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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 Three: The Aphrodisiac

Translated by David Tod Roy
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 776
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7t4p2
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  • Book Info
    The Plum in the Golden Vase or, Chin P'ing Mei
    Book Description:

    In this third volume of a planned five-volume series, 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 His-men Ch'ing, a corrupt, upwardly mobile merchant 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 narrative art--not only from a specifically Chinese perspective but also in a world-historical context.

    Written during the second half of the sixteenth century and first published in 1618,The Plum in the Golden Vaseis noted for its surprisingly modern technique. With the possible exception ofThe Tale of Genji(ca. 1010) andDon Quixote(1605, 1615), there is no earlier work of prose fiction of equal sophistication in world literature. Although its importance in the history of Chinese narrative has long been recognized, the technical virtuosity of the author, which is more reminiscent of the Dickens ofBleak House, the Joyce ofUlysses, or the Nabokov ofLolitathan anything in earlier Chinese fiction, has not yet received adequate recognition. This is partly because all of the existing European translations are either abridged or based on an inferior recension of the text. This translation and its annotation aim to faithfully represent and elucidate all the rhetorical features of the original in its most authentic form and thereby enable the Western reader to appreciate this Chinese masterpiece at its true worth.

    Replete with convincing portrayals of the darker side of human nature, it should appeal to anyone interested in a compelling story, compellingly told.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3792-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. CAST OF CHARACTERS
    (pp. xiii-lxx)
  6. Chapter 41 HSI-MEN CH’ING FORMS A MARRIAGE ALLIANCE WITH CH’IAO HUNG; P’AN CHIN-LIEN ENGAGES IN A QUARREL WITH LI P’ING-ERH
    (pp. 1-18)

    The story goes that the clothes for his womenfolk that Hsi-men Ch’ing had engaged the tailor to come to his home to make were all finished before two days were over.

    On the twelfth, the Ch’iao family sent someone to remind them of the invitation to their lantern viewing party. That morning Hsi-men Ch’ing had already sent appropriate presents over to their place. That dayWu Yüeh-niang and her sister-wives, along with her sister-in-law, the wife of her eldest brother Wu K’ai, set out together in six sedan chairs, leaving Sun Hsüeh-o behind to look after the house. They were accompanied...

  7. Chapter 42 A POWERFUL FAMILY BLOCKS ITS GATE IN ORDER TO ENJOY FIREWORKS; DISTINGUISHED GUESTS IN A HIGH CHAMBER APPRECIATE THE LANTERNS
    (pp. 19-39)

    The story goes that when Hsi-men Ch’ing had seen off the representatives of the Ch’iao family, he came back to the master suite to talk things over with Yüeh-niang, Sister-in-law Wu, and Li P’ing-erh.

    “Since their family has anticipated us by sending over holiday gifts for our child,” said Yüeh-niang, “we can hardly avoid buying holiday presents of our own to send to their daughter, Chang-chieh. They can be regarded as being temporary equivalents of betrothal gifts. That way we won’t be remiss in our social obligations.”

    “Our side of the family ought to select a go-between,” said Sister-in-law Wu....

  8. Chapter 43 BECAUSE OF THE MISSING GOLD HSI-MEN CH’ING CURSES CHIN-LIEN; AS A RESULT OF THE BETROTHAL YÜEH-NIANG MEETS MADAME CH’IAO
    (pp. 40-64)

    The story goes that it was already the third watch by the time Hsi-men Ch’ing returned home. When he went back to the rear compound, he found that Wu Yüeh-niang had not yet gone to bed, but was sitting up with her sister-in-law, Wu K’ai’s wife, and the others, having a chat. He also noticed that Li P’ing-erh was still in attendance, helping to serve the wine. As soon as Sister-in-law Wu saw that Hsi-men Ch’ing had come home, she moved into another room. Yüeh-niang, observing that he was inebriated, helped him off with his outer clothes and merely had...

  9. Chapter 44 WU YÜEH-NIANG DETAINS LI KUEI-CHIEH OVERNIGHT; HSI-MEN CH’ING DRUNKENLY INTERROGATES HSIA-HUA
    (pp. 65-80)

    The story goes that while Ch’en Ching-chi, Manager Fu, and the others were drinking in the front compound, Sister-in-law Wu’s sedan chair arrived, and she prepared to return home.

    Wu Yüeh-niang did her best to detain her, saying repeatedly, “Stay another night, Sister-in-law, and go home tomorrow.”

