What the Master Would Not Discuss
Cover of a 1934 edition of What the Master Would Not Discuss
AuthorYuan Mei
Original title
CountryQing dynasty China
GenreBiji, Gods and demons fiction, supernatural, fantasy, adventure
Publication date
1788 CE
Media typePrint
What the Master Would Not Discuss
Traditional Chinese子不語
Simplified Chinese子不语
Literal meaningmaster not discuss
Alternative Chinese name
Traditional Chinese新齊諧
Simplified Chinese新齐谐

What the Master Would Not Discuss (Zibuyu), alternatively known as Xin Qixie, is a collection of supernatural stories compiled by Qing Dynasty scholar and writer Yuan Mei.[1] The original collection consist of over 700 stories.

The work has also been translated as What the Master Does not Speak of[2] and other such titles, as well as Censored by Confucius in one English-language translated work of selected tales.[3]


The title of the work Zi bu yu refers to the passage of the Analects of Confucius[4] that states, "The topics the Master did not speak of were prodigies, force, disorder and gods".[5] His reference to the master was criticised as a 'heretical' use of Confucian texts.[6]

Yuan later changed the title to Xin Qixie (新齐谐; 新齊諧, "New Wonder Tales of Qi/from Qi") when he discovered there was a Yuan dynasty text with the title What the Master Would Not Discuss. However, Yuan's collection is still commonly known by its original title.[7][8]

The original anthology appeared in 24 volumes,[a] and a sequel anthology followed in 10 volumes[9][8] under the title Xu xin Qi xie (续新齐谐; 續新齊諧, "A Sequel to New Wonder Tales of Qi").[8] The 34 total volumes combined boasts a content exceeding 1,000 short stories and accounts.[8]


Zi Buyi first appeared in print in 1788.[10] In contrast to the prevailing Confucian orthodoxy of the imperial court, the 747 short stories depicted a rich tapestry of daily life, including themes of ghosts, sex, betrayal, revenge, transvestism, homosexuality, and corruption.[6] However, Yuan defended the collection, as the whims of an ageing man enjoying his last days as much as possible,[11] though the content of his stories relates to many of his personal grievances with the Confucian establishment.[12]

The work was so popular that the government censored it in 1836 during attempts to suppress anti-establishment sentiment.[6]


The stories were collected over a lengthy period of time.[10] The sources included oral accounts from friends and relatives, official gazettes, or other collections.[13]

In popular culture

One of the supernatural creatures mentioned in this collection called the Hua Po (花魄), literally "Floral Spirit", is a recurring demon in the popular Japanese video game series Megami Tensei.[citation needed]

Explanatory notes

  1. ^ Volumes or juan ().



  1. ^ Santangelo & Yan edd. (2013).
  2. ^ Thome (2008).
  3. ^ Kam & Edwards trr. (1996).
  4. ^ Confucius. Shu Er, Analects 《论语·述而》: "Zi bu yu guai, li, luan, shen "
  5. ^ Lau, D. C. tr. (1982) [1979] Confucius: The Analects, Book Seven, p. 88 apud Kam & Edwards trr. (1996), p. xxiii
  6. ^ a b c Kam & Edwards trr. (1996), p. xxiii.
  7. ^ Kam & Edwards trr. (1996), p. xxxiii.
  8. ^ a b c d Lo trr. (1992), p. 77.
  9. ^ Lu, Hsun (2000) [1930]. A Brief History of Chinese Fiction. Honolulu: University Press of the Pacific. pp. 260–261. ISBN 9780898751543.
  10. ^ a b Kam & Edwards trr. (1996), p. xxx.
  11. ^ Kam & Edwards trr. (1996), p. xxiv.
  12. ^ Thome (2008), p. 27.
  13. ^ Santangelo & Yan edd. (2013), p. 1.

Works cited