[Mother and daughter as allegory of mother-daughter relationship? (Singapore 2016). Foto Rb]

Just some short and extremely limited notes on the problem of Chinese allegory on which I am presently gathering a group of references.

Allegory is used in the Chinese language in ways similar to its usage in western languages as some examples show from the Speak Chinese language course.

According to Jerome Silbergeld, as quoted by Gina Marchetti [1], China also has a long tradition of literary and visual allegory. Despite the denial of some critics, Silbergeld underlines the importance of allegory in Chinese culture, especially in his book China into Film

Andrew H. Plaks is one of the authoritative sources for Chinese literary allegory, understood as an intentional disguise of what one means under a different set of words and phrases. In particular Plaks interprets some Chinese literature as Confucian allegory [2]

Madeline Kay Spring, studied animal allegory in traditional T’ang China [3].

According to Anne Weller-Wellesbord, “political allegorical reading controlled by the Communist Pary” has been used in relation to Chinese authors such as Lu Xun [4]. Weller Wellesbord advocates that the concept of allegory can be positively applied to the study of modern Chinese literature in its Western post-Benjamin sense.

Sabina Knight uses the word “allegory” quite openly, for instance in her interpretation of the political and social significance of Gao Xingjian’s play The Bus Stop [5]

Haun Saussy problematizes the idea of allegory in the interaction between Chinese and Western cultures, wondering to what extent the interpretations of Oriental texts based on Western methodologies can be compatible and in what ways they interact with each other. In particular she discusses the Chinese Book of Odes [6].

Ling Hon Lam considers traditional Chinese allegory as synecdoche, or a part for the whole, in Journey to the West interpreted as Confucian. The allegory for Confucianism is understood in this essay as a synecdoche of a wider range of Confucian/Daoist/Buddhist concepts, or even as “allegory of allegory” [7].

Still on Journey to the West, the concept of allegory in relation to violence is adopted by Frederick Brandauer [8].

[Roberto Bertoni]

[1] Marchetti, G., From Tian’anmen to Times Square: Transnational China and the Chinese Diaspora on the Global Screens, 1989-1997, Philadelphia, Temple University Press, 2006, p. 33.
[2] See his authored study of Archetype and Allegory in The Dream of the Red Chamber, Princeton Legacy Library, 2015; and Chinese narrative: critical and theoretical essays, ed. Plaks, A.H., Princeton Legacy Library, 2014.
[3] Spring, M.K., Animal Allegories in T’ang China, American Oriental Society, Ann Arbour, University of Michigan, 1993.
[4] Pp. 72-91 of Wedell Wedesborg, A., “Self-Identity and Allegory in the Fiction of Yu Hua”, in Identity in Asian Literature, ed. Littrupp, L., London and New York, Routledge Curzon, 2005, p. 73.
[5] Knight, S., Chinese literature: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford University Press, 2012.
[6] Saussy, H., The Problem of a Chinese Aesthetic, Stanford University Press, 1993.
[7] Lam, L.H., “Cannibalizing the Heart: The Politics of Allegory in Journey to the West”, in Literature, Religion and East/West Comparison: Essays in Honour of Anthony C. Yu, ed. Erick Ziolkowsky, Newark, University of Delaware Press, 2005, pp. 162-178. A chapter is available here.
[8] Brandauer, F., “Violence and Buddhist Idealism in the Kiyou novels”, Violence in China: Essays o Culture and Counterculture, ed. Lipman, J.N. and Harrell, S., Stae University of New York Press, 1990. A passage from this essay is available here.