If immortality doesn't await these two souls in some sort of afterlife, at least a form of posthumous continuity may be won by this text being engaged with by those fed up with modern propaganda and eager for a glimpse of a world, candidly expressed and unintentionally subversive, with bisexual presumptions and kindness to sex workers. Commentary on the manipulation of flora and even some fauna, as well as a sightseeing tour where both wine and educated references were plentiful, made for a less intriguing reading, but at base level it was informative and at its highest level it was inspiring.
This may very well be my least read work of , but one never knows with these things. Nevertheless, it would be a good note to end on: It was a nice break from reality, but breaks from reality only put food on the table if one is very, very lucky or very, very wealthy. Some of us may come to the point of Shen Fu's selling of clothes and dying an unknown death, and the panopticon of the Internet may not be enough to reveal the true face of history should those in power keep throwing money at those who are paid to obscure it.
In any case, I hope to come across a more respectful edition than this one, as the tone of the pre and post commentary most assuredly compromised the translated contents in some manner beyond my linguistic grasp. The author is dead, as theorists declare, and the test is what we make of it. Feb 11, Grace Tjan rated it liked it Shelves: Shen, an itinerant scholar who was chronically unemployed for much of his working life, wrote about his conjugal life with an intimate candor that was rare for his times.
Instead, there are scenes of him and Yun whiling away a moonlit night by drinking wine and reciting Tang poetry. Chrysanthemums bloomed around their modest, economy-sized cottage, and the ever resourceful Yun, an orphan who raised herself and her brother by taking in needlework, contrived to make movable screens out of live flowers. The Chinese were determined that government officials should be scholars first and bureaucrats second. One of the largest empires in the history of the world was administered by a small group of men, who had not the slightest training in administration, and who knew more about the poetry of a thousand years before than they did about tax law.
Imagine the government being ran by a bunch of English majors! View all 19 comments. Aug 21, Mel rated it it was amazing Shelves: Shen Fu's Six records of a Floating Life is too short! Granted two chapters have gone missing since it was written in I wish there was more. I loved it so much. Well all except the bit about flower arranging and landscaping though I could understand why it was in there. It was a very touching autobiography of the life of a man livining in late 18th Century China who was usually broke but sometimes worked for the government, sometimes as an art dealer, but mostly just sat drinking with his w Shen Fu's Six records of a Floating Life is too short!
It was a very touching autobiography of the life of a man livining in late 18th Century China who was usually broke but sometimes worked for the government, sometimes as an art dealer, but mostly just sat drinking with his wife and his friends discussing the finer things in life. I loved reading about his drinking escapades, he did seem to be a bit of a drunk. Frequently talking about pawning items to buy wine.
How being able to buy wine for entertaining your friends was the only reason you needed money. I liked the comment his wife made one time when he returned and she said, "are you very drunk again? I do believe the woman had a little bit of a bisexual side. To start with there was the reference to her two best friends who used to sleep over and kick her husband out of her bed.
Then she got in trouble with her husbands family for being a sworn sister of a sing-song girl. She was trying to get the girl to be a concubine for her husband but admitted she was really doing it because she was in love with the girl herself. The girl ended up being married to someone who had a great deal of money and his wife died of a broken heart.
She also wrote poetry and loved old books. Fu talked about how she would collect old books and take them apart and have them rebound and how she did the same for calligraphy. Oh what a lovely hobby! Particularly as the books were old in the late 18th century in China. And then there was the time Fu convinced her to dress up like a man so she could sneak into the temple for the festival. She had to practice walking as a man, and managed to pull it off until she went over to chat to a group of women and accidentally touched one and got in trouble till she revealed her true identity.
Fu wished she'd been born a man so they could go traveling together, but alas she never lived that long. They decided that in their next life she would get to be born the man and he the woman. It was all terribly romantic and tragic. Fu also wrote lovely descriptions of his visits around China. My favourite was when he went to Canton and visited the brothels there. He complained that none of the women understood him and they all looked strange. Eventually he found a boat that catered to Northern tastes and upon finding a woman he liked his first thought was, "oh I wish my wife were here".
He stayed with the prostitute for 4 months, he was very proud how little it cost him, and how well he treated her.
But at the end he left he said the madam was too pushy, but I think the real reason was he just didn't have the money to pay for her. He was perpetually broke. It was quite touching how he described the hard lives of the boat women. However this didn't stop him from abandoning his favourite, or doing anything to help her once he found out she had attempted suicide several times since he left.
