A Trilogy of Jiangnan consists of a series of long, yet masterly composed, works. Having initially been conceived during the middle of the 1990s, they underwent deep changes and were finished in 2011. While staunchly sticking to the art of writing, he presents the transformational trajectory of the inner spirit of the Chinese society for more than a century. He did so with the skill of his penetrative thinking and unique narrative.
With a very solemn and responsible attitude towards reality and history, the trilogy shows its deep concern with modern China’s broad stance towards both itself and the outside world. With a space of one hundred years and through the clashes between the history of revolution and that of spirit, this trilogy deals with some critical themes on modernity. The explorations and pursuits made by the three different generations mentioned in the novel are entwined with their cravings for emancipation, as well as their passion for ideals. Between the rise and fall, success and failure, sorrow and happiness, gathering and separation, the individual’s personality traits and fates find their corresponding reflections in the grand historical events. His deep thinking on the values of society shapes an artistic world that is, albeit piece by piece and heartening, yet broad, noble, and clairvoyant.
This trilogy is Chinese style-specific in that, whilst including an acute cultural awareness, Ge Fei experiments in restoring and transforming the novel writing traditions in the Ming- and Qing dynasties. Its subtle form of expression and narration, elegant language, cyclical inner structure similar to that in The Spring and Autumn Annals, broaden the cultural space, raise the artistic height, and create a new language, all of these being instrumental in expressing the lived Chinese experiences and histories.
The opening novel Human Faces and Peach Flowers of A Trilogy of Jiangnan has at its disposal suspense after suspense, which in turn create more food for thought and imagination. Ge Fei, with his usual elegance, grace and leisure, puts a young woman’s destiny in connection with the thick history of contemporary China. He manages to give full expression to complexity through simplicity, to chaos through clarity, and attaining to an allegorical depth through realistic description.
The second novel, Mountains and Rivers Entering His Dream, includes full details, racy language and tranquil yet in-depth thinking, and paints a sketch of a Chinese real society in the middle of the twentieth century. The story then presents the twists and turns of an individual’s fate and his spiritual pursuit at a drastically transformed time.
The third one, Jiangnan in Full Spring, which is also the finishing touch of the trilogy, revolves around the life accidents and spiritual transformations of the protagonist. It displays issues within a pluralistic society. Such examples include educational problems, judicial problems, media issues, issues concerning the relationship between officials and businesses, and much more. Its concerns are multidimensional in the sense that they involve familial ethics, occupational morality, ways to govern well, as well as clashes and reconciliations between environment and development to name a few. With admirable sincerity and courage, and by using his sharp and sensitive pen to approach the epoch, the author shows his firm grasp of the very heart of the spiritual issues which haunted the time painfully.
Ge Fei is the pen name of Liu Yong, a native of Dantu (Jiansu Province) born in 1964. In 1982 he was enrolled into the Department of Chinese at East China Normal University. Upon graduation he undertook a teaching post at the University as a Chinese teacher. Moreover, in 2000 he received his Ph.D., and thereafter transferred to work at Tsinghua University in the same year.
Since 1987 he has published several works, including The Lost Boat, which brought him instant- and nation-wide fame. Other notable novels include The Enemy, The Periphery, The Banner of Desire, as well as Jiangnan Trilogy (Human Faces and Peach Flowers, Mountains and Rivers Entering His Dream, and Jiangnan in Full Spring). In addition, collections of his short stories and novelettes include The Lost Boat, The Whistle, Feelings in Rainy Seasons, The Blue and the Yellow, and The Flower on the Ring to name a few. Moreover, he has published a number of collections of literary critiques and essays such as Aspects of the Novel Art, A Study of Narration in Novels, Essays of Ge Fei, The Siren Songs, and A Rendezvous with Literature.
Ge Fei is referred to as a scholarly writer or a writer-cum-scholar. He is well steeped in vividly presenting his profound thinking about issues concerning literature, society, as well as history. Moreover, because of this particular attribute, his works are remarkably noted for their tenacity, elegance, precision, and acumen. All these features and characteristics aids in distinguishing himself among the Chinese contemporary writers and marking out his unique writing style. A Trilogy of Jiangnan won him the ninth Maodun Literary Prize. His novelette The Invisible Clothes won him both Lu Xun Literary Prize and Lao She Literary Prize respectively in 2014. In addition, Ge Fei has won the Grand Award for the 2004 Chinese Literature Mass Media- The Outstanding Achievement Award, the first place in the 2004 List of Chinese Novels, the Second 21st Century Dingjun Biannual Literary Award, No.1 Literature Book of “The Third Chinese Books Influence”, and the Xinjing Bao’s (New Beijing Newspaper’s) “2011 Literary Homage Books Award”. His works have been translated into many foreign languages and published abroad.
