Six Records of a Floating Life

About the Author: Shen Fu

Shen Fu simplified Chinese traditional Chinese pinyin Sh n F 1763 1825 , courtesy name Sanbai , was a Chinese writer of the Qing Dynasty, best known for the novel Six Records of a Floating Life.


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  • Paperback
  • 176 pages
  • Six Records of a Floating Life
  • Shen Fu
  • English
  • 21 December 2017
  • 0140444297

Six Records of a Floating Life Six Records Of A Floating Life 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

10 thoughts on “Six Records of a Floating Life

  1. Hadrian says:

    In the first lines of this book, Fu Shen apologizes for he is not a very skillful writer This modesty is unbecoming of him, for Six Records of a Floating Life is a charming and well crafted recollection of ordinary life in a distant place and time He makes it real.The title is unfortunately not accurate though Fu Shen may have written six short pieces on his floating life , only four survive The rest appear to have been lost to history.The main focus of these reminisces is the story of Fu In the first lines of this book, Fu Shen apologizes for he is not a very skillful writer This modesty is unbecoming of him, for Six Records of a Floating Life is a charming and well crafted recollection of ordinary life in a distant place and time He makes it real.The title is unfortunately not accurate though Fu Shen may have written six short pieces on his floating life , only four survive The rest appear to have been lost to history.The main focus of these reminisces is the story of Fu Shen s arranged marriage with his cousin, Chen Yun Arranged marriages would be loveless affairs, but this is the exception because the two are truly in love with each other They enjoy each others conversation, they sneak off to festivals together, and even share dirty jokes Their life together is charming and happy, even with the impediment of Fu Shen s own meager salary They decorate the house, with Fu Shen happy to chatter about the details of flower arrangement, cooking, or wine with friends Though this love story is timeless, there are some jarring reminders that we are in a different time and place The sale of a young daughter into marriage to pay debts is ordinary So is the unquestioned use of concubines or Chen Yun s bound feet Or even when Fu Shen speaks on the wonder of his relationship that he had found another man in a woman s body A telling remark, that view spoiler The chapter on Chen Yun s death is heartbreaking You feel his grief, as they both try and keep calm and stoic faces even as she passes away You feel their loss hide spoiler The last chapter is a long rambling tour of the Chinese countryside, taken by Fu Shen on his official business trips His reach is long and wide, and delves into obscurer places and landmarks Even if you know the basics like where Guangzhou and Lake Tai are, many of these stops will easily elude you I had to look up pictures of the surviving ones This last chapter is a fine travelogue of faraway lands We don t know what happened to Fu Shen after this book was finished There is no known date of death, nor any portraits of him or his wife Yet in these short pages I felt a genuine connection with this man who lived and died long ago Their lives are told with such emotion and candor that they are like poetry I feel I will miss them

  2. Adrian says:

    This book was very enjoyable, a wonderful social commentary of 18th 19th century China It has some fantastic stories and insights into Chinese life Two things stopped this being 5 stars, the first is that despite the title, there are only 4 records, the remaining 2 did not survive, although someone did try to forge the remaining 2 early in the 20th century, and the second thing was the way the notes system works Each of the 4 surviving records have a number of specific Chinese idioms or exp This book was very enjoyable, a wonderful social commentary of 18th 19th century China It has some fantastic stories and insights into Chinese life Two things stopped this being 5 stars, the first is that despite the title, there are only 4 records, the remaining 2 did not survive, although someone did try to forge the remaining 2 early in the 20th century, and the second thing was the way the notes system works Each of the 4 surviving records have a number of specific Chinese idioms or expressions, these are explained at the back of the book in the notes section Now bearing in mind each of the 4 records has between 30 and 100 notes, it can get a right pain, flipping backwards and forwards If only they had put the explanations in brackets at the right place in the book it would ve made it so muchenjoyable

