UBC Theses and Dissertations

UBC Theses Logo

UBC Theses and Dissertations

From the marginalia : a distinct Korean salute to the Xixiang ji and Jin Shengtan with divergent interpretations Chang, Di


This thesis examines two readings of Xixiang ji (Romance of the Western Chamber), a zaju play that emerged in the thirteenth century China and is attributed to Wang Dexin (1250-1337?, better known as Wang Shifu). It examines the construction of meaning through the reading practices of two readers, the Chinese commentator Jin Shengtan (1610?-1661) and an anonymous reader in late Chosŏn (1392–1897) Korea. The play was introduced to Chosŏn Korea in the early sixteenth century, and Jin Shengtan’s commentated edition was the most widespread there. This thesis aims to reconstruct the reading experiences of both Jin Shengtan, through his commentarial practices, and that of an anonymous Korean reader, through handwritten reading notes in Literary Sinitic. These marginalia were left in an anonymous manuscript Korean translation of Xixiang ji based on Jin Shengtan’s version of the play. By comparing the two interpretations, the thesis attempts to illustrate : 1) how meanings were constructed through individual reading practices; 2) the extent to which a reader’s interpretation of an original text would be consistent with a commentator’s reading and editorial practices; and 3) variations in the construction of meaning when texts travel across national borders and readership shifts from one interpretive community to another, that is, when readers are subject to differing cultural norms or discourses. The thesis finds that the efficacy of Jin Shengtan’s commentarial effort in prescribing the Korean reader’s reading practice was limited. Although the Korean reader appears to be heavily influenced by Jin’s commentary in his appreciation of the aesthetics of the play, his readings differ significantly from Jin’s concerning the play’s underlying morality, the identity of its heroine, its generic status, and the significance of its themes of dreaming and fantasy. On these points, social/cultural norms, and in particular divergences within Confucian philosophy were more consequential for the construction of meaning by the two readers, i.e., the rise of the Wang Yangming School of Heart-Mind Learning in late imperial China as opposed to the Cheng-Zhu School of Principle that was hegemonic in late Chosŏn Korea.

Item Media

Item Citations and Data


Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International