Feng Menglong

Chinese writer and poet

1574   -   1645

country of citizenship: China
language of expression: Chinese
occupation: poet, historian, writer, collector of fairy tales

Feng Menglong (1574–1646), courtesy names Youlong (猶龍), Gongyu (公魚), Ziyou (子猶), or Eryou (耳猶), was a Chinese historian, novelist, and poet of the late Ming Dynasty. He was born in Changzhou County (長洲縣, not Changzhou), now part of Suzhou, in Jiangsu Province.Feng was born into a scholar-bureaucrat gentry household, where he and his brothers Feng Menggui (馮夢桂) and Feng Mengxiong (馮夢熊) were educated in the classics and the traditional arts of the gentleman. He and his brothers, all well-known as accomplished writers, artists, and poets, became known collectively as the "Three Fengs of the Wu Area" (吳下三馮). In spite of his literary talent and his zeal for scholarship from a young age, Feng sat the imperial civil service examinations many times without success, eventually giving up and making a living as a tutor and teacher. In 1626, he narrowly avoided punishment after being implicated as an associate of Zhou Shunchang (周順昌), who was framed and purged by the corrupt eunuch Wei Zhongxian. Appalled by the injustice, he resolved to complete his trilogy of vernacular Chinese short story collections: Stories to Instruct the World, Stories to Caution the World, and Stories to Awaken the World (喻世明言, 警世通言, and 醒世恆言). In recognition of his reputation as a writer, Feng was finally awarded the gongsheng degree in 1630 at the age of fifty-seven. In the subsequent year, he received his first government post as instructor of Dantu County (丹徒縣, today Zhenjiang, Jiangsu). In 1634, he was appointed magistrate of Shouning County (壽寧) in Fujian. During his tenure, he became regarded as a morally upright and diligent administrator. He retired in 1638. In 1644, the Ming state was thrown into turmoil by the sacking of Beijing by Li Zicheng's rebel army and invasion by the Manchu Qing forces. At the age of seventy-one, he published the Grand Proposals for National Rejuvenation (中興偉略) to inspire his countrymen to repel the invaders. He died in despair in 1646 as the Ming dynasty continued to collapse. Some works indicate or imply that he was killed by Qing soldiers. Feng's literary output consisted of the compilation of histories and local gazettes, the retelling of folktales and stories from antiquity in the form of short stories and plays, and the authorship of vernacular Chinese novels. Two of his noteworthy works are the Qing Shi (History of Love, 情史), an anthology of classical love stories, and the shenmo novel Pingyao Zhuan. In 1620 he published the Illustrious Words to Instruct the World (喻世明言 Yushi Mingyan), or Stories Old and New, the first part of his well-known trilogy.Feng was a proponent of the school of Li Zhi, which supported the importance of human feelings and behavior in literature. He is frequently associated with Ling Mengchu, author of Slapping the Table in Amazement, a two-part collection of entertaining vernacular tales.
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