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Literary ReviewDavid Tod Roy enters with zest into the spirit and the letter of the original, quite surpassing ... other earlier versions.
— Paul St. John Mackintosh
In this first of a planned five-volume set, David Roy provides a complete and annotated translation of the famous Chin 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.
"Roy has made a major contribution to our overall understanding of the novel."—Jonathan Spence, The New York Review of Books
"David Tod Roy enters with zest into the spirit and the letter of the original, quite surpassing ... other earlier versions."—Paul St. John Mackintosh, Literary Review
"Reading Roy's translation is a remarkable experience."—Robert Chatain, Chicago Tribune Review of Books
"What Roy has already accomplished [in this volume] is enough to establish his translation as definitive. . . . A tremendous achievement."—Charles Horner, Commentary
"[A] book of manners for the debauched. Its readers in the late Ming period likely hid it under their bedcovers."--Amy Tan, New York Times Book Review
"[I]t is time to remind ourselves that The Plum in the Golden Vase is not just about sex, whether the numerous descriptions of sexual acts throughout the novel be viewed as titillating, harshly realistic, or, in Mr. Roy's words, intended 'to express in the most powerful metaphor available to him the author's contempt for the sort of persons who indulge in them.' The novel is a sprawling panorama of life and times in urban China, allegedly set safely in the Sung dynasty, but transparently contemporary to the author's late sixteenth-century world, as scores of internal references demonstrate. The eight hundred or so men, women, and children who appear in the book cover a breath-taking variety of human types, and encompass pretty much every imaginable mood and genre--from sadism to tenderness, from light humor to philosophical musings, from acute social commentary to outrageous satire."--Jonathan Spence, New York Review of Books
"David Tod Roy enters with zest into the spirit and the letter of the original, quite surpassing ... other earlier versions."--Paul St. John Mackintosh, Literary Review
"Reading Roy's translation is a remarkable experience."--Robert Chatain, Chicago Tribune Review of Books
"What Roy has already accomplished [in this volume] is enough to establish his translation as definitive. . . . A tremendous achievement."--Charles Horner, Commentary
Posted December 7, 2013
David Todd Roy provides a formidable apparatus to the book: an introduction that speculates over the author's philosophy and extensive footnotes that explain the historical and literary references as well as names mentioned in the book. So when I got to the actual text, I was astonished by how much fun it is to read (caveat: I am only half way through so far). It is about the household, career and romantic adventures of a 12th Century merchant (the book was written in the late 16th Century--and the Roy makes clear in his introduction that the author is criticizing contemporary society, even while setting events several centuries earlier). There is so much that is wonderful here: details of daily life, courtship, bribery, prostitution, business, politics--it all feels wonderfully contemporary. And the women characters are, if anything, more conniving, ambitious and sexually avaricious than the men. It is sometimes described as "pornographic." That is not the case, although the sex can sometimes be rather explicit--it's normally presented with great humor--and one suspects the author of satire. Just as he makes fun of people's base motives, he also seems to call into question the reality of their etherial and romantic experiences. It would take far too long to describe the unwinding plot, which has the convolutions of an endless soap opera, but it is a delight to read and hard to put down. Bravo!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.