​​         Chinese Stories in English   

Author 010, Hurrying Scholar [Hu Hanjin] (赶路秀才[胡汉津])
1. The Leader

            Old Hu was fast approaching retirement age, but he was still just an ordinary staff member at his office.
            He really loved to travel and went off on his own every holiday and day off. His wife noticed that he'd recently been going to one particular place —— the
Jingang Mountains [known as the Cradle of the Chinese Revolution].
            She couldn't help wondering: She was aware of the saying that circulates among bureaucrats: "If you want to get promoted visit Jingang, but if you want a day out of school go to
Lushan [resort area]". Old Hu wasn't management material, though. So she made up her mind to go with him for one trip, to see what attracted him to the place.
            When they got there, Old Hu made all the arrangements for their food and lodging, since he was familiar with the area. And while nothing was too out of the ordinary, his wife did note that the locals had a habit of calling all tourists "Leader".
            Old Hu was full of energy. Wherever they went, he would stick out his hand to shake hands as soon as someone called him "Leader", regardless of whether it was the wait staff in a restaurant, or a lady shopkeeper, or a peddler at a fruit stand. And his mouth was full of "Hellos" and "Thanks for all your troubles". As the frequency of the handshakes increased, Old Hu got more and more spirited and his face grew more and more ruddy. He seemed ten years younger.
            And his wife suddenly understood….

2. She Told Him "I Want…."

            Seventy years ago, in the fenced-off schoolyard, she'd cried loudly. He'd held her hands and took her legs as she squatted down, and said, "I know, you need to go wee-wee."
            Sixty years ago, on the playground, she'd told him shyly, "I need to go wee-wee." He'd plucked off his hat and taken her off to a corner, where he'd turned around and started to whistle a happy tune.
            Fifty years ago, on their wedding night, she'd told him, "I need to go wee-wee." He'd brought a spittoon over, carrying it in both hands. Her face was flushed red.
            "Forty years ago, while they were out in the country working on a job, she'd told him, "I need to go wee-wee." He'd signaled for the trainees to surround her, facing the other direction. As they sang a resounding song, she'd understood the meaning of the expression, "a carefree downpour".
            "Thirty years ago, at the entry to an open-air market, she'd told him, "I need to go wee-wee." There was a long line curved around outside the women's toilet, but he spotted an opportunity and yanked her into the men's room. With him standing guard in the doorway, just one husband but with hands on hips and heroic defiance on his face —— an army of men couldn’t have gotten in.
            "Twenty years ago, when it was so crowded on the night train that they could hardly move an inch, she'd told him, "I need to go wee-wee." He's pulled off his T-shirt and stuffed it in her hand. "It's cotton. Put it down there, like a pad…."
            "Ten years ago, as she lay on her sickbed in the hospital, she'd told him, "I need to go wee-wee." He'd put the bedpan under her, then turned and bent close to her ear. "I'm here…."
            Yesterday he'd taken a leak on the sapling newly planted by her grave. "I'll come here and water it every year from now on …."

3. New Archeological Discovery

            Old Liu, renowned biologist, archeologist and poet of the
ashcan school, found a cowrie shell fossil serendipitously while on a field expedition. It held within it two fossilized butterflies, lying together in an embrace, so lifelike that they looked as though they were about to fly away.
            After verification by examining texts, Old Liu held a meeting to announce the results of his research. He made sure to send invitations to representatives from various branches of the media to attend the meeting and file reports.
            To lighten up the atmosphere at the meeting, Old Liu recited one of his own poems before giving his official announcement. It was a new creation entitled Unearthing the
Butterfly Lovers [after the famous Chinese folktale]. It went:
                        A thousand hardships to become an official,
                        He follows the clues and finds the difference;
                        Only then can she and he embracing lie,
                        For it really is the lovers Shanbo and Yingtai.
            Five minutes later, before Old Liu had even started his official announcement, the following headline was posted on the websites of various media: "New Archeological Discovery; Specimen Unearthed in __is Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai".

