Decided to give it another run and was rewarded by, among other things, a number of retellings of P'u Sung-ling's (Pu Songling, 蒲松齡, 蒲松龄) stories. This gives me hope that my other Spence, Treason by the Book, will eventually stop being about the paranoia of Qing officialdom and start being about people I'm interested in, though I doubt it will do that soon. But something's bothering me about Woman Wang.
There's a story there about a vulgar wastral who persuades the mother of a young girl to let her marry him, by pretendiing great solicitude for the two of them when they're visiting a temple. Of course he squanders her dowry and then decides to sell her to a brothel. She asks to be allowed to say good-bye to her mother so the two go to her mother's house, which is a rich mansion. The girl then denounces him and the maids attack him. The wastrel loses consciousness and wakes to find himself sprawled on the edge of a cliff that crumbles beneath him.
I know I've read this story just recently but I can't think where. Memory says it's a story some character tells within a fantasy novel, but I haven't read any fantasy novels lately. In Spence's retelling the wastrel is pulled up by a monk. In the version I read he falls to his death. Does this ring any bells with anyone here?
And speaking of P'u Sung-ling:
Here is an interactive website with illos of various stories. My computer doesn't like moving images, may be why I can't interact with it, but maybe you can. Here's the movie version in eight DVDs. I fancy the web illos are more evocative. And for my own reference, here's where one can get translations and bilingual texts of this and that.