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Harry J. Huang, Professor of English at Seneca College in Toronto, himself an accomplished short-short story writer, has provided English readers with a fascinating collection of 101 Chinese short, short stories, some ancient, most modern.
Professor Huang tells us in his introduction, that he has selected stories that will shock, thrill, enlighten or make us laugh. This fine collection fulfills these criteria. At times the reader will laugh, cry, or become angry and sometimes all at once.
There is the blind old woman who turns out to be a martial arts master and visits a strange revenge on her son’s assassin. Campers and hikers tormented by mosquitoes will appreciate the magistrate’s mosquito punishment, but probably not wish to imitate his remedy when the punishment is applied to himself. The story of the villager’s brutal retaliation on the village official for the way he has enforced birth control policies leaves us both horrified and sympathetic.
Some of these stories are wonderfully complex for tales so brief. There is, for example, the old man who thwarts the young pickpocket who is training to be a detective and a hilarious account of how to sell unsellable books. In the mice’s wedding we are given a touching glimpse of poor people struggling to shield their children from hurt and disappointment.
Western readers will find many things strange. Raised in a society where arranged marriages are rare, and to many abhorrent, they will find the romantic complications that arise both funny, peculiar and perhaps offensive. There is the couple prevented eloping in their youth by the combination of parents and a late train, prevented again in their old age by their children and another late train. In Western society eating a dog is shocking and the businessman who bribes his host into serving him the dog that had saved his life not only evokes sorrow, for the dog, and anger, but would be a matter for the police. In these and similar stories, however, the complexities of social situations alien to English readers are set out with such clarity and brevity that the message is clear.
Variations of famous Western tales remind us how alike human beings really are. There is an echo of Andromeda in the story of the girl who is to be fed to a monstrous snake and of “Rip Van Winkle” in the adventures of the men who spend a few days in a strange wonderland and return home to find that many generations have passed.
The collection gives a moving and often hilarious cross section of life’s problems, misunderstandings and everyday tragedies. Despite cultural differences, most of these situations will be familiar to Western readers. As it is observed in the amusing story of a young nun in a tiny convent, “people’s stories are more or less the same.”
The stories are grouped under Love Relationships, Twists and Turns, and Old Classics. A supplement provides six informative essays on the Chinese short-short story and the work concludes with brief biographies of the authors.
For many English-speaking readers this entertaining and moving collection will be a valuable introduction to a great civilization still largely alien to Westerners who will find it at once exotic, enchanting, and a little threatening. China has not always been sympathetically presented in Western media and in these charming snapshots of everyday life Western readers will find that the two worlds are not so very different.
It is difficult to translate the popular idioms of one culture into those of another without distorting the author’s intentions. English idiom is especially treacherous. English speakers seem to be almost genetically predisposed to take things the wrong way if they possibly can, especially if the results are funny or absurd. Professor Huang has steered admirably through this minefield.
In one of the concluding essays, Yang Xiaomin observes that the short-short story “provides the reader with the ideological capacity to ponder on life and learn about the world.” The stories included in this collection will often move us to do just that.
Robert Price, PhD, is an Ontario-based professor of English.
Origins of the Chinese Short-Short Story
As a genre of narrative literature, fiction existed back in ancient China. A review of the old fairy tales sheds light on a number of issues about its narrative mechanism. The fairy tales about the gods and celestial beings, or historical legends that acquired such elements, in fact, indirectly reflect the state of mind and expectations of the people at that time. No matter how mystical, changeable and deceitful, they all narrate a complete legendary tale in a “simple, direct prose style.” The story “Kua Fu Chasing the Sun” in Shan hai jing (The Book of Mountains and Oceans) and another story, “Chang’e Fleeing to the Moon” in Huai nan zi (a book consisting of twenty-one internal volumes and thirty-three external volumes), among others, contain the basic elements of narration. These works had a profound impact of one type or the other on the writers of later generations.
