Although the preface says that the tales in this collection of supernatural stories should not be taken seriously and just aim to dispel boredom,
Zibuyu is a work with different reading levels, which allows to uncover several deep trends, taboos and fantasies of late imperial intellectual circles. Disgust, surprise and laughter are constantly evoked, by continually attracting and repulsing the reader.
Yuan Mei’s approach guides the reader to an adventure in the dangerous recesses of the self. It is a sort of allegoric fantastic reflection on the relative and polyphonic essence of human beings, the multiplicity of selves from psychological perception, and a challenge to the traditional biographical and historical perspective for the unreliability of destiny. Dreams, madness, delusions and other extreme cognitive and affective conditions, abnormal events, gods and spirits, and the dark world of death lead to a reversal of perspective and destroy the Apollonian vision of the social-centered Confucian orthodoxy.
With introduction, translation and comments.
Paolo Santangelo, is Professor of the History of East Asia at Sapienza University, Roma, and has published on social, intellectual and anthropological history of Late Imperial China.
Yan Beiwen, born in 1971, holds an M.A. Degree in Comparative Literature from Peking University (2004). She is an editor of the
Foreign Literature Review, which is part of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
All those interested in sinology, comparative literatures, lexicology, psychology,intellectual history and anthropological studies.