Eight stories translated from Chinese/ Mandarin.
P.267 “what unites these restlessly innovative, willfully provocative stories is Yu Hua’s almost obsessive preoccupation with the twin spectres of Chinese history (“the past”) and the human capacity for cruelty and violence (“the punishments”).”
Classical Love – a ghost story/ love story, Chinese style: Scholar meets maiden; falls in love; hunger and cannibalism; maiden is killed;scholar meets maiden again and wondering if she’s a ghost.
Blood and plum blossoms – another swordfighting genre-based story; Plum Blossom Sword.
The death of a landlord – Japanese invasion of China; young man forced to lead them to a town.
Some were rather surreal (“The past and the punishments”) and bloody (“1986″; p133 lists the various ways of execution by torture through the eras of Chinese rule).
The translator’s postscript section gives more context (and sense) to the stories, some of which were pretty macabre.