  3. Petra says:

    Wow This was a lovely treat I feel like I ve gotten to know Shen Fu as a friend He was kind, gentle, artistic, observant and loving to his wife He was happy and content in Life, even while poor close to destitute At heart, his life was full of friends and cheer It was a full life.Shen Fu is a wonderfully intimate and personal writer I felt like I was with him in his journey His wife, Yun, was interesting and complex The two loved each other throughout their time together, which do Wow This was a lovely treat I feel like I ve gotten to know Shen Fu as a friend He was kind, gentle, artistic, observant and loving to his wife He was happy and content in Life, even while poor close to destitute At heart, his life was full of friends and cheer It was a full life.Shen Fu is a wonderfully intimate and personal writer I felt like I was with him in his journey His wife, Yun, was interesting and complex The two loved each other throughout their time together, which doesn t mean that life was monogamous This book is divided into four chapters The first is about Shen Fu Yun s happy marriage, their trips, their homes, their conversations They share everything, they laugh, they enjoy I enjoyed the fact that they often played drinking games, a very modern feeling game It shows that humans haven t changed all that much Each generation has its drinking game DIn the chapter on Leisure, Shen Fu relates all of his hobbies The man is artistic in so many ways, as is Yun Together they decorate their homes while using very little money a thing they are often without Their gardens are serene and lovely to the eye The descriptions of bonsais is wonderful But pain is also in Shen Fu s life and the chapter on Sorrow is heartbreaking at times The final chapter on Shen Fu s many travels through and about China for work and leisure are wonderfully described The mountains of China must be numerous and high And lovely The pavilions, pagodas, temples, monasteries and forests, rivers and ponds described are brought to life with his words Shen Fu was a natural writer and observer of life He felt and saw and lived This tiny book encompasses all that He becomes a person and a friend

  4. Cecily says:

    This was written in the late 1700s and early 1800s by a Chinese man who drifted between various clerical and artistic jobs.Only four of the original six chapters exist, and it makes a very different style of storytelling each chapter is thematic, and chronological within, but the book overall is not chronological, so some episodes are described in different chapters, in different ways layers of floating records It works very well, though the various notes, maps and appendices in this edition This was written in the late 1700s and early 1800s by a Chinese man who drifted between various clerical and artistic jobs.Only four of the original six chapters exist, and it makes a very different style of storytelling each chapter is thematic, and chronological within, but the book overall is not chronological, so some episodes are described in different chapters, in different ways layers of floating records It works very well, though the various notes, maps and appendices in this edition are very helpful too The four chapters concern his courtship and marriage their hobbies and pastimes mainly horticultural the problems that beset them ill health, un der employment, financial woes , and the author s travels The last one is particularly good if you re familiar with Suzhou Shanghai area, but perhaps less engaging if you re not.It gives a fascinating insight into real lives of the period, because it is an authentic voice of that time Very different from reading a modern historical novel, however well researched Shen Fu isn t entirely likeable though you have to admire his honesty , but his wife is delightful bright, cheeky, slightly rebellious yet happy to help him find a concubine.I read it in a day and whilst I wasn t rushing it s pretty short , there is a beauty to it that really justifies aleisurely approach After this, read The Red Thread by Nicholas Jose, in which a contemporary art dealer tracks down the missing chapters and notices echoes between the book and his life See

  5. Aubrey says:

    I was in the mood for something old that casually went against the grain of centuries of Euro propaganda by simply existing, and low and behold, this work rose to the top I hadn t started it expecting an affirmation of a Tumblr post gushing about China s 3000 years of queer history, but it did that and , giving a wonderful view into a life with things akin to Boston Marriages alongside such a loving relationship between wife and husband that it reaffirms the fact that the solution to miso I was in the mood for something old that casually went against the grain of centuries of Euro propaganda by simply existing, and low and behold, this work rose to the top I hadn t started it expecting an affirmation of a Tumblr post gushing about China s 3000 years of queer history, but it did that and , giving a wonderful view into a life with things akin to Boston Marriages alongside such a loving relationship between wife and husband that it reaffirms the fact that the solution to misogyny takesthan simple fucking Alas, Shen Fu s influence, much like his last two records, have been for the most part lost, and the Chinese work of 1809 with its hints of polyamory amidst a dignified treating with educated work and pleasure lost out to the invention of white heterosexuality in the mid 19th century The introduction to this may have essentially blamed Shen Fu for the death of his wife, but considering the Orientalims drowning the add ons in general, from scoffing at old measurements as if miles and feet and ounces make any standardized sense whatsoever to assuming only Western audiences will bother to pick up this text, such a critique is easily glossed over.I ll admit that I was less than thrilled with the last touring of the country section with its countless references, but it was interesting to compare Shen Fu s portrayal of sing song girls to my memories of The Sing Song Girls of Shanghai, written as Fu s are in a period long before Shanghai rose to prominence Leading up to this truncatedly final part is a story that is admittedly, even in these times where the word is both sensationalized and undervalued for the sake of inspiration porn, tragic Chen Yun and Shen Fu built the sort of harmonious marriage Western historians tell you can t exist today because not enough time progress has passed, and what does fate give them in return Expulsions over trivial misunderstandings, impoverished existences, miserable deaths, and final disappearances in the annals of history that can only be mummed at with plagiarisms 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 3000 years and counting is nothing to sneeze at, and while Neo Europe dominates the globe today, one can t help but wonder, while reading something like this, what the future will bring.This may very well be my least read work of 2017, but one never knows with these things Nevertheless, it would be a good note to end on a glimpse of a scenethan 200 years ago which contains things which are supposedly new but very much not challenges to gender sexual norms aside, according to one of the end notes, the Han Shan Han Mountain poems of the 6th 9th century are the much overlooked origin of the US beat generation of the 1950 s , and very old things whose continued survival in the face of years of destruction is nothing short of miraculous 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 arespectful 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

