Japanese writers of the 18th century were spurred by a radical expansion of print culture to seek out new genres in the Chinese canon that offered themes and vocabulary appropriate to the unprecedented growth of urban spaces in Osaka and Edo.
They discovered in China s vernacular narratives, texts that possessed the authority of the great tradition, vulgar language and descriptions of the most mundane experiences. These imported vernacular narratives also came with literary comments that inspired Japanese critics, for the first time, to consider their own vernacular narrative and dramas as literature. Previously China had been understood through a narrow range of normative texts that were received as models for composition and conduct. But these vernacular Chinese narratives introduced both a larger body of heterogeneous and overlapping registers of language and a vision of contemporary China that redefined China for Japanese readers. The rampages of bandits, the cunning of prostitutes and the scheming of the petty merchants that inhabited Chinese vernacular narratives took the place of an idyllic realm of the ancient sages.