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Translated by Patrick Hanan

Publication Year: 2014

The young son of the head of the Chinese traders’ association, the men licensed to deal with foreign merchants in the port of Guangzhou, is suddenly burdened with responsibility for his powerful family upon his father’s sudden death. A latter-day Baoyu, but with far stronger sexual impulses, the son learns both to tame his own libido to some degree and to conduct himself prudently in the Guangzhou society of his time. All of this appears in a comparatively little-known and little-studied novel called Shenlou zhi 蜃樓志, which is here translated for the first time. The novel was actually first published in 1804, several decades before opium became a factor in the China trade. It is not only by far the earliest novel to deal with that trade, but also one of the earliest accounts of it. Furthermore, it has been found to be closely connected to events that occurred in Guangzhou and Huizhou in the years just before the time of its publication—the arrival of a new Superintendent of Customs in Guangzhou and the outbreak of rebellion in Huizhou. This strikingly original work develops the culture of adolescence that was first described in Honglou meng 紅樓夢 and also relishes, in its account of the rebellion, the romantic conventions of Shuihu zhuan 水滸傳.

Published by: Chinese University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. v-viii

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pp. ix-xvi

The Story of the Stone (Shitou ji 石頭記), also known as The Dream of the Red Chamber (Honglou meng 紅樓夢), was the first novel to open up the subject of adolescence for the Chinese reader. In 1804, twelve years after the first edition of The Stone, a novel called Mirage (Shenlou zhi 蜃樓志) appeared and set about exploring that subject in a somewhat different direction...

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1. Riches arouse the superintendent’s interest | Connections lead to the traders’ release

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pp. 1-16

The frog at the bottom of the well sees nothing of the heavens, just as the mayfly in the height of summer cannot conceive of winter’s ice—those with limited vision will always suffer from their lack of knowledge. The naked tribes deride our silken garments as gaudy, just as the ugly neighbor once scorned the classic beauty for her artful smile1 —those with shame in their hearts will always display envy in their faces...

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2. Li Jiangshan intercedes in a difficult dispute | Su Wankui withdraws at the height of his career

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pp. 17-30

The Guangzhou Grain Bureau was situated outside Guide Gate beside the governor-general’s yamen. Although Shen had been demoted from the rank of intendant, he was not one to neglect his duties, being assiduous about such official matters as bandit suppression, salt supervision, maritime defense, and water conservation. In his spare time he relaxed with wine and poetry...

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3. Suxin bemoans her fate as a beauty | Jishi searches for sex in the night

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pp. 31-46

Let us turn from Su Wankui befriending a heroic figure to Wen Suxin lingering among the flowers by moonlight. As the sage once said, “Seductive looks are an inducement to lust.”1 This clearly means that it’s not that the boy sets out to seduce the girl but that the girl induces him do so...

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4. In Break-Cassia Studio a pair of lovers open acc ounts | At the Double Ninth festival the class visits Mt. Yuexiu

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pp. 47-64

It was broad daylight when Jishi awoke, but no one was up, and he hurriedly dressed himself and headed for the garden, racing all the way to the lodge lest the teacher return in the meantime. The door was unlocked, and hearing no sound from above, he stole up the stairs and pushed open Suxin’s door...

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5. Matchmaking causes two birds to lose their feathers | Flirtation leads to one sister’s falling in love

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pp. 65-78

Once their teacher had left, Jishi and his classmates set out the wine cups again and had more food and drink brought in. Wu Daiyun, who combined a strong capacity for wine with a cunning and devious nature, had a suggestion: “We’ve been suppressed for some time now. Let’s take turns playing guess-fingers and drinking as much as we like before he comes back again.”...

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6. Heh Zhifu installs mistresses in a separate wing | Li Jiangshan comes upon a hero in Qujiang county

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pp. 79-94

After Jishi began taking the tonic medicine, his illness showed a steady improvement, and then, after he had taken ten doses of the great all-purpose restorative broth, he fully regained his normal vitality. However, because the teacher had forbidden him to leave his room, he had to stay there for over a month before he could do as he wanted...

