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Prof. Timothy Wai Keung CHAN

B.A. (Ji’nan University, Guangzhou, PRC), M.A. (Peking University),, PhD (University of Colorado, Boulder)

Professor, Department of Chinese Language and Literature

Funding:

  • GRF
    HK$81,960

Introduction

  • This project explores the formation and evolution of an important literary theme and its variations, by researching the provenance of this theme and its adaptations in Chinese literature from the third to the thirteenth century. The original tale is found in the Youming lu 幽明錄, a fifth-century anthology of zhiguai 志怪 (“recording the uncanny”) tales. It relates the adventure of two fellows, named Liu Chen and Ruan Zhao, who accidentally enter a mythical Shangri-La realm, where they enjoy romantic pleasure with some beautiful ladies. After ten days, the homesick fellows want to leave but are “detained” for a few more months. Only upon returning do they discover that seven human generations have passed.
    While the Liu-Ruan tale has its predecessors, it became a model for adaptation and re-creation in later periods and formed a cluster of literature, which includes approximately a hundred poems, several narrative pieces and a dozen plays. In a comprehensive study of this cluster of literature, the project examines the prototypical elements of the tale and discusses how the protagonists, Liu and Ruan, and the plots were received and re-cast in later adaptations. 

Abstract

  • This project studies the formation and evolution of an important literary theme and its variations, by researching the provenance of this theme and its adaptations in Chinese literature from the third to the thirteenth century.

Methodology

  • The project involves:
    •    Identifying a cluster of literary works with a common provenance;
    •    Building a paradigm of the variations of this literary theme;
    •    Analyzing and evaluating the respective innovation and achievement in each text for discussion.

Interdisciplinary expertise

  • Intellectual history;
    Religious studies;
    Historiography;
    Comparative literature.