Ximen Qing was born to a family of a person who sold medical herbs (Roy, 1997). Very often Ximen assisted his father in his shop and as a child he was accustomed to work. Nevertheless, his father was not a very rich man, and since early childhood Qing understood that it would have been difficult for him to climb the social ladder. This idea became very clear to him when his father almost found himself on the verge of bankruptcy. More importantly, he understood that wealth could give him access to almost everything that he wanted. One of the things that Qing wanted to achieve was the position of power because in this way he could better achieve prosperity. One should bear in mind that Ximen’s father was solely responsible for the education of his son because his wife died when Ximen was only two-year old. Thus, this person was deprived of motherly care. This experience taught him Ximen to be self-sufficient and independent, but at the same time, he became a callous and calculating person who did not care much about the needs of others. This is one of the points that readers should bear in mind.
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As he grew up, Ximen Qing was primarily interested in those people whose connections could be of some service to him. For example, he looked primarily for business partners or officials who could help him achieve his goals (Roy, 1997). None of those people, whom Ximen met, could be viewed as his friends. The very idea of friendship was practically alien to him. This was a distinguishing trait of his behavior. One has to admit that his acquaintances did help him to achieve prosperity, especially if one is speaking about his business activities and bribery, but at the same time, his worldview became very limited. Everything that did not bring revenues was of little interest to him. This is one of the traits that people could observe in him. Nevertheless, one has to admit that Ximen Qing was not always a calculating and callous person. Indeed, there were some notable exceptions.
When he was a relatively young person, he did fall in love with a beautiful girl called Baozhai whose father was a well-known merchant. At the beginning, he did not pay much attention to her, soon her beauty, intelligence, and kindness enchanted him. This was probably the only time when he was not driven by the need for prosperity and his acquaintances were surprised with his behavior. Qing was extremely fascinated with this girl, and he could indeed sacrifice many things for her. Nevertheless, she rejected him due to some reasons, and since that time Ximen Qing turned into a truly heartless man who could stick at nothing in order to achieve his goals. Overall, this event had a transformative effect on him, because he began to treat other people only as a means for attaining his objectives. It is possible to say that his principles and worldviews never changed since that time.
Since that moment, Ximen Qing concentrated all his efforts on his business and career. His status within the community became the greatest priority for him. More importantly, he began to view people as women only as sexual objects. He turned into a ruthless and unscrupulous person. Certainly, Ximen Qing did become a successful entrepreneur. For instance, he became one of the major sellers of herbal medicine, cloth, and silk. Nevertheless, his life was reduced only to two aspects, prosperity and sexual life. To a great extent, these factors led to Qing’s demise at the age of thirty (Roy, 1997).
The readers can certainly say how such a character could exist. They should remember that Ximen Qing lived during the time when it was very difficult for an individual to achieve fortune and retain ones honesty. In particular, he lived during the Song Dynasty and at that time, a person’s background affected his or her status in the society (Ebrey, 2010). Ximen Qing did not want to be a paragon of integrity, but he did try to achieve success almost at any cost. This is the issues that people should consider when evaluating the personality of Ximen Qing, his principles, and behavior. Hopefully, readers will not forget about these issues.
Overall, this prequel to The Plum in the Golden Vase is based on my own interpretation and on the textual evidence. On the one hand, this description is based on the way in which Ximen treated other people, especially women. Apart from that I relied on the biographical information about the background of this person, his interest in entrepreneurship, and the legacy that he received from his father. Admittedly, there are some exceptions and some elements in this prequel rely on my own interpretation of the novel. In particular, I would like to speak about the imaginary girl with whom Ximen Qing fell in love. In my view, this incident could explain the callousness of this character. Furthermore, I chose to mention that Qing was educated only by his father. In my opinion, this imaginary tragedy could throw light on many aspects of his behavior. These are the main aspects that should not be overlooked.
Ebrey, P. (2010). The Cambridge Illustrated History of China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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Roy T. (1997). The Plum in the Golden Vase or, Chin P’ing Mei: Volume Three: The Aphrodisiac. Princeton: Princeton University Press.