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date: 17 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter discusses classical narrative before 900 from two perspectives: as fiction (or proto-fiction), and as history. Modern histories of Chinese literature have focused on tracing the development of fiction—xiaoshuo小說 in Chinese—out of a narrative tradition initially dominated by history-writing. In such schemes, narrative began as a vehicle for recording history; fictional elements emerged when writers recorded events that cannot have actually occurred, leading in the eighth and ninth centuries to “conscious” fiction in a small number of sophisticated narratives on topics such as occult encounters or romance. During the period covered by this volume, however, the majority of narrative works—including those that appear most fantastic to modern readers—were seen as forms of history. Narrative was thus envisioned as an enterprise devoted to recording past events, even though the events recorded might be of varying degrees of reliability.

Keywords: history, historiography, fiction, xiaoshuo, chuanqi, zhiguai, shi

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