Camel Xiangzi

by Shu Qingchun

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Hsiang-tzu dreams of owning a rickshaw so that he can be economically successful in the city. The price of a rickshaw is so high that it is difficult for him to afford it. Still, the novel introduces him as a thoughtful, dynamic young man who is willing to sacrifice to achieve his dreams. This is in contrast to the men he works with in the city; each of them are more interested in spending their money than planning for the future.

Once he owns his own rickshaw, Hsiang-tzu still is not able to completely achieve his dreams. Things out of his control keep getting in the way. For example, he is forced to work for soldiers. He has to run a rickshaw for them after they take the one he saved to purchase. Though he steals camels from them—earning the nickname Camel Hsiang-tzu in the process—he still does not make enough to purchase the new conveyance.

As he works toward purchasing a new rickshaw, he abandons the ideals he had when he first came to the city. He is no longer the kind and respectful young man he used to be. Instead, he is willing to do whatever it takes to make enough money to get back to where he was before he was kidnapped. He loses his savings when his employer's house is raided by the police but still manages to buy another rickshaw with his wife's money.

That rickshaw is sold once Hsiang-tzu's wife dies in childbirth. The only way he can afford to bury her and their child is to sell it and use the money. He slides deeper into depression and does not live the positive kind of life that he hoped to live when he first came into the city. When he finally feels like attempting to be positive again, he secures jobs for himself and his former neighbor—a woman he loved—with his old boss. Unfortunately, that neighbor was forced into prostitution, and she killed herself. This is the final straw for Hsiang-tzu. He abandons the ideals he used to hold dear and lives out his life shiftless, irresponsible, and dishonest.

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