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The Chinese Gold Murders

(Judge Dee (Chronological order) #2)

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  1,433 ratings  ·  142 reviews
A.D. 663

In this, the second book in Robert van Gulik's classic mystery series of ancient China, Judge Dee must look into the murder of his predecessor. His job is complicated by the simultaneous disappearance of his chief clerk and the new bride of a wealthy local shipowner.

Meanwhile, a tiger is terrorizing the district, the ghost of the murdered magistrate stalks the tri

Paperback, 224 pages
Published August 3rd 2004 by Harper Perennial (first published November 28th 1959)
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Average rating 3.97  · 
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Henry Avila
Apr 05, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
During the magnificent reign of Tang Dynasty Emperor, Kao-tsung, in China, (649-683) Judge Dee, a historical figure, receives his first important assignment, outside the imperial capital, no not Beijing, this is A.D. 663, Chang'an, ( now called Xi'an) magistrate in the busy Pacific coast port of Peng-lai, reached by a river, ( still his friends warn him, against going, to the provinces) nearby Korea, has just been conquered. The Chinese Empire expands , again, at thirty-three years of age, the y ...more
Jun 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: mystery fans
Judge Dee is looking forward to getting out of the Chinese Metropolitan Court of Justice. He's tired of only seeing cases on paper, processing routine documents and copies and has requested a recently vacated district judge position. It doesn't matter that the Magistrate position will be in the district of Peng-lai, on the seacoast far from the capitol. It doesn't even matter that the position opened due to the murder of the prior judge, discovered in his library with the doors and windows locke ...more
May 06, 2017 rated it liked it
3.5 stars

When Robert van Gulik found an old copy of some gong’an stories (Chinese fiction in which a government magistrate solves mysteries) in an old shop in Tokyo detailing the adventures on one Judge Dee (loosely based on the real personage Di Renjie who was a statesman in the Tang dynasty) he decided first to translate them (as Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee) and then to create his own fictional works based on the character within the genre. Thus was born the Judge Dee series of historical my
Ivonne Rovira
Jan 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Robert van Gulik's Judge Dee mysteries are always a delight! Van Gulik, a Dutch diplomat to China and other Asian nations, a linguist and Asian scholar, translated an 18th century Chinese novels on the exploits of a real-life Chinese magistrate during the T'ang Dynasty named Ti Jen-chieh. Simplifying the magistrate's name to Judge Dee Jen-djieh, Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee, first published in 1949 (although not translated into English until 1976), van Gulik introduced the world to the quick mi ...more
Dec 23, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
With this book, I am now a rabid fan of the series. Why? Because van Gulik wrote historical mysteries that read like a really bad-ass Shaw Brothers joint. There are duels, brawls, murders, chase scenes, conspiracy, erotic encounters, and courageous protagonists doing what they do best because, gosh darn-it, it's the right thing to do.

I can't help but gush about this book, even as my description renders it in a juvenile light that does not apply to the proceedings. This is excellent fiction that
Aug 18, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery, history
The books by R.H. Van Gulik probably did more than any other books to make me what I am and directed my life. In elementary school a neighbor gave me one (The Chinese Lake Murders), I read that and all of the other Judge Dee mysteries. This started my interest in China, and as friends know the rest is history.
R.H. Van Gulik was the Dutch ambassador to China during the 1940's. He was a true scholar about everything from Chinese erotic art, the Chinese lute, to Chinese snuff bottles. As a hobby h
Aug 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
Judge Dee takes up his first post as a magistrate, whilst travelling to his destination 2 highwaymen challenge him, they fight and See is so impressed he asks them to work for him as his personal lieutenants. On arriving in Peng-Lai he immediately throws himself into solving the murder of the previous magistrate whilst also investigating 2 other mysteries. Dee is based on a real magistrate in Imperial China, these novels bring this period to life. Great historical crime reads.
Tina Tamman
Jul 22, 2018 rated it it was ok
Not sure how much it matters which edition I read. Do let me know if you have an opinion because I read the book actually in Estonian but surely, if I wrote my review in that language, very few people would be able to read it. So it's much more logical to review in English. (And if I occasionally read in Russian, I can't review in Russian anyway: don't know the keyboard.)
I liked the novel primarily for the discoveries I made. To know that there was a thriving detective genre in the 18th century
Mysteries aren't my bag. The early set-up is usually a barrier as the author shoves pieces into place, and sometimes there are whole scenes of interviews and incidentals that you know will figure somehow (unless they don't). Especially, in this case, where the investigator is new to the area and there's a whole new layer of explanation and exploration--what are the relationships, and what are the vested interests?

