In Strange Tales from Edo, William Fleming paints a sweeping picture of Japan’s engagement with Chinese fiction in the early modern period (1600–1868). Large-scale analyses of the full historical and bibliographical record—the first of their kind—document in detail the wholesale importation of Chinese fiction, the market for imported books and domestic reprint editions, and the critical role of manuscript practices—the ascendance of print culture notwithstanding—in the circulation of Chinese texts among Japanese readers and writers.
Bringing this big picture to life, Fleming also traces the journey of a text rarely mentioned in studies of early modern Japanese literature: Pu Songling’s Liaozhai zhiyi (Strange Tales from Liaozhai Studio). An immediate favorite of readers on the continent, Liaozhai was long thought to have been virtually unknown in Japan until the modern period. Copies were imported in vanishingly small numbers, and the collection was never reprinted domestically. Yet beneath this surface of apparent neglect lies a rich hidden history of engagement and rewriting—hand-copying, annotation, criticism, translation, and adaptation—that opens up new perspectives on both the Chinese strange tale and its Japanese counterparts.