World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

The Travels of Lao Can

Article Id: WHEBN0035859328
Reproduction Date:

Title: The Travels of Lao Can  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Red Turban Rebellion (1854–56), Convention Between Great Britain and China Respecting Tibet, Peking Field Force, New Policies, Shanghai School
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

The Travels of Lao Can

The Travels of Lao Can
Author Liu E
Original title 老殘遊記
Country Late Qing Dynasty
Language Chinese
Original text
老殘遊記 at Chinese Wikisource

The Travels of Lao Can (simplified Chinese: 老残游记; traditional Chinese: 老殘遊記; pinyin: LǎoCánYóujì; Wade–Giles: Lao Ts'an yu-chi, or "The Travels of an old wreck") was a novel by Liu E (1857-1909), written in 1903-04[1] and published in 1907. Thinly disguising his own views in those of the physician hero, Liu describes the rise of the Boxers in the countryside, the decay of the Yellow River control system, and the hypocritical incompetence of the bureaucracy. The novel, a social satire[2] that showed the limits of the old elite and officialdom, was an immediate success. The novel serves as an in-depth look into the every-day lives of "peasantry" in the late Qing period.[3]

The first 13 chapters were serialized in the bi-weekly Xiuxiang Xiaoshuo (simplified Chinese: 绣像小说; traditional Chinese: 繡像小說; pinyin: Xiùxiàng Xiǎoshuō; Wade–Giles: Hsiu-hsiang Hsiao-shuo; literally "Illustrated Fiction" or "Fiction Illustrated") from March 1903 to January 1904, in issues 9 through 18. It was later printed in the Tianjin Riri Xinwen Bao (simplified Chinese: 天津日日新闻报; traditional Chinese: 天津日日新聞報; pinyin: Tiānjīn Rìrì Xīnwén Bào; Wade–Giles: T'ien-Chin Jih-Jih Shin-Wen Pao; literally: "Tientsin Daily News"[4]) in a 20 chapter version with a prologue included.[5]


In the prologue Lao Can (T: 老殘, S: 老残, P: Lǎo Cán, W: Lao Ts'an; "Old Decrepit"), a traveling medical practitioner, dreams of China being a sinking ship. After the dream ends, Lao Can goes on a journey to fix the problems experienced by China. In the story Lao Can attempts to correct injustices, change attitudes towards women, and engage in philosophical discussions about China's future.[5] Within portions of the novel Lao Can acts as a detective in several small crime-related plots.[6] Milena Doleželová-Velingerová, author of "Fiction from the End of the Empire to the Beginning of the Republic (1897-1916)", wrote that the integration of the detective subplots, "entirely dissimilar to its lyrical components," "makes the novel so innovative."[7]


Referring to the use of poetry and symbolism in Travels of Lao Can, Milena Doleželová-Velingerová, author of "Fiction from the End of the Empire to the Beginning of the Republic (1897-1916)", wrote that "What sets this novel apart from the others is just this nonaction discourse, including the famous poetic descriptions of Chinese landscape, which are, however, meant to be understood not merely as images of natural beauty but as metaphorical statements about the condition of society."[7]


Donald Holoch argued in his essay "The Travels of Laocan: Allegorical Narrative", published in The Chinese Novel at the Turn of the Century, that the entire book and not merely the prologue should be viewed as an allegory, and that if any other approach was used, the novel would lack unity.[8] In particular Holoch believes that the novel's characters and events illustrate a "complex conservatism" that concludes that technology instead of social change is the answer to the problems experienced by China. Cordell D. K. Yee, who wrote a review of The Chinese Novel at the Turn of the Century, wrote that "it is doubtful that all episodes conform" to the allegory concept.[9] Robert E. Hegel, the author of a book review of The Chinese Novel at the Turn of the Century, argues that this interpretation by Holoch is persuasive and that Holoch "makes a substantial contribution to the studies of the novel".[8]

Translations and versions

The first English language translation was done by Harold Shadick in 1952. The Harold Shadick edition, titled The Travels of Lao Ts'an, was published by Cornell University Press in 1966. A 1983 translation by Yang Xianyi and Gladys Yang is also available.



  1. ^ Barbara Stoler Miller, Masterworks of Asian Literature in Comparative Perspective: A Guide for Teaching, published by M.E. Sharpe, 1994
  2. ^ The Travels of Lao Can
  3. ^
  4. ^ United States Bureau of Foreign and Domestic Commerce, p. 188.
  5. ^ a b Doleželová-Velingerová, p. 724.
  6. ^ Doleželová-Velingerová, p. 725.
  7. ^ a b Doleželová-Velingerová, p. 724-725.
  8. ^ a b Hegel, p. 190.
  9. ^ Yee, p. 574.

Further reading

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.