A New Account of the Tales of the World
A New Account of the Tales of the World, also known as Shishuo Xinyu or Shih-shuo Hsin-yu (Chinese: 世說新語), was compiled and edited by Liu Yiqing (Liu I-ching; 劉義慶; 403–444) during the Liu Song dynasty (420–479) of the Northern and Southern dynasties (420–589). The book contains some 1,130 historical anecdotes and character sketches of some 600 literati, musicians and painters who lived in the Han and Wei–Jin periods, that is, the second through fourth centuries. Chapter 19, for instance, has 32 stories about outstanding women. It is thus both a biographical source and a record of colloquial language. The original text of the book was divided into eight volumes of juan ("scroll"), though current editions generally span ten volumes.Although most of the anecdotes and personalities are attested in other sources, traditional Chinese bibliographers did not classify Shishuo Xinyu as history but as "minor talk" (xiao shuo), a term that was later used to refer to fiction. Literary historian Victor Mair comments that the "bias against Tales of the World as legitimate work of history undoubtedly stemmed from its failure to subscribe to the sanctioned conventions of history enshrined in the dynastic histories and its use of lively and sometimes colloquial language." The mixture of literary and vernacular styles set the scene for the later tradition of informal Chinese literature. The 20th-century Chinese novelist Lu Xun also spoke highly of the book's aesthetic merits.
The text has been translated in full into English, with the Liang dynasty (502–557) commentary by Liu Xiaobiao (劉孝標), in Richard B. Mather, Shih-shuo Hsin-yü: A New Account of Tales of the World.
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