The suffering of a Chinese in China

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Title page of the French original edition with an illustration by the illustrator Léon Benett
The travelers on board the Sam-Yep junk

The Sufferings of a Chinese in China (also known as The Tribulations of a Chinese in China and The Strange Sorrows of Mr. Kin-Fo ) is a novel by the French writer Jules Verne . The novel was first published in 1879 under the French title Les Tribulations d'un Chinois en Chine . The first German-language edition appeared in 1879 under the title The Sufferings of a Chinese in China . The English title of the novel is The Tribulations of a Chinaman in China .


The novel is set in China at the end of the 19th century . It tells the story of the young, rich Chinese Kin-Fo, who does not appreciate life as such. Thanks to his wealth, he never had to know what it means to be happy or unhappy. Wealthy but completely uninspired, he lives into the day, now and then distracted by all sorts of amusements. One of his immediate surroundings is the philosopher Wang, who lives in the house and a converted, formerly militant opponent of the emperor. In order to disperse, he is advised to marry. Wang tracked down the young widow Lé-U, who lives in Beijing, and whose husband, a scholar, has died of old age. Kin-Fo sees another goal in his life. Lé-U not only brings variety, there is mutual sympathy for one another. But Kin-Fo's optimism, which had just started, was suddenly dampened when the news came from the states that the bankruptcy of the bank whose shares he owned had melted its assets. He then cancels the planned wedding with Lé-U and closes at the American insurance company of centenarians a limited two-month term life insurance over 200,000 dollars from that and the death by suicide including with. In this way he wants to secure his beloved Lé-U and his best friend Wang financially after his death. The insurance company agrees to the contract as Kin-Fo appears to be well off and in good health. To be on the safe side, he is supposed to be monitored by the insurance agents Craig and Fry. Kin-Fo notes that it is not that easy to commit suicide. Therefore, he asks Wang for an unusual friendship service. Wang is supposed to kill him. In order for Wang to go unpunished, he hands him a letter in which Kin-Fo confirms that he is stepping out of life of his own volition. Wang reluctantly agrees. Kin-Fo now knows the end date of the policy, but not the exact date of his death. When Kin-Fo suddenly learns after the assignment of this murder, that the bankruptcy of the bank was only faked and that he is not bankrupt at all, his personal distress begins. Suddenly he no longer wants to die and therefore prevent his faithful and reliable friend from being promoted to the hereafter . He can now marry the attractive Lé-U. He wants to inform Wang that he no longer has to murder him. But this has disappeared without a trace. Now there is variety at Kin-Fo. Because he is on the run from his self-appointed murderer. He has a public search for Wang, but Wang has disappeared without a trace. With the two "bodyguards" from the insurance company and his servant Soun, he sets off to look for Wang. When the travelers are on Wang's heels in a suburb of Beijing , Wang saves himself by jumping into a raging river in which he appears to be dead. Grief mixes with relief, the friendship killer no longer exists. In Beijing, Kin-Fo visits his bride Lé-U to inform her that they can marry again. The attempt to host the wedding in Beijing fails because the emperor's mother has died and weddings are prohibited for the time of mourning. A message arrives from Wang stating that he has since handed over his letter of exoneration from Kin-Fo to the head of the former terrorist organization against the Emperor Lao-Shen. Today's mugger is known for his ruthlessness. Kin-Fo wants to buy the letter from him with an amount equal to Wang's profit from the insurance policy, so that the gang leader no longer has to murder him. The companions travel as passengers on the Sam-Yep junk , which is on its way north with a transport of Chinese who have died abroad. During the journey, the two insurance agents Craig and Fry overhear a conversation between pirates who have hidden in the coffins in the hold in order to ambush the junk. The travelers then leave the ship wearing swimsuits designed by Paul Boyton and thus escape the attack. You are rescued by a fishing boat. Kin-Fo wants to get to the Lao Shen hideout near the Great Wall of China . Shortly before the goal, the protectors, since the policy has expired, release Kin-Fo and Soun into the clutches of the robber. Kin-Fo's attempt to buy himself out fails. Lao Shen imposed the death penalty on him for blaspheming Buddha by despising the life he gave. Kin-Fo surrenders to his fate and is loaded onto a ship in a box. When he can inspect his surroundings again, he realizes that he is in the circle of his friends in his house. Wang informs him that he knew Kin-Fo's fortune was not lost, but wanted him to take a two-month course in applied ethics and philosophy . Lé-U now has Wang's discharge letter. Kin-Fo is only allowed to embrace his wife after he has let his old life go up in flames with this letter.


  • Kin-Fo is the protagonist , whose character development you can understand how a person changes under the influence of the stress factor. In this way he not only learns to appreciate true friendship in addition to life , but also learns the difference between friends out of friendship and friends because of money.
  • Soun is the hapless servant Kin-Fos, who always loses a piece of his braid every time he messes up something - the classic funny supporting role . However, his pigtail turns out to be part of a wig at the end of the story .
  • Craig-Fry is the name of the two American insurance agents Craig and Fry, who act, act and think like Siamese twins . In history, they provide the technical equipment to protect their clients.

Technical aids

Swimsuit by Paul Boyton

When Kin-Fo, his servant and the two insurance detectives have to leave the coffin hauler's junk because there are pirates on board, they use an invention by Paul Boyton that exists in reality. They slip into a protective combination that guarantees them a longer and safer stay at sea. Captain Boyton's suit consists of rubber clothing made up of trousers, jacket and headgear. The rescue suit is made of two sheets, between which air can be blown. The air enables a person to swim on the surface of the water and protects the body from cooling down.

Film adaptations

The free film adaptations of the material are usually reduced to the essentials: a suicide prevented from engaging a killer who then suddenly has to get rid of all worries.


  • Heinrich Pleticha (ed.): Jules Verne manual . Deutscher Bücherbund / Bertelsmann, Stuttgart and Munich 1992.
  • Volker Dehs and Ralf Junkerjürgen: Jules Verne . Voices and interpretations of his work. Fantastic Library Wetzlar, Wetzlar 2005.
  • Volker Dehs: Jules Verne . Jules Verne. A critical biography. Artemis & Winkler, Düsseldorf 2005. ISBN 3-538-07208-6

Web links

Commons : Tribulations of a Chinaman in China  - Collection of Pictures, Videos and Audio Files