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The starting point of Chinese narrative literature: With reference to the art of narration in the Zuozhuan

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image of Frontiers of Literary Studies in China

The Zuozhuan 左传 (Zuo Qiuming’s Commentary on The Spring and Autumn Annals) marks the beginning of ancient Chinese narrative literature that involves such factors as plot (what to say), transition (how to say) and view-angle (who says). In fact, this “story plotting” can be traced back to the Zuozhuan in which historical facts are arranged into plots by revealing the cause-effect relationship between them. Such a characteristic tendency is due to the impact from the dao 道 (tao) in either Confucianism or Taoism. For it is expected to expose the developmental process of events in terms of its historical background and plausible causality. That is why the dao of causality and reasonability thematically threads through the process of the entire plot. Moreover, ancient Chinese narrative literature is affected by the sense of time sequence as part of agricultural civilization, and therefore features chronological story-telling. Noticeably in the Zuozhuan, the structure of narration is reflected in the chronological order of specific year, season, month and date. This symbolizes the approach to the minor in view of the great peculiar of Chinese culture. The leading narrator in the Zuozhuan is the official historian whose standpoint is swinging between “the real” and “the fictional”, “the outspoken” and “the suggestive.”


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