The long novel “Gu Wang Yan” was edited by Qujing Cao and commented by Dunweng Lin in the reign of the Yongzheng Emperor, representing a milestone of the development of pornographic novels. Within nearly one-million words, the novel is full of bald, palpable and detailed descriptions of intercourse. According to the information and materials we have known, the author depicts four families as the core, and extends to all social classes in the Ming society. Among these characters, the author expresses personal feelings into his work by providing a vivid picture about the demise of Ming dynasty.
Over the centuries, traditional Chinese liberals have shown a strong desire to get in the politics and get out of the social problems and political struggles. Under the condition of autocratic politics, the ideal of liberals has always been worn out by the reality. Chinese scholars and historians at the transition between Ming and Qing dynasty wondered whether peacefully embraced a newly foreign regime or refused to serve it for a psychological comfort of reminding loyalty to a dead dynasty. The author expresses such worries into his writing. The rule of eunuchs in Ming dynasty represents a rebellious bureaucracy that was organized parallel to but was not subject to the civil service bureaucracy. The instability at court politics sustained as well as the natural calamity, pestilence, rebellion and foreign invasion which led to the fall of the Ming dynasty. The Qing regime reclaimed the mandate of Heaven, and then smothered the Han Chinese liberals. For these liberals, living under the foreign race, the Manchu’s rule was a huge humiliation that challenges the traditional Confucius values. The author suffers a lot during his lifetime for his unfortunate official career, which might be one of the motives for his creation of “Gu Wang Yan”.
Key words: “Gu Wang Yan”, Qujing Cao, pornographic novel, the images of characters, the fatuous rules and the traitorous court officials
RESEARCH PURPOSE AND METHODS
This thesis aims at discovering three values. First, to examine the author’s creative motives of “Gu Wang Yan” as well as to exhibit the historical features beyond the
surface of pornographic writings. My research methods is that through comparing historic writings and literatures at Qujing Cao’s living time, to realize how and why he creates such characters, and to reveal Cao’s psychology as he uses pornography to hide his political critics. Second, to construct the strategy that Cao demonstrates in the novel about the characters and the pornographic techniques. And third, to examine some applications of the novel by looking into the author’s political and social dissatisfactions.
This thesis contains six chapters. Chapter One demonstrates the methods and summarizes some main points of the novel, in order to find out the research questions, and then to construct my research purpose and methods. Chapter Two analyzes the historical context and the development of the pornographic novels in ancient China. Furthermore, to acquire the consistency of their thinking and historical views by comparing the author Qujing Cao’s and the commenter Dunweng Lin’s lifetime. Chapter Three discusses the characters in the novel, including the most important fatuous emperors, Tianqi, Chongzhen, and Hongguang. The author is good at depict these three emperors’ different defections: Tianqi is fool and ignorant; Chongzhen is brutal and autocratic; Hongguang is greed and excessive. The author also blames these emperors’ fatuousness for the demise of the Ming dynasty. Chapter Four looks into several traitorous characters in the novel, and these court officials including the notorious eunuch Wei Zhongxian, Shiing Ma, and Dacheng Zuan. The author composes these heinous and guilty characters’ corruptions, and then provides them miserable ending. Chapter Five generalizes former chapters and the concepts of the fatuous rulers and the traitorous court officials. The author has at least two main objectives by creating“Gu Wang Yan,”: the first is to express his personal emotions through using several bold ways to expose the corruption of the politics of Ming dynasty, and the other is to convey his feelings in verbal skills to ironize the Qing regime. Chapter Six is the conclusion, analyzing the strategy that the writer uses and elaborating how the author conceals his political and social purposes under his pornographic writing. The pornographic dramatizations in“Gu Wang Yan” is not only a persecution of the former brutal dynasty, but also his personal views of society and politics.
Through the historical research and the literature analysis, the novel“Gu Wang Yan” is not just a pornographic novel at that time, but also a political critics that reflects the author’s personal opinions of his historical views and thinking. The mind of “lost” is another key value within“Gu Wang Yan,” the short and sad lives of characters is a reminder for false, invented, fabricated loss of morality, just as its title means.