Mouse vs. Cat in Chinese Literature
272 pages, 6 x 9
Release Date:01 Mar 2019

Mouse vs. Cat in Chinese Literature

Tales and Commentary

Foreword by Haiyan Lee; Translated by Wilt L. Idema
University of Washington Press

In literatures worldwide, animal fables have been analyzed for their revealingly anthropomorphic views, but until now little attention has been given to the animal tales of China. The complex, competitive relationship between rodents (vilified as thieves of grain) and the felines with whom they are perennially at war is explored in this presentation of Chinese tales about cats and mice. Master translator Wilt Idema situates them in an overview of animal tales in world literature, in the Chinese literary tradition as a whole, and within Chinese imaginative depictions of animals.

The tales demonstrate the animals’ symbolism and their unusually prominent—and verbal—role in the stories. These readings depict cats and mice in conflict, in marital bonds, and in litigation—most centrally in a legal case of a mouse against a cat in the underworld court of King Yama. Many of the stories adopt the perspective of the mice as animals merely trying to survive, while also recognizing that cats are natural hunters.

This entertaining volume will appeal to readers interested in Chinese literature and society, comparative literature, and posthumanist consideration of human-animal relations.

Wilt L. Idema is professor emeritus of Chinese literature at Harvard University. He is the author of Chinese Vernacular Fiction: The Formative Period; coauthor of The Red Brush: Writing Women of Imperial China; and translator of Two Centuries of Manchu Women Poets: An Anthology and other works of traditional Chinese literature. Haiyan Lee is professor of East Asian languages and cultures and of comparative literature at Stanford University. She is the author of Revolution of the Heart: A Genealogy of Love in China, 1900–1950, and The Stranger and the Chinese Moral Imagination.

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