testify to the active role the king of the Shang dynasty played in interpreting the signs on the bones. Documents on bamboo slips excavated over the last decades, now commonly called “daybooks” (rishu 日書) bear witness to the dissemination of divinatory practices among both officials and commoners between the 4th and the 1st centuries BCE.1 The fact that members of the élite, including rulers, had recourse to the Classic of Changes (Zhou Yi, Yi Jing 周易,易經) in cases of doubt in decisionmaking is attested in Chinese historiography, from the Zuozhuan 左傳 (late 4th century BCE) to the official dynastic histories spanning over more than two millennia. The bibliographic treatise in the History of the Han (Hanshu yiwenzhi 漢 書藝文志, 1st century CE) groups predictive techniques based on calculation

1 For an in-depth study of daybooks see Books of Fate and Popular Culture in Early China, ed. Donald Harper and Marc Kalinowski (Leiden: Brill, 2017).

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

viii

foreword

under the heading of “Numbers and Techniques” (shushu 數術); later treatises and catalogs modify the individual classifications to some extent, and the Complete Library in Four Sections (Siku quanshu 四庫全書) of 1782 even inverted the binomical expression into “Techniques and Numbers” (shushu 術數). From the Han catalog onwards up to the later classifications of shushu, the subcategory “Miscellaneous Prognostications” contains works on various topics, as oneiromancy, the physiognomy of cloths, signs of the body, agricultural predictions, demonology, practices of exorcism and prayer rituals. Over the centuries however, one can observe a certain tendency in the official catalogs to minimize texts pertaining to demonology and exorcism.2 Even more interesting is the fact that none of these catalogs takes into account prophecy and spirit possession, which have been, since long times, a means to obtain knowledge about the future. The history of religious Daoism has abundant testimonies for prophecy, and down to the present day, spiritwriting (fuji 扶乩 or fuluan 扶鸞, from the name of a phoenix-like bird) is a widespread phenomenon in Chinese-speaking communities.3 A genius descends into a medium that writes characters into a sand table; the characters can either convey a divinatory message to an individual, or—what is an increasing tendency in present-day spirit-writing communities (luantang 鸞堂)—deliver prophetic, frequently eschatologically laden texts, which are transmitted in a “morality book” (shanshu 善書). In contrast to the texts of apotropaic nature (demonology, exorcism etc.), practices that relied on inspiration were apparently not considered as belonging to the realm of “numbers and techniques” in the literati bibliographies. To a certain, yet gradually diminishing extent, their definition of expert knowledge in the sense of “shushu” may have included apotropaic practices, but harkening to voices was beyond the sphere of calculation delineated by “shushu.” Given the manifold facets of the coexistence of literati and “shushu” experts over millennia, it is difficult to characterize the attitude of the intellectual élite towards the representatives of mantic arts. However, if we want to reduce this attitude to a common denominator, it seems best to call it a constant oscillation 2 Cf. Marc Kalinowski, “The Typology and Classification of Mantic Arts in China,” in Handbook of Divination in China, ed. by Michael Lackner and Lu Zhao (Leiden: Brill, forthcoming). 3 For the early history of these practices see Wang Jianchuan 王見川, “Song Ming shiqi de fuji, fuluan yu qingxian: jiantan fuji, enzhu deng ci de qiyuan” 宋明時期的扶乩, 扶鸞與請 仙:兼談扶乩恩主等詞的起源 (“Fuji” and “fuluan” practices in Song and Ming dynasties: on the origin of “spirit writing,” “gracious master” and other related terms), International conference on fuji culture and popular religion, Foguang University, May 2018. For present aspects, see Philip Clart, “Moral Mediums: Spirit-Writing and the Cultural Construction of Chinese Spirit Mediumship,” Ethnologies 25, no. 1 (2003): 153–190.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

foreword

ix

between fascination on the one hand and skepticism and even disdain on the other. In the overwhelming majority of the cases, it is not the radical contempt of the possibility to have access to the future, but rather the distrust in a specific technique or an individual’s skill. An almost archetypal image of this demeanor can be found in the encounter between Jia Yi 賈誼 and Sima Jizhu 司馬季主. In the company of a courtesan, the famous poet and politician Jia Yi (200– 169BCE) goes to the marketplace, where he meets the soothsayer Sima Jizhu. Sima Jizhu, attended by three or four disciples, is in the process of analyzing “the ways of heaven and earth, the movements of the sun and moon, the roots of fortune and calamity in yin and yang.” It is said that both gentlemen were “awed and enlightened” and had “never seen your like in all this world”; however, they cannot refrain from asking why Sima Jizhu is “living in such humble circumstances and is carrying on such a mean trade.” It is clear that the two dignitaries are solely concerned with the social status of the diviner, not with his art. A man like Sima Jizhu should not mingle with the commoners and, what may be even more important, he should not make a living with his skills.4 For centuries, itinerant fortune-tellers dwelled by the “rivers and lakes” (jianghu 江湖), and, by the 18th century, this formerly neutral common denomination turned into the pejorative designation for “charlatans.” However, as early as in the Western Han, we can observe the fascination with a skill and the reluctance vis-à-vis turning it into a business. Over the centuries, literati would complain that the arts of the knowledge of the future, which the ancient Sages had so perfectly mastered, were in decline, but with eminent expert-scholars like Sima Jizhu, it was possible to catch a glimpse of the past glory. At least since the Song dynasty, with a literati class that had to climb the ladder of success via the Civil Service Examinations, the relationship between diviners and scholars underwent a considerable change. In many cases, the fortune of entire families depended on the candidate’s success and it is no wonder that the demand for advice about future perspectives constantly increased.5 The main sources for our knowledge of the ever closer connection between scholars and diviners are the brush notes (biji 筆記) that served the literati to 4 Shiji 史記 (Records of the Grand Historian) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1959), 127:3215ff. Cf. Burton Watson, Records of the Grand Historian of China (New York: Columbia University Press, 1961), vol. 2: 468–475. See also Michael Lackner, “ ‘Jenes Wissen, das nicht gänzlich verworfen werden kann.’ Die chinesische Elite und die Konjekturen der mantischen Künste,” Geschichte der Germanistik. Historische Zeitschrift für die Philologien, nos. 47/48 (2015), 6–19. 5 For the relationship between the Civil Service Examination system and divination, see Liu Hsiang-kwang 劉祥光, Songdai richangshenghuo zhong de busuan yu guiguai 宋代日常生 活中的卜算與鬼怪 (Divination and monsters in Song dynasty daily life) (Taipei: Chengchi University Press, 2013).

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

x

foreword

converse with their contemporaries and to instruct their descendants about important events of their family. A further source are dedications, poems and recommendatory prefaces that Chinese literati wrote for experts in physiognomy (xiangshi 相士), astrology (xingweng 星翁), selection of auspicious days (rizhe 日者), dissection of characters (cezi 測字) and general experts in mantic arts or horoscopy (shushi 術士).6 In the brush notes, we find abundant laudatory remarks concerning different skills: “Excellent in physiognomy” (shanxiang 善相), “excellent in interpreting characters” (of the Chinese writing system, M.L.), (shan xiangzi 善相字), “excellent in feeling the bones and analyzing the voice” (shan chuaigu tingsheng 善揣骨聽聲), “able to know a person’s fortune or misfortune by astrocalendrical techniques” (neng yi xingli zhi ren huofu 能以星歷知人禍福), “excellent in discerning the principles of the landscape” (i.e., topomancy, fengshui, M.L.), (shanbian shanshui dili 善辯山水地理), and many other epitheta ornantia referring to individual techniques, often accompanied by comments on the accuracy of the diviner’s prediction.7 Some scholars, themselves members of Confucian academies, went so far as to deny the knowledge of fate in the Confucian Classics. In a “dedication for the diviner Xiong Jingren” (Zeng tanming Xiong Jingren 贈談命熊景仁), Liu Yueshen 劉岳 申 (1260–1346) wrote: Each time when I meet fortune-tellers, people from the rivers and lakes, who expound the heavenly principles, I follow them and ask about fate, and each time I break out in a cold sweat. The literati (ruzhe 儒者, the Confucians) will never find the answers to the problem of Nature and Fate in their Classics, less even in Confucius and Mencius. Instead, one has to consider the teachings of astrologers (xingweng 星翁) and experts of the selection of auspicious days (rizhe 日者)—and then, and only then you will feel for one short moment the unexpected happiness (jiaoxing zhi xin 僥倖之心) in your heart. This is why since times of old their merits surpass those of the Confucians.8 6 Cf. the magnificent collection of literati texts in 12 volumes compiled by Zhang Yongtang 張永堂, Shushu yiwen luncong 術數藝文論叢 (Literary texts on shushu) (Taipei: Xin wenfeng chubanshe, 2010). In this context, the indispensable pioneering work of Richard Smith, Fortune-Tellers and Philosophers: Divination in Traditional Chinese Society (Boulder Colorado: Westview Press, 1991) was groundbreaking. 7 Liao Hsien-huei 廖咸惠, “Xiantan, jishi yu duihua: Songren biji yu shushu zhishi de chuandai” 閒談, 紀實與對話: 宋人筆記與術數知識的傳遞 (Chats, records and dialogue: Notes by Song Chinese and the communication of knowledge on divination calculation), Qinghua xuebao, New Series 48, no. 2 (June 2018): 387–411. 8 Zhang Yongtang, vol. 6, 389–390.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

foreword

xi

Criticism of divination was less explicit, and mainly oriented towards topomancy (fengshui 風水) and the belief that our fate is in close connection with the time and place of our ancestors’ burial. Sima Guang (司馬光 1019–1086) advised the emperor against using yin-yang books” (yinyang zhi shu 陰陽之 書) for funeral purposes.9 His contemporary Cheng Yi (程頤 1033–1107) did not deny a causal relation between a gravesite and a person’s fate; however, when it comes to the methods used by geomancers, his criticism is harsh: they cheat (huo 惑) people with their ideas on positions, directions and dates. What is more deplorable, the geomancers are only interested in “advantage for the offspring” (li hou 利後). In Cheng’s view, one has to rely on the “beauty or ugliness of a place” (di zhi mei e 地之美惡).10 At the same time, he argues that one should make sure that in the chosen place no road, city wall, or moat will be built in the future, the place will not be snatched by the rich and powerful, and it will not be used as plow land. As we can see, a rather vague emphasis on “beauty” and a condemnation of contemporary expert knowledge did not prevent Cheng Yi from being convinced of a gravesite’s overall importance. Once again, the motivation behind these arguments seems more to be the contempt of a business carried out by low-ranking experts than a wholesale rejection of the importance of taking proper attention to funeral practices. The fact that “fengshui” for the dwellings of the deceased has continued to be a very common practice in Chinese communities down to the present day may be not only due to its strong resilience in popular belief, but also to the recognition it received by the great philosopher Zhu Xi 朱熹 (1130–1200).11 As for Sima Guang and Cheng Yi, a funeral for Zhu Xi is primarily an expression of the Confucian virtue of filial piety. Although, in contrast to other forms of divination, Zhu Xi has not pronounced himself explicitly (i.e., in a special treatise) on “fengshui,” he argues that a not well-selected site carries dangers like humidity, ants and underground wind, which bother the spirit of the dead. As a consequence, the offsprings are threatened by death. Second, presuming the site is well chosen, the tomb must be constructed deeply enough. This will avoid the risk that the grave will be exposed. The third point concerns the sufficiency of the qi within a particular site. If a site is too often excavated, the “qi” within it will exhaust. One of his most revealing sentences, however, is the following:

9 10 11

Zhang Yongtang, vol. 4, 541–543. Zhang Yongtang, vol. 5, 2–5. Zhang Yongtang, vol. 1, 63–66. For an extensive discussion of Neo-Confucian thinkers’ relationship to fengshui see also Xiaokun Song, “Topomancy (Fengshui) in China: Discourses and Reception in Past and Present Times” (PhD diss., University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, 2017).

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

xii

foreword

“Although this is the teaching of the specialists in (mantic) arts, it is definitely not unreasonable” (ci sui shujia zhi shuo, ran yi bu wei wu li 此雖術家之說, 然亦不為無理).12 And again, we are facing the high-brow attitude of a scholar confronting second-rate business experts, and, at the same time, the assertion of their techniques’ rationality. In other contexts, Zhu Xi was even more open to practitioners of divination. A preface he wrote for the book of a diviner who apparently practiced horoscopy states: On the basis of the combinations of earthly branches and heavenly stems, which result from the hour, day, month, and year of a person’s birth, it is possible to gain knowledge about this person’s good or bad luck, their span of life, and their failure or success. This is an art that may look simple at first sight, however, even those who are involved in its study often are not able to penetrate its utmost subtlety. It is true that the principle by which Heaven and Earth produce beings does not go beyond Yin and Yang and the Five Elements, but the fluctuations of condensation and dissipation, the complexities of change and transformation are inexhaustible—and therefore, the theories concerning a person’s capabilities and social position are difficult to understand, especially when it comes to realize how minuscule the difference between light and darkness, between abundance and poverty can be. Being a Confucian scholar, Mr. Xu is fully aware of this problem, and, moreover, there is no doubt about the fact that his predictions frequently come true. However, if one is only prepared to ask an occasional question, a simple confidence in Mr. Xu’s skills will not be sufficient for one’s progress: rather, we will have to understand that the endowment we have received at the beginning of our life (“our lot”, M.L.) cannot be changed—that wealth and noble rank, fame and glory cannot be obtained through greed, and that poverty, ignobleness, bad luck and a life full of sorrows cannot be avoided through cunning! Stay on the right way, be steadfast, meet your fate in accordance with your sincere desire, reject reprehensible habits and revive the ancients’ way of loyalty and magnanimity: then, and only then one may ask for Mr. Xu’s help.13

12 13

Ibid. Zhu Xi 朱熹, “Zeng Xu Duanshu ming xu” 贈徐端叔命序 (Preface to a diviner’s hand-

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

foreword

xiii

Zhu Xi’s statement that the diviner’s “predictions came true” doubtlessly has to be understood as an assertion of both the technique and the diviner’s particular skill; however, it is only proper moral conduct that prevents us from being totally subject to the vicissitudes of fate. At least two times in his life, Zhu Xi consulted a diviner. More important even are his attempts to reconcile the philosophical interpretations of the Classic of Changes with its divinatory origin. The Changes was originally a book for the purpose of divination with yarrow stalks and this is the reason why later on people thought it was limited to that purpose. When Wang Bi adopted the doctrines of Laozi and Zhuangzi for its interpretation, people thought that the book dealt only with the principles of the cosmos and did not have anything to do with divination—but this, too, is a wrong assumption […]. When scholars of our days limit their reading to the Great Commentary and do not take into consideration the hexagrams and the lines, they behave like one who reads the table of contents of the “Laws of punishment,” but not the book itself—they won’t understand anything!14 So one needs both, divination and knowledge of the cosmic principles, because only divination provides insight into these principles. There is an inextricable link between the teaching of the Way and the divinatory operation. Zhu Xi’s overt and explicit recognition of mantic practices, such as divining by the Classic of Changes, fate calculation by horoscopy and “fengshui” topomancy paved the way for the acceptance of mantic practices for the literati. The immense authority Zhu Xi would wield for a long line of future generations fostered the legitimacy of divination. And one should keep in mind the fact that a large number of Song dynasty scholars, mainly—but not only—those who had failed in the Civil Service Examination, became experts in mantic arts. When Ji Yun 紀昀 (1724–1805), one of the responsible scholars for the compilation of traditional China’s largest anthology (Siku quanshu), had to classify the mantic arts, he first of all inverted the “Numbers and Techniques” of the Han catalog into “Techniques and Numbers.” The Siku catalog also made a clear distinction between astronomy and mathematics on the one hand, and astro-

14

book written in 1162), in Zhu Xi ji 朱熹集 (Collected works of Zhu Xi), vol. 7 (Chengdu: Sichuan jiaoyu chubanshe, 1996), 3920. Zhuzi yulei 朱子語類 (Collected sayings of Master Zhu), Yi er 易二 (Second chapter on the Yi Jing), par. 7. https://ctext.org/zhuzi‑yulei/66/zh. Accessed June 2018.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

xiv

foreword

meterological practices on the other, thus delineating fields that correspond to a modern understanding of science from divination. In his preface to the shushu section, Ji Yun states: Regardless of their benefit, the teachings of the techniques of the various schools have been present for a long time and their principles cannot be entirely dismissed. Therefore we group them under the heading of shushu (techniques and numbers). “Arts of enjoyment” (youyi 游藝, calligraphy, painting, music, chess, M.L.) are also studies of secondary importance, but if any one (of the numerous techniques) enters a spiritual realm, it can become a vehicle within the Dao. Therefore, the “arts of enjoyment” are grouped under the general category of art. Both can be considered as “minor ways.”15 This statement markedly reflects the position of the scholar-official with regard to mantic practices. They are “minor ways,” but they cannot be entirely dismissed, mainly because of their long-standing tradition. At the same time, once a technique attains a sublime refinement, it can take us to the Way. One can hear a distant echo of Jia Yi’s enthusiasm when meeting Sima Jizhu (when the Great Man evoked the glory of the past) and of Zhu Xi’s plea for the legitimacy of divination by the Classic of Changes (where divination leads to the insight of the cosmic principles). However, Ji Yun’s carefully crafted introduction leaves no doubt that he expresses a cautious distance towards the topic. The picture changes quite dramatically when reading Ji Yun’s brush notes. They convey the impression of a man who is utterly convinced of the efficacy of mantic arts. From time to time, he may articulate doubts concerning the skill of a person or the adequacy of a certain technique, but he strongly believes in fate and the possibility to obtain knowledge about the future. As an homme de lettres, he was particularly interested in spirit-writing practices (fuji, see above), and reports many instances of revelatory poems and other messages obtained through the union between a genius and a medium. In line with many literati before his time, he also complains the decline of the mantic arts: “For choosing a place, one refers to the Book of Documents, for choosing a day, one refers to the Rituals. If there were not (the categories of) auspicious and inauspicious, how could the Sages have divined? However, I am afraid that this is simply not something the professional practitioners of our time understand. This is really

15

Siku quanshu zongmu tiyao 四庫全書總目提要 91.1b–2a. For a digital source, see http:// ourartnet.com/Si‑Kuquanshu/Si_Kuquanshu.asp. Accessed June 2018.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

foreword

xv

a balanced theory.” However, this conventional lament does not prevent him from praising efficient performances of diviners, whose arts have to be taken seriously, as he points out in a remark on spirit-writing: Therefore, as for the art of genius spirit-writing, literati may arbitrarily divert themselves and sing in accord with the rules of poetry, as if they were watching a theater play, and then they are fine. However, in case of divining for the auspicious and inauspicious, the superior man has to fear the outcome.16 In accordance with a passage from the Rites, where numinous or spiritual power (ling 靈) is ascribed to the tools of early divination (tortoise for scapulimancy and yarrow stalks for the Changes), Ji Yun trusted in “ling,” but he developed a theory of his own with regard to the—eventually philosophical— question of why an oracle must come true: “What we call spirits are not ling of themselves, but they depend on humans. The yarrow stalks (used for Yi Jing divination) and the tortoise shells are basically dried wood and rotten bones, but the ability to know the auspicious and the inauspicious relies on humans to make them ling.”17 This statement does not deny the existence of a numinous power—nor the existence of ghosts, which he asserts to have seen (“However, I have frequently seen with my own eyes the physical traces of returning ghosts. The ghosts and spirits are fuzzy and obscure, and when you really think about it, you don’t understand how they are.”18)—but, in an almost psychological approach, Ji Yun sees humans as the root and source of the miraculous result of an oracle, which, ultimately, cannot be called “miraculous”: “It would appear that the spirits communicate with what the mind arouses, and images form portents of what the mechanisms of the qi have sprouted for into existence. These matters follow the same principle as dividing the yarrow stalks and heating the tortoise shell: it seems to be a miracle, but (in fact) it is not.”19 Carl Jung would have been pleased with such an explanation that comes so close to his theories on the unconscious and synchronicity.

16 17 18 19

There are numerous editions of Ji Yun’s 紀昀 brush notes Yuewei caotang biji 閱微草堂 筆記. For an easy way of finding, I only indicate the volume and the entry, here: 11/1. Yuewei caotang biji, 4/4. Yuewei caotang biji, 5/5. Yuewei caotang biji, 7/1. For Ji Yun’s general assessment of mantic arts, see also Michael Lackner 朗宓榭, Xiaodao you li. Zhong Xi bijiao xin shiyu 小道有理. 中西比較新視閾 (The minor ways have their reason. New aspects of Comparisons between China and the West) (Beijing: Sanlian shudian, 2018), 49–83.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

xvi

foreword

The coexistence between scholars and experts in mantic arts relied on a shared cosmology; the world was ordered by the Five Agents (wuxing 五行), the Heavenly Stems and Earthly Branches (tiangan dizhi 天干地支), the interplay between the energies (qi 氣) of Yin and Yang, the hexagrams of the Changes, and the possible intervention of ghosts and deities in everyday life. In accordance with this order, fate could be calculated and messages from above could be received and interpreted. This belief system was also widely shared by commoners. In spite of skeptics like Xunzi 荀子 (ca. 298–220BCE), Wang Chong 王 充 (27–97), who rejected most forms of contemporary divination and agnostic fatalists like Dai Da 戴達 (325–395), Fan Zhen 范縝 (450–515) and Zhu Shiqing 朱世卿 (6th century), who, strongly opposed to Buddhist ideas of karmic retribution, believed in an unalterable natural fate,20 the overwhelming majority of Chinese assumed that it was possible to negotiate with fate on the basis of a given prediction, either by magic or by proper moral conduct. This view of a harmony based on a “union of Heaven and Man” (tianren heyi 天人合一) may not even have lasted throughout Late Imperial China, but it was definitely shattered by the introduction of “Western Science” during the last half of the 19th century. In the light of the new “enlightened” and “rationalistic” worldview, the distinction between the scholar-official and his private opinion that once had characterized Ji Yun became sharp and insurmountable. Some experts of mantic arts, like Yuan Shushan 袁樹珊 (1881–1952) tried to reconcile “science” (that had become the shibboleth of Chinese intellectuals) with traditional knowledge,21 but such efforts did not bring the former coexistence back to life, although there was a certain revival of spirit-writing in scholarly circles who had been influenced by the rise of European spiritist societies.22 Spiritist séances even took place in the household of the eminent reformer Liang Qichao 梁啟超 (1873–1929).23

20

21

22

23

For Wang Chong, see Marc Kalinowski, Balance des Discours. Destin, Providence et Divination (Paris: Belles Lettres, 2011). As far as I can see, there is no Western language monograph on Dai Da, Fan Zhen, Zhu Shiqing and other “agnostics.” The abundant literature in mainland China has emphasized their “atheism.” For a brief overwiew, see Zhang Yongtang, vol. 1, 16–19. On Yuan Shushan see Michael Lackner 朗宓榭, Lang Mixie hanxue wenji 朗宓榭漢學文 集 (Sinological writings by Michael Lackner), ed. Xu Yan 徐艷 (Shanghai: Fudan daxue chubanshe, 2013), 263–271. Xiong Yuezhi 熊月之, “Jindai Zhongguo dushuren de mingli shijie” 近代中國讀書人的 命理世界 (Modern Chinese intellectuals and fate-calculation), Xueshu yuekan 學術月 刊 (Academic Monthly), vol. 47, no. 9 (2015): 147–160, here: 157f. Xiong Yuezhi, 149.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

foreword

xvii

Divinatory practices were driven back to the private sphere, at certain moments even officially banned, like in 1928, when the government prohibited all “superstitious” professions, including Chinese medicine. Temples were turned into secular buildings, and the suppression of popular religion culminated in the anti-traditionalist “Cultural Revolution.”24 However, the separation of habits deeply embedded in everyday life culture from the scientism-oriented weltanschauung did not completely eradicate the recourse to mantic practices. Moreover, not only commoners continued to resort to divination and prophetic utterances, but a large number of leading intellectuals of the 20th century indulged in consulting diviners and experts of physiognomy, kept being interested in “fengshui” and cast lots with the Changes. Yan Fu 嚴復 (1853–1921), a paragon of Chinese Enlightenment, introduced a large number of Western thinkers to the Chinese audience; but his diaries reveal a constant consultation of the Changes for personal matters.25 Wu Mi 吳宓 (1894–1978), an eminent historian of literature and one of the founding figures of comparative literature, who in 1942 became Minister of Education, asked the Changes for the outcome of Japan’s war against China; during the threat of a Japanese air raid in Kunming where most universities had taken refuge, Shen Youding 深有鼎 (1908–1989), the “Father of modern Chinese logic” divined with the Changes and obtained the verdict: “Not to go out is inauspicious.” With his colleagues, among them renowned scholars like Wu Mi and Qian Mu 錢穆 (1895–1990), he spent whole days outside of the university’s premises—until finally a bombing attack hit the buildings: but he and his colleagues were safe. Mu Ouchu 穆藕初 (1876–1943), an entrepreneur who had studied at the universities of Michigan and Illinois, frequently consulted the temple oracle with its fortune sticks.26 (Until today, the reluctance to divination is less palpable with people who have to make important decisions, as in the military and commercial sphere; only in rare cases, university professors and intellectuals—in China and elsewhere—are decisionmakers.) How to account for the persistence and resilience of divination, in its more or less close connection to religion, in the Chinese world? From a point of view

24 25

26

Rebecca Nedustop, Superstitious Regimes: Religion and the Politics of Chinese Modernity (Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2009). Michael Lackner 朗宓榭 and Li Fan 李帆, “Jindai zhongguo zhishi zhuanxing shiyexia de ‘mingxue’ ” 近代中國知識轉型視野下的 “命學” (The “study of fate” in the epistemological transformation of Modern China), Shehui kexue 社會科學, no. 6 (2012): 147–154. Xiong Yuezhi, 152–154, with many more relevant examples.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

xviii

foreword

of social studies, one might be tempted to state that Chinese Enlightenment never profoundly touched large parts of the population. However, this thesis does not sufficiently consider that, even in the present-day Chinese-speaking world, religious activities and ways of thought are not limited to the lower strata of society. Is there another possible explanation? No doubt, the permeability of Chinese society has allowed deep-rooted worldviews to remain sedimented in all social layers. People of relatively low social background would thus constantly feed and re-feed society with the belief system of their extraction, in spite of their lip service to “enlightened” and “scientific” thought. This is perhaps a viable interpretation, but it is still in need of a philosophical grounding. In the 20th century, many Chinese thinkers conceived the difference between China and the West in terms of dichotomies. One of the most creative philosophers in this regard was Zhang Dongsun 張東蓀 (Chang Tung-sun 1886–1973). In his view, the dominant characteristic of Chinese thought was a “correlation-logic” (xiangguan lümingxue 相關律名學), which “emphasizes the relational significance between something and nothing, between above and below, and so on. It is expressed sufficiently in the Book of Changes.”27 Although Zhang’s approach is basically a logician’s reflection, the main source for his argument is a book on divination, the Classic of Changes: It is characteristic of Western philosophy to penetrate into the background of a thing, while the characteristic of Chinese thought lies in exclusive attention to the correlational implications between different signs, such as yin and yang […]. Chinese cosmology may be called “significism” or “omenism.” The Chinese character hsiang (xiang 象), which we have translated as “sign” has all the meanings of the English words phenomenon, symbol and omen, but it must be noted that behind the hsiang no concrete things are implied. Its signification is only concerned with human affairs. Thus a sign is for the purpose of giving lessons to the people, and consequently, all the heavenly phenomena such as stars and comets were taken as evil omens. The Chinese cosmogony characterized by omenism is essentially a practical guide to human life. In this point it also differs from the West. It may be true that in Western philosophy, cosmology is a preliminary step to the philosophy of life, but the two can27

Chang Tung-sun 張東蓀, “A Chinese Philosopher’s Theory of Knowledge,”A Review of General Semantics, vol. 9, no. 3, (Spring 1952): 203–226. The article was originally published with a different title in Chinese in 1938. For a digital version see: http://msap‑unlam.ac.id /download/bahan_bacaan/Chang%20tung%20sun%20thought%language%20culture .pdf. Accessed June 2018.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

xix

foreword

not be confused. Chinese thought, on the contrary, does not make any distinction between the cosmos and all the problems of human life.28 How interesting! In order to delineate a Chinese logic, Zhang has taken recourse to the lack of “distinction between the cosmos and all the problems of human life” and the correlation between “signs.” The assumption of this correlation, however, is the basis for the belief in the efficacy of divination. In the wake of Yuan Shushan (see above), there are still numerous attempts in the Chinese world to legitimize mantic practices in terms of “science.” But for the moment, these endeavors have not really proven to be convincing in an atmosphere still dominated by conventional definitions of science. The degree of tolerance may vary in Chinese-speaking countries, but divination is far from being a universally accepted practice. Nonetheless, it keeps being a vibrant phenomenon over all Chinese communities. Could it be that the “omenism” Zhang Dongsun claimed for Chinese thought has become a parallel mode of orientation, driven into a corner of individual and collective conscience in which the traditional literati’s mixture of fundamental trust and selective skepticism maintains its citizenship? A malicious interpretation may be tempted to designate this niche of orientation that seems so contradictory to modern Western standards of an “either or”, as double bind or even schizophrenic, but shouldn’t we rather agree that exclusiveness is not a crucial condition sine qua for the longue durée of a civilization? To quote once more from Zhang Zhidong: “But Chinese thought puts no emphasis on exclusiveness, rather it emphasizes the relational quality between above and below, good and evil, something and nothing.”29 Michael Lackner

Bibliography Chang Tung-sun (Zhang Dongsun) 張東蓀. “A Chinese Philosopher’s theory of Knowledge.” A Review of General Semantics, vol. 9, no. 3 (Spring 1952): 203–226. The article was originally published with a different title in Chinese in 1938. http://msap‑unlam .ac.id/download/bahan_bacaan/Chang%20tung%20sun%20thought%language %20culture.pdf. Accessed June 2018.

28 29

Chang Tung-sun 張東蓀 (digital version), 11–12. Chang Tung-sun 張東蓀 (digital version), 9.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

xx

foreword

Clart, Philip. “Moral Mediums: Spirit-Writing and the Cultural Construction of Chinese Spirit Mediumship.” Ethnologies, 25, no. 1 (2003): 153–190. Harper, Donald and Marc Kalinowski, eds. Books of Fate and Popular Culture in Early China. Leiden: Brill, 2017. Ji Yun 紀昀. Yuewei caotang biji 閱微草堂筆記. Shanghai: Guji chubanshe, 2005. Original work published in 1798. Kalinowski, Marc. “The Typology and Classification of Mantic Arts in China.” In Handbook of Divination in China, edited by Michael Lackner and Lu Zhao. Leiden: Brill, forthcoming. Kalinowski, Marc. Balance des Discours. Destin, Providence et Divination. Paris: Belles Lettres, 2011. Lackner, Michael. “‘Jenes Wissen, das nicht gänzlich verworfen werden kann.’ Die chinesische Elite und die Konjekturen der mantischen Künste.” Geschichte der Germanistik. Historische Zeitschrift für die Philologien, nos. 47/48 (2015): 6–19. Lackner, Michael 朗宓榭. Lang Mixie hanxue wenji 朗宓榭漢學文集 (Sinological writings by Michael Lackner). Edited by Xu Yan 徐艷. Shanghai: Fudan daxue chubanshe, 2013. Lackner, Michael 朗宓榭. Xiaodao you li. Zhong Xi bijiao xin shiyu 小道有理: 中西比較 新視閾 (The minor ways have their reason: New aspects of comparisons between China and the West). Beijing: Sanlian shudian, 2018. Lackner, Michael 朗宓榭 and Li Fan 李帆. “Jindai zhongguo zhishi zhuanxing shiyexia de ‘mingxue’” 近代中國知識轉型視野下的 “命學” (The “study of fate” in the epistemological transformation of Modern China). Shehui kexue 社會科學, no. 6 (2012): 147–154. Li Jingde 黎靖德, ed. Zhuzi yulei 朱子語類 (Collected sayings of Master Zhu), Yi er 易二 (Second chapter on the Yi Jing), par. 7. Original work published in 1207. https://ctext .org/zhuzi‑yulei/66/zh. Accessed June 2018. Liao Hsien-huei 廖咸惠. “Xiantan, jishi yu duihua: Songren biji yu shushu zhishide chuandi” 閒談, 紀實與對話: 宋人筆記與術數知識的傳遞 (Chats, records and dialogue: Notes by Song Chinese and the communication of knowledge on divination calculation). Qinghua xuebao, New Series 48, no. 2 (June 2018): 387–411. Liu Hsiang-kwang 劉祥光. Songdai richangshenghuo zhong de busuan yu guiguai 宋 代日常生活中的卜算與鬼怪 (Divination and monsters in Song dynasty daily life). Taipei: Chengchi daxue chubanshe, 2013. Nedustop, Rebecca. Superstitious Regimes: Religion and the Politics of Chinese Modernity. Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2009. Siku quanshu zongmu tiyao 四庫全書總目提要. Original work published in 1781. http:// ourartnet.com/Si‑Kuquanshu/Si_Kuquanshu.asp. Accessed June 2018. Sima Qian. Shiji 史記 (Records of the Grand Historian). Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1959. Smith, Richard. Fortune-Tellers and Philosophers: Divination in Traditional Chinese Society. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1991. Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

foreword

xxi

Song, Xiaokun. “Topomancy (Fengshui) in China: Discourses and Reception in Past and Present Times.” PhD diss., University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, 2017. Wang Jianchuan 王見川. “Song Ming shiqi de fuji, fuluan yu qingxian: jiantan fuji, enzhu deng ci de qiyuan” 宋明時期的扶乩,扶鸞與請仙:兼談扶乩恩主等詞的起 源 (“Fuji” and “fuluan” practices in Song and Ming dynasties: on the origin of “spirit writing,” “gracious master” and other related terms). Paper presented at the International Conference on Fuji Culture and Popular Religion, Foguang University, May 2018. Watson, Burton. Records of the Grand Historian of China. New York: Columbia University Press, 1961. Xiong Yuezhi 熊月之. “Jindai Zhongguo dushuren de mingli shijie” 近代中國讀書人的 命理世界 (Modern Chinese intellectuals and fate-calculation). Xueshu yuekan 學術 月刊 (Academic monthly), vol. 47, no. 9 (2015): 147–160. Zhang Yongtang 張永堂. Shushu yiwen luncong 術數藝文論叢 (Literary texts on shushu). 12 vol. Taipei: Xin wenfeng chubanshe, 2010. Zhu Xi 朱熹. “Zeng Xu Duanshu ming xu” 贈徐端叔命序 (Preface to a diviner’s handbook written in 1162). In Zhu Xi ji 朱熹集 (Collected works of Zhu Xi). Vol. 7. Chengdu: Sichuan jiaoyu chubanshe, 1996.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

Preface The chapters in this book represent a careful and rigorous selection of papers presented in a workshop conducted on fate in Chinese literature, film and folktale at the International Consortium for Research in the Humanities at the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg, Germany in September 2016. The workshop explored issues of fate in Chinese literature and culture, with papers covering the Chinese manifestations of the concept of fate in both traditional and modern society, particularly in the genres of literature, film and folk narratives. The chapters presented in this volume explore the concepts in terms of their representation in literary imagination and film. Topics dealt with cover the philosophical, religious, sociological and psychoanalytical issues behind the Chinese discourses of fate. Over the past three decades, scholarship on fate in Chinese culture has grown significantly, particularly in comparison with Western concepts. In addition to the numerous articles published, scholarly books, such as Fortune-Tellers and Philosophers: Divination in Traditional Chinese Society (Richard J. Smith, 1991) and The Magnitude of Ming: Command, Allotment, and Fate in Chinese Culture (edited by Christopher Luke, 2005), have made significant contributions to the subject. However, many literary works and films in Chinese that deal with concepts of fate and prognostication have been left unattended and unnoticed. For this reason, we organized a workshop that allowed scholars from Asia, Europe and North America to explore representations of fate and related concepts in Chinese literature, film and folk narratives. We would like to thank the International Consortium for Research in the Humanities for sponsoring the research and for organizing the workshop. Colleagues who contributed to the successful organization of the workshop include Petra Hahm, the Administrator of the International Consortium, and Martin Kroher, a postdoctoral fellow there in 2016–2017. We would also like to thank all the participants who contributed to the discussion at the workshop. Kwok-kan Tam Michael Lackner Monika Gaenssbauer Terry Siu-han Yip May 2018

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

Notes on Contributors Roland Altenburger is Professor of East Asian Cultural History at the University of Würzburg since 2012. He received his doctorate in Sinology from the University of Zürich in 1997. His main fields are the cultural history of late imperial China, pre-modern narrative and localism. His publications include the monograph The Sword or the Needle: The Female Knight-errant (xia) in Traditional Chinese Narrative (2009) and the co-edited volume Yangzhou, A Place in Literature: The Local in Chinese Cultural History (2015). Monika Gaenssbauer is Associate Professor of Chinese Studies at Stockholm University and the University of Erlangen. From 2009–2015 she served as Deputy Chair of Chinese Studies at the University of Erlangen. In 2015/2016 she had a scholarship at the International Consortium for Research in the Humanities (IKGF), University of Erlangen. From 2014–2017 she was Honorary Professor of Translation Studies at the Open University of Hong Kong. Monika Gaenssbauer is co-editor of the scholarly book series “edition cathay”, project publishing house, BochumFreiburg. Kaby Wing-Sze Kung is currently Assistant Professor of English and Comparative Literature at The Open University of Hong Kong. Her research interests are Chinese Feminism, Chinese-Western Comparative Literature, Modern and Contemporary Chinese Literature and Film, as well as Chinese Diasporic Writing and Film. Michael Lackner is Chair Professor of Chinese Studies at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg and Director of the International Consortium for Research in the Humanities, which is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Germany. He leads the project “Fate, Freedom and Prognostication. Strategies of Coping with the Future in East Asia and Europe.” His research interests are classical studies in Song dynasty and Sino-Western cross-cultural transfer. He has held Visiting Professorship at Academia Sinica and at National Taiwan University, and Distinguished Professorship at The Open University of Hong Kong. He is the winner of the Tsungming Tu Award Ministry of Science and Technology, Taiwan. He is editor of the book series “Coping with the Future. Theories and Practices of Divination in East Asia” (Brill, 2017).

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

xxiv

notes on contributors

Jessica Tsui-yan Li is Associate Professor in the Department of Languages, Literatures and Linguistics at York University. She is President of the Canadian Comparative Literature Association, and an International Editorial Board Member in the Springer book series on “Digital Culture and Humanities.” Her articles have appeared in the refereed journals, Canadian Review of Comparative Literature; Perspectives: Studies in Translatology; Dang’an Chunqiu (Memories and Archives, Shanghai); and in books such as, Eileen Chang: Romancing Languages, Cultures and Genres; Ibsen and the Modern Self ; Gender, Discourse and the Self in Literature: Issues in Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. Nicoletta Pesaro is Associate Professor of Chinese Language and Literature at Ca’ Foscari University Venice, where she coordinates the MA in Interpreting and Translation. Her research include modern and contemporary Chinese literature, theory of narrative and translation studies. She wrote several articles on Chinese literature and translated various novels. She edited The Ways of Translation. Constraints and Liberties of Translating Chinese and Littérature chinoise et globalisation: enjeux linguistiques, traductologiques et génériques. She has published a history of modern Chinese fiction and is working on a new translation on a history of modern Chinese fiction and a new translation of Lu Xun’s short stories. Kwok-kan Tam is Chair Professor of English at Hang Seng University of Hong Kong. He has served as Chair Professor and Dean of Arts and Social Sciences at The Open University of Hong Kong and as Chairman and Head of Graduate Studies in the English Department at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. He has also held Fellowships at the East-West Centre, Honolulu. He is former Head of the International Ibsen Committee, University of Oslo and Fellow of the Hong Kong Academy of the Humanities. He has published extensively on Ibsen, Gao Xingjian, World Englishes, postcolonial English, modern drama, and gender in literature. Anna Wing Bo Tso is Associate Professor of English at The Open University of Hong Kong. Her research interests include applied linguistics, children’s literature, and translation studies. She is the first author of Academic Writing for Arts and Humanities Students (McGraw-Hill Education, 2016), the co-author of Teaching Shakespeare to ESL Students (Springer, 2017), and the editor of Digital Humanities and New Ways of Teaching (Springer, 2018). Currently she is completing a book entitled Literary Approaches to the Short Story. Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

notes on contributors

xxv

Qun Xie is a Professor of English and Director of the Center of Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies of Zhongnan University of Economics and Law, China. She got her PhD from The Chinese University of Hong Kong in 2004. Her research interests include modern drama studies, comparative literary studies and translation studies. She has published two books and a few essays on Eugene O’Niell, Ibsen and other writers. In addition, she has also translated English novels and literary criticism into Chinese. Yan Xu-Lackner studied German at Tongji University in Shanghai (1982–1986). She worked as lecturer for German as a foreign language at Zhejiang University (1986–1990) and at TU Berlin (1993–1995). She holds an M.A. in Education and Chinese Studies (TU Berlin and FU Berlin) and a PhD in Education from TU Berlin (2001). Since 2003, she is Research Fellow and coordinator for Chinese language teaching at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg and since 2006 Director of the Confucius Institute Nuremberg-Erlangen. Her publications cover the field of history of education in China and the cultural exchange between China and the West. Terry Siu-han Yip is Professor in the Department of English Language and Literature at Hong Kong Baptist University. Her research interests range from European Romanticism and British Modernism to modern Chinese literature, Chinese-European literary relations and women/gender studies. She has published extensively on modern Chinese literature, Chinese-European literary relations, twentiethcentury women’s writings, and women/gender issues in literature. Her publications include books and journal articles published in Australia, Canada, China, Estonia, Germany, Holland, Hong Kong, Japan, Norway, Slovakia, Sweden, Taiwan, and the United States.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

introduction

Fate and Prognostication in the Chinese Literary Imagination Kwok-kan Tam, Michael Lackner, Terry Siu-han Yip and Monika Gaenssbauer

Different cultures have different concepts of “fate,” and hence there are different methods of prognostication (預測 yuce, or 測算 cesuan). In Chinese culture, prognostication takes the form of fortune-telling (算命 suanming, or 占卜 zhanbu) that includes prophecy, prediction, divination, oracle and dream, which are means to tell what has happened in the past or will happen in the future. Over the centuries, the Chinese have developed complex ways of prognostication that begin with the inspirations found in Yi Jing 易經, or I Ching, the Book of Changes. The Chinese have developed methods of logical deduction that can find out the effects of causes in fated relations. Yi Jing, the Chinese book about changes, postulates a philosophy that changes are based on the interaction between oppositional forces, such as “yin” 陰 and “yang” 陽, brightness and darkness, positive and negative, and the male and female principles which are universal forces in continuous interaction that brings changes and development in the universe. Owing to the influence of Yi Jing, the Chinese believe that Dao 道 is the basic principle that gives rise to the opposites in the universe and the development of the human, which is the highest form of intellect realized as a result of Heaven’s 天(tian) evolution. In the annotation of Qian 乾, the first Hexagram gua 卦, “Tuan Zhuan” 彖傳 states, Vast is the “great and originating (power)” indicated by Khien (Qian)! All things owe to it their beginning:—it contains all the meaning belonging to (the name) heaven. The clouds move and the rain is distributed; the various things appear in their developed forms. (The sages) grandly understand (the connexion between) the end and the beginning, and how (the indications of) the six lines (in the hexagram) are accomplished, (each) in its season. (Accordingly) they mount (the carriage) drawn by those six dragons at the proper times, and drive through the sky. The method of Khien (Qian) is to change and transform, so that everything obtains its correct nature as appointed (by the mind of Heaven); and

© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2020 | doi:10.1163/9789004427570_002 Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

2

tam et al.

(thereafter the conditions of) great harmony are preserved in union. The result is what is advantageous, and correct and firm. (The sage) appears aloft, high above all things, and the myriad states all enjoy repose.1 “Khien” (Qian)2 refers to Heaven, that is, the cosmos and its principles of operation, and the principles are also called Dao in Chinese culture. With this idea of the cosmos, the universe and the earth are seen as self-generating and selfevolving. So are human society and the humans.

1

Dao as the Source and Origin of Fate

Ancient Chinese philosophers, such as Confucius 孔子 and Laozi 老子, have developed their philosophies and teachings according to the metaphysics and moral lessons derived from Yi Jing. The moral principles governing human behaviour, as advocated in the Confucian Analects 論語 (Lun yu) and in the Classic of Dao and Virtues 道德經 (Dao de jing, or Tao te ching), states that human beings are realizations of the Dao 道. As such, Dao is the origin of everything: The Tao (Dao) that can be trodden is not the enduring and unchanging Tao (Dao). The name that can be named is not the enduring and unchanging name. (Conceived of as) having no name, it is the Originator of heaven and earth; (conceived of as) having a name, it is the Mother of all things. Always without desire we must be found, If its deep mystery we would sound; But if desire always within us be, Its outer fringe is all that we shall see. Under these two aspects, it is really the same; but as development takes place, it receives the different names. Together we call them the Mys-

1 The I Ching, “King Wan’s explanations of the entire Hexagrams,” trans. James Legge, Sacred Books of the East, vol. 16 (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1899), 213. The original reads: 大哉乾 元, 萬物資始, 乃統天。 雲行雨施, 品物流形。 大明始終, 六位時成, 時乘 六龍以御天。 乾道變化, 各正性命, 保合大和, 乃利貞。 首出庶物, 萬國咸寧. http://www.sacred‑texts.com/ich/index.htm. Accessed 11 April 2018. 2 “Khien” is the Cantonese pronunciation of 乾, which is pronounced as “qian” in Putonghua. Cantonese pronunciation is close to Tang dynasty pronunciation, while Putonghua (or Mandarin) is a modern northern Chinese dialect.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

introduction

3

tery. Where the Mystery is the deepest is the gate of all that is subtle and wonderful.3 In early Confucian philosophy, fate is seen as the realization of Dao in human life. Put it another way, life is the actualization of fate as “ming” in accordance with Dao. Hence, in the Chinese conception, “fate” is “ming” which is “fatelife,” entailing both elements of that which is “given” by Heaven (Dao) and that which is “changeable” as a person experiences and develops in life. Later Confucian philosophers, such as Dong Zhongshu 董仲舒 of Han Dynasty, emphasize that humans are Heaven’s replica. As a result of the adoption of Confucianism as the state ideology since Han Dynasty, there have been attempts to merge Daoism and Confucianism in promoting Heaven worship. In the influential literary-philosophical text The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons 文心雕龍 (Wenxin diaolong, written in the 5th century), it is postulated that the human mind, that is human intellect, comes from Dao which is the source of everything on earth. For the reason that man and human intellect are developments from Dao, humans are able to understand the secrets of the universe by grasping the principles of Dao. As a realization of Dao, it is believed that human beings have predetermined roles in a system, as well as a predestined trajectory of life. In this sense, human beings and Heaven are in unison and in a continuum. It establishes the concept of “tian ming” 天命, that is, life as determined by Heaven. This concept of “tian ming” forms the basis of the Chinese belief in Heaven. Human beings are considered as replica of Heaven, for them being an evolution of Dao. As expounded in The Master of Huainan (Huainanzi 淮南子), everything under Heaven 天 (tian) has its origin in Dao. So are humans and their activities on earth. For this reason, The Master of Huainan expresses a cosmic view about patterns in human life as an expression of Dao: The Cosmic Spirit (Dao, or Tao) embraces Heaven and supports Earth. It stretched the four quarters of the Universe and generated the eight points of the firmament. There is no limit to its height, and its depth is unfathomable. It constituted Heaven and Earth and endowed them with the primary elements, when as yet they were without form. Flowing like a fountain, bubbling like a spring, impalpable, its energies bubbled forth 3 Lao-tzu (Laozi), Tao Te Ching (Dao de jing), trans. James Legge, 1. The original reads: 道可 道, 非常道。 名可名, 非常名。 無名天地之始; 有名萬物之母。 故常無欲, 以觀其妙; 常有欲, 以觀其徼。 此兩者, 同出而異名, 同謂之玄。 玄之又玄, 衆妙之門. https://ctext.org/dao‑de‑jing. Accessed 11 April 2018.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

4

tam et al.

in the void and filled space. Continuing to effervesce, it transformed the murky air of chaos into crystal clearness. Hence it filled Heaven and Earth and stretched to the uttermost parts of the sea. It spent itself without exhaustion: there was no morning or evening, i.e., rise and decay, no fatigue and revival. Expanding, the Cosmic Spirit overspread every part of the firmament, earth, time and space. Rolled together, it was not a fistful; compressed, it can expand; opaque, it can yet be clear; yielding, yet strong, soft, yet firm. It is a macrocosmos as well as a microcosmos. It holds, as in a net, the four poles: and comprehends the active and passive forces of creation. It links the universe together and makes the sky luminous. It is most substantial and full of sap; most tenuous and fine: so delicate is it that it penetrates every pore and crevice.4 Chinese worship of the Heaven can thus be regarded as worship of the metaphysical principles, that is, Dao, that have evolved into myriad forms of being in the world. In this sense, a person’s fate lies in his or her relation to Heaven, or to Dao.

2

Fate as Predestined Pattern of Dao in Human Life

Seen as a development or evolution of Dao, humans have to follow the way of Dao, otherwise calamities will occur as a result of human resistance. As said in The Master of Huainan: “He who is named the True Man implies an identity of his nature with the Tao.”5 As Evan Morgan comments, The Master of Huainan advises that “this highest form of beings [humans] have the power of will to choose their own path in life: but, for their own welfare, they should adopt

4 Liu An 劉安, et al., 1st Essay, Huai Nan Tzu 淮南子 (Huainanzi, or The Master of Huainan). Translated by Evan S. Morgan, Tao, The Great Luminant: Essays from the Huai Nan Tzu, “Dissertation on the Cosmic Spirit” (Shanghai: Kelly & Walsh, 1935), 3, http://www.sacred‑texts .com/tao/tgl/tgl1.htm. The original reads: 夫道者,覆天載地,廓四方,柝八極,高不 可際, 深不可測, 包裹天地, 稟授無形; 原流泉浡, 沖而徐盈; 混混滑滑, 濁 而徐清。 故植之而塞於天地, 橫之而彌于四海; 施之無窮, 而無所朝夕。 舒之 幎於六合, 卷之不盈於一握。 約而能張, 幽而能明, 弱而能強, 柔而能剛, 橫 四維而含陰陽,紘宇宙而章三光。甚淖而滒,甚纖而微. https://ctext.org/huainanzi/ yuan‑dao‑xun. Accessed 11 April 2018. 5 Liu An 劉安, et al., ibid., Paragraph 9, 7th Essay, http://www.sacred‑texts.com/tao/tgl/index .htm. The original reads: 所謂真人者也, 性合於道也. https://ctext.org/huainanzi/jing ‑shen‑xun. Accessed 11 April 2018.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

introduction

5

the will of the Tao [Dao] as their fundamental director.”6 The Tang Dynasty story “Matrimony Inn” 定婚店 (Dinghun dian) is one the earliest texts that advocate the idea of human submission to fate which means to follow what is predestined in marriage. The story is about a young man, Wei Gu, who wishes to marry, but has not been able to find a suitable girl that matches his expectations. One evening he meets an old man who carries a book without written words, and by consulting the book the old man tells him that he will not marry until seventeen years later. The young man does not believe in predestination in life and he tries to kill the baby girl whom he is predestined to marry. However, his attempt of killing the girl fails and his later attempts in marriage all fail one after another. Seventeen years later when he has given up all hopes of marriage and has forgotten the old man’s prediction, he accepts a marriage arranged by his senior in the officialdom. He then discovers that the girl he marries is exactly the one he attempted to murder seventeen years ago, and it has dawned on him that marriage is predestined by a holy book the God of Matrimony holds. In the book, there are red threads joining legs of the matched couple. “Matrimony Inn” is a story with a Confucian message, yet it presents a concept of submission to fate. Obviously, the message a person can obtain from the story is what Confucius says, “At fifty, I knew the decrees of Heaven” (五十而知天命 wu shi er zhi tian ming).7 It is through repeated failures in his resistance that Wei Gu, who is over 40 years old by then, learns his lesson and follows the “decrees of Heaven.” In Chapter One, “Fate and Destiny: Yuan as Ming in ‘Matrimony Inn’ and Eileen Chang’s Half a Lifelong Romance and ‘Love in a Fallen City,’” Terry Siu-han Yip argues that the Chinese concept of “yuan fen” 緣份, or destiny 命運 (ming yun), in marriage begins with Matrimony Inn and how the concept has become a discourse in modern life. Yet in Half a Lifelong Romance and “Love in a Fallen City” 傾城之戀 (Qingcheng zhi lian), Eileen Chang 張愛玲 (Zhang Ailing) has subverted such a discourse by offering a counter view that marriage is ironically often not based on fated love, but is destined because of circumstantial limitations in life. Here we can see a contrast between the traditional conception and the modern view of fate in relation to marriage. Terry Siu-han Yip discusses not only how a woman in Eileen Chang’s novel Half a Lifelong Romance 半生緣 (Bansheng yuan) sees herself being caught in the trap of destiny, but more alarmingly how she tries to obtain compensation by dragging others into the same trap. This is the case of Manlu 曼璐 who sets a trap for her 6 Evan S. Morgan, “The Two Worlds,” Tao, The Great Luminant: Essays from the Huai Nan Tzu (Shanghai, 1933), http://www.sacred‑texts.com/tao/tgl/index.htm. Accessed 11 April 2018. 7 Confucius 孔子, The Confucian Analects, Book 2, Chapter 4, trans. James Legge, https://ctext .org/analects/wei‑zheng. Accessed 11 April 2018.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

6

tam et al.

younger sister Manzhen 曼楨 to be raped by her philandering husband so that she will not be alone in suffering from bad fate. In the case of Manzhen who is totally disillusioned, she finally submits to fate as she has lost all her hope in personal struggle for a good future. Manzhen submits to fate because she knows that, as she has become a mother, she lives for her son, not for herself anymore. This is a Chinese mother whose fate is also defined by her role. Another important source on the human mind as an evolution of Dao can be found in the literary classic The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons (Wenxin diaolong), which sums up this idea that the human intellect has its origin in Dao: Wen, or pattern, is a very great virtue indeed. It is born together with heaven and earth. Why do we say this? Because all color-patterns are mixed of black and yellow, and all shape-patterns are differentiated by round and square. The sun and moon like two pieces of jade manifest the pattern of heaven; mountains and rivers in their beauty display the pattern of earth. These are, in fact, the pattern (wen) of the Tao itself. And as one sees above the sparkling heavenly bodies, and below the manifold forms of earth, so there is established a difference between high and low estate, giving rise to the two archetypal Forms (Yin and Yang). Man, and man alone, forms with spirituality. He is the refined essence of the Five Elements—indeed, the mind of the universe. Now with the emergence of mind, language is created, and when language is created, writing (wen) appears. This is the Tao (Dao) of nature. If we extend our observations, we find that all animals and plants have patterns of their own. Dragons and phoenixes in their picturesque form embody the auspicious, tigers and leopards with their stripes and spots recall the individuality of virtuous men. The sculptured colors of the clouds surpass the painter’s art in their exquisite beauty, the blooming flower depends on no embroiderer’s skill for its marvelous grace. Can this beauty be considered external adornment? No, it is natural, it is just so of itself. The sounds of the forest wind blend into a melody like that of reed pipe or lute, the music of spring water striking the rock is as tuneful as the ring of jade chime or bronze bell. In physical bodies there is structure, in sound there is musical pattern. Now if insentient objects have such adornment, can that which is endowed with mind lack a pattern proper to itself?8

8 Liu Xie 劉勰, “On Dao, the Source,” in The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons, trans. Vin-

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

introduction

7

As an expression of Dao, human life and its activities thus need to follow the pattern of Dao. This is the origin of Chinese prognostication about fate. It begins with philosophical considerations about the relation between humans and the cosmos, and concludes with the idea that freedom in human life lies in following the Way, that is, pattern of Dao, which is expressed as the will of Heaven. As a result of the later proliferation of religious practices, different methods of divination and fortune-telling, such as astrology and birth date calculation, have been developed so as to promulgate the belief and put it into practice in daily life. As stated in the Confucian Analects, Confucius also advises his disciples to follow the prognostication, otherwise their conduct will be inconsistent: “Good! Inconsistent in his virtue, he will be visited with disgrace. […] This arises simply from not attending to the prognostication.”9 In this context, the contemporary Chinese TV drama series, The Legend of Mi Yue 羋月傳 (Mi Yue zhuan), illustrates the adversities a person gets into when she works in accordance to the prediction made by an astrologer, which seems to follow the will of Heaven, but is against her natural dispositions. In Chapter Two, “Prophecy, ‘Ming’ and the Lost Self in The Legend of Mi Yue,” Qun Xie presents a case of the ancient Chinese belief, particularly during the Warring States period, that the fate of a state is determined by astrology. Even the king cannot resist it. Mi Yue is caught in dilemmas of choice between following the fortune-teller’s predictions and following her natural inclinations in love and justice. As she chooses to follow the predictions that are supposed to be the will of Heaven, she actually works against her personal feelings. As a contemporary interpretation of an ancient story, The Legend of Mi Yue brings up issues of feminist resistance, showing the frustrations of women in a society which is dominated by men. As a result of Mi Yue being predicted as an incarnation of the hegemonic star with power to influence the fate of cent Shih, http://www.backchina.com/forum/20060207/info‑313634‑1‑1.html. The original reads: 文之為德也大矣, 與天地并生者何哉? 夫玄黃色雜, 方圓體分, 日月疊 璧, 以垂麗天之象; 山川煥綺, 以鋪理地之形: 此蓋道之文也。 仰觀吐曜, 俯察含章, 高卑定位, 故兩儀既生矣。 惟人參之, 性靈所鍾, 是謂三才。 為 五行之秀, 實天地之心, 心生而言立, 言立而文明, 自然之道也。 傍及萬品, 動植皆文: 龍鳳以藻繪呈瑞, 虎豹以炳蔚凝姿; 雲霞雕色, 有踰畫工之妙; 草 木賁華, 無待錦匠之奇。 夫豈外飾, 蓋自然耳。 至於林籟結響, 調如竽瑟; 泉石激韻, 和若球鍠: 故形立則章成矣, 聲發則文生矣。 夫以無識之物, 鬱 然有采, 有心之器, 其無文歟? https://ctext.org/wenxin‑diaolong/yuan‑dao. Accessed 11 April 2018. 9 Confucius 孔子, “Chapter on Zi Lu” 子路, in The Confucian Analects, trans. James Legge, Chinese Text Project. https://ctext.org/analects. The Chinese original reads: 「不恆其德, 或承之羞。 」 子曰: 「不占而已矣。 」. Accessed 20 April 2018. In the translation, Kwok-kan Tam has changed “inconstant” to “inconsistent” for “不恆.”

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

8

tam et al.

the state, all other women in the palace are caught in power struggles against her and her mother. What is intriguing in the legend is the Macbeth story of people being tempted by predictions that work on the dark side of their psyche. In Chapter Three, “Flood Disaster in Eighteenth-Century Shandong: Interpretations of Fate in a Drum-Song Ballad,” Roland Altenburger presents a case of how the masses in eighteenth-century China saw the cause of natural calamities as Heaven’s punishments on unruly conduct of the ruling officials. Predictions of natural disasters, however, are made in the song lyrics that spread among the people. In one sense, prognostication works as collective unconscious, in which the folk wisdom lies. In traditional China, there was the belief that a widespread social phenomenon reflected the will of Heaven, which in this case expressed itself in the form of punishments.

3

Discourses and Practices in Prognostication

The sages, such as Confucius and Laozi, believe in fate and have expounded on the importance of following the Dao. For three thousand years of history, the Chinese have followed the teachings of the sages in matters of education and social decorum, and formed a discourse of fate, in which it is believed that to follow the natural course of events is a necessary and important means to making life meaningful and its destinations reached. But how to learn about a person’s fate is a matter of prognostication. Not everyone can afford to wait till he is fifty years old, as Confucius did, to know what his fate is. In matters of family fortune, marriage, life and death, or a nation’s challenges in warfare, there is urgency in getting an answer to tell the future before action is taken with the belief that all human matters are predetermined. Since Buddhism has gained a strong foothold in Chinese culture, it has provided a new dimension for handling matters of fate and its prognostication. Fate is understood as destiny in Buddhism, which results from a person’s karma 因果 (yinguo) caused by his or her previous life. Karma refers to the credits a person gets in good deeds, or discredits in bad deeds, in previous life. Karma will affect a person’s destiny in the next life. Other than karma which can be accumulated, there are two more concepts that contribute to the formation of a person’s destiny: first, there is reward or retribution for good or bad deeds in the present life or the next; second, the soul will transmigrate from one life to another and karma is transferable. Because of the influence of Buddhism, the concept of “destiny” is viewed as an important aspect of a person’s life and destiny can be predicted. There is

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

introduction

9

the belief that what a person experiences in life is due to his or her “destiny.” Destiny can be calculated according to a person’s “birth characters” 生辰八字 (sheng chen ba zi), which include the date of birth, star signs, and location of birth that can tell a person’s accumulated karma from previous lives. Fortunetelling is to calculate a person’s birth character number or horoscope signs, which will reveal a person’s destiny as determined by his or her past Karma. Destiny, however, is not an irrevocable matter. It is subject to change as a person’s deeds may bring credit or discredit to life. Prognostication of destiny is theoretically possible when the past, present and future are treated as one time-span in which a person can travel freely from one time-scheme to another and therefore knows what was in the past and what lies ahead. The concept of reincarnation, taken from Buddhism, makes it possible for one life time to be extended to another so that the past, present and the future are connected. For an ordinary person, life is limited to living in the present. However, with the help of the supernatural, a person may transcend his or her temporal and spatial limitations and know what lies beyond a person’s physical existence. Hence, there is the belief that there are certain human beings who are gifted with abilities to communicate with the supernatural and can serve as a medium between the human and the supernatural. There is also the belief that in dreams a person’s soul can travel across time and space, and dreams are often treated as revelations of what happened in the past or what is going to happen in the future. Hence, dreams are a form of prediction. Monika Gaenssbauer, for example, touches on dreams that connect the past with the present, and function as prognostication in Wong Kar-wai’s film Ashes of Time. In traditional Chinese culture, there are stories about after life and previous life that give an extended context for the interpretation of the present life. The Butterfly Lovers 梁山伯與祝英台 (Liang Shanbo yu Zhu Yingtai) is a legend that has contributed to perpetuation of the belief that love is predestined for three lives. In Chinese folk belief there is the Book of Three Lives 三世書 (San shi shu), in which people can check what their previous lives have been, and their next lives will be. Reincarnation is a concept derived from the Buddhist belief in transmigration of the soul. In Chinese folk beliefs, the souls of animals, human beings and gods can transmigrate according to the deeds, good or bad, that they do in the present life. Hence, though being predestined, a person’s fate can be changed by the deeds that he or she does. And in this way, prognostication helps a person bring about fortune and avoid adversities 趨吉避凶 (qu ji bi xiong). In Chapter Four, “Fate, Reincarnation and Medicinal Cannibalism in Lillian Lee’s Dumplings,” Jessica Tsui-yan Li examines how the traditional concept of karmic destiny works in people’s belief that eating human fetuses, which is a way of absorbing the hormones of unborn babies as a method of rejuvenating

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

10

tam et al.

an aging person portrayed in Lillian Lee’s 李碧華 (Li Bihua) novel Dumplings 餃子 (Jiaozi). However, because of the evil deeds the female protagonist has done, she is mentally tortured by her fear of retribution and by the bodily changes in her that exhibit signs of reincarnation of the unborn babies. Dumplings demonstrates the Chinese belief that the human body works according to the “yin-yang” 陰陽 balance and “wuxing” 五行 (Five Agents) operation of Dao, which are the principles that Chinese medicine follows. Chinese medicine of yin-yang/wuxing, the female body, and reincarnation work together in the story to present an intricate world of fate, causality and karmic retribution. Such a “horror” story, which has been made into a film, vividly portrays the psychological torture a person undergoes after committing certain crimes or doing bad deeds. In the same vein, Kaby Wing-Sze Kung, in Chapter Five “Recurring Fate in Two Hong Kong Films: Life after Life and Reincarnation of Golden Lotus,” discusses the theme of three lives/worlds in two Hong Kong films, and how the deeds in the previous life affect or repeat in the second life, particularly in beautiful women who can never escape from their fate of being femmes fatales. In Life After Life 再生人 (zai sheng ren), fate recurs in another life as a result of incarnation which the person does not know until he finds out that he is going to be murdered by his wife who was also his wife in the previous life. It is the horrifying experience a man undergoes when he knows an inevitable calamity is going to happen to him. In Reincarnation of Golden Lotus 潘金蓮之前世今 生 (Pan Jinlian zhi qianshi jinsheng), Pan Jinlian 潘金蓮 is still the same adulteress that causes the death of her husband in the present life as well as in the previous. The two films play on the Buddhist idea of karmic fatalism and both illustrate the predictable fate of women as femmes fatales that cause the downfall of men. The belief that good deeds will be rewarded is based on the concept of causality and moral rewardism originated from the Classic of Dao and Virtues, which states that human deeds are judged and rewarded by Heaven: “From this community of feeling comes a kingliness of character; and he who is king-like goes on to be heaven-like. In that likeness to heaven he possesses the Tao (Dao). Possessed of the Dao, he endures long; and to the end of his bodily life, is exempt from all danger of decay.”10 When interpreted according to Buddhism, causality in the Yi Jing coincides with the Buddhist concept of karma that deeds in the previous life are seen as causes of reward or punishment in the present 10

Lao-tzu, Tao te ching, trans. James legge, Chapter 16, https://ctext.org/dao‑de‑jing. The original reads: 知常容, 容乃公, 公乃王, 王乃天, 天乃道, 道乃久, 沒身不殆. https://ctext.org/dao‑de‑jing. Accessed 11 April 2018.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

11

introduction

life, which in turn become causes for whatever happens in the next life. Destiny, in this sense, is a matter of causes and effects, which form relations of logical sequences. Because of the logic in destiny, it is possible to prognosticate by means of mathematical calculations.

