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Strange Tales from Make-Do Studio is a large collection of supernatural fiction written by Pu SongLing during the early years od the Qing Dynasty Last half of the 17th century). Pu wrote around 500 stories in his life, although the English collection of the stories I have only has 50 or so.

Pu Songling wrote a combination of two fairly well established Chinese genres : the Ghost Story and the "poor yet brilliant scholar makes good" story. (Although the latter is not so much of a genre as a plot element in all genres of Chinese short stories). The typical plot of the story involves a scholar who is somehow being oppressed or short changed by society succeeding through the help of a ghost, spirit or Fox fairy. There is usually a fair amount of plot twists in a few pages, and some of the stories end happily and some not so happily.

Mr. Pu's stories are notable for a few things. Most of his tales are not original, of course, and were (like most stories) oral stories that he took and polished. He did however, add a large element of social commentary, as many of his stories use supernatural elements to comment on the corruption and brutality of the government, with ghosts often providing vindication. (Although since the version of the book I have was published in Communist China, this element may have been played up in the translation). Also, his stories are interesting in that, while supernatural creatures have been an element of Chinese literature since the Book of Song, yet in his writing, he uses ghosts as actual figures of horror. Even though his writing is more ghastly then previous Chinese ghost stories, it is still not very Gothic by Western standards of horror. The ghosts act in a very humane manner, often having very human goals, such as getting married and raising a family.

Over all, this is an interesting collection for students of literature and Chinese society. However, since many of the stories seem to fit in the same plot arc, it might not capture the interest of the casual reader throughout.

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