恭喜發財 and a Happy New Year

I’m new to the whole blogging thing, seeing that I just started my blog last spring. So I was taken a bit by surprise when I saw a lot of bloggers posting end-of-year reviews in December. Luckily, my subject matter is China, therefore I decided to save my reminiscing for Chinese New Year, a.k.a. Spring Festival 春節, which will start on the 16th of February in 2018. So you’ve still got a couple of days to clean your house, prepare crazy amounts of food and decide which relative should get what amount of money in their Red Envelopes 紅包.

I started this blog not quite a year ago, riding on the wave of motivation that came with handing in my thesis. I had been thinking about starting a blog for some time, because I felt a little bit isolated with my research: hardly anyone in Germany has ever heard of Fengshen yanyi 封神演義, much less read it. And while friends in Taiwan and China were familiar with the story, they mostly know it from TV shows or religious contexts, both of which differ significantly from the 17th c. novel. If I ever came across someone studying Fengshen yanyi or the story of Nezha 哪吒 (my focus) they were sure to be at the other end of the world.

My hope is that, by putting my thoughts on Fengshen yanyi and all the other novels no one else reads online, I could maybe get in touch with others who work on similar projects and maybe also sit in an office somewhere feeling lonely. So far some friends have left comments on my personal Facebook page, which is really great! But since I intend to keep that private, I would like to encourage everybody to leave their comments on the blog page so that they can be seen by more people.

So far I was overall pretty successful in publishing an article every other week, the exception of course being the weeks leading up to my oral defence. I still have a lot of ideas for blog posts, mostly relating to the novels I read during my PhD journey, but I feel that once that is off my chest I’m going to slow down a bit. Since, however, this blog is called “Sino Literature” and not “my blog”, I’m very open to publishing others’ thoughts on traditional Chinese literature, especially the lesser read works. I hope to convince some colleagues I’m friends with to take some valuable writing time out of their day to share the insights they gained in the course of their research.

Overall, I’m quite happy with the progress the blog made in the half-year since I made it public and that people are actually reading what I write. With that in mind, I can’t wait to see what the Year of the Dog is holding in store for me!

(Todays header image of course needs to feature a dog. The handsome fella in the photo is Douzai ㄉㄡˇㄗㄞˇ , who used to roam the mountains around Taichung 台中 and has since resigned himself to indoor life and wearing jackets.)


[Resource] A Dictionary of Chinese Buddhist Terms by William Edward Soothill 

Researching traditional Chinese literature, I often encounter books that are not readily available (except in sinological libraries) and mostly quite substantial in length, making them difficult to carry around. Enter digital resources. While not acceptable basis for citation in an academic context, they provide a good starting point for initial contact with a book. Here, I want to share how one such resource works: The Digital Soothill.

A Dictionary of Chinese Buddhist Terms With Sanskrit and English Equivalents and a Sanskrit-Pali Index by William Edward Soothill and Lewis Hodous, a.k.a The Soothill (though that may be a shorthand only used at my institute) is a reference book completed in 1937 that delivers exactly what its title promises. Though some of its entries are in need of updating, it still seems to be one of the most complete reference works in English for Buddhist terminology in both Chinese and Sanskrit (in transliteration) over eighty years later.

There are major drawbacks though and I imagine they mostly stem from the problematic business that was printing books in both Western and Chinese script until a few decades ago. Finding entries is made difficult, since they are arranged by stroke count and radicals of the initial character in a term and there is no Pinyin for any Chinese character. But a digital edition made in 2003 thankfully has made finding stuff so much easier.

Having fallen into the public domain The Soothill was digitized by Professor Charles Muller (Tokyo University) as part of his own Digital Dictionary of Buddhism which can be used as a guest (with limitations), as a contributor and via individual or institutional subscription. The digital edition of A Dictionary of Chinese Buddhist Terms may now be found both on its own homepage in html format, or as a free extension on the popular Pleco app.

The homepage is quite straight forward: you have the choice of looking for the desired character the same way as in the book by scrolling through one continuous document until you arrive at the entry using stroke count and radical order. More quickly you can find you character or the Sanskrit term through full text search.

Soothill digital

The only problem is that sometimes the Chinese characters seem to be encoded differently (maybe Japanese encoding?) and can not be found directly through this method. During digitization, place names etc. mentioned in the descriptions have been updated to Pinyin. The Sanskrit-Pali index was however removed, since the full text search (Ctrl+F) made it obsolete. A nice feature for anyone looking to quote the dictionary is that they included the page numbers of the original book in the document, marking each page turn with a horizontal line.

