Well I just made a “discovery” only to find that someone else has already made the same discovery. This happens to me a lot. I came across a “Vietnamese” text called the Unofficial History of Linh Nam (嶺南逸史, Linh Nam dật sử). “Linh Nam,” or Lingnan in Chinese, means “south of the passes” and is an old Chinese term for the area of what is today Guangdong and Guangxi provinces. This text was originally written in classical Chinese, but it was translated into vernacular Vietnamese and published in Saigon in 1968. It is an historical novel which, according to the Vietnamese version, was translated from Mường into classical Chinese in the thirteenth century.
In actuality, however, this was a Chinese novel which was written during the mid-Qing, and which some Vietnamese later “localized.” I thought that it would be interesting to compare the Vietnamese and original Chinese texts, but it turns out that someone has already done this. In particular, someone by the name of Lin Tingjun 林亭君 recently (2009) completed an MA thesis (《嶺南逸史》研究 [Research on the Lingnan yishi]) at Chenggong University in Taiwan on this very topic (see below).
There are so many works of Vietnamese literature which were inspired by earlier Chinese works. This is apparently yet another example. What is interesting about this work is that it apparently deals with ethnic minority peoples who lived on the border between China and Vietnam. It would therefore be interesting to examine this work to see how the Vietnamese adapted it to present the same information from their side of the border.
“Ling Nan Yi Shi” is a popular colloquial fiction in Guangdong area during the middle period of Qing Dynasty. This fiction is based on the history of bandits in Guangdong and minority turmoil in Guangdong and Guangxi. It describes an excellent intellectual, Huang Fengyu, who was a master of both the pen and sword. He left home to visit his aunt by the order of his father. On his way there, he married four different pretty women, who then helped him to defeat the turmoil and fight the bandits. Finally, he got rewarded by the emperor and became a high-ranked government official. In the research of fiction in Qing Dynasty, “Ling Nan Yi Shi” has been neglected for a long time. The author of the novel integrated historical facts of Guangdong area to write this book, hoping that this novel could be viewed as a historical novel. Unfortunately, this book has still been neglected by researchers. However, when spreading to Vietnam, the novel was not only adapted, translated, changed the name of the author and the identities of characters, but also believed that it described real Vietnam history. “Ling Nan Yi Shi” has been neglected in this field for a long time. It is time to interpret and classify it properly. This paper can be divided into six chapters.
The first chapter is a preface illustrating points of view, research methods and purpose of the present study. The second chapter can be subcategorized into three sections, elucidating the author’s life, clarifying the edition of the fiction, and describing the spread of the fiction separately. The third chapter analyzes the relationship between “Ling Nan Yi Shi” and the literature of Guangdong area, exemplifying the fact that “Guangdong Xin Yu” and ”Youg An Xian Ci Zhi” are the references of the fiction and admiring the author’s efforts of using historical facts to recreate a great novel in the literature. The fourth chapter tries to find out a connection among different literatures by comparing ”San Kuo Yen I”, Scholar-Beauty Romance, and “Sui Tang Yen Yi” with “Ling Nan Yi Shi”. The fifth chapter compares the novel with its Vietnam adaptation. Vietnamese believe this fiction is a local work, and that the writing of its plot and characters is based on Vietnamese life. They also believe that it is written by a Vietnamese. This chapter focuses on discussing the authors and contents of the two versions, aiming at finding out the reason behind the adaptation and approving of the uniqueness and importance of different versions of “Ling Nan Yi Shi”. The sixth chapter concludes the present study.