Chinese Life Writing: Themes and Variations

  • Marjorie Dryburgh
  • Sarah Dauncey


The critical literature on Chinese life writing has expanded rapidly in the past two decades: while only a handful of studies were produced before the 1990s, the past two decades have seen the publication of specialised monographs and essay collections, several dozen scholarly articles and a growing body of translations. That has produced a collection of very rich and scholarly works that, in their individual insights, do much to advance our understanding of categories of life narratives as historical sources, life narratives as artefacts and life writing as social practice. The growth of that corpus of specialised studies challenges our understanding of the wider context of life writing practice and life writing texts, and has produced a divided literature in which more general studies that tend to emphasise the ‘rules of the game’ (and in China, as elsewhere, life writing is a rules-based practice1) exist in uneasy tension with more specialised works that highlight variations on, and departures from, those established patterns.2 Whereas, once, it was possible to understand Chinese auto/biography as overwhelmingly ‘Confucian’,3 didactic, state-centred and masculine, more recent work has highlighted frequent departures from that apparent norm.


Asian Study Life Story Cultural Revolution Tang Dynasty Life Narrative 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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© Marjorie Dryburgh and Sarah Dauncey 2013

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  • Marjorie Dryburgh
  • Sarah Dauncey

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