Gujin Xiaoshuo, 1620, 1624, 1627 (3 volumes; Stories Old and New, 2000)
Gujing Tangai, 1620
Taiping Guang Ji Chao, 1626
Qing Shi, 1629-1632
The Perfect Lady by Mitake, and Other Stories by Feng Menglong, 1976
Ping Yao Zhuan, 1620
Xin Lieguo Zhi, after 1627 (also known as Hsin lieh-kuo chih)
Shuangxiong Ji, wr. 1602
Jingzhong Qi, pb. after 1602
Wanshi Zhu, pb. after 1602
Chunqiu Zhiyue, 1620
Chunqiu Dingzhi Canxing, c. 1623
Chunqiu Hengku, 1625
Sishu Zhiyue, 1630
Shouning Dai Zhi, 1637
Zhongxing Shilu, 1644
Jiashen Jishi, 1644
Xiao Fu, n.d.
Taixia Xin Zou, 1627
Guazhi Er, n.d.
Feng Menglong (fuhng muhng-lohng) holds a unique place in the history of Chinese literature. He contributed more than anyone else to the preservation and promotion of popular literature in its various genres. Feng lived at a time characterized by burgeoning literary activities and political unrest. Though details about his life are sketchy, the huge number of works associated with him indicate that he devoted much of his time and energy to collecting, editing, writing, and publishing the lowbrow literature of the masses and that in his old age he used his pen as a weapon to rally support for the Ming government against the invading Manchus.
Of Feng’s collections of colloquial stories, the best known is Gujin Xiaoshuo (stories old and new), published in three volumes and commonly known as the San-Yen or Three-Yen: Yu Shi Ming Yen (clear words to instruct the world), Jing Shi Tong Yen (ordinary words to warn the world), and Xing Shi Heng Yen (lasting words to awaken the world). The titles of the three volumes point to its didactic nature, and the stories, 120 in all, realistically depict various phases of Chinese life. Feng’s preface says that the stories will appeal to the “rustic ears” of the broad masses and affect them more swiftly and more profoundly than the Analects of Confucius (late sixth or early fifth century
Feng also collected jokes and anecdotes. One of his collections, Xiao Fu (treasury of jokes), was the most famous of Chinese joke books, and it served as the basis of many later collections such as Xiaolin Guangji (forest of jokes) in the Qing Dynasty.
Feng was involved with the rewriting of more than a dozen novels. These novels, such as Ping Yao Zhuan (subjugation of the demons) and Xin Lieguo Zhi (a new history of the states), are fictionalized histories in which records of real events and people thoroughly blend with imaginative narration. Sometimes Feng’s rewriting involved major restructuring and considerable expansion. In the case of Ping Yao Zhuan, he placed fifteen new chapters before the old text and developed the old chapters with new actions and background details.
Feng wrote his version of the play Shuangxiong Ji (a pair of heroes) in 1602. Then he went to study with a renowned dramatist of his time. The following years saw the publication of more than a dozen plays associated with his name, including Jingzhong Qi (flag of perfect loyalty). These plays generally explore such themes as loyalty and treason, fidelity and betrayal, and tyranny and rebellion.
Feng also collected and wrote popular songs. His Guazhi Er (songs to the tune of Guazher) caters to a nationwide audience, while Shange (hill songs) displays a distinct local flavor, using a Suzhou tune and the Suzhou dialect. Many of the songs are comic, with amorous adventures as the dominant subject matter. Feng also wrote some art songs with the theme of the ecstasy of love and the agony of rejection, and some of them are included in Taixia Xin Zou (celestial tune played anew).
As a scholar fluent in the classical language, Feng brought out an anthology series of classical-language stories and anecdotes, including Gujing Tangai (talks old and new), Taiping Guang Ji Chao (selections from the grand gleanings of the Taiping period), and Qing Shi (history of love). Feng’s performance in the civil examinations was not nearly as successful as his venture in literature. Sometime before 1617, he went to Macheng in Hubei, a center of scholarship on the historical chronicle Chun Qiu (spring and autumn annals), to join a study group. What followed his three years’ study there were three handbooks on the Annals and one on the Four Books.
In 1634 Feng was appointed magistrate of Shouning, a county in Fujian. He recorded his four-year service in a local history he compiled, Shouning Dai Zhi (a provisional history of Shouning). By the end of his term, the Ming government was on the brink of total collapse. Feng devoted himself to saving the Ming Dynasty. He compiled Zhongxing Shilu (veritable records of the national resurgence) and Jiashen Jishi (records of the year Jiashen), in which he voiced firm support for the Ming government, recommended large-scale political reform, and urged his fellow citizens to unite in their resistance against the Manchus.