An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Pinhua baojian 品花寶鑒

Jan 3, 2024 © Ulrich Theobald

Pinhua baojian 品花寶鑑 "Precious mirror of first-class flowers", in various editions also called Yiqing yishi 怡情佚史 "Lost story of deep love", Jinghua qunhua baojian 京華羣花寶鑑 "Precious mirror of the many flowers from the capital", Dushi xintan 都市新談 "New talks of the capital" or Yanjing pinghua lu 燕京評花錄 "Evaluation of flowers of Beijing", is a romance written by Chen Sen 陳森 (c. 1797-c. 1870), courtesy name Shaoyi 少逸, style Caiyu Shanren 採玉山人 or Master Shihan 石函氏, hailed from Changzhou 常州, Jiangsu.

In 1823, Chen Sen wrote the romance Meihuameng 梅花夢 "Dream of plum blossoms", in which he narrated the love between the scholars Zhang Ruoshui 張若水 and Mei Xiaoyu 梅小玉. The popularity of the story persuaded him to write more about the lives of singers of the "pear gardens" (liyuan 梨園, theatres) he was familiar with. The result was his Pinhua baojian. The book became known as a kind of "encyclopaedia of homosexuality" for its description of the interactions, mutual desires, and hedonistic lives of literati and male singers (called hua 花, danjiao 旦角, xianggong 相公) and actors. But explicit sexual depictions also led to harsh criticism and the book's prohibition.

The style of the whole book did not deviate from contemporary stories of love between members of the elite (caizi 才子; in this case, in the person of customers, xiake 狎客) and beautiful women (jiaren 佳人; in this case, male singers, youling 優伶), as Lu Xun 魯迅 (1881-1936) observed. On the other hand, Hu Shi 胡適 (1891-1962) called it a precursor of the red-light literary genre (xiaxia xiaoshuo 狭邪小說). Even if, superficially and from a conservative viewpoint, the story with its description of homosexual love seemed pornographic, it also acknowledges that there exists something venerable like sincere love between men, e.g. Mei Ziyu and Du Qinyan 杜琴言 or Tian Chunhang 田春航 and Su Huifang 蘇蕙芳.

The book was written in several steps. Yang Moujian 楊懋建 (juren degree 1832), author of Menghua suobu 夢華瑣簿 holds that that the first 30 chapters were written before 1837, while the rest of the 60 chapters was added in 1849, twelve years later (edition of Huanzhongliaohuang Studio 幻中了幻齋). Even if experts on Chinese literature like Lu Xun, Zhao Jingshen 趙景深 (1902-1985) and Zhang Jun 張俊 (Qingdai xiaoshuo shi 清代小說史) followed this assumption, Zhao Shaoliang 周紹良 (1917-2005) estimates that it was written between 1825 and 1835.

The first printed full version appeared in 1849, and it was republished many times thereafter: 1931 by Shougu Shudian 受古書店, 1985 by the Tianyi Press 天一出版社 in Taiwan (part of the series Ming-Qing shanben xiaoshuo congkan 明清善本小説叢刊), 1989 by Baowentang Shudian 寶文堂書, 1990 by the Shanghai Guji Press 上海古籍出版社 (series Guben xiaoshuo jicheng 古本小説集成), and in 1993 by the Qi-Lu Shushe 齊魯書社 (series Zhongguo gudian xiaoshuo puji congshu 中國古典小説普及叢書).

近代小說。又名《怡情佚史》,亦題《群花寶鑒》,60回。作者陳森,據今人嚴敦易推測,其生卒年應在公元1797至1870年之間(《梅花夢與品花寶鑒》)。陳森,字少逸,江蘇常州人,科舉不得意,道光中寓居北京,經常出入戲班,熟悉梨園舊事,遂以清代乾隆、嘉慶中優伶生活為題材,寫出《品花寶鑒》前30回。道光二十九年(1849)作者自廣西返京,始成全書(一說作于1835),共60回。今存有道光己酉(1849)刻本。此后翻刻本甚多。清華大學圖書館藏有抄本一部。陳森還著有《梅花夢》傳奇一種,寫清河望族張若水與妓女梅小玉悲歡離合的故事。 清乾隆以來,達官名士、王孫公子招伶人陪酒助樂之風甚盛,旦角被呼為相公,又稱作“花”。雖為男子,卻被視為妓女般的玩物。《品花寶鑒》即以這種生活為背景。作者聲稱“以游戲之筆摹寫游戲之人。而游戲之中最難得者,幾個用情守禮之君子,與幾個潔身自好的優伶,真合著‘《國風》好色不淫’一句”(第一回)。作者以優伶為佳人,狎客為才子,將二者之間寫得情意纏綿。小說以主人公青年公子梅子玉和男伶杜琴言神交鐘情為中心線索,寫了像梅、杜這樣的“情之正者”,和商賈市井、紈袴子弟之流的“情之淫者”兩種人,以寓勸懲之意。然而所謂“情之正者”亦是一種病態生活的反映。所以《菽園贅談》稱此書“滿紙丑態,齷齪無聊”。魯迅說:“若以狹邪中人物事故為全書主干,且組織成長篇至數十回者,蓋始見于《品花寶鑒》,惟所記則為伶人。”此書實開近代狹邪小說之先河。 侯忠義"品花寶鑒"《中國大百科全書 中國文學Ⅰ》 第611頁