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Wailing Ghosts

3.20  ·  Rating details ·  694 ratings  ·  115 reviews
'...revealing great shining fangs more than three inches long.'

Some of the most macabre and wonderful of all Chinese stories, including 'The Golden Goblet', 'Scorched Moth the Daoist' and 'The Black Beast'

Introducing Little Black Classics: 80 books for Penguin's 80th birthday. Little Black Classics celebrate the huge range and diversity of Penguin Classics, with books
Paperback, Little Black Classics, #07, 56 pages
Published February 26th 2015 by Penguin Classics (first published 1740)
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Average rating 3.20  · 
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 ·  694 ratings  ·  115 reviews

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Amalia Gavea
‘’I can make the seasons go backwards, and turn the order of nature upside down.’’

Pu Songling’s best-known work is a collection of haunting stories with the title Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio. I chose to read another collection in order to form a first impression of his writing and I was led to Wailing Ghosts. Striking title, undoubtedly, and the result was a very engaging array of mysterious stories with an intricate sense of humour by a writer that belongs in the Great Qing, the last
Sean Barrs the Bookdragon
We all know someone who tells absolutely terrible jokes. I’m not talking about the kind of jokes that are so terrible that they actually become funny, but the kind that are so terrible that they remain terrible. That’s a whole new level of terribleness. The only difference with Pu Songling’s terrible jokes is that they take on the form of short stories.

He’s full of dark and ironic humour. But, for me, a story needs more than a moment of irony or morbid injustice for it to be funny. The endings
Leonard Gaya
Jun 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
While Charles Perrault, under the reign of the Sun King, compiled folk tales into what became a classic of Western European literature, Contes de ma mère l’Oye, Pu Songling, under the reign of the Qianlong Emperor, composed a similar book, Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio, now a classic of Chinese storytelling.

This volume is a short collection of these stories, most of them containing a fantastical element, magic, ghosts, waking dreams. A few of them, like “Growing Pears” have the tone of
May 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful selection of fables and tales. It is sad to see such a remarkable little book so underated, go back and read them again in the context of when they were scribed. A little knowledge of chinese myths and history would go a long way to appreciate these little gems. If you think that rubbish of the likes of Potter, twilight and grey are better then go away and come back when you have read a book.
"The slender arc of the moon shining in the western sky seemed to hold the hills in its mouth."
- Pu Songling, "The Golden Goblet"


Vol 7 of my Penguin Little Black Classics Box Set. This book is a series of short stories by Pu Songling (b. 1640), translated by John Minford, that focus on ghosts, trolls, faries, and the space between the normal and the paranormal. It is like a 17th century version of the X-files. Some of the stories were pretty damn good, and some were like boring police reports of
Mar 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
This slim volume contains a number of delightfully weird stories taken from "Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio" by Pu Songling (1640 - 1715). Apart from the fact that they are populated by supernatural beings (ghosts, poltergeists, shapeshifters and fantastic beasts), what makes these tales "weird" is that they defy Western conventions of the ghost or gothic story. Those expecting elaborate scene-painting or profound psychological probing will be disappointed. Instead, atmosphere and character ...more
Apr 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
A really interesting collection Chinese folklore. At times dark, at times funny. Enjoyable if you remember you are reading folklore.
Mar 30, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: short-stories
This unfortunately wasn't for me. The stories were short which didn't bother me, but I felt they ultimately didn't have much of an impact. Endings were abrupt, and just felt ultimately a bit shrug-worthy. I did enjoy the surprise illustrations though!
Joey Woolfardis
Mar 24, 2015 rated it did not like it
Very short Chinese tales from Pu Songling, from Zibo in the 17th century concerning ghosts, ghoulies and quite a lot of fox-spirits.

If short, Chinese tales are your thing (or you think they may be) then these are definitely for you. Personally I found them to be repetitive, badly written and akin to many such other stories of a similar length. It is, however, nice to enjoy another culture, particularly when it's obvious there are themes that are genuinely universal and can be seen in tales like
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According to the blurb Wailing Ghosts collects some of the most wonderful stories in Chinese literature. Unfortunately for me, I didn't like them. With some stories I was wondering if I was missing the clue, because the end was rather abrupt and not funny. At other times I was wondering if time might have influenced the appreciation of the stories. It could also just have been me.

They were very short but the writing wasn't particularly
Dane Cobain
Jan 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
These classical Chinese short stories are a bit like Edgar Allen Poe meeting Geoffrey Chaucer. I was a big fan of them and I’d like to read more Songling in the future. It’s definitely recommended from me.

Mar 27, 2018 rated it it was ok
Very short and mostly very strange stories. Almost all of them included kind of magic, which I liked. From some I just couldn't get any meaning.
Jan 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is the seventh of the Little Black Classics from Penguin Books. It's miniature tales of the paranormal, from Classical China.
Most of these were miniature to say the least, but still interesting. I enjoyed all of the tales and read through them quickly in one morning.
At first I was a little worried since I thought they were going to be scary, and I can't always handle that. But they were comical and at times weird. But highly enjoyable. There were a few black and white pictures in the book
P.H. Wilson
Jul 31, 2017 rated it it was ok
Real rating: 5.6/10
I generally give classics some benefit of the doubt, but Pu Songling's stories are not translatable into English, in China there have been movies and TV shows based off these tales, but in English they are tepid horror tales that turn the Raven from psychological horror to thriller. Stories like the Black Beast are a page, or half a page depending on the size of your book. Most of the stories amount to monster showing up and then monster leaving, as if the sheer notion of the
Apr 24, 2015 rated it it was ok
Maybe some works just aren’t timeless.

