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Reviews 221 David Tod Roy, translator. The Plum in the Golden Vase or Chin P'ing Mei, Volume One: The Gathering. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993. civ, 610 pp. Hardcover $39.50. The Jin PingMei (JPM) portrays debauched characters and sexual activities. It is therefore not surprising that, since its completion in the late sixteenth (or early seventeenth) century, it has been repeatedly condemned by puritans, banned by officials, and disregarded by the suspicious and intimidated. It has aroused the interest of the curious and adventurous. However, the novel includes a wide range of characters and is much more than erotica. Any careful reader should be able to contest the simplistic "obscene book" (Preface no. 2, p. 6) designation. David Roy has made a remarkable contribution by presenting an excellent translation ofthe JPM to readers in the English-speaking world. Unlike Clement Egerton, who adopted die later, altered Chongzhen edition in his 1939 translation , Roy follows the earliest, most complete, and what he refers to as "the most authentic" (p. xlii), Wanli edition. More inclusive than André Levy's 1985 French translation, which was based on the Wanli edition but deletes die longer song suites and other types ofborrowed materials, Roy's translation keeps everything that is in the Wanli text (p. xxi). The volume under review contains the novel's two prefaces, the colophon, and the eight preamble lyrics, as well as the first twenty of its one hundred chapters. Adding to the capacious translation are the following entries: "Introduction," "Cast of characters," "Notes," "Bibliography," and "Index." Togetìier they comprise a swollen volume ofover seven hundred pages. Roy characterizes the JPMas an enormous work, among other things. The enormousness of the original novel is matched by Roy's endeavor. The publication of The Plum in the Golden Vase or, Chin P'ingMei, Volume One: The Gatheringmarks the first of a five-part, comprehensive project to "translate everything" (p. xlviii) of the Jin PingMei. Roy patiently and thoroughly translates every detail of the most complete version of the novel: not only the narratives but also the verses, maxims, puns, and double entendres. His apparent mastery ofboth Chinese and English allows him to find die best matches between the two languages to faithfully and precisely reconstruct in English the form and style ofthe Chinese text. His vivid translation well captures the eloquence and poignancy ofthe original author's portrayals and caricatures. In the translation, the personalities of the characters come alive and die author's humorous twists of© 1995 by University language are well sustained. Through the publication ofhis new, annotated transofHawai ?PressUnion, his scholarly devotion willbenefit an evenwider audience. David Royhas devoted decades to studying and teaching the JPM. His efforts have enlightened many minds about this work, which, in an elaborate introduction, he describes as 222 China Review International: Vol. 2, No. 1, Spring 1995 "an enormous, complex and sophisticated novel, surprisingly modern in its design " (Introduction, p. xvii). One way to approach this complexity, sophistication, and modernity is to explore the novelty of the novel. The JPM is an ingenious creation. It manifests a new birth, albeit an illegitimate birth. It is common knowledge tiiat the nucleus of the plot of the JPM derives from an episode of die Shuihu zhuan (SHZ) (chapters 23-27 of the 120-chapter Shuihu Quanzhuan edition). In the SHZ episode, one of the novel's illustrious heroes, Wu Song, accomplishes two heroic deeds in two obviously parallel killings: one ofa vicious tiger and the other of an adulterous sister -in-law. Wu Song's sister-in-law, Pan Jinlian, tries to seduce him and carries on an illicit affair with another man. Wu Song kills her and her adulterer Ximen Qing to avenge his brother. This act, just as slaying a tiger who ravages the peaceful and orderly life ofthe society, is about moral justice that glorifies masculine prowess and brotherly love. Pan Jinlian and Ximen Qing, according to moral reasoning , deserved to die and so they did. The author of the JPM, however, revives the ashes of Pan Jinlian and Ximen Qing and extends their earthly karma. This recreation ofhistory challenges the validity of the older generation's principle ofpublic...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 221-228
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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