The Chinese Nail Murders

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The Chinese Nail Murders
First UK edition
Author Robert van Gulik
Series Judge Dee
Genre Gong'an fiction, Mystery, Detective novel, Crime
Publisher Michael Joseph (UK)
Harper & Row (US)
Publication date
Media type Print
Pages 216
Preceded by The Chinese Gold Murders
Followed by The Haunted Monastery

The Chinese Nail Murders is a gong'an detective novel written by Robert van Gulik and set in Imperial China (roughly speaking the Tang Dynasty). It is a fiction based on the real character of Judge Dee (Ti Jen-chieh or Di Renjie), a magistrate and statesman of the Tang court, who lived roughly 630–700 BC.

Plot introduction[edit]

Judge Dee, and his four helpers, solve three murders: that of an honored merchant, a master of martial arts, and the wife of a merchant, whose corpse has no head. Judge Dee soon comes under pressure from higher-ranking officials to end his investigation. Naturally, Judge Dee refuses to give up until he has learned the whole truth.

A nail murder was a motif of crime in ancient China.[1]

The case of the headless corpse was based on an actual 13th-century Chinese murder casebook.


  1. ^ Summers, WC (1999). "The Chinese Nail Murders: Forensic medicine in Imperial China". The Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine. 72 (6): 409–419. PMC 2579034Freely accessible. PMID 11138936.