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Zhang Xu 張旭, Lin Shu nianpu changbian (1852-1924) 林紓年譜長編(1852~1924), Fujian jiaoyu chubanshe, Fuzhou, 2014.



Late Qing and Early Republican literature studies have reached unprecedented depth in recent decades thanks to the efforts of Japanese scholars, who have painfully deconstructed the reception of authors and works and, by doing so, have also unveiled a new set of perspectives and possibilities for further research. One of the authors who has received more attention is the Fujianese translator and littérateur Lin Shu (1852-1924), a well-known figure who famously translated hundreds of Western works with the aid of his collaborators and introduced Western literature to Chinese readers. However, an important tool was missing: a complete and detailed biography of Lin Shu that, instead of the fictionalized style of previous studies in the field, would provide scholars with specific information and sources in the form of footnotes and bibliography. Zhang Xu’s Lin Shu nianpu (Lin Shu’s chronology) is the first, yet not the last, step in this direction.

            As it is well-known, one of the pervasive characteristics of mainland Chinese scholarship has been its inability to properly function according to the internationally required conditions of academic research, a fact that, despite being silently accepted by many sinologists, it is usually omitted due to correctness, so often mistaken with objectivity. Unfortunately, Zhang’s promising study shows us that this situation is far from changing.

Lin Shu nianpu opens with a brief introduction and two family trees of Lin Shu and his family, followed by the main part of the book, which is arranged chronologically and beautifully embellished with many illustrations. Notes are not scant and they usually provide complete bibliographical references, and the volume of information –life, works, acquaintances, travels, etc.– marks a milestone in Lin Shu studies. The book ends with a complete bibliography and two indexes of Lin Shu’s posthumous and unpublished works which, for reasons of space, will not be discussed here.

There is, however, a disturbing number of errors, misprints, omissions, lack of coherence and even contradictions in this book which call for caution when using it as a research tool –scholars should not, of course, merely take second source materials at face value–. Many of these errors could have been corrected with a second reading and are probably the result of the collaborative efforts of the different scholars who participated in this project, writing different parts of the book that were later combined without proper revision of the final work. In what follows we provide a detailed, yet not totally exhaustive, list of these errors and misprints:



p. 115: The Chinese title of The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe is 魯濱孫飄流記, and not魯濱孫漂流記.

p. 135: “Le Tour de la Francep ard euxenfants” should be “Le Tour de la France par deux enfants”.

p. 178: He Shaomin’s name 何紹愍 should be Ke Shaomin 柯紹愍.

p. 180: Ceng Gangfu’s name 曾剛父 should be written 曾剛甫. In the same page, entry February 8, the character should be written .

p. 191: In the last entry, third line, the work Mimo yan 秘魔岩 should be Mimo ya 秘魔崖.

pp. 207, 314: The name of Qian Zhongshu 錢鍾書 appears misprinted a number of times using the curious character , a simplified form that is no longer used.

p. 219: In the third entry the title “Song Yao Shujie gui Tongcheng xu” 送姚叔節歸桐城序 is missing the character Tong .

p. 225: In the entry dated September 21, the first character of the title should be “wei”  and not “fang” .

p. 243: The work Yi ma 義馬 should be Yi hei 義黑.

p. 247: The last character of the Chinese name of the work Fair Margaret should be “lu” and not “ji” . The date of publication is also wrong.

p. 292: In the third entry the name Chen Hanqing 陳翰卿 should be Cheng Hanqing 程翰卿.

p. 294: In the third entry the courtesy name of Xu Shuzheng 徐樹錚 should be Youzheng 又錚, not Youzheng 友錚.

p. 304: The title of the first entry should begin with “nian” 廿 and not “er shi” 二十.

p. 309: The character in the second entry is written in traditional Chinese, showing lack of coherence.

p. 344: In the fourth entry, Lin Shu’s eulogy “Ye ling li cheng zhi bei” 謁陵禮成誌悲 is written with the left part of the character simplified. The simplified form of is simply , without a. In the eighth entry the title appears only with the character , showing again lack of coherence.

p. 388: The name of Ding Angong 丁闇公 is written in traditional Chinese, showing once more lack of coherence.

p. 410: In the first entry, Sun Baozhi’s name should be 孫保芝 and not 孫保之.

p. 424: In the sixth entry, the name Xu Jingyi 徐靜宜 should be written 徐敬宜.



p. 124: The work Konggu jiaren 空谷佳人 was not translated by Lin Shu.

p. 133: The prologue of Tales of a Traveller is dated in the Guangxi year 32, which corresponds with 1906, not 1907.

p. 167: The work Pianshu fanxin 騙術翻新 was not translated by Lin Shu.

p. 173: The date 1910128 should be corrected to the year 1909.

p. 176: The date 1909413 should be corrected to the year 1910.

p. 192: The last entry reads “In the afternoon Zheng Xiaoxu came (lai ) to visit”. Did Zheng Xiaoxu visit Zhang Xu? The verb should be, obviously, “go”, not “come”.

p. 205: The entry 1213日、24 should be 13日、14.

p. 374: According to the fourth entry, Zheng Zhenduo 鄭振鐸 wrote in September 11, 1921 an article review of Lin Shu’s translation of the Spanish novel Don Quixote. Lin Shu, however, did not translated this work until the next year.


Incomplete data

Lack of coherence: Dates are sometimes provided in the lunar calendar with the modern date in brackets, sometimes without it (p. 299, fourth line), and mostly only in the modern solar calendar. Sometimes the lunar date is added within brackets, as in p. 395, first entry.