It was a lovely book. Romantic, decadent and holding a true appreciation for nature and beauty Jun 09, Nick rated it it was ok. Well, actually it's only four records unless one counts a forgery. Shen Fu was completely unremarkable in public -- enough so that no one knows how he died -- but his memoir, unusually candid and personal for Chinese literature, reverals him as a creature of intense feeling. He is admired for the loving portrait of his wife that this book includes, but he was also a man capable of devoting more pages to the handling of flowers than to his two children.
Still, this is perhaps the most immediate Well, actually it's only four records unless one counts a forgery. Still, this is perhaps the most immediate of Chinese books, and Shen Fu makes clear that his life as an intinerant and sometimes poverty-stricken secretary to other Qing dynasty officials was, if not rich, at least varied. It is in the unobtrusive details that Shen Fu's world becomes most vivid, as when his adored wife seems to take a concubine, when she annoys her in-laws by referring to them in the less-than-preferred way in a letter intended for him, when the author speaks of Chinese nobles so poor they sell their underwear.
It's an impressionistic, haphazard portrait, sometimes intense, sometimes unfocussed, but at its best, it makes that vanished come alive like nothing else. Mar 25, Andrew added it Shelves: When I read Chaucer for the first time, I thought "how contemporary this all is! Shen Fu is actually a pretty g When I read Chaucer for the first time, I thought "how contemporary this all is!
Shen Fu is actually a pretty great storyteller, and aside from the specific references, this could be a modern novel. Dec 01, Ian "Marvin" Graye rated it liked it Shelves: Counting is still under way, but you'll always be right, if you're the judge! Mar 16, Harperac rated it really liked it Shelves: Fu Shen comes across as an unpretentious man who is merely interesting in the unpretentious appreciation of things.
These include the arts, the places he travels too, but most importantly his deep and passionate love for his wife. Of the four surviving chapters, the first one was the best. It's about the married life that Fu Shen shared with his wife Yun and their many happy moments. He saves the unhappy moments for the third chapter. He renders Yun with a magnificent eye for detail - the sheer Fu Shen comes across as an unpretentious man who is merely interesting in the unpretentious appreciation of things.
He renders Yun with a magnificent eye for detail - the sheer amount of attention he paid to her habits, her attitudes, and her movements speaks to his great love. He sets her in a world that responds to their love, the beautiful places they went and things they did. Take this cute paragraph from the earlier part of their marriage as an example: In fact, at first we even avoided being seen walking or sitting together, though after a while we thought nothing of it.
If Yun were sitting and talking to someone and saw me come in, she would stand up and move over to me and I would sit down beside her. Neither of us thought about this and it seemed quite natural; and though at first we felt embarrassed about it, we gradually grew accustomed to doing it. The strangest thing to me then was how old couples seemed to treat one another like enemies.
I did not understand why. Yet people said, 'Otherwise, how could they grow old together? First of all, you don't have to jump around to stuff all the time; he stays on topic even if the topic is pretty broad, like his chapter all about travelling.
Secondly, instead of there being too much detail moving as a snails pace, you get to see part of the story one way through, and the same situation with more details or a different context the next time through. It adds a lot more interest.
It's like walking through a city. The only reason I take a star off is that except for the first chapter there are too many boring stretches.
There are definitely points at which I feel I'm hearing about the most important things in a man's life; and there are points at which I feel I've been cornered at a party by a man who wants to tell me about his tedious hobbies. The final chapter on travels was an almost comical alternation between sheer beauty and sheer tedium, sometimes more than once on a single page. As something of an outsider when it comes to Chinese literature, I feel like this book has given me a good entry into the literary values of the time.
Unlike more 'popular' works like the Three Kingdoms, there is a deep sense of aesthetic attention in Six Records. And unlike the poetry I've read, it's put together in a social context that partially explains its appeal. Feb 14, Karen rated it it was amazing. I loved this book for several reasons. It is a rare and frank account of a failed literati during the Qing Dynasty; Shen Fu writes in an astonishingly intimate and emotional manner for his time and his upbringing giving the reader a glimpse into a world long gone.
Despite the fact that Shen Fu believes he is a poor writer, his writing is lyrical, stark and incredibly romantic. Shen Fu, for all of his faults and there are many , preserved for the ages the romance between himself and his wife Yun I loved this book for several reasons.
