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Chinese Fairy Tales and Fantasies

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This fresh and elegant translation of one hundred tales from twenty-five centuries of Chinese literature opens up a magical world far from our customary haunts. Illustrated with woodcuts. With black-and-white drawings throughout Part of the Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library


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This fresh and elegant translation of one hundred tales from twenty-five centuries of Chinese literature opens up a magical world far from our customary haunts. Illustrated with woodcuts. With black-and-white drawings throughout Part of the Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library

30 review for Chinese Fairy Tales and Fantasies

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jerjonji

    The Missing Axe A man whose axe was missing suspected his neighbor's son. This boy walked like a thief, looked like a thief, and spoke like a thief. But the man found his axe while he was digging in the valley, and the next time he saw his neighbor's son, the boy walked, looked, and spoke like any child. Lieh Tzu hmmm..... Our perception of people comes from our past experiences and encounters. This is our cultural lens. Only by knowing what has influenced us can we begin to change our perception. P The Missing Axe A man whose axe was missing suspected his neighbor's son. This boy walked like a thief, looked like a thief, and spoke like a thief. But the man found his axe while he was digging in the valley, and the next time he saw his neighbor's son, the boy walked, looked, and spoke like any child. Lieh Tzu hmmm..... Our perception of people comes from our past experiences and encounters. This is our cultural lens. Only by knowing what has influenced us can we begin to change our perception. Perception is one of the most difficult things to change about ourselves. This book is full of countless gems that will make you think... a long long time!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    Quite a treasury. I liked the numerous short fables even better than the stories. And the introduction, that gives just a bit of historical context, esp. re the rivalry between the Confucians and the Taoists, is helpful. My favorite is one of the very shortest: "The Missing Axe "A man whose axe was missing suspected his neighbor's son. The boy walked like a thief, looked like a thief, and spoke like a thief. But the man found his axe while he was digging in the valley, and the next time he saw his Quite a treasury. I liked the numerous short fables even better than the stories. And the introduction, that gives just a bit of historical context, esp. re the rivalry between the Confucians and the Taoists, is helpful. My favorite is one of the very shortest: "The Missing Axe "A man whose axe was missing suspected his neighbor's son. The boy walked like a thief, looked like a thief, and spoke like a thief. But the man found his axe while he was digging in the valley, and the next time he saw his neighbor's son, the boy walked, looked, and spoke like any other child." I also particularly liked "The Fish Rejoice" in which two amateur philosophers debate how effectively anyone can truly empathize with another. I don't know whether I agree with the conclusion that we can indeed feel another's joy, or pain, without experiencing what they're feeling. But that does seem to be the conclusion. Maybe it's a Chinese thing. Speaking of Chinese things, I think maybe there should have been a map and timeline for better context... I mean, it's a big country that has a long history; did all its people really draw on the same cultural traditions? Also, I want to find out more by, and about, this philosopher Yen Tzu. He seems awfully sharp, able to cut straight into the center of a knotty problem, for example.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Eadweard

    A few of them were Pu Songling stories that I had read before, others were excerpts from Liezi, Zhuangzi, the longest was a chapter from "The Scholars", the rest were by authors I hadn't read before. Overall, they were a lot of fun, filial piety, animal transformations, immortals, ghosts, all the good stuff. A few of them were Pu Songling stories that I had read before, others were excerpts from Liezi, Zhuangzi, the longest was a chapter from "The Scholars", the rest were by authors I hadn't read before. Overall, they were a lot of fun, filial piety, animal transformations, immortals, ghosts, all the good stuff.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Mary Catelli

    A bit inaccurately named. Many legends and anecdotes, generally with magic or ghosts or other uncanny business, quite a few without. Many moral tales, many tales of Taoist masters, tales of fools or tricksters.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Hayden Ellington

