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The Plum in the Golden Vase or, Chin P'ing Mei

The Plum in the Golden Vase or, Chin P'ing Mei: Volume One: The Gathering

Translated by David Tod Roy
Copyright Date: 1993
Pages: 714
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2jc984
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  • Book Info
    The Plum in the Golden Vase or, Chin P'ing Mei
    Book Description:

    In this first of a planned five-volume set, David Roy provides a complete and annotated translation of the famousChin P'ing Mei, an anonymous sixteenth-century Chinese novel that focuses on the domestic life of Hsi-men Ch'ing, a corrupt, upwardly mobile merchant in a provincial town, who maintains a harem of six wives and concubines. This work, known primarily for its erotic realism, is also a landmark in the development of the narrative art form--not only from a specifically Chinese perspective but in a world-historical context.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4763-1
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. xvii-xlviii)
    David Tod Roy

    THECHIN P’ING MEI(The plum in the golden vase) is an enormous, complex, and sophisticated novel, surprisingly modern in its design, composed by an anonymous author during the second half of the sixteenth century and first published in 1618, or shortly thereafter. The title itself is a multiple pun that gives some indication of the intricacy as well as the ambiguity of the work it designates. It is made up of one character each from the names of three of the major female protagonists of the novel (P’anChin-lien, LiP’ing-erh, and P’ang Ch’un-mei) that would literally meanGold...

  6. CAST OF CHARACTERS
    (pp. xlix-2)
  7. PREFACE TO THE CHIN P’ING MEI TZ’U-HUA
    (pp. 3-5)
    Master of Delight
  8. PREFACE TO THE CHIN P’ING MEI
    (pp. 6-6)
  9. COLOPHON
    (pp. 7-7)
    Nien-kung

    THE STORY of the Plum in the Golden Vaseis a fable created by a prominent figure of the Chia-ching reign period¹ whose satirical shafts were directed at contemporary targets. But is not the explicitness with which he exposes the uglier aspects of human life also consistent with the purpose of our former teacher, Confucius, in not deleting the airs of Cheng and Wei from theBook of Songs?² The way that, in incident after incident, he has taken pains to sow the seeds of karmic cause and effect shows that the author was also a man of great compassion....

  10. FOUR LYRICS TO THE TUNE “BURNING INCENSE”
    (pp. 8-9)
  11. LYRICS ON THE FOUR VICES TO THE TUNE “PARTRIDGE SKY”
    (pp. 10-11)
  12. Chapter 1 WU SUNG FIGHTS A TIGER ON CHING-YANG RIDGE; P’AN CHIN-LIEN DISDAINS HER MATE AND PLAYS THE COQUETTE
    (pp. 12-42)

    THERE IS a lyric to the tune “Pleasing Eyes”² that goes:

    The hero grips his “Hook of Wu,”

    Eager to cut off ten thousand heads.

    How is it that a heart forged out of iron and stone,

    Can yet be melted by a flower?

    Just take a look at Hsiang Yü and Liu Pang:³

    Both cases are equally distressing.

    They had only to meet with Yü-chi⁴ and Lady Ch’i,⁵

    For all their valor to come to naught.⁶

    The subject of this lyric is the wordspassionandbeauty, two concepts that are related to each other as substance is to...

  13. Chapter 2 BENEATH THE BLIND HSI-MEN CH’ING MEETS CHIN-LIEN; INSPIRED BY GREED DAME WANG SPEAKS OF ROMANCE
    (pp. 43-61)

    THE STORY GOES that Wu Sung had no sooner moved out of his elder brother’s house than, in a snap of the fingers, the snow stopped and the weather cleared. This state of affairs prevailed for more than ten days.

    To resume our story, two years and more had elapsed since the district magistrate of Ch’ing-ho assumed office, and during that time he had been able to put away a tidy sum in gold and silver. It now occurred to him that he should find a trustworthy person to deliver these valuables into the hands of a relative in the...

  14. Chapter 3 DAME WANG PROPOSES A TEN-PART PLAN FOR “GARNERING THE GLOW”; HSI-MEN CH’ING FLIRTS WITH CHIN-LIEN IN THE TEAHOUSE
    (pp. 62-81)

    THE STORY GOES that Hsi-men Ch’ing said to Dame Wang, “The only thing I’m interested in is a tryst with this filly.”

    “Godmother,” he went on to say, “if you can really arrange this for me, I’ll give you ten taels of silver.”

    “Listen to me, sir,” said Dame Wang. “Generally speaking, the words ‘garnering the glow’ refer to a most difficult matter. Do you know what this term ‘garnering the glow’ means? It’s just another way of referring to what is commonly known as an illicit affair. Now there are five prerequisites that must be possessed by anyone who...

