STRANGE STORIES FROM A CHINESE STUDIO. Translated and Annotated by Herbert A. Giles. London: Thos. de la Rue & Co., 1880. Octavo, two volumes: pp. [i-vii] viii-xi [xii-xiii] xiv-xxxii  2-432; [i-iv]  2-404, original pictorial red cloth, front and spine panels stamped in gold, rear panels stamped in blind, all edges untrimmed. First edition of this translation. The first publication in English of an extensive selection of stories from the classic collection of Chinese stories of the supernatural. Translations of 164 stories from the LIAO-CHAI CHIH-YI based on the Chinese text published by Tan Ming-lun in 1842, collated with the edition of Yü Chi published in 1766. The LIAO-CHAI could be called, in terms of scope and influence, though not style, the 1001 Nights of China. P'u Sung-ling (1640-1715) collected about 500 supernatural tales throughout China during his lifetime. P'u is believed to have completed the majority of the tales about 1679, though he may have added stories as late as 1707. He was too poor to publish his work, but it was circulated in manuscript before it was published posthumously. Sources differ in their account of the year of publication. One source claims the LIAO-CHAI was published by P'u's grandson in 1740. However, the earliest surviving print version was printed in 1766 in Hangzhou. One of the best original-language editions was that of Tan Ming-lun, published in 1842 in sixteen small octavo volumes of about 160 pages each. Before Giles's collection only fifteen of these stories had been published in English versions. Giles (1845-1935) served as a British diplomat in China during most of the last quarter of the nineteenth century, then took a post as professor of Chinese at Cambridge. He was an eminent Sinologist and his translations are careful and copiously annotated, though sometimes a little dry. The stories are often wildly imaginative, with motifs and themes distinctively Oriental. What is perhaps most remarkable is that, although generally very short, the stories never feel abbreviated or sketchy. Modern selections and translations in English have appeared under many different titles. Critics have called Giles's Victorian era translations "prudish" and they have been dismissed as "orientalist bowdlerizations." (These same criticisms apply to more modern translations as well.) Historically, a very important pioneer work. See John Minford and Tong Man, "Whose Strange Stories? P'u Sung-ling (1640-1715), Herbert Giles (1845-1935), and the Liao-chai chih-yi," East Asian History, June/December 1999, numbers 17/18, pp. 1-48. Bleiler (1978), p. 82. Not in Reginald (1979; 1992). A very good copy. A very nice copy of a beautiful book. (#154537).
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