Tale of China (唐物語)

Kara monogatari (Tales of China) is a collection of Japanese adaptations of ancient Chinese stories in the form of uta monogatari (poem-tale). It was most probably written and completed by FUJIWARA no Shigenori (d. 1187) in the late 12th century.


"Kara monogatari" includes 27 short stories whose protagonists are given below.

1. Wang Zixou
2. Bai Letian
3. Kashi
4. Liang Hong and Meng Guang
5. Sima Xiangru and Zhuo Wenjun
6. Sekikirin and Ryokuju
7. Song Yu
8. Benben
9. Chang Wencheng and Empress Zaitan
10. Jotokugen and Chin-shi
11. Longyu and Rogyoku
12. The Woman Who Turned into a Stone
13. Gako and Joei
14. Ryoensho
15. Emperor Wu of Han and Consort Li
16. Emperor Wu of Han and the Queen Mother of the West
17. Empress Lue and Si Hao
18. Emperor Xuanzong and Yang Guifei
19. Zhu Maichen
20. Chu Jiu and Teiei
21. Lord Pingyuan
22. King Zhuang of Chu
23. Inyu's Wife
24. Shang Yang
25. Wang Zhaojun
26. Pan Anren
27. The Girl Who Slept with a Dog

The stories are mainly based on "Meng-qui" (Beginner's Guide) and Bai Juyi's "Bai-Shi Wen Ji," most of which recount well-known ancient stories. Although "Kara" (唐) in "Kara monogatari" refers to Tang China, the text also includes many legends from other Chinese dynasties. Written in graceful classical Japanese style, the stories are strongly influenced by "The Tale of Genji" and waka poetry, with story details also differing considerably from their Chinese originals. No source texts have been identified for either Tale 9, where Chang Wencheng (who authored 'Youxianku' (Cave Where the Fairies Frolic)) appears as the lover of Empress Zeitan, or Tale 27, where a girl refuses to get married, flees to a mountain and sleeps with a dog; these have raised noteworthy questions in the history of Japanese literature.

The complete annotated Japanese translation (edited and written by Yasuharu KOBAYASHI) has been published in the Kodansha Gakujutsu Bunko series.

[Original Japanese]