Tian Qilang

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"Tian Qilang"
19th-century illustration from Xiangzhu liaozhai zhiyi tuyong (Liaozhai Zhiyi with commentary and illustrations; 1886)
Author Pu Songling
Original title"田七郎 (Tian Qilang)"
TranslatorSidney L. Sondergard (2008)
Published in Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio
Media typePrint (Book)
Publication date1740
Preceded by"Mou Yi (某乙)"
Followed by"Bao Zhu (保住)"

"Tian Qilang" (Chinese :田七郎; pinyin :Tián Qīláng) is a short story by Pu Songling first published in Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio (1740). The story revolves around Wu Chengxiu, who befriends the titular character, a young hunter, and the series of unfortunate events they experience thereafter. In writing "Tian Qilang", Pu was heavily influenced by biographies of famous assassins in Records of the Grand Historian by Sima Qian; Pu's story has in turn been adapted into a television series story arc, a film, and a play.

Traditional Chinese characters Traditional Chinese characters

Traditional Chinese characters are Chinese characters in any character set that does not contain newly created characters or character substitutions performed after 1946. They are most commonly the characters in the standardized character sets of Taiwan, of Hong Kong and Macau. The modern shapes of traditional Chinese characters first appeared with the emergence of the clerical script during the Han Dynasty, and have been more or less stable since the 5th century.

Pinyin Chinese romanization scheme for Mandarin

Hanyu Pinyin, often abbreviated to pinyin, is the official romanization system for Standard Chinese in mainland China and to some extent in Taiwan. It is often used to teach Standard Mandarin Chinese, which is normally written using Chinese characters. The system includes four diacritics denoting tones. Pinyin without tone marks is used to spell Chinese names and words in languages written with the Latin alphabet, and also in certain computer input methods to enter Chinese characters.

Short story work of literature, usually written in narrative prose

A short story is a piece of prose fiction that typically can be read in one sitting and focuses on a self-contained incident or series of linked incidents, with the intent of evoking a "single effect" or mood, however there are many exceptions to this.



Liaoyang resident Wu Chengxiu (武承休) hears, in his dreams, the name of the one who "can share your trials and tribulations", [1] and he rushes to enquire about Tian Qilang. He learns that Tian is a twenty-year-old hunter who lives with his mother in a dilapidated shack. Attempting to form a friendship with him, Wu first offers him gold, which he refuses; then Wu pays Tian a handsome sum for a few animal hides. However, Tian does not accept Wu's invitation to his residence, and his mother chases Wu away, because she senses that turmoil will befall him and she does not want her son to be implicated.

Liaoyang Prefecture-level city in Liaoning, Peoples Republic of China

Liaoyang is a prefecture-level city of east-central Liaoning province, China, situated on the Taizi River and, together with Anshan, forms a metro area of 2,057,200 inhabitants in 2010. It is approximately one hour south of Shenyang, the provincial capital, by car. Liaoyang is home to Liaoning University's College of Foreign Studies and a number of vocational colleges. The city hosts a limited number of professional basketball and volleyball games in a modern sports facility.

Tian feels he had shortchanged Wu, because the hides were of inferior quality, and he bags "a perfect tiger specimen" [2] and presents it to him. Wu then pressures him into staying at his place. Indifferent to his well-to-do friends' snide remarks about Tian, Wu also secretly disposes of Tian's ragged clothing and replaces them with presentable garb. To repay Wu, Tian sends him rabbit and deer meat on a daily basis, but refuses to be hosted at Wu's place. Some time later, Tian is found guilty of the manslaughter of a fellow hunter. Wu provides financial support to both Tian's and the deceased hunter's families, and uses his influence to save Tian. After a month, Tian is released from prison; his mother reminds him that he is greatly indebted to Wu. Thereafter, Tian is informed that a servant of Wu's has committed a crime and is currently being harboured by his new employer, the brother of the Censor. An incensed Tian decides to seek out this rogue servant; a few days later, the servant is found dead in the woods. In retaliation, the Censor's brother has Wu's uncle captured and beaten to death. Meanwhile, Tian Qilang has already fled.

