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The Travels of Lao Can

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Wikipedia article

'The Travels of Lao Can'

is a novel by Liu E (1857-1909), written between 1903 and 1904[https://books.google.com/books?id=cUcHvd-KYUUC&pg=PA299 Barbara Stoler Miller, Masterworks of Asian Literature in Comparative Perspective: A Guide for Teaching, published by M.E. Sharpe, 1994] and published in 1907 to wide acclaim. Thinly disguising his own views in those of Lao Can, the physician hero, Liu describes the rise of the Boxers in the countryside, the decay of the Yellow River control system, and the hypocritical incompetence of the bureaucracy. Its social satire[http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/603629/The-Travels-of-Laocan The Travels of Lao Can] showed the limits of the old elite and officialdom and gave an in-depth look into everyday life in the countryside in the late Qing period.

Publication history

The first 13 chapters were serialized in the bi-weekly 'Xiuxiang Xiaoshuo'

(; Illustrated Fiction)

from March 1903 to January 1904, in issues 9 through 18.

It was published in the 'Tianjin Riri Xinwen Bao'

(United States Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce, [https://books.google.com/books?id=nsANAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA188&dq=%22Tsingtauer+Neueste+Nachrichten%22&hl=en&sa=X&ei=i16UUMScH4uC8ASKooGQDQ&ved=0CDgQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=%22Tsingtauer%20Neueste%20Nachrichten%22&f=false p. 188].)

in a 20 chapter version with a prologue.Doleelov-Velingerov, p. [https://books.google.com/books?id=n2DfEmr2g0YC&pg=PA724&dq=%22Shih-chieh+Fan-hua+Pao%22&hl=en&sa=X&ei=6lNvUsq5Gc3AkQfXroGQAQ&ved=0CDMQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=%22Shih-chieh%20Fan-hua%20Pao%22&f=false 724].


In the prologue Lao Can (T: , S: ; literally, "Old Decrepit"), a traveling medical practitioner, dreams of China being a sinking ship. After the dream ends, Lao Can goes on a journey to fix the problems experienced by China. In the story Lao Can attempts to correct injustices, change attitudes towards women, and engage in philosophical discussions about China's future. Lao Can also acts as a detective in several small crime-related plots.Doleelov-Velingerov, p. [https://books.google.com/books?id=n2DfEmr2g0YC&pg=PA725&dq=%22meant+to+be+understood+not+merely+as+images+of+natural+beauty%22&hl=en&sa=X&ei=lINwUpabHqvJsQS6ioGIAQ&ved=0CC4Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=%22meant%20to%20be%20understood%20not%20merely%20as%20images%20of%20natural%20beauty%22&f=false 725].


The scholar Milena Doleelov-Velingerov writes that the integration of the detective subplots, "entirely dissimilar to its lyrical components," "makes the novel so innovative."Doleelov-Velingerov, p. [https://books.google.com/books?id=n2DfEmr2g0YC&pg=PA724&dq=%22Shih-chieh+Fan-hua+Pao%22&hl=en&sa=X&ei=6lNvUsq5Gc3AkQfXroGQAQ&ved=0CDMQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=%22Shih-chieh%20Fan-hua%20Pao%22&f=false 724]-[https://books.google.com/books?id=n2DfEmr2g0YC&pg=PA725&dq=%22meant+to+be+understood+not+merely+as+images+of+natural+beauty%22&hl=en&sa=X&ei=lINwUpabHqvJsQS6ioGIAQ&ved=0CC4Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=%22meant%20to%20be%20understood%20not%20merely%20as%20images%20of%20natural%20beauty%22&f=false 725]. She remarks on the use of poetry and symbolism that "What sets this novel apart from the others is just this nonaction discourse, including the famous poetic descriptions of Chinese landscape, which are, however, meant to be understood not merely as images of natural beauty but as metaphorical statements about the condition of society."


Donald Holoch argues that the entire book and not merely the prologue should be viewed as an allegory, and that if any other approach had been used, the novel would lack unity.Hegel, p. 190. In particular he believes that the novel's characters and events illustrate a "complex conservatism" that concludes that technology instead of social change is the answer to the problems experienced by China. Cordell D. K. Yee's review of 'The Chinese Novel at the Turn of the Century', however, argues that "it is doubtful that all episodes conform" to the allegory concept.Yee, p. 574. Robert E. Hegel, in a review argues that Holoch's interpretation is persuasive and "makes a substantial contribution to the studies of the novel".

English translations

* This extensively annotated translation was finished in 1939, published by Cornell University Press in 1952, and issued in paperback in 1990 with a new Introduction. Timothy Wong finds that "more than anyone, Shaddick succeeds in capturing in English Liu E's riveting descriptions, which critics from Hu Shih and C.T. Hsia have seen as the greatest merit of his fiction."

* First published in Nanjing in 1947, then, titled 'Mr. Derelict' (London: Allen & Unwin, 1948).


* Doleelov-Velingerov, Milena. "Chapter 38: Fiction from the End of the Empire to the Beginning of the Republic (1897-1916)" in: Mair, Victor H. (editor). 'The Columbia History of Chinese Literature'. Columbia University Press, August 13, 2013. p. 697-731. , 9780231528511.

* Donald Holoch, "The Travels of Laocan: Allegorical Narrative" in Milena Doleelov-Velingerov, ed. 'The Chinese Novel at the Turn of the Century' (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1980),

* Hegel, Robert E. "The Chinese Novel at the Turn of the Century" (book review). 'Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, Reviews' (CLEAR), , 07/1983, Volume 5, Issue 1/2, pp. 188 191



* Yee, Cordell D. K. "The Chinese Novel at the Turn of the Century" (book review). 'Journal of Asian Studies', , 05/1982, Volume 41, Issue 3, p. 574


Further reading

* Holoch, Donald. "'The Travels of Laocan': Allegorical Narrative" in: Doleelov-Velingerov, Milena (editor). 'The Chinese Novel at the Turn of the Century' (Toronto: University of Toronto Press; January 1, 1980), , 9780802054739.

Category:Qing dynasty novels

Category:1907 novels

Category:20th-century Chinese novels

Category:Novels set in the Qing dynasty

Category:Novels set in Shandong

Category:Chinese political novels

Category:Travel novels

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