Censored by Confucius: Ghost Stories by Yuan Mei

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

In Which the Ghost Sues Her Loved One

In Zhenjiang there was a young man by the name of Bao who was most handsome and, some thought, sexually attractive in the extreme. He married a young woman from the Wang family, but because he had succeeded to a long line of merchants, he was often away on business or out entertaining customers and friends.

In the autumn of 1780 Bao and several of his friends went carousing in the red-light district. They progressed from brothel to brothel and it was extremely late by the time Bao set out for home.

Mistress Wang was in her kitchen with an old serving woman preparing dinner when there was a knock at the door. She asked the servant to answer it, and when the door was opened the servant saw a well-dressed, heavily made-up young woman. The old woman asked her name but received no reply. Deciding this silent visitor must be a relative, she welcomed her in and went to tell her mistress. Mistress Wang hurried to the front room to greet the mysterious visitor but found only her husband, Bao, sitting there. She laughed at the old woman for her silly mistake, but stopped short when she noticed that Bao's mannerisms were those of a woman.

The visitor stood up and said with grace and due decorum, "Your husband, Mr. Bao, was drinking at a brothel. I waited outside and came home with him."

Wang examined the performance closely--the body was Bao's but the voice and mannerisms were not his at all.

Her first thought was that Bao had gone insane, so she called for the houseboys and sent them to fetch the rest of the family. They all gathered in the front room and the visitor greeted each of them very politely and with the utmost propriety--but adopting the manners and form usually reserved for aristocratic women.

Some of the men had a great laugh at this and made a few indecent proposals and rude gestures to the feminized Bao.

-196-

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