A Chinese publisher has been ordered to drop plans to print a bawdy novel from the Ming Dynasty even though its most sexually explicit scenes have been deleted, a literary digest said.

The Literary and Art Weekly said the banning of the cleaned-up version of "Jin Ping Mei," or "Golden Lotus," one of China's best known classics, has stunned literary circles in the Chinese capital.Cong Weixi, editor-in-chief of the Writers Publishing House, has protested the ban on the novel, which was written toward the end of the Ming Dynasty (368-1644).

The novel is often attributed to Wang Shih-cheng, who died in 1593.

Communist authorities have long objected to the novel but the revised version was expected to be approved.

The weekly quoted Cong as saying the book had been shortened from one million characters to 170,000 and that commentators had said the new version was not obscene.

"The enmity towards a condensed, cleansed version of the book is an indication of the pathological state of mind" of the censors, he said.