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Title:Aesop's fables in China: the transmission and transformation of the genre
Author(s):Wu, Pei-Lin
Director of Research:Palencia-Roth, Michael; Camargo, Martin
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Palencia-Roth, Michael
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Camargo, Martin; Huntington, Rania; Heilen, Stephan
Department / Program:Comparative & World Literature
Discipline:Comparative Literature
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Abstract:Aesop’s fables, the first western literary works transmitted to China, opened up the field of translations in China in the nineteenth century. But there had been more than one transmission, and the process by which the Chinese absorbed Aesop was long and complicated. This dissertation explores when and how the transmissions of Aesop’s fables into China took place in history and how these fables influenced Chinese writing of yuyan, an analogous genre in Chinese literature. It attempts to provide as comprehensive a picture as possible of the history of the transmissions and analyses of examples that are relatively representative in respect to the transformation of the genre in the Chinese milieu. In order to provide both theoretical and empirical bases for this endeavor, I have divided the dissertation into three parts. The first part gives definitions of the relevant genres and origins of the fable, or similar genres, in the West, India, and China. At the early stage, the western tradition of using fables in education and preaching indirectly paved the way for their transmission to China. The second part is devoted to the transmissions of Aesop’s fables to China in the pre-modern eras. Given archeologists’ discoveries of the manuscripts of the Aesopic fables found in the Western Regions of China in the early twentieth century, one chapter deals with the obscure transmission that occurred no later than the sixth century and tries to clarify the influence of Manichaeism in the transmission dated by archaeologists to the eighth or ninth century. The other chapter of part two discusses the Jesuits’ adaptation and use of Aesop’s fables in their Chinese sermonic works in the seventeenth century. The third part considers the transformation of the genre of the fable after its encounter with the Chinese yuyan. In the Chinese author Li Shixiong’s work, we get a glimpse of an early combination of the two genres in terms of literary techniques. Later, the Chinese translations of Aesop’s fables in the nineteenth century show that more elements from Chinese literary traditions were mixed in the fables. The process reveals the challenge that the fable brought to the Chinese literary sphere. The traditional Chinese concept that the truth had to be represented by historicized narration faced the challenge of a genre known for its fictitious story picturing a truth that was not necessarily grounded in a historical event.
Issue Date:2013-02-03
Rights Information:Copyright 2012 Pei-lin Wu
Date Available in IDEALS:2013-02-03
Date Deposited:2012-12

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