    “Including the time I spent at Kinsman Ch’iao Hung’s place,” Sister-in-law Wu replied, “I’ve been away for three or four days already. There’s no one to look after the place at home, and your brother is tied up at the yamen, so he’s not there either. I’d better go home. Tomorrow all of...

  10. Chapter 45 LI KUEI-CHIEH REQUESTS THE RETENTION OF HSIA-HUA; WU YÜEH-NIANG IN A FIT OF ANGER CURSES AT TAI-AN
    (pp. 81-96)

    The story goes that because Hsi-men Ch’ing was on holiday he did not go to the yamen that day. When he got up in the morning, he went to the front reception hall to look on as Tai-an prepared two table settings of food for the Ch’iao family, one of them to be delivered to Madame Ch’iao the Fifth, and the other to the wife of Ch’iao Hung. Both of them were replete with:

    High-stacked pyramids of square-shaped confectionery, assortments of the giblets of domestic fowl, seasonal fruits, and the like. Madame Ch’iao the Fifth rewarded Tai-an with two handkerchiefs...

  11. Chapter 46 RAIN AND SNOW INTERRUPT A WALK DURING THE LANTERN FESTIVAL; WIFE AND CONCUBINES LAUGHINGLY CONSULT THE TORTOISE ORACLE
    (pp. 97-128)

    This lyric was composed by a poet of former times in order to celebrate the sights of the Lantern Festival and the prosperity of the people.³

    To resume our story, on that day Hsi-men Ch’ing saw Wu Yüeh-niang and the others off on their way to the party at Sister-in-law Wu’s place, while asking Li Chih and Huang the Fourth to keep their seats.

    Ying Po-chüeh took advantage of his host’s absence while he was seeing off the ladies to address them, thus and so, saying, “I have already spoken to him on behalf of you two gentlemen, and he...

  12. Chapter 47 WANG LIU-ERH PEDDLES INFLUENCE IN PURSUIT OF PROFIT; HSI-MEN CH’ING ACCEPTS A BRIBE AND SUBVERTS THE LAW
    (pp. 129-146)

    This poem merely reiterates the fact that on the northern frontier carts and horses are the norm, whereas in the Chiang-nan region boats and oars are more convenient. Hence, it is certainly true that:

    Southerners ride boats, and

    Northerners ride horses.¹

    The story goes that in the ancient city of Kuang-ling, or Yang-chou, in the Chiang-nan region, there dwelt a well-to-do commoner named Miao T’ienhsiu, who possessed property worth ten thousand strings of cash and was devoted to poetry and ritual.² He was thirty-nine years old and had no sons, but an only daughter, who had not yet been married....

  13. Chapter 48 INVESTIGATING CENSOR TSENG IMPEACHES THE JUDICIAL COMMISSIONERS; GRAND PRECEPTOR TS’AI SUBMITS A MEMORIAL REGARDING SEVEN MATTERS
    (pp. 147-170)

    The story goes that An-t’ung accepted the document and letter, took his leave of Assistant Prefect Huang Mei, and set out on the highroad to Shantung. Upon inquiry, he learned that the regional investigating censor was currently in residence at his office in Tung-ch’ang prefecture, that his name was Tseng Hsiao-hsü,5that he was the son of the former censor-in-chief, Tseng Pu,6had passed thechin-shihexamination in the year 1115, and that he was an official of absolute integrity and honor.

    An-t’ung thought to himself, “If I say that I am delivering a letter, the gatekeepers are certain not...

  14. Chapter 49 HSI-MEN CH’ING WELCOMES INVESTIGATING CENSOR SUNG CH’IAO-NIEN; IN THE TEMPLE OF ETERNAL FELICITY HE ENCOUNTERS AN INDIAN MONK
    (pp. 171-202)

    The story goes that when Hsia Shou returned home and reported on his mission, Judicial Commissioner Hsia Yen-ling immediately came over to express his gratitude to Hsi-men Ch’ing, saying, “My colleague has done me: The favor of saving my life.5Had I not been able to rely upon the powerful influence of your diffracted radiance, how could this affair ever have been brought to an end?” “My colleague can relax,” said Hsi-men Ch’ing with a smile. “I figure that you and I did not do anything inappropriate. Let the censor criticize our conduct however he likes. His Honor will have...

