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张光前教授
( 2015-07-25 )

研究方向:

汉语古典文学作品英译
英汉对比研究



主要译、著:

The Peony Pavilion. Beijing: Tourism Education Press, 1994
(《牡丹亭》北京:旅游教育出版社)

  本书前言 >>

《美国生活会话》(二作者之一)
安徽科学技术出版社,1994

本书前言 >>

Into the Porcelain Pillow - 101 Tales from Records of the Taiping Era. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1998
(《太平广记选》北京:外文出版社)

  本书前言 >>

The Peony Pavilion. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 2001
(《牡丹亭》(修订版)北京:外文出版社)

  本书前言 >>

《校园英语会话》(主编)
安徽科学技术出版社,2002

  本书前言 >>

A Dream Under the Southern Bough. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 2003.
(《南柯记》北京:外文出版社)

  本书前言

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太平广记英文前言

Introduction

Records of the Taiping Era, compiled under the general editorship of Li Fang at the decree of the second emperor of the Song Dynasty, is a comprehensive collection of almost all the written stories up to the beginning of that dynasty. Since it was completed in the third year (978) of Taiping Xingguo reign, it was named after the reign title “Taiping,” which means “peaceful.”

The collection consists of nearly 7,000 “records” in 500 volumes from about 400 source books. These records all came under the ancient heading of xiao shuo, or “small talk” if the two words are translated literally, in contrast to more serious works such as the Confucian classics. Besides stories, the modern sense of xiao shuo, it also includes accounts of geographical wonders, unusual natural phenomena, local customs, skills and arts, biographical sketches, jokes, quotations, and so forth. A look at its table of contents (see Appendix V) can demonstrate the diversity of the types and their proportion.


The principal focus of this present anthology, while giving full consideration to its coverage as is shown in Appendix V, is on the more mature fiction of the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907), which was one of the most prolific dynasties in China’s long history. Literature boomed not only in poetry but in other types of prose as well. Writing stories was no longer disdained by Confucian scholars as an inferior pastime. It even became a fashion for them to send their stories, in addition to their poems and essays, to influential nobles as a way to win favor and recommendation. Stories thus became a conscious effort of literary creation.

Tang Dynasty short stories developed from three chief sources: historical records, myths and legends, and oral storytelling.

In China, keeping written official records of history is a practice perhaps as old as the written language itself. From 841 B.C., systematic imperial records were compiled. There are two major styles of composition for these records. One is the listing of events chronologically, as in The Spring and Autumn Annals; the other represents history as revolving around historical figures, the most representative of which is Sima Qian’s Records of the Historian, which consists of five parts: the basic annals, tables, treatises, hereditary houses and biographies, with emphasis on the last. As a matter of fact, these records of people are not just collections of cut-and-dried facts, but are good narrative prose. In ancient times, history books and literary works were not separated as they may be now.

What was written down in the historical records was considered to be authentic facts, yet there were other “facts” too eccentric to be preserved in the official records. Confucius stated that he would talk about neither prodigies nor spirits. And these off-the-official-record events, mostly passed down as myths and legends, developed into a literary genre of their own, known as “records of strange things” in the Kingdom of Wei (220 – 265) and the Jin Dynasty (265 – 420), and continued through the Northern and Southern Dynasties (420 – 589) up to the Tang Dynasty. Though they were all indiscriminately called “stories” by the ancients, the majority of them are still one step away from fiction, for the mysteries were treated as facts. Rather than make an artist’s attempt at creative writing, the writers were “recording” events that might have interested them and might likewise be interesting to others.

Storytelling is an age-old popular entertainment. Because of its vocal and vulgar nature, very little has been handed down to reveal its earliest form. However, in the Tang Dynasty there bloomed a literary genre called bian wen, or translated as “transformation texts.” This written literature was discovered at the turn of the 20th century in the Dunhuang caves. It is in a verse-prose form originally employed by Buddhist monks for liturgical purposes. Buddhism came to China in the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 – 220), and flourished in the Northern and Southern Dynasties. In order to propagate this alien religion, the monks strove to make the abstruse doctrines easy to remember and comprehend. Thus a kind of storytelling about the life and teachings of the Buddha, blended with singing and humming through the verses, became popular, somewhat like the liturgical plays staged by the churches of medieval Europe. And also like the development of the liturgical plays when they spread from the temples to the streets, the topics of bian wen were no longer confined to religious stories but expanded to include stories of lay heroes and ordinary people.

Traces of record-keeping are still obvious in these stories. A great number of them start by telling the reader unequivocally the year and the place of the event, and the family origin of the protagonist. Some authors even go out of their way to attach a postscript to the story in order to provide the reader with the source of the information, as in The Departed Soul. This is not an artistic trick to make fiction sound like fact; on the contrary, it is a sincere effort to convince the reader that what is written down is not fictitious.

Other traces of historical records remain. For instance, most of the titles of the stories are named after the main character in the tradition of the Records of the Historian. As a transliteration of those names into Chinese phonetic symbols will be meaningless to readers unfamiliar with Chinese history, this translation has retitled most of the selected stories. A few, such as Zhao Tai, Mr Li, and Hermit Zhang, are left unchanged.

The Tang Dynasty carried on the tradition of writing about the strange and mysterious. But we can feel a subtle change in its intent. The accounts are no longer attempting to be an objective and impartial record of events; now, the deities and spirits are personified and put into a more or less realistic setting that reflects human society. The authors may employ these personified figures to tell a story and to pass on their views of the world, and herein lies the fundamental distinction between fiction and historical records.

Pioneered by bian wen, poems have embedded themselves into these stories. They became a comfortable and familiar vehicle for the writers to vent their feelings or to describe scenery. This verse-in-prose style was further developed in later dynasties to become a conspicuous ingredient of Chinese novels.

