Pleasure and Excess in Ming China

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Pleasure and Excess in Ming China Powered By Docstoc


Pleasure and Excess in Ming China:
A talk given at Casa Asia, June 3 2004 Craig Clunas School of Oriental and African Studies, London At some point in the middle of the sixteenth century, the painter Lu Zhi (14961576) created for an unidentified client, or at least a client of whom we have the name, ‘Master Yunquan’ but no other details, an album of ten small paintings depicting, ‘The Pleasures of a Secluded Existence’ (You ju le shi). They are, in the order in which they are currently mounted: ‘Dreaming One is a Butterfly,

‘A Crane in a Cage’, ‘Contemplating Plum Blossom’, ‘Picking Medicinal Herbs’, ‘Crows in the Evening’, ‘Pausing the Sound of the Zither’, ‘Fishermen’, ‘Releasing Ducks’, ‘Listening to the Rain’, and ‘Treading on Snow’.1 One can learn a lot about a culture from its pleasures. These decorous and admirably restrained indulgences, several of which also carry historical allusions to paragons of the past who were particularly associated with them, are all here carried out by a single solitary male figure (he is implied as a viewer but not pictured in the scenes of crows and fishermen), simply but elegantly dressed in the robes of the recluse, remote and untrammeled by the cares of the world. He is the gao shi or ‘lofty scholar’, the ideal of elite male subjectivity, the point of viewing of the ten thousand things of the world. He is, indeed, an ideal, and his pleasures are ideal pleasures. The word used for them in Lu Zhi’s title is le, which echoes through Ming writing, and which is found equally often in contexts which reveal, unsurprisingly, that pleasure was not an

DO NOT CITE WITHOUT THE AUTHOR’S PERMISSION uncomplicated Good Thing for the authors of these texts. It is for example exactly the


same word that the anecdotist He Liangjun (1506-1573), one of Lu Zhi’s contemporaries, used in writing about the former Grand Secretary Xie Qian (1449-1531), who passed his days in retirement from high office playing cards with his granddaughters, and playfully gambling for cakes and fruit as a form of pleasure (xi du yi wei le). We are acerbically told, ‘He never asked about public affairs. Considered nowadays, he was a silly old fool.’2 Even more extreme, the Ming Chinese term chun le, literally ‘Springtime Pleasures’, refers not to the enjoyment of the vernal greenery or a picnic in the countryside, but to pleasures of pornographic imagery and sexual indulgence. ‘Springtime pictures’, chun hua, are the Japanese shunga, pornographic imagery which was as widely circulated as it was condemned and banned by public and private moralists alike. The wide range of the term ‘pleasure’, and of some cognate terms like ‘amusement’ (wan) and ‘play’ (xi), as it deployed across a huge range of visual and material culture in Ming China (1368-1644), will be the focus here. Sources of many kinds confirm the supposition that looking, and spectatorship, were themselves conceived as a form of pleasure, whether licit or illicit. The lofty scholar with his crane in a cage is paralleled by the early fifteenth century emperor examining a caged singing bird which is held up for his inspection by a boy eunuch. It comes from a series of court paintings of imperial pleasures, collectively known as Xing le tu, or ‘Pictures of Activities of Pleasure’, which have been the subject of a detailed analysis by Wang Cheng-hua, as part of a thesis on material culture and emperorship at this period.3 Series of such ‘Pictures of Activities of Pleasure’ were an established genre of court art, many more such series being recorded textually than now come down to us. They first of all showed eminent recluses of the past in rural settings, but were adapted to display the splendours of pleasure at the imperial court, thus not only creating an analogy between the reigning sovereign and worthies of the past, but stressing that the peace and prosperity of the imperium allowed the ruler to engage in suitably decorous pastimes appropriate to his status. Thus a huge surviving painting attributed to Shang Xi, now mounted as a hanging scroll but once probably a more permanently visible screen panel shows the Xuande emperor (r. 1426-1435)hunting in the imperial park in the company of his household eunuchs.4



Others show the emperor as spectator, looking at seasonal and other entertainments, including the setting off of fireworks, court ladies and children playing at the street life of roaming and shopping, processional floats and the antics of tumblers, all laid on for his pleasure. These acts of imperial delight in looking are attested in the textual sources also, where they are also occasions for the pleasure of looking in company, and of the emperor sharing his pleasures with his subjects. Thus in 1412 on the occasion of the New Year, when a banquet was held for officials, both officials and common people were allowed into the Wumen to gaze on the ‘Turtle Mountain’, a vast temporary structure ablaze with lanterns and fireworks. One senior official named Xia Yuanji (1366-1430) brought his mother to see the sight, showing that such festival spectatorship was not totally restricted by gender. (Eunuchs informed the emperor of the lady’s presence, and the sovereign described her as a worthy woman and ordered rewards all round.)5 The following year court annals tell how the emperor drove to the Eastern Park (the court was by now in Beijing) to ‘watch (guan) striking the ball and shooting at the willow, allowing the civil and military officials, the ambassadors of the Four Barbarians and the elderly of the capital to participate in the spectatorship.’ We get a description of the two ball teams, led by aristocrats, with the whole court from the emperors grandson downwards taking a turn at the ball and the shooting. The emperor was delighted his grandson did so well, and capped a line of verse he produced – his rewards and those given to other officials are listed.6 Again on the New Year in 1414 the emperor, ‘went to the Meridian gate to view the lanterns…’, and poems and gifts were the result of his pleasure in the spectacle.7 Just over a hundred years later, in 1517, the Zhengde emperor, who has gone down in the history books as a much less ideal ruler, was seeing in the New Year at Xuanfu on the northern frontier, in the course of one of his rackety progresses; this was a somewhat

DO NOT CITE WITHOUT THE AUTHOR’S PERMISSION raucous affair involving processions of decorated floats of monks and women, and the playful throwing of balls by the latter at the former. ‘The emperor’ we are told ‘roared with laughter, and took great pleasure (le)’.8 With his known love of pomp and


