David Rolston resources on Jin Ping Mei cihua

A Resource on Music and Oral Performing Literature in the Ming Novel Jin Ping Mei cihua Made Available in Celebration of the Completion of David Tod Roy’s Translation

David Rolston, University of Michigan

The (in)famous Ming dynasty novel, Jin Ping Mei cihua 金瓶梅詞話 (Plum in the golden vase), is the first Chinese novel to describe everyday life in one household, that of Ximen Qing. He and his family and his friends are great consumers of a wide variety of traditional Chinese oral performing literature and the consumption of these performances is described in unprecedented detail. The importance of this material was recognized quite early by scholars, who published numerous articles introducing, analyzing, and interpreting it.

The purpose of this note is to introduce a resource that the Ming Studies website has kindly agreed to post: “Imagined (or Perhaps Not) Late Ming Music in an Imaginary Late Ming Household: The Production and Consumption of Music in the Ximen Family in the Jin Ping Mei cihua.” It consists of a long introductory essay that introduces the descriptions of oral performance (and music in general) in the novel and compares their importance with that provided in comparable sources, plus a long first appendix that lists and summarizes all description of this kind in the novel and provides citations to Chinese editions and Professor Roy’s translation (The Plum in the Golden Vase or, Chin P’ing Mei [Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993-2013]).

Thinking both that the essay and appendix were too monstrously long and specialized to think about trying to persuade someone to formally publish and that the main appendix is most useful in a form that is readily searchable, I decided to make both publicly available for consultation or download online and to dedicate them to Professor Roy.

Hopefully it is well known how much effort Professor Roy put into the translation of the novel, which involved footnoting the proximate and ultimate sources, when he was able to find them (and he was a very good sleuth!), for the various kinds of quotations and borrowed material that the novel weaves together (you can hear Professor’s own voice talking about the novel and his translation of it in the interview Carla Nappi did with him as part of her “New Books in East Asian Studies” series ). The translation is a remarkable achievement, and each volume is extensively and carefully indexed, but I still think that the resource this note is introducing provides for even greater and more convenient access to the material on music and oral performing literature in the novel. My greatest wish is that making this resource available will both raise even more interest in this aspect of the novel and help make some of the wonders of Professor Roy’s translation more widely known and appreciated.

Prof. David Rolston (University of Michigan) has permitted the posting here of an essay entitled “Imagined (or Perhaps Not) Late Ming Music and Oral Performing Literature in an Imaginary Late Ming Household: The Production and Consumption of Music and Oral Performing Literature by and in the Ximen Family in the Jin Ping Mei cihua (Plum in the Golden Vase),”  along with related material and appendices.

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