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Bandits in Print: "The Water Margin" and the Transformations of the Chinese Novel

Book cover. A woodblock print of a man fighting a tiger with Chinese text below it. Cover is bisected by a band reading "Bandits in Print: "The Water Margin" and the Transformations of the Chinese Novel" by Scott Gregory.

Author: Scott Gregory

Bandits in Print examines the world of print in early modern China, focusing on the classic novel The Water Margin (Shuihu zhuan). Depending on which edition a reader happened upon, The Water Margin could offer vastly different experiences, a characteristic of the early modern Chinese novel genre and the shifting print culture of the era.

Scott W. Gregory argues that the traditional novel is best understood as a phenomenon of print. He traces the ways in which this particularly influential novel was adapted and altered in the early modern era as it crossed the boundaries of elite and popular, private and commercial, and civil and martial. Moving away from ultimately unanswerable questions about authorship and urtext, Gregory turns instead to the editor-publishers who shaped the novel by crafting their own print editions. By examining the novel in its various incarnations, Bandits in Print shows that print is not only a stabilizing force on literary texts; in particular circumstances and with particular genres, the print medium can be an agent of textual change.

The electronic edition of this book is freely available in open access, thanks to a generous award from the James P. Geiss and Margaret Y. Hsu Foundation.

"This is a page-turner. Framing its discussions within the text's material history, Bandits in Print paints a new picture of the life around the novel in Ming China and gives a fresh perspective on The Water Margin, dubbed one of the four masterpieces of traditional Chinese novels, in clear and engaging prose."
—Yuming He, UC Davis

"Bandits in Print is the history of an influential tale, a material object, and a movement: the rise of the long novel and how it reflected and fashioned the reconfiguration of intellectual life. This fascinating book will appeal to anyone interested in the circulation of power, objects, and information in the late Ming."
—Andrew Schonebaum, University of Maryland



Additional Information



  • Book

  • Cornell East Asia Series

Publication Details

Publication Year: 2023

Publication Number: 212

ISBN: 9781501769689