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The Chinese Gold Murders

(Judge Dee (Chronological order) #2)

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  1,199 ratings  ·  108 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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3.97  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,199 ratings  ·  108 reviews

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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
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
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!
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
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
Ian Houston
Aug 15, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018, pre-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!
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!
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.
Jun 09, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very pleasant read. I don't mind the crazy twist in the end where you are like "Say WHAAAAT????!!!"
Jul 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Every so often, one simply just craves a good mystery. An unconventional mystery. A mystery that’s not overshadowed by petty things like romance. Murder! Mayhem! Treachery! Deception! Well, the Chinese Gold Murders is an excellent solution to this craving. One of a series of novels about a magistrate in Imperial China named Judge Dee, this book was written by a Dutch diplomat in the style of Ming dynasty detective novels. A combination policeman, judge, and ruler, Dee serves as judge, jury, and ...more
Apr 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mcpl, bedside-y4
This is the second time I've read this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it, though there are some nitpicks. For one, there are a few strange turns of phrase that might betray the fact that English isn't the author's first language. (But they aren't too common, and they might be a matter of dialect.) Also, the map of Peng-Lai at the beginning didn't quite seem to correspond to the sectional map on page 95 (the small map shows an arrow pointing east to the city, while the big map suggests it should be w ...more
Feb 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mysteries, china
Judge DEE is fashioned after the historical figure of a real Judge Dee, famous in ancient Chinese panels as a scholar and magistrate. Robert van Gulik who was born in the Netherlands and served in the diplomat Service in China and Japan for many years. His interest in Asian languages led him to the discovery of Chinese detective novels and to this historical character. This book details how Judge Dee began his career and how he met up with his constant companions who appear in all the subsequent ...more
Sep 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
I've read several of the Judge Dee books, each at least twice over many years. They stand up well, for all they are so far away in time, place and culture. There are many detective novels set long ago and far away but these books have special humor and wit.
Judge Dee was supposedly a real person who inspired an oral tradition of detective yarns that Dutchman Robert Van Gulik translated and worked up. Book jackets claim that he is the first detective fiction to use investigation, ratiocination an
Oct 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
A reread. Classic Chinese detective tale, almost verbatim from archival accounts. van Gulik was a world renowned sinologist and he had a passion for Chinese criminal justice. His hero Judge Dee is based on an historical judge and his adventures around the Empire starting around 663 AD. It's well done, the reader is put right inside the story and you get to learn a few interesting things about the Empire frontier life on the Korean borders. I love his original mysteries. The new adventures of Jud ...more
Feb 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is one of van Gulik's first novels involving the Chinese magistrate, Judge Dee. As is usually the case with the Judge Dee novels, this one has a number of themes that complement the main plot of the novel, which is the murder of Judge Dee's predecessor in the city of Peng Lai. This is Judge Dee's first assignment as a magistrate and he is new to Peng Lai, the murder of his predecessor having just occurred shortly before Dee's arrival.

The author's plots are circuitous and the use of Chinese
Nancy Oakes
Feb 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
#3 in the series; not as well developed in character as the later ones, but still quite good.

Magistrate Judge Dee, in Tang-Dynasty China, is tasked with trying to find out who killed his predecessor. But also, all in a day's work, there's a tiger on the loose, a monk is buried in the wrong grave, and there's a ghost floating around. There is never a dull moment; I enjoy watching the unraveling of each of the subplots in these novels.

recommended for those who enjoy historical mysteries, or book
Kathy Chung
Jan 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
in the this book, judge dee is just beginning his career. he have yet to have the impressive "image" of a judge as compared to the later books.

nevertheless, his "innocence" was captivating.

here, his two side kicks played a more active role in helping Judge Dee to solve the case.

the only downside of the story is the ending. I find that the way Judge Dee solved the case and how the cases played out according to the opera was too simple. I had expected more.

nevertheless I liked the beginning and
Jul 03, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Frank McAdam
Aug 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I've read several of the Judge Dee mysteries and this is one of the best. It's cleverly enough plotted that the reader is unlikely to guess the solution, is packed with action, and even contains hints of the supernatural. The author, van Gulik, was even more interesting than his literary creations and this University of Chicago edition has an excellent introduction for those unfamiliar with his life. Highly recommended for those who enjoy mysteries set in unusual locales.
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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 (Judge Dee #1)
  • The Lacquer Screen (Judge Dee (Chronological order) #3)
  • Judge Dee at Work: Eight Chinese Detective Stories
  • The Chinese Lake Murders
  • The Monkey and The Tiger
  • The Haunted Monastery
  • The Chinese Bell Murders (Judge Dee (Chronological order) #8)
  • The Red Pavilion
  • The Emperor's Pearl
  • Poets and Murder