Chinese Literature Podcast

Stranger in a Strange Land

Rob Moore and Lee Moore take a trip to Lao She's Cat Country

In 1932, Lao She penned a book about a Chinese astronaut crashing into Mars and finding the planet populated with Cat People, and the world of Chinese literature was never the same. Skewering would-be revolutionaries, opium addicts, and self-strengtheners alike, Cat Country provides a prescient look at the upheavals of the 1930s, when many Chinese intellectuals wondered if all was lost, and nothing gained. Let the craziness begin:

Chinese Literature Podcast

Rebel Rebel

Rob Moore and Lee Moore read Zhang Yingyu's Book of Swindles

No matter how law-abiding we all are, there's always that part of us that wishes we didn't have to be. It turns out that just about every culture has its stories that celebrate that. Robin Hood, anyone? How about Ocean's 11 and its sequels? China has its own long history of outlaw stories, and we talk about one on this podcast: Zhang Yingyu's late-Ming classic, The Book of Swindles, available now in English thanks to a superb translation by Christopher Rea and Bruce Rusk. Join us as we talk about shady Daoist priests, idiot university students, and how a 500 year-old guide to thieves is still a page-turner:

Chinese Literature Podcast

China’s First Feminist

Rob Moore and Lee Moore read Ding Ling's groundbreaking short story Miss Sophie's Diary

Finding a “first” of anything is a tricky proposition, but if we had to pick a “first” great work of feminism in modern Chinese literature, it would by Miss Sophie’s Diary, by Ding Ling, published in 1928. An absolutely fascinating work that takes full advantage of the diary format in a way Lu Xun’s own Diary of a Madman didn’t, Ding Ling explored the psychology and sexuality of her protagonist with both sensitivity and intensity, and penned a work that, nearly a century on, is still a fascinating read:

Chinese Literature Podcast

The Great Maudgalyayana

Rob Moore and Lee Moore dust off a Buddhist classic 

In a tale for the ages, Mulian, an Indian Buddhist monk, uses his spiritual currency in order to rescue his mother from one of the worst of the Buddhist hells. Not only is the story one of the first examples of vernacular Chinese fiction available, it is also one of the best examples of the cross-current of cultures that was China during the period when Buddhism was expanding. Rob and Lee discuss the shady dealings that led to the earliest version of this story being uncovered in the Dunhuang caves, debate the possible influence of not only Confucian but also Christian morality, and draw comparisons to Dante's Divine Comedy as a point of reference for unfamiliar Western readers.


Sympathy for the Devil

Lee Moore reviews Luo Guanzhong’s Quelling the Demons’ Revolt

Full of blood-thirsty demons, corrupt officials, and doe-eyed beauties popping out of paintings, Patrick Hanan’s posthumously-released translation of Luo Guanzhong’s 14th century novel, Quelling the Demons’ Revolt, is arguably a novel in name only, at times feeling more like a collection of short stories that have been strung together. Unlike later Ming novels, like the Plum in the Golden Vase, Quelling the Demons’ Revolt lacks the narrative tightness that modern readers have come to expect. But, setting aside the lack of a cohesive ending, the novel remains a rollicking ride through the weird and wacky world of the early modern Chinese supernatural.