Traditionally both literary theorists and university courses divide between 'classical' and 'modern' literature. This has left nineteenth-century fiction in limbo, and allowed negative assessments of its literary quality to persist unchecked. The popularity of Qing dynasty red-light fiction, often considered as 'low work' - works whose primary focus is the relationship between clients and courtesans, set in tea-houses, pleasure gardens, and later, brothels - has endured throughout the twentieth century. This volume explores why, looking at the relation between books as texts, and the play on fiction of the narrative. It argues that these works are far from the 'low' work of 'frustrated scholars' but in their provocative play on the nature of relations between client, text and courtesan provide an insight into wider changes in understandings of self and literary value in the nineteenth century.