excitement, he was presumably similarly pleased with the festivities and fireworks which marked his ceremonial return to Beijing in the following year.9 These ephemeral aspects of Ming material culture, in particular things like festival lanterns and fireworks, are almost totally lost to us now, surviving only as hints in things like the few scrolls of imperial pleasures which survive, and in occasional descriptions and printed illustrations in novels. Fireworks feature prominently in Jin Ping Mei, for example, which reveals that specialists could be hired for parties to set them off, and which gives us lists of their evocative specialised names: ‘Slow-blooming lotus blossoms’, ‘Golden thread chrysanthemums’, ‘Ten-foot high orchids’, ‘Brighter than moonlights’, ‘Ten-foot high chrysanthemums’, ‘Great smoky orchids’, ‘Gold lamp on a silver stand’.10 What certainly does survive is some of the puritanical strictures against visual pleasures of this type, ranging from simple prohibitions on feasting and theatricals at funerals,11 to much more drastic measures such as the occasion in 1567 when a series of bad portents led the emperor to decree that there was to be no holiday over the New Year for officials, while ‘the people were forbidden to hang lanterns and take [literally ‘make’] their pleasure’ (zuo le).12 Similarly in 1625 bad news led to the situation in which ‘The emperor proclaimed a strict prohibition on the people setting off fireworks and rockets, on drumming and playing at kickball’.13 For the Ming educated male, the grander associations of ‘pleasure’ were with anything but fireworks, drumming and football, at least in the majority of their public pronouncements. There was a long tradition of engagement with the problem of pleasure, stretching back to the thinkers of the Warring States period, two thousand years before. As Michael Nylan has shown, in the only sustained discussion of the problem, polemic centred on the relationship between the sensual and experiential pleasures of things like sumptuous clothes and fine wines, and what she calls the ‘relational pleasures’, such as ‘getting good men to serve in office through politicking; cultivating oneslef in the arts of social intercourse; taking pleasure in virtue; taking pleasure in one’s profession; and taking pleasure in heaven and its moral imperatives’.14 Only through an

DO NOT CITE WITHOUT THE AUTHOR’S PERMISSION attention to the latter could ‘consuming pleasures’ be transmuted into ‘sustaning pleasures’. ‘Is it not a delight (le) to have friends come from afar ?’, is the famous


opening passage of the Confucian ‘Analects’, the sayings of the sage himself, while in the 1487 metropolitan exam the examiners set as the quotation for discussion by candidates a text from the no-less canonical philosopher Mencius; ‘He who delights (le) in Heaven will continue to possess the empire’.15 Yang Dongming (1548-1624), an official from impoversihed Northeastern Henan who was personally close to the Donglin faction of reformist officials, formed in 1590 in a ‘Society for Sharing Pleasure’, later transmuted into a ‘Society for Sharing Goodness’, which did charitable work like road and bridge building, funding weddings and funerals.16 This sense of decorous pleasure is well captured above all in studio names. The grammar of Ming Chinese allows le to act like a transitive verb, in the sense of ‘to take pleasure in’, ‘to delight in’ something (as in ‘delighting in Heaven’ in the Mencian quotation above’), and as such it is a term quite regularly seen in the names of the studios and other buildings of Ming elite estates, names which often stand metonymically for those of their owners. A bare list of these, extracted from a modern dictionary of studio names, gives the following rather revealing examples: Le shan ting, ‘Pleasure in the Mountains Pavilion’, Li Qian from Daliang Le Bai xuan, ‘Pleasure in Bai [Juyi] Gallery’, Huang Chengwu from Xiushui Le zai tang, ‘Pleasure in Presence Hall’, Xiao Qi from Taihe Le quan weng, ‘Old Man who Takes Pleasure in Completeness’, Ren Shun from Huating Le zhi ting, ‘Pleasure in Resolution Pavilion’, Zheng Zihua from Kunshan Le bing sheng, ‘Scholar who Takes Pleasure in Sickness’, Li Zhongyuan from Xiushui Le qing xuan, ‘Pleasure in Purity Gallery’, Xia Zhongzhao from Kunshan Le qing weng, ‘Old Man who Takes Pleasure in Purity’, Liu Pu from Taicang Le ji weng, ‘Old Man who Takes Pleasure in Hunger’, Wang Naizhao from Changshu Le shan zhai, ‘Pleasure in Goodness Chapel’, Zhu Mufan from the imperial clan Le qin shu chu, ‘Pleasure in the Zither Library’, Shen Du from Huating Le hao zhai, ‘Pleasure in Radiance Chapel’, Chen Diao from Dongwan

DO NOT CITE WITHOUT THE AUTHOR’S PERMISSION Le xian gong, ‘Master Pleasure in Leisure’, Liu Zhu Le shou shan ren, ‘Recluse who takes Pleasure in Longevity’, Zhong Zhi from Minxian Le shou tang, ‘Pleasure in Longevity Hall’, Pan Yunduan from Shanghai Le jia xuan, ‘Pleasure in Tilling Gallery’, Zhou Ziliang from Qiantang Le yu yuan, ‘Pleasure in Surplus Garden’, Qiu Zhaolin from Linchuan Le zhi pu, ‘Pleasure in Resolution Plot’, Wang Yuji of Changge Le shan tang, ‘Pleasure in Goodness Hall, Su Fangjin of Shunde Le zui tang, ‘Pleasure in Extremes Hall’, He Riyu of Xiangshan Le wu zhi zhai, Pleasure in Ignorance Chapel’, Zhang Jiyuan of Shanghai Le yi xuan, ‘Pleasure in Thought Gallery’, Wu Yuanrun of Changzhou Le guan sheng, ‘Scholar who Takes Pleasure in Contemplation’, Xu Ji of Haining17 Mountains, resolution, purity, leisure, tilling, goodness, thought, contemplation – these are all impeccably restrained and orthodox pleasures, especially in that most of them are not material things, but moral or ethical qualities, paralleling the equally dematerialized


indulgences of Lu Zhi’s pictorial list. They are the ‘sustaining pleasures’ which Michael Nyman’s Warring States persuaders sought to persuade their aristocratic patrons into, in texts which the Ming elite still read and took seriously. For pleasure was another of the practices through which the Ming upper classes drew the line between themselves and the vulgar throng, spectacle-loving emperors being included willy-nilly in that latter category. So Yuan Hongdao in visiting the West Lake at dawn or dusk, could remark; ‘Such pleasure is to be indulged in only by monks from the mountains and by travellers, and is certainly not to be divulged to the vulgar crowd.’18 Travel, like leisure itself (two forms of elite consumption of space and time which were extensively pictorialised in the Ming) were not available to everybody, and if they did become available to an inappropriately wide degree of consumers, as many towards the end of the dynasty felt, then the emphasis was only shifted to the manner of the enjoyment. The merely rich might get it through their wealth, but they did not get it in the way that the educated man might. Here there was an implicit alliance between the pleasures of the socially prominent, the scholar elite, and those of people at the very bottom of the heap, in fact

