…At The Grindstones

{October 1, 2010}   Ten Thousand Peach Blossoms

If Hsi-men Ching had not heard these words nothing might have happened, but having heard them:

The spirits of his Three Corpses became agitated;

The breaths of his Five Viscera ascended to Heaven.

Anger flared in his heart, and

Malice accrued in his gall.

Heading straight for P’an Chin-lien’s quarters;

Without permitting any further explanation,

he sought out the cat and, dangling it by one foot, strode out onto the veranda, took aim at the stone stylobate, swung the cat up into the air, and dashed it against it. All that could be heard was:

A single resounding report,

at which,

The contents of it’s brain burst into

ten thousand peach blossoms,

Its mouthful of teeth were reduced to

scattered fragments of jade.


No longer able in the world of light

to capture rats or mice,

It reverts to the abode of the dead

to become a fox-fairy.

When P’an Chin-lien saw that he had taken her cat out and dashed it to death, she sat on her k’ang. Without turning so much as a hair, and waited until he had vacated her quarters, muttering to herself, as she cursed him, saying, “You lousy death-defying ruffian! If you had only dragged me out and killed me, it would have been more heroic of you. Did the cat really get in the way of your shit-eating business so much that you felt compelled to barge in here, like a madman, and dash it to death? When it comes before the authorities in the nether world, it’s likely to demand your life in compensation. What are you so exercised about? You’ll come to a bad end, you lousy fickle ruffian!”

“Summer is just beginning to recede, as the star Antares

gradually moves toward the west.

The handle of the Dipper is moving toward

the Northern Palace.

A single leaf of the pheonix tree flutters down,

and everywhere a hint of autumn can be detected.

The evening clouds float idly as the stridulation

of the cicadas resounds.

The nighttime breeze is gentle as the coruscating

fireflies begin to fly.

On the Celestial Stairs the coolness of the night

is as clear as water;

Most appropriately, paintings of the Magpie Bridge

are suspended on high.

In Golden basins five sprouts are planted,

In alabaster towers banquets are prepared”

Chin P’ing Mei-  Vol 3 -Chapter 58

Last night when the internet died, I sat down and finally read the last of the 3 volumes of Chin P’ing Mei that I’ve been reading .. for.. longer than I should have been. They were rather difficult to lug around but I did, back and forth on the subway and out and about.

I really learned a lot from these, I was thrown into that time really, the sights, sounds scents all described, and a LOT of intense emotion: violence, war, war with nature, corporal punishment, BDSM, polygamy, foods, fruits, festivals, life, death, sex and SO MUCH POETRY and song in every chapter. It was very rich and I’m sure if I read it again in the future when I know more about China I will take more away from it.

Where to start, I really don’t know how to review this. Honestly I know a lot must be lost in translation and lost on me. But some of the poetry and imagery and finery within it was so beautiful and so passionate and overwhelming that I’d nee a break. I am fully aware of the fact that there are technically two more volumes en route or out there somewhere that I haven’t read.

Here are what I was lugging around though:

It’s essentially the tracing of the life of a man, a man who lives his life.. in excess you might say. Something like a rock star now but in that time, an official or governor who was born into some wealth and gained some titles as well. Hsi-men Ch’ing is his name, he inherits a pharmaceutical business actually. He has three principal wives from which the title is taken.. which I guess has a play on the words which is quite sexual.. It also translates as The Plum in the Golden Vase. Here’s the wiki article:


Which also states that only recently has the book been looked at as literature as opposed to pornography as there are scenes of graphic and BDSM related sex in the books. The book traces the stages of the main characters life and the sections are titled:

The Gathering, The Rivals, The Aphrodisiac (The one’s I read)

.. and all that has been published up to 2006. It’s quite a lot to translate, and I am not sure what the titles of the future 2 volumes will be, but to the point where I am now, Ximen Qing (another way of writing his name) has accumulated his main wives, and a powerful sexual drug which contributes to his downfall. I guess he ends up dying at the age of 33 of sexual excess.

