In this article we expand the scholarly investigation of the representation of animals in historic literature, specifically focusing upon Pu Songling’s Liaozhai Zhiyi [Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio]. This is partially a response to other scholars’ work arguing that blurred boundaries between human and nonhuman in this genre challenges anthropocentrism by rendering humans and animals basically the same. This point is often contextualized with reference to traditional Chinese philosophies including Daoism. Drawing upon various tales within Liaozhai, we explore the forms of ethical reciprocity that are enabled through shapeshifting, however we trouble the assertion that blurred physical boundaries necessarily de-centre the human. We argue that despite the fact that animals can become human and vice-versa, Liaozhai depicts a natural world which privileges ‘becoming-human’, and naturalizes ‘human virtues’.
- Pu Songling
- Liaozhai Zhiyi