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Exposure Novels


With the strong development of Reform Movements, the voices of reforming literature grew louder. Exposure novels, represented by Li Boyuan's (1867-1906)The Bureaucrat: A Revelationand Wu Yanren's (1866-1910)Strange Events for the Last Twenty Years, deliberately chose focus on reformism and expose the corruption of the government and the crimes committed by capitalist countries. Liu E's (1857-1909)The Travels of Lao Can, another exposure novel appearing in this period, also uncovered social reality in the late Qing Dynasty through describing the experiences of a doctor.A Flower in an Ocean of Sin, by Zeng Pu (1871 -1935) was one of the more valuable of the novels created in the late Qing Dynasty. The novel satirized the corrupt way of life of the "highbrow" scholars.

Lao Can You Ji(The Travels of Lao Can), written by Liu E (1857-1909), is partly autobiographical and was published in a periodical. Lao Can is an itinerant doctor who during his journey through Shandong encounters the evils that suppressive bureaucrats put on guiltless people. Through his good connections to official circles, Lao Can succeeds in punishing at least one of the bad officials. In a vivid language, Liu E depicts scenes full of life, like the two dancing girls in the second chapter, and in a fantastic winter landscape. The book is a source for the daily life of peasantry in late Qing times.

Liu E was a poet, musician, medical practitioner and entrepreneur, as well as a novelist. He was also the earliest serious collector of oracle-bone inscriptions. He was a native of Jiangsu province and the son of a minor official, but himself decided against a career in the civil service and became involved in various enterprises, many with foreign interests. He was exiled to Xinjiang in 1908, on trumped up charges, and died the following year.

Niehai Hua(A Flower in the Sea of Sins) was written by Zeng Pu (1872-1935) and was published in 1905 as a writing of social criticism. The novel, full of citing from traditional literature and thus very difficult to understand for people that are not familiar with antique literature, is influenced by Western literature. Some of the heroes are veiled representations of real persons, making this novel a real critic of intellectual and courtier life.

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