Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

East Asian Languages & Civilizations

First Advisor

Victor H. Mair


Pu Songling (1640-1715) is known to the world for his Liaozhai zhiyi, which has come to represent the epitome of the Chinese classical tale. Yet there is also a large and lesser-known body of ballads, plays and songs attributed to him, transmitted through local manuscript and oral culture in Pu’s native Zichuan, Shandong. Presenting these works in the context of the locality’s textual culture, this dissertation reveals them to be informed by both literary tradition and the sights and sounds of a village world.

The first chapter introduces the vernacular oeuvre attributed to Pu Songling and the sources of this study, mainly from the Ryōsai Bunko at Keio University. It tells the early 20th century story of the collection and the discovery of Pu’s vernacular works in China at the time, and analyzes aspects of Zichuan’s textual culture as discernable from the collection. The second chapter focuses on Pu’s Riyong suzi (Popular characters for daily use), a rhymed educational text in local language on the vocabularies of everyday life, belonging to a vibrant literature of vernacular primers. Riyong suzi mediated not only between standard script and local speech, but also the spheres of textual and living knowledge. The third chapter employs filial piety as a lens into the world of popular entertainment, focusing on ballads and plays attributed to Pu on the subject of the family. Comparing vernacular ballad against classical tale, it calls into question elements of these works which ostensibly make them “elite” or “popular,” while bringing to attention the ballads’ skillful evocations of a village world alive with oral exchanges and verbal duels. The final chapter is devoted to depictions of history in the play Monan qu (Song of tribulations) attributed to Pu and in drum ballads from Shandong. These vernacular engagements with local and dynastic history reveal a range of literati experiments with popular performance genres. Colloquial song and narrative formed a common, informal literary medium in the region, tied intimately to the classical tradition while providing alternative channels for diversion, dissent, and innovation.


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