The Haunted Monastery (Judge Dee Mysteries, Book 7)

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In Honolulu, Hawaii, he read a newspaper article about Chang Apana, a Chinese man who had worked for the Honolulu police force for several decades. Biggers, who studied Literature at Harvard University, apparently did no research about the Chinese people. Examples such as these prompted Robert Van Gulik to write:.


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When he was three years old, his parents moved to the Dutch East Indies to what is now Jakarta, taking him with them, where they lived until he was twelve. Van Gulik studied Mandarin while growing up. As an adult, he could speak, read, and write Mandarin. He also came to know the Chinese people and their culture, traditions, and beliefs intimately. He went home to the Netherlands for his advanced education receiving a PhD in Eventually, he returned to Japan and China.

Robert van Gulik

In , he married Shui Shifang, daughter of a Qing dynasty Imperial Mandarin; together they had four children. Van Gulik became a sinologist and an ambassador to China on behalf of the West. Van Gulik discovered that China had full-fledged detective novels in the 17 th century. He wanted to introduce these to the West but there were significant differences between the Chinese of the 17 th century and Western detective stories of the 20 th century. Therefore, he had to find something that would be palatable to Western readers. Chinese detective novels of this period follow the actual protocol of Chinese law and procedure current at the time they were written.

Works (27)

I suppose, therefore, that they can be seen as prototypes of police procedurals. Typically, the Judge investigates three cases during each book. These cases are separate and unrelated but may overlap in the time period—an earlier case may be unsolved as another case is initiated, investigated, and solved. The protocol often begins when a citizen wants to lodge a complaint or report an incident although the judge himself sometimes initiates an investigation as a result of something he himself has observed.

These stories provide examples of:

The judge is called from his chambers, dresses in his magisterial robe, and takes his place on a dais in the courtroom. Upon entering the tribunal, the citizen strikes a gong, then kneels on the floor before the judge and touches his head to the floor several times. The deceased was last seen at such-and-such a hotel. The judge has the authority to detain such a person in case he is making a false allegation or it is later determined that the person has motivation to lie. The murdered victim is brought to the court and a doctor or coroner examines the corpse and reports his observations in great detail.


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An assistant, acting as court stenographer, takes notes, which become part of the official court records. The following quote from the novel explicates this process:. The coroner thereupon spread a reed mat on the ground, and had the corpse placed on top of it. He washed it clean with hot water, and then looked over the body inch by inch. He thus reported to Judge Dee:. After Judge Dee had pondered over this report for a few moments, he descended from his chair, and himself carefully looked over the corpse.

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Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee. In Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee , the proprietor of the hotel as alluded to above is summoned to the tribunal. He, too, must strike the gong upon entering the court, then kneel before the judge and touch his head to the floor. But in the morning , he ate breakfast, settled his bill, and went on his way.

This is the first I have heard about his death. The judge uses his discretion as he investigates the case. Although modern forensic techniques and tools were unavailable to investigators at that time, Judge Dee demonstrates great skill and wisdom in his approach. He provides detailed written reports to his superiors, outlining his course of action.

The Judge Dee Mysteries

During his investigation, the judge is autonomous. In Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee , after delegating specific instructions for his staff assistants to pursue certain lines of inquiry, he feels the need to investigate himself while incognito. Van Gulik translates:. How can it be that that which is apparently the last phase of this investigation, is so slow in materializing? So the next morning Judge Dee rose early, and disguised himself as an itinerant physician.

Like a literati, he had a good knowledge of drugs and the arts of healing, so that he did not risk exposure through ignorance of the medical science.

Moreover he knew that people in general will tell a doctor more than others. He also reasoned that it was probable that the murderer during the scuffle would have suffered some injuries himself, and, being in hiding, would rather invoke the help of an itinerant doctor, than of a local physician. View Results. Home Characters Authors.

Judge Dee and the Monastery Murders (1974)

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