4

The Chinese Almanac as Encyclopedia of Fortune-Telling

Both the Daoists and Buddhists have developed methods of prognostication by deriving from the wisdom found in the Book of Changes (Yi Jing). Hence, all later practices, such as the yin-yang and five phases divination, astrological divination, birth-characters calculation, fortune drawing lot sticks, palm reading, physiognomy, are inclined toward synthesis of different sources with astrology, numerology and statistics to support a cosmological view of (pre)destiny. Marriage, fortune, “fengshui” (geomancy), worship of gods and ancestors, business negotiations, job promotion, lawsuits, big deals signing, opening of a new business, meeting friends, going for a journey, house renovation or demolition, and seeking medical treatment are all within the realm of almanac prognostication. The more complex such methods have become, the less they will be understood and practiced by the masses, and hence they have to be handled by professional fortune-tellers. For most people today, the belief in (pre)destiny has permeated all aspects of life and the most popular method of prognostication is to consult the Chinese almanac for indication of auspicious dates for various activities and in specific geographical directions. Drawing lot sticks with blessings of gods is another popular practice that common people may perform for prognostication. The Chinese almanac has been serving for thousands of years as an encyclopedia for fortune-telling and consultation in daily life. Because of its nature in linking fortune-telling with moral conduct, the Chinese almanac has also been used as a moral guide and a book of general and family education. In literature and film, there has been numerous portrayals of how prognostications in the Chinese almanac have influenced people’s choices. Wong Kar-wai’s 王家 衞 (Wang Jiawei) film Ashes of Time 東邪西毒 (Dongxie xidu) is an example, in which the almanac prognostications serve as a narrative device as well as the central character Ouyang Feng’s 歐陽峰 predictions of what will happen to himself and to other characters. In Chapter Six, “Dream-Scenes, the Concept of Time and Prognostication in Wong Kar-wai’s Ashes of Time,” Monika Gaenssbauer discusses dreams and almanac prognostications in relation to “fengshui” 風水 (geomancy) and seasons, especially the “solar terms” 節氣 (jie qi), for major decisions in the swordsmen’s combats. It is a good case illustrating how

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

12

tam et al.

legendary masters of martial arts, such as Hong Qi 洪七 and Huang Yaoshi 黄 藥師, are involved in situations of the martial arts world where reality and illusion, friendship and animosity, love and hatred are indistinguishable, while the predictions and judgements in the almanac are supposed to make better sense in life. The world in which the martial arts masters live is one of life or death. Any mistake will cost the lives of many people. However, even such masters, who are more intelligent and powerful than ordinary people, have to consult the almanac in their decisions. Another reason for the martial arts masters to consult the almanac is that there is no fixed rule to follow in the world of the outlaws. Fortune consultation also betrays the anxiety as well as hidden fear of the martial arts masters. It is the “jianghu” 江湖 world of the outlaws, in which the martial arts masters live, that has its own tradition of following the almanac in making major decisions, such as combat or departing for a journey. Leaving for the north on the right day and at the right time, Hong Qi ends up becoming the leader of the Beggars’ Sect, the largest and most powerful gang in China. If prognostication reflects human desire to know what lies ahead, so do methods as far different as economic forecasts and religious prophecies that provide grounds for forward planning. Prognostication is a reflection of human desire to master the future and hence a person’s own destiny when a person enters into the act of prognostication. Seen in this light, destiny plays a role in life because prognostication works as a result of human participation. However, prognostication is an art and a philosophy, the accuracy of which depends on deciphering the coded language given in a conundrum. Since the secrets of Heaven are not supposed to be revealed by fortune-tellers, they therefore will hint at such secrets in the form of a riddle that carries multiple levels of meanings, so that fortune-tellers do not violate any rules of Heaven. Like an oracle, the message is left to humans to interpret its meaning.

5

Modern Chinese Discourses of Fate and Desire

Unlike religion, literature is more concerned with how characters react to prognostications as a result of their desire for freedom from predetermination. Both Oedipus and Macbeth are classic examples of how the human acts as an agent in realizing a prediction, while they think that they are the master of their fate. Human agency has a double sense of being master and being an agent of someone or something else. In the Oedipus case, Oedipus becomes the agent of fate because it is he who makes it realize. In classical, as well as modern, Chinese literature, there are many such stories in fiction or drama. It is in this double sense that fate works as a paradox in life.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

introduction

13

The modern Chinese concept of fate may be different, because it is often seen as an expansion of the traditional concept by incorporating social and psychological elements. In the case of Lao She 老舎, he sees that the human subject is doomed because life is fated and is socially determined. Lao She does not deal with prophecy, nor does he believe in it. But he reveals that the human subject cannot transcend socially-determined fate, no matter how hard a person struggles against it. So are other modern and contemporary Chinese writers, such as Eileen Chang (Zhang Ailing), Xi Xi and Ge Fei, who see life as predicated in fate and all struggles against fate are doomed. Instead, they depict the psychological state of fictional characters who live under the threat of a looming fate. On the other hand, there is also the attempt to master one’s own fate and be free in one’s choices, such as the characters portrayed in Eileen Chang’s, Xi Xi’s and Ge Fei’s fiction, though the end result is the same that personal struggles against fate will end in failure. They are, nevertheless, admirable struggles. Chapter Seven, “Psycho-Fatalism in Xi Xi’s Story ‘A Girl Like Me,’” scrutinizes Hong Kong writer Xi Xi’s 西西 portrayal of a woman who has been dragged into the vocation of being a make-up artist for the dead. In Chinese culture, as Kwok-kan Tam argues, working in a funeral parlour carries a sense of threat to people outside the occupation because having frequent contacts with the dead means carrying an air of “yin-qi” 陰氣 (dark energy), that is, the energy of the other world. For the Woman herself, she feels easy with the dead because she is innocent and does not have any prejudice against facing the dead. Instead, she feels comfortable in such a workplace because she finds “friends” with the dead and can “communicate” with them by touching their bodies. However, when she falls in love with a man who has no sense of her work in the funeral parlour, she begins to know that she does not have a place in the world of the living any more. As she reflects upon her journey in life and in her occupation of befriending the dead, she discovers her fate has been predestined to repeat that of her make-up art teacher, Aunt Yifen. By coincidence, or by design, a person’s life unfolds in that of another person’s and she repeats the same failures and unhappy encounters, all beyond her power to control. If this is not fate, what is it? It is her psyche with “yin-qi” that is reflected on her pale face, her cold hands, her negative thinking and her dark other-worldly sensibility. It shows that her fate of repeating the life of Aunt Yifen has encroached her, both body and mind. From her psyche to her physiognomy, the Woman is an epitome of possession by ghostly “yin-qi,” which she does not know until she is confronted by her boyfriend whose name is “Xia” 夏 (summer) and who always brings with him “sunlight” 陽光 (yang-guang) and “bright energy” 陽氣 (yang-qi). Because “yin” and “yang” are opposites, and the Woman, who is “yin,” finally comes to

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

14

tam et al.

an understanding that revealing her true self will bring disaster to her innocent boyfriend who is “yang.” Aunt Yifen is a spirit-medium; so is the Woman whose realization comes too late and at a point of no return. In Chapter Eight, “The Clash between Personal Fate, the Future, and Society in Ge Fei’s Jiangnan Trilogy,” Nicoletta Pesaro deals with fate in a contemporary Chinese social context, in which personal desire is repressed, and personal fate rendered futile because it is inseparable from social turmoil. Everything comes to no avail when society fails under socialism. Ge Fei’s trilogy is a record of social failure in China that drags the personal into social calamities. The utopian dreams, both at the personal and collective levels, are presented as drives and desires in the personal agenda. Ge Fei’s works show a tendency to represent Chinese society and revolution as fatalistic, which can be found in many other modern Chinese writers, particularly in Lao She and the early Lu Xun 魯 迅. Nicoletta Pesaro’s observation that the “small self” 小我 (xiao wo) is fated and is often sacrificed in favour of the “big self” 大我 (da wo) points to the fact that the individual is rendered ineffectual in the face of the collective in modern and contemporary Chinese society. There is the world of social fate in Ge Fei’s trilogy, in which personal fate is insignificant. There have been numerous attempts among Chinese writers since the 1930s to portray the fate of the individual in the face of social turmoil that betray a strong sense of naturalism. Similar depictions can be found in eighteenth-century French fiction, the most representative of which is Émile Zola’s L’Argent in the Rougon-Macquart series that describes the repeated attempts over three generations to build up an international enterprise despite the failure at the end. Ge Fei’s trilogy follows that same pattern of naturalistic experimentation in L’ Argent, but the characters’ sense of being doomed, as Nicoletta Pesaro argues, hinges on the Chinese sense of social(ist) fatalism.

6

Fortune-Telling and Literary Imagination

“Matrimony Inn,” The Legend of Mi Yue, Half a Lifelong Romance, “Love in a Fallen City,” Ashes of Time, Dumplings, Life after Life, Reincarnation of Golden Lotus, “A Girl Like Me,” Ge Fei’s trilogy (Peach Blossom Beauty, Mountains and Rivers in Dreams, and End of Spring in Jiangnan), messages from historical novels, Chinese folktales and songs, fortune-telling riddles, contemporary Chinese novels are works of literary imagination or filmic representation, in which characters are placed under the lens of philosophical, linguistic and psychological examination, with their behaviour scrutinized in reaction to fate and destiny. This collection of essays deals with fate, and more than

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

introduction

15

fate, to probe its relation with human psyche, for fate is not something that lies outside the human consciousness. Literature is a repository of human values, but it is also a trap that plays on indeterminacies in language and riddles. Yan Xu-Lackner’s essay, “Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Historical Allusions and Oracles,” in Chapter Nine examines the cultural allusions embedded in fortune-telling stories, which are often derived from classical stories and fiction. The most common reference is made to stories in the historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms 三國演義 (Sanguo yanyi), which has actually formed a cultural field, or collective memory, in China. It is this cultural field, or cultural repository, that has been functioning as an interpretive framework for fortune-telling. The stories from Romance of the Three Kingdoms are situational, but they are useful and effective in evoking multiple levels of meanings that can make prognostications look more mysterious and powerful. Whether fortunetelling is to be believed or not, it serves a role in psychotherapy and makes the seeker more thoughtful in decision making. Yan Xu-Lackner’s study probes the interpretive mechanism embedded in fortune-telling as a cultural field linking individual inquisitions to the collective memory in a wealth of Chinese literary culture. As most fortune-telling practices rely on story-telling, suspense in story plots is created as a result of indeterminacies in language. This is characteristic of the metaphoric use of language in the Book of Changes, and in the Daoist and Buddhist texts. Anna Wing Bo Tso’s essay, “Divination or Death Traps? The Semiotic Language in Chinese Folklore and Fortune-Telling,” in Chapter Ten provides an analysis of how linguistic elements work in the riddle language of fate prediction or divination. The grammatical flexibility in the Chinese language and its inflections make the predictions even more difficult to decipher, and hence often lead to misinterpretations. Double meanings in key words are examples that yield opposite meanings, and hence divination can be a death trap. An interesting example is the misinterpretation of “ji bu ke shi” 機不可 失 according to its common usage as “seize the opportunity,” while the actual meaning in the prediction is “not to lose the jet fighters.” The misinterpretation is a well-known case that cost a warlord’s loss of a battle in modern Chinese history. Fortune-telling and fate divination have generated a great deal of interest in the popular Chinese imaginary as a result of the embedded cultural riddles that are made possible by inflections in language, and also because of their psychotherapeutic effects for those who are puzzled by uncertainties in life. Fortune-telling is riddle solving, as well as a test of human desire to master one’s own fate, or struggle against Dao. Both Confucianists and Daoists believe that

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

16

tam et al.

destiny lies in the heart and mind of a person and it changes as the heart and mind of the person is enlightened. The essays collected in this volume seek to address the philosophical, political, cultural, religious, psychological and moral issues hidden in the Chinese conception of fate and its practices. The case studies deal with these issues as represented in literary texts, films and folktales, with a focus placed on human efforts to solve the riddles of fate prediction. Viewed in this light, the collected essays unfold a meandering landscape of the popular imaginary in Chinese beliefs and customs.

Bibliography Confucius 孔子. The Confucian Analects 論語 (Lun yu). Trans. James Legge. http://www .cnculture.net/ebook/jing/sishu/lunyu_en/02.html. Accessed 11 April 2018. The I Ching 易經 (Yi Jing). Trans. James Legge, in Sacred Books of the East, vol. 16 (1899). http://www.sacred‑texts.com/ich/index.htm. Accessed 11 April 2018. See also Chinese Text Project. https://ctext.org/book‑of‑changes/qian for the use of Pinyin romanization of Chinese characters. Accessed 11 April 2018. Lao-tzu 老子 (Laozi). Tao Te Ching 道德經 (Dao de jing). Trans. James Legge. In Sacred Books of the East, vol. 39 (1891). http://www.sacred‑texts.com/tao/taote.htm. See also Chinese Text Project. https://ctext.org/dao‑de‑jing. Accessed 11 April 2018. Liu Xie 劉勰. The Literary Mind and The Carving of Dragons (文心雕龍 Wenxin diaolong). Trans. Vincent Yu-chung Shih. http://www.backchina.com/forum/20060207 /info‑313634‑1‑1.html. Accessed 11 April 2018. Liu, Chuang. “TIAN REN HE YI (天人合一): An Ontology for the Quantum World.” Journal of East-West Thought, 2.1 (March 2012): 123–131. Liu An 劉安, et al. The Huainanzi 淮南子. Chinese Text Project (中國哲學書電子化計劃 Zhongguo zhexue shu dianzihua jihua). https://ctext.org/huainanzi/yuan‑dao‑xun /zh. Accessed 6 April 2018. Morgan, Evan S. Tao, The Great Luminant, Essays from the Huai Nan Tzu. Shanghai, 1933. http://www.sacred‑texts.com/tao/tgl/index.htm. Accessed 6 April 2018.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

chapter 1

Fate and Destiny: Yuan as Ming in “Matrimony Inn” and Eileen Chang’s Half a Lifelong Romance and “Love in a Fallen City” Terry Siu-han Yip

Fate is an important but complex concept in Chinese culture as it often takes on multiple levels of meaning and manifests itself in myriad forms in literature and folklore. In ancient Chinese philosophy, the concept of “ming” 命 is derived from “Dao” 道, the Way, and it refers to the general principle all things, including human beings, under Heaven follow in their genesis and development. As defined in Yi Jing 易經, the Book of Changes, “Dao” entails the concept of patterns in development, and when applied to human life it gives rise to the belief that there is “ming” that will point to a certain direction or course in life. However, “ming” can change as people cultivate themselves, or experience certain encounters that change the course of their lives. Under the influence of Buddhism, such an understanding of fate as “ming” that can change is further expanded to include “karma” in people’s present life or previous life. The course of life with encounters un-predetermined is often referred to as “yun” 運. Thus, the most common concepts associated with fate are “ming” 命, “yun” 運 and “ming yun” 命運, each of which is distinguished by its connotative meaning. The concept of “ming” 命, or sometimes referred to as Blind Fate, is comparable to the Western notion of Fate. It is generally understood as “an independent force determining man’s destiny,” and that force often remains unknown and mysterious.1 The concept of “yun” 運, on the other hand, refers more specifically to a person’s luck, chance, encounter, serendipity, or circumstance, which may bring about a turn or change of fortune in a person’s life. When “ming” and “yun” are put together to become a compound noun, “ming yun” 命運 takes on a new meaning, which is generally understood as destiny or predestination in the Western sense. It is interesting to note that the Chinese notion of Fate when applied to human relationships, especially to lovers’ or marital relationships, generates

1 Ning Chen, “The Genesis of the Concept of Blind Fate in Ancient China,” Journal of Chinese Religions 25.1 (1997): 157.

© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2020 | doi:10.1163/9789004427570_003 Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

18

yip

another set of related concepts such as “yuan” 緣 (fate to meet), “fen” 份 (right to stay together), and “yuan fen” 緣份 (fate to stay together), or fated love, or “individual allotment from Heaven,” as “yuanfen” is generally understood and translated in English.2 This chapter will begin by examining the intricate interplay between the philosophical or cosmic concepts of “ming,” “yun” and “mingyun” on the one hand and their relations to human understanding of “yuan” and “yuanfen” and the human subject on the other as elucidated in the well-known ancient folktale “Matrimony Inn” 定婚店 (Dinghun dian), which has exerted great influence on the general Chinese view on and approach to love and marriage. Collected in the Taiping Imperial Encyclopedia 太平廣記 (Taiping guangji), this classical tale narrates a young man’s incessant quest for his marital partner and his open defiance against the God of Matrimony’s prediction of his fated love, or “individual allotment from Heaven” with a young girl. Through the young man Wei Gu’s conscious struggle against his fate of marrying late and his predestined marriage partner who is poor, such traditional notions of “ming” and “mingyun,” or fate and destiny, are widely recognized, endorsed, reinforced and contextualized throughout the centuries. The popular Chinese belief that marriage is predestined is also a concept established since the Tang Dynasty and has been considered as part of “ming” (fate) since then. As the popular Chinese proverb goes, “Man has a human destiny (just as) places an earthly destiny” 人有人運, 地有地運 (ren you renyun, di you diyun). Hence, using the classic tale “Matrimony Inn” as the point of departure, this chapter explores how such traditional notions of “ming” and “ming yun,” or fate and destiny, have taken on a new dimension and become even more complex when such notions were scrutinized under the critical lens of a modern Chinese woman writer Eileen Chang 張愛玲 (Zhang Ailing, 1920–1995), who presents a tragic view of fate through her delineation of the predicaments of modern Chinese women in love and marriage in her fiction. A close analysis of how Zhang Ailing, or Eileen Chang as she is often known in the English-speaking world, deals with women’s struggles against their “ming” and “ming yun” reveals a modern woman writer’s perspective of women’s predestined fate, which is governed not so much by a mysterious unknown cosmic force as in the case of Wei Gu in “Matrimony Inn,” as by a prevailing, but often times powerful and invisible, patriarchal order under which women either passively accept their predestined state as their fate or actively rebel against any form of prescriptive mode of existence. Her world-renowned novella “Love in a Fallen City” 傾城之戀 (Qingcheng zhi lian)

2 Richard J. Smith. Fortune-Tellers and Philosophers: Divination in Traditional Chinese Society (Boulder, San Francisco, Oxford: Westview Press, Inc., 1991), 173.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

19

fate and destiny

published in 1943 and her famous novel Half a Lifelong Romance 半生緣 (Bansheng yuan), published in the form of a monograph in 1950, are prime examples that show how the grand narrative on or macrocosmic view of “ming” (fate) and “ming yun” (destiny) is re-evaluated from a female perspective, resulting in a new interpretation of and modern view toward “ming” as “yuan” (fate to meet) and “yuan fen” 緣份 (fate to stay together). As seen in the texts, the intricate relations of “ming” and “yuan” to “yun” 運, (encounter, chance, or luck) immediately places the female protagonists as active subjects in their resistance against or acceptance of “ming,” or fate, at the beginning of the selected texts. In the course of events and subsequent change of the protagonists’ fortune as a result of encounters, luck, or chance, however, readers are led to see how the protagonists’ resistance against their predestined fate in love and/or marriage has ironically brought about, without their knowing, the realization of their fate with the characters serving as active agents in the process.

1

From Resistance to Acceptance: Man’s Fate in “Matrimony Inn”

Written in the Tang Dynasty (618–907 A.D.), the Chinese folktale “Matrimony Inn” has been regarded as a classic text that contextualizes the presence of a cosmic power determining the “yun” 運 (encounter, luck or fortune) of a man and presetting a person’s “ming” (fate) as manifested in his struggles to find a marriage partner. The tale survives in two different versions. As noted by Kwok-kan Tam, the Chinese tale “first appeared in More Accounts of Mysteries and the Supernatural 續玄怪錄 (Xu xuanguai lu) under the authorship of Li Fu-yen (Li Fuyan).”3 There exist two other extended versions of the story: the first was included as Tale 159 in the section “Predestination—Marriage” in Taiping Imperial Encyclopedia (Taiping guangji), while the second appeared as an edited/amended version of the tale collected in Song dynasty Lin’an version of More Accounts of Mysteries and the Supernatural 宋臨安本續玄怪錄 (Song Lin’an ben xu xuanguailu) published in Song Dynasty (960–1279 A.D.).4 “Matrimony Inn” in both its early or later edited versions portrays a young man Wei Gu’s 韋固 struggle against his “ming” (fate) and his repeated attempts to rewrite his “ming yun,” or destiny, but in vain. Wei Gu’s chance encounter with an old man, who turns out to be the God of Matrimony in disguise, while waiting for the arrival of a match-maker outside a temple at the beginning of the tale, 3 Kwok-kan Tam, “A Greimasian Reading of Matrimony Inn.” Tamkang Review 16.2 (Winter 1985): 166. 4 Ibid.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

20

yip

immediately establishes the presence of an overarching supernatural force that is in full operation in the human world. It further introduces the Chinese belief in a cosmic consortium that often links the past, the present and the future.5 In this encounter, Wei Gu learns about the prospect of his marriage from the old man, who is “in charge of human affairs and (has) to go around during the night to checkup on the persons and addresses whose affairs are (his) concern.”6 The young man also confides in the old man about his earnestness in getting a marriage partner: I have never been successful in finding a girl from a suitable family for my wife. In fact, I have come here for an appointment about a union with a girl of the Pan family who is said to be very beautiful, refined, and of excellent character. Tell me, will I succeed?7 The reply from the old man, however, leaves the young man in great disappointment for Wei Gu was told that he had to wait for fourteen more years before he would get married to a young woman designated for him, or allotted to him, by heaven: I am afraid not. You see all marriages are arranged in Heaven. They are all written down in this book. I see your wife is only three years old now. When she is seventeen, you will marry her. Do not worry.8 Upset by such a discouraging prediction or prognostication, Wei Gu ignores the old man’s reassuring remarks that his future wife was “born under lucky stars” and that she would “marry him, live in comfort, and later become a lady of high rank on account of her son.”9 He refuses to accept such an “arranged” marriage by the God of Matrimony as part of his predestined fate.10 He also finds it hard to accept the fact that he is fated to marry a poor girl, who is currently put under the care of “a dirty old woman with floppy hair” selling vegetables in the market. The god reiterates his “yuan fen” (fate to stay together), or fated love, with that poor, three-year-old girl, emphasizing his role and power in settling Wei

5 6 7 8 9 10

Smith, 174. Li Fu-yen, “Matrimony Inn,” in Famous Chinese Short Stories, trans. Lin Yutang (New York: Washington Square Press, 1967), 286. Ibid. Ibid. Ibid, 288. Ibid.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

fate and destiny

21

Gu’s marital matter on the one hand and the fact that the girl in the market is—to borrow Richard Smith’s translation mentioned earlier—“an allotment from heaven” on the other: Red silk strings! … You see this is my job. I note the different pairs to be matched off in the book, and when a baby girl and a baby boy are born and destined to become man and wife, I go around in the night and tie their feet together. Once the knot is tied—and I tied it very securely— nothing can separate them. One may be born in a poor family, and the other wealthy, or they may be separated by thousands of miles, or there may even be a feud between the two families, but they will end up as man and wife. There is nothing they can do about it.11 However, Wei Gu remains skeptical to the God of Matrimony’s prognostication that his “ming,” or fate, is predestined—that he has no choice but to marry that particular poor three-year-old girl, and that “yuan fen” (fate to stay together) will eventually bring the two together as husband and wife fourteen years later. Finding such a prognostication ridiculous, unacceptable and unreasonable for such an “allotment” goes against his will, Wei Gu seeks to be his own master in securing his own marriage partner, believing that he can manipulate his destiny through human effort. Determined to rebel against the prognostication which was presented as his predestination, Wei Gu approaches match-makers with the aim of finding himself a wife of his own choice. Such a decision can be regarded as the young man’s way of asserting his self, of exercising his free will and of transforming his own life. As many people in traditional China believed, Wei Gu thought he had the ability to change his fate or work out his destiny through his own means or efforts. His incessant search for his bride can thus be interpreted as his conscious defiance of the cosmological plan. As one notices, a series of action is called to place in his attempt to change his fate, or fortune. For instance, on the morning following his encounter with the god, Wei Gu makes up his mind to change his “ming” or fate, by intervening in the course of events. As he reflected, “I am a scholar. […] And even if I should fail to marry a girl from a good family, at least I shall take a pretty mistress from the theatrical world.”12 Determined to be his own master in life, Wei Gu devises a scheme to challenge the prognostication by changing the predicted course of events and thus defying the divine plan through his conscious manipulation and schem-

11 12

Ibid, 286–287. Ibid, 288.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

22

yip

atic intervention. His attempt to kill his “designated wife-to-be” fails when his servant, who is assigned to carry out the assassination plan, only manages to wound the little girl on the forehead. Such an unforeseeable circumstance forces Wei Gu to flee from his hometown in fear of persecution for his attempted murder. What makes this tale a classic text on the idea of inescapable destiny is its emphasis on the futility of human effort in face of one’s fate and destiny. As one notices from the story, instead of steering himself away from his predestined fate and designated wife-to-be, Wei Gu actually works step by step toward the realization of the god’s prognostication through his rebellious acts and conscious resistance, which are concretized by his repeated failures in getting married during his period of exile. As detailed in the story, his engagement with a beautiful and well-educated girl of the Tan family three years after his attempted murder of the little girl in the market had to be cancelled owing to the lady’s suicide when she realized that she actually “loved another man just before her marriage with Wei Gu.”13 Wei Gu’s second attempt to marry a farmer’s daughter looks promising at the beginning and yet it ultimately ends in failure when his fiancée got seriously ill suddenly and blind subsequently.14 Such failures have not discouraged the young man at the time. Wei Gu thought that it was merely his bad luck, or “mei yun” 霉運 (misfortune) that has prevented him from marrying the woman of his own choice. He refuses to succumb to his fate and continues his search for a wife. However, Fate continues to play tricks on him. When he thought he had eventually found his soul mate—someone who shares his love of books, art and music, he meets another failure in fulfilling his marriage plan when his bride-to-be accidentally “tripped over a loose boulder” while walking on the pavement, fell down and died.15 These incidents show that although Wei Gu has consciously and actively reacted against the cosmological plan, his continuous efforts to steer his life away from the god’s prediction prove to be futile. Instead of becoming an active subject, his own master in life, Wei Gu turns out ironically to be a mere agent in the actualization of the god’s prognostication in the process. Wei Gu’s repeated failures are culturally significant as they testify the presence of a divine force that controls human beings’ “yun” (encounter, luck, or fortune) and “yuan.” In Wei Gu’s case, he initially believes that it was due to his “mei yun” 霉運 (bad luck or misfortune) that he failed in marrying any of the women he 13 14 15

Ibid, 289. Ibid. Ibid.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

fate and destiny

23

encountered during his exile, regarding such failures as his “yuan” (the fate to meet) with those women on the one hand and his lack of “yuanfen” (the fate to stay together) with them as lovers or marriage partners on the other. His is a typical case of the Chinese general view on love with the lovers having the chance to meet but lacking the fate to stay together 有緣無份 (you yuan wu fen). As expounded in the story, it is only when Wei Gu gives up his assertion of self and willful intervention in the grand order of things by accepting his “ming” (fate) and acknowledging the presence of the cosmic order overseeing human affairs in love and marriage that one sees the turn of his wheel of fortune. Forced to come to terms with life after several struggles against his predestination as pronounced by the God of Matrimony, Wei Gu becomes a submissive and humble person, settling down to a life of officialdom in Xiangzhou 相州 where he channels his energy to the advancement of his career. Working diligently as a legal assistant to Wang Tai 王泰, the governor of Xiang province, Wei Gu gains the trust and appreciation of the governor, who decides to make him his son-in-law. Wei Gu’s subsequent acceptance of such an arranged marriage with provincial governor Wang’s daughter signifies his acceptance of “ming” and “yuan.” He is no longer strong-willed and resistant to his predestined fate and destiny. Such a treatment of Wei Gu’s changed attitude is in line with the Chinese traditional belief in compromise and reconciliation.16 What makes the tale most intriguing is that Wei Gu’s final submission to life and marriage turns out to be the fulfillment of his “ming” and “yuan” as earlier pronounced by the God of Matrimony. The outcome of his compromise and reconciliation with his “ming” and “yuan” is accentuated by the fact that Wei Gu’s seventeen-yearold wife with a scar on the forehead turns out to be that same little girl whom he had attempted to murder fourteen years ago. With such a revelation and twist in the narrative, the story comes to a full cycle whereby readers are led to see how the god’s prognostication is realized with Wei Gu himself playing an active part in the process. He comes to see the futility of his repeated attempts to run away from his fate or to escape his destiny—attempts which have forced him to leave home for years, led him to all kinds of ordeals and frustrations in the process and caused his marriage partner lifelong physiognomic disfiguration 破相 (po xiang) as a result. The scar left on his wife’s forehead can thus be seen as a permanent reminder of his arrogance, resistance and defiance; it also marks, in concrete and visible terms, the predominant existence of the cosmological order that shapes human fate. It is made crystal clear in the narrative that there is no way for one to run away from his predestined fate, or

16

Smith, 269.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

24

yip

to refute the prognostication made by the god. Viewed in this light, this classic tale affirms the need for proper recognition of the cosmological order that governs human affairs, including marriage arrangements, and individuals like Wei Gu are presented as mere agents in fulfilling the cosmological plan without their knowing. As Wei Gu comes to acknowledge at the end, his “ming” (fate) has been mapped out for him by a divine power and that his predestination is fully executed despite his resistance or manipulation. His actions have steered him step by step toward his predestination without his realization. There is no way for him to refute such a destiny, which anchors on his encounter or “yun” and “yuan fen,” or fate to stay together, with a particular girl allotted to him from Heaven. As the tale affirms, there exists a mysterious supernatural power, which is in full charge of human destiny; and any human effort to defy or revoke one’s “ming,” or fate, proves to be futile for such efforts only lead ironically, but crucially, to the realization of one’s “ming yun,” or destiny at the end. In this regard, “Matrimony Inn” as a classical and classic tale on “ming” and “yuan” in marriage can be read as a testimony and affirmation of traditional Chinese view on fate and destiny, reinforcing the Chinese belief in “ming” and “ming yun” as core elements of a supernatural or cosmic order that predetermines the course of major events in a person’s life. When it is put in the context of human love or marriage, it emphasizes the importance of “yuan fen” 緣份 (fate to stay together) as the underlying divine principle that brings individuals together in marriage. The reference to the God of Matrimony whose job is to arrange marriages according to the divine Book of Marriage by tying the feet of newborn boys and girls together with red strings can thus be regarded as a concrete manifestation of that overarching divine order generally known as Fate in pre-determining human destiny in love and marriage. Wei Gu’s failure in his assertive act of eliminating first his designated or fated wife, followed by his own physical displacement that takes him away from the site of the prognostication (home town), and his subsequent years of unsuccessful pursuits of a marriage partner all support the central message that there exists a divine order, or a master plan, within which the human subject often serves ironically as an active agent in the execution and realization of his fate. Wei Gu’s encounter with the God of Matrimony has initiated his self-imposed exile to escape the latter’s prognostication; yet such a move on his part also marks ironically the beginning of his steady journey toward his predestination without his knowing. The humility he expresses at the end shows his acceptance of the existence of the divine force and his full acknowledgement of the overarching cosmological order that maps out his destiny. The idea that one’s “ming” is often predestined by “yuan” 緣 (the fate to meet), as manifested in “Matrimony

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

25

fate and destiny

Inn,” shows the Chinese belief in the interlocking relations between “ming” and “yuan,” seeing “yuan” as part of a person’s “ming” that no one can willfully change or resist. It further shows the Chinese conviction that any human attempt to resist it or shun it will always end in failure because such revolts or resistances turn out to be human beings’ mere reactions to the divine order of events in general and their psychological resistance against their predestined fate in particular.

2

Women’s Perception of and Reaction to Fate in Half a Lifelong Romance

While Li Fu-yen illustrates not only a young man’s futile attempts to change his fate as pronounced by the God of Matrimony with emphasis on his ultimate acknowledgement of the presence of the cosmological order that governs human affairs, including love and marriage in “Matrimony Inn,” but he also reinforces the Chinese belief in “yuan” as part of one’s “ming” where fate will bring two persons together as husband and wife despite the fact that they might be thousands of miles apart 千里姻緣一線牽 (qian li yin yuan yi xian qian). However, as a modern Chinese woman writer, Eileen Chang re-examines this Chinese belief in fate with reference to “yuan” (fate to meet) and “yuan fen” (fate to be together) by scrutinizing the human agency and the role of “yun,” that is, encounter, luck, chance, fortune or misfortune, in love and marriage. When Li Fu-yen highlights the role Wei Gu plays as an active agent all the while in the fulfillment of his predestined fate in marriage and affirms the unbeatable power of Fate in designing the course of human life, Eileen Chang discusses women’s fate in tradition-ridden Chinese family settings, introducing in the process a new perspective or dimension to one’s perception of women’s “ming” (fate). Being a modern woman novelist who had studied the works of such modernist writers as Somerset Maugham, James Joyce, D.H. Lawrence, and Thomas Hardy during her undergraduate years in the Department of English at the University of Hong Kong in the late 1930s, Eileen Chang’s view on fate goes beyond the recognition of a cosmic order governing the fortunes and lives of human beings, as presented in Wei Gu’s predestined marriage with the girl from the market in “Matrimony Inn.” By delineating the moral dilemmas and psychological disturbances experienced by her women characters who find themselves caught in a web of relationships, Eileen Chang explores specifically modern Chinese women’s “ming” (fate) in relation to “yuan” 緣 (the fate to meet) and highlights her women characters’ different reactions to their “ming yun” (destiny) based on the workings of “yun” 運 (encounter, luck, chance, or fortune)

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

26

yip

and her perception of “yuan fen” 緣份 (the fate to stay together). Her famous novel Half a Lifelong Romance (Ban sheng yuan, 1950)17 can be regarded as a prime example in which she illustrates how modern Chinese women had perceived their “ming” (fate) as defined and confined by their sex as female and by their stereotypical gender roles either as obedient daughters before marriage and dutiful wives and/or caring mothers after marriage in the first half of the twentieth century. By portraying the intertwining fate of two sisters, Gu Manlu 顧曼璐 and Gu Manzhen 顧曼楨, whose lives are interlocked by circumstances that tie both of them to a man they detest, Eileen Chang challenges the general perception of women as passive victims of fate with their destiny being mapped out by an unchangeable cosmic order, and argues that women sometimes play an active role in the shaping or execution of their “ming” (fate) as a consequence of their blind acceptance of their gender roles as daughters, wives and/or mothers—roles that are prescribed not by an overarching divine force but by overwhelmingly powerful socio-cultural institutions such as patriarchy and Confucian morality in the tradition-ridden Chinese society. Eileen Chang establishes the two sisters’ different perceptions of women’s “ming” (fate) and “ming yun” (destiny) at the beginning of the novel and shows how circumstances eventually bring the two together. Being the eldest daughter of a poor family, Manlu considers herself doomed because she has to shoulder the financial burden of the family. She has no choice but to leave school at an early age in order to earn money to support the family. With her limited education, she has no options but to take up a disreputable job as a dancing girl in a nightclub. She perceives all these as part of her “ming” and considers herself fated to a life of suffering and disgrace. This idea of doom or inescapable destiny is a general attitude taken by many traditional Chinese women when they face adversities and disappointments in life. Manlu is a good example. She is conscious of her “ku ming” 苦命 (bitter fate) and she is convinced of being struck by “mei yun” (bad luck or misfortune) when her fiancé and distant cousin Zhang Yujin 張豫瑾 is forced to break his engagement with her after his parents learned about the nature of her job, which his family considers to be morally scandalous and socially disgraceful. Manlu feels bitter for she is socially discriminated against by people in society. A sense of inferiority develops when she realizes that there is no hope of her marrying Zhang the 17

The novel first appeared in serial form under the title Shiba chun 十八春 (Eighteen Springs) in a Shanghai newspaper Yi pao 亦報 in 1948. It was revised and published as a monograph under the title Bansheng yuan 半生緣 in 1950. The novel was published by Huangguan chubanshe in Taipei in 1969. The English title in this study follows that of the English translation published by Penguin in 2014.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

fate and destiny

27

respectable director of a hospital although they love each other. She comes to see that people perceive her as a low and loose woman unworthy of a decent man’s love. It must be emphasized that Manlu has done nothing wrong morally as a young woman. On the contrary, she has been most obedient and dutiful in carrying out her moral obligations as the eldest daughter and sister by taking up the ignoble job as a dancing girl to support her family. However, she finds herself suffer the consequence of her familial responsibility and seems to be doomed for life as a result. That explains why she often regards herself as a fated woman—a woman struck by “ku ming” 苦命 (bitter life, or bad fate) and “mei yun” 霉運 (bad luck or misfortune). As she often reminds her mother in a bitter way, “Don’t talk to me about ‘ming hao’ 命好 all the time.18 You are fully aware that all my life I have been struck by bitterness.”19 Although Manlu is conscious of her “kuming” (bad fate, or bitter life), she believes that she could manipulate her destiny by changing her “yun” or luck. That explains her acceptance of the marriage proposal of Zhu Hongcai 祝鴻 才, one of her suitors who frequents her dancing hall. She bets her entire life on this man, thinking that he will rescue her from a life of disgrace and degradation, hoping that she may escape from her bad life, or ill fate through Zhu Hongcai. To her great disappointment, she finds her life doomed once again after marriage when Zhu turns out to be a “taipan” with a despicable and morally loose character. For Manlu, such a realization of the true character of Zhu Hongcai comes as a double blow to her low self-esteem for it means the perpetuation of her “ku ming” 苦命 (ill fate, or bitter life) and “mei yun” 霉運 (bad luck or misfortune). What complicates the matter is the fact that Zhu Hongcai has now become her fate for the Chinese believe that the destinies of the husband and wife are tied together in marriage. In order to please her husband, Manlu chooses to serve as an accomplice in facilitating her demonic husband’s sexual advances toward Manzhen, offering her younger sister as a “sex toy” or “gift” to gratify her husband’s excessive sexual appetite. Manlu’s selfish and wicked act of betrayal of sisterhood reflects two important aspects of fate as understood by Eileen Chang. Manlu represents the mentality or perception of the majority of traditional Chinese women at the time who generally believed that their “ming,” or fate, was tied to that of their husband. Once they got married, they must try their best to “make do,” or to accommodate and compromise by fulfilling the wishes of their husbands whom they considered as their “ming yun,” 命運 or destiny. In Manlu’s case, Eileen Chang 18 19

“Ming hao” 命好, or “hao ming” 好命, means good fate or good life. Zhang Ailing, Bansheng Yuan 半生緣 (Taipei: Huangguan chubanshe, 1969; 1978), 132. My translation.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

28

yip

accentuates Manlu’s feeling of doom, entrapment and helplessness, relating her betrayal of her younger sister to her disturbed mind and jealousy, as well as her reaction to her “ku ming” (ill fate) and “mei yun” 霉運 (bad luck or misfortune). Furthermore, deeply disturbed psychologically by her hopeless marriage with Zhu Hongcai, Manlu cannot calmly accept the prosperity and good fortune enjoyed by her younger sister. She envies her sister’s seemingly smooth path and promising life blessed with “hao yun” 好運 (good luck) as evidenced in her luck of getting a good education, a good job and a respectable and loving boyfriend Shen Shijun 沈世鈞. Feeling unfairly treated by fate, which seems to have predestined her to a life of sacrifice and disappointment, depriving her of “hao yun” (good luck) and “hao ming” (good fate), Manlu takes action and strikes back. Acting in an extremely selfish and ignoble way, she tricks her younger sister Manzhen to go to her house, locks her up and later offers Manzhen as a sex toy, as a plaything to her husband. Such an act not only illustrates her distressful and unsettling mind and her resistance to her “ku ming” (poor or bitter fate) as a woman—as a reluctant victim of women’s plight/fate under patriarchy, but it also reveals more importantly the unconscious collective wish of many traditional Chinese women who try to get other innocent women fall into the same fate as theirs as a kind of “compensation” for their own sufferings. Manlu’s frustration and distress seem to be alleviated when she succeeds in getting her sister of “hao ming” (good fate) onto the same boat (fate) with her. The readers do not see any sense of remorse on Manlu’s part when she has pulled Manzhen down into the same abyss of endless bitterness and suffering. It is apparent from her wicked scheme against her younger sister that Manlu has not only forsaken her individual self, together with her pride and dignity, for the sake of her family in the past, but she has also forfeited her moral self, together with her honour and integrity as a person, in her attempt to change her fate and luck in life/marriage. By tracing Manlu’s moral degradation caused by her perception of herself being struck by “ku ming” (bitter life, or ill fate), Eileen Chang further illustrates how Chinese women’s “ming” (fate) is closely associated with their quest for “yuan” (the fate to meet) and belief in “yuan fen” (the fate to stay together). While “yuan,” in Eileen Chang’s view, allows two persons to meet and fall in love, it is ultimately “yun” that is, chance, encounter, luck, or fortune, that determines whether the two can stay together as husband and wife. Such an emphasis and perception are quite different from the Chinese traditional belief. Manlu and Zhang Yujin, for instance, have the “yuan,” the fate to meet and fall in love, but they lack the “yuan fen” to stay together as husband and wife. Eileen Chang presents it as Manlu’s “mei yun” (bad luck or misfortune) for being the eldest daughter of a poor family who is forced to take up an

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

fate and destiny

29

indecent job. It is also “yuan” that brings her to know and marry Zhu Hongcai, who becomes her “mingyun” (destiny), which subsequently leads her to half a life of unhappiness and disappointment and indirectly to her premature death. According to Eileen Chang, their “yuan” is a kind of “nieyuan” 孽 緣 (doomed love or ill-fated relationship) according to Buddhist conception, which has been deeply rooted in Chinese culture. Viewed in this light, Eileen Chang offers a different perspective to, reading of and interpretation to human fate characterized and determined not so much by a pronounced prediction or an open prognostication made by a divine force as in the classic tale “Matrimony Inn” as by the patriarchal order and Confucian morality that tend to be equally prescriptive and influential in shaping and pronouncing women’s fate and destiny, affecting the way women perceive their selves and their gender roles in love, marriage and the family, as well as their general view toward “ming” and “yuan.” Eileen Chang’s treatment of the intricate relationship between the sisters and their different perceptions of and reaction to “ming” (fate) in Half a Lifelong Romance further reveals her perceptive view on “yuan” (the fate to meet) and “yuan fen” (the fate to stay together) and the pivotal role of “yun” (luck, chance, or fortune). In the novel, it is Manlu who plays an active role in unfolding Manzhen’s fate, causing both of them to end up with Zhu Hongcai as their destiny. As discussed earlier, Manlu and Manzhen’s fate and destiny seem to be quite different at the beginning of the novel. Manlu is fully aware of her “ku ming” (ill fate or poor fate) and perceives her miserable life with Zhu as part of her ill fate and bad luck. It is a kind of “nie yuan” or doomed love; it is her inescapable destiny that she has to bear with bitterness and remorse. As a contrast, her younger sister Manzhen is first portrayed as a well-educated and enlightened woman of “hao ming” (好命 good fate), who enjoys a promising life and a bright future filled with love and possibilities. However, Manzhen’s “ming” and “yun” take a devastating turn in and after the rape incident, which reveals Eileen Chang’s view on another aspect of fate where an individual can be at the mercy of haphazard circumstances that are ridiculous and unpredictable. Eileen Chang expounds on women’s “ming” as “yuan” in her delineation of Manzhen’s fate and destiny. It is “yuan” that has brought Manzhen and Shen Shijun to meet and work in the same factory and to fall deeply in love with each other. Their lives seem to be teemed with love and happiness until circumstances force them to take separate paths in life—first with Shen Shijun being summoned home by his parents and later with Manzhen falling prey to Manlu’s wicked scheme of offering her to Zhu Hongcai. Manzhen’s “ming” is utterly changed during Shen’s absence when she falls prey to her elder sister Manlu’s wicked scheme. Locked up by her sister in the latter’s house, Manzhen was raped by her brother-in-law

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

30

yip

Zhu Hongcai when she lost consciousness during her fight with him.20 This rape incident turns Manzhen’s wheel of fortune upside down. Although Manzhen perceives the rape case as her “mei yun” 霉運 (bad luck or misfortune), she refuses to take it as part of her “ming” (fate) after the incident. Being an enlightened woman, she tries to take the rape case as a stand-alone incident that has a traumatic effect on her physical being but brings no damage to her soul, which she believes to have remained pure and untouched. Like Tess in Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Manzhen believes that her purity as a woman and integrity as a person remain intact and unblemished by the incident and that her “mei yun” (bad luck or misfortune) is just temporary. She firmly believes that her lover Shen Shijun would eventually come to her rescue. However, Eileen Chang is quick at showing human ineffectuality before the unpredictability of life, which mocks on the young lovers. By sheer “yun” (luck) or the lack of it in this case, Shen Shijun misses Manzhen’s desperate cry for help when he returned from his hometown and looked for Manzhen at Manlu’s residence. His failure in noticing the blood stain on the ruby ring that Manzhen secretly sent him through the maid and in registering Manzhen’s unusual disappearance places their “yuan” at stake. Eileen Chang emphasizes the human agency in the execution of one’s “ming” (fate) and highlights their missed chance. Furthermore, Shen has been misinformed by Manlu, who said that Manzhen was going to marry their distant cousin Zhang Yujin 張豫瑾. His blind acceptance of Manlu’s words without verification results in their missed chance of meeting each other again. Such a fatal misunderstanding on Shen’s part, coupled with his parents’ disapproval of and intervention in his love with Manzhen, has inevitably led to the lovers’ separation. The twists and turns in Manzhen’s “ming” and “yun” are further expounded with the emphasis placed on her responses as an enlightened woman to the unpredictable course of events—responses quite different from those of her sister Manlu. As readers are led to see, it has never occurred to Manzhen that her path in life would go astray and intermingle with that of Manlu, or that her “ming” would be similar to her sister’s, until she finds herself pregnant with Zhu Hongcai’s child. As Manzhen looks back at her earlier life fourteen years later when she meets Shen Shijun again, she felt desperate and helpless then when everything seemed to have dissipated before her eyes. Her refusal to succumb to her “nie yuan” 孽緣 (doomed love or ill-fated relationship) and take Zhu Hongcai as her destiny is made explicit by her contemplated suicide after the rape. Manzhen would rather die than live a life of sexual abuse, physical

20

Ibid, 236.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

fate and destiny

31

confinement, moral humiliation and emotional deprivation under the same roof with her rapist. That explains why she takes the first opportunity to escape from the hospital after giving birth to Zhu Hongcai’s child with the assistance of a woman Cai Jinfang 蔡金芳, who stays in the same ward. Manzhen is eager to flee from her nightmarish experience, leaving her newborn son to the care of her sister.21 For several years, she has worked hard to support herself, trying to leave her painful past behind and start her life afresh. But the news of Shen Shijun’s marriage shatters her dream of a reunion with Shen. Manzhen comes to see that fate has mapped out a very different path for her. Her life takes another drastic turn when she learns of Manlu’s death.22 In order to take care of her son, Manzhen has no choice but marry her oppressor-rapist Zhu Hongcai after her sister’s death, thus steering Manzhen toward the same destination as her sister’s. Her marriage epitomizes the recurrent pattern of fate, which makes the sisters’ lives converge into one by tying them to the same husband whom they both detest. For Eileen Chang, such a “union” is a kind of “nie yuan,” or ill-fated relationship. Although Manzhen eventually gets a divorce, her life can no longer be the same as before; nor can her relationship with Shen Shijun be resumed or restored. “Yun” has repeatedly worked against their togetherness and they have missed the chance. Theirs is an explicit example of “you yuan wu fen” 有緣無份. That is to say, they lack the “yun” 運 (chance, or luck) and “yuan fen” 緣份 (the fate to be together) despite their “yuan” 緣 (their fate to meet) and fall in love with each other. Here Eileen Chang elucidates how human fate may be shaped by circumstances with the human agency playing an active part in the process and how a pattern of intricate relationships may emerge as a result—a pattern that proves to be too complicated and complex to be fully grasped by the individuals involved at the time. Eileen Chang delineates how the fate of the two sisters converges and gets intertwined with Manlu serving as an active agent in crafting Manzhen’s “ming” so much so that Manzhen’s life ends up becoming a repetition, or replica, of Manlu’s, with their hopes and happiness ruined by the same man and their “ming yun” (destiny) affected by the same person Zhu Hongcai. Such twists and turns in the plot enable Eileen Chang to consolidate her view on “ming” as “yuan” (fate to meet), with the latter being the prerequisite of love and relationship. Her emphasis on “yuan fen” (fate to stay together) as the determining factor in any lifelong relationship such as marriage, however, reveals how she sees Chinese women trapped in their conventional perception of women’s

21 22

Ibid, 295. Ibid, 310.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

32

yip

“ming” (fate), relating it to their marriage partners as their “mingyun” (destiny). Eileen Chang highlights the helplessness and remorse of the two pairs of lovers, namely, Manlu with Zhang Yujin and Manzhen with Shen Shijun, depicting them as doomed lovers who lack “yuan fen” to stay together and their relationships as ill-fated despite their sincere love for each other. In Eileen Chang’s view, it is “yuan” that has brought them to meet and fall in love, and yet it is “yuan fen” that determines their ultimate destiny—to stay together or to go separate paths in life—an outcome that cannot be subverted or challenged despite individual will, personal desire and human effort. Such a perception of “yuan” as “ming” is supported and reinforced by Eileen Chang’s understanding of “ming yun” (destiny), which underlies human beings’ ineffectuality in face of adversities and the futility of human effort in effecting change in the course of events in life. As Manzhen states her view on her fate when she re-encounters Shen Shijun more than a decade later, her “mei yun” 霉運 (bad luck), or misfortunes in life, including her traumatic rape experience, her unbearable marriage with her rapist Zhu Hongcai after her sister’s death, and her desperate fight for a divorce later, have all been unpredictable and yet they have somehow become an inevitable part of her life. In retrospection, there seems no way for anyone to turn back and act otherwise.23 What is worth noting in this final scene is Manzhen’s realization of her “ming” as defined by “yuan” (fate to meet) and “yun” (chance, luck, or fortune). With her reference to the active human agency in the execution of fate and the irrevocable circumstances that are capable of effecting change to women’s lives, Eileen Chang contextualizes in vivid images and terse language the interplay between “ming” (fate) and “ming yun” (destiny) in the intricate contexts of “yuan” and “yuan fen” in human relationships.

3

A Woman’s Struggle against Her Pronounced Fate in “Love in a Fallen City”

Eileen Chang’s preoccupation with and interest in women’s fate and the workings of “yuan” (the fate to meet) in shaping a woman’s “ming” takes on another level of meaning and complexity when she examines them under the limelight of “yun” (chance, luck, or fortune), which appears haphazard at first but turns out to be inevitable and powerful at the end. In her novella “Love in a Fallen City” 傾城之戀 (Qingcheng zhi lian, 1943), Eileen Chang shows how the 28year-old divorcee Bai Liusu’s 白流蘇 struggles against her pronounced “ming”

23

Ibid, 398.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

fate and destiny

33

as a woman of bad luck or ill fate and how “yuan” and “yun” are examined from a different angle. Through detailed descriptions of Bai Liusu’s chance encounter with a wealthy philanderer Fan Liuyuan 范柳原 in a family dinner and his amorous interest in her afterwards, Eileen Chang unfolds the intriguing circumstantial changes in a Chinese woman’s fate and expresses her skeptical view on predestined love and marriage, on fated lovers and on the traditional Chinese perception of a woman’s husband as her destiny. Chang delineates how a woman’s “ming” (fate) is often time determined by her “yun” 運 (chance, luck, encounter, or fortune). And in the novella, she reveals how Bai Liusu’s “yun,” including the general view of her as a woman struck by “mei yun” 霉運 (bad luck) at the beginning, has changed utterly as a circumstantial outcome of the fall of the city of Hong Kong to the Japanese in the 1940s so that she ends up as the woman of “hao yun” (serendipity or good luck) envied by all. In “Love in a Fallen City,” predestined love and marriage no longer takes the form of pre-arrangement and prognostication made by the God of Matrimony. Rather, Eileen Chang unravels Bai Liusu’s “yuan” (the fate to meet) and “yuan fen” (the fate to stay together) with Fan Liuyuan in a highly ironic overtone, the purpose of which is to ridicule Chinese people’s common belief in predestination in love and pre-arrangement of marriage by a cosmological order. The author establishes her view that Bai Liusu’s “ming” (fate) is determined and defined not so much by a divine order indifferent to human desires and sufferings as by a number of irrevocable factors such as her biological sex as a female, her stereotypical or gendered self as a woman, her birth into a conventional Chinese family, and her temporality in a tradition-ridden Chinese society in the 1940s. Eileen Chang makes it clear from the beginning that Bai Liusu’s “ming” and “yuan” are pronounced not by the God of Matrimony but by her unwelcoming return to her maiden home as a divorced woman right before the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong, thus placing her immediately under some inevitable moral conditions and specific socio-political circumstances. By presenting Bai’s “ming” in the contexts of “yuan” and “yun” (luck, chance, encounter, or fortune), Eileen Chang invites her readers to re-consider the Chinese conception of “ming” and “ming yun” to see if there truly exists a master plan of the cosmos in which human action or effort makes no difference to the course of events, or whether everything just happens in a haphazard or circumstantial way with the individual remain ineffectual and human endeavours futile in the process. A close look at Bai Liusu’s conscious resistance to her designated fate as a divorced woman and the course of action she takes in the hope of mastering her own life and choosing her own destiny shows how Eileen Chang questions the general notions of “ming” and “yuan” as understood by the Chinese, especially Chinese women, and how she offers a different angle and

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

34

yip

fresh perspective to the general thinking about “ming” and “yuan,” highlighting in the process her interpretation on “yun” (chance or luck) as the determining factor in charting a Chinese woman’s fate and destiny. By portraying Bai Liusu as a divorced woman, who has nowhere to go but to stay in her paternal home as an unwelcome member, Eileen Chang accentuates Bai’s marginalized position at home and in society by emphasizing her habitual pensive look, submissive attitude and impassive expression in a family and society indifferent to individual desires and sufferings. Being a 28year-old woman divorced for seven or eight years, Bai Liusu’s life seems to be doomed. She is generally perceived as a hopeless woman with no prospect leading a shadowy life in her paternal home where she is treated with despise and greeted with spite and disapproval by other members in the family. Bai Liusu fully understands her own pathetic situation, bracing herself against others’ coldness, indifference and discrimination on a daily basis. As Eileen Chang describes, there is a subtle acknowledgement among family members that Bai Liusu is a disgrace to the family name, a “sore spot” in the eyes of the family superiors, as well as a nuisance and embarrassment to the family. She is perceived as a “saozhou xing” 掃帚星,24 a woman born under the astrological “bad luck star” and hence will have “mei yun” 霉運 (bad luck). Such a woman will bring bad luck to the family or to anyone associated with her. Fully aware of her pronounced identity as a “saozhou xing” characterized by “ku ming” 苦命 (bitter fate) and “mei yun” 霉運 (bad luck), Bai Liusu feels alienated and marginalized. It seems that she is doomed to a life of inescapable misfortune and bad luck and she has had no choice but to succumb to her ill fate and accept her role as a socio-familial “outcast.” Her meek and submissive appearance and her habit of lowering her head before others are signs of her low self-esteem and sense of inferiority on the one hand and her way of avoiding people’s contemptuous look and sneering gaze on the other. As she once confided in Mrs Xu, she feels trapped in a hopeless life with no way out for she has no means to get herself out of her stifling and disapproving paternal family and there is no one whom she could turn to for help: 24

Eileen Chang, “Love in a Fallen City,” in Love in a Fallen City, trans. Karen S. Kingsbury (New York: New York Review of Books, 2007), 114. Literally “saozhou xing” means a “broom-like” comet. But the term bears cultural significance in China and is often used to describe a woman who is considered unlucky or who brings bad luck to people around her. In ancient China, a woman who was born in the twelfth month of the lunar calendar would be considered as unlucky because her birth and life were affected by the comet. The Chinese belief would consider such a woman as one struck by bad luck and she would bring bad luck to her husband and downfall to her husband’s family. It is further believed that such a woman would marry twice and remarriage was considered as bad (luck) for a woman.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

fate and destiny

35

If there were a way, I’d be long gone! I haven’t studied much, and I can’t do manual labor, so what kind of job can I do? Looking for a job won’t get you anywhere. But looking for a somebody, that’s the way to go. No, I don’t think so. My life is over already.25 Bai Liusu considers herself doomed in life because she is not only a poor, divorced woman and later a widow imposing her stay in her paternal home, but she is also one with neither prospects in life nor hope in finding another eligible suitor. Conscious of her own plight and predicament as an ill-fated woman, Bai Liusu is coerced to entertain and accommodate Mrs Xu’s matchmaking arrangements. However, one notices Bai’s change of attitude when she finds out that her so-called best chance or luck turns out to be a marriage prospect with a widower with five children. Such an offer makes it clear to Bai Liusu that she cannot accept such an arrangement as her destiny and such a bleak future as her fate. It is against such a hopeless situation that Bai Liusu meets the 32-year-old womanizer Fan Liuyuan, who takes a cynical attitude toward love, marriage and life. His non-committal attitude toward man-woman relationship is made clear from the very beginning: The unstable emotional environment of [Fan’s] early years had left its mark on him, and gradually he became a playboy—he gambled, he gourmandized, he visited prostitutes. The only pleasure he denied himself was married bliss.26 By creating a chance encounter between the dejected Bai Liusu and the philanderer Fan Liuyuan in the family dinner and Fan’s explicit interest in Bai subsequently, Eileen Chang expresses her perception on “yuan” based not on the Chinese common belief in “liang yuan tian ci” 良緣天賜 (good marriage is granted by Heaven), that the fate to meet and fall in love is predestined or pre-arranged by heaven as part of the cosmological order. Rather, she shows that love or marriage could be the result of sheer chance or haphazard circumstances in the human world. As expounded in the novella, no one expects Bai Liusu and Fan Liuyuan to end up as a couple, not even Bai and Fan themselves. At the beginning, no one would have imagined that Bai and Fan’s encounter

25 26

Ibid, 119. Ibid, 123.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

36

yip

or subsequent outings would lead to anything serious. Even Bai sees Fan’s amorous attention as mere flirtation, a game to pass his time. As a divorced woman, Bai is left to deal with Fan’s advances. As she reflects on her own situation, Was it really true that Fan Liuyuan liked her? Not certain in the least. […] She could tell that he was used to lying to women, she’d have to be very careful. Family, family everywhere, and no one to turn to—she was on her own.27 Being the pronounced ill-fated “saozhou xing” whom everyone tries to avoid, Bai is fully aware of her awkward and alienated position in the family. She is also aware of the fact that Fan approaches her because she is a divorcee, that she is quite different from other women he has known. However, Fan has never taken her seriously and has no intention of developing a serious relationship with her. In an explicit way, Eileen Chang elucidates her view on a Chinese woman’s tragic fate and plight caused by her gendered self and stereotypical roles in a traditional family, by social prejudice against her marital status as a divorced woman at the time, by her lack of means to support herself and by her need for a man to protect her and to bring her “hao yun” 好運 (good luck). Eileen Chang shows how Fan takes advantage of Bai Liusu’s helpless and hopeless situation and makes his advances in a playful, casual and flirtatious way. He spots her as an easy and vulnerable target for flirtation and a possible partner for casual sex. He has placed Bai outside the category of good, honourable and respectable women because of her marital status (divorced woman), which gives him the liberty to flirt with her, knowing that he would not be obliged to follow the usual socio-moral decorum, nor would he be held morally responsible for any consequences of their dating. As Eileen Chang makes clear in her deliberation, Bai Liusu appears like a prey of Fan Liuyuan, guarding herself against his aggressive and manipulative advances in a careful but passive way. They are not presented as a pair of fated lovers and the writer never meant them to be. Being a mature and intelligent woman, Bai Liusu fully understands from the start that Fan is not the marriage type; yet, she has no other option but to “wager her future” because Fan appears to be her only chance.28 In this respect, one notices how Eileen Chang subverts the romantic plot of love and

27 28

Ibid, 127. Ibid, 130.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

fate and destiny

37

marriage and the Chinese general view on fated lovers and Heaven-given marriage 良緣天賜 (liang yuan tian ci) in her treatment of Bai and Fan’s “yuan.” The ironic overtone she uses throughout enables Eileen Chang to deliberate her views on women’s “ming” in relation to “yuan” and “yun.” As readers are led to see, Bai and Fan’s “yuan” is not god-sent or predestined. It is the outcome of their chance encounter and their subsequent dating is based on convenience and fun on Fan’s part and desperation and gambling on Bai’s part. The true nature of their dating is epitomized in Bai Liusu’s emotional reaction to Fan’s invitation to meet in Hong Kong. Bai Liusu had burst into tears when Fan Liuyuan sent her a telegram from Hong Kong, summoning her to go and join him there. She cried when she received the telegram because of self-pity. Bai realizes that she remains a “ku ming” woman, an ill-fated woman with no prospect or options in life. Bai Liusu cried because she found that even Old Mrs Bai wanted her to take the disrespectful invitation as her golden opportunity and go to meet Fan in Hong Kong. Old Mrs Bai’s encouragement makes Bai Liusu feel utterly bitter, for she regards it as a subtle abandonment by her family: “To have been vanquished solely by Fan Liuyuan’s charms, that was one thing. But mixed with that was the pressure from her family—the most painful factor in her defeat.”29 It dawns on her that she is doomed as a woman, and as a divorced woman in particular because she sees that everyone in the family is eager to get rid of her. Such a realization pushes her closer to Fan Liuyuan for it seems that no one wants to have anything to do with her in life except Fan Liuyuan. With a careful assessment of her own situation—that she has no other options—Bai Liusu rises to the occasion and confronts her designated fate as a “saozhou xing” and a divorced woman by betting on her reputation. Her consent to go to Hong Kong as Mrs Xu’s guest and companion reveals Bai Liusu’s decision to gamble on her “ming.” With nothing but her reputation at stake, Bai Liusu goes along with the tides of life, ready to brave what fate has in store for her in Hong Kong. As she sums up her situation before embarking on her journey, which signifies a journey of no return, If she lost, her reputation would be ruined, and even the role of stepmother to five children would be far above her. If she won, she’d get the prize the whole crowd was eyeing like so many greedy tigers—Fan Liuyuan—and all her stifled rancor would be swept clean away.30

29 30

Ibid, 153. Ibid, 130.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

38

yip

Bai Liusu’s considered response to Fan Liuyuan’s summon to meet him in Hong Kong shows in concrete terms the true nature of her relationship with Fan is far from a romantic one. On the contrary, her willingness to meet Fan in Hong Kong reveals a “ku ming” woman’s distress and desperation in face of her pronounced fate and seemingly inescapable destiny. As one abandoned by her paternal family, Bai Liusu is desperately in need of a new home and Fan Liuyuan might be her only chance. Viewed in this light, Bai Liusu’s association with Fan Liuyuan can be regarded as the chance encounter of two disillusioned and ill-fated persons, with Fan Liuyuan taking a playful and non-committal attitude all along, while Bai Liusu cautiously guarding herself against his sweet words and advances, knowing all the while that she is just his entertainment or pastime and marriage is not part of the game: “She was dreaming if she thought he’d marry her after that. […] Clearly, he wanted her, but he didn’t want to marry her.”31 She knows that Fan does not want “to be held responsible.”32 And yet she is “willing to try anything, within limits” for she has no other options.33 With Fan Liuyuan as her only chance to change her pronounced fate, Bai Liusu reluctantly makes herself physically available to the womanizer Fan Liuyuan with full knowledge that she is “to hold on to a man without the surety of marriage.”34 Such an active move on Bai’s part, however, shows Eileen Chang’s view on the potentiality of human initiative and the unpredictability of human fate. Bai Liusu’s fear of losing in the love game turns out to be real when Fan Liuyuan decides to leave for England after the two spent a week together in sexual intimacy in Hong Kong. Fan’s departure signifies the end of their brief relationship. Bai Liusu comes to see that her initiative of making the disgraceful trip to meet Fan in Hong Kong has not changed the nature of their relationship. Their affair has mounted up to nothing but casual sex, and their rendezvous in Hong Kong is nothing more than an interlude in the lives of two lonely souls. Without a hint of regret or remorse, Fan Liuyuan is ready to sail out of the Victoria Harbour and out of Bai’s life for good. It seems that Bai Liusu is left in a helpless and hopeless situation as the total loser in her husband-hunting adventure because her reputation was ruined, and even the role of stepmother to five children would be far above her.35 However, Eileen Chang makes it clear that despite Bai Liusu’s effort, Bai has never been the active subject with regard 31 32 33 34 35