DO NOT CITE WITHOUT THE AUTHOR’S PERMISSION formally off the scale of the ‘four types of people’ (si min): scholars, peasants, artisans, merchants. These are the fisherfolk of the Ming (usually riverine rather than oceanic),


who are commonly pictured in a genre of Ming paintings which are generically titled as ‘Fishermen’s Pleasures’ (Yu jia le or Yu fu le). They form one of Lu Zhi’s set of pleasures with which I began, in between ‘Pausing the Sound of the Zither’ and ‘Releasing Ducks’. In these pictures, fishermen are the Arcadian shepherds of the Ming imagination, unbound as to place (they live on their boats), roaming free and easily, and socially free as well, their lives imagined as ones of pleasure and relaxation. Significantly, it is not the toil of the land-bound peasant which is thus idealized and pictorialised – in fact there are rather few Ming paintings which show peasants working in the fields. The peasant life was too familiar to the owners of the land for it to be seen as pleasurable. But fishermen are seen as almost as part of nature, like the fish they catch, who are also pictorialised in images of ‘Fishy Pleasure’ at this period, and who appear on porcelain jars used for the storage of wine. Thus the pleasures that are asserted as central to an ideal elite lifestyle are noteworthy for their lack of material content. In the first half of the sixteenth century, Wen Zhengming (1470-1559) could refer to the regular business of social intercourse between friends, the ‘going and coming’ with its attendant gift exchange which was at the heart of reciprocity and subject creation, as ‘one of the everyday pleasures of this floating life.’ (fu sheng ping ri zhi le).19 In another letter to a relative by marriage he is even more colloquial in his language; ‘my sons are out, let us not miss this occasion for a chat and a

DO NOT CITE WITHOUT THE AUTHOR’S PERMISSION joke.’20 When arguing seventy years later against the practice of longevity techniques achieved at the cost of self-abnegation and the restraining of all desires, Zhong Xing


(1574-1624), could remark, ‘What pleasure in life is there for people like us if we have to refrain from writing poetry and prose ?’21 In 1557 Gui Youguang could cause the following to be inscribed on a favourite table; The Nine Classics and the Histories are uniquely transmitted to us from the former Sages and Worthies. To study them in my youth, and to dedicate myself to them in old age, has been the fixed purpose of my heart and mind, a pleasure (le) which renders me oblivious to my passing years.22 Even when pleasures less austere than those of a chat, of poetic composition, or of study of the Classics were involved, it was still seemly to stress their non-materiality, and their diffusion in shared enjoyment with a peer group. In a funerary inscription composed in 1539 for a man named Wang Jue (1476-1537), Wen Zhengming writes of how the deceased ‘s family had been military men for generations, and he alone delighted in learning and Confucianism. A diligent character, skilled in many arts from medicine to music, which he mastered easily to an astonishing degree. We are told he built a detached mansion south of the city; here he would feast guests among lovely flowers and bamboos, enjoying music and dancing and song, ‘pleasures enough to forget the world.’ (le er wang shi).23 The idea that one of the purposes of licit pleasure was to enable one to ‘forget the world’ is central to one indulgence of the Ming, that of alcohol. Drinking, and the distinctive material culture of alcohol consumption, has a long history in China.24 A large proportion of the surviving porcelain of the period was involved in the storage or consumption of alcoholic drinks (always taken warmed, whether fermented or distilled), although the gold and silver tableware which was owned by the rich has now largely been melted down, and survives in nothing like the quantities which once existed.25 But drink, drinking and its effects was not just about a set of types of objects, it was about a whole set of cultural practices and attitudes as well. It was drink-induced exaltation which fuelled the feats of the great literati hero, the Tang poet Li Bai.



His Ming descendants were equally enthusiastic topers. He Liangjun has lots of anecdotes about the necessity of drinking, with titles like ‘Drink takes you out of yourself’ and ‘Better to go 1,000 days without a drink than to drink and not get drunk’. Significantly they appear in the section of his collection called ‘Amusing the Elderly’ – it was filially pious to amuse elderly parents with ones inebriated antics.26 Drinking was often extremely ritualized; Yuan Hongdao, when he could escape the throngs of vulgar tourists on his roaming around Hangzhou’s scenic West Lake, recounts how, ‘To amuse ourselves, we counted the flower petals falling onto our faces: those who received more would have to drink, and those who received less would have to sing.’27 Drunk but decent was the ideal; as Zhong Xing remarked, ‘…yet how can anyone know the pleasure of drinking if he sinks into a lethargy or yells himself into a stupor ?’28 Li Rihua’s diary is however admirably frank about those occasions when too much was taken. There is a Pepysian candour about sequences of entries like those for the 26th day of the 11th month of Wanli 38 (1610) when after a late drinking party the next day is a write-off due to a hangover (literally ‘ill from drink’, bing jiu).29 He is happy to recall that, in 1612, on the occasion of one of his pupils returning from Beijing, they ate crabs together and got ‘very drunk’.30 The following year, at a party at his house, Li’s son produces, ‘white porcelain cups decorated with red fish’, in which the assembled guests have fifty rounds and again get ‘very drunk’. The guests praise the drink, which Li is proud to say is a family recipe. And on the 12th day of the 5th month of Wanli 42 (1614), the diary records the following;

DO NOT CITE WITHOUT THE AUTHOR’S PERMISSION Visited Xu Jie’s Zhulang guan. His father Xu Runqing brought out all his hanging scrolls by Wen Zhengming, Wen Wenshui, Chen Daofu, Mo Yunqing and hung them on the wall, whereupon we fell to talking and laughing as we appraised them, in lieu of musical entertainment. A man from Zhushan named Xiaohai sent round the wine in large gourd dippers he had made himself, and I and my son both got very drunk.


The next day’s entry is suitably laconic; ‘Being ill from drink, I could not touch a drop’.31 This association of male conviviality, drink and the connoisseurship of works of art is strictly in contravention of the rules laid down be several connoisseurs of the Ming for looking at pictures. A sober and reverent attitude was there insisted upon. But the links between the pleasures to be found in artworks and those to be found in inebriation were well understood at the time. When Wen Zhengming came to write the obituary text for his patron and tutor, Shen Zhou (1427-1509), he provided a sketch of how these activities were intertwined; On special days, there was always food and wine, and along with his neighbours there was unrestrained laughter and conversation, when he would bring out his collection of ancient painting, calligraphy and objects, taking delight in handling, classifying and inscribing them. In his later years his fame was even greater, and visitors arrived in ever greater numbers, till his gateway was full..32 Six years before, Wen had characterized Shen Zhou’s son (who had pre-deceased his father), as a man for whom excesses in both activities were a central part of his make-up. Describing Shen Yunhong as someone whose ‘nature was to delight in heavy drinking, yet without disorderliness’, he goes on; ‘He particularly loved objects, calligraphy and painting handed down from antiquity, and on meeting a famous piece he would fondle and amuse himself (wan) with it, his face showing his delight, and would frequently purchase it at a high price’ Shen delighted in showing his collection to visitors with his own hands, and often compared himself to the great Song dynasty connoisseur Mi Fei, who wished to be born as a silverfish. ‘My obsession (pi) is probably of this kind.’33 Here however we arrive at one of the boundaries of licit pleasure for the men of the Ming, or at least for the battleground on which a range of debates around the cultivation of the self, and the relationship between that self and the social order embodied in it, were