This narrative mechanism developed in the fables and prose of the early Qin Dynasty (221–206 BC) until the earliest short-short story took shape. Stories such as “Waiting for Hares by the Stump” in Han fei zi and “Nicking the Boat for the Lost Sword” in Lu shi chun qiu were already popular tales. Such fables and prose are short, to begin with. They often contain thirty words or so, up to about one hundred, but they tell a complete event or a complete act of a character. Next, the description of life had digressed from the mystical features of fairy tales. Closer to life, they might vividly depict some type of a character, so as to expose common social phenomena in a meaningful way, thus marking the essential elements of fictional characters and themes in the narrative mechanism.
The Wei and Jin Dynasties (220–420) witnessed short-short stories that conveyed real meaning. The literary narrative mechanism, supported by the rich experience accumulated through the long process of development, turned out a great variety of mature literary works. Liu Yiqing’s Shi shuo xin yu (A New Book of Stories) in eight volumes about humans and Gan Bao’s Sou shen ji, a collection of mystery tales and tales of the supernatural, are typical masterpieces of the time. Sou shen ji contains many unbelievable changes in characters. For example, the stories Ganjian Moye (“King Chu’s Sword Maker”) and Han Ping fu fu (“Han Ping and His Wife”) have unusual and complex plots, though they have the same theme of exposing the cruelty of the rulers at that time. More important still, other masterpieces such as Shi Chong yu Wang Kai zheng hao (“Rivals Shi Chong and Wang Kai Fighting to Be the Powerful Man”) in Shi shuo xin yu not only have complete plots, but, through meticulous, lively details, their characters are created with distinct personalities.
Influenced by Shi shuo xin yu and Sou shen ji, many literary sketches emerged after the Sui (581–618) and Tang (618–907) dynasties. They deserve fiction historians’ efforts at classification. A large number of rare short-short stories are found in Chao ye qian zai (The Court and the Commonalty Recorded Together) and Ye ren xian hua (Country People’s Gossips), among others. In the process of classification, we found that the ancient Chinese short-short story had by then broken away from fables and prose, starting to develop an artistic mechanism of its own. First, it had freed itself from the restriction of fables and prose by drawing materials from life—the populace and anecdotes. Second, its description of characters differed from that of fables and fairy tales which focused on events rather than on characters. The short-short story was capable not only of creating a character through a complete event, but also of highlighting the personality of a character through vivacious, exciting details. It not only steered clear away from the common practice of preaching through narration, but also, by means of lifelike description and exciting narration full of ups and downs, reflected the author’s profound understanding of life and aesthetic appreciation. Third, in overall planning, unlike the fables and tales of the early Qin Dynasty that followed a model of simple recording, the short-short story of this period shows some meticulous artistic concepts. The story shows not only maturing character and event development, but also some artistic changes of fine fiction.
The Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) and the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911) mark the peak of ancient Chinese short-short story writing. In this period, its well-developed writing style in general enabled the now mature short-short story to thrive. Among the many collections of short-short stories is the world-famous treasury Liao zhai zhi yi, or A Collection of Weird Stories, by Pu Songling. From Pu Songling’s characters, such as Ying Ning and Wang Sheng, one can see that the Chinese short-short story of this period was highly developed and diversified. As a short-short story writer, Pu Songling succeeded in depicting not only vivid personality traits, but also typical characters. His stories contain not only beautiful dialogues and lifelike action, but also meticulous psychological description.
The highly developed short-short story of this period was attributed to the release of the short-short story from the restriction of straight recording and to its embracing of true fictitious artistry. Thanks to the merging of the authors’ creativity with their artistry of narrative fiction, outstanding classics appeared, with characters readers love to talk about from generation to generation. Elegant, artistic structure became a feature, with realism and romanticism and other writing techniques radiating with dazzling brilliance. Pu Songling created monumental art works in ancient Chinese short-short story writing.
Liu Haitao, a Guangdong-based professor, is a Chinese short-short story theorist.
