Slapping the Table in Amazement
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Slapping the Table in Amazement
Portrait of the author Ling Mengchu

Slapping the Table in Amazement (Chinese: ) is a collection of vernacular short stories, written by Ling Mengchu (1580-1644). It was composed in the middle of the 17th century during the end of Ming Dynasty. It involves 78 stories in all and is divided into two parts: the first and the second (Er Pai for short) Chinese: . There are forty stories in each part. Slapping the Table in Amazement contains many different stories, such as folk legends, romances and unofficial history.

Thanks to the prosperity of commodity economy and social progress. Er Pai expresses mercantilism, and open values of love and marriage. At the same time, there are many out dated ideas in this book, such as feudalism and superstition, comeuppance and ideas of fatalism, along with some explicit love scenes. Moreover, the author attacked the peasant uprisings toward the end of Qing Dynasty in some articles.The novel is remarkable not only for its stunning storylines, but also for its precise and detailed observation of the life and social structures typical of 17th-century Chinese aristocracy.

Er Pai together with the three masterpieces of Feng Menglong (1574-1646; a Chinese vernacular writer and poet of the late Ming Dynasty) is called San Yan Er Pai. They are representative works of the stories of Ming Dynasty. San Yan is distinguished by its strong artistic charm, while Er Pai vividly describes public life and expresses civil consciousness.[1]

Early copies

The original copy of this volume has been lost, however the earliest and most complete print copy (, missing the 23rd episode) is safely treasured at a temple in Japan (). Amazing Tales-Second series, urged by Ling's publican and published after completion in 1932, contains 39 stand-alone short stories (1 from Chunqiu Time, 14 from Song Dynasty, 3 from Yuan Dynasty, 19 from Ming Dynasty, and the final 2 remained unknown) and 1 performance script (Zaju, a type of performance originated in Tang Dynasty) . Due to the loss of the 23rd episode in the first volume, modern publicans replaced it with the same numeric numbered episode from the second volume, when combined, the two volumes together contain a total of 78 short stories plus 1 performance script. Note that the English publicans only translated a few so-found the greatest-hit episodes in each volume, and their commercial release is not a complete collection of the Er Pai.

Artistic features

Slapping the Table in Amazement vividly represented life at that time, created in 1627. The sales volume reached an all-time high. In art, he by the succinct writing style, has portrayed vivid characters, narrated twists and turns of details. He thought: people nowadays just know that ghosts and monsters, which can't be seen or heard, were astounding. But they ignore that, in our daily life there are many spooky things, which can be detected, but can't be explained with common sense. Capturing extraordinary things in ordinary life, by absorbing readers, is the key to his success.

"script for story-telling ()"originated from "story-telling()" in Tang Dynasty, which means telling stories, and it prevailed in Song Dynasty. Script for story-telling played as the outline of the story for the storyteller to tell the whole story to the audience. The readers and listeners were all the common people, so it was the literary catered to ordinary people. "Er Pai", as a vernacular novel, was more close to the public life and ideas at that time He expressed his profound ideas about the society in a vivid way. What is more, opposition of the shackles of personality and praise of the pursuit of the young for love are the themes.

Based on the foundation of traditional aesthetics, "Er Pai" also keeps on trying to explore the new way of art. It has shown a unique, individual artistic face, that makes itself a treasure of ancient colloquial short stories.[2] The novel is composed in written vernacular Chinese rather than classical Chinese.

Involved in

The ancient narrative literature, as the Medieval Literature, describe the emperor and hero's deeds. While, in many chapters of Er Pai, the most described are the merchants of Huizhou, person carrying loads, hawkers, prostitutes, people, who are playing Chinese chess, thieves, and such lower figures. It reflects the new change of social ethics with the development of commodity economy. It also describes the licentious stories of many Taoists and Buddhists.[3] The author put emphasis on the social effect of his work. He selected material from the common events in the public life, so as to reveal the true and the false and ugly. In such a society of that time where there was more evil than good, it helped people to get psychological balance, when they found in the novel that bad person did not get good results. For example, in the very beginning of the eighth volume: People are all afraid of robbers, but it's a pity that everywhere we can find them. If an official does not correctly use his power, bringing calamity to the country and people, while enjoying high salary, isn't he a robber? That's why his work was so popular among the ordinary people.[4]


