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63 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars These are paranormal Chinese tales of old..., January 18, 2008
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This review is from: Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
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 night...fox-fairies, 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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33 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great place to get started with Chinese literature, October 31, 2007
This review is from: Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio (Penguin Classics) (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. Yet, while typically strange and fantastic, some of these works are also quite touching (for example, the breezy tone of gentle romanticism used "Twenty Years A Dream" may have influenced the style of Shen Fu's "Six Records of a Floating Life"). If you're interested in Chinese literature and culture - and don't have the time or energy to tackle one of the very lengthy "Four Classics" - this is a great place to start. Many of these stories are extremely short (most are between 2 and 5 pages) and a dozen or so can easily be digested in one sitting. Yet, herein lies the problem: many peices are too short to develope characters, plot or tone and are quite forgetable. I would recommend focusing on the longer tales first and then reading the shorter ones if you're still interested.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chinese Grotesque & the Arabesque, January 22, 2007
By 
Mark Newbold (Pittsburg, KS United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
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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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An amazingly freakish fantasy world. . ., October 13, 2008
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This review is from: Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A charming easy reading full of surprises, August 1, 2013
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This classical book is, first of all, a feast to the eyes, having over a hundred pictures, one for each tale, describing its content in the best Chinese tradition, depicting typical gardens with gnarled oak-trees, plum-blossoms, castles with curved roofs, and beautiful and handsome people wearing all kinds of ornate gowns. Then the reader discovers that he or she is about to read over a hundred stories,- some of them one-page-short, a few longer than twelve pages,- which makes it a pleasant task for busy people who can't read two hours daily. One can just keep the book near the bed and read one or two stories before falling asleep. And gradually the reader realizes that he or she is becoming acquainted with the whole atmosphere of old China,- their believes, their daily life, their exquisite landscapes and gardens, their habits of courtship and marriage, and their occult traditions,-their magic-weapons, their monsters, their wise snakes, mice and birds, their capacities of knowing the future in advance, their ghosts, usually of deceased young people,- people dying and coming back to life in their own bodies or in bodies of recently dead people, or reincarnating in new bodies,- their spirits of foxes, usually appearing in the form of seductive beautiful maidens, actually mixing with the living people, but after their death appearing as foxes, just as we in the west had the "Were-Wolves",- just to name a few of all those marvels. Reading the stories reminds one of the celebrated "Thousand Arabian Nights",- "Aladdin",- even "Harry Potter" for adults, and the interesting thing is that the author claims it's not a work of fiction, but true stories he'd accumulated from his neighbors, relatives and friends, making the reading even more fascinating, as if you were reading a gossip-column in an ancient Chinese journal... This is the best gift for people who aren't great readers, yet like to peek occasionally into strange cultures, bizarre events, romantic tales, without investing too much effort and time. The style is very enjoyable, and the only thing that saddened me was,- reaching the book's end, even after 450 pages and 104 stories. I screamed for more! Of course, I've already taken care to supply myself with some more classical Chinese books... Luckily there are several of them on the market, well-translated, all of them celebrated masterpieces.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fox Obsession, October 2, 2012
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This review is from: Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
First of all, the quality of physical book itself is lacking.

The pages are very thin, not quite as thin as Bible pages, but getting close. For example if you were to hold onto the side of a page to turn the page, but held onto it too tightly or for too long, it leaves a wrinkle from your fingers that doesn't exactly go away. The cover is not much better when it comes to thickness, and my first one arrived damaged. Although it was packaged poorly, the other two books in the box arrived OK, so it says to me that maybe this book just wasn't strong enough to hold up like the other two, which were the quality of an average trade paperback.

Now for the actual content of the book.

The book is great. It starts off with an Introduction, then all the stories, and at the end there is an Author's Forward. But the best part is that after the Author's Forward, there is an extensive Glossary, and then extensive Notes on every single story! These must be good for people who are really looking to dive into the book on a deep level.

The stories themselves are good. At first it starts off without so many fox stories, and then a little ways through almost every story has a fox, which can get predictable. There is nothing wrong with this and it dodges a repetitive feeling. Some of the stories can be very anticlimactic, but once you get used to this it can be charming.

Physical Book: 2.5 stars

Book Content: 5 stars
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars good, December 12, 2013
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This review is from: Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
the best translation edition of the book so far. with the preface by Pu and lots of footnotes. better if it includes all the 500 stories.
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11 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Quality Presentation, January 12, 2008
This review is from: Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
I bought two of these, one for myself and one for my younger brother, because Pu Songling is dope. His stories are brief and phantasmagorial and occasionally step off into the pure absurd. Those who like the dark short stories of Franz Kafka or his modern day equivalents will enjoy these tales, as well as anyone just looking for some great pieces of fiction. The translation and artwork is beautiful and the notes are very extensive. In the preface, the editor describes how the original work contained nearly 500 tales, of which 104 were selected for this collecton. The many pages of notes, glossaries, and words from the editor take up over a hundred pages which one can't help but feel might be better used to include more stories. That being said, I feel assured that all the tales included represent the very best of Songling's considerable writing skills, and recommend the collection very highly.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it, March 3, 2014
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I really enjoy the tales, they were unique and interesting. Some of them were creepy and others really funny and humorous.
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5.0 out of 5 stars a source of reading and thinking pleasure, January 7, 2014
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If anyone wants to think about human relationships and behaviors by reading short or long stories with ancient wisdom, highly recommend this collection
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Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio (Penguin Classics)
Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio (Penguin Classics) by Pu Songling (Paperback - October 31, 2006)
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