11 March 2011

Another story of sex and China, this time by P'u Sung-ling, who lived in Tzu-ch'uan county and wrote about Shantung province during the 1670s.

A scholar named Tsung Hsiang-jo, on an autumn day, went out to inspect his fields, and saw, at a spot where the ripe grain grew thickly, signs of violent motion. Puzzled, he walked along the path between the fields to take a look, and found a man and woman coupling. Laughing, he started to turn back, but the man, embarrassed, fastened his belt and scurried away.

The woman also stood up. Looking her over closely, the scholar saw that she was lovely; attracted to her, he would have liked to make love to her himself, but he felt ashamed to do so out in the country dirt. Coming close to her, he brushed off the soil, and asked, "Do you like these illicit assignations in the countryside?" the woman smiled but did not answer.

Tsung drew her body to him and opened her dress; her flesh was glossy as lard, and he ran his hands up and down over her several times. The woman smiled and said, "You're a rotten scholar. You just do whatever you feel like doing. Why do you feel me over in this crazy way?" he asked her name, and she replied, "Like wind in spring we pass by once, and then go our ways in opposite directions; why take the trouble to find out more about me? Do you want to make a note of my name so you can erect a tablet to my chastity?"

Said Tung: "This coupling out in the wet grass of the countryside is something for swineherds from mountain villages; it's not my way. If someone as beautiful as you wants to have affairs, she should value herself more highly. Why debase yourself like this?" The woman seemed to completely agree with his words, so Tsung said to her, "My poor lodging is not far from here. I pray you come by and spend some time with me."

Translated by Jonathan Spence in The Death of Woman Wang (Viking, 1978).

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