1 Special notes about this anthology (ANRSITAT)
A New Anthology of Chinese Short-Short Stories: Ancient and Contemporary Romance, Social Ills, Twists and Turns in Life (ANRSITAT) comprises 101 stories—ninety-five newly edited stories from the translator’s 2005 An Anthology of Chinese Short-Short Stories (Huang, 2005) and six others respectively written by Gao Weixi, Harry J. Huang, Li Jingwen, Lin Ruqiu, Xu Junquan, and Zhang Chaoshan. It is divided by theme into three parts. Part 1, “Love Relationships,” consists of three sections: “Sweet Romances,” “Love Storms,” and “Unrequited Love.” Part 2, “Twists and Turns,” comprises four sections: “Loving Parents,” “Caring Children,” “Social Ills,” and “Hopeful Humans.” Part 3, “Old Classics,” includes ten ancient stories. It is reminded that two of Gao Weixi’s literary pieces are lyric prose fiction and that the ten ancient stories are not intended to represent the different periods or writers of various dynasties, but merely as a glimpse at this form of narrative literature in ancient China.
ANRSITAT features two forewords, one by Robert Price, a Canadian professor of English, and another by Liu Haitao, a Guangdong-based professor who is a Chinese short-short story theorist. Both professors offer invaluable opinions on the Chinese short-short story—one from a Western scholar’s perspective and the other from a Chinese scholar’s point of view. Professor Price highlights the differences between the Chinese and Western cultures as exhibited in the stories, among other important issues. Professor Liu, whose article originally appeared as a supplementary essay in the translator’s 2005 book, introduces the origins of the Chinese short-short story, which is a very useful reference.
This anthology also features a supplement of six short essays written by Yang Xiaomin, a lifetime Chinese short-short story editor, Zhou Daxin, a renowned fiction writer in China, and four other highly acclaimed short-short story writers, Sun Fangyou, Ling Dingnian, Tao Ran, and Xu Xijun. Each addresses an important issue which readers, especially young short-short story writers and university students who study the short story, will find enlightening. An additional supplement of brief biographies of the participating authors is also provided, followed by a short glossary and a pronunciation guide that makes it easier for the English reader to pronounce the most difficult names of people and places in pinyin.
ANRSITAT is not just a book of literature for the average reader, but it is also intended as a textbook from which one can learn about China: its language, culture, politics, urban and country life, and above all, a rich variety of human relationships.
2 General information about the trilogy
2.1 Status of the Chinese short-short story
This is one of the translator’s three anthologies of Chinese short-short stories that comprise 294 short-short stories including the 121 from his previous publication (Huang, 2005). In the broadest sense, the three anthologies are called a trilogy for the primary reason that they form a series, though some thematic sections may appear in more than one anthology.
This trilogy appears to be nearly as old as the history of the contemporary Chinese short-short story. Collecting masterpieces is an ongoing process for the translator, which has not been easy, for a fine short-short story is not much easier to write than a novella and a novel. Though thousands of short-short story writers have been actively writing all over China, the annual total of “classic-type” masterpieces still seems limited. The difficulty in short-short story writing is often underestimated by many who think it is easy to write because it is short. The reality is that a true masterpiece that can survive the test of time requires not only writing techniques and experience, but also wisdom. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that well-written short-short stories appear every year and fine writers also gain due recognition as they deserve it (Song, 2019).
Song (Ibid) reports that, at least, 150 short-short story writers have been admitted into the prestigious Writers’ Association of China, while more than 1,000 have joined provincial writers’ associations. He estimates that when the internet short-short story writers are included, the total number exceeds 10,000. Also, the short-short stories included in textbooks, other reading materials and examination papers used in elementary schools, high schools, colleges, and universities in China, have totaled at least 200 (Ling, 2019, Song, 2019). In addition, hundreds of Chinese short-short stories have been translated into English and Japanese, among other languages, and have also been used in schools, colleges, and universities outside of China. At Seneca College, before retirement this translator alone had used as textbooks in a period of more than fifteen years two anthologies of Chinese short-short stories, which comprise 221 stories translated into the English language. Obviously, when we include the English translations of the Chinese short-shorts used in colleges and universities in Canada, the United States, Japan and other countries, the total number used well exceeds 200.
