Wu Ching-Tzu

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Wu Ching-Tzu


Born 1701 in Anhwei Province; died 1754 in Yangzhou. Chinese humanist writer.

Wu Ching-tzu opposed the foreign Manchu dynasty. He renounced a career as an official and in 1734 moved to Nanking, where he lived in poverty. He wrote the satirical novel An Unofficial History of the Literati (published 1803; Russian translation, 1959), which attacked the entire ruling class. Wu Ching-tzu depicted the degradation of the arrogant bureaucrats who were in positions of power; he favored a search for individual self-perfection conducted in the spirit of a revitalized Confucianism. His ideal society as portrayed in the novel was rationally organized and was similar to an enlightened monarchy. The positive heroes of An Unofficial History of the Literati include representatives of the ancient Confucian morality, members of the new generation who long for freedom of the spirit, ordinary people, and independent “new women.” Most of the novel’s negative characters are individualized, whereas the positive characters serve chiefly as mouthpieces for the author’s ideas. An Unofficial History of the Literati is to a great extent conventional in form, but at the same time it has highly complex characters and is free of traditional verse insertions and authorial sermonizing.

Wu Ching-tzu also wrote poetry, other works of fiction, and commentaries on the Shih Ching (Book of Songs).


Fishman, O. L. Kitaiskii satiricheskii roman. Moscow, 1966. Pages 71–106.
Lu Hsun. A Brief History of Chinese Fiction. Peking, 1959. Pages 288–97.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Poetic composition is problematized in the novel not just because of the terror of literary inquisition, but also because it is often appropriated by charlatans and self-styled "famous scholars" (mingshi) for whom the author Wu Jingzi seems to reserve his sharpest barbs.
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Probably around 1740, Wu Jingzi began work on the semiautobiographical Rulin waishi, completing it about 10 years later.
In its literatus author Wu Jingzi's eyes, this self-cultivation has become possible only through uncompromising withdrawal from pragmatic social involvement, since the rewards of the striving for what the preface and the extra-textual commentary call "gong ming fu gui"--career, fame, wealth, and rank--had dominated the idealistically Confucian pursuit of humanistic relationships, art, and learning in his time.
This is of course valid, even though he essentially ignores the important question of why Wu Jingzi would choose to express something of such national and philosophical import as Confucian ritual in the lowly regarded fictional medium, employing the vernacular rather than the classical language, leaving out his name from the manuscript--a choice that caused his friend Cheng Jinfang to comment in a poem (ca.
By molding his study around chapter 37, Shang Wei essentially denies the satirical character of Rulin waishi, seeing it instead as Wu Jingzi's personal exploration of the intricacies and ironies of eighteenth-century ritualistic thought and practice of Nanjing literati.
23-42), takes issue with Lu Xun's A Brief History of Chinese Fiction of 1924, in which only Wu Jingzi's Rulin waishi was classified as a satiric novel, while the critical novels of the last decade of the Qing were labeled "novels of exposure." Wu argues that satire is an element that is found in varying degree in many other novels as well.
Roddy focuses on Wu Jingzi's Rulin waishi, but also discusses at length Xia Jingqu's Yesou puyan and Li Ruzhen's Jinghua yuan.
6383), Roddy looks into the intellectual background of Wu Jingzi, Xia Jingqu, and Li Ruzhen: family connections tie Wu Jingzi to the ritual studies of Yan Yuan and Li Gong; Xia Jingqu can be connected to Changzhou scholarship through his patron Yang Mingshi; and Li Ruzhen was introduced to kaozheng studies by his teacher Ling Tingkan, who wrote on ritual classics, phonology, and mathematics.