Ibid, 147. Ibid, 148. Ibid, 140. Ibid, 155. Ibid, 130.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

fate and destiny

39

to fate. What one notices is her submission, her constant flow from one place to another, that is, from her paternal home to her husband’s home in the past, and then from her paternal home to Fan Liuyuan’s residence in Hong Kong. As a woman, she has been passed on from one man to another, first from her father to her husband and later from Old Mrs Bai to Fan Liuyuan. In none of these instances has she played a decisive role or exercising her freedom of choice. What is emphasized is exactly her lack of choice and lack of voice in life. She has never been an active agent acting freely, steering her own life with a clear and firm course. Fan’s departure again puts her in a passive, helpless and ineffectual position. Ironically, it is on the day of Fan Liuyuan’s departure when she seems to have lost everything, including hope, honour and reputation, that her fate makes a drastic turn. The Japanese bombing and occupation of Hong Kong was a great blow to the city, bringing misfortune and tremendous hardship to most of its citizens. But ironically, it turns out to be a golden opportunity for Bai Liusu because the Japanese attack and bombing of the city have prevented Fan Liuyuan’s ship from leaving the Victoria Harbour of Hong Kong, thus forcing him to stay. It is apparent from the novella that it is not “yuan” (fate to meet) or “yuan fen” (fate to stay together) that has kept the two together but extenuating circumstances caused by socio-political changes. Bai Liusu’s fate is re-shaped by such unexpected external factors that have worked to her favour, allowing the two to stay together in the fallen city. Both fully understand that their relationship has not changed, that it has not been love that brought him back to her or the workings of the God of Matrimony in tying their feet with red strings, but unforeseeable historical events that have prevented him from leaving Hong Kong, thus forcing Bai and Fan to stay together in the city under Japanese occupation. It is out of necessity, survival and convenience that they eventually get married, stay together and support each other for better chance of survival during difficult times. As Bai Liusu sums up their pathetic situation: “Now all [I] had was him; all he had was [me].”36 With such a twist in the plot, Eileen Chang’s view on “yuan” as “ming” and its relations to “yun” (chance, luck, or fortune) is fully expounded. In an ironic and skeptical way, she shows the readers that Bai and Fan’s marriage has nothing to do with the general Chinese belief that fate will bring two persons together as husband and wife even if they are initially thousands of miles apart 千里姻緣一線牽 (qian li yin yuan yi xian qian). As Bai puts it in a succinct but most unromantic way,

36

Ibid, 161.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

40

yip

Here in this uncertain world, money, property, the permanent things— they’re all unreliable. The only thing (Liusu) could rely on was the breath in her lungs, and this person who lay sleeping beside her. … He was just a selfish man; she was a selfish woman. In this age of chaos and disorder, there is no place for those who stand on their own, but for an ordinary married couple, room can always be found.37 Bai Liusu’s observation and reflection point out the stark truth of their relationship, which is built neither on passionate romantic love that can fell countries and cities 傾國傾城 (qingguo qingcheng), nor on “yuan fen” that predestined them to stay together as husband and wife as other people in the story tend to believe, but on sheer “yun” (luck, chance, or fortune), or serendipity. Their staying together or marriage is purely the result of inescapable circumstances, not predestined but inevitable. As Xiaoping Wang observes, In a nutshell, what it conveys is nothing but a resignation of self-will and self-determination in front of gigantic, inhuman, naturalized historical forces. The atomized Liuyuan and Liusu have no power to combat it, no matter how hard they work to maximize their individual interests.38 While both Bai Liusu and Fan Liuyuan fully understand that they are not designated lovers who are meant for each other, fated to meet and to stay together, they become ironically the couple envied by all. For most outsiders and many onlookers, they appear to be the perfect couple, the exemplary fated lovers whose marriage seems to have been predestined and pre-arranged by the God of Matrimony in the Book of Marriage since the day of their births. For such onlookers and outsiders, they regard Bai and Fan’s “love story” to be comparable to that of Bao Si 褒姒 or Yang Guixi 楊貴妃, who had caused the fall of their country or city 傾國傾城 (qingguo qingcheng). Their “yuan” is thus understood as their “ming” that has brought Bai Liusu and Fan Liuyuan to meet in Shanghai and to get married in Hong Kong later during the Japanese occupation of the city. Eileen Chang’s ironic overtone throughout the story, however, clearly offers her readers a counter-perspective to the idea of “ming” as “yuan” as elucidated in Bai Liusu’s change of fortune. Originally regarded as a “saozhou xing”, a woman of “mei yun” 霉運 (bad luck), who is doomed to a marginalized and ghostly existence in her paternal home, Bai Liusu suddenly becomes a woman 37 38

Ibid, 164–165. Xiaoping Wang, “Eileen Chang’s Cross-Cultural Writing and Rewriting in Love in a Fallen City.” Comparative Literature Studies 49.4 (2012): 579.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

fate and destiny

41

of “hao yun” 好運 (good luck), as the luckiest woman in the family circle and perhaps in the entire city to be envied by all women married or unmarried when she succeeds in marrying the charismatic and much-sought-after rich bachelor Fan Liuyuan. Such a treatment of Bai Liusu’s “ming” and “yuan” in “Love in a Fallen City” clearly contextualizes Eileen Chang’s view toward love and marriage which is neither the workings of the God of Matrimony nor the execution of a divine order. Through the novella, one notices how the writer questions the traditional notion of “ming” when everything is left entirely in the hands of the gods. With her focus on Bai Liusu’s life and fate, Eileen Chang centers her narrative on the distress and suffering of Chinese women, particularly a divorced woman, under the restrictive patriarchal system and Confucian moral order that often place women in a passive, marginal and subordinate position. Within her system of love and marriage, Eileen Chang points out that women can never take on a subject position in society as they are treated as inferior to men, who play a pivotal part in shaping women’s “ming” at home before marriage and in marriage after marriage. In Bai Liusu’s case as a divorced woman, she is double-marginalized because she does not have a proper or acceptable place in her paternal home after her divorce. Such details show that from Eileen Chang’s perspective, women’s “ming” is greatly affected or shaped by her association with men—her “yuan” with men. Bai Liusu has gambled on her fate as a divorced woman and bet on her reputation by accepting Liuyuan’s ignoble demand as it is against socio-moral norms to request a rendezvous with Bai in Hong Kong; and Bai’s acceptance of his invitation certainly jeopardizes her reputation as it subverts feminine propriety and moral decorum. As one notices in the novella, she has never got the upper hand in this game of flirtation, but luck seems to be on her hand when unpredictable circumstances such as the bombing of the city and its subsequent fall into the hands of the Japanese occurred, thus providing an opportunity for her to “keep” Fan Liuyuan and secure a second marriage. When other people perceive this outcome as Bai Liusu’s “hao yun” 好運 (good luck or good fortune), as Eileen Chang relates in the novella, readers are fully aware of the author’s skepticism for the randomness of their marriage, which is never part of Fan’s original plan. Bai Liusu has remained clear-headed of her situation and of the nature of their marriage. She fully understands that despite her active participation in her love game with Fan Liuyuan, who is her target for marriage, she remains helpless and simply reactive to circumstances out of necessities. From the texts discussed in this chapter, it is clear that a comparison between “Matrimony Inn” and the selected fiction by Eileen Chang is meaningful for it allows readers to understand how “Matrimony Inn” has played a

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

42

yip

cultural role in shaping the Chinese belief in marriage as predestined. It celebrates the presence and power of an external cosmic order governing human life, especially in love and marriage, and affirms the existence of a master plan that maps out human fate and destiny despite human effort to revolt against predestination and pre-designated marriage partner. Such a Chinese concept of predestined love and marriage is, however, scrutinized and questioned by Eileen Chang, who re-evaluates modern Chinese women’s fate from the perspective of women’s gender in Chinese family and society. Chang contends that Chinese women’s “ming” (fate) is largely determined by their gender as women with a prevailing set of gender norms governing their lives. They are not fated because there is a cosmic order in operation but because there exists a Confucian socio-moral system in full play. She believes that women’s “ming” is closely linked first to the family in which women were born and later to the man they marry. It is also inseparable from “yuan” (the fate to meet) and “yun” (chance, luck, or fortune). The ironic tone she adopts in her deliberation of the interlocking relations between “ming,” “yuan” and “yun” reveals her skeptical attitude toward such highly philosophical, if not metaphysical, Chinese conceptions. While scholars generally believe that Eileen Chang expresses a sense of fatalism in her fiction, the close reading of selected texts in this chapter shows that she has actually offered a different perspective to the Chinese view on fate. As elucidated in the selected novels, Eileen Chang’s women characters are “fated” by their gendered selves, often leaving them as victims of circumstances or preys of men. Whether or not a person is considered to be “ku ming” (bitter fate), as in the case of Manlu, or “hao ming” (good fate), as in the case of Manzhen, does not seem to matter much as both end up taking a similar course in life and heading toward the same destiny, which leaves their lives wasted and unfulfilled at the end. In the case of Bai Liusu, who was first regarded as a woman doomed to a life of “ku ming” but later envied by all as the woman of “hao ming;” Eileen Chang points out her trapped conditions as a woman who remains helpless and reactive in face of adversities in life. Readers are called to register the causes of Bai Liusu’s marginality, alienation, distress, frustration, ineffectuality and hopeless conditions; it is by sheer chance and inevitable circumstances that she succeeds in securing a home for herself and in finding herself a husband envied by all at the end. In her treatment of women in love and marriage, Eileen Chang takes a skeptical look at romantic love, showing her doubt, disbelief and disillusionment. By focusing her narratives on the intricate interplay between “yuan” (fate to meet) and “yun” (chance, luck, or fortune) in her explication of women’s fate and destiny, Eileen Chang prompts her readers to re-consider whether it is entirely “yuan” that has preset the chance for a man and a woman to meet

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

fate and destiny

43

and whether it is “yuan fen” (fate to stay together) that determines who could stay together as a couple, as elaborated in the archetypal tale of fated love in “Matrimony Inn.” She draws readers’ attention to an equally influential force, which takes the form of unforeseeable circumstances that may turn a person’s wheel of fortune, affecting the person’s “yun,” which denotes randomness and haphazardness. She casts her doubt on the presence and the operation of an overarching divine plan that exclusively determines, prearranges and pronounces the destiny of its human subjects. Through her narratives, Eileen Chang offers her readers a counter-perspective to and an alternative view on fate with her emphasis on prevailing ideology and social institutions, such as patriarchal mentality and values, conventions and customs based on Confucian morality, that often place human beings, especially women, in a passive and submissive position. What appears to be clear and certain in all the cases studied is that the characters remain uncertain, feeling perplexed, helpless, ineffectual, anxious, frustrated, or even lost as they navigate through the meandering journey of life. Fate and destiny are never acknowledged and accepted by the characters without a fight, and Eileen Chang introduces into the discussion of women’s “ming” in modern Chinese literature the elements of chance and circumstantial conditions that are powerful in changing the course of events in the human world and overwhelmingly influential at times in shaping people’s fate and destiny. Love and marriage are demystified by Eileen Chang, who casts doubt on the Chinese traditional belief in fated love, designated lovers and predestined marriage. She presents a new angle to the Chinese view of fate in her narratives, seeing the fate of women as inseparable from their sex and gender and highlighting their inescapable fate, which is often associated with men and shaped by circumstantial conditions. While all the characters studied in this chapter, be they ancient or modern, have at some time attempted to resist against their pronounced fate, they are eventually led to see their ineffectuality in the grand order of things, be it the cosmic one or the man-made one, that they serve as mere agents, and not as active subjects, in the execution of or struggle against their pronounced fate in love and/or marriage. While “Matrimony Inn” depicts how a young man’s fate is mapped out for him with him serving as an active agent, as opposed to an active subject, in the process of realizing his destiny despite his repeated attempts to defy the unknown cosmic power, the selected texts by Eileen Chang elucidate how modern Chinese women’s fate is shaped, to a great extent, not by an unknown divine order above but by women’s gendered selves and their internalization of gender norms under a patriarchal system. As seen in the selected texts, “ming” and “yuan” are inseparable when it comes to women’s understanding of fate and destiny. In love and marriage, many may regard that one’s “ming,”

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

44

yip

referring to both life and fate at times, is largely determined by the kind of lover or spouse fate has arranged for them, as in the case of Wei Gu and Bai Liusu. In other instances, “yuan” is seen as a person’s “ming,” when the person merges his or her own life and future with that of their spouse. This is the case of Manlu. The selected texts studied in this chapter enables readers to juxtapose the classic treatment and understanding of fate and destiny in “Matrimony Inn” against Eileen Chang’s perceptive rendition of such concepts from a different angle and with a different emphasis. With her interest in and with a focus on women’s fate and plight in a tradition-ridden China, she offers her insightful reading of “yuan” as “ming” for Chinese women and draws readers’ attention to other powerful but oft-time invisible elements such as chance and unpredictable circumstances that may also exert tremendous impact on a person’s fate and destiny, as in the case of Liusu.

Bibliography Chang, Eileen. Half a Lifelong Romance. Trans. Eileen Chang and Karen Kingsbury. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2014. Chang, Eileen. “Love in a Fallen City.” In Love in a Fallen City, 109–168. Trans. Karen S. Kingsbury and Eileen Chang. New York: New York Review Books, 2007. Chen, Ning. “The Genesis of the Concept of Blind Fate in Ancient China.” Journal of Chinese Religions 25.1 (1997): 141–167. Chen, Xunwu. “Fate and Humanity.” Asian Philosophy 20.1 (March 2010): 67–77. Ferrara, Mark S. “Patterns of Fate in Dream of the Red Chamber.” Interdisciplinary Literary Studies 11.1 (Fall 2009): 12–31. Goodwin, Robin. “‘We were just fated together’ … Chinese Love and the Concept of Yuan in England and Hong Kong.” Personal Relationships 4 (1997): 85–92. Harrell, Stevan. “The Concept of Fate in Chinese Folk Ideology.” Modern China 13.1 (January 1987): 90–109. Jin, Chongji. “On the Fate of Traditional Culture in Modern China.” Social Sciences in China 34.2 (2013): 152–164. Li, Fu-yen (Li Fuyan). “Matrimony Inn.” In Famous Chinese Short Stories, 285–290. Trans. Lin Yutang. New York: Washington Square Press, 1967. Lupke, Christopher, ed. The Magnitude of Ming: Command, Allotment, and Fate in Chinese Culture. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2005. Smith, Richard J. Fortune-Tellers and Philosophers: Divination in Traditional Chinese Society. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 1991. Tam, Kwok-kan. “A Greimasian Reading of Matrimony Inn.” Tamkang Review 16.2 (Winter 1985): 163–176.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

fate and destiny

45

Wang, Xiaoping. “Eileen Chang’s Cross-Cultural Writing and Rewriting in Love in a Fallen City.” Comparative Literature Studies 49.4 (2012): 565–584. Xiao, Xiaosui. “Yijing: A Self-Circulating and Self-Justified Chinese Cultural Discourse.” Intercultural Communication Studies 15.1 (2006): 1–11. Zhang Ailing 張愛玲 (Eileen Chang). Bansheng yuan 半生緣 (Half a lifelong romance). Taipei: Huangguan chubanshe, 1969; 1978. Zhang Ailing (Eileen Chang). “Qingcheng zhi lian” 傾城之戀 (Love in a fallen city). In Zhang Ailing duanpian xiaoshuo ji 張愛玲短篇小說集 (Collected short stories by Zhang Ailing), 203–251. Taipei: Huangguan chubanshe, 1969; 1978. Zhang, Yingjin. “From Counter-Canon to Hypercanon in a Postcanonical Age: Eileen Chang as Text and Myth.” Frontiers of Literary Studies in China 5.4 (2011): 610–632.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

chapter 2

Prophecy, “Ming” and the Lost Self in The Legend of Mi Yue Qun Xie

On November 30, 2015, The Legend of Mi Yue 芈月傳, which consists of 81 episodes, appeared on the screen of Beijing TV and East TV in mainland China, and became an immediate commercial success. According to the statistics of audience ratings of 34 Chinese cities, the viewership rate of The Legend of Mi Yue reached the summit of 4.15% on East TV, and 3.89 % on Beijing TV. On the Internet (according to Tencent and The Lottery) over 80,000,000 people watched the TV series every day.1 The TV drama was also well received in Taiwan and South Korea. One element that contributes to the success of the play is that many very famous and popular stars such as Sun Li 孫儷, Liu Tao 劉濤, and Fang Zhongxin 方中信 from Hong Kong performed in it. Another attraction of the drama is that the protagonist Mi Yue is a historical figure—Queen Mother Xuan (Xuan Taihou 宣太后) of Kingdom Qin (Qin guo 秦國 in the period of the Warring States). Fragments of her life story can be found in Strategies of the Warring States (Zhan guo ce 戰國策), and Records of the Grand Historian (Shiji 史记). Curiosity to learn more about this outstanding historical woman draws the audience to follow the TV drama with enthusiasm, even though it consists of 81 episodes. The scriptwriter and director of the TV series, Zheng Xiaolong 鄭曉龍, is famous for creating TV dramas about ancient themes. Before The Legend of Mi Yue, he made The Legend of Zhen Huan 甄嬛傳 (Zhen Huan zhuan), a TV drama about the success of a concubine in Qing Dynasty. When he was asked about the purpose of producing The Legend of Mi Yue, Zheng claimed that what he wanted to pursue was the retelling of stories about human nature. To tell stories about human nature means to tell what people’s aspirations are and what their inner psyche is when facing conflicts in life and facing themselves. The 1 Wen Hong 文紅, “Redian, kandian, toudian: Mi Yue Zhuan de yishu tese” 熱點,看點,透 點:芈月傳的藝術特色 (On artistic features of The Legend of Mi Yue). Zhongguo guangbo dianshi xuekan 中國廣播電視學刊 (Journal of Chinese radio and television), 3 (2016): 60– 62.

© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2020 | doi:10.1163/9789004427570_004 Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

prophecy, “ming” and the lost self in the legend of mi yue

47

TV drama is meant to tell stories about average human beings. Only when they are presented in such contexts, Zheng explains, can a TV drama be true in representing the characters in life with aspirations, can their stories inspire the audience.2 One remarkable point of the drama is the conflict of the protagonist Mi Yue’s multiple identities, which thrust her into constant conflict and even self-conflict. She is a princess of Kingdom Chu (Chu guo 楚国). But being born of a concubine mother, she is treated as inferior to the children of Queen Wei and other concubines of higher status. Since her teenage years Mi Yue despises her female gender and admires the boys who have chances to fight and win honour with their brave performance in battles. Her aspirations are shown from an early age. Mi Yue is the daughter of King Wei of the Kingdom of Chu 楚威王, and Chu is her native state. However, after she becomes the concubine of the king of Kingdom Qin and later becomes the ruler of Qin, she sends armies to conquer and destroy her native state. As a “hegemonic star” (ba xing 霸星) she transcends the limitations of her gender. In a patriarchal society, a girl is not allowed access to political power. But Mi Yue magically becomes the ruler of Qin and reigns the empire successfully for forty-one years. What is intriguing in the drama is that King Wei interprets the birth of Mi Yue under a hegemonic star as a good sign that his kingdom will prosper. However, it is exactly the opposite, because Mi Yue later becomes the cause of Kingdom Chu’s downfall. As a hegemonic star, Mi Yue proves to be destructive to Chu, but is conducive to the rise of Qin. Mi Yue’s “ming” 命 or fate is predicted before she was born. The royal astrologer Tang Mei 唐眛 discovers that a “hegemonic star” has appeared above the palace of King Wei, which symbolizes that a supreme ruler will be born in the Kingdom of Chu. In ancient China, it was believed that divination could reveal the will of Heaven. Whenever the state had to make important decisions, the astrologer would consult an oracle or shaman and observe the stars to see if there would be signs that indicated fortune or calamities. The prognostication of Mi Yue’s fate thus becomes a power game, which engenders aspirations, jealousy, and attempted murders by her enemies in the royal palace. Even though it is incredible that a woman will become a ruler, Mi Yue’s birth brings a threat to Queen Wei and her supporters. In order to prevent any threat to her son’s inheritance of the royal crown, Queen Wei has tried many attempts to get rid of Mi Yue. Because of the prognostication, the whole royal family has been involved 2 Bai Feng 白鋒, “Mi Yue Zhuan zhong de da renwu yu xiao renwude ren xing” 芈月傳中大 人物與小人物的人性 (Human nature in the major and minor characters in The Legend of Mi Yue). 30 November 2015. http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_8721ef340102w7fa.html. Accessed 10 November 2017.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

48

xie

in internal power struggles. This reveals that in the age of the Warring States, divination had an overwhelming effect on people, as it was believed that the fate of the state was determined by the fate of an individual. At the same time, an individual is often led to have great aspirations because of the prognostication. Fate is a recurring theme in The Legend of Mi Yue, which not only describes the intricate fate of some well-known historical figures such as Mi Yue, Qu Yuan 屈原, Zhang Yi 張儀 and King Huiwen 惠文王 of Qin, but also illustrates how these figures influence the rise and fall of the Seven Kingdoms. In the view of the Ancient Chinese, for a kingdom as well as an individual, fate is predestined. More importantly, the TV drama also presents a realistic picture of people’s spiritual state and psychological responses to coping with their fate. To focus on the theme of fate, I shall discuss the following questions. When Chinese people talk about fate, normally they use the word Heaven 天 (tian) or “ming” to refer to the force of destiny. First, if “ming” was a common belief in the age of the Warring States, how did people obtain information about “ming”? How did this belief affect people’s life? What were the connotations of “ming”? Secondly, “ming” in Chinese culture is different from the Western concept of fate. Referring to examples from the drama, I shall elaborate on the differences between “ming” and fate, and thus elucidate on how the TV drama redefines the concept of “ming.” Thirdly, if man is endowed with “ming” and every person’s selfhood is defined by their social and familial roles, are “ming” and selfhood the same thing or consistent? If not, how do the characters negotiate between the call of “ming” and their desires?

1

Prognostication, “Ming” and the Power of Heaven

The era between 711–221BCE is called the “Spring and Autumn” and “Warring States” period in Chinese history. In this period, China had many kingdoms. Wars were frequent among the kingdoms in order to expand their territories and acquire wealth. According to the Records of the Grand Historian (Shiji 史 记), thirty-six kings were killed, fifty-two states were destroyed and numerous princes tried in vain to succeed to the crown of their kingdom in this period.3 In the Zuo Commentary on the Spring and Autumn Annals (Zuo Zhuan 左傳), there are also numerous stories about the rise and fall of the warring states. The

3 This idea can be found in “Shiji, Taishigong zixu” 史記, 太史公自序 (Self preface of Records of the Grand Historian). Beijing: Zhongguo shuji chubanshe, 1959. 3297.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

prophecy, “ming” and the lost self in the legend of mi yue

49

insecurity and fragility of power meant that the kings lived in anxiety. Turning to divination for assistance became a widespread practice in the royal family and the noble class, who believed in prophecies as revelation of fate. The belief in divination marked the ancient Chinese attempts in interpreting fate and mastering it. The bamboo slips found in a grave of the Han dynasty contain records about deciphering the future of a kingdom according to astrology, which is a practice that can be traced to ancient times.4 The Legend of Mi Yue is set against such a historical background when divination exerted an overwhelming influence on people. The drama begins with a new finding by the imperial astronomer Tang Mei in the Kingdom of Chu. To read the star is a practice for decoding the future of a state. In the first episode, Tang Mei, the royal astrologer of the Kingdom of Chu observes the sky and becomes extremely excited. He reports to the King Wei that a celestial constellation shows that a “hegemonic star” will emerge in the state. If any of the king’s women is pregnant at this moment, she will give birth to a hegemonic star who will lead his state to conquer all the other six states. The prophecy made through divination is vague and ambiguous. It tests human intelligence to decipher the sign conveyed by the divination. Tang Mei can only read that a very special baby will be born at the palace of Kingdom of Chu, but he has no idea that this baby is a girl. Neither can he explain how a girl can become a personification of the hegemonic star. It is beyond human imagination that the girl born under a hegemonic star will lead the Kingdom of Qin to conquer her own native state, the Kingdom of Chu, years later. The vague and ambiguous nature of divination allows room for people to maneuver their interpretations. On hearing Tang Mei’s report, King Wei carefully analyzes the sign in an attempt to decipher how it might influence his kingdom. He has just heard that the new king of Qin has killed the former prime minister Shang Yang 商鞅, who, by reforming the laws, had enhanced the power of the Kingdom of Qin, which is Chu’s rival. With the death of Shang Yang, Qin’s power would be diminished. When the star image reveals that a hegemonic star is born in his palace, King Wei thus concludes that it is a blessing, signaling the prosperity and rise of Chu. This episode illustrates how ancient Chinese interpreted divination and made judgments about their “ming.” When a prophecy is made upon a divination, people don’t just blindly follow it or passively wait to accept what befalls them. On the contrary, they try to interpret the divination by relating it to their

4 Liu Lexian 劉樂賢, Jianbo shushu wenxian tanlun 簡帛數術文獻探論 (On the divination documents of bamboo slips and silk) (Beijing: Renmin daxue chubanshe, 2012), 6168.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

50

xie

own life. A prognostication thus includes a process of interpretation. “Ming” is a pervasive phenomenon in The Legend of Mi Yue. The rise or fall of a kingdom is predestined by “ming.” The life or death of a person is also prescribed by “ming.” People believe the life span of a person is decreed in his or her “ming.” It is the will of “ming” or Heaven that decides when a person should live or die. In Episode 14, Mi Yue is poisoned by the jealous princess Mi Yin and is about to die. The female doctor of the palace comes to rescue her. Mi Yue expresses her gratitude to the doctor for saving her life. The female doctor replies: “It is not within my power to save Princess Mi Yue, it is decreed in her ‘ming’ that she should not die” (bushi wo yao jiu Yuegongzhu, ershi tade ming bugai si 不 是我要救月公主,是她命不該死).5 The doctor’s comment suggests that a person’s life lies in his or her “ming.” In ancient China, as women were not allowed chances for formal education and profession, their fate was largely decided by birth and luck. Marriage is considered “ming” and is thus a decisive element in a woman’s life. Princess Mi Yin 芈茵 makes the following remark to Princess Mi Shu 芈姝, the daughter of Queen Wei: Everyone is born with “ming.” Being the daughter of the queen, you are endowed with prosperity and nobleness, and will become a queen. As for me, I’m destined to marry a husband and raise our children. If my husband can get promoted, it is my “ming” to share his fortune and happiness.6 Mi Yin relates a person’s chance of success and happiness to his or her birth and social background. Her understanding of “ming” may represent one group of the ancient Chinese who deny the power of human agency and believe to owe everything that happens in their life to the power of “ming.” In the drama, “ming” is shown as a force beyond human control and comprehension. It often plays with man and makes a mockery of people’s wicked attempts to obtain what is more than their “ming” has assigned them. Due to Mi Yue’s beauty and wisdom, after she enters the palace of Qin as a companion girl of the bride of Princess Mi Shu, she is considered a potential threat to the concubines’ share of the king’s love. They try to get rid of her. Lady Wei threatens to kill Mi Yue’s younger brother if Mi Yue will not leave 5 https://v.qq.com/x/cover/xfxd9mej2luhfoz/b00198xakp8.html. 26:46–26:50. Accessed 10 November 2017. All quotations from the The Legend of Mi Yue are based on this access date. 6 https://v.qq.com/x/cover/xfxd9mej2luhfoz/v001930d98y.html. 32:34–32:49. The original reads 人真是天生有命的, 象妹妹你, 就是榮華富貴, 要當一國之后的命; 像 我,就是相夫教子,若夫君能加官進爵,我也就是跟著享福的命. My translation.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

prophecy, “ming” and the lost self in the legend of mi yue

51

the palace. When Mi Yue goes to ask for Queen Mi Shu’s help, her nanny, Dai Mao 玳瑁, refuses to offer a hand. Dai Mao wants to make use of this chance to force Mi Yue to leave the palace. In desperation, Mi Yue has to surrender herself to the protection of King Huiwen and thus becomes his favorite concubine, which is exactly what Lady Wei and Dai Mao had feared. When Queen Mi Shu gets to know all that has happened, she merely sighs, saying that she finally understands that everything is fated. Queen Mi Shu’s words express her understanding of Mi Yue’s fate. Being born a hegemonic star, Mi Yue is granted prosperity and power by Heaven. The various attempts to drive her out of the palace end up with sending Mi Yue to the arms of the king. It is a dramatic irony which reveals that the women of the palace serve as instruments to fulfill the design of Heaven. In The Legend of Mi Yue, “ming” is an inalterable force that represents the will of Heaven. Occasionally, when Chinese people refer to the sacred force that controls everything, they use the term “Heaven” and “ming” interchangeably. Heaven or “ming” denote the same power that is beyond human control. Once people learn that something is the command of Heaven, they will show awe and obedience, as any act that offends Heaven may bring calamity to the kingdom or the family. Mencius reveals this truth: “He who accords with Heaven is preserved; he who opposes Heaven is destroyed” 顺天者存,逆天者亡 (shuntianzhe cun, nitianzhe wang).7 After Mi Yue is predicted to become a hegemonic star, Queen Wei fears that the baby may someday threaten her son’s position as heir to the throne. Queen Wei tries to get rid of the baby. First, she intends to use a drug to cause Mi Yue’s mother to abort the baby. But she fails. Then, after Mi Yue is born, Queen Wei argues that if the hegemonic star is a girl, she may bring disaster to the kingdom. So the girl must be killed in order to prevent any harm to the state. As King Wei can’t bear seeing his own child killed, the Queen then offers to throw the baby into the brook, leaving her life to the hands of Heaven (tian 天). The newborn baby is put into the brook to await her destiny. The next morning, people are surprised to find that the baby is lying alive on the foot of the statue of the deity Shao Si Ming (少司命),8 a Master of Fate, which stands by the river. It is then concluded that the will of Heaven keeps her alive, thus putting an end to further persecution of the poor girl. 7 Mengzi 孟子, translated & annotated by Wan Lihua 萬麗華 and Lan Xu 藍旭 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 2007), 151. 8 There are two deities who control and adjust the fate of people: Da Si Ming 大司命 is in charge of life and death, while Shao Si Ming 少司命 is in charge of whether a person has offsprings.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

52

xie

Another deed that shows that “ming” or Heaven may inspire awe and prevent evil crime is the action of the female doctor who tries to protect Mi Yue. In Episode 11, Princess Mi Yin is jealous of the love between Mi Yue and Huang Xie. She secretly puts poison into the food of Mi Yue and makes her sick. Ever since the birth of Mi Yue, Queen Wei has had a fear of the hegemonic star baby. She wants to see Mi Yue die. But she has no excuse to kill her. Hearing that Mi Yue is very sick with poison, Queen Wei asks the female doctor if she will be able to save Mi Yue’s “ming.” “Ming” is a word with multiple meanings. It can refer to one’s fate as well as one’s life. The female doctor understands the queen’s intention well. But when she replies to the queen, she deliberately uses “ming” as a pun: “‘Ming’ (life) is given by Heaven. If Heaven wants to take her away, nobody can stop it. If Heaven wants her to stay alive, nobody can send her away.”9 The female doctor thus avoids mentioning her power of medical treatment, as she is afraid that the queen may ask her to give up her medical aid to save Mi Yue. Instead, the doctor emphasizes that one’s life is in the control of the omnipotent Heaven. Zong-Qi Cai points out that in the eyes of early Zhou people, “the universe was a completely logical and moral one, with few things left to their own designs. All human affairs were governed by a strict moral law of cause and effect. For kings and commoners alike, good deeds begot reward and evil conduct begot punishment.”10 By mentioning Heaven, the female doctor reminds Queen Wei of the existence of the moral power that governs the universe, which no man should offend. Her strategy effectively prevents the queen from any further murderous attempt against Mi Yue. Therefore, in The Legend of Mi Yue, “ming” sometimes is a synonym for Heaven. Everything decreed in one’s “ming” is a demonstration of the will of Heaven. Any intention to change what is decreed in a person’s “ming” will violate the will of Heaven and incur punishment. In this way, the TV drama shows that Heaven or “ming” symbolizes a moral power in the mind of the ancient Chinese that may prohibit evil desires in man’s mind. In summary, we can see from The Legend of Mi Yue that in the chaotic period of the Warring States, “ming” is a pervasive phenomenon. Everything is believed to be fated, including the life span of a person, the fortune allowed for each

9

10

https://v.qq.com/x/cover/xfxd9mej2luhfoz/b00198xakp8.html. 27:46–27:55. The original reads 女醫摯: 命是上天給的, 上天要帶她走, 無人可阻擋, 上天要留她在, 無人可送她走. My translation. Zong-Qi Cai, “Multiple Vistas of Ming and Changing Visions of Life in the Works of Tao Qian,” in Christopher Lupke, ed., The Magnitude of Ming: Command Allotment and Fate in Chinese Culture (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2005), 177.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

prophecy, “ming” and the lost self in the legend of mi yue

53

individual, and the rise or fall of a kingdom. “Ming” is mysterious. Divination may offer people some clues but it defies explicitness and certainty. Nobody can achieve a full interpretation of “ming.” As the Chinese proverb goes, “the secret of Heaven is not allowed to be revealed to humans” 天機不可洩露 (tianji buke xie lu). “Ming” or Heaven is also a tricky force that plays with and manipulates the life of human beings. Any attempt to alter “ming” will only lead to opposite results. Man may unconsciously become the instrument to fulfill the design of Heaven. Finally, “ming” or Heaven refers to the sacred order that governs the universe. It inspires awe and prevents humans from disobedience and offensive conduct.

2

“Ming,” Interpretation and the Power of Human

Fate in the Western concept is a notion which concerns determination and fatalism. Prophecy is taken as a revelation of fate. However, in Chinese culture “ming” is a concept different from fate. It contains manifold connotations. Zong-Qi Cai summarizes four layers of meaning of “ming.” The first is “demand,” which refers to the duty that is assigned to everyone. The second is “life span,” the length of one’s life. The third is “destiny,” the mysterious power that capriciously controls and decides the outcome of events in the future. The fourth is the natural course of things such as the biological process from life to death.11 The Chinese concept of “ming” is different from fate in the Western notion. Lisa Raphals gives a comprehensive analysis and comparison of the Greek notion of fate and the Chinese concept of “ming.” She concludes that some common notions of fate exist in the Chinese and Western philosophical traditions, but attitudes toward fatalism contrast significantly. For the Chinese, “ming” does not necessarily amount to the demise of free will. Within one’s set life span there is room for maneuver.12 Raphals emphasizes the function of agency that Chinese people employ when they interpret their “ming.” Although The Legend of Mi Yue is a modern TV drama, it gives an account of the life story of a historical figure in ancient times. It is inevitable that some modern visions of fate are woven into the plot. Though it may be controversial, it reflects both the continuity and the diversity of ideas that Chinese people 11 12

Ibid., 169–170. Lisa Raphals, “Language of Fate: Semantic Fields in Chinese and Greek,” in Christopher Lupke, ed., The Magnitude of Ming: Command Allotment and Fate in Chinese Culture (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2005), 5.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

54

xie

hold about “ming.” To examine fate and “ming” in greater detail, the differences between the two closely related concepts will be discussed, using examples of “ming” in The Legend of Mi Yue. A divination reveals what will happen. In other words, it is about an external and objective power, which may be seen as fate, or the natural course of events or destiny of a person. However, as exemplified in The Legend of Mi Yue, for the individual, the natural course revealed by the divination is not equivalent to one’s “ming.” The TV drama reveals that the phenomenon of “ming” not only relies on one’s interpretation, but also is subject to human choice. One example to show how the characters treat their “ming” is found in the marriage of the King of Yi Qu 義渠王, a historical figure. The love story between Mi Yue and the King of Yi Qu is recorded in Records of the Grand Historian and Strategies of the Warring States. In the tribe of Yi Qu 義渠, there is an old sorcerer who can employ divination to help the king to make important decisions. When he is consulted about the union of the beautiful woman Mi Yue and the handsome King of Yi Qu, the old sorcerer violently rejects this marriage. He never reveals the reason. The king laughs at his weird ideas. By the end of the drama, when Mi Yue kills her lover, the King of Yi Qu, the fatal knot is understood by the Yi Qu tribe. The old sorcerer must have foreseen the death of the husband, the King of Yi Qu, in Mi Yue’s hands. Although the king sincerely believes in divination, his love of Mi Yue makes him ignore the fatal warning. He decides to follow his heart and take the marriage with Mi Yue as his “ming,” something inescapable, and something he chooses to accept. The choice that the King of Yi Qu makes may well exemplify another aspect of “ming” in the mind of ancient Chinese. “Ming” is something ineluctable, but it is not completely predetermined by Heaven. It lies in the hands of people and is determined by people’s choices. The King of Yi Qu is willing to pay with his life for his love and choice. In other words, “ming” refers to an attitude. It is about how man takes the sign of fate. Only when humans arrive at an interpretation of fate and take action accordingly is the power of “ming” incurred. Therefore, as shown in the case of the King of Yi Qu, human agency plays a vital role in a person’s “ming”. The king’s “ming” lies in his own choice. As an incarnation of the hegemonic star, Mi Yue is a femme fatale who destroys both her lover and her native state. The power of human agency can also be found in another example in the TV drama. Tang Mei, the astrologer, is a legendary character who is loyal to his profession and obligation. Tang Mei beholds that everything inscribed in the star image is the decree of Heaven. It means unalterable fate for human beings. In the first episode, after King Wei gets to know that the hegemonic star baby

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

prophecy, “ming” and the lost self in the legend of mi yue

55

is a girl, and she may bring disaster to the Kingdom of Chu, the king is reluctant to keep the child. Tang Mei anxiously appeals to the king, saying that the birth of the hegemonic star baby is the mandate or decree of Heaven. It is forbidden to go against the will of Heaven. He exclaims: “My lord, Heaven has shown its design with the star movements. It’s beyond human power to alter it. If we go against its will, calamity will befall!”13 His exhortation declares that humans should be obedient to the mandate of Heaven. Any refusal is offense and will incur the punishment of Heaven. As an astrologer, Tang Mei takes it as his responsibility to maintain that order and to keep it from disruption. Tang Mei’s interpretation of the state’s “ming” thus contains a moral obligation. He foresees his fate of death too, but he does not try to escape from it. It is shown in Episode 15 that Queen Wei is determined to get rid of Mi Yue and she sends killers to murder Mi Yue when she is on the way to the Kingdom of Qin as a companion of the bride Princess Mi Shu. At midnight, before the killers come to attack Mi Yue, Tang Mei comes to warn her of imminent danger. He sacrifices himself to save the hegemonic star girl Mi Yue. As an astrologer who foresees the decree of Heaven, Tang Mei believes that it is prescribed in his “ming” and he has to be a guardian to protect the order of Heaven. His choice reveals that for him the decree of Heaven is more important than his life. In a similar way with the King of Yi Qu, Tang Mei’s story also illustrates that “ming” lies in the choice of man. While the King of Yi Qu sees that his “ming” prescribes that he will die for love, Tang Mei takes it that the will of Heaven gives him the mission of life. The drama also presents figures who are forced to accept the unfortunate events that happen to them, and take them as their “ming.” The eldest daughter of King Huiwen, Princess Meng Ying 孟瀛, is only 18 years old. In order to forge alliance, King Huiwen decides to marry her to the King of Kingdom Yan (Yan guo 燕國), who is over fifty years old and has a lame leg. In Episode 29, Princess Meng Ying violently protests and refuses to marry the old king. She comes to ask her aunt to assist her. But her aunt, the sister of King Huiwen, only assures her that since she is born at the royal family, it is her “ming” to sacrifice for the kingdom. Mi Yue is puzzled by this answer, and asks the king’s sister why. The king’s sister tells Mi Yue that just as every prince has to risk his life fighting in the battle field, every princess is destined to serve their state through marriage. Being born to the royal family, the king’s children are fated to sacrifice their body, their life, and their affection for the security and development of 13

https://v.qq.com/x/cover/xfxd9mej2luhfoz/s00190fcjfl.html. 25:12–25:23. The original reads 大王, 天象已顯, 非人力所能更改。 若是逆天而行, 必受其害啊! My translation.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

56

xie

the state. Being the eldest daughter of King Huiwen, Princess Meng Ying eventually sees the necessity of her sacrifice and the inescapability of her “ming.” She tells her father King Huiwen that she has no affection for the old king, but in order to forge the alliance between the two states, she will do anything. In this chapter, we see how “ming,” as fate determined by Heaven, functions as a power in the drama that is external and beyond human control. In the above examples, we see how the characters exercise human agency in interpreting fate to their benefit. Humans are not presented as puppets of “ming.” They are allowed opportunities to interpret the divination or other signs concerning their future and define their own “ming.” However, it is ironic that their interpretations, such as that made by King Wei of Chu, is wishful thinking to the extent of misinterpretation that finally brings the destruction of his kingdom.

3

The Evolving Self, Tianming and Self-Renouncement

Since the beginning of the drama, the prognostication of Mi Yue as a hegemonic star denotes a promising future for the girl. However, prognostication doesn’t mean that Mi Yue is granted with every privilege by Heaven and achieves success easily. The director of the drama, Zheng Xiaolong, who claims to have interest in exploring human nature in this work, focuses on disclosing the process of Mi Yue’s personality change as she endeavors to ascend to power. The life of Mi Yue can be divided into three periods. When Mi Yue was born and brought up in the palace of the Kingdom of Chu, she was the daughter of a concubine of low status. In the second period, Mi Yue stays in the palace of the Kingdom of Qin as a concubine. She is tired of the fight for the favour of the king among the concubines and longs to escape from the palace. In the third period, after King Huiwen dies, Mi Yue’s son succeeds the crown and she becomes the queen mother of Qin. While the TV drama presents the process of Mi Yue’s growth, it also reveals the gradual changes of her identity and selfconsciousness. In her teenage years in the palace of the Kingdom of Chu, Mi Yue witnesses the tragic life of the princesses. The royal girls are doomed to be wagers at the game table of the states. Nobody can control their own fate. Being the daughter of a concubine, what Mi Yue strives for is to escape from the wretched state of becoming a concubine, and marry a man she loves. After Mi Yue marries King Huiwen as his concubine and gives birth to a son, her identity begins to change. In the ten years that she spends with King Huiwen, Mi Yue is greatly influenced by this ambitious king. Being the beloved concubine of King Huiwen, Mi Yue is allowed to read all kinds of official documents and attend discussions and

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

prophecy, “ming” and the lost self in the legend of mi yue

57

debates about how to make Qin more powerful than the other states. Being trusted by the king, she has opportunities to participate in settling different kinds of domestic and inter-state affairs. For Mi Yue, this is not only a period of acquiring knowledge and experience in ruling a country, it also somehow changes her views of the world and her anticipation of her future life. The crucial moment comes when Mi Yue faces two choices. After the king’s death, she is sent to Yan as hostage with her son. Her first love, Huang Xie 黄歇, comes to offer her life-long marriage and protection. On the other hand, Yong Rui 雍瑞, a minister of Qin, also arrives at Yan, and brings her the testamentary edict of King Huiwen, commanding her son to succeed the crown of Qin. It has long been a dream for Mi Yue to marry Huang Xie as his wife, a dream she has had since she was a little girl. However, at this moment Mi Yue is no longer the girl she used to be. She begins to have an ambition in politics and in ruling the state. Her ambition is triggered by the belief that she is a woman born of a hegemonic star. Charles Taylor has made a point that a person’s identity is formed in dialogical relations with other people: “Thus my discovering my own identity doesn’t mean that I work it out in isolation, but that I negotiate it through dialogue, partly overt, partly internal, with others … My own identity crucially depends on my dialogical relations with others.”14 The self is a dynamic formation. It is formed and changed when the self is involved in constant dialogues with others. To interpret Mi Yue’s changing mindset in the light of Taylor’s observation, we can see that Mi Yue’s growth, as well as the change of her moral identity, has been under the influence of King Huiwen. Living with the ambitious King Huiwen, Mi Yue is in constant dialogue with him, learning to understand the greatness of his dream. In her eyes, what King Huiwen is striving for is to finish all the wars between the seven kingdoms and end all the pains of the people. Under the unified leadership of one king and one law, all people can enjoy a peaceful life and prosperity. This is an enterprise of greatness that will benefit millions of people. She begins to see a new world, a world that she as a girl never had access to, a world in which she may be able to play a significant role. Being a partner of King Huiwen, she shares his spiritual pursuit and responsibility. Put in another way, she has gained a new identity, a hegemonic star who aspires for great power, as predicted before, a queen mother endowed with Tianming (fate by mandate of Heaven). Speaking about her vision to Huang Xie, Mi Yue betrays the change in her:

14

Charles Taylor, Multiculturalism and “The Politics of Recognition” (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), p. 34.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

58

xie

King Huiwen is a man of great insight and ambition. I am indebted to his appreciation and help. If I had never met him, I would still be an ignorant common girl. Before I met him, I only cared for love. I knew little about the world. It is through his guidance that I got a chance to see another world that common girls can never have the opportunity to see.15 Her confession illustrates the transformation of her identity, thus giving her a new interpretation of her “ming.” Mi Yue gives up her love and engages herself in the enterprise of creating a grand empire. In other words, she renounces the initial attempt to escape from the palace and the struggle for power in the royal family, and begins to interpret her “ming” as a hegemonic star ruler. If it is believed that every person is endowed with a “ming,” how does “ming” reconcile with a person’s desires and natural inclinations? Does a person’s self mean the same thing as his or her “ming”? Or are they different and in conflict with each other? How do ancient Chinese make a balance or choice between the call of their “ming” and the appeal of their inner desire? Much of The Legend of Mi Yue is devoted to exploring the inner psychological workings of the characters, and illustrates the painful efforts that a woman has to make in realizing her “ming.” The command of the late King Huiwen brings Mi Yue and her son to the ruling position of Qin. Nevertheless, the TV drama does not present Mi Yue’s rise to power as coincidence or good luck. On the contrary, Mi Yue’s process of establishing her authority and securing her position as a female ruler is full of tough challenges and choices. The play dramatizes the tensions in Mi Yue between her different roles as a woman of loving nature, a native of the Kingdom of Chu, a woman who desires love and to be loved, and the command of her duty as the queen mother of Qin. The first challenge comes from the seven sons of Mi Yue’s late husband. The greediness for the crown drives them into rebellious wars. With the help of the King of Yi Que and the other loyal officials, Mi Yue succeeds in quelling the civil war. In order to put an end to the potential danger that threatens her rule, Mi Yue needs to kill the seven princes. However, the seven princes were all born by the late King Huiwen, and are considered the brothers of her son. The royal family as well as the high officials strongly oppose the death penalty in order to keep the sons of the late king alive. To show mercy and obtain the support of the royal family and ministers, or to kill the princes who are engaged in rebel and put end to all chaos? After careful consideration, Mi Yue makes her decision and announces to the ministers that she is empowered by law, and it is perfectly

15

https://v.qq.com/x/cover/xfxd9mej2luhfoz/o00194uzpzz.html. 26:11–26:48.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

prophecy, “ming” and the lost self in the legend of mi yue

59

justifiable to kill the rebels. Her announcement not only shows her determination and confidence, but also reveals her moral stance as a ruthless ruler, who firmly protects the integrity and safety of the country. With royal bloodshed in public, Mi Yue renounces her feminine qualities that are incompatible with her “ming” as a hegemonic star ruler. From a girl to a female ruler, the transformation of Mi Yue is a process of selfconflict and self-renouncement. The position of the ruler frequently thrusts her into conflict with her identity as a woman, as the wife of the King of Yi Qu and as a princess of Chu. In the painful struggle to negotiate between her role as the ruler and the inner desires of a woman, Mi Yue begins to see what her “tianming,” that is, her fate as mandated by Heaven is. In “The Chinese Conception of Ming and Fate,” Wu Jingdong 吾敬東, a professor of philosophy at Shanghai Normal University, argues that the idea of “ming” containing a moral dimension has a long history. It can be traced to the age of the Western Zhou, that is, about 2700 to 3000 years ago, when there was a growing awareness of humanism in the interpretation of fate.16 While Confucianism claims that a man is born with a fate or “ming” which is beyond our control, Confucianism also emphasizes that man is born good, and a noble man should follow his own good to choose his life and to fulfill his “tianming.” In “Fate and Tianming: Two Confucian Perspectives on the Relationship between Man and Heaven,” Ding Weixiang says: “In Confucianism, ‘tianming’ for a noble man refers to a spiritual support or moral choice in his life.”17 As Confucius says: “Only when you learn your own ‘tianming’ and follow its way, can you become a noble man.”18 Since “tianming” refers to a person’s interpretation of his or her own role assigned by heaven, “tianming” becomes a sacred duty. Such an interpretation will give the person moral strength to endure all hardships and overcome all difficulties, but will also twist her inborn nature to become resolute in decisions. When Mi Yue decides to accept the mission given by King Huiwen, she takes it to be her “tianming” to save Qin and make it a strong empire. The interpret16

17

18

Wu Jingdong 吾敬東, “Zhongguo ren “ming” ji “mingyun” guannian de xingcheng 中國 人“命”及命運念的形成” (The Chinese conception of ‘ming’ and fate), Xueshu yuekan 學 術月刊 (Academic monthly), 4 (2009):118–130. Ding Weixiang 丁為祥, “Ming yu tianming: Rujia Tianren Guanxi de Shuangchong Shijiao 命與天命:儒家天人關係的雙重視角” (Fate and Tianming: Two Confucian Perspectives on the Relationship between Man and Heaven) Zhongguo zhexue 中國哲學 (Chinese philosophy) 4 (2007): 11–21. Confucius 孔子, Lun Yu 論語 (Analects of Confucius), annotated by Zhang Yanying (張 燕嬰譯註) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 2007), p. 307. The original reads 不知命, 無以為 君子也. My translation.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

60

xie

ation and acceptance of her “tianming” gives Mi Yue the will power to make self-sacrifice. Mi Yue has been in love with Huang Xie since she was a girl. The affection is her most valuable memory. After she becomes the ruler and when Huang is sent to visit her as an ambassador of Chu, Mi Yue asks him to stay in Qin and promises that she will give up all she has to keep him with her. Huang Xie replies, “Now you own the Kingdom. You should not pay all you have for me.”19 The words “should not” actually remind Mi Yue of her identity and obligation. Being a ruler, the state is her most important concern. She is not allowed to make her personal affection a priority in her duties. Another challenge that Mi Yue has to face is her love for her native state Chu. Before Mi Yue leaves Chu, she takes some soil with her because she is told the soil can help cure any illness caused by moving to a new place. After she takes over the rule of Kingdom Qin, it is her ambition and duty to conquer the other states and make Qin the strongest empire. The drama reveals that Mi Yue is troubled with hesitation when she thinks about attacking her native state. But her ambition eventually overpowers her emotion for Chu. She sends an army to seize the land and cities in Chu and kills her own brother, the King of Chu. During the wars, thousands of people from her native state lose their lives or homes. Though originally a princess of Chu, Mi Yue gives up her native identity when she decides to invade her native state. Is it possible for Mi Yue as a ruler to keep something for herself? Is there anything that is so valuable that she must keep it for herself? In Mi Yue’s case, there is not. The toughest choice Mi Yue has to make is between the security of her country and her affection for the King of Yi Qu. The King of Yi Qu has saved Mi Yue’s life several times and helped Mi Yue and his son win the crown of Qin. They are secretly married and living together, and give birth to two sons. After Mi Yue has secured her place as a queen mother and made Qin a strong empire, the King of Yi Qu and his army become a threat to the security of Qin. In dramatizing the scene of killing King Yi Qu, the drama presents Mi Yue in hysteria and extreme grief as she witnesses the slaughtering of the man with whom she has shared a bed for many years. Mi Yue is forced to make a further sacrifice for her “ming” as a hegemonic star. As a person with a strong self and hidden desires, Mi Yue is repressed by her concept of “tianming” and has to internalize it as her moral obligation to sacrifice for the state. For the royal family, members are required to give up their selfhood and surrender to the demand of “tianming.”

19

https://v.qq.com/x/cover/xfxd9mej2luhfoz/p00198l3pks.html. 21:15–21:23. The original reads 你現在是一國之君, 不該傾其所有. My translation.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

prophecy, “ming” and the lost self in the legend of mi yue

61

The one who wins is also the one who loses. This is the picture presented in The Legend of Mi Yue. When Mi Yue succeeds in making Qin the strongest kingdom and affirms her role as a supreme ruler, she suffers psychologically and emotionally all the time. While the role of a hegemonic star ruler gives Mi Yue the moral power to fulfill her duty, she has lost her selfhood and is no longer a lovely woman with a gentle nature. In fulfilling her “ming,” Mi Yue has to pay the price of self-sacrifice and self-renouncement. The Legend of Mi Yue is a modern interpretation of the painful inner struggles of a historical figure. Her life is tormented by prognostications of her fate and her obligations, which serve as a means to testing her will power and her integrity. In terms of “ming,” the TV drama presents multiple views. On the one hand, “ming” is shown as an external power of fate which is beyond human control. “Ming” or Heaven is used interchangeably to refer to the sacred power that is believed to govern the universe. Any attempt to offend Heaven will cause punishment or disaster. Queen Mi Shu wants to get rid of Mi Yue’s son to secure her son’s position as heir. Ironically, the killer bees that she intends to use as a weapon almost kill her own son. In another case, Lady Wei’s attempt to force Mi Yue to leave the palace ends up with sending Mi Yue to the arms of the king. Such events suggest that omnipotent Heaven can make humans the instruments of its design. On the other hand, the vision of “ming” presented in The Legend of Mi Yue is not necessarily deterministic. The characters in the drama do not surrender themselves passively to the control of Heaven. Divination reveals the secrets of the future, but it allows human beings to make choices, and those choices are taken as their realization of “ming.” The King of Yi Qu and the astrologer Tang Mei demonstrate their courage and will when they choose to die for what they treasure. In the TV drama, “ming” entails moral obligation. Knowing one’s “ming” means to know one’s position and to take the obligation and responsibility that are assigned. King Huiwen proves that he is a man who knows his “ming,” as he decides to marry his beloved daughter Meng Yin to the old king of Yan for an alliance between the two states. Princess Meng Yin also conforms to her “ming” as the daughter of King Huiwen when she decides to sacrifice herself for the benefit of Qin. As exemplified by the TV drama, “ming” is tied to one’s social position and one’s moral obligation. To know “ming” is to take responsibility by following it despite the difficulties and personal unwillingness. “Ming,” as a concept of self-knowledge, is presented as a dynamic process. The TV drama emphasizes the connection between a person’s sense of self and his or her understanding of “ming.” Although Mi Yue had been predicted to become a hegemonic star when she was born, she hates the power struggle

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

62

xie

in the royal family and wants to live as a common girl. She dreams of marrying her love Huang Xie and escaping from her “ming.” The TV drama shows that only after she becomes the concubine of King Huiwen and steps into the position of a ruler, can she understand her moral obligation and accept it as her “ming.” Therefore, changes in her status bring changes to her interpretation of her “ming.” The drama also emphasizes the enduring and painful efforts that Mi Yue has made to fulfill her duty as a ruler of Qin, and hence also fulfill her “ming.” As exemplified by the TV drama, to fulfill her “ming” as a hegemonic star, Mi Yue renounces many things she treasures: her love, her innocent nature, her family, and her affection for her native state.

Bibliography Bai Feng 白鋒. “Mi Yue zhuan zhong da renwu yu xiao renwu de renxing” 羋月傳中 大人物與小人物的人性 (Human nature in the major and minor characters in The Legend of Mi Yue). http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_8721ef340102w7fa.html. Accessed 30 November 2015. Cai, Zong-Qi. “Multiple Vistas of Ming and Changing Visions of life in the Works of Tao Qian.” In The Magnitude of Ming: Command Allotment and Fate in Chinese Culture, 169–204. Edited by Christopher Lupke. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2005. Confucius 孔子. Lun yu 論語 (Analects of Confucius). Annotated by Zhang Yanying. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 2007. Ding Weixiang 丁為祥. “Ming yu tianming: Rujia tianren guanxi de shuangcong sijiao” 命與天命:儒家天人關係的雙重視角 (Fate and tianming: Two Confucian perspectives on the relationship between human beings and Heaven). Zhongguo zheixue 中 國哲學 (Chinese philosophy) 4 (2007): 11–21. Liu Lexian 劉樂賢. Jianbai shushu wenxian tanlun 簡帛數術文獻探論 (On the divine documents of bamboo slip and silk). Beijing: Renmin daxue chubanshe, 2012. Lupke, Christopher, ed. The Magnitude of Ming: Command Allotment and Fate in Chinese Culture. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2005. Mengzi 孟子. Mengzi 孟子. Translated and annotated by Wan Lihua 萬麗華 and Lan Xu 藍旭. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 2007. Mi Yue Zhuan 羋月傳 (The legend of Mi Yue), directed by Zheng Xiaolong 鄭曉龍. Dongyang: Hua’er yingshi wenhua youxian gongsi, 2015. Raphals, Lisa. “Language of Fate: Semantic Fields in Chinese and Greek.” In The Magnitude of Ming: Command Allotment and Fate in Chinese Culture, 70–106. Edited by Christopher Lupke. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2005.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

prophecy, “ming” and the lost self in the legend of mi yue

63

Sima Qian 司馬遷. “Taishigong zhixu” 太史公自序 (Self-Preface) in Shiji 史記 (Records of the grand historian). Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1959. Zhongguo zhexue shu dianzi hua jihua 中國哲學書電子化計劃 https://ctext.org/shiji/tai‑shi‑gong‑zi‑xu/zhs. Accessed 22 May 2018. Taylor, Charles. Multiculturalism and “The Politics of Recognition.” Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992. Wen Hong 文紅. “Redian, kandian, toudian: Mi Yue zhuan de yishu tesie” (熱點, 看 點, 透點: 羋月傳的藝術特色 On Artistic Features of the Legend of Mi Yue). Zhongguo guangbo dianshi xuekan 中國廣播電視學刊 (Journal of Chinese radio and television) 3 (2016): 60–62. Wu Jingdong 吾敬東. “Zhongguo ren ‘ming’ ji ‘mingyun’ guannian de xingcheng” (中國 人“命”及命運觀念的形成 The Chinese conception of ming and fate). Xueshu yuekan 學術月刊 (Academic monthly) 4 (2009): 118–130.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

chapter 3

Flood Disaster in Eighteenth-Century Shandong: Interpretations of Fate in a Drum-Song Ballad Roland Altenburger

Throughout Chinese history, natural disasters, the death and destruction caused by them, along with the more long-term consequences of famine, impoverishment and emigration, have always posed serious challenges to local communities, not only with regard to how to survive and overcome them, but also in terms of making sense of such events. How to explain a calamity that affected entire communities and regions? Was it to be interpreted as a collective punishment inflicted by Heaven? And who, if anybody, was to blame? Among the various kinds of natural disasters that have affected peasants in particular, the extreme excess of water as manifested in a flood was marked by its suddenness and destructiveness, whereas the reverse case, drought, with its continuous lack of water, was a slow process involving only limited destruction to the infrastructure.1 The focus here will be on flood, also because the water, with its enormous destructive power, was the subject of an elaborate popularmythological imaginary. Historians of late imperial China have researched the management of disaster quite extensively from the top-down perspective of administrative relief measures and local charity,2 whereas perceptions and interpretations of disaster from below, among the rural population, have remained understudied, apparently due to a lack of suitable sources. In order to

1 Pierre-Étienne Will, Bureaucratie et famine en Chine au 18e siècle (Paris etc.: École des hautes études en sciences sociales, 1980), 36. 2 For studies on administrative measures against famine, see, besides the aforementioned title also Pierre-Étienne Will and R. Bin Wong, Nourish the People: The State Civilian Granary System in China, 1650–1850 (Ann Arbor: Center for Chinese Studies, 1991); Lillian M. Li, Fighting Famine in North China: State, Market, and Environmental Decline, 1690s–1990s (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007). For a study on the mastering of the 1747 flood in Shandong, see Mu Yinchen 穆崟臣, “Shilun Qianlong shi’er nian Shandong shuizai yu zai hou yingdui” 試論乾隆十二年山東水災與災後應對 (Tentative study of the flood of the 12th year of Qianlong in Shandong and the handling of its aftermath), Gujin nongye 古今農業 2008.4: 71–78.

© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2020 | doi:10.1163/9789004427570_005 Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

flood disaster in eighteenth-century shandong

65

approximate the victims’ perspectives, eyewitness reports and personal memoirs are important source types. Such accounts, written by literati authors, sometimes even were included in local gazetteers. It is notable, though, that they tend to adopt the official top-down view on such events and hardly ever go beyond the general expression of empathy with the victims among the common population, and rarely if ever include any glimpse of popular perceptions.3 For instance, the collection originally titled as Guochao shi duo 國朝詩鐸 (Our Dynasty’s Bell of Poetry, ca. 1869), edited by Zhang Yingchang 張應昌 (1790– 1869), also includes an entire chapter on flood disasters.4 It has been explored by Mark Elvin as an important source on numerous aspects of everyday life and environmental history.5 However, the perspective adopted in the accounts included in this compendium, written in a metric classical style, is predominantly top-down, corresponding to the mostly eminent elite status of the literati authors. Therefore, in these poetic descriptions, commoners’ perspectives are reflected only indirectly, if at all. Literary re-imaginations or fictionalized narratives of disastrous events are another potentially interesting source type that can tell us a lot about the fears, beliefs and imaginaries linked to such devastating experiences.6 In Chinese literary studies, as a recent trend, there has emerged a subfield of the study of “disaster literature” 災害/災難文學 (zaihai/zainan wenxue) that, however, tends to overemphasize the documentary value of such accounts and the responses they describe.7

3 For an extensive study of the range of official and elite sources on two large-scale late-Ming flood disaster events, in 1587 and 1608, see Feng Xianliang 馮賢亮, “Wanli nianjian Jiangnan de da shuizai yu shehui fanying” 萬曆年間江南的大水災與社會反應 (Social response to Jiangnan Delta flooding in the Wanli Era), Mingdai yanjiu 明代研究 (Taipei) 16 (2011): 57– 91. For a study of disasters occurring in one district as recorded in its gazetteers, see: Andrea Janku, “Towards a History of Natural Disasters in China: The Case of Linfen County,” The Medieval History Journal 10.1–2 (2007): 267–301. 4 Zhang Yingchang 張應昌, ed., Qing shi duo 清詩鐸 (The bell of Qing poetry) (2 vols., Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1960), juan 15, 2:471–489 (“Shuizai” 水災). 5 Mark Elvin, “The Bell of Poesy: Thoughts on Poems as Information on Late-Imperial Chinese Environmental History,” in Studi in onore di Lionello Lanciotti, ed. Sandra M. Carletti et al. (3 vols., Napoli: Istituto universitario orientale, 1996), 1:497–523. 6 See, e.g., the description of a flood event and its causes in chapters 28–29 of the 17th-century novel Xingshi yinyuan zhuan 醒世姻緣傳 (Marriage destinies to awaken the world). 7 For a survey of the Chinese state-of-the-art of this new subfield, focusing on premodern literature, see Luan Yubo 栾玉博, “Zaihai yu Zhongguo gudai wenxue yanjiu zongshu” 災害與中 國古代文學研究綜述 (Survey of research on disasters and traditional Chinese literature), Du tianxia 讀天下 15 (2016): 344.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

66

altenburger

The present article explores rural commoners’ perceptions and interpretations of a local flood disaster8 through a close reading of a “drum-song” 鼓 詞 (guci, or gu’erci 鼓兒詞) ballad, a Northern regional genre of performancerelated prosimetric vernacular narrative.9 Regional ballads have hitherto only rarely been used as sources on the perception of and response to disastrous events, most notably in Kathryn J. Edgerton-Tarpley’s study of a “song” about the famine years 1876–1879 in one region of Shanxi Province.10 The text that serves the present study as its main source is entitled Gengxu shuizai gu’erci 庚 戌水災鼓兒詞 (Drum-song on the Flood of the Gengxu Year) and refers to a devastating flood in Linqu District 臨朐縣 of Shandong Province that occurred in 1730. This drum-song ballad, written in a low vernacular style with local dialect leanings, has come down to us in manuscript form. While there is no evidence for this, it would nevertheless seem likely that this drum-song was also being memorized and performed as part of an active local oral tradition.11 On the basis of the author’s own peasant background it will be argued that this drum-song ballad is particularly suitable to offer insights into rural commoners’ perceptions and interpretations of the cataclysmic event.

