Feng Menglong (1574–1646), courtesy names Youlong (), Gongyu (), Ziyou (), or Eryou (), was a Chinese historian, novelist, and poet of the late Ming Dynasty. He was born in Changzhou County (, not Changzhou), now part of Suzhou, in Jiangsu Province.
Feng was born into a scholar-bureaucrat gentry household, where he and his brothers Feng Menggui () and Feng Mengxiong () were educated in the classics and the traditional arts of the gentleman. He and his brothers, all well-known as accomplished writers, artists, and poets, became known collectively as the "Three Fengs of the Wu Area" (?). In spite of his literary talent and his zeal for scholarship from a young age, Feng sat the imperial civil service examinations many times without success, eventually giving up and making a living as a tutor and teacher.
In 1626, he narrowly avoided punishment after being implicated as an associate of Zhou Shunchang (), who was framed and purged by the corrupt eunuch Wei Zhongxian. Appalled by the injustice, he resolved to complete his trilogy of vernacular Chinese short story collections: Stories to Instruct the World, Stories to Caution the World, and Stories to Awaken the World (?, ?, and ?).
In recognition of his reputation as a writer, Feng was finally awarded the gongsheng degree in 1630 at the age of fifty-seven. In the subsequent year, he received his first government post as instructor of Dantu County (, today Zhenjiang, Jiangsu). In 1634, he was appointed magistrate of Shouning County () in Fujian. During his tenure, he became regarded as a morally upright and diligent administrator. He retired in 1638.
In 1644, the Ming state was thrown into turmoil by the sacking of Beijing by Li Zicheng's rebel army and invasion by the Manchu Qing forces. At the age of seventy-one, he published the Grand Proposals for National Rejuvenation (?) to inspire his countrymen to repel the invaders. He died in despair in 1646 as the Ming dynasty continued to collapse. Some works indicate or imply that he was killed by Qing soldiers.
Feng's literary output consisted of the compilation of histories and local gazettes, the retelling of folktales and stories from antiquity in the form of short stories and plays, and the authorship of vernacular Chinese novels. Two of his noteworthy works are the Qing Shi (History of Love, ), an anthology of classical love stories, and the shenmo novel Pingyao Zhuan. In 1620 he published the Illustrious Words to Instruct the World (? Yushi Mingyan), or Stories Old and New, the first part of his well-known trilogy.
Feng was a proponent of the school of Li Zhi, which supported the importance of human feelings and behavior in literature. He is frequently associated with Ling Mengchu, author of Slapping the Table in Amazement, a two-part collection of entertaining vernacular tales.
Feng Menglong was in love with a famous prostitute when he was young. Unfortunately, Feng Menglong was not able to afford to redeem his lover out. At the end, his lover was redeemed by a merchant, and they had to leave each other. Feng Menglong suffered from pain and desperation due to the separation, and he expressed his sorrow through poems. This experience influenced the way he portrayed female characters in his stories. In fact, Feng Menglong was one of the few authors who portrayed female as being strong and intelligent; and this is different from other authors, where they tended to ignore the importance of female's position. The female characters in Feng Menglong's stories were portrayed as brave and bright when dealing with different situations. For instance, in his story Wan Xiuniang Takes Revenge Through Toy Pavilions from Jing Shi Tong Yan, Wan Xiuniang showed her braveness during her tough times, and she was able to escape using her intelligence. Other female characters, such as Du Shi-niang and Qu Xiuxiu, are example to show Feng Menglong's respectful and sympathetic portrayal of female characters.
Feng Menglong also expressed his attitudes towards society through his works, which were heavily influenced by his interactions with officialdom and the Chinese literati. Feng Menglong became the magistrate of Shouning near the end of his life, in his sixties. During his appointment, he sought to correct injustices and hoped to build up a reputation as an humble and upright official. Unfortunately, his efforts were frustrated by the widespread corruption of the late Ming dynasty (a theme also treated extensively in other contemporaneous works, such as Zhang Yingyu's The Book of Swindles (ca. 1617)); bribery and extortion were common bureaucratic behaviors, and themes of official malfeasance figure in many of Feng's stories. Realizing that atmosphere of corruption could not be easily changed, Feng Menglong conveyed his discontent and patriotism through words. Each character of his stories has strong and direct characteristics: there is a clear morality line drawn between "good" and "bad". Moreover, the meaning behind the stories explores the social issues during Ming Dynasty. For instance, the stories of "The White Maiden Locked for Eternity in Leifeng Pagoda" and "The Young Lady Gives the Young Man a Gift of Money" from Stories to Caution the World express the idea of how women pursued their freedom and happiness under a patriarchal society.
During his tenure as magistrate of Shouning, Feng learned of the local practice of drowning female infants in the river. He authored the Public Notice on the Prohibition of the Drowning of Daughters () to appeal to parents not to carry out what he viewed as an abhorrent custom and provide for punishments for infanticidal parents and rewards for those taking in abandoned children.
Singer Yan Weiwen stars as Feng Menglong in the 2017 biographical film Feng Menglong's Legend ().