Pan Jinlian is a fictional character in the 17th century Chinese novel Jin Ping Mei (The Plum in the Golden Vase), and a minor character in Water Margin, one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature. A well-known figure in Chinese culture, she represents the quintessential adulterous wife, and has become the patron goddess of brothels and prostitutes.
Pan Jinlian's name appears to be inspired by Pan Yunu, an imperial consort of the Southern Qi dynasty. Her husband, Xiao Baojuan, was obsessed with her small bound feet and made her dance on golden (金, jin) lotuses (蓮, lian) .
Pan Jinlian is married to Wu Dalang, the elder brother of Wu Song. Wu Dalang is short and ugly, while Pan Jinlian is renowned for her beauty; as a result, many people feel that the couple are a mismatch.
Pan Jinlian, dissatisfied with her marriage, has an extramarital affair with Ximen Qing, a handsome womaniser in town. Wu Dalang eventually discovers the affair, but Pan Jinlian and Ximen Qing murder him by adding poison to his food. They bribe the coroner to conceal the true cause of his death.
Wu Song grows suspicious of his brother's death. He carries out his own investigations and discovers the truth. In Water Margin, Wu Song's slaying of the adulterous pair is described in graphic detail and is one of the most memorable scenes in the novel. In Jin Ping Mei, however, Pan Jinlian marries Ximen Qing as a concubine, and Wu Song kills Pan after Ximen dies from excessive sexual activity.
In popular culture
Pan Jinlian is a popular subject of Chinese and Japanese films and television series. Since the 1950s, there have been at least 20 films and television series featuring her as a main character.
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