Another great version of the dictionary which actually can be searched using Pinyin, is the extension in Pleco. Pleco is a pretty handy app for Chinese that can be used as a dictionary and for language learning. It includes a great range of both free and paid for features. On the installed app you can find The Soothill based on Muller’s digitization in the menu at Add-ons -> Individual Add-ons/Dictionaries -> By Name/All Free. Then select A Dictionary of Chinese Buddhist Terms for download, wait until it is installed and you are all set.

Go back to your dictionary and look for characters or words the usual way (Pinyin, hand-written, radicals, OCR or English) and select the relevant entry. If the term is only in The Soothill you will be directly shown that entry. If it can also be found in other dictionaries you will need to scroll down until you come to the part headed by BUD:

I selected the word pusa 菩薩 (bodhisattva), which is included in most Chinese dictionaries. At the top you see the Pleco entry under PLC and I closed off the CEDICT entry by clicking on CC to make more room on the screenshot. At the bottom you can read the first sentence of the rather substantial explanation of The Soothill as well as a reference to an alternative translation of the Sanskrit term, which you might find in early Buddhist texts.

So there you  have it: The Soothill and two ways to use its digital version. Have fun reading you Buddhist texts!


Beiyou ji 北遊記

The Journey to the North is the third of the Four Journeys 四遊記 I’m going to introduce and the only one that has been translated into English. The story is not unlike that of the Journey to the South, which doesn’t come as a surprise since the publisher Yu Xiangdou 余象斗 is credited as author for both. Yet the characterization of the protagonists Zhenwu 真武 and Huaguang 華光 respectively makes them simultaneously very distinct from each other.

On a superficial level the stories seem almost identical: just like Huaguang, Zhenwu goes through repeated cycles of life, death and rebirth before finally attaining enlightenment. What makes this story distinct from the Journey to the South are the differences between Huaguang and Zhenwu that are apparent from the beginning: while Huaguang was banished from the presence of the Buddha and thus began his cycles of rebirth, Zhenwu actually chose this ordeal himself. Zhenwu 真武, “True Warrior”, is actually another name for the important Daoist deity of the north, Xuantian shangdi 玄天上帝, “The Dark Emperor”.

At the beginning of Journey to the North, the Jade Emperor 玉皇大帝 contemplades turning towards Buddhism which can only be achieved through rebirth in the mortal world, when his eye is caught by a precious tree in the distance. A feeling of greed kicks of a cycle of rebirths for one of the Emperor’s hun 魂 souls (according to Daoist believes every living person possesses three hun and seven po 魄 souls). In each incarnation this soul, which slowly forms into the Dark Emperor, is challenged to overcome  earthly feelings such as greed, sexual attraction, affinity to power, riches etc.

This endeavour is complicated by the fact that our protagonist never remembers his original identity nor his previous lives and is therefore dependent on the intervention of heavenly personas who time and again make sure he stays on track. There is an interesting progress within his self-cultivation that lead from Daoist studies on Penglai 蓬萊 to Buddhist studies on Gṛdhrakūṭa 靈鷲山. A breakthrough moment occurs when the Dark Emperor, in his latest incarnation actually understands himself the need for self-cultivation after witnessing greed, lust, violence and intoxication in a scene reminiscent of the initial enlightenment of Siddhartha Gautama. He then removes to Wudang Mountain 武當山, an actual place in China and, among other things, since Song times (960-1279) center of the cult of the Dark Emperor.

After achieving enlightenment, Zhenwu is readmitted into Heaven and given the position of leader of 36 Heavenly Generals 三十六員天將. However, in absence of a leader, the previous have all left Heaven, and so Zhenwu is now tasked with roaming the earth, fighting demons, subduing them and recruiting them to his ranks. Among his newly formed retinue are illustrous persons, such as Zhao Gongming 趙公明, whom I routinely encounter in these types of novels, Guan Yu 關羽, the famous general-turned-deity from the Three Kingdoms (184-280) (one of the heroes of the celebrated historical novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms 三國演義), and Huaguang 華光, the protagonist of Journey to the South. The scene in the novel, which (due to both novels having the same author) mirrors the same episode in Journey to the South, where Huaguang tries to escape Heaven through its Northern Gate, is intercepted and defeated by Zhenwu, and made to submit to his command.

