Shen Congwen is one of the most famous Chinese authors of the twentieth century, and also the least known outside his homeland. Born in Hunan in 1902, Shen moved to Beijing in the 1920s where he attended classes at Peking University. He began writing later that decade, although his most famous works were produced in the 1930s and 1940s. Political persecution in the decades that followed led to his general withdrawal from literary life.
Despite his relative obscurity beyond China, Shen wrote more than 80 compilations of prose and poetry during his lifetime, making him the most prolific Chinese author in the 20th century. Nominated for a Nobel Prize in 1987, Chen lost and was renominated in 1988, only to pass away in April before the award ceremony in which he was favored to win. If you enjoy this story and are looking for more, we highly recommend his medium-length novel 边城, a dream-like story set in Hunan.
Note: since our collection of Chinese short stories
are fairly advanced materials, we're doing something interesting with our lesson vocabulary: highlighting some older words and phrases you will find mostly in literature, along with some more colloquial words with their origin in the Sichuan dialect. If you'd like to add other words in any of our transcripts to your vocabulary lists, just click on any popup to have it automatically added to your account.