  15. Chapter 50 CH’IN-T’UNG EAVESDROPS ON THE JOYS OF LOVEMAKING; TAI-AN ENJOYS A PLEASING RAMBLE IN BUTTERFLY LANE
    (pp. 203-220)

    The story goes that the day in question was the eve of Li Chiao-erh’s birthday, and Nun Wang from the Kuan-yin Nunnery, as she had promised, had invited Nun Hsüeh of the Lotus Blossom Nunnery and her two disciples, Miao-feng and Miao-ch’ü, to come help celebrate the occasion. Wu Yüeh-niang, on hearing that Reverend Hsüeh had arrived, and having heard her to be a nun renowned for her exemplary conduct, hastened out to welcome her.

    She was attired in the headdress of an immaculate nun, was clothed in a dull brown tea-leaf-colored cassock, had been shaved so closely as to...

  16. Chapter 51 YÜEH-NIANG LISTENS TO THE EXPOSITION OF THE DIAMOND SUTRA; LI KUEI-CHIEH SEEKS REFUGE IN THE HSI-MEN CH’ING HOUSEHOLD
    (pp. 221-254)

    The story goes that when P’an Chin-lien realized that Hsi-men Ch’ing had taken the bag of sexual implements and gone to spend the night in Li P’ing-erh’s quarters, she was so upset that she was unable to sleep all night long and secretly stored up resentment in her heart.

    The next day, upon learning that Hsi-men Ch’ing had gone to the yamen, and that Li P’ing-erh was still combing her hair in her quarters, she lost no time in going back to the rear compound, where she said to Yüeh-niang, “Li P’ing-erh has been criticizing you severely behind your back....

  17. Chapter 52 YING PO-CHÜEH INTRUDES ON A SPRING BEAUTY IN THE GROTTO; P’AN CHIN-LIEN INSPECTS A MUSHROOM IN THE FLOWER GARDEN
    (pp. 255-288)

    The story goes that while Hsi-men Ch’ing was drinking at the home of Judicial Commissioner Hsia Yen-ling that day and received the information that the regional investigating censor Sung Ch’iao-nien had sent a set of gifts to him, he was as delighted as could be. Hsia Yen-ling also treated him with a degree of respect:

    Different from that of former days,4

    blocking the door and urging him to have another drink, so that it was the second watch before he permitted him to go home.

    P’an Chin-lien had long since taken off her headdress under the lamplight, revealing her:

    Powdered...

  18. Chapter 53 WU YÜEH-NIANG ENGAGES IN COITION IN QUEST OF MALE PROGENY; LI P’ING-ERH FULFILLS A VOW IN ORDER TO SAFEGUARD HER SON
    (pp. 289-319)

    The story goes that Wu Yüeh-niang, having spent some time amusing herself along with Li Chiao-erh, Li Kuei-chieh, Meng Yü-lou, Li P’ing-erh, Sun Hsüeh-o, P’an Chin-lien, and Hsi-men Ta-chieh, began to feel somewhat fatigued, retired to her room, and took a nap.

    When she awoke, around the first watch, she sent Hsiao-yü to say to Li P’ing-erh, “Has Kuan-ko stopped that unnatural crying of his? Have the wet nurse wrap him up carefully and coax him to sleep. Don’t let anything disturb him into crying again.” The wet nurse, who was eating her supper on the k’ang, did not get...

  19. Chapter 54 YING PO-CHÜEH CONVENES HIS FRIENDS IN A SUBURBAN GARDEN; JEN HOU-CH’I DIAGNOSES AN ILLNESS FOR A POWERFUL FAMILY
    (pp. 320-345)

    The story goes that when Hsi-men Ch’ing got out of bed in Chinlien’s room the next morning, he told Ch’in-t’ung and Tai-an to deliver the pig’s feet and mutton to Ying Po-chüeh’s home. When the two page boys arrived on this errand, Ying Po-chüeh was just coming home from inviting the other guests and, upon seeing them, went into the house, where he wrote a reply, couched in terms that were:

    Half demanding and half inviting, and read:

    Yesterday, I imposed egregiously on your hospitality, and now I am once again the recipient of your lavish magnanimity. Thank you. Thank...

  20. Chapter 55 HSI-MEN CH’ING OBSERVES A BIRTHDAY IN THE EASTERN CAPITAL; SQUIRE MIAO FROM YANG-CHOU SENDS A PRESENT OF SINGING BOYS
    (pp. 346-373)

    The story goes that after Doctor Jen had palpated Li P’ing-erh’s pulse, he returned to the reception hall and sat down.4

    Hsi-men Ch’ing then initiated the consultation by saying, “I do not know what your interpretation of her symptoms might be. Is it nothing to be worried about?”

