Ernest Bramah

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Ernest Brammah Smith (March 20, 1868June 23, 1942) was the author of a series of stories about Kai Lung, a Chinese storyteller, and was also the creator of the blind detective Max Carrados. He wrote under the pseudonym Ernest Bramah.


  • It is a mark of insincerity of purpose to spend one's time in looking for the sacred Emperor in the low-class tea-shops.
    • The Transmutation of Ling
  • When struck by a thunderbolt it is unnecessary to consult the Book of Dates as to the precise meaning of the omen.
    • The Transmutation of Ling
  • Although there exist many thousand subjects for elegant conversation, there are persons who cannot meet a cripple without talking about feet.
    • The Transmutation of Ling
  • When Ling was communicating to any person the signs by which messengers might find him, he was compelled to add, "the neighbourhood in which this contemptible person resides is that officially known as 'the mean quarter favoured by the lower class of those who murder by treachery'," and for this reason he was not always treated with the regard to which his attainments entitled him, or which he would have unquestionably received had he been able to describe himself as of "the partly-drained and uninfected area reserved to Mandarins and their friends."
    • The Transmutation of Ling
  • Before hastening to secure a possible reward of five taels by dragging an unobservant person away from a falling building, examine well his features lest you find, when too late, that it is one to whom you are indebted for double that amount.
    • The Confession of Kai Lung
  • In his countenance this person read an expression of no-encouragement towards his venture.
    • The Confession of Kai Lung
  • Should a person on returning from the city discover his house to be in flames, let him examine well the change which he has received from the chair-carrier before it is too late; for evil never travels alone.
    • The Career of the Charitable Quen-Ki-Tong
  • At the mention of the name and offence of this degraded being a great sound went up from the entire multitude – a universal cry of execration, not greatly dissimilar from that which may be frequently heard in the crowded Temple of Impartiality when the one whose duty it is to take up, at a venture, the folded papers, announces that the sublime Emperor, or some mandarin of exalted rank, has been so fortunate as to hold the winning number in the Annual State Lottery.
    • The Vision of Yin, the Son of Yat Huang
  • Alas! It is well written, "The road to eminence lies through the cheap and exceedingly uninviting eating-houses."
    • The Ill-Regulated Destiny of Kin Yen, the Picture-Maker
  • At this display the elder and less attractive of the maidens fled, uttering loud and continuous cries of apprehension in order to conceal the direction of her flight.
    • The Encountering of Six within a Wood
  • "It is well said: 'He who lacks a single tael sees many bargains,'" replied Sun Wei, a refined bitterness weighing the import of his words. "Truly this person's friends in the Upper Air are a never-failing lantern behind his back."
    • The Story of Ning, the Captive God, and the Dreams that Mark his Race
  • Do not adjust your sandals while passing through a melon-field, nor yet arrange your hat beneath an orange-tree.
    • The Story of Lao Ting and the Luminous Insect
  • After secretly observing the unstudied grace of her movements, the most celebrated picture-maker of the province burned the implements of his craft, and began life anew as a trainer of performing elephants.
    • The Story of Chang Tao, Melodious Vision and the Dragon
  • The one-legged never stumble.
    • The Story of Hien and the Chief Examiner
  • There are few situations in life that cannot be honourably settled, and without loss of time, either by suicide, a bag of gold, or by thrusting a despised antagonist over the edge of a precipice upon a dark night.
    • The Story of Hien and the Chief Examiner
  • However entrancing it is to wander unchecked through a garden of bright images, are we not enticing your mind from another subject of almost equal importance?
  • One learns to itch where one can scratch.
    • The Story of Wong Choi and the Merchant Teen King's Thumb
  • However deep you dig a well it affords no refuge in the time of flood.
    • The Story of Tong So, the Averter of Calamities
  • "Excellence," besought Kai Lung, not without misgivings,"how many warriors, each having some actual existence, are there in your never-failing band?"
    "For all purposes save those of attack and defence there are fifteen score of the best and bravest, as their pay-sheets well attest," was the confident response. "In a strictly literal sense, however, there are no more than can be seen on a mist-enshrouded day with a resolutely closed eye."
    • The Meeting by the Way with the Warrior of Chi-u and What Emerged Therefrom"
  • He who has failed three times sets up as an instructor.
    • The Story of Lin Ho and the Treasure of Fang-Tso
  • He is capable of any crime, from reviling the Classics to diverting water courses.
    • The Story of Lin Ho and the Treasure of Fang-Tso
  • Eat in the dark the bargain that you purchased in the dusk.
    • The Story of Kin Wen and the Miraculous Tusk
  • One may ride upon a tiger's back but it is fatal to dismount.
    • The Story of Kin Wen and the Miraculous Tusk
  • Better a dish of husks to the accompaniment of a muted lute than to be satiated with stewed shark's fin and rich spiced wine of which the cost is frequently mentioned by the provider.
    • The Story of the Poet Lao Ping, Chun Shin's Daughter Fa, and the Fighting Crickets
  • "When an alluring woman comes in at the door," warningly traced the austere Kien-fi on the margin of his well-known essay, "discretion may be found up the chimney". It is incredible that beneath this ever-timely reminder an obscure disciple should have added the words: "The wiser the sage, the more profound the folly."
    • The Story of the Poet Lao Ping, Chun Shin's Daughter Fa, and the Fighting Crickets


  • Ernest Bramah's China, then, is the fantastic bogus China of convention, not the real historical thing at all. He wrote of it in a prose so perfectly conceived that it becomes a miracle of style. As Hilaire Belloc once observed, the sly humor and philosophy of Bramah's stories is a trick he achieves by pretending to adapt the flavor of Chinese literary conventions into the English. But the thing I love most about the tales is their irony and the brilliance of their wit.
  • Bramah's books fall into two very unequal categories. Some, fortunately the smaller part, record the adventures of the blind detective, Max Carrados. These are competent, mediocre books. The rest are parodic in nature: they pass themselves off as translations from the Chinese, and their boundless perfection achieved the unconditional praise of Hilaire Belloc in 1922. Their names: The Wallet of Kai Lung (1900), Kai Lung's Golden Hours (1922), Kai Lung Unrolls His Mat (1928), The Mirror of Kong Ho (1931), The Moon of Much Gladness (1936).