DO NOT CITE WITHOUT THE AUTHOR’S PERMISSION vigorously and sometimes rancorously staged. Was pleasure in things (as opposed to


pleasure in study, or company, or moral resolve) still properly pleasure at all, or was it a debased sensation more appropriately characterized by some other term ? A sixteenthcentury commentator named Chen Quanzhi certainly took the latter position, when he complained; ‘People who have a piece of torn and tattered silk with a bit of landscape painted on it love it as a treasure, and sell it only for thousands, to the point where a real prospect gives them no enjoyment – isn’t this valuing the fake and debasing the genuine ? If you want real pleasure (le), find it in the dawn on the spring snow, the balminess of the spring wind, or in sitting fishing by the gull’s side, or in raising a song at the calf’s side…’34 But his lengthy discussion of the true sources of ‘pleasure’ (of which this is but the opening section) was drowned out by the chorus of those who thought that things were fun, fun which was expressed in another word altogether; this word is wan, ‘To amuse oneself with. To find pleasure in. To play with. To play. Toys; trinkets. To trifle with. To dawdle.’35 This is the word Wen Zhengming uses in the passage just quoted to describe the hard-drinking Shen Yunhong’s pleasure in his objects, in the kind of obituary text which is meant to offer nothing but good of its subject. But the word wan had some dangerous connotations, most memorably in a statement from the ancient and canonical ‘Book of Documents’, a text which very educated person knew by heart; ‘To amuse oneself with people is the death of virtue, to amuse oneself with things is the death of the will (wan wu sang zhi)’.36 Perhaps some of the danger that the term implies can be felt in the fact that studio names constructed on the formula ‘Playing with X’ are much rare in the Ming than those which run on the lines of ‘Taking Pleasure in X’, although both verbs can (in English grammar terms) just as easily take a direct object. The full list as follows: Wan yi ting, ‘Playing with the Changes Pavilion’: Shen Kai from Huating, (MRZJ 175: jinshi of Jiajing 8) Wan yi xuan, ‘Playing with the Changes Gallery’: Wang Shu from Sanyuan in Shaanxi (MRZJ 50: 1416-1508) Wan yi guo, ‘Playing with the Changes Nest’: Wu Zixin from Jiangning (MRZJ 241: 1541-1593)



Wan yi lou, ‘Playing with the Changes Tower’, Shen Jiefu from Wucheng (MRZJ 177: 1533-1601). Owner of a famous library with catalogue, Wan yi lou cang shu mu lu Wan yi zhai, ‘Playing with the Changes Chapel’, Bao Xun from Chongde (MRZJ 874: Yuan jinshi) Wan fang tang, ‘Playing with Fragrance Hall’, Wang Shenzhong from Jinjiang (MRZJ 61: 1509-1559) Wan cai sheng, ‘Playing with Vegetables Scholar’, Huang Jun Wan mei ting, ‘Playing with Plum Pavilion’, Chai Weidao from Yanzhou (MRZJ 368: n.d.)) Wan lu ting, ‘Playing with Deer Pavilion’, Wan Biao from Yinxian (Zhejiang) (MRZJ 725: 1498-1556) Military officer. Wan hua zhai, ‘Playing with Painting Chapel’, Yao Yi from Guian (MRZJ 382: n.d.). Wan hua zhai cang shu mu lu Wan shizi, ‘The Master who Plays with Stones’, Guo Duxian from Yiyang Wan yi xuan, ‘Playing with the Changes Gallery’: Zheng Lan from Jingxian Wan hu xuan, ‘Playing with Tigers Gallery, Wang Guanghua from Xin’an37 These thirteen names are outnumbered by the twenty-three names of studios whose owners enjoyed the more decorous ‘pleasure’ rather than ‘play’. But in turn they themselves outnumber the nine names of this formula which are found for the whole of the succeeding Qing dynasty, from 1644-1911 (when names of the Le X ‘Pleasure in X’ formula greatly expanded in number). The sample is small, but what it is necessary to signal here is a theme which will be recapitulated below, namely the sense in later centuries that the Ming period was the dynasty of fun par excellence, and that the devotion of the ruling elite to amusing themselves to death (or at least to dynastic death), explained much of the period’s allure as well as the reasons for its bloody demise. The associations of play with visuality are not necessarily all uncontested ones. Naifei Ding has pointed out the frequency in the most sexually explicit sections of the novel ‘Plum in the Golden vase’ of a direct association between looking and pleasuring the (male) self encapsulated in the phrase guan wan: ‘he [Ximen Qing] uses the same fascinated gaze to as if devour (a visual devouring – guan wan, or literally “to look at/play with”) the

DO NOT CITE WITHOUT THE AUTHOR’S PERMISSION repeated in/out movement of his penis in a succession of mouths, vaginas and rectums


along with the curios that he acquires.’38 And it is such excesses that will be the death of him. But if amusing oneself with things was the death of the will it was a fatal risk the Ming elite were prepared to run, and to celebrate. The conversion of previously utilitarian objects into objects of amusement was noted by many contemporary commentators. One of them wrote regarding ink-cakes , the small solid blocks of highquality soot bound in a medium of glue, which were when needed rubbed, together with water, on an abrasive inkstone to provide the medium for writing and painting. By 1600, the wooden moulds in which these blocks were pressed were often elaborately carved, and the manufacture of inkcakes was at its top end a luxury business, with luxuriously printed catalogues of designs, and trade wars between commercial rivals. Zhou Lianggong remarks of this phenomenon; Nowadays the world plays (wan) with inkcakes and does not grind inkcakes, looks at inkcakes and does not try out inkcakes. Wrapped in brocade bags and lacquer boxes, greased with mutton fat and tiger hide, people do not realise they are for the creation of white and black, which is an excellent joke.39 The distinctive Ming genre of writing known as biji ‘brush-notes’ or xiao pin, ‘vignette’, if opened at random, will be very likely to throw up with pages an essay delighting in some sort of thing, whether freshly-caught perch or calligraphy masterwork. Juicy bamboo shoots and ‘famous paintings’ are discussed here in the same tone.40 It was perfectly possible to wan hua, ‘amuse oneself with flowers’,41 The publisher of a 1498 illustrated edition of one of the most popular of dramas, the ‘West Chamber’, could write; ‘This large-character edition offers a combination of narrative and pictures, so that one may amuse the mind when he staying in a hotel, travelling in a boat, wandering around or sitting idle’.42 But it is in the collecting and appreciation of works of art and antiquities that the concept of wan, ‘amusement’ is most widely and explicitly referenced in Ming texts. One of those texts which gives a particularly good insight into how to have fun with things in the Ming is the diary of Li Rihua from the early 1610s. A fairly typical complete entry from this reads; It rained and then stopped, the weather becoming rather cool. I bought two tea cups of early Wanli ware, with [esoteric] Zhenyan characters on them, extremely