The fascination for me with the Judge Dee stories is the entirely different system
Chronologically the first (I think) Judge Di mystery, the last I've read and, I think, my favourite one so far - or one of my favourites. Sure, one of the mysteries had a bit far-fetched solution, but that's part of Judge Di charm. The book had great flow and pace and it was really refreshing to see the protagonist(s) being so inexperienced and making mistakes. I actually have an urge to re-read all the books in the series again. ...more
Jul 07, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The third book of my 24-hour read-a-thon!

I really enjoyed this mystery novel, it was short and very contained. And I'm very interested in the historical setting, there aren't many books set in 7th century China, you know. And yeah, it was a quick and quite entertaining read!
Feb 10, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: detective
A nice detective story in old China. You can feel the atmosphere and understand the old system.
Victoria Mixon
Aug 25, 2010 rated it really liked it
Oh, my god. I love Robert Hans van Gulik!

I picked this up in a secondhand bookstore along with a pile of authentic vintage mysteries only because it had a rather endearingly self-designed-looking cover. Published by the University of Chicago Press in this particular edition in 1979, it hardly fits my definition of vintage. But it was all blue.

Van Gulik, I learned in the introduction, was born in of Dutch parents in Indonesia in 1910, where he lived his entire childhood, before being transported
Nov 23, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book is the earliest of the Judge Dee novels that I've read. It was only the second one written and takes place just after Dee passes his examinations and is first appointed to the provinces. I have to say I preferred the earlier naïve and more engaging Dee to the later older version. The murders involved poisoned tea, corrupt monks, and of course prostitutes. One thing that was interesting about this book was the strong Korean presence in the city. Van Gulik said that he got the idea for t ...more
Jun 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Judge Dee starts his first magistracy, and is immediately faced with solving the murder of his predecessor. An impossible poisoning, a vanished bride, an abandoned temple, and the murdered man's ghost devolve into a conspiracy against our hero's life. The intro says this was based on a magistrate's historical records.

Judge Dee (Westernized name) was a famous personage from centuries earlier than this mystery series is set. Van Gulik, a student of the Orient, adapted setting and customs to make t
Dec 11, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Judge Dee is a Magistrate in 7th century China and these mysteries are based on 18th century Chinese mystery novels adapted by a 20th century Dutch translator/diplomat. Confused? I was too, but I enjoyed the operatic plot elements and characters anyway.
Desiree Koh
May 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I first encountered Judge Dee in my early teens. At the time, my mom was an avid murder mystery reader who serially brought home Judge Dee books from the library, and I loved flipping through them for the accompanying illustrations by the author. When I actually started reading them, I was always diabolically entangled in the twists and turns of each murder case, the way I used to be with Encyclopedia Brown half a decade before.

