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An Observation of Chinese Short-Short Story Writers’ Artistic Approaches
When choosing material for their writing, short-short story writers follow the same approach—cutting out large numbers of nonessential details to enable their short-short piece to fulfill the same job a short story and novella is intended to do.
In his “Finding the Second Successor to the Throne,” which is obviously a sequel to his well-known short-short story “Finding a Successor to the Throne,” He Baiyuan uses the same characters within the same plot structure, but maximizes the difference in his narrative mould, creating a suspense that lasts until the very end. Through this approach he exhibits a novel theme: things may have to be done differently as required by any given new situation and therefore, while preserving the tradition remains a must, one has to face the challenges and break the old rules to achieve a breakthrough. The merit of his other story “An Unknown Career Enemy,” on the other hand, is that it never reveals the identity of the “career enemy,” thus creating a strong suspense. Clever readers may guess that the “career enemy” was just his own father who was a renowned porcelain artist determined to refine his son’s character in order to turn him into an artist free of arrogance and rashness who would constantly perfect his porcelain artistic skills. The reader can also figure out that the young artist never had any so-called career enemy, as the master artist’s remarks already clarify everything: good advice that is unpleasant to the ear will benefit your deeds and that your best response to criticism is constantly improving your skills till you reach the state of perfection and until no one can challenge you. Seemingly, the author describes the young man’s three fruitless attempts to find his enemy, but the message which is self-apparent in the old father’s words conveys a much more profound philosophical point in life: the real enemy in one’s life is self-conceit and arrogance.
While He’s stories stand out in their narrative style, Sun Fangyou’s stories shine in their “folklore” linguistic features. Be it “Kidnappings” or “Prison Guards,” and whether he complains through the bandit chief’s words that government officials and bandits are one family, or tries to avoid the fearful fierce image of the murderer of Kang in Lu Xun’s story “Medicine,” he succeeds in creating a kind-hearted “He Lao’er” in his unique way. Worried that the reader may even try to verify his fictitious story through local historical records, the writer adds “according to Records of Chenzhou County,” “no one could even find his grave,” thus making further verification unnecessary.
Ling Dingnian’s “Ma Yun Temple” and “The Most Famous Man and Woman” have drawn material from world-known figures, but their plots are still permeated with humor and novelty. In the course of reading, one can easily visualize a deeply involved writer joking in his amusing manner as well as his relaxed bearing and tone. The writer’s language fluency enables him to effortlessly depict anything at will. The following example is not only filled with folklore flavor, but it is also a perfect Chinese couplet.
Ma (马, horse)-Niu (牛, ox)-Yang (羊, goat)-Ji (鸡, chicken)-Ya (鸭, duck), Yun (云, cloud)-Wu (雾, fog)-Shuang (霜, frost)-Ai (霭, mist)-Li (霾, haze), Ma takes the lead.
Jin (金, metal)-Mu (木, wood)-Shui (水, water)-Huo (火, fire)-Tu (土, earth), Dong (东, east)-Nan (南, south)-Xi (西, west)-Bei (北, north)-Zhong (中, middle), Jin leads them all.
The next example obviously is intended to tease and ridicule the Chinese mentality of tending to worship prominent figures:
Bai Ma Yun (拜马云), Xue Ma Yun (学马云), Zhui Ma Yun (追马云);
Ni Cheng Gong (你成功), Ta Cheng Gong (他成功), Dou Cheng Gong (都成功).
Worship Ma Yun, learn from Ma Yun, catch up with Ma Yun;
You succeed, he succeeds, everyone succeeds.
Then, guessing the most famous man and woman is exceptionally amusing and entertaining. When the crowd mentions a long list of names including Kim Jong-un, Park Geun-hye, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Vladimir Putin, and Ma Yun, among others, the author is aware that if he allows it to continue unchecked, he will have a hard time ending his story. Therefore, he surprises the reader by introducing a naïve schoolboy who gives the perfect answer to the question: Brother Viagra and Sister Dongguan [“Capital of Sex”], thus bringing the story to an end. The naïve boy’s words imply that closely related to the common people’s everyday life are not really the prominent figures, but the well-known male supplement and the disadvantaged women of the society. Truth is found in the amusement and profound meaning, discovered in the ridiculous.
