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The Plum in the Golden Vase or, Chin P'ing Mei: Volume One: The Gathering: 1 (Princeton Library of Asian Translations) [Kindle Edition]

David Tod Roy
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

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Book Description

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.

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Editorial Reviews

From Scientific American

Reading Roy's translation is a remarkable experience.

From The New Yorker

What Roy has already accomplished [in this volume] is enough to establish his translation as definitive.... A tremendous achievement.

Product Details

  • File Size: 14292 KB
  • Print Length: 706 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (May 2, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00G48GFSI
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #421,623 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
63 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Plot - Superb Translation May 8, 2001
David Tod Roy's translation of the classic 16th century Chin P'ing Mei is awesome and right on the money. The story leaps off the pages - this is how this famous vernacular Chinese novel was meant to be read! Every element of the story is clear and concise in Roy's translation, allowing the reader to enjoy the plot and the fascinating characters.
To briefly discuss the storyline, Chin P'ing Mei is a "spin off" from the classic Chinese novel Outlaws of the Marsh, and focuses on the trials and tribulations of the conniving seductress Pan Chin-lien and the new life she leads after murdering her husband. Some scholars of Chinese traditional literature will not like this allusion, but the story reads like a modern-day soap opera. The characters are lusty and scheming, and the general climate is electric. The general plot follows the intricate daily triumphs and frustrations of Hsi-Men Ching and his `harem" of six wives and concubines (among them Pan Chin-lien). The story is rife with inter-household competition, infidelity, corruption, domestic abuse and eroticism. Characters are well developed, and the scenery is vivid. It provides a fascinating glimpse into the lives of the merchant class in 16th century China. It is easy to see how this novel has captured audiences for 400 years - and David Tod Roy's excellent translation will no doubt help it to endure for many more years to come.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Valuable Contribution; lack of literary polish March 29, 1998
Althgouh the masterful literary translation of Hong Lou Meng by Dr. David Hawkes and John Minford has raised the standard of Chinese novels in English immeasurably, Dr. Roy's translation of the Jin Ping Mei can stand on its own.
Dr. Jonathan Spence was not kidding when he said that it read like a monograph. Scrupulous in details, Dr. Roy is perhaps too finicky in annotating every derivation of every line. Though such derivations are important, he seems to forget sometimes that the Jin Ping Mei is a novel: to read a text as densely annotated as Dr. Roy's sometimes becomes, to borrow David Hawkes' phrase, "playing tennis in chains."
Despite a lack of elegance in places, Dr. Roy's contribution is immense, for with this frank translation he has communicated to the Western world one of the great works of Chinese social satire, warts and all.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A delicious introduction to Jin Ping Mei December 29, 1997
David Tod Roy has done a wonderful job with this book. By rendering Jin Ping Mei into immaculately annotated English, he has made the book acessible not only to native English speakers, but to bilingual readers who may find the original's quirky colloquial Chinese difficult to follow.
Jin Ping Mei itself is a book with many layers. Often dismissed as nothing but a book of smut and bedroom acrobatics (yes, it is full of this dear readers), Roy argues that it is also a tale of Confucian morals, and the consequences of failing to heed them. The story focuses on the town of Qing He (Clear Lake), and the household of a well-to-do young merchant named Ximen Qing. The book is also a treasure trove of details regarding the clothing, festivals, traditions, etc. of late Ming dynasty China. (While the author set the book in the late Sung dynasty, I think this is but a fig leaf. It was the Ming dynasty he himself lived in that he was thinking of all the time).
Jin Ping Mei has something of a reputation in this corner of the world as an "erotic novel". Here, I would say it falls down. If you want smut, this is not the book for you.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a short review August 1, 2001
By A Customer
