Book Review: “Insects in Chinese Literature” by Wilt Idema

Insects in Chinese Literature will appeal to many audiences: entomologists and insect lovers will find it delightful, while specialists in Chinese literature will appreciate the copious notes and careful documentation of each text’s provenance. The works included will enrich both the Chinese and the comparative literature classroom. Quirky and eclectic, this anthology is full of unexpected charms. … the translations of the works themselves are appealing and instantly accessible…. The first section on belles lettres pays homage to the traditional Chinese leishu … The notes in each chapter also contain a wealth of material, including extensive summaries and explanations of insect legends … alluded to in the translated works. In addition to the intrinsic interest of the translated works themselves, this section offers a valuable overview of insect symbolism in traditional Chinese literature. … The final section on popular literature is the highlight of the book for this reviewer, with a rich selection of ballads, precious scrolls, and performance texts. … These popular works are entertaining, ironic, and deliberately parodic. They would make excellent additions to a variety of undergraduate courses on Chinese literature.” —Journal of the American Oriental Society

About the author: Wilt L. Idema is Professor Emeritus of Chinese Literature at Harvard University. A recipient of the prestigious Special Book Award of China, Dr. Idema’s many publications include The Red Brush: Writing Women of Imperial ChinaPersonal Salvation and Filial Piety: Two Precious Scroll Narratives of Guanyin and Her AcolytesMeng Jiangnü Brings Down the Great Wall: Ten Versions of a Chinese LegendHeroines of Jiangyong: Chinese Narrative Ballads in Women’s ScriptThe White Snake and her SonJudge Bao and the Rule of Law: Eight Ballad-Stories from the Period 1250–1450Monks, Bandits, Lovers and Immortals: Eleven Early Chinese PlaysThe Butterfly Lovers: The Legend of Liang Shanbo and Zhu YingtaiEscape from Blood Pond Hell: The Tales of Mulian and Woman HuangBattles, Betrayals, and Brotherhood: Early Chinese Plays on the Three KingdomsThe Generals of the Yang Family: Four Early PlaysThe Resurrected Skeleton: From Zhuangzi to Lu Xun; The Immortal Maiden Equal to Heaven” and Other Precious Scrolls from Western Gansu and The Legend of Prince Golden Calf in China and Korea.

Insects in Chinese Literature: A Study and Anthology by Wilt L. Idema is in the Cambria Sinophone World Series headed by Victor H. Mair (University of Pennsylvania).

Insects in Chinese Literature is available in hardcover, paperback, and multiple digital formats. Order at the Cambria Press website.

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