Dog Days (II)
Dog Days is a series of essays, translations, artworks and ruminations related to the Lunar Year of the Dog (2018-2019). The second in the series features a story from the early Qing fiction writer Pu Songling (蒲松齡, 1640-1715), author of Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio 聊齋誌異. John Minford has kindly granted permission to reproduce his translation with commentary. The Chinese text has been added.
For other work by Pu Songling in China Heritage, see The Year of the Rooster, On Reading.
— Geremie R. Barmé
Editor, China Heritage
Ninth Day of the
First Month of 2018
Wuxu Year of the Dog
24 February 2018
The Fornicating Dog 犬姦
Pu Songling 蒲松齡
Translated by John Minford
For Miss Nelson
There was a merchant of Qingzhou who was much away on business, often for as long as an entire year. He had a white dog at home, and during her husband’s absences his wife encouraged the dog to have sexual relations with her. The dog became quite accustomed to this. 青州賈某客於外，恆經歲不歸。家蓄一白犬，妻引與交，犬習為常。
One day, the merchant had just returned home and was in bed with his wife when suddenly the dog burst into the room, climbed up on to the bed and bit his master to death. 一日夫至，與妻共臥。犬突入，登榻嚙賈人竟死。
When the neighbors came to know this, they were most indignant and reported the matter to the local Magistrate, who interrogated the woman under torture, and when she still refused to confess, he had her thrown into the county jail. He gave orders for the dog to be brought on a leash, and then summoned the woman to the tribunal. The moment the dog saw her he rushed forward, tore off her clothes with his teeth and leaped on top of her, adopting a posture that was unmistakably sexual. The woman could no longer deny the charge brought against her. The Magistrate sent them both, woman and dog, under guard to the higher court in the provincial capital. 一日夫至，與妻共臥。犬突入，登榻嚙賈人竟死。後里捨稍聞之，共為不平，鳴於官。官械婦，婦不肯伏，收之。命縛犬來，始取婦出。犬忽見婦，直前碎衣作交狀。婦始無詞。使兩役解部院，一解人而一解犬。
On their way there, local inhabitants wishing to see them in the act of coupling bribed the escort, who dragged them out and forced them to perform in public. Wherever they stopped, this act attracted a crowd of several hundreds, and the yamen guards made a small fortune out of it. 有欲觀其合者，共斂錢賂役，役乃牽聚令交。所止處觀者常百人，役以此網利焉。
Subsequently both woman and dog were sentenced to Lingering Death. 後人犬俱寸磔以死。
How many things are possible, in the immense universe of Heaven and Earth! This woman is certainly not the only creature with a human visage to have coupled with an animal. 後人犬俱寸磔以死。嗚呼！天地之大，真無所不有矣。然人面而者，獨一婦也乎哉。
The Translator’s Note and the Author’s Judgement
This story does not appear in early printed editions of Strange Tales, but is present in the author’s manuscript and in early transcriptions. It absence from the late-nineteenth-century editions explains the lack of an illustration. It is included in both Zhang Youhe’s Variorum edition and Zhu Qikai’s modern annotated edition (1989).
The Chronicler of the Strange, in his Appended Judgement (on this occasion he actually provides a ‘judgment’, as opposed to the usual ‘comment’), give a strange extended virtuoso performance in the euphuistic parallel-prose style of which he was a master. (It is longer than, and almost eclipses, the anecdote itself.) In many ways it is similar to his comment at the end of Tale 63, ‘Cut Sleeve’ [see The Tiny Bird-track, China Heritage — Ed.] By piling allusion on allusion he succeeds in dwelling graphically on the subject of bestiality, without either passing judgment or being pornographic. It is an extraordinary form of literary bawdy. My version is a free one, and shortened.
Assignations by the River Pu
Were frowned upon,
Trysts in the Mulberry Grove
This merchant’s wife had trouble
Preserving her chastity,
She yearned for
She was a yaksha-demon in bed,
A bitch on heat.
Her pet found his way
Down the hole,
Became her lover
Beneath the quilt.
On the Terrace of Clouds and Rain
His shaggy tail wagged with vigor;
In the land of Warmth and Tenderness
Their slender limbs writhed with abandon …
No law in the Nether World
Covers this case.
Should the dog not be torn
Limb from limb,
and his soul dragged before Yama?
Lingering Death: Lingchi 凌遲, a process of gradual dismemberment sometimes translated as ‘cutting into ten thousand pieces’ [千刀萬剮] or ‘death by the slow process’, was the cruellst and most ignominious of all Chinese punishments. By a series of painful but not in themselves mortal cuts, sometimes lasting over three whole days, the offender’s body was sliced beyond recognition. The executioner entered ever deeper into his victim’s flesh, taking care to avoid the main arteries and life-supporting organs. The head was subsequently exposed in a cage for a period. It was not abolished until 1905. [For a series of graphic photographs of the process dating from the Qing, see here. — Ed.]
The Criminal Code of the Qing dynasty was very specific with regards to adultery when combined with murder: ‘If the guilty wife shall contrive with the adulterer to procure the death of her husband, she shall suffer death by Lingering Death, and the adulterer shall be beheaded. If the adulterer kills the husband, without the knowledge or connivance of the wife, she shall suffer death by being strangled.’
The Year of the Dog in China Heritage
- The Editor, Mondo Cane, The Year of the Dog 2018 戊戌狗年, China Heritage, 16 February 2018
- Don J. Cohn, A Pride of Pekingese — Dog Days (I), China Heritage, 18 February 2018
- Pu Songling, The Dog Lover — Dog Days (II), China Heritage, 24 February 2018