Liu Shide, male, Han nationality, born in December, 1932, is a native of
Founder of Ancient Novel Edition Studies
Mr. Liu Shide was the cooperative supervisor during my post doctoral study. Owing to the work, I am lucky to have heard the instructions of Mr. Liu. However, this is the first time for me to have an academic interview with Mr. Liu. Therefore, I can’t help thinking back about the process of linking the edition research of A Dream of Red Mansion. Although I begin to recall, the talk between Mr. Liu and me began well.
Xia Wei (hereinafter referred to as Xia): Mr. Liu,it is my impression, that I heard about “ancient novel edition study” when I called you the first time. At that time, I asked you whether I could be your post doctoral student.
Liu Shide (hereinafter referred to as Liu): yes, that day, I asked: “whether you will walk the road of “researching tiny things” or not? If you don’t want to walk in this way, don’t be my post doctoral student.”
Xia: I had read many articles on edition and textual research, but your writing ideas were rare. In fact, I was attracted by your research style and research method through reading your Edition Research of a Dream of Red Mansion, so I hope that I can devote myself to this research. You say that Edition Research of a Dream of Red Mansion is an active practice in ancient novel edition study. Scholars are familiar with “ancient novel study” and “edition study”, but what is “ancient novel edition study”. I remember that you have put forward an academic conference on this. Can you talk about it in detail?
Liu: that academic conference was held in Londoo Hotel, Beijing from October 10th, 1995 to 12th. And two contents were discussed at the conference: firstly, “the 40th anniversary of the first publication and the 15th anniversary of resuming publication of Literary Heritage”; secondly, “the establishment of Ancient Chinese Literary Society”. I submitted an article to the conference, named “Several Cognitions on the Establishment of Ancient Novel Edition Study”. During the conference, I made an academic report and stated the concept of “ancient novel edition study” in detail. And then, the abridged edition of this article was collected in the book Edition Research of a Dream of Red Mansion, as the “preface”.
Xia: can you make a definition of “ancient novel edition study”?
Liu: I think that ancient novel edition study is a kind of knowledge researching editions of ancient novels. The main research objectives of traditional edition study are books, such as Confucian classics. Generally speaking, as for its research content, there are three aspects. Firstly, research features of edition form; secondly, research differences of edition content; thirdly, research the process of edition spread. On this basis, we shall search for origins and developments of editions, and identify true and false editions, time of editions, and strengths and weaknesses of editions.
Xia: can you give specific instructions about these three aspects?
Liu: researching features of edition form means researching writing, publication, years, edition, way of cutting, typing, form and arrangement of lines in calligraphy, sheet of paper, color, and bookbinding and so on; researching differences of edition content is mainly researching differences in words and expressions, chapters and sections, subsections, and volumes and so on; researching the process of edition spread shall include collection, seal, colophon, punctuation and annotation, emendation, settlement and so on.
Xia: that is to say, ancient novel edition study and traditional edition study are different.
Liu: yes. The difference between ancient novel edition study and traditional edition study mainly expresses the difference in research objectives. Just now, I said the main research objectives of traditional edition study are books, such as Confucian classics, while the main research objectives of ancient novel edition study are popular novels, which are very different for both of them. Books of Confucian classics are written by concise classical Chinese, while popular novels are written by popular vernacular Chinese. In addition, popular novels are long and have many words. They are different in research objectives, so their research concentration and methods are different. Say from the three aspects talked above: in the third aspect (research the process of edition spread), the research tasks are completely the same; in the first aspect (research features of edition form), the research tasks are basically the same, but the difficulty levels of the research of them are different; in the second aspect (research differences of edition content), the research tasks are different. So-called “differences in content” indicates differences in characters. Differences in characters can be divided into two parts. Firstly, differences in one character, one word, or one sentence, and these differences are small. Secondly, differences in characters’ personalities, plots, ideological orientation of content, and some detail descriptions and so on, which are very important. As for these two types, you can not do one and neglect the other, but you shall make clear their weight and priority. Naturally, the second type is more important, which is preferential.
