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Shen Fu (1) [1763–1810]

This page covers the author of Six Records of a Floating Life.

For other authors named Shen Fu, see the disambiguation page.

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As Lin Yutang has characterized it, Six Chapters of a Floating Life is "one of the tenderest accounts of wedded love . . . ever come across in literature." And it is also one of the most delightful examples of the genre of hsiao p'in ("little pieces") that flourished in the last years of the Ming and throughout the Ch'ing dynasties---a partly autobiographical little essay that mixes in observations and comments on the art of living, random sketches of scenic places visited, and impressionistic criticism of poems and paintings. Of the author Shen Fu we know little except what he tells us in the course of the story of his marriage to his cousin Yun---that he was born in November of 1763 near the Ts'ang-lang Pavilion in Soochow into a scholar's family. And we know from other sources that Shen at one time was secretary to a close friend of the brother-in-law of Kao E, the author or editor of the final chapters of Story of the Stone, or Dream of the Red Chamber (the earlier chapters were written by Ts'ao Chan). Although there were originally six chapters in Shen's account, we now have only four. These were discovered in 1877 in a secondhand bookshop and published by Yang Yinch'uan, whose brother-in-law remembered having seen the book in his childhood in Soochow. Three of the four extant chapters deal with Shen's betrothal and wedding, the couple's early married life of enjoyment together, their sorrows after Shen's mother became critical of her daughter-in-law, and of Yun's untimely death. The fourth chapter is about various scenic spots that Shen had visited. Apparently the two lost chapters dealt with a trip Shen made to the island of Formosa (Taiwan) and some general reflections on life. Ultimately, Shen's biography apart from what is revealed in the Six Chapters is unimportant, because we get such an intimate feel for his character from his incidental sketches of daily life. Much less studied and self-conscious than a structured autobiography, the hsiao p'in genre gives us more a feeling of having glimpsed into an open window of a neighboring house on various occasions, or having overheard someone absent-mindedly talking to himself or to a close friend. (Bowker Author Biography)
— biography from Six Records of a Floating Life
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