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The Scholars

4.18  ·  Rating Details ·  105 Ratings  ·  20 Reviews
One of the great classic Chinese novels, The Scholars departs from the impersonal tradition of Chinese fiction, as the author makes significant use of autobiographical experience and models many characters on friends and relatives. An eighteenth-century satire, it is outstanding among Chinese classic novels. The author mercilessly exposes the decadence of the literati ...more
607 pages
Published (first published 1750)
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May 13, 2015 Hadrian rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, china
The Scholars, I was told, was a vernacular novel which satirized the Chinese imperial examination system - a rigid, fiendishly difficult essay test used by the government to staff the civil service system.

The book gently lampoons the examination itself and how it promotes rigid regurgitation of knowledge instead of anything that would be useful for running a country. There's also the problem of superstitions and cheats, phony teachers who claim to sell the packaged answers, and intelligent and
Depending on who you ask, there are either four or six so-called “Classic” Chinese novels. I strongly doubt that canon formation works any better in China than it does here and that the Eastern Canon is any more reliable than the Western one, so there are likely a considerable number of less famous novels which are at least as good as those four or six – but for someone who has only a very superficial knowledge of China and almost no experience of Chinese literature, those four or six are ...more
Jan 24, 2016 Mary rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics, humor, mooc, china
A satire of the Chinese imperial examination system in the 18th century Qing Dynasty and of the literati it produced. The examination system goes back to 200 AD and continued to 1911. Chinese officials in all that time were drawn almost exclusively from the ranks of those few who passed. The odds were 3300 to 1 of passing the highest rank in the Qing Dynasty. There were 9 levels and even those who failed or passed the lowest rank were respected elites. The subject matter always included the ...more
Mar 01, 2013 Helmut rated it really liked it
Shelves: china
Satirisches Sittengemälde

Das "Rulin Waishi" hat in der Literaturgeschichte Chinas sehr unterschiedliche Bewertungen erhalten. Wurde es zunächst als brilliante Satire der korrupten Bildungselite gesehen, litt man es später immer weniger, da die literarische Qualität hinter den großen klassichen Romanwerken der Ming- und Qing-Dynastie doch zurückblieb. Heute wiederum sieht man es hauptsächlich als unschätzbare Quelle für das Leben der gebildeten und in der Prüfungshölle Chinas mehr oder weniger er
Oct 28, 2014 Wendy rated it it was amazing
I am a Chinese and we have one or two pieces of The Scholars in our textbooks in junior high. But I did not have any feelings about this book at that time. Only this year, I started reading the whole version. It turns out that I like The Scholars very much. The figure that impresses me the most is the young scholar named Kuang Chaoren or Kuang Chao-Jen (it means 'superman'), who was very poor at the very beginning and worked really hard to make a better life for his parents. It is the typical ...more
Jan 04, 2014 Graham rated it it was amazing
I liked this book a great deal, but I don't know anyone I would recommend it to. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who wasn't already familiar with Chinese history and intellectual discourse through to the Qing Dynasty.
Hubert Byron
Feb 09, 2013 Hubert Byron rated it it was amazing
This is the companion piece to The Story of the Stone series where instead of being immersed into the lives of women in Imperial China, you see it from the side of the men.
Sep 12, 2015 Allen rated it it was amazing
Interesting insights into Ming Dynasty China.
Edward Butler
Oct 03, 2008 Edward Butler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This 18th century Chinese classic (in Chinese, the Rulin Waishi) is a novel whose protagonist is, in effect, an institution, namely the civil service examination system. The novel's form perfectly suits its subject, passing the narrative from character to character, tracing the webs of association and patronage that constitute the class of the literati, or scholar-bureaucrats, as well as those on its fringes, who aspire to join it by passing the exams, deliberately spurn membership in it despite ...more
Andra Constantin
Jan 23, 2014 Andra Constantin rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2014
A collection of fables and stories about the character of the scholars and learned people of China in the 1500's.
Hard to follow the characters if you are unused to the Chinese names especially since in the book there are over 20 Chi and Yu as characters in various stories and not all of them from the same family.

The first volume seems to be just a collection of fables following various scholars - corrupted scholars and honest scholars, rich scholars and poor scholars - their good or bad deeds,
Jul 14, 2016 Rosemary rated it really liked it
A rare opportunity to read a Chinese novel from the Qing dynasty in English translation. (Not too many of them around.) For those of Chinese heritage, a chance to see why scholarship and examinations are so culturally important, a look at the role of food in the daily lives of the literary scholars--we are still eating some of the same things, a look at aspects of daily life such as transportation (river boats were important), pawn shops. Makes me wish for some pictures or paintings to give the ...more
Dylan Suher
Jul 23, 2013 Dylan Suher rated it really liked it
In structure and in narrative viewpoint, an odd book, and a wonderful book for being odd, possessed with the rare flexibility of being able to effectively, viciously savage a system of values in one section, and redeem those very values in the next section. A structure that therefore makes that most uncommon and correct statement that just because a philosophy is taken advantage of by the worst people doesn't mean that it isn't worth believing in. A narrative reticence, akin to a Henry James ...more
Nov 06, 2015 Trounin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Может это мы не видим рядом с собой замечательных людей. Кто-то другой их примечает и о них рассказывает. В труде всей своей жизни У Цзинцзы рассказывал о самом наболевшем. Вся книга состоит из историй разных героев, судьба каждого из которых складывалась разным образом, в зависимости от того, как они относились к государственным экзаменам. Есть среди них погрязшие в коррупции, а есть и светлые люди. Читателю надо приготовиться увидеть Китай с новой стороны. И посмотреть есть на что. Чего только ...more
Jan 23, 2016 Philip rated it it was amazing
This is an exceedingly interesting view of 15th century scholars as told from the perspective of an 18th century scholar. It is a subtle critique of the Confucian system and provides a fascinating window into Chinese sensibilities.
Shala Howell
Feb 10, 2008 Shala Howell rated it it was ok
Decadence, check. Relentless scorn for literati, check. But what strikes me most is that even in feudal China, success in life was all about who you knew.
Jul 20, 2011 siby rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
so far the only Chinese book I did not like. honestly I could not even finish it. if there is any plot in it I've missed it by a mile.
Annmarie rated it really liked it
Jan 23, 2013
Addison Hart
Addison Hart rated it liked it
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Sep 18, 2015
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Feb 18, 2011
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Jun 16, 2014
Juliana Clarisse
Feb 09, 2016 Juliana Clarisse rated it it was amazing
Bad girl
David Keffer
David Keffer rated it really liked it
Jan 26, 2013
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Judah Nielsen rated it really liked it
Jun 05, 2014
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Maria Michaella rated it it was amazing
Jun 30, 2015
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Eric Jönsson rated it it was amazing
Apr 09, 2008
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Wu Jingzi (simplified Chinese: 吴敬梓; traditional Chinese: 吳敬梓; pinyin: Wú Jìngzǐ; Wade–Giles: Wu Ching-tse, 1701—January 11, 1754) was a Chinese scholar and writer who was born in the city now known as Chuzhou, Anhui and who died in Yangzhou, Jiangsu.

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