During the past fifteen years, in particular, the Chinese short-short story not only continued to develop, but it also matured. Most Chinese short-short story writers agree that 1,500 Chinese characters are the optimal number needed for a good short-short story, which has become the norm (Huang, 2019), even though the average length of the short-short stories included in this trilogy is about 1,150 Chinese characters, or approximately 900 words when translated into English. The number of short-short stories published in China has also been increasing steadily and their readership has reached an all-time high. The short-short has become, or is becoming, the most read of the four types of fiction in China (Song, 2019). Professional writers including novelists, literary nonfiction writers, among others, have also been writing short-short stories (Ibid). That is why the short-short story writers’ group outnumbers those of the novel, the novella, and the short story. Most delightful, however, is that great wisdom, creativity, and unique writing techniques are demonstrated through many excellent short-shorts that shock, thrill, enlighten or make the reader laugh or cry. These are also the qualities listed in the translator’s submission calls that resulted in the trilogy (also see Song, 2019).
The masterpieces included in this trilogy evidence that the Chinese short-short story is neither a “sparrow,” as it used to be called—perhaps by mistake or prematurely, nor a “little brother,” as rejected by Xu (2005). Indeed, it is an equally important, independent genre of fiction in China that cannot be neglected or denied. Instead, it deserves recognition and careful study. This translator hopes that its literary charm and beauty, among its other merit and features, will be fully discovered, accepted and appreciated outside of China as well, and that its literary status, duly recognized in world literature.
2.2 Open calls for submissions
This anthology trilogy is a result of two open calls for submission of masterpieces of Chinese short-short stories. The first call was published on the internet and elsewhere in 2002 and submissions were accepted until early 2004. The second one was issued in 2017 and ran until February 2018, and submissions were accepted until early 2019. The first submission call solicited contemporary masterpieces written up until the call was issued. The second call invited submission of masterpieces written and, or published from 2005 until 2017 (which was then extended as mentioned above) including works reprinted and republished during this period. Previous masterpieces that were not submitted for consideration of translation between 2002 and 2004 were also considered on a case-by-case basis in 2017. Both calls were also circulated among members of China’s writers’ associations or societies at the national, provincial, and city levels, especially the short-short story writers’ society of China and those of the provinces, and within the literary networks of the coordinating authors in Hong Kong and Macao. Some participating authors voluntarily forwarded the calls to short-short story writers in Taiwan, for the translator had little direct contact with any literary organizations there.
The submission calls were also sent to short-short story periodicals which then published them in their magazines and, or websites. The second call in particular was mostly circulated on the internet, which is obviously the fastest and most convenient way of communication. Individual writers also informed each other of the submission calls through the social media, among other means. Due to unexpected reasons, both submission deadlines were extended for writers in cities where the calls had failed to reach.
Lengthwise, writers were initially asked to submit stories of approximately 1,300 Chinese characters long, with 1,000 being the preferred length, but not long after the second call was issued it became clear that many of the submissions were much longer than expected, and there might not be enough stories for a first-class anthology, if the length was not extended. Accordingly, the original length limit was abandoned, which was then increased to 1,500 characters instead. Thus, the problem was solved. It is reminded that some longer stories were also accepted, as long as the overall quality justified the length. Most interestingly, however, a final word count of the new submissions and the trilogy respectively indicates that the average story is indeed about 1150 Chinese characters long, meeting the length requirement initially specified in the calls for submission, especially in the second one.
Every effort was made to ensure the trilogy would include the best of the best short-short stories. That is why, even after the last submission deadline had passed, the translator still continued to search through the internet for stories that met the criteria but had not been submitted. If one was found, a special invitation for submission would be sent to the author. Though it might seem unfair in a way that late submissions were considered, the translator deemed it the only way to secure the best submissions for a possible best trilogy. As a result, about ten more fine stories published in 2018 were also selected and included in the trilogy.