fine, elegant and amusing (jing ya ke wan). Recently the Sumoluo blue from the Shanshan country is exhausted, and the artisans of Jingdezhen are all careless bodgers, so that what they make is fussy, and I fear we shall not see the like of these again. However recently the white wares from the kilns of Fujian have become ever finer day by day. Do revolutions in the work of man follow revolutions in the work of the Creator ? In the afternoon, a thunderclap broke the left column of the drum tower at the Zhaoqing temple.43 The phrase he uses here, of a kind of porcelain cup made a few decades before his birth is ke wan, ‘amusing, ‘ literally ‘suitable for amusement’, ‘suitable to be played with’. He uses it again on the occasion when, ‘A dealer brought two flowery Ding dishes

of a foot in diameter, rather precious, fine and amusing. (ke wan)’44 In his numerous descriptions of itinerant dealers bringing works of calligraphy and painting round for his inspection, his usual formula is ‘ so-and-so brought such-and-such round for amusement, round to play (lai wan).45 He also describes himself on at least on one occasion as ‘playing at’ or ‘having fun with’ or ‘amusing myself with’ calligraphy (wan shu fa).46 But there was serious edge to this fun. Elite theories of artistic creation were highly suspicious of anything that smacked of artisanal meticulousness or professional craft, and hence even when (or especially when) the creation of a work of art involved sustained attention, it could be necessary to situate it within a discourse of pleasure on the part of

DO NOT CITE WITHOUT THE AUTHOR’S PERMISSION both creator and consumer. A letter of Wen Zhengming captures this sense of nonchalance very well


With no visitors at my rainy window, I happened to do this small scroll of cloudy mountains, and had just finished inscribing the poem when Wang Lüji, Luzhi and Yuan Shangzhi happened by, each of them inscribing a short poem also - this is what is meant by ‘completed before its time.’ I offer it to your lofty studio for your pure amusement. (qing wan).47 He sys it again in a letter to a customer named only as ‘Jizhi’ who is sent ‘my small poems and clumsy painting.’ ...’for your pure amusement on board your boat.48 This ‘pure’ (in the sense of high-minded, not of unadulterated) amusement, is also that which is offered by Wen’s contemporary, the professional artist Qiu Ying, on an album of paintings inspired by earlier masters which he created for the banker Xiang Yuanbian (1525-1590). As a professional artist, a salaried retainer, working for a man very much ‘in trade’ the transaction needed all the reassurance it could get; this was provided by wrapping it in an elegant guise of sprezzatura. It was all just a bit of fun, and the death of the resolve threatened by the classical strictures to those who amused themselves with things’ could perhaps be deflected. As Wai-yee Li has shown, there was by the Ming a long tradition of justification for engagement with things, provided it was done with a lightness of touch, and not to excess. The Song dynasty philosopher Zhu Xi, whose glosses on the classics were the officially-approved basis of the examination system, had spoken on ‘taking pleasure in things and thereby accommodating feelings’, thus providing a rationale for all sorts of activities.49 The collecting of objects and images defined as antiquities was one of only many such elite activities for which it provided a charter. Wan gu, ‘amusement with antiquity’ was certainly a serious business, not least for its power to translate its participants across the social boundaries of the imagine ‘four types of people. Thus Wen Zhengming could write of one successful merchant, who had commissioned him to write an congratulatory inscription on his sons coming of age that he ‘has managed to accumulate ancient vessels, calligraphy and painting for his own pleasure... he is different from other merchants.’50

DO NOT CITE WITHOUT THE AUTHOR’S PERMISSION Calligraphy, painting, archaic bronzes


and ancient jades were the chief categories of antiquity, joined increasingly as the dynasty went on by early Ming objects, porcelain and lacquer of the beginning of the fifteenth century. Here it is merely necessary to stress that this activity remained throughout the period a subject of contest, by no means unproblematically supported by all. The Taiquan xiangli of Huang Zuo, a rural compact, an elite-sponsored social control mechanism designed to impose norms of behaviour on village society. In its list of forbidden activities are; drama, gambling, ‘amusing oneself with antiques’ (nong wan gu dong), fondness for music, ‘extensive collecting of flowers and rocks and hunting’. All are seen as profitless activities, distractions from taking care of business.51 Another commentator remarks, ‘There are those who have impoverished themselves through the love of antiquity (hao gu)…’52. In his obituary of a young wife, upheld in the text as a paragon of virtue, Wen Zhengming tells of how she was deferential and modest, withdrawing herself when guests came, preparing cakes, tea and fruit to keep her teenage husband going through long nights of study for the examinations. But she was not beyond reproving him for his excessive spending on calligraphy, paintings and antiquities, remonstrating, ‘You love the relics of the men of antiquity, can you also imitate the deeds of the men of antiquity ?’; we are told that her husband was abashed and devoted himself

DO NOT CITE WITHOUT THE AUTHOR’S PERMISSION again to study.53 To ‘love antiquity’ (hao gu), and to seek it with diligence (min yi qiu zhi) might have been an activity sanctioned by Confucius himself (his dictum on the


subject provides the name of Hong Kong’s most exclusive society for art collectors, the Min Chiu Society, founded in 196054), but the material forms of the search for the past were still capable of being objects of suspicion. It is possible to catch a faint echo of other attitudes to things of the past and the pleasure to be taken in them in an anecdote from the sixteenth century writer Lang Ying, writing about the collection of over thirty ancient mirrors assembled by his father. My aged mother was a believer in Daoism and Buddhism, and did not know that antiques had a high value, so she donated them to be cast into bells, chimes and Buddha images, Nowadays I have only a few items left, and it makes me melancholy whenever I think of it….My nature is to have a craving for antiquity (pi hao gu), so I have recorded them in detail below, to fill a lacuna in antiquarian investigation (kao gu, the modern word)’55 Before rushing to patronize Madame Lang too, it is perhaps sensible to think that perhaps she knew exactly what she was doing, and that it was the sacrificing of valuable antique pieces which made her pious act all the more meaningful. It may well have been a totally rational act. By contrast her, son literally describes himself as irrational, even ill. In referring to himself as suffering from a ‘craving’ or ‘obsession’ (pi) for antiquity, her son was using a fashionable medical term which was becoming increasingly prevalent at this period, to describe the character trait of intense and personal subjectivity which supposedly distinguished the man (always a man) of sensibility. Judith Zeitlin has shown how this originally medical term (it meant an obstruction in the digestive tract), came to be a crucial cultural construct of the late Ming, a pleasure so intense it was like a disease.56 Typically and crucially, a pi was for things. We have already seen Wen Zhengming have his tutor’s son characterize his bibliomania with the words, ‘My obsession (pi) is probably of this kind.’ In writing an obituary of another contemporary who died in 1542, he tells of an obsession with flowers; ‘he loved chrysanthemums, and immured himself in a small garden (pu) where he planted several hundred chrysanthemums, tending them with his own hand., never wearying of this.’57 And he



