Author 001, Ma Changshan (马长山)
1. Fight to the Finish

      Two men loved one woman.
      "There's no other way," A said. "We have to fight a duel."
      "I agree." B went along with him.
      The two men took swords onto the dueling area. The battle was imminent.
      "Wait!" the beautiful woman cried out.
      "You have some magic way out of this?" A and B asked together.
      "My little sister's looks are much superior to mine," the beauty answered bashfully. "One of you can marry her, and the other can marry me. There'll be no need to fight this duel."
      "We'll still have to put our lives on the line, and fight to the death," A said.
      "Yes, a life and death struggle," said B.
      The beauty seemed to lose hope. "But why?" she asked.
       The two men answered in one voice. "To see who gets your sister, of course!"

2. Uncle's Memory

      Uncle reached sixty years of age this year. He seems to have lost his memory since his wife passed away from breast cancer a few years back. He can't remember anything you tell him. Several times he's gone out somewhere and couldn't find his way back. Last time a cop brought him home.
      His daughter bought him a cell phone. She told him he could just call home if he ever got lost again.
      He couldn't remember the phone number.
      His number two son came home with some good news. The city phone company was allowing customers to decide on their own eight-digit phone number. He'd rushed to be first in line and registered a number that was in high demand: "00000000".
      "This one's great," he said with a laugh. "Our dad will never forget our phone number again after this."
      Uncle spent a whole evening memorizing the number. He guaranteed he'd got it down completely.
      He got lost again. A cop from the local precinct brought him home.
      "Are you so old that you couldn't remember eight zeros, Dad?" There was a touch of anger in his number two son's voice.
      "Yes, I remembered, but I got nervous and forgot which zero I was supposed to punch in first."
      Uncle's daughter got a psychologist, a Professor Wang, to come over and talk to him.
      Professor Wang spent two hours talking to Uncle alone. When he was about to leave, he recited a string of numbers and told Uncle's daughter to try using them as a phone number.
      Son number two wrote the numbers on a piece of paper and, when he handed the paper to Uncle, Uncle took one look and started to wail.
      "I remember these," Uncle told his children through his tears.
      Something strange happened. Uncle did indeed get lost again, several times, but each time he punched in the numbers to call home without error.
      The phone number wasn't an easy one to remember: 19731998. But Uncle and his wife had got married in 1973, and she passed away in 1998.

3. Rainbow

      My wife and I got an amicable divorce on the grounds of incompatibility.
      Five years along, I had a divorced woman named Rainbow who often helped me straighten up the house.
      Rainbow was beautiful and smart. She'd also gotten divorced because she and her former husband were incompatible.
      One evening Rainbow came over to fry up a good dinner for us. We sat down to eat by candlelight.
      She spent the night at my place.
      But there's no story to tell about that night. We slept quietly in separate bedrooms.
      In the morning, I asked Rainbow why she'd never gotten remarried. She looked down and said she hadn't met a man better than her former husband.
      I grabbed her hand clumsily. We looked at each other emotionally for a long time. Then we both sighed and let go of each other.
      We aren't compatible. It's because Rainbow is my ex-wife.

4. Lin

      Lin and our son lay spread across my body, crying their eyes out.
      I was a bit embarrassed.
      Last month I secretly transferred funds totaling 700,000 Yuan into Xia's bank account.
      I was getting ready to separate from Lin before the end of the year. Xia is already pregnant with my child.
      Lin didn't know a thing about it. Stupid woman.
      Five days ago, an auto accident took my life. That's why I'm laying here now, saying goodbye to Lin and my friends.
      As I'm being pushed into the oven, Lin suddenly rushes over to me.
      "I'm sorry," she whispers softly into my ear, "but it was you who forced me to do this. I had no choice but to have you go first."
      I'd bet the farm that no one in that whole place heard what she said, except me.