Even though the Journey to the North, like its “southern” counterpart, features a lot of fights against demons and repeated supernatural rebirths, I felt it was somewhat subdued compared to Huaguang’s story. This is partly due to Zhenwu being a lot more serious in his behaviour, lacking Huaguang’s wit and irreverence. Maybe owing to the fact that this journey was his own decision, Zhenwu does not go about his lives with the same impatience as Huaguang, which furthermore also correspond very well with the cardinal directions assigned to them: Huaguang’s south is associated with the element of fire, while Zhenwu’s north is the realm of water.

But putting the character of the protagonist aside, I actually feel like this is a novel that is much more qualified to show an unfamiliar reader what the Chinese pantheon is all about, than maybe even the more famous Journey to the West 西遊記 can. The reason is, that the monkey king Sun Wukong 孫悟空, much like Huaguang, is a very rebellious protagonist and in these novels we only learn about the Jade Emperor, Heavenly Troops and the like in an antagonistic role. In Journey to the North, once Zhenwu is given the task of working for Heaven, we see him regularly subdue demons and helping the ordinary people – usually on the order or the Jade Emperor himself. (It is acknowledged and then ignored, that he used to be one of his souls.) In a crisis, Zhenwu can always count on the help of his master Miaole tianzun 妙樂天尊 or the Three Pure Ones 三清. Occasionally, he also turnes to Buddhist deities, who are more than willing to help. Thus, the novel shows the workings of the Chinese syncretistic pantheon without the disruption of an unruly god like Huaguang or Sun Wukong.

It is great then that this novel has actually been translated into English, as the only one of the Four Journeys. The book by Gary Seaman also includes an introduction of Zhenwu and a discussion of authorship. The annotations are very sparse though and, as it was published in 1897, you should be able to make sense of Wade-Giles (as opposed to Pinyin). Definitely check it out, if you want to get a clearer picture of how people in the Ming dynasty (1386-1644) imagined the Chinese pantheon and the ways of their deities.

Yu Xiangdou, Journey to the North: A Ethnohistorical Analysis and Annotated Translation of the Chinese Folk-novel Pei-yu-chi, translated by Gary Seaman, 1987.

Liu Cixin 刘慈欣: The Three Body Problem 三体

Wishing everybody a Happy New Year with this post on the ending of the universe. The timing is pure coincidence but maybe also quite fitting: there is no better way to start a new  chapter in life than thinking about the apocalypse.

I just finished the last novel in the Three Body Problem trilogy by Liu Cixin. This is a contemporary novel, so it doesn’t really fit the theme of this blog. But since I feel that is was quite an achievement to finish this massive science fiction trilogy with all its physics and astronomy terminology in Chinese, I thought I might as well share my thoughts on it here.

If you still plan on reading the books, I will try to keep my review spoiler free as much as possible. If you are unsure whether these books are for you or not, there is a short story by Liu Cixin that can be read in English translation for free on Paper Republic: The Thinkers, translated by Joel Martinsen . It is pretty representative of Liu’s style and can help you decide if you should commit yourself to reading the trilogy.

The trilogy is quite massive in scale and the books get progressively longer. This first book is simply titled The Three Body Problem 三体. This is an actual physical problem and apparently a quite prominent one, as friends with a better understanding of physics assured me. (By courtesy of Wikipedia, since I was really struggling to put this into words): ¨”The three-body problem is the problem in physics of computing the trajectory of three bodies interacting with one another.” If you have an interest in physics, or, if not, want to be even more confused, read up on it here.

The first novel slowly reveals how this problem is related to a present day crisis among scientist that seems to span the whole globe. Interspersed with this search is a story of human suffering and cosmic discovery set during the Cultural Revolution, which turns out to be the key to understanding the problems of the present day. Here, the three body problem is introduced inside a computer game that is built on the premise that the best way to test your thinking is to present highly complex physical problems in a fictionalized historical setting that presents eminent persons in the wrong periods. 

The main problem presented in the trilogy is how to live with the unstable environment that is created by a system in which the gravitational force of three suns makes prediction of their trajectory impossible. But civilization on the Tree-Body-Planet (Trisolaris in the English translation) overall adapts and even thrives, despite major disruptions and setbacks that this situation engenders. Over the course of the novels, earths civilization is equally disrupted through outside events and sinks into chaos, stabilizes, thrives, only to be plunged into chaos again.

