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Sherlock in Shanghai

Sherlock in Shanghai: Stories of Crime and Detection by Cheng Xiaoping

Copyright Date: 2007
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    Sherlock in Shanghai
    Book Description:

    Shanghai in the 1920s and 1930s—"the Paris of the Orient"—was both a glittering metropolis and a shadowy world of crime and social injustice. It was also home to Huo Sang and Bao Lang, fictional Chinese counterparts to Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. The duo lived in a spacious apartment on Aiwen Road, where Huo Sang played the violin (badly) and smoked Golden Dragon cigarettes as he mulled over his cases. Cheng Xiaoqing (1893–1976), "The Grand Master" of twentieth-century Chinese detective fiction, had first encountered Conan Doyle’s highly popular stories as an adolescent. In the ensuing years he played a major role in rendering them first into classical and later into vernacular Chinese. In the late 1910s, Cheng began writing detective fiction very much in Conan Doyle’s style, with Bao as the Watson-like-I narrator—a still rare instance of so direct an appropriation from foreign fiction. Cheng Xiaoqing wrote detective stories to introduce the advantages of critical thinking to his readers, to encourage them to be skeptical and think deeply, because truth often lies beneath surface appearances. His attraction to the detective fiction genre can be traced to its reconciliation of the traditional and the modern. In "The Shoe," Huo Sang solves the case with careful reasoning, while "The Other Photograph" and "On the Huangpu" blend this reasoning with a sensationalism reminiscent of traditional Chinese fiction. "The Odd Tenant" and "The Examination Paper" also demonstrate the folly of first impressions. "At the Ball" and "Cat’s-Eye" feature the South-China Swallow, a master thief who, like other outlaws in traditional tales, steals only from the rich and powerful. "One Summer Night" clearly shows Cheng’s strategy of captivating his Chinese readers with recognizably native elements even as he espouses more globalized views of truth and justice.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6428-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. 1 The Shoe
    (pp. 1-44)

    This rather troubling little case occurred in 1921. Although that was quite some time ago, the moment I opened up my notebook, the facts that had given rise to such finger-pointing, as well as the mist and gloom that seemed to have hovered over everything, reappeared starkly before my eyes. In the context of the waves of disturbances washing over Shanghai society at the time, the case should be considered as no more than a minor ripple. Nonetheless, recalling it now brings back to me the disgust and sorrow that so colored my feelings then.

    On a blustery and nippy...

  6. 2 The Other Photograph
    (pp. 45-93)

    Such personal advertisements for potential marriage partners were appearing almost daily in the newspapers. There were even ads for women seeking husbands—sufficient in themselves to catch the attention of many a young man. Yet this phenomenon should not be considered rare in our twentieth-century civilization, especially in light of current notices such as: “Mr. X and Miss Y have announced that they will begin living together on such-and-such a date,” or “Mr. X and Miss Y will be dissolving their cohabitation agreement on such-and-such a date.” They clearly show what has become socially acceptable in this day and age....

  7. 3 The Odd Tenant
    (pp. 94-112)

    The gray-haired woman had just settled into the easy chair reserved for guests in Huo Sang’s study when she suddenly leapt up again. Flailing her thin, wizened hands about, she panted between sentences. “I’m so terrified, sir! . . . My husband works in a textile factory. If he misses a single day of work, we go without food for a day. We can’t survive an emergency. . . . Anything bad happens and the whole family’s done for! . . . Sir, I’m really frightened! . . . You’ve got to figure a way out for us!”

    This is...

  8. 4 The Examination Paper
    (pp. 113-123)

    Because I have been writing about my friend Huo Sang’s cases for so long, many of you readers, perceiving the depth of our mutually supportive relationship, have expressed the desire to know how it all began. In looking through my old bamboo chest recently, I came upon my diary from college days, which contains an abbreviated record of a bewildering and disheartening case, one that involved me personally and that Huo Sang solved. Up to that point, even though we were both students at Zhonghua University, Huo Sang and I had yet to become close friends. Only later did our...

  9. 5 On the Huangpu
    (pp. 124-164)

    I’ve often said that the two words “detective” and “danger” are inextricably intertwined, and that the compensation for detective work—excitement—is simply the result of facing danger. This story records an instance of “No pain, no gain,” a time when the danger we had to face was extreme: I nearly lost my life!

    But I have no regrets. Even at this moment, as I take up my pen to set down what happened, the feelings I had then still color my recollections.

    It was ten o’clock one morning when, quite without warning, an old man of perhaps sixty came...

  10. 6 Cat’s-Eye
    (pp. 165-183)

    One item in the newspaper so staggered me I couldn’t quite contain myself. While my eyes remain glued to what I was reading, my mouth was gaping in utter surprise.

    “Astonishing! I’ve never heard of anything quite like it!”

    The article dealt with a robbery at the Credit and Trust Company that had been reported the day before, though more as hearsay than fact. Today’s report not only corroborated the previous one, but specified that the items taken from safe deposit box A-2 included a pearl butterfly brooch and a diamond bracelet with a total value of over a hundred...

  11. 7 At the Ball
    (pp. 184-194)

    Xu Zhenyang’s brow was furrowed in a deep frown. His large dark eyes, glowering with outrage and resentment, were fixed on the face of Qiao Youmin, the visitor seated across from him. It wasn’t that he was particularly upset with Qiao; the frown had been on his face since that strange letter came the night before. In fact, Xu had invited Qiao Youmin there to consult with him on the matter. Although he well knew that Qiao always considered every eventuality before expressing any opinion, Xu was particularly impatient with him on this occasion.

    Xu took the expensive cigar he...

  12. 8 One Summer Night
    (pp. 195-206)

    The way in which country folk pass the time during the summer has always been very simple. A few may spend their lives drinking and gambling, but most people gather together under a shady shelter, such as a vine-covered arbor, to listen to ghost stories from the past. Sometimes, when the stories are sufficiently stimulating, participants even exercise their vocal cords and belt out a field song or two. While this custom would hardly interest urban dwellers, those who participate evidently derive great pleasure from it.

    One evening, Big Mao’s family in Red Tree Village was having just such an...

  13. About Cheng Xiaoqing
    (pp. 207-210)
  14. Publication Notes
    (pp. 211-212)
  15. Works Consulted
    (pp. 213-214)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 215-218)