    I have so many books at home I could read, but of course my friend asks me to go to the library with her and of course I had to say yes... Why wouldn't I, I mean hello -plenty of books! I was in my usual section, the section where I found Lolita, and was browsing, not really searching for something except maybe a future read... Yet I found three books I couldn't put down and ignore until a better time. I had to take them. This is one of the three books and I'm proud of myself for taking it -yes I have so many books at home I could read, but of course my friend asks me to go to the library with her and of course I had to say yes... Why wouldn't I, I mean hello -plenty of books! I was in my usual section, the section where I found Lolita, and was browsing, not really searching for something except maybe a future read... Yet I found three books I couldn't put down and ignore until a better time. I had to take them. This is one of the three books and I'm proud of myself for taking it -yes even if I don't need to go to the library because, yes I have that many books to read at home. On to the review of this book: the 100 tales are not exactly the typical westernized (read Walt Disney) fairy tales and because I had no expectation except having fun reading cute and fun stories: I was in no point disappointed. I had never read full original fairy tales before, those that are not edited by Walt Disney or even retold fairy tales from talented authors. I do have a book of original fairy tales (monstrous actually!) but I still haven't found the time to read it. Because of that, I have no basis of comparison to critic if these were better or not than my other reads on the same subject. For a first read on original fairy tales, I loved it. I really-really did. Some of them were cute, some a little less so, yet always as good. I don't believe women have as much as a place in those than in our stories, even if there was a full sections on women. Most of them, if correctly remembered, were about men and with a secondary character that was female and sometimes the woman was absent from the story all together. The tales were more like lessons people should learn... Like that section on greed, which was maybe my favorite of them all, maybe. I'm not quite sure because the book was full of great interesting stories.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Aria

    Review can also be found at Snow White Hates Apples. I'm unable to express the entirety of my thoughts here in only English, so forgive me for the few, seemingly random Chinese words. A different language just doesn't seem to convey the same depth of intention and meaning, and I realize that even more so after reading this collection. To put it bluntly, reading Chinese Fairy Tales and Fantasies in English is boring. I don't know how true the translations are to the original language, but as I tran Review can also be found at Snow White Hates Apples. I'm unable to express the entirety of my thoughts here in only English, so forgive me for the few, seemingly random Chinese words. A different language just doesn't seem to convey the same depth of intention and meaning, and I realize that even more so after reading this collection. To put it bluntly, reading Chinese Fairy Tales and Fantasies in English is boring. I don't know how true the translations are to the original language, but as I translate them again into Chinese (Mandarin to be exact), I find them infinitely more interesting and poetic. Now, this might just be my choice of words when translating, but I also can't help thinking that the translation might have stripped away too much of the beauty of the original language. I'm not unfamiliar with Asian folklore, myths and such so this collection containing a lot of 道理 (principles/reasoning) and 道德 (morals) isn't odd. However, it can be rather repetitive and at some parts, silly (which, to be fair, isn't unexpected). I didn't care for many of the shorter pieces too. So yeah, this collection wasn't all that enjoyable or interesting to me.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sassafras Lowrey

    I wasn't a giant fan of this book - I'm glad I read it, the stories were interesting but none of them really stood out / connected with me. I don't think it's a book I'm likely to re-read anytime soon but I'm glad that I read it. I wasn't a giant fan of this book - I'm glad I read it, the stories were interesting but none of them really stood out / connected with me. I don't think it's a book I'm likely to re-read anytime soon but I'm glad that I read it.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Audrey

    The translations were lacking a little something. Also would have liked some footnotes or comments for some of the texts to have a better cultural understanding of them.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Danelle