But then, as now, the element I most enjoy about the series is the
Jan 29, 2019 rated it it was ok
I loved the first book of this series, which is simply van Gulik translating a classic Chinese novel. Imagine my disappointment, then, when I read this and didn't like it. The characters feel too different from the first book, even if this is supposed to be a prequel, set at the beginning of Judge Dee's career as a magistrate. Whereas in the first book the characters felt realistic to the time and place, some of the characters' judgements in this book felt more modern and out of place for the se ...more
Karen GoatKeeper
Judge Dee is assigned to his first district magistrate position. He is delighted and starts off for Peng-lai with his retainer Hoong. They are accosted by two highwaymen, Ma Joong and Chiang Tai, who decide to reform and work for Judge Dee.
The former magistrate was poisoned and the case remains unsolved. The tribunal's chief clerk disappears as does a new bride. A man eating tiger stalks the district. A Buddhist monk is murdered. And Judge Dee follows the clues to find solutions to these cases t
Ian Houston
Aug 15, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: pre-2018, 2018
I re-read this, the first in van Gulik's series of Judge Dee novels, just to see if it was as good as I remember from my initial reading in 1994 - it was. A professional Sinologist and Dutch diplomat, van Gulik bases this and the subsequent stories on a real Chinese Mandarin from the Tang Dynasty (7th Century AD). In addition to the basic plot (who is smuggling gold and breaking the Imperial monoploy?), van Gulik's Judge Dee books give an insight into the political, cultural and social condition ...more
Rob Baker
Fun because it's set in ancient China. The detective -- Judge Dee-- is apparently a stock figure in Chinese lit. dating back to the early A.D.s, that van Gulik translated and then adapted for his own purposes.

I didn't care as much about the mystery (thought that was fun in its way) as about how similar Medieval Chinese characters are to 21st-Century American ones --and how different :)

Love the closing image!
Erik Tolvstad
Feb 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. For me, the pleasure came in equal parts from the exotic(from my experience) setting and the well-plotted storyline. This tale is set very early in the magistrate's career and he makes some missteps and chases down some red herrings, before resolving most of the details. There were a number of interesting characters and several plausible criminals and victims throughout. I highly recommend the series. ...more
Dang Chi
Feb 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have known Det.Dee fame for a long long time. My childhood was full of tv series adapted from the folk tales about his adventures. This is the 1st time I have read a novel about his cases. Satisfying. Much materials often seen or found in wuxia movies in the 80s and 90s. Really hope the publisher should translate more and more novels written by the author Robert van Gulik about Det. Dee!
Jim Mann
Nov 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Judge Dee, at the start of his career as a magistrate, must solve the mystery of the murder of the previous magistrate. Entangled with this is the disappearance of a young woman, several other murders, a smuggling plot, and something going on at the temple. The mystery is clever and the characters reasonable, but the real joy of the book is the setting, in ancient China.
Feb 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Excellent if you want to know about life in China in the XVIIIth century, event though the setting is supposed to be VIIth century China.
On top of this, an original, fast-paced and most fascinating plot.
Mar 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery, history
A great series, as its the tropes of the mystery are moved into a different period of history and culture.

Can be confusing, as the Judge has to juggle several investigations and they don't all always connect.

Judge Dee is a competent investigator and I like his two, ex-highwaymen, sidekicks. They are fun.

There are grumbles about the lack of women in this series and that is a problem. It seems like the writer had the rule that only one women gets a personality per novel, otherwise they are just ba
Alison Peters
Aug 12, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: series
An early Judge Dee - learned how he met Chiao Tai and Ma Joong. Great story as usual.
Masayuki Arai
Apr 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
smart :)
May 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Absorbing, quick read as the China of the Tang dynasty is brought to life in the adventures of Judge Dee.
Puzzle Doctor
Dec 16, 2019 rated it liked it
Interesting but not a great mystery. Full review at
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Robert Hans van Gulik was a Dutch diplomat best known for his Judge Dee stories. His first published book, The Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee, was a translation of an eighteenth-century Chinese murder mystery by an unknown author; he went on to write new mysteries for Judge Dee, a character based on a historical figure from the seventh century. He also wrote academic books, mostly on Chinese histor ...more

Other books in the series

Judge Dee (Chronological order) (1 - 10 of 17 books)
  • Celebrated Cases Of Judge Dee (Dee Goong An)
  • The Lacquer Screen
  • Judge Dee at Work: Eight Chinese Detective Stories
  • The Chinese Lake Murders
  • The Monkey and The Tiger
  • The Haunted Monastery
  • The Chinese Bell Murders
  • The Red Pavilion
  • The Emperor's Pearl
  • Poets and Murder

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