Author 002, Cai Zhongfeng (蔡中锋)
5. Happy Couple's Card

      Ever since I hit on the idea of a Happy Couple's Card, and started using them, everything has gone smoothly for me in the marketplace, no matter what I'm doing.
      I went to see Bureau Chief Zhang one day to get something done, and I brought out my card first thing. "Hello, Chief Zhang. Here's my card."
      Chief Zhang looked it strangely. "This? This is incorrect, right?"
      I hurried to explain. "Oh, I'm sorry, I turned it over. This side is Old Wang's. The other side is mine. We call it our 'Happy Couple's Card'. We're the first in the whole world to print them this way, ha, ha!"
      Chief Zhang seemed quite impressed when he heard that. "So that's who you are! Whatever you need done, a phone call will do. What brings you here personally today?"
      "Old Wang's always out somewhere doing something, isn't he?" I said. "He never has any time, and I'm just a woman at home alone, relaxing, with nothing to do. If I can find the time to help people do things, it's like getting some exercise. It's good for my bones."
      Chief Zhang hurried to say, "Anything you need done, you just say the word and I'll get someone on it right away."
      Another time I went to see the County Commissioner to get something done, and I gave him my card, too. "Hello, Commissioner. Here's my card."
      He looked at it and said in wonder, "This? This is incorrect, right?"
      I hurried to explain. "Oh, I'm sorry, I turned it over. This side is Old Wang's. The other side is mine. We call it our 'Happy Couple's Card'. We're the first in the whole world to print them this way, ha, ha!"
      After listening to my explanation, the Commissioner said very politely, "So that's who you are! Whatever you need done, a phone call will do. What brings you here personally today?"
      "Old Wang's always out somewhere doing something, isn't he?" I said. "He never has any time, and I'm just a woman at home alone, relaxing, with nothing to do. If I can find the time to help people do things, it's like getting some exercise. It's good for my bones."
      The Commissioner hurried to say, "Anything you need done, you just say the word and I'll get someone on it right away."
      Old Wang is the current mayor of our city.
      And who am I? I'm not going to tell you.

6. There's No End to Learning

      One day Young Wang's wife noticed that he'd bought a mahjong set and a book, Beginning Mahjong. He'd shut himself in the den and was fiddling with them. "I've heard that that thing is unhealthy," she told him. "What are you playing it for?"
      "The big gun in our unit loves to play," Young Wang answered "and the guys who play with him every day all get promoted! If I'm going to have a future there, I'd better adapt to the requirements of the new formats and duties as quickly as possible."
     Before long, Young Wang had acquired the beginning mahjong skills, so he went to play with the boss every day. As expected, after only two days he was promoted and became Section Chief Wang.
      After he became Section Chief, he started studying the book Championship Mahjong Skills at home. His wife noticed. "When you play mahjong with the leader," she advised, "you don't want to have such high-level skills. You just need to know how to lose. Since you're putting so much effort into studying these championship skills, or whatever, could you really be thinking of taking the leader's money?
      "As a matter of fact, no," Young Wang said. "I'm researching how I can beat the people under me so I can win back the money I lose to the leader. That'll really be positive feedback."
      In a couple of years, on the basis of this positive feedback cycle, Young Wang became the big gun. He also started studying the book The Psychology of Mahjong. His wife noticed and thought it was weird, so she asked "Everyone loses their money to you, now, don't they? So how come you want to study the psychology of mahjong?
      "You really are all beauty and no brains," Young Wang replied. You think it's easy being the big guy in this bureau? There's so many people under me, you think I can win everyone's money? If I scarfed it all up, that'd really create problems. So I've got to figure out who's money I can take and who's I can't, and how much is appropriate to take from the ones I can take it from. These skills are the hardest to acquire."
      When he'd been Bureau Chief for not quite one year, Young Wang's wife noticed that he'd bought a deck of bridge cards and a book, Bridge Primer, and was fiddling with them in the den. She thought that was even stranger. "So why are you taking up bridge," she wanted to know.
      "The new County Commissioner, Commissioner Liu, likes to play bridge!"

7. Alive

      When I was young, I spent several years watching over a forest in the mountains.
      One evening in early winter, the north wind started to blow outside and it began to rain heavily. The little place I was staying in was unusually dark, cold and wet, so I was lighting a bundle of firewood to get warm.
      Just then the door slammed open and a young girl ducked in. She was soaking wet from the rain. "Can I warm up by your fire, bro'?" she asked me timidly.
      "Come on over," I told her.
      "Thanks, bro'" she said. "You got anything to eat? I'm starving."
      "Sure, in the pot. I'll heat it up for you."
      I went into the next room to heat up the food for her. When I brought a bowl of rice out, I saw her standing there without a stitch on. She was drying her clothes as she warmed herself by the fire. With the bright orange flamed playing over her body, it was an incomparably tender and beautiful scene.
      She saw me but wasn't alarmed and didn't try to cover herself. She just smiled at me.
      I hurriedly turned my face aside and went over to her. "Here, eat."
      She sat down on the bed and covered herself with the blanket while she downed the bowl of rice.
      I finished drying her clothes for her and put them down beside the bed. "Get some sleep," I told her. "I'll go into the next room and spend the evening napping on the stove. I'll be OK."
      I woke up suddenly in the middle of the night and saw her standing there naked, holding her arms out to me. "It's cold in here, bro'. Let's sleep on the bed together."
      "I've never slept with a woman," I told her nervously.
      She held me tightly in her arms. "This is the first time I've ever hugged a man, too, bro'!"
      And me, all of twenty years old, I couldn't hold off….
      Three months later, I went down the mountain to the public trial assembly to see if anything exciting was happening. I'd just heard someone announce, "… sentenced to death, sentence to be carried out immediately," when the woman who'd been kneeling in the middle of the crowd suddenly tore free from the officer's hands and stood up. She held her head up and shouted, "You can't put me in front of a firing squad! You can't kill me! I'm pregnant!"
      Good Lord, it was her!
      Many years have flashed by now, and I never heard any news of her. I know she's not dead, though.
      She can't be dead.

