Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Six Chapters of a Floating Life” as Want to Read:
Six Chapters of a Floating Life
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Six Chapters of a Floating Life

3.78  ·  Rating details ·  752 Ratings  ·  80 Reviews
Chinese language edition.
Paperback, 80 pages
Published January 1999 by People's Literature Press (first published 1809)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Jun 13, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In the first lines of this book, Fu Shen apologizes for he is not a very skillful writer. This modesty is unbecoming of him, for Six Records of a Floating Life is a charming and well-crafted recollection of ordinary life in a distant place and time. He makes it real.

The title is unfortunately not accurate - though Fu Shen may have written six short pieces on his 'floating life', only four survive. The rest appear to have been lost to history.

The main focus of these reminisces is the story of Fu
Jul 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Wow! This was a lovely treat. I feel like I've gotten to know Shen Fu as a friend. He was kind, gentle, artistic, observant and loving to his wife. He was happy and content in Life, even while poor & close to destitute. At heart, his life was full of friends and cheer. It was a full life.
Shen Fu is a wonderfully intimate and personal writer. I felt like I was with him in his journey. His wife, Yun, was interesting and complex. The two loved each other throughout their time together, which do
This was written in the late 1700s and early 1800s by a Chinese man who drifted between various clerical and artistic jobs.

Only four of the original six chapters exist, and it makes a very different style of storytelling: each chapter is thematic, and chronological within, but the book overall is not chronological, so some episodes are described in different chapters, in different ways (layers of floating records). It works very well, though the various notes, maps and appendices in this edition
Grace Tjan
Have you ever...

been married off to your first cousin at seventeen?

been thrown out of the house for "mishandling arrangements to obtain a concubine" for your father-in-law?

been obsessed with the idea of finding a concubine for your husband?

tried to purchase an underage singsong girl to be a concubine to both yourself and your husband?

wasted to death because you failed to arrange for a live-in threesome relationship with your husband and his concubine?

If you answer “yes” to any of these questions
Jun 09, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Well, actually it's only four records (unless one counts a forgery). Shen Fu was completely unremarkable in public -- enough so that no one knows how he died -- but his memoir, unusually candid and personal for Chinese literature, reverals him as a creature of intense feeling. He is admired for the loving portrait of his wife that this book includes, but he was also a man capable of devoting more pages to the handling of flowers than to his two children. Still, this is perhaps the most immediate ...more
When I read Chaucer for the first time, I thought "how contemporary this all is!" And when I read Shen Fu, I came to realize that he was a sort of Jack Kerouac of late 18th Century China. He:

--Has a badass wife who recites poetry
--Tries to pick up young women
--Spends a lot of time traveling around with his bros looking for Enlightenment and getting hammered

For those of you who are often confounded by the icy rigidity of so much classical Chinese prose, don't worry. Shen Fu is actually a pretty g
Ian "Marvin" Graye
Guinness World Record for This Floating Life on GoodReads

Click below to find out whether you (or your nominee) won the Guinness World Record for floating the most old GoodReads reviews in the last twelve months:

(view spoiler)
Feb 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book for several reasons. It is a rare and frank account of a failed literati during the Qing Dynasty; Shen Fu writes in an astonishingly intimate and emotional manner for his time and his upbringing giving the reader a glimpse into a world long gone. Despite the fact that Shen Fu believes he is a poor writer, his writing is lyrical, stark and incredibly romantic. Shen Fu, for all of his faults (and there are many), preserved for the ages the romance between himself and his wife Yun ...more
Feb 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
a book you should read before you die, absolutely unique, both as an autobiography from this period and from this culture. As most say, the stand-out chapter is the one on his marriage, but the ones on travels and aesthetics are great too. As i remember, the best one is first and the worst one is second and makes you want to give up, but it's the only stinker, so keep on! Plus, it's short. Read this.
Nico Lee
Aug 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lovely little book, that basically posits whilst the world, it's structures, fluctuate around us, our individual thoughts about our small lives remain peculiar, particular and personal and therefore, perversely, in odd ways universal.
Joseph Tang
Oct 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 史传
Andrew Fairweather
'Six Records of a Life Adrift' is really four records of a life adrift—Shen Fu's other installments were either lost or never completed. His first chapter 'Delights of Marriage' provided a brief antidote to raging loneliness. Shen Fu's marriage to Chen Yun seems like the stuff dreams are made of, two intellectual equals completely devoted to each other, the best of friends. The love affairs of Ovid and Catullus come to mind, Catullus barely holds a candle to the maturity of Shen Fu's love for Ch ...more
Shen Fu's Six records of a Floating Life is too short! Granted two chapters have gone missing since it was written in 1806 I wish there was more. I loved it so much. Well all except the bit about flower arranging and landscaping though I could understand why it was in there. It was a very touching autobiography of the life of a man livining in late 18th Century China who was usually broke but sometimes worked for the government, sometimes as an art dealer, but mostly just sat drinking with his w ...more
Mar 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: criticism, china
Fu Shen comes across as an unpretentious man who is merely interesting in the unpretentious appreciation of things. These include the arts, the places he travels too, but most importantly his deep and passionate love for his wife.