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7. An ambitious river police chief plays along | A humiliated customs official hangs himself

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pp. 95-110

Wu Biyuan had arranged his son’s wedding for the third of the third month, and on that day a banquet was prepared and his yamen decorated with bunting and lanterns. Merchant Wen did likewise, and also invited a group of female guests to escort the dowry. Two days before he had invited the women of the Shy, Wen, and Su families to come over and see it...

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8. Shen Jin is restored to office by imperial grace | Su Wankui dies on hearing of a robbery

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pp. 111-128

Jishi had had no peace of mind since parting from Qiao, but his father was very strict and would not let him return to the city, and he had to get the servants to make discreet inquiries for him. When he learned that Qiao had joined the Heh household, he naturally felt heartbroken, but he was also relieved that the superintendent had fortunately not discovered her secret...

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9. In burning old deeds a son carries out his father’s wishes | By faking a prayer a priest engages in a lascivious act

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pp. 129-142

Fortunately Su Xing retained a measure of loyalty and integrity after Su Wankui’s death from shock. He told some men to watch over the body and sent others to the country compound to report the news, then waited for his mistress to come and decide what should be done. By the time the messenger reached the compound, however, Jishi had already emerged and taken charge of the situation, sending a servant to report the case to the authorities and have them come and examine the corpses...

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10. Lü Youkui forms an alliance at an inn | Yao Huowu is thrown into jail in Haifeng

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pp. 143-158

Yao Huowu had returned to Nanxiong with the intention of going on to Jieshi. There was a track that led over the mountains, but because he didn’t know the way he took passage on a boat instead, disembarking at Huizhou. With his iron staff slung over his shoulder and his bags and bedroll dangling from it, he strode off on his journey...

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11. Feng Gang catches a tiger on Goat’s Foot Ridge | Ho Wu kills an ox at Phoenix Tail River1

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pp. 159-172

Let us turn to Lü Youkui and Ho Wu, one with an iron staff, the other with a steel trident, as they came out to the crossroads in search of a place to compete. “There’s no open space here,” said Ho Wu. “To find one, we’ll need to go a mile or two further to a chain of hills leading to Goat’s Foot Ridge. I go hunting there every day.”...

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12. Hearing of his brother’s death, a prisoner breaksout of jail | Taking advantage of a visit, an abbot gains a gem

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pp. 173-188

Gongyang Sheng, the magistrate of Haifeng county, had served five years as an official after succeeding in the provincial examinations. Avaricious though he was, he was by no means a brutal man. Alcohol had long been his passion, either in the form of spirits or wine...

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13. Emerging from reclusion, he reviews commanders | A bandit for the present, he is awarded high rank

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pp. 189-204

Bai Xishao was a commoner who lived in Boluo county and whose monastic name was Dun’an. He had built himself a small hut beneath Mount Luofu, and although he was poor, with nothing to his name apart from his lute and a few books, he had a mind well stocked with ingenious schemes, he could predict the future, and he was skilled in all aspects of military strategy...

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14. Faced with a cruel husband, she bites her tongue and endures her shame | Meeting an artful woman, he hopes for sex but gets feces instead

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pp. 205-220

Yao Huowu’s uprising on Goat’s Foot Ridge took place during Su Jishi’s mourning period, so let us now drop the subject of Lufeng and turn back to what was happening in Guangzhou.1
After the hundred days of mourning were over, Jishi left his house and began paying visits again. At first it was the officials in their yamens that he visited, then the traders, then the merchants, and finally his relatives and friends, such as the Wu, Shr, Qu, and Zhu families...

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15. Three scoundrels set a trap | Four beauties disappear

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pp. 221-236

Jishi and his womenfolk stayed on in the Wen household until the third day, then took their leave and returned. After paying his respects to his mother and his father’s concubines, Jishi went to Huiruo’s room, where she told him the full story of the humiliation her sister had suffered at Daiyun’s hands and of the trick Xia had played on him...

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16. Reunion, as Qiao rejoins her lord | Justice, as Shangguan punishes scoundrels

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pp. 237-254

Wu Biyuan had been struck by a sudden calamity. Heh wanted to strip him of his office and confiscate his property, but fortunately for Biyuan, Bao Jincai went down on his knees and pleaded for mercy on his behalf. Heh acceded, and for the time being did not remove Biyuan’s seal of office, but set a deadline for the recovery of the stolen property...