    “This illness of your wife’s,” said Doctor Jen, “is the result of inadequate care in the treatment of her postpartum conditions. That is the etiology of her ailment. At present, she is suffering from lochiorrhea, her complexion is sallow, she has an indifferent appetite, and she is easily fatigued. In your pupil’s...

  21. Chapter 56 HSI-MEN CH’ING ASSISTS CH’ANG SHIH-CHIEH; YING PO-CHÜEH RECOMMENDS LICENTIATE SHUI
    (pp. 374-393)

    The burden of the above eight lines of regulated verse is simply that:

    For humans residing in this world,7

    Glory and luxury, wealth and honor,

    cannot be retained forever. One fine day, when:

    Impermanence, or death, visits you,8

    no matter how much you may have in the way of:

    Piled up gold and accumulated jade,9

    you will wind up: Returning to the shades empty-handed.

    Because Hsi-men Ch’ing was so:

    Chivalrous by nature and open-handed with his wealth,

    as well as being:

    Willing to lend aid to those in poverty and distress,

    everyone sang his praises. But no more of this....

  22. Chapter 57 ABBOT TAO SOLICITS FUNDS TO REPAIR THE TEMPLE OF ETERNAL FELICITY; NUN HSÜEH ENJOINS PAYING FOR THE DISTRIBUTION OF THE DHĀRANI SUTRA
    (pp. 394-419)

    The story goes that in Tung-p’ing prefecture of Shantung province, there was in former times a Ch’an Buddhist temple called the Temple of Eternal Felicity. It was erected in the second year of the P’u-t’ung reign period,4during the reign of Emperor Wu of the Liang dynasty,5and its founder was the venerable patriarch Wan-hui.6

    Why do you suppose he was called the venerable patriarchWan-hui? It was because, when the old master was only six or seven years old, he had an elder brother who had joined the army and was stationed on the frontier. Since:

    The normal communication of...

  23. Chapter 58 INSPIRED BY A FIT OF JEALOUSY CHIN-LIEN BEATS CH’IU-CHÜ; BEGGING CURED PORK THE MIRROR POLISHER TELLS A SOB STORY
    (pp. 420-452)

    The story goes that on that day Hsi-men Ch’ing continued drinking wine with his friends and relatives in the front reception hall until he became stinking drunk, after which he made his way toward Sun Hsüeh-o’s quarters in the rear compound. Sun Hsüeh-o herself was in the kitchen at the time, overseeing the cleaning up of the utensils. When she heard that Hsi-men Ch’ing was headed for her place, she hastened back to it:

    Covering two steps with every one.

    The blind entertainer Big Sister Yü had been sitting on the k’ang in her quarters, and she hustled her off...

  24. Chapter 59 HSI-MEN CH’ING DASHES “SNOW LION” TO DEATH; LI P’ING-ERH CRIES OUT IN PAIN FOR KUAN-KO
    (pp. 453-488)

    The story goes that Meng Yü-lou and P’an Chin-lien were still standing at the front gate after sending the mirror polisher on his way, when they suddenly saw a man coming toward them from the east, wearing a large hat and eye shades, and riding amule. He rode at a fast clip right up to the gateway and dismounted, which sent the two women scurrying inside. When he took off his eye shades, it turned out to be Han Tao-kuo reporting back home.

    “Have the cartloads of merchandise arrived, or not?” P’ing-an hastily inquired.

    “They’re already inside the city,” replied...

  25. Chapter 60 LI P’ING-ERH BECOMES ILL BECAUSE OF SUPPRESSED ANGER; HSI-MEN CH’ING’S SILK GOODS STORE OPENS FOR BUSINESS
    (pp. 489-506)

    The story goes that on that day Sun Hsüeh-o and Wu Yin-erh stayed by her side and endeavored to comfort Li P’ing-erh for some time, thus and so, before returning to the rear compound.

    When P’an Chin-lien saw that the child was no more, and that Li P’ingerh had lost her son to death, every day she plucked up her spirits and expressed her gratification in a hundred different ways.

    Pointing at one of the maidservants, she railed away at Li P’ing-erh by indirection, saying, “You lousy whore! As I have said all along:

    The sun may be at high...

  26. NOTES
    (pp. 507-638)
  27. BIBLIOGRAPHY TO VOLUME 3
    (pp. 639-672)
  28. INDEX
    (pp. 673-722)