Of the four surviving chapters, the first one was the best. It's about the married life that Fu Shen shared with his wife Yun and their many happy moments. (He saves the unhappy moments for the third chapter.) He renders Yun with a magnificent eye for detail - the sheer
Dec 31, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: français-world
Un petit bijou! Chen Fou se raconte et nous permet d'entrer dans la vie quotidienne d'un lettré du XVIIIe siècle. Un homme pauvre qui doit gagner sa vie mais qui se retrouve souvent dans des situations financières précaires. Chen Fou aime sa femme qui est elle aussi une femme cultivée- elle sait lire et écrire, est curieuse et aimante. Le livre est en 4 cahiers et les 3 premiers sont savoureux, riches en détails sur la vie familiale, le travail, la contemplation, les plaisirs et les chagrins de ...more
Dec 11, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Weirdos
Story about a bad time-management average-intelligence Chinese man in semi-recent China. I would've liked the book more if the author didn’t talk like a 7 year old through most of it. Good love story with his wife, stupid political story about his losing his jobs and how tradition and family values made his family disown him (two or three times I don’t remember) Like Ethan Frome, everyone's life would’ve been better if he had gone for the dignity of just ending it. But then the book would never ...more
Sep 16, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Interesting book. It's a little slow and the chapter on travelling is not very interesting (this garden in this city you've never heard of is better than this other garden in another city you've never heard of). The first three chapters on marriage, lesiure and sorrow are worth reading. It gives insight into what makes up a man's life.

I wouldn't strongly recommend this book, but since it's only about 150 pages, its not much of a time investment if you're interested in life in China in the late
May 22, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book, an autobiography of a clerk in China circa 1810 set in Souzhou. He is in love with his wife, has courtesans, deals with his demanding family, and is always at a loss for money, but usually finds a way to go out with his friends. A great view of an artistic family of the time.
Jackson Cyril
Jun 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: china
Dr. Johnson noted that the final purpose of a biography should be the edification of the reader, through examples and circumstances drawn from the study of one life: Carlyle, defending Boswell's biography of Johnson against Macaulay's acrimonious attacks, added that the aim of biography was to capture fully the time and person being described. Shen Fu's work is not a biography, but rather an autobiography-- but it is arranged thematically, which leads me to think that the author was not so much ...more
May 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. The translation is super awkward and exotifies everything Shenfu writes in charming ways.

-There are also great differences between our modern ideas and Shen Fu's of just what a book ought to be. The Six Records is not the chronologically constructed tale that we are now used to reading. Instead, Shen Fu takes particular topics and follows them each through his life, one at a time; the book is thus intended to be six different layers that add up to a 'floating life', each laye
Adelaide Mcginnity
If you enjoy reading diaries, or other works of "private" literature for the purpose of gaining insight into a culture and a historical period, you might enjoy reading this record by Shen Fu of his life and struggles. I was particularly intrigued by his sense of what Marxists would call "bourgeoisie values" as applied in Manchu era China; from his actions in the face of dire financial circumstances, we learn that begging off friends and relations is considered a more appropriate means of maintai ...more
Brian Bonilla
Oct 21, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Resulta obvio que esta obra no surgió con propósitos de ser revelado más que para el autor. Las descripciones son extensas y no se evidencia ningún interés literario más que el de dejar por escrito una historia de vida. Shen Fu narra de una manera despreocupada y completa, todo aquello que vivió, todo aquello que tuvo que atravesar y que lo marcó de tal forma que, como el título del libro, dejó su vida a la deriva. Una lástima que no se encuentren las dos estampas faltantes pero, aun así, es una ...more
Jun 16, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People interested in Chinese history *beyond* the imperial court
An illuminating look at life among the not-quite-elite at the apogee of the Qing dynasty.

