Abstract and Keywords
This chapter presents a wide range of human actors in classical Chinese literature, exploring when, where, how, and to what ends certain figures appear, recur, change, or achieve typicality, which often in turn breeds reversals and transformations. The discussion follows three partially overlapping axes—political power, desire, and transcendence or otherness. Imagining political power involves good and bad rulers, remonstrators, frustrated officials, recluses, knights-errant, and so on. Male and female longing are portrayed differently, yielding images of the ambivalent divine woman, the hopeless lover, the pining or abandoned woman, the femme fatale, and martyrs of love in various configurations of quest, union, separation, and estrangement. Transcendence or otherness signals gods, ghosts, spirits, immortals, and a host of strange or demonic creatures beyond the realms of civilization, human agents who facilitate communication with these beings, as well as human seekers of higher truths or of immortality.
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