“100 Ghost Soup”: A Modern Chinese Folk Tale


100 Ghost Soup by Robert Chansky is an unusual story told in the tradition of a Chinese folk tale or legend. Chansky’s style and tone make the reading almost musical at times, and is particularly suited to reading aloud. This delightfully entertaining tale is written as if it could go on forever. Just when you think the story is finished, you find that there is still more – not an unpleasant surprise.

Bei Jimo is an seventeen year old orphan who has always wanted but two things: a name and a family. He sees an opportunity to have both those things in the month before he turns eighteen, when he learns someone wants to adopt him. Jimo tries to seize it, in spite of the fact that it’s only for one month, but he quickly learns that all is not as it seems.

In this tale the line between reality and illusion is a fine one and it is hard to tell which side of it one is on. It is a tale of fox spirits and celestial ministers, which looks at what it is to be family and the differences between truth and deceit, having a job and having meaningful work, the meaning of true wealth, and the role we play in our own fate and that of others. Although confusing at times and full of surprises, as when it is discovered that the cow is Elder Brother, the words to 100 Ghost Soup are loaded with great wisdom.

This book is quite long, but it is a well written, easy read which is very entertaining. The Chinese tone of both words and character, the tricks and puzzles, the obvious that it so well hidden it must be pointed out all work together to make me feel that I’ve just read an ancient Chinese folktale in a modern setting. I give 100 Ghost Soup five quills.

Five Quills3