As one of the most famous Chinese scholars of the eighteenth century, Yuan Mei offered especially valuable insights into life and society in Qing China. The stories in this volume provide a vision of how the trials and tribulations of a wide cross-section of the citizens were understood and resolved. Rituals surrounding the belief in ghosts played an important part in the lives of the Chinese, and yet the manner in which these beliefs were practiced is often not fully appreciated. Confacian-influenced scholarship has tended to avoid matters such as ghosts, sex, and crime, preferring to direct the reader's attention to the weighty matters of self-cultivation and government. But, as the stories in this volume clearly demonstrate, popular culture and popular religion thrive beyond the elite moral strictures found in Confucian texts.
The first table of contents follows the order of the stories as they appeared in Yuan Mei's text. We have also provided a thematic table of contents with the aim of helping readers target tales of more personal interest. We hope this volume will prove useful to a wide range of students of China and its literature, anthropology, and history, as well as to the general reader of ghost stories.
We would like to thank the following people for their help and advice: Bing Leung, George Joshua, Rod Bucknell, Kath Filmer- Davies, Jill Reid, Judy Glasgow, Yew-jin Fang, Malcom Skewis, and Doug Merwin and his production team at M.E. Sharpe.
Kam Louie University of Queensland
Louise Edwards Australian Catholic University April 1995, Brisbane