Due to the characteristic succinctness of classical writing, stories composed up to the Tang Dynasty are usually very short, often less than 200 Chinese characters. Stories of over 1,000 characters are considered “long,” and stories of the length of The Southern Bough, that is, over 4,000 characters, are scarce. Western readers may feel the want of descriptive touches and transitional elements, which here must be filled in by using one’s imagination.

The history of the Tang Dynasty can be divided roughly into three stages. The early stage (618-741), after almost two centuries of wars known as the period of the Northern and Southern Dynasties and the very brief interval of the Sui Dynasty (581-618), was characterized by political stability, which allowed the national economy to recover and grow. General prosperity reached its height in Kaiyuan reign of Emperor Xuanzong.

More than 40 years of peace during the reign of Xuanzong turned him into a pleasure-seeker. Corruption crept in while regional powers gathered force. From Tianbao reign to the end of Yuanhe reign, the country was torn by the struggle between the central government and separatist warlords, culminating in An Lushan and Shi Siming’s rebellion from 755 to 763, and sporadic but incessant local wars in its wake until Emperor Xianzong suppressed the major separatist force in the Huai River region.

Xianzong, however, was murdered by court eunuchs in 820. This marked the beginning of the last stage of the dynasty when eunuchs emerged as a powerful political force. Being closest to and most trusted by the throne, they not only held sway over the monarch and the fate of the crown prince, but usurped a great share of political power from the cabinet. Cabinet members aligned themselves either with or against the eunuchs, and prime ministers went in and out of office as though riding a merry-go-round. At the same time, the country never fully recovered from the disasters of the civil wars ongoing since An Lushan and Shi Siming’s rebellion. The national economy plummeted. Before the rebellion, salt was sold at one copper coin a liter, but after the rebellion, it rose to 11 coins a liter, and went up to 37 coins a liter in Zhenyuan reign. A nationwide peasant uprising began as Emperor Yizong ascended the throne in 859. A peasant army led by Huang Chao even drove the emperor from the capital and occupied the city. Though Huang Chao’s uprising was finally crushed in 884, the dynasty was too exhausted to regain its former glory. In 907, the Tang Dynasty fell and the country was once again plunged into the chaos of war and quick successions of one short-lived dynasty after another until the Song Dynasty reunified the country in 960.

Generally speaking, the rulers of the Tang Dynasty were relatively liberal and open-minded, especially in the early period. Cross-border commerce and travel flourished, and many new things were introduced into the country. The dynasty lived peacefully with the various ethnic groups within its borders and beyond. Foreign monks and Persians, who were renowned traders coming by the Silk Road, occur frequently in the stories. There is an explicit reference to watching a Brahman dance in The Southern Bough. Diplomatic missions overseas are mentioned in The Long-Beard Kingdom and The Kingdom of Silla, and they brought back stories of adventure. Some stories probably originated in India and came into China along with Buddhism, for example, The Golden Berry, A Ride in a Goose Cage and The Proprietress at Wooden Bridge.

Religious tolerance is obvious in the stories, though royal preferences did exist since the House of Li regarded themselves as descendants of Li Er (Lao Tzu), the spiritual founder of Taoism. This preference is plainly reflected in the number of stories related to Taoism and Taoist priests, which far exceeds those concerning Buddhism and Buddhist monks, as is indicated by the table of contents of the original collection. But royal endorsement and religious contention did not take the extreme forms of one trying to eliminate all others. In The Two Friends, for example, a monk visits both the Qingcheng and Emei Mountains, the former a mountain sacred to Taoism and the latter a mountain sacred to Buddhism. Unlike in previous and later dynasties, Taoist priests, Buddhist monks and Confucian scholars could live harmoniously with each other.

The Taoist aspiration for longevity and becoming immortals was rife and had a strong hold on many, from Taoist priests, as reflected in Wei Zidong, to lay believers like Li Qing in Li Qing the Dyer. The life of the immortal world is depicted as a kind of paradise where one can enjoy all the leisure and luxury of life without any worries or cares.

To realize that dream, some, like Wang Xiong in The Kylin Rider, insist on various kinds of self-realization while others try to obtain that goal by experimenting with longevity elixirs. Therefore alchemy was very popular among Taoist priests, and in A Hired Hand’s Errand wesee them buying ores at the market. As sulfur, realgar, and niter were the most widely used components, and temperature control during calcination was still at a rudimentary stage, incidents of houses burning down and serious physical injuries caused by fires and explosions are found in records of the time. The latter parts of A Sigh for Millions and Wei Zidong could be reflections on the difficulties of controlling furnace temperature and the consequent frustration on the part of the alchemists.

Immortality, according to one school, can be subdivided into three levels depending on one’s “merits.” Those who attain immortality after death are of the lowest level; those who roam the deep mountains are of the second level; and those who are able to lift themselves up into the air and ascend to heaven are of the highest level. Wang Xiong, the immortal being in The Kylin Rider, is probably at a transition point from the second to the highest level.

The Taoist alchemists’ ability to change elements must have contributed to their reputation for magic arts. They can change their shapes (Priest Andao and His Two Disciples), evoke lightning and thunder (Hermit Zhang) and manipulate the winds (A Hired Hand’s Errand), to say nothing of traveling through space and turning base metals into gold.

Buddhism teaches that the soul has an entity of its own and goes through an eternity of circles. The body of a person is merely its temporary residence, and the soul can live separately from the body and resume its shape while the carcass remains partially alive. The Pink Sleeve tells how the soul can be dragged away (the “him” in the sentence “Zhang’s attendants watched him being dragged out of the gate” actually refers to Zhang’s soul) while the dying body lies in a bamboo grove.More fascinating examples can be found in The Departed Soul and The Ninth Princess of the Dragon, wherethe soul can act like a normal person and do heroic deeds. However, there might be more complicated explanations of the composition of one’s soul, as detailed in A Collected Soul.