Xia: I know that one of your sayings is always quoted by foreign scholars.
Liu: yes. This saying is: “the main objective (or main task) of ancient novel edition study doesn’t lie in comparing similarities and differences of one character, one word, or one sentence.” In the academic seminar of A Dream of Red Mansion for young and middle-aged people held in previous years, several redologists quoted this saying and agreed with it. In accordance with the report in the magazine Literary Heritage, Professor He Guli of the
Xia: you have put forward the theory of ancient novel edition study, which has opened a brand new thinking space for young people who research novels. For young scholars, researching ancient novel editions is a kind of difficult work and comparatively rigorous test. They shall have not only solid and profound academic skills, but also a stable and careful research spirit, for example, the comparison of words between different editions.
Liu: yes. You can not make any achievements in ancient novel edition study without the spirit of “being cold-shouldered”. And at the same time, I want to say: “the comparison of slight differences between one character, one word, and one sentence is important, but this is only “a road of a thousand miles begins with one step”.” I think that there are two steps to researching ancient novel editions. The first step is investigating and researching the similarities and differences of each edition, including similarities and differences of characters, plots, and content. In addition, the second step is through the research of similarities and differences of characters, plots, and content, to uncover some important issues in the process of the author’s creation and the book’s spread. The reason why I research editions of A Dream of Red Mansion is that I want to explore the change in Tsao Hsuehchin’s artistic conception in the process of creation through these edition issues. However, the reason why I research editions of Romance of the Three Kingdoms and Tales of the Marshes is that I want to explore the increase, taboo, modification, and deletion in the process of spread through these edition issues.
Xia: I remember that you said that there are high-level and low-level requirements in ancient novel edition study. Can you talk about these two levels?
Liu: there are indeed requirements on two levels. It shall have low-level requirements, which is the base; so do high-level requirements. Low-level requirements mean general and basic requirements towards edition study. What edition study can do shall be done by ancient novel edition study. What are high-level requirements? Special color of ancient novel edition study shall be added on the basis of edition study. That is to say, achieving the perfect combination of edition study and ancient novel edition study is the ideal objective pursued by ancient novel edition study. I pointed out in an article: “as for the distance in content and property, ancient novel edition study shall be nearer to the theory of literature and art, novel study, and ancient novel study, rather than general edition study and edition study of ancient books.” And this is the highest state for ancient novel edition study.
Xia: the highest state of ancient novel edition study as said by you is very attractive. I remember that in the preface of your book named Discussion on Tsao Hsuehchin’s Ancestral Home, Mr. Deng Shaoji specially put forward your unique creative style, and he highly praised: “in the summer of this year, I was invited to give a lesson, and several middle-aged scholars talked with me about the article of Comrade Shide. They thought that there was a feature in the article, namely to not only consider things as they stand but to make points in accordance with the principles of textology. They thought that it was helpful for young students.” He also said: “when I read this these articles by Comrade Shide, I always remember the words of an overseas scholar. He said that he loved reading articles by Comrade Shide. I think that the words of this scholar can be used to prove that these kinds of academic articles by Comrade Shide are professional and at the same time attract a lot of readers.” I totally agree with the views of Mr. Deng. When young students are faced with terrifying edition study, your writing style is like a detective novel that makes sterile work interesting. The edition issue is a kind of mystery, and various materials are used in detection, and the result is deduced step by step with rigorous logical thinking, and finally, the truth cmes out. It is a kind of intense and attractive process reading your articles.
