An old Chinese novel is racy reading still


David Tod Roy completes his translation of ‘Chin P’ing Mei’: NYT

PlumingoldenvaseWhen David Tod Roy entered a used-book shop in the Chinese city of Nanjing in 1950, he was a 16-year-old American missionary kid looking for a dirty book.

His quarry was an unexpurgated copy of “The Plum in the Golden Vase,” an infamously pornographic tale of the rise and fall of a corrupt merchant, written by an anonymous author in the late 16th century.

Mr. Roy had previously encountered only an incomplete English translation, which switched decorously into Latin when things got too raunchy. But there it was — an old Chinese edition of the whole thing — amid other morally and politically suspect items discarded by nervous owners after Mao Zedong’s takeover the previous year.

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