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17. Wu Biyuan lays his complaint before the censor | Su Jishi flees to Qingyuan to escape danger

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pp. 255-272

After Jishi won the court case, he told his men to give the runners twenty taels and invited Wen Zhongweng, Shy Yannian, and Shr Bangchen back to his house, where they enjoyed a long drinking session. The next day he went to the Panyu county yamen to thank Magistrate Ma, who told him, “Although Prefect Shangguan is a man of great rectitude, the outcome of this case has to be credited to the governor...

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18. Vice-president Yuan impounds Heh’s possessions | Governor-general Hu withdraws to Huizhou

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pp. 273-288

With Jishi firmly in his grasp, the mounted man galloped off. When Jishi cried out for help, he answered, “Don’t worry, sir. We’re under orders from our leader to recruit men of talent and learning, and we’ve come specially to invite you to join us. Provided you’re not just posing as a licentiate, and have some genuine talent and learning to offer, you’ll enjoy a great many advantages with us.”...

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19. A girl suffers a tragic fate at New Year’s | An in-law embarks on a literary career

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pp. 289-302

At New Year’s Jishi sent a man into the countryside to invite Ruyu to Guangzhou, and Ruyu’s father sent back a letter setting the twenty-fourth of the month as the date of the engagement and the twentysixth as the date for Ruyu’s travel to the city. Meanwhile Jishi went out daily offering compliments of the season to the various families they were close to...

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20. Yao Huowu rebuffs Mola | Wen Chuncai outdoes Bian Ruyu

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pp. 303-316

Commander-in-Chief Ren had arranged with Governor-general Hu to join forces with Brigade General Zhong and put down the rebellion in Chaozhou. By early in the fourth month the troops had assembled from all quarters. Commander-in-Chief Ren set out wine and held a meeting with the other commanders. “My soldiers were too weak and my officers too few, and on several occasions I failed to make the most of my opportunities,” he said...

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21. A friend’s letter leads a hero to submit | A year’s leave allows a censor to marry

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pp. 317-332

After his defeat at Chaozhou, Governor-general Hu had given orders that the walls and moats of all the towns in the area should be rigorously guarded. He had also told several thousand soldiers of the Gaozhou garrison to advance and capture Mola that autumn. But Mola was crafty and an able tactician, and his four Defenders of the Faith were all exceptionally fearless warriors

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22. After receiving high office, a civil official joins the army | While taking defensive measures, a demon practices magic

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pp. 333-344

After routing the army led by Governor-general Hu and Commander-in-Chief Ren, Mola had been amusing himself with wine, women, and song. When he heard that Huowu had humiliated his emissary, he flew into a rage and determined to mobilize his forces and seize Huowu’s territory, but Haiyuan and the other Defenders argued against such a course, urging him not to create another enemy for himself, and he finally let the matter drop...

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23. Commander Yao triumphs in a single night | Iron Mouth Lei reads faces and predicts lives

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pp. 345-358

After Du Chong in Chaozhou heard that the daughter of Academy student Tao had died as a result of Mola’s savage debauchery, he seethed with hatred. On the evening when he learned that Mola had been defeated and three of his generals killed, he gave out that he had to conduct a street inspection, then went alone and by a circuitous route to the assistant salt comptroller’s office and called at Tao’s house next door. Tao invited him in and asked his name...

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24. His womenfolk compose beautiful lines | His brothers sing a song of court delight

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pp. 359-372

On the eighth of the ninth month the results of the examination were announced, and as expected, Ruyu passed, an event that kept Jishi busy for days on end. By this time Governor Shen had left the examination hall, and Jishi hurried over to report to him. He congratulated Shen, whose son had graduated in the metropolitan examination and been sent to study at one of the boards, while Shen in turn congratulated Jishi on his achievements...

E-ISBN-13: 9789629969578
E-ISBN-10: 9629969572
Print-ISBN-13: 9789629965815
Print-ISBN-10: 962996581X

Page Count: 450
Illustrations: N
Publication Year: 2014