8

9

10

11

The inspiration partly derives from Jonathan D. Spence’s classic The Death of Woman Wang (New York: Viking Penguin, 1978), which explores the mentality of the rural population in Tancheng District 郯城縣 (Shandong), in the late seventeenth century. It includes a description of how the local population responded to a long series of calamitous events (1–32). Wilt L. Idema, “Popular Literature. Part II: Prosimetric Literature,” in The Indiana Companion to Traditional Chinese Literature, ed. William H. Nienhauser, Jr. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986), 83–92; Mark Bender and Victor Mair, “‘I Sit Here and Sing for You’: The Oral Literature of China,” in The Columbia Anthology of Chinese Folk & Popular Literature, ed. Victor H. Mair and Mark Bender (New York and Chichester: Columbia University Press, 2011), 1–12. Kathryn J. Edgerton-Tarpley, Tears from Iron: Cultural Responses to Famine in NineteenthCentury China (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2008), 42–66 (Chapter 2: “Experiencing the Famine: The Hierarchy of Suffering in a Famine Song from Xiezhou”). The author of this “song” obviously was a member of the local elite; its “popular” nature therefore is in question. The text may have been read aloud for others to listen, but it likely was not performed. For studies of this oral tradition, see Junko Iguchi 井口涥子, Zhongguo beifang nongcun de kouchuan wenhua: shuochang de shu, wenben, biaoyan 中國北方農村的口傳文化: 說唱的書、文本、表演 (Oral traditions of rural northern China: Text and performance in narrative music), trans. Lin Qi 林琦 and ed. Zhu Jiajun 朱家骏 (Xiamen: Xiamen daxue chubanshe, 2003); and Zhenzhen Lu, “The Vernacular World of Pu Songling” (Ph.D. diss., University of Pennsylvania, 2017).

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

flood disaster in eighteenth-century shandong

1

67

Ma Yizhu, “Peasant Author”

While shorter ballads, or “songs” 歌 (ge), often have come down to us as “anonymous” texts,12 the authorship of the present drum-song ballad is safely attributed to a known author named Ma Yizhu 馬益著 (zi Xipeng 錫朋, or Ximing 錫明, 1722–1807), who may be regarded an obscure or forgotten author of mid-Qing Shandong.13 Due to some notable titles among his scholarly writings, sparse bio-bibliographical information on him was included in local gazetteers of his home region, Shandong’s Linqu District.14 Ma has been labeled a “peasant author,” and according to the extant biographical sketches, he indeed came from a peasant family.15 Ma’s outstanding talent was discovered early on, at the age of ten, when he was considered literate and ready to continue with classical training toward the examinations. Ma read widely beyond the standard classical curriculum and acquired an encyclopedic knowledge. He gained the Government Student 生員 (shengyuan) degree at a youthful age, but from then on was being frustrated in his numerous attempts to achieve the next higher level of the Elevated Person 舉人 (juren) degree in the provincial examinations. As late as 1780, he was selected for a Tribute Student 歲貢 (suigong) degree. The fact that he continuously failed on the examination ladder and never achieved

12

13 14

15

See, e.g., a short ballad about a flood disaster occurring in late-Qing Yuncheng 運城 of Shanxi Province, entitled “Hedong shuizai ge” 河東水災歌 (Song of the flood in Hedong), included in Shan-Shaan guyi min’ge sudiao lu 山陝古逸民歌俗調錄 (Records of old folk songs and vernacular ballads from Shanxi and Shaanxi), ed. Zhang Guixi 張貴喜 and Zhang Wei 張偉 (Taiyuan: Sanjin chubanshe, 2013), 52–53. E.g., he goes unmentioned in Li Boqi 李伯齊, Shandong wenxue shilun 山東文學史論 (History of Shandong literature) (Jinan: Qi Lu shushe, 2003). See the biographical sketches in Linqu xianzhi 臨朐縣志 (Linqu district gazetteer) (rev. ed., 1884), 14B.76a, and Linqu xuzhi 臨朐續志 (Sequel to Linqu district gazetteer), (1935), 16.45a. For a summary of what is known about Ma Yizhu’s life and works, see Tan Jingyu 譚景玉, “Qingdai nongmin zuojia Ma Yizhu” 清代農民作家馬益著 (The Qing-dynasty peasant author Ma Yizhu), http://www.rwzr.cn/Html/Article/rwyc/qlxx/811200805041013 00.html. (Accessed 28 February 2018). See also, by the same author, Zhuangjia zazi zuozhe kaobian: jian shu Ma Yizhu shengping ji zhuzuo 《莊稼雜字》作者考辨:兼述馬益 著生平及著作 (Study of the author of Assorted Characters for Village Life: Survey of Ma Yizhu’s life and works), Shandong wenxian 山東文獻 26.4 (2001): 13–17. Most inhabitants in the village of Humei Brook 胡梅澗, near the market town of Qixian 七賢, were named Ma and considered themselves descendants of Ma Yu 馬愉 (1395– 1447), who had been ranked the top graduate (zhuangyuan 狀元) in the palace examination of 1427. Due to this local heritage of learning, the village was noted for its affinity for classical education, which is believed to have been an important influence on Ma Yizhu’s formation as a scholar and literary author.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

68

altenburger

an official position apparently was the subject of much scorn, also from his own family that continued to rely on agricultural production, and to whom Ma Yizhu’s efforts at advancing on the examination ladder must have seemed quite in vain. Due to his peasant family background and life context, Ma Yizhu was intimately familiar with the daily life and mentality of villagers, and with agricultural work. His most widely known work was a glossary entitled The Farmer’s Assorted Characters for Daily Use 莊農日用雜字 (Zhuangnong riyong zazi).16 Throughout his long life, Ma Yizhu appears to have been a prolific author in a variety of genres, including scholarly works, such as Collected Phonological Studies on the Four Books 四書聲韻編 (Sishu shengyun bian).17 However, while it remains unclear to what extent his scholarly writings were circulated in print and have been preserved, two of his drum-song ballads have indeed been found to be still extant, though only in manuscript: besides Gengxu shuizai gu’erci, the focus of the present article, also another text entitled The Full-version Drum Song on [the Disciple] Zihua’s Mission to the State of Qi 子華使於齊全章鼓詞 (Zihua shi yu Qi quanzhang guci), based on an episode in the life of Confucius.18 Ma Yizhu remained closely tied to the rural microcosm of his place of origin and its people. As a petty scholar with an examination degree and as a village schoolteacher he likely assumed the role of a mediator between commoners and elites at the local level. His ballad on the 1730 flood likely was acknowledged by the rural community as an expression of their experiences, attitudes, beliefs and concerns.

16

17

18

It provides a summary of knowledge about the rural world of Shandong villagers and the daily life in the villages in its numerous facets. Circulated in both manuscript and print, it was continuously being consulted and memorized by rural folks in Shandong up to modern times, and allegedly even into the present time. While the large number of local dialect expressions included in it impeded the glossary’s wider dissemination, it was nevertheless also employed in elementary schooling. The didactic concept behind the work with its rhymes facilitating memorization also points to Ma’s pedagogic ideas and his own professional involvement in elementary school teaching, the métier he served in for long periods of his life and about which he wrote a short portrait, entitled “The Story of Tongue-plowing” (Shegeng zhuan 舌耕傳). In Zhongguo renmin zhengzhi xieshang huiyi 中國人民政治協商會議山東省臨朐縣委員會 (Shandong sheng Linqu xian weiyuanhui), ed., Linqu wenshi ziliao xuanji 臨朐文史資料選輯, no. 4 (1985): 80– 81. While no copy of this work is known to be preserved in any library, an imprint (published by Zhifei tang 知非堂, preface 1762) recently was auctioned; see http://blog.sina.com.cn/ s/blog_497f60550102v1xo.html. Accessed 24 January 2020. In Linqu wenshi ziliao xuanji, no. 4 (1985): 114–115. The episode refers to Lunyu 論語 (The analects) 6/4.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

flood disaster in eighteenth-century shandong

69

It is of some interest here to draw a brief comparison between Ma Yizhu and the posthumously famous author Pu Songling 蒲松齡 (1640–1715). While they were not contemporaries, they hailed from adjoining districts of rural Shandong, and their lives also share a number of elements, such as the humble family background, the continuous lack of success in the examinations beyond the Government Student degree, the long-term involvement with the schoolteacher’s métier, and their prolific writing in a wide range of genres, including vernacular prosimetric texts. Pu moreover, like Ma, was the author of a glossary for rural everyday life, entitled Vernacular Words for Daily Use 日用俗字 (Riyong suzi). However, while Pu Songling is nowadays celebrated as one of the greatest authors in China’s literary history, Ma has remained an utterly obscure person. This fate points to the fact that Pu’s posthumous rise to prominence became possible only thanks to the phenomenal reception of his acclaimed collection of classical tales, Liaozhai’s Chronicle of the Strange 聊齋誌異 (Liaozhai zhiyi, earliest published in 1766). The comprehensive knowledge we have about Pu Songling’s life and oeuvre, moreover, was mainly due to the preservation, by his descendants, of his legacy of writing, which stands in stark contrast to the dearth of preserved texts in Ma Yizhu’s case.

2

An Account about a Flood in Liaozhai zhiyi

Liaozhai’s Chronicle of the Strange also includes an item entitled “Shuizai” 水災 (The flood) that may serve here as a point of reference regarding wide-spread perceptions and interpretations of a flood disaster. The account in question includes two episodes pertaining to a flood that occurred in the summer of 1682 in a village of Linqu District, Ma Yizhu’s region of origin. The first episode is related as follows: One day, in Shimen Hamlet, there was an old man who at dusk saw two buffalos fighting on top of a hill. He warned his fellow villagers: ‘A big flood is about to come!’ He led his family by the hand and moved elsewhere with them. All the villagers laughed at them. Soon thereafter, the rain came down in torrents, continuing all through the night. Eventually, the flat ground was covered with water several feet high, and all the village’s cottages were submerged.19

19

Pu Songling, Liaozhai zhiyi: huijiao huizhu huiping ben 聊齋誌異 : 會校會注會評本 (Liaozhai’s chronicle of the strange: with compiled text-critical notes, annotations and

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

70

altenburger

This episode implies that the old man correctly decodes a perceived phenomenon of the natural world, “two buffalos fighting on a hill.” It remains implied only that folklore considered water buffalos as transfigurations of dragons 龍 (long),20 and the fighting of two dragons was believed to cause excessive rainfall that would lead to flooding. The old man’s prediction of a big flood is ridiculed at first, but retrospectively confirmed. Accordingly, a natural disaster, such as a flood, is predictable by experienced, elderly people who have the knowledge and wisdom to read the signs of nature, or of Heaven. The old man, while unable to prevent the disaster, due to the prediction at least managed to evade it with his family. A second episode, included in the same account and apparently referring to the same calamitous event, points to individual morality as yet another factor for the determination of personal fate in the face of a flood: One farmer left behind his two sons, rather supporting his old mother together with his wife, as they hurried to a higher mound to escape [drowning]. When they looked down at the village from above, it was already an inundated area, and they abandoned all hope for their sons. When the water receded and they could return home, they saw that the entire village had become a cemetery. When they entered the gate, they realized that only a single room had remained intact. In there, their two sons were sitting on a bed together, smiling and without harm. Everyone said that this was the retribution for the couple’s filial piety. This happened on the 22nd day of the sixth month [i.e. 26 July 1682]. As the water level is rising, the peasant couple, due to their limited transport capacity, decides to take the man’s old mother with them rather than their two young sons whom they abandon in the house about to be flooded. The miraculous survival of their left-behind children in an undamaged part of the house then is interpreted as Heaven’s “retribution for filial piety” 孝報 (xiaobao). The code of filial piety demanded that one cherish one’s parents

20

commentaries), ed. Zhang Youhe 張友鶴, 2 vols. (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1986), 1:492–493. The translations here as elsewhere in the present article are my own. For a full English translation of this item, see Sidney L. Sondergard, trans., Strange Tales from Liaozhai, 6 vols. (Fremont: Jain Publ. Co., 2008–2012) 2:677–678 (No. 139: “The Flood”). For a sample item of folklore about the transformation of an ox into a dragon, see Qian Yong 錢泳, Lüyuan conghua 履園叢話 (Collected discourses while rambling in the gardens), ed. Zhang Wei 張偉, 2 vols., (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1997), juan 14, 2:357 (“Shuiniu” 水牛).

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

flood disaster in eighteenth-century shandong

71

above everything, including one’s children.21 This interpretation is supported by another example referring to a devastating earthquake that was survived only by a fraction of the population. The survivors, again, were believed to have been rewarded for their filially pious behaviour, as pointed out in the concluding comment: When in the general chaos of a big natural disaster only the filially pious descendants remain unharmed, then who could still say that the Lord of Heaven would not distinguish right from wrong? Thus, according to the two episodes from this item in Liaozhai zhiyi, the outcome of a natural disaster carried implications with regard to both human wisdom and morally charged action: while some were wise enough to read the signs of the natural world and to evade the imminent disaster in time, others were morally so impeccable to take the ethically correct—though to modern minds rather heartless—decision to cherish their parents more than their children, which was then rewarded by Heaven’s saving also the children. Thus, natural disaster was believed to put the local population to the test. While it offered opportunities to influence one’s own fate, it also provided evidence for the working of the moral universe, and of the general principle of rewarding good and punishing evil. The latter motif would seem like an attempted reconfirmation of the basic order of the world, especially needed in the face of the general chaos of a sudden natural disaster. The fact that, however, neither of these two topoi will be found in the ballad, might indicate that they were rather typical concerns of local elite in dealing with a flood.

3

The 1730 Linqu Flood in the Local Gazetteers

The occurrence of the flood disaster of 1730 in Linqu District, so vividly represented in Ma Yizhu’s ballad Drum-song on the Flood of the Gengxu Year (Gengxu shuizai gu’erci), was recorded also in the local and regional gazetteers. In a local gazetteer of 1884 we find the following brief entry under the rubric of “Major Events” 大事 (Da shi):

21

On the sources for the idea that acts of filial piety could attract direct rewards from Heaven, see Keith Nathaniel Knapp, Selfless Offspring: Filial Children and Social Order in Medieval China (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2005), 93–96.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

72

altenburger

In the sixth month of the eighth year [of the Yongzheng era, i.e. 1730], there was a heavy and persistent rain. The Juyang 巨洋 River overflowed and drowned fields and houses. The district school building collapsed and was destroyed.22 While this laconic note basically reconfirms the event, it nevertheless fails to render any idea of its extent and of the ensuing loss of human life and property, for it does not even bother to mention any numbers of victims or of destroyed buildings, as it was standard practice for disaster accounts in local chronicles. This might hint at the negligence by the local administration and perhaps its failure to report the true scale of the flood. Intriguingly, the only damage that is highlighted is the collapse of the district school building that was part of the administrative buildings and located inside the walled district town. This might imply that the local administration was mainly concerned with its own losses due to the flood, far less with the damage to the villages and the fields or with the victims among the local population. At the next higher level of regional administration, in the Xianfeng 咸豐 era (1851–1861) gazetteer of Qingzhou Prefecture 青州府, the calamity of Linqu is noted only summarily, as packaged in an entry about “heavy rains” occurring in the summer and fall of that year in eight out of the prefecture’s eleven counties.23 However, at this intermediate level of regional-historiographical recording, the local disaster of the flood had already been diluted to the point of vanishing. This top-down perspective indeed strongly contrasts with the experience of the flood from below, from the local population that perceived it as an event of profound, almost apocalyptic significance.24

22 23

24

Linqu xian zhi 臨朐縣志 (Gazetteer of Linqu District) (1884), 10.6b. Qingzhou fu zhi 青州府志 (Gazetteer of Qingzhou Prefecture) (Xianfeng era), 63B.6b– 7a. This entry is included in the chapter on portents (“Xiangyi ji” 祥異記). It has a source-critical note that observes the “missing” entries on such flood events in the gazetteers of some other counties, although it would seem unlikely that they had been spared. The scale of the 1730 flood in Shandong is also confirmed by a historical survey of flood disasters in that province that lists the event among the “especially severe flood disasters,” though along with the floods of 1703, 1739 and 1747. See Shandong sheng shuili ting shuihan zaihai bianweihui 山東省水利廳水旱災害編委會, ed., Shandong shuihan zaihai 山東水旱災害 (Flood and drought disasters in Shandong) (Zhengzhou: Huanghe shuili chubanshe, 1996), 45.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

flood disaster in eighteenth-century shandong

4

73

Ma Yizhu’s Ballad on the 1730 Flood

The text of Ma Yizhu’s ballad Drum-song on the Flood of the Gengxu Year has been transmitted in two different manuscripts, both of which in recent decades have been published in typeset form.25 The characteristic prosimetry of the drum-song genre manifests itself in this text in an alternation between prose and metric styles.26 Long metric descriptive passages are in a “rhapsodic” 賦 (fu) style, whereas the verses at both the beginning and the end are written in regulated poetry. Linqu District as the location of the calamity is actually only implied and not named explicitly in the ballad text. This strongly indicates a closed local circuit of communication, with the local community as the text’s primary addressee for whom the setting would have been contextually unambiguous. The date of the disaster, quite in contrast, is defined redundantly, in both the text’s full title as well as the introductory prose account, as referring to the gengxu year, or the eighth year, of the Yongzheng era, corresponding to 1730. Ma Yizhu, born in 1722, would still have been a child at the time the disaster occurred, and he could

25

26

Version A, entitled “Drum-song on the Gengxu Flood” (Gengxu shuizai gu’erci 庚戌水災 鼓兒詞), edited and annotated by Ma Jili 馬冀歷, was published in Linqu wenshi ziliao xuanji 臨朐文史資料選輯 (Selected materials on the literature and history of Linqu), ed. Zhongguo renmin zhengzhi xieshang huiyi Shandong sheng Linqu xian weiyuanhui 中國人民政治協商會議山東省臨朐縣委員會, no. 4 (1985): 92–113. It remains unclear, though, what manuscript this typeset edition was based on. Textual references are to this version. Version B, entitled “The Story of the Flood” (Shuizai zhuan 水災傳), is included in Zhang Jun 張軍 and Guo Xuedong 郭學東, Shandong quyi shi 山東曲藝史 (History of performed folk arts in Shandong) (Jinan: Shandong wenyi chubanshe, 1997), 73–86. This typeset edition was based on a manuscript that is now kept in the Chinese Department Library of Shandong University (Shandong daxue Zhongwenxi tushuguan 山東大學中 文系圖書館). It carries a joint commentary by Hou Gongdong 侯公棟 and Ma Yisheng 馬益昇. This manuscript, which I have seen, actually carries the main title “The Flood” 水 災 (Shuizai), with the more complete subtitle “Drum-song of the Story about the Gengxu Flood” (Gengxu shuizai zhuan gu’erci 庚戌水災傳鼓兒詞). This version is incomplete, due to one page missing from the manuscript (as indicated on p. 81), causing a lacuna of 405 characters. The editors of version B, Zhang Jun and Guo Xuedong, apparently did not consult version A. The two versions exhibit a certain degree of variation with regard to vocabulary and orthography. See also the brief entry in Zhongguo quyi zhi quanguo bianji weiyuanhui 中國曲藝志全國編輯委員會, ed., Zhongguo quyi zhi: Shandong juan 中國 曲藝志:山東卷 (Chronicle of Chinese performed folk arts: Shandong volume) (Beijing: Zhongguo ISBN zhongxin, 2002), 529. Victor H. Mair, “The Prosimetric Form in the Chinese Literary Tradition,” in Prosimetrum. Crosscultural Perspectives on Narrative in Prose and Verse, ed. Joseph Harris and Karl Reichl (Cambridge: Brewer, 1997), 365–385.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

74

altenburger

have written down his own memories of this first-hand experience only later in life. Perhaps, in the childhood memory the scale and intensity of the event’s experience were further magnified. The authorial narrator repeatedly emphasizes his own role as an eyewitness and survivor of the flood, such as when he points out that someone who had not experienced it might even doubt that the disaster had ever taken place, and only someone who had suffered from it were able to confirm its factuality (93). When assessing the vast scope of this “misery that hit ten thousand households,” he underscores that it was hard to bear even for those who either saw it with their own eyes or only heard about it (92). The perceived need for authentication and eyewitness testimony may have been additionally increased by insufficient official concern about the disaster. The importance of the local memory of this as well as earlier calamities is again emphasized, when the cataclysm of 1730 is compared to a flood that occurred in the remoter Ming-dynasty past, in 1569. While the previous flood was not as severe as the more recent one, the narrator points out that, due to the distance in time, contemporaries “surely could neither have experienced it nor heard any old people talk about their memories of the event” (101). This implies an awareness of the danger of the fading and discontinuation of local memory about disastrous events of the past if relying only on oral tradition. The writingdown of the memories as a drum-song ballad served as an antidote against such oblivion. The ballad’s social perspective from below is suggested by the statement that the flood disaster affected commoners and local elites unequally. While both the “major and minor households” 大家小戶 (da jia xiao hu) of the entire district were in great commotion due to the event, the flood nevertheless primarily caused “the misery and hardship of the common folk” 蒼生塗炭 (cangsheng tutan) who, unlike the “noble households,” had no way to compensate for their losses (92). As it is typical for a flood, the disaster occurred suddenly and without any warning. In the year of the flood, initially, “the court was blessed with fortune, and all the people were happily doing their business.” Throughout the first half of the year, things were going just as requested: “When wind was required, there was wind, and when rain was needed, there was rain; tilling and planting could also be done just as desired.” Thus, “wind and rain were in harmony,” and everybody, whether rich or poor, believed that it was going to be “a year with a full harvest” 十分年景 (shifen nianjing). Rhetorically, the fortunate course of the year’s first half provides the backdrop against which the disastrous flood at the beginning of the second half contrasts all the more drastically. At the moment of the disaster, “[the prospect of] a good year with a full harvest / in no time was turned into dust” (100). The initial harmony is even described as a false promise that held an element of self-deception, lulling

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

flood disaster in eighteenth-century shandong

75

people’s alertness to the danger of a sudden and drastic turn for the worse: “Who was aware that natural disasters were so widespread, and that the folk would have to face the calculable destiny of a calamity?” 誰知天災流行,民當 劫數 (93). Further on, the drastic turn of the situation is even expressed by bitter irony, such as in the witticism that seemingly each household was becoming wealthy since, due to the flood, “the grain was flowing out of their gates” (99). Here, an image of abundance is sarcastically turned into its contrary, that is, complete loss. The chronology of the disaster is rendered as follows: in the sixth month, the weather turns extreme; after a three-week period of drought, all of a sudden, it starts to rain, and the rainfall wouldn’t stop anymore, but intensifies to a true storm that lasts for a full seven days and nights. The severe weather is described in a very insistent diction that is further elaborated in a long “rhapsody” (fu) with numerous repetitions (94–96). It describes how “the unfeeling, bitter rain” 無情的苦雨 (wuqing de ku yu) collapses all walls and makes families lose all their belongings, leaving the terrified people without homes wandering round the streets, wading through the mud, resembling dehumanized creatures (98). The description also includes details about the physical injuries suffered by people who tried to escape the water (101). Part of the population drowns in the flood, the number of victims being uncountable. The landscape, when viewed from a vantage point, looks as if it has turned into one stretch of water, on the surface of which household equipment is floating (103). The crops are either washed away or covered by mud (107). The details about the damage to each type of crop (109) betray the author’s familiarity with agricultural production. The loss of the entire crop inevitably ensues famine and confronts the survivors with the question how the tax collectors will deal with the situation (110). The subsequent sections discuss the ways the local population is represented as responding to and making sense of the flood disaster.

5

Mythical and Para-religious Topoi

In describing people’s responses to the flood, the ballad includes references to various layers of mythical and para-religious ideas. In the extensive account of the storm lasting for seven days and nights, the awful weather is described as the joint manifestation of the rage by both the rain deity, Rain Master 雨師 (Yushi), and the wind deity, Wind Hag 風婆 (Fengpo): The Wind Hag is in a bad mood, The Rain Master is troubled, too.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

76

altenburger

When both together are let loose, Wind and rain won’t spare you. 94

The Rain Master and the Wind Hag as mythical personifications of the “heartless” weather, due to their onetime mention, suggest themselves as metaphors rather than as fully-fledged mythical beliefs. References to the mythical realm of the Water Department 水府 (Shuifu), by contrast, are being reiterated throughout the text. The Water Department serves as a collective term for the elaborate imaginary of divine and spiritual beings of the aquatic world, such as dragons, turtles, fish and further down the hierarchical ladder of water creatures.27 For instance, the crops lost to the flood is described as their either being washed away by the waves and turned into “food for snakes, dragons, fish and turtles” (106), or as their being “confiscated by the Water Department” (106). The notion underlying this popular conception holds that in the flood as a transgressive act, the aquatic sphere temporarily prevails as it turns formerly dry land into a stretch of water (103–104). The topsy-turviness of the situation is expressed in ironical terms, such as when it is mentioned that even the fishing platform is being flooded, or that the village store is now being run in the Water Department, selling off people’s lost commodities to the water creatures (104). In the imaginary of the Water Department, the crowd of water creatures serve as the foot soldiers under the command of the dragon king and his generals. Accordingly, the serious loss of human life is attributed to “the harm of the flood [caused] by those dreadful, murderous dragon soldiers” (可恨那殺 人的龍兵流水害) (100). The ballad is indeed much concerned with the multitude of “monstrous creatures of the water” 水中怪物 (shui zhong guaiwu), as manifested by “the roaring of dragons” and “the laughing of turtles,” and the occurrence of yet other creatures that look like pigs or sheep (103). All of these monstrous creatures most graphically embody the horrors of the flood. The ballad also expresses the idea that the most powerful among the water creatures, when in excessive motion, such as dragons fighting, can cause serious damage to the human world. Some people claim to have heard or seen signs of such perturbation during the storm, whereas others deny that. The references to the imaginary of the Water Department are summarized in the statement that “there is no end to such talk about the wondrous and monstrous creatures of the water” (說不盡奇奇怪怪的水中物). The numerous references

27

E.T.C. Werner, A Dictionary of Chinese Mythology (Shanghai: Kelly and Walsh, 1932), 433– 446.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

flood disaster in eighteenth-century shandong

77

to the Water Department offer glimpses of the elaborate popular conception of the aquatic sphere as a mythic realm that is populated by not exactly goodnatured numinous creatures embodying the hostile and destructive potential of the water as people experience it in the flood. This also applies to an aquatic deity that is repeatedly referred to and named as the Gentleman of the Stream 流郎 (Liulang), which is otherwise not documented and might refer to a local cult. This shady deity is described as robbing from the flood victims also their formerly so sheltered daughters along with their crops (102, 106). As another layer of the mythical-religious imaginary, it is mentioned repeatedly throughout the drum-song ballad, how the flood victims, in the face of the calamity, seek divine help by praying for salvation by Heaven, Buddha or Guanyin (98). Heaven, in particular, or its personification, the “Old Lord of Heaven” 老天爺 (Laotianye), is revered as the supreme authority. The extreme turn of fate that the local population is undergoing, is likened to their being “slapped across the face by the Old Lord of Heaven” (105–106). At one point, the narrator, serving as the local population’s surrogate, addresses the Old Lord of Heaven directly, voicing the inevitable question as to the deeper cause for all the misery: “Old Lord of Heaven, what wrath do you bear against this folk of ten thousand households?” (102). There is also a sense of fatalism vis-à-vis the arcane workings of Heaven. The phrase, “(Supreme) Heaven determined a lethal destiny” 天/皇天開殺運 (tian/huangtian kai shayun), invoked thrice in the text, pronounces the idea that for the local population doom is already spelled, so “the majority of them will hardly escape” (102) and “the masses collectively suffer strokes of misfortune” (109).

6

The Question of Responsibility and ‘Moral Meteorology’

The drum-song ballad’s final part brings up the inevitable question of responsibility. One passage considers the hypothesis that the local population might have to blame themselves for their suffering: What sin have the common people committed to provoke Heaven’s wrath That led to the occurrence of this worst disaster in centuries? 110

Construing a contingent relationship between moral misbehaviour and the “wrath of Heaven” is a well-known pattern in the interpretation of natural dis-

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

78

altenburger

asters, not just in premodern China. Such attribution of disastrous events with moral meaning has been explained by the desire to “regain feelings of control and predictability”28 in the face of the overwhelming experience of the breakdown of order and a serious loss of meaning. The ballad’s authorial narrator, though, quite remarkably, chose to reject this line of argumentation, as he later states quite clearly: “I would not insinuate that [the disaster] of the gengxu year was an act of punishment” (111). With this disclaimer, he likely meant to relieve the local population of the additional burden of moral guilt for what they had suffered in the past. The protestation that his ballad did not mean to construe any such implication, however, stands in a strange disparity with the recurrent references to divine authorities, and the Old Lord of Heaven in particular, whose wrath—not just metaphorically—manifested in the storm and the ensuing flood. Moreover, the statement also implies that in the local population’s own perception, this disastrous event nevertheless continued to be considered a collective punishment. Another common approach to the question of responsibility focuses on the person of the district magistrate in his role as the local representative. The ballad indeed includes an extensive argumentation along this line: Don’t say it was because the magistrate, the parent-of-the-people, was a failure. He even made offerings right at the stream to report to Heaven. He even crossed the overflowing river, hardly able to remain standing upright. He even got up early and went to rest late for his frequent visits to the villages. He even was restless on his inspection tours across the disaster region. He even was disgruntled about the endless mud and moved by the heartrending [hardships]. He even sent off his yamen runners on errands so often that their legs got thinner. He even took with him [on his tours] an inspector to measure the land. He even urged the village heads to compile a register. He even piled up scrolls [with reports] and drafted petitions in great detail.

28

Edgerton-Tarpley, Tears from Iron, 73, referring to David Pillemer, Momentous Events. Vivid Memories (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2009).

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

flood disaster in eighteenth-century shandong

79

When notables from the prefecture, the circuit, or the province came along [for inspection], He was busy receiving them and sending them off again in their carriages. Had he not had strong feelings for the state and the people, Why would he have gotten up early and gone to rest in the dark, suffering much hardship? Thanks to his detailed reports about the local situation in the series of memoranda he drafted, He was able to inform the supreme authority and to move the ruler of the empire. Would the imperial favor [i.e. relief measures] have arrived all the way here, Were it not for his information that four qian of grain were equivalent to one liang of silver? 110–111

This long passage is indeed nothing short of a detailed evaluation of the district magistrate’s performance of his duties during the flood disaster and its aftermath. Based on this description, the local official in question would appear to have been a conscientious administrator who went out of his way to do the right thing under these extraordinary circumstances and showed sincere concern for the suffering population due to his “strong feelings for the state and the people.” Taking the protagonist role also in local ritual matters, he made offerings to both Heaven and the water deities, trying to pacify them, though to no avail. He was tireless in his inspection touring, and on the basis of his observations in the villages he drafted reports and petitions, which then in turn urged higher-level officials to inspect the affected district. The magistrate’s report on outrageous grain prices was of key importance in triggering relief measures ordered by the throne. His petitions to the throne were actually read and responded to by the emperor himself who then set relief measures in motion, which may have reduced the suffering during the ensuing famine. Thus, the narrator would seem to argue in his speech of defence, the local official’s overall performance actually was quite commendable and personally he was not to blame. It is rather surprising, though, that the local official’s name goes unmentioned, despite his supposed achievements, which might hint at the reverse of the passage’s surface meaning—implicitly turning it into a list of the local official’s failures, of the many measures he should have taken but missed out on taking. The conspicuous rhetoric of this passage, where the majority of lines start with the phrase “他也曾” (“He even …”), also points toward this direction,

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

80

altenburger

since the listed actions by no means surpass the common expectations, and indeed the listing of an official’s suitable countermeasures in case of a serious flood may even have had some instructional value.29 The authorial narrator’s argumentation implicitly refers to the common practice of holding a magistrate personally responsible for a natural disaster occurring in his district, a concept that Mark Elvin termed as “moral meteorology.”30 According to this doctrine, a serious disaster occurring in the area of a district magistrate’s jurisdiction tended to be interpreted, first of all, as evidence for his personal failure and could have a detrimental effect on his official career. From the late Kangxi era on, throughout the shorter Yongzheng era and into the Qianlong era, each of the great Qing emperors employed “moral meteorological fulminations to put pressure on his officials.”31 Since the Linqu flood occurred during the Yongzheng era, the concept of moral meteorology would seem all the more relevant, for in this era the doctrine is known to have been practiced in a particularly radical manner.32 The potential career damage partly explains why some local officials were hesitant, or outright refused, to report any such event up the administrative hierarchy. At the higher levels of regional administration, similarly there was a limited readiness to report any local disaster to the capital, since this could also shed a dubious light on their own administrative duties. The practice of concealing local disasters had a long tradition in China, and it has been argued that the circulation of disaster narratives also might have served as a local counterstrategy to such attempts, seeking to provide publicity for a local disaster that was in danger of getting covered up.33 It remains ultimately unclear, though, whether this might also have applied to Ma Yizhu’s ballad about the Linqu flood of 1730. 29

30

31 32 33

The fact that the Linqu gazetteer (Linqu xian zhi, juan 13) does not record the name of the district magistrate in office in 1730, either, would primarily seem to be due to a gaping lacuna in the data for local officials for Linqu District between 1671 and 1804. The prefectural gazetteer (Qingzhou fu zhi, juan 11C) has the same lacuna. The other districts in the prefecture are documented far more completely in comparison. Mark Elvin, “Who Was Responsible for the Weather? Moral Meteorology in Late Imperial China,” in Osiris, 2nd series, vol. 13 (Beyond Joseph Needham: Science, Technology and Medicine in East and Southeast Asia) (1998): 213–237; cf. also Jeffrey Snyder-Reinke, Dry Spells: State Rainmaking and Local Governance in Late Imperial China (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Asia Center, 2009). Elvin, “Who Was Responsible for the Weather?” 220. Elvin, “Who Was Responsible for the Weather?” 221–224. Cf. Liu Weiying 劉衛英, “Ming-Qing zaihai xushi zhong nuo zai shixiang de wenxue yanshuo jizhi” 明清災害敘事中匿災事象的文學言說機制 (Literary expressions of the phenomenon of hiding disasters from the public in disaster narration of the Ming and Qing dynasties), Dongjiang xuekan 東疆學刊 30.1 (2013): 32–37.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

flood disaster in eighteenth-century shandong

7

81

The Question of Motivation

Apart from such reckoning of moral responsibility, what other conclusions or lessons could be derived from the panorama of destruction and suffering drawn up in this ballad? Since the commemoration of victims is not mentioned as a motivation, why after all should the flood disaster of 1730 be held in remembrance? The question of motivation for writing up and passing on this drumsong is addressed in a summarizing passage toward its end that starts with the following lines: This was the story of the flood disaster of the eighth year of Yongzheng. Every single line in it is true, and there is nothing unreliable in it. [I] am aware [though] that its descriptions do not render the full extent of the people’s suffering; It is only meant to convey a general picture of the disaster. 111

While authenticity and truthfulness apparently were important concerns to the author, he nevertheless was aware of the inevitable gap that remained between the common people’s sufferings and their poetic representation in the ballad. What, then, was his motivation for writing down this “general picture of the disaster” that he claimed to convey? The self-reflexive concluding lines of regulated poetry, though shrouded in vagueness, suggest a tentative answer to this question: The poetic words flowing from my fine brush create mist; The verses I write [in vigorous strokes] like dragons and snakes. The album with scenes of disaster proceeds to a new sound; The song is all in the same sad tune, while the drum is [beaten by] frogs. 賦就毫端生霧露, 詩成筆底走龍蛇。 災圖譜入新聲裡, 一曲悲歌鼓是蛙。 112

While “dragons and snakes” is a well-established metaphor for artful calligraphic writing, it also echoes the repeated mythical references to water creatures having caused the flood. Playfully resuming this string of imagery, the authorial narrator suggests that, in writing up his ballad, he transformed the

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

82

altenburger

monsters into art. He likens this to the frogs, as another remnant of the water realm, that accompany the drum-song with their rhythmic quacking like a drum. Thus, the ballad in which he sublimated the experience of the disaster, retains the memory of the flood as an aestheticized transformation. The “new sound” that the ballad, with its disturbing pictures of disaster, is said to proceed to likely refers to the newly found ability to cope with the terrifying, traumatizing experience of the flood. A disastrous flood event caused a profound crisis in the local history of one place or region. It also meant a serious challenge to making sense of and coping with the disturbing experience and its aftermath. As a common approach in interpreting a flood disaster, the event tended to be moralized and framed as an expression of the ‘wrath of Heaven,’ and hence as a punishment for human failure, either as a widespread disregard of moral standards of behavior, particularly with regard to filiality or chastity, among the local population, or as the misconduct of the local magistrate, sanctioned by Heaven according to the rationale of ‘moral meteorology.’ Both views were favoured by elite observers, who tended to be keen on drawing moral lessons from a disaster, which thus became instrumental in either disciplining the local commoner population or passing judgment on the local style of administration. Ma Yizhu, in his drum-song ballad on the flood of 1730 in Linqu, took a differentiated stance toward these established approaches. He positioned himself in his own role as a ballad writer closer to the common population than to the local elite, as he represented in his text the view from below onto the terrifying experience of the disastrous flood. Thus he afforded much attention to the elaboration of the commoners’ mythical-religious imaginary of the creatures of the Water Department, on the one hand, and the Old Lord of Heaven, on the other, as the divine authorities that in a popular perspective caused the cataclysm. While he exculpates the local population and thus rejects one line of moralizing evaluation, his detailed discussion of the local magistrate’s behavior might indeed, at least between the lines, imply a condemnation of official neglect. As another motivation for him to transform his own as well as the collectively shared memories of the flood into a drum-song ballad would seem to have been its cathartic function that supported the coping with and the overcoming of this difficult chapter in the history of his locality.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

flood disaster in eighteenth-century shandong

83

Bibliography Bender, Mark, and Victor Mair. “‘I Sit Here and Sing for You’: The Oral Literature of China.” In The Columbia Anthology of Chinese Folk & Popular Literature, 1–12. Edited by Victor H. Mair and Mark Bender. New York and Chichester: Columbia University Press, 2011. Edgerton-Tarpley, Kathryn J. Tears from Iron: Cultural Responses to Famine in Nineteenth-Century China. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2008. Elvin, Mark. “The Bell of Poesy: Thoughts on Poems as Information on Late-Imperial Chinese Environmental History.” In Studi in onore di Lionello Lanciotti, vol. 1, 497– 523. Edited by Sandra M. Carletti et al. 3 vols. Napoli: Istituto universitario orientale, 1996. Elvin, Mark. “Who Was Responsible for the Weather? Moral Meteorology in Late Imperial China.” Osiris, 2nd series, vol. 13 (Beyond Joseph Needham: Science, Technology and Medicine in East and Southeast Asia) (1998): 213–237. Feng Xianliang 馮賢亮. “Wanli nianjian Jiangnan de da shuizai yu shehui fanying” 萬 曆年間江南的大水災與社會反應 (Social response to Jiangnan Delta flooding in the Wanli era). Mingdai yanjiu 明代研究 (Taipei) 16 (2011): 57–91. Idema, Wilt L. “Popular Literature. Part II: Prosimetric Literature.” In The Indiana Companion to Traditional Chinese Literature, 83–92. Edited by William H. Nienhauser, Jr. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1986. Janku, Andrea. “Towards a History of Natural Disasters in China: The Case of Linfen County.” The Medieval History Journal 10.1–2 (2007): 267–301. Junko Iguchi 井口涥子. Zhongguo beifang nongcun de kouchuan wenhua: shuochang de shu, wenben, biaoyan 中國北方農村的口傳文化: 說唱的書、 文本、 表演 (Oral traditions of rural northern China: Text and performance in narrative music). Translated by Lin Qi 林琦 and edited by Zhu Jiajun 朱家骏. Xiamen: Xiamen daxue chubanshe, 2003. Knapp, Keith Nathaniel. Selfless Offspring: Filial Children and Social Order in Medieval China. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2005. Li Boqi 李伯齊. Shandong wenxue shilun 山東文學史論 (History of Shandong literature). Jinan: Qi Lu shushe, 2003. Linqu xianzhi 臨朐縣志 (Linqu district gazetteer). Rev. ed. 1884. Linqu xuzhi 臨朐續志 (Sequel to Linqu district gazetteer). 1935. Liu Weiying 劉衛英. “Ming-Qing zaihai xushi zhong nuo zai shixiang de wenxue yanshuo jizhi” 明清災害敘事中匿災事象的文學言說機制 (Literary expressions on the phenomenon of hiding disasters from the public in disaster narration of the Ming and Qing dynasties). Dongjiang xuekan 東疆學刊 30.1 (2013): 32–37. Lu, Zhenzhen. “The Vernacular World of Pu Songling.” Ph.D. diss., University of Pennsylvania, 2017.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

84

altenburger

Luan Yubo 栾玉博. “Zaihai yu Zhongguo gudai wenxue yanjiu zongshu” 災害與中國古 代文學研究綜述 (Survey of research on disasters and traditional Chinese literature). Du tianxia 讀天下 15 (2016): 344. Ma Yizhu 馬益著. “Gengxu shuizai gu’erci” 庚戌水災鼓兒詞 (Drum-song on the gengxu flood). Edited and annotated by Ma Jili 馬冀歷. In Linqu wenshi ziliao xuanji 臨朐 文史資料選輯 (Selected materials on the literature and history of Linqu), edited by Zhongguo renmin zhengzhi xieshang huiyi Shandong sheng Linqu xian weiyuanhui 中國人民政治協商會議山東省臨朐縣委員會, no. 4 (1985): 92–113. Ma Yizhu. “Shegeng zhuan” 舌耕傳 (The story of tongue-plowing). In Linqu wenshi ziliao xuanji 臨朐文史資料選輯 (Selected materials on the literature and history of Linqu), edited by Zhongguo renmin zhengzhi xieshang huiyi Shandong sheng Linqu xian weiyuanhui 中國人民政治協商會議山東省臨朐縣委員會, no. 4 (1985): 80–81. Mair, Victor H. “The Prosimetric Form in the Chinese Literary Tradition.” In Prosimetrum. Crosscultural Perspectives on Narrative in Prose and Verse, 365–385. Edited by Joseph Harris and Karl Reichl. Cambridge: Brewer, 1997. Mu Yinchen 穆崟臣. “Shilun Qianlong shi’er nian Shandong shuizai yu zai hou yingdui” 試論乾隆十二年山東水災與災後應對 (Tentative study of the flood of the 12th year of Qianlong in Shandong and the handling of its aftermath). Gujin nongye 古今農業 2008.4: 71–78. Pillemer, David. Momentous Events. Vivid Memories. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2009. Pu Songling 蒲松齡. Liaozhai zhiyi: huijiao huizhu huiping ben 聊齋誌異:會校會注會 評本 (Liaozhai’s chronicle of the strange: With compiled text-critical notes, annotations and commentaries). Edited by Zhang Youhe 張友鶴. 2 vols. Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1986. Qian Yong 錢泳. Lüyuan conghua 履園叢話 (Collected discourses while rambling in the gardens). Edited by Zhang Wei 張偉. 2 vols. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1997. Qingzhou fu zhi 青州府志 (Qingzhou prefecture gazetteer). Xianfeng era. Shandong sheng shuili ting shuihan zaihai bianweihui 山東省水利廳水旱災害編委會, ed. Shandong shuihan zaihai 山東水旱災害 (Flood and drought disasters in Shandong). Zhengzhou: Huanghe shuili chubanshe, 1996. Snyder-Reinke, Jeffrey. Dry Spells: State Rainmaking and Local Governance in Late Imperial China. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Asia Center, 2009. Sondergard, Sidney L., trans. Strange Tales from Liaozhai. 6 vols. Fremont: Jain Publ. Co., 2008–2012. Spence, Jonathan D. The Death of Woman Wang. New York: Viking Penguin, 1978. Tan Jingyu 譚景玉. “Qingdai nongmin zuojia Ma Yizhu” 清代農民作家馬益著 (The Qing-dynasty peasant author Ma Yizhu). http://www.rwzr.cn/Html/Article/rwyc/ qlxx/81120080504101300.html. Accessed 28 February 2018. Tan Jingyu. “Zhuangjia zazi zuozhe kaobian: jian shu Ma Yizhu shengping ji zhuzuo”

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

flood disaster in eighteenth-century shandong

85

《莊稼雜字》作者考辨:兼述馬益著生平及著作 (Study of the author of Assorted

Characters for Village Life: Survey of Ma Yizhu’s life and works). Shandong wenxian 山東文獻 26.4 (2001): 13–17. Werner, E.T.C. A Dictionary of Chinese Mythology. Shanghai: Kelly and Walsh, 1932. Will, Pierre-Étienne, and R. Bin Wong. Nourish the People: The State Civilian Granary Fighting Famine in North China: State, Market, and Environmental Decline, 1690s– 1990s. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2007. Will, Pierre-Étienne. Bureaucratie et famine en Chine au 18e siècle. Paris etc.: École des hautes études en sciences sociales, 1980. Zhang Guixi 張貴喜 and Zhang Wei 張偉, eds. Shan-Shaan guyi min’ge sudiao lu 山陝 古逸民歌俗調錄 (Records of old folk songs and vernacular ballads from Shanxi and Shaanxi). Taiyuan: Sanjin chubanshe, 2013. Zhang Jun 張軍 and Guo Xuedong 郭學東. Shandong quyi shi 山東曲藝史 (History of performed folk arts in Shandong). Jinan: Shandong wenyi chubanshe, 1997. Zhang Yingchang 張應昌, ed. Qing shi duo 清詩鐸 (The bell of Qing poetry). 2 vols. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1960. Zhongguo quyi zhi quanguo bianji weiyuanhui 中國曲藝志全國編輯委員會, ed. Zhongguo quyi zhi: Shandong juan 中國曲藝志:山東卷 (Chronicle of Chinese performed folk arts: Shandong volume). Beijing: Zhongguo ISBN zhongxin, 2002.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

chapter 4

Fate, Reincarnation and Medicinal Cannibalism in Lillian Lee’s Dumplings Jessica Tsui-yan Li

The Chinese conception of fate has undergone remarkable transformation under various socio-historical circumstances throughout epochs, thus incorporating exquisite and complex meanings in different discourses. Some of the most significant Chinese notions of fate can be traced to the three common supernatural thoughts prevailing in Chinese culture since ancient times, namely amoral spiritualism, moral rewardism, and amoral fatalism. Amoral spiritualism refers to the belief that anthropomorphic and mighty supernatural forces govern all natural phenomena and human affairs, whose development could be manipulated by humans through amoral engagements, such as sacrifice offering and exorcizing. Moral determinism connotes the idea that moral and powerful spirits observe and assess humans’ behaviour, while rewarding the virtuous and punishing the evil. Amoral fatalism denotes a sense of blind fate, in which formidable and inaccessible extraordinary powers determine humans’ destiny without negotiation and disregarding one’s conduct.1 The influential and manifold meaning of the Chinese conception of fate elucidated above appears in the works of Lillian Lee 李碧華 (Li Bihua, 1959–). Lee is considered a popular Hong Kong writer whose fiction earns the reputation of integrating Chinese folktales, legends, and ghost stories with a strong sense of fate and supernatural forces, intertwined with the themes of gender, sexuality, history, and individual and national identities. Significant works, such as Rouge 胭脂扣 (Yanzhikou, 1985), The Reincarnation of Golden Lotus 潘金 蓮之前世今生 (Panjinlian zhi qianshi jinsheng, 1989), Farewell My Concubine 霸王別姬 (Bawang bieji, 1993), Green Snake 青蛇 (Qingshe, 1993), and Dumplings 餃子 (Jiaozi, 2004), have been adapted into films and are well known in Chinese communities. The critical reception of Lee’s works, however, is controversial. On the one hand, Lee is denied to be a serious legitimate writer and demeaned to be a simply popular novelist who caters to the low public tastes for commercial profits. On the other hand, the postmodern and postcolonial dis-

1 Ning Chen, “Confucius’ View of Fate (Ming).” Journal of Chinese Philosophy 24 (1997), 323–324.

© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2020 | doi:10.1163/9789004427570_006 Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

fate, reincarnation and medicinal cannibalism

87

courses resurrect this repugnance to popular culture into a positive alternative Hong Kong narrative against the overwhelming China-centered discourses.2 I argue that Lee’s works can, nevertheless, be seen as cultural productions that significantly contribute to the construction of Hong Kong culture, identity, literature, and cultural history through the portrayal of the speeches, gestures, ways of thinking, and life styles of the characters in her stories. In particular, the Chinese conception of fate is depicted in her stories, which show much about how Chinese philosophy shapes the behaviours of her characters and the strategies they employ to cope with or even to fight against their unexpected and undesirable life circumstances. Lee’s novel, Dumplings, shows the multifaceted Chinese conception of fate, which has not been widely discussed and needs critical attention. Set in Hong Kong at the turn of the millennium, the story of Dumplings narrates the middleaged upper-class married woman Qingqing’s struggle to retrieve her youth and beauty in order to recapture the heart of her husband, who is indulged in the tender flesh of women in their twenties. Refusing her fate as an abandoned aging woman like her peers, Qingqing consumes the expensive and rare delicacy made by Aunt Mei, who illegally smuggles aborted human fetus from Mainland China to Hong Kong and then transforms them into minced meat and puts them inside her delicious dumplings. Having performed as a main actress in the model operas during the Cultural Revolution in Mainland China, Aunt Mei reaches her sixties but looks like in her thirties, thanks to her persistent and frequent consumption of human fetus. Fascinated by Aunt Mei’s miraculous youthfulness and addicted to her secret recipe, Qingqing develops an insatiable desire for fetus consumption. In order to obtain a five-month old fetus that is considered to be most nutritious, Aunt Mei performs an abortion surgery for the fifteen-year old teenage girl Xiao Qi who is allegedly raped by her father. Soon afterwards the girl dies from bleeding and Aunt Mei escapes to Shenzhen, a city at the border in Mainland China next to Hong Kong. Having known her husband’s mistress’s pregnancy, Qingqing purchases the fetus to make her own ethereal cuisine and becomes a cannibalistic witch in the end. In this chapter, I argue that Lillian Lee’s Dumplings portrays the strong female agency of the protagonist Qingqing, through her cannibalistic consumption of aborted human fetus, in seeking the rejuvenation of her body against the natural course of aging. This tale of fetus consumption allegoric-

2 Aijun Zhu, Feminism and Global Chineseness: The Cultural Production of Controversial Women Authors (Youngstown, New York: Cambria Press, 2007), 231.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

88

li

ally presents the Chinese conception of fate, while manifesting the cultural, commercial and social significance of Chinese beliefs, folklores and society. The transformation of human fetus into delicious womb-like dishes and the fetus’ subsequent reincarnation presents the moral rewardism, which is deeply rooted in the prevailing Chinese medicinal and literary discourse on the remedial and cultural meaning of cannibalism. Moreover, the fetus smuggler and chef Aunt Mei’s successful business through frequent border crossing between Mainland China and Hong Kong and her final escape expose the social issues of the one-child policy in Mainland China and China’s new economic paradigm in recent decades. Most of all, Qingqing’s effort in recapturing her desired forever physical youthfulness shows the Mohist critique of blind fate and advocacy for human efficacy and responsibility, which nonetheless criticizes the commodification of the female body and material consumption in contemporary capitalistic Hong Kong.

1

Moral Rewardism

In Chinese philosophical discourses, “ming” is a pervasive concept that can be translated into “demands,” “life span,” “destiny,” and the “natural course” of things, such as the biological process of aging and from life to death.3 In two Confucian classics, The Book of Documents 尚書 (Shang Shu) and The Book of Poetry 詩經 (Shi Jing), the term “ming” is mainly employed to signify all kinds of demands from Heaven of taking actions to reward or punish certain rulers or people for their conduct ordered by the kings and dukes in the early Zhou dynasty.4 For example, The Book of Documents in Proper Interpretation 尚書正 義 (Shang Shu Zheng Yi) claims that “good governance will lead to fortune; bad governance will lead to misfortune” 為善政得福,為惡政得禍 (wei shanzheng de fu, wei ezheng de huo).5 Heaven is conceived to govern human affairs based on logical and moral principles in which humans are praiseworthy for their virtuous pursuits and blameworthy for their evil deeds. Moral rewardism has great impact on the early Zhou people, later the Confucian theories, and even contemporary Chinese society. By giving moral guidance to human

3 Zong-Qi Cai, “Multiple Vistas of Ming and Changing Visions of Life in the Works of Tao Qian,” in The Magnitude of Ming, 169–170. 4 Zong-Qi Cai, ibid, 176. 5 Kong Anguo 孔安國, et al., eds., Shang Shu Zheng Yi (Zhou Shu) 尚書正義:周書 (The book of documents: The book of Zhou), Vol. 2 (Taiwan: Wunan tushu chuban gufen youxian gongsi 2001), 473. My translation.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

fate, reincarnation and medicinal cannibalism

89

endeavours, this belief of a causal cycle of human action and its consequences advocates a virtual system of justice to administer rewards and punishments in the mysterious scheme of the universe in people’s mind, though it might not be materialized in reality. The idea of moral rewardism is metaphorically presented in Dumplings. Aunt Mei has once been a proficient medical doctor specialized in performing the surgery of abortion in Mainland China. Due to China’s policy of national family planning, Aunt Mei has to operate daily about twenty to thirty abortion surgeries for women who are pregnant from two to nine months, disregarding their will and health conditions. One day, when Aunt Mei’s artistic fiancé Wang Shouyi is waiting at the hospital’s garden for her to have lunch together, he witnesses that a worker mechanically digs a big hole in the bushes and then buries a huge lump of bloody fetus. Shocked by this horrifying daily routine, Wang soon afterwards returns his engaging ring to Aunt Mei and disappears. As the story narrates, “The man has gone far away without a trace. No matter how much he loves her, he has left her. Is he scared of himself? Is he scared of her? Or is he afraid of the retribution upon their future children?”6 When Qingqing asks Aunt Mei why she has separated from her fiancé, Aunt Mei says, “He is afraid that he will have retribution in the future: his children will have no butthole” 他怕將來的孩子有報應, 生孩子沒屁眼 (Ta pa jianglai haizi you baoying, sheng haizi mei piyan).7 This tragic love story between Aunt Mei and Wang conveys the idea of moral rewardism. Though her surgical performance is legal and professional, Aunt Mei’s numerous abortion operations terminate the lives of many unborn babies, which do not excuse her from her moral responsibility. Wang’s concern about the retribution upon their future offspring suggests the potential punishment of her murderous act by the mighty spirits according to moral principles governing human endeavors. The female protagonist Qingqing’s reincarnation of the consumed fetus further implicates the causal cycle of punishment for evil deeds. After having devoured fetus-made dumplings for a while, Qingqing has gradually improved the tenderness of her aging skin. Dissatisfied with the slow progression, she seeks the secret prescription from Aunt Mei to revitalize her body urgently. Aunt Mei recommends her to feast on a five to six-month old male fetus with

6 Lillian Lee, Jiaozi 餃子 (Dumplings) (Hong Kong: Cosmos Books Ltd., 2004), 94. The original reads 男人已遠去無蹤。 他再愛她, 可他還是跑了。 怕自己, 怕將來的孩子有報 應? My translation. 7 Lillian Lee, ibid, 64. My translation.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

90

li

a developed skull, moving hands, and ability to yawn. His pink veins appear beneath his transparent skin, and a layer of vernix caseosa embraces his whole body. From the medicinal perspective, a female fetus with female hormones will better restore a woman’s body. However, according to folk superstitions, women will benefit more from a male fetus due to the idea of male superiority in Chinese patriarchal culture. Served by Aunt Mei with her special recipe, Qingqing tastes an unorthodox cuisine of dumplings. Her body miraculously regains its youthfulness, and then she recaptures her husband’s sexual desire towards her. However, later her body exhibits a bloody smell. Upon enquiries, she learns from Aunt Mei that she has eaten dumplings made from abominable spawn, conceived out of rape by a father to a daughter who dies soon after the abortion. The dreadful ghost of the fetus revives in Qingqing’s body in the manifestation of disgusting smell as a revenge. Qingqing is punished for her cannibalistic acts by supernatural powers in mysterious manners, though not by law and order in reality. The practice of cannibalism finds its roots in traditional Chinese medicine. The important role of food in Chinese society can be seen in Mencius’s saying, “people revere food as if it were Heaven” 民以食為天 (min yi shi wei tian), which indicates the prominence of food and eating in Chinese life. The Chinese often treat food for medical remedial purpose, or utilize medicine in their cuisine to strengthen their physical health. Such nourishing food, known as “tonic” (buyao 補藥), combining with herbal medicine with emphasis on the balance, order, and harmony, is crucial in diet therapy in Chinese alimentary culture, in which the physical body and the social body interact with each other dialectically.8 Li Shizhen’s 李時珍 (1518–1593) The Compendium of Materia Medica 本草綱目 (Bencao Gangmu, 1593), an authoritative comprehensive medical book in Chinese medicine, lists at least thirty five drugs derived from human organs, fluids, and excreta, including human placenta, popularly known as “Zi he che” 紫河車 under the “Human Flesh” entry.9 While human placenta has been officially used in traditional Chinese medicine since ancient times, human fetus is allegedly consumed as an extraordinarily precious dish in discretion. In her blog, Lillian Lee recounts a disturbing exper-

8

9

See also Jessica Tsui-yan Li, “Food, Body and Female Subjectivity: Reading between Western and Chinese Perspectives,” in Gender, Discourse and the Self in Literature: Issues in Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, ed. Kwok-kan Tam and Terry Siu-han Yip (Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 2010), 53–76. Li Shizhen’s 李時珍, The Compendium of Materia Medica 本草綱目 (Bencao gangmu), 52.34. https://ctext.org/wiki.pl?if=gb&res=8.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

fate, reincarnation and medicinal cannibalism

91

ience of drinking a nourishing soup that might be made from human fetus without her consent.10 Such an event became the background materials for her creation of the tale of Dumplings. The practice of cannibalism has also been narrated in Chinese literature and culture. As Aunt Mei says in Dumplings, when people suffer from hunger during famine in the past, they could not bear eating their own children, so they would “exchange their sons to eat” 易子而食 (yizi ershi). In the Five Hegemons of the Spring and Autumn period (770–476BCE), Duke Huan of Qi Kingdom 齊桓公 (Qihuangong) once said he had never tried the flesh of babies. His subordinate and a famous chef Yiya 易牙 then cooked his own son for the Duke in order to gain his trust for political advancement. In Yuefei’s 岳飛 (1103–1142) famous poem, “The River All Red” 滿江紅 (Manjianghong), he recites, “With our bravery we feed on the flesh of the northern tribes when hungry; with our cheers we chat about drinking their blood when thirsty” 壯志飢餐胡虜肉,笑 談渴飲匈奴血 (Zhuangzhi jican hulu rou, xiaotan heyin Xiongnu xue).11 The story of “Curing parents by cutting thighs” 割股療親 (Geguliaoqin) collected in Twenty-four Filial Examplars 二十四孝 (Ershisi xiao) depicts how children cut the flesh from their thighs and cook for their parents as remedial food. In Water Margin 水滸傳 (Shuihu zhuan), most of the heroes eat human flesh and heart with wine, and Sun Erniang 孫二娘 even opens a restaurant of humanflesh buns. The idiom of “eating someone’s flesh and cutting off his/her skin to make cushion” 食肉寢皮 (shirou qinpi) is used to express one’s extreme anger towards a person. Lu Xun 魯迅 (1881–1936) in his influential story “Diary of a Madman” 狂人日記 (Kuangren riji, 1918) employs the metaphor of cannibalism to criticize traditional Chinese culture and urges readers to “save the children” in the end. Contemporary Chinese literature, such as Mo Yan’s 莫言 Frog 蛙 (Wa, 2009), Xue Xinran’s 薛欣然 The Good Women of China 中國的好女人們 (Zhongguo hao nürenmen, 2003) and Li Er’s 李洱 Cherry on a Pomegranate Tree 石榴樹上结樱桃 (Shiliushu Shang Jie Yingtao, 2004) also address these controversial issues of abortion and cannibalism. Lee’s Dumplings can be seen as an uncanny revisitation of the cannibalistic culture in contemporary Chinese society.

10

11

Lillian Lee, “The feeling of eating human fetus” 吃嬰胎的感受 (Chi yingtai de ganshou), in Lillian Lee’s Blog (Li Bihua de boke 李碧華的博客) (6 July 2006) http://blog.sina.com .cn/s/blog_475afdce010004eg.html. Li Bihua 李碧華, Jiaozi, 190. My translation.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

92 2

li

Confucius’ Heaven’s Mandate (Tianming)

Moral rewardism flourished in Zhou Dynasty where the justice system functioned in society and people had faith in moral responsibility. However, in the Spring and Autumn period, when the ethical and socio-political order collapsed, the public in general gradually doubted a fair and moral scheme of justice in the universe. People tended to believe in the concept of “ming,” with the connotation of destiny, both incomprehensible by humans based on logical and moral principles and predetermined by inaccessible and abominable mysterious forces. Confucius’ “tianming” combines the moral demands of “tian” (Heaven) and “ming” in the sense of destiny. In the Analects, Confucius says, “As for the gentleman, there are three things he esteems. He esteems the mandates of Heaven, he esteems great men, and he esteems the works of sages” 君 子有三畏, 畏天命, 畏大人, 畏聖人之言 (Junzi you san wei, wei tianming, wei daren, wei shengren zhi yan).12 The patterns of Heaven observed by sages should be brought to humans as guidance of behaviours. When his most virtuous disciple Yan Hui died young, he exclaimed, “Alas! Heaven is destroying me! Heaven is destroying me!” 噫!天喪予!天喪予!(Yi! Tian sang yu! Tian sang yu!).13 Then, he claims, “At fifty I understood the mandate of Heaven” 五十而 知天命 (wushi er zhi tianming).14 At fifty, he finally understood that humans had to accept the mandate of Heaven that might not involve ethical principles. Dong Zhongshu emphasizes the role of sages in implementing the patterns of Heaven in the human and natural worlds. As he says, “Heaven’s command I call the mandate; the mandate can only be put into practice by a sage” 天命之 謂命, 命非聖人不行 (Tianming zhi wei ming, fei shengren bu xing).15 Dong offers an interpretation to ease the apparent tensions embedded in “tianming” and brings harmony between Heaven and Humanity.16 In Dumplings, Aunt Mei studies diligently to become a medical doctor and then works industriously to follow and fulfill the regulations laid down by the government in Mainland China. She has been very successful and received many awards to recognize her talents and hard work. Her professional accomplishment, however, leads to her tragic love affair with her fiancé Wang who is afraid of retribution. Along with China’s open door policy, Aunt Mei follows the

12 13 14 15 16

Confucius, Lunyu, 9/5. https://ctext.org/analects/zh. Accessed on 17 May 2018. Confucius, Lunyu, ibid, 11/9. Confucius, Lunyu, ibid, 2/4. Hanshu 漢書, 56:2515. https://ctext.org/han‑shu/zh. Accessed on 17 May 2018. See also Puett, “Following the Commands of Heaven: The Notion of Ming in Early China.”

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

fate, reincarnation and medicinal cannibalism

93

trend to use “her own way” to immigrate to Hong Kong. With her wit and knowledge, she achieves great success in her secretive dumplings business in Hong Kong by serving wealthy customers. After acceding to Qingqing’s request, she illegally performs an abortion surgery on Xiaoqi, and subsequently causing the latter’s death. Wanted by the Hong Kong police, Aunt Mei abandons all her belongings, including all her cash, jewelry, a brand new Louis Vuitton bag, banking and housing documents, which she has earned all these years and escapes to Shenzhen. Aunt Mei seems to follow the patterns of society and achieves success but fails in the end. Perhaps those patterns in the human world do not coincide with the mandate of Heaven, and sages are called upon to help. Aunt Mei’s failure reinforces the notion that “tianming” cannot be refuted or challenged and that one has to pay a price or bear full responsibility if one goes against “tianming.” Aunt Mei’s story indirectly reflects the social issues caused by China’s onechild policy as part of the national population planning scheme implemented since 1979 and phased out in 2015. While local government created commission for inspection and registration work, provincial government imposed fines and sometimes even compulsory abortion for violations of a strict one-child policy. Surgically implanted contraceptive devices or sterilization were imposed on many women. Though many exemptions were allowed and minorities were exempted, millions of people were affected by this policy. As Aunt Mei says, “During the period of one-child policy, we’re exhausted by our busy schedules. We daily operated a dozen abortion surgeries of well-formed fetus. There were more than three thousand fetus aborted in a year, and thirty thousand in ten years. Abortions of immature fetus were unaccountable. Alas! …”17 At the backdrop of the open door policy, Deng Xiaoping initiated economic reforms since 1978, which led to economic transformation of the nation from socialism into market economy with Chinese characteristics. The return of the sovereignty of Hong Kong to China in 1997 further stimulated migration and business activities across the border. Commercial opportunists made use of the aborted fetus by turning them into therapeutic cuisine. Aunt Mei’s frequent smuggling of human fetus from Mainland China to Hong Kong shows part of the picture of these socio-historical circumstances. This one-child policy provides an exemplar to show human execution /assertion of power with the aim of refuting the natural order, or “tianming.”