8. A World Without Thieves

      I lost my job and went to ask my friend Bair to help me find another one. He said he'd let me work for him.
      The job he arranged for me was actually quite easy. Every day at 9:00 a.m., I'd take an account book and withdraw tens of thousands of Yuan from the bank. I'd put it in a tote bag and carry it while I strolled along the street. I'd window-shop in the stores and go to a restaurant for a good meal. Around five o'clock I'd deposit the money back into the bank. That's all there was to it.
      There were times when someone would try to grab the money out of my hand. Every time I tore myself away from them, though, there'd always be someone who'd rush forward and help me subdue the crooks.
      One day I walked to a street that was a little out of the way. Without any advance warning, some kid ran up out of the blue. First he stabbed me with a knife and then he grabbed the money. Then several people ran up and subdued the crook. They got me to a hospital in time, too.
      Fortunately my wound wasn't life threatening. Bair came to see me in the hospital, and I told him, "Mr. Bair, this work is too dangerous. I don't want to do it anymore. I've got a wife and kids!"
      "Think about it," he said. Isn't there always a cost to pay in any job you do? And do you think you'll be able to find another job better than this one? Let me do this. I'll give you a bullet-proof vest. You won't have to worry about knives or bullets getting to you, and you won't be in danger anymore."
      I thought it over, and what he said made sense, so I stayed on with my job.
      I'm such an ordinary guy, and my job was so easy, I really never thought I'd turn out to be a hero.
      I'm not sure how it happened, but my deeds became the focal point of print media and internet reports. I not only became the hero who helped Bair catch twenty-one gangs of thieves, I also got a 150,000 Yuan reward from the government.
      Now, if anyone sees a guy swaggering down the street with a bunch of money in his hand, they're certain to say, "That's definitely a police plant. We'd better stay a ways away from him."
      Our city has become the target for implementing a world without thieves!

9. Swimming Fish

      He'd liked fish ever since he was a child.
      During his childhood, he'd often squatted by the side of a small lake and watched the fish swimming back and forth in the water. He always thought, "I bet it'd be great if I could turn into a fish."
      When he was a little older, he became famous far and wide as a talented swimmer. He could knife through 300 meters in one burst of energy. When he was out of the water, he always felt like he had a fish inside him. When he was in the water, he felt like he actually was a fish and was especially contented.
      His family was poor and, after he graduated from high school, they didn't have the money to support him through college, so he had to leave home to look for a job. While he was working in Wuhan, he met a young girl who was also there looking for work. They got married shortly thereafter and had a son within a year. The days went by like that, simple, exhausting, austere, happy.
      There was a period when he would constantly walk up and down alongside the Yangzi River, staring into the river water and daydreaming, "How great it'd be to be a fish! A really great life, without a care in the world!"
      One day when he got off work, he decided to take his wife and son along with him for his last stroll, and eat his last meal.
      When they got to the Yangzi, all of a sudden a little girl jumped into the water, and a young boy jumped in after her. In the blink of an eye they were both swallowed up by the river.
      Without hesitation he jumped into the river. He got the children and handed them to people on the shore.
      He gave one last sorrowful look toward the shore. "This is goodbye, my wife, goodbye, my son. From today on I'm a real fish. I've left all the money we earned working over the last few years at your place, my wife, so you and our son can have a good life. Neither of you knows it, but I've gotten a disease. I'd have to spend more than one hundred thousand Yuan, maybe two hundred thousand, just to live one more year. I'd hate that, and I won't do it. I won't spend even a penny."
      "I've already turned into a real fish!" He thought a moment, then turned toward the river and swam off. Before long, he'd melted into the rolling waves of the river.