The Buddhist idea of karma was prevalent, of which Zhao Tai is typical. Retribution never fails to come; it is only a matter of time. Inseparable from this is the belief that one’s fate is predestined. Love-Knot Inn and Three Confidential Letters are examples of the latter.

Consequently, a great man was thought to be destined for greatness even if he lived in obscurity in his early days. Yuchi Jingde (585 – 658) (in The Blacksmith’s Money), Li Jing (571 – 649) (in Li Jing the Demigod) and Ma Sui (726 – 795) were all famous generals of the Tang Dynasty. Yuchi was even worshiped as one of the door gods by later generations. On the other hand, bad men were always born bad. Lu Qi was a real historical figure who served at Emperor Dezong’s court. Being a vicious man, he was recorded in history as one of the bad prime ministers, and he was believed to have been treacherous from the start (The Lunar Goddess). An Lushan, the rebel general who devastated northern China is portrayed as a dangerous monkey in The Monkey in the Copper Jar.

Apart from religious beliefs, superstition abounds. It was believed that anything, no matter whether it was animate or inanimate, could gain a spirit, and probably a human form, if it lived long enough; for example the fox in Sealwort, the willow tree in General Willie, the lily in The Lily, the chess pieces in The Kingdom of Golden Elephant, the bronze mirror in The Girl in the Well and the bags in The Tribal Chief of Juyan. Even paintings could come to life, as in The Maiden on the Painted Screen and A Mural in the Temple of Chrysanthemum, the painted creature of the latter even has a philosophy for his corporeality.

There was a common belief in the existence of ghosts and netherworld spirits. Yin-Yang Doubles proposes a mirror effect of the world above ground and below. The old man in Love-Knot Inn claims, “Of all those walking creatures in the streets, probably half are humans and half are ghosts,” of course a statement not without a touch of sarcasm. Ghosts may occur as lone figures, as in The Desert Ghosts, or with houses and all the necessities of life, which usually match their social status. For instance, a poor peasant lives in a shabby low hut (Night at the Coffin Hut), but a former prefect occupies a magnificent house with servants (The Traveler in Liyang County). Ghosts in the Tang Dynasty stories are often not presented as dark and hideous beings. In Mr Tan’s Bedmate, the ghost, though physically ugly, has a gentle heart.

The portrayal of foxes is of particular interest. In both Chinese and English cultures, the fox, especially as its adjective implies, carries the connotation of “cunning” and “sexuality.” The association is traditionally negative, as presented in The Fox Vampire. In Lieutenant Li’s Wife, however, the foxes do not seem to be so bad. In Sealwort, the old fox has a strong sense of gratitude. And in Li Lingxu and His Fox Aunt, the fox aunt and her maid Gold Bloom are really kindhearted and generous women. These stories laid the foundation for fox stories in the following centuries, culminating in the Qing Dynasty writer Pu Songling’s lovely fox maidens in Strange Tales from Make-Do Studio.

On the other hand, not all people believed in spirits, superstitions or religious ideologies. As mentioned above, the Tang Dynasty had a broadness and openness which later dynasties lacked. Superstitious beliefs are questioned and their falsehood exposed in such stories as Smoke from the Longevity Tower and The Shattered Specter. Blind faith is ridiculed in The Magic Lute.

There are also people who challenge the power or even the very existence of ghosts. In A Daredevil, Song Dingbo shows that there is really nothing to fear and man is cleverer than ghosts. A New Ghost suggests that it is our fear of the unknown that creates ghosts. In fact, the more seriously you believe in them, the more seriously you will be harmed (You Won’t Be Fooled Twice?).

Even celestial deities are challenged. In The Rain Master, Chen Luanfeng stands up to the thunder god and wins. Gods are not always above criticism or worldly vices. In fact, they may look more like wicked nobles familiar to human society. They bully the weak (The Mountain God’s Daughter-in-Law), they gamble and take bribes (The Courier in a Yellow Jacket), they force people to do bad things (The Tiger at the Yangtze Gorges) and they have all the other weaknesses of human beings. The Ocher River God is of special interest in that a bad god is overpowered by a human being, and a monk at that. The monk takes such a pragmatic attitude toward the god and temple that his approach borders on atheism.

There were many who were certainly not awed by religious beliefs and their preachers. The boasted power of Taoist priests is ridiculed in The Meditator; in The Wax Figurine and Prince Ning, we find licentious monks who betray the commandments; in The Monk at East-Mountain Temple, one whorapes; in The Monk Bandit, a monk who is no different from a bandit; and in Sealwort, a monk who has no qualms about taking lives.

Besides deities and spirits, there are plenty of stories about ordinary people and their lives. The Lis’ Youngest Daughter sings the praises of a young girl named Li Ji. Her bravery not only helps her kill a python but saves the lives of many other girls. Chen Luanfeng, an ordinary peasant in The Rain Master, is another example of courage, when he dares to fight the evil thunder god. Exemplary personalities of the Confucian school are extolled, such as Xun Jubo and Guan Ning in Guan and Hua. Lu Pei in The Woman in White is such a filial son that even netherworld spirits are moved.

From the stories we can also get a glimpse of the devastation caused by An Lushan and Shi Siming’s rebellion and the incessant warfare in its wake. Skeletons are heaped up by the roadside (The Fox Vampire) and homes are abandoned (Ma Sui). Starting in the later part of the Tang Dynasty, the regional military commanders gradually grew into semi-autonomous warlords and rode roughshod over the people under their jurisdiction. Mr Li tells us how the son of such a commander can kill a person without the need of an excuse. In Man-Eaters, a general islikenedto a tiger. Red Strand tells of the conflicts and collusions among warlords. In The Monk’s Immolation, a garrison commander makes use of believers’ trust in a venerable monk to collection money, and to keep his scheme a secret he burns the monk to death. In The Magic Bottle, warlord Li Shidao, whose family had been ruling what is roughly present-day Shandong Province for three generations, is bold and powerful enough to hijack an imperial caravan.

