Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.



Committee Chair

Allen, Annette C.

Author's Keywords

Reception history; Playing literati; Gaps; Shen Fu; Literati identity; Fusheng liu ji


Shen, Fu, 1763-ca. 1808. Fu sheng liu ji; Shen, Fu, 1763-ca. 1808--Criticism and interpretation; Chinese literature--Qing dynasty, 1644-1912--History and criticism; Conduct of life in literature


This study endeavored to provide a new path to understand Fusheng liu ji (Six Chapters of a Floating Life) by Shen Fu in the middle of the Qing Dynasty (1636-1911). Shen Fu recorded his love story with his wife Chen Yun and his life as a Chinese literatus in his memoir, which had originally six chapters but only four survived. The characteristics of the couple and their artistic way of living were admired so much by many readers, among them was Lin Yutang, who translated Fusheng liu ji and used it as demonstration of Taoist philosophy and the Chinese traditional way of living. Although Fusheng liu ji is generally known as one of the best autobiographical works in the pre-modern time and loved by readers in and outside of China, some important questions have not been addressed, including the reception history of it, the literati identity of Shen Fu and Chen Yun, and the true meaning of their artistic creations. All these questions are scrutinized and explored in this dissertation. This study uses several scholars who lived in three periods of time (respectively at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century, the 1920s through the 1940s, and the 1980s and after) as examples to explore the reception history of Fusheng Iiu ji. This study also analyzes the synchronic context of the book including the location of different gaps in the text and their functions. Furthermore, this study discusses the literati identity of Shen Fu and Chen Yun, and also on their most courageous creation: the playing of literati throughout their lifetime. By doing so, this study provides an insightful glimpse on the meaning of the Chinese artistic way of living. Wolfgang Iser's theory of "gaps," as well as the social construction of reality theory of Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann, and the thoughts on "play" of Hans-Georg Gadamer, are used as guidelines in this study. The author of the current dissertation hopes this study can facilitate the further understanding of the Chinese mentality and artistic spirit demonstrated in Fusheng liu ji.