17

Li Bihua, Jiaozi, 64. The original reads 『一孩政策』那時,我們忙得夠嗆的,成形 的每天打掉十來個, 一年三千多個, 十年都三萬。 胚胎 『人流』 就無數了。 他嘛 … My translation.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

94 3

li

Mozi’s “Against Fate” (Feiming)

In response to the destiny denoted by “ming,” Mozi in the chapters of “Feiming” 非命 argues that human efforts are required to achieve success, though humans cannot completely control the result due to other restraining factors. As Mozi says, Now the rulers go to court early and retire late, hearing lawsuits and attending to government and meting out justice for the whole day, and dare not be negligent. Why do they do this? They think diligence will bring about order, and negligence chaos; diligence will produce safety, and negligence danger. Therefore they dare not be negligent.18 Mozi 墨子 emphasizes the importance of human determination and obligations in leading one’s own lives. Rather than waiting for good luck to arrive, humans should cultivate themselves and work hard, which will help but not guarantee them to achieve accomplishment due to their limitations. In Dumplings, Qingqing desperately tries all her means to fight against the natural course of growing old. Due to her aging body, her wealthy husband Li Shijie has lost desire and interest towards her and has a number of mistresses. She attempts to retrieve her youth through cannibalistic consumption in order to regain her position in her husband’s heart. However, when she sees a fivemonth old fetus on a plate, she screams and runs downstairs. Coincidently, she comes across a fortune-teller kiosk with a banner saying, “Everything is determined by fate; not one bit can be controlled by humans” 萬般都是命,半 點不由人 (Wanban dou shi ming, bandian bu you ren).19 This common saying presents the notion of destiny, which is predetermined by mighty spirits and is nonnegotiable by humans. Such idea of blind fate helps people to detach themselves from the desires of worldly glory, honour, and wealth. It also consoles people in difficult life circumstances, such as failure, life, death, and separation, by simply saying “it’s fate.” People’s acceptance of blind fate relieves them from their moral responsibility and confining them in their restricted positions, and therefore, keeping peace and order in society. Instead of accepting her fate, Qinging says, “No, if I have the ability, why don’t I grab the opportunity, in order to redirect the course of my fading life?” 不, 只要有能力, 為什麼不好好把 18

19

Mozi, 37/9. The original reads 今也王公大人之所以蚤朝晏退, 聽獄治政, 終朝均 分, 而不敢怠倦者, 何也? 曰: 彼以為強必治,不強必亂;強必寧,不強必 危,故不敢怠. http://ctext.org/mozi. Accessed on 7 February 2018. My translation. Li Bihua, Jiaozi, 140. My translation.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

fate, reincarnation and medicinal cannibalism

95

握,叫日漸黯淡的生命改寫? (Bu, zhiyao you nengli, weishenme bu haohao

bawo, jiao rijian andan de shengming gaixie?)20 Qingqing’s determination and struggle in controlling her own life echoes Mohist’s advocacy of human effort in the face of destiny. Her quest for love, youthfulness and her husband’s desire for sexual strength are all manifestations of their refusal to accept “ming” and their effort to be their own masters in life. The fetus consumption by Qingqing and Li Shijie manifests different female and male agency respectively. Qingqing is growing old and is then abandoned by her husband, which makes her feel self-contempt and diffident. She almost loses her husband to those young and beautiful women and becomes a mere sympathetic wealthy woman living in illusory vanity. To fight her battle, she does not make a scene or beg her husband, nor does she discipline those mistresses. She uses the most proactive way, “To seize a man, she needs to regain her youth” 攫住男人, 便是 「回春」 (juezhu nanren, bianshi “huichun”).21 Her purpose of regaining her youth and beauty is to please her husband who is the centre and meaning of her life. Rather than being desired as an object, Li consumes fetus-made dumplings in order to strengthen his male sexual prowess, thus positioning himself as a subject in his life. When Li visits Aunt Mei for special cuisine, he has sexual intercourse with her right away. The discrepancy between the female and male agency of Qingqing and Li respectively shows the unequal gender power relation within this couple, which is mainly caused by their uneven economic power. While Li is the breadwinner of the family, Qingqing totally depends on Li for her social status and material pleasure. Qingqing’s eagerness to revive the youthfulness and beauty of her body reflects the objectification of women. Soon after she has finished the actor training course organized by the television production company, Qingqing “relies on her youth and beauty and bright smiles” 憑年青貌美, 笑容燦 爛 (ping nianqing maomei, xiaorong canlan),22 and performs in a television drama, thus becoming a popular actress. Her achievement in acting is largely based on her physical appearance, which also leads to her marriage with Li. When Qingqing is acting in a drama production, Li comes to visit and is attracted to Qingqing’s gorgeous look. Li desires for Qingqing’s body when she is young and pretty and loses interests in her when her splendor is fading away, which shows their superficial and fragile marital relationship. When Qingqing requests the company of Li on their anniversary day, Li apologetically gives 20 21 22

Li Bihua, Jiaozi, 141. My translation. Li Bihua, Jiaozi, 154. My translation. Li Bihua, Jiaozi, 17. My translation.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

96

li

her a big cheque to compensate his absence. While Qingqing used to laugh cheerfully on everything, she does not smile upon the receipt of the cheque. Upon Li’s enquiries, she says, “One person laughing on her own does not mean happiness” 一個人笑不等於開心呀 (Yi ge ren xiao bu dengyu kaixin ya). What Qingqing wants is Li’s love and care. Within this couple, the monetary transaction replaces their intimate relationship, which reflects the commodification and devaluation of Qingqing. Qingqing’s story also reveals the material culture in contemporary capitalistic Hong Kong. Li routinely takes Qingqing to expensive stores to purchase clothes, bags, and shoes marked by name brands for satisfying her sensual gratification and displaying her social status. Qingqing recounts in details her experience in a shoe boutique accompanied by Li. The young and attractive sales girl kneels down to serve her to try luxurious shoes. While consuming the commodities, Qingqing is enjoying the service that exhibits her upper-class social status. Though she thinks that the sales girl is younger than her, she pities her that she cannot afford to possess any extravagance. When Qingqing asks if the shoes look good on her, Li answers that she looks good on whatever she wears. However, soon afterwards Qingqing in a boutique overhears a conversation between a couple that is familiar to her. When the young woman asks the man which dress fits her more, the man says whatever dresses fit her well. The man’s voice sounds familiar and his answer rings the bell, which suggests that the sales girl becomes Li’s new mistress. The venue of the luxurious boutiques signifies the platform of materialism where the characters dwell often. The commodities that Li purchases for Qingqing and his mistresses in exchange for their sexuality also represent the commercial culture in this city. The Chinese conception of fate has been changing throughout ages and it includes multifaceted meanings. Lillian Lee’s works are famous for integrating Chinese legends, folktales and ghost stories embedded with the complex concept of fate on the topics of gender, sexuality, commercialization, and social issues. Dumplings is an allegorical tale that shows different notions of fate in Chinese culture, meanwhile reflecting the cultural, social and literary significance. The idea of moral rewardism is presented in the story when Aunt Mei’s fiancé leaves her for fear of retribution of her murderous acts. Qingqing’s disgusting smell also suggests the reincarnation of the abominable fetus she has consumed. Though Aunt Mei works very hard to follow the obligations imposed on her by society, she fails to achieve success in the end, which indicates that perhaps the one-child policy and her smuggling and butchering business do not follow the mandate of Heaven. Refusing to accept her fate, Qingqing fights very hard to regain her youth, which echoes Mohist’s

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

fate, reincarnation and medicinal cannibalism

97

emphasis of human effort in directing one’s own life. The dumplings business also reveals the consequence of the one-child policy and the economic reform in Mainland China and the frequent smuggling activities across its border with Hong Kong. Moreover, the emphasis on female youth and beauty in this story presents the demeaning of women and the materialistic culture in the city. Dumplings, most of all, reflects the Chinese beliefs in reincarnation and medicinal cannibalism as a result of the Chinese conception of fate. In Chinese alimentary culture, human fetus and other body parts are considered as tonic food. Combined with herbal medicine, human flesh is turned into delicacies for the therapeutic effects of balance, order, and harmony. The human body being consumed is supposed to be reincarnated in the newly adopted person. Such food practices of cannibalism are deeply rooted in Chinese philosophical belief of moral rewardism, which gives moral guidance to humans by emphasizing a causal relationship between human actions and their consequences managed by mysterious and powerful forces. The Chinese conception of fate has shaped the intimate thoughts and feelings of the Chinese as well as their behaviour in terms of reincarnation and medicinal cannibalism, which has been depicted in Dumplings. As a result, the characters’ ways of thinking and manners portrayed in Dumplings contribute to redefine the ever-changing notion of fate in Chinese culture. Lee employs the rhetoric of fate, reincarnation and cannibalism to present human endeavors to cope with uncertain and undesirable life circumstances in Chinese society.

Bibliography Cai, Zong-Qi “Multiple Vistas of Ming and Changing Visions of Life in the Works of Tao Qian.” In The Magnitude of Ming: Command, Allotment, and Fate in Chinese Culture, 169–202. Edited by Christopher Lupke. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2005. Chen, Ning. “Confucius’ View of Fate (Ming).” Journal of Chinese Philosophy 24 (1997): 323–359. Confucius 孔子. Lunyu 論語. https://ctext.org/han‑shu/zh. Accessed on 17 May 2018. Hanshu 漢書. https://ctext.org/han‑shu/zh. Accessed on 17 May 2018. Kong Anguo 孔安國, et al., eds. Shang Shu Zheng Yi (Zhou Shu) 尚書正義: 周書 (The book of documents: The book of Zhou), Vol. 2. Taiwan: Wunan tushu chuban gufen youxian gongsi 2001. Li Bihua 李碧華 (Lillian Lee). Jiaozi 餃子 (Dumplings). Hong Kong: Cosmos Books Ltd., 2004.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

98

li

Li, Jessica Tsui-yan. “Food, Body and Female Subjectivity: Reading between Western and Chinese Perspectives.” In Gender, Discourse and the Self in Literature: Issues in Mainland China, Taiwan and Hong Kong, 53–76. Edited by Kwok-kan Tam and Terry Siu-han Yip. Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 2010. Li Shizhen 李時珍. Bencao gangmu 本草綱目 (The compendium of materia medica, 1593). https://ctext.org/wiki.pl?if=gb&res=8. Accessed on 17 May 2018. Mozi 墨子. http://ctext.org/mozi. Accessed on 7 February 2018. Perkins, Franklin. “The Mohist Criticism of the Confucian Use of Fate,” Journal of Chinese Philosophy (2008): 421–436. Puett, Michael. “Following the Commands of Heaven: The Notion of Ming in Early China.” In The Magnitude of Ming: Command, Allotment, and Fate in Chinese Culture, 49–69. Edited by Christopher Lupke. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2005, Zhu, Aijun. Feminism and Global Chineseness: The Cultural Production of Controversial Women Authors. Youngstown, New York: Cambria Press, 2007.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

chapter 5

Recurring Fate in Two Hong Kong Films: Life after Life and Reincarnation of Golden Lotus Kaby Wing-Sze Kung

Many historians have blamed beautiful women in ancient Chinese history for causing the collapse of empires by distracting emperors with their beauty and, therefore, causing them to become incapable of concentrating on ruling their kingdoms.1 Owing to these historians’ negative portrayals of women, women with astonishing beauty have often been regarded as femmes fatales, and many beautiful women in history have experienced unfortunate fates. In light of this, it is not surprising to see that the four most beautiful women in Chinese history, Xi Shi 西施, Wang Zhaojun 王昭君, Diao Chan 貂蟬, and Yang Guifei 楊貴 妃, all had tragic endings.2 These historical Chinese beauties were blamed for the downfall of empires despite the fact that the emperors were not faultless in the administration of their kingdoms. A common expression for femme fatale is whose beauty is worth a nation “qing guo qing cheng” 傾國傾城 (one whose smile brings the fall of a nation or a city).3

1 See Ouyang Xiu 歐陽修 and Song Qi 宋祁, Xin Tang shu 新唐書 (Book of New Tang) [Woman leads to disaster] (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1975), 154. See also Xin Wudai shi 新五代史 (New history of the Five Dynasties) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1974), 127: “Beautiful women lead to the downfall of a kingdom. Starting from Nüwa, the most serious disaster will cause the downfall of the kingdom, one’s family and lead to one’s death.” 2 Xi Shi (Age of Disunion), Wang Zhaojun (Han dynasty), Diao Chan (Three Kingdoms), and Yang Guifei (Tang dynasty). 3 This phrase first appeared in Han Shu 漢書 (Book of Han). Cited in Anne McLaren, The Chinese Femme Fatale: Stories from the Ming Period (Sydney: Wild Peony, 1994), 1. However, the legend of Bao Si 褒姒 should be regarded the origin of the saying—“a beautiful woman’s smile brings the fall of a city or a nation.” Bao Si was the beautiful queen of King You of Zhou 周幽 王 who refused to smile after marrying the king. In order to see her smile, the king was willing to pay any price including fooling his lords. One day, King You pretended there was an emergency, and he lighted a signal fire on the beacon tower to summon his lords and their troops. Witnessing the whole incident, Bao Si burst out laughing when she saw the confusion of the lords and their troops upon their arrival at the beacon tower. In order to make Bao Si to smile again, Kong You tricked the lords repeatedly, in the end, no lords came to the rescue when the Quanrong nomads invaded. This legend indicates the pun of “qing guo qing cheng”—the smile of a beautiful woman is worth the fall of a city, but it also means the smile of a woman

© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2020 | doi:10.1163/9789004427570_007 Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

100

kung

Seeing that all the official historians in ancient China were men, it is not unreasonable to conclude that these historians made women into scapegoats for the downfall of the given dynasty. Under patriarchal hegemony, female beauty can be interpreted as a lethal weapon against men. It is uncontroversial to say that the concept of fate in Chinese culture is a “gendered fate.”4 According to Deirdre Sabina Knight, While fatalistic discourses harm all people, they play a particular role in mystifying the oppression of women. A concept such as ming [fate] may appear to be indifferent along lines of gender, yet frames of reference, norms, values, ideals and emotional patterns that the discourse of fate reproduces for woman differ systemically from those it allows for men.5 Based on Knight’s comment, this chapter aims to investigate how women have been portrayed as vehicles for the execution of recurring fate and reincarnation in Chinese culture by examining two Hong Kong New Wave films: Peter Yung’s Life after Life 再生人 (Zaisheng ren, 1981) and Clara Law’s Reincarnation of Golden Lotus 潘金蓮之前世今生 (Panjinlian zhi qianshi jinsehng, 1989). Both Yung and Law deal with the concept of past lives affecting characters’ current lives; in other words, the Buddhist concept of karma is the subject matter of their films in which women are often the cause of men’s downfalls.6 A comparison of the two films will show how the two directors deal with the concepts of fate and fatalism differently.

1

Gendered Fate: Beautiful Chinese Women as the Executors of Recurring Fate

Life after Life is a story about an American-born Chinese man, Ray, who is a stage organizer who discovers that his past life has affected his current life and that it is inevitable that he will be murdered again by his wife who was also costed the fall of a nation. Cited in Cho Kyo, The Search for the Beautiful Woman: A Cultural History of Japanese and Chinese Beauty, trans. Kyoko Selden (Plymouth: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2012), 44. 4 Deirdre Sabina Knight, “Gendered Fate,” in The Magnitude of Ming: Command, Allotment, and Fate in Chinese Culture, ed. Christopher Lupke (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2005), 272. 5 Ibid., 273. 6 I will explain the notion of karma in detail in the second section of this chapter.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

recurring fate in two hong kong films

101

his wife in the past life. The story begins with a murder case that happened on 29 August 1955 during a puppet show in Hong Kong. After the murder incident, the shot is immediately followed by a scene of a woman delivering a baby in an operating theatre. Without giving away too many details, the film then shifts to the modern time with Ray going to Hong Kong to organize a fashion show. While he is there, he encounters Di Di, a beautiful, young fashion model. In order to match the theme of the fashion show, Ray decides to borrow some puppets from an old Chinese puppeteer troupe. However, strange things start to happen after Ray ignores the advice from the owner of the puppets, who tells him not to keep the puppets at home. Ray begins to have visions of a murder and believes he was knocked out by one of the borrowed puppets. In the end, Ray realizes that the strange things are all linked to his past life and, to Di Di’s past life too (because it turns out that Di Di was Ray’s wife in his past life). Clara Law’s Reincarnation of Golden Lotus is based on Lillian Lee’s 李碧華 (Li Bihua) novel of the same title, and Lee herself was the screenwriter. It is a retelling of the story of the notorious fictional character, Pan Jinlian 潘金蓮, who appears in two classical Chinese novels—Water Margin 水滸傳 (Shuihu zhuan) and The Plum in the Golden Vase 金瓶梅 (Jin ping mei). In Water Margin, Pan Jinlian is characterised as a cold-blooded woman who murders her husband, Wu Dalang 武大郎, after she commits adultery with a philander Ximen Qing 西門慶. Pan Jinlian’s underlying motive for the murder of her gentle and affectionate husband is to marry her richer lover, Ximen Qing. Her disrespect for her husband and her sexual indulgence have earned her the reputation of being the famous morally and sexually loose woman in Chinese literary history. Not only does Water Margin contain a negative account of Pan Jinlian, but another novel, The Plum in the Golden Vase, also uses Pan Jinlian as the main protagonist with similar promiscuous and mercenary attributes. In Reincarnation of Golden Lotus, the story begins with an image of Pan Jinlian refusing to drink a “bitter soup” 孟婆湯 in hell, which will cause her to forget all of the memories of her past life.7 Instead of going through the normal process of reincarnation, she is determined to seek revenge on Wu Song 武松, her brother-in-law and killer. This act of keeping her memory of her past life foreshadows the influence of Pan Jinlian’s past life on her following life as she refuses to forget her past as being Pan Jinlian. It is thus not surprising to see a strong connection between Pan’s two lives as the agency (bitter soup) of

7 The legend of the “bitter soup” will be elaborated in the section of “Divination in the Two Films” of this chapter.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

102

kung

cutting off her two lives has not been successful. In the present life, Pan Jinlian becomes Shan Yulian 單玉蓮, an orphan in Shanghai during the Cultural Revolution. When she was sixteen, she was raped by the ballet school principal Master Zhang 張校長 and was forced by the Communist Party to undergo “reeducation” by becoming a worker in a shoe factory. There she met Wu Long 武 龍 (the reincarnation of Wu Song), but even though they were attracted to each other, free love was forbidden during the Cultural Revolution. Shan was criticised for showing her interest in Wu Long and was exiled to Huizhou 惠州. In Huizhou, Shan met Wu Ruda 武汝大 (the reincarnation of Wu Dalang 武大郎) and married him before they moved to Hong Kong together. The plot picks up all the tragic elements of Pan Jinlian’s story, and it does not end happily because Shan commits adultery with Simon (Ximen Qing) in Hong Kong that ruins her marriage. Although the story is similar in its plot to Water Margin and The Plum in the Golden Vase, the end of the story differs because Shan Yulian does not kill her husband even though she dies in the end. Based on the above storylines, one notices that it is the two female protagonists who play an active role in causing the tragic incidents. Not only are Di Di in Yung’s Life after Life and Shan Yulian in Law’s Reincarnation of Golden Lotus portrayed as beautiful women, they are also depicted as fated women whose struggles to defy their destiny have caused the deaths of Ray and Wu Long respectively. In Life after Life, Di Di is portrayed as an adulteress who becomes intimate with Ray. On the one hand, she also starts dating Mr. Shi 施先生, the owner of the fashion show and the adulterer of Xiao Hong 小紅 who is Di Di in her past life. The unfaithfulness of Xiao Hong and Di Di, eventually causes the deaths of Gou 狗 and Ray. From a traditional patriarchal point of view, Xiao Hong is the ultimate culprit who should be blamed for the outcomes of this ill fate. If she had not committed adultery with Mr. Shi in 1955, Gou would not have been killed and Ray would not have died once again in his second life. Nonetheless, Mr. Shi, being a partner in the adultery, also contributes to causing the tragic events; he does not die in either the previous or the current life. Only the woman is blamed, and this could be justified by Anne McLaren’s comment on misogynistic hierarchy in Chinese literary history: “Disasters are not sent down from Heaven, they originate in wives.”8 Apart from being an adulteress, another condemnation of Di Di in the film is her refusal to help Ray avoid the calamity through giving birth. After Ray discovers that there is a possibility for him to change his fate and avoid calamity in his life by having a son, he begs Di Di to keep their child when he discovers that 8 Anne McLaren, The Chinese Femme Fatale: Stories from the Ming Period (Sydney: Wild Peony, 1994), 1.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

recurring fate in two hong kong films

103

figure 5.1 Still from Reincarnation of Golden Lotus (1989)

Di Di is pregnant with their son, but Di Di refuses. Di Di’s refusal makes her the culprit for causing Ray’s misfortune as she refuses to “change” his ill fate. As she has been depicted as a vital agent in terms of changing Ray’s fate, her refusal of bearing Ray’s child makes her an active agent in executing the fate of Ray in this life once again. Similarly, Shan Yulian can also be regarded as an active agent of fate in Reincarnation of Golden Lotus. When Shan Yulian first meets Wu Ruida’s family, Wu’s great grandmother explicitly states: “Go away foxy lady! I don’t drink the wine. She’s too beautiful and would bring catastrophe! She’s too beautiful and would bring catastrophe!”9 The great grandmother’s comment serves as a kind of folk prediction foretelling the notion that Shan’s beauty is demonic. The grandmother’s comment once again reinforces the deep-rooted perception of seeing against women’s beauty as a sign of omen in traditional Chinese culture. It seems that beautiful women as a category are perpetually condemned and are associated with bad luck or being fated. Beauty is to be avoided and not glorified or welcomed. In such light, the two directors’ portrayals of beauty underpin Knight’s comment that beautiful women have always been regarded as bewitching and evil (yaonie 妖孽) and that this represents a way to demonize extraordinary beauty in premodern Chinese fiction.10

9 10

The original reads 返歸啦(吧)!返歸啦(吧)!狐狸精!不喝了,太漂亮, 是禍害. My translation. Deirdre Sabina Knight, “Gendered Fate,” 274.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

104

kung

In an interview, Eddie Fong, the executive producer of Reincarnation of Golden Lotus, explicitly claims that it is a commercial film.11 It is thus not surprising to see that the goal of making the film profitable affected the choice of the cast, including the casting of Joey Wang as Pan Jinlian/Shan Yulian. Wang is a Chinese actress who gained huge fame from the film A Chinese Ghost Story in 1987. After making a deep impression on audiences playing the character Nie Xiaoqian 聶小倩, an ancient and beautiful ghost, in that film,12 she received many opportunities to play similar roles such as a thousand-year-old princess in Kung Fu Vs Acrobatic 摩登如來神掌 (Modeng rulai shenzhang, 1990) and a thousand-year-old demoness in Demoness from a Thousand Years Ago 千年女妖 (Qiannian nüyao, 1990). However, Joey Wang was also famous for playing the roles of “innocent” and “weak” women in films in the 1990s, such as the examples of the two films cited above. This meant that having Wang play Pan Jinlian lessened the promiscuousness of the character; instead, she added a strong hint of pitifulness to Pan’s character, which made her more of a victim than a “bad woman” (in the patriarchal sense). This can be supported by Steve Fore’s comments on Joey Wang’s representation of Golden Lotus: Clara Law’s framing and lighting of [Wong] Wang (emphasizing soft focus, back-lit, consistently flattering angles that are often associated with the point of view of specific male characters) are to a considerable extent typical of the style of Hong Kong (and Hollywood) glamour cinematography most closely associated with rendering the female body as spectacle. Law complicates matters narratively, however, by showing us how uncomfortable Lotus feels under the oppressive weight of the masculinized gaze, which is frequently associated with explicitly sadistic, violent behavior by men in the film.13 He then goes on to criticize Law’s Reincarnation of Golden Lotus for failing to shed new light on the portrayal of women in Hong Kong cinema, arguing that it merely follows the stereotypes: “Golden Lotus ultimately does not deconstruct

11

12 13

Betty, “Pan Jinlian has to be sacrificed in both past and present lives: An interview with Eddie Fong” 不論古今—潘金蓮都要犧牲—方令正 (Bu lun gu jin, “Pan Jinlian” dou yao xisheng—Fang Lingzheng), Da yinghua 大影畫 (Big screen) 30 (1989): 27. A character taken from Pu Songling’s 蒲松齡 Liaozhai zhiyi 聊齋誌異. Steve Fore, “Tales of Recombinant Femininity: Reincarnation of Golden Lotus, the Chin P’ing Mei, and the Politics of Melodrama in Hong Kong,” Journal of Film and Video, 45.4 (1993): 64–65.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

recurring fate in two hong kong films

105

the notion of the femme fatale, opting instead for a more conventionally melodramatic resolution to the story.”14 Fore’s comment makes it clear that women’s beauty is regarded more like a curse than a blessing in Chinese culture and that a woman is fated and predestined to a certain treatment. This is supported by Deirdre Sabina Knight’s comment on gendered fate.

2

The Recurring Fate—Repetitions in the Past and Present Lives

Given the fact that the English titles of the two films indicate the Buddhist concept of “reincarnation,” the idea of fate in these two films obviously has Buddhist overtones. In Buddhism, the notion of cause and effect is prominent, and cause and effect are not limited to the “here and now.” Buddhists believe in “three worlds/lives,” the past, the present, and the future. In light of this, any deeds in a past life will affect one’s present life and also one’s future life. In addition, another prominent Buddhist idea is karma. It is believed that karma gives birth to the body and the mind in one’s next life. One’s body and mind in this life and in the next life are not the same, but karma connects them.15 Life after Life elucidates how the Buddhist concept of fate has greatly influenced Chinese culture, especially its notion that life repeats itself because of karmic fatalism.16 Clara Law, on the other hand, retells the story of Golden Lotus, and shows how she fights against her predestined fate in Reincarnation of Golden Lotus. In Yung’s Life after Life, the idea of fatalism is prominent, and there are obvious examples of Ray’s current life being intertwined with his past life. All the causes of the strange incidents encountered by Ray (a stage organizer in 1981) lie in his past life as Gou (a puppeteer in 1955). Being murdered by his wife Xiao Hong in the past life (Di Di is her reincarnation), it is inevitable for that Ray to be murdered again in this life no matter how hard he tries to change his fate. His failed attempt to change his predestined life highlights the notion of fatalism. Lisa Raphals’ comment is illuminating:

14 15 16

Ibid., 68. “The Teachings of Buddha and The Life of Sakyamuni Buddha,” http://www.lifespurpose .info/buddha/sakyamuni/sakyamunibuddha08.html. Accessed 30 January 2017. According to Robert Solomon, “Fatalism is the idea that what happens (or has happened) in some sense has to (or had to) happen.” Robert C. Solomon, “On Fate and Fatalism,” Philosophy East and West 53.4 (2003): 435. Although karmic fatalism refers to fatalism in the Buddhist context, fate operates within the belief in cause and effect.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

106

kung

Fatalism is the belief that events are fixed in advance and unchangeable by human agency. […] The strong fatalist believes that outcomes are set by what is “given,” with no significance for intervention; therefore, she has no practical need to distinguish which outcomes can be altered. Nor does the fatalist have a practical epistemological problem; for her, the future, like the past, cannot be undone.17 In the film, the link between the previous life and the current life is inevitable. Although both Di Di and Ray were born on the same day, 29 August 1955 (the day when Gou was murdered and Xiao Hong died after giving birth to a baby boy), they are far apart. Ray, being an American-born Chinese man lives in America while Di Di lives in Hong Kong. “The chance” for them to meet each other seems rare. However, the two are predestined to meet and fall in love in the current life due to the influence of karmic fatalism. This idea is hinted by Ray’s friend’s comment, “You two are born to be a matching pair” when he discovers that Ray and Di Di were born on the same day (29 August 1955) in the research centre. The “meant-to-be” relationship that accentuates their encounter does not happen in a random way; instead, Peter Yung draws the audience’s attention to a mysterious connection between Di Di and Ray when they first meet. The close-up of Ray’s twitching fingers after he sees Di Di suggests that the two people have not met by “chance.” The twitching fingers serve as an agency indicating the karma of these two strangers, and the encounter between Ray and Di Di could be perceived as a kind of “yuan” (predestined relationship). According to K.S. Yang and David Y.F. Ho, Chinese beliefs in predestination—in which the concept of yuan flourishes—have been strongly influenced by Buddhism. Historically, the notion of yuan gained currency after the Tang dynasty when Buddhism was officially introduced to China. Its origin may be traced to the secularization of the Buddhist doctrine of karma, which embodies the belief in reincarnation.18

17

18

Lisa Raphals, “Languages of Fate: Semantic Field in Chinese and Greek,” in The Magnitude of Ming: Command, Allotment and Fate in Chinese Culture, ed. Christopher Lupke (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2005), 70. K.S. Yang and David Y.F. Ho, “The Role of Yuan in Chinese Social Life: A Conceptual and Empirical Analysis,” in Asian Contributions to Psychology, ed. A.C. Paranjpe, David Y.F. Ho and Robert W. Rieber (New York: Praeger, 1988), 264. The idea that its “origin may be traced to the secularization of the Buddhist doctrine of karma” is from Ming Su and C.P. Yu and it has been quoted in K.S. Yang and David Y.F. Ho’s study.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

recurring fate in two hong kong films

107

Since Xiao Hong had killed Gou in the past life, it is foretold in Buddhist view that the “yuan” between the two in the current life will be a “nie yuan” 孽緣 (bad affinity) and will end in disaster.19 In the film, the puppet is used as a thread that links the past with the present and hints at the puppet-like protagonists whose lives are “controlled” by an external unknown force, whenever Ray picks up the puppet, he feels that it is not the first time he has held a puppet. One concrete example showing Ray has some kind of connection with the puppets is when Ray holds a puppet for a photoshoot in the studio. Han, who is the grandson of the owner of puppeteer troupe and the son of Gou and Xiao Hong, exclaims, “You are very skillful!”20 and asks Ray, “Did you learn it in your past life?”21 These remarks clearly point to the connection between Ray’s past life and his current life. Furthermore, Han also serves as another important agency indicating the connection between the past and present lives. Being the son of Gou and Xiao Hong, it is not surprising to find that he has the same birthday (29 August 1955) as Ray and Di Di (the reincarnation of his parents Gou and Xiao Hong). In order to strengthen the connection between Ray and the puppet, Peter Yung creates a scene in which Ray is knocked out by the same puppet that kills Gou (the past Ray) combining it with a lighting effect. The camera gradually shows the paint on the puppet’s face appearing on Ray’s face. The juxtaposition of the image of the puppet and Ray strongly suggests karmic fatalism. In order to highlight the idea of fatalism further, another scene shows Ray seeing a fortune-teller who tells him that his life is fated and cannot be changed. The inclusion of divination foretells Ray’s misfortunate ending and reinforces the idea of “recurring fate”—the notion that what happened in a previous life will be repeated in the present life.22 In the end, Ray is killed by Di Di using the same puppet. This ending demonstrates that Peter Yung’s Life after Life reinforces the Buddhist belief in cause-and-effect fatalism. In emphasizing the notion of karmic fatalism, Yung repeats the murder scene by juxtaposing the murder of Gou in 1955 with the murder of Ray in 1981. The sequence begins with Ray holding a puppet (the murder weapon in his previous life as Gou) in his hand, telling Di Di that “Now I know he (Mr. Shi) is your secret lover.” Then the camera pans to Mr. Shi who tries to attack Ray with the same puppet. The next shot immediately takes the audience back to 1955, when Mr. Shi was holding the same puppet and attacking Gou. After that shot, 19 20 21 22

Ibid., 265. The original reads 怎麼你做得那麼熟練? My translation. The original reads 你是否前世學會的? My translation. The notion of divination will be discussed in the last section of this chapter.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

108

kung

figure 5.2 Stills from Life after Life (1981)

the audience can vaguely see Gou’s wife (Xiao Hong) makes the final attempt to kill Gou when Mr. Shi’s attempt fails. Finally, the last shot is of Di Di (the current life of Xiao Hong), who makes the final attempt to kill Ray. The repeated actions in these sequences reinforce the idea that karmic fatalism, in particular with “nieyuan” (bad affinity), is inevitable. Fate of the characters would be repeated once again in the current life because of karma. Clara Law’s Reincarnation of Golden Lotus also deals with the idea of karmic fatalism, but the film shows people’s endeavours to fight against their predestined fate. Similar to Life after Life, the title Reincarnation of Golden Lotus also clearly refers to the Buddhist belief in the three worlds/lives and in karma.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

recurring fate in two hong kong films

109

Other prominent examples of karmic fatalism are also conveyed in the film. For instance, such as Shan Yulin behaves unconsciously like Pan Jinlian, as has been described in The Plum in Golden Vase and Water Margin, and the fact that she remembers bits and pieces of her past lives. One of the prominent examples showing the influence of a fragmented memory from a previous life would be the scene of her visit to the Song City 宋城 (Song cheng) adjacent to Lai Yuen 茘園 (Li Yuan), an amusement park in Lai Chi Kok.23 Given the fact that Pan Jinlian is a fictional character from the Song dynasty, the visit to the Song City (a theme park recreating of the city life in the Song dynasty) immediately situates the protagonist in her historical milieu, showing the close connection between the present life and the past life. A smooth transition between the shots is done through Pan’s hand movement. Firstly, the audience is taken back to the Song dynasty when Pan Jinlian was trying to seduce Wu Song by taking his hand and placing it on her chest. Following the movement of her hand, the audience once again is brought back to modern times when Shan subconsciously takes up the hand and puts it on her chest. However, both Wu Song and Wu Long do not fall under her temptation. The reactions from both men are exactly the same: “I will not betray my brother, please behave yourself.”24 Pan’s past sin is re-enacted when Shan Yulin unconsciously sleeps with Simon. When confronted by Wu Long for her promiscuous behaviours, Shan defends herself by saying, “I don’t want to be like this, but I don’t know why I had behaved this way.” The emphasis on her unconscious behaviour reinforces the element of recurring fate. To make this theme more explicit, Clara Law creates a scene showing scattered pages of The Plum in the Golden Vase tumbling inside the car after the accident to show how the present is haunted by the past lives. These loose pages contain mostly descriptions of Pan Jinlian in The Plum in the Golden Vase as “a foxy lady who always seduces men” and “shameless,” and these point to Shan’s “haunting past.”25 All these elements show the karmic effect on Shan’s current life with its causes originated from her previous life as Pan Jinlian.

23

24 25

“Song cheng” adopted the idea of the famous Chinese painting River of Wisdom in its construction. It projected the architectures and street scenes in the capital of Song Dynasty, Bianjing 汴京, now Kaifeng 開封. http://laiyuen.hk/story‑english/. Accessed 30 January 2017. The original reads 我武松頂天立地,不會做出對不起大哥的事,請阿嫂自重. My translation. Lillian Lee 李碧華 (Li Bihua). Panjinlian zhi qianshi jinsehng 潘金蓮之前世今生 (The reincarnation of Golden Lotus) (Hong Kong: Cosmos Books Ltd., 1993), 228.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

110

kung

figure 5.3 Stills from Reincarnation of Golden Lotus (1989)

However, unlike Life after Life, Reincarnation of Golden Lotus does not embrace the idea of accepting fatalism. Even though there are traces of the idea of recurring fate in the film—Shan Yulin (Pan Jinlian in her past life) marries Wu Ruda (Wu Dalang) and commits adultery with Simon (Ximen Qing), the story does not end with Wu Long (Wu Song) killing Shan Yulin as is described in the two classics. One prominent example as aforementioned would be Pan Jinlian’s refusal of drinking the “bitter soup.” Her unwillingness to follow the custom of drinking the “bitter soup” reflects she is attempting to change her “destiny” by keeping her memory from her past life. This is because in Chinese mythology, the Lady of Forgetfulness 孟婆 (Meng Po) is in charge of making the souls in Hell drink the “bitter soup” before they reincarnate. After drink-

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

recurring fate in two hong kong films

111

ing the soup, the souls will have “permanent amnesia and all memory of other lives is lost.”26 No one could be exempted from this tradition, yet Pan Jinlian’s rebellious action of fighting against this tradition is revealed through her spilling the soup and boldly exclaiming that “I need to take revenge.” These actions highlight her determination to change her predestined fate through her own means. Likewise, at the end of the film, Shan Yulin and Wu Long are involved in a car accident, in which Wu Long is hit by a car driven by Shan. The role of murderer is switched. Before Shan Yulian dies in the car explosion with Wu Long at the end of the film, Wu Long confesses his affection for Shan before he dies. This is also a new element not found in Pan’s past. Apart from this, the biggest twist is that Wu Rudai does not die in his current life. This change is significant in ending all the “bad affinity” so that Shan Yulin could be proved to be “innocent.” In light of this, she would be not killed by Wu Long (Wu Song) as he does not need to gain revenge for Wu Rudai (Wu Dalang). Viewed in this light, the purpose of her reincarnation is not simply to take revenge or to re-enact her fate one more time, but to end the bad affinity. This is supported by Stephen Teo’s comment on the theme of reincarnation in the film: the “reincarnation theme allows for an allegorical tale of betrayal and fate, transporting characters on a journey through a psychic realism where the past determines the future.”27 Despite that certain elements have been repeated in the current life due to the influence of the past life, the outcome could be altered as the ending in Reincarnation of Golden Lotus shows that fate could be changed.

3

Divination in the Two Films

Apart from “gendered fate” and “karmic fatalism,” the notion of divination also plays a very important role in Chinese attitudes towards fate. Rueyling Chuang points out that the concept of fate which includes “ming” 命 and “yun” 運 is an important element of Chinese fortune telling.28 Wolfram Eberhard states

26 27 28

Xia Chen, “Reflection: Memory and Forgetfulness in Daoism,” in Memory: A History, ed. Dmitri Nikulin (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015), 183. Stephen Teo, Hong Kong Cinema: The Extra Dimensions (London: British Film Institute, 1997), 223. Rueyling Chuang, “Divination/ Fortune Telling (Zhan Bu/Xianming): Chinese Cultural Praxis and Worldview,” China Media Research 7. 4 (2011): 94.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

112

kung

that the word fate (ming) indicates “divine decree” or “God’s will,”29 and he further explains that the second important concept of fate is “yun.” As “ming” is determined by divine will, “yun” is controlled by the “turn of fate” or the cycle of luck. A person’s fate can be fluctuated by different movements and directions in life and these changes can be beyond one’s control.30 Eberhard notes that “the connection between fate and time is instructive. The concept of ‘timing’ and doing certain things at the right time is pivotal to Chinese thought.”31 This comment shows that Chinese would make use of divination in an attempt to change their “ming” and “yun” as they believe that fate is alterable. According to Beverley Foulks McGuire, “humans must rely on divination to reveal karmic obstacles from the past sins, one’s karmic potential, and one’s future rebirth.”32 Based on the above comments from Wolfram Eberhard and Beverley Foulks McGuire, it is not surprising to see the two directors, Peter Yung and Clara Law, use the method of divination to reveal the karma between the protagonists’ past lives and present lives. In Life after Life, Ray learns about his past life through divination. His friend Fatty brings him to a fortune-teller (ironically, Fatty calls him “the Chinese Mathematician”) who could tell the karma between his past life and current life based on his birth date. Rueyling Chuang states that “bazi” 八字, or “eight characters,” includes the elements of one’s birth year, month, day, and hour, and these elements could affect one’s fate; therefore, these elements have also been regarded as the “four pillars of destiny.” Owing to the importance of these elements, reading one’s “bazi” has been regarded as the most commonly used Chinese fortune telling method.33 The detailed description of Ray’s birth year, month, day, and hour once again emphasises that Ray’s life has been predetermined and it is unavoidable for him to go through some hardships because of the karma he inherited from his previous life. In addition, the fortune-teller in this divination scene also indicates that the scar on Ray’s forehead is a scar that was made in his previous life. This scene strengthens the theme of karmic fatalism and highlights how Ray’s past life (as Gou) and determines his current life based on the notion of fate. 29 30 31 32 33

Wolfram Eberhard, Dictionary of Chinese Symbols: Hidden Symbols in Chinese Life and Thought, trans. G.L. Campbell (New York: Routledge, 1986), 101. Rueyling Chuang, “Divination/ Fortune Telling (Zhan Bu/Xianming): Chinese Cultural Praxis and Worldview,” China Media Research 7. 4 (2011): 94. Quoted in Rueyling Chuang, “Divination/ Fortune Telling (Zhan Bu/Xianming): Chinese Cultural Praxis and Worldview,” China Media Research 7.4 (2011): 94. Beverley Foulks McGuire, “Divining Karma in Chinese Buddhism,” Religious Compass 7.10 (2013): 417. Rueyling Chuang, “Divination/ Fortune Telling (Zhan Bu/Xianming): Chinese Cultural Praxis and Worldview,” China Media Research 7.4 (2011): 94.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

recurring fate in two hong kong films

113

In order to enunciate the role of divination in the Chinese understanding of fate, in particular, the concept of fatalism, Peter Yung employs another blind fortune-teller to foretell Ray’s doomed calamity by feeling his bones. Bonefeeling is one of the ancient ways the Chinese used to predict a person’s fate. According to Zengyu Wang, “Sound-listening and bone-feeling were often practised by blind people,” and he cites an example from the Liao dynasty: “there was a boy with the surname of Liu who was blind from childhood and was good at fortune-telling with techniques of sound-listening and bone-feeling.”34 The two examples above indicate that blind fortune-tellers who excel in bonefeeling have a long history in Chinese divination culture. In Life after Life, the blind fortune-teller feels Ray’s hand bones and predicts that he will be in a lifethreatening situation as there is a conflict between the element of fire and the element of gold in his zodiacal year. While the blind fortune-teller points out that Ray could try to avoid the calamity by having “some good news” in life such as having a baby boy, he further predicts that it is not possible for Ray to become a father in his current life as he is ill-fated and doomed to have no children because of the “nieyuan” he inherited from his previous life. Such predictions prompted Ray to beg Di Di to bear their child after hearing the advice from the blind fortune-teller in order to avoid the predestined catastrophe. His request can be regarded as Ray’s attempt to change his fate through human intervention. Similar to Life after Life, there is also an element of divination in Reincarnation of Golden Lotus revealing the connection between the past life and previous life. After obtaining partial vision of her previous life and recognising that she has been seducing Wu Long and slept with Ximen Qing, Shan Yulian goes to Wong Tai Sin Temple (Huang Daxian 黃大仙), a place famous for fortune telling in Hong Kong, in the hope of finding out the reason for her strange behaviour. In the temple, she casts lots and finds a fortuneteller to explain the lot to her. Ironically, the fortune-teller turns out to be Lady of Forgetfulness (Meng Po) reincarnated and she tells Shan Yulian to repent. Through this encounter with Lady of Forgetfulness, the connection between Pan Jinlian (past life) and Shan Yulian (present life) can be clearly seen:

34

Zengyu Wang, “Witchcraft and Divination” in A Social History of Middle-period China: The Song, Liao, Western Xia and Jin Dynasties, eds. Ruixin Zhu, Bangwei Zhang, Fusheng Liu, Chongbang Cai, and Zengyu Wang (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), 439. The story about the Liu boy is originally from Pure Talk and Jade Kettle, Volumes 4 and 7 and is cited in Wang’s article.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

114

kung

Shan Yulian: “It seems that I have seen you before.” Meng Po: “It doesn’t really matter whether you have seen me before. About this lot, it predicts calamity. Everything will be destroyed in the end.” Shan Yulian: “I have seen a lot of people from the ancient times lately and I could not behave like myself. Why?” Meng Po: “There is past life and present life in one’s life, just like the lineage from the parents. It’s never too late to start doing the right thing.”35 The above conversation between Shan Yulian and the Lady of Forgetfulness (Meng Po) clearly points out the notion of karma which brings the past deeds/ lives to the present, and it is impossible for one to flee from one’s predestined fate. Divination in Reincarnation of Golden Lotus serves as a medium, revealing the karma effect but not showing that fate is unchangeable. This is because the twist in the ending as aforementioned demonstrates that Shan Yulian succeeds in changing her fate from a “murderer” to an “innocent woman” as she does not murder Wu Rudai (Wu Dalang). Also, instead of being hated by Wu Song (in her previous life), she is loved by Wu Long (in her current life). This treatment of fate indicates that there is karma but one’s fate can be altered through human effort. To conclude, both Peter Yung and Clara Law emphasize the fated charm of women’s beauty and reinforce the idea of gendered fate, yet the treatment of recurring fate is different, with Yung embracing the idea that fate cannot be changed, as represented by puppet-like life as Ray and Di Di in Life after Life, which highlight the notion of karmic fatalism. Law’s portrayal of recurring fate, on the other hand, shows that the effects of karma can be changed through forgiveness and penance. Pan’s refusal to forget her previous life by rejecting the cup of “bitter soup” gives her the consciousness to exercise her will to change her fate.

35

The original reads 單玉蓮: 我好似見過你? 孟婆: 沒相干。論此籤有凶險。萬紫千紅亦毀於一旦。 單玉蓮: 最近我見到很多古人, 又身不由己。為甚麼? 孟婆: 人有前世今生, 猶如有父母子女, 一脈相承, 你都是及早回頭是岸。返歸 啦 (吧)! My translation.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

recurring fate in two hong kong films

115

Bibliography “About Lai Yuen.” http://laiyuen.hk/story‑english/. Accessed 30 January 2017. Betty. “Pan Jinlian Has to Be Sacrificed in both Past and Present Lives: An Interview with Eddie Fong” 不論古今—潘金蓮都要犧牲—方令正 (Bu Lun Gu Jin, “Pan Jianlian” dou yao xisheng—Fang Lingzheng). Da yinghua 大影畫 (Big screen) 30 (1989): 25–27. Chen, Xia. “Reflection: Memory and Forgetfulness in Daoism.” In Memory: A History, 176–183. Edited by Dmitri Nikulin. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015. Chuang, Rueyling. “Divination/ Fortune Telling (Zhan Bu/Xuanming): Chinese Cultural Praxis and Worldview.” China Media Research 7.4 (2011): 93–103. Eberhard, Wolfram. Dictionary of Chinese Symbols: Hidden Symbols in Chinese Life and Thought. Translated by G.L. Campbell. New York: Routledge, 1986. Fore, Steve. “Tales of Recombinant Femininity: The Reincarnation of Golden Lotus, The Chin P’ing Mei, And the Politics of Melodrama in Hong Kong.” Journal of Film and Video 45.4 (1993): 57–70. Knight, Deirdre Sabina. “Gendered Fate.” In The Magnitude of Ming: Command, Allotment, and Fate in Chinese Culture, 272–290. Edited by Christopher Lupke. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2005. Lam, Shue-fung. “(Un)Making Chineseness: Gender and Cultural Politics in Clara Law’s Films.” MPhil Thesis, The University of Hong Kong, 2006. Lee, Lillian 李碧華 (Li Bihua). Panjinlian zhi qianshi jinsehng 潘金蓮之前世今生 (The reincarnation of Golden Lotus). Hong Kong: Cosmos Books Ltd., 1993. Life After Life. Directed by Peter Yung. Fortune Star, 2009, DVD. McGuire, Beverley Foulks. “Divining Karma in Chinese Buddhism.” Religious Compass 7.10 (2013): 413–422. McLaren, Anne. The Chinese Femme Fatale: Stories from the Ming Period. Sydney: Wild Peony, 1994. Ouyang Xiu 歐陽修 and Song Qi 宋祁. Xin Tang shu 新唐書 (Book of New Tang). Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju, 1975. Ouyang Xiu 歐陽修. Xin Wudai shi 新五代史 (New history of the Five Dynasties). Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju, 1974. Pu Songling 蒲松齡. Liaozai Zhiyi 聊齋誌異 (Strange tales of liaozai). Hong Kong: Commercial Press, 1982. Raphals, Lisa. “Languages of Fate: Semantic Field in Chinese and Greek.” In The Magnitude of Ming: Command, Allotment and Fate in Chinese Culture, 70–106. Edited by Christopher Lupke. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2005. Reincarnation of Golden Lotus. Directed by Clara Law. Mega Star Video, 1993. DVD. Solomon, Robert C. “On Fate and Fatalism.” Philosophy East and West 53.4 (2003): 435– 454.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

116

kung

Teo, Stephen. Hong Kong Cinema: The Extra Dimensions. London: British Film Institute, 1997. “The Teachings of Buddha and The Life of Sakyamuni Buddha.” http://www.lifespurpos e.info/buddha/sakyamuni/index.html. Accessed 1 September 2016. Wang, Zengyu. “Witchcraft and Divination.” In A Social History of Middle-period China: The Song, Liao, Western Xia and Jin Dynasties, 263–281. Edited by Ruixin Zhu, Bangwei Zhang, Fusheng Liu, Chongbang Cai and Zengyu Wang. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998. Yang, K.S. and David Y.F. Ho. “The Role of Yuan in Chinese Social Life: A Conceptual and Empirical Analysis.” In Asian Contributions to Psychology, 263–281. Edited by A.C. Paranjpe, David Y.F. Ho and Robert W. Rieber. New York: Praeger, 1988.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

chapter 6

Dream-Scenes, the Concept of Time and Prognostication in Wong Kar-wai’s Ashes of Time Monika Gaenssbauer

Ashes of Time 東邪西毒 (Dongxie xidu) was produced by Wong Kar-wai 王家 衛 in the year 1994. It is a martial arts movie, very loosely based on the popular novel Eagle-Shooting Heroes 射雕英雄傳 (She diao yingxiong zhuan) by Jin Yong 金庸 (Louis Cha). The film can be seen as both an extension and replacement of the original narrative.1 Wong Kar-wai himself wrote the screenplay. While most of Wong’s stories are set in metropolitan societies, the story of Ashes of Time plays out in a remote desert in about the 10th century. The film was not a commercial success in Hong Kong. It was shown at the Venice Film Festival in 1994 though and acknowledged as a visually remarkable film. As Wimal Dissanayake rightly observes: “This is the kind of film that grows on you.”2 Maggie Cheung who plays a significant role in Ashes of Time said in an interview about the film: “The first time I saw it I thought ‘What’s it about?’ … The second time I thought, ‘Actually it’s quite good.’ And the third time I … understood the meaning of the film.”3 Personally I have had a similar experience with that film. In what follows I refer to the Redux version of the film. The story deals with a group of characters who are wounded by life.4 Most characters in the film are presented to us behaving in an enigmatic way. Ouyang Feng 歐陽峯 had left the woman he loves because he wished to excel as a martial arts master. The love of his life subsequently married his brother. Ouyang Feng lives in a little hut in the desert, where he earns his living by recruiting martial arts fighters as assassins to get rid of people’s enemies. Ouyang Feng may appear to be cynical and cold-hearted but he does, however, reflect deeply on his own life and on life in general.5 This portrayal of the young Ouyang Feng deviates from the evil character described in Jin Yong’s novel.

1 Wimal Dissanayake, Wong Kar-wai’s Ashes of Time (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2003), 28. 2 Ibid., 21. 3 Ibid. 4 Ibid., 33. 5 Ibid., 36. I am indebted to Dissanayake’s profound synopsis of the film’s storyline.

© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2020 | doi:10.1163/9789004427570_008 Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

118

gaenssbauer

His friend Huang Yaoshi 黃藥師 loves the vibrancy of life in all its colours. He has a predilection for alcohol and women. He promises much, but rarely keeps his word. In the end, he drinks the amnesic wine 醉生夢死 (zui sheng meng si) that Ouyang Feng’s sister-in-law had sent to Ouyang Feng in the hope that he would drink it. The meaning of the idiom “zui sheng meng si” 醉生夢死 is “to dream one’s life away; to indulge in drunken dreams; to live as if intoxicated and dreaming.” Ouyang Feng was meant to drink the wine to forget the woman he loved and his painful past. But he does not want to drink the amnesiac wine. Instead, Huang Yaoshi partakes of the wine and part of his memory is eradicated; he then takes to aimless roaming as a result of this amnesia. Hong Qi 洪七 is a poor down-and-out but nonetheless brilliant martial arts fighter. He arrives at Ouyang Feng’s hut, where Ouyang Feng talks him into fighting against a band of horse thieves in return for payment. Later on he helps a young and beautiful but poor woman from the countryside who wants to avenge the death of her brother. Hong Qi triumphs over the brutal bandits who killed the brother of the young woman, but loses a finger in the process. He realises he does not want to be like Ouyang Feng and moves away together with his wife. He becomes the leader of a community of beggars. According to Wong Kar-wai, Ouyang’s sister-in-law is an important character in the film, even though she only appears briefly. She is deeply disappointed that Ouyang Feng has left her behind, choosing to pursue his profession instead. It is out of anger and despair that she decides to marry his brother. When she becomes seriously ill and is near death, she looks back on her life and regrets the decisions she made. Her memories of the past make her present appear like a dream. And there is the Janus-like figure of Murong Yan 慕容燕 / Murong Yin 慕容嫣 who swings back and forth between appearing as a man and as a woman. As my colleague Nicoletta Pesaro has emphasised in a letter to me, the concept behind this character can be traced back to the Chinese tradition of gender ambiguity. In Cantonese, 燕 (Yan) sounds “Yin,” and is different from 嫣 (Yin) only in tone. The name Yan 燕 carries the connotation of a swallow which likes to build its nest in a human habitation, whereas the name Yin 嫣 refers to a charming person. Murong Yin/Murong Yan is a tormented individual who is torn apart by desire, unrequited love and hatred. As Yau Wai-ping puts it, this splitting of the figure into Murong Yin and Murong Yan is indicative of a ‘wounded soul’. She is held captive within herself, a condition symbolised by the bird cage she owns.6

6 Wai-ping Yau, “Wong Kar-wai, Auteur and Adaptor: Ashes of Time and In the Mood for Love” in A Companion to Wong Kar-wai, ed. Martha P. Nochimson (Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 2016), 543.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

dream-scenes, the concept of time and prognostication

1

119

Dream-Scenes

Josef Schnelle and Rüdiger Suchsland describe Wong’s films as one long stream of consciousness, narrated in a fragmentary way, with associative images that, together with an elaborate color design and carefully chosen pieces of music, contribute to a dense atmospheric texture. Peter Brunette describes Ashes of Time as made up almost entirely of dark rooms, close-ups and tightly constricted long shots. He characterizes the film as an austere, dreamily ironic swordplay epic.7 I personally have been fascinated by the aesthetics of Ashes of Time with its unforgettable images of the desert, mighty cascades of water, effects of light and flashy colors. Karsten Treber sees a ludic, expressive subjectivity at work in Wong’s films—a subjectivity that produces autonomous sensual impressions and perspectives of experience.8 And Yau Wai-ping writes: “The film seems to follow a circular track, flowing back and forth through time and space, … and through dreams and memories.”9 As Michael Lackner has shown in his work on the Anthology An Explication of the Profundities in the Forest of Dreams 夢林玄解 (Meng-lin hsüan-chieh), dreams have been perceived there as a realization of the axiom of a unity between past and present. Although a dream takes place in the dark, the character “meng” 夢 which can be found on oracle bone inscriptions is linked to eyes. From this we can deduce that a sleeping human being is still able to “see” something. Dreams have been connected with chaos whereas the day was connected with order. Dreams are characterized by the capacity to conceive day and night in one single breath.10 Interestingly Robert Eberwein draws a close comparison between dreams and films in his book Film & the Dream Screen that might help us to understand this particular film. “In both cases”, he writes, the dream and the screen, “we must be content with fragments—the images left in our minds of what we experienced. If we want to retrieve the images from dreams or cinema, we must rely on memory.”11 So our dealing with a film like

7 8

9 10

11

Rüdiger Suchsland and Josef Schnelle, Zeichen und Wunder. Das Kino von Zhang Yimou und Wong Kar-wai (Marburg: Schüren, 2006), 31–32. Karsten Treber, “Verbrechen aus Einsamkeit. Urbane Entfremdung und episodisches Erzählen,” in Wong Kar-wai. Filmpoet im Hongkong-Kino, ed. Roman Maurer (München: edition text + kritik, 2008). Wai-ping Yau, “Wong Kar-wai, Auteur and Adaptor,” 545. Michael Lackner, Der chinesische Traumwald. Traditionelle Theorien des Traumes und seiner Deutung im Spiegel der ming-zeitlichen Anthologie Meng-lin hsüan-chieh (Frankfurt a.M. et al.: Peter Lang, 1985), 4. Robert Eberwein, Film & the Dream Screen. A Sleep and a Forgetting (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984), 20.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

120

gaenssbauer

Ashes of Time with its fragmentary, dream-like scenes brings us into a doubly enigmatic and personal encounter with our own memory and images. The film begins with a Buddhist quote by Master Huineng that refers to the inner mind of people (which is flimsy and unstable) that causes all the trouble, not the external world: It’s written in the Buddhist Canon: “What is in agitation is neither the wind nor the flag, but the human heart.” 佛典有云:「旗未動,風也未吹;是人的心自己在動。」

All troubles in the human world come from our minds—love, hatred, desires, aspirations and interpretation. To capture such troubles, the film adopts the narration and self-reflection of one of its characters, Ouyang Feng, who tells the story of himself and other characters. The majority of the characters in the film seem to be haunted by their past, their losses, past deeds and by their missed chances in life and love.

2

The Concept of Time in the Film

In the film there are echoes and re-echoes of earlier statements and emotions, duplications of earlier events, revisits to identical locations and replays of the same actions or inactions.12 I found a text by Sinkwan Cheng very helpful for an interpretation of the concept of time in Ashes of Time.13 The film starts with the above mentioned Buddhist quote by Master Huineng. The message is clear: what creates restlessness, what stirs motions and emotions in the universe, is desire. Ashes of Time is a film about desire and the memory it stirs, as well as the relationships of desire and memory to the tragic dimension of human existence. Restless is the heart of most characters in the film, consumed as each is by desire. Desire is movement, and with motion and emotions, time comes into being. Desire gives rise to both expectation and memory. Desire as well as the memory it stirs emerge together as a power that can reduce time into ashes, writes Cheng.

12 13

Wimal Dissanayake, Wong Kar-wai’s Ashes of Time, 99. Sinkwan Cheng, “Comparative Philosophies of Tragedy: Buddhism, Lacan, and Ashes of Time,” MLN 123.5 (2008): 1163–1187.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

dream-scenes, the concept of time and prognostication

3

121

Huang Yaoshi

Sinkwan Cheng states for Ouyang Feng an active acceptance of loss at the end of the film. But an acceptance of loss can in my view also be stated for Huang Yaoshi. When Ouyang’s sister-in-law sends the amnesic wine to Ouyang, Ouyang refuses to drink it. But Huang is very willing to drink it. In this scene Huang says: “If we would forget everything that has happened in the past every day would be a new beginning.” This remark seems to be close to what Daoism has to say about life. In chapter 2 of the Zhuangzi we find the image of a practitioner whose mind is like dead ashes and who is not disturbed by the entanglements of the surrounding world anymore. After losing his memories—the source of all problems, as the narrator says—Huang Yaoshi lives fully in every new moment, undisturbed by pain inflicted by the past or the future. He only remembers the peach blossom. The erasure of his memory results in his aimless itineraries. In the end he sees himself as the master of the Peach Blossom Island. The peach blossom is also an image of the short but precious moment. The fragile blossoms’ bloom is short. Soon they wither away. Interestingly for the Zen-master Dōgen the awareness of impermanency is inseparable from recognition of the timelessness of a moment. He wrote the following poem: “As usual/cherry blossoms bloom/in my native place,/their color unchanged— /spring.”14 For Huang the most precious moment of the past is conserved in the timelessness of a moment that he lives in.

4

Ouyang Feng

As Ouyang Feng learns about the death of his beloved at the end of the film, he begins to accept that she is permanently gone. This active acceptance of loss transforms memory from a curse into an act of salvation. Formerly, memory would only remind him of what he no longer possessed. The relation of memory to loss is now turned around completely: “When you no longer possess something, what you can hold on to is your memory,” reflects Ouyang. In their initial attempts to avoid desire, Ouyang and Huang find themselves in the following situation: Desire can never be satisfied, and the satisfaction of one need will soon give rise to another need. And repressed needs will only return to haunt the individual with doubly intense pain. From a Buddhist

14

Kazuaki Tanahashi and Eihei Dogen, Moon in a Dewdrop. Writings of Zen Master Dogen (New York: North Point Press, 1995), 14.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

122

gaenssbauer

standpoint the desiring subject and the desired object are as imaginary and illusionary as “flowers in the mirror and the moon in the water.” As desiring beings, most of the characters in the film are condemned to the same fate: unrequited love and unfulfilled passion. For the most part, the film is a story of people’s endless craving and wasted desire. It is a story of human existence as a life of want, of pain and suffering, until all is reduced to the ashes of time. A Buddhist answer to these cycles would be to move beyond the pain of existence and to let go all desire. But in the end the film has another message: Love subsists beyond the ageing and mortality of the beloved. Ouyang overcomes the pain of loss precisely by holding on to memory. With the subject’s acceptance of pain, pain loses its power over the subject. Stripped of its fury, as Sinkwan Cheng writes, memory becomes a source of sustenance. Memory gains the power to reduce time to ashes. Therefore I do not perceive Ashes of Time as a fatalistic film as Stephen Teo did.15 The surprising turn in the messages of the film might remind us of theories of Gilles Deleuze who wrote about the past: “The past is contemporaneous with the present that it was” so that “all of the past coexists with the new present in relation to which it is now past … The past, far from being a dimension of time, is the synthesis of all time of which the present and the future are only dimensions. We cannot say that it was. It no longer exists, … but it insists, it consists, it is.”16 Coming from a background of European culture I am also reminded of the important meaning of memory in the Christian-Jewish tradition. In this tradition memory is a central (theological) category, and many contemporary German scholars have come to speak about “cultures of memory.” The Jewish scholar Israel ben Elieser even said: “In memory lies the secret of redemption.”17 The literary scholar Christoph König once analyzed a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke dealing with time and its destructive forces. Rilke asks himself: “Does it really exist, time the destroyer?” In König’s interpretation the poet rejects the forces of destruction. Time can, as König writes, “wreak no destruction on the heart.”18

15 16 17 18

Stephen Teo, “Wong Kar-wai’s Genre Practice and Romantic Authorship: The Cases of Ashes of Time Redux and The Grandmaster,” in A Companion to Wong Kar-wai, 531. Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), 81– 82. Quoted in Richard Schroeder, “So nicht!,” accessed 27 February 2017, http://www.zeit.de/ 1999/04/So_nicht_/seite‑2. Christoph König, “Fate, Poetry and Divination. On the Late OEuvre of Rainer Maria Rilke” (paper presented in a lecture series of the International Consortium for Research in the Humanities, Erlangen, June 5, 2012).