The insecurity of life and the cruel oppression and exploitation of the warlords generated a special type of stories about xiake – valiant persons with a strong sense of righteousness and adept in martial arts. Among the stories under the category of “gallantry” Red Strand and The Invisible Swordsgirl are the most representative.

The stories often criticize the widespread corruption of the day. In The Courier in a Yellow Jacket we find a county magistrate who “had amassed an amazing fortune in grain and gold during his term of office, and his property extended from the Yangtze valley to the Huai River.” His meals are prepared according to “elaborate recipes [that] demanded the rarest produce from land and sea.” If a county magistrate lived like that, one can well imagine the lives of officials at higher levels. As common people seemed helpless in the face of official corruption, the writers of the stories frequently turn to supernatural forces for aid in getting retribution or justice.

Other aspects of social life are also exposed. The Lucky Stones draws a picture of the quick rise and fall of a parvenu. A Carp’s Story reveals that beneath the superficial courtesy and gentility, relations in official circles could literally be man-eat-man.

Satire is a sharp weapon for diagnosing human weaknesses. An Old Man of the Han Dynasty, short as the story is, is a vivid picture of a miser. The Two Brothers tells how one can be cheated by one’s own avarice. The Bitten Nose satirizes a muddle-headed magistrate. The Disciplinarian exposes the hypocrisy of a high official, and The Erudite Gentlemen in the Capital does the same to pretentious scholars.

In China’s traditional Confucian society, passing the imperial examinations was of critical importance. Success would bring an official post and glory to one’s family and ancestors. But the examinations were not as fair as they should have been. Backdoor bargains did take place. A Successful Candidate gives us a telling example of how people in power could pull strings, and Three Confidential Letters discloses how money could buy success.

Love is a permanent motif in any literature, and love stories in this anthology are many and mosaic. We have to keep in mind the fact that marriage in the past was literally “arranged” by the parents, and choosing a spouse of one’s own preference was out of the question for a woman, if not entirely impossible for a man. Even if a man could make his own choice under special circumstances, he still had to take into consideration many things, especially the matching of the social and economic status of family backgrounds.

The longing for the freedom to choose and to love, especially on the part of women, is strongly expressed in the stories. Take The Blushing Cheeks for example. A country girl has no way to express her liking of Cui Hu, and if it were not for Cui’s accidental return she would simply have passed away unnoticed. Even women of the upper classes could not openly express their love, nor even tell their parents. Qianniang in The Departed Soul is a remarkable example. The story could be understood as a proclamation that although the feudal code of behavior could shackle the body, it could not constrain the soul.

What is suppressed often finds vent in one way or another, and the suppressed craving for the freedom to choose and love finds antithetical expression in literary works, such as marriage after death or in a dream, or love affairs between a human being and a deity, a ghost, an animal, or even a plant. Although in real life men had relatively higher status and more freedom in choosing a spouse, in these stories it is often the woman who takes the initiative. There seems to be an interesting pattern that when the love affair is between a human being and a deity, and thus of unequal status, the celestial being is usually the woman. Take for example Charcoal Valley, where the daughter of a valley god falls in love with a fugitive man, or The Conch Girl, in which the girl is from heaven while the man is a poor low-level government clerk.

If the two are of comparable status, the woman is often presented as the ghost of a virgin from a high class. For example, the girl in Zhang’s Daughter is the daughter of an official and the man she seeks is the son of her father’s successor. In this story we can see the prototype of the famous Ming Dynasty play The Peony Pavilion by Tang Xianzu. This kind of spouse-seeking is often presented as a resurrection. Mr Tan’s Bedmate, however, is an exception in that Tan is extremely poor, while the ghost is the daughter of a prince.

Moreover, love can be expressed metaphorically. Mr Shentu’s Wife is a touching story about the love between a man and a tigress. The Lily is an extraordinary story of love between the spirit of a plant and a Confucian scholar.

From the numerous accounts of natural phenomena and technical wonders in Records of the Taiping Era, a few have been chosen for the richness of their storytelling.

The strange creatures in Sea Giants are actually three natural phenomena. The first one is a volcano eruption. The fish’s gaping mouth is nothing but the crater of the volcano. The second may be an exceptionally large seaweed pad or a plankton bloom - their size is certainly much exaggerated. Seaweed and plankton are usually phosphate-rich and can give off phosphorescent light under certain conditions. The third is a description of a typhoon. Its cyclonic funnel does look like a coiling snake to an imaginative eye. Though it is not difficult for modern readers to figure out what they are, to the ancients they were mysteries.

Two stories are selected about a snake taking revenge for its master by deluging a town. Although the locales of the incidents are far apart – A Granny in Qiongdu County is set in the remote mountainous region of the southwest, while The Snake on the Shoulder-Pole is set in the flood plain of the Yellow River, these two tales obviously developed from the same source. The cause of these disasters was probably an earthquake, for the former tale, which seems closer to its origin, still bears a typical indication of a quake – the rumbling noise. The discovery reported by China Central Television (CCTV) in 2006 of the remains of an ancient town at the bottom of Lake Fuxian, Yuxi City, Yunnan Province, can be a good footnote to the incident. These two accounts may serve as a clue to the evolution of a story from a natural phenomenon.

Yet the Chinese people more than a millennium ago were not ignorant of science. The Old Midget proves that they were very familiar with the characteristics of mercury. It can be cut into smaller and smaller balls without losing its features; it can be rolled back into one again, and can also dissipate into tiny holes or cracks in the floor and remain unsoiled. It is interesting to note how the author successfully wove those features into a fascinating story.

