Semi-classical lit study group, anyone?


I’m a freelance translator based in Taipei who hasn’t been to class for formal Chinese instruction in at least 15 years, but I’m toying with the idea of rounding up a few others for a group class somewhere. Here’s the general idea…

Last year I bought a little pocket-sized version of 儒林外史 and started carrying it around with me to read at lunch, etc. The story is an irreverent romp through late-Ming society, and makes for a fun read, but a lot of the stuff went over my head. I’d like to go back and attack the book with dictionaries and the help of a good teacher. And it would be nice to throw in some classmates to liven up the discussion and maybe get a group rate on tuition. The level of difficulty is somewhere between classical Chinese and the 白話文 written today (I guess a native Chinese speaker might say it’s 白話文, but it’s difficult enough in many places that having a teacher would make big difference in comprehension). I envision a class where the students have all read the entire book in advance and just show up to chat about topics from the trivial to the big stuff – from confusing bits of vocab and sentence structure, on up to flights of fancy about how the things mentioned in this old book still go on in Taiwan today. Or whatever. I guess you could think of it as a cross between a language class and a 讀書會.

Does anyone else out there think this sounds like a fun idea? The book wouldn’t necessarily have to be 儒林外史. Anything “old but unstuffy” would do, like 西遊記, 水滸傳, or 金瓶梅, for example.