Pan Jinlian (Chinese: 潘金蓮; Wade–Giles: P'an Chin-lien) is a protagonist in the Chinese classic novel Jin Ping Mei (The Plum in the Golden Vase), and a minor character in the Water Margin, another classic. 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 the Southern Qi dynasty imperial consort Pan Yunu, whose husband, emperor Xiao Baojuan, was obsessed with her small bound feet and had her dance on golden (金, jin) lotuses (蓮, lian) .
Pan is married to Wu Dalang, elder brother of eventual Liangshan chieftain Wu Song. Wu Dalang is short and ugly, whereas Pan is renowned for her beauty; as a result, many feel the couple are a mismatch.
Pan, dissatisfied with her marriage, has an extramarital affair with Ximen Qing, a handsome womanizer in town. Wu Dalang eventually discovers the affair, but Pan and Ximen murder Wu 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 the Water Margin, Wu Song's slaying of the adulterous pair is both graphic and 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 has died from excessive sexual activities.
In popular culture
Pan Jinlian is a popular subject of Chinese and Japanese films and TV dramas. Since the 1950s there have been at least 20 films and TV series with her as a main character.