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Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio (Penguin Classics) Paperback – October 31, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

PU SONGLING (1645-1715) was a poor, undistinguished scholar who had an uneventful life. He took the lowest degree, the bachelor's, before he was twenty, but ten years later, he still had not succeeded in passing the second, the master's degree, due to his neglect of the standard fields of academic study. His loss of personal status is the world's gain, however, because his overriding interest was in tales of the supernatural, and his collected works, the bible of Chinese supernatural folktales.

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (October 31, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140447407
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140447408
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #70,491 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

78 of 81 people found the following review helpful By Isaac Ho on January 18, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a Chinese, I find these supernatural tales penned by one of ancient China's finest and most imaginative storytellers - Master Pu Songling, proved to be fascinating reading, particularly in a cold and windy night and alone by oneself...! I had read the Chinese version and look forward to reading the English translation to compare how faithful the selection had been rendered into a Western language. Pu Songling was a Chinese scholar and he had passed the country's highest examination - the Jinshi - given an official post. On his retirement from official duties after serving his lifetime, he retired to a thatched hut in the midst of fragrant pines and there spent the rest of his retirement collecting and editing the present volume - Tales of Liaozhai (Chinese title) sometime between 1640-1715, shortly after the Manchu Ch'ing Dynasty (AD1644-1912). Such Liaozhai tales proves to be fascinating among the Chinese people at the teahouses and streetcorners at, ghosts and other strange and wandering spirits which vigorously meting out rewards and punishments to either good or erring mortals! Based on popular legends and folklore of the day, these paranormal collection of tales were retold under the able penmanship of the retired Master Pu Songling, especially in an era of strict censorship and which were strictly scrutinized by the alien Manchu rulers and their corrupted officials. Under a lonely bean oil lamp, the dedicated Master Pu Songling labored with love and care to produce for his contemporaries and even his fellow countrymen years to come these strange tales... Finest reading, highly recommended and provide an insight into the Chinese mind and for that, there is no equal to this day. Thanks.
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39 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Z. E. Lowell on October 31, 2007
Format: Paperback
Pu Songling (1640-1715) lived and wrote during a very tumultous time in Chinese history. He witnessed the devestating effects of the Manchu invasion and the collapse of the Ming Dynasty, peasant uprisings, natural disasters, famines, banditry and official corruption. Yet, rather than discussing such events directly in his work, Songling instead created a fictional world which was no less uncertain, chaotic and melancholy than the one he actually lived in. His stories are populated with monsters, fox spirits, ghosts, trolls, talking animals and numerous other strange beings which alternately haunt or help his human protagonists. Yet, whatever bizarre or inexplicable situation Songling's characters encounter, they usually meet with a happy ending: either by vanguishing, or outsmarting, an enemy; or changing their dissolute ways. Unfortunately for Songling and his contemporaries, the real events of late-17th, early-18th century China rarely concluded on such optimistic notes. Readers interested in learning more about this era should also check out Jonathan Spence's "The Death of Woman Wang" (which frequently cites Songling's essays and stories).

Focusing on the text itself, the stories complied in this volumne do not, by any stretch of the imagination, fall into the horror or weird tale genres familiar to Western readers (so don't expect scares or chills). They should instead be considered re-imaginings of folk stories which usually carry some sort of moral message or injunction. For modern readers unfamiliar with (or uninterested in) the origins and significance of Chinese myth and lore, these peices can be read and enjoyed purely as fantasy.
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30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Mark Newbold on January 22, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a wonderful new edition of a legendary Chinese collection of strange and eerie stories by one of the masters of Chinese literature. Pu Songling provides exquisite miniatures as well as short stories that capture the ill at ease nuances when the supernatural and natural worlds intrude upon one another. Many of the stories seem dreamlike and full of faery, others disturbing and gory, but all make for an ideal nightstand book for yourself and guests.

These are tales rich in the folklore and everyday life of early 18th century China, John Minford provides copious footnotes and appendixes to guide you through an unfamiliar Asian society. This work was a great favorite of the late Victorian/Edwardian era due to the decadent elements in many of the stories I'm sure.

This is the ideal book for long wintry nights or warm days at the beach, regardless of the locale, this is a welcomed reprint of a fantasy classic of world literature.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By T. Hooper on October 13, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Pu Songling collected various weird and strange tales. In essence, these are Chinese fairy tales. You'll come across weird things like a demon that wears the skin of a beautiful woman in order to lure men to their death. Most of the tales center around fox-spirits or ghosts. Fox-spirits are shapeshifters that can take the form of humans. Most are malicious, using humans to create magical elixers to further their goals of eternal life, but some can be kind and sympathetic to the humans around them. This volume contains a selection of the tales by Pu Songling. After reading this, I'd like to get a chance to read all of the tales.

While these are fairy tales, parents should be warned that most of the tales deal with sexual themes, and would not be appropriate for children. Readers of all other ages will be enthralled by these tales. I highly recommend this book.
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