Books 2 and 3, titled The Dark Forest黑暗森林 and Death’s End 死神永生, explore great upheavals in human civilization in a quite distanced, almost anthropological manner as we follow each novel’s protagonist from our present day into the future in steps of decades or centuries. As we progress, the threat to Earth only ever increases with every additional piece of information we learn about the cosmos and its inhabitants. But focus is slowly shifted from Earth as we turn to look at the Universe as a whole. The last look at Earth is beautifully described and I felt the trilogy should have ended here, but instead we even get to witness the end of the universe itself.

I connected more with the first book than I did with the later ones. I think this has to do with length and initial publication: only the first book was initially seralized in a science fiction magazine (Science Fiction World 科幻世界) before being published in novel form. Its chapters are all written to win over readers and convince them to come back later. The later novels somehow take their readers for granted and take their time getting to the point. Plus, Liu is not the best storyteller and, however brilliant and inventive his scientific fiction might be, his narratives and characters are unfortunately often stereotypes, especially minor characters. In short: come for the science, not the storytelling.

Liu Cixin already secured a place in science fiction history, since the first volume was the first book in translation (i.e. not originally written in English) to win the prestigious Hugo Award in 2015. While this focus on one language up to that point on the part of the Hugo judges seems a bit weird in itself, it nevertheless shows that The Tree Body Problem has quite an international appeal. Knowledge about China is by no means a prerequisite for understanding this trilogy. A deeper understanding of physics and astronomy, on the other hand, might come in handy.

Being Entertained by Descriptive Chapter Titles in Traditional Chinese Novels

The title of today’s post is my attempt at mimicking the peculiar style of chapter titles in traditional Chinese novels. These titles usually tell you exactly what will happen in the chapter, sparing the reader the suspense of anticipation. They are the antithesis of today’s storytelling that fears nothing so much as an audience knowing details in advance. This dreaded state of affairs even has a name that strikes fear in the heart of writers and readers/viewers alike – SPOILERS. Traditional Chinese literature abounds in spoilers.

Take for example chapters 12-14 in Fengshen yanyi 封神演義. They are about Nezha 哪吒 (and were the focus of my thesis). Chapter 12 tells you about the conclusion of a freakishly long pregnancy that results in the birth of a flesh ball, which is subsequently cut open and reveals a baby. The baby is named Nezha by a Daoist master 道士 the very next day. Now, you could be wondering throughout the narrative, where exactly this is headed, and whether or not the parent’s fear that they are breeding a monster is justified. Except that the chapter is titled “Nezha is born at the Chentang Pass [Garrison]” 陳塘關哪吒出世. Similarly, chapter 13 consists of a confrontation between Nezha’s master True Man Taiyi 太乙真人 and a stone demon named Madam Stone 石磯娘娘 that escalates from a heated debate to a fight for life and death. But you are not really surprised by the eventual winner, because the title tells you that “True Man Taiyi Subdues [Madam] Stone” 太乙真人收石磯. Finally, the anxious question of what will happen after Nezha dies in the last lines of chapter 13 is spared you, because the following title tells you that “Nezha is Reborn from Lotus Flowers” 哪吒蓮花化身.

To say that these titles are useless spoilers would, however, be a misconception. Their very appeal lies in their familiarity. Most Ming dynasty novels made extensive use of previous material that was most likely in wide circulation already, in the form of storytelling or theater. A reader new to the book might therefore not be new to the story. And despite our contemporary writers’ quest for originality, readers sometimes turn to stories because of their familiarity. In this way, chapter titles make us exited for a retelling of a spectacular fight scene or increase anticipation for a favorite character’s arrival.

But considering that I personally (as a 21st c. German reader) am not familiar with these stories, what particular enjoyment do I get from these titles? For me it is a different form of anticipation. I sometimes like to “read ahead” in the chapter titles to see if any characters I already encountered come up again in any of them. Or I might see situations described to baffle me as to how they are supposed to play out. I then try to guess how it might play out, but the nature of stories from a different country as well as century usually means that it is still impossible for me to know exactly how the story will play out.