2.3 A pool of about 25,000 stories received
As mentioned above, the first submission call resulted in a collection of 121 stories, while the second call, brought about 173. These 294 Chinese short-short stories have thus been translated into English and divided into three anthologies now called a trilogy. However, it is reminded that due to the many themes of the stories, the subtitle of each anthology is unable to reflect all the stories included. This is within expectation, because the submission calls did not specify subject or theme areas for authors to match. Neither had the translator issued the full titles of his anthologies before calling for submissions. The translator never intended to do so, in fear it might restrain certain writers from submitting what they thought was a masterpiece that had no theme to match. Despite this challenge, each anthology has been given a subtitle with its theme sections as carefully organized as humanly possible to make the trilogy user-friendly for scholars, students, and all other readers.
Regarding the number of submissions, between 2002 and 2004 about 20,000 stories were received. This rather large number made the final selection afterward extremely time-consuming. Different from the 2002–2004 call, the 2017 call published a much more specific submission guideline with the intention to reduce the time needed in the selection process afterward. By the end of January 2018, the translator had received from writers responding to the call more than 2,000 stories and thirty individual anthologies submitted for consideration of translation and publication. Finally, the number of stories increased to approximately 5,000.
The translator originally planned to translate a new selection of about sixty new stories, but somehow the number went up to 173. Working in a group, the translator and his assistants initially selected a total of 164 from the submissions by February 2018, but after a second review, a few stories were dropped, and one was withdrawn by the author. In the end, including the late invited submissions, it totaled 173.
Should anyone wonder if the second pool of 5,000 short-short stories, in comparison with the previous 20,000, might have by any chance compromised the quality of the stories selected, the answer is no. As mentioned above, clearer criteria and conditions had been listed in the second submission call and each author was limited to three stories, which would allow them to submit their masterpieces without a problem, and additional stories including those submitted even after the deadline were also considered. The size of the pool is a nonissue: the submissions were of the highest quality that represented the best of the Chinese short-short stories published up till the end of 2018.
The late short-short story master Sun Fangyou and some other writers have a bigger number of stories included in the trilogy. In particular, any author responding to the second submission call who has more than three stories included had received special invitations from the translator for additional submissions. It is also reminded that five of the stories—one by Gao Weixi, one by Lin Ruqiu, one by Xu Junquan, and two by Zhang Chaoshan—that did not appear in the translator’s first anthology (Huang, 2005) but were published in An Anthology of Chinese Short-Short Stories in Chinese & English (Huang, 2008) have also been counted as new submissions. Also counted is “A Villager’s Revenge,” a story written by this translator in the 1980s. It was one of the stories included in the 2005 anthology submitted for publication but subsequently taken out by the publisher due to inappropriate content at that time. This story also failed to appear in the 2008 bilingual edition. It has been included in this Canadian-published anthology.
2.4 Rule for selection of submissions
Every story was selected based on its merit, but the reader is reminded that not every prominent writer has responded to either or both submission calls and thus some may have been left out, though the reason is unknown. It is quite possible that perhaps due to lack of access to the internet where the calls were mostly circulated, or their unwillingness to participate, whatever the reason may be, certain writers did not respond to either or both calls. Needless to say, whether to participate or not was every writer’s personal decision, which was equally respected, but the entire process is deemed open and fair.
Ensuring the highest quality of the anthology series remained the number one criterion throughout the selection process. Even though the merit-based selection rule is self-apparent, it is reminded that an emerging writer whose stories met the selection criteria may have been included in the trilogy and that if a well-known writer submitted a few stories that were not their masterpieces and, or that did not meet the criteria for any reason, they might have been excluded, especially if they declined a resubmission invitation from the translator, or if their resubmissions still did not meet the selection criteria.
