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The Tang erotic novella You xianku (Jpn. Yūsenkutsu) was quickly forgotten in China but enjoyed unusual success in Japan, motivated by a unique vernacular reading tradition and appropriation by Shingon Buddhism. Manuscripts of the tale scattered in Japanese monastic libraries provide evidence of a complex sphere of rhetorical play and classical scholarship neglected by modern literary history. The larger conditions of textual circulation were transformed by the political tumult of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and the You xianku manuscripts contain colophons and other paratexts that function as conflicting representational responses to this era of change.