- Introduction to the Texts
- Comparison and Analysis
- Result of the Readability Test
Pirates, although generally be seen as “enemy of all humans,” are still widely used as subject matter for literatures, movies, and video games in a lot of cultures. In China, their presences can also be seen frequently in both ancient and modern texts. As China had been harassed by Wokou pirates a lot in the Ming dynasty, there are plenty of depictions of famous Wokou pirates, including Wang Zhi and Xu Hai, in China’s Ming-Qing novels. They are sometimes the protagonist, while more often, they are depicted negatively. However, when it comes to the 21th century, the sentiment towards pirates seems to be experiencing a major shift. Their images are now becoming more ambivalent, and it is difficult to tell whether they are good or bad. Many of the online popular novels–the modern counterparts of Ming Qing novels, are also using pirates as characters, and seemingly they are being used in a much more complicated way.
In order to shed light on how pirates are being used or depicted differently in Chinese novels written in different time periods, here in this project, I am going to do a textual analysis on two texts. One of them is a Ming Qing novel called 戚南塘剿平倭寇志传 (Qi Jiguang’s Exploit of Exterminating the Wokou). The other one is 明末小海盗 (A Little Pirate in the Late-Ming Dynasty), a modern online novel written by Mumu.
For my project, I am going to analyse and compare two texts dealing with the same subject matter. In the analysing process, I will firstly use a program called Jieba to segment the text, or in other words, assert spaces between each meaning unit. And then these segmented texts will be processed with two programs: Chinese Readability Index Explorer and Timdream word cloud. The former is a Chinese texts analyser that could evaluate the text’s readability by analysing index including average words per sentence, average sentences per paragraph, modifiers per NP, content words density, and many more. The latter is a word cloud generator that has basic processing functions.
For the comparing section, I will compare the statistic generated by the aforementioned tools, and try to interpret the differences. I will try to visualize the statistics, so that the outcomes will be clearer.
The whole novel of Qi Jiguang’s Exploit of Exterminating the Wokou will be processed and analysed. But only a chosen section of A Little Pirate in the Late Ming Dynasty will go through the readability analysing process as the whole novel is too long (over 1,000,000 Chinese characters). I will selected a relatively small part of the texts to represent the whole. The selected text has approximately 30,000 characters, which roughly equates the other text.
Introduction to the Texts
戚南塘剿平倭寇志传 (Qi Jiguang’s Exploit of Exterminating the Wokou)
This is a novel estimated to be written in Ming Dynasty during Wanli’s rule (the exact publish date is not clear). The author remain unknown. It recounts the famous Chinese wokou pirate Wang Zhi’s invasion into Zhejiang province in 1533 and the general Qi Jiguang’s exploit of repealing them. The novel provides detailed descriptions of various aspects of civilians’ lives in that time period, and also portrays the wokou pirates and their plundering.
The novel was firstly found out and edited by the ancient Chinese literature scholar Zheng Zhenduo. According to Nie Hongju (2010), it is the only novel that use resisting Wokou pirates as the main theme.
明末小海盗 (A Little Pirate in the Late Ming Dynasty)
This is a modern Chinese online novel publish on Qidian, one of the major Chinese online novel publishing platforms. It belongs to the “chuanyue (time-traveling)” genre. Its main character Tang Jiguang, who is originally an “indoors man”, or one who spends most of his/her time in indoor pursuits (playing video games, for example), travels from 21th century to the Ming dynasty and becomes a pirate. He operates between China and Japan, and become an official in both Japan and China.
Comparison and Analysis
Firstly, let’s take a look at the word clouds, so that you can know the main idea or characteristics of the novels without reading them.
The word cloud for 明末小海盗 (A Little Pirate in the Late Ming Dynasty)
The word cloud for 明末小海盗 (A Little Pirate in the Late Ming Dynasty)
In the word cloud of Qi Jiguang’s Exploit of Exterminating the Wokou, we can see a lot of official titles like Yushi (御史), Canjiang (参将), Dushi (都司), Dudu (都督), and a lot more. That might indicates that the main characters of the book are the government officials. In other words, it is probably a book that written from the governments perspective.
Moreover, from the word cloud, we are also able to find words related to the pirates. These are all words that bring with them a strongly negative connotations: Zeibing (贼兵. literally, thief soldiers) and Zeizhong (贼众. literally, thief mass). Both of this two words contain a Zei, which is a very strong belittlement. There is another one, although presented relatively smaller, indeed also tell us something. It is Wo Nu (倭奴. literally, wokou servant). That name indicates that in the discourse around Wokou pirates, they are seen as servants. The officials represents the righteous and superior power, look down at the servants. We might also take into account the Wokou pirate’s ethnic background: many of them were generally thought to be coming from Japan, which was then a vassal state of China.
In the center of the word cloud, we can see a person’s name, which is Qi Jigging (戚继光), a famous general known for defeating the Wokou prates. He is addressed with his official “Canjiang (参将),” which in a way shows respect. It is obvious that he is a significant figure of this novel, and is probably the protagonist.
