Monday, December 28, 2015

G424 Book Review of The Golden Lotus Vol II by Lanling Xiaoxiaosheng

Name of Book: The Golden Lotus Vol II

Author: Lanling Xiaoxiaosheng, Clement Egerton, Shu Qingchun

ISBN: 978-0-8048-4171-9

Publisher: Tuttle

Part of a Series: The Golden Lotus Vol I was the "prequel" This one covers chapters 54-100

Type of book: 1100s, Forbidden book, death, despicable deeds, bribing, finances, affairs, falling into place, China, reparations, revenge, loyalty, surprising heroes and heroines, women as main characters, officials, greed, second chances, lust, sloth,

Year it was published: 2011 (1300s)

Summary:

The Golden Lotus (Jin Ping Mei) has been called the fifth greatest work in all of Chinese literature and one of the Four Masterworks of the Ming novel. Anonymously written, it was admired in its own time for its literary qualities and biting indictment of the immorality and cruelty of its age. Yet it has also been denigrated as a dirty book for its sexual frankness. It centers on Ximen Qing, a wealthy, young, dissolute merchant, and his marriage to a fifth wife, Pan Jinlian, literally "Golden Lotus." In her desire to influence her husband, and, through him, control the other wives, concubines, and entire household, she uses sex as her main weapon. The Golden Lotus lays bare the rivalries within this wealthy family while chronicling its rise and fall. It fields a host of vivid characters, each seeking advnatage in a corrupt world. The second volume charts the traces the decline of Ximen Qing and his household, and the fall of the Golden Lotus, Pan Jinlian.

This edition features a new introduction by Robert Hegel, who situates teh novel for contemporary readers and explains its greatness as the first single-authored novel in the Chinese tradition. This translation contains the complete, unexpurgated text as translated by Clement Egerton with the assistance of Shu Qinggchun, later known as Lao She, one of the most prominent Chinese writers of the twentieth century. The translation has been pinyinized and corrected fro the for the Tuttle Classics edition.

Characters:

Just like in previous novel, the main characters include Ximen Qing who spends money without a thought, and is surprisingly generous to those who need "help." Other women also include his numerous wives, including Pan Jinlian who seems to become more despicable in one's eyes than possible, but I guess considering her actions in first volume, it really shouldn't surprise me. There is Li Ping'er who has recently given birth to Ximen Qing's only son and who is very dedicated to the said son. There are also numerous officials, friends and servants, enough to make a lot of mischief and to suck Ximen Qing from the money he has had. It seems that everything falls into place at the end of the novel.

Theme:

What was on top must fall

Plot:

The story is in third person narrative and focuses a lot on women as well as Ximen Qing, so yes, one sees the women's quarters during these times as well as the business side of China during the corruption when coin and connections were far more valuable than a person's character. I think in this part the characters really get their loyalty and personalities tested, and some unexpected heroes come out of the fallen mess. The action picks up again and the reader is once more very drawn into what will happen to Ximen Qing and to the women he loved.

Author Information:
(From back of the book)

Lanling Xiaoxiaosheng: No one is certain who he is aside from the fact he wrote this novel around 1590 ME.

Clement Egerton was at various tiems a senior officer in the British army, an Anglican bishop, and a writer, editor and photographer, but he is best known for his enduring translation of The Golden Lotus.

Shu Qingchun became famous as the Beijing novliest and dramatist Lao She, whose best-known work may be Rickshaw Boy. He was killed, or committed suicide, during the Cultural Revolution.

Robert Hegel is the Liselotte Dieckmann Professor of Comparative Literature and a professor of Chinese in East Asian Languages and Cultures at Washington University in St. Louis Missouri
.
Opinion:

This is the second part of the controversial and memorable of the "fifth" Chinese classic known as Jin Ping Mei. This covers chapters 54-100, so yes, one has to read Volume I in order to know what is going on in Volume II. Well, what is going on in Volume II? Ximen Qing is overly ambitious and very insatiable as well as extremely greedy. If things in Vol I seemed to be unpleasant, in Vol II the things get extremely ugly with endless sex, control, manipulation and unspeakable acts done by Pan Jinlian who felt threatened by her husband's attention towards other women. (Umm seriously, you marry this guy knowing he has had quite a few wives before you, and that he also has a habit of going to different places to get more mistresses and you feel insecure?) The figurative battle lines are drawn, the coffers are going dry like river in a desert, and deaths happen and occur, a lot of them in most surprising fashion. In other words, this seems to be a sort of Karmic novel that one can't stay on top forever, and sooner or later one will fall from grace.

This was given to me by Tuttle Company for an honest review

4 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

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