Rabbit Mammals of the family Leporidae

Rabbits are small mammals in the family Leporidae of the order Lagomorpha. Oryctolagus cuniculus includes the European rabbit species and its descendants, the world's 305 breeds of domestic rabbit. Sylvilagus includes 13 wild rabbit species, among them the 7 types of cottontail. The European rabbit, which has been introduced on every continent except Antarctica, is familiar throughout the world as a wild prey animal and as a domesticated form of livestock and pet. With its widespread effect on ecologies and cultures, the rabbit is, in many areas of the world, a part of daily life—as food, clothing, a companion, and as a source of artistic inspiration.

Venison originally meant the meat of a game animal, and now especially means a deer or antelope. Venison can be used to refer to any part of the animal, so long as it can be consumed, including the internal organs. Venison, much like beef or pork, is categorized into specific cuts, including roast, sirloin, and ribs.

The Censorate was a high-level supervisory agency in ancient China, first established during the Qin dynasty.

The Censor's brother is in the middle of bribing a magistrate when a woodcutter enters the court office to deliver some firewood. However, the woodcutter is in fact Tian Qilang, who rushes towards the Censor's brother and beheads him with a blade. The magistrate escapes in time, and Tian is quickly surrounded by soldiers; he commits suicide. A frightened magistrate returns to inspect the corpse, but it immediately lunges itself at him, and swiftly executes the magistrate. Tian's mother and son flee before they can be arrested. Moved by the actions of Tian Qilang, Wu Chengxiu holds a lavish funeral for him. Tian Qilang's son changes his name to Tong (佟), settles down in Dengzhou, [3] and becomes a high-ranking official in the military. Years later, he returns to his hometown; Wu Chengxiu, now an octogenarian, leads him to Tian's grave.

Dengzhou County-level & Sub-prefectural city in Henan, Peoples Republic of China

Dengzhou, formerly Deng County, is a city in Nanyang, Henan, China. It has an area of 2,294 km2 (886 sq mi) and a population of 1,500,000. The urban area is 35 km², and the urban population is 300,000. The city is located in the southwest of Henan province, adjacent to the borders between Henan, Hubei and Shaanxi. It geometrically lies in the center of the triangle of Zhengzhou, Wuhan and Xi'an, with equal distance to any of these three cities.

Publication history

Unwillingness to accept lightly a single coin is characteristic of someone who could not forget the gift of a single meal. What a fine mother! Qilang's wrath had not been fully discharged, so even in death he could vent it further – how awesome was his spirit! If Jing Ke had been capable of this feat, he would have left no regret to linger on for a thousand years. Were there such men like this, they could patch holes in Heaven's net. So clouded is the way of the world, I lament the scarcity of Qilangs. Sad indeed!

Jing Ke Qin Dynasty attempted assassin

Jing Ke was a retainer of Crown Prince Dan of the Yan state and renowned for his failed assassination attempt of King Zheng of the Qin state, who later became Qin Shi Huang, China's first emperor. His story is told in the chapter entitled Biographies of Assassins (刺客列傳) in Sima Qian's Records of the Grand Historian.

Pu's postscript [4] [lower-alpha 1]

The story was first published in 1740 in an anthology of short stories by Pu Songling titled Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio, or Liaozhai Zhiyi. The title "Tian Qilang" (田七郎) is loosely translated as "Seventh Master Tian", Tian (田) being the surname of the titular character. [5] Sidney Sondergard published her English translation of "Tian Qilang" in 2008. [1] "Tian Qilang" has also been translated into Esperanto as "La Cxasisto Tian". [6]

Pu Songling Chinese writer

Pu Songling was a Qing dynasty Chinese writer, best known as the author of Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio.

Tian (surname) Surname list

Tián (田), or T'ien in Wade-Giles, is the 34th most common Chinese surname. An alternative transliteration of "田" from Cantonese is Tin. It appeared in the Hundred Family Surnames text from the early Song Dynasty. It also means "field".

