Monday, November 11, 2013


Early Chinese Detective Fiction

GONG AN stories, like the old DRAGNET and more modern TV dramas that change the names to protect the innocent, use actual case records for their plots. These are the earliest form of Chinese detective fiction. There are several GONG AN story collections going back to the Yuan Dynasty. A particularly famous one is the CIRCLE OF CHALK.
GONG AN stories are inverted detective stories. The reader knows up front who committed the crime and why they did it. The crime is described in great detail at the beginning. The typical detective is a judge or a government official. Usually there is a supernatural element in the tales. The ghost of the victim appears in the story full of accusations and with a desire for revenge.
 The detective is usually involved in numerous unrelated cases at the same time. He doesn't have to puzzle out who did it or why. Because of this the stories often digress from the actual crime story.
The stories are also very long, for two main reasons. One, philosophy, crime documents, the law, political implications and more, are expounded on in great detail. Plus the books have a lot of characters, sometimes hundreds. Almost everyone, who has or ever had any contact with any of the main players, are described in great detail.

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