Because of the amount of characters in this it can be quite difficult to follow. In the versions I read the translator uses the word “fuck” quite a bit and I can see that throwing people off as it did me at first.  It works in the scenes where it is present, because so many of the emotions and the drama and the scenery and the language is to the extreme in this. There are so many characters whose lives you follow completely, or who duck in an out, that the author will go out of their way to catch you up on, or describe, and the dialogues are fantastic, the wisdom, the cattiness between wives, the gratefulness, the rage, in looking back on the three volumes now, even though parts were dry, a few parts had me teary eyed, a few parts had me extremely excited and inspired, and there are many funeral scenes which, with Kubler-Ross’ work fresh in mind I could look at from the best perspectives and the most human angles and… well, I could go on.

The problem now is, I have to wait for the next two volumes to really tackle it as a “work”, though I have come a long way through it and as I said before, learned so much in this path of learning and depositing myself into the human mind of ancient China so-to-speak, as I did with the Egyptians, two of the earliest groups to invent writing, documentation and history. I really love these kinds of pieces, which aren’t solely for royalty, because you get so many mind sets, opinions and angles that a decree may not have, plainly stating and yet celebrating the strengths and weaknesses, downfalls and rewards that only we have even if some of it is a little nutty.  I can say that to my knowledge, there is no reality TV that can hold a candle to this work.

I’ll be posting more poetry from these first few volumes throughout the fall, and will soon be discussing some of the funeral scenes and comparing those to some Egyptian scenes as they were of particular interest to me. I wish I could get into more detail right now but if I start I won’t be able to stop and will be unable to break it own into manageable bites. I’m sure some of  you know that I have problems with that sometimes, especially when I get excited…


{July 28, 2010}   Today is a time to relax..

“Ah Today, a joyous abandon, we feast in order to
celebrate the lantern festival.
Slender jade fingers gently strum
the rosewood instruments.
The light of the lanterns and the bright moon
illuminate each other.
Shining on towers and terraces,
halls and chambers.
Today is a time to relax, become intoxicated,
and devote ourselves to pleasure.”

-Chin P’ing Mei- Vol.3 Chapter 42

{July 21, 2010}   Chinese Review Three

{July 15, 2010}   A Day of Immortality..

“With relaxed temperment and relaxed bosom
let the years go by;
People are dying and people are being born
before your eyes.
Whether it be exhalted or whether it be lowly,
submit to your fate;
Though it be long or short,
do not repine.
Though you possess more or possess nothing,
forgo your sighs;
Whether you be wealthy or whether you be poor
is Heaven’s decree.
Be content to accept your lifetime allotment
of clothing and wages;
Even a single day of undisturbed leisure
is a day of immortality.

-Chin P’ing Mei, China c.1610 BCE, Volume 3 Ch. 49.

More on the Text HERE

{June 25, 2010}   To Escape Us Unappreciated

“Completely inebriated, let us recline amid the fragrant verdure,

Suspending our silver lanterns on high underneath the flowers.

The fullness of youth turns all too easily into age.

Let us not permit the wonders of spring to escape us unappreciated.”

-Chin P’ing Mei, The Plum in the Golden Vase. Coda of a Song in Volume 3,

Chapter 46, First printed c.1610



{May 15, 2010}   For Their Delectation…

Was reading more of the final volume of the Chinese classic today and came across this passage, further reminding me of the passion for food that so many people have- and even in simple things one can find this feeling that takes them somewhere else. As a foodie I take this to be something absolutely related to the joy I find in eating, the preparation of food, like Italian cooking- the love and care that goes into preparing meals or snacks, and the joy I find in things like a pear that I can sit and enjoy – of course I am thinking of Xinjian pears as I write this, but it’s the little things I find that a lot of people write off because it’s too much work. Too much work to eat a pear, easier to eat fruit snacks.

Personally I love the fact that something complicated to eat forces me to slow down and savor it. Food I shop for outdoors, in smaller markets, so I can enjoy picking out the item in the sun and thinking about what it is going to go into, how I am going to enjoy it..