Author 003, Cold Month Desolation (Cheng Siliang) 冷月潇潇 (程思良)
10. Dying with Unfinished Business

      Lao Wang had astigmatism in both eyes, but his eyes could open as wide as ever. His shriveled up old mouth kept flapping, too, but he couldn't produce a sound.
      "Do you have any unfinished business, Pa?" His son was snug up against his father's ear, asking.
      Lao Wang's eyes opened wide, but he showed no other reaction.
      "Pa, your grandson's notice of admission to college has arrived. It's one of the major schools." The son's voice got louder.
      Lao Wang's eyes opened wide, but he showed no other reaction.
      "Pa, your daughter-in-law got a new job yesterday," the son said loudly.
      Lao Wang's eyes opened wide, but he showed no other reaction.
      The son looked at his mother, seemingly at a loss.
      His mother abruptly patted him on the head and told him to step outside the room.
      Around ten minutes later, the son came walking back from the neighbor's place. After he'd wiped the traces of tears from his face, he moved over and stood in front of Lao Wang. Shaking the purple booklet he had in his hand, he said in a loud voice, "There's something I forgot to tell you, Pa. The mortgage on our home has been paid off. The deed was processed yesterday."
      Lao Wang's eyes brightened, and then he closed them slowly.
      A burst of sobs filled the narrow room.


11. The Maze

      I was walking through a garden with forked paths.
      I ran across a child at one of the intersections.
      "Where are you going?"
      "I'm looking for
Li Bai [the ancient poet]."
      "That's me."
      I smiled at him before I turned onto another path and continued walking.
      At another intersection, I came across an old man leaning on a cane.
      "Are you Li Bai?"
      "I'm [the ancient poet]
Du Fu, youngster. You mean you didn't run into Li Bai? We were just discussing poetry."
      I shook my head and turned onto another path.
      After passing by many intersections, I came across another person. It was an elderly foreign man.
      "Who are you?"
Jorge Luis Borges from Argentina, kiddo."
      I was completely awake at once.
      The book that lay open before me was
The Garden of Forking Paths.

12. Threats

      When the earthquake happened, engineer Liu Yi and miner Dog Egg were working in one of the shafts. The shaft, which was ten-plus meters down, dropped altogether tens of meters. Falling rocks broke one of Dog Egg's legs. Looking up at the mouth of the shaft, more than fifty meters above them, and down at Dog Egg, who had passed out, Liu Yi realized that unless someone came to rescue them, there was no way they'd be able to get out! What they needed to do now was survive, and wait.
      Liu Yi started to take action. Rats, bugs, worms, they were all objects of his hunt. But after working at it for half the day, he had very little to show for it. Dog Egg would wake up from the pain every once in a while. At those times, Liu Yi would eat something like a rat or a bug or a worm right in front of his face without the slightest scruple. He could see the alarm filling Dog Egg's eyes. He could only feed these vomit-inducing things to Dog Egg when the miner was delirious.
      After three days, nothing at all could be found to eat in the shaft. Dog Egg was getting weaker, too. Liu Yi would sometimes move close to his ear and say something to him.
      The rescue team came on the fifth day.
      After a day and a night in the emergency ward at the hospital, Dog Egg finally came to. His first words were, "Where's that fucker Liu Yi. This old guy's gonna knock the crap outta him. He had the nerve to tell me that when I died, he was gonna eat me. Luckily this old guy was able to stick it out!"

Author 004, Liu Lang (刘浪)
13. Laudable Devotion

      Bureau Chief Qian was leading a delegation out on an inspection tour. They got back to their hotel early, so he suggested that everyone go a few rounds of mahjong. They missed their flight because of this session. When the delegation got to the airport after rushing from the hotel, their flight had just taken off.
      Feeling guilty, Chief Qian slapped himself on the head. Everybody looked at each other in dismay, but they didn't dare say much.
      One of them ran up to an airport worker and complained. "What happened? Our Bureau Chief hadn't boarded the plane, yet. Who told you to let it take off?"
      Everyone looked. It was an Assistant Section Chief from the Bureau. His name was Huang, and he loved his booze, so they called him "Big Vat Huang". In point of fact, he'd had a few extra glasses at noon and he was showing the effects.
      The airport worker could tell that Big Vat had been drinking just by looking at his face, so she didn't pay any attention to him. Big Vat flailed his arms and started to howl, spittle flying. "God damn it, you people have got a lot of nerve! You dared to let the plane leave before our Bureau Chief got on!" He pulled out his cell phone as he spoke. "Tell me your boss's phone number, quick! I'm going to file a complaint against you guys!"
      Several in the delegation rushed over and told Big Vat to be quiet, but he didn't listen. He kept repeating, "Our Bureau Chief hadn't arrived yet! Who told you to let the plane take off? Get it to fly back here for me right now! Get it to fly back here for me right now!"
      People all around were roaring with laughter….
      When they got back to the unit, news of Big Vat Huang's tirade at the airport spread quickly. People didn't know whether to laugh or cry, but they all agreed that the man had made a spectacle of himself and should be disciplined.
      Who would've figured? A month later, while the matter was under review by the Personnel Department, the promotion rules were ignored and Big Vat was chosen to be one of the three Assistant Bureau Chiefs. Everyone was dumbstruck. Later someone heard that Chief Qian had said privately, "Even though Big Vat lost it because he'd been drinking, his devotion is laudable. I can use people like that."