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

dream-scenes, the concept of time and prognostication

5

123

Prognostication in Ashes of Time

In the meantime, a lot of literature has been published on Ashes of Time. But as far as I know none of the texts has more than in passing dealt with the topic of prognostication in the film. This is somewhat surprising as the element of prognostication can be seen as playing an important role in the film. The protagonist of Ashes of Time Ouyang Feng constantly refers to almanacs and calendars, and in his voice-over there are numerous references to seasons. The pieces of prognostication subdivide the film into different parts and they follow crucial stages in the traditional Chinese annual circle. On a first glance the scenes that follow the various pieces of prediction often show a seemingly quite different reality. Let us take a closer look at the different pieces of prognostication and the references to specific incidents in nature that are made in the film. The narrator starts by telling the audience that the events of the story told commenced in the year of a total solar eclipse and that Ouyang Feng was born in a year of a solar eclipse, too. There is an extensive drought in this year and solar eclipses were mostly thought of as bad omina in Chinese history and were interpreted as signs of moral imperfection.19 Eclipses were sometimes also said to have foretold an important death. As Girardot has put it: “The solstice … is the time when the yin and the yang are at a transitional phase … The solstice is a time betwixt and between the conventional order of life.”20 The concrete season is named as “Jingzhe” 驚蟄, the 6th day of the second lunar month, the Awakening of Spring, when the insects come back to life. But instead of coming back to life Ouyang’s friend Huang Yaoshi loses his memory, a love dies and he never again returns. In the Chinese tradition Jingzhe is also known as the day when the White Tiger opens his mouth 白虎開口日 (baihu kaikou ri) and when in the tradition of South China rituals are carried out that help to strike back against petty persons 打小人 (da xiaoren). A text about temple offerings says: “After a long hibernation in winter, the White Tiger wakes up in spring. It opens its mouth and hauls itself up to forage for food … Those who feel that they have bad luck will pray to the deity to ask for blessings and protection.”21

19 20 21

Richard J. Smith, Chinese Almanacs (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), 10. Norman J. Girardot, Myth and Meaning in Early Taoism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), 31. “Power of the White Tiger,” http://www.thestar.com.my/lifestyle/features/2010/03/04/pow er‑of‑the‑white‑tiger. Accessed February 27, 2017.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

124

gaenssbauer

The next seasonal reference goes back behind the first one in the annual circle and declares the beginning of spring, “lichun” 立春. On the fourth day of the first lunar month the horoscope says: The East wind is melting the ice. An ideal day for a fresh start. Lichun traditionally is the time for happy Chinese New Year celebrations. But what follows in the film is a night with a murder warning, as well as a woman’s expression of her sexual desire. Murong Yin warns Huang Yaoshi that if he ever would break his promise she/he would kill him. Sexual desire is welling up. But both characters are actually dreaming of another partner during their erotic encounter. These events seem to mock the prediction. Or, in an alternative interpretation, the events show the difficulty of human beings to really have a fresh start in their lives. The third seasonal reference is that of “xiazhi” 夏至, summer solstice. The summer solstice was traditionally associated in China with the earth and femininity. At the summer solstice, the influence of yang was at its height, but the celebration centered on the impending switch to yin. The next episode in the film indeed centers around the role of the female characters. The beloved woman is remembered. But she is the wife of the best friend. The image of peach blossoms is evoked, which is the name of the loved one. And then the swordsman tries to force the love of the poor girl from the countryside who rejects him. The next prediction takes place under the heading of “bailu” 白露, white dew, the beginning of autumn. The narrator Ouyang Feng tells the audience that a fortune-teller once warned him to guard himself against people with the name Qi 七: It’s given in my fate book: “Avoid the number seven. It’ll bring you death.” 因我命書中有句話:「尤忌七數,是以命終。」

Still the character of Hong Qi, whom Ouyang happens to encounter, turns out to be a kind person. After having helped the poor peasant girl—which Ouyang heartlessly had refused to do several times—and after having lost one of his fingers Hong Qi tells Ouyang: “I didn’t realize I had become so heartless that I could turn her down. I’ve become another person since I’ve been around you. I’ve lost my true self. No, I don’t want to be like you.” Consequently, Hong Qi resolves to give up the life of killing for money. How can the above mentioned prognostication be interpreted? It remains cryptic until the very end of the film when the meaning of the warning is revealed. The narrator then tells us that Ouyang and Hong Qi got involved in a fight against each other and got killed.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

dream-scenes, the concept of time and prognostication

125

On the fifteenth day of the sixth lunar month the horoscope has predicted: The Earth God will judge over good and evil and blood will flow. The film subsequently shows a fight scene. Hong Qi loses a finger but defeats his opponents and takes revenge for the poor peasant girl. On the tenth day of the seventh lunar month the horoscope says: Cold wind will be blowing. It is an ideal day for visiting friends. And indeed a friend is approaching the habitat of Ouyang—Hong Qi’s wife, who came to look for him. At first Hong Qi is embarrassed. A swordsman is not supposed to travel with his wife. But he doesn’t succeed in shaking her off, which leads to the following remark by the narrator: “Every human being needs someone to live for.” On the fifteenth day of the seventh lunar month the horoscope warns better not to leave home because the Earth God 土皇 will bring trouble: The Earth God makes troubles. The Star of Talent presides … Bad for outdoor activities. Malignance in the North. 土皇用時,曲星。。。忌出行。冲龍,煞北。

“Ji chuxing” 忌出行 has two meanings. It may mean “Bad for outdoor activities” (as translated in the subtitle), but it may also mean “Leaving (or having left) one’s home/family is not auspicious.” Hong Qi who had left his home and his wife behind gets involved in a fight. The prediction can be interpreted as referring to Hong Qi’s decision to leave his wife alone at home and roam the world on his own. Unlike Ouyang Feng who has lost his love after leaving her a long time ago, in Hong Qi’s case the decision still can be reversed. The next prediction is given on the eighth day of the eighth lunar month: The horoscope predicts: “The Chamber Star presides. Fortune favors the North.”22 失[室]星當值,大利北方.

22

Here the English respectively German subtitles of the film seemingly lead into different directions. The 大利北方 (dali beifang) is translated in the English version as: “Fortune favors the North,” and in the German version as: “Great wealth in the North.” Here a problem shows up for an audience not familiar with Jin Yong’s martial arts novels. How are they to understand this prediction and to connect it with the events that follow the prediction? The—quite predictable—lack of familiarity with Jin Yong’s novels on the side of a Western audience is not compensated through further explanations/interpretations of the predictions in the film. This is surprising because Wong’s film quite naturally seems to belong

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

126

gaenssbauer

The narrator tells us about Hong Qi’s further fate: Hong Qi joined the Clan [Sect] of Beggars three years later and soon became the Head of the Clan [Sect] and was known as the Northern Beggar. 三年後,洪七加入丐幫 變成丐幫之主 號稱北丐

The Beggars’ Sect 丐幫 (gaibang) that Hong Qi is going to join is a fictional martial arts sect featured prominently in several of Jin Yong’s martial arts novels. So Hong Qi is not going to be a poor beggar but instead he will become the revered head of an influential sect which aims to uphold justice and help those in need through acts of chivalry.23 In an interview Wong Kar-wai himself prescribed “a happy destiny” for Hong Qi and a positive influence of Hong Qi on Ouyang’s decision to leave the desert in the final images of the film.24 The prediction of “a happy destiny” for Hong Qi might be interpreted in terms of wealth and fame that are awaiting him in the North. An alternative line of interpretation which I am inclined to follow sees Hong Qi’s fortune consisting in his leaving his heartlessness behind and in having a loving wife that is not willing to leave him but instead is travelling with him. Hong Qi’s wife not even has a name in the film. Still I perceive her to be one of the main figures of this film. She is not consumed by desire but has a clear mind. She stubbornly follows her love, and she knows what is right for her and her husband, even if this goes against the rules of the martial arts world. Her pertinence makes Hong Qi change his mind, return to moral uprightness

23

24

to a realm of art works that are “born translated,” as Rebecca L. Walkowitz has characterized works that are often almost simultaneously produced/translated in many different languages, because they are aiming at an international audience. One might ask oneself: Was Wong Kar-wai aware of this lack of familiarity on the side of a Western audience? Did he deliberately contribute to a further exoticization of this enigmatic film? Would it not have been helpful if the translators of the film had taken on the task of providing some further explanations/interpretations for the prognostic parts of the film? Geng Song, “All Dogs Deserve to Be Beaten: Negotiating Manhood and Nationhood in Chinese TV Dramas” in Changing Chinese Masculinities. From Imperial Pillars of State to Global Real Men, ed. Kam Louie (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2016), 208. Peter Brunette, Wong Kar-wai (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2005), 41.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

dream-scenes, the concept of time and prognostication

127

and enjoy having a caring partner at his side. Liu Jianmei has emphasized that many heroes in Jin Yong’s novels take “qing” 情 as one of their eternal homes.25 Some concluding remarks on the issue of prediction in Ashes of Time: In my view Wong Kar-wai’s film emphasizes the opaqueness of prognostication practices. As I see it, the predictions often do not help the characters to understand a situation. A closer examination of the predictions in the film and the actual events in the further course of the story are revealing a rather ambiguous image.

Bibliography Bettinson, Gary. The Sensuous Cinema of Wong Kar-wai. Film Poetics and the Aesthetic of Disturbance. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2015. Brunette, Peter. Wong Kar-wai. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2005. Cheng, Sinkwan. “Comparative Philosophies of Tragedy: Buddhism, Lacan, and Ashes of Time.” MLN 123.5 (2008): 1163–1187. Deleuze, Gilles. Difference and Repetition. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994. Dissanayake, Wimal. Wong Kar-wai’s Ashes of Time. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2003. Eberwein, Robert. Film & the Dream Screen. A Sleep and a Forgetting. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984. Fan, Lizhu and Chen Na. “Resurgence of Indigenous Religion in China.” fudan‑uc.ucsd .edu/_files/201306_China_Watch_Fan_Chen.pdf Fu, Ping. “Reconfiguring Jianghu on Screen.” In The Jin Yong Phenomenon: Chinese Martial Arts Fiction and Modern Chinese Literary History, 271–285. Edited by Ann Huss and Jianmei Liu. New York: Cambria Press, 2007. Girardot, Norman J. Myth and Meaning in Early Taoism. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988. Huang, Chun-chieh. “Preface.” In Notions of Time in Chinese Historical Thinking vii–x. Edited by Chun-chieh Huang and John B. Henderson. Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 2006. König, Christoph. “Fate, Poetry and Divination. On the Late OEuvre of Rainer Maria Rilke.” Paper presented in a lecture series of the International Consortium for Research in the Humanities, Erlangen, June 5, 2012.

25

Jianmei Liu, “Gender Politics in Jin Yong’s Martial Art Novels,” in The Jin Yong Phenomenon: Chinese Martial Arts Fiction and Modern Chinese Literary History, ed. Ann Huss and Jianmei Liu (New York: Cambria Press, 2007), 181.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

128

gaenssbauer

Lackner, Michael. Der chinesische Traumwald. Traditionelle Theorien des Traumes und seiner Deutung im Spiegel der ming-zeitlichen Anthologie Meng-lin hsüan-chieh. Frankfurt a.M. et al.: Peter Lang, 1985. Liu, Jianmei. “Gender Politics in Jin Yong’s Martial Art Novels.” In The Jin Yong Phenomenon: Chinese Martial Arts Fiction and Modern Chinese Literary History, 179–200. Edited by Ann Huss and Jianmei Liu. New York: Cambria Press, 2007. Smith, Richard J. Chinese Almanacs. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992. Song, Geng. “All Dongs Deserve to Be Beaten: Negotiating Manhood and Nationhood in Chinese TV Dramas” In Changing Chinese Masculinities: From Imperial Pillars of State to Global Real Men, 204–219. Edited by Kam Louie. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2016. Suchsland, Rüdiger and Schnelle, Josef. Zeichen und Wunder. Das Kino von Zhang Yimou und Wong Kar-wai. Marburg: Schüren, 2006. Tanahashi, Kazuaki and Dogen, Eihei. Moon in a Dewdrop. Writings of Zen Master Dogen. New York: North Point Press, 1995. Teo, Stephen. “Wong Kar-wai’s Genre Practice and Romantic Authorship: The Cases of Ashes of Time Redux and The Grandmaster.” In A Companion to Wong Kar-wai, 522– 539. Edited by Martha P. Nochimson. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 2016. Treber, Karsten. “Verbrechen aus Einsamkeit. Urbane Entfremdung und episodisches Erzählen” In Wong Kar-wai. Filmpoet im Hongkong-Kino, 22–33. Edited by Roman Maurer. München: edition text + kritik, 2008. Walkowitz, Rebecca L. Born Translated. The Contemporary Novel in an Age of World Literature. New York: Columbia University Press, 2015. Yau, Wai-ping. “Wong Kar-wai, Auteur and Adaptor: Ashes of Time and In the Mood for Love.” In A Companion to Wong Kar-wai, 540–557. Edited by Martha P. Nochimson. Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 2016.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

chapter 7

Psycho-Fatalism in Xi Xi’s Story “A Girl Like Me” Kwok-kan Tam

Fate is intriguing to people of all cultures, for it is about a possibility that the course of a person’s life is predetermined. A person’s belief in Fate1 may lead to two possible courses of action: first, try to know what has been determined by Fate and follow it or resist it; or second, submit to Fate and accept the consequence, knowing that things predetermined cannot be changed. Both courses of action are predicated on further possibility, that is, Fate can be known and predicted. If Fate cannot be predicted, then there is no point in discussing prediction. Prediction is about something that might happen in the future, but it will definitely affect the life of a person because once a person’s Fate is known to him or her, it will cast a shadow, at least psychologically, upon a person’s choice of action. Prediction is a human instinct, for mankind has a strong desire to know the future so that a person can plan his or her life. In different contexts, Fate may refer to the process of how one’s life unfolds according to a certain predetermined pattern and leads to an inevitable end. In this process, some people may try to resist Fate if the prediction is unfavorable, while others may accept it because it is inevitable. For a culture which has been imbued with a strong sense that life must have a purpose or meaning, the Chinese people have a strong desire to know what lies ahead in one’s life. When things cannot be explained and causes cannot be found for certain events, people often resort to Fate or (mis/)fortune as the explanation. Existentialism does not exist in traditional Chinese culture because Fate is taken as an explanation for unnamable and inextricable circumstances of life. In this sense, the Chinese concept of Fate often carries negative connotations, and serves as warning to curb people’s excessive desires. Such connotations are the basis of Chinese fatalism.2

1 Throughout this essay, I have used Fate/fate in two senses: “Fate” to refer to the philosophical or religious concept of “ming,” which covers the larger scheme of predestination; and “fate” to predestination in an individual’s course of life. 2 For a detailed discussion of the concept of fatalism, see John C.H. Wu’s essay “Chinese Legal and Political Philosophy,” 232.

© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2020 | doi:10.1163/9789004427570_009 Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

130

tam

In traditional Chinese beliefs, Fate plays an important role. As Wing-Tsit Chan has pointed out, What can we say about the belief in fate? Here it seems that the influence comes from only one side. It is certainly true that many ignorant people believe that their lives are directed by spiritual forces beyond their understanding or control. […] The educated, however, understand that ming does not mean fate in the sense of mysterious control by spiritual beings but means Heaven’s Mandate, or Heaven’s Decree, that what Heaven has given to a person, what Heaven has endowed him with. That is what The Doctrine of the Mean means when it says, ‘What Heaven imparts (ming) to man is called human nature.’ This is the nature to be realized, and the way to realize it, as already brought out, is through one’s own effort at moral cultivation, such as sincerity of will. This does not mean that the individual is the master of universe, for there are things, such as life and death, and longevity or brevity of life, that are beyond his control. But, as we have learned from Mencius, the Confucian injunction has been to cultivate one’s moral life, develop one’s nature, and let Nature take its course. The individual does not completely control his own destiny, but he is the master of his own ship in a sea that is not entirely devoid of uncertainties.3 What is most interesting is not what Fate is, but how a Chinese person reacts to Fate when a person knows the prediction of his or her fate. After all, one has to learn not to repeat the mistake of fighting against Fate if reacting against it will lead to even more serious calamity in life, and make destiny realize in the worst possible way. Hence, to believe in Fate and accepts what is to come without struggling against it is one attitude that some people like to take in order to reduce the harmfulness or misfortune that Fate may bring. In this way, the belief in Fate and the action that follows become a chain of psychological reactions through which a person tries to combat Fate, or to come to terms with it. Another interesting issue is how one can identify the cues or discern a pattern among the little things in daily life and figure out whether they are signs of Fate, particularly when a prediction comes in the form of a riddle. In psychoanalysis, there is the idea that human beings have the instinct to restore an earlier state of things, which is the “repetition compulsion” that Freud discovered in people whose lives are the same reactions perpetually being repeated uncorrected, to their own detriment, or others who seem to

3 Wing-tsit Chan, “The Individual in Chinese Religions,” 301–302.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

psycho-fatalism in xi xi’s story “a girl like me”

131

be pursued by a relentless fate, though closer investigation reveals that they are unwittingly bringing this fate on themselves. In such cases, the repetition compulsion is attributable to the presence of the “demonic” in a person’s character.4 This psychical state in a person is also called “destiny neurosis,” which Erik Erikson describes as “the individual unconsciously arranges for variations of an original theme which he has not learned either to overcome or to live with.”5 In Chinese culture, Fate makes life fated, often because Fate triggers a psychical process when it is known to a person and affects the person’s choices in life. In this sense, Fate can also be considered as self-prediction and selfactualization. Similar to the cases of Oedipus and Macbeth, the oracle prediction or the witches’ prophecies serve only to motivate them into a chain of actions that lead them to downfall because of their own weaknesses, or the demonic, in moral character.

1

Fate and Subjectivity in “A Girl Like Me”

In Xi Xi’s 西西 award-winning story “A Girl Like Me” 像我這樣的一個女子 (Xiang wo zheyang de yige nüzi, 1982), the female protagonist is a make-up artist in a funeral parlour. Her hands touch the dead every day and she feels that she can communicate with the dead better than with the living. Psychologically, she identifies with the dead because she feels that the dead can understand her too. When she has a boyfriend, Xia (meaning Summer with bright sunshine), she feels that her relation with him is doomed because there is something inexplicable that controls her and brings their relation to an end. Coincidences occur and repeat in all her relations until she believes that all her relations are fated. It is her occupation of being a funeral make-up artist that has shaped her character, her psychology and her fated relations, which belong not to the world of the living, but to the world of the dead. The title “A Girl Like Me” brings up the narrative counter-points: “Girl” and “Me.” Revolving around the Girl is a series of questions that arise about the relation between the “Girl” and “Me”: (1) Who is the Girl? (2) What is in her life? (3) Is “Me” the Girl? Why? (4) If the Girl has a pattern of life, does it mean that “Me’s” life will fall into the same pattern? 4 Sigmund Freud, “Beyond the Pleasure Principle,” 604–605. 5 Erikson, Childhood and Society, 209.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

132

tam

(5) What sort of Girl is the female protagonist? (6) How and by what process has she become such a Girl? The story is told in an autobiographical style, and the narrator is unnamed. It is a self-reflexive story which is made up of a series of reflections on the Girl’s relation with her boyfriend, Xia 夏, her other friends, her “sleeping friends” in the funeral parlour, and her aunt Yifen 怡芬姑母, who has taught her the skills of funeral make-up. As the story unfolds, and the events roll out one by one, all the above questions are raised and answered in different ways, but all pointing to the fact that there is Fate in life. For the Girl, she did not believe in Fate when she first entered the occupation of funeral make-up, but she later discovers that there is Fate that dictates every step in her relations with other people. The protagonist remains unnamed throughout the story, thereby making the story universal. Characters and events, including the protagonist herself, are portrayed and analyzed from the perspective of the protagonist. The story is a self-confession with reflections upon life and upon her relation with Xia, whom she loves. It begins with the female protagonist waiting for Xia at a café because she is going to take him to her workplace—a funeral parlour where she works as a make-up artist for the dead. While she is waiting, she reflects upon her life and her relations with other people in order to come to a better understanding of life and of herself. She is an orphan, has a younger brother and has been raised by Aunt Yifen, who passes to her the skill of funeral makeup. Now she has a boyfriend Xia who does not know that she works in a funeral parlour and assumes that she is a make-up artist for brides. Xia wants to see where she works, and she is going to meet Xia at a café and bring him to the funeral parlour. As she reflects on her life and her relations with friends, she discovers that her life has been dictated by a pattern. She is deeply troubled by the direction this pattern will lead her to, and the outcome of her relation with Xia. She gradually comes to an understanding that Fate is irresistible and decides to submit to it. When the story begins, the protagonist makes the following remarks: It isn’t right for a girl like me to have any love affairs. Which only makes it all the more surprising that such a strong attachment should have developed between Xia and me. I think it must be entirely the cruel hand of Fate that has landed me in this situation from which I cannot extricate myself. And I am powerless to fight against Fate.6

6 Xi Xi, “A Girl Like Me,” 1.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

psycho-fatalism in xi xi’s story “a girl like me”

133

According to the female protagonist, it is Fate that has brought her to fall in love with Xia, and it is also Fate that has put their relation at stake. It is this paradox of life that she is caught in and this dilemma, to pursue love or not to, that she faces. She knows that her love with Xia is doomed when Xia comments on her face which does not wear any make-up: —But your own face looks so beautifully natural. He said. When Xia said this, I was acutely aware that it boded ill for our future together. And Xia?—he was perfectly happy, happy to be with a woman who didn’t make herself up. His heart was light, but mine was heavy with sadness. I’m always wondering who in this world would do the make-up for me, at my end. Aunt Yifen?7 The irony behind Xia’s comment is that the Girl will only wear make-up when she is dead. Xia does not know the irony which to the female protagonist is an omen, pointing to an end in their relation. What is more, once voiced out by Xia, the comment becomes a bad omen which is triggered, set in motion and cannot be stopped. When Xia comments on the face of the female protagonist, he misunderstands it to be a face which is so beautiful that it does not need makeup. But in actual fact it is the environment in the funeral parlour that keeps the female protagonist from sunshine and makes her face and hands look pale. The real reason for the female protagonist not wearing any make-up is that in her occupation make-up is worn only by the dead. In other words, the female protagonist fully understands that Xia likes her face because of his misunderstanding, and their love is based on Xia’s misunderstanding of her and of her occupation. This misunderstanding is a dramatic irony that heightens the hidden tension between Xia’s current ignorance and his later possible discovery of the truth. Reflecting on why she has developed a love relation with Xia, the Girl concludes, “I can’t think why I carried on going around with Xia so much of the time, even after that omen cast its shadow. Perhaps I am only human after all, unable to control myself, marching left right, left right, in the footsteps of Fate.”8 Her reflective remarks show that she is human: she desires love and longs to be freed from predestination. She resorts to Fate as an explanation of why she has developed a relation with Xia even though she knows that their relation is doomed. To the female protagonist, their love is fated. So is their separation. 7 Xi Xi, Ibid., 3. 8 Xi Xi, Ibid., 3.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

134

tam

Up to this point, the reader may ask why the female protagonist does not change her mind and refrain from taking Xia to her workplace since she knows that Xia will be frightened to death once he knows that the Girl works as a funeral parlour make-up artist. The female protagonist’s attitude toward Fate may give a clue to her action: I knew that Fate had brought me this far, to the starting-line, and that it was something I had to go through with. So right now I am sitting in a small café, waiting for Xia to come; and then we shall go to the place where I work.9 The female protagonist is determined that she must reveal the truth about her and about her occupation. She must test Xia and see how true his love is for her as well as his courage to face her “friends” in the other world: “I am sure I would tell Xia that all this time I’ve been doing make-up for the sleeping dead. And he must know and come to accept that I am this kind of girl.”10

2

The Cruel Hand of Fate

When the Girl entered the occupation, she did not know that her occupation would come to shape her being and her fate. She once has had a strong desire to shape her own life and be master of her fate. She used to despise people who deserted their love because they had to fulfill certain obligations in life: Aunt Yifen knew quite a bit about her friends and would sometimes tell me about them, like once when she was putting powder on a girl with a fringe she said: Gracious, how pathetic this girl is!—to have abandoned her sweetheart simply in order to play the fine-sounding role of the “dutiful daughter”.11 She also used to slight people who committed suicide because they could not resist Fate: Aunt Yifen knew that the girl over here had died in settlement of some obligation or other, and that the girl over there had died in mute accept9 10 11

Xi Xi, ibid., 4. Xi Xi, ibid., 13. Xi Xi, ibid., 11.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

psycho-fatalism in xi xi’s story “a girl like me”

135

ance of her fate—they had both surrendered themselves helplessly into the hands of Fate, as though they were not human beings made of flesh and blood, with human thoughts and feelings, but only pieces of merchandise.12 Compared to the people who submitted to Fate and died, the Girl thought that she was not a coward, she was fearless and dared to put herself to challenge by accepting Aunt Yifen’s invitation to learn the skills of make-up for the dead. It never occurred to her then that someday she would face the same situation as others did. One day when she had to do make-up for a young couple, she was furious and refused to do it for them when she knew that they had committed suicide: I regarded what he had done as an act of extreme cowardice, and as far as I was concerned, a man who lacked the courage to fight against Fate was not even worth a second glance. Not only did I abandon the idea of turning this young man into my “sleeping beauty”, but I refused to do any make-up on him altogether; I thought him and the girl so stupid for just dumbly accepting whatever it was Fate had in store for them, …13 Even the Girl’s closet relative, her younger brother, had once thought of death when he was abandoned by his girlfriend: —I might as well be dead! My little brother said. I simply don’t understand why things have turned out like this, and neither does my little brother. Supposing she had said: I don’t love you anymore. Well, there wouldn’t have been much my little brother could have done about it. But they do love each other, and it was not because anyone owed anyone a favour or needed the money that she married this other man. Surely in this day and age, there are not still young ladies who are being forced by their parents to marry against their will? Why should she have surrendered her whole life to Fate in this way?14 All such incomprehensible and unpredictable twists in people’s relations, to the Girl, are regarded as the cruel hand of Fate by the Girl. The more she deals 12 13 14

Ibid. Xi Xi, ibid., 9. Xi Xi, ibid., 6.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

136

tam

with the dead, the more she realizes that things in life do not work out as people wish or as people predict or anticipate. There is some kind of overpowering force that dictates life and makes things happen in a certain way beyond human control. The invisible hand of Fate becomes immediate when the Girl feels it in the people around her and in her life. Aunt Yifen is a typical example of a person who submits to Fate after a series of resistance. When she was young, she had a boyfriend, who told her that he was not afraid of her association with the dead. But he was frightened to death and completely lost his mind when he visited the funeral parlour and saw Aunt Yifen at work on the dead: He was shocked, never having thought that a girl like her could be doing work like hers—he had loved her, he would have done anything for her, for he had solemnly sworn that he would never leave her no matter what happened, and that they would remain devoted to each other for the rest of their lives, and that their love would always be true. Yet, before a silent gathering of dead bodies which could neither speak nor breathe, he completely lost the courage of his former convictions, and letting out a loud cry he turned around and dashed out, pushing all doors open as he went. All along the way, people saw him running in blind panic. Aunt Yifen didn’t see him any more after that, but she was heard talking alone in the small room to her sleeping friends: Didn’t he say he loved me? Didn’t he say he would never leave me? Why was he suddenly so frightened? Gradually, Aunt Yifen became more and more reticent.15 The Girl at first also thought that it was sheer cowardice to fear, and she insisted that she was fearless. It was her seeming courage that made Aunt Yifen decide to take her as her apprentice. However, when her friends deserted her one by one, the Girl begins to see herself facing the same Fate as Aunt Yifen does.

3

The Girl as a Double

“A Girl Like Me” deals not only with the psychology of fear, with the way to prepare for a doomed life, and to accept Fate, but also with what Fate is. In the story, Fate is not presented as Heaven’s master plan, or predestination in terms of some supernatural forces. The Girl’s fate is presented as an inevitable outcome that repeats the pattern Aunt Yifen has gone through. If the Girl has

15

Xi Xi, ibid., 10.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

psycho-fatalism in xi xi’s story “a girl like me”

137

the same fate as Aunti Yifen’s, is it just repetition by chance? Or is it because both of them share something similar that shapes their fate? As the Girl recollects, it was because of her fearlessness that Aunt Yifen decided to take her on as an apprentice in the funeral parlour: “It was because I was not afraid that Aunt Yifen chose me to follow her footsteps. She had a premonition that my fate might mirror hers, though exactly why we have been becoming more and more like each other is something that neither of us could explain—perhaps to start with it was because we were neither of us afraid.”16 They were not afraid, and therefore they dared to take on the first challenge of working among the dead. It turns out that it is an occupation that has come to shape the character of both Aunt Yifen and the Girl: “But gradually I became content with things the way they were; and I got used to loneliness. […] I began to resemble my aunt, having only the sleeping dead before me as my friends.”17 Then the Girl has decided to take on the second challenge that Aunt Yifen took on many years ago, that is, to take Xia to her workplace and test whether Xia has the courage of accepting a girlfriend who touches the dead. While waiting for Xia in the café, the Girl suddenly comes to an awakening of the journey that she has gone through in life and of what she has become. She anticipates that she will repeat what has happened to Aunt Yifen because their fate is predestined once they join the occupation: I think I know how things will turn out in the end because my fate and Aunt Yifen’s fate have already merged into one. I expect I shall see Xia struck with panic when he sets foot inside this place—gracious, we’ll both scare each other out of our wits in our different ways! But I won’t really be frightened by what happens—you see, there have been so many signs, I already know how it will all end. Xia once said: Your own face looks so beautifully natural. Yes, it is; beautiful to Xia. But even its natural beauty is powerless to dispel a man’s fear.18 The Girl is psychologically Aunt Yifen’s double and physically her extension, as she has been repeating everything Aunt Yifen has experienced. Psychologically, both of them are not afraid of working closely among the dead, and both find companionship among the dead. Physically, both of them have a pale face and cold hands, and they smell the antiseptic of the dead. They are living people who make daily visits to the place of the dead. Their touch of the 16 17 18

Xi Xi, ibid., 11. Xi Xi, ibid., 12. Xi Xi, ibid., 12–13.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

138

tam

dead is not just physical but social and emotional, or psychological at times. The physiognomy of the dead is thus deeply marked on their faces and hands, giving them the pale faces and the cold hands of the dead. Not only is the Girl an extension of Aunt Yifen, both of them are extensions of the dead. They have the same experience of being deserted by their friends once their friends know their occupation because they are people who return from the dead. They are the dead’s medium, for they communicate with them and find comfort in doing so. The meaning of their lives lies not in activities in the human world, but in the other world. So are their feelings, thoughts and mood. As seen in the story, Fate is in one sense the re-experiencing of a life pattern that has been realized previously in another person, that is Aunt Yifen, though without the female protagonist’s prior knowledge. When the Girl sees the signs of a doomed end in her relation with Xia, she understands that it is an inevitable end. The signs are both signs of omen and signs of psycho-fatalism that result in the Girl repeating what has happened to Aunt Yifen. It is worth noting that the Girl is fearless at the beginning when she did not have any idea of fate; she is also fearless at the end when she accepts what comes out of her fate in being shaped by her occupation. Is she really fearless after all? Or is she just indifferent to the outcome of Fate? It is in their fearlessness that other people fear, for the Girl’s and Aunt Yifen’s fearlessness is of the other world, not this world. It is also in their fearlessness that they think they need to expose their boyfriends to their occupation: “But if my mother said that love made her fearless, I think that was only the way my mother felt, and it doesn’t give me the right to expect everybody in the world to feel the same as her. I probably have only myself to blame, for having submitted to this fate, for having committed myself to such an unacceptable occupation.”19

19

Xi Xi, ibid., 15. Similarly, the mainland Chinese TV drama Deep Secrets of the Hundred Flowers Garden 百花深處 (Baihua shenchu) deals with the hardships and psychological struggles a young woman opera performer has gone through when she is awakened to the fact that she can have a self-identity other than her deeply identified role on the stage. Her stage role is her “Fate,” which she feels impossible to break away from because she will lose herself once she loses her role. Fate is one’s role in life which is predestined and is given from birth. However, because of her love for an enlightened young man, she is lured to break away from the bondage of her Fate and break away from her stage role. She feels that she betrays her father who is her teacher and mentor in opera if she gives up her stage role, that I, her fate, and seek a new life. What is intriguing in the TV drama is the psychological identification stage opera performers have gone through in order to become fully identified with their stage roles. Fate for them is like the stage script in which everyone’s life is written and determined.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

psycho-fatalism in xi xi’s story “a girl like me”

4

139

Psycho-Fatalism

The Girl is an extremely observant and sensitive person. Since she works in a funeral parlour, she is exposed to the perspectives of both worlds of the living and the dead, and she has developed her sensitivity as a result of her careful observation of other people’s behaviour and encounters. Aunt Yifen, her younger brother, and the dead people whom she has beautified are sources of inspiration and warning for her. Her imagination goes beyond matters of the human world and her sensitivity goes beyond the realm of the human senses. She can be compared to a medium between the living and the dead, because she interacts with people in both worlds. Her unique sensitivity is that of the dead, for she looks at things from their perspectives. Her imagination is that of the “yin”/“dark” world, where her sleeping friends are and where she finds resources and references for interpreting things in the human world, the “yang”/“bright” world. Psychologically she is a double of Aunt Yifen. That is why she repeats what Aunt Yifen has done and gone through in her life. The omens are signs that serve to trigger her compulsion to repeat. Fate thus works out its pattern by going back and forth between the counter-points of the present and the past, of this world and the other world, and of the living and the dead. The counterpoints are presented as dilemmas of choice for the Girl, who can never find a solution except surrendering her desires and leave everything to Fate. In the story, there are a number of counter-points at work that make it possible to give multiple layers of meaning and multiple layers of personality to the characters: Xia 夏 male world of the living 陽間 life sunshine extrovert fear desire yang 陽

vs vs vs vs vs vs vs vs vs

Girl (and Aunt Yifen) female world of the dead 陰間 death darkness introvert fearless submission yin 陰

Her boyfriend’s name Xia 夏 carries the meanings of Summer, brightness, happiness, and innocence. Xia is one-dimensional in his character, but the Girl is multidimensional. The Girl is a human being moving between this world and the other world, and is capable of understanding both worlds. Hence, she serves as a medium between the living and the dead. As she says, she can

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

140

tam

communicate with her sleeping friends. Her experience covers those of both worlds. But Xia has no knowledge of the other world, no knowledge of what the Girl’s world is. The world Xia lives in is one that has been romanticized. To him, the Girl is a make-up artist for brides. To him, the Girl is a symbol of innocence. The Girl feels sorrowful when Xia brings with him a big bunch of flowers to the café, for flowers mean “last goodbye” in the Girl’s occupation. The flowers are signs of bad omen that trigger the Girl’s sense of fatalism. As the Girl reflects, Who in this world doesn’t go for girls who are soft and warm, and sweet as sugar? … and girls like that ought to be doing some pleasing form of work that is both graceful and ladylike. Not like my work, which is somber and bleak, and cold as ice; and I think it has overshadowed my whole being with its dark cloud for such a long time.20 It is the Girl’s occupation that has made her into such a shadowy, cold person. The way she performs at work is exactly the way she lives. She has become what she has performed in job, for making up for the dead is to create meaning for the dead. She has thus become an object of her own making. Here we have a literary example of how performativity works in the formation of identity.21 The question the Girl asks herself clearly marks out the realm that she does not belong to: the world of the living. As she says, So what makes a man as radiant as the sun strike up an acquaintance with such a gloomy sort of woman? If he were to lie beside her, wouldn’t he find himself thinking of how her everyday companions were corpses?—and if her hands were to touch his skin, wouldn’t the thought cross his mind, how often these same hands had caressed the flesh of the dead?22 The actual time of the story lasts about 15 to 30 minutes with the Girl sitting in a café waiting for Xia and reflecting on herself and on Fate. Fate is destiny with an inevitable end. Given this understanding, the Girl comes to an awareness that she had better submit to Fate, though she has been determined to

20 21

22

Xi Xi, ibid., 15. In Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble, there is detailed discussion on the concept of performativity, which refers to performance in tasks related to education, training, or jobs that require a person’s identification. Gender and other forms of identity are formed as a result of performativity. Xi Xi, ibid., 15.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

psycho-fatalism in xi xi’s story “a girl like me”

141

resist it when she was young and inexperienced in life. While she is waiting, she prepares herself psychologically for the inevitable end of separation with Xia. Hence, the story unfolds a psychological process with the Girl sorting out the signs of doom that lead to the end. The end takes on two meanings: an end to the Girl’s romantic relation with Xia, as well as an end to Xia’s romanticization of the Girl. Taking Xia to the Girl’s workplace will surely scare him to death and awaken him from misunderstanding and romanticizing. In the process of self-reflection, the Girl comes to understand herself better and sees how she has become an extension of Aunt Yifen. She repeats what Aunt Yifen experiences in life and she finds that she has been living under the shadow of Aunt Yifen. She also comes to realize that her occupation has shaped her personality of reticence and given her the physical pale look. She understands that this is Fate, and finds it no use to resist. Instead, she always looks inward for signs of prognostication and warning in her relation with Xia. Viewed in this light, the omens are her psychological signs. She repeats what has been experienced by Aunt Yifen when she sees the same signs, because she is psychologically Aunt Yifen’s double. Because of the Girl’s identification with the dead as her friends, she is defined by her role in work and has become a role-self, which is inseparable from the role she plays in her work. Seen in this light, the Girl’s subjectivity is formed as a result of her role performativity. Fate is the force that defines the Girl according to her role in work. As a living dead, the Girl is given a death wish, which in psychoanalysis is a result of her identification with the dead. The death wish makes her see things in a negative way, and hence things that mean happiness in the world of the living become bad omens for her. “A Girl Like Me” deals with the psychology of a person who submits to Fate when she finds out that her life is predestined. The female protagonist comes to a final understanding that life is the course of rolling out a predetermined pattern. As the Girl is female, she presents a view on how the concept of Fate works in female subjectivity, especially in a male-dominated society. Instead of providing answers to questions, the story presents the following issues about Fate and prediction: (1) The Girl is a medium having the ability to communicate with the dead; (2) The Girl does not predict the fate of other people; she feels there is fate in her own life and decides to resist it; (3) In the process of resisting Fate, she discovers that she repeats what has occurred to Aunt Yifen in similar situations; (4) The Girl finds out that her life is predestined and follows the same pattern as Aunt Yifen’s; and (5) The Girl is a shadow of Aunt Yifen.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

142

tam

The Girl does not predict, but she is finally awakened to the truth that her life is fated in that it is a repetition of another person’s, and that this repetition is self-actualized, with herself being an extension of another person. Xi Xi’s story “A Girl Like Me” is a vivid description of the psychological reactions of the protagonist who feels fated in life. Although it is a short story about a girl’s life in Hong Kong, it sheds light on Chinese beliefs in fatalism. Once the Girl knows that her life is fated, she believes that there is no way to escape from it. She is psychologically and physically trapped in the life Aunt Yifen has prepared for her. When Aunt Yifen repeatedly asks her whether she is afraid to enter the profession of funeral make-up, Aunt Yifen really means it—it is not just an occupation, but a lifelong commitment, because it is a journey of no return. The Girl probably did not get Aunt Yifen’s message, and thought that it was just a question about whether she was courageous enough to take the challenge. It is only at the end of the story when she has to face Xia and has to tell Xia of her occupation as a funeral make-up artist that she begins to understand the poignant point Aunt Yifen wanted to convey to her earlier. But the Girl’s final awakening comes too late. In Freud’s theory, the “compulsion to repeat” may occur in the form of acting out what is remembered about certain traumatic experience.23 Here in “A Girl Like Me,” the protagonist comes to an understanding that she is trapped in the same situation as Aunt Yifen when she remembers all the misfortunes that have occurred to Aunt Yifen. She reacts in the same way as Aunt Yifen whenever the cues of the entrapment appear. She is psychologically fated and is completely spellbound by the compulsion to repeat whatever she remembers about Aunt Yifen. As detailed in the story, Fate is much more horrifying than just about a person being controlled and finding no escape. It leads a person to a dead end in life and instills fatalism in a person’s psyche. Fate is horrifying; self-inflicted fatalism is even more so.

Bibliography Chan, Wing-tsit. “The Individual in Chinese Religions.” In The Chinese Mind: Essentials of Chinese Philosophy and Culture, 286–306. Edited by Charles A. Moore. Honolulu: East-West Center Press, 1967.

23

Freud discusses how certain traumatic experience remains to influence a person and cause in him or her to have the compulsion to repeat this experience in later life; see “Dreams and Occultism,” 38–70. For more recent studies, see also Van der Kolk, “The Compulsion to Repeat the Trauma: Re-Enactment, Revictimization, and Masochism,” 389–411.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

psycho-fatalism in xi xi’s story “a girl like me”

143

Bibring, Edward. “The Conception of the Repetition Compulsion.”Psychoanalytic Quarterly XII (1943): 486–516. Butler, Judith. Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York: Routledge, 1990. Erikson, Erik H. Childhood and Society. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973. Freud, Sigmund. “Beyond the Pleasure Principle.” In The Freud Reader, 594–626. Edited by Peter Gray. London: Vintage, 1995. Original work published in 1920. Freud, Sigmund. “Dreams and Occultism.” In New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis and Other Works (The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Vol. XXII), 31–57. Translated by James Strachey. London: Hogarth Press, 1964. Herman, J. Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence—From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror. New York: Basic Books, 1997. Li Fuyan. “Matrimony Inn.” Translated by Lin Yutang. In Famous Chinese Short Stories, 285–295. Edited by Lin Yutang. New York: Washington Square Press, 1976. Original work published in Tang Dynasty, China. Russell, P.L. “Trauma, Repetition, and Affect.” Contemporary Psychoanalysis 42 (2006): 601–620. Tam, Kwok-kan. “A Greimasian Reading of Matrimony Inn.” Tamkang Reivew 16.2 (1985): 163–175. Van der Kolk, Bessel A. “The Compulsion to Repeat the Trauma: Re-Enactment, Revictimization, and Masochism.”Psychiatric Clinics of North America 12.2 (1989): 389–411. Wu, John C.H. “Chinese Legal and Political Philosophy.” In The Chinese Mind: Essentials of Chinese Philosophy and Culture, 213–237. Edited by Charles A. Moore. Honolulu: East-West Center Press, 1967. Xi Xi. “A Girl Like Me.” Translated by Rachel May and Zhu Zhiyu. In A Girl Like Me and Other Stories, 1–16. Edited by John Minford and T.L. Tsim. Hong Kong: Research Centre for Translation, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, 1986. Original work published in 1982. Xi Xi 西西. “Xiang wo zheyang de yige nüzi” 像我這樣的一個女子 (A girl like me). In Xiang wo zheyang de yige nüzi 像我這樣的一個女 (A girl like me), 109–130. Taipei: Hongfan shudian, 1982.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

chapter 8

The Clash between Personal Fate, the Future, and Society in Ge Fei’s Jiangnan Trilogy Nicoletta Pesaro

In a previous article1 I wrote on Ge Fei 格非 (b. 1964)—a contemporary Chinese writer who became famous as one of the avant-gardists of the 1980s—, I mentioned the meaningful concept (drawn from the psychological research) of “life plan,” meaning “the network of intentionality and desires, and the natural tendency of the human being to foresee things in order to improve his/her position.”2 Indeed, one of the writer’s favourite topics, in moulding his characters and weaving the plot, is the apparent impossibility to accomplish one’s life goals and the fragility of any human plan involving social ambitions and personal emotions. Italian psychologist Giuseppe Ferrigno usefully describes how we experience the world and build our life plan through our subjectivity: All things depend on the interpretation we give to them. The world is filtered through our inner being, understood in its double meaning as cognition and affectivity, through steadily pre-shaped patterns of apperception. Before being accepted, experiences are processed and interpreted in relation to the primitive meaning we give to life. Therefore there are no facts, but only interpretations of facts, for we live in the realm of meanings.3

1 Nicoletta Pesaro, “The Tradition of Telling and the Desire of Showing in Ge Fei’s ‘Fictional Minds,’ ” in Linking Ancient and Contemporary Continuities and Discontinuities in Chinese Literature, ed. Tiziana Lippiello, Yuehong Chen, Maddalena Barenghi (Venezia: Edizioni Ca’ Foscari, 2016), 133–154. 2 “L’attitudine teleologica a ‘pre-vedere’ è, quindi, la caratteristica dell’uomo nel suo costante impegno a migliorare dinamicamente la propria posizione.” Giuseppe Ferrigno, “Il ‘piano di vita’, i processi selettivi dello ‘stile di vita’ e la comunicazione intenzionale implicita della ‘coppia terapeutica creativa’: dalla ‘teoria’ alla ‘clinica’.” Rivista di Psicologia Individuale, 33, Luglio-Dicembre, 58 (2005): 60. 3 “Tutte le cose dipendono dall’interpretazione che se ne dà. Il mondo è filtrato attraverso la nostra interiorità, intesa nel suo duplice aspetto di cognizione e d’affettività, attraverso gli schemi stabilmente preformati e tendenziosi d’appercezione, in quanto le esperienze prima

© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2020 | doi:10.1163/9789004427570_010 Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

the clash between personal fate, the future, and society

1

145

Fate and Mystery in Ge Fei’s Fiction

In his long career as a novelist Ge Fei has been scrutinizing the multiple ways of representing human subjectivity in relation to society and history. Through a variety of narrative techniques and patterns he strives to display personal ambitions and the continuously frustrating interplay between the individual and the course of history. In one of his most famous novellas of the 80s, The Lost Boat, he depicts the mysterious story of an officer in republican China during the Northern Expedition, who returns to his hometown with his attendant and gets involved in a forbidden love affair with a woman called Xing, his former girlfriend, who is now married to another man. Eventually the protagonist ends up meeting an inexplicable death. He is not murdered for political reasons, nor because of the woman, but “[t]he love affair […] has to become a pernicious, or ominous factor that triggers the irrational force of history.”4 Published in 1991, The Enemy 敵人 (Diren) shines a spotlight on Zhao Shaozhong, the old patriarch of a declining family, who helplessly stands by as his family is progressively decimated by an incredible chain of murders and accidents, his own perceptions being tainted by premonitions and suspicions throughout the plot. In 1996 Ge Fei wrote another novel, The Banner of Desire 欲望的旗幟 (Yuwang de qizhi) set in the academic world of Shanghai, in which, again, a group of characters from an intellectual milieu are dragged into a baffling network of events made up of unsolved crimes, invariably shattered relations, as well as unattainable professional goals and sentimental desires. Outwardly these elements might lead readers to view his fiction as being close to the detective story, but actually his works never really satisfy their genre requirements, because each story and its characters are definitely incompatible with the typical features of the genre, eluding as they do all categorisation or possible stereotype. As a matter of fact, the hints and suspicions scattered through the text never lead to the solution of the case, nor is the real culprit ever discovered at the end of the story. The quest for truth is never settled. Therefore, we have to place elements such as mystery, anticipations, feelings of predestination and so on, in another category: the author’s pessimistic di essere accettate sono processate, interpretate in relazione col primitivo significato che noi diamo alla vita. Non esistono, quindi, fatti ma solo interpretazioni dei fatti, in quanto viviamo nel regno dei significati.” Ibid. 61. 4 Xiaobin Yang, The Chinese Postmodern: Trauma and Irony in Chinese Avant-garde Fiction (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2002), 179.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

146

pesaro

view of the inconsistency of human life and of human beings’ inability to see through (and thus understand) both reality and future. In other words, his view of human existence and destiny can be defined as “tragic” 悲劇 (beiju).

2

The Meaning of Fate and the End of Utopia in the Jiangnan Trilogy

As many critics such as Zhang Qinghua5 and Chen Zhongyi6 have noted, this tragic view of human existence and individual freedom is one of the main features of Ge Fei’s trilogy, comprising the three novels Peach Blossom Beauty 人 面桃花 (Renmian taohua), Mountains and Rivers in Dreams 山河入夢 (Shanhe rumeng) and End of Spring in Jiangnan 春盡江南 (Chunjin Jiangnan). Published between 2004 and 2011, they are referred to as the Jiangnan Trilogy 江南 三部曲 (Jiangnan sanbuqu). Each of the novels portrays a period in twentiethcentury Chinese history and the failure of both individual and collective attempts to change (or improve) reality, personal and social destinies being always doomed by history and by the irrational flow of events. In Chinese culture, on the one hand fate has been described as a “powerful tool of hegemony”7 and a device for controlling the masses in ancient China, as it helps to foster a feeling of “resignation” in people. On the other hand, many scholars claim that this view of the Chinese people as fatalists should be rejected, as “industry, frugality, planning, all in fact exist as important values in China.”8 Stevan Harrell mentions also an interesting feature of Chinese society, calling it “entrepreneurial ethic.”9 Harrell’s text was written in the late 1980s after his fieldwork in some factories in Taiwan. In a more recent work, also based on some fieldwork in contemporary China, the interviewed workers often talk about personal fate as something that can be changed.10 It seems

5

6

7 8 9 10

Zhang Qinghua 張清華, “Chunmeng, geming, yongheng de shibai and xuwu” 春夢, 革 命, 永恆的失敗與虛無—從精神分析的方向論格非 (Vain dream, revolution, eternal failure, and nothingness: Ge Fei from the viewpoint of psychoanalysis). Contemporary Writers Review 當代作家評論 (Dangdai zuojia pinglun), 2 (2012): 4–24. Chen Zhongyi 陳眾議, “Renmian taohua he Ge Fei de maodun xushi” 人面桃花和格非 的矛盾敘事 (Peach-Blossom Beauty and Ge Fei’s contradictory narration). Dongwu xieshu 東吳學術 (Suzhou academic) 5 (2012): 9–31. Stevan Harrell, “The Concept of Fate in Chinese Folk Ideology,” Modern China, 13:1 (1987): 92. Ibid., 93. Ibid., 94. Leslie T. Chang, Factory Girls: Voices from the Heart of Modern China (London: Pan Macmillan, 2010).

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

the clash between personal fate, the future, and society

147

therefore that ordinary Chinese people, in different epochs and places, share a general feeling that it is possible for the individual to redeem their own fate and to change their original condition by tenaciously building and achieving their own life plan. Lisa Raphals11 identifies different orientations within Chinese culture, assigning both a positive and a negative meaning to the concept of fate, as something that can be changed by means of human will. It is precisely on this intrinsic quality of the Chinese character, that contemporary Chinese leaders recently built their propagandistic discourse on the “Chinese dream.” On the contrary, many writers, both in traditional and modern Chinese literature, represent the human condition as one invariably subject to unbeatable bonds or, especially in recent Chinese fiction, unavoidably shattered by the absurdity of life (see many novels by Yu Hua 余華, Mo Yan 莫言, and Yan Lianke 閻連科). In this absurd, even apocalyptic12 scenario, individual and collective goals are separated for good; human life is not preordained by some higher power, or by a rational, progressive model of historical development (as in Marxist theories or in the Christian religion), and both social and personal events are mostly viewed as being unpredictable and meaningless. Compared to these writers, Ge Fei has developed a personal, peculiar style that merges the traditional Chinese sense of tragedy with his sophisticated research on Western narrative patterns. His vision of history is deeply influenced by the traditional concept of “recurrence,” which in the Trilogy “is embodied above all in utopian projects that, […] are predestined to mutate in dystopias, repeatedly.”13 Another feature which distinguishes Ge Fei’s depiction of fate and the human condition is the fact that these elements are often connected to sexuality. Not only does he reflect upon the inanity of planning and achieving great accomplishments, but he also explores the pernicious influence of both satisfied or unsatisfied desires and passions. A human being’s life plan can be affected and distorted by both socio-economic and sexual drives; an individual’s freedom and success are often hindered by what Ge Fei portrays as a sort of disorder, an inconsistency in the choices made by men and women in their sentimental/sexual life. 11

12

13

Lisa Raphals, “Languages of Fate: Semantic Fields in Chinese and Greek,” in The Magnitude of Ming: Command Allotment and Fate in Chinese Culture, ed. Christopher Lupke (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2005), 70–106. Jeffrey C. Kinkley, “Modernity and Apocalypse in Chinese Novels from the End of the Twentieth Century,” in Contested Modernities in Chinese Literature, ed. Charles Laughlin (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), 101–120. Jeffrey C. Kinkley, Visions of Dystopia in China’s New Historical Novels (New York: Columbia University Press, 2015), 110.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

148

pesaro

The abundance and variety of features connected to prognostication and fate in Ge Fei’s works are not only an irrefutable key to understanding his literary project, but they are also a useful tool to read some phenomena of society and human relations in China through his eyes. These features are diffused throughout the text and seem to be mainly due to the unbridgeable hiatus existing between human subjectivity and the objective world. As I have said before, the Trilogy deals with revolution and twentieth century Chinese utopia. Each novel sheds light on one generation’s view of the future. In the first novel, it is the generation of the pioneer revolutionaries, such as the female writer Qiu Jin 秋瑾 (1875–1907), whom the protagonist, Lu Xiumi, reminds one of. The second novel is devoted to the generation of Maoist officials in the 1950s and their attempt to achieve the communist utopia. The third novel deals with his own generation in which the author witnessed the total exhaustion of that same utopia. The first part of the Trilogy, Peach Blossom Beauty is based on the model of the traditional Chinese novel in terms of its narrative patterns and language, which is very concise and implicit, and full of idiomatic forms like chengyu. Differently, the last two novels (especially the third one set in contemporary China), neatly tend towards a more colloquial and dialogic approach. In the first novel the protagonist is Lu Xiumi, a young girl whose destiny from the very beginning is helplessly dragged into a vortex of violent events: the disappearance of her mad father; the death of her first love; her kidnapping by bandits the very day of her wedding; her rape by the bandits; several murders; and her imprisonment after she becomes herself the head of the rebels. Set in a mysterious China undergoing revolutionary turmoil, the story presents an unachieved utopia to the readers. Xiumi is first initiated into revolution by her impenetrable “cousin,” Zhang Jiyuan who is eventually found dead. Having soon reached adulthood under the bandits’ rule, she finally tries to accomplish their original project of an egalitarian community, but is arrested when she establishes a modern school in her village, Puji. She is then freed on the eve of the 1911 Revolution. Her natural child, whom she is not willing and able to take care of, is the protagonist of the second part of the Trilogy. In Mountains and Rivers in Dreams, the place described is still Puji, but in a different epoch. The Maoist revolution has succeeded, and local Party authorities try to achieve a modern, democratic society. Tan Gongda is the head of the district, and his plans to build a huge dam to protect the peasants from floods and to improve the area’s economy are strongly opposed by his colleagues and by nature itself. Finally, not only is his political project tragically shattered, but his young and brave secretary Yao Peipei, whom he is in love with, is executed

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

the clash between personal fate, the future, and society

149

for having killed the man, the provincial secretary of the Party, who attempted to rape her. Tan himself is arrested for abetting her escape. The ending of the novel clearly calls into question the communist belief in a better life for both the people and the individual. Finally, End of Spring in Jiangnan tells the story of Tan Duanwu, the son of Tan Gongda. This novel fittingly concludes the writer’s pessimistic reflection on Chinese political and individual utopia. Tan Duanwu lives in the new era of a growingly consumerist China. As a poet who initially shared the ideals of the “culture fever” of the 1980s, but unlike his progenitors, Lu Xiumi and Tan Gongda, he gives up any dream of great achievement. His only life plan is to have a child and write a novel. Misunderstandings and selfishness wreck his marriage with the lawyer Pang Jiayu, a strong-willed woman who, after her separation from Tan, discovers she has cancer. As Paola Iovene has noted, death bears a central meaning in this novel.14 The question of an individual’s limited or threatened freedom is paradoxically even more emphasised in the last part of the trilogy. In this novel, Ge Fei shows how, in times of relatively loosened political and social restrictions and relative wealth, it is the individual himself or herself who is unable to control his or her fate, and is haunted by a feeling of helplessness 無奈感 (wunaigan).15 In Ge Fei’s opinion, the clash with society and history is due mainly to the intrinsic impossibility to avoid the influence of one’s subjective inclinations and, for some characters, to the inability to understand and cope with reality. As Ferrigno points out, “there are no facts, but only interpretations of facts,” Ge Fei’s characters tend to interpret the world in which they live in a highly subjective way, and often fail to understand people’s real feelings and motives. However, they also “live in the realm of meanings,” surrounded by hints of what the future will bring to them. Their dreams about their life goals are vain, and they are often blind and deaf to the signals the world sends them.

14 15

Paola Iovene, Tales of Future Past. Anticipation and the Ends of Literature in Contemporary China (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2014), 141. Ge Fei 格非 and Wang Xiaowang 王小王, “Yong wenxue de fangshi jilu renlei de xinglingshi—Yu Ge Fei tan ta de changpian xin zuo Shanhe rumeng” 用文學的方式記錄人類 的心靈史—與格非談他的長篇新作 “山河入夢” (Telling the history of human soul in a literary manner: Talking with Ge Fei about his latest novel Mountains and Rivers in Dreams). Zuojia 作家 (Writers magazine) 2 (2007): 3, 5.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

150 3

pesaro

Ominous Signs, Hindrances and the (Im)possible Future

In my analysis, I have classified the following categories as being relevant to the topic of this volume: (1) Characters, objects and events representing the irrationality and inscrutability of existence; (2) Feelings of premonition, suspicion, and unavoidability; (3) Utopian factors used to construct the plot; and (4) The lack of freedom as perceived or suffered by the characters. The first category of course is made up of the essential tools by which a novelist builds up the plot of his or her narrative: facts, things, and people. They bear the full force and moving power of phenomena that affect one’s life, often disturbing or making unattainable one’s imagined or unfolding life plan. In Peach Blossom Beauty, the golden cicada,16 mistakenly quoted in a poem by Xiumi’s mad father, is the mysterious object that will accompany the young woman into her coming-of-age adventure in the bandits’ island. Similarly, another element that hints at or causes events is the wajin 瓦釜, an ancient cauldron which seems to possess the magical power of transporting people into their future, and which acts as a sign of foreseen destiny. Besides, Zhang Jiyuan, Xiumi’s first love and the man who introduces her to the utopian ideals, and his diary, which reveals to her the secrets of sex and revolution, are both agents that move her to action and make her foresee her lot. The second type of element is often expressed through the feelings, gestures, dreams or thoughts of the characters. In Peach Blossom Beauty the young protagonist is constantly overwhelmed by a sense of unavoidability; a strong linguistic hint of the world of ineluctability in which Xiumi lives, as in Voltaire’s Candide, is conveyed by the expression “bu youde” 不由得 (can’t help), which is repeated countless times in the text. Here below are a few examples: As Xiumi met him, she couldn’t help feeling stupefied.17 She couldn’t help feeling her heart sink to her stomach: “The scene of this funeral is identical to the one I saw in my dream!” she said to herself. […]

16

17

Jinchan 金蟬 (Golden Cicada) is also the surname of Tang Seng, the Buddhist monk who is the reincarnation of a disciple of Buddha and the protagonist of the novel Xiyou ji 西 遊記 (Journey to the West). Ge Fei 格非, Renmian taohua 人面桃花 (Peach blossom beauty) (Shanghai: Shanghai wenyi chubanshe, 2004), 9. The original reads: 秀米與他剛一見面,就不由得心裡一 愣。

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

the clash between personal fate, the future, and society

151

She couldn’t help thinking that although she was now wide-awake, she could well be part of an even greater, more distant dream.18 From the beginning of her story she foresees a life of solitude. Although she is not able to interpret the signs of destiny and everything seems inaccessible and obscure to her, she keeps on committing herself fully to it. In some sense, her life plan is tightly connected to an unattainable project, a project she cannot help pursuing, but which she knows she will never be able to accomplish. At the same time her life plan is closely related to her sexual experience. Her decision to commit herself to revolution depends heavily on Zhang Jiyuan, but it is only after her cruel experience of rape and violence on the bandits’ island that she decides to become a revolutionary and pursue a utopian project, following in the father’s footsteps and striving to implement his foolish ideas. However, in the end, she realises that the future she was shown did not happen. She was not a revolutionary, nor was she the substitute of her father seeking in his dreams for the Peach Blossom spring. She was not the young girl watching the sea from the log cabin in Yokohama either. Instead, she was walking at dawn between the cottages, she was the baby sleeping soundly in her cradle. She thought sadly that now that her life could start again in the depth of her memory, that life in fact had already ended.19 The protagonist’s naiveté—which epitomises human vulnerability to the obscurity of the future—is somewhat mirrored by other characters, especially Xique, the maidservant. It is in Xique’s simplistic mind that the spirit à la Candide of the novel emerges again: She realised that a thing identical to that really existed in the world! The existence of the golden cicada made her realise all the mystery and vast-

18

19

Ibid., 27. The original reads: 她不由得心中就是一沉,心裏道:眼前的這個送殯的 場面竟然跟夢中所見一摸一樣! […] 她不由得這樣想:儘管她現在是清醒的, 但卻未嘗不是一個更大、更遙遠的夢的一部分。 Ibid., 115. The original reads 她不是革命家,不是那個夢想中尋找桃花源的父親的 替身, 也不是在橫濱的木屋前眺望大海的少女, 而是行走在黎明的村舍間, 在搖籃裡熟睡的嬰兒。 她悲哀地想到, 當她意識到自己的生命可以在記憶深 處重新開始的時候,這個生命實際上已經結束了. My translation.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

152

pesaro

ness of the world. She realised that all the doors were closed to her, she knew nothing about it, neither its beginning nor its end.20 Dreams are disseminated throughout the text. They are not only tools for the narration of the imminent future and for a Freudian representation of the characters’ fears and desires, but they also suggest the inconsistency of any life plan, as in traditional Chinese fiction. Utopia is epitomised in this novel, but also in the other parts of the trilogy, by the most famous myth of utopianism in Chinese literature, the Peach Blossom Spring 桃花源 (taohua yuan). Xiumi’s father owns a map to the legendary spring, which he believes is located in their village, Puji. However, during the course of the plot, this map is eventually believed to be a bearer of ill fate, suggesting that all utopian projects lead their proponents or believers to a fatal end. Towards the end of the novel, Xiumi herself summarizes the meaning of her blind commitment to the utopian project she inherited from her father and from Zhang: “only that which is impossible to achieve deserves to be attempted.”21 Turning to the second novel, in the case of Tan Gongda, the elements which affect his plans are first of all his subjective way of handling personal relations and his inability to restrain himself when dealing with feelings of sexual attraction. The collapse of the dam, which definitively shatters his progressive faith, symbolises the failure of his private life plan, as this big event will determine the unfortunate trajectory of his sentimental life as well. The overlapping between his personal drives and his commitment to the communist project is clearly shown in this scene, where he finally obtains a kiss from Bai Xiaoxian, the young and coquettish daughter of the deputy head of the district: When Tan Gongda pressed his lips on the slightly reddened skin of her face, he cast aside all oaths he ever made, unable to refrain is heart from beating madly. Tan Gongda, oh, Tan Gongda, who the hell could ever have thought that this day would arrive for you too?22 In that moment

20

21 22

Ibid., 122. The original reads 原來, 世上還有這等一模一樣的東西! 喜鵲暗想。 金蟬的存在使她覺出了這個世界的神秘與浩大。 原來, 這世上所有的門都對 她一個人關著,她既不知來由,亦不知所終. My translation. Ibid., 115. The original reads 只有不可能的才是值得嘗試的. My translation. Throughout the novel Ge Fei adopts bold characters to emphasise fragments of the main characters’ inner monologues.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

the clash between personal fate, the future, and society

153

he seemingly thought that Communism had been achieved in advance, because all his troubles were gone, all his worries had evaporated.23 Throughout the story, he tries to keep the two sides of his life plan together. To his mind the troubles and hindrances he encounters in his dam project are caused by people’s stubbornness and backwardness. As a matter of fact, he is considered a daydreamer, a wishful thinker, by his own colleagues of the Party, who keep opposing his plans and conspiring against him. On the contrary, his perception of reality and of the future is very different. He thinks that the socialist utopia is not only possible to achieve, but that officers and leaders should work faster and harder to accomplish it in order to improve people’s lives, no matter what the cost is. His reasoning makes a clear allusion to Mao Zedong’s unyielding concept of revolution: Too slow! The pace in building a new socialist countryside is too slow! In the near district of Changzhou they have already founded a people’s commune, what are we waiting for? Great changes are turning earth and sky upside down, time flows on, and the situation is changing fast. Revolution is not slow either, it is not like painting or embroidering; it can’t be too refined, nor does it have to be calm and unhurried; it can’t be made with so much gentleness and respectfulness. […] Why should we worry if a few people die of hunger? We have six hundred million people, what does it matter if a dozen of them die? Should we cease to advance only because a few people die?24 In the end, when the young Peipei has no choice but to try to kill her persecutor, and Tan is involved in protecting her, he realises that there is no way to make his political utopia coincide with his personal feelings:

23

24

Ibid., 154. Throughout the novel, Ge Fei adopts bold characters to emphasize fragments of the main characters’ inner monologues. The original reads 譚功達用嘴唇碰了碰那痱 子, 把自己發過的種種毒誓拋到了九霄雲外, 怎麼也無法壓抑住心臟的狂跳。譚 功達啊譚功達,誰他娘的能想到, 你也有今天哪!在這一刻,他似乎覺得共產 主義已經提前實現,因為他所有的煩惱都沒有了, 所有的焦慮不安都煙消雲散. My translation. Ibid., 149. The original reads 太慢了!梅城縣建設社會主義新農村的步伐太慢了! 臨近的長洲縣已率先成立了人民公社, 我們還等什麼? 天地翻覆, 光陰流 轉, 革命形勢瞬息萬變。 革命不是老牛破車, 不是繪畫繡花, 不能那樣雅 緻, 那樣從容不迫, 那樣溫良恭儉讓。 […] 餓死幾個人怕什麼? 我們有六億 人, 才死掉十來個, 能算個什麼事? 死了幾個人, 我們就駐足觀望啦? 就止 步不前啦?就被嚇破了膽了嗎? My translation.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

