The Book of Swindles: Cons from the Late Ming Dynasty


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In Zhang Yingyu’s work from the late Ming Dynasty, you’ll encounter swindling concubines, clever commoners, and even eunuch cannibals trying to regrow their members.

“We live in an age of deception. Words and appearances mislead. Con artists prey on the unwary. In this world of swindlers, one must rely on one’s wits to survive. How, then, to guard against the duplicity that lurks behind every smiling face? Look to your kin, keep your possessions close, and trust no one.

But first, read The Book of Swindles.”

Christopher Rea and Bruce Rusk, both associate professors of Asian studies at the University of British Columbia, have recently published The Book of Swindles’ first English translation. In this interview, they discuss the work’s historical and cultural context as well as walk through some of the most shocking, revealing, and prurient stories The Book of Swindles has to offer.