The reader is also reminded that the number of a writer’s stories included in the anthologies does not necessarily indicate his or her literary achievement or recognition in China or elsewhere. In other words, some authors who have only one story included may have published more and are more famous than a writer who has two or three stories included. Every story selected for inclusion just means it met the selection criteria listed in the submission calls. Though blemishes may unavoidably exist in the anthologies, as commonly agreed among the Chinese short-short story writers and critics, this trilogy represents the highest level of artistry of the Chinese short-short story.
2.5 Authors’ nationality and professional backgrounds
To qualify, writers must be or must have been residents of mainland China, Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan at the time of the publication or creation of their Chinese stories. It is not necessarily a political issue, but more of a linguistic one. The condition was imposed to ensure, or assume, the participants’ Chinese competency, though it may seem arbitrary. As a result, this trilogy primarily includes writers from the places listed above. This translator, who had written his first book of Chinese short-short stories while residing in one of the places listed above but moved to Canada in the late 1980s, also has three of his stories included. The great majority of the writers, however, are from mainland China with a smaller number from Hong Kong and Macao, and one from Taiwan.
The contributors of the trilogy have a diversity of backgrounds. Many are professional writers, literary editors, TV and newspaper reporters. Others are schoolteachers, professors, government officials and employees, healthcare workers, and police officers, among others. The rich variety of the writers’ background and experience contributes greatly to the uniqueness of the trilogy, which makes every story a pleasure to read.
Besides a rich variety of professions, the living authors of the trilogy belong to various ages—from their thirties to eighties. By the same token, their ages mean different knowledge and life experiences that seem to enable each group to excel in writing topics they know well or are best at.
2.6 Division by theme
The trilogy consists of the following titles:
- A New Anthology of Chinese Short-Short Stories: Ancient and Contemporary Romance, Social Ills, Twists and Turns in Life,
- A New Anthology of Chinese Short-Short Stories: Satire, Love and Marriage, and
- A New Anthology of Chinese Short-Short Stories: Surprises, Wisdom and Philosophy.
As pointed out in the special notes in the beginning of this introduction, each anthology is divided into sections by theme, including those indicated by the key words in the subtitle. Readers, of course, could read from the beginning of each anthology, or simply start with their favorite section.
There are a few stories in every anthology that were quite difficult to place into any particular section, and as their numbers were too small to form their own sections, they may have just been placed in a section to which they seemed most closely related. The ultimate purpose is to improve the readability of each anthology. The translator hopes that the reader likes the division of the stories.
2.7 Exclusive English translation right
To prevent plagiarism, and for other reasons, all the contemporary writers in this trilogy have granted the translator the exclusive right to translate their stories into the English language, which means, no one else may retranslate any of these stories into English without prior written permission from the translator. Any individual translator (no groups) who thinks he or she can translate the anthologies better than the translator has done is welcome to email him to request a challenge, in which case the challenger will be given an opportunity to translate a randomly selected literary work written in Chinese that may contain a poem or couplet. Their challenge translation will go through a fair assessment process. Basically, it will be done under the supervision of a university professor or another professional to be appointed by Harry J. Huang. Then, it will be assessed by reputable peers, and if they find there is merit in it and recommend it, it will be posted on the internet against Harry J. Huang’s translation for public evaluation. If the results of the peer assessment and public evaluation support the challenger’s claim, Harry J. Huang would be happy to permit the challenger to retranslate the anthology series, provided consent is also granted by the original writers. Any challenger and translation critic must reveal their real identity including their full name and address to be taken seriously. This translator may be contacted through email at email@example.com.
2.8 Rules of translation
Throughout the translation of the trilogy, this translator followed the same rules of translation originally stated in his 2005 publication, heeding the advice of the English readers including college students, 56% of whom prefer clarity, 13% stress the importance of content, and 31% list stylistics as a priority (Huang, 2005). The translator tried to be as faithful to the source text as he humanly could by translating the meaning of every meaningful and translatable word, but he also combined words that repeated each other and left out words that were not needed in the target language. While doing the “painful and thankless” (Eugene A. Nida’s words) job of translating, this translator always kept in mind the Chinese writer and the English reader who were both his bosses. He tried to polish every single story until it read like original English writing. He provided notes for whatever words or expressions deemed difficult for the average English reader. In situations where he had to choose between the reader and others, the former was always his priority and remained the center of his work. Harry Huang’s favorite saying is: “When you [the reader] are happy I am happy; when you smile I smile.”