“Who could have anticipated that at this juncture Yueh-niang, back at home, should have sent Ch’i-t’ung and an orderly to deliver four partitioned boxes of mouth-watering sweetmeats and fancy fruits for their delectation. There were:

Blazing yellow kumquats
Fragrant red Pomegranates
Delectable bittersweet olives,
Verdant green apples, and
Redolently fragrant pears.

And there were also:

Honeysweet candied persimmons,
Sugar-soaked giant dates,
Butterfat pine nut pastries,
Elephant eye-shaped sesame candy,
Domino-like deep-fried sweetmeats, and
Honey-basted chain-shaped crullers.

In addition there were:

Willow-leaf candy, and
Ox-hide taffy.

Truly they were things:

Rarely found in this world,
Seldom seen in the universe.”

Is this stuff really so rare or do we just buy in bulk and let stuff go to waste and therefore only get it on it’s way out? Is it because of the way that we eat and prepare things- or purchase them fully prepared for that matter – that we don’t get excited about it or- is it cool to be this bored?


Ps. Yes, that is a reference to this song:

“He has uttered but a handful of disconsolate words,
Which cause my tears to fall in incessant cascades.
I cannot control the monkey of my mind and the horse of my will.
I am no more than a delicate Lo-yang flower,
In danger of becoming a target of romantic gossip.
These words may sound like a joke, but they’re not a joke;
This allegation may seem to be false, but it isn’t false.
That one is trying to pull up the trees
to investigate the roots,
While this one is pointing to a deer
and calling it a horse.”

Chin P’ing Mei- Volume Three- The Aphrodisiac (Chapter Fourty- One)

{April 29, 2010}   Hot and Sour Comfort Food..

I have a tendency to get addicted to things very easily, and I crave them quite often. I go through periods of time where I crave and seek out one kind of food- often something that I’ve found completely disgusting in the past. For example, I used to absolutely hate tomatoes, and now I can just pop the little ones in my mouth and savor them like it’s chocolate. Over the last few years I’ve developed a need for Chinese Hot and Sour soup (thanks Dad! I used to watch him eat it when we went out and thought it was totally repulsive, and now I praise it for it’s mix of textures and flavors). Chinese food, to North Americans can be somewhat of a leap- “we” generally have this problem with food texture that we can’t get over- slippery, chewy, chicken-footy…

Actually I just read an amazing book about food in China called Sharks’ Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A  Sweet-sour Memoir of Eating in China– which taught me a lot about what makes what a delicacy, and food trends in China right now, the resurfacing of street food and feasting…  but I’ll save that for another entry..

The mix of textures and ingredients in this soup make it a joy to eat. It can’t be chomped down in one big bite, it doesn’t have one solid flavor, and you can see what you are eating. It’s got some zing to it though so if you can’t handle spicy, go easy on it. The good thing about this kind of spicy is water or tea takes it out of your mouth or throat. It doesn’t burn away your taste buds- it just kicks them a little and you can still enjoy the bouquet of flavors within.

Apparently this soup is thinner in Asia, and the thick jelly that holds it all together in North America is a recent twist on it from added cornstarch. It’s reddish-brownish colour is traditionally from heated porks blood, but I think a lot of it now comes from the chili paste in it, or the red chili oil that is often added on top before serving.

The ingredients are mainly, soft tofu, roast pork, bamboo shoots, black fungus..and often you’ll find egg (i’ve heard this varies between regions) and day lily buds, or enoki/button mushrooms, bean sprouts, grated carrots, and I’ve seen colored TVP instead of pork in the vegetarian versions. The flavoring comes from sesame oil, vinegar, chili paste, white pepper, dark soy sauce, cooking wine, sugar, ginger and more..sometimes some people use chicken soup stock as well.

Some soup from my favorite soups stop right now..

Here’s a video of some of the spices that go into Hot and Sour soup from ExpertVillage on Youtube:

And a little instruction on how to make it:

Of course this means that there is a video coming of me attempting to prepare this at home! I go out enough to get it, it’s about time I gave it a whirl myself.

Another afternoon’s soup:

Okay now I’m hungry.


et cetera