Chinese Theories of Fiction

A Non-Western Narrative System

By Ming Dong Gu

Subjects: Asian Literature
Series: SUNY series in Chinese Philosophy and Culture
Paperback : 9780791468166, 302 pages, June 2007
Hardcover : 9780791468159, 302 pages, July 2006

Table of contents

Introduction: Theory of Fiction: A Chinese Perspective

Internationalization of Chinese Fiction
A Critique of Realism
A Critique of History
A Critique of the Poetry-Fiction Divide
Objectives of Inquiry
Scope of Inquiry
Assumptions and Methodology

1. Chinese Notions of Fiction

Chinese Xiaoshuo and Western “Fiction”
From “Xiaoshuo” to Xiaoshuo
The Continuity of Fictionality in Xiaoshuo
The Intrinsic Nature of Xiaoshuo
The Problem of Self-Conscious Fictionalization

2. The Nature of (Chinese) Fiction

A Definition of Fiction 
Fictionality: the Conceptual Core of Xiaoshuo
A Definition of Pure Fiction
Intrinsic Reasons for the Rise of Fiction
Historical and Narrative Inertia
From Storytelling to Fictional Art

3. The Aesthetic Turn in Chinese Fiction

The Initial Turn to Fictionality in Early Xiaoshuo
The Turn to Realism and Inwardness
The Turn to Multiplicity in the Full-length Novel
The Drive toward Pure Fiction
A Change in Model for Fiction Writing
The Linguistic Turn to Fiction as Verbal Art

4. The Poetic Nature of Chinese Fiction

The Lyric Unconscious of Chinese Fiction 
Poeticization of Prose Fiction
The Rise of Poetic Fiction
Intrinsic Poetic Qualities in Fiction
A Definition of Poetic Fiction
Lyrical Realism and Mythical Realism
Aesthetic Suggestiveness: Hallmark of Fictional Art

5. The Art of the Jin Ping Mei: Poetics of Pure Fiction

A Self-Conscious Turn to Pure Fiction
A Novelistic Conception of Weaving
Creative Impulse and Motivation for Fiction-Making
The Invention of Characters and Plot
A Disseminative Paradigm of Reading/Writing
The Poetics of Fabrication
A Novel of Multiple Dimensions

6. The Art of the Honloumeng: Poetic Fiction and Open Fiction

The Ontology of Representation
The Epistemology of Representation
Creative Vision: Openness of Fiction
Dreams and the Making of Poetic Fiction
The Poetic Unconscious and Poetics of Openness
A Writing Model of Open Fiction

7. Theory of Fiction: A Chinese System

A Synthetic Overview 
Genesis: Lyrical and Psychological Rise
Ontology: Being in Nonbeing or Real in Unreal
Epistemology: Make-believe or Taking the Unreal as Real
Creative Conception: Many-in-One Totality
Model of Writing: Linguistic Dissemination
A Definition of Open Fiction
Modes of Representation: Kaleidoscopic Narration
Theory of Reading: Open Hermeneutics

Conclusion: Toward a Transcultural Theory of Fiction

Conceptual Roots of Sameness and Difference
Mimetic Dogma and Chinese Dissent
Conceptual Basis for a Transcultural Fiction Theory
Fiction as a Linguistic Representation of the One

Selected Bibliography

An ambitious, innovative work that proposes a distinctly Chinese theory of fiction.


In this innovative work, Ming Dong Gu examines Chinese literature and traditional Chinese criticism to construct a distinctly Chinese theory of fiction and places it within the context of international fiction theory. He argues that because Chinese fiction, or xiaoshuo, was produced in a tradition very different from that of the West, it has formed a system of fiction theory that cannot be adequately accounted for by Western fiction theory grounded in mimesis and realism. Through an inquiry into the macrocosm of Chinese fiction, the art of formative works, and theoretical data in fiction commentaries and intellectual thought, Gu explores the conceptual and historical conditions of Chinese fiction in relation to European and world fiction. In the process, Gu critiques and challenges some accepted views of Chinese fiction and provides a theoretical basis for fresh approaches to fiction study in general and Chinese fiction in particular. Such masterpieces as the Jin Ping Mei (The Plum in the Golden Vase) and the Hongloumeng (The Story of the Stone) are discussed at length to advance his notion of fiction and fiction theory.

Ming Dong Gu is Associate Professor of Chinese and Comparative Literature and Director of the Confucius Institute at the University of Texas, Dallas. He is the author of Chinese Theories of Reading and Writing: A Route to Hermeneutics and Open Poetics, also published by SUNY Press.