Liu: I think that articles on edition study and textual research should strictly avoid being boring. Under the condition of keeping with academic nature, articles shall be written in a vivid and attractive way. As for articles that are hard to read, who is interested or has the patience to read them? Articles on edition study and textual research are even more so. In this aspect, the expression of readability can be summed up in two points at least. Firstly, write smoothly, with clear thinking, and avoid rough words. Secondly, pay attention to overall arrangement. Talk about ‘what’ first; talk about ‘what’ later; how to transfer from section one to section two; the logical relation in writing; the logical relation in discussion; and how to draw forth the correct conclusions from evidence and deductions and so on. You should read detective stories and novels in your spare time, and TV programs of this kind, such as “Live Court Hearing” and so on, which are helpful for you to write articles of edition study and textual research. How to judge the success or failure of textual research articles? Firstly, people can read continuously, without feeling oppressed; secondly, be attractive, and readers won’t want to put it down; finally, your conclusion must be convincing, and readers would like to accept it.
Xia: in the beginning when you asked me to walk the road of Edition Research of a Dream of Red Mansion, I immediately thought about some famous articles for researching editions of A Dream of Red Mansion in your books, such as “The Death of Qin Zhong”, “The Disturbance of Xue Pan”, “Whose Daughter Yin Chun is”, and “Caixia and Caiyun” and so on. Before this, I believed that few people can see these issues. Because there are many complicated editions of A Dream of Red Mansion and a lot of different writing styles among various editions, some issues come out, such as what characters were designed by Tsao Hsuehchin himself; they come from the author’s draft or revised edition; what are their orders and so on. And your research has developed a new style, which is unforgettable after reading. Can you talk about your method for edition research of A Dream of Red Mansion briefly?
Liu: A Dream of Red Mansion has its particularities. The first eighty chapters were written by the great writer Tsao Hsuehchin, and he died when this book wasn’t finished. And the first eighty chapters are a preliminary draft. Before his death, his draft of A Dream of Red Mansion and modified draft were spread among relatives and friends. And there are more than ten copies conserved at present. Tsao Hsuehchin said: “I have written this book in the red house for ten years, which has been modified five times.” In that way, can the traces of modification be found from these copies? And this is what we strive for. The research method of ancient novel edition study is very simple, seeking issues, discovering issues, and researching issues.
Xia: what are these aspects?
Liu: issues to be sought and discovered can be summarized as four aspects, namely characters, things, time, and places.
Xia: please talk about it in more detail.
Liu: “characters” indicates name, personality, thinking, appearance, dress up, and action of characters in books; “things” indicates the arrangement, joining, and ending of plot; “time” indicates the order of the plot in time; “places” indicates places where the plot develops and characters’ residences and so on.
Xia: after looking for the issues in these four aspects, what can we research next?
Liu: after seeking out some contradictions and leaks regarding these four aspects, we should research the reasons for the production faults, giving proper and reasonable explanations connecting with the production process of Tsao Hsuehchin. The First ten chapters of that book were written by me in accordance with this step.
Xia: can you give us a specific example?
Liu: ok. Take “The Disturbance of Xue Pan” as an example, and can you remember the plots of A Dream of Red Mansion in chapter 33 and chapter 34?
Xia: yes, I can. In chapter 33, Jia Baoyu suffered a beating. In chapter 34, Xue Baochai went to visit Jia Baoyu.
Liu: yes, very good. In chapter 34, when Xue Baochai went to visit Jia Baoyu, Xiren he had a loose tongue. When Xiren talked to Xue Pan, Jia Baoyu continuously prevented her from speaking. Xue Baochai thought: “it is true that you are afraid that I will mind, so you prevent Xiren speaking. I know my brother’s nature. On that very day, you cried upside down for Qin Zhong. And it is sure to be more severe.” Can you remember these sentences?
Xia: yes, I remember. When I read “On that very day, you have cried upside down for Qin Zhong”, I was confused, because in the whole of A Dream of Red Mansion, we haven’t seen this, what is the relationship between the two of them?
