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The Emperor's Pearl

(Judge Dee (Chronological order) #10)

4.07  ·  Rating details ·  986 ratings  ·  60 reviews

It all begins on the night of the Poo-yang dragonboat races in 699 A.D.: a drummer in the leading boat collapses, and the body of a beautiful young woman turns up in a deserted country mansion.  There, Judge Dee—tribunal magistrate, inquisitor, and public avenger—steps in to investigate the murders and return order to the Tang Dynasty.


In The Emperor’s Pearl, the judge dis

Paperback, 184 pages
Published November 10th 2008 by University of Chicago Press (first published 1963)
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Average rating 4.07  · 
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Henry Avila
Jul 16, 2020 rated it really liked it
The Moon rises the drum is beaten harder and harder as the sounds thunder to the thousands of excited spectators on both sides of the Grand Canal the rockets hit the sky and explode briefly illuminating the dark heavens as the nine canoes Dragon Boats move swifter and swifter on chilly waters the tired drummer of the lead vessel gives all his strength in one final effort as the finishing line is near and collapses just before reaching their goal disappointing his men the moonlight race comes to ...more
Judge Dee and his wives are attending the annual dragonboat races when one of the drummers suddenly dies as his boat is about to win. Being magistrate-on-the-spot, the Judge takes control when the coroner rules it poisoning, and starts the investigation. Before long, another death occurs.

What is interesting about this series is that they tend to be rather fast-moving 'mysteries' wrapped up in a 7th century China setting. Judge Dee is a historical literary figure that has a great deal of cultural
Pretty solid mystery set in 7th-century China.
Judge Dee is an all-around 'Renaissance man' action hero, going undercover to solve a series of murders in his township.

Based on a real-life district magistrate and diplomat of the Tang Dynasty (almost a wild-west sheriff or marshal). Written by Dutch diplomat Robert Hans van Gulik in 1963, 9th in his series of fictions following his translation of The Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee (an eighteenth-century Chinese murder mystery by an unknown author).

Ivonne Rovira
Apr 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Once again, author Robert van Gulik seamlessly weaves together a riveting mystery and a history lesson. This time, readers will learn more about bloodthirsty cults that predate Confucianism and Buddhism in Ancient China.

Judge Dee and his three wives partake of a boat race in honor of a river goddess in A.D. 699. In less enlightened times, a young man was sacrificed to the White Lady in order to ensure good harvests and fishing. However, as in old, a young man named Tong Mai, a disreputable stud
Sorin Hadârcă
May 23, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: asia, detective, history, china
Judge Dee gets confused (temporarily, of course!) and that gives Robert Van Gulik a chance to prove his literary talent. The heat, the leisure game, the nuisance provide a credible backdrop for the miscalculated theories. The amalgamation of motives is enough to alert the readers, what follows ensuite is a fascinating riddle.
Nov 27, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another intriguing story ... this time linked to the disappearance of the emperors' pearl a century ago. Again, this story features a number of interesting female characters, including Miss Liang, who provides a bit of comic relief in an otherwise disturbing story about a mentally insane serial rapist/killer ...more
I am a long time fan of Robert Hans van Gulik's Chinese Detective Judge Dee.
The author, a diplomat, scholar, musician, artist and mystery novel writer has much to recommend him. Many of his scholarly publications are or were 30 years ago considered definitive studies.
His scholarly works included topics from The Chinese lute, to Chinese sexual practices to Chinese art. He was a linguist and enough of an artist to illustrate his Judge Dee Books.

Judge Dee, was an actual Judge or to quote the source
Desiree Koh
Jun 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
One of the most cinematic and thrilling installments in the series - and in a flash of coincidence that could only happen in a Judge Dee mystery... I was reading during the Dragon Boat Festival, also the scene of the book’s first murder!
Rev. M. M. Walters
In this edition, the novel is only 150 pages but those pages are chock full of words. There is hardly any white space around the text. But this is a minor criticism compared to the other problems which bothered me. The main complaint that I have is that Judge Dee seems to solve the mystery without any real exposition of the evidence until the last three chapters which also rely on the confessions of the perpetrators. Unless I missed it somehow, the reader is never privileged to discover what Jud ...more
Karen GoatKeeper
First the drummer on a dragon racing boat collapses and dies. Poison?
Second Judge Dee accompanies a woman to a business meeting. She is murdered in an old abandoned mansion before he can get to her.
Third an itinerant student and curio finder is murdered by the old mansion.
Fourth three ruffians attempt to abduct a young girl.
Fifth an old woman is strangled.
Judge Dee has three main suspects and no hard evidence. He does have the old mansion with an abandoned shrine hidden in the forest next to it.
How lovely it was go back to imperial China. This one is another great mystery for Judge Di, with various changing theories for the motive and the identity of the perpetrator. The various crimes are as usual connected and are solved and explained during a climatic trap for the villain. Not to mention that the eponymous Emperor's Pearl plays an important but unclear role throughout the story.

Another very, very entertaining read allowing us to go back to the wondrous setting in which Judge Di live
Paul Cheah
Oct 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I first stumbled upon RVG and the Judge Dee series way back in high school circa 1979.... the state library had its entire volume! Its description takes the reader back to a time when gray matter and luck/coincidence played pivotal roles in crime solving...GREAT READ!

