Jinghuayuan 镜花緣 “Flowers in a Mirror”

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This novel by Li Ruzhen 李汝珍 (1763-1830) tells the story of a Daoist fairy named Fairy of the Hundred Flowers 百花仙子 that has fallen grom grace and tries to gain back her immortality. Li Ruzhen, himself failing to attain a higher examination degree, uses allegories to describe the caption of a human being between appearance and reality, the temporal and the eternal. This background gives the whole novel a touch of fantasy, fleeing from reality like the banished fairy that travels to strange countries. Coming back to China, she encounters the Tang 唐 empress Wu Zetian 武则天 and passes examination to be reunited with her earthly father. The describing of a woman’s dynasty makes this very personal novel looking like an attack on the social conditions in traditional China, like a kind of feminist pamphlet. But looking more exactly at the end of the story, the fantasy of a woman realm has to cede to the reinstalling of the Confucian tradition. Braking out of his own society, the worldy unsuccessful author has to come back to reality.

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