Shen Fu The book Shen Fu’s Six Records of a Floating Life is both an autobiography and love story of a man named Shen Fu, who was educated toward the path to grow up to be a scholar, but he kept on failing the exams. He went on to earn his living as secretary for a magistrate and also selling off his wife’s artwork. His wife is the girl that he fell had fallen in love with as a young child. Together, they had a very weird and odd relationship (at least compared to our modern day idea of a relationship).
I think that Shen Fu really wanted the big job as the magistrate, but it also seemed like he didn’t really want to work very hard for the position. Perhaps he was a tad on the lazy side of things. He grew up in a rather scholarly middle class family and he spent much of his life trying to pass the exam. The only problem was that he kept failing it over and over again, and did never actually get around to passing it. Shen Fu seemed to focus a lot of his attention on status, and I think that it was mostly due to his family and his social class that he was born into.
It seems to me that the higher status you had back then, the more you focused on status and put being born of high class up on a pedestal. Shen Fu his whole life was seeking this “Floating Life” which basically means that you’re economically secure, and that life is a more of a “dream” rather than actual reality. I thought he was always seeking this because he was always trying to figure out how to make a good deal more money, or to get a desirable scholarly position. Shen Fu, in my opinion, was rather greedy and materialistic, and was generally out for himself.
Although, to be fair, he did provide for his family by taking on many different kinds of jobs, loans, and even by attempting to sell his wife’s artwork. This book is actually better known being a love story. Though it is much different then what we think a love story should traditionally consist of. Shen Fu was known for spending a lot of time with Prostitutes, and his wife seemed ok with it, she even went and found him a concubine. Shen Fu basically viewed his wife as his equal, rather than looking down on her as a woman, this was a very rare view for a man to have considering the time and place this took story took course.
Most traditional loves stories would make this story appear crazy, this is mostly because the more traditional thought of love is between two people sharing and expressing mutual feelings for each other. Love is generally not thought of as the wife going out and searching for a good Concubine for her husband to sleep with. However, I think the more romantic and warming part of the story was that Shen Fu and his wife, Yun, enjoyed reading, drinking, and writing poetry together. I actually think that they genuinely enjoyed each other’s company.
Another reason why this story could be view as a bit of a romance, was because Shen Fu was really committed to supporting his family by working and taking on many jobs and responsibilities. His dedication to his wife was pretty romantic in and of itself. I didn’t think that Shen Fu was a filial son because there was a lot of conflict between his family. Think that a lot of the conflict was because he went down in class and never did become a magistrate like he and his family had hoped he would.
It seems like his family viewed at him as if he didn’t try hard enough and was a somewhat of a failure to them. I would consider Shen Fu in the lower to middle class, because, he never got the job as a magistrate and didn’t have enough money to adequately support his family, so he has to sell off his wife’s artwork. I would probably put him in the lower class, but the fact that he came from a middle class family and had a concubine might put him a little on the higher side of classes. I think that this story of Shen Fu’s life does indeed exemplify the typical lifestyle during the Qing Dynasty.
Shen Fu and his wife both viewed each other as equals, which back then was really different from the norm. How he focused mush of his attention on status was a really big thing during the Qing era, and how he aspired to have a floating life style. I think it also showed how that even though he had a wife, he went out drinking with prostitutes and with his Concubine, which seems like it was pretty common back then. Overall, I thought that it was actually a pretty interesting book. It definitely wasn’t what I was expecting, and It gave a good example of how life was for his class during the Qing era.
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