    According to the book, Chinese Fairytales and Fantasies include a "number" of tales that have never before been translated into English. It also points out that most of the tales are now scattered throughout books which are out of print or nearly impossible to obtain. Some of the tales date back to 3rd & 4th century b.c. The book is divided into sections by topic. First, 'Tales of Enchantment and Magic.' This section is where you'll find stories of people turning into animals (mostly tigers and f According to the book, Chinese Fairytales and Fantasies include a "number" of tales that have never before been translated into English. It also points out that most of the tales are now scattered throughout books which are out of print or nearly impossible to obtain. Some of the tales date back to 3rd & 4th century b.c. The book is divided into sections by topic. First, 'Tales of Enchantment and Magic.' This section is where you'll find stories of people turning into animals (mostly tigers and fish), stories of dragons, mortals and gods and even battling crickets. The second section, 'Tales of Folly and Greed' is self-explanatory where most of the tales revolve around people's loss of memory, foolish escapades, and people generally being taken advantage of. This part of the book definitely had a 'let-this-be-a-lesson-to-you' vibe. Section three, titled, 'The Animal Kingdom' included tales about mice, of men changing into tigers, a giant using a person as tiger-bait, a faithful dog, and even a tale titled: Educated Frogs and Martial Ants. Next was the section 'Women and Wives' and following that was 'Ghosts and Souls' where we read about former lives, crossing over to the spirit world, humans misleading ghosts, and reincarnation. The final section, 'Judges and Diplomats' with tales of clever judges and political strategy. Overall, an interesting volume, and like all fairytales, there are some gruesome parts but also wisdom and humor. (I mean, I had no idea ghosts' biggest fear was human saliva!) The mistress questioned the maid long and brutally until the girl, having admitted nothing, finally died of her injuries. (p. 150) The soldier drew his sword, flourished it, and in a flash cut the prisoner's head off. It rolled several feet and was still turning when it exclaimed admiringly, "Some sharp sword." (p. 195)

  10. 5 out of 5

    Alastair Hudson

    This collection of lacklustre translations has no fairies and is a bit short on the fantasy. Reading the authors introduction reminded me that whilst academics can know a subject inside out they are not the ones you want for create engaging translations; accurate and comprehensive maybe but totally lacking any literary charm. Thankfully this beautiful edition has the charm provided by the illustrations. But despite that this is certainly not a collection of tales for children (as mine kept remindi This collection of lacklustre translations has no fairies and is a bit short on the fantasy. Reading the authors introduction reminded me that whilst academics can know a subject inside out they are not the ones you want for create engaging translations; accurate and comprehensive maybe but totally lacking any literary charm. Thankfully this beautiful edition has the charm provided by the illustrations. But despite that this is certainly not a collection of tales for children (as mine kept reminding me...). Reading between the lines of the introduction I understand that many of these tales were originally written as a form of sedition; short sarcastic pieces that poked fun at the ruling classes, be they Confucian, Buddhist, etc. or just plain old rich and powerful. You have to understand quite a lot about Chinese culture to appreciate the jokes herein and often they completely eluded me. Our bedtime story reading finally reached the penultimate tale; a bittersweet ending as the title of this longest-story-in-the-book did not bode well for entertainment value. But we were surprised by the best story in the collection. Certainly a different translator and a good tale to match. Saved from oblivion, we left the book happier than we'd hoped. But: If this hadn't been a very nice folio edition it would have been charity shop fodder; beware.

  11. 5 out of 5

    branewurms

    Interesting but not really what I was looking for. I expected something more fantastical from the title. None of the few Chinese fairy tales I already know were in here, and that's probably because this wasn't so much a collection of fairy tales as a collection of animal fables, anecdotes, and a few ghost stories, rather than "fairy tales" as I think of them. I am also interested in these kinds of stories and like to read them, but what I'm really here for are stories like Ye Xian, The Princess Interesting but not really what I was looking for. I expected something more fantastical from the title. None of the few Chinese fairy tales I already know were in here, and that's probably because this wasn't so much a collection of fairy tales as a collection of animal fables, anecdotes, and a few ghost stories, rather than "fairy tales" as I think of them. I am also interested in these kinds of stories and like to read them, but what I'm really here for are stories like Ye Xian, The Princess and the Cowherd, Madame White Snake, and stories involving mythical creatures and gods and the like. There were a very few stories that sort of fell into that category, but only sort of? Basically, I'd have preferred this volume to be about twice as large and for the stories currently included to have been the padding to the "bigger," more magical and mythic stories that most interest me.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lex