uses the term once more in writing of the large antiques collection of on major patron, for whom he painted ‘The Studio of True Connoisseurship’ (or ‘True Appreciation’)

celebrating ‘the building where my friend Hua Zhongfu’s family store their paintings and calligraphy. Zhongfu is decent and proper and delights in study; he particularly delights in ancient calligraphy and paintings, ancient and modern rubbings, bronzes and [other] objects.’ 58 An ‘obsession’ came to be the fashionable malaise without which no man of taste was complete. The visual and material culture of amusement in the Ming encompassed both types of objects which survive in some numbers and others which are totally lost. In the former category we might put the apparatus for games like ‘double-six’, a board game of ancient lineage associated with gambling and ‘pitchpot’, in which arrows were tossed by players into a distinctively shaped vase. In the notorious 27th chapter of the novel Jin Ping Mei, a game of this is played by the louche hero Ximen Qing and a favourite concubine, in which the sexually suggestive names for individual variations of the scoring (‘Inserting the arrow Upside Down’, ‘The Black Dragon Penetrates the Cave’, ‘Rolling the Pearl Curtain Bottom Side Up’) turn eventually into obscene parody, in which he uses plums as darts and the exposed sexual parts of the woman as the target of his aim.59 In another chapter, an all-male party is enlivened by the casting of dice, and a complex drinking game involving jokes, singing, and the naming of the complex combinations of numbers associated with dominos.60 There were those same domino and card games with which Grand Secretary Xie Qian gambled away his dotage with his granddaughters, for which there is less physical evidence, although written descriptions survive in quantity. There were games like a form of ‘jacks’, played raucously in the novel Jin Ping Mei as part of general ‘horsing around’ (David Roy’s translation), with a

DO NOT CITE WITHOUT THE AUTHOR’S PERMISSION spanking for the loser asa forfeit.61. Like the actual toys of Ming children, the ‘clay statuettes, folded-paper chickens, carved-wood tigers, masks from Lan-ling as well as some toy swords and halberds to give to my kids’, bought on a shopping trip by Wang Siren, or the toy clapper drum decorated with a varicolored, gold-flecked portrait of the God of Longevity’ given to the baby son of Ximen Qing in the Jin Ping Mei, 62 the apparatus of this game, along with its distinctive bodily postures and tricks, are largely lost to us. Many of these ludic activities were encompassed by the term xi, defined in


Mathews’ Chinese-English Dictionary as; ‘A play. To play; to sport; to jest’. But just as with the term wan discussed above, playing, sporting and jesting could be a serious matter, at least for the elite. The notion of ‘playfully composed’, ‘playfully painted’, ‘playfully written’ is pervasive in Ming writing, as once again it is used to deflect the taint of utilitarianism from elite cultural activities like painting and calligraphy. When Wen Zhengming titles a poem ‘Inscribed on a painting sent to Daofu, playfully requiring that he moisten his brush.’, he is signalling that this is a case of exchange between friends and not a commission from a client.63 When Li Rihua writes in his diary ‘Played at (xi) trying to fish from the stone bridge, and did a picture ‘World Champion Fisherman ‘ to lodge my feelings...(yu yi), he is telling both himself and us that he has no need to catch his supper.64 This defensive amusement could extend into actual laughter, as when one of Wen Zhengming’s letters thanks his very much younger correspondent for a gift, and accompanies a return gift of ‘iced plum balls, not a sufficient recompense, but just for a laugh, a laugh.’ (yi xiao yi xiao).65 The early fifteenth century Xuande emperor gave actual pictorial form to the idea of ‘just for a laugh’, in a much-reproduced image of one of the palace pets, where he has manipulated the written form of the character xiao to make a visual pun which could perhaps be loosely translated as ‘just for a woof’. By bracketing the picture in an occasion of the risible, it deflects criticism that a ruler should have more serious concerns on his mind. Don’t worry, he says, this is just me off duty, it’s not how I really am. One can almost hear the muffled titter running through the court. Perhaps not all Ming laughter was so restrained or so approved, not all ludic inversions so decorous. Significantly the pseudonymous author of the novel ‘Plum in the

DO NOT CITE WITHOUT THE AUTHOR’S PERMISSION Golden Vase’ is Xiaoxiao sheng, ‘Master Laughter’. The images, commonly seen on porcelain, of little boys playing at the triumphal procession of the top examination


success are a form of the carnivalesque which the guardians of moral standards in Ming culture were quite happy with. But other forms of transgressive play were less sanctioned. Xi means ‘play’ in the form of drama, as in the performances given by sons of good family, known as xi wen zi di, which including the extreme transgression of male-to-female cross-dressing.66 Ming drama included, in addition to stirring tales of heroism and of love, rough and raucous farces, which may well have been commonly performed in inverse proportion to their rate of survival.67 Here, as in the festival processions in which gorgeously attired prostitutes paraded the streets in the costumes of characters form history and literature, laughter and play might be less constrained. The Ming carnivalesque, and the visual and material forms it took, is a subject which research has barely begun to touch, so potent is the grip of what we have come to perceive as the ideal of the restrained, dignified, and notably unraucous ‘Ming scholar’. Yet even here there are hints that this may be a stereotype of our modern making, unsupported by the actual sources of the period. The impeccably scholarly Yuan Hongdao could include in his writings in the early seventeenth century a ‘A Biography of the Stupid but Efficient Ones’, in which he writes about four family servants. The text shows little restraint in laughing at the lower orders, as Yuan shows a delight in the comic possibilities of pratfalls, scaldings and dog attacks, which recalls George Orwell’s observation that Cervantes’ original readership was probably uninterested in pathos, and would have thought it highly amusing when Sancho Panza gets a blow on the head or a kick in the arse..68 The scandalous and obscene handbills pasted on walls in Shaozhou ‘making fun of the short costumes of the Portuguese’ were meant to provoke laughter which was anything but restrained, as the Jesuit observer who reported them well knew. Here we enter the murky realm of bad fun, of illicit amusements, of furtive pleasures. The words for ‘pleasure’ and ‘amusement’ and ‘play’ were always capable in Ming usage of turning nasty, as ‘spring pleasures’ were expressed in pornography, and ‘secret sports’ were recorded in albums of explicitly erotic content. Or at least, that it is the discourse of the elite and masculinist sources, reminding us that we have (at least until research gets more imaginative), very little access to what pleasure, play and

