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From Early Compilations to a Corpus: The Making of a Literary Talent

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image of Frontiers of Literary Studies in China

Shuangliu xuan shiwen ji 双柳轩诗文集 (Anthology of sanctum with two willows) was an anthology of some early works of Yuan Mei (1716−1798), an eminent writer of the Qing dynasty, and had been published before he got famous. Taking the enormous differences found during collation of this anthology with Yuan Mei quan ji 袁枚全集 (Corpus of Yuan Mei), a contemporary collated edition of Xiaocangshan fang quan ji 小仓山房全集 (Complete works of Xiaocangshan villa) compiled in Yuan Mei’s senectitude, as an example, this paper is trying to reveal that a work may go through continuous revisions or even recomposition before they are finalized and taken into a corpus. Like burying a body, every compilation of one’s work is a layer on the first-hand work, and the latest layer is no doubt the farthest from the body. Thus the author suggests that researches attempting to trace diachronies of a renowned writer’s works should dig deep, and if the body itself has lost into dust, at least the early compilations could bring us much closer to how the works used to be.


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