  6. Grace Tjan says:

    Have you everbeen married off to your first cousin at seventeen been thrown out of the house for mishandling arrangements to obtain a concubine for your father in law been obsessed with the idea of finding a concubine for your husband tried to purchase an underage singsong girl to be a concubine to both yourself and your husband wasted to death because you failed to arrange for a live in threesome relationship with your husband and his concubine If you answer yes to any of these questions Have you everbeen married off to your first cousin at seventeen been thrown out of the house for mishandling arrangements to obtain a concubine for your father in law been obsessed with the idea of finding a concubine for your husband tried to purchase an underage singsong girl to be a concubine to both yourself and your husband wasted to death because you failed to arrange for a live in threesome relationship with your husband and his concubine If you answer yes to any of these questions then you might have been a protagonist in this book, one of imperial China s most romantic love story, an 18th century memoir written by Shen Fu about his wife, Yun The circumstances might seem odd to us, but it s not difficult to understand why generations of Chinese, repressed by thousands of years of paternalistic culture, consider it to be romantic 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 No, he didn t write about that kinky threesome with the underage concubine it was a scheme that never came through, though I wonder whether Yun really wanted it, since we only see her through her husband s perspective 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 Shen himself is an aesthete who could devote pages on the correct way to display flowers When putting chrysanthemums in a vase one should select an odd number of flowers and burning incense Buddha s Hands should not be smelled by someone who is drunk, or they will spoil These scenes are among the most charming of this occasionally disjointed, rambling memoir, though I also find it rather disturbing that Shen managed to devote so muchpages to these pursuits than to their young children who, due to their parents poverty and outcast status, had to be taken away to be raised by others Shen and Yun s lives are tragic, and their idea of marital happiness is at odds with our modern notions, yet ultimately it is their upbringing that is the strangest thing of all 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 knewabout the poetry of a thousand years before than they did about tax law Imagine the government being ran by a bunch of English majors This idea seems to me both daft and endearing at the same time and the real tragedy of Shen s life and others like him, and ultimately imperial China itself is that at the end this is simply just not enough

  7. Nick says:

    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 devotingpages 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 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 devotingpages to the handling of flowers than to his two children 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

  8. Andrew says:

    When I read Chaucer for the first time, I thought how contemporary this all is And when I read Shen Fu, I came to realize that he was a sort of Jack Kerouac of late 18th Century China He Has a badass wife who recites poetry Tries to pick up young women Spends a lot of time traveling around with his bros looking for Enlightenment and getting hammeredFor those of you who are often confounded by the icy rigidity of so much classical Chinese prose, don t worry Shen Fu is actually a pretty g When I read Chaucer for the first time, I thought how contemporary this all is And when I read Shen Fu, I came to realize that he was a sort of Jack Kerouac of late 18th Century China He Has a badass wife who recites poetry Tries to pick up young women Spends a lot of time traveling around with his bros looking for Enlightenment and getting hammeredFor those of you who are often confounded by the icy rigidity of so much classical Chinese prose, don t worry Shen Fu is actually a pretty great storyteller, and aside from the specific references, this could be a modern novel

  9. Ian "Marvin" Graye says:

    Guinness World Record for This Floating Life on GoodReadsClick below to find out whether you or your nominee won the Guinness World Record for floating the most old GoodReads reviews in the last twelve months view spoiler Sorry Counting is still under way, but you ll always be right, if you re the judge hide spoiler

  10. Harperac says:

    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 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 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 Whenever we would meet in a darkened room or a narrow hallway of the house, we would hold hands and ask Where are you going We felt furtive, as if we were afraid that others would see us 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 Could this be true I wondered Fu s decision to tell his life in separate records seems to me a felicitous one 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 withdetails or a different context the next time through It adds a lotinterest 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, sometimesthan 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 Unlikepopular 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