Liu: right, this is the question. It is known that Qin Zhong died in chapter 16. However, before chapter 16, Xue Pan hadn’t met Qin Zhong. A Dream of Red Mansion is famous for its detail. How can Tsao Hsuehchin write these two sentences? You can’t find plots corresponding to these two sentences after reading over the whole book. At this time, we begin to doubt whether charters connected to this were deleted by Tsao Hsuehchin.
Xia: what new discoveries did you find in your search?
Liu: in chapter 9 of Shu Yuanwei’s preface edition, we made new discoveries. The ending of chapter 9 of Shu Yuanwei’s preface edition is different from that of all editions. In achapter of A Dream of Red Mansion, all school children caused uproar at school. Jin Rong was forced to give Qin Zhong a grand kowtow and apologize. The unique ending of Shu Yuanwei’s preface edition is: “Jia Rui made up his mind to incite Xue Pan to revenge, and he discussed with Jin Rong. They returned home respectively after school was over. How to incite Xue Pan? Please read the next chapter.”
Xia: this ending is indeed different from that of other editions.
Liu: it is surprising that the beginning of various editions (including Shu Yuanwei’s preface edition) are the same. In all editions, the ending characters of chapter 9 shall link up beginning characters of chapter 10. Only in Shu Yuanwei’s preface edition, the last characters of chapter 9 don’t link up with the beginning characters of chapter 10.
Xia: yes, he said that he would incite Xue Pan to revenge, but this thing disappeared without a trace.
Liu: through deep analysis, I finally connected these two strange sentences in chapter 34 with the ending of Shu Yuanwei’s preface edition, and I know that in chapter 10, Tsao Hsuehchin originally wrote the story of Xue Pan’s Disturbance at School.
Xia: someone has said: “this criticism indicates the plot that Xue Pan suffered cruel beating because of molesting Liu Xianglian in chapter
Liu: connecting these three sets of evidence, you can guess the content of chapter
Xia: yes. This indeed reflects what you said: revealing some important issues during the author’s creation through the research of edition issues.
Liu: with the use of this method, I have made a satisfying conclusion. Of course, whether this conclusion is correct or not, will be tested by readers and time.
Xia: I believe that readers will identify with your research and conclusions.
Liu: in short, I want to emphasize these sentences. Ancient novel edition study pursues: revealing some important issues in the process the author’s creation through the research of edition issues; revealing some important issues on the process of the books spread through the research of edition issues. This kind of research is extremely meaningful.
Xia: revealing some important issues in the process of the author’s creation is reflected in the edition research of A Dream of Red Mansion. And then, revealing some important issues in the process of book spread is reflected in the edition research of what book?
Liu: oi part of my research work, revealing some important issues in the process of book spread is mainly reflected in the edition research of Tales of the Marshes and Romance of the Three Kingdoms.
Xia: I know that you were the Vice Chairman of the Chinese Society of a Dream of Red Mansions in the past, and now you are a consultant to this Society. In addition, you are also Chairman of the Chinese Society of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and an expert on edition research of Romance of the Three Kingdoms. Can you talk about your research on this aspect?
Liu: as for the research on editions of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, there are few stories.
Liu: I wanted to research editions of Tales of the Marshes in all directions, and I have already published dozens of articles. However, afterwards, I stopped.
Xia: what a pity. What on earth is the reason for this?
Liu: the reason is that Ming editions of Tales of the Marshes are almost all overseas, including Japan, France, England, German, Denmark, and the Vatican and so on, which are difficult to get access to, and it adds a lot of difficulties to research work.
Xia: and then you gave up the edition research of Tales of the Marshes temporarily, and transferred to research editions of Romance of the Three Kingdoms, is that right?
Liu: yes. I consider that at present books comprehensively and systematically researching editions of Romance of the Three Kingdoms haven’t been published in
Xia: can you give a specific example for researching editions of Romance of the Three Kingdoms?