Esperanto constructed language

Esperanto is the most widely spoken constructed international auxiliary language. It was created in the late 19th century by L. L. Zamenhof. In 1887 he published a book detailing the language, Unua Libro, under the pseudonym Dr. Esperanto. Esperanto translates to English as "one who hopes".


Critics including He Shouqi (何守奇), Feng Zhenluan (冯镇峦), and, more recently, Alan Barr have written that Pu Songling was greatly influenced by Sima Qian and his Records of the Grand Historian (Shiji). "Tian Qilang" is predominantly based on the Shiji biography of assassin Nie Zheng (聂政); however, Pu "updates and re-shapes the story in such a way as radically to alter its character". [7] Nie is celebrated as the epitome of a heroic character because of his filial piety in particular; [8] Pu is said to have been "fascinated" by such "heroic ethos". [9] Incidentally, Nie Zheng also appears in an eponymous Liaozhai tale. [9] On the other hand, the character Wu Chengxiu in "Tian Qilang" is compared with Yan Zhongzi (巖鐘仔), who hired Nie Zheng to assassinate his rival, the Han Prime Minister Xia Lei (俠累). Both men, Wu and Yan, are "unstinting in (their) efforts to win over a formidable man of action". [10] The decision to have Tian Qilang be a hunter may have been influenced by the Romance of the Three Kingdoms character Liu An (劉安), who was also a hunter and demonstrated significant filial piety. [10]

A notable difference between "Tian Qilang" and the Shiji account of Nie Zheng is the lack of a "counterpart in Pu's tale to the assassin's sister Nie Rong (聂荣)". [3] A reason offered for such an omission is that Nie's elder sibling dies while attempting to retrieve the slain assassin's body, [8] and such a heroic feat "comes close to upstaging her (brother's act)"; [3] Pu did not want Tian Qilang's actions to be overshadowed, and preferred that "justice is seen to be done in a more conspicuously satisfying way". [3] Additionally, Pu "characteristically" arranges "his intricate plot in eight distinct stages" with a "series of dramatic fluctations" the third-person narrative found in Shiji is replaced by a more limited viewpoint in "Tian Qilang", which allows for more suspense. [11] Nie Zheng's mother does not have "an active role in the story"; Pu accords Tian Qilang's mother with "a distinct identity of her own" and a voice that "articulates the profound inequality which exists between her son and Wu Chengxiu". [11] At the same time, she is the one who reminds Tian that he owes Wu a debt of gratitude for saving his life. [11]

Literary significance and adaptations

Tian qilang 1927.jpg
Tian Qilang stamp.jpg
Left: Film poster for Tian Qilang (1927); Right: Commemorative "Tian Qilang" stamp.

Marlon Hom describes the character Tian Qilang as the "manifestation of chivalry". [12] In his essay "The Literature of "A Gentleman Dies for the One Who Knows Him"" (as translated from Chinese by Ihor Pidhainy), [13] Wang Wenxing hails "Tian Qilang" as "the greatest literary achievement amongst literary works of the 'a gentleman dies for one who knows him' (士為知己者死) theme". [14] Wang compares the relationship between Tian Qilang and Master Wu to that of Crown Prince Dan and Jing Ke, and writes that Tian's ultimate act of vengeance is similar to Yu Rang 's stabbing of Zhao Xiangzi's cloth. [14] He concludes that the story well encapsulates the themes of loyalty and righteousness. Wang also praises the character development present in "Tian Qilang", in particular the depiction of Tian Qilang that "touches upon human nature and fate". [15]