154

pesaro

His loyalty to Yao Peipei meant that he had to turn his back to the state apparatus, it meant that he had to totally betray the organisation and the faith he had put in it since he was eighteen. It meant provoking openly the dictatorship of the proletariat and bidding farewell to his past.25 The collapse of the dam marks not only the failure of his political dream, but also his personal decline, for the natural disaster is followed by the schemes of his colleagues against him, so that he is eventually dismissed from office and undergoes a trial for allegedly harassing the young daughter of the deputy-head of the district. The two levels, political and sentimental, personal and social, constantly overlap, leading the unaware protagonist to his final defeat. As I said before, utopia is a key narrative in the trilogy, and in this novel it also acquires a double meaning. Through the two main characters, Tan Gongda and Yao Peipei, Ge Fei compares two opposite ideals or utopias. On the one hand, Tan represents the pursuit of social achievement, of a collective goal. On the other, the young woman follows in the Chinese tradition of self-exile 自我放 逐 (ziwo fangzhu). Tan’s voluntarism, his will to make things change contrasts with her acceptance of human beings’ helplessness: “Tell me, what do you plan for your future? What are your ideals?” […] “I’ve never thought about that”. Yao Peipei snorted gently and said sneeringly: “I am such a backward element, what ideals can I have? So long as one remains a monk, one goes on tolling the bell.” […] She put the pen in her mouth and bit it, then she suddenly said smiling: “Talking about ideals, I have one in my mind, but I know it’s simply unworkable.” “Just tell me what it is.” “I would like to escape to a small uninhabited island, and live in seclusion.” “You didn’t break the law, why should you escape?” “How do you know I didn’t break the law? How do you know I won’t do that? Maybe I was just born guilty.”26

25

26

Ibid., 283. The original reads 對姚佩佩的忠誠必然意味著對國家機器的背叛, 意 味著對十八歲就投入其中的這個組織以及全部信念的背叛, 意味著對無產階 級專政的公然挑釁,意味著與自己的過去徹底訣別. My translation. Ge Fei 格非, Shanhe rumeng 山河入夢 (Mountains and rivers in dreams) (Beijing: Zuojia chubanshe, 2007), 171–172. The original reads “說說看,你對未來都有什麼考慮啊?有什麼理想啊?” […] “沒有想過。” 姚 佩佩鼻子裡輕輕地哼了一聲, 揶揄道:“我這樣一個落後分子, 什麼理

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

the clash between personal fate, the future, and society

155

Their different attitudes to life and the future are shown a few lines later, when Peipei imagines him trying to improve and change even the small, uninhabited island of her self-exile. In this dialogue, Peipei seems to also foresee her crime, the attempted murder of the provincial secretary of the Party, which will bring her to her death, as if a sort of original sin obliged her to infringe the rules of ordinary life. The third kind of utopia described in these novels is an emotional utopia, inspired by the classical novel Dream of Red Mansions 紅樓夢 (Hongloumeng), which is often quoted in the trilogy. In Mountains and Rivers in Dreams, it is the “utopian emotive landscape manifested in Tan’s relationships with women, in particular with Yao Peipei.”27 In the last page of the novel, Tan Gongda, who is in jail for his support of Peipei, dies in the very year of Mao Zedong’s death and the end of the Cultural Revolution with the downfall of the Gang of Four (between September and October 1976). During his last night, he dreams of Peipei, who was executed many years before, announcing to him the realisation of communism: “Celebrate? What are they celebrating? Why should they celebrate?” “Because communism has already been realised,” Peipei told him smiling. “But why can’t I see it? Why is it all dark?” “You don’t need to see it. Just close your eyes, I am going to tell you. In this society there is no death penalty …” No death penalty/No jail/No fear/No greed nor corruption/Everywhere there are flowers that never wither/The Yellow River will never overflow again/even its water is sweet/Diaries and private letters will never be inspected again/There will be no more cirrhosis nor ascites/No more hereditary sin and endless humiliation/ No more ruthless cadres and frightful civilians/There will be no age limit in marrying someone. “Does it mean that there will be no more worries?” “Yes, no more worries at all.”28

27 28

想不理想的,當一天和尚撞一天鐘罷了。” […] 她把圓珠筆放在嘴裡咬了咬, 忽然笑道:“要說理想, 我心裡倒有一 個,可我知道死活實現不了。” “你說出來我聽聽。” “我想逃到一個荒無人煙的小島上,隱居起來。” “你又沒犯法,逃什麼逃!” “你怎麼知道我沒犯法?你怎麼知道我就不會犯法?我這種人,或許生下來 就是有罪的呢!” My translation. Lingchei Letty Chen, “Writing Historical Traumas in the Everyday.” in A Companion to Modern Chinese Literature, ed. Yingjin Zhang (New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 2016), 461. Ge Fei 格非, Mountains and Rivers in Dreams, ibid., 346. The original reads “慶祝? 慶

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

156

pesaro

According to Lingchei Letty Chen, “The Maoist utopia has died an ironic death in this novel.”29

4

From “Shared Improvement” to “Individual Survival”

Finally, I will briefly discuss the presence of elements related to individuals’ fate and freedom in the third novel, and analyse their role in embodying the author’s vision. End of Spring in Jiangnan completes Ge Fei’s sceptical view on the human possibility to freely deal with reality and society. As the tension between freedom and the lack of it, Tan Duanwu seems to be quite aware of it: He had already painfully reflected upon such a shocking paradox: in reality there is no freedom without constraint.30 Ge Fei’s long-standing interest in narrative patterns must also be taken into account. Indeed his novels are always painstakingly crafted in such a way as to fulfil his lofty ambitions in terms of the author-reader interplay: The realisation of the value of a literary work depends on the reading process, which itself involves the mutual interplay between author and reader. Regardless of whether the author recognises it or not, the meeting of the readers’ expectations and desires potentially affects the development of the novel.31

29 30

31

祝什麼? 為什麼要慶祝?” “因為, 共產主義已經實現了。” 佩佩笑著對他說。 “可我怎麼什麼也看不見? 怎麼到處都是黑暗?” “你不用看。 你閉上眼睛, 我 來說給你聽。 這個社會呀, 沒有死刑 …” 沒有死刑/沒有監獄/沒有恐懼/沒 有貪污腐敗/遍地都是紫雲英的花朵, 它們永不凋謝/長江不再氾濫, 連江 水都是甜的/日記和私人信件不再受到檢查/沒有肝硬化, 也沒有肝腹水/ 沒有與生俱來的罪惡和永無休止的恥辱/沒有蠻橫愚蠢的官員, 也沒有戰戰 兢兢的百姓/如果你決定和什麼人結婚, 再也不會有年齡的限制。“這麼說, 什麼煩惱都不會有了?” “對,什麼煩惱都不會有了。” My translation. Chen, “Writing Historical Traumas in the Everyday,” 462. Ge Fei 格非, Mountains and Rivers in Dreams, ibid., 24. The original reads 他已經在痛苦 地思考這樣一個令他震驚的悖論:沒有強制,其實根本就談不上任何自由. My translation. Ge Fei 格非, “Zuozhe yu duzhe” 作者與讀者 (Author and reader), Bulaohu qingchun wenxue 布老虎青春文學 (Bulaohu youth literature) 2 (2006): 140. The original reads 一 部作品價值的實現必須依賴於閱讀過程, 而閱讀過程又包含著讀者與作者的 雙向互動, 不管作家承認與否, 讀者的期待與渴望滿足的願望實際上在潛在 地影響著小說的發展. My translation.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

the clash between personal fate, the future, and society

157

Undoubtedly, his interest in representing the conflict between human subjective predictions and desires and the external reality aptly serves the purpose of allowing the writer to engage with his readers. The intriguing character of Xiumi in Peach Blossom Beauty, as well as the protagonists of the other two novels, Tan Gongda, Peipei, and Tan Duanwu, are all conceived as the bearers of a ruinous but touching destiny; the development of the plot is thus based on a continuous but fragmented presentation of accidents, memories, recriminations, and doubts that Ge Fei shares with his readers by means of a highly introspective style. In this way, he also shares with his readers his personal view on the imperfect, always frustrating, and opaque relation between our inner perceptions and external reality, as well as the vain attempt to make our life plan compatible with that of others. The concept of “fate” in Ge Fei’s works is a fictional representation of human beings’ disorderly and inconsistent interaction with the world. It is the sign of a deep, unresolved inability to penetrate other people’s mind and desires. However, it also implies their inability to grasp their own needs and desires as well. This makes individuals constantly clash with society and history. In my view, the trilogy represents the eternal contradiction between the “xiao wo” 小我 and the “da wo” 大我, terms which were used in early republican China to define respectively the individual self and the collective self.32 This contradiction haunted Chinese intellectuals throughout the twentieth century, making them pursue utopian visions: as human freedom and will are constantly rebuffed by reality, Ge Fei seems to share with some contemporary Chinese thinkers the idea that “the objective trend of history and the power of the unconscious drives habits and instincts that are deeply embedded in every day thought and behaviour, precluding the instant realization of any utopia.”33 In the case of Pang Jiayu, Tan Duanwu’s wife, committing suicide to avoid a painful death from cancer is an act of freedom, against her lot in life. Similarly, in the previous novel, Peipei dies because she chooses to rebel against the hypocritical and restrained society she lives in, an act of resistance against her lot in life, while Tan Gongda sticks to his communist utopia even against the evidence of its failure. 32

33

See Hu Shi 胡適, “Buxiu wode zongjiao” 不朽我的宗教 (Immortality my religion), Xin qingnian 新青年 6:2 (1919), 96–106; Yu Dafu 郁達夫, “Guanyu xiaoshuo de hua” 關於小 說的話 (On fiction) [1931], in Ershi shiji Zhongguo xiaoshuo lilun ziliao 1928–1937 二十世 紀中國小說理論資料 1928–1937 (Materials for twentieth-century Chinese fiction theory 1928–1937), vol. 3, ed. Wu Fuhui 吳福輝 (Beijing: Beijing daxue chubanshe, 1997), 155–158. Woei Lien Chong, “Hubris in Chinese Thought: A Theme in Post-Mao Cultural Criticism,” in The Magnitude of Ming: Command Allotment and Fate in Chinese Culture, ed. Christopher Lupke (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press), 247.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

158

pesaro

In Ge Fei’s opinion, the tendency to accept one’s fate in the name of one’s own values and ideals, enduring the tragedy embedded in one’s life, is not a form of heroism or braveness.34 Rather, it depends on the naiveté and stubbornness that lead some people to vainly challenge their environment. In our society, idealism and utopia are often seen as a sign of weakness. However, in his opinion, they can be proof of strength. Therefore, his view on utopian thinking, for instance on communism, is complex. Although he sternly condemns its abusive strategies and the suppression of individual freedom, he supports the positive values of equality and justice that fed this utopia, and which from the beginning were dismissed by the very people who appropriated it in order to attain personal power. On the contrary, it is the lack of any utopia that makes the present era, such as that depicted in End of Spring, so disconsolate and inhuman. According to Yinde Zhang, “Ge Fei’s critical utopianism in a certain way fits with the critique of violence which marks contemporary Chinese literature— from Lu Xun to Shen Congwen, from Su Tong to Yu Hua, and to Li Ang or Long Yingtai—in order to encourage self-questioning on the anthropological dimension of literature.”35 In the gloomy scenery of the third novel, freedom is left only to those who act against their own life, and little space is left to self-achievement, if not as the effort to survive in the cruelly competitive environment of contemporary China. Whereas Xiumi’s and Tan Gongda’s tireless quest was for a place of collective improvement, Tan Duanwu and some of his friends seem to be only searching for a place to hide 隱身之地 (yinshen zhi di) from society:36 In the course of time, in the Gazette office, Duanwu became a character with a special position. In that age of malignant competition that made

34

35

36

Ge Fei 格非 and Wang Xiaowang 王小王, “Yong wenxue de fangshi jilu renlei de xinglingshi—Yu Ge Fei tan ta de changpian xin zuo Shanhe rumeng” 用文學的方式記錄人類 的心靈史—與格非談他的長篇新作“山河入夢” (Telling the history of human soul in a literary manner: Talking with Ge Fei about his latest novel Mountains and Rivers in Dreams), Zuojia 作家 (Writers’ magazine) 2 (2007): 3. Yinde Zhang, “L’utopisme critique de Ge Fei rejoint d’une certaine manière la critique de la violence de l’ histoire qui marque la littérature chinoise contemporaine—de Lu Xun à Shen Congwen 沈從文, de Su Tong 蘇童 à Yu Hua 余華 en passant par Li Ang 李昂 ou Long Yingtai—pour inciter à s’ interroger sur la dimension anthropologique de la littérature,” “Littérature chinoise et perspectives comparatistes,” Études chinois, HS (2010): 309. This both utopian and dystopian desire of escaping from society is fully described in Ge Fei’s latest novel The Cloak of Invisibility 隱身衣 (Yinshenyi) (Beijing: Renmin wenxue chubanshe, 2012).

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

the clash between personal fate, the future, and society

159

everyone’s spirit free itself from the body, Duanwu of course was right in feeling self-satisfied in placing himself outside society.37 The end of the visions of the future, of the socialist utopianism described in the previous novels, is better explained in the last part of the trilogy: [… in the last thirty years, the generations of “new men” that this society created one after another have fully grown up. In fact, they are ready to take total control over society. They are all from the same mould. […] These men have the same mind and the same heart. They are mirthful and bewildered creatures. They don’t have any past, even less a future.]38 Ge Fei’s thought on the modern conflict between individual and collective life plans, vividly expressed in End of Spring in Jiangnan, seems to find an echo in Zygmunt Bauman’s theories: “Utopia” used to denote a coveted, dreamt-of distant goal to which progress should, could and would eventually bring the seekers after a world better serving human needs. In contemporary dreams, […] the image of “progress” seems to have moved from the discourse of shared improvement to that of individual survival. Progress is no longer thought about in the context of an urge to rush ahead, but in connection with a desperate effort to stay in the race.39 Human beings’ limited awareness and their restrained agency in contemporary society are one of the topics discussed in his conversation with Wang Xiaowang: I am a fatalist, in reality we all are prophets in our heart, we know long ago what our future will be, but some of us just pretend they don’t, and keep themselves numb until they really become numb.40 37

38

39 40

Ge Fei 格非, Chunjin Jiangnan 春盡江南 (End of spring in Jiangnan) (Shanghai: Shanghai wenyi chubanshe, 2011), 47. The original reads 久而久之,在縣志辦,端午漸漸就 成了一個地位十分特殊的人物。 在這個惡性競爭搞得每個人都靈魂出竅的時 代裡,端午當然有理由為自己置身於這個社會之外而感到自得. My translation. Ge Fei 格非, ibid., 200. The original reads […] 三十年來,這個社會所製造的一代又 一代的 “新人”, 已經羽翼漸豐。 事實上, 他們正在準備全面掌控整個社會。 他們都是用同一個模子鑄造出來的。[…] 這些人有著同樣的頭腦和心腸,嘻嘻 哈哈,昏昏噩噩,沒有過去,也談不上未來。My translation. Zygmunt Bauman, Liquid Time: Living in an Age of Uncertainty (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2013), 175. Ge Fei 格非 and Wang Xiaowang 王小王, “Yong wenxue de fangshi jilu renlei de xinglingshi—Yu Ge Fei tan ta de changpian xin zuo Shanhe rumeng,” 6. The original reads Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

160

pesaro

Ge Fei also explains the importance of prognostications and premonitions, like the ones his characters keep on having in their lives, as they help us decipher the array of meanings of our existence. Concluding with a trace of Buddhist awareness, he says: “If we often ponder the matter in search of an explanation, the ultimate problem of human beings will gradually become open and clear and will set us free. Only after knowing suffering and despair, can we discover the true meaning of life. Ignorance creates tragedy.”41

Bibliography Bauman, Zygmunt. Liquid Time: Living in an Age of Uncertainty. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2013. Chang, Leslie T. Factory Girls: Voices from the Heart of Modern China. London: Pan Macmillan. 2010. Chen Zhongyi 陳眾議. “Renmian taohua he Ge Fei de maodun xushi” 人面桃花和格非 的矛盾敘事 (Peach-Blossom Beauty and Ge Fei’s contradictory narration). Dongwu xueshu 東吳學術 (Suzhou academic) 5 (2012): 9–31. Chen, Lingchei Letty. “Writing Historical Traumas in the Everyday.” In A Companion to Modern Chinese Literature, 452–464. Edited by Yingjin Zhang. New York: WileyBlackwell, 2016. Chong, Woei Lien. “Hubris in Chinese Thought: A Theme in Post-Mao Cultural Criticism.” In The Magnitude of Ming. Command Allotment and Fate in Chinese Culture, 245–271. Edited by Christopher Lupke. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2005. Ferrigno, Giuseppe. “Il ‘piano di vita,’ i processi selettivi dello ‘stile di vita’ e la comunicazione intenzionale implicita della ‘coppia terapeutica creativa’: dalla ‘teoria’ alla ‘clinica.’” Rivista di Psicologia Individuale, 33, Luglio-Dicembre, 58 (2005): 59–97. Ge Fei 格非 and Wang Xiaowang 王小王. “Yong wenxue de fangshi jilu renlei de xinglingshi—Yu Ge Fei tan ta de changpian xin zuo Shanhe rumeng” 用文學的 方式記錄人類的心靈史—與格非談他的長篇新作“山河入夢” (Telling the history of human soul in a literary manner: Talking with Ge Fei about his latest novel Mountains and rivers in dreams). Zuojia 作家 (Writers’ magazine) 2 (2007): 2–6. Ge Fei 格非. “Zuozhe yu duzhe.” 作者與讀者 (Author and reader). Bulaohu qingchun wenxue 布老虎青春文學 (Bulaohu youth literature) 2 (2006): 135–149.

41

我是一個宿命論者。 其實我們每個人的內心都是一個預言家, 對未來我們早 就心知肚明, 可是有些人裝作看不到, 自我麻痺, 時間久了便是真的麻木了. My translation. Ibid. The original reads 人的終極問題, 如果我們經常去思考, 去尋求解釋, 尋 找源頭, 就會逐漸變得豁達, 獲得開釋。 只有意識到痛苦和絕望, 才能去發 現人生的真諦。無知製造悲劇. My translation.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

the clash between personal fate, the future, and society

161

Ge Fei 格非. Diren 敵人 (The enemy). Guangzhou: Huacheng chubanshe, 1991. Ge Fei 格非. Mizhou 迷舟 (The lost boat). Beijing: Zuojia chubanshe, 1989. Ge Fei 格非. Yuwang de qizhi 慾望的旗幟 (The banner of desire). Nanjing: Jiangsu wenyi chubanshe, 1996. Ge Fei 格非. Chunjin jiangnan 春盡江南 (End of spring in Jiangnan). Shanghai: Shanghai wenyi chubanshe, 2011. Ge Fei 格非. Renmian taohua 人面桃花 (Peach blossom beauty). Shanghai: Shanghai wenyi chubanshe, 2004. Ge Fei 格非. Shanhe rumeng 山河入夢 (Mountains and rivers in dreams). Beijing: Zuojia chubanshe, 2007. Harrell, Stevan. “The Concept of Fate in Chinese Folk Ideology.” Modern China 13:1 (1987): 90–109. Hu Shi 胡適, “Buxiu wode zongjiao” 不朽我的宗教 (Immortality my religion), Xin qingnian 新青年 6:2 (1919), 96–106. Iovene, Paola. Tales of Future Past. Anticipation and the Ends of Literature in Contemporary China. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2014. Kinkley, Jeffrey C. “Modernity and Apocalypse in Chinese Novels from the End of the Twentieth Century.” In Contested Modernities in Chinese Literature, 101–120. Edited by Charles Laughlin. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005. Kinkley, Jeffrey C. Visions of Dystopia in China’s New Historical Novels. New York: Columbia University Press, 2015. Pesaro, Nicoletta. “The Tradition of Telling and the Desire of Showing in Ge Fei’s ‘Fictional Minds.’” In Linking Ancient and Contemporary Continuities and Discontinuities in Chinese Literature, 133–154. Edited by Tiziana Lippiello, Yuehong Chen, Maddalena Barenghi. Venezia: Edizioni Ca’ Foscari, 2016. Raphals, Lisa. “Languages of Fate. Semantic Fields in Chinese and Greek.” In The Magnitude of Ming: Command Allotment and Fate in Chinese Culture, 70–106. Edited by Christopher Lupke. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2005. Yang, Xiaobin. The Chinese Postmodern: Trauma and Irony in Chinese Avant-garde Fiction. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2002. Yu Dafu 郁達夫, “Guanyu xiaoshuo de hua” 關於小說的話 (On fiction) [1931], in Ershi shiji Zhongguo xiaoshuo lilun ziliao 1928–1937 二十世紀中國小說理論資料 1928–1937 (Materials for twentieth-century Chinese fiction theory 1928–1937), vol. 3, ed. Wu Fuhui 吳福輝 (Beijing: Beijing daxue chubanshe, 1997), 155–158. Zhang Qinghua 張清華. “Chunmeng, geming, yongheng de shibai and xuwu” 春夢, 革 命, 永恆的失敗與虛無—從精神分析的方向論格非 (Vain dream, revolution, eternal failure, and nothingness: Ge Fei from the viewpoint of psychoanalysis). Dangdai zuojia pinglun 當代作家評論 (Contemporary writers review) 2 (2012): 4–24. Zhang, Yinde. “Littérature chinoise et perspectives comparatistes.” Études chinois, HS (2010): 293–311.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

chapter 9

Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Historical Allusions and Oracles Yan Xu-Lackner

Whenever the subject of fortune telling arises, the reaction of the average Chinese person is to see it as a kind of “superstition” or even a symbol of ignorance. At the same time, if you look around, there is hardly anyone who doesn’t go to a temple to get a fortune stick, ask for their future to be told or seek the services of a palmist. They might pretend not to believe in such things, but deep down they are in no doubt. It is my assumption that this kind of oscillation between belief and disbelief, between credulity and scepticism, is more popular in Chinese culture than in other cultures. In ancient China, fortune telling was regarded as a “minor way” (xiaodao 小 道), different from and—to a certain extent—opposite to “orthodoxy” (zhengdao 正道). After the Opium Wars, the impact of Western knowledge not only resulted in a large number of new terms and ideas, it also led to a familiarisation with new disciplines. Furthermore, the Western system of knowledge as such began to occupy an increasingly dominant position, replacing the traditional Chinese system. In the course of this process of radical replacement, intellectuals and politicians officially rejected fortune telling.1 It has to be remembered, though, that while many scholars were publicly advocating Western learning, they did not discard the traditional forms of prediction in their private lives, where they still continued to practice divination.2 Today, “fortune telling” and other mantic practices are frequently dismissed as “superstition,” allegedly hard to believe in. On the other hand, we can also observe that fortune-telling books are taking an ever increasing share of the book market. Moreover, a multitude

1 Rebecca Nedostup, Superstitious Regimes—Religion and the Politics of Chinese Modernity (Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2009). 2 Li Fan 李帆 and Michael Lackner, “Jindai Zhongguo zhishi zhuanxing shiye xia de ‘mingxue’” 近代中國知識轉型視野下的“命學” (The “study of fate” in the epistemological transformation of modern China), Shehui kexue 社會科學 (Social science) 6 (2012): 147–154. See also Xiong Yuezhi 熊月之, “Jindai Zhongguo dushuren de mingli shijie” 近代中國讀書人的命 理世界 (The modern Chinese intellectuals and the numerology), Xueshu yuekan 學術月刊 (Academic Monthly) 9 (2015): 147–160.

© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2020 | doi:10.1163/9789004427570_011 Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

romance of the three kingdoms

163

of studies related to the Book of Changes are being published, making divination a flourishing topic. Needless to say, the growing number of people believing in Buddhism and karma also provides a perfect environment for fortune telling. Understanding and predicting the future is a universal desire of mankind. Europe, too, has a tradition of prediction, especially in the field of astrology. However, the European Enlightenment largely rejected the historical tradition of forecasting the future. Since then, science and divination have been distinctly separated,3 a process that has also led to alternatives such as “rationality” and “magic” or “superstition,” and people whose minds oscillate between belief and disbelief have become a negligible minority. Nevertheless, the focus of this paper is not on history. Instead, I will try to explore the characteristics of China from the perspective of its heritage of literary allusions. I also want to argue that, to a certain extent, it is precisely this heritage that provokes an internal, “mental” conflict for many Chinese people. The “cultural field” (wenhua chang 文化場) built on literary allusions makes those living inside this “cultural field” inclined to “believe” or “trust,” although a modern, educated individual is supposed to “believe” in progress and perhaps even in atheism. “Cultural field,” as the name suggests, is a specific “field” structured by language and culture. In the comparison of heterogeneous cultural languages, this concept is commonly used to explain the cultural and linguistic differences between various interpretations. Culture is not a “ready-made object,”4 nor is it immutable. Thus, when it comes to exploring the path for universalizing cultural phenomena, it may help to understand the formation and impact of a certain “field” on people. This article chooses literature, historical allusions and the practise of using fortune sticks and the accompanying instruction booklets as a starting point for discussion. In a symposium attended by scholars from different countries, the participants discussed the use of Chinese allusions and historical sources, and analyzed a large number of idioms, all of them condensing a historical event into a concise statement. After having introduced several Chinese idioms, the participants were asked to look for similar expressions in European languages. However, the comparison was rather modest and only a few examples could 3 For the history of this rejection, see Wouter J. Hanegraaff, Esotericism and the Academy. Rejected Knowledge in the West (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012). 4 Yue Daiyun 樂黛雲, Bijiao wenxue yu bijiao wenhua shi jiang 比較文學與比較文化十講 (Ten Lectures in Comparative Literature and Comparative Culture) (Shanghai: Fudan daxue chubanshe, 2004), 6–7.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

164

xu-lackner

be cited. For example, “The Road to Canossa” is a story about a power struggle between Pope Gregory VII and King Henry IV. The latter was forced to cross the Alps between December 1076 and January 1077, and then to stand barefoot for several days outside the gates of Canossa Castle where the Pope was residing. Eventually he was able to plead with the Pope for the order of his excommunication to be rescinded. This event gave birth to the idiom of going to “Canossa,” to describe doing penance, often with the connotation that it is unwilling or coerced. Let us take another example, the “Sword of Damocles,” an idiom made popular by the writings of Cicero, which originally referred to Damocles, a minister at the court of the tyrant Dionysius II of Syracuse, who praised the king as the most fortunate person in the state. One day, Dionysius invited him to his palace, had him wear a royal gown, and let him sit on the throne; above his head, however, was a sword suspended only by a single hair from a horse’s tail, the intention being to convey the message that although the king possesses fortune and power, he is nonetheless constantly faced by potential perils. This idiom is used to describe “precariousness” in all situations. In addition, there are one or two other idioms drawn from the Homeric epic, or Aesop’s Fables. However, in sharp contrast to these rare idiomaticizations of historical and mythological events, the list of Chinese examples is almost limitless. In the following, we will exclude expressions such as “spring up like mushrooms” (in Chinese, what “spring up” are not “mushrooms,” but “bamboo shoots”) or “kill two birds with one stone,” because these figures of speech are not drawn from historical events. Comparing the frequency of historical allusions in common expressions poses a question: is it simply the longue durée of the Chinese language that has resulted in the creation of so many idioms? Or do we have to assume a specific historical “consciousness” or awareness? I would like to introduce the phrase “the river from the remote source” in order to refer to the fundamentally historical features of the Chinese language. The historical heritage, the deep historical deposition and imprint on the language, and the “river running a long course” therefore means that the Chinese have long since accepted and used stories as vehicles of history. The “running” then relates to the various paths of dissemination. Those Chinese people surrounded by their “cultural field,” do they have a different type of understanding of certain cultural phenomena? In order to determine the impact of history in the guise of stories that have been crystallized into idioms, I suggest to take a look at the temple oracle. Let us examine Q&A for the Goddess of Mercy: How Guanyin Elaborates the 100 Fortune Lots (Bai shi wen Guanyin: Guanshiyin 100 lingqian jingjie 百事問觀音:觀世

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

romance of the three kingdoms

165

音 100 靈籤精解).5 Temple oracles may vary slightly from temple to temple. Booklets like the one examined with 100 sacred oracles are often sold in the vicinity of temples. Despite the variety of stories, one fact remains constant: each oracle references a popular ancient story. For the sake of my argument, I will only quote stories drawn from Romance of the Three Kingdoms6 because this novel is a vital part of the Chinese cultural field.

The 9th Good Oracle based on an Ancient Story: Zhuge Liang Deploying the Forces. Zhuge Liang 諸葛亮 (style Kong Ming 孔明) was given the title of military strategist by Liu Bei 劉備. When Xiahou led troops to attack Liu Bei, Kong Ming immediately directed the troops of Shu to fight against the forces of Wei, but Guan Yu and Zhang Fei 張飛 were not convinced. The two parties fought each other on the Slope of Bowang, resulting in the total victory of Liu Bei’s troops, due to the wise strategy of Zhuge Liang. Eventually, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei were convinced of the strategy. The 11th Good Oracle based on an Ancient Story: Jiang Wei Being Taught by Books. Jiang Wei 姜維 lived in the era of the Three Kingdoms. Originally, he was a Wei soldier and later became a general for Liu Bei. Jiang Wei was both brave and wise, and he was the person Zhuge Liang paid most attention to. Kong Ming marched to Mount Qi six times and went to Wuzhangyuan to die, as he already knew that he would soon pass away. One day, Jiang Wei entered the military camp where Kong Ming endowed him with all he had learned in his life, condensed into 24 books—104,112 words in total—including the Eight Services, the Seven Commandments, the Six Fears and the Five Laws, hoping Jiang could carry on Kong’s ambition and devote himself to Shu until his death. Soon after, Kong Ming died. The 17th Ordinary Oracle based on an Ancient Story: Cao Cao’s Smart Way of Motivating his Troops. Cao Cao 曹操 led his army into battle at a time when the weather was very hot and all the soldiers were sweating heavily, finding no water to drink. They were so thirsty and exhausted that they did not even have the strength to march forward. Cao Cao came up with an idea: He indicated that not far from them there was a forest of plum trees, where they could eat 5 Bai shi wen Guanyin: Guanshiyin 100 lingqian jingjie 百事問觀音: 觀世音 100 靈籤精解 (Q&A for the Goddess of Mercy: How Guanyin Elaborates the 100 Fortune Lots) (Hainan sheying meishu chubanshe, n.y.). 6 Luo Guanzhong, Three Kingdoms, trans. Moss Roberts, First Edition 1995, Sixteenth Printing 2013 (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1995).

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

166

xu-lackner

plums to quench their thirst. When they heard this good news, their mouths began to water and they forgot their thirst. The 29th Oracle based on an Ancient Story: Zhao Yun Rescuing A Dou. Zhao Yun 趙雲 was Liu Bei’s fierce general; A Dou 阿斗 (aka Liu Shan 劉禪) was the son of Liu Bei. Cao Cao was going to attack Liu Bei’s City of Fan, demanding Liu Bei to surrender, but Liu Bei refused. Kong Ming proposed that the city should be abandoned and fled to Jiangling for security. Liu Bei led hundreds of thousands of soldiers and residents to escape to Jiangling, Zhang Fei covered their retreat, Zhao Yun protected Liu Bei’s family. However, Cao Cao’s army chased them and in the chaos Liu Bei’s wife, Madam Mi, and his son, A Dou, were separated from the army. Zhao Yun looked everywhere and finally found them in a ruin. Zhao held A Dou in his arms and broke through the tight encirclement with his boundless strength, killing ten of Cao Cao’s generals. Zhang Fei blocked their way and Zhao Yun was eventually able to rescue A Dou. The following are more examples of oracles that are based on stories in Romance of the Three Kingdoms: The 32nd Ordinary Oracle based on an Ancient Story: Liu Bei’s Search for a Sage The 34th Ordinary Oracle based on an Ancient Story: Brotherhood Signed in the Peach Garden The 41st Ordinary Oracle based on an Ancient Story: Dongzhuo Enrolling Lubu The 44th Ordinary Oracle based on an Ancient Story: Traps by Jiang Wei and Deng Ai The 51st Good Oracle based on an Ancient Story: Zhuge Liang Entering Sichuan The 53rd Ordinary Oracle based on an Ancient Story: Liu Bei’s Marriage The 54th Bad Oracle based on an Ancient Story: Ma Chao Chasing the Cao Forces The 60th Bad Oracle based on an Ancient Story: Battle at the Red Cliffs The 82nd Ordinary Oracle based on an Ancient Story: Fire Attacks on the Hulu Valley The 89th Good Oracle based on an Ancient Story: Enrol Jiang Wei with Wisdom The 91st Ordinary Oracle based on an Ancient Story: Battle with Lubu in Three Rounds The 95th Ordinary Oracle based on an Ancient Story: Cao Pi Declares Himself Emperor Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

romance of the three kingdoms

167

The 97th Ordinary Oracle based on an Ancient Story: March to Mount Qi Six Times The 98th Bad Oracle based on an Ancient Story: Ji Ping Dies in an Accident Let us now turn to one example: How can certain literary elements be used to make predictions and what possible readings or interpretations can be generated out of that oracle? The 9th Oracle (see above) has a poem, the last lines of which read: “A sincere heart is bright and clear, like the full moon in the sky.” The poem is followed by an explanation saying “This oracle with its bright moon in the sky shows that all objectives can be achieved in brightness.” And another part of the explanation gives short four-syllable summaries, like “Straightforwardness of the heart,” “Smooth order, generous rules,” “The Sage has no selfish words,” “In the end there is clarity.” In the context of this oracle, the metaphorical use of “light” alludes to notions of “order,” “straightforwardness,” which, in turn, will enable the questioners to obtain their goal. The poem and its explanations are followed by a series of concrete applications for prognostic purposes: “Auspicious for house and family,” “Smooth development,” “Wealth in balance,” “Prospering commerce,” “Marriage concluded,” “Birth of a son,” “Lost items found,” “Diseases will be healed,” and so on. The four layers of the oracle text (historical example, poem, explanations, practical applications) provide the questioner with increasing concretization. However, all of them cover a common semantic field: The wise strategist makes a successful decision, which is based on his illuminated clarity. The decision is persuasive and it eventually overcomes the doubts of his comrades-in-arms. The historical situation of Zhuge Liang’s enlightened decision can be applied to a questioner’s situation and provides the questioner with an orientation of how to act; in the case of the 9th Oracle, the semantic field could be called “optimism because a wise decision is in reach.” Out of the one hundred oracles of this temple, eighteen stem from the Three Kingdoms, accounting for 18% in total. This figure provides evidence of the amazing popularity and influence of the story. In the following, I will take Romance of the Three Kingdoms as an example to observe the relationship between literature and allusions on the one hand, and fortune oracles on the other hand, and to make an argument for the impact of the literary implications of fortune oracles. There are innumerable studies on the Three Kingdoms in various fields, on its author, the era of its compilation, the various editions, its content, as well as its artistic techniques. Being neither an expert nor a researcher-to-be in this field, I am more interested in the impact of the “cultural field” formed by the novel on the attitude of people towards fortune telling.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

168

xu-lackner

A rough statistical survey by Liu Yanlei shows that the Three Kingdoms contains about 120 descriptions of disasters, auspiciousness and inauspiciousness, astrology, and dreams. “They are closely and evenly distributed throughout the narration.” Liu Yanlei writes, “by omens that foretell the vicissitudes of the state, they hint at the fate of the humans and reveal an alien force that reigns over the vast crowd of people who are constantly getting enmeshed in struggles emerging from their military resourcefulness, a force that governs the fluctuations of the human world. In the narration of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, this force is actually shrouded in a certain space beyond concrete history, which we call the ‘Space of Destiny’.”7 This “Space of Destiny” actually refers to a main thread in the novel that covertly controls all individual fates. From this perspective, it is by no means a mere coincidence that a large number of oracles in the temple originate from the Three Kingdoms; at least there is a family resemblance, to use Wittgenstein’s expression. In other words, so many relevant descriptions in just one novel facilitate the belief in prediction, namely that many events have their causes, all of which can be predicted and interpreted. Moreover, in spite of the prevalence of fictional elements, the Romance of the Three Kingdoms cannot be considered as mere fiction, but is rather a so-called historical novel crowded by historical persons of the period between 208 and 280 (the era of the Three Kingdoms). Therefore, the “Space of Destiny” conveys a sense of reality to the novel and makes it more credible. However, it is well known that Romance of the Three Kingdoms is the result of an accumulation over generations, and the fact that it now contains 120 descriptions about disaster, auspiciousness, astrology and dreams also indicates that in the process of growth, these parts were not removed, but in fact emphasized, which is identical to the “river which runs a long course from a remote source” mentioned earlier. Let us take Zhuge Liang’s “summoning the east wind” as an example, which is not recorded in the official history of the Three Kingdoms and has to be considered as merely fictional.8 “Everything is well prepared, only the east wind is lacking.” Every native speaker of Chinese probably knows this idiom. It means that everything is ready with the exception of an important detail. Perhaps some people who use this expression may not 7 Liu Yanlei 劉艷蕾, “Sanguo yanyi tianming kongjian xushi” 《三國演義》 天命空間敘事 (The space of destiny in the narration of The Three Kingdoms), Shandongkeji daxue xuebao [shehuikexueban] 山東科技大學學報 [社會科學版] (Journal of Shandong University of Science & Technology/Social Sciences) March (2005): 86. 8 Wang Yuntao 王運濤 and Wang Rui 王銳, “Lun chuanbo shiye zhong de sanguo yanyi 論 傳播視野中的 《三國演義》” (Romance of Three Kingdoms in the perspective of transmission), Shenyang daxue xuebao 瀋陽大學學報 (Journal of Shenyang University)18 (2006): 113–116.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

romance of the three kingdoms

169

know its precise source, but the majority of them are familiar with it. In Episode 49 of the Three Kingdoms, Zhou Yu 周瑜 decides to use fire to attack Cao Cao, but it was not the proper season, no east wind was blowing. “Kong Ming asked for paper and pen, asked the servants to leave the room and secretly wrote sixteen Chinese characters, with the meaning that if we want to defeat Cao Cao, we will have to use fire, so everything is ready except the east wind.” Then Zhuge Liang informed the others of his ability to summon the wind and rain thanks to his mysterious skills. Is that story credible? Actually, Chinese people will rarely ask such questions just because of the fact that the expression “everything is well prepared, only the east wind is lacking” is used so frequently. Of course, the part concerning the “east wind” can be dealt with in a variety of ways, as, for example, in the movie “Red Cliff,” directed by Wu Yusen 吳 宇森 in 2008, which weakened this important detail to a large extent. Here, in contrast to the novel, Zhuge Liang does not establish the “Seven-Star Stage” on Mount Nanping 南坪山, and there are no 120 servants waving flags, but the very moment he holds his breath, the wind starts to blow, and leaves are dancing around him. In the film, Zhuge Liang is wearing a white and elegant gown. We may interpret this scene as an attempt to convey an aesthetic momentum, but I am rather inclined to think that the director was reluctant to highlight Zhuge Liang’s mysterious capability to summon wind and rain. However, he did not want to omit it entirely, so he only met the basic needs of this part, giving it a very low profile. In fact, this part avoids popularizing superstition, but it does not totally abandon “cultural memory.” Designing scenarios that allow for belief and disbelief at the same time gives the audience more room for their imagination. “Cultural memory” results from cultural dissemination, which will be exemplified below through Romance of Three Kingdoms. In the article “Romance of Three Kingdoms in the Perspective of Transmission” (Lun chuanbo shiye zhong de “sanguo yanyi” 論傳播視野中的 《三國演 義》), Wang Yuntao and Wang Rui quote the popular “Five W-Modes of Communication” of Harold Lasswell,9 namely “Who,” “Says What,” “In Which/What Channel,” “To Whom” and “With What Effect.” The “Who” refers to the communicator: “In the constant communication during the long history enveloped in Romance of Three Kingdoms, the majority of communicators have formed a large team, in which there were relatively unknown persons, like Huo Sijiu 霍 四究, an artist who is said to have recited the history of the Three Kingdoms in the Song Dynasty. On the other hand, there were numerous famous writers, 9 Harold D. Lasswell, “The Structure and Function of Communication in Society,” in The Communication of Ideas. A Series of Addresses, ed. Lyman Bryson (New York: Institute for Religious and Social Studies: Distributed by Harper, 1948), 32–51.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

170

xu-lackner

like Chen Shou 陳壽 in the Western Jin Dynasty, Pei Songzhi 裴松之 in the Liu Song Dynasty 劉宋. Moreover, there were many literati who joined intentionally or unintentionally in the communication of the stories of the Three Kingdoms, such as Liu Yiqing 劉義慶 in the Song Dynasty, Li Shangyin 李商 隱 in the Tang Dynasty and Su Shi 蘇軾 in the Song Dynasty.” In other words, among the communicators, we have story-telling artists, eminent scholars and more or less anonymous persons from all areas of life. Huo Sijiu in the Song Dynasty could make a living by telling the stories of the Three Kingdoms, and showed an excellence in narrating that attracted a large audience. By doing this, he may have reinvented a large part of history by turning it into stories. Understandably enough, there is no documentation about this, while the participation of scholars in this process was usually well documented in writing. When it comes to the “What,” Wang Yuntao and Wang Rui remark, “the great achievement of Romance of Three Kingdoms, as an outstanding realistic novel, was an accurate and profound exposition of the sharp and complicated political struggles within the feudal society.”10 It depicts the wretched life of the people and their hatred for the ruling class through the depiction of the social unrest in the Three Kingdoms’ period, especially by exposing and criticizing tyrannical rulers like Cao Cao and Dong Zhuo 董卓. The relationship between solidarity, equality and loyalty that connects Liu, Guan and Zhang and their orthodox spirit are the reasons why the Romance of the Three Kingdoms is the most popular and influential for common people’s thinking. The description of political struggles and the expression of orthodoxy and loyalty are an integral part that explain the enthusiastic reception of the novel through the ages. However, the “Space of Destiny” has always been of great importance in the Three Kingdoms. It has answered the needs of the lower strata of society and has established the foundation for the transformation of Liu Bei, Guan Yu and Zhang Fei into deities. Guan Yu and Zhang Fei are the gods worshipped not only by secretive societies, but also by people from numerous industries, known as the Gods of Industry. Of course, Guan Yu is even the God of Gods, and the rulers of almost all dynasties were willing to raise the status of Guan Yu, an avatar of loyalty, filial piety and dedication, to protect the family and the country, as well as a figure inspiring the moral behaviour of the entire world. “In Which Channel” is vital for the argument of the present contribution, because it explains the reason why Romance of the Three Kingdoms occupies 16 oracles out of 100. Romance of the Three Kingdoms evolved from a dynastic history to oral transmission, consecutively to drama and finally to a novel, with

10

Wang Yuntao and Wang Rui, op. cit., 113.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

romance of the three kingdoms

171

diverse dissemination trajectories. “Before the formation of the documents of the Three Kingdoms, there were numerous performances of the Three Kingdoms in the Jin novels and the Yuan operas, which became the actual sources for the transformation of the story into a novel. After this transformation, the dramas of the Three Kingdoms became diversified and abundant, and bear witness to the burgeoning dissemination of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms.”11 According to a first survey on the repertoire of Peking Opera written by Tao Junqi, there were more than 140 types of drama on the Three Kingdoms, and the dictionary of Romance of the Three Kingdoms compiled by Shen Bojun enumerates 245 types of Peking Opera and 99 types of Sichuan Opera on the Three Kingdoms. The Repertoire Synopsis of Henan Traditional Dramas recorded 79 types of drama on the Three Kingdoms. And there were 147 types of Shanxi Local Drama. If we add the TV episodes of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, we can agree with Wang Ping’s conclusion that “there are a lot of people who have not read the text of the novel and very few of them have not seen or heard the dramas on Romance of the Three Kingdoms, but one should not blame them.”12 In the present era of the internet, Three Kingdoms-based video games such as “Killers of the Three Kingdoms” also entered the world of people fond of video games. On this basis and in the framework of the history of the evolution of the narrative, its popularity continues to produce a large number of allusions so deeply rooted in the Chinese language. This essence of cultural phenomena embedded in language condenses a story into a few phrases and idioms. Eventually the folk artists’ singing performances will increase the impact of the story and all these “channels” contribute to immerse every individual in the “cultural field”. In this regard, China differs from the West, where erudite allusions are the domain of educated people. In fact, the multitude of channels has been an efficient way to spread the contents of a novel, because very few Chinese people will claim to never have drawn a fortune stick in the temple. At the same time, the omnipresence of the Three Kingdoms will also, without doubt, enhance the public acceptance and belief in oracles. The openness of the Three Kingdoms also means that the “To Whom” of communication, i.e., the audience, consists of all levels of society. Wang Yuntao divides the audience of the Three Kingdoms into two categories: direct and indirect readers. Obviously, direct readers have read the text of the novel, while

11

12

Wang Ping 王平, “Sanguoxi yu Sanguoyanyi de chuanbo” 三國戲與 《三國演義》 的 傳播 (Three Kingdoms dramas and the transmission of Romance of the Three Kingdoms), Qilu xuekan 齊魯學刊 (Qilu journal) 189 (2005): 71–75. Ibid.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

172

xu-lackner

indirect readers accept the contents of novels by listening to recitations, watching movies and playing all manner of games. As a result, it is not an exaggeration to call the Three Kingdoms a part of the spiritual life of the Chinese people. The effect of the multi-faceted dissemination of the Three Kingdoms is obvious and accounts for its high status in China’s classical literature. Even nowadays it still has a great and “timeless” impact. Wang Yuntao thinks that the Three Kingdoms represents not only the dissemination of a story, but rather the dissemination of a culture. Consequently, he concluded that the spread of the Three Kingdoms was largely due to cultural traditions. To be sure, there was an already existing cultural impact on the novel, but it definitely was instrumental in creating new forms of cultural tradition. Guan Siping points out that the “Romance of the Three Kingdoms is not a historical novel of ancient times in the traditional sense, but is very similar to the Western epic. In a sense, the work is a “cultural classic,” which represents the cultural spirit of our nation within a certain historic development.”13 The majority of creators (or “communicators”) of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms originated in various different traditions, but the contents of the story share a lot of similarities in every aspect, and bear witness to the amazing and unique transmission channels. We have to emphasize the fact that the stories of the Three Kingdoms are familiar to all Chinese people. Therefore, Chinese people are fond of narrating the Three Kingdoms stories, meant to illustrate and clarify their view of truth, by simply referring to a historical figure or an event as a metaphor. In his analysis of the Three Kingdoms, Ye Zhuxuan suggests one should distinguish the latent social factors that have influenced the development of Chinese ancient literature by means of a distinction between “popular subconscious” and “literati and official consciousness.”14 In his view, the “popular subconscious” refers to the latent popular belief system, which includes the people’s “collective unconscious” forms of expression, while the “literati consciousness” is characterized by “elegant, elite” forms of expression. The consequence of this definition of “elite” is that the elite’s awareness can only exist among intellectuals, and is not sedimented in the lower strata of society. Ye

13

14

Guan Siping 關四平, Sanguo yanyi yuanliu yanjiu 《三國演義源流研究》 (A Study of Source Materials about the Romance of the Three Kingdoms). (Harbin: Heilongjiang chubanshe, 2001): 1. Ye Zhuxuan 葉鑄漩, “Guanyu sanguozhi tongsu yanyi zhong minjian qianzai yishi dishan tantao” 關於 《三國志通俗演義》 中民間潛在意識遞嬗的探討 (A study of the transformation of folk unconsciousness in Popular Romance of the Three Kingdoms) http:// artx.cn/artx/wenxue/95827_2.html. Accessed 8 March 2017.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

romance of the three kingdoms

173

Zhuxuan regards these two kinds of consciousness as independent, even mutually antagonistic, and self-contained. Using this concept of different groups can be helpful in examining the impact of social factors on the development of ancient literature. However, there are people who do not agree with Ye and even have opposing views. In my opinion, the idea of two forms of consciousness emphasizes differences between “high culture” and “low culture”; however, one has to acknowledge that both cultures share a common ground in terms of beliefs and customs, cosmological views and everyday life. In fact, fortune telling has been one of these “overlaps,” because—just to give one example— we can hardly imagine a member of the literati not consulting the almanac for an auspicious day for the wedding of his or her daughter. Moreover, despite all its shortcomings, the imperial examination system was based on the idea of meritocracy; to sum it up, “popular subconscious” and “literati and official consciousness” cannot be regarded as mutually exclusive. Let us briefly recall Ye Zhuxuan’s analysis of the Three Kingdoms. He believes that the long period of its accumulation gradually transformed it into its final version. In short, the story of the Three Kingdoms evolved from recitations and songs in the Sui and Tang Dynasties, to the narration in the Song Dynasty (that is, story-telling, dramas and “Pinghua”—folk stories) and the Jin and Yuan Dynasties, to the final version of the popular stories of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, which is the first novel divided into individual chapters in Chinese literary history. In his view, “because of its crowd-pleasing style, it [the Three Kingdoms] supported the popular subconscious, and at the same time the process of its transformation into a book as an historical accumulation effectuated a replacement within the realm of the popular unconscious.”15 In fact, this is equivalent to the “two-way impact” mentioned above. We may conclude that brochures like How Guanyin elaborates the 100 oracles are actually one of the most direct reflections of that “popular subconscious”. Thus, the particular characteristics of the Three Kingdoms also determine the frequent occurrence of its stories in the temple oracle. Other classic novels such as Water Margin, Journey to the West, Golden Lotus or Dream of Red Mansions cannot be considered as historical; and yet they also contain numerous familiar locutions, from which allusions, fixed phrasal words, idioms and other expressions originate, which have become a vital part of the Chinese language. Moreover, the influence of such literature on the orchestration of language is extremely extensive. At the conference at Fudan University in September 2016, Dong Xianghui points out that it is impossible

15

Ibid.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

174

xu-lackner

to interpret classical novels like the Dream of the Red Chamber without having knowledge of the theory of divination.16 Obviously, Three Kingdoms is the novel with the highest impact among the classic novels and it stands unchallenged for the enormous dissemination by such manifold channels as well as for its high acceptance throughout all levels of society. As far as the transmission channels are concerned, there is no literary work in the West that has generated so many deep-rooted elements in the language, with the exception of the Bible. In this context, I do not intend to discuss the subject of the relationship between language and thought in detail, but—at least from a pragmatic point of view—it is difficult to deny the connection between history, language and thought. Expressions like “Liu Bei Searching for Gifted People” or “Visiting Zhuge Liang’s Hut Three Times” are an example of sedimented historico-linguistic knowledge, which is available at any time and in any situation. If you get this oracle, a familiar historical model appears, it has to be adapted to your own particular situation, and you might even feel entitled to explore its significance on your own. This is a kind of “fusion of horizons” in Gadamer’s sense. Of course, this attitude of “belief and disbelief,” or rather the obligation to display a “disbelief” is also the result of a certain ideology. Lacking the catharsis through theories such as “negation of negation” and “reaction of the Enlightenment,” China’s mainstream ideology still holds on to a black-and-white attitude in treating divination and other issues. In this worldview, Kepler is a paragon of scientific revolution in the seventeenth century. All of us have studied “Kepler’s laws of planetary motion,” but there are probably few people who know that he also left to posterity more than a thousand horoscopes; a fact that has fallen into oblivion during the Enlightenment, but has been brought back to memory in recent developments in the history of science. However, when comparing the Chinese and the German Wikipedia entries, you can still find the interesting phenomenon that the Chinese version rejects Kepler’s astrological activities. In the Chinese version, Kepler was an astronomer and mathematician, but in the German version, he is also described as an astrologer and theologian, and even more interestingly, the German version mentions his activity as the astrological counsellor of Generalissimo Wallenstein. The Chinese version in contrast,

16

Dong Xianghui 董向慧, “Chuantong ‘suanmingshu’ yunhan de Zhongguoshi shehuixue lilun” 傳統 “算命術” 蘊含的中國式社會學理論 (Chinese-style sociological theories inherent in traditional “fate calculation”), paper presented at Zhongguo doushi yawenhua yantaohui: yi mingli wenhua wei zhongxin 中國都市亞文化研討會: 以命理文 化為中心 (Symposium on the culture of fate calculation), Fudan University, Shanghai, 2016 (unpublished manuscript).

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

romance of the three kingdoms

175

contents itself with a sentence on the “consultant of Wallenstein.” None of the versions mentions Kepler’s two horoscopes that influenced Wallenstein. In this sense, Theodor Fontane might have a point in his poem “Castle of Eger”: “Do not look up at the stars, save yourself, Wallenstein!” The characteristics of the formation of Chinese fiction have determined its popularity far more than any Western novel. This fact has provided the possibility to construct a specific semantic field. At the same time, many Chinese novels, especially the Three Kingdoms, have a distinctive typological characterization of their protagonists. For example, the typologizations of the generous Liu Bei, a kind emperor, and the treacherous Cao Cao are familiar to all readers. Typology also means that a character is endowed with a symbolic meaning, which also helped to establish a direct link between the literary roles and oracles. Ferdinand de Saussure assumes that a character consists of two components, signifier and signified. The composition is arbitrary before the two components are related to each other. However, the relationship between signifier and signified reaches a consensus after they are related to each other. Oracles are essentially a sign for recognizing one’s destiny. The signified and the interpretation are defined. They are limited by the “cultural field,” and even by the typified protagonists in literature, as we can see in the analysis of the Three Kingdoms. If one does not easily discredit fortune telling, then literary stories as vehicles of historical imagination definitely play a role in framing the Chinese cultural field.

Bibliography Anonymous. Bai shi wen Guanyin: Guanshiyin 100 lingqian jingjie 百事問觀音: 觀世 音 100 靈籤精解 (Q&A for the Goddess of Mercy: How Guanyin Elaborates the 100 Fortune Lots). Hainan: Sheying meishu chubanshe, n.y. Dong Xianghui 董向慧, “Chuantong ‘suanmingshu’ yunhan de Zhongguoshi shehuixue lilun” 傳統 “算命術” 蘊含的中國式社會學理論 (Chinese-style sociological theories inherent in traditional “fate calculation”), paper presented at “Zhongguo doushi yawenhua yantaohui: yi mingli wenhua wei zhongxinthe” 中國都市亞文化研討會: 以命理文化為中心 (Symposium on the culture of fate calculation). Fudan University, Shanghai, 2016 (unpublished manuscript). Guan Siping 關四平. Sanguo yanyi yuanliu yanjiu 《三國演義》 源流研究 (A Study of Source Materials about the Romance of the Three Kingdoms). Harbin: Heilongjiang chubanshe, 2001. Hanegraaff, Wouter J. Esotericism and the Academy. Rejected Knowledge in the West. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

176

xu-lackner

Lasswell, Harold D. “The Structure and Function of Communication in Society.” In The Communication of Ideas. A Series of Addresses, 32–51. Edited by Lyman Bryson. New York: Institute for Religious and Social Studies: Distributed by Harper, 1948. Li Fan 李帆 and Michael Lackner. “Jindai Zhongguo zhishi zhuanxing shiye xia de ‘mingxue’” (The “study of fate” in the epistemological transformation of modern China 近代中國知識轉型視野下的命學). Shehui kexue 社會科學 (Social science) 6 (2012): 147–154. Liu Yanlei 劉艷蕾. “Sanguo yanyi tianming kongjian xushi” 《三國演義》 天命空間敘 事 (The space of destiny in the narration of The Three Kingdoms). Shandong keji daxue xuebao [shehuikexue ban] 山東科技大學學報 [社會科學版] (Journal of Shandong University of Science & Technology/Social Sciences) March (2005): 86–89. Luo Guanzhong. Three Kingdoms. Translated by Moss Roberts, First Edition 1995, Sixteenth Printing 2013. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1995. Nedostup, Rebecca. Superstitious Regimes—Religion and the Politics of Chinese Modernity. Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2009. Wang Ping 王平. “Sanguo xi yu ‘Sanguo yanyi’ de chuanbo” 三國戲與 《三國演義》 的傳播 (Three Kingdoms dramas and the transmission of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms). Qilu xuekan 齊魯學刊 (Qilu journal) 189 (2005): 71–75. Wang Yuntao 王運濤 and Wang Rui 王銳. “Lun chuanbo shiye zhong de ‘sanguo yanyi’” 論傳播視野中的 《三國演義》 (Romance of Three Kingdoms in the perspective of transmission). Shenyang daxue xuebao 瀋陽大學學報 (Journal of Shenyang University) 18 (2006): 113–116. Xiong Yuezhi 熊月之. “Jindai Zhongguo dushuren de mingli shijie” 近代中國讀書人的 命理世界 (Modern Chinese intellectuals and numerology). Xueshu yuekan 學術月 刊 (Academic monthly), 9 (2015): 147–160. Ye Zhuxuan 葉鑄漩. “Guanyu “Sanguozhi tongsu yanyi” zhong minjianqianzai yishi dishan de tantao” 關於 《三國志通俗演義》 中民間潛在意識遞嬗的探討 (A study of the transformation of folk unconsciousness in Popular Romance of the Three Kingdoms). http://artx.cn/artx/wenxue/95827_2.html. Accessed 8 March 2017. Yue Daiyun 樂黛雲. Bijiao wenxue yu bijiao wenhua shi jiang 比較文學與比較文化十 講 (Ten Lectures in Comparative Literature and Comparative Culture). Shanghai: Fudan daxue chubanshe, 2004.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

chapter 10

Divination or Death Traps? The Semiotic Language in Chinese Folklore and Fortune-Telling Anna Wing Bo Tso

Chinese divination devices such as the Yi Jing 易經 (I-Ching) are well-known for their mathematical systems in making predictions for the future. Rather than being perceived as the occult, in the Chinese culture, divination is often considered as statistical science, a calculator that measures the probability of success. Despite the seemingly scientific systems, the oracle given by the mathematical devices will still need to involve language in the interpretation. Interestingly, the divination language is very different from the Symbolic language, namely the communication language system that conforms to phonetic, phonological, syntactic and semantic rules. While the Symbolic language is governed by the Phallus, the universal signifier that structures logic, law, science, and civilization, the divination language is a feminine one characterized by ambiguity, false syllogism, tricky reversals, inconsistent shifts, and at times an absent presence. It tricks and mocks the masculine subject for his exclusive dependence on sight, reason, and rationality. As Herndl puts it, “A feminine language lives on the boundary. A feminine text overthrows the hierarchies. It is absence-silence-madness present-speaking-sane.”1 In this chapter, I will look into Chinese folklore such as The Generals of the Yang Family and discuss how the Semiotic language in Chinese prognostication and fortune-telling verses lulls blind masculine subjects into a false sense of security and leads them to their doom.

1

The Shu 數 in Chinese Divination and Linguistics

Divination in traditional China is called “shushu” 術數. The Chinese people believed it was a systematic study under the division of mathematics,2 just as 1 Diane Price Herndl, “The Dilemmas of a Feminine Dialogic,” in Feminism, Bakhtin, and the Dialogic, ed. Dale M. Bauer and Susan Jaret McKinstry (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991), 11. 2 Peng Yoke Ho, Chinese Mathematical Astrology: Reaching out to the Stars (London and New York: Routledge Curzon, 2003), 8–9.

© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2020 | doi:10.1163/9789004427570_012 Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

178

tso

geography is the scientific study of Earth, psychology the study of the mind, and biology the study of life. “Shushu” 術數 includes but is not limited to the meaning of mathematics and calculation: [Shu 數] embraces not only ‘mathematics’ and ‘numerology’ but also ‘calendrical science’ and ‘prognostications from the calendar’ (lishu 曆數) as well as the ‘fate and destiny’ of people and things at various levels, from the country as a whole to the individual.3 Inevitably, the unfolding of fate and destiny is but an impossible dream, since statistically, the calculation of the infinitude of uncertainty is unfeasible. As early as about 290BCE, Zhuangzi 莊子, the Daoist philosophical classic had already made the advice that human beings should not attempt to express “shu” 數, or what is now usually translated as destiny code, in words or render its meaning into a translation or any language: There is something which one gets from without and responds to from within but cannot express in words. It is the shu that exists in it.4 Yet, taking no heed of Zhuangzi’s advice, Chinese astrologists never cease from their zealous practice of destiny prediction and fortune-telling. In many ways, this fate-calculating obsession is largely similar to the linguists’ obstinate quest for studying how language works. David Crystal, the renowned British linguist, describes linguistics as the “scientific study of language.”5 The “linguistic ‘state of mind’”, as Crystal explains, is “a way of looking at language that can provide fresh and revealing facts or explanations about the structure and use of language.”6 Unfortunately, as in the case of fate calculation and destiny prediction, even if the linguists try their best to calculate meticulously all the extrinsic forms and structures of language that attribute meaning to entities, still linguistics has its boundaries, which lie within the linguistic rules of grammar, syntax and propriety in vocabulary. A text is not an enclosed space of unity and harmony. Instead, it is “an open space of different views, voices, values, attitudes,

3 Ibid., 13. 4 Quoted in Ho Peng Yoke and F. Peter Lisowski, Concepts of Chinese Science and Traditional Healing Arts: A Historical Review (Singapore: World Scientific Publishing, 1993), 13. 5 David Crystal, “The Structure of Language,” in Teaching Literacy: Balancing Perspectives, ed. R. Beard (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1993), 18. 6 Ibid.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

divination or death traps?

179

and ideologies, which invites different and conflicting interpretations” across time.7 More significantly, the systematic and scientific study in linguistics can never fully fathom the intrinsic gaps, obscurity, indefinability, paradox, and infinitude of language use, in particular in the realm of art, music, poetry, holiness, and madness. “[Any] text (and any subject) is polyvalent, polylogical, plural, unfixed.”8 We have to admit that human beings’ capacity to know is indeed limited. “Shu” 數, or the “pursuit of the entirety of empirical knowledge,”9 can neither be accurately measured nor fully achieved in the field of linguistics or Chinese divination. Zhuangzi 莊子 stated that the exclusive dependence on sight, reason, calculation, and the rule-governed aspect of language is shallow and extrinsic: Not knowing 不知 (buzhi) is profound and knowing is shallow. Knowing has to do with what’s extrinsic; not knowing has to do with what’s intrinsic.10 Zhuangzi 莊子 called the “knowledge of not knowing” “zhenzhi” 真知 (true knowledge). Without such humble wisdom in realizing one knows nearly nothing, the study of language and divination is dangerously blind. If the mere reliance on linguistics is dangerous, then the blind faith in the divination language is doubly so, if not deadly. As folklore and tales have revealed, the fluid nature of fortune-telling verses can be death traps for many. The tricky and unstable language in divination can lull people into a false sense of security, which can later on lead them to their doom. In the following, in the light of Julia Kristeva’s theory of the Semiotic and the Symbolic, I will first explain why “shushu” 術數 and linguistics, both as statistical and empirical science, maybe lack “zhenzhi” 真知 (true knowledge). Afterwards, I will discuss the playful and temptingly deceptive language in several Chinese fortune-telling verses.

7 8 9

10

Mingdong Gu, Chinese Theories of Reading and Writing: A Route to Hermeneutics and Open Poetics (New York: State University of New York Press, 2005), xi. Julia Kristeva, “Revolution in Poetic Language,” in The Kristeva Reader, ed. Toril Moi (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986), 127. Xiaogan Liu and Yama Wong, “Three Groups of the Outer and Miscellaneous Chapters,” in Dao Companion to Daoist Philosophy, ed. Xiaogan Liu (New York, London: Springer, 2015), 225. Qingfan Guo, Zhuangzi jishi 莊子集釋 (Annotations of Zhuangzi) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1978), 757.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

180

tso

1.1 Julia Kristeva’s the Semiotic and the Symbolic Built on Jacques Lacan’s theory of language, Julia Kristeva asserts that language is composed of two interdependent aspects: the Semiotic and the Symbolic. The Semiotic is the pre-Oedipal feminine phase in which the infant (the subject) has neither formed a stable sense of self, nor acquired the “language proper”11 to produce any discrete, meaningful, and understandable texts yet. In the Semiotic phase, all that the infant can produce are just unconscious utterances of rhythms and intonations that express its multiple primary libidinal drives. Being divided, decentered and incoherent, the infant depends totally on the maternal body during this early stage of personality development. Then, what comes after the Semiotic is the Symbolic phase regulated by the Law of the Father. Superimposed on the Semiotic, the paternal law represses the infantile drives and “structures all linguistic signification,”12 which includes grammar, logic, mathematics, science, law and order, as well as civilization. Systematic and scientific studies such as linguistics and “shushu” 術數 are also part of the Symbolic. When the child enters the Symbolic phase, i.e. the domain of rules, positions and propositions, he/she will start to form a stable self-identity, separate from the maternal body, and begin to acquire his/her “first phonemes, morphemes, lexemes and sentences,”13 namely the formal grammatical structures and then the patriarchal construct in society. Noticeably, just as the Symbolic seems to be in total control, the repressed Semiotic will return and disrupt the syntactic structures of the Symbolic Order in all means, including in the form of dreams, unconsciousness, creativity, imagination, and/or any non-communicative articulations, thus haunting the speaking subject ‘I’ which is governed by the paternal law. The fluid and feminine Semiotic, as Sarup explains, “overflows its boundaries in those privileged ‘moments’ Kristeva specifies in her triad of subversive forces: madness, holiness and poetry.”14 As a matter of fact, “the [S]emiotic always manifest itself within the [S]ymbolic.”15 By “zhenzhi” 真知 (the knowledge of not knowing),

11 12 13

14 15

Jon Cook, Poetry in Theory: An Anthology, 1900–2000 (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004), 437. Judith Butler, “The Body Politics of Julia Kristeva,” Hypatia 3.3 (1989): 104. Julia Kristeva, Desire in Language: A Semiotic Approach to Literature and Art, trans. Thomas Gorz, Alice Jardin, and Leon S. Roudiez (New York: Columbia University Press, 1980), 133. Madan Sarup, An Introductory Guide to Post-Structuralism and Postmodernism (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1993), 124. Peter J. Sabo, “Impossible Mourning: Lamentations as a Text of Melancholia” (PhD diss., University of Alberta, 2010), 59.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

divination or death traps?