What is more amazing is that in The Lunar Goddess people already had distinct ideas about space travel and flying off the ground like birds, ideas which we can also find in Mount Raven and The Carpenter and His Wooden Cranes. Wings, as was correctly perceived, are not sufficient to carry one to the moon, so spaceships (in this case streamlined gourds) are needed, as well as protective clothing. The temperature drop at higher altitudes and the booming sound of rockets tearing through the air are also accurate speculations.

One may wonder how the prisoner in The Rope Acrobat contrived his escape at a time when flying machines were unknown, and managed it without outside assistance. Meticulously conceived plans by modern prisoners for breaking out of jail by helicopter lose their novelty when compared with this artful prisoner 12 centuries ago.

Surprisingly, what seems to be modern can often be found in ancient stories. For instance, environmental protection is a concern of The Conch Girl. One difference is that nowadays we protect our environment by law, while the ancients resorted to rewards and punishments from heaven.

Scientific experiments in the manner of trial and error are also recorded. The protagonist of The Monk in Jiang Prefecture who dedicated his body to medical science nearly 1,400 years ago still merits our respect.

In a similar vein, Diao Junchao’s wife asks her husband to excise a tumor and see what is inside. By luck, this turns out to be a successful surgical operation. Thyroid tumors were common in the old days in China, but a lack of scientific knowledge shrouded them in an aura of mystery. To some extent, it was by the brave experiments of people like Diao Junchao and his wife in The Tumor that it was gradually learned that such tumors could be surgically removed.

Technical wonders, too, find their way into stories. The Ingenious Carpenter, The Carpenter and His Wooden Cranes and The Pink Sleeve are all examples of the carpenters’ skills. And the amazing descriptions of tomb design in An Ancient Tomb tally well with archeological findings.

To sum up, just as Greek mythology forms a background to European literature, Records of the Taiping Era has served as an inexhaustible reservoir for subsequent writers and playwrights.

*

The present translation is based on the 1961 edition by Zhong Hua Book Company. It is an enlarged edition of Into the Porcelain Pillow – 101 Tales from Records of the Taiping Era published in 1998 by Foreign Languages Press, Beijing. Fifty-two newly translated stories have been added, and most of the postscripts and poems omitted from the first edition have been restored. Slight revisions and corrections have been made to the original 103 tales. (The Woman’s First Mirror and The Bitten Nose were under one title in the previous edition, and A Granny in Qiongdu County was treated as an appendix to The Snake on the Shoulder-Pole) Now, instead of 42, this edition covers 51 of the 92 categories in the original text.

The stories are arranged in their original order. For smoother reading, footnotes, as before, are kept to a minimum and the necessary explanations are collected into appendices at the back of the book. So, if one finds the background of the stories rather unfamiliar, it is advisable to read Appendix III first, which is intended as a simple but helpful guide to China and her traditions.

the translator

太平广记中文前言

前言

 

《太平广记》是宋代的第二个皇帝宋太宗敕命编撰的古代小说总集,主编人是当时的户部侍郎李昉。全书于太平兴国三年(978年)编成,因此定名太平。分500卷,收录了上古至宋初大约400种图书中的约7,000篇小说。当时“小说”二字并非作今日之解,而是如其字面所示,乃指与经史相对的无关宏旨之说。其涵盖之广由原书目录可见一斑(见附录V),除了故事,还包括了自然地理、风俗习惯、技艺之术、传记语录、笑话幽默等等。《太平广记》在中国文学发展史上有着巨大的影响,它所引用的书目,大多已经湮灭,但正是由于它的编辑成书,保存了大量的文献,使后世的研究者能够窥其一斑,甚至能够还原其中相当一部份。


本书入选的主要是日臻成熟的唐代(618年~907年)小说,同时也考虑到了选篇的覆盖面。唐朝是中国历史上最大气磅礴的朝代。在文学上,不仅以诗流芳百世,于文亦文采飞扬。写“小说”,亦即写故事,已不再被文人学士看作不屑,更有甚之,小说已成为诗赋之外,用来投献给达官贵人以获得推举甚或经济支持的手段,史称行卷、温卷。在这种风气之下,小说成为了文学上的自觉。

简而要之,唐代小说有三个主要来源,即史传的传统、神话传说和讲故事。

中国有文字记载的正史至少可以上溯到公元前841年。正史的记载有两种方法,一是《春秋》所代表的编年法,二是如司马迁(公元前145年~公元前90年)的《史记》那样,围绕历史人物展开的纪传体,分本纪、表、书、世家、列传五部分,尤以列传为优美散文,绝非干巴巴的条目。其实,古代的历史著作与文学作品并不像如今这样有明显的分野。

正史非史实不载,然而,普天之下还有很多的“事实”或因其荒诞,或因其不可考而不能进入正史,这正如孔子所谓的“不语怪力乱神”。这类“事实”多以神话传说的形式流传于民间。至魏晋南北朝(220年~589年),则发展出一种文学题材,号称“志怪”,即记录怪事。其虽属于“小说”,但距真正的虚构文学(fiction)尚有一步之遥。当时的作者是把这些有趣的异闻当作事实来记载的,而不是作为创作。

讲故事是人类与生俱来的本领,但由于其口头和鄙俗性质一直无人予以记录,其早期形式也就无从知晓。20世纪伊始,人们在敦煌藏经洞的经卷中意外地发现了一种鲜为人知的写本——变文。这种韵白交替的形式当年是以边讲边唱的方式表现的。东汉(25年~220年)以来,佛教东渐,佛理高深,僧人则利用民俗的形式向大众宣讲佛法和佛本生故事,颇有些像欧洲中世纪教堂里唱诗班搬演宗教剧的作法。同样,当这一做法逐渐普及,走出庙堂,讲唱的内容亦不再仅仅局限于佛经,进而包括了民间传说和英雄事迹,如孟姜女变文、伍子胥变文等等。

