First appearing in 1892 as a serialized novel, Han Bangqing's Haishanghua liezhuan 海上花列傳 (The Sing-Song Girls of Shanghai) demonstrates the problematic of an “atypical” novel and the challenges it poses to the notion of the Chinese literary “modern.” This article examines Haishanghua's departure from the traditional circular narrative in terms of its narrative perspective, narrative time, and narrative structure and further notes that this circle-breaking pattern on the technical levels is repeated on the more profound semantic/thematic level of the novel as well. By exploring the sociohistorical context that gives rise to such modern narratives, this article draws links between Han's pioneering experimentations with Haishanghua and the rise of literary naturalism in the West. In this way, the author sheds light on the significance of this atypical novel in the periodization of the Chinese literary modern.

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