In Wu Jingzi’s (吳敬梓) The Scholars (Rulin waishi 儒林外史), the narrative is constructed through the characters’ descriptions of themselves as well as “character zones” reconciled within the dialogue, resulting in a distinctive narrative form. This article rationalizes inconsistencies in narrative time not as the product of false authorship but, rather, as the product of Wu Jingzi’s narrative style. Furthermore, because these inconsistencies are found primarily in dialogue, solving the mystery of narrative time gives us an unparalleled opportunity to examine the novel’s narrative form. Wu’s writing style is perhaps best described as laissez-faire: weaving personal experiences together with anecdotes and rumors drawn from his social circle, he fashions a character-driven narrative form that mixes different perspectives and voices. More importantly, his narration illuminates the world of the Qing-era literati, reflecting the oral and written narrative cultures of the Confucian elite.
When modern Chinese intellectuals embarked on what they claimed to be a vernacularization movement in the second decade of the twentieth century, they took modern Europe as their putative model. They argued that China, in its ongoing transformation from the old empire into a modern nation-state, must undergo a similar shift in which the “dead” classical writing was superseded by a vernacular writing rooted in the “living language.” Despite their apparent adherence to modern discourse on language revolution and nation-state building, however, the revolution they initiated moved in the opposite direction. Instead of promoting one or more written forms of the “regional vulgar tongues,” they replaced the established classical writing with “plain writing,” which had originated in the tenth century and continued to be an integral component of the writing system of the empire. In so doing, they succeeded in inventing a cosmopolitan national language that, through the subsequent state-sponsored standardization of pronunciation, would effectively overtake all the existing regional tongues (including Cantonese, Hakka, and the language of Amoy, or South Min) and become “the mother tongue” of the whole Chinese people. Taking this non-European, “vernacularization-by-writing” movement as the starting point for a scholarly inquiry, we gain an illuminating perspective on the unique path China has taken to become a nation-state and a better understanding of the writing culture and linguistic politics of the bygone empire. This approach also allows us to more adequately appreciate the legacy of the early modern empire in the making of the modern Chinese nation and the radical transformations China underwent in the modern era.
F. Chen, Y-J. Yuan, W-S. Wei, T-W. Zhang, H-M. Shang, Z-A. Fan, S-L. Yu, R-B. Zhang, Li Qin and Huiqin Wang
Siberian larch (Larix sibirica) trees were studied in a drought-stressed, lowe-levation Taiga forest in the Altay Mountains for their potential to be used for reconstructing precipitation. A climate/growth analysis provided evidence that the tree-ring widths were strongly determined by the climatic conditions from May to July, positively by precipitation and negatively by temperature. Nevertheless, the resulting regional tree-ring chronology of Siberian larch offers only a limited possibility to perform reliable reconstructions of precipitation as only 30.8% of the total variation of the actual April–July precipitation was explainable. Drought events reflected by the chronology were compared with historical records and other tree-ring derived climate reconstructions, showing some common events of climate extremes over much of Central Asia. This new Siberian larch chronology and an earlier maximum latewood density (MXD) chronology from the neighboring region reveal that the local climate is mainly characterized by cold/wet and warm/dry situations over the past 251 years. This study demonstrates that the use of both tree-ring width and MXD data may increase information of past climate variability in the Altay mountain region.