Selected Stories of Xiao Hong Summary

Xiao Hong


(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Xiao Hong was one of the best writers in modern Chinese literature. Her short stories, which are related to her novels in theme, characterization, and style, are essential to understanding both Xiao Hong as a Chinese woman writer and her creative development. This collection contains nine of her most representative short stories arranged in chronological order.

“The Death of Wang Asao” was Xiao Hong’s first attempt at fiction and was a collaboration with her common-law husband Xiao Jun. It actually appeared in their self-bound anthology of short stories and essays, Trudging, in 1933. The story is lyrical as well as class-conscious. It portrays the tragic death of Wang Asao under the cruelty of Landlord Zhang. Wang Asao has three children, but they all die. She adopts the homeless waif Little Huan as her daughter. Her husband, Big Brother Wang, is docked a year’s pay by Landlord Zhang because the horse he is using to work for the landlord breaks its leg. He is driven crazy by anger and burns to death in a haystack fire set at the order of Landlord Zhang. Then the pregnant Wang Asao is kicked by Landlord Zhang and dies in childbirth. The story ends with Little Huan, again homeless, rolling on the ground and bawling like a baby. Despite their sympathy for the dead, the other farmhands never come to see the cause of their deaths, and they even praise Landlord Zhang for his compassion.

“The Bridge” (1936) shows Xiao Hong’s unmistakable feminine style. Through poetic fluidity and musical refrains, Xiao Hong recaptures the tragic fate of a Chinese woman who is called by her husband’s name, Huang Liang, adding the diminutive “zi.” Huang Liangzi is married to a poor man and bears a child on the eastern side of the bridge, but she has to nurse a rich man’s child on the western side of the bridge. The callings from the both sides torture her, split her personality, and confuse her mind. In the end, her own child falls from the bridge into the ditch and drowns. By using expressionistic images, the author subtly questions the inequality between the rich and poor without didacticism.

“Hands” (1936) is Xiao Hong’s best-known story. The story reminds the reader of Jane Eyre’s tough...

(The entire section is 909 words.)

Selected Stories of Xiao Hong Bibliography

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Chow, Rey. Women and Chinese Modernity: The Politics of Reading Between West and East. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991. A critical book that examines writing by male and female authors of the May Fourth period and after. The part concerning Xiao Hong analyzes the story “Hands” and its narrative techniques.

Gerstlacher, Anna, et al., eds. Women and Literature in China. Bochum, Germany: Studienverlag Brockmeyer, 1983. A collection of essays on Chinese women writers. Howard Goldblatt’s “Life as Art: Xiao Hong and Autobiography” gives an informative analysis of Xiao Hong’s use of autobiography in her Market Street: A Chinese Woman in Harbin.

Goldblatt, Howard. Hsiao Hung. Boston: Twayne, 1976. A comprehensive study of Xiao Hong’s life and works. Includes a chronology and a selected bibliography.

Hsaio, Hung. The Field of Life and Death and Tales of Hulan River. Translated by Howard Goldblatt. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1979. Contains the two best novels by Xiao Hong. “Wang Asao” can be read as a prelude to The Field of Life and Death, and “The Family Outsider” was the basis for chapter 6 in Tales of Hulan River. Includes a good introduction by the translator.

Smedley, Agnes. Battle Hymn of China. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1943. The author recalls that Lu Xun personally recommended Xiao Hong’s novel The Field of Life and Death to her “as one of the most powerful modern novels written by a Chinese woman.”

Snow, Edgar, ed. Living China: Modern Chinese Short Stories. London: George G. Harrap, 1936. Appendix A is Nym Wales’s article “The Modern Chinese Literary Movement,” which discusses Xiao Hong and other modern Chinese writers and includes Lu Xun’s comments on Xiao Hong.