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Kai Lung. Kai Lung was created by “Ernest Bramah,” the pseudonym of Ernest Bramah Smith (Max Carrados) and appeared in a number of stories and five story collections from 1896 to 1940, beginning with “The Story of Yung Chang” (Chapman’s Magazine, Oct. 1896).

The Kai Lung stories are set in an ahistorical China That Never Was, at some point during the Qing dynasty, when matchlocks are present but when most of Chinese society is still rural and dominated by cruel and venal Mandarins. Kai Lung is a wandering storyteller who seems to get into trouble just by existing and who uses his extreme cleverness and his stock of stories to get out of trouble. Kai Lung claims to have a story for every occasion, and when pressed demonstrates that his boast is true.

* I'm including the Kai Lung stories in the Best of the Encyclopedia category because the stories are charming, well-written, and so fun. Ernest Bramah Smith was a multi-genre threat--humor, mysteries, science fiction, supernatural stories, he did them all with aplomb--so it should come as no surprise that the Kai Lung stories succeed hugely. Kai Lung is wily and appealing, his adventures suitably dangerous and tricky to extricate from, and the narrative wonderfully wrought. (The famous narrative style and aphorisms were not wholly his creation, being derived from some upper-class Chinese he'd known, but Bramah Smith did things with the style and aphorisms that only a very talented and creative writer could). The Kai Lung stories have no end of charm. If there's a criticism to them, it's that they're almost too rich to be consumed willy-nilly; they need to be slowly savored to achieve the full effect. 

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