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Six Records of a Floating Life

by Shen Fu

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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435643,909 (3.81)6
Six Records of a Floating Life(1809) is an extraordinary blend of autobiography, love story and social document written by a man who was educated as a scholar but earned his living as a civil servant and art dealer. In this intimate memoir, Shen Fu recounts the domestic and romantic joys of his marriage to Yun, the beautiful and artistic girl he fell in love with as a child. He also describes other incidents of his life, including how his beloved wife obtained a courtesan for him and reflects on his travels through China. Shen Fu's exquisite memoir shows six parallel 'layers' of one man's life, loves and career, with revealing glimpses into Chinese society of the Ch'ing Dynasty.… (more)
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    Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin (baobab)
    baobab: This is a massive, wonderful multi-volume novel of upper-class Chinese life from a time earlier in the Ching Dynasty than Six Records of a Floating Life.
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» See also 6 mentions

English (5)  German (1)  All languages (6)
Showing 5 of 5
Interesting if nothing else. As a historical document, it serves a [debatable] purpose at understanding Qing china. That aside, Six Records is no Epic of Gilgamesh; rather it is a memoir of a low-level bureaucrat's mistakes over waxed philosophy. Interesting, but not groundbreaking if you are looking for a "fun read." ( )
  MarchingBandMan | Apr 8, 2017 |
"Six Records of a Floating Life" follows author Shen Fu and his wife Yün through early 19th Century China. A smart woman, Yün asks Shen Fu to teach her to read and write, which he happily does. Their life is both simple and difficult, spending days discussing art and poetry while at the same time trying to earn a decent living as a civil servant and as an art dealer. The book begins as a memoir capturing the love and companionship between Shen Fu and Yün, but also provides a glimpse into the customs and societal views during early 19th Century China. Shen Fu displays the inner workings of their family, how traditions and customs affect everyday life (such as when Yün obtains a courtesan for him because it is expected by society), and also describes the sights and wonders of China from a foot travelers perspective. ( )
1 vote ocgreg34 | Apr 28, 2010 |
Shen Fu’s Six Records of a Floating Life is more than an autobiography; it is a life composed from poetry and flower petals. Somewhere between the beauty of the words is also found a glimpse into a moment in time that few Westerners understand, much less know of. It is inside these words that can be discovered new concepts and previously unknown ideals. Concepts foreign to Western society take on stiff definitions based on incomplete knowledge and broad stereotypes. In Six Records of a Floating Life, Shen Fu presents to the reader some alternate outcomes and ideas of what may be preconceived Western notions about certain truths in Qing Dynasty China. ( )
  sublunarie | Apr 23, 2010 |
The author's name is actually Fu Shen, not Sanbai Shen.

This is a wonderful book written around 1800. It's a memoir, essentially, and gives a fascinating picture of life among a certain social class in and around Suzhou, which is about 80 kilometres west of Shanghai and was for a long time a centre of culture. Today there are many classical gardens in Suzhou which once belonged to rich and highly cultured families. Fu Shen and his wife, Yun, lived on the margins of this social class. He was a scholar, but moved from job to job in various government offices and never achieved any financial stability. His real interests, and Yun's, were in poetry and art. They lived a kind of bohemian life of genteel and literary poverty. Shen's account of his love for Yun, and then of her illness and death, are very touching.

For anyone familiar with Suzhou, the book is filled with interesting comments on various places in the area, as well as fascinating accounts of his travels further afield as he was forced to go here and there to work.

Six Chapters of a Floating Life was discovered in a bookshop in Suzhou in 1877 and published in Chinese, but only four of the six chapters were found. Lin Yu-tang translated it in the 1930s, hoping that the final two chapters would be discovered in someone's private library someday, but so far to my knowledge they have not been found. Lin's translation is a bit old-fashioned, but I prefer it nonetheless to a more modern version that I have seen. ( )
  ericmacknight | Jan 30, 2010 |
Rambling novel/autobiography by a low-level Confucian bureaucrat around 1800. Neither he not a wife fit the Confucian stereotype, but their unusualness is useful in getting a glimpse into Chinese society at the time. There is really no plot to follow and chronology is tricky, but it is still an interesting read for someone interesting in Qing China. ( )
  Scapegoats | Oct 20, 2007 |
Showing 5 of 5
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» Add other authors (10 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Shen Fuprimary authorall editionscalculated
Pratt, LeonardTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Su-Hui, ChiangTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Now the heavens and earth are the hostels of creation; and time has seen a full hundred generations. Ah, this floating life, like a dream... True happiness is so rare! -- Li Po, "On a Banquet with my Cousins on a Spring Night in the Peach Garden"
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I was born in the winter of the 27th year of the reign of the Emperor Chien Lung, on the second and twentieth day of the eleventh month.
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Six Records of a Floating Life(1809) is an extraordinary blend of autobiography, love story and social document written by a man who was educated as a scholar but earned his living as a civil servant and art dealer. In this intimate memoir, Shen Fu recounts the domestic and romantic joys of his marriage to Yun, the beautiful and artistic girl he fell in love with as a child. He also describes other incidents of his life, including how his beloved wife obtained a courtesan for him and reflects on his travels through China. Shen Fu's exquisite memoir shows six parallel 'layers' of one man's life, loves and career, with revealing glimpses into Chinese society of the Ch'ing Dynasty.

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