Human Faces and Peach Flowers
It was one spring afternoon during the twenty-sixth year under the reign of Guangxu, when my father Lu Kang, who had gone crazy because of A Picture of the Source of Peaches, suddenly left home and went off. Mrs. Lu came back from Mei Town, mobilizing the whole family to search for him. Sadly this was all in vain with no tracks of him found. At this very moment, from the Lus came a person, who was roughly 40 years old and named Zhang Jiyuan. Mother showed a kind of unusual happiness towards his arrival, but the blurring of the seniority order in the family between “cousin” and “uncle” was quite confusing. Zhang Jiyuan then stayed put in the Lus, seldom coming downstairs, but more often than not saying something quite bizarre.
Xiumi made off to Mr. Ding’s home to have her usual private tutoring sessions. Mr. Ding brought out a letter from out of his chest and told Xiumi and Tansi to send it to the home of a person called Scholar Xue (Juren). He strongly encouraged that the letter should be handed over to Scholar Xue in-person and not anyone else. However, when Xiumi saw Zhang Jiyuan present at Scholar Xuees house, she could not really understand what was actually happening. She felt Zhang Jiyuan was somewhat outlandish. Moreover, when she saw him and heard what he had to say, she would then come to feel sort of nervous.
Mother decided to go up to Changzhou in quest of finding Father, with the company of Zhang Jiyuan, Cuilian, and Xiumi. On the night in Changzhou, Xiumi and Zhang Jiyuan walked together on the boulevard. When she asked him about what had happened in Mei Town and about the six-fingered carpenter whom Zhang Jiyuan had inquired about before, he merely smiled and did not give a reply of any sort.
It had been half a year since Zhang Jiyuan came to Puji. Now he began to ask himself, “Are we right in having liaisons with members of the society, setting in motion the uprising, and pursuing the ideal of Great Harmony in the world? Are they worth our efforts?” He had already been in deep love with Xiumi and his conviction in the uprising had already somewhat gone away. Before his departure, he put a gold cicada--an article used by the uprising organization to make connections or to maintain liaisons--in a little box, and then presented it to Xiumi.
Later on as the Revolutionary Party was routed, Zhang Jiyuna died mysteriously a month later. Xiumi obtained Zhang JiyuanJi diary from Magpie, a housemaid, and took three days to finish reading it. Then she slept lethargically without any energy or interest in doing anything for six whole days and nights. When she woke up, she turned very freakish. However, when she finally came back to her senses, she agreed to a marriage arranged for her. Halfway to the bridegroom’s home, however, she was unexpectedly kidnapped by bandits and taken off to Huajia Village. She then got to learn some secrets from the owner of the house, Han Liu. Xiumi recalled his father’s ideals where incorporated building a “long Wind-and-rain Corridor and turn Puji into the Source of Peaches”. Moreover, the idea of Great Harmony expressed in Zhang Jiyuana diary seemed closely related to this ideal.
Xiumi lost her virginity after being raped at the banditsse, Han witnessing again the socalled Wind-and-rain Corridor. The bandits in power at Huajia Village were murdered in succession. Before long, Xiumi took on the role of a bride again, marrying herself to the new owner of Huajia Village, Qingsheng. Han Liu went off after handing Xiumi a gold cicada. Qingsheng was then assassinated and his hostler took his place as the bridegroom. Xiumi had not learned until then that it was a man called Little Donkey, who was actually the very six-fingered carpenter and about whom Zhang Jiyuan had made inquiries before. This was the man who had orchestrated all these accidents successfully, disintegrated the banditry force, and put in place the uprising.
After the uprising failed, Xiumi was sent off to Japan. Two years later, she returned with her son Little Thing to Puji. Xiumi helped to persuade women to loosen up their foot-binding, and set up autonomous societies, nurseries, libraries, hospitals, clinics, and houses for the elderly. However, sadly all these effort and programs failed to achieve what they had been intended to. Because of this she shifted her efforts to have schools built. Again, her efforts went in vain. Cuilian betrayed Xiumi by co-opting with the governmental soldiers, and in consequence, Little Thing was shot dead, and Xiumi was arrested. Xiumi, however, came to give birth to Tansirt’s baby in prison. Sadly the baby was taken away from her when it was not even one month old yet. After the Wuchang Uprising, Xiumi was set free and made her way back to Puji. She lived her life by planting flowers, growing grass, and rarely went out of her house. In the end she died a wretched death.