14. The Last Course "Dish"

      Boss Tian of Commercial City threw a "Manchu-Han Imperial Feast". Several Bureau Chiefs cheerfully agreed to come.
      One hundred and eight courses were offered in all. The Bureau Chiefs were eating for more than four hours.
At the end the servers gave everyone an interesting-looking, attractive round bucket with a rosewood goblet in it. Images of dragons and phoenixes, symbols of good fortune, were inscribed on the goblets, and a multi-colored feather was stuck in each one. The servers said, "This completes the banquet."
      This special preparation was indeed the final course, but exactly why was it chosen?
    Chief Liao of the Planning Bureau stared coldly at the feather in front of him. "How are we supposed to eat this?"
      Chief Wang of the National Lands Bureau puzzled over it for a long time before a look of sudden understanding came over his face. "This isn't to eat," he said. "It's a high-class toothpick. They say that in ancient times, the Ming and Qing Dynasty emperors used feathers to brush their teeth."
      Chief Tang of the City Construction Bureau, who was a bit tipsy, picked up his feather and lecherously stroked his stomach a couple of times. "In my opinion," he said, "it's extremely likely that this is an ancient sex toy. It's used to do that after a full meal."
      Everybody roared with laughter.
      "Let me explain," Boss Tian said, "These are actually feathers from wild pheasants of the Xing'An Mountains in Manchuria. They're used to tickle the throat. Guests who have eaten to bursting, whose stomachs can't stand it, stick the feathers down their throats to tickle them, and they'll vomit up all the food from their stomachs."
      When he saw that everyone doubted him, Boss Tian continued, "They don't have these on the menu for Manchu-Han Imperial Feasts in Hong Kong. When this type of banquet started to get popular on the mainland, not a few guests injured their stomachs by stuffing them too full, so chefs hit on the idea of adding this procedure. The fact is, Imperial Feasts are OK, you just don't want to be greedy. If you're too greedy, you'll throw up, and probably injure yourself…."

Author 005, Liang Xiaoquan (梁晓泉)
15. Anti-Matter Worries

      The thirty-plus-year-old spaceman had sat in his anti-matter spaceship on a 20-light-year flight, and had now returned to earth. Calculations indicated that both his physiological and psychological ages were about twenty years younger [than he would have been].
      He burst through the door of his home and shouted to his wife, who had been much younger than him, "Old lady, your little brother's home!"*
      His wife, with a worried expression on her face, sat him down and then quietly phoned the Director of the Space Agency. "Please, on the next mission, could you not send my husband?"
      *["Little brother (小弟弟) is a euphemism for "penis" – Fannyi]

16. A Topic Best Avoided

      [This story is not very interesting in English, but the Chinese is cleverly written. We have translated it here solely as an aid to Chinese language students. Remember, if the links don't work for you, let us know and we'll send you a copy of the Chinese text by email. – Fannyi]
      This morning I texted her: "A day apart is like three seasons."
      She replied: "Don't let your imagination run wild."
      I sent: "Three feet of ice doesn't form in a single day. A person isn't a plant."
      She answered: "(sigh)…."
      I sent: "Couldn't do it yesterday, had something else to do. Played internet chess all day, didn't even eat, just a little tired."
      She answered: "Both tired. If daughter agrees, I'm moving to a nunnery."
      I sent: "I'm thinking the same as you."
      She turned off her phone.

To get Chinese text by return email, send name of story to

冷月潇潇 程思良(Cheng Siliang)

Cold Month Desolation           
10. Unfinished Business
11. The Maze
12. Threats

An Exhibition of Contemporary Chinese Flash Fiction Writers (In Process), Page 1

Excluding stories previously translated elsewhere on this site.
Translated from
here, also available here.

蔡中锋 Cai Zhongfeng     
5. Happy Couple's Card
6. No End to Learning
7. Alive
8. World Without Thieves
9. Swimming Fish

​​         Chinese Stories in English   

刘浪 Liu Lang              
13. Laudable Devotion
14. Last Course

 (梁晓泉) Liang Xiaoquan
15. Anti-Matter Worries
16. Topic Best Avoided

 马长山 Ma Changshan

1. Fight to the Finish
2. Uncle's Memory
3. Rainbow
4. Lin