"Tian Qilang" has been adapted for television, film, and the stage. Zhang Shichuan directed the 1927 Chinese black-and-white film Tian Qilang (alternatively known as The Hunter's Legend) starring Zhang Huichong, Zhu Fei, and Huang Junfu. [16] [17] The plot of An Unsung Hero (丹青副) by nineteenth-century playwright Liu Qingyun is based upon "Tian Qilang". [5] A 74-episode Liaozhai television series released in 1986 includes a two-episode story arc titled "Tian Qilang". Directed by Meng Senhui (孟森辉) and written by Liu Jinping (刘印平), it stars Yao Zufu (姚祖福) as Tian and Wang Xiyan (王熙岩) as Wu. [18] In 2003, China Post issued a third collection of commemorative Liaozhai postage stamps; amongst the collection is one depicting a scene in "Tian Qilang"; others show scenes from entries such as "Xiangyu". [19]

See also

Related Research Articles

Liaozhai Zhiyi, called in English Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio or Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio, is a collection of Classical Chinese stories by Pu Songling, comprising close to five hundred "marvel tales" in the zhiguai and chuanqi styles, which serve to implicitly criticise societal issues then. Dating back to the Qing dynasty, its earliest publication date is given as 1740. Since then, many of the critically lauded stories have been adapted for other media such as film and television.

The Painted Skin

"The Painted Skin" is a short story by the Chinese writer Pu Songling collected in Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio in 1740. Literary critics have recognised it as one of the best and best-known entries in Strange Tales; in particular, its textual detail and in-depth characterisation are lauded. "The Painted Skin" has also received numerous adaptations in popular media, especially in film. The story's original title has become a common phrase in Chinese vocabulary, "a synonym for duplicity that wears an outwardly human face but is inwardly demonic".

Cut Sleeve

"Cut Sleeve" is a short story by Pu Songling first published in the third volume of Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio. The story features He Shican, a homosexual studio owner who becomes smitten with Huang Jiulang, a fox spirit, and their subsequent lives as a reborn government official and the lover of another gay official, respectively. "Cut Sleeve" is notable for being a full-length narrative on homosexuality in China; the title alludes to Emperor Ai of Han's same-sex relationship with Dong Xian.

The Bookworm (short story)

"The Bookworm" is a short story by Pu Songling first published in Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio (1740). The story revolves around an innocent scholar Lang Yuzhu and his romantic encounter with a celestial being hidden in his books. An English translation of the story by Sidney L. Sondergard was released in 2014.

A Sequel to the Yellow Millet Dream

"A Sequel to the Yellow Millet Dream", also translated as "Dr Tsêng's Dream", is a short story written by Chinese author Pu Songling in Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio (1740). The story revolves around an ambitious scholar whose dreams of becoming prime minister apparently come true, and his subsequent fall from grace. Inspired by previous works of the same genre, "A Sequel to the Yellow Millet Dream" was received favourably by literary critics.

The Frog God

"The Frog God" is a short story by Pu Songling collected in Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio (1740). It revolves around a Chinese bachelor who encounters the locally revered frog god and his subsequent romance with its daughter. The titular frog deity makes an immediate reappearance in the following story, a semi-sequel simply titled "You" in Chinese or "Another Frog God Tale" in the 2014 English translation by Sidney L. Sondergard.

The Black Ghosts (short story)

"The Black Ghosts" is a short story written by Chinese author Pu Songling collected in Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio. It concerns a Chinese official who purchases a pair of "black ghosts", and details how they are exploited. The story was fully translated into English by Sidney L. Sondergard in 2014.

Dragon Dormant

Dragon Dormant, also known as The Hibernating Dragon, is a short story by Chinese author Pu Songling collected in Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio. The story is about a character named "Commissioner Qu" and his encounter with a supernatural creature in his study.

The Purple Lotus Buddhist

"The Purple Lotus Buddhist" is a short story by Pu Songling collected in Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio or Liaozhai Zhiyi (1740). It revolves around a Chinese man battling a life-threatening illness. The tale was included in the fourth volume of Sidney Sondergard's translation of Liaozhai published in 2010.

The Imperial Physician

"The Imperial Physician" is a short story by the Chinese writer Pu Songling collected in Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio in 1740, and translated by Sidney L. Sondergard in 2012.

Traveller Tong

"Traveller Tong" is a short story by Pu Songling first published in Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio (1740). It revolves around a scholar's encounter with the titular character, and was fully translated into English by Sidney L. Sondergard in 2012.

