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Glossary and Character Taxonomy Breakdown by Country of Origin Bibliography Table of Contents The Best of the Encyclopedia
Huo Sang. Huo Sang was created by the Chinese author Cheng Xiaoqing and appeared in dozens of stories and novels from 1914 to 1949, beginning with "Dengguang renying" (1914).
Huo Sang is a Great Detective. Huo Sang was the most successful of the Chinese Sherlock Holmes pastiches, taking on a life of his own once the series of stories began in earnest in 1919. Huo Sang has a Watson, Bao Lang, and in most of the important ways is Holmes, but there are some crucial differences. Huo Sang is a science teacher, rather than purely a consulting detective. He is less human than Holmes, being free of weaknesses like cocaine addictions or any attraction to women like Irene Adler. He is markedly less confident than Holmes and is more notably Chinese, being the epitome of the “modern” Chinese man of the years before the Chinese Civil War. Bao Lang, for his part, is even dimmer than Watson, but also has many moments of moral questioning; he is much more of a moral arbiter with regards to Huo Sang than Watson is for Holmes. Bao Lang is also an excellent boxer, serving in some ways as Huo Sang's muscle. Huo Sang’s Lestrade is Zhong De, a police detective who disapproves of Huo Sang’s western ways.
Huo Sang is active primarily in Shanghai and the outlying delta towns; he lives at No. 77 Aiwen Road, with a recurring loyal servant and cook. He is very well-known, both in Shanghai proper and across China. (He is described as China's "only private detective”). He has various enemies, like Hairy Lion and his Five Blessings Gang, who return, again and again, defeated but not destroyed at the end of every story. He has a contact with the underworld, one Jiangnan Yan, the "Swallow of the South," who functions variously as an informant, an enemy, or a guardian angel. And he has a repeating cast of colleagues and irritants on the local police force. Huo Sang is, like Holmes, well-informed on a variety of subjects, from technology to criminology. He's very Westernized, dressing in Western-style suits and ties, packing guns, smoking cigarettes and wearing a brimmed felt hat.
Huo Sang is not only described as being friends with Sherlock Holmes himself but also, in proper "Arsène Lupin vs. Sherlock Holmes" style, has several crossover duels with the Lupin Lu Ping, the "Oriental Arsène Lupin."
* I'm including the Huo Sang stories and novels in the Best of the Encyclopedia category because of their archetypal nature and because of their historical importance. Huo Sang is a Great Detective right out of the Sherlock Holmes stories, and as mentioned was a naked Holmes pastiche for the first few stories. Nonetheless, Huo Sang becomes his own character and set the form and standard for Chinese Great Detectives in the pre-1949 years. Historically they are important because they set that form and standard; other Chinese mystery and crime writers couldn't help but be influenced by them, whether in imitation or in making a point not to be influenced by them. Too, Huo Sang's Westernized ways put him smack in the middle of one of the most important debates in China in the 1920s and 1930, and as a proponent of Westernization rather than as an opponent to it.
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