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
- 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.
|31 of 31 people found the following review
An excellent text but not one for the absolute beginner., May 25,
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
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:
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
Excellent for those with previous know. of modern Chinese, March
This is a review of An Introduction to Literary Chinese by Michael A
"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
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,
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
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.)
|2 of 2 people found the following review
Needs editing and proofreading!, August 13, 2004
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
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
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
An Interesting Resource with some good Ideas, May 28, 2004
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
A detailed approach, April 25, 2000
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.