在《太平广记》的故事中,史传的痕迹清晰可见。众多的故事开门见山、直白无误地告诉读者事件发生的时间、地点和人物的身份背景。一些作者为了表明确有其事,在故事之后还专门加上了一段跋, 如“王宙”所做。其目的并不是为了使故事听起来更真实,而是为了证明其非杜撰。

又如,《太平广记》中各篇的标题多依《史记》笔法,直接标以主要人物的名字。然而,本书对照的英文译文若直接用汉语拼音转写,将会给英文读者造成很大的困惑。因此,译文大多根据情节予以重新命名,只有少数保留了原标题,如“赵泰”、“李生”、“张山人”诸篇。

入唐以后,志怪的传统依然存在,但有了一些细微的差别。人们可以隐约感到这些“记录”不再是纯粹的客观描述,此时的神灵精怪更加像现实中的人,故事的背景也更像人类世界。作者更注重的是利用这些拟人化的灵怪借题发挥,表述自己的观点想法。而这一点正是记录历史与文学创作的分水岭。

由变文滥觞,诗词似乎成了故事的一个组件。写诗本来就是文人硕儒最拿手、最引以自豪的表现形式,点缀于故事之中抒情摹景,似乎理所当然。由此也造就了后世长篇小说中,诗成了不可或缺的成分。这个特点,与英文小说对照,则分外明显:英文小说是不掺杂诗歌的。

古文凝练的特点也充分体现在这些故事中。直到宋初,故事都相当简短,往往不足200字。千字以上,可算长篇,而像“淳于芬”那样超过4,000字的则颇为罕见。英文读者可能不习惯这种简短,需要靠联想和想象力来填充字里行间的细节。

唐代的历史大致可以分为三个阶段。早期由618年建国至741年开元末。经过将近两个世纪的战乱和短暂的隋朝,唐初政治基本稳定,使得国力恢复,经济持续增长,社会繁荣,在开元年间达到了巅峰。玄宗40余年治下的太平盛世,使得他日渐骄侈,沉迷声色。腐败之风渐盛,以藩镇为代表的割据势力趁机抬头,终于酿成安史之乱(755年~763年)。即便是安史败后,中央与割据,藩镇与藩镇之间的局部战争仍此起彼伏,直到宪宗收复了淮西。820年宪宗被宦官谋杀标志着唐代步入晚期。在这一时期,宦官成了左右政局的强大势力。以其得近天颜、专断言路,不仅可以谋太子立废,且干预朝政,勾结命官。朝官亦结为朋党,相互倾轧,此时的宰相如同走马灯一般,你方唱罢我来唱。常年战乱,民不聊生,国力衰竭。据载,安史之乱前,一文钱可买一升盐,战后则涨至11文,至贞元年间(785年~805年)更跃至37文。懿宗(859年~873年)以降,农民起义接二连三,875年黄巢起义,甚至一度攻占了首都长安。虽然起义军在884年被镇压,但唐朝终未能恢复以前的强盛。907年唐亡,全国又一次陷入连年的战乱之中,直到960年宋朝立国,重新获得了统一。

总的来说,唐帝国思想开放,具有容纳百川的胸怀,疆域内外,民族和睦,早期尤其如此。与周边国家贸易发达,商旅如梭,异域文化、新奇物事不断涌入。故事中常常写到西来的僧侣、识宝的波斯商人,“淳于芬”中甚至提到看婆罗门舞。“瞻波异果”、“阳羡书生”、“板桥三娘子”等故事均有着明显的印度渊源。向东,皇朝的使团漂洋涉海,出访新罗、“长须国”,历险遇奇。

唐代的李姓帝王们自认为是李耳的后裔,因此崇奉道教,神仙、道术类故事在《太平广记》中所占的卷数比例就是明证,但这丝毫没有妨碍宗教上的宽容。“圆观”故事说得明白:“二公一旦约游蜀州,抵青城峨嵋,同访道求药。”身为和尚的圆观并不介意拜访道教的圣地青城山。除了会昌年间武宗短暂的灭佛之外,唐代释道儒之间并没有你死我活的争斗。

道教鼓吹长生不死、得道成仙。神仙世界,无忧无虑,悠闲自在,向往者从“韦自东”中的道士到财主李清不乏其人。一部分人力图通过自身的修炼提升境界,如“麒麟客”中的王夐,另一部分人则试图炼制长生不老之丹,炼丹术由是大行其道。在“冯俊”一文中我们就可以看到道士“于市买药”。炼丹所用的“药”以硫磺、硝石为主。烧炼时温度的控制至为关键,稍有不慎,轻则失火,重则炉毁人亡。“杜子春”和“韦自东”各自的后半部分是对其困难和艰辛的形象描述。

今日神仙二字并举,但《太平广记》故事中,神与仙不同。神乃指天上神灵,而仙是由凡人变成的(间或地上其它生灵,如狐仙),析字为:“人入山也。”所谓得道成仙,按其中一说,大致分为:死后得以成仙;居深山,不食人间烟火,游于天地之间;能够升天与神为伍等三个层次。“麒麟客”中的王夐大约处于第二到第三层次的过渡阶段。

道士们改变物质性质的本领引起了人们有关他们法术的种种传说。除了常规的书符念咒、往来无阻,茅安道不但自己能够变成巨鸢,还能够把徒弟变成鼠,张山人能以雷电为武器,“冯俊”中的道士则有呼风唤雨之术。