We can also see another person’s name on the word cloud: Wufeng (五峰). In fact, Wufeng is Wangzhi, the famous Wokou pirate, and the antagonist of the novel. The space Wufeng occupy in the word cloud is almost the same as Qi Jigging’s, because the number of times that the two names have been mentioned in the text are very similar (Wufeng for 91 times and Qi Canjiang for 99 times). That means for the novel the pirates are also quite important.
It become clear that there is a binary being constructed in the book: the government versus the pirates. Also, the official titles occupying the most spaces in the image and the pirates being addressed negatively indicates that the novel is about the government official leading army fighting with the evil pirates coming from a inferior state, and they had probably won.
Now let’s look at the word cloud of the modern online novel A Little Pirate in the Late Ming Dynasty. In the middle of the word cloud, we can see a huge “Jiguang” because the word has appeared in the text for 12,789 times. A word that appears so frequently is probably the protagonist’s name. That is quite interesting, as this is also exactly the name of the general Qi Jiguang. This online novel make a reference to the actual history by giving its main character the name of a real historical figure.
Also, the huge “Jiguang (继光)” at the center of the word cloud indicates that this novel mainly focuses on one person, and is probably an account of his/her adventures.
If we continue to look at this word cloud, we may find out that most of the frequently used words are words that do not have concrete meanings. For example, the second largest word in the word cloud is Meiyou (没有, no, or none). Some other examples are Yijing (已经, already), Buguo (不过, however), Ziji (自己, self), and Shenme (什么, what). My interpretation of this phenomenon is that this novel was written in conversational language that is not refined, because its readers are probably not looking for beautiful proses in reading it.
I am trying to test the readability of the texts, and to see if there is any significant difference. If so, maybe I can see the difference of their intended audiences (readers) . My hypothesis is that A Little Pirate in the Late Ming Dynasty will be much easier to read, which show that its intended readers are mainly those who are looking for a relatively lowbrow novel; the novel choose to use a pirate as the main character because pirate has a romantic image in popular culture, which will help them to cater to their readers with a fantasy story that they are generally looking for more easily.
Result of the Readability Test
I have chosen several index for the readability test, which are proportion of word diversity, proportion of simple sentences, average words per sentence, content word density, and average logarithm of content word frequency. All of these terms will be explained in the following paragraph.
Proportion of Word Diversity (相异词数比率): the more repeated words the text contains, the lower this ratio will be.
Proportion of Simple Sentences (单句数比率): the more simple sentence the text contains, the higher this ratio will be.
Average Words Per Sentence (句子平均词数): the score here is exactly the average word count of a sentence.
Content Word Density (实词密度): the more content words the text contains, the higher this number will be.
Average Logarithm of Content Word Frequency (领域实词频对数平均): The more content words in the texts belong to the same field, the higher this number will be. In other words, the easier the text is, the higher the number will be.
(Sung, Chen, Lee, Cha, Tseng, Lin, Chang, & Chang, 2013)
The outcome of the test is shown below.
Chart made by Liang Yaoxiang
At first I supposed that as a novel written centuries ago, Qi Jiguang’s Exploit of Exterminating the Wokou is going to be a lot harder to read than the other. However, the result does prove that, which is surprising. Qi Jiguang’s Exploit of Exterminating the Wokou has a score of 0.17 in proportion of word diversity, which is slightly higher than the other text; the former gets 0.72 in proportion of simple sentence, while the latter gets 0.43; the former has 11.9 words in each sentence on average, while the latter has 9.57. As for content wold density, the Ming Qing novel gets 0.876, and the other text gets 0.79; the former gets 1.213 in average logarithm of content Word Frequency, while the latter gets 1.7.
To summarise the outcome, the online novel has fewer words in each sentence on average, and has more content words in the same field. But it is slightly more diverse than the Ming Qing novel in terms of the using of words, and it uses much more complicated sentences and more abstract words.
So roughly speaking, Qi Jiguang’s Exploit of Exterminating the Wokou is only slightly harder to read than A Little Pirate in the Late Ming Dynasty. The gap of readability is not big enough to support my hypothesis. I doubt that the test may have failed to reflect the overall image precisely as some important index may have not been included.
Although no telling any structural information, the word clouds still have shown their power. By looking at the word clouds, we can already know the two novels being compared are written in two structure, and pirates are being used differently. In Qi Jiguang’s Exploit of Exterminating the Wokou, pirates are the evil antagonist resisting the force representing justice. However, in A Little Pirate in the Late Ming Dynasty, pirates become the protagonists who drive the story, and are not depicted negatively at all.
Also, I attempt to analyse the two novels’ audience with a readability analyser, but it did not work out well. However, I can still see a lot of possibilities of applying textual analysing methods to Chinese words to do research.
Nie, H. J. (2010). 《 戚南塘剿平倭寇志传》 研究 (Doctoral dissertation, 四川师范大学).
Sung, Z, T., Chen, R, L., Lee, Y. L., , Cha, R. S., Tseng, H. Q., Lin, W. J., … & Chang, G. E. (2013). Investigating Chinese Text Readability: Linguistic Features, Modeling, and Validation. Chinese Journal of Psychology, 55(1), 75-106.