Xing Qingjie’s “A Life Lost” asks a hard question: Is it more important to seize a life opportunity to shoot a unique picture—one of a type in the world—at the expense of a life, or does it seem more human to give up a prominent photograph award and find life for oneself? Li Jingwen’s story “My Visitors” is obviously a philosophical one, while the artistic summary in the ending of “Game Players” by You Ma’er, a Hong Kong writer, touches my heart and saddens me as well.
Dr. Harry J. Huang has devoted much of his time and energy to selecting, editing and translating this new anthology of Chinese short-short stories. Every one of his translations is a beautiful story that has been meticulously polished. Due to limited space, I cannot comment on them in further detail. However, I would like to avail myself of this opportunity to express my great respect for Dr. Huang for his achievement.
Yao Chaowen, PhD, is a professor of Chinese who has studied the Chinese short-short story for many years. He is also a writer and a literary critic.
My Views on the Chinese Short-Short Story
What a short-short story does, often in a more attractive and direct way, is what a lyric poem is designed to do: it gives a direct perception of an event, or a feeling, a situation, a character, an interaction. However, it is given without the historical or cultural context in which the perception is embedded. Or almost: there may be allusions or hints, and if the reader misses them, the point of the story is lost, or the story may be misread. That is why it is especially difficult to translate a short-short story, or to deal with one from even a few decades in the past, or from a neighboring country (or community). Many or all of the historical or cultural conditions cannot be provided or explained—the author may not even be consciously aware of them. The annotations and footnotes needed would be endless, would swamp the story itself.
Here, the tact and skill of the translator Harry Huang deserve our gratitude. He provides just enough illumination, without obliterating the story-teller’s reticence, limiting and controlling the information the story gives: the rhetorical strategies employed. Why would we want to read the stories, if the teller did not control, withhold, position the elements in a skilful way?
Our interest, of course, may be just as much in the aspects not foregrounded by the storytellers: the histories and lives of the contemporary Chinese writers Mr. Huang has selected, and the characters they present. (How representative are they, and how can we tell?) We are curious, inquisitive, often reading with a meddling scrutiny, not always with the best of intentions. Often we lack the patience required to read the stories appropriately or do not expect to enjoy the stories anyway. But what we have in Mr. Huang’s anthology is not a duty-read, not something we have an obligation to understand.
First, there are enough stories here to inform us of what is behind Chinese story-telling, the purpose if there is one: the expectation that each story will have a moral, a point, a positive value in our own lives or community. What may appear to us at times as old-fashioned, a remnant of (or possibly an unconscious throwback to) the didactic monitory devices of older political regimes are really traces of a much older tradition. Literature that teaches, guides, instructs, improves (in our own schools, and not so long ago), that makes us more civilized, more sensitive to others, or just better informed about everything has been part of our tradition for thousands of years.
If such didacticism or moralizing is out of fashion in our modernist and postmodernist times, that does not mean readers have completely lost their taste for it, and the pendulum may swing back. Reading that challenges our moral and ethical values can open our minds and reinforce our prejudices. Stories (such as many in this selection) which may strike us as partisan, as special pleading, or express a self interest without nuance or balance or awareness of counter arguments can still be effective and stimulating, as prods to our complacency, and fixed ideas.
So much for moralizing: it is best to read short-short stories the way we listen to anecdotes and jokes: moments of uncensored privilege when we find ourselves outside the “politically correct” framework of our everyday lives—almost in a dream-world where taboos can no longer apply: licensed irresponsibility.
In our carefully controlled and self-monitored transactions with others in a multicultural society, we wander in a fog, encountering other people as opaque, well-meaning, but enigmatic, seemingly unknowable. If fiction, serious fiction at least, is designed to give us imaginative access to other selves, and since to be human is necessarily to suffer and to face the unpleasant, what we gain from our reading is an extra concentrated dose of simulated life.
What do we want from life, from other people? We choose to escape from them, to go to another country and reinvent ourselves, which may be the point of Harry Huang’s “Should I Stay or Go.” We choose to seek revenge on those we have lived with, or at least tell the Truth about them; to memorialize the weird, inexplicable, often senseless things that do happen, or the very odd things people can think. We choose just to enjoy and marvel at the patterns, coincidences, juxtapositions of characters, what happens to them, and what it might mean; to celebrate the endurance, nobility, pathos of life at a minimal level: lost in a desert, condemned to death, offered as a sacrifice for the good of the community, committed to duty such as keeping the furnace stoked with coal. These things sustain us.
