LaoShe Rickshaw Boy . One of China's great modern writers, Lao She was driven to suicide
during the Cultural Revolution. This story is a haunting account of a young rickshaw puller
in pre-1949 Beijing.
Lu Xun The Real Story of Ah Q and Other Tales of China . Widely read in China today,
Lu Xun is regarded as the father of modern Chinese writing. Ah Q is one of his best tales:
short, allegorical and cynical, about a simpleton who is swept up in the 1911 revolution.
Luo Guanzhong Romance of the Three Kingdoms . One of the world's greatest historical
novels. Though written 1200 years after the events it depicts, this vibrant tale vividly evokes
the battles, political schemings and myths surrounding China's turbulent Three Kingdoms
Ma Jian Red Dust; The Noodle Maker; Beijing Coma . Satirist Ma Jian is one of China's
most insightful living writers, though most of his work is banned in China. Red Dust is a
travelogue about an epic, beatnik-style jaunt around China in the 1980s, documenting a set
of chaotic lives, not least the narrator's own. The Noodle Maker is a dark novel concerning
the friendship between a writer of propaganda and a professional blood donor; and Beijing
Coma , his weightiest tome, concerns the events of 1989.
Mo Yan The Red Sorghum Clan; The Garlic Ballads . China's only winner of the Nobel
Prize for Literature, Mo Yan (whose name, meaning “don't speak”, speaks volumes about
how popular he is with the regime) is most famed for The Garlic Ballads , a hard-hitting novel
of rural life; and The Red Sorghum Clan , parts of which were turned into Red Sorghum , a
Zhang Yimou film. Both books were banned in China; though neither were set in Beijing,
their thinly veiled social commentary is still appropriate reading.
Wang Shuo Playing For Thrills; Please Don't Call Me Human . The bad boy of contempor-
ary Chinese literature, Wang Shuo writes in colourful Beijing dialect about the city's seamy
underbelly. These are his only novels translated into English: the first is a mystery story
whose boorish narrator spends most of his time drinking, gambling and chasing girls; the
second, banned in China, a bitter satire portraying modern China as a place where pride is
nothing and greed is everything, and a dignified martial artist is emasculated in order to win
an Olympic gold medal.
WuCheng'en Journey to the West . Absurd, lively rendering of the Buddhist monk Xuan-
zang's pilgrimage to India to collect sacred scriptures, aided by - according to popular myth
- Sandy, Pigsy, and the irrepressible Sun Wu Kong, the monkey king. Arthur Waley's ver-
sion, published in the West under the title Monkey , retains the tale's spirit while shortening
the hundred-chapter opus to paperback length.
Yiyun Li A Thousand Years of Good Prayers; Gold Boy, Emerald Girl . Two short stories
looking at how China's rapid changes have affected the lives of ordinary folk, from a
Beijinger now living in the States.