I’m at a loss to describe what I have just read, but here, let me try:

There are stories about trolls who come to visit, fox spirits being severely discriminated and one man who tried to make a girl laugh by pretending to hang himself ending up really dead, and one story about a man who was a millimetre away from beheaded, fixes his head upright again, only to be killed because his head fell off when he was laughing too hard at a joke, and then his father’s
Aug 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
An interesting collection of Chinese folktales. Some are a bit abrupt like The Black Beast. But there are several good stories in this collection. My favorites are: The Golden Goblet, King of the Nine Mountains and Butterfly.
Niklas Pivic
Apr 09, 2018 rated it liked it
The form and style of these short stories fascinated me somewhat; having said that, if one bars what merely is exoticism to me, the stories are really moralistic at their core: one shan't lull outside one's allotted life or misery will follow, one should not dream for something higher in life or death will follow, et cetera. I feel that these stories are written with a lot of passive aggression burning in the back, as though the author wanted to fire the results of his unrealised dreams towards ...more
Jul 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
As others have noted, these stories are short. Some of the entries felt underdeveloped or a sketch more than a story; others really grabbed the attention and used the brevity to full effect. I am left with the impression that there is a cultural difference in play as well as a change in preferences from the 17th-18th Century to now that is effecting our likes and dislikes of the stories.

Bottom line: I liked it.
John Isles
Jul 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
A collection of short (sometimes very short) stories by this 17th-18th-century Chinese author. I don't know if they're his own inventions, traditional tales, stories he collected from others, or a mixture. They are sometimes weird but always entertaining, and are illustrated by some Chinese woodcuts.
Some if these stories were pretty crazy, but some were a bit meh. I'm not moved by this book as a whole and it was pretty much forgotten once I finished it.
Cate B
Jan 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
Wailing Ghosts is a collection of Chinese ghost stories. Some were silly and pointless, but others were really entertaining. It’s one of the best Penguin Little Black Classics that I’ve read so far.
Aug 05, 2019 rated it liked it
Some dark and gruesome tales in here. Nice little book that's easy to carry around and dip into when you have 5-10 spare minutes.
Thomas Clairmont
Sep 01, 2018 rated it liked it
Quite enjoyable, some stories were amazing but some didn't just clicked with me.
Would still recommend it since it is a short book.
Jan 27, 2020 rated it it was ok
Very short tales. Most of them end up being quite a disappointment.

Sep 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
For those who know about Chinese mythology and history this book is surely interesting. The tales are incredibly good.
Fourteen short stories in this penguin Little Black Classic, and be aware some are very short - like 2-3 pages long. This book is an excerpt or selection taken from "Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio" by Pu Songling (1640 - 1715).
They are readable, and descriptive, and all deal with some aspect of the supernatural, but for me they don't really qualify as stories... they are more, I don't really know, like a statement of description...
What I am trying to say, is they don't follow traditional
Michelle Curie
Pu Songling was a Chinese writer born in the 17th century. This volume contains 14 of his short stories about ghosts and spirits which he began to work on at the age of twenty and completed late in life. Apparently he owned a teahouse, where he invited people to tell him stories, which he would then write down.

As much as I wanted to like this, I am not sure about these stories. At all. They felt too short to be engaging, too abruptly ending to be climactic and too pointless to not leave me
Mar 12, 2015 rated it it was ok
I'm just going to say it: these are terrible stories. Ancient short stories are always pretty fascinating, and usually offer wise morals or convoluted messages. These were curious to read but more for their nonsensicality than anything else. It's hard to tease out any kind of insight or depth, and they're so random on the surface that the overall feeling is one of mild amusement but, ultimately, dissatisfaction. I did enjoy 'Butterfly' and 'Growing Pears', and some elements of others, but ...more
Rachael Quinn
Jan 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Just when I was beginning to lose faith in my Little Black Classics box set, I go to read this little gem. Collected here are a number of short paranormal stories from China. Sometimes, this is just the ticket for me. It made for great reading while I chipped away at chores today because the stories were so short and I found most of them to be engrossing. Magic, myths, beasts, ghosts, foxes. The tone was very fairy tale like and easy to read. I plowed through this.

Now I kind of want to read
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Pu Songling (simplified Chinese: 蒲松龄; traditional Chinese: 蒲松齡; pinyin: Pú Sōnglíng; Wade–Giles: P'u Sung-ling, June 5, 1640—February 25, 1715) was a Qing Dynasty Chinese writer, best known as the author of Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio.

Pu was born into a poor landlord-merchant family from Zichuan (淄川, now Zibo, Shandong). At the age of nineteen, he received the gongsheng degree in the
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