Six Records of a Floating Life () is an extraordinary blend of autobiography, love Shen Fu · Penguin Classics to make you cry. Editorial Reviews. About the Author. Shen Fu's exquisite memoir shows six parallel "layers" of one man's life, loves and career, with revealing glimpses into.
Shen Fu, for all of his faults and there are many , preserved for the ages the romance between himself and his wife Yun who really is the star of this story of this story. I had to wonder while reading, how the story would be different if it was written from her point of view, she was such a complex woman, far more so than the flighty Shen Fu. Feb 04, Maia rated it it was amazing. As most say, the stand-out chapter is the one on his marriage, but the ones on travels and aesthetics are great too. As i remember, the best one is first and the worst one is second and makes you want to give up, but it's the only stinker, so keep on!
Aug 21, Nico Lee rated it really liked it. Lovely little book, that basically posits whilst the world, it's structures, fluctuate around us, our individual thoughts about our small lives remain peculiar, particular and personal and therefore, perversely, in odd ways universal. Jan 04, Nick rated it really liked it.
It is a world as remote as that of medieval chivalry, distant from us in both time and space; a world of elaborate customs and ritual, both beautiful and impenetrable. But Shen Fu speaks to us, in this translation, with a surprising immediacy. He does things that we might well have done - quarrels with his parents, falls in love, gets drunk, goes travelling. In short, he is a flesh-and-blood person who reveals some of the most intimate details of his life - a life that was lived a world away from our own, but is nevertheless recognisable.
Probably the single thing that makes Shen Fu sympathetic to a modern reader is his touching account of his relationship with his wife, Yun - a partnership of mutual love and respect that shatters the stereotype of miserable arranged marriages. Yet however much we may warm to Shen Fu, we are regularly reminded that he lived his life according to very different rules.
One does not have to read very carefully between the lines to realise that Yun wants the concubine as much for herself as her husband; a fact Shen Fu realises too and seems to accept without objection. The decision of the woman in question to marry another man barely affects Shen Fu, but cuts Yun deep: The amount of free time that Shen Fu and his wife appear to have also seems alien to the modern reader - and they are skilled at enjoying it.
There are detailed descriptions of how to create miniature landscapes with plants and stones, and their idea of a good time is to get slowly drunk and make up poetry with their friends. This is the fascination of the book for me: View all 5 comments.
The girl ended up being married to someone who had a great deal of money and his wife died of a broken heart. My favourite was when he went to Canton and visited the brothels there. He is in love with his wife, has courtesans, deals with his demanding family, and is always at a loss for money, but usually finds a way to go out with his friends. There are definitely points at which I feel I'm hearing about the most important things in a man's life; and there are points at which I feel I've been cornered at a party by a man who wants to tell me about his tedious hobbies. Allow this favorite library to be seen by others Keep this favorite library private. Just a moment while we sign you in to your Goodreads account. Six Records of a Floating Life Chinese:
Jul 30, Keenan Lyon rated it liked it. In terms of pure romance, this is a 5 star genuinely warming love story, a story made ever more pure by the heartache and misfortune though this doesn't preclude some naughty fun in Canton later in the book that befalls the author in the book's later pages. Subject matter beyond the matters of romance can be skimmed over unless you care for the intricacies of various parks and mountains in Zhejiang and Jiangsu and how nice it was to "chill with the boyz" in these scenic places. Make sure to re In terms of pure romance, this is a 5 star genuinely warming love story, a story made ever more pure by the heartache and misfortune though this doesn't preclude some naughty fun in Canton later in the book that befalls the author in the book's later pages.
Make sure to read the version with lots of footnotes that explain the idioms and euphemisms. His first chapter 'Delights of Marriage' provided a brief antidote to raging loneliness. Shen Fu's marriage to Chen Yun seems like the stuff dreams are made of, two intellectual equals completely devoted to each other, the best of friends. The love affairs of Ovid and Catullus come to mind, Catullus barely holds a candle to the maturity of Shen Fu's love for Ch 'Six Records of a Life Adrift' is really four records of a life adrift—Shen Fu's other installments were either lost or never completed.
Shen Fu's writing, though simple, burns with such love for Yun who had already died by the time of his beginning of the 'Records'.