    Folklore and mythology inspires many narratives, from the ancient tomes to the modern day paperback. As I typically consume British and American media, I am familiar with a lot of Western folklore and Western forms of storytelling. With this collection, I wanted to branch out into the East to learn more about Chinese styles of storytelling and fairytales. (And yes, I am aware that my ability to do this is limited by the fact that I am reading the translated versions and therefore a Westernised d Folklore and mythology inspires many narratives, from the ancient tomes to the modern day paperback. As I typically consume British and American media, I am familiar with a lot of Western folklore and Western forms of storytelling. With this collection, I wanted to branch out into the East to learn more about Chinese styles of storytelling and fairytales. (And yes, I am aware that my ability to do this is limited by the fact that I am reading the translated versions and therefore a Westernised depiction of the folklore). While they are works of fiction, or fictional spins on real life events, folklore taps into civilisation’s history and imagination. The stories in this collection illuminate Chinese social order, and is underpinned by the philosophical battle between the Taoist’s belief system and the Confucian Order. But the great thing about these short tales are that they can also be appreciated just by the stories they tell. No deeper understanding or analysis is required, making them a great read for people struggling to concentrate (*raises hand*) during the pandemic and the Christmas rush!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Sandy

    Honestly, I didn't complete this book. I've read so many good fairy tales and folk tales with my kids over the past few years and these were flat out boring to read. I'm sure that the magic was lost in translation (in fact there was a native Mandarin speaker who wrote that same perspective on another review). But, I have owned this book for a number of years and as I'm introducing my children to the culture and continent of Asia, I thought it would be good for me to finally get around to reading Honestly, I didn't complete this book. I've read so many good fairy tales and folk tales with my kids over the past few years and these were flat out boring to read. I'm sure that the magic was lost in translation (in fact there was a native Mandarin speaker who wrote that same perspective on another review). But, I have owned this book for a number of years and as I'm introducing my children to the culture and continent of Asia, I thought it would be good for me to finally get around to reading it. I tried, I really tried. But, instead I think that I'll be donating it to the library. I'll free up some space on my bookshelf and if I ever decide to try again, I'll just check it out. But, again in honesty, that likely isn't going to happen.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kimberly

    Got this because I love fairytales. Thought I'd branch out into Asian fairytales, since the ones I've read was the Western ones like Grimm's & Han Andersan's. It wasn't really as great as I'd hope it'd be. I was expecting some of the myths/legends/folktales that I've read when I was younger. Such as Hou Yi and the Ten Suns, Tale of the White Snake, Butterfly Lovers, and more. Though the stories do contain moral teachings, but the way the stories were written/translated are somewhat dry. I think Got this because I love fairytales. Thought I'd branch out into Asian fairytales, since the ones I've read was the Western ones like Grimm's & Han Andersan's. It wasn't really as great as I'd hope it'd be. I was expecting some of the myths/legends/folktales that I've read when I was younger. Such as Hou Yi and the Ten Suns, Tale of the White Snake, Butterfly Lovers, and more. Though the stories do contain moral teachings, but the way the stories were written/translated are somewhat dry. I think some sarcasm/humor that was portrayed by the original authors, got lost in translation.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Aaron Cliff

    As compared to other folktale compilations, the Chinese focus is slightly different. The european folktales delve deep into the human psyche, the chinese delve deep into morals and social commentary. Many of these stories have more to say about the corruption of their overlords than how to self actualize, although there are of course a few stories that focus on this. I quite enjoyed the read, especially coupled with readings of chinese history, the analacts and the tao te ching.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Evelyn

    A great book! Well compiled and translated in a way that didn't feel dry, but also didn't seem to lose the original intent. I find with some translated texts I read, while they can be a technically good translation, there's no style and so the text can end up feeling somewhat dry as a result, which makes it harder for me to get into. I didn't have that problem here though! I got this out of the library, but I'm definitely going to be getting a copy of my own. A great book! Well compiled and translated in a way that didn't feel dry, but also didn't seem to lose the original intent. I find with some translated texts I read, while they can be a technically good translation, there's no style and so the text can end up feeling somewhat dry as a result, which makes it harder for me to get into. I didn't have that problem here though! I got this out of the library, but I'm definitely going to be getting a copy of my own.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    I feel bad for the Chinese youth having to listen to these pathetic fairy tales. Many of these stories weren't even fairy tales. Several were hearsay and what I would describe as sayings with no story behind it whatsoever. Total waste of time. Not a single memorable tale in the bunch. If you want fairy tales, go with the Native American ones, those guys know how to tell a story. I feel bad for the Chinese youth having to listen to these pathetic fairy tales. Many of these stories weren't even fairy tales. Several were hearsay and what I would describe as sayings with no story behind it whatsoever. Total waste of time. Not a single memorable tale in the bunch. If you want fairy tales, go with the Native American ones, those guys know how to tell a story.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kyrie