4. The Poet, the Artist and the Performance Artist

            A poet, an artist and a performance artist were living in Beijing but were not native Beijingers. The three of them got together and rented a small flat. Behind the back wall of the apartment was a dead-end alley where a brawny young man would come to urinate several times every day. It made the apartment wall stink to high heaven of urine.
            After several days of this, the three renters eventually lost their patience and couldn't deal with it any longer. Accordingly, they were about ready to ask the young man over for a round of fisticuffs.
            But the three knew this was just bravado and that they were not the young man's equals. So, in desperation, they had to think of another way to face up to him.
            First to make a move was the poet. He took one of the artist's fan-brushes in hand and, carrying a half a can of whitewash by the handle, he went outside. With a swish, swish, swish, he painted several lines of large characters on the wall. The next day, when the young man came to relieve himself, he saw the writing on the wall:

                             A gentleman should have self-respect
                            Those who pee here are weak
                            Worse than dogs
                            You're better off dead

            While the young man couldn't read very well, he did recognize these characters. He thought, "My last name is Zhu, not Dogs, and my first name isn't Worsethan, so your curses are nothing to me." He frowned and, giving free rein to his inner punk, sprayed all over "Untitled". With a hiss, hiss, the odor of urine spread into the room.
            Since the poet's ploy had been ineffective, they might as well let the performance artist have a go at it. He scrounged a big glass mirror from somewhere, one that had no corners. He put it up on the outside wall and hung a massive bull's penis in the middle. Beside the penis, which was dripping with blood, he wrote several large characters:
                           The son of a mare is still a horse,
                           If you have the balls, bring it out for a stroll!
            The performance artist swaggered back into the flat, self-satisfaction showing on his face. "That'll get you, you bastard," he was thinking. But sooner than he could say it, he heard a loud "swoosh". When he ran outside to look, he almost fainted —— the piece he had just finished had already been turned into a soaking wet, urine-smelling pile of broken glass shards.
            The young man hadn't swallowed any of this, so there was nothing else they could do. They had to put their hopes on the artist's final attack.
            The day after next, when the artist saw the young man going toward the corner of the wall, he went inside and got the other two roommates. They soon saw the young man turn into the corner and immediately come rushing out. As he brushed past them, they were surprised to see that a wave of red was covering his dark, hollow face.
            The poet and the performance artist thought it was quite strange, and they hurried over to the wall to see what had happened. They saw that an area of the wall had been newly whitewashed, and in the snow white area a young girl's eyes had been painted. Her eyes were looking straight ahead with a clear, pure expression of naivety and innocence.

5. Media Hype

            A singer who consistently topped the charts went into seclusion suddenly because of an embarrassing affair, causing an uproar in the music world.
            Several years later the singer tried a comeback, but a new generation was pushing the old aside. Audiences stayed away in droves from performances in several venues, and talent agents cast the former star aside like a pair of worn-out shoes. At a loss for what to do, the singer paid a surreptitious visit to a Miss B. They spoke secretly for a long time.
            Several days later, a small-time newspaper scooped the others by claiming that a failed marriage was the reason the former star had come out of seclusion; the marriage fell apart because the singer had had a change in sexual orientation; and the singer’s lover was Miss B. When a reporter questioned them to find out the truth, the former star and Miss B just hemmed and hawed. Several media outlets picked up the story and ran with it.
            Soon the singer was performing again. The venues were packed and tickets were impossible to get. And Miss B signed the contract she wanted with a famous agency.

Author 011, Clear Little Master [Liang Xiaoping] (清清小主 [梁小萍])
6. A Father with No Memories

            When I was in grade school, my dad's bookshelf had a lot of memoirs on it. "Whose memoirs are these," I asked him.
            "They were written by my old leaders," he said. "They're all from on the
Long March."
            "Weren't you on the Long March, too, Dad? Why don't you write your memoirs?"
            "There's no need to."
            When I was in high school, there were several more memoirs on my dad's bookshelf. "Whose memoirs are these," I asked him.
            "They were written by my old war buddies," he said. "They were in the War against Japan."
            "Weren't you in the War against Japan, too, Dad? Why don't you write your memoirs?"
            "There's no need to."
            When I was in college, there were several more memoirs on my dad's bookshelf. "Whose memoirs are these," I asked him.
            "They were written by troops under my command," he said. "They were in the War of Liberation."
            "Weren't you in the War of Liberation, too, Dad? Why don't you write your memoirs?"
            "There's no need to."
            When I'd been working for a number of years, my dad's bookshelf was filled with memoirs. "Whose memoirs are these," I asked him.
            "They were written by my young comrades-in-arms," he said. "They took part in building the nation."
            "Didn't you help build the nation, too, Dad? Why don't you write your memoirs?"
            "There's no need to."
            My dad was getting more senile every day. I was heart-broken as he took his last breaths on his sickbed. "We know too little about your fife, Father. Why didn't you write your experiences down?"
            "From the day I joined the army," he said softly, "everything I've worked on has been related to classified military affairs of the nation. In my whole life, there're no memories that belong to a single individual."