  15. Chapter 4 THE HUSSY COMMITS ADULTERY BEHIND WU THE ELDER’S BACK; YÜN-KO IN HIS ANGER RAISES A RUMPUS IN THE TEASHOP
    (pp. 82-95)

    THE STORY GOES that as Dame Wang started out the door with Hsi-men Ch’ing’s money in hand she turned to the woman with an ingratiating smile and said, “I’m just popping out into the street to get a bottle of wine. Be so good as to keep the gentleman company for a few minutes, young lady. There’s a little wine left in the pot, so if you run out you can pour another couple of cups and share them with the gentleman. I’m going to go all the way to East Street, where I can be sure of getting a...

  16. Chapter 5 YÜN-KO LENDS A HAND BY CURSING DAME WANG; THE HUSSY ADMINISTERS POISON TO WU THE ELDER
    (pp. 96-110)

    THE STORY GOES that Yün-ko, after his rough treatment at the hands of Dame Wang, had no place to vent his spleen. When he picked up his basket and ran off to search the streets it was Wu the Elder that he was looking for. He hadn’t gone more than two blocks when whom should he see but Wu the Elder, shouldering his load of steamed wheat cakes, coming along the very street he was on.

    As soon as he saw him Yün-ko stopped in his tracks and said to Wu the Elder, “I haven’t seen you for ages. You’re...

  17. Chapter 6 HSI-MEN CH’ING SUBORNS HO THE NINTH; DAME WANG FETCHES WINE AND ENCOUNTERS A DOWNPOUR
    (pp. 111-124)

    THE STORY GOES that Hsi-men Ch’ing went off to deal with Ho the Ninth.

    To resume our story, Dame Wang took the silver and set out to buy a coffin and appropriate objects to bury with the dead. She also bought incense, candles, paper money, and so forth. After she had returned she consulted with the woman, and they lighted a vigil lamp and placed it before Wu the Elder’s spirit tablet.

    The neighbors from the locality all came to see what was going on, and the woman pretended to hide her painted face as she shed crocodile tears.

    “What...

  18. Chapter 7 AUNTIE HSÜEH PROPOSES A MATCH WITH MENG YÜ-LOU; AUNT YANG ANGRILY CURSES CHANG THE FOURTH
    (pp. 125-146)

    THE STORY GOES that one day the same Auntie Hsüeh who was constantly to be seen around Hsi-men Ch’ing’s household peddling costume jewelry set out with her box of trinkets and looked everywhere for Hsi-men Ch’ing but was unable to find him. Chancing to meet his page boy, Tai-an, she asked, “Where is your master?”

    “Father’s in the shop,” replied Tai-an, “going over the accounts with Uncle Fu the Second.”

    It so happens that Hsi-men Ch’ing’s family were the proprietors of a wholesale pharmaceutical business, the hired manager of which was named Fu Ming. His courtesy name was Tzu-hsin, and...

  19. Chapter 8 ALL NIGHT LONG P’AN CHIN-LIEN YEARNS FOR HSI-MEN CH’ING; DURING THE TABLET-BURNING MONKS OVERHEAR SOUNDS OF VENERY
    (pp. 147-169)

    THE STORY GOES that from the time that Hsi-men Ch’ing took Meng Yü-lou into his household he:

    Enjoyed himself with his new wife.¹

    They were:

    Like glue and like lacquer.²

    Moreover, the Ch’en family sent Auntie Wen to announce that they would like to have his daughter, Hsi-men Ta-chieh, carried across their threshold in marriage on the twelfth day of the sixth month. Hsi-men Ch’ing found himself so:

    Pushed and pressured,

    that he was unable to procure a bed for his daughter’s trousseau in time for the occasion and had to supply her with one of the gilt lacquer Nanking...

  20. Chapter 9 HSI-MEN CH’ING CONSPIRES TO MARRY P’AN CHIN-LIEN; CAPTAIN WU MISTAKENLY ASSAULTS LI WAI-CH’UAN
    (pp. 170-187)

    THERE IS a lyric to the tune “Partridge Sky” that goes:

    With lustful daring as big as the sky they can no longer control themselves;

    Their passions deep, their love fast, the two are inseparable.

    Preoccupied with the present and the pleasures that they share;

    How can they anticipate what future dangers lurk within their screen-walls?

    Greedy for delight,

    They set their fancies free;

    But the stouthearted hero, for his part, is bent on revenge.

    The Lord of Heaven has his own way of disposing such affairs;

    Victory and defeat, success and failure, never cease to alternate.¹

    The story goes...