Students or adult readers especially those interested in medieval Chinese culture and its behavioral intricacies are recommended to devour this series of books....
J Grimsey
Mar 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Enjoyable story one of Judge Dee's best ...more
Apr 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
I think I'm in love with Miss Liang. ...more
Jack Heath
Synopsis: Dee discovers that 2 deaths are connected by a tragedy involving a legendary treasure stolen from the Imperial harem 100 years earlier.
Apr 04, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I love all the Judge Dee books but this is one of my favourites. A clever plot, good characterisation and as always a great sense of place and time.
Alberto Garcia-Romeu
Very enjoyable

Convoluted detective tale, very well concocted with a logical ending and believable characters. Well worth reading, suspenseful and enjoyable.highly recommend.
Pitt Reviews
May 21, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It really loved this book. Started reading it and kept right on going.
Ezell Reviews
Jun 06, 2021 rated it really liked it
I often surprise myself when I read a book out of my normal , how much I enjoy it. I would suggest you give this one a try.
Ruby Bibi
Jan 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
-Very good mystery story set in 7th Century China and part of a series featuring Judge Dee, who takes part in solving crimes.
-In this story, there are a series of deaths which are seemingly unrelated, but as more deaths occur, common denominators, which the judge happens to discover, show that they're related.
-First there is the boat competition, where different teams compete to see which group will be the fastest. It's a major event and one of the boats appear to be taking the lead when the per
Mar 29, 2010 rated it liked it
An unusual mystery read that introduces the readers into the superstitions and the complications of culture customs that can complicate an investigation of a series of murders committed in China.

The hero is Judge Dee, who was the main character of a series of Penquin Books and is not the typical inscrutible picture created of the Chinese man. In his own way, which is in part dictated by restrictions of the Chinese culture, he uses a mixture of logic and superstition to uncover a devious villian
Nancy Oakes
Feb 12, 2008 rated it really liked it
#8 in the series finds our intrepid magistrate Dee (a real person, fictionalized in this series) in a city called Poo-Yang, where two seemingly unrelated deaths occur. Of course, Judge Dee & his assistants take on both of them, along with the theft of a valuable pearl whose recovery may save the country from political mayhem.

Again, don't start with this one; make sure you read them in order. They're all fun, but the first few books bring in the characters & you get their backstories along with
Sep 12, 2012 rated it liked it
This is van Gulik's own fiction, using a Chinese story translated by him as a base, and it is well done, much the same tone and sense as the original seventh century Chinese story - three stories interwoven, and lots of class differences among the characters. Fortunately everyone who is under suspicion is high enough class that the idea of torturing them for a confession is not suggested as an alternative! There is also a wonderful Mongolian woman wrestler, Miss Violet Liang, who is certainly on ...more
Cynthia Hale
Mar 13, 2011 rated it liked it
I have read 2 of these Judge Dee Mysteries now and have enjoyed both of them. I plan on reading through the entire series, as soon as they can be 'Mooched'. I had a little bit harder time following this one, but it may just have been me being more distracted. It was a good story, but kind of wierd. Wierd in a Robert Van Gulick way. I think he was a little, ummm, naughty?? It kind of comes out in this book. Not fully inappropriate, just odd. ...more
Jan 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
Wow, that was nice! It gave me a really strange feeling, reading a Chinese story* written in Western style. Although sometimes it was predictable, but the story itself was short and entertaining, good for a break from tough books. I'll surely continue with other books in Judge Dee series.

* The story is fictious, and it's actually Dutch, but anyway, it took place in China and all the casts were Chinese.
Kathy Chung
Feb 08, 2014 rated it liked it
story started in a leisurely fashion. There was a sudden death . seems to be of an heart attack. that is till the coroner discovered that it was not that simple.

I find that there is not much excitement in this book. no urgency to solve the mystery. it's more like reading on how Judge Dee pieced together the solution.

nevertheless, I did enjoy the mystical part. that was interesting
Harry Lane
Oct 19, 2014 rated it liked it
An entertaining mystery set in imperial china. Judge Dee exercises a lot of authority, and does it deftly. He explicates his thinking with his lieutenant, which helps the reader keep up with the unfamiliar names. As is the case in many stories of this sort, the setting is itself a major character, and interesting in its own right.
Penelope Wallace
Jun 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
I reread this recently. It is one of my favourite Judge Dee books, and I've read nearly all of them. Be warned that there is a theme of mistreatment of women, but this is regarded as serious (even in 6th cent China!) and there is a fabulously tough female, unusually for Judge Dee, who helps bring the perpetrator to justice. ...more
Feb 17, 2009 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: People who love Agatha Christie novels
Yes, this is a good book. But I just require a little more from my reading material now. Although I would recommend it to people moving up from Agatha Christie who want more involved culture and ancient settings.
Apr 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: reread
I'm a big fan of Robert van Gulik's judge Dee books.I like the stories, the main characters but above all the decriptions of the culture of the Tangdynastie in the 7th century A.D. Van Gulik had a great knowledge of the history of imperial China. ...more
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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 Chinese Gold Murders
  • 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
  • Poets and Murder

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