A Strange Matter Concerning Pigeons

"A Strange Matter Concerning Pigeons", also translated variously as "A Strange Tale of Pigeons" or "A Strangeness of Pigeons", is a short story by Pu Songling first published in Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio (1740). It revolves around Zhang Youliang, an avid pigeon-keeper who befriends a fellow collector and is entrusted to care for a few of his pigeons. The story has been translated into both English and French, and adapted into an art installation.

Stealing Peaches

"Stealing Peaches", also variously translated as "The Peach Theft", "Theft of the Peach", "Stolen Peaches", and "Stealing a Peach", is a short story by Pu Songling, first published in Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio (1740). It is told in first person by Pu himself, and revolves around a magic trick similar to the Indian rope trick; Pu claims to have witnessed it personally as a child.

Mr. Miao

"Mr. Miao", also translated as "The Tiger Guest" and "Student Miao", is a short story by Pu Songling first published in Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio (1740). It revolves around a few Chinese scholars and their encounter with a tiger spirit named Miao.

The Foreign Monks

"The Foreign Monks" is a short story by Pu Songling first published in Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio in 1740. It concerns two foreign monks and their amazing feats.

A Brilliant Light

"A Brilliant Light" is a short story by the Chinese writer Pu Songling collected in Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio.

The Snake Man

The Snake Man is a short story by Pu Songling first published in Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio which revolves around the titular snake-keeper and his snakes.

Three Lives (short story)

"Three Lives" is a short story by Pu Songling first published in Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio which follows the past lives of a scholar. It has been adapted into a play and translated into English.

Growing Pears 1740 short story by Pu Songling

"Growing Pears", also variously translated as "Planting a Pear Tree", "Sowing Pears", and "The Wonderful Pear Tree", is a short story by Pu Songling, first published in Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio. Set in ancient China, the story revolves around a miserly pear seller and a Taoist priest.



  1. In Chinese: 一錢不輕受,正其一飯不忘者也。賢哉母乎!七郎者,憤未盡雪,死猶伸之,抑何其神?使荊卿能爾,則千載無遺恨矣。苟有其人,可以補天網之漏;世道茫茫,恨七郎少也。悲夫!


  1. 1 2 Sondergard 2008, p. 641.
  2. Sondergard 2008, p. 644.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Barr 2007, p. 148.
  4. Barr 2007, p. 152.
  5. 1 2 Stefanowska, Lee & Lau 2015, p. 141.
  6. "La Cxasisto Tian". Elerno. Retrieved 7 June 2017.
  7. Barr 2007, p. 142.
  8. 1 2 Barr 2007, p. 143.
  9. 1 2 Barr 2007, p. 144.
  10. 1 2 Barr 2007, p. 147.
  11. 1 2 3 Barr 2007, p. 149.
  12. Hom 1979, p. 239.
  13. Russell 2017, p. 87.
  14. 1 2 Russell 2017, p. 103.
  15. Russell 2017, p. 104.
  16. "Huang Junfu". World Film Catalogue China. Retrieved 6 June 2017.[ permanent dead link ]
  17. "电影名称:田七郎 [Movie Title: Tian Qilang]" (in Chinese). Shanghai Memory. Retrieved 7 June 2017.
  18. Shanghai 2004, p. 173.
  19. "Liaozhai stamps". Caifu. 18 December 2013. Retrieved 8 June 2017.


  • Barr, Alan (2007). ""Liaozhai zhiyi" and "Shiji"". Asia Major. 20 (1): 133–153. JSTOR   41649930.
  • Hom, Malcolm (1979). The Continuation of Tradition: A Study of Liaozhai Zhiyi by Pu Songling (1640–1715). Washington, D.C.: University of Washington Press.
  • Russell, Terence (January 2017). Taiwan Literature English Translation Series. Taipei City: National Taiwan University Press. ISBN   9789863502098.
  • 上海当代作家辞典[Shanghai Dictionary of Contemporary Writers] (in Chinese). Shanghai Cultural Arts Publication. 2004.