Masochism, Desire and Death: A Deleuzian Reading of Pan Jinlian

By Junjie Luo.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

The 16th-century Chinese vernacular novel Jin Ping Mei (also known as The Plum in the Golden Vase or The Golden Lotus) is the best-known Chinese erotic novel and is celebrated as one of the masterpieces of Chinese literary history. This 100-chapter novel focuses on the life stories of Ximen Qing and the many women with whom he is involved. Ximen’s fifth concubine, Pan Jinlian, is probably the most notorious of his women due to her sexual indulgences and her perverted sexuality. We can safely conclude, given the descriptions in this novel, that Pan is licentious. However, this conclusion does tend to oversimplify the reality that Pan Jinlian’s characteristics and psychological complexities merit scholarly attention.
This paper analyzes two interrelated episodes of Pan’s sexual perversion—the Grape Arbor episode and Pan’s final sexual bout with Ximen, and argues that Pan plays the role of masochist in her perverted sexual relationship with Ximen. Based on this assumption, I will further demonstrate, using Gilles Deleuze’s discussion of ego and superego in masochism, the significance of Ximen’s death with respect to Pan’s life. It is my contention that Pan’s masochistic tendencies made her death inevitable. This paper concludes that Pan’s story can be seen as a psychological drama of desire and death.

Keywords: Jin Ping Mei, Pan Jinlian, Masochism, Desire, Psychological Drama

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 7, Issue 1, pp.149-156. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.141MB).

Junjie Luo

PhD Candidate, Program in Comparative and World Literature, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, IL, USA

I am a PhD candidate in the Program of Comparative and World Literature, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. My research interests include Classical and Modern Chinese Fiction, Representation of China in World Literatures, Psychoanalytical Theory, Postcolonial Theory, and Translation Theory.


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