In Chinese ancient literature, the meaning of existence of every single person can be confessed only by his social relationships. For all his psychologys, wills, desires are considered into a common framework, it is hard to describe anything disordinary about the cockles of the heart of hero. Therefore, a passport to an excellent character is to descript actions, instead of depicting psychological processes. Placing emphasis on plots, drawing figures' descriptions in a straightforward style, focusing attentions by complex stories, are important marks of Chinese ancient novels and storiettes. When it comes to structure, usually, the beginning and the ending are corresponding with each other. The appearance of a character is always accompanied with introductions of his place of origin and personal identity, and his parents' origins and identities. At the end the author would clear the endings of the hero and his offspring. Almost all these literature aimed at expression the theme, plots unfolds in of sequence, ignoring falling into the stereotypes.[5]

About San Yan and Er Pai

Slapping the Table in Amazement and The second collection of striking the Table in Amazement of Ling MengChu () in thought and artistic style tendency are the same. People used to call these two books "Er Pai". The "Er Pai" as eponymous as the "San Yan"( three books of Feng MengLong () : Yu Shi Ming Yan (?) ?Jing Shi Tong Yan (?) ? Xing Shi Heng Yan (?) ) . "Er Pai" was made a big difference by "San Yan" . Withal, Ling MengChu made no attempt to conceal the truth, he said:" works only by Feng MengLong were the most artistic, and broke corrupt customs of the society in that time. " Ling MengChu wrote "Er Pai" as well as broke corrupt customs of the society in that time.[6]

"Er Pai" and "San Yan" are still different. "San Yan" collected and processed scripts for story-telling (in Song?Yuan and Ming dynasty folk literature). Though there were scripts of Feng MengLong in San Yan, the proportion was very small.[7]"Er Pai" mainly wrote by Ling MengChu. His works were abbreviated and based on fact, but more lively and decorative than "San Yan".[8]


  • In the Inner Quarters: Erotic Stories from Ling Mengchu's Two Slaps. (Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2003). Translated by Lenny Hu, with the collaboration of R. W. L. Guisso. ISBN 1-55152-134-2. Google Book
  • The Lecherous Academician & Other Tales by Master Ling Mengchu. (London: Deutsch,1973). ISBN 0-85391-186-X. ISBN 978-0-85391-186-9.

List of stories

Translated titles in this table follow those by Shuhui Yang and Yunqin Yang in Slapping the Table in Amazement: A Ming Dynasty Story Collection. University of Washington Press. 2018. ISBN 9780295742137. Titles used by other translators are listed as bullet points.

# Title(s) of English Translation(s) Chinese Title Notes
1 "The Man Whose Luck Has Turned Chances upon Dongting Tangerines;
The Merchant from Persia Reveals the Secrets of a Turtle Shell"

2 "Yao Dizhu Flees from Disgrace Only to Incur More Disgrace;
Zhang Yue'e Uses a Mistake to Advance Her Own Interests"
3 "Liu Dongshan Brags about His Prowess at the City Gate;
Eighteenth Brother Leaves His Mark in the Village Tavern"

4 "Cheng Yuanyu Pays for a Meal at a Restaurant;
Lady Eleventh Explains Swordsmanship on Mount Cloud"

5 "Zhang Derong Encounters a Tiger Sent by the Gods as a Matchmaker;
Pei Yueke Becomes the Lucky Mate Just in Time for the Blissful Date"

6 "Zhao the Nun Drugs a Beauty into a Stupor;
Jia the Scholar Takes Revenge in a Brilliant Move"

7 "Emperor Minghuang of Tang, a Daoist Devotee, Seeks Out Eminent Daoists;
Consort Wu, a Buddhist Disciple, Witnesses Contests of Magic Power"

8 "General Wu Repays the Debt of One Meal;
Chen Dalang Reunites with Two Loved Ones"
9 "In the Director's Garden, Young Ladies Enjoy a Swing-Set Party;
At Pure and Peaceful Temple, Husband and Wife Laugh and Cry at Their Reunion"

10 "Scholar Han Takes a Wife in a Wave of Panic;
Prefect Wu Makes a Match for a Talented Scholar"

11 "An Evil Boatman Commits Blackmail with a Dead Body;
A Heartless Servant Wrongfully Presses Murder Charges"

12 "Mr. Tao Takes In Strangers Seeking Shelter from the Rain;
Jiang Zhenqing Gains a Wife with a Jest"
13 "Mr. Zhao Spoils His Son and Dies as a Result;
Magistrate Zhang Sentences an Unfilial Son to Death in an Ironclad Case"

14 "To Steal Money, Yu Dajiao Does Violence to a Drunken Man;
To Confront the Culprit in Court, Yang Hua Attaches Himself to a Woman's Body"
15 "Squire Wei, with His Merciless Heart, Plots to Seize Another Man's Property;
Scholar Chen, with His Clever Plan, Wins Back His House"