Mountains and Rivers Entering His Dream
In May 1952 Tan Gongda, the then head of Mei Town County, went down to Puji. Yao Peipei’s father had been shot dead because of his counter-revolution crime, and her mother then committed suicide by hanging herself to death. Peipei went down to Shanghai, in the hope of seeking help from her aunt. To her surprise she was solely met with her aunt’s flat refusal. Peipei was forced to make her living by selling tickets at a public bathing house in the county town, where she encountered Tan Gongda. After overcoming bouts of trouble she was finally arranged to work on the county committee, acting as Tan Gongda’s secretary.
Tan Gongda was intent on building Mei Town into a socialist Source of Peaches, a new socialist countryside “where lights shine everywhere and each household has their trees in full bloom”, and where communism could be realized ahead of time. Tan had parks built in the county’s downtown, and he wrote to the province and to the prefecture committees six times respectively. As he was struggling in finding ways to provide electricity for civilian use, he proposed to build reservoirs to generate electricity. He even hatched the blueprint ideas of building long corridors that could link each household together, ideas of building a telephone network spreading across the whole county, as well as digging an artificial canal. His ideas with to be joined rightly together with the Great Harmony long dreamed by his mother Lu Xiumi over the past. Nevertheless, Tan Gongda’s ambitions had naturally been stopped time and again as the public could neither reject nor oppose when confronted with the start reality. His tone of argument was considered quite similar to rushing all the way to communism and therefore utterly absurd. In essence it was deemed to be a form of right-leaning opportunism.
Tan Gongda now was over forty years old and still a bachelor. Although Yao Peipei invoked Tan Gongda’s sympathetic love, he never went so far as to do anything indecent about it and with him. Not long before though, Tan Gongda took interest in Bai Xiaoxian, who was a dancer in the Recreational Workers’ Ensemble. Soon a formal love relationship with her was established. However, on this relationship Bai Xiaoxian’s uncle and parents pinned the intentionally hidden motive of hoping that Tan Gongda would be able to settle some private issues. But the unsophisticated Xiaoxian was a whimsical woman, whim in the end severing her tie with Tan Gongda. Jin Yu, the vice secretary in-general of the provincial committee, chanced to see Yao Peiei and stirred in his heart evil ideas towards her.
Tan Gongda was promoted to the secretary general of the county committee, but he was already soon besieged by crises. With the hidden support of Nie Zhuofeng, the provincial committee came to Zhao Huanzhang, who was a righteous and straightforward man, of his position. Moreover, Bai Yuting and Qian Dajun were brought up to the positions of county head and deputy county head respectively. This action should have been favorable to Tan Gongda’s work which was to be underway, but in the end came out to be the worst possible outcome. Very skillful in wielding power and intrigue, Bai and Qian conspired with Jin Yu in bringing Bai Xiaohu, the nephew of Bai Yuting, into the post of surrogate county head. With this action they managed to pit him against Tan Gongda in public.
June saw a raging rainstorm, which overwhelmed the big dam and made it collapse. Tan Gongda, for being negligent, was forced to stop his work and to await investigation as well as punishment. This incident had made all officials within the county committee, high-ranking and low-ranking, turn into his enemies overnight. Yao Peipei, although fearful of him, went step by step further into the trap set by Qian Dajun and his associates. When learning of Jin Yu’s scheme, she refused to be transferred to the provincial capital, and with that leaving her home to make her own independent living somewhere else. She wrote to Tan Gongda, but only received a cold shoulder from him. At that time Tan was already been in love with Zhang Jinfang, a widow, and had already submitted an application for marriage to the superior agency. Over a month later when he happened to come acress Peipei’s letter, asking for a meet with him, he came to feel irrevocably regretful. But sadly it was too late.
On the night of the Mid-Autumn Festival, Peipei was raped by Jin Yu after being druggerby her colleague Tang Biyun. Peipei, in fury and disgrace, killed the rapist had since become a fugitive. Tan Gongda was appointed to be the ombudsman at the prefecture level. He went up to Huajia Village Commune in the neighboring county to perform an inspection. Prior to leaving Mei Town, the child of his marriage with Zhang Jinfang came into the world and was given the name Tan Duanwu. In Huajia Village, he saw that the “Source of Peaches” dream, which he had been craving out for years, had been come to be and materialized. However, the “ideal world” was still not perfect, and was still ridden with the shadow of suicide. His emotional experiences and hardships thereof with Yao Peipei were constantly unfolding. They had very close contact up until the two were arrested. Peipei was executed and Tan Gongda was sentenced to imprisonment for aiding the fugitive until 1976. The idealistic world he was then still hankering after. Later on he passed away of a disease somewhere between September and October of the same year.
