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Title:Chastity and moral uplift in salient novels of China and the West
Author(s):Cheung, Kai-chong
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Aldridge, A. Owen
Department / Program:Literature, Comparative
Literature, Asian
Literature, Romance
Literature, English
Discipline:Literature, Comparative
Literature, Asian
Literature, Romance
Literature, English
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Literature, Comparative
Literature, Asian
Literature, Romance
Literature, English
Abstract:The first Chinese novel to be translated into a Western language, Hau Ch'iu Chuan by Meng-chiao Chung-jen (known in English as The Fortunate Union), was instantly hailed by Goethe and others as a masterpiece of imaginative fiction and was in large measure responsible for Goethe's formulation of the concept of world literature. Throughout Chinese literary history Hau Ch'iu Chuan figures as the second most important example of a traditional genre, that of, the scholar-beauty romance.
Even though Hau Ch'iu Chuan is more polished than other examples of the scholar-beauty genre, this stylistic advantage does not in itself explain the paradoxical vogue of the novel in the West. Its great international success derives primarily from its thesis that traditional moral values lead to personal happiness and social stability. The combination of religious ideals and materialistic rewards struck a responsive chord in the Christian sentimentalism of Western fiction. Comparison of Hau Ch'iu Chuan with Richardson's Clarissa, Goldsmith's The Vicar of Wakefield, and Manzoni's I Promessi sposi reveals religion, morality, and sentimentalism as their common ingredients.
Each of these novels features an idealistic protagonist or couple, who respect and obey their parents, maintain chastity before marriage, and stand firm against compromise even in the face of apparent disaster. These protagonists love deeply and display their emotions while steadfastly adhering to a rigid code of sexual morality. As Confucianism permeates The Fortunate Union, the symbols of Christianity are omnipresent in its Western counterparts.
The filial obedience of Chung-yu and Ping-shin in The Fortunate Union gains for them the praise of the emperor as models of chivalry and chaste beauty. After the poor but honest clergyman and his noble daughter in The Vicar of Wakefield experience nearly every kind of domestic tragedy, they are rewarded by the blessings of a large and happy family. Lucia and Lorenzo in I Promessi sposi, after enduring the agony of banishment and separation, are reunited and wed. Although Richardson's heroine Clarissa loses her virginity through the deceit of the villainous Lovelace, she is purified by death, and her example brings about a reformation among all who knew her. In each novel, virtue wins in the end.
Issue Date:1989
Rights Information:Copyright 1989 Cheung, Kai-chong
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI8924789
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI8924789

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