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The Plum in the Golden Vase or, Chin P'ing Mei (Volume One: The Gathering)

Narrated by: George Backman
Length: 17 hrs and 35 mins
Categories: Classics, World Literature
5 out of 5 stars (1 rating)

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Summary

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.

©1993 Princeton University Press (P)2014 Audible, Inc.

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  • Caroline
  • 21-11-14

Excellent narration and rollicking story

George Backman is a terrific narrator for this. He can handle the Chinese names effortlessly and he catches the spirit of the soap opera characters, bed scenes, insults and general conniving.

Yes, it is in one sense a seemingly endless portrayal of a superficial, wealthy, randy young Chinese businessman and his wives/concubines, drinking parties, etc in 1100s China. But it is also a discerning portrayal of human psychology and a picture of Chinese life across most classes during the 1600s, when it was actually written. If you think of it as like a multi-year television program, well written and weaving together the threads of several plot lines while beguling you with descriptions of suculent feasts and beautiful clothes, you’ll get into the spirit of the thing and commit to multiple volumes. Again, Backman is flawless and makes the book.

Do note that it is frankly written in occasional bed scenes, so you wouldn’t want to listen in a car with children.

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  • bpjammin
  • 30-09-19

A calssic translation and narration!

This is the first volume of David Tod Roy’s excellent translation of Chin P'ing Mei, one of the six great classics of Chinese Literature. It’s right up there with David Hawkes’ masterful translation of “Dream of the Red Chamber.” George Backman’s nuanced narration and excellent Chinese pronunciation really brings the book to life.

The book opens with a retelling of the story of Wu Song, a character from the Classic “Outlaws of the Marsh.” Wu Song’s story eventually blends into the story of Ximen Qing, a debauched, wealthy pharmaceutical merchant who has more money, women, wine & song than he knows what to do with.

This book can be sexually explicit at times, unlike the more demure classic, “Dream of the Red Chamber.” It also is far from the political sensibilities of “Outlaws” and “Romance of the Three Kingdoms,” which tend to point out corruption and attempt to remedy it. It is however, much more like “Journey to the West” in that it’s one madcap adventure after another for the entire volume. Ximen Qing is definitely Sun Wukong but with none of the Monkey King’s redeeming qualities.

Like Red Chamber, it provides a window into everyday Chinese culture. Though set in earlier times, both books portray the lives of social elites and the common people of China at the end of the Ming and beginning of the Qing Dynasties. The extreme wealth and privilege of the wealthy elites at that time certainly have parallels in today’s western culture. (Jeffrey Epstein comes to mind.)

This is my second time listening to this volume and it just seems even better to me than my first listen. I sure hope Audible decides to record the remaining three volumes and that George Backman is the narrator of those volumes as well.