7. Papa Really Never Thought of Us

            For twenty years, Young Qing often thought about what his mother had asked: "Did you think of us?"
            One day bright and early when Qing was a toddler, Papa had hugged him and coaxed him lovingly to eat breakfast. The phone rang all of a sudden, and after Papa answered it, he seemed pressed for time. He told his wife and son, "You two go ahead and eat. Don't wait for me." Then he shot out of the door like an arrow.
            Just after lunch, a military vehicle came to get them. They rode in it to an area behind a hill where a forest fire had just been put out. What they saw there was Qing's father's corpse covered by a white cloth. He was dead, having sacrificed his life along with three other young soldiers.
            Qing's mother struggled to rush over to him, to see him one last time, but soldiers held on to her stubbornly. They wouldn't let the mother and son pull back that cloth from Qing's father, who was the unit's Political Commissar, because he'd been burned so badly that his face was completely gone.
            Qing's mother often shed silent tears during the period that followed. She would say to herself, over and over, "Didn't you know that fire has no feelings? Did you think of us, your wife and child, before you went running into the fire?"
            At such times the youngster Qing thought, "Of course Papa thought of us then, because he was the world's greatest Papa."
            More than twenty years had passed since then. Qing had grown up and joined the military, and he had a wife and child.
            One day, on a two-day weekend, Qing went for a stroll by the river with his family, holding his son in his arms. Suddenly someone fell into the river. Without hesitation, Qing handed his son to his wife and dove into the roiling river.
            After the one who'd fallen in was rescued, and Qing had also climbed back on shore, his wife rushed over and hugged him tightly to her breast. Tears covered her face and she had mixed feelings of grief and happiness. "Didn't you know that the river has no feelings?" she asked. "Did you think of us, your wife and child, when you jumped into the water?"
            Qing had no answers for his wife's questions. He could only mumble, "I, I, of course…."
            Late that night, Qing was looking at his mother's funeral portrait. He whispered to her, "No, mom, Papa really didn't think of us then.

8. This Snowman is You

            It had been snowing heavily all night.
            Early in the morning, I picked up my shovel and started cleaning off the snowdrifts in our small yard while my five-year-old son played in the drifts outside the yard. The snow was deep, the shovel was heavy, and I hadn't been working long before I started to sweat.
            Just then my son yelled, "Mom, quick, come help me!" I looked and saw that he had rolled two balls of snow on the drifts, on big and one smaller. "Push the snowballs over in front of our doorway, mom," he said.
            Together we pushed the snowballs to the gate of our yard and made a snowman. The large ball was on the bottom and the small one on top. Two black buttons made the eyes, peach tree leaves made hair and a carrot made the nose. "This little snow sister is really pretty, "I said.
            Suddenly my son put two leaves above the snowman's mouth. "This is Papa standing guard," he said. I stared blankly as he used patches of snow to fix the moustache in position, temporarily unable to think of anything to say. My husband had been killed in the line of duty before our son was born.
            My heart ached for our son. "Papa is standing guard at a base very, very far from here," I told him. I wanted to let him get a little older before I told him the truth.
            That night while my son was asleep, I turned on the computer and opened a QQ video with an army buddy of my husband's. He'd been wanting to hook up with me these last few years but I'd always turned him down. When I'd hesitated a couple of times, he'd said softly, "Believe me, I'd be a good father."
            When I saw his familiar face, I felt sick at heart.
            "It's snowing," he said. "Is it cold? You and your son need to keep warm."
            "Our home's heated," I said. "We're not cold. Today he built a snowman and we took some pictures. Have a look."
            I sent a picture of the bearded snowman to him
            "Good looking snowman," he said.
            "That snowman is you," I said.
            He laughed. "Really? Don't say it. It looks just like me."
            I told him, "My son said the snowman is his father."
            He was silent.
            My son had just then woken up and was climbing on my back. He asked, "Who's this guy, mom?"
            "This guy is your father, son," I said.
            Suddenly he smiled broadly. "Hello, Son, I'm Papa."