Dead, after 23 years and family squabbling. Throughout 'Delights of Marriage' and even 'Charms of Idleness', Yun's person radiates from Shen Fu's loving account of his 23 years of bliss. Yun's decline into illness and eventual death is so heartbreaking. Yun's passing is nothing short of an utter trauma for Shen Fu, who had organized his entire life around their love for each other.
This pain is everlasting—when will it ever end? No, the author's writing does not wail with passion at his loss, it is much more gestural. He constantly reflects on the foolishness of mortal happiness, as if his small joys were his own Tower of Babel—Yun and Shen Fu's love reached such lofty heights only to be struck down by the 'Fashioner of Things zaowu , the personification of the creative force that leads to the emergence of material objects in the universe. I sighed and said to Yun, 'Even this small effort of ours has made the Fashioner of Things jealous!
Shen Fu's reflections are expanded upon by the translator's Graham Sanders excellent footnotes. Shen Fu says, "Oh, Yun—she only had one son and he did not even live long enough to continue the family line! When Zhoutang heard the news, he sighed heavily over it and provided me with a concubine so that I might once again enter a springtime dream.
From that point on I fell into the hurly-burly of daily life; and I no longer know when I might awaken from this dream" The translator mentions that these lines reference a passage from 'Zhuangi', which says that when we are in a dream we do not know we are in a dream, for the dream only can be understood as such upon waking. Only imbeciles think of themselves as masters. Perhaps Shen Fu's dream was his life with Chen Yun, shattered to pieces, a rude, great awakening.
I wonder whether he was ever to resume the dream of foolish souls who think the world 'just-so'—maybe he never recovered. One can't help but speculate whether the fact that his inability to finish his 'Six Records' had something to do with the pain he felt Jan 26, Clayton rated it it was ok. Fu Shen is a schmuck, sometimes lovable and sometimes awful, and his candor, when the polite self-effacement stops, can be fascinating.
I don't know how many folks had the means or interest in documenting real, ordinary life in 18th century China, but I suspect there's not much, at least in English. The problem is that some of Fu Shen's self-effacement, especially about his writing, is well-earned: For scholars and Sinophiles the dryness will be fine, but for those just passing through Chinese literature, it's tougher going. Still, Fu Shen's portrait of a life has its moments.
The first Record, especially, is the real gem here: I wouldn't necessarily recommend the book, but for those who are interested it's worth a peek. Dec 11, Andy rated it it was ok Recommends it for: Story about a bad time-management average-intelligence Chinese man in semi-recent China. But then the book would never Story about a bad time-management average-intelligence Chinese man in semi-recent China. But then the book would never have been written.
Sep 16, Jason rated it it was ok. It's a little slow and the chapter on travelling is not very interesting this garden in this city you've never heard of is better than this other garden in another city you've never heard of. The first three chapters on marriage, lesiure and sorrow are worth reading. It gives insight into what makes up a man's life. I wouldn't strongly recommend this book, but since it's only about pages, its not much of a time investment if you're interested in life in China in the late Interesting book.
I wouldn't strongly recommend this book, but since it's only about pages, its not much of a time investment if you're interested in life in China in the late 18th and early 19th century. May 22, Lydia rated it liked it.
I loved this book, an autobiography of a clerk in China circa set in Souzhou. He is in love with his wife, has courtesans, deals with his demanding family, and is always at a loss for money, but usually finds a way to go out with his friends. A great view of an artistic family of the time. Two further chapters are missing or perhaps not completed: Yang Yin, the brother-in-law of the prominent writer Wang Tao , found the incomplete manuscript of the work in a second hand book stall. He gave the four parts to Wang, who was in charge of the Shanghai paper, Shen Bao. Wang published the manuscript in letterpress in and it became an instant bestseller.
The Fourth Record was written in , so the book was believed to be finished after that. Based on the index, we can tell that the fifth record is called A History of Life at Chungshan an experience in Taiwan and the sixth is called The Way of Living. Later, the fifth and sixth parts which were claimed to have been found in another book stall were declared fraudulent by scholars.
The floating life is but as a dream; how much longer can we enjoy our happiness? The book is written in what translator Graham Sanders calls "the literary language of poetry, essays and official histories rather than in the more verbose vernacular language used for the popular lengthy novels and dramas of the Ming and Qing dynasties.
This performance is an experiment mixing together the elements of miming, dance, pop and theater.