Here is an additional point to mention, related or unrelated: Harry J. Huang is an independent translator who has never received for this translation projects a single penny of grant or any other type of subsidy from any government, organization, or individual throughout the past forty years or so, even when he was translating fulltime.
2.9 Additional features
As mentioned in the special notes above, each of the three anthologies has a supplement—“Biographical Sketches”—that provides brief biographies of the participating authors including information about their literary publications, prizes, and awards, followed by a short glossary of Chinese terms, which includes some of the words that may have been footnoted more than once. Though words deemed difficult for the reader are footnoted, it is reminded that predicting every reader’s difficult words is a challenge and, due to limited space, the footnotes provided and the words listed in the glossary may appear to be limited, especially the latter, and thus may only solve some of the reader’s problems. Also included in the glossary is a list of Chinese-English titles ending in “-rector.” The translator proposes the list for future use in order to simplify the confusing translations of the names of the Chinese government officials that frequently appear in literary writings and elsewhere. Listed in its following supplement, “How to Pronounce the Most Difficult Pinyin in the Wade System,” are five pinyin “vowel letters” and the most difficult pinyin consonants, which are all illustrated with example words. It is intended to effectively reduce the English reader’s difficulty in pronouncing the names of people and places in the Chinese stories, as previously stated.
It is also reminded that most of the Chinese names in the stories are directly translated into pinyin and they remain in the same Chinese order with the last name (surname) appearing first and first (given) name, last. The Chinese authors’ names also appear with their family names in the front, which are boldfaced. On the other hand, most of the characters’ names that are preceded by “Lao (老)” or “Xiao (小)” which approximately mean old and young (or little, or small) are treated as a special group.
“Lao” and “Xiao” are neither surnames nor given names, but they have been translated as the first half of whatever names they precede, in which case the surname that follows them appears in the place of the given name if taken as a standard Chinese name. This is just about as confusing as a Chinese name can be. Despite this confusion, directly translating them into “Lao” and “Xiao” followed by the family name still seems preferable to rendering “Lao” into “Old,” and “Xiao” into “Young,” “Little,” or “Small.” Here is an example that may help explain why. It is undeniable that “Lao Ma” and “Xiao Wang” may not be the most accurate translations, but neither do they cause much noticeable awkwardness in an English translation in most cases; or, rather, they may not be as misleading as “Old Ma” and “Young Wang” or “Little Wang” may be in some cases. I have an eighty-year-old pen friend who keeps calling a seventy-year-old friend “Xiao Wang,” who is a grandfather. To her, Wang may still be considered as a young man, but when all factors are considered, calling him “Young Wang” or “Little Wang” in English just does not sound appropriate, especially in the presence of his own children and grandchildren. On the other hand, two nine-year-old Chinese boys, Liu and Zhang, may call each other “Lao Liu” and “Lao Zhang.” Likewise, calling themselves “Old Liu” and “Old Zhang” in English may sound awkward, especially in the presence of their own parents and grandparents or a senior friend. This habit simply does not exist in the English language, and therefore throughout the three anthologies, “Lao” and “Xiao” are used, followed by the family name.
The translator hopes that the reader will keep this in mind during the course of reading. Meanwhile, it should also be reminded that “Xiao (肖)” that takes the first tone in Chinese is a standard family name. It is a different character which should not confuse the above Xiao (小) that means “young” and that takes the third tone.
In brief, every effort has been made to ensure the anthologies are easy to use for the general public as well as scholars and other researchers. The translator sincerely hopes that the reader likes all the stories he has selected and translated and every one of the anthologies.