And what of the new, young Chinese writers? From the stories in Mr. Huang’s anthology what I see are the survival of naïve romance, men chasing women, women choosing not to be dominated by men, families still more important than the community at large, the need for release through humor and wild behavior, economic uncertainty and recognition that some aspects of the recent past are just fading away. The problems facing rural communities as employment disappears are hinted at in some of the stories; the new explosion of urban life is cautiously celebrated without as much apprehension as one would expect. The short-short story offers little scope for deeper examination of where society is heading, but what literature does? Maybe that is what we will see if collections such as this appear in the future.
Lynn Holmes is a Toronto-based English professor who has taught the short story for approximately thirty years.
1 Special notes about this anthology (ANSWAP)
Included in A New Anthology of Chinese Short-Short Stories: Surprises, Wisdom and Philosophy (ANSWAP) are ninety-two stories. Sixty-six are 2017–2019 submissions and twenty-six have been taken from the 2002–2oo4 submissions that initially appeared in An Anthology of Chinese Short-Short Stories (Huang, 2005). The combination and rearrangement of the stories from the two open calls have resulted in richer content in the thematic sections than would have been otherwise. In particular, the animal stories—six from the 2005 anthology and four from the new submissions—form an impressive section, “Animal World,” thanks to a much richer variety.
ANSWAP is divided by theme into ten sections. Besides “Animal World,” the other nine are “Serious Jokes in the Office,” “Wits at Risk,” “Philosophy at Work,” “The Young & the Old,” “Lovers’ Privacy,” “Patients in Need,” “Defying Disabilities,” “Artists’ Life,” and “A Glance at Science Fiction.” The average of the first five sections comprises more stories than does each of the last four. Nonetheless, the number is irrelevant because every story has been carefully selected and is equally fascinating to read. Unique in ANSWAP is the section of “Defying Disabilities,” which indicates positive changes taking place in the life of the disabled in China who often seem to lack adequate social support, from the Western point of view. It is reminded that the science fiction section contains only three stories, which could be a sign of weakness in science fiction writing in China, as pointed out by Lynn Holmes in a conversation with the translator.
Like the other two anthologies of this trilogy, ANSWAP includes many heartwarming stories as well as ones that expose human weakness, which exists everywhere. It contains graceful humor, poignant satire, and great wisdom. Each story is a pleasure to read, and nearly every one of them has a philosophical point for the reader to ponder over.
ANSWAP also features a unique supplementary section of four essays. “Chinese Short-Short Stories Written Inside and Outside of China” by Long Ganghua introduces the different cultural qualities and literary features of Chinese short-short stories written inside and outside of China. “Changes in the Structure and Writing Techniques of the Chinese Short-Short Stories” by Liu Haitao summarizes the differences in writers’ approaches to plot development in the past decades. The information-loaded essay “Short-Short Story Writers’ Associations and Periodicals in China” by Ling Dingnian introduces the most important short-short story writers’ associations and societies in China as well as the most popular short-short story periodicals and other issues. A much longer essay “Unifying the English Translation of wei xing xiao shuo and xiao xiao shuo” by Harry J. Huang aims at unifying the twenty ways of naming and translating the two Chinese terms, wei xing xiao shuo and xiao xiao shuo, that refer to exactly the same story.
Arranged alphabetically, “Biographical Sketches,” another supplement, briefly introduces every participating author to the reader, making available important information such as their major literary publications, prizes, and awards. A short glossary is included with the intention to reduce the average reader’s difficulty in understanding the special Chinese terms that appear in the stories more than once. A guide to help improve the English reader’s pronunciation of the most difficult Chinese names of people and places—“Pronouncing the Most Difficult Pinyin in the Wade System”—is also included, followed by the titles of the stories and the authors’ names in Chinese. As a standard feature, ANSWAP ends with an English index comprising the titles and the authors’ names.
The translator hopes that the anthology will be loved by every reader including the academics who may use it as a textbook in their literature courses.
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.
 Harry J. Huang’s first An Anthology of Chinese Short Short Stories, which comprises 121 stories, was published in 2005 by Foreign Languages Press.
 See story in A New Anthology of Chinese Short-Short Stories: Ancient and Contemporary Romance, Social Ills, Twists and Turns in Life. Toronto: Bestview Scholars Publishing, 2019.