Mouse vs. Cat in Chinese Literature
Tales and Commentary
- PUBLISHED: March 2019
- SUBJECT LISTING: Asian Studies / China, Literature
- BIBLIOGRAPHIC INFORMATION: 272 Pages, 6 x 9 in, 0 b&w illus
- ISBN: 9780295744834
- Publisher: University of Washington Press
In literatures worldwide, animal fables have been analyzed for their revealingly anthropomorphic views, but until now little attention has been given to the animal tales of China. The complex, competitive relationship between rodents (vilified as thieves of grain) and the felines with whom they are perennially at war is explored in this presentation of Chinese tales about cats and mice. Master translator Wilt Idema situates them in an overview of animal tales in world literature, in the Chinese literary tradition as a whole, and within Chinese imaginative depictions of animals.
The tales demonstrate the animals’ symbolism and their unusually prominent—and verbal—role in the stories. These readings depict cats and mice in conflict, in marital bonds, and in litigation—most centrally in a legal case of a mouse against a cat in the underworld court of King Yama. Many of the stories adopt the perspective of the mice as animals merely trying to survive, while also recognizing that cats are natural hunters.
This entertaining volume will appeal to readers interested in Chinese literature and society, comparative literature, and posthumanist consideration of human-animal relations.
Authors & Contributors
Wilt L. Idema is professor emeritus of Chinese literature at Harvard University. He is the author of Chinese Vernacular Fiction: The Formative Period, coauthor of The Red Brush: Writing Women of Imperial China, and translator of Two Centuries of Manchu Women Poets: An Anthology and other works of traditional Chinese literature. Haiyan Lee is professor of East Asian languages and cultures and of comparative literature at Stanford University. She is the author of Revolution of the Heart: A Genealogy of Love in China, 1900–1950, and The Stranger and the Chinese Moral Imagination.
A broad and rich survey not only of literary representations of mouse versus cat within the larger context of Chinese history, but also of anthropomorphism in world literature.. . . . I absolutely recommend this book to my fellow human beings.- Modern Chinese Literature and Culture (Scholarly Studies of Modern Chinese Literature)
While lightheartedness characterizes its thematic choice, Mouse vs. Cat is a critical inquiry into anthropomorphism.- Journal of Asian Studies
[A] a significant contribution to the fields of Chinese literature and animal studies alike.- Journal of Chinese Studies
Mouse vs. Cat is simultaneously an entertaining exploration of a long-held personal interest and a well-timed case study of what it means for humans to think with animals in literature.- Journal of the American Oriental Society
[D]eeply scholarly and yet highly enjoyable reading.- Chinese Literature: Essays, Articles, Reviews (CLEAR)
Displaying an impressive mastery of the subject, Wilt Idema presents the material in this book in a lively and highly engaging manner.- Madeline K. Spring, author of Animal Allegories in T'ang China
This collection draws us into a world in which cats and mice engage in spectacular confrontations and negotiations, from ancient times to the modern era. The representations reveal as much about the Chinese imagination of animals as of themselves. Wilt Idema again proves himself to be a most erudite Sinologist and a critic with a keen modernist consciousness. The collection is a marvelous sourcebook for readers not only in Chinese and Sinophone narrative studies, but also in animal studies and post-human criticism.- David Der-wei Wang, Harvard University