Jin Ping Mei is framed as a spin off from Water Margin. The beginning chapter is based on an episode in which “Tiger Slayer” Wu Song avenges the murder of his older brother by brutally killing his brother’s former wife and murderer, Pan Jinlian.
The story, ostensibly set during the years 1111–27 (during the Northern Song Dynasty), centers on Ximen Qing (西門慶), a corrupt social climber and lustful merchant who is wealthy enough to marry a consort of six wives and concubines. After secretly murdering Pan Jinlian’s husband, Ximen Qing takes her as one of his wives. The story follows the domestic sexual struggles of the women within his household as they clamor for prestige and influence amidst the gradual decline of the Ximen clan. In Water Margin（水滸傳）, Ximen Qing was brutally killed in broad daylight by Wu Song; in Jin Ping Mei, Ximen Qing in the end dies from an overdose of aphrodisiacs administered by Jinlian in order to keep him aroused. The intervening sections, however, differ in almost every way from Water Margin. In the course of the novel, Ximen has 19 sexual partners, including his 6 wives and mistresses. There are 72 detailed sexual episodes.
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