Having said that, I think there is a sort of progression in Chinese novels away from direct titles towards more vagueness or sophistication. It comes in the novels of manners that were set within literati households. These were not based on popular story cycles, but rather derived from the observations and life experiences of their authors. The most famous novel of course is Honglou meng 紅樓夢, Dream of the Red Chamber/Mansion. Here we might find titles like this for chapter 46: 尷尬人難免尷尬事 鴛鴦女誓絕鴛鴦偶. The first part translates to something like “An awkward person will inevitably do awkward things”. This leaves who wondering who the awkward person is and what trouble they are going to get themselves into. The second part is more telling, but beautifully crafted: “The female mandarin duck swears off her mandarin duck partner.” Put like this the title doesn’t make much sense, unless you know that yuanyang 鴛鴦, “mandarin duck”, is not only the name of one of the characters, but in pairs also a symbol for happily married couples. The meaning is therefore along the lines of “The girl Yuanyang swears never to marry.”

I don’t envy anybody who translates Chinese literature the pains of making these chapter titles work in another language. I do, however, love to read ahead in tables of contents of both the straightforward and the sophisticated titles for the anticipation of familiar episodes, favorite characters or puzzling foreshadowing.

Creation of the Gods, translated by Gu Zhizhong

The Story of the Stone, translated by David Hawkes and John Minford

A Dream of Red Mansions, translated by Gladys Yang and Yang Xianyi

Der Traum der roten Kammer oder die Geschichte vom Stein, translated into German by Rainer Schwarz and Martin Woesler

Was Late Imperial Publishing Surprisingly Modern?

At the end of October I attended the yearly DVCS (Association of Chinese Studies in German Language) conference which was held in Vienna this year. The conference is mainly aimed at Sinologist, but sometimes there are people from another field or even outside academia in the audience. One such gentleman approached me after my presentation to ask some questions and in the short talk we had I was once more reminded why I love to share my research with the world.

My presentation was on the syncretistic world view of Fengshen yanyi 封神演義, how said world was constructed in the novel, and how the legitimacy of this view was discussed in the foreword. It was this foreword in particular that interested my questioner during the following coffee break: to him its line of argument seemed surprisingly modern for a novel published in the early 17th c. (I’ll leave aside the fact that the beginning of “modernity” in China is usually dated to the Song-dynasty (960-1279) and work with the common understanding of “modern” as something similar to todays practices.) I do understand what he means, but I think that the “modernity” of the late imperial book market in China shouldn’t really be that much of a surprise.

Reading up on the publishing industry and marketing strategies of late imperial authors and publishers was actually the funniest part of my dissertation. Especially the way the prefaces very bluntly tried to frame Fengshen yanyi as either historically valid, harmless entertainment, or profound Daoist metaphor made for a very interesting read. I knew about the merchantile side of Ming dynasty publishing before reading these forewords, and I also already wrote a blog post on some of my thoughts on this called Entrepreneural Publishers.

What surprised me though, was how different each preface was from the novel itself. This has partly to do with the fact that each preface was included in a different publication of the same, unchanged text. Their composition was therefore always shaped by the demands of publication. This seems to be especially true in the case of Fengshen yanyi, which was (and is) not considered to be one of the great novels. Chances are, whoever was asked to write the foreword to such a publication did so because of monetary compensation and not out of interest in the work itself.

Our view of looking at this as “modern” might stem from the fact that we look at literati from former times as scholars who lived solely for scholarship, culture and arts. In reality, those highly educated men (and a handful of women who very allowed the privilege of learning) were just as dependent on funds, patronage or commercial success as contemporary writers and artists are. Maybe even more so in the case of imperial China, where every literati faced his make-or-break moment in the imperial examinations. As they moved through the different ranks, the successful candidates were drastically reduced with each level. This left a great number of educated men with no hope for official careers in need of a job. They found them as teachers, private tutors, or as “freelancers” working for publishing houses. There is even a whole novel dedicated to these people: The Scholars 儒林外史 by Wu Jingzi 吳敬梓 (1701-1754).

I assume that China is not unique in this regard. I imagine the market for European chapbooks was equally  “modern”. After all, the earliest novels started life as popular entertainment and only evolved into a serious literary genre over the course of many centuries. It is just that we, the “modern” readers, tend to only read the best of them, those which have been around and were republished for many generations. But books of lesser quality (or popularity) that were published around the same time were not generally read later on. However, if you look at the novels of  a certain time in toto, naturally, the book market that supports them will start to look quite “modern” to you.

What’s interesting to me though, is that marketing for novels in 17th or 18th century China wasn’t quite as smooth as we are used to today. Sales pitches are often presented rather crudely and bold claims are made on book covers. Nevertheless, this early publishing industry laid the groundwork for todays book marketing. Similar strategies in late imperial and 20th/21st century publishing industry therefore don’t really point to a precociousness of 17th century publishers. Rather, it means we haven’t really come up with anything radically new since then.