Jiangnan in Full Spring
Xiurong, a girl with great vigor and vitality but ignorant to worldliness, became very obsessed with literature. Moreover, via the instigation of editor Xu Jishi she once came to the Zhaoyinsi Temple (Hermit-recruiting Temple) and paid a visit to Tan Duanwu. Tan Duanwu is a, in the lack of a better term, a fallen guy, albeit one who enjoys a kind of moderately good reputation in the circle of poets. Xiurong came to fall in love with Tan Duanwu and decided to stay with him. Duanwu, however, although having had many sexual encounters with her, did not intend to marry her. Therefore he merely concealed in his heart his physical pleasure, contempt, and satire.
After a night of orgasmic ecstasy Duanwu took away all the money and articles from Xiurong. He did this during a time when she was running a high fever and sleeping like very deeply. He then proceeded to get on a train bound for Shanghai, and with that leaving Xiurong all alone.
After more than ten years of struggle, Duanwu made his way back to Hepu. He was now a postgraduate and obtained got a job at the local chronicle’s office. With the new post he’d become a bit of an idler, but was still enjoying a public sector’s salary.
When purchasing dowry for her marriage at a department store, Xiurong ran into Duanwu by accident. She then brought her wedding affairs to a sudden halt. Several days later, however, Duanwu and Xiurong got married. Thereafter Xiurong changed her name into Pang Jiayu and became a renowned lawyer. She had developed a great style to deal with people and the world. Duanwu on the other hand, once having been admired by some literary youths, was now eclipsed by her because at that time poetry was not as highly regarded anymore. The switch of their respective social statuses gradually altered their respective positions as well as roles at home.
Pang Jiayu would publicly criticize and ridicule at Duanwu, as well a discipline their child Ruoruo through her authority and power. Moreover, now she also made all arrangements according to her own wishes. As for the relationship between the mother in-law and the daughter in-law, they harbored their own purposes. Sometimes they went so far as to anger each other on purpose and fight. The indifference between wife and husband, the gap between mother and son, and the cold war between mother in-law and daughter in-law set the major tone of their life.
Since there was a sense of “non-interference with each other’s private life” between Duanwu and Peipei when they got married, Pang Jiayu was now able to realize her own ends by taking the fullest advantage of her own body. With that said, she went into the arms of those who played a key role in some crime cases, and she spent rosy nights with the director of the county’s education bureau in order to send her son Ruoruo to the best class of the best school within the prefecture. Furthermore, in order to kill her loneliness, she also had an affair with a newly acquainted man. The affair even went so far that she was forced to have an abortion.
In Hepu then, Pang Jiayu’s situation was not single and unique. All women there consumed their body and emotions in their own different ways. Little Shi, for instance, was very flirtatious. Foolishly or not, she was always standing ready to offer her body to someone. Lvzhu stirred Duanwu under the seduction of and harassment of uncle-like brother. The whole social atmosphere pushed them to that situation. Ruoruo’s class counselor did all there was to criticize and satirize him. Moreover, Pang Jiayu, to save her face, tried all tricks to break the wall and gain the trust of the director of the education bureau. She succeeded in attaining her end.
During that time in Hepu, officials conspired with business people everywhere. Zhang Shouren, for example, became an upstart and indulged in his imagined pleasure from the body of his niece on the maternal side. Xu Jishi became a VIP in Huajia Village, using his subordinates as form of private property, and the magazine agency as his window of entertainment and pastime. Old Feng was superficially a priggish scholar and always stood on high moral ground, however in secret he had an affair with his widowed daughter in-law who gave birth to a son for him.
They overly consumed themselves, broke social bottom lines and ethics, and did so with no repercussion at the time. However, they soon came to pay their respective due costs for their actions. Pang Jiayu died of an immortal disease in a strange place. Zhang Shouren was beating so harshly by his enemies to the extent that you could not identify where blood and flesh was. Little Shi, pregnant for several months, had a swollen belly but looked depressed. Duanwu’s elder brother resided in a mental hospital, which he built himself. Later on, however, the hospital later on was expropriated by a real estate developer, which left him homeless. After having carefully read A New History of the Five Dynasties written by Ouyang Xiu, Tan Duanwu shut the books and started to produce a novel with Huajia Village as its backdrop and inspiration.