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An Introduction to Literary Chinese : Revised Edition (Harvard East Asian Monographs) (Paperback)

An Introduction to Literary Chinese : Revised Edition (Harvard East Asian Monographs) (Paperback)
Author/Publisher: Michael A. Fuller
Format: paperback
Emphasis: Classical Chinese
Level: Intermediate - Advanced
List Price: $20.95

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Detailed information
Editorial Reviews
Book Description
This textbook for beginning students contains 35 lessons of increasing difficulty designed to introduce students to the basic patterns of Classical Chinese and to provide practice in reading a variety of texts. The lessons are structured to encourage students to do more work with dictionaries and other references as they progress through the book. The Introduction provides an overview of the grammar of Literary Chinese. Part I presents eight lessons on sentence structure, parts of speech, verbs, and negatives. Part II consists of sixteen intermediate-level lessons, and Part III offers five advanced-level selections. Part IV has six lessons based on Tang and Song dynasty prose and poetry.

About the Author
Michael A. Fuller is Associate Professor of Chinese at the University of California, Irvine.

Product Details
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; Bilingual edition (November 15, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN: 0674017269
  • Product Dimensions: 1.0 x 7.0 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds.
  • Average Customer Review: based on 5 reviews.

Spotlight Reviews

31 of 31 people found the following review helpful:

An excellent text but not one for the absolute beginner., May 25, 2001

Reviewer: tepi "tepi"

Although this book is billed as a "textbook for beginning students," it would be more correct to describe it as a university textbook for beginning students of Literary (Classical) Chinese who already have at least a basic grasp of modern Chinese. Those who already know modern Chinese will find the book to be an excellent introduction to Classical Chinese.

After an informative Introduction which covers the 'Problems of Reading and Understanding Chinese' and 'A Sketch of Literary Chinese,' the main body of the book follows in four parts: Part 1 - Texts to Introduce Basic Grammar; Part 2 - Intermediate Texts; Part 3 - Advanced Texts; Part 4 - Selected Tang and Song Dynasty Writings. The book is rounded out with six useful appendices - including a comprehensive 40-page 'Glossary of Function Words' - and a detailed 35-page Index.

Whereas each of the earlier lessons gives the Grammar needed for the lesson, the Texts, Vocabulary, Notes on the Texts, Questions, Exercises, and sometimes Bibliographic Exercises, these gradually fall away as the student's knowledge progresses, until in Part 4 only the bare texts of Mencius, Chuang Tzu, etc., are given.

No answers are provided for the numerous exercises, and many of them require that the student either have or have access to a comprehensive Chinese-Chinese dictionary. Other exercises require that the student have access to a university library with an extensive Chinese collection. It might also be a good idea to provide yourself with a copy of Edwin G. Pulleyblank's 'Outline of Classical Chinese Grammar,' a book on which Fuller draws heavily.

All in all this is an excellent textbook for students who already know modern Chinese, are studying with a competent teacher, and have access to a good library. Others who may be innocent of Chinese, but who have become intrigued by what is one of the most interesting and vigorous languages in the world, should look for a copy of Raymond Dawson's 'Introduction to Classical Chinese' (Oxford: Clarendon, 1968) or the same writer's 'New Introduction to Classical Chinese' (Oxford: Clarendon, 1984).

Unlike Fuller's textbook, neither of Dawson's require any previous background in Chinese at all - he even teaches you how to use a Chinese dictionary and how to write Chinese characters - and both can be used for self study. Parts 3 and 4 of the Fuller would be of interest, for their texts, to those who have already worked their way through Dawson.


15 of 15 people found the following review helpful:

Excellent for those with previous know. of modern Chinese, March 16, 2003

Reviewer: bryan12603 (Poughkeepsie, NY USA)

This is a review of An Introduction to Literary Chinese by Michael A Fuller.


"Literary Chinese" is not the same as modern or colloquial Chinese. Roughly speaking, literary Chinese (also called "Classical Chinese") is to modern Chinese as Latin is to Italian (or as Sanskrit is to Hindi). Literary Chinese was (according to most scholars) originally the written form of spoken Chinese, but it became a literary language used for writing and reading. Amazingly, it became the standard literary language for not only pre-modern China, but also for pre-modern Korea, Japan and Vietnam. (This is amazing because spoken Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese are actually not historically related to each other in the way that the European languages are related to each other.)


Few English-speakers learn Classical Chinese, of course, so there are few English-language textbooks for it. Michael Fuller has produced a very nice one.


This book assumes that the reader has some familiarity with Chinese characters (as by studying a year or two of modern Chinese or Japanese). This book will NOT teach you how to recognize the parts of a character (which is a crucial skill in memorizing them), or how to write them, or how to use a dictionary. So someone with no knowledge of Chinese will almost certainly find this book extremely intimidating.


However, this is really good book, I think, for students with some previous exposure to Chinese characters. Fuller's Introduction begins with a clear, sensible explanation of basic hermeneutic issues (e.g., why "Grammar Is Not Enough"). He then presents a learned but clear overview of grammar and phonology, with a bibliography for further reading.