  21. Chapter 10 WU THE SECOND IS CONDEMNED TO EXILE IN MENG-CHOU; HSI-MEN AND HIS HAREM REVEL IN THE HIBISCUS PAVILION
    (pp. 188-204)

    THE STORY GOES that once Wu Sung and the others had been taken into custody by the local constable and the head of the relevant mutual security unit, they all proceeded to the yamen to appear before the district magistrate.

    Let us now return to the story of Hsi-men Ch’ing. Having leapt out a rear window on the second floor of the tavern and fled along the ridge of an adjacent roof, he had concealed himself in someone’s rear courtyard.

    It so happens that this was the residence of Old Man Hu, the doctor. While Hsi-men Ch’ing was still attempting...

  22. Chapter 11 P’AN CHIN-LIEN INSTIGATES THE BEATING OF SUN HSÜEH-O; HSI-MEN CH’ING DECIDES TO DEFLOWER LI KUEI-CHIEH
    (pp. 205-223)

    THE STORY GOES that once P’an Chin-lien was established in Hsi-men Ch’ing’s household she:

    Relied on his favor to become arrogant;

    Transmuting the “cold” into the “hot,”

    to such effect that, day or night, there was no longer any peace and quiet to be had. She was extremely suspicious by nature and was forever:

    Listening at the fence or eavesdropping by the wall,

    on the lookout for an excuse to make trouble. Nor was her maidservant, Ch’un-mei, any model of forbearance.

    One day, as ill luck would have it, Chin-lien was upset over some insignificant matter and spoke a few...

  23. Chapter 12 P’AN CHIN-LIEN SUFFERS IGNOMINY FOR ADULTERY WITH A SERVANT; STARGAZER LIU PURVEYS BLACK MAGIC IN PURSUIT OF GAIN
    (pp. 224-252)

    THE STORY GOES that Hsi-men Ch’ing was so infatuated by Li Kueichieh’s beauty that he lingered in the licensed quarter for nearly half a month, without going home. Wu Yüeh-niang sent a servant with his horse to bring him home on numerous occasions, but the proprietors of the Li family establishment even hid his clothes and hat, so reluctant were they to let him leave the premises. As a result, the women in his household were all left at loose ends.

    This might have been tolerated by the rest of them, but as for P’an Chin-lien:

    She was still in...

  24. Chapter 13 LI P’ING-ERH MAKES A SECRET TRYST OVER THE GARDEN WALL; THE MAID YING-CH’UN PEEKS THROUGH A CRACK AND GETS AN EYEFUL
    (pp. 253-273)

    THE STORY GOES that one day earlier that summer,⁴ on the fourteenth day of the sixth month, when Hsi-men Ch’ing came in from the front compound and went into Yüeh-niang’s room, she said to him, “While you were out today, the Hua household sent a page boy over with a note inviting you for a drink. ‘Ask him to come over whenever he gets home,’ he said.”

    Hsi-men Ch’ing looked at the invitation, which read, “Can you join me for a chat at Wu Yin-erh’s place in the licensed quarter at noon today? Come over to my place so we...

  25. Chapter 14 HUA TZU-HSÜ SUCCUMBS TO CHAGRIN AND LOSES HIS LIFE; LI P’ING-ERH INVITES SEDUCTION AND ATTENDS A PARTY
    (pp. 274-297)

    THE STORY GOES that one day when Wu Yüeh-niang was feeling out of sorts, her sister-in-law, the wife of Wu K’ai, came to pay her a visit and she invited her to stay overnight.

    While she was entertaining her visitor in her room, the page boy, Tai-an, happened to come in, carrying his master’s felt bag, and reported, “Father’s come home.”

    Wu K’ai’s wife promptly moved over to Li Chiao-erh’s quarters in order to get out of the way.

    Before long, Hsi-men Ch’ing came in, took off his outer garments, and sat down. Hsiao-yü brought him a cup of tea,...

  26. Chapter 15 BEAUTIES ENJOY THE SIGHTS IN THE LANTERN-VIEWING BELVEDERE; HANGERS-ON ABET DEBAUCHERY IN THE VERDANT SPRING BORDELLO
    (pp. 298-315)

    THE STORY goes that:

    Light and darkness alternate swiftly,

    and before anyone knew it, the fifteenth day of the first month was at hand. The day before, Hsi-men Ch’ing sent his page boy, Tai-an, to deliver four trays of preserved fruit, two trays of sweetmeats in the shape of birthday peaches, a jug of wine, a tray of birthday noodles, and a set of heavy silk brocade clothing to Li P’ing-erh in honor of her birthday. The gifts were sent in Wu Yüeh-niang’s name, accompanied by a card that read, “Respectfully presented with straightened skirts by the lady, née Wu,...

