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An Innovation in Chinese Biographical Writing

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 March 2011

Shih-Hsiang Chen
University of California
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The Chinese literary renaissance has produced in the past few decades many distinctly new results. The universal acceptance of the vernacular as a literary medium by a whole generation of writers, the absorption of modern western ideas, and the transvaluation of all traditional values brought about radical changes in creative literature. New theories were studied and practised, new forms and genres developed, and an appreciable number of distinguished works of poetry, fiction and essays created during this period can be assured of a permanent place in the history of Chinese literature. Yet one ancient literary genre, biography, seems to have benefited little by the new movement. It is this fact that makes the excellent work now under review deserve more than usual attention.

Review Article
Copyright © Association for Asian Studies, Inc. 1953

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1 E.g. the compiler of the Ssu-k'u ch'üan-shu tsung-mu. See chüan 57, prefatory note to the biographical section.

2 Despite the divergence in modem readings and meanings, there is no doubt that the word pieh was used in this stronger, distinctive sense as an attributive adjective by even the early T'ang writers. Witness the definition for pieh-chi in Sui-chu ching-chi chih. See Sui-shih (T'ung-wen edition) chūan 35.20 b.

3 See Jih-chi lu chüan 19, item 15.