Tuesday, 27 October 2015

The Adventurous History of The Mandarin and His Six Wives

Things are a bit tough at the moment so blogging will be light. But a trawl through a local antique shop turned up this book the other day, and at £2 it would have been rude not to buy it. Billed on the back as "the most famous of all Chinese classic novels" (though I'd never heard of it), it was apparently suppressed because of its "detailed descriptions of love-making and erotic fantasies" (phwoar). It centres on the life of Hsi Men ("a corrupt and amorous mandarin who dies of an overdose of aphrodisiacs") and his dissolute friends ("nine wild, smooth-tongued, useless fellows who kept him company in his debaucheries"). It is, it seems, relevant to my interests.

The eccentrically capitalised chapter headings are worth the price of admission alone. Here are some examples (the last is my favourite):

"While in his Cups Lai Wang talks himself into Perdition. Lotus Petal swallows Shame and hangs herself twice."
"Grass Snake and Road Rat administer a Thrashing to Doctor Bamboo Hill. Mistress Ping is inflamed with a renewed Passion for Hsi Men."
"Master Han makes the Dead live again in his Picture. The Groom Shu Tung secretly departs with swelling Sails."
"Gold Lotus abandons herself to a Slave. Astrologer Liu aids her with his Magic and does a good Stroke of Business for himself."


  1. "the most famous of all Chinese classic novels" is a blatant exaggeration, but it is certainly one of the most famous classics after the Four Great Classical Novels [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Four_Great_Classical_Novels].

    The interesting bit of trivia is that the Jīn Píng Méi is a spin-off of the Water Margin, one of the Four Great Classical Novels.

    1. Interesting. I've read the first page and it's very readable - looking forward to getting started once I've finished my current book.

  2. I hope that "tough" just means "busy with work and that" and nothing more serious. Either way, I hope it passes soon.

  3. 'Things' is a great name for a girlfriend.