History, Fiction, and Public Opinion: Writings on Mao Wenlong in the Early Seventeenth Century

Journal of the American Oriental Society 134 (1):69 (2021)
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Abstract

This paper examines a series of texts produced in the immediate aftermath of the executions of a highly controversial Ming general Mao Wenlong. Considered representative works of a unique genre, “shishi xiaoshuo”, these works were written and published at a remarkable speed and are characterized by a distinctive nature of generic hybridity as well as a strong urge for political intervention. This article discusses the sociopolitical implications of shishi xiaoshuo by examining how such works sought to participate in contemporary debates about controversial political figures or events and, ultimately, shape public opinion on them. In addition, it also demonstrates the interplay between fictional writings on contemporary issues and commercial publishing. By examining the textual features of the various works on Mao Wenlong and the intertextual relationships between them, and by situating them in one of the most complicated periods in Chinese history, this article explores the practice of fiction writing on contemporary events and its interplay with the sociopolitical environment in the early seventeenth century.

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