佛教则强调灵魂不死,肉身仅为暂居的躯壳。“华阳李尉”中,我们看到张节度使的灵魂被李尉“执之出门”,而节度使的躯体仍“仆于林下矣,眼鼻皆血,唯心上暖。”“王宙”与“灵应传”中的灵魂不但可以如生人一般独立存在,还可以做出种种丰功伟绩。“齐推女”中关于生人三魂七魄的解释似乎更加复杂。

灵魂轮回的观念在“赵泰”中展现的淋漓尽致。所谓“善有善报,恶有恶报,时候不到”。与此紧密相关的宿命论思想可见于“定婚店”和“李君”。因此,一个有出息的人,无论年轻时何等窘困,注定是要出头的。尉迟敬德(585年~658年)、李靖(571年~649年)、马燧(726年~795年)均为唐朝名将。在这三个故事中分别讲述了他们尚未得志时的“异象”。另一方面,恶人也是前定,卢杞即是一例。史载,卢杞德宗时(780年~805年)为相,忌能妒贤,陷害大臣。“太阴夫人”中展示的是远在他默默无闻之际,就是一个无信无义之徒。在“汪凤”中则把安禄山贬作一只猴。

万物有灵的思想在唐代也颇为盛行。任何东西,无论是动物、植物,甚至物体,只要年深日久即可成精,如“姚坤”里的狐狸,“卢虔”里的大柳树,“光化寺客”里的百合,“岑顺”里的棋子,“陈仲躬”里的铜镜,“居延部落主”里的皮口袋。甚至画像也可以成精,如“画工”和“黄花寺壁”所述。“黄花寺壁”里的妖怪竟然还有一番哲理。他说:“形本是画,画以象真,真之所示,即乃有神。况所画之上,精灵有凭可通,此臣所以有感,感之幻化。”

信神不免信鬼。“南缵”把阴阳两界看作一种镜像关系。“定婚店”中的月下老人不无讥讽地说:“今道途之行,人鬼各半,自不辨耳。”鬼,或寂寂一身,如“赵合”中的鬼;或依其身份,现于居所。贵者豪宅深院,奴仆成群,如“黎阳客”中已故的荀使君;贫者则“野中迥室”,如“李佐文”中的老农。纵观彼时的鬼,并非一味面目狰狞,“谈生”中的鬼下体虽如枯骨,心却极善。

中国古人对狐狸似乎有特别的兴趣,在《太平广记》里占九卷之多,篇幅为众兽之魁。有趣的是,在汉文化和英语文化里,狐都有着“狡猾”和“妖艳”的贬义内涵,如“僧晏通”所示。然而,“李参军”里的群狐并不显得那么坏,“姚坤”里的老狐知恩必报,“李令绪”里的阿姑和金花更是人情脉脉。后世蔚为大观的狐狸故事由此发端,也成就了清代蒲松龄《聊斋志异》缤纷的狐狸角色。

如前所述,唐代具有后世不常见的博大胸怀,丝毫不是一个思想禁锢的时代。《太平广记》中质疑迷信,揭露迷信的故事俯拾皆是,如,“润州楼”、“袁继谦”。“画琵琶”更是对盲信进行了有力的讽刺。

不怕鬼的故事也是一大亮点,以“宋定伯”最为著名。“新鬼”则进一步揭示,鬼的存在与为害,完全是由于人的无端恐惧。“秦巨伯”清楚地告诉我们,信之越深,其害越甚。

神灵也远非完美。在故事里有些看上去更像人间的恶霸贪官。“陈鸾凤”中的雷公,狰狞霸道,受飨而不雨,任凭庄稼焦枯。他们有着人类常见的坏品质:欺负老婆(“三卫”)、赌博、受贿(“浮梁张令”)、逼良为盗(“峡口道士”)。陈鸾凤敢于反抗,大获全胜。“陈袁生”中的道成,平庙宇、毁神像。最有意思的是,道成是一个和尚。

其实和尚道士中亦多虚妄。道士明思远自欺欺人,结果葬身虎腹。“蕴都师”和“宁王”中不守戒律的和尚招来杀身之祸。“东岩寺僧”刻画了一个劫掠女子的淫僧,“僧侠”中的僧半生剪径,“姚坤”中的知庄僧惠沼更是视人命如草芥。

除了上述神灵鬼怪,大量的故事还是关于普通人和他们的生活。“李诞女”大力歌颂了小女孩李寄的机智勇敢,“陈鸾凤”歌颂的是一个普通农民的勇气。荀巨伯对朋友的忠诚,管宁的不为金钱声望所动,卢佩的孝道都在故事中得到了反映。

从这些故事中我们也可以看到安史之乱及其后连年的战火带给人民的灾难。“僧晏通”中路边成堆的尸骨,“马燧”中荒废的家园皆为这一方面的写照。唐后期藩镇的将领演变成了割据的军阀,横行霸道,欺压百姓。在“李生”中,我们看到一个杀人不眨眼的镇帅狗少,“马拯”中辛辣地把将军比作吃人的老虎,“李抱真”中的镇帅为筹措军饷,不惜欺骗信众,进而烧死老僧,以掩其诈。“胡媚儿”更是演绎了一个军阀打劫皇纲的故事。

横征暴敛之下,民不聊生。因此专事打抱不平、为民除害的侠客应运而生。《太平广记》里这类故事往往最为精彩。“红线”与“聂隐娘”可谓代表之作。

社会现实总是直接或间接地反映在故事里。在“浮梁张令”里,我们看到了一个典型的贪官污吏的形象,其“家业蔓延江淮间,累金积粟,不可胜计。”即便是旅途之中,吃的也是“海陆珍美毕具”。区区县令,刮敛如此,上层的官僚可想而知。然而,百姓拿他们是没有办法的,作者往往不得不借助神灵之力予以惩罚。

