The present research is an attempt at a morphological analysis of classical Chinese
supernatural fiction known as zhiguai under the theoretical framework designed by
Vladimir Propp and later developed by Alan Dundes. As to the study of Chinese
zhiguai tales, mountains of work bas been done, but research is usually confined
either to exploration into the geographical-historical sources of these tales or to the
recognition and reconstruction of society in ancient China. It is therefore believed
that a systematic study of zhiguai literature from a linguistics-oriented structuralfunctional
perspective will shed light on the rules governing the textual organisation
of classical Chinese fiction of the supernatural and strange.
This thesis will be divided into two parts with the first one atmmg at a
diachronic survey of zhiguai literature. In this section, the origins of this genre and
its development through dynasties in traditional China will be explored with attention
focused on an evidential and thematic study of zhiguai works most influential and
representative of the time and of the author as well.
Part Two, which will start with a review of Propp's morphological method and
model, is devoted to a synclironic study of Chinese zhiguai fi ction from a Proppian
perspective. For each tale text selected for morphological analysis, functions will be
identified, and a linear functional scheme presented, and described in terms of the
sequence of functions and the distribution of functions among dramatis personae.
All the structural and functional traits will be tabulated, discussed and, where
possible and necessary, compared. Finally, based on a data analysis, a conclusion
will be made on morphological features and structural patterns of classical Chinese
fiction of the supernatural and strange.
Fifty zhiguai tales will be selected for analysis from ancient zhushu
(commentaries), leishu (categorised books), congshu (collectanea), or authoritative
modem editions of works of supernatural fiction in classical Chinese. In the course
of selection, priority has been given to those about other/supernatural beings or
mortals with supernatural power as classified by Aame as "Tales of magic" m
conformity with Propp's corpus of Russian fairy tales in Morphology of the Folktale.