Six Records of a Floating Life

an autobiography by Shen Fu

Six Records of a Floating Life (Chinese: 浮生六記, Fu sheng liu ji) is a memoir by Shen Fu (沈復, 1763–1825), completed by 1809 and first published in 1877.


Touched by autumn, one's figure grows slender,
Soaked in frost, the chrysanthemum blooms full.
  • 秋侵人影瘦,霜染菊花肥。
    • Touched by autumn, one's figure grows slender,
      Soaked in frost, the chrysanthemum blooms full.
      • Chapter 1

Six Chapters of a Floating Life, trans. Lin Yutang (Xifengshe, 1949)

  • Su Tungp'o said: "Life is like a spring dream which vanishes without a trace." I should be ungrateful to the gods if I did not try to put my life down on record.
    • Chapter 1: 'Wedded Bliss'
  • Of a slender figure, she had drooping shoulders and a rather long neck, slim but not to the point of being skinny. Her eyebrows were arched and in her eyes there was a look of quick intelligence and soft refinement.
    • Chapter 1
  • "Tu's poems," she said, "are known for their workmanship and artistic refinement, while Li's poems are known for their freedom and naturalness of expression. I prefer the vivacity of Li Po to the severity of Tu Fu."
    "Tu Fu is the acknowledged king of poets," said I, "and he is taken by most people as their model. Why do you prefer Li Po?"
    "Of course," said she, "as for perfection of form and maturity of thought, Tu is the undisputed master, but Li Po's poems have the wayward charm of a nymph. His lines come naturally like falling flowers and flowing water, and are so much lovelier for their spontaneity. I am not saying that Tu is second to Li; only personally I feel, not that I love Tu less, but that I love Li more."
    "I say, I didn't know that you are a bosom friend of Li Po!"
    "I have still in my heart another poet, Po Chüyi, who is my first tutor as it were, and I have not been able to forget him."
    • Chapter 1
  • "If you are in love with a thing, you will forget its ugliness," said Yün.
    • Chapter 1
  • "I hope you will find another one who is both beautiful and good to take my place and serve our parents and bring up my children, and then I shall die content."
    • Chapter 3: 'Sorrow'
  • I remember that when we began our friendship, our minds were full of noble thoughts and we often thought of living a quiet life in the mountains.
    • Chapter 4: 'The Joys of Travel'

Quotations about Six Records of a Floating Life


Lin Yutang's Introduction

Lin Yutang, Preface to Fu sheng liu ji ["Six Chapters of a Floating Life"] (Xifengshe, 1949)
  • Yün, I think, is one of the loveliest women in Chinese literature. She is not the most beautiful, for the author, her husband, does not make that claim, and yet who can deny that she is the loveliest?
    • p. iv
  • In this simple story of two guileless creatures in their search for beauty, living a life of poverty and privations, decidedly outwitted by life and their cleverer fellowmen, yet determined to snatch every moment of happiness and always fearful of the jealousy of the gods, I seem to see the essence of a Chinese way of life as really lived by two persons who happened to be husband and wife.
    • p. vi
  • Did Shen Fu, her husband, perhaps idealize her? I hardly think so. The reader will be convinced of this when he reads the story itself. He made no effort to whitewash her or himself. In him, too, lived the spirit of truth and beauty and the genius for resignation and contentment so characteristic of Chinese culture. I cannot help wondering what this commonplace scholar must have been like to inspire such a pure and loyal love in his wife, and to be able to appreciate it so much as to write for us one of the tenderest accounts of wedded love we have ever come across in literature.
    • p. x