Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Harem of His Men

The Harem of Hsi Men by Jin Ping Mei. Early Chinese literature. Almost unreadable in modern day novels, the basic premise involves a rich Chinese who has no children or other pleasures. One day his wife allows him to buy a couple girls to sing, dance and play flutes all day to entertaining him. One of the girls dies early on, but the young Chin Lien (called Gold Lotus) becomes his true entertainment. She’s smart, can read and write, and knows how to apply makeup, and it isn’t long before Master Chang desires her for other, more private, entertainment. When his wife catches on, she immediately tries to put a stop to this hanky-panky, and forces Master Chang to give the girl away in marriage. The crafty old Chang gives her to his poor tenant also residing in the master’s home, and when the old tenant is out working, Master Chang carries on his affair with the young Gold Lotus. When the wife finally has enough, she forces the tenant and Chin Lien out, and away from her husband’s clutches for good. At least the book does have a great cover, but the story is too old-fashioned to really be worth reading for modern taste.

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