Book summary: The Sing-song Girls of Shanghai

2005 BY EILEEN CHANG

Considered one of the great works of Chinese fiction, The Sing-song Girls of Shanghai is a story of desire and virtue set in the pleasure quarters of nineteenth-century Shanghai. Han Bangqing, himself a frequent habitué of the city's notorious brothels, reveals a world populated by lonely souls who seek consolation amid the pleasures and decadence of Shanghai's demimonde. From beautiful sirens to lower-class prostitutes, from well-respected patrons to repugnant criminals, The Sing-song Girls of Shanghai brings the romantic games of the sing-song girls to vivid life, as well as the tragic consequences faced by those who unexpectedly fall in love with their customers. Han Bangqing also tells his story from a male point of view, revealing the danger of becoming trapped between desire and propriety. First translated in draft by the legendary Chinese writer Eileen Chang, and later revised by Eva Hung, The Sing-song Girls of Shanghai combines psychological realism with modernist sensibilities and is a pioneering work of Chinese fiction.

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