Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Li Ju-chên

LI Ju-chên 李汝珍 (T. 松石), c. 1763–c. 1830, novelist and phonetician, was a native of Ta-hsing (Peking). He went to Hai-chou, Kiangsu, in 1782 in the company of his elder brother, Li Ju-huang 李汝璜 (T. 佛雲), who was appointed salt receiver at Pan-p'u (Haichou). There he remained for some twenty years. During this period he met Ling T'ing-k'an [q. v.] and the Hsü brothers: Hsü Ch'iao-lin 許喬林 (T. 石華) and Hsi Kuei-lin 許桂林 (T. 同叔, H. 月南, c. 1778-1821, chü-jên of 1816), the latter two being his brothers-in-law. In 1801 he went to Honan, where he was made an assistant magistrate. Three years later (1804) he visited his brother at Ts'ao-yen ch'ang, Kiangsu, where the latter served as salt receiver after 1803. It seems that Li Ju-chên then returned to Honan, remaining in that province for about five years. Thereafter he apparently went north, residing in or near Peking.

A work by Li Ju-chên on phonetics, entitled 音鑑 Yin-chien, or Li-shih (李氏) yin-chien, 6 chüan, was completed in 1805 and was first printed in 1810. Another edition of it was printed in 1868 to which 1 chüan of bibliography was added by Hung Ti-yüan 洪棣元. In writing this book Li Ju-chên applied his knowledge of both the Northern and the Southern pronunciations and so was able to make some radical improvements in orthodox phonetic theories. Ho Ch'iu-t'ao [q. v.] wrote two postscripts to the Yin-chien, in which he criticized Li Ju-chên for stressing only the sounds, neglecting the written characters, and disregarding references to earlier works. This criticism by Ho is an indication of how far Li Ju-chên's approach differed from that of his precursors, and also where his originality lay.

The famous novel by Li Ju-chên, entitled 鏡花錄 Ching-hua yüan, 100 chapters, was the result of some ten years of labor (1810–20). When first completed it was copied, circulated and read in manuscript. Though the date of the earliest printing is not definitely known, it is certain that a printed edition appeared in 1828. In 1829 it was reprinted in Kwangtung, supplemented by 108 pages of illustrations. In 1888 the Tien-shih chai 點石齋 (a publishing house famous for its lithographic work) of Shanghai printed it lithographically with new illustrations and a preface by Wang T'ao [q. v.]. The Ya-tung Shu-chü 亞東書局 (Shanghai) printed a punctuated edition in 1923 with a long introduction by Dr. Hu Shih.

The background of the novel is laid in the time of the celebrated Empress Wu 武曌 or 武則天 (624–705), who reigned from 684 to 705 A.D. and in 690 changed the name of the dynasty from T'ang (唐) to Chou (周). The story centers round the adventures in various imagined overseas kingdoms of one hundred talented women who had been re-incarnated from different flowers. When the empress issued an edict to open the examinations to women as well as to men, these women competed successfully and received posts of various kinds. In his portrayal of these kingdoms Li Ju-chên gives an account of their customs and ridicules by contrast many customs then prevailing in China. Among the social problems he discusses are the double moral standard between the sexes, the neglect of women's education, and the evils of foot-binding and concubinage. Particularly effective is his description of the Women's Kingdom (女兒國) in which the relative position of the sexes is the reverse of that prevailing in China. In this kingdom the women are the overlords; the men stay at home, bind their feet, and adorn themselves with powder and rouge. Dr. Hu Shih regards the Ching-hua yüan as worthy of a permanent place in the world's history of the emancipation of women.


[Hu Shih, 鏡花緣的引論 in 胡適文存 Hu Shih wên-ts'un, second series (1924) 4/119, and 關於鏡花緣的通信 in Hu Shih wên-ts'un, third series (1930) 6/859; Ch'ien Ching-fang 錢靜方, 小說叢考 Hsiao-shuo ts'ung-k'ao (1916) 上/68; Lin Yutang, "Feminist Thought in Ancient China" in T'ien Hsia Monthly, vol. I, no. 2, pp. 127–150.]

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