118 China Review International: Vol. 24, No. 2, 2017 elsewhere in the monumental corpus ascribed to that historian” (p. 73). Nylan’s second important contribution is to examine painstakingly some often neglected portions of the Letter, leading her to another unexpected insight, that it can be read as “a sophisticated rumination on the beneﬁts of male friendship at court” (p. 95). Wai-yee Li adopts yet another approach to Sima Qian’s letter in the book’s ﬁnal chapter. She begins by positing that “some core of the content of the letter originated with Sima Qian,” but thereafter does not concern herself with the circumstances of the letter’s authorship, turning instead to the question of how the Letter “embodies a deﬁning moment in the conception of authorship” (p. 96). She makes a subtle and sensitive comparison between the letter and Sima Qian’s “Personal Narration” in the ﬁnal chapter of Shiji in terms of how they present the notion that authors who suffer in life are thereby inspired to write literary works of lasting importance. In an impressively wide-ranging survey, Li studies the tradition in China of linking literary achievement to human misfortune, helpfully illuminating both the Han dynasty context and the Letter’s reverberations
China Review International – University of Hawai'I Press
Published: Jun 4, 2019
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