Eric Henry
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Storytelling in LSCC and Shwo Ywaen
Panel: Aspects of the Lw-shr Chun/Chyou
AAS Convention, New York City, 29 March 2003


The Lw-shr Chun/Chyou (LSCC) has several stories in common with the large Shwo Ywaen collection compiled by Lyou Syang and presented to the Han throne in the year 017. These parallel versions are compared to determine the degree of evolution this material had undergone between the time it was reflected in LSC and the time, about two centuries later, when it was incorporated into the Shwo Ywaen.

The general conclusion is that both stages show a certain range of invention or elaboration of probable fact, but in Shwo Ywaen the range is enormously increased. This is part of a larger tendency in the treatment of legends pertaining to the Chun/Chyou / Jan Gwo eras that one observes as one moves from one text to another in order of chronological provenance. Even the earliest text usable for this purpose, Dzwo Jwan, is full of invention, especially in the area of speeches and striking gestures, but here there is still a strong interest in the processes of history, coupled with a certain punctiliousness in the treatment of personages and in the ascription of events to particular places and times. The mind of the author of this work, however fertile, was still well stocked with particularities. As one reads through progressively later texts (Gwoyw, Mwodz, Mvngdz, Sywndz, Jan-Gwo Tsv, Lw-shr Chun/Chyou, Han Shr Wai Jwan, Syin Syw, Shwo Yuaen), one notices that the interest in historical process grows weaker and weaker, its place being taken by an interest in the colorful illustration of philosophical or ethical points of current interest in the worlds of the compiler-authors.

At the end of this process, in Shwo Ywaen, it has become possible to attribute virtually any speech to virtually any personage, and virtually any event to virtually any place or time, regardless of historical appropriateness. The historical value of the material in Shwo Ywaen is thus in general not just worthless, but worthless to an astounding degree.


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