181

Zhuangzi 莊子 indeed addresses the Semiotic. The Semiotic is the loophole, the nameless, the uncertainty, and the uncontrollable variables in the signifying function of language. It occurs particularly frequent in divination language, which always plays deadly tricks on the masculine subject who excessively depends on logic and syntax, not knowing what he does not know. One typical example is that in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Macbeth is tricked and led to a false sense of security by two prophecies, “The power of man, none of woman born/shall harm Macbeth” (Act 4 Scene 1)16 and “Macbeth shall never vanquished be until/Great Birnam Wood to high Dunsinane Hill/ shall come against him” (Act 4 Scene 1).17 Now, we all know that the “none of woman born” prophecy refers to Macduff who was born by Cesarian section, and the “Great Birnam Wood” prophecy turns out to be Malcolm’s army camouflaged with tree branches cut from Birnam Wood. Yet, before Shakespeare unfolded the plot, who could have seen through the Semiotic tricks? Note that the fluid Semiotic not only strikes in the manner of false syllogism and ambiguous metaphors, but also violates the semantic and syntactic systems. Since the Chinese language is well-known for its versatile grammar rules, complex phonological system (especially the use of pitch to distinguish lexical and grammatical meaning), flexible pictograms and ideograms, as well as its multiplication of meaning, the Chinese divination language can be extremely vulnerable to the Semiotic attacks. 1.2 Inflection and Derivation, the Shield against the Semiotic In many languages, there is an inflectional system to mark each word’s function in a sentence. Grammatical categories such as tense, case, voice, aspect, person, number, gender, and mood18 can all be identified through the morphology of words. By looking at the morphology, especially the ends of words, inflected-language users can normally tell what role each word is playing in a sentence. Take Latin, the root of European languages as an example. The Latin verb “ducam,” which means “I will lead” in English, has the inflectional suffix “am,” expressing person (first), number (singular), and tense (future). As can be seen, the strict inflectional grammar rules dictate word and sentence construction. Clarity and great precision of thought are necessary in all expressions. It is therefore predictable that a language as heavily inflected as Latin is quite

16 17 18

William Shakespeare, Macbeth (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 195. Ibid. Victoria Fromkin, Robert Rodman and Nina Hyams, An Introduction to Language (Wadsworth: Cengage Learning), 50.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

182

tso

resistant to ambiguity. Likewise, in the English sentence “I am Anna,” the auxiliary verb “am” expresses the grammatical functions of person (first), number (singular), and tense (simple present).

2

The Chora in the Chinese Syntax

However, in the Chinese language, the syntactic hooks are relatively loose and abstract. There is no such concept as the inflectional and derivational system in the morphology of the Chinese logographs.19 All Chinese words are monosyllabic invariants which can each stand alone as a free and isolated morpheme. They never change forms to indicate grammatical functions. In addition to inflection, the Chinese words are also resistant to derivation. Unlike most languages where the part of speech can be determined by the derivational prefix or suffix, Chinese words take no affixes. It is therefore hard to tell whether a Chinese word is a noun or a verb, a cardinal or an ordinal, an adjective or an adverb, etc. Worse still, the word order in the Chinese language is just as versatile. Unlike English sentences, which usually follow the standard word order of subject-verb-object (S-V-O), Chinese sentences do not necessarily follow the word order. In fact, in many cases, Chinese sentences don’t even need the subject. The subject can be ellipsed. To determine the part of speech of a Chinese word, one can only study the context. As such, if the context is not fully and explicitly spelled out, ambiguity shall occur at all syntactic levels. The Symbolic can no longer remain hegemonic. It is defenseless in the face of the Semiotic chora. According to Kristeva’s Revolution in Poetic Language (1984): The chora is not yet a position that represents something for someone (i.e., it is not a sign); nor is it a position that represents someone for another position (i.e., it is not yet a signifier either).20 More specifically, the chora inhibits the stability of the speaking subject. Sarup identifies the chora as a hot bed for subversion: The chora defines and structures the limits of the child’s body and its ego or identity as a subject. It is the space of the subversion of the subject, 19 20

Anna Wing Bo Tso, “Masculine Hegemony and Resistance in Chinese Language,” Writing from Below 2.1 (2014): 1. Julia Kristeva, “Revolution in Poetic Language,” 26.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

divination or death traps?

183

the space in which the death drive emerges and threatens to engulf the subject, to reduce it to the inertia of non-existence.21 In Shaobing Ge 燒餅歌 (Pancake poem, 1368), a Chinese prophecy book ascribed to Liu Ji 劉基 (1311–1375A.D.), the divine Chinese Nostradamus in the Yuan-Ming transition, the divination language is mostly poetic, vague and ambiguous. Readers in early Ming dynasty could hardly understand the divination verses and realize what lay in front of them in the future. For example, when Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang 朱元璋, founder of the Ming dynasty, asked Liu Ji for the future predictions of his Kingdom, Liu made the mystic divination verse, “The Majesty and his men fought hard for the city; the Nation is eternally happy and peaceful. What better prophecy could there be?” (此城御 駕盡親征, 一院山河永樂平) On the surface, the prophecy seems to reveal a good omen—Yet the devil is in the details. The Chinese word 平 has at least two meanings: “peaceful” (adjective), or “to be eradicated or destroyed” (verb). Thus, the divination verse can be interpreted in two ways: Source text: 一院山河 永 樂 平 1st interpretation: The kingdom is eternally happy & peaceful. 2nd interpretation: The kingdom is eternally happily destroyed. The first interpretation sounds more sensible in normal circumstances. The reason is that 樂平 (happy and peaceful) is a common collocation, and it is common sense that “happily” and “destroyed” don’t normally go together. Yet, as history reveals, the divination has nothing at all to do with happiness. Rather, it can be read as a prophecy regarding violent battles within the royal Zhu family.22 Zhu Yuanzhang’s grandson, Zhu Yunwen 朱允炆 was appointed as the second emperor of Ming, but soon his kingdom was violently taken and seized by Zhu Di 朱棣, the fourth son of Zhu Yuanzhang, who became the third emperor. Having chosen Yongle 永樂 (which means eternal happiness) as his reign title, Zhu Di was later on known to all as Yongle Emperor 永樂大帝 (literal translation: Emperor of eternal happiness). Hence, the true meaning in the divination should be read as follows: Source text: 一院山河 永樂 平 True meaning: Zhu Yunwen’s kingdom falls; Yongle destroys it. 21 22

Madan Sarup, An Introductory Guide to Post-Structuralism and Postmodernism, 124. Mingyang Xue 薛明揚, Zhong Guo gu dai yu yan 中國古代預言 (Ancient prophecies in China) (Beijing: Jiuzhou chubanshe, 2008), 40.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

184

tso

For Zhu Yunwen, Liu’s divination is indeed a tricky reversal which offers a false sense of security. The chora latent in Liu’s divine verse creates indeterminacies and disrupts the signifying function of the syntactic structure. Meanwhile, the prophecy is immaculately accurate. The absent presence mocks anyone who tries to crack the divination code.

3

Ambiguity in Chinese Cardinal and Ordinal Numbers

Cardinal numbers and ordinal numbers in the Chinese Language are equally vulnerable to the deadly tricks of the Semiotic chora. Grammatically, Chinese ordinal numbers are formed by adding the word “di” 第 (sequence) before the cardinal number:

Cardinal number Ordinal number 一 (one) 二 (two) 三 (three) 四 (four) 五 (five)

第一 (first) 第二 (second) 第三 (third) 第四 (fourth) 第五 (fifth)

The problem of the Chinese numeration system is that it is not supported by singular and plural inflection marks. Moreover, under the lenient Chinese syntactic rules, adding di 第 (sequence) before the cardinal number is not compulsory. For example, “san nü” 三女 can refer to either “three women” or “the third woman.” Without complete knowledge of the context, one can never figure out whether “san” 三 refers to the cardinal number “three” or the ordinal number “third.” The inflection-free noun “nü” 女 is not giving any hints on the role about the word “san” 三 either. Such looseness in the Chinese language systems opens all doors to the Symbolic. In The Generals of the Yang Family 楊家將 (Yang jia jiang), the patriotic Yang family was about to send seven of their warrior sons off to war to defend the Song dynasty from the Tartars in the early 10th century A.D.23 Though the fam-

23

Keith Stevens and Jennifer Welch, “The Yang Family of Generals: Yang Chia Chiang,” Journal of the Hong Kong Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society 37 (1998): 39.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

divination or death traps?

185

ily was unwaveringly loyal to the national military army, everyone in the family was worried because all seven Yang generals were sent to the most dangerous battle fields with only few soldiers and little ammunition.24 In 986 A.D., the year during which the seven Yang generals joined the war, the old Madam Yang sought advice from Guiguzi’s 鬼谷子 sign divination, and the following was the divination revealed to her eldest son: Source text: 當知天命難違, 此行七子去六子回。

In English:

Heaven’s will cannot be thwarted; Seven will set off, six will return.

The divination message seemed to imply that the seven sons of the Yang family should take the King’s order and set off to war, and at the end, six of them shall return. Having taken the advice from Guiguzi’s divination, the Yang family accepted the unfair military arrangement and sent all seven Yang generals to war. Most unfortunately, the ambiguous Chinese number system was misleading. All six Yang generals died in the battle. Only Yang Yanzhao 楊延昭, the sixth son 六郎 (Liu lang) managed to fight his way back home. What Guiguzi’s divination really means is: seven sons will set off, but only the sixth son will return. The deadly Semiotic chora is in the inconsistent shift between the cardinal number, “qi” 七 (seven) and ordinal number, “liu” 六 (six). The Yang family had made a wrong decision based on a divination message with a Semiotic trick.

4

Elusiveness in the Chinese Numeration System

Another tricky aspect of the Chinese numeration system is that the digits in Chinese numbers do not have any place value at all. While it is a decimal system where counting is based on ten numerals (i.e. the multiples of 10) such as 10, 100, 1,000 and 10,000, it does not follow the positional system. As opposed to a system like the Arabic numerals, in the Chinese numeration system, the value of a digit in a number does not depend on its position. Rather, it relies on the spoken form of that number. Chinese written characters such as “shi” 十, “bai” 百, “qian” 千, “wan” 萬, “yi” 億 are used to represent the units digit, tens digit, hundreds digit, thousands digit, ten thousands digit,

24

Tan Ye, Historical Dictionary of Chinese Theater (Plymouth, UK: Scarecrow Press, 2008), 144.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

186

tso

and billions digit. The standard written forms of Chinese numerals reflect their spoken forms, just as follows:

Value

Represented in Chinese characters

10 20 100 200 1,000 2,000 10,000 20,000 100,000,000 200,000,000

十 二十 一百 二百 一千 二千 一萬 二萬 一億 二億

Unfortunately, the spoken forms of Chinese numerals can vary greatly in different circumstances. Written Chinese numerals are thus equally variable. For example, 20 days can be spoken and written as either “er shi ri” 二十日 (literally means “two ten days”) or “shuang xun” 雙旬 (literally means “double ten days”). “shuang” 雙 can be defined as “double,” which is an absolute synonym of “er” 二 in this case, and “xun” 旬 can be defined as “10 days,” which is identical to “shi ri” 十日. Yet, these Chinese numeral terms must be used according to customs and conventions. Regrettably, there are no stable grammatical rules to rule out the inconsistency in the usage. For example, “shuang shi ri” 雙十日 means 10th of October, but not 20 days. Also, “er xun” 二旬 does not mean 20 days at all. It is a funeral term commonly known as “er qi” 二七 (literally means “two sevens”), which actually refers to the 14th day after death. The semantic relationships of these Chinese numeral terms can be summarized in the following: 二=雙=2 十日 = 旬 = 10 days 二十日 = 雙旬 = 20 days

Yet, 雙十日 = 10th of October≠20 days 二旬 = 二七 = 14 days≠20 days

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

divination or death traps?

187

With such elusiveness in the Chinese numeration system, the Law of the Father loses ground, deeming the Chinese language defenseless against the unpredictable attack of the Semiotic. In the Northern Qi 北齊 (bei qi), Gao Yang 高洋, also known as Emperor Wenxuan of Northern Qi 北齊文宣帝 (beiqi wenxuan di, 526–559A.D.), once visited a divine monk at Mount Taishan and sought his advice about the length of his reign:25 Source text: 帝曾問太山道士曰:「吾得幾年為天子?」 答曰:「得三十年。」

In English:

The Emperor asked the monk at Mount Taishan, “How long can I reign for?” The monk answered, “You have three ten years.”

The divination was an accurate one, but what happened was that Gao Yang reigned for 10 years rather than 30 years, and he died on the 10th of October. Similar to the case of “shuang shi ri” 雙十日 mentioned above, here “san shi nian” 三十年 means there are three tens—the 10th day of the 10th month of the 10th year. Had the divination been expressed in Arabic or English, the answer would have been direct and straightforward. Neither the Arabic decimal positional system nor the grammatical rules in the English numerals would allow ambiguity in the numerical expression of “30” or the English expression of “thirty days.” Only the elusive Chinese numeration system has the deceptive power of lulling the message receiver into a false sense of security.

5

Polysemy in the Chinese Lexicon

Another irresistible subversion of the Semiotic comes through the polysemous nature of the Chinese lexicon. In linguistics, polysemy is defined as “the existence of several meanings for a single word or phrase.”26 For example, the Chinese word “po” 破 (which literally means “to break”) can be syntactically categorized as a verb and an adjective. At least thirteen meanings can be identified under the word, such as “po di” 破敵 (meaning “to defeat enemies”), “po chan” 破產 (meaning “to go bankrupt”), “po an” 破案 (meaning “to solve a criminal case”), “pojiu lixin” 破舊立新 (meaning “to eliminate the old custom”), “po 25 26

Li Yanshou 李延壽, Bei shi 北史 (History of the northern dynasties), Vol. 7 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, [1974] 1987), 262. Jia-Fei Hong, Verb Sense Discovery in Mandarin Chinese—A Corpus Based Knowledgeintensive Approach (Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag, 2015), 11.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

188

tso

guan” 破關 (meaning “to go through a checkpoint”), and “po ti wei xiao” 破涕 為笑 (meaning “to turn tears into smiles”).27 One typical kind of perdition divination involves the language game of polysemy, confusing the masculine subject who is desperate for fate calculation but blind to the uncontrollable factors posed by the Semiotic chora. In 1931, Chen Chi-tang 陳濟棠 (Chen Jitang), Chairman of the government of Guangdong Province, planned to turn against Chiang Kai-shek 蔣介石, leader of the Republic of China. As the commander of a fleet of forty fighter jets, Chen felt that he had a high chance to win, but before he made up his mind, he sought advice from Weng Banxuan 翁半玄, a famous fortune-teller. The divination says: Source text: 機不可失。 English translation: Opportunity knocks but once. Literal translation: Opportunity cannot be lost. The divination was an instant boost to Chen’s confidence. Chen took full action in turning against Chiang, only to end up losing all his air force. The plot was a total failure. Reflecting on Weng Banxuan’s divination, people finally realized that “ji” 機 has two meanings: it can refer to “opportunity,” or the “jets.” The true meaning is: “the jets must not be lost.” An excessive dependence on the signifying function of language with no insight becomes the constraint and a fatal trap of the male subject.

6

Morphological Riddles in Chinese Characters

Besides the polysemous Chinese lexicon, the Semiotic permeates the Chinese language through its characters too. The moment when a Chinese word conveys its dictionary meaning, multiple layers of meaning also come through the Chinese word’s morphology, inviting the reader/user to interpret the deep meaning embedded in the radical and different components in the Chinese character. Take the Chinese pictographic character “gu” 蠱 as an example: The Chinese character “蠱” refers to black magic or voodoo of witches and wizards. It is an ancient word derived from pictures. The word consists of two parts: the lower part of the word is “皿,” which is a basin; the

27

Harvey Hsin-chang Ho, “The Polysemy of PO in Mandarin Chinese” (PhD diss., National Taiwan Normal University, 2001), 4–5.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

divination or death traps?

189

upper part of the word, on the other hand, is made up of three “虫,” which is a symbol of insects. By just looking at the word, one can imagine the gruesome picture—a full basin of crawling insects, which is used as the ingredient of evil, black magic.28 Thanks to the rich and labyrinthine graph features of Chinese characters, Chinese graph analysis, or more specifically the art of dissecting the component parts of a Chinese character, is largely used as “a mnemonic guide for the learner,”29 as well as a literary device for creative language games such as riddles, puns, enigmas and satires, “in which several graphs refer to one expression or idea.”30 More significantly, Chinese graph analysis can be used for cezi 測字 (glyphomancy), “a paronomastic device or a divinatory technique”31 for predicting the future. Cezi can be highly accurate, but the divine message almost always appears only as an absent presence, which can be very difficult to decipher when concealed by the surface meaning of the Chinese characters. The absent presence of the prognostication becomes visible to the glyphomancer if he/she manages to let go of the excessive reliance on sight and reason, dissect the enigmatic graphic components of the Chinese character, and reveal the divine signs of the fluid language, which can be hidden in riddles, metaphors and false syllogism. However, if the glyphomancer has discovered the divine omen about the dynasty or kingdom, it is a common practice that the cezi riddle would be kept confidential during the dynasty, or at least, the reign period. As Beck explains, “Prognostications surfaced wherein the length of the dynasty was foretold, and omens no longer simply expressed Heaven’s anger, but seemed to point to a complete dynastic change.”32 It is understandable that for personal safety reasons, the glyphomancer would only reveal the answer key to the cezi riddle when a new era name or reign title was published by a new emperor. Dynasty after dynasty, numerous Chinese emperors used seemingly grand era names and

28

29 30 31 32

Anna Wing Bo Tso, “The Reinvention of the ‘Femmes Fatales’ in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials (1995–2000) and its Chinese Translation,” SPECTRUM: NCUE Studies in Language, Literature, Translation and Interpretation 7 (2010): 61. Bernhard Führer, “Seers and Jesters: Predicting the Future and Punning by Graph Analysis,” East Asian Science, Technology, and Medicine 25 (2006): 47. Ibid., 51. Ibid., 47. B.J. Mansvelt Beck, “The Fall of Han,” in The Cambridge History of China: Volume 1, The Ch’in and Han Empires, 221 B.C.–A.D. 220, eds. Denis Twitchett and Michael Loewe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), 359.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

190

tso

regal reign titles without realization of the secret divination hidden in the reign titles. Intriguingly, time after time, doomed masculine subjects were distracted by the obvious surface meaning of the names and titles, turning a blind eye to the prognostication which could have been a warning of danger and death traps ahead. In the Eastern Jin Dynasty, Sima Rui 司馬睿, the Emperor Yuan of Jin 晉元 帝 chose Yong Chang 永昌 as his reign title. Literally, “yong” 永 means everlasting, and “chang” 昌 means prosperity. It was a common perception that “yong chang” 永昌 was a lucky name. Ironically, Sima Rui only ruled for 5 years (318– 323A.D.) before he died in the new year of A.D. 323. During his reign, he also witnessed irreversible gradual loss of territory in his kingdom. Shortly afterwards, Guo Pu 郭璞, the renowned “fung shui” master and prognosticator in Eastern Jin period, explained that the “ri” 日 means “sun” and it has long been a symbol of the emperor. The character “chang” 昌 contains two suns, which is a bad omen indicating the not at all peaceful years ending with the death of the emperor.33 Guo quoted Confucius’ saying: Source text: 天無二日, 民無二王。34

In English:

Heaven does not have two suns; the people do not have two kings.

Sugar-coated reign titles with toxic curse were used by many other Chinese lords and kings too, including the Prince of Yuzhang 豫章王 and the Prince of Wuling 武陵王 in the Southern Liang dynasty (Nan liang 南梁, 502–587 A.D.). In A.D.551, the reign title “Tian zheng” 天正 was used, which was derived from the Chinese classic Laozi 老子: Source text: 清静者為天下正。35 In English: Those who are at peace with nature bring all under Heaven into its correct pattern.

33 34 35

Quoted in Sarah Allan, The Shape of the Turtle: Myth, Art, and Cosmos in Early China (New York: State University of New York Press, 1991), 25. Chinese Classics: Chinese-English Series Mencius Volume Two, trans. D.C. Lau (Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 1984), 184. Quoted in Lee Sun Chen, Laozi’s Daodejing—From Philosophical and Hermeneutical Perspectives: The English and Chinese Translations Based on Laozi’s Original Daoism (Bloomington: iUniverse, Inc, 2011), 256.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

divination or death traps?

191

The literal meaning of “Tianxia zheng” 天下正 is “heavenly correct”, which implies it is Heaven’s will that the emperor should rule. Least expected by the princes, “Tian xhang” 天正 carries a deadly omen hidden beneath its surface. When graphic components of the two Chinese characters are dissected, the glyphomantic message can be read as follows: Source text: In English: Source text: In English:

天=二+人

Heaven = two + men 正=一+止 Correct = one + terminal

In other words, the following is foretold: Source text: 兩人當皇帝,一年就停止。 In English: Two men became kings, but the reign ended in one year. As fated, only two men, the Prince of Yuzhang and the Prince of Wuling, reigned within the “Tian zheng” 天正 Era of the Southern Liang dynasty; as predicted by glyphomancy, the reign of the two emperors last for exactly one year. The mocking jokes of the Semiotic language have never ceased to be satiric towards the masculine subjects. In 547A.D., Usurper Hou Jing 侯景 (503–552 A.D.), a general from Eastern Wei 東魏, started attacking the Liang 梁 dynasty. Having invaded and took control of the city Jiankang 建康, Hou Jing made himself king in 551 A.D. As recorded in The History of the Southern Dynasties (Nan shi 南史), Hou Jing was proud of his surname “Hou” 侯 and he often boasted that he was destined to be king because of his surname:36 侯 Source text: 侯字人邊作主,下作人,此明是人主也。 In English: In the word Hou, man (亻) is the radical, overseeing people (人) in the lower component. Obviously, I am the master.

Chinese graph analysts and his contemporaries did agree with Hou Jing. However, like a black humour, they also predicted that Hou Jing’s rule will only last for 100 days:

36

Quoted in Wen bai dui zhao er shi liu ren wu quan zhuan 文白對照二十六史人物全 傳 (Annotated version twenty-six historical biography: historical figures), editorial board of Wen bai dui zhao er shi liu ren wu quan zhuan (Beijing: Jiuzhou tushu chubanshe, 1998).

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

192

tso

Source text: 侯景必得為帝,但不久耳。 破 ‘侯景’ 字成『小人百日天子』,為帝當得百日。 In English: Hou Jing will certainly be king, but not for long. If one dissects the characters ‘Hou’ and ‘Jing’, one gets ‘a lowly person’, ‘a hundred days’ and ‘the son of heaven’, which means Hou Jing will only rule for about 100 days. When the morphology of the characters “hou” 侯 and “jing” 景 are dissected, it appears that “hou” 侯 can be broken down into three free morphemes— “ren tian zi” 人天子, and “jing” 景 can be split into three other free morphemes “xiao bai ri” 小百日. Should “ren tian zi” 人天子 and “xiao bai ke” 小百日 be resequenced into a meaning and grammatical sentence, “xiao ren” 小人 (a lowly or petty person) “bai ri” 百日 (one hundred days) “tian zi” 天子 (a son of heaven) is the result: Hou Jing’s days of being king: 19–30 November = 12 days 1–31 December = 31 days 1–31 January = 31 days 1–28 February = 29 days Total number of days: 12+31+31+29 = 103 days The demonically playful divination proved itself to be fatal and accurate—on the nineteenth of November 551, Hou Jing declared himself king, but then on the 1st of March 552, he was overthrown and forced to flee his palace. Betrayed by his own soldiers, Hou Jing was killed, and his dead body was torn into pieces, shared and eaten by fiery peasants who disliked him. He indeed was king in his imperial palace for about 100 days, 103 days to be exact. Emperors of the Tang dynasty were not exempted from cursed reign titles either. One example is Li Xuan 李儇, Emperor Xizong of Tang 唐僖宗 (862– 888A.D.), who unwittingly used the reign title “Guang Ming” 廣明 during A.D. 880–881. The reign title lexically means wide (guang 廣) and bright (ming 明), but the riddle-like “shu” 數 hidden in the two Chinese characters is shockingly telling. Dissecting the character “guang” 廣, one can see that the character is made up of the upper component and the lower component. The upper component of the character resembles the upper component of “Tang” 唐 (name of the dynasty), but the core strokes are missing. This implies that the Tang dynasty lost its core values. Likewise, when comparing the lower component of “guang” 廣 and the lower component of “Tang” 唐, “kou” 口 in the character

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

divination or death traps?

193

“Tang” 唐 is replaced by the lower part of “huang” 黃, which happened to be the surname of the ringleader, Huang Chao 黄巢 of the late Tang peasant uprising (875–884A.D.). In the year of 881 A.D., Huang Chao 黄巢 and his rioters invaded Tongguan County in Weinan. The riot was so disturbing that Li Xuan 李儇 the Emperor had to flee the Capital, which ended the reign year of “Guang Ming” 廣明. A similar account was reported in the Song dynasty. Zhao Huan 趙桓, Emperor Qinzong of Song 宋欽宗趙桓 started using the reign name “Jing Kang” 靖康 (literally meaning “tranquil peace”) in the year 1126. However, it was most unfortunate that Zhao Huan chose the name without knowing the hidden divination message. Under careful glyphomantic analysis, “Jing” 靖 becomes “li shi er yue” 立十二月, meaning “stands for a reign of twelfth months,”37 so the cezi riddle base becomes “li shi er yue kang” 立十二月康, which implies that “the emperor’s reign can only be uneventful for 12 months.” As destined, one year after Jing Kang reign 靖康元年, the ill-fated Emperor Qinzong of Song and his imperial family were abducted by the Jin troops 金兵. The incident is now known as the “Humiliation of Jing Kang” 靖康之恥 in Chinese history. Far from being tranquil and peaceful, it was considered one of the darkest and most shameful moments in the Song dynasty. This article attempted to illustrate the Semiotic nature in the Chinese language through examining the playful language tricks and traps in Chinese divination. The Chinese language, unlike Latin, English or European languages, has no strict word order, nor an inflectional and derivational system to follow in the morphology of its logographs. In addition, thanks to the versatility in its lexicon, syntax and semantics in the Chinese language, the Symbolic has close to no control over the fluid, disruptive, and playful Semiotic chora. As shown in various examples found in the tragic tales of divination in Chinese history, a hauntingly similar fate can be seen in almost every male victim, be they kings, princes or generals: the masculine subject always relies too much on sight and the surface form of language. Just at the moment when he appears to have full control of his destiny, he keeps falling prey to the deadly language traps set by the subversive Semiotic. The Semiotic dimension of language, in particular in the Chinese language, is unpredictable, unfathomable. It is big wisdom to embrace Zhuangzi’s notion of zhenzhi 真知 (the knowledge of not knowing). The mystic subversive power of libidinal multiplicity from the fluid feminine Semiotic has to be acknowledged and feared.

37

Zhou Lianggong 周亮工, Zichu 字觸 (Touches of written characters) (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, [1667] 1985), 49.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

194

tso

Bibliography Allan, Sarah. The Shape of the Turtle: Myth, Art, and Cosmos in Early China. New York: State University of New York Press, 1991. Beck, B.J. Mansvelt. “The Fall of Han.” In The Cambridge History of China: Volume 1, The Ch’in and Han Empires, 221B.C.–A.D.220, 317–376. Edited by Denis Twitchett and Michael Loewe. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986. Butler, Judith. “The Body Politics of Julia Kristeva.” Hypatia 3.3 (1989): 104–118. Chen, Lee Sun. Laozi’s Daodejing—From Philosophical and Hermeneutical Perspectives: The English and Chinese Translations Based on Laozi’s Original Daoism. Bloomington: iUniverse, Inc, 2011. Chinese Classics: Chinese-English Series Mencius Volume Two. Translated by D.C. Lau. Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 1984. Cook, Jon. Poetry in Theory: An Anthology, 1900–2000. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2004. Crystal, David. “The Structure of Language.” In Teaching Literacy: Balancing Perspectives, 15–21. Edited by R. Beard. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1993. Editorial board of Wen bai duizhao ershiliu shi renwu quan zhuan. Wen bai duizhao ershiliu shi renwu quan zhuan 文白對照二十六史人物全傳 (Annotated version twenty-six historical biography: historical figures). Beijing: Jiuzhou tushu chubanshe, 1998. Fromkin, Victoria, Robert Rodman and Nina Hyams. An Introduction to Language. Wadsworth: Cengage Learning. Führer, Bernhard. “Seers and Jesters: Predicting the Future and Punning by Graph Analysis.” East Asian Science, Technology, and Medicine, 25 (2006): 47–68. Gu, Mingdong. Chinese Theories of Reading and Writing: A Route to Hermeneutics and Open Poetics. New York: State University of New York Press, 2005. Guo Qingfan 郭慶藩. Zhuangzi jishi 莊子集釋 (Annotations of Zhuangzi). Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju, 1978. Herndl, Diane Price. “The Dilemmas of a Feminine Dialogic.” In Feminism, Bakhtin, and the Dialogic, 7–24. Edited by Dale M. Bauer and Susan Jaret McKinstry. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991. Ho, Harvey Hsin-chang. “The Polysemy of PO in Mandarin Chinese.” PhD diss., National Taiwan Normal University, 2001. Ho, Peng Yoke. Chinese Mathematical Astrology: Reaching out to the Stars. London and New York: Routledge Curzon, 2003. Ho, Peng Yoke and F. Peter Lisowski. Concepts of Chinese Science and Traditional Healing Arts: A Historical Review. Singapore: World Scientific Publishing, 1993. Hong, Jia-Fei. Verb Sense Discovery in Mandarin Chinese—A Corpus Based Knowledgeintensive Approach. Berlin, Heidelberg: Springer-Verlag, 2015. Kristeva, Julia. Desire in Language: A Semiotic Approach to Literature and Art. Translated

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

divination or death traps?

195

by Thomas Gorz, Alice Jardin, and Leon S. Roudiez. New York: Columbia University Press, 1980. Kristeva, Julia. “Revolution in Poetic Language.” In The Kristeva Reader, 86–136. Edited by Toril Moi. New York: Columbia University Press, 1986. Li Yanshou 李延壽. Bei shi 北史 (History of the northern dynasties). 10 vols. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, [1974] 1987. Liu Ji 劉基 and Yuan Tiangang 袁天罡. Shaobing ge yu Tui bei tu 燒餅歌與推背圖 (Pancake poem and Push back chart). Taipei: Baishan shufang, 2004. Liu, Xiaogan and Wong, Yama. “Three Groups of the Outer and Miscellaneous Chapters.” In Dao Companion to Daoist Philosophy, 221–240. Edited by Xiaogan Liu. New York, London: Springer, 2015. Sabo, Peter J. “Impossible Mourning: Lamentations as a Text of Melancholia.” PhD diss., University of Alberta, 2010. Sarup, Madan. An Introductory Guide to Post-Structuralism and Postmodernism. Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1993. Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999. Stevens, Keith and Jennifer Welch. “The Yang Family of Generals: Yang Chia Chiang.” Journal of the Hong Kong Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society 37 (1998): 39–61. Tso, Anna Wing Bo. “Masculine Hegemony and Resistance in Chinese Language.” Writing from Below 2.1 (2014): 1–15. Tso, Anna Wing Bo. “The Reinvention of the “Femmes Fatales” in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials (1995–2000) and its Chinese Translation.” SPECTRUM: NCUE Studies in Language, Literature, Translation and Interpretation 7 (2010): 49–63. Wang Zhenzhen 王楨楨 and Wang Linsheng 王林生. “Chen Jitang yu Jiang Jieshi de zheng zhi bo yi—cong he zuo, dui kang dao he zuo” 陳濟棠與蔣介石的政治博 弈—從合作, 對抗到合作 (The political game between Chen Jitang and Jiang Jieshi). Guangzhou shehui zhuyi xueyuan xuebao 廣州社會主義學院學報 (Journal of Guangzhou institute of socialism) 28.1 (2010): 83–87. Xue Mingyang 薛明揚. Zhong Guo gu dai yu yan 中國古代預言 (Ancient prophecies in China). Beijing: Jiuzhou chubanshe, 2008. Ye, Tan. Historical Dictionary of Chinese Theater. Plymouth, UK: Scarecrow Press, 2008. Zhou Lianggong 周亮工. Zichu 字觸 (Touches of written characters). Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, [1667] 1985.

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

Index A Dou 阿斗 166 A Girl Like Me 13, 14, 131, 136, 141, 142 abortion 87, 89–91, 93 Aesop’s Fables 164 agnosticism xvi, xvi n20 agricultural predictions viii allusions 15, 153 historical 163, 164 literary 163, 167, 171, 173 literary, China vs. West 171 almanacs 11, 12, 123, 173 amnesia 111, 118 amnesic wine 118, 121 amoral spiritualism 86 An Explication of the Profundities in the Forest of Dreams 119 Analects 2, 5, 7, 59, 68n18, 92 annual circle 123, 124 anticipation 57, 145 aquatic sphere, hostility of 77 arts of enjoyment xiv Ashes of Time 9, 11, 14, 117–123, 127, 128 astrology x, 7, 11, 49, 163, 168, 178 in Romance of the Three Kingdoms 168 atheism xvi n20, 163 auspiciousness xiv, xv, 6, 167, 168 in Romance of the Three Kingdoms 168 Awakening of Spring 123 ba xing 霸星. See hegemonic star bad affinity. See nie yuan 孽緣 bad luck star 34, 34n24, 36, 37, 40 bad luck. See mei yun 霉運 baihu kaikou ri 白虎開口日. See The White Tiger opens his mouth bailu 白露. See White Dew Bansheng yuan 半生緣. See Half a Lifelong Romance bazi 八字. See birth characters beauty demonization of 99, 103 beginning of spring. See lichun 立春 Bencao Gangmu 本草綱目. See The Compendium of Materia Medica Bible 174 big self 14, 157

biji 筆記. See brush notes birth characters 7, 9, 11, 112 bitter fate. See fate, bitter bitter soup 101, 101n7, 110, 114 blind fate 17, 86, 88, 94 critique of 88 bone-feeling (divination practice) 113 Book of Changes. See Classic of Changes Book of Documents in Proper Interpretation 88 Book of Documents. See Classic of Documents Book of Marriage 24, 40 Book of Poetry. See Classic of Poetry Book of Rites. See Classic of Rites Book of Three Lives 9 brush notes ix, x, xiv, xv n16 Buddha 77, 150n16 Buddhism xvi, 8–11, 15, 17, 29, 100, 105, 105n16, 106, 106n18, 107, 108, 120–122, 150n16, 160, 163 three worlds 105 Buddhist Canon 120 Butler, Judith 140n21 Butterfly Lovers 9 buzhi 不知 179 calendars 34n24, 123, 178 calendric progonstication. See lishu 曆數 cannibalism 9, 86–88, 90, 91, 94, 97 in Chinese literature and culture 91 in the Bencao Gangmu 90 in Traditional Chinese Medicine 90, 97 Canossa 164 Cao Cao 曹操 165, 166, 169, 170, 175 casting lots xvii, 113 causality xi, 10, 89, 97 cezi 測字. See dissection of characters Cha, Louis. See Jin Yong 金庸 Chang, Eileen. See Zhang Ailing 張愛玲 charlatans ix Chen Jitang 陳濟棠 188 Chen Shou 陳壽 170 Cheng Yi 程頤 xi Cherry on a Pomegranate Tree 91 Chiang Kai-shek 188 Chinese dream (propagandistic term) 147

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

198

index

Chinese New Year 124 choosing auspicious days vii, x, xiv, 173 chora (Julia Kristeva) 182, 184, 185, 188, 193 chouqian 抽籤. See fortune sticks Christianity 122, 147 Chunjin Jiangnan 春盡江南. See End of Spring in Jiangnan Cicero 164 Civil Service Examination ix, ix n5, xiii, 67, 67n15, 173 Classic of Changes vii, xiii, xiii n14, xiv– xviii, 1, 11, 15, 17, 163, 177 mathematcial system 177 Classic of Dao and Virtues 2, 10 Classic of Documents xiv, 88 Classic of Poetry 88 Classic of Rites xv collective memory 15 collective unconscious 8, 172 commoners’ perception vii, xvi, xvii, 52, 58, 65, 66, 68, 74, 77, 82, 170 Complete Library in Four Sections viii, xiii compulsion to repeat. See repetition compulsion Confucian Classics x, 88 Confucianism x–xii, 3, 5, 15, 59, 88, 130 Confucius x, 2, 5, 7, 8, 59, 68, 92, 190 on tianming 92 cosmic principles xiii, xiv, 2 cosmology xvi, xviii course of history 145 course of nature 8, 53, 54, 87, 88, 94, 130 fighting against 94 cultural field 15, 163–165, 167, 171, 175 cultural phenomena 171 Chinese understanding of 164 universalization of 163 Cultural Revolution xvii, 87, 102, 155 cultures of memory 122 Da Si Ming 大司命 (deity) 51n8 da wo 大我. See big self Dai Da 戴達 xvi Damocles 164 dao 道 xiv, 1–8, 10, 15, 17 Dao de jing 道德經. See Classic of Dao and Virtues Daoism viii, 3, 11, 15, 121, 178 daybooks vii, vii n1

de Saussure, Ferdinand 175 dead. See fear of the dead decision-making vii, xvii, 11, 47, 54, 167 demonic (Sigmund Freud) 131 demonology viii Deng Xiaoping 鄧小平 93 desire as illusion (Buddhism) 122 destiny neurosis 131 destiny inescapability of 22, 26, 29, 38 manipulation of 21, 27 struggle against 13, 15, 18, 23, 32, 43, 95, 102 See also ming yun 命運 determinism 3, 7–9, 13, 22, 29, 38, 53, 61, 86 human desire for freedom from 12 Diao Chan 貂蟬 99 Diary of a Madman 91 Ding hun dian 定婚店. See Matrimony Inn Diren 敵人. See The Enemy disaster literature 65 disasters. See natural disasters disasters in Romance of the Three Kingdoms 168 dissection of characters x, 189, 193 in era names and reign titles 189 divination and science xiv, xix, 163, 174 as a means to change ming 112 as a means to reveal karmic obstacles 112 as common grounds for high and low culture 173 ban of xvii belief in xiv, 13, 15, 47, 49, 54, 162, 163 criticism of xi decline of ix, xiv distance towards xiv efficacy of xiv, xix in Dream of the Red Chamber 174 interpretation of 49 language of 177, 179, 181, 183 legitimacy of xiii, xiv persistence of xvii polysemy in 187 rationality of xii rejection of xi, xvi, 162, 163 scientific character of 177 semiotic language of 177

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

199

index semiotic tricks in 181, 185 tricky language of 179 Doctrine of the Mean 130 Dōgen (Zen-master) 121 Dong Zhongshu 董仲舒 3, 92 Dong Zhuo 董卓 170 Dongxie xidu 東邪西毒. See Ashes of Time doom feeling of 13, 14, 26–28, 37, 131, 138, 141 doomed life 27, 34, 35, 40, 42, 56, 113, 136, 146 doomed love 29, 30, 32, 133 dragons 1, 6, 70, 70n20, 76, 81 fighting (omen) 70, 76 Dream of the Red Chamber 155, 173, 174 dreams 1, 9, 11, 14, 117–119, 150–152, 155, 168, 180 in Romance of the Three Kingdoms 168 drought 64, 75, 123 drum-song 64, 66–68, 73, 74, 77, 81, 82 Drum-Song on the Flood of the Gengxu Year 66, 68, 71, 73 Dumplings 9, 10, 14, 86 dystopia 147, 158n35 Eagle-Shooting Heroes 117 Earth God 125 earthquake 71 economic forecast 12 Emperor Qinzong of Song 193 Emperor Xizong of Tang 192 Emperor Yongle 183 Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang 183 End of Spring in Jiangnan 14, 146, 149, 156, 158, 159 Enlightenment xvii, 163, 174 Chinese xvii, xviii events causality of 168 irrationality of 146 unavoidability of 150 existence irrationality of 150 existentialism 129 exorcism viii expert knowledge viii, ix, xi, xii, xvi facts interpretative character of

144, 149

failure xii, 5, 13, 14, 22–25, 30, 78–80, 82, 93, 94, 146, 152, 154, 157, 188 Fan Zhen 范縝 xvi fatalism xvi, 14, 42, 52, 53, 77, 100, 105, 105n16, 106, 107, 110, 113, 122, 129, 129n2, 140, 142, 159 amoral 86 cause-and-effect 105n16, 107 karmic 10, 105, 105n16, 106, 107, 109, 111, 112, 114 psycho- 13, 129, 138, 139, 142 rejection of 146 self-inflicted 142 socialist 14 fate acceptance of 18, 129, 135, 158 alterability through human effort 114 and Confucian morality 26, 29 as repetitive pattern 136, 138 as tool of hegemony 146 bitter 26, 28, 34, 42 by Mandate of Heaven 57 calculation vii, xiii, xvi, 7, 9, 11, 177–179, 188 change of 21, 25, 102, 105, 111, 113, 146 Chinese concept of 17, 48, 53, 59, 86–88, 96, 97, 129 compensation of 5, 28 connection to sexuality 147 controlled by external force 107 coping with 48 cosmological plan of 21 determined by cosmic force 18, 19 entrapment in 142 female perspective of 18, 19, 25, 26, 28, 29, 31, 32, 37, 41–44 fight against 108, 132, 135 gendered 33, 36, 42, 43, 100, 105, 111, 114 good 27n18, 28, 29, 42 ill 27–29, 33, 34, 102, 103, 152 inalterability of 114 influencing one’s 71 interpretation of 56 mastering one’s 134 negative connotation of 129 ordinary people’s view on 147 prediction of 129, 130 preventing fulfillment of needs and desires 157

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

200

index

psychology of 129, 142 reaction to knowing one’s 130 realization through moral cultivation 130 recurring 99 refusal of 30, 87 resistance against 19, 21, 22, 24, 43, 129 shaped by one’s occupation 138, 140, 141 socio-political factors of 33 submittance to 129, 132, 135, 138, 140, 141 surrendering one’s life to 135, 139 to meet (yuan 緣) 18, 19, 23–25, 28, 29, 31–33, 35, 39, 40, 42 to stay together (yuan fen 緣份) 18–21, 23, 24, 26, 28, 29, 31, 33, 39, 40, 43 uncontrollability of 50–52, 56, 59, 61, 94, 112, 130, 136, 149, 168, 193 unpredictability of 32, 38 Western concept of 17, 48, 53 fated love 5, 18, 20, 33, 36, 37, 40, 43 fear of retribution 10, 96 of the dead 136, 137 psychology of 136 fearlessness 135–139 female hormones 90 feminine language 177 femme fatale 10, 54, 99, 105 fen 份. See right to stay together (fen 份) Fengpo 風婆. See Wind Hag fengshui 風水 vii, x, xi, xi n11, xiii, xvii, 11 filial piety xi, 70, 71n21 Five Agents xii, xvi, 6, 10, 11 Five Elements. See Five Agents Five Phases. See Five Agents flood 64, 65, 65n3, 65n6, 66, 67n12, 68–71, 72n23, 72n24, 73–82, 148 folk prediction 103 folklore 17, 70, 70n20, 88, 177, 179 Fontane, Theodor 175 fortune sticks vii, xvii, 163 fortune-teller ix, x, 7, 11, 12, 94, 107, 112, 113, 124, 188 kiosk 94 Four Pillars of Destiny. See birth characters free will 21, 39, 53, 157 freedom 7, 12, 39, 146, 147, 149, 156–158 lack of 149, 150, 156 through suicide 157

Freud, Sigmund 130, 142, 152 Frog (novel) 91 fu 賦. See rhapsody fuji 扶乩. See spirit-writing fuluan 扶鸞. See spirit-writing funeral vii, xi, 150, 186 funeral make-up 13, 131–135, 142 funeral parlour 13, 131–134, 136, 137, 139 fusion of horizons (Gadamer) 174 future accessibility of ix, xiv connection to past and present 9, 20, 111, 122 incomprehensibility of 146, 151 mastering the 12 Gadamer, Hans-Georg 174 Ge Fei 格非 13, 14, 144–149, 153n22, 154, 156–160 gender ambiguity 118 gendered fate. See fate, gendered Gengxu shuizai gu’erci 庚戌水災鼓兒詞 See Drum-Song on the Flood of the Gengxu Year Gentleman of the Stream (deity) 77 geomancy See fengshui 風水 glyphomancy. See dissection of characters God of Matrimony 5, 18–21, 23–25, 33, 39–41 good luck (hao yun 好運) 28, 33, 36, 41 grave xi, 49 gua 卦. See hexagrams Guan Yu 關羽 165, 170 Guanyin 觀音 77, 164 guci 鼓詞. See drum-song Guiguzi 鬼谷子 185 Guochao shi duo 國朝詩鐸. See Our Dynasty’s Bell of Poetry Half a Lifelong Romance 5, 14, 17, 19, 25, 26, 29 Hanshu 漢書 92n15 Hanshu yiwenzhi 漢書藝文志 vii hao ming 好命. See fate, good hao yun 好運. See good luck (hao yun 好運) Heaven governing human affairs 88 logical principles of 88 Mandate of 3, 55, 57, 92, 96, 130 Mandate of, irrefutability of 93

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

201

index Mandate of, sacred duty of 59 moral principles of 88 power of 48 provoking the wrath of 77, 82 punishment of 8, 52, 55, 82 reward from 10, 71, 71n21 rules of 12 secrets of 12 synonym for ming 命 50, 61 will of 7, 8, 47, 51, 52, 55 Heavenly Stems and Earthly Branches xii, xvi hegemonic star 7, 47, 49, 51, 52, 54–61 hell 101, 110 helplessness 28, 30, 32, 36, 38, 39, 41–43, 135, 145, 148, 149, 154 hexagrams xiii, xvi, 1 historical consciousness 164 historical heritage 164 Homeric epic 164 Hongloumeng 紅樓夢. See Dream of the Red Chamber hopelessness 28, 34–36, 38, 42 horoscope 9, 124, 125, 174, 175 Huainanzi 淮南子. See The Master of Huainan human action 33, 89, 97 causal cycle of 89, 97 human affairs cosmic order of 7, 23–25, 52 human efficacy 88 human effort advocacy for (in Mohism) 88, 95, 97 futility of 22–24, 32, 33, 50, 106 human fetus 9, 87, 88, 90, 91, 93, 97 consumption of 87, 94, 95 human placenta 90 human responsiblity 88 human subjectivity 119, 131, 141, 144, 145, 148 female 141 inauspiciousness xiv, xv, xvii, 125, 168 in Romance of the Three Kingdoms 168 intellectuals vii, xvi, xvii, 157, 162, 172 irrationality 145, 146, 150 Ji Yun 紀昀 xiii–xv, xvi Jia Yi 賈誼 ix, xiv

jiaguwen 甲骨文. See oracle bone inscriptions Jiang Jieshi 蔣介石. See Chiang Kai-shek Jiang Wei 姜維 165, 166 jianghu 江湖. See rivers and lakes jiaobei 筊杯. See moon blocks Jiaozi 餃子. See Dumplings jie qi 節氣. See solar terms Jin ping mei 金瓶梅. See The Plum in the Golden Vase Jin Yong 金庸 117 Jingzhe 驚蟄. See Awakening of Spring Journey to the West 150n16, 173 Jung, Carl Gustav xv justice 7, 89, 92, 94, 126, 158 karma 8–10, 17, 100, 100n6, 105, 106, 106n18, 108, 112, 114, 163 and forgiveness 114 connecting past and next lives 105 karmic destiny 9 karmic retribution xvi, 10 Kepler, Johannes 174 as astrologer 174, 175 King of Yi Qu 54, 55, 58–61 knowledge of not knowing. See true knowledge Kong Ming 孔明. See Zhuge Liang 諸葛亮 Kongzi 孔子. See Confucius Kristeva, Julia 179, 180, 182 Kuangren riji 狂人日記. See Diary of a Madman ku ming 苦命. See fate, bitter; fate, ill Lacan, Jacques 180 Lady of Forgetfulness 110, 113, 114 language inflectional system of 15, 181, 182, 184, 193 morphology of 181, 182, 188, 192, 193 Lao She 老舎 13, 14 Laotianye 老天爺. See Old Lord of Heaven Laozi 老子 xiii, 2, 8, 190 Law of the Father 180, 187 Law, Clara 100, 101, 104, 105, 108, 109, 112, 114 Lee, Lillian 9, 10, 86, 87, 90, 96, 101 The Legend of Mi Yue 7, 14, 46, 48–54, 58, 61 Li Ang 李昂 158 Li Bihua 李碧華. See Lee, Lillian

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

202

index

Li Er 李洱 91 Li Shizhen 李時珍 90 Liang Qichao 梁啟超 xvi Liang Shanbo yu Zhu Yingtai 梁山伯與祝英 台. See Butterfly Lovers Liaozhai zhiyi 聊齋誌異. See Liaozhai’s Chronicle of the Strange Liaozhai’s Chronicle of the Strange 69, 71, 104n12 lichun 立春 124 Life after Life 10, 14, 99, 100, 102, 105, 107, 108, 110, 112–114 life goals, unachievability of 144 inconsistency of 146 plan 144, 147, 149–153, 157, 159 plan, failure of 152 predestination of 141, 147 shaping one’s 134 Liji 禮記. See Classic of Rites linguistics 177–180, 187 boundaries of 178 lishu 曆數 178 literati vii–x, x n6, xiii–xv, xix, 65, 170, 172, 173 Liu Bei 劉備 165, 166, 170, 174, 175 Liu Ji 劉基 183, 184 Liu Shan 劉禪. See A Dou 阿斗 Liu Yueshen 劉岳申 x Liulang 流郎. See Gentleman of the Stream (deity) local gazetteers 65, 65n3, 67, 71, 72, 72n23, 80n29 logic xviii, 11, 52, 92, 177, 180, 181 and Heaven. See Heaven, logical principles of Chinese notion of xvii–xix, 1, 11 Long Yingtai 龍應台 158 Love in a Fallen City 5, 14, 17, 18, 32, 33, 41 Lu Xun 魯迅 14, 91, 158 luantang 鸞堂. See spirit-writing communities Lunyu 論語. See Analects Luo Zhuoyao 羅卓瑤. See Law, Clara Ma Yizhu 馬益著 67–69, 71, 73, 80, 82 Macbeth 8, 12, 131, 181 magic xvi, 150, 163, 188, 189

Mao Zedong 毛澤東 153, 155 marriage arranged by Heaven 20, 35, 37 arranged by the God of Matrimony 20, 23–25, 33, 40 Marxism 147 match-maker 19, 21 mathematics xiii, 11, 112, 174, 177, 178, 180 Matrimony Inn 5, 14, 18, 19, 24, 25, 29, 41, 43, 44 medium viii, xiv, 9, 14, 114, 138, 139, 141 mei yun 霉運 22, 26–28, 30, 32–34, 40 memory as redemption 122 as source of pain 121 Mencius x, 51, 90, 130 on food 90 Meng Po 孟婆. See Lady of Forgetfulness Menglin xuanjie 夢林玄解. See An Explication of the Profundities in the Forest of Dreams Mengzi 孟子. See Mencius Mi Yue zhuan 羋月傳. See The Legend of Mi Yue ming 命 allowing choices 54, 61 and Western fate, difference 17, 48, 53, 54, 59 as external power beyond human control 61 as fate 3, 17–19, 23–26, 28–30, 32, 33, 42, 52, 129n1 as life 52 as synonym for Heaven 50, 61 as the will of Heaven 50 determining life span 50 determining marriage 50 four layers of meaning 53, 88 inalterability of 51 incomprehensibility of 92 moral dimension of 59, 61 role of human agency 54, 56 struggle against 19 ming hao 命好. See fate, good ming yun 命運 17–19, 24–27, 29, 31–33 as predestination 17 minor ways xiv, 162 misfortune. See mei yun 霉運 misinterpretation 15, 56, 177

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

203

index misogynistic hierarchy in Chinese literary history 102 Mo Yan 莫言 91, 147 Mohism 88, 95, 96 human effort in. See human effort, advocacy for (in Mohism) moon blocks vii moral justice doubt of 92 moral meteorology 77, 80, 82 moral misbehaviour 77 moral responsibility 81, 89, 92, 94 moral rewardism 10, 86, 88, 89, 92, 96, 97 morality book viii Confucian 26, 29, 41–43 More Accounts of Mysteries and the Supernatural 19 Mountains and Rivers in Dreams 14, 146, 148, 155 Mozi 墨子 94, 94n18 Mu Ouchu 穆藕初 xvii myth 75–77, 81, 82, 152 mythology 64, 110, 164 natural disasters 8, 64, 70, 71, 75, 78, 80, 154 as collective punishment 64, 78 as evidence for personal failure 80 as moral test 71 as punishment (rejection of) 78 as punishment by Heaven 64, 82 causing career damage 80 coping with 82 moral responsibility for 81 nieyuan 孽緣 29–31, 107, 108, 113 not knowing. See buzhi 不知 Numbers and Techniques (shushu 數術). See Techniques and Numbers (shushu 術數) numbers in Chinese ambiguity of 184 elusiveness of 185 numerology 11, 178 Oedipus 12, 131 Old Lord of Heaven 77, 78, 82 omen bad xviii, 103, 123, 133, 138–141, 168, 190, 191 good 183

One-Child Policy 88, 93, 96, 97 oneiromancy viii Open Door Policy 92, 93 oracle vii, xv, 1, 12, 47, 119, 131, 162, 165–168, 170, 171, 174, 175, 177 belief in 171 referencing popular stories 165 temple. See temple oracle oracle bone inscriptions vii, 119 orthodoxy 162, 170 Our Dynasty’s Bell of Poetry 65 pain acceptance of 122 power of 122 palm reading 11 Pan Jinlian zhi qianshi jinsheng 潘金蓮之 前世今生. See Reincarnation of Golden Lotus Pancake poem 183 para-religion 75 past life 100–102, 105, 107, 109–114 past inexistence of 122 patriarchy 18, 26, 28, 29, 41, 43, 47, 90, 100, 102, 104, 145, 180 Peach Blossom Beauty 14, 146, 148, 150, 157 Pei Songzhi 裴松之 170 performativity 140, 140n21, 141 personal desire 14, 32 personal memoirs 65 physiognomic disfiguration 23 physiognomy viii, x, xvii, 11, 13, 138 polysemy in the Chinese language 187, 188 poxiang 破相. See physiognomic disfiguration prayer rituals viii predestination 5, 17, 19, 21, 23, 24, 33, 42, 106, 133, 136, 145 being freed from 133 predetermination 3, 8, 12, 17, 24, 54, 92, 94, 112, 129, 141 predictions interpretation of 183 literary elements used in 167 progress belief in 163

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

204

index

prophecy viii, 1, 7, 12, 13, 46, 49, 53, 131, 181, 183, 184 religious 12 prophets 159 psychoanalysis 130, 141 psychotherapy 15 Pu Songling 蒲松齡 69, 104n12 pyromancy vii qi 氣 xi, xv, xvi, 13 yang qi 陽氣 (“bright energy”) 13 yin qi 陰氣 (“dark energy”) 13 Qian Mu 錢穆 xvii Qingcheng zhi lian 傾城之戀. See Love in a Fallen City Qiu Jin 秋瑾 148 Rain Master 75 rape 6, 29, 30, 32, 87, 90, 102, 148, 149, 151 rationalistic worldview xvi rationality xii, xvi, 163, 177 reality coping with 149 incomprehensibility of 146 unchangeability of 146 Records of the Grand Historian 46, 48, 54 Red Cliff (2008 movie) 169 red silk strings 21, 24, 39 reign title 183, 189, 190, 192 reincarnation 9, 10, 86, 88, 89, 96, 97, 100– 102, 105–107, 111 Reincarnation of Golden Lotus 10, 14, 86, 99–105, 108, 110, 111, 113, 114 Renmian taohua 人面桃花. See Peach Blossom Beauty repetition compulsion 130, 131, 139, 142, 142n23 revenge 90, 101, 111, 125 revolution xvii, 14, 87, 102, 148, 150, 151, 153 cultural. See Cultural Revolution Maoist 148 of 1911 148 scientific 174 rewarding good, punishing evil 52, 71, 86, 88 rhapsody 73, 75 right to stay together (fen 份) 18, 23, 31 Rilke, Rainer Maria 122

rishu 日書. See daybooks rivers and lakes ix, x, 12 Riyong suzi 日用俗字. See Vernacular Words for Daily Use rizhe 日者. See choosing auspicious days Romance of the Three Kingdoms 15, 162, 165–168, 170–173 high status 172 popularity 172 reception 171 San shi shu 三世書. See Book of Three Lives Sanguo yanyi 三國演義. See Romance of the Three Kingdoms saozhou xing 掃帚星. See bad luck star scapulimancy xv seasons 11, 123 seduction of men 109, 113 self-confession 132 self-cultivation 17, 94, 130 serendipity. See good luck (hao yun 好運) Shakespeare, William 181 shaman 47 Shang Shu 尚書. See Classic of Documents Shang Shu Zheng Yi 尚書正義. See Book of Documents in Proper Interpretation Shanhe rumeng 山河入夢. See Mountains and Rivers in Dreams shanshu 善書. See morality, book Shao Si Ming 少司命 (deity) 51, 51n8 Shaobing Ge 燒餅歌. See Pancake Poem She diao yingxiong zhuan 射雕英雄傳. See Eagle-Shooting Heroes Shen Congwen 沈從文 158 Shen Youding 深有鼎 xvii sheng chen ba zi 生辰八字. See birth characters Shi jing 詩經. See Classic of Poetry Shiji 史记. See Records of the Grand Historian Shiliushu Shang Jie Yingtao 石榴樹上结樱 桃. See Cherry on a Pomegranate Tree shu 數 as destiny code 178 as pursuit of empirical knowledge 179 in divination and linguistics 177, 192 layers of meaning 178 Shuifu 水府. See Water Department Shuihu zhuan 水滸傳. See Water Margin Shujing 書經. See Classic of Documents

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

205

index shushu 數術. See Numbers and Techniques (shushu 數術) shushu 術數. See Techniques and Numbers (shushu 術數) sign divination. See Guiguzi 鬼谷子 signs of nature 70, 71 Siku quanshu 四庫全書. See Complete Library in Four Sections Sima Guang 司馬光 xi Sima Jizhu 司馬季主 ix, xiv sin 77, 109, 112, 155 small self 14, 157 social status ix, 95, 96 solar eclipse 123 as bad omen 123 foretelling death 123 solar terms 11, 123, 124 solstice 123, 124 summer. See xiazhi 夏至 Song Qinzong Zhao Huan 宋欽宗趙桓. See Emperor Qinzong of Song soul 8, 9, 22, 30, 110, 111, 118 sound-listening (divination practice) 113 Space of Destiny 168, 170 spirit possession viii spirit-writing viii, xiv–xvi communities viii Strategies of the Warring States 46, 54 Su Tong 蘇童 158 suanming 算命. See fate, calculation suicide 22, 30, 134, 135, 157 as act of freedom. See freedom through suicide supernatural force 20, 86, 136 superstition xvii, 90, 162, 163, 169 syntax, Chinese 182 Taiping Guangji 太平廣記. See Taiping Imperial Encyclopedia Taiping Imperial Encyclopedia 18, 19 Tang Xizong 唐僖宗. See Emperor Xizong of Tang Techniques and Numbers (shushu 術數) viii, xiii, xiv, 177, 179, 180 temple oracle vii, xvii, 164, 165, 173 The Banner of Desire 欲望的旗幟. See The Banner of Desire The Compendium of Materia Medica 90 The Enemy 145

The Generals of the Yang Family 177 The Good Women of China 91 The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons 3, 6 The Master of Huainan 3 The Plum in the Golden Vase 101, 102, 109 The White Tiger opens his mouth 123 tian 天. See Heaven tiangan dizhi 天干地支. See Heavenly Stems and Earthly Branches time 122 topomancy. See fengshui 風水 tortoise xv true knowledge 179, 180, 193 Tuhuang 土皇. See Earth God turtle 76 utopia 14, 146–158, 158n35, 159 communist 148, 157 emotional 155 fatality of 152 Maoist 156 socialist 153, 159 vernacular narratives 66, 69 Vernacular Words for Daily Use 69 Wa 蛙 (novel). See Frog (novel) Wallenstein, Albrecht von 174, 175 Wang Bi 王弼 xiii Wang Chong 王充 xvi Wang Jiawei 王家衞. See Wong Kar-wai Wang Zhaojun 王昭君 99 Warring States period 7, 46, 48, 52 Water Department 76, 77, 82 Water Margin 91, 101, 102, 109, 173 Weng Banxuan 翁半玄 188 Wenxin diaolong 文心雕龍. See The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons Western Science xvi, 163 wheel of fortune 23, 30, 43 White Dew 124 Wind Hag 75 wine. See amnesic wine witch 87, 103, 131, 188 Wittgenstein, Ludwig 168 women beautiful 10, 20, 22, 54, 95, 99, 99n3, 100–103, 118, 133, 137

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access

206

index

negative portrayal of 99 objectification of 95 Wong Kar-wai 9, 11, 117, 118, 126, 126n22, 127 Wu Mi 吳宓 xvii Wu Yusen 吳宇森 169 wuxing 五行. See Five Agents Xi Shi 西施 99 Xi Xi 西西 13, 129, 131, 142 Xiang wo zheyang de yige nüzi 像我這樣的 一個女子. See A Girl Like Me xiangshi 相士. See physiognomy xiao 孝. See filial piety xiao wo 小我. See small self xiaodao 小道. See minor ways xiazhi 夏至 124 Xiong Jingren 熊景仁 x Xiyou ji 西遊記. See Journey to the West Xu xuanguai lu 續玄怪錄. See More Accounts of Mysteries and the Supernatural Xue Xinran 薛欣然 91 Xunzi 荀子 xvi Yan Fu 嚴復 xvii Yan Lianke 閻連科 147 Yang Guifei 楊貴妃 99 Yang jia jiang 楊家將. See The Generals of the Yang Family yarrow stalks xiii, xv Yi Qu wang 義渠王. See King of Yi Qu Yijing 易經. See Classic of Changes yin and yang ix, xii, xvi, xviii, 6, 139 yinguo 因果. See karma yinyang books xi yinyang zhi shu 陰陽之書. See yinyang books Yongle Dadi 永樂大帝. See Emperor Yongle youyi 游藝. See arts of enjoyment

Yu Hua 余華 147, 158 yuan 緣. See fate to meet Yuan Shushan 袁樹珊 xvi, xvi n21, xix yuanfen 緣份. See fate to stay together yun 運 17–19, 25, 31, 33, 111 Yung, Peter 100, 106, 107, 112–114 Yushi 雨師. See Rain Master zai sheng ren 再生人. See Life after Life zaihai/zainan wenxue 災害/災難文學. See disaster literature zeri 擇日. See choosing auspicious days Zhan guo ce 戰國策. See Strategies of the Warring States Zhang Ailing 張愛玲 5, 13, 17, 18, 25–44 Zhang Dongsun 張東蓀 xviii Zhang Fei 張飛 165, 166, 170 Zhang Yingchang 張應昌 65 Zhao Yun 趙雲 166 zhengdao 正道. See orthodoxy zhenzhi 真知. See true knowledge Zhongguo hao nürenmen 中國的好女人們. See The Good Women of China Zhongyong 中庸. See Doctrine of the Mean Zhou Yi 周易. See Classic of Changes Zhou Yu 周瑜 169 Zhu Di 朱棣. See Emperor Yongle Zhu Shiqing 朱世卿 xvi, xvi n20 Zhu Xi 朱熹 xi–xiv Zhu Yuanzhang 朱元璋. See Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang Zhuangzi 莊子 xiii, 121, 178, 179, 181, 193 Zhuge Liang 諸葛亮 165–169, 174 Zhuzi yulei 朱子語類 xiii n14 zui sheng meng si 醉生夢死. See amnesic wine Zuozhuan 左傳 vii, 48

Michael Lackner, Kwok-kan Tam, Monika Gänssbauer and Terry Siu Han Yip - 978-90-04-42757-0 Downloaded from Brill.com05/05/2020 09:46:14AM via free access