    That was different. Okay, d'uh, it's a culture very different from my own, so of course it was different. Some of the stories were quite gory. Some were amusing. A few I wondered why they were considered "tales" and were included. I think I need to have more of a grasp of both the history and the culture of China to fully appreciate these stories. That was different. Okay, d'uh, it's a culture very different from my own, so of course it was different. Some of the stories were quite gory. Some were amusing. A few I wondered why they were considered "tales" and were included. I think I need to have more of a grasp of both the history and the culture of China to fully appreciate these stories.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Youssouf

    This was one of my favorite reads this year; from the introduction which set the scene to the last story, the book has so many perspectives and ancient wisdom to offer. We all probably heard about the Confucian philosophy, but maybe less about the Taoism. This book gave voice to master storytellers, allowing them to put more light upon Taoist philosophy, something that I greatly enjoyed.

  20. 5 out of 5

    K. Ley

    I love these types of books Sometimes you just want some quick reading material. I also have other myth books in this series. I find it fascinating that similar stories exist all over the world.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Arina

    Strolling North Park, San Diego. Anish is a dirty cheat in Mortal Kombat.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Holly Bloomdahl

    A little dry, but a lot of these stories were interesting and fun.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Leena-Maaretta Dixon

    I tried, but lost interest after halg way and now that I'm moving away, just giving this up to unhaul my shelves. I tried, but lost interest after halg way and now that I'm moving away, just giving this up to unhaul my shelves.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Claire

    This is a collection of 100 different fairy tales and short stories of Chinese origin. It contains a large variety of stories, from lengthy and in-depth tales with many characters and complex plots, to brief reflections by Chinese philosophers, such as Lieh Tzu. Some of the fairy tales have common themes such as family honor and social status in China. This book provides a good look at Chinese culture from a lot of different perspectives. And in addition to the 100 enjoyable fairy tales, the int This is a collection of 100 different fairy tales and short stories of Chinese origin. It contains a large variety of stories, from lengthy and in-depth tales with many characters and complex plots, to brief reflections by Chinese philosophers, such as Lieh Tzu. Some of the fairy tales have common themes such as family honor and social status in China. This book provides a good look at Chinese culture from a lot of different perspectives. And in addition to the 100 enjoyable fairy tales, the introduction by Moss Roberts tells us about the different recurring themes in the collection, and what they mean in Chinese culture. It's a very enjoyable read, particularly if you are interested in China, and the Confucian and Taoist philosophies. The fairy tales are enchanting and interesting and the notes by Moss Roberts provide a lot of great information on the translation and origin of the material.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Angela Benedetti

    This is a good read, a collection of folk and fairy tales about different subjects. Some are very short while others are longer, but it was definitely worth a read. I was hoping for more cultural notes, like there were in the book of Arab folk tales from the same series, but cultural notes were minimal, with just a bit at the beginning. Much of the setting detail and interactions between individuals are self-explanatory, of course, and some things were explained within the stories themselves, but This is a good read, a collection of folk and fairy tales about different subjects. Some are very short while others are longer, but it was definitely worth a read. I was hoping for more cultural notes, like there were in the book of Arab folk tales from the same series, but cultural notes were minimal, with just a bit at the beginning. Much of the setting detail and interactions between individuals are self-explanatory, of course, and some things were explained within the stories themselves, but it's good to get a heads-up of what to look for, or some notes about what something means or signifies; when a culture is not your own, it's easy to misinterpret things. This is definitely worth a read, though, and if you enjoy fairy tales as pure entertainment, this is a good book to read at leisure.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Samuel Valentino