9. Self-Respect

            I've been sitting on the planter box by the side of the road for a long time. There's an intersection not far ahead, and I enjoy sitting here watching the endless flow of pedestrians. I like places where things are happening.
            Several pedestrians ask me for directions. I of course know the answers, or, I should say, I ought to know. I've been living here for more than 70 years, so how could I not know? I have lots of friends here and I'm familiar with every weed and bush.
            But I can't tell them. I wave my hand at them, smiling.
            They walk away saying, "So, she's an old mute."
            I get a kind of mad. My hearing is quite good. I really want to go after them and tell them what's what, but I can't stand up. My legs are so numb they won't do what I tell them. I really have been sitting here too long.
            I end up waiting until the cop gets off shift. He's a young cop, and he's just now leaving the traffic kiosk in the middle of the street and walking toward me. I slap my numb legs, smiling as I wait for him. He obviously notices me and walks quickly up beside me. I struggle to stand up and hand him my name tag, which has my address written on it. "I'm lost, comrade."
            I'm a former traffic cop. These days I'm always forgetting things. I'm embarrassed to ask directions from pedestrians. I have my self-respect.

10. Auntie

            After the first grand-daughter was born into the Xu family, my aunt picked a name for her: Flower Bud.
            My aunt doted on Flower Bud. The child grew bigger every day and, during the next twenty years or more, my aunt was very accommodating whenever she wanted to do something, and would help her get what she wanted. So when she told the family her new boyfriend was a soldier, she told my aunt first, and was surprised when my aunt was stubbornly opposed.
            "He's a soldier!" Flower Bud exclaimed. "Wasn't your husband a soldier, too?"
            "It's because he was a soldier that I don't agree with this," my aunt replied.
            Afterwards, Flower Bud didn't want to have anything to do with my aunt. She thought my aunt was a hypocrite. She didn't even tell my aunt when she got married. But my aunt happily sent her money and beautiful wedding presents, anyway.
            The young couple's love grew deeper after the wedding, but soon the soldier's marital leave ended and he returned to his unit on the border. When he'd been gone the better part of six months, Flower Bud began to feel resentful. My aunt heard and called her on the phone. "You've got to learn to tolerate the loneliness," she said softly. "Don't let his career break you up."
            Flower Bud was having a tough pregnancy, but his duties wouldn't allow him to return, and she was hurt. My aunt went over to her flat to help her. "You must learn to take care of yourself," she said, "so he won't worry and can do his duties on the border."
            When Flower Bud became a mother, he took his annual leave to take care of her for the first month after birth, and when he had to go back to his unit, Flower Bud cried. My aunt brought her and the baby into her own home. Holding that cute baby with love and affection, she said, "You've got to learn to take care of your family, so he won't have to worry."
            "Didn't you tell me not to marry a soldier?" Flower Bud asked. "So why are you talking like that now?"
            "At first I didn't want you to marry a soldier," my aunt said. "It was because I love you. That's where I was coming from. "What I'm telling you now is because I was a soldier's wife, and you are, too. Soldiers' wives have to learn to be strong."

Author 012, Wang Pingzhong (王平中)
11. Guess What I Saw

            After a fight with my husband, I jumped off the roof of our building in a fit of anger.
            I saw ——
            Seventh Floor: A man sitting astride a woman's hips, his left hand holding her down, his right hand clenched in a fist raining down blows on her body…. The woman wailing underneath him….
            Sixth Floor: A woman pointing at a man, chewing him out…. The man kneeling on the floor, covering his head with his hands, not saying a word….
            Fifth Floor: A woman throwing a mahjong set down on the floor…. A man throwing a thermos down….
            Fourth Floor: A husband busting down the door and coming in…. A man and a woman on the bed, shivering….
            Third Floor: A woman using a broom to beat a small child kneeling in front of her….
            Second Floor: ….
            Man, all those families have a tough story to tell. I just had a little argument with my hubby. What was it that I took so serious? But I'm still falling…
            Don't worry, I'm a gecko!