I wish to thank each and every one of the writers who submitted their short-short stories to me, including those whose works were not selected for inclusion in this anthology trilogy. I sincerely thank those who have been included in the anthology for granting me the exclusive right to translate their stories into English.
The most important person I wish to thank is Dr. Robert Price, professor of English, who has proofread the entire trilogy for me. He has proofread every one of my books in the last twenty years or so, for which I owe him a heavy debt of gratitude.
Poet, writer, and editor, Patria C. Rivera, proofread all the three anthologies and gave extremely useful advice on copyediting, for which I am truly grateful.
As he did some seventeen years ago, Mr. Ling Dingnian, a Taicang-based writer, Chair of the World’s Association for the Study of the Short-Short Story in Chinese, deserves a thank-you for circulating my 2017 submission call to the writers’ associations in China, especially the short-short writers’ associations and societies at the national and provincial levels and all the extra help he offered to me. It was his timely assistance that enabled me to collect all the great submissions within the shortest possible time. The many coordinating editors and writers in mainland China, Hong Kong and Macao also played an important role in circulating my calls for submission, and I wish to thank them as well.
Bestview Scholars Publishing deserves a thank-you for publishing this trilogy within such a short time. I truly appreciate the support of my family, other relatives and friends. Without their help this timely publication would not have been possible.
Like all the other books and research projects I published in the past, this trilogy is another project of teamwork. It is the collective work and wisdom of all the participating writers, scholars, editors, proofreaders and all other contributors, whose known ages range from thirties to eighties. I would like to thank all of them once more on behalf of myself and the readers.
Harry J. Huang, PhD
Huang, Harry J. (sel. & trans.) (2005). An Anthology of Chinese Short-Short Stories. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press.
Huang, Harry J. (sel. & trans.) (2008). An Anthology of Chinese Short-Short Stories in Chinese & English. Shanghai: Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press.
Huang, Harry J. (2019). Unifying the English Translation of wei xing xiao shuo and xiao xiao shuo. In Harry J. Huang (sel. & trans.), A New Anthology of Chinese Short-Short Stories: Surprises, Wisdom and Philosophy. Toronto: Bestview Scholars Publishing.
Ling, Dingnian. (2019). Short-Short Story Writers’ Associations and Periodicals in China. Ibid.
Song, Guiyou. (2019). The Maturing Short-Short Story in China. In Harry J. Huang (sel. & trans.), A New Anthology of Chinese Short-Short Stories: Satire, Love and Marriage. Toronto: Bestview Scholars Publishing.
Xu, Xijun. (2005). The Short-Short Story Beats the Novella. In Harry J. Huang (sel. & trans.), An Anthology of Chinese Short-Short Stories. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press.
1. See “Mosquito Punishment” by Sun Fangyou which has been moved to A New Anthology of Chinese Short-Short Stories: Surprises, Wisdom and Philosophy.
2. See “A Tale from the Snowfield” by Ma Duangang which has been moved to A New Anthology of Chinese Short-Short Stories: Surprises, Wisdom and Philosophy.
3. Translator’s note: The story goes that Kua Fu chased the sun till he reached its entrance. It was so hot and he was so thirsty that he drank up the water of two Chinese rivers, which was not enough. Consequently he died of thirst. The crane he left behind then turned into a forest.
4. Translator’s note: In the fairy tale, Hou Yi’s wife, Chang’e, while she was a mortal being, stole some herb of immortality, took it and fled to the moon, where she became an immortal being but, as one version of the story goes, was cloistered forever.
5. Translator’s note: There was a stump in a farmer’s field. One day while he was working there, a hare ran into the stump, broke its neck and died instantly. Picking up the unexpected gift, the farmer stayed by the stump every day from then on, waiting for more hares to bump into it.
6. Translator’s note: One day, while a man was taking a ferry, his sword slipped into the water. Then he marked where the sword had slipped through. When the boat got to its destination, he got into the water, trying to recover the sword.