Censored by Confucius: Ghost Stories by Yuan Mei

By Kam Louie; Louise Edwards et al. | Go to book overview

The Immortal Prostitute

Near Suzhou there is a mountain called Mount Xiqi, and behind this is a peak called Yun'ai. It is said that many immortals live on this peak, and rumor has it that those who climb the peak and survive automatically become immortals.

A certain scholar by the name of Wang had become depressed at his repeated failure at the national examinations, so he decided to climb Mount Yun'ai to try his luck as an immortal. He packed up some food and personal effects and said farewell to his family, then began his ascent.

When he reached the top he found a substantial plateau dotted with a few trees among the wispy clouds. His eyes caught sight of movement on a distant ridge, and when he peered across he could make out a woman walking among the trees. Thinking this a strange place to find a woman, he rushed over to take a closer look.

The woman was curious about this new arrival and approached him. As she drew nearer, Wang recognized her as the famous Suzhou prostitute Xie Chongniang, with whom he had fallen in love six or seven years earlier.

Seeing her old friend again, she was extremely pleased and immediately took his hand and led him back to a small thatched hut. It had no door and the floor was layered an inch deep in pine needles, making it quite soft and warm.

Chongniang then related the events that had passed since they last met.

"After we parted, I was put under arrest by Prefect Wang. He stripped me naked and beat me ruthlessly, until the flesh on my buttocks was torn to shreds. Besides the pain, I felt most keenly the humiliation of the punishment. I was a high-ranking prostitute who commanded quite a bit of respect within the industry. How could I face anyone after such a humiliation?

"So I devised a plan to leave. I told the brothel owner that I was

-82-

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