16 "Zhang Liu'er Lays One of His Many Traps;
Lu Huiniang Severs a Bond of Marriage"

17 "Prayer Services Are Held at West Hill Temple for a Departed Soul;
A Coffin Is Prepared in the Kaifeng Yamen for a Living Criminal"

18 "An Alchemist Turns Half a Grain of Millet into a Nine-Cycle Pill;
A Rich Man Squanders Thousands of Taels of Silver to Win a Beauty's Smile"

19 "Li Gongzuo Ingeniously Reads a Dream;
Xie Xiao'e Cleverly Snares Pirates"

20 "Li Kerang Sends a Blank Letter;
Liu Yuanpu Begets Two Precious Sons"
21 "Yuan's Face-Reading Skills Impress the High and Mighty;
Zheng's Good Deed Wins Him a Hereditary Title"

22 "With Money, a Commoner Gains an Official Post;
Out of Luck, a Prefect Becomes a Boatman"
23 "The Older Sister's Soul Leaves Her Body to Fulfill a Wish;
The Younger Sister Recovers from Illness to Renew a Bond"
24 "The Old Demon of Yanguan County Indulges in Debauchery;
The Bodhisattva on Mount Huihai Puts the Evil Spirits to Death"
25 "Revenue Manager Zhao Leaves Word for His Love a Thousand Li Away;
Su Xiaojuan Achieves Happiness with a Single Poem"
26 "In a Competition for Sexual Favor, a Village Woman Is Murdered;
In Claiming Celestial Authority, a Judge Solves a Case"
27 "Gu Axiu Donates to a Nunnery with Joy;
Cui Junchen Is Shown the Lotus Screen through a Clever Scheme"

28 "The Master of Golden Light Cave Recalls the Past;
The Venerable Elder of Jade Void Cave Is Enlightened about His Previous Life"
29 "They Remain Loyal to Each Other through Their Trysts;
His Success Is Announced at the Jailhouse"
30 "Commissioner Wang Rides Roughshod Over His Subordinates;
Adjutant Li Gets His Comeuppance from a Reincarnated Victim"
31 "Priest He Commits Fornication via Black Magic;
Registrar Zhou Wipes Out Rebels via Fornication"
32 "Mr. Hu Corrupts a Fellow Man in a Wife-Swapping Scheme;
A Chan Master in Meditation Explains the Principle of Retribution"
33 "Squire Zhang, in His Noble-Mindedness, Adopts an Orphan;
Judge Bao, in His Wisdom, Recovers a Document"

34 "Scholar Wenren Shows His Prowess at Cuifu Nunnery;
The Nun Jingguan Goes in Glory to Huangsha Lane"

35 "A Pauper Keeps Temporary Watch over Another Man's Money;
A Miser Resorts to Tricks When Buying His Nemesis's Son"

36 "The Monk of the Eastern Hall Invites Demonic Spirits during a Lapse in Vigilance;
The Man in Black Commits Murder in an Abduction Attempt"

37 "Qutu Zhongren Cruelly Kills Other Creatures;
The Yunzhou Prefect Helps His Nephew in the Netherworld"

38 "To Stake His Claim on the Family Fortune, a Jealous Son-in-Law Plots against the Rightful Heir;
To Continue the Bloodline, a Filial Daughter Hides Her Brother"
39 "Heavenly Preceptors, with Their Theatrics, Claim to Subdue Drought Demons;
A County Magistrate, in His Sincerity, Prays for Sweet Rain from Heaven"
40 "On the Huayin Trail, Li Meets One Extraordinary Man;
The Jiangling Commander Opens Three Mysterious Envelopes"


  1. ^ Encyclopedia of China(April, 1992, the first edition) Chinese literature, Chinese opera, page 216.
  2. ^ Master and Masterpiece (published by Jinan Press, first published in Sep, 1995)
  3. ^ preface of Slapping the Table in Amazement, by Huang Tianji, published Sep 1988
  4. ^ The second collection of Striking the Table in Amazement published by People's Literature Publishing House, May 1997
  5. ^ A series of appreciations of Chinese ancient literature, main preface, published by Officer Publishing House
  6. ^ Foreword of Slapping the table in amazement
  7. ^ Material of "San Yan" and "Er Pai"' by Tan ZhengBi ()
  8. ^ The second collection of striking the Table in Amazement published by People's Literature Publishing House, May 1997

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