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Feng Menglong and Hou Huiqing : records of anguish in fiction and song Loo, Courtney Erin


This thesis seeks to examine Feng Menglong’s (1574-1646) relationship with the courtesan, Hou Huiqing, in light of the ideological and social tensions of late Ming culture. Though romances between scholars and courtesans is not a new topic in the study of Chinese literature, I seek to explore a more personal side of Feng by analyzing his lesser-known collections of song poetry, specifically narrative sanqu in Taixia xinzou (Celestial Airs Played Anew, 1627). The study of these poems is important because they represent the only surviving song suites of Feng’s - a total of sixteen sets. I am centrally concerned with the representation of failed love affairs in song poetry, as seen through Feng’s personal experiences and the experiences of his close literati friends. In analyzing his collections of fiction and song, I seek to establish a relationship between Feng’s writings on scholar-courtesan romance and his valorization of zhenqing, or "genuine sentiment". Though romantic love and genuine emotion are central preoccupations of Feng writings, they do not retain the same degree of importance throughout the different genres of his works. I argue that there is a great divide between the public themes of Feng’s fiction and the private sentiment of his songs. Feng’s songs are not only "private and particular," but they are remarkable for their intensely emotional tone, articulated from a male perspective rather than being projected onto the figure of the woman who is jilted by her male lover. In fiction however, Feng’s depiction of scholars and courtesans reverts to a more conventional morality. In stories published after his separation from Hou, Feng sought to put traditional hierarchies in critical perspective but did not advocate a complete break from the traditional social order.

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