“侯遹”通过捡四块石头的故事,刻画了一个暴发户的速起与速落。“薛伟”的故事虽然讲的是人变鱼,却透露出在称兄道弟的表面之下,官场上常常是翻脸不认人,完全可以用人吃人来形容。

讽刺是解剖人性的手术刀。“汉世老人”虽短,却栩栩如生地刻画出了一个守财奴的嘴脸。“薛氏子”告诫人们,贪心不但最终吃亏,还吃哑巴亏。“啮鼻”挖苦的是昏官,“娄师德”和“京都儒士”将高官和的儒士的虚伪暴露无余。

在读书人眼里,科举是头等大事。一旦榜上有名,即可获取一官半职,光宗耀祖。对寒儒来说,更是改变身份的唯一途径。但科举并非那么公平。“李俊”把找关系开后门表现的淋漓尽致,“李君”则告诉我们,钱可通神。

爱情是文学中永恒的母题,《太平广记》里的爱情故事也是五彩纷呈、可歌可泣。但须记,过去的婚姻是包办婚姻,无父母之命,媒妁之言,不可为。虽在某些特殊情况下,男子或可有所选择,但仍不能不顾虑门第关系。因此就女子来说,对婚姻的渴求和对婚姻自由的向往,就强烈地反映在文学作品里。以“崔护”为例,乡间女子就因无法表达对崔护的爱慕,郁郁而亡。即便是上层人家的小姐,也无法袒露自己的心声,哪怕是告诉父母。“王宙”里的倩娘惟有憧憬于精神的自由,方有可能实现心愿。

然而,被压抑的东西总是要以某种形式爆发出来的,在文学作品里则常常以“设反”的形式表现,即以与现实情况相反的情形出现。例如,原本处于地位低的、毫无主动权的女方,在人神恋的故事中,却成了主动方,而且女方是神,男方是地位很低的人。以“马士良”为例,女方是谷神之女,马士良是一个犯了罪的逃犯。“吴堪”中,女方是“天”派来的,吴堪是一个穷县吏。这似乎成了一种定式。

当男女地位大致相当时,女方则常常表现为上层人家未出阁的女儿的鬼魂,如“张果女”里的鬼,为易州司马张果的女儿,男方为张果继任者之子。这类故事往往借助复活的形式展开。但“谈生”例外,故事中的鬼为睢阳王之亡女,谈生却是贫困潦倒之人。

爱情故事也常常以设喻的方式表现。“申屠澄”的人虎恋和“光化寺客”的人与百合之恋都相当哀婉动人。

本书也选译了一部分不乏趣味的关于自然地理、技艺之术的短篇。如“南海大鱼”中的三奇:大鱼实际上是海中一次火山爆发,蟾蜍可能是某种海藻的大爆发,长蛇则明显是海上龙卷风。表面上写的三大怪,实际上是三种自然现象。

另外本书还选了两篇蛇陷城为主复仇的故事。一篇是“邛都老姥”,一篇是“担生”。尽管两个故事的地点相距千里,但不难看出二者同源,而且前者更接近于源头,因为文中明白无误地描写了大震发生前的低频隆隆。中央电视台2006年关于在云南玉溪市抚仙湖湖底发现一座沉睡的古城的报道,可以为这两篇故事做一个有力的注脚。通过对比这两篇文字,我们也可以看出,“事实”是如何逐步发展成“故事”的。

但这并不意味着一千多年前的中国人对科学一无所知。从“吕生”中可以看出当时的人对水银是非常熟悉的,水银的种种特性被十分巧妙地编排到了老妪的身上,便成了一个有趣的故事。

“太阴夫人”中展现出的航空航天知识令人称奇。像鸟一样飞翔,一直是人类的梦想。人们想象着能够有“乌君山”那样的羽衣,或者有“襄阳老叟”那样的有翼飞行器。同时人们居然知道仅凭翅膀是飞不到月亮的,于是,“太阴夫人”有了飞船——有着良好流线型外形的葫芦,以及宇航服——油衣。关于越高越寒和火箭撕裂空气的轰鸣都是非常正确的描写。

“嘉兴绳技”中,1200年前越狱犯人的想象力也令人拍案叫绝,其巧思远胜现代版的直升飞机劫狱。

同样令人惊异的是,许多被认为是很现代的观念,却可以在这些古代故事中找到共识,如“吴堪”中的环保意识。不同的是,现今依赖的是法律,而古代靠的是上苍的奖惩。

《太平广记》中也有关于科学试验的故事。“绛州僧”中的老僧嘱其弟子在他死后“开吾胸喉,视有何物”,这种为医学献身的精神令后人钦佩。过去,在中国内陆地区俗称大脖子病的甲状腺肿是很常见的。也正是由于有刁俊朝妻这样的勇气,人们才意识到,该病是可以通过手术治疗的。

木工的高超技艺在“杨务廉”、“襄阳老叟”、“华阳李尉”等故事中得到了充分的反映。“李邈”中关于古墓的难以置信的设计也在现代考古中获得了验证。

总之,正如希腊神话是整个欧洲文学的基石,《太平广记》也是后世戏曲小说的原料宝库。

 

*

 

本书的译文以中华书局1961年版的《太平广记》为底本,在外文出版社1998年出版的英文版《太平广记选(Into the Porcelain Pillow – 101 Tales from Records of the Taiping Era)》的基础上增译而成。此次共新译了52篇,恢复了大部分节略的跋和诗,并作了少量文字上的订正和修改。

本书的故事按照它们在《太平广记》中的原顺序排列。为保证阅读的流畅,译文中尽量不插入注释性括号和脚注,而是将必要的解释用附录的形式统一置于书末。如英语读者对中国古代的人文背景不熟悉的话,先浏览一下附录III,当会有所助益。

 

 

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