  27. Chapter 16 HSI-MEN CH’ING IS INSPIRED BY GREED TO CONTEMPLATE MATRIMONY; YING PO-CHÜEH STEALS A MARCH IN ANTICIPATION OF THE CEREMONY
    (pp. 316-336)

    THE STORY GOES that as soon as Hsi-men Ch’ing had made his way out the gate of the licensed quarter that day, with Tai-an in attendance, he whipped up his horse and headed straight for Li P’ing-erh’s house on Lion Street. Arriving at her front door and dismounting, he saw that the gate was tightly shut and surmised that her guests must already have returned home in their sedan chairs. He told Tai-an to rouse Old Mother Feng, who opened the door for them.

    When Hsi-men Ch’ing came in, Li P’ing-erh was standing in the candlelit reception room:

    Her flowery...

  28. Chapter 17 CENSOR YÜ-WEN IMPEACHES COMMANDER YANG; LI P’ING-ERH TAKES CHIANG CHU-SHAN AS MATE
    (pp. 337-355)

    THE STORY GOES that the twentieth day of the fifth month was the birthday of Commandant Chou Hsiu of the Regional Military Command. When the day came, Hsi-men Ch’ing sealed up five mace of silver and two handkerchiefs in a packet, as his contribution toward the cost of the celebration. Then, having dressed himself to befit the occasion, he mounted a large white horse and, accompanied by four page boys, set off for the commandant’s home to offer his birthday greetings. Among the others attending the party were the judicial commissioner, Hsia Yen-ling, the militia commander, Chang Kuan, the battalion...

  29. Chapter 18 LAI-PAO TAKES CARE OF THINGS IN THE EASTERN CAPITAL; CH’EN CHING-CHI SUPERVISES THE WORK IN THE FLOWER GARDEN
    (pp. 356-375)

    AT THIS POINT the story divides into two. We will say no more, for the moment, about Chiang Chu-shan’s marriage into Li P’ing-erh’s household, but return to the story of Lai-pao and Lai-wang’s trip to the Eastern Capital to fix things up on Hsi-men Ch’ing’s behalf.

    Every morning they took to the purple road;

    Each evening they tramped the red dust.

    When hungry they ate, when thirsty they drank;³

    Proceeding by moonlight, enveloped in stars.⁴

    One day, they arrived at the Eastern Capital, entered through the Myriad Years Gate, and sought out an inn at which to take lodgings for...

  30. Chapter 19 SNAKE-IN-THE-GRASS SHAKES DOWN CHIANG CHU-SHAN; LI P’ING-ERH’S FEELINGS TOUCH HSI-MEN CH’ING
    (pp. 376-400)

    THE STORY GOES that Hsi-men Ch’ing had been constructing a formal garden and summerhouse in his residential compound for nearly half a year before the final decorating, painting, and varnishing were completed. From front to back:

    Everything was put on an entirely new footing.

    The housewarming celebrations lasted for several days. But no more of this.

    One day, during the first decade of the eighth month, Hsi-men Ch’ing was invited to help celebrate the birthday of Judicial Commissioner Hsia Yen-ling at his newly purchased country estate. He had engaged the services of four singing girls, a band of musicians, and...

  31. Chapter 20 MENG YÜ-LOU HIGH-MINDEDLY INTERCEDES WITH WU YÜEH-NIANG; HSI-MEN CH’ING WREAKS HAVOC IN THE VERDANT SPRING BORDELLO
    (pp. 401-428)

    THE STORY GOES that Hsi-men Ch’ing was so affected by the few:

    Soft-spoken sentiments and tender words,

    addressed to him by Li P’ing-erh in her bedroom that:

    His anger turned to joy.²

    After he had helped her to her feet and allowed her to get dressed, the two of them fell to:

    Hugging and embracing each other,

    As inseparable as they could be.

    Meanwhile, he called Ch’un-mei into the room and told her to set the table and then go to the rear compound to fetch some wine.

    To resume our story, ever since Hsi-men Ch’ing went into Li P’ing-erh’s...

  32. Appendix I TRANSLATOR’S COMMENTARY ON THE PROLOGUE
    (pp. 429-436)
  33. Appendix II TRANSLATIONS OF SUPPLEMENTARY MATERIAL
    (pp. 437-448)
  34. NOTES
    (pp. 449-542)
  35. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 543-572)
  36. INDEX
    (pp. 573-610)