Liu: ok. It is known that the earliest carving copy of Romance of the Three Kingdoms is the edition by Jiajing Renwu. However, the edition of Jiajing Renwu is an original carving copy and re-carving copy. The original carving copy is the photo-offset copy published by the Beijing People's Literature Press in 1974. And the re-carving copy is the photo-offset copy published by Shanghai Commercial Press in 1929.
Xia: what are the differences between the original carving copy and the re-carving copy?
Liu: the biggest and most important difference between them is the description of the death of Kwanwoo in section 153 “Guan Gong Makes Power in Yuquan Hill”.
Xia: edition issues exist in the death of Kwanwoo?
Liu: yes. In the original carving copy, it described: when Kwanwoo was walking, he was tripped up by ropes, and then he was caught by Ma Zhong. In addition, Guan Ping was also caught by Pan Zhang and Zhu Ran. Ma Zhong sent Kwanwoo to the curtain of Sun Quan, and Sun Quan asked whether Kwanwoo was convinced or not, and then Kwanwoo scolded him. Sun Quan wanted to summon Kwanwoo to surrender, and Sun Quan sought the opinions of his people. Someone dissuaded him, so Sun Quan ordered Kwanwoo to be decapitated. The above plots are written in detail.
Xia: and then, in the re-carving copy, how is it changed?
Liu: the description in the re-carving copy is much simpler: when Kwanwoo was walking, he met with Pan Zhang, Zhu Ran, and Ma Zhong by accident. And suddenly, he heard: “the god asks you not to fight with common people.” After hearing this, Kwanwoo was not infatuated with wars again, giving up knives and horses, and “father and son to be god”. And “father and son to be god” is the end of Kwanwoo. How was he caught? How to see Sun Quan? How to scold Sun Quan? How his head was chopped off? Are all deleted.
Xia: why were these detail descriptions deleted?
Liu: it is an issue worthy of intensive study. It reflects that people in society at that time adored Kwanwoo. People adored Kwanwoo as god, so they didn’t want to see the tragic ending were he was caught and killed, therefore, they did this. Seen from the surface, it is the issue of edition, but in fact, it involves some important and wider issues, such as general mood of that era, national psychology, and worship culture and so on. This is: revealing some important issues through the research on edition issues.
Xia: it seems that the complexity of editions of ancient novels also lies in the different spread conditions of editions of each novel. As for the research on different editions of novels, we must find targeted research methods in accordance with edition conditions. My post doctoral paper is called Edition Research on a Dream of Red Mansion. There are many editions of A Dream of Red Mansion. There are 12 kinds of copies with 80 chapters, and the quantity of carving copies with 120 chapters is unknown at present. And there are 12 kinds of copies with 120 chapters.
Liu: this is why I require you to research in detail. The research on the copy of A Dream of Red Mansion with 120 chapters is a blank page for the research on editions of A Dream of Red Mansion, and you should regard this research as a starting point, and then you should widen your insight. “Researching in detail” is a kind of research method, and I hope you can use this method in the research in the editions of other ancient novels.
Xia: yes, I intend to regard the edition research of A Dream of Red Mansion cs the center, gradually pushing the research range to editions of other ancient novels. The Comparison of characters is only a kind of basic work, and the more important is to research novel editions to “reveal important issues in the process of the author’s creation and revealing important issues in the process of book spread through the research in similarities and differences of characters and contentt” put forward in your “ancient novel edition study”. Finally, please make some suggestions and expectations of young people.
Liu: I hope that more young scholars can devote themselves to the research on ancient novel edition study advocated by me. I use eight characters to explain to young scholars, and I would like to repeat them: ancient novel edition study is like a series of beautiful gardens, and “it is a place of unique scenery and you will have a brilliant future here”.
I would like to sincerely thank Mr. Liu for his time and wish him all the best of health.
Xia Wei, female, born in 1975, Doctor of Arts of Shandong University, and post doctor at the Literature Institute of the
Translated by Feng Weijiang.
Editor: Wang Daohang