The Plum in the Golden Vase

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  • Chinese/Japanese: 金瓶梅 (Jīnpíngméi / Kinpeibai)

The Plum in the Golden Vase, also known as The Golden Lotus, is considered one of the Four Great Classic Ming Dynasty Novels, along with the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Journey to the West, and The Water Margin.

The text is highly erotic, even pornographic, and so while highly prized as a work of literature, it is also not nearly as widely celebrated as the other three. The story, in one hundred chapters, tells of the various activities of a wealthy lecher, who has lavish parties and an extremely active social and sex life, but never finds real love; he dies "an empty shell" of a man, and the last twenty chapters detail the unraveling of his household. Each of his five primary lovers represents a different aspect of human nature, and the story as a whole has been described as "a moral fable of the way greed and selfishness destroy" people.[1]


  • Conrad Schirokauer, et al, A Brief History of Chinese and Japanese Civilizations, Fourth Edition, Cengage Learning (2012), 254.
  1. Jonathan Spence, The Search for Modern China, Second Edition, W.W. Norton & Co. (1999), 10.