Judge Dee in Fudge

Author: Steffan O'Sullivan
With assistance from Wilf Backhaus
Original Date Written: 1996/04/22
This page last updated October 17, 1998

For those who don't know, Judge Dee is the hero of a series of detective novels set in 7th-century China by Robert van Gulik. Actually, Judge Dee really lived, and is (or was) the hero of many Chinese detective novels - and has been for centuries. Van Gulik "westernized" many of the stories, combining plots and making the story lines more accessible to western readers. There are, I believe, 16 Judge Dee books, written in the 1950s and 1960s.

These make excellent RPG background material. In fact, I've even gotten a Bunnies & Burrows plot from the Judge Dee books. So I thought I'd write up Judge Dee and his three lieutenants in Fudge terms. These portraits are from roughly the middle of the books - they may be slightly different at either end of the chronology.

(Actually, there is a fourth lieutenant, Sergeant Hoong, but I find him a little too bland to write up. While a likeable character, loyalty to Judge Dee seems to be his only prominent attribute!)

For those who'd like to try reading some Judge Dee, I recommend you read them in chronological order in the Judge's career. They are listed in that order at the end of this article.

I recommend the series quite highly, with the caveat that some won't be as good as others. Interesting setting, interesting characters, usually good plots.

Judge Dee: Attributes: Skills: Perspicacity: Superb Law: Superb Force of Personality: Great Sword: Great Physical Prowess: Good Riding: Good Observation: Superb Etiquette: Good Bluff: Superb Gifts: Medical Skills: Fair High Rank Most Knowledge Skills: Good Good Education Aesthetics: Good Perseverance Faults: Bit of a prude Low tolerance for non-Confucian religions

Ma Joong: Attributes: Skills: Perspicacity: Fair Boxing: Superb Force of Personality: Fair Weapon Use: Great Physical Prowess: Superb Riding: Great Observation: Good Disguise: Good Pretense: Great Gifts: Move Quietly: Great High Pain Threshold Streetwise: Great Tough Hide Acrobatics: Good Combat Reflexes Boating: Great Faults: Lecherous Sucker for women Afraid of the supernatural

Chiao Tai: Attributes: Skills: Perspicacity: Good Weapon Skills: Superb Force of Personality: Good Unarmed combat: Good Physical Prowess: Great Riding: Great Observation: Good Etiquette: Good Leadership: Great Gifts: Woodcraft: Great Combat Reflexes Move Quietly: Good Military Training Acrobatics: Superb Climbing: Superb Faults: Quixotic Unlucky in Love

Tao Gan: Attributes: Skills: Perspicacity: Good Covert Skills: Superb Force of Personality: Mediocre Swindle: Superb Physical Prowess: Mediocre Detect Hidden Things: Great Observation: Great Sneak: Great Pretense: Superb Gifts: Move Quietly: Superb Patience for Paperwork Streetwise: Great A Certain Disarming Charm Knowledge of Criminal Techniques: Great Defensive Combat skills: Good Faults: Sleight of Hand: Great Compulsive Swindler Miserly Cynical/Suspicious - assumes strangers have base motives

The Books

Here are the Judge Dee stories in the order you should read them. They have been through many editions, and are currently in print as I write this. You can find most of them in used bookstores if money is an object. Note: some bookstores classify them under Gulik, others under Van Gulik, and others under both at the same time (!), usually in the Mysteries section.


  • The novels have my personal ratings of the quality of the book, using Fudge levels - and I'm being harsh. The short stories and novellas are all too short, alas!
  • # = Short story found in Judge Dee at Work, which contains only short stories. WARNING: Do Not Read the summary at the back of this book! They give away some vital information about later novels that they shouldn't - shame on them!
  • % = novella, found in The Monkey & the Tiger.

       The Chinese Gold Murders                (Great)
          # Five Auspicious Clouds 
          # The Red Tape Murder 
          # He Came with the Rain 
       The Lacquer Screen                      (Fair)
       The Chinese Lake Murders                (Great)
          % The Morning of the Monkey 
       The Haunted Monastery                   (Good)
          # Murder on the Lotus Pond 
       The Chinese Bell Murders                (Great)
       Necklace and Calabash                   (Superb)
          # The Two Beggars 
          # The Wrong Sword 
       The Red Pavilion                        (Great)
       Poets & Murder                          (Fair)
       The Emperor's Pearl                     (Great)
       The Chinese Maze Murders                (Great)
       The Phantom of the Temple               (Great)
          # The Coffins of the Emperor 
          # Murder on New Year's Eve
       The Chinese Nail Murders                (Good)
          % The Night of the Tiger 
       The Willow Pattern                      (Great)
       Murder in Canton                        (Great)

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