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Thus, in effect, rather than answering the question of why he is offering this anthology now, Pollard is simply providing convincing reasons why it had not been done before.What is missing from this explanation is why the prestige of the essay in modern and contemporary China, unlike the English speaking world, has declined.
Moreover certain Republican period publications such as Shen Qiwu’s 1932 (The Late Ming xiaopin: twenty masters) exerted an influence on the modern Chinese essay, and these could at least have been mentioned.
The reader who wants to explore the Chinese essay in more detail would have benefited greatly from some guidance as to which anthologies are best, and which exerted the greatest influence.
Rather than engage with this lack critically, Pollard goes on to assert two reasons for it, almost as if to justify it, namely, the inherent difficulty of representing and discussing linguistic style in a foreign language (but why should this not have been a hindrance to the translation and circulation of other Chinese literary genres?
), and the decline in prestige of the essay in the English-speaking world.
Though Pollard alludes to wide reading in anthologies, the only one he cites is a 1987 publication, implying that anthologies tend to select the same works for each author.
I am currently in the midst of a survey of anthologies of premodern essays that so far suggests to me that selections vary significantly across eras (Qing, Republican, Taiwan, Early PRC, recent PRC) for various different reasons.
Yet this general-audience orientation is belied by the inclusion of Chinese characters for authors’ names and titles to works.
Indeed those who would benefit from the Chinese characters (most of the likely audience of this collection) will generally want more bibliographical information, as well as some engagement with scholarship in the field such as Yu-shih Chen’s .
After detailing in the Preface negative aspects of traditional Chinese culture and literary conventions that explain why premodern Chinese essays do not resemble those of Montaigne and Bacon, Pollard does go on to list what he feels are some of the positive aspects of the Chinese essay in general: “The qualities are on the one hand common to mankind, on the other particular to Chinese literary arts.
The first kind includes the expression of character in the writer, either impressively strong or appealingly weak; the expression of sentiment, usually to commemorate friends and relatives; nostalgia for past times; appeals for justice and compassion; pleasure in diversions.