The young son of the head of the Chinese traders' association, the men licensed to deal with foreign merchants in the port of Guangzhou, is suddenly burdened with responsibility for his powerful family upon his father's sudden death. A latter-day Baoyu, but with far stronger sexual impulses, the son learns both to tame his own libido to some degree and to conduct himself prudently in the Guangzhou society of his time. All of this appears in a comparatively little-known and little-studied novel called Shenlou zhi, which is here translated for the first time.The novel was actually first published in 1804, several decades before opium became a factor in the China trade. It is not only by far the earliest novel to deal with that trade, but also one of the earliest accounts of it. Furthermore, it has been found to be closely connected to events that occurred in Guangzhou and the outbreak of rebellion in Huizhou. This strikingly original work develops the culture of adolescence that was first described in Honglou meng and also relishes, in its account of the rebellion, the romantic conventions of Shuihu zhuan.
Patrick Hanan is Victor S. Thomas Professor of Chinese Literature, Emeritus, at Harvard University. He is the author of The Chinese Vernacular Story, and the translator of many works of Chinese traditional fiction, including The Carnal Prayer Mat and The Sea of Regret. Mirage is his latest translation of Chinese fiction.