In Wuchang City, Fang Fang attempts to write about the siege of Wuchang in 1926, during the Northern Expedition period. The plot arrangement of this work is so impressive, and its narration is grand and full of power.
This novel doesn’t focus on the war, but on several students in the city. Through her straightforward style of writing, Fang has described the common life in Wuchang city and the condition of destruction during wartime. Different from other writers depicting people in troubled times, Fang doesn’t focus too much on the common life, neither does she sigh with emotion about the past. On the contrary, the narration of this work is calm, hiding the author’s judgment on history, fully retaining its duality. Regeneration exists in all the destruction, while in all of the regeneration exists death. This work starts small and grows big, with concise language and accurate narration. Fang puts the revolution against the background of the development of the human spirit. She is concerned with the spiritual tendencies of common people in the midst of revolution, which is better in line with readers’ imagination about war, history and the logic of human nature. The way and attitude Fang records and interprets history runs through the whole work, and tells the interwork of history and reality.
There is a kind of natural temperament in Wuchang City. All of the responses of the characters to the unforeseen events fit natural logic while containing eternal truths. The story presents the idea of “how the revolution shocks and impacts people’s lives.” Although this work does not construct the entire scenery of history, the atmosphere of the era still appears from each line of the work, full of substance.
Fang Fang (1955- ), originally known as Wang Fang, was born in Nanjing, with her ancestral home in Jiangxi province. Her parents worked for a transportation company in Wuhan. As soon as she graduated from Wuhan University in 1982, Fang worked at Hubei Television Station as an editor of TV dramas and feature films. In 1989, Fang was transferred to Hubei Writers Association, to serve as the president and chief editor of Celebrities Today magazine. Now, she is working as the chairperson of the Hubei Writers Association, and the director of the Hubei Literature Jury. She is also a committee member of the China Writers Association, and is one of China’s senior writers.
Fang began publishing her literary works in 1976 and her first novel was published in 1982. Fang joined the China Writers Association in 1985. Her novels include A Chronicle of Wuni Lake (1987), Wuchang City (2011), To See the Old Villa in Lushan Mountain (2014), Old Stories in Hankou (2014), etc. Her novellas and short stories collections include such works as Scenery (1987), Peach Blooming (1987), Unforgettable Memories (2012), The Sorrow life of Tu Ziqiang (2013), Fang Fang works collection (5 volumes) (1996), etc. Fang is the winner of the Lu Xun Literature Prize, and has also received many other prizes such as The Best Works Award. To date, Fang has published more than 60 literary works, some of which have been translated into English, Japanese, Italian, Portuguese, Korean, etc., and have been released around the world.
Wuchang City is centered on the Battle of Wuchang, which took place during the Northern Expedition of 1926. This novel reconstructs these historical events, telling a story about how war destroys ordinary people’s lives, while revealing the formation, destruction and regeneration of humans during wartime. It also tells a story about the permanent disappearance of the city wall and the unchangeable image of a stretch of history.
This novel consists of two parts, separately describing the “attack” of the Northern Expeditionary Army outside the city and the “defense” of the Beiyang warlord Army inside the city. The first part threads together the stories of young students, Liang Kesi and Luo Yinan, who follow the Northern Expeditionary Army, and Mo Zhengqi, the captain of the Northern Expeditionary Army. The stories of two woman soldiers, Guo Xiangmei and Zhang Wenxiu, also show the bitterness of war and reveal the true human nature during wartime. This part praises the power of ideals and friendship while describing the conflict and reconciliation among different beliefs and characters.
The second part mainly portrays the roles of Ma Weifu, a military officer of Beiyang Warlord Army, two progressive students, Chen Mingwu and Hong Peizhu, and Xi Yun, an orphan from Beiyang Warlord Army. As the enemy approaches the Wuchang city, the natures of those trapped people are fully revealed along with the vocation and conscience of a soldier, the passion and cowardice of young people, and the innocence and precocity of children.
At the beginning of the novel, Luo Yinan is constantly disappointed by love. Feeling helpless, his only desire is to leave the city. On the road leaving Wuchang city, Luo Yinan meets up with his classmate Liang Kesi, who sympathizes with the ideals of Northern Expedition’s national revolution and meanwhile is also interested in the Communist Theory. The Northern Expedition breaks out in 1926, and the military policemen of Beiyang Warlord Army begin to track down and arrest progressive students without restraint. Liang Kesi hurriedly leaves Wuchang for Guangzhou to join up with the Northern Expeditionary Army and then follows the army from Guangzhou to Hunan. Encouraged by Liang Kesi, Luo Yinan also joins up with the Northern Expeditionary Army. After catching up with the Northern Expeditionary Army, they are assigned to the Department of Publicity. However, Liang Kesi is bent on going to the frontlines with arms, so he pretends to be another soldier who suffers from an acute disease, sneaking into the dare-to-die corps.
The Northern Expeditionary Army fights its way through, and quickly arrives at the periphery of Wuchang with boosted morale. In the siege battle, the entire dare-to-die corps is almost wiped out. Liang Kesi falls from the city wall, seriously injured, unable to move his legs. He can do nothing but wait for help in the gateway together with other wounded soldiers. Mo Zhengqi and Luo Yinan have tried many times to rescue Liang Kesi, but to no avail. Liang Kesi holds on to the last moment, and leaves Luo Yinan with a letter, saying that he is prepared to die and that it is glorious to die for communism.
After the Northern Expeditionary Army takes Wuchang city, Luo Yinan buries Liang Kesi and Mo Zhengqi. Always remembering Liang Kesi’s words, he continues to follow the Northern Expeditionary Army.
Chen Mingwu, a student who has a deep empathy for the revolution, has been noticed and chased off by guard soldiers. He then fortunately runs into Yuan Zongchun’s wife and children. Yuan Zongchun is a staff officer in the Beiyang Warlord Army. Chen pretends to be Mrs. Yuan’s kid and manages to get his escape.
Ma Weifu sends Mrs. Yuan and her children to the home of Hong Peizhu, Ma’s younger female cousin. Hong Peizhu and Chen Mingwu are classmates, and she loves Chen, but Ma Weipu loves his cousin. Moreover, Hong Peizhu hates Ma because he is following the Beiyang Warlord Army fighting against the Northern Expeditionary Army. Faced with threat from soldiers of the Beiyang Army, Hong Peizhu jumps into a well and dies. Ma Weifu, who was determined to fight to death, seeing the countless bodies of his people, scattered troops, and moreover the death of his cousin sister, finally gives up and opens the door. Struggling with the facts of betraying the trust of his supervisor, being looked down upon by the revolutionary army and losing his beloved cousin sister, he jumps from the city wall to his death.
Chen Mingwu is fragile and vulnerable in personality. Faced with his mother’s disappearance and the death of his classmates, Chen is near the point of breakdown. Luckily he gradually snaps out of it with the help of Ma Weifu’s stinging words. The tragic death of Hong Peizhu, the girl who loved him, makes him deeply grieved. After pulling himself together, he undertakes the responsibility of taking care of Mrs. Yuan’s whole family. Chen doesn’t betray Ma Weifu’s trust, taking Yuan Zongchun’s children out of Wuchang city to a safe place.
Wuchang city, the thousand-year-old ancient town, disappears, but the stories that happened in this city, the stories full of ambition, passion, blood and life, will last forever.
A series of activities to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Mongolia officially opened in Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, on September 10, 2019.