DO NOT CITE WITHOUT THE AUTHOR’S PERMISSION amusement might have meant for the mass of the population, and most particularly for


the women of the Ming. Even elite women, literate and in many cases equipped with the skills of the amateur painter, are silent on this topic. A novel like the Jin Ping Mei (written by a man) gives us glimpses of occasions on which the ladies of the household take to the streets at the Lantern Festival, while a young man of the house stands ‘on the mounting platform setting off fireworks and igniting firecrackers to amuse the ladies’. It describes and indeed illustrates a swing set up in the garden of the mansion ‘to dispel the ennui of the spring day’.69 And it frequently gives descriptions of all-female parties at which female entertainers are present.70 It would be nothing but the wildest speculation to draw attention to the obvious link at the philological level in Ming Chinese between le, ‘pleasure’ and yue ‘music’, the same written graph providing both pronunciations according to context. This connection was had occasionally been made explicit in the Chinese past, perhaps most notably in the Warring States philosopher Xunzi, as part of an elaborate theory of the management of desire in a well-ordered human society.71 There was certainly a distinctively female material culture of music, in that the playing of certain instruments was strongly gendered in the Ming, the more prestigious zither-like gu qin



being played almost always by men, while the lute-like pipa was very much restricted to female players (often professional entertainers). In the Jin Ping Mei, we do occasionally see men playing it, but they are almost without exception men who are frivolous and feminized in the eyes of the author.72 Much more ‘natural’ in Ming terms is the association between this instrument and the novel’s central character Pan Jinlian, who is decsribed and illustrated accompanying herself on the instrument as she vents her spleen at her supposed abandonment in favour of a rival.73 Did women get pleasure from playing, or from listening to other women play ? We are unlikely ever to be able to do more than guess at the pleasures involved in such sociability. Regarding the enigma of women’s pleasure in the Ming novel, Naifei Ding has written, ‘Perhaps “woman’s pleasure” in this narrative and such a context can only be read in terms of , as being founded on and informed by, opportunistic accession to and manipulative intercepting of the master’s sexual power. It is a phantasmic bondwoman’s pleasure – unreadable, or readable only as madness.’74 But perhaps at least occasionally guessing is something to set alongside the obvious ways in which women and pleasure are linked in Ming images, as the object of a male regard as the locus of fantasies about interiority and access to hidden places, as the passive bodies in a discourse of the erotic which draws its language from battle and war.



The set is illustrated in Gugong bowuyuan, Mingdai Wumen huihua (Hong Kong, 1990), pp. 112-5, p. 231 for caption. The patron, ‘Mr Yunquan’, is not securely identified. He Liangjun, Si you zhai cong shuo, Yuan Ming shiliao biji congkan (Beijing, 1983), p. 69. Cheng-hua Wang, ‘Material Culture and Emperorship: The Shaping of Imperial Roles at the Court of Xuanzong (r.1426-35)’, Unpublished Ph.D. Dissertation, Yale University, 1998, pp. 214-72 A good quality reproduction appears in Howard Rogers ed., China 5,000 Years: Innovation and Transformation in the Arts (New York, 1998), no. 190. Wu Bosen et al. eds., Ming shi lu lei zuan: Wenjiao keji juan (Wuhan, 1992), p. 710 [Yongle 10/1]. Wu Bosen, Ming shi lu lei zuan, p. 711 [Yongle 11/5]. He did this again on Yongle 14/5, ibid. p. 713 i.e. he did not do it every year. Wu Bosen, Ming shi lu lei zuan, p. 712 [Yongle 12/1]. He did this again on Yongle 17/1, ibid. p. 714.
8 9 7 6 5 4 3 2


Wu Bosen, Ming shi lu lei zuan, p. 831 [Zhengde 12/run 12]. Wu Bosen, Ming shi lu lei zuan, p. 833 [Zhengde 13/1]


David Tod Roy, The Plum in the Golden Vase or, Chin P’ing Mei. Volume Two: The Rivals (Princeton and Oxford, 2001), p. 69 & p. 73 (firework names, p. 358 of Chinese text), p. 449 (hiring a specialist). Wu Bosen, Ming shi lu lei zuan, p. 1075 [Chenghua 2/8]. Wu Bosen, Ming shi lu lei zuan, p. 1020 [Longqing 4/1]. Wu Bosen, Ming shi lu lei zuan, p. 1149 [Tianqi 5/1].

11 12 13 14

Michael Nylan, ‘On the Politics of Pleasure’, Asia Major, 3rd series, 14.1 (2001), pp. 73-124 (pp. 74-5) Benjamin A. Elman, A Cultural History of Civil Examinations in Late Imperial China (Berkeley/Los Angeles/London, 2000), p. 384 & p. 388



Roger V. Des Forges, Cultural Centrality and Political Change in Chinese History: Northeast Henan in the Fall of the Ming (Stanford, 2003), p. 76. The first seventeen names are Chen Naiqian ed., Shiming biehao suoyin, enlarged edition (Beijing, 1982), p.99, the latter six are in the ‘Supplement’, pp.216-7. Yang Ye, Vignettes from the Late Ming: A Hsiao-p’in Anthology, translated with Annotations and an Introduction by Yang Ye (Seattle and London, 1999), p. 48.
19 18 17


Wen Zhengming, Wen Zhengming ji, ed. Zhou Daozhen, 2 vols. (Shanghai, 1987), II, p.1466.

Wen Zhengming, Wen Zhengming ji, II, p.1468. The text is a letter, ‘To Kongjia’ [Peng Nian (1505-1566)].
21 22


Yang Ye, Vignettes from the Late Ming, p. 66.

Gui Youguang, Zhenchuan xiansheng ji, Zhongguo gudian wenxue congshu, 2 vols, (Shanghai, 1981), II, p. 652.
23 24

Wen Zhengming, Wen Zhengming ji, II,, pp.1534-6.

