Stories to Awaken the World

A Ming Dynasty Collection, Volume 3

Compiled Feng Menglong
Translated by Shuhui Yang and Yunqin Yang

  • Published: 2009. Paperback 2014
  • Subject Listing: Asian Studies / China; Literary Studies
  • Bibliographic information: 992 pp., 6 x 9 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Contents

Stories to Awaken the World, the first complete translation of Xingshi hengyan, completes the publication in English of the famous three-volume set of Feng Menglong's popular Chinese-vernacular stories. These tales, which come from a variety of sources (some dating back centuries before their compilation in the seventeenth century), were assembled and circulated by Feng, who not only saved them from oblivion but raised the status of vernacular literature and provided material for authors of the great Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911) novels to draw upon. This trilogy has been compared to Boccaccio's Decameron and the stories of A Thousand and One Nights. Peopled with scholars, emperors, ministers, generals, and a gallery of ordinary men and women - merchants and artisans, prostitutes and courtesans, matchmakers and fortune-tellers, monks and nuns, thieves and imposters - the stories provide a vivid panorama of the bustling world of late imperial China. The longest volume in the Sanyan trilogy, Stories to Awaken the World is presented in full here, including sexually explicit elements often omitted from Chinese editions.

Shuhui Yang and Yunqin Yang have provided a rare treat for English readers: an unparalleled view of the art of traditional Chinese short fiction. As with the first two collections in the trilogy, Stories Old and New and Stories to Caution the World, their excellent renditions of the forty stories in this collection are eminently readable, accurate, and lively. They have included all of the poetry that is scattered throughout the stories, as well as Feng Menglong's interlinear and marginal comments, which convey the values shared among the Chinese cultural elite, point out what original readers of the collection were being asked to appreciate in the writer's art, and reveal Feng's moral engagement with the social problems of his day. The Yangs's translations rank among the very finest English versions of Chinese fiction from any period.

For other titles in the collection go to
Feng Menglong (1574-1646), the most knowledgeable connoisseur of Chinese popular literature of his time, is best known for his three collections of vernacular stories, now commonly known as the Sanyan. Shuhui Yang is professor of Chinese at Bates College, Lewiston, Maine. Yunqin Yang is a simultaneous interpreter in the United Nations Secretariat. Together, they translated Feng's Stories Old and New (Gujin xiaoshuo) and Stories to Caution the World (Jingshi tongyan).

"Stories to Awaken the World includes old and new stories on holy monks, murderous abbots, and lascivious nuns, together with stories on immortal maidens and Daoist magicians. Stories of pure love and devotion alternate with tales of royal debauchery. The collection contains some of the best-known stories of the genre, translated with competence and zest."
-Wilt Idema, Harvard University
Translators' Note
Chronology of Chinese Dynasties

Stories to Awaken the World

Preface [to the 1627 edition]
1. Two High-Minded County Magistrates Vie to Take On an Orphan Girl as Daughter-in-Law
2. Three Devoted Brothers Win Honor by Yielding Family Property to One Another
3. The Oil-Peddler Wins the Queen of Flowers
4. The Old Gardener Meets Fair Maidens
5. The Grateful Tiger Delivers the Bride at Big Tree Slope
6. Divine Foxes Lose a Book at Small Water Bay
7. Scholar Qian Is Blessed with a Wife through a Happy Mistake
8. Prefect Qiao Rearranges Matches in an Arbitrary Decision
9. Chen Duoshou and His Wife Bound in Life and in Death
10. The Liu Brothers in Brotherhood and in Marriage
11. Three Times Su Xiaomei Tests Her Groom
12. Four Times Abbot Foyin Flirts with Qinniang
13. The Leather Boot as Evidence against the God Erlang's Impostor
14. The Fan Tower Restaurant as Witness to the Love of Zhou Shengxian
15. In Eternal Regret, He Daqing Leaves Behind a Lovers' Silk Ribbon
16. In Defiance, Lu Wuhan Refuses to Give Up the Colored Shoes
17. Zhang Xiaoji Takes in His Brother-in-Law at Chenliu
18. Shi Fu Encounters a Friend at Tanque
19. Bai Yuniang Endures Hardships and Brings about Her Husband's Success
20. Zhang Tingxiu Escapes from Death and Saves His Father
21. With Her Wisdom Zhang Shu'er Helps Mr. Yang Escape
22. With His Flying Sword Lu Dongbin Attempts to Kill the Yellow Dragon
23. Prince Hailing of Jin Dies from Indulgence in Lust
24. Emperor Yang of the Sui Dynasty Is Punished for His Life of Extravagance
25. Mr. Dugu Has the Strangest Dreams on His Journey Home
26. Magistrate Xue Proves His Divinity through a Fish
27. Li Yuying Appeals for Justice from Jail
28. Young Master Wu Goes to a Tryst in the Next Boat
29. With His Passion for Poetry and Wine, Scholar Lu Scorns Dukes and Earls
30. In a Humble Inn, Li Mian Meets a Knight-Errant
31. Regional Commander Zheng Renders Distinguished Service with His Divine-Arm Bow
32. Scholar Huang Is Blessed with Divine Aid through His Jade-Horse Pendant
33. Over Fifteen Strings of Cash, a Jest Leads to Dire Disasters
34. For One Penny, a Small Grudge Ends in Stark Tragedies
35. In Righteous Wrath, Old Servant Xu Builds Up a Family Fortune
36. Enduring Humiliation, Cai Ruihong Seeks Revenge
37. Du Zichun Goes to Chang'an Three Times
38. Daoist Li Enters Cloud Gate Cave Alone
39. Magistsrate Wang Burns Down Precious Lotus Monastery
40. The God of Madang Conjures Wind to Blow Wang Bo to Prince Teng's Pavilion


"Only by reading each anthology in the context of the other two . . . can we fully appreciate the value of the first-ever complete English translation of the San yan and the significance of the translators' contributions."
-Liangyan Ge, Chinese Literature, (33) 2011

"Joining Stories Old and New, and Stories to Caution the World, both also masterfully translated by S. Yang and Y. Yang, this volume completes the full translation of Feng Menglong's sanyan, a three volume-collection of vernacular huaben short stories. . . . This three-volume set is invaluable. Highly recommended."