12. I Ended up Winning

            Tom went to visit Dick in prison.
            With jealousy written all over his face, Dick pointed to his cellmates. "This is Mayor Zhao. This is County Commissioner Qian. And this is Bureau Chief Sun…."
            Dick sighed. "I'm the one with the least status, a mere Section Chief!"
            Then he whispered, "Mayor Zhao, 500,000. Commissioned Qian, 300,000. Chief Sun, 200,000….
            Dick sighed again. "I'm the one who only got 100,000!"
            He paused for a few beats. Then he said, "Mayor Zhao, seven years. Commissioner Qian, eight years. Chief Sun, nine years…."
            He laughed bitterly. "But I ended up winning this one. Ten years!"

13. Where's My Head?

            Dick sat behind his desk, feeling empty. He picked up a folder but there didn't seem to be any documents in it. He picked up a newspaper that was lying in front of him, but there didn't seem to be any words printed on it.
            Dick couldn't think of what he was supposed to be doing that day.
            He made himself a cup of tea and took one sip, then another…. Something felt wrong. It was like he was drinking the tea from his throat. "Damn, what a strange day!"
            He rubbed his neck and was so surprised he sprang up out of his chair. "My God, it's gone. My head is gone!"
            He paced back and forth around the room, looking for his head….
            As he looked he muttered, "My head! Where did my head go?"
            Squeek – the door opened and his secretary, Young Zhang, came into the room.
            "Young Zhang," Dick asked anxiously, "have you seen my head?"
            His secretary looked at him in amazement. "Commissioner, the municipal government notified you. There's a meeting this afternoon!"
            Dick was ecstatic when he heard that. He patted his neck and exclaimed, "Ha! Found it! Found it! Turns out my head is on your shoulders!"

14. April Fools' Day

            Tom saw Dick when he got off work. Tom took his hand and whispered mysteriously in his ear, "Dick! The Bureau Chief is inviting you to his home for dinner!"
            Tom, the Assistant Director of the Bureau's office, has always liked to play jokes. Dick had no personal relationship with the Chief, so he didn't quite believe what Tom was telling him. "What a corker!" he said.
            "Would I lie to you about a thing like this?" Tom held his little finger up.*
            He looked so sincere that Dick started to believe him.
            "If the Chief's invited me to dinner, I can't go empty-handed," he thought to himself. So he went to a market and bought a bunch of gifts.
            "But why would the Chief invite me to dinner?" he wondered. "Could it be a birthday party for someone in his family? Heck with it, I'll find out when I get there."
            When he arrived at the Chief's home, he found the family enjoying dinner. His face turned red and he didn't know what to do.
            The Chief looked at him in astonishment. "Uh, what's all this…?"
            "I…. I…." Dick knew that Tom had tricked him. He put the gifts on the table and left with his tail between his legs.
            Dick called Tom's number on his cell, but before he had a chance to lay into him, he heard Tom laughing loudly.
            "Hey, Dick, it's April Fool's Day!"
            But he didn't laugh for long. It turned out the bosses had decided, but not yet officially announced, that Dick would be replacing Tom in his position as Assistant Director.
            Tom slapped himself hard on the forehead. "Damn if I wasn't the fool!"
*[Hooking pinkies with someone is a gesture meaning "I promise" – Fannyi]

15. Crying at a Funeral

            Whenever someone in the village died, he was always asked to be an official mourner.
            He'd kneel before the departed spirit, using both hands to cover his eyes with a kerchief. He'd wail, "Oh, Father —" or "Oh, Mother —", inconsolably grieved
            All who heard him would be moved to tears themselves
            That was before. Now, when someone dies, they play recordings of funeral music. No one asks him to be a mourner.
            He stands in front of the departed spirit for a long time. Then he leaves, walking alone, misery showing on his face….
            Suddenly, one day, a mournful wail resounds throughout the village. It's obviously not a funeral recording; it's the plaintive cries of a person. Who in the village has died?
            The villagers follow the sound to his home.
            He's kneeling in front of