David Tod Roy on The Plum in the Golden Vase

Illustration from The Plum in the Golden Vase

David Tod Roy on his recently completed translation of The Plum in the Golden Vase or, Chin P’ing Mei 金瓶梅:

I came to believe that in order to study the Chin P’ing Mei accurately, I would need to have some means of control over the text, so I spent about two years making a card index of every line of poetry, parallel prose, and proverbial sayings in the entire novel. I ended up with tens of thousands of file cards. People said, “Why didn’t you hire a graduate student to do that?” But I knew that wouldn’t have worked. With this information at my fingertips, I could read through earlier Chinese drama and poetry, and whenever I saw something that seemed familiar, I could check the index cards within seconds to see whether or not that phrase occurred in the Chin P’ing Mei. That’s how I wrote the notes of my translation. Without having compiled this index, I never could have done it.
I tried to read every extant work of Chinese fiction and drama in circulation before the Chin P’ing Mei was published. That’s a huge project, but I kept discovering more and more sources.

Click the image above for his complete comments.