An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Fubu xiantan 負曝閒談

Jan 3, 20254 © Ulrich Theobald

Fubu xiantan 負曝閒談 (also written 負曝閑談) is a late Qing-period 清 (1644-1911) novel written by Master Quyuan 蘧園, who is identical with Ouyang Juyuan 歐陽巨源 (1883-1907), personal name Gan 淦, alternative courtesy name Juyuan 巨元, style Xiqiusheng 惜秋生, Maoyuan 茂苑 or Juyuan 蘧園, from Suzhou 蘇州, Jiangsu. The unfinished book consists of 34 chapters and was published in the serial Xiuxiang xiaoshuo 繡像小說 (nos. 6-41, 1903-1905). A version revised by Xu Yishi 徐一士 (1890-1971) was published in 1933 in the Shanghai magazine Shishi xinbao 時事新報. The novel was first published in book form in 1934 by the Sishe Chubanbu 四社出版部 in Shanghai. This version was reprinted in 1957 by the Shanghai Wenhua Chubanshe 上海文化出版社.

The phrase fubu 負曝 hails from the book Liezi 列子 (ch. Yang Zhu 楊朱) and means "to warm up in the sun in winter". The novel consists of stories taking place in Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Shanghai, Guangdong and Beijing. The first nineteen chapters talk about the society of Jiangsu and Zhejiang. The twentieth chapter begins with personalities among the reformists in the province of Guangdong and then shifts to the central government in Beijing. The last eleven chapters are written about the officialdom in the capital, reflecting the social atmosphere and the conservative politics of the late Qing period.

The author describes the shops and streets of Beijing, including opium dens, schools, theatres and entertainment quarters, and the people active in this environment in great detail. Apart from the common populace, the novel also includes protagonists from the upper class, like member of the 1898 reform movement, state officials, or members of the imperial court. The structure of the novel is similar to that of the famous Rulin waishi 儒林外史, with vivid descriptions of society, but somehow exaggerated and with unrealistic scenes. Xu Yishi praised the story collection as "lively and interesting, with a good sense of humour". However, the shortcomings of the book are also obvious. The story starts with one person and ends with the same individual, but the stories are not coherent with each other, there is a lack of a main line, and the characters are only thinly formed.

In 1933, Xu Yishi published the story collection with modern interpunction in Qingguang 青光, a supplement to the journal Shishi xinbao 時事新報. A year later, it was first published as a monograph in the Shanghai Sishe Press 上海四社出版部. The Shanghai Wenhua Press 上海文化出版社 published a facsimile edition of the first publication, showing differences to the critical collection Fubu xiantan pingkao 負曝閒談評考.

Hou Zhongyi 侯忠義 (1992). "Fubi xiantan 負曝閑談", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, part Zhongguo wenxue 中國文學 (Beijing; Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe) Vol. 1, 160.