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Bibliophile price: £30.00
The almost 300 stories in this huge compendium are taken from collections of Chinese folk tales, fairy tales, fables and legends, in particular the Chinese classic Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio by Pu Songling, a collection of tales originating at the turn of the 18th century and reflecting on the society and manners of the time. A typical Pu story satirises the government while praising the honesty of the poor. The tales are divided into sections including saints and magicians, nature and animal tales, ghost stories and historic legends. "The Fire God" tells the story of Dschu Yung, who discovered the use of fire, but unlike some fire-gods of world mythology was fundamentally benevolent and warned those he planned to attack. In "The Kindly Magician" Du Dsi Tschun encounters an old alchemist who gives him untold riches but binds his disciple to silence. Du Dsi Tschun endures everything silently, even the torture of his wife, but when he is turned into a girl and his son is threatened, he breaks silence and has to go back to the beginning. Many of these stories concern spells and bewitchings and the outcome is often ambiguous. In "Engaged to a nun" a young man and a Taoist nun fall in love. Both assume disguises in order to circumvent his mother's disapproval, but when they are eventually unmasked there is a surprise happy ending. "The dragon after his winter sleep" enters the library of a scholar who does him reverence before being overwhelmed by his visitor's sudden growth to massive size. Scholars, dragons, nuns, beautiful young girls and shapeshifting creatures form the basis of many of these compelling tales including The Painted Wall, The Flower Nymphs, The Boatmen of Lao-lung, The King of the Nine Mountains, The Disowned Princess and dozens more. 24 x 16.6cm, 780pp, bonded leather binding in black and rich red decoration, gilded pages. New publication.

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