For a survey, though stronger on periods prior to the Ming, see Huang Hsing-tsung, Joseph Needham, Science and Civilisation in China, Volume 6 Biology and Biological Technology, Part V: Fermentations and Food Science (Cambridge, 2000), pp. 149-291. For a representative group of Ming drinking vessels see Yang Jinpeng, Jiao Tianlong and Yang Zhefeng, Zhongguo gudai jiuju (Shanghai, 1994), pp. 359-84; for precious metal tableware see Craig Clunas, ‘Some Literary Evidence for Gold and Silver Vessels in the Ming Period (1368-1644)’, in Michael Vickers ed., Pots and Pans: a Colloquium on precious Metals and Ceramics in the Muslim, Chinese and Graeco-Roman worlds, Oxford 1985, Oxford Studies in Islamic Art (Oxford, 1985), pp. 83-8, and for jade tableware see Craig Clunas, 'Jade Tableware of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)’, in Procedings of the International Colloquium on Chinese Art History, 1991: Antiquities, 2 vols, National Palace Museum, Taipei (Taipei, 1992), pp.727-740.
26 27 28 29 25

He Liangjun, Si you zhai cong shuo, p. 302. Yang Ye, Vignettes from the Late Ming, p. 48. Yang Ye, Vignettes from the Late Ming, p. 66.

Li Rihua, Weishuixuan riji, Song Ming Qing xiaopin wenji jizhu 2, Shanghai yuandong chubanshe (Shanghai, 1996), p.146-7 [Wanli 38/11/26 & 27].

Li Rihua, Weishuixuan riji, p.271 [Wanli 40/10/21].



31 32 33 34 35

Li Rihua, Weishuixuan riji, p.427 [Wanli 42/12/5 & 6]. Wen Zhengming, Wen Zhengming ji Wen Zhengming, Wen Zhengming ji, I, pp.672-4. Chen Quanzhi, Lian chuang ri lu, 2 vols (Shanghai, 1985), I, juan 8 p.47a-b.

Mathews’ Chinese-English Dictionary, Revised American edition (Cambridge MA, 1972), no 7009.
36 37

Gudai diangu cidian p. 247.

Chen Naiqian ed., Shiming biehao suoyin, enlarged edition (Beijing, 1982), p. 44 and p. 161.

Naifei Ding, Obscene Things: Sexual Politics in Jin Ping Mei (Durham NC and London, 2002), p. 176. Zhou Lianggong, Shu ying, Ming Qing biji congshu edn, Shanghai guji chubanshe (Shanghai, 1981), p. 184.
40 41 39


e.g. Yang Ye, Vignettes from the Late Ming, p. 40.

Georges Métailié, ‘Some Hints on ‘Scholar Gardens’ and Plants in Traditional China’, Studies in the history of Gardens and Designed Landscapes, 18.3 (1998), pp. 248-56 (p. 252) Joseph Needham, Science and Civilisation In China, Volume 5: Chemistry and Chemical Technology, Part I, Paper and Printing, by Tsien Tsuen-hsuin (Cambridge, 1985), p. 263.
43 44 45 46 47 48 42

Li Rihua, Weishuixuan riji, p.36 [Wanli 37/8/7]. Li Rihua, Weishuixuan riji, p.64 [Wanli 37/12/2]. e.g. Li Rihua, Weishuixuan riji, p.83 [Wanli 39/2/20] and ibid. p.182 [Wanli 39/7/14]. Li Rihua, Weishuixuan riji, p.184 [Wanli 39/7/23]. Wen Zhengming, Wen Zhengming ji, II, p.1447. Wen Zhengming, Wen Zhengming ji, II, p.1463.



Wai-yee Li, ‘The Collector, The Connoisseur, and Late-Ming Sensibility’, T’oung Pao, 81 (1995), pp. 269-302 (p. 273).
50 51


Wen Zhengming, Wen Zhengming ji, Typescript Chapter 7.

Wang Shaochuan, Yuan Ming Qing san dai jinhui xiaoshuo xiqu shiliao (Beijing, 1958), p. 186.

Zhang Dafu, Mei hua cao tang bi tan, Gudi’an cang Ming Qing zhanggu congkan, Shanghai giju chubanshe, 3 vols (Shanghai, 1986), II, p. 510-1.
53 54


Wen Zhengming, Wen Zhengming ji, Typescript Ch. 6:

See Anthology of Chinese Art: Min Chiu Society Silver Jubilee Exhibition (Hong Kong, 1985), pp. 17-20 for a chronology.

Lang Ying, Qi xiu lei gao, 2 vols, Du shu zha ji congkan dier ji (Taibei, 1984), juan 41, p. 592-6. Judith T. Zeitlin, ‘The Petrified Heart: Obsession in Chinese Literature, Art, and Medicine’, Late Imperial China, 12.1 (1991), pp. 1-26
57 58 59 56


Wen Zhengming, Wen Zhengming ji, I, pp.737-9. Wen Zhengming, Wen Zhengming ji,

David Tod Roy, The Plum in the Golden Vase or, Chin P’ing Mei. Volume Two: The Rivals (Princeton and Oxford, 2001), p. 140 n. 44 & p. 143, discussed in Naifei Ding, Obscene Things, p. 191. Roy, The Plum in the Golden Vase, Volume Two, p. 336. For an overview see Andrew Lo, ‘Dice, dominoes and card games in Chinese literature: a preliminary survey’, in Frances Wood ed., Chinese Studies, British Library Occasional Papers 10 (London, 1988), pp. 127-34. Roy, The Plum in the Golden Vase, Volume Two, p. 75.


61 62

Yang Ye, Vignettes from the Late Ming, p. 77 and Roy, The Plum in the Golden Vase, Volume Two, p. 244. Wen Zhengming, Wen Zhengming ji, I, p.69. Li Rihua, Weishuixuan riji, p.27 [Wanli 38/6/21]. Wen Zhengming, Wen Zhengming ji, II, p.1475.

63 64 65



66 67

Wang Shaochuan, Yuan Ming Qing san dai jinhui xiaoshuo xiqu shiliao, p. 171.

One of the best-studied of these is the farce embedded in the novel Jin Ping mei: see Roy, The Plum in the Golden Vase, Volume Two, pp. 234-8.
68 69 70

Yang Ye, Vignettes from the Late Ming, p. 51. Discussed in Ding, Obscene Things, pp. 176-8.

e.g. Roy, The Plum in the Golden Vase, Volume Two, p. 68 (fireworks), pp. 80 et seq (swing, also 491 n. 1 for references in Ming literature to swings) p. 47 (female entertainer)
71 72

Nylan, ‘On the Politics of Pleasure’, p. 90.

For a boy actor playing the pipa see Roy, The Plum in the Golden Vase, Volume Two, p. 238, and for a frivolous young seducer using it to flirt with a respectable lady see ibid. p. 302. The classic account of the gu qin in English remains R. H. Van Gulik, The Lore of the Chinese Lute (Tokyo, 1968).
73 74

Roy, The Plum in the Golden Vase, Volume Two, p. 395. Ding, Obscene Things, p. 192.

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