David Tod Roy has done Chinese literature proud by producing a scrupulously exact translation of this classic in Chinese erotica. Like what a previous reviewer says, it is "clear and precise", bringing out the naturalistic details of the novel fully to the reader; yet, for all its accuracy, it reads exceptionally well. For introduction, Roy has written a well-argued essay on why Jin-Ping Mei should be read as didactic literature, not as mere erotica, as it has for centuries. Jin-Ping-Mei's checkered history in Chinese literature doesn't disguise the fact that it is a very well written (and detailed) account of the rise and fall of an extended household, made obvious by corruption and its list of licentious dealings (both in Ximen Qing and his harem).
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89 of 124 people found the following review helpful
This will be more of a commentary than a review, and a sad commentary at that. Arthur Waley many years ago offered a translation of the Chin Ping Mei that was, at least at that time, a wonderful introduction to this most facinating epic. For many years, until my copy became dog-eared and worn, a number of people were introduced to Chinese literature by my old copy of the Chin Ping Mei and invariably were most thankful for the experience.
Then, after a few other efforts by various academics,about which the reviews were mixed enough to not entice me to replace my Arthur Waley copy, David Roy came up with his return to a poetic renditioning: The Plum in the Golden Vase. I bought it; I read it and I was sunk. This is THE translation. This is, I am sure, as close as we are going to get to the Chinese poetry of the original. Wait! We are not going to get this translation after all. Dr. Roy is too old to complete what he started( this, according to his publisher after I dug around in the Princton Press and bothered them month after month, year after year). This sad fact came to light after the publication date for volume two, which had been projected for l995 or some such, had passed by without the faintest hint of when we would get that next volume.
I had been hoping that David Tod Roy was a young and vigorous thirty-something. This man is in his sixties or seventies and he projects another four volumes! I also am in my seventies and at the rate of publication I will be in my nineties by the last volume. I can't believe that this man will be inspired to erotica with the same verve at ninety that he was when he started his translation. I speak for myself as well as Dr.Roy.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars I have no compelling reason not to recommend this set
Dr. Roy consistently translates the word "cun" (寸), a traditional Chinese unit of length, as "inch. Read more
Published 10 days ago by Holly Chen
3.0 out of 5 stars You have to be Chinese?
Sometimes being Chinese and a writer would help reading this first book. There are so many characters that it reminds me of reading Russian literature. Read more
Published 2 months ago by C. Eckdall
3.0 out of 5 stars Trashy porn or the greatest first novel?
Roy does a masterful job translating one of the world's first novels. I read it mainly as a straight up book, not spending time delving into the copious and masterful notes. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Andrew J Peterson
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Read
Translation quality is good and the comments is enlightening. Reading flows very well. I recommend this to anyone interest in ancient literature.
Published 4 months ago by King 55414
3.0 out of 5 stars Poor Quality Binding!
This is a wonderful story-and I have ordered the next 3 vol. in this work.
HOWEVER- for a paperback book of this price, and 600 page length,I would expect a binding that keeps... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Pen Name
4.0 out of 5 stars Given as a gift
The recipient says it is very well written/translated and he is enjoying it; although I notice he is reading and finishing other books at the same time. Read more
Published 6 months ago by books and all
1.0 out of 5 stars Dissppointing
I found it convoluted and disappointing. Doubtless considered pornographic and shocking at one time it seems tame by today's standards.
Published 8 months ago by Sandra Breuer
4.0 out of 5 stars Used book as described
The book is fascinating. For a good reason it was called one of the most important (if not the most important) Chinese literary masterpieces. Read more
Published 14 months ago by A. Grishin
5.0 out of 5 stars Chin P'ing Mei tranlated by David Tod Roy Vol. 1
This is an accurate translation, or as accurate as possible, of recension A of this novel, published in 1618. Read more
Published on January 21, 2010 by William D. Dewberry
4.0 out of 5 stars Superb translation of a classical chinese story
This volume provided an excellent translation of a chinese text that was written many years ago. It describes the social mores and conventions of an era that has long passed. Read more
Published on January 9, 2007 by Paul Humphreys
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