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Er Pai 二拍 – Top 100 Books in China

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The first collection of short stories written independently by Chinese literati


Chinese Name: 二拍

English Name: Er Pai

AuthorLing Mengchu 凌濛初

Originally Published: In 1368-1644(Ming Dynasty 明朝)

Genre: Short story

Brief Introduction of Er Pai

Er Pai 二拍 is the first collection of short stories written independently by Chinese literati, written by Ling Mengchu 凌濛初 of the Ming Dynasty 明朝. San Yan is the collective name of Slapping the Table in Amazement 初刻拍案惊奇 and Second Slapping the Table in Amazement 二刻拍案惊奇. It and San Yan 三言 written by Feng Menglong 冯梦龙 together called “San Yan Er Pai 三言二拍”.

The work is mostly based on some interesting anecdotes from the past and the present, and edited into articles to meet the needs of the public, but also to encourage and punish. It fully affirmed the human desire to expose the darkness of the official government, attack the crime of corrupt officials as the theme. However, there are many negative and backward elements, such as feudal superstition, karma, fatalism and pornography.

Er Pai is divided into two episodes, 40 episodes each, a total of 80 episodes. Its content generally includes the following four aspects.

Er Pai 二拍(初刻拍案惊奇)
Slapping the Table in Amazement 初刻拍案惊奇

One is about love and women. This is a significant proportion in Er Pai. Most of the works on this theme affirm the faith and bold pursuit of love of young men and women, especially young women, and oppose the old concept of “arranging words by parents and matchmakers 父母之命媒妁之言”, which is obviously progressive. Many of the works on this theme also affirmed the active pursuit of lust by young men and women, especially women, which was a bright reflection of the enlightenment trend of thought in the late Ming Dynasty.

The second one describes businessmen and commercial activities. This in the Er Pai also accounted for a considerable proportion. Most of the businessmen depicted in Er Pai are positive characters. They are honest, fair in business, persistent in pursuit of career and love, and ultimately succeed. Of course, Er Pai also describes a large number of negative businessman images. Er Pai not only depicts various businessmen, but also describes the world’s views on businessmen and the business industry. They see business as the right way and good karma. It does not evaluate the merchant’s activities with “morality”, but simply describes and praises the merchant’s commercial activities in pursuit of sudden wealth.

Er Pai 二拍(二刻拍案惊奇)
Second Slapping the Table in Amazement 二刻拍案惊奇

The third is the description of officials and their activities. There are many corrupt officials in Er Pai. Some are corrupt and pervert the law, some collude with officials and thieves, some practice favoritism and malpractice, and some buy and sell officials. There are also many good officials in Er Pai. They are able to administer justice and to avenge the people.

The fourth is to describe the sinister society, decadent world. It describes thieves running amicably, swindlers cheating, monks and nuns fornicating, coveting money, and people who deny their relatives.

Er Pai is basically created by Ling Mengchu independently, which indicates that the ancient Chinese short stories have jumped from collective practice to individual creation. It is a milestone in the history of Chinese ancient vernacular novels. Er Pai reflects the general requirements and thoughts and feelings of the rising urban citizen class in 17th century China, and reflects the social style and spirit of The Times in a specific historical stage. Therefore, it more truly reflects the society at that time, which is the value of Er Pai.

Author of Er Pai

Ling Mengchu (June 18, 1580 — 1644), also known as Ling Bo 凌波. He was the 19th in his family and was also known as “Ling Shijiu 凌十九”. He was born in Shengshe 晟舍, Zhili Town 织里镇, Wuxing District 吴兴区, Huzhou City 湖州市, Zhejiang Province 浙江省. He was a litterateur, novelist and plate printer in Ming Dynasty.

Ling Mengchu 凌濛初
Ling Mengchu 凌濛初

In 1597, Ling Mengchu received a quota of Linsheng 廪生. Later, he failed to pass the imperial examinations for many times.

In 1627, Ling Mengchu was forty-eight years old. He failed in the local exam and began to compile A book called “Slapping the Table in Amazement”. The work was published the following year.

In 1632, the Book Second Slapping the Table in Amazement was compiled.

Later, Ling Mengchu was elected as a county magistrate of Shanghai 上海 with the qualification of vice tribute.

In 1642, Ling Mengchu was promoted to governor of Xuzhou 徐州. During his tenure, he always did practical things for the people and won the hearts of the people.

In 1644, Ling Mengchu was besieged in Fangcun 房村 by peasant rebels. He led his people to resist and eventually bled to death.

Excerpts From Er Pai


In the end, good people will be rewarded, and bad people will be punished. It’s just a matter of sooner or later.


Everything is fixed, a lifetime of busyness is in vain.


Though for a time helpless against the wicked; But I thought the universe would never let him go.

Evaluation of Er Pai

Ling’s novels have profound skills in selecting topics and constructing images through events.

Sun Kaidi 孙楷第

Ling Mengchu’s article is very strange, his “Er Pai” can be described as a legendary classic.

Shuixiang Jushi 睡乡居士

Since Feng Menglong’s “San Yan”, Ling mengchu was deeply influenced and wrote “Er Pai” on his own. San Yan and Er Pai became a classic.

Zhang Jinglu 张静庐

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