This is well done, but I think most students should skip it and dive right into the first lesson. The first eight lessons each introduce a major grammatical feature (e.g., "Nominal and Verbal Sentences," "Parts of Speech," etc.). The structure of these chapters is explanation, Chinese text (long form characters throughout), vocabulary list (including pronunciations using pinyin romanizations), grammar notes, and exercises.


One of the things I like best about this book is that, right from the beginning, Fuller uses actual Classical Chinese texts. Lesson one uses two brief passages from the Analects of Confucius. I think it will be very exciting for students to be reading the "greats" of Chinese thought from the get-go.


Beginning with Lesson 9 (p. 103), the notes become less extensive. However, the new vocabulary items are still identified, and discussion questions of the content, and grammatical "review questions" (e.g., "Is X used as a coverb here?") are added. Then starting with Lesson 25 (p. 175), readings include only new vocabulary items (although when an author appears for the first time in this section, Fuller supplies a general introduction to him, and brief suggestions for further reading). The reading selections close with "Selected Tang and Song Dynasty Writings" (p. 229ff.), which are only the Chinese text, with no vocabulary or notes. Before this last section, all the readings are ALMOST all from the Warring States Period (403-221 BC) or Han Dynasty (202 BC to AD 220). This is a good choice, since these periods are generally thought to have produced the paradigms of Classical Chinese style.


If you are desperate to teach yourself Classical Chinese, and cannot begin with a good course in Modern Chinese, I would recommend buying this book with _Reading and Writing Chinese_ by William McNaughton, which walks you through how to write many of the most common characters. (Even better is the _Far East 3000 Chinese Character Dictionary_ pubilshed by The Far East Book Co., Ltd., but this is not available on Amazon, for some reason.)


Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful:

Needs editing and proofreading!, August 13, 2004

Reviewer: Steve Pearson "brainypirate" (U of Georgia in Athens, GA, USofA)

I have worked through this book twice now, once just to get a sense of the grammar, and a second time to translate more of the original texts Fuller includes.

For learning grammar, I have found the text useful, although Fuller at times assumes that readers know modern Chinese and therefore doesn't include romanizations during the introductory section, and includes words in the exercises at the end of the chapter that have not been introduced in the lessons and are not included in the glossary. Still, the appendices of romanization comparisons and of function words are very useful.

For translating authentic passages, the book is very good about using real texts, with commentaries, and about not shying away from difficult passages. However, my experience was that the texts became very difficult very quickly (in the middle of the intermediate section), and his notes become less helpful, before vanishing altogether with the advanced section.

While in general the book is useful, it does have some editorial problems (like those mentioned above) that should be addressed if the book is reprinted. The vocabulary is erratic--some lessons use words that are not introduced in the vocabulary list, while in other lessons, the vocabulary list includes words that have already been listed two or three times in previous chapters.

Further, the glossary in the back assumes that you already know both the character and the pinyin romanization, so that readers with limited experience with the language are forced to resort to another dictionary to find the character before being able to see if Fuller has included it in his glossary.

If you're new to Chinese and are going to use this book, be prepared to supplement it with Pulleyblank and other reference works, and to spend some time slogging through the more advanced lessons without much help from the author.


6 of 10 people found the following review helpful:

An Interesting Resource with some good Ideas, May 28, 2004

Reviewer: Austin M. Kramer "Rouge Scholar" (Seattle, Wa, USA)

I will admit, I am not a Chinese Clacissit, so I am not interested in devoting myself exclusively to Litterary Chinese. I do enjoy it, though, and this book suits my interests well.

The most outstanding feature of this book is the Introduction, which provides an amazing perspective on the role of writting, language and litterature in East Asia. Not everyone may agree with it, but it's certainly fresh, well thought out, and well documented.

The instructional parts are interesting, they don't seem too hard to me, but then again, I like reading James Joyce. What I will say is that they don't pander to a lot of New Age, Neo-Orientalist Western stereotypes they way some other books do. If they seem harder to understand than other books, that's because Litterary Chinese IS hard to understand. Simplification of these concepts normaly comes by promoting stereotypes of ancient languages over techinical accuracy.

I see similar problems with translating Classical Greek: people want to make things sound old, or mysterious, or "Chinese." This generaly steers you clear of fortune cookie translations that all come out sounding like the same haiku.

Finaly, what realy drew me to the book was it's selections. It has some interesting pieces, and all of which are hard to find on their own, and are essential parts of Chinese culture. My favorate find: The Preface to the Orchid Pavillion. It's a famous piece of Calligraphy, and a good example of litterary Chinese.


16 of 17 people found the following review helpful:

A detailed approach, April 25, 2000

Reviewer: Chris Gasper (Hualien Taiwan)

M.Fuller uses a very detailed analysis of the grammar ofclassical Chinese, as he trys to steer us through the difficult,concise language. A nicely presented and laid out book,he starts withshort extracts and then builds up to longer pieces. I especially liked his explanations of the commentaries. Good though this work is, it does assume a fairly good grasp of basic written Chinese. I found this book invaluable..... and I usually dislike "grammatical" books, but the author does explain it in an intelligent and clear way.


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