Various prefaces to different editions of Fengshen yanyi and a whole range of other novels can be found in this helpful collection: 丁锡根,中国历代小说序跋集.

The Scholars, by Wu Jingzi, translated by Gladys Yang and Yang Xianyi (The first book on this worldcat list, published 2017, is actually a retelling of some episodes by Wang Guozhen. Scroll further down for several edition of the translation by the Yangs.)

[Resource] open-lit.com

Researching traditional Chinese literature, I often encounter books that are not readily available (except in sinological libraries) and mostly quite substantial in length, making them difficult to carry around. Enter digital resources. While not acceptable basis for citation in an academic context, they provide a good starting point for initial contact with a book. Here, I want to share how one such resource works: open-lit.com

open lit header
The novel list on open-lit.

Open-lit.com 開放文學 is a Chinese language page in traditional characters that offers free full text versions of a number of novels from late imperial China. The build of the site is very simple: 657 novels are listed in 17 categories alongside 417 plays in 14 categories. Clicking on the title will lead you to a chapter page which in turn will lead you to the full texts for the individual chapters.

The home page URL is open-lit.com, but you can skip the introduction and go straight to the list of novels or the list of plays. So far I have only used the novels bit, so I will concentrate on that. I assume the list of plays works in a similar fashion. One example of a novel category is 神鬼仙俠: Gods, Ghosts, Immortals and Heroes:

open lit shengui xianxia.jpg

The arrangement of novels within each category is according to the radical 部首 of the first character, which can make it difficult to find stuff, unless you really know your radicals. But there is a way around this. If you know the title of your novel you can easily skip to it using the search function on you browser: You press Ctrl+F and then enter the search term in the bar at the bottom of your browser.

open lit suche

You can also use the search function for novels built into the site to find novel titles or keywords. Just press the first link in the right hand corner of the novel list. By default the search is “full-text” 全文檢索, but you can change that to title 書明, author 作者, time of publication 年代, introduction 簡介 or chapter title 回目檢索. You can also combine two search terms with either “and” 和 or “or” 或.

open lit suchfunktion

What you can’t do, unfortunately, is combining a book title and a full text search term. You can get around that though, using Google. I might, for example, be looking for the mention of Nezha 哪吒 in Fengshen yanyi 封神演義, so I would type this into the google search bar: site:open-lit.com 封神演義 哪吒.

open lit google

When you have found you novel you can first read the basic information provided at the link 本書資料, which tells you (most important for academic work) the edition this text is based on. Then you can select the chapter you need from the table of content and start reading from there, comfortably skipping to the previous and next chapters with the arrows at the end of the page. There is actually a really handy tool built into the site that can help you read you Chinese text. On the right hand side of the page you fill see a very simple tool bar which can’t be reduced in size, making it a bit annoying for reading on a small screen. But if you come across an unknown character or word in the text (which I still do quite a lot) then you can simply select it with you cursor and open-lit will display a Chinese explanation on the right.

open lit wörterbuch
The dictionary toll. Right know it is telling me that “The House of Zhou” 周室 means “Zhou dynasty” 周朝. The pronunciation is included in Zhuyin: ㄓㄡ ㄕˋ (Pinyin Zhōu shì).

But you wouldn’t always want to read online. And you don’t have to. This is a function I only recently found out about and I was so happy. At the top of the novel’s page you will find the link “download this book” 本書下載 which will lead you to 3-4 options for download. The html version works quite well for me on my phone, after downloading a zip file and unpacking it. I haven’t encountered the file extensions “ebk”, “epb” or “chm” before, so I didn’t try them. If anybody knows what they are and how they work, please let me know in the comments below!

open lit ebook.jpg

And that concludes my introduction of open-lit.com.  The page is perfect, if you know you book and want a quick overview, find the exact wording of a passage or even read the whole thing on an electronic device. You definitely need to know Chinese and be able to read traditional characters. The navigation is rudimentary, but I actually found that the very simple nature of the site allows me to really concentrate on the text without getting distracted. Plus, a lot of texts are included in the site, some of which I couldn’t find anywhere else, making it my go-to online resource for late imperial literature these days.

What are your experiences using open-lit.com? Do you know any other digital resources you would recommend?