Cover image for The Columbia history of Chinese literature
The Columbia history of Chinese literature
Mair, Victor H., 1943-
Publication Information:
New York : Columbia University Press, [2001]

Physical Description:
xx, 1342 pages : map ; 25 cm
Reading Level:
1470 Lexile.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PL2265 .C65 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



The Columbia History of Chinese Literature is a comprehensive yet portable guide to China's vast literary traditions. Stretching from earliest times to the present, the text features original contributions by leading specialists working in all genres and periods. Chapters cover poetry, prose, fiction, and drama, and consider such contextual subjects as popular culture, the impact of religion, the role of women, and China's relationship with non-Sinitic languages and peoples. Opening with a major section on the linguistic and intellectual foundations of Chinese literature, the anthology traces the development of forms and movements over time, along with critical trends, and pays particular attention to the premodern canon.

Author Notes

Victor H. Mair is professor of Chinese languages and literature in the Department of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Pennsylvania

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

This ambitious history explores a wide range of Chinese literature, from the classics to humor to folk tales to oral traditions, and moves from ancient times to the end of the 20th century. The 54 chapters also include discussions of Chinese literature by women and minorities and assess its reception in Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. A lengthy chapter explains the language and script, emphasizing the diversity and the changes over time. All the discussions deal with the social, political, and philosophical backgrounds that either inhabit or inhibit the literature. Early texts, for example, are usually grounded in Confucian and Taoist thought, while more recent writings deal with, or at least suggest, political ideologies. This being a history and not an anthology, no literature is included, except for an occasional short quotation. And, of course, the many transliterated titles, authors' names, and dates make for difficult reading, even though everything is translated and Chinese characters are omitted. Mair (Chinese language and literature, Univ. of Pennsylvania) has overseen a host of excellent scholars writing on a vast subject. Highly recommended. Kitty Chen Dean, Nassau Coll., Garden City, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

This visionary encyclopedia opens with thematic chapters, state of the art in scholarship but accessible to undergraduates, on the Chinese language(s) and script, classics, philosophy, religion, myth, the supernatural, humor, proverbs, and women in literature. Mair's piece on Chinese linguistics is a marvel of clarity. Macropedic 200-page subhistories follow on poetry, prose, fiction, drama, criticism, and popular/marginal phenomena, subdivided into chapters by and for specialists; the narrative is not wholly linear. This volume joins The Indiana Companion to Traditional Chinese Literature, ed. by William Nienhauser et al. (CH, Jul'86), now supplemented with volume 2 (CH, Apr'99), which also has genre and theme histories (15-25 pages each--technical but easier to grasp) followed by micropedic essays alphabetized typically by Chinese terms; the present volume privileges English equivalents, aiding nonspecialists. Written by top (sometimes the same) scholars, both resources emphasize taxonomies, periods, and genetic relations of subgenres and texts instead of literary criticism. Inviting a continuous read and tackling the controversial transition to modern literature, the History complements but does not supersede the Companion--which features full bibliographies (absent in the book under review), biographies, book encapsulations, and special topics like martial-arts novels. For large academic college and general libraries; all levels. J. C. Kinkley St. John's University (NY)

Table of Contents

Map of China
Introduction: The Origins and Impact of Literati Culture
1 Foundations
Language and ScriptVictor H. Mair
MythAnne Birrell
Philosophy and Literature in Early ChinaMichael Puett
The Thirteen ClassicsPaul Rakita Goldin
Shih-ching Poetry and Didacticism in Ancient Chinese LiteratureJeffrey Riegel
The SupernaturalRania Huntington
Wit and HumorKarin Myhre
ProverbsJohn S. Rohsenow
Buddhist LiteratureHelwig Schmidt-Glintzer and Victor H. Mair
Taoist HeritageJudith Boltz
Women in LiteratureAnne Birrell
2 Poetry
Sao, fu, Parallel Prose, and Related GenresChristopher Leigh Connery
Poetry from 200 b.c.e. to 600 c.e.Robert Joe Cutter
Poetry of the T'ang DynastyPaul W. Kroll
Tz'uStuart Sargent
Sung Dynasty shih PoetryMichael A. Fuller
Yan san-chWayne Schlepp
Mongol-Yuan Classical Verse (shih)Richard John Lynn
Poetry of the Fourteenth CenturyJohn Timothy Wixted
Poetry of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth CenturiesDaniel Bryant
Poetry of the Seventeenth CenturyRichard John Lynn
Poetry of the Eighteenth to Early Twentieth CenturiesDaniel Bryant
Ch'ing LyricDavid McCraw
Modern PoetryMichelle Yeh
Poetry and PaintingCharles Hartman
3 Prose
The Literary Features of Historical WritingStephen Durrant
Early BiographyWilliam H. Nienhauser and Jr.
Expository ProseRonald Egan
Records of AnomaliesYing Hu
Travel LiteratureJames Hargett
SketchesJames Hargett
Twentieth-Century ProsePhilip F. C. Williams
4 Fiction
T-ang TalesWilliam H. Nienhauser and Jr.
Vernacular StoriesYenna Wu
Full-Length Vernacular FictionWai-yee Li
Traditional Vernacular Novels: Some Lesser-Known WorksDaria Berg
The Later Classical TaleAllan H. Barr
End of the Empire to the Beginning of the Republic (1897-1916)Milena Doleelov-Velingerov
Twentieth-Century FictionPhilip F. C. Williams
China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan during the 1980s and 1990sHelmut Martin
5 Drama
Traditional Dramatic LiteratureWilt L. Idema
Twentieth-Century Spoken DramaXiaomei Chen
6 Commentary, Criticism, and Interpretation
The Rhetoric of Premodern Prose StyleChristoph Harbsmeier
Classical ExegesisHaun Saussy
Literary Theory and CriticismDore J. Levy
Traditional Fiction CommentaryDavid L. Rolston
7 Popular and Peripheral Manifestations
Balladry and Popular SongAnne Birrell
Tun-huang LiteratureNeil Schmid
The Oral-Formulaic TraditionAnne E. McLaren
Regional LiteraturesMark Bender
Ethnic Minority LiteratureMark Bender
The Translator's Turn: The Birth of Modern Chinese Language and FictionLydia H. Liu
The Reception of Chinese Literature in KoreaEmanuel Pastreich
The Reception of Chinese Literature in JapanEmanuel Pastreich
The Reception of Chinese Literature in VietnamEmanuel Pastreich
Chart of the Chinese Dynasties
Romanization Conversion Chart from Wade-Giles to Pinyin