    A fantastic collection. The best thing I can say about it is that I had gotten it out of the library, but bought the book even before finishing it, because I could see myself returning to it time and again, a la Grimm's Fairy Tales. There's a lot to like about all these stories, but I'll mention one in particular as a stand-out - "Li Chi Slays the Serpent." It's a dragon-slaying story, with the woman as dragon-slayer instead of victim. The beast is fed, as in the Saint George story, by young girl A fantastic collection. The best thing I can say about it is that I had gotten it out of the library, but bought the book even before finishing it, because I could see myself returning to it time and again, a la Grimm's Fairy Tales. There's a lot to like about all these stories, but I'll mention one in particular as a stand-out - "Li Chi Slays the Serpent." It's a dragon-slaying story, with the woman as dragon-slayer instead of victim. The beast is fed, as in the Saint George story, by young girls, but Li Chi decides to volunteer and take matters into her own hands. And when she succeeds, she considers the fate of the previous girls: "For your timidity you were devoured!" Truly a forgotten fairy tale heroine that should be better known.

  27. 5 out of 5

    J D Murray

    Now this is a beautiful book, full of magic and wisdom and sly satire. As in Journey to the West, one feels that the celestial bureaucrats may be acting as stand-ins for their reflections on earth. I particularly liked the story of the poor farmer whose three sons were turned into weretigers by the Highest in Heaven and charged with hunting down those souls who had escaped their appointed death by violence. Imagine their dismay to find their own father's name on the list at last. This injustice Now this is a beautiful book, full of magic and wisdom and sly satire. As in Journey to the West, one feels that the celestial bureaucrats may be acting as stand-ins for their reflections on earth. I particularly liked the story of the poor farmer whose three sons were turned into weretigers by the Highest in Heaven and charged with hunting down those souls who had escaped their appointed death by violence. Imagine their dismay to find their own father's name on the list at last. This injustice on the part of the Highest in Heaven, making sons into tigers to prey on their fathers, is commented on at the end of the tale, much as Aesop might have pointed out the moral of one of his fables.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Andi

    The common thread seems to be mostly either beautiful women who aren't what they seem and people turning into a variety of animals. I was surprised at how similar the Chinese fairy tales seemed to be to traditional Western ones. I really enjoyed getting an overview of these sorts of stories from China. Many of them were quite beautiful, though some made no sense and others had terrible morals. For instance, why would your son committing suicide after killing your prize fighting cricket bring you The common thread seems to be mostly either beautiful women who aren't what they seem and people turning into a variety of animals. I was surprised at how similar the Chinese fairy tales seemed to be to traditional Western ones. I really enjoyed getting an overview of these sorts of stories from China. Many of them were quite beautiful, though some made no sense and others had terrible morals. For instance, why would your son committing suicide after killing your prize fighting cricket bring you good fortune and make you the richest dude in the province? There was even a Snow White tale... but it involved a parrot.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Ivy

    It's kind of fun to read this book because I have read some stories in Chinese before. So when I read the English version, I learned how to tell the stories in English and also, as a future English teacher, I can learn from it and tell my students the English version of the stories they are familiar with.Like English fairy tales,Chinese fairy tales also have similarity from one to another.It always ends up punishing the bad peope and prasing the good people. I think it is also what fairy tells w It's kind of fun to read this book because I have read some stories in Chinese before. So when I read the English version, I learned how to tell the stories in English and also, as a future English teacher, I can learn from it and tell my students the English version of the stories they are familiar with.Like English fairy tales,Chinese fairy tales also have similarity from one to another.It always ends up punishing the bad peope and prasing the good people. I think it is also what fairy tells want to teach us: be nice to others, to this world.

  30. 5 out of 5

    H.Friedmann

    The Chinese Fairy Tales were entertaining, and fascinating. Maybe I would have gotten more out of it if I knew more about Chinese Culture - or maybe it would have been as weird as the Grimm Brothers novels. The best thing is that it's a beautiful edition with great illistrations. Worth the read! The Chinese Fairy Tales were entertaining, and fascinating. Maybe I would have gotten more out of it if I knew more about Chinese Culture - or maybe it would have been as weird as the Grimm Brothers novels. The best thing is that it's a beautiful edition with great illistrations. Worth the read!

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