Studies in Philology
The Saga of Chung-ar:
This monograph examines the possibility that, as Henri Maspero first proposed, there lies behind the anecdotes of the Lord of Jin which are now included in our Dzwo Jwan and Gwo Yw texts, an earlier and possibly oral tale of his wanderings over many states before returning to claim his rulership of Jin, and to make Jin the leader of the states of Spring and Autumn times.
Readers of the Dzwo Jwan have sometimes sensed a different style when turning from the standard moral exemplary anecdote to a story relating to the early wanderings of Chung-ar, the future Lord of Jin. Those wanderings have symbolic elements that are not standard elsewhere in the Dzwo Jwan, but seem part of an overall motif linking the Chung-ar stories together in a way unique in the text. Similarly, the entanglements of Chung-ar with the various women he encounters along the way are reminiscent of the local loves of Odysseus in his also protracted wanderings, before he returns at last to his own house and his proper rulership role. Henri Maspero was the first to suggest that the Chung-ar material might have had a prior existence as an oral epic.
There are many anecdotes of Chung-ar in the story collection which appeared very soon after the Dzwo Jwan, namely the Gwo Yw. Those anecdotes may be collated with those in the Dzwo Jwan. A good number are variants, and the reason for the variation from the Dzwo Jwan to the Gwo Yw version can sometimes be suggested with confidence. But the most striking fact about the two sets of anecdotes is that for the most part they do not duplicate, but rather complement. This suggests the possibility that they are both drawn from the same source text, and that the later Gwo Yw has on the whole preferred to include material which the earlier Dzwo Jwan had for its own reasons omitted. If so, this raises the possibility of reconstructing the source text from these complementary survivals.
That task is carried out in the present monograph, and the nature and implications of the resulting reconstruction are examined. The final results of that examination cannot be given in this summary, in advance of the actual completion of the work. Given the author's unparalleled acquaintance with the anecdotal literature of early China, it may be predicted that they will constitute a definitive treatment of this long-discussed question.
This study is must reading for students of early Chinese literature and history, and for those interested in the interface between popular and elite culture, and between oral performances and written texts, in all languages.
For another Sinological reconstruction, see The Epic of Chu and Han, in this series.
ERIC HENRY is Senior Lecturer in Chinese Literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
The Saga of Chung-ar: A Reconstruction
Approximately 192 pages.
Tentative $45.95 cloth. ISBN 978-936166-42-8
Tentative $22.95 paper. ISBN 978-036166-82-4
Tentative Release Date: August 2013
When announced, this book may be ordered from the University of Massachusetts Press
14 August 2010 / Contact The Project / Exit to Publications Page