Shen Fu was a late eighteenth-century private secretary in various local government offices in the Suzhou area. This is a series of diary-like (except not chronological) observations he made about his life. The private secretaries were the ones who helped the magistrates and other provincial officials carry out their tasks. Their job was very important, since the provincial officials they worked for were of
pan Psax
Feb 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Vše je relativní, stejně jako úhel pohledu na jedno maželství.
Ilustrace z knihy se objevily i na výstavách díla Toyen.
Feb 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book provides an interesting insight into the life of a man in the Qing dynasty who has all the education and no opportunity to use it. It is a realistic look at family dynamics, love, and social activities that is rarely seen in other literature from this period.
Tonny Mustika
Jan 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"I would advise all the husbands and wives in the world not to hate one another, certainly, but also not to love too deeply. As it is said, 'An affectionate couple cannot grow old together.' My example should serve as a warning to others" (p. 89).

This warning from Shen Fu struck me. But still I cannot find out a rational explanation behind this statement: "An affectionate couple cannot grow old together." In fact, none of the examples in his life experiences as told by him in the book explains
Julian Meynell
The book is really Four Records of a Floating Life, the last two records do not survive. It is autobiography, but it is divided into different themes, and whilst each of these records is chronological they overlap one another. The author Fu Shen was a minor bureaucrat with a failed career.

The book is very much of its time and place. The necessity of having a concubine for purposes of social climbing (and of course sex), foot binding and so on is taken for granted. The Chinese apparently consider
Ian McHugh
A very moving and poignant portrait of a marriage. Shen Fu's "Six Records" (only four of which survive) give not only an insight into 18th Century life in Suzhou and surrounds, but offer a story of the life of a scholar-administrator and his wife. The 'voice' of Yun, Shen Fu's wife, comes through here and the devotion and, in some cases hopeless romanticism, of the author and the moving way in which their relationship is described is thought-provoking.

The footnotes for the book and the accompany
Jan 26, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A mixed bag. Fu Shen is a schmuck, sometimes lovable and sometimes awful, and his candor, when the polite self-effacement stops, can be fascinating. I don't know how many folks had the means or interest in documenting real, ordinary life in 18th century China, but I suspect there's not much, at least in English.

The problem is that some of Fu Shen's self-effacement, especially about his writing, is well-earned: he is (at least in translation) not a distinguished writer of prose, and has the unfo
Feb 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This story transported and informed me. I was heartbroken and deeply impressed.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio
  • The Golden Days (The Story of the Stone #1)
  • 1587: A Year of No Significance: The Ming Dynasty in Decline
  • Return to Dragon Mountain: Memories of a Late Ming Man
  • Fortress Besieged
  • Mencius
  • China Between Empires: The Northern and Southern Dynasties
  • Li Po and Tu Fu: Poems
  • Love in a Fallen City
  • The King of Trees: Three Novellas: The King of Trees, The King of Chess, The King of Children
  • Emperor of China: Self-Portrait of K'ang-Hsi
  • Moment in Peking
  • Outlaws of the Marsh (Vol. 1-4)
  • Daily Life in China on the Eve of the Mongol Invasion, 1250-1276
  • Three Kingdoms: Classic Novel in Four Volumes
Shen Fu (simplified Chinese: 沈复; traditional Chinese: 沈復; pinyin: Shěn Fù; 1763–1825?), courtesy name Sanbai (三白), was a Chinese writer of the Qing Dynasty, best known for the novel Six Records of a Floating Life.
More about Shen Fu...
“In laying out gardens, pavilions, wandering paths, small mountains of stone, and flower paintings, try to give the feeling of the small in the large and the large in the small, of the real in the illusion, and of the illusion in reality. Some things should be hidden and some should be obvious, some prominent and some vague. Arranging a proper garden is not just a matter of setting out winding paths in a broad area with many rocks; thinking that it is will only waste time and energy.” 1 likes
“The world is so vast, but still everyone looks up at the same moon” 0 likes
More quotes…