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Crafting a Book: The Sequel to The Plum in the Golden Vase

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Abstract This paper examines the book form of the original woodblock edition (ca. 1660) of Xu jin ping mei 續金瓶梅 (The sequel to Jin ping mei), a sequel to the acclaimed yet controversial sixteenth-century vernacular novel Jin ping mei 金瓶梅 (Plum in a golden vase). Critics tend to hold Xu jin ping mei in low regard because the sequel’s extensive citations from religious texts and morality books disrupt the flow of the narrative. As this paper shows, such ‘weakness’ is part of the sequel writer’s conscious exploration of the productive gap between the text and the book as an object—cover page, the front matter, illustration and fiction commentary all contribute to the totality of the bound text as an object of connoisseurship. Another indicator of the author-editor’s effort at creating the sequel’s own social reception is a list of cited books that captures the full spectrum of textual production in the seventeenth century, thereby inscribing Xu jin ping mei in a cultural matrix that accommodates multiple modes of reading with a sense of hierarchy. To situate Xu jin ping mei in the context of the burgeoning print industry will help us go beyond the textual level to assess the sequel as an important cultural phenomenon. It is exactly the desire to cash in on the popularity of the original masterworks that pushes author, editor, and publisher to craft the book as a referential field in which the implied author engages anticipated readers of different dispositions to comment on, extend, and improve the original work.

Affiliations: 1: Arizona State University


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