Lack of coherence: Names of Lin Shu’s acquaintances are given randomly using their common name, courtesy name (zi ) or their literary name (hao ), thus, making it impossible to identify them. For example, p. 124 names a “Chongshu” 沖叔, who is in fact the famous translator and collaborator of Lin Shu, Wei Yi 魏易. In p. 184 we have Pan Bo 潘博, who becomes Pan Zhibo 潘稚博 in p. 185 and Pan Ruohai 潘若海 in p. 186, all being the same person. The character  in his name should also be corrected to . In p. 192 Yan Youling 嚴又陵 is named but no reference to this being the famous translator Yan Fu 嚴復 is made. Sometimes the names become hard to understand, as in the combination “與閩縣陳荔裳永鑫、溫陵陳芷之遴” (p. 247).

In general, pictures are illustrative and useful, but sometimes more information should be provided, for example, when the author reproduces the cover page of some works, without further indication of the edition. Sometimes the reproduced paintings do not have a title (pp. 30, 244, 422, etc.), so the reader is left to wonder about its identification.

pp. 3-4: The family trees of Lin Shu are barely complete. They do not provide dates for most of the members of Lin’s family and the typeface is sometimes too small to be read.

p. 191: At the end of the page, the subject and author of the works Shiyishi shihua 石遺室詩話 and Mimo ya 秘魔崖 should be Chen Yan, not Lin Shu, as it seems. In p. 192, the second work quoted also belongs to Chen Yan.

p. 238: The publication information of Lin Shu’s works Jiewai tanhua 劫外曇花 and Huya yuxi lu 虎牙餘息錄 is incomplete.

pp. 290-2: The following works were “republished” and not “published”: “Ma Gongqin” 馬公琴, “Hongran dawang” 紅髯大王, “Ma Gongqin” 馬公琴 (third reprint), “Wu Cang” 吳瑲, “Li Yunsi” 李雲四 and “Guzhai” 古宅. The same issue reappears a number of times, for example in p. 363 with Zuozhuan xiehua 左傳擷華, originally published in 1916.

p. 377: Yan Fu dies on October 27, 1921., That this is Lin Shu’s birthday does not seem relevant to the author.

p. 378: In the entry related to Lin Shu’s birthday, it is said that Yan Fu sent that day a poem to Lin Shu. This is barely possible since he was busy passing away. He probably wrote and sent the poem some days before.

p. 419: Lack of coherence in the presentation of the dates. The fourth entry is dated dongri 冬日, the fifth dongyue 冬月 and the sixth simply dong .

p. 425: The author states that Lin Shu translated Qingtian buhen lu 情天補恨錄 “with someone” (yu ren 與人). This someone is, as correctly noted in p. 403, Mao Wenzhong 毛文鐘.


Misplaced and repeated items

p. 99: The reference to Lin’s translation of Cleopatra should be in the following year, not 1904, as it correctly appears later at p. 108.

p. 101: Likewise, History of Napoleon Bonaparte was not published in 1904, but 1905, as it is correctly noted in p. 111.

p. 105: Jimmy Brown Trying to Find Europe was not translated and published in 1904, but 1905, as it is correctly noted in p. 112.

p. 112: Merchant of Venice was not published in 1905, but 1904, as in p. 103-5. However, probably because two different persons worked in these two entries, the author states that “Lin Shu converted it to novel” (p. 112), which is wrong, since the original work employed by Lin Shu was a novelization, as it is correctly stated in p. 105.

p. 175: The entries dated September 10 and 11 are identical, since Chen Shuyi 陳叔伊 in the first one and Chen Yan 陳衍 in the second one are in fact the same person.

p. 230: The first entry is repeated. It should say “May” and not “This year”, as in p. 220.

p. 289: The entries second, third and fourth are repeated and should be properly dated August, September and October, respectively.

pp. 248-9: The entries dated July-August and August-September in p. 248 and August in p. 249 are identical.

p. 299: Entries third and sixth look the same to me.

p. 342: Entries for October 11 and 11-12 are identical.

p. 360: The last entry of 1920 is repeated, and should be dated May 11.

p. 416: The last two entries should be after the third one.


Unrelated data

There are multiples references that do not seem to be related to Lin Shu or, if they are, the author has failed to show how. For example, in p. 129 we read about a patriotic meeting held in 1906, and we are given a series of names which do not include Lin Shu: “This year, Chen Yusang, Lin Juemin, Jiang Jun and others organized the Patriotic Society at the Seven Stars Temple of Jin Alley, for the purpose of propagating an anti-Manchu and pro-Chinese revolution. Joining members included Chen Gengxin, Yao Yaoyu, Liu Tong, Fang Hanfan, Jiang Dailiang and twenty others” (I also suspect “Jiang Jun” 蔣筠 is a misprint for “Zhou Jun” 周筠). Another example can be seen in the first entry dated August 14, p. 248. Likewise, I don’t see why the May Fourth Movement should be called “patriotic” (p. 334, third entry). This is a political opinion out of place in a work like this.

Other examples can be found in p. 408, fourth entry, and p. 425, first entry.



A common practice in mainland scholarship is the lack of indexes of persons and places. This is a weak point in a work already stained with so many shortcomings. Because the names of the persons Lin Shu interacted with do not show internal coherence –sometimes they are referred by their given name, their courtesy name or their literary name–, it is almost impossible to locate any important data. For this reason, we have provided a chronological index of Lin Shu’s acquaintances and of the places he visited, based upon the data collected in Zhang Xu’s Lin Shu nianpu. We have also provided a corrected and complete family tree of Lin Shu.

César Guarde-Paz