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Mouse vs. Cat in Chinese Literature

Tales and Commentary

Foreword by Haiyan Lee, Translated by Wilt L. Idema, hD
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.

About the Authors

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.


"Displaying an impressive mastery of the subject, Wilt Idema presents the material in this book in a lively and highly engaging manner."—Madeline K. Spring, author of Animal Allegories in T'ang China

"This collection draws us into a world in which cats and mice engage in spectacular confrontations and negotiations, from ancient times to the modern era. The representations reveal as much about the Chinese imagination of animals as of themselves. Wilt Idema again proves himself to be a most erudite Sinologist and a critic with a keen modernist consciousness. The collection is a marvelous sourcebook for readers not only in Chinese and Sinophone narrative studies, but also in animal studies and post-human criticism."—David Wang, David Der-wei Wang, Harvard University

9780295744834 : mouse-vs-cat-in-chinese-literature-idema-lee
Paperback / softback
272 Pages
$30.00 USD
9780295744858 : mouse-vs-cat-in-chinese-literature-idema-lee
March 22, 2019
$95.00 USD

Other Titles by Wilt L. Idema, hD

Escape from Blood Pond Hell

translated by Beata Grant, Wilt L. Idema
Nov 2011 - University of Washington Press
$95.00 USD - Hardback
$35.00 USD - Paperback / softback

Other Titles in LITERARY COLLECTIONS / Asian / Chinese

Zuo Tradition / Zuozhuan

translated by Stephen Durrant, Wai-yee Li, David Schaberg
May 2017 - University of Washington Press
$250.00 USD - Hardback
$99.00 USD - Hardback
$99.00 USD - Hardback

Idle Talk under the Bean Arbor

Aina the Layman, with Ziran the Eccentric Wanderer, edited by Robert E. Hegel
Mar 2017 - University of Washington Press
$50.00 USD - Hardback

The Drunken Man's Talk

with contributions by Luo Ye, translated by Alister D. Inglis, OtherWilt L. Idema
Feb 2017 - University of Washington Press
$30.00 USD - Paperback / softback