The title story literalizes the imagination in the form of a Western optical invention, which a man deploys to court a local beauty. In the next story "Return-to-Right Hall," invention is embodied in a successful con man. The story proves that a reformed man is greater than a good man. In "House of Gathered Refinements" a homosexual ménage à trois runs afoul of a tyrant who also loves to play "in the back courtyard." The subversion here is not so much of hetero-normality as of class. The homosexual shopkeepers are cultured and refined whereas the tyrant betrays his moral corruption.
"The Cloud-Scraper" transforms a stereotype of the maidservant. Instead of acting as a corrupting pander to her mistress, Nenghong secures marriages for both her mistress and herself, to the same man! As an antidote to the romantic comedies in the collection, "Homing Crane Lodge" offers a stoic and bleak, but also profound, view of love and life. The last story "Nativity Room" gives such an amazing series of coincidences that it amounts to a parody of the idea of fate. Singular Yin may have only one testicle, but he leaves numerous descendants behind, each born with a single testicle. In him individualism (as opposed to communalism) is shown to be socially and culturally productive too.