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Feng Menglong - A Writer and Poet of Late Ming Dynasty


Feng Menglong (simplified Chinese: 冯梦龙; 1574-1645) was a Chinese vernacular writer and poet of the late Ming Dynasty. He was born in Changzhou, now Suzhou, in Jiangsu province, China.

Feng was a proponent of the school of Li Zhi, which supported the importance of human feelings and behavior in literature. Most of his literary work was in editing and compiling histories, almanacs and novels. Two of his noteworthy novels are Pingyao Zhuan and Qing Shi. Another work, Dongzhou Lieguo Zhi ("Romance of the Eastern Zhou Kingdoms") has been turned into a TV show. In 1620 he published the Gujin Xiaoshuo ("Stories Old and New").

Writing Style

Feng Menglong was in love with a famous prostitute when he was young. Unfortunately, Feng Menglong was not able to afford to redeem his lover out. At the end, his lover was redeemed by a merchant, and they had to leave each other. Feng Menglong suffered from pain and desperation due to the separation, and he expressed his sorrow through poems. This experience influenced the way he portrayed female characters in his stories. In fact, Feng Menglong was one of the few authors who portrayed female as being strong and intelligent; and this is different from other authors, where they tended to ignore the importance of female’s position. The female characters in Feng Menglong’s stories were portrayed as brave and bright when dealing with different situations. For instance, in his story Wan Xiuniang Takes Revenge Through Toy Pavilions from Jing Shi Tong Yan, Wan Xiuniang showed her braveness during her tough times, and she was able to escape using her intelligence. Other female characters, such as Miss Du Shi Niang and Qu Xiuxiu, are example to show Feng Menglong’s respect to female.

Feng Menglong expressed his attitudes towards the society through his works, and the reason was tightly related to his experience during his career. Feng Menglong became a local officer in Shouning in his sixties. He pursued justice and wished to build up his reputation by acting as an honest and upright official. Unfortunately, he was born in a time of corruption; bribery and extortion were common bureaucratic behaviors, and they opposed the principle of Feng Menglong. Realizing that atmosphere of corruption could not be easily changed, Feng Menglong conveyed his discontent and patriotism through words. Each character of his stories has strong and direct characteristics: there is a clear morality line drawn between “good” and “bad”. Moreover, the meaning behind the stories explores the social issues during Ming Dynasty. For instance, the story The White Maiden Locked for Eternity in Leifeng Pagoda and The Young Lady Gives the Young Man a Gift of Money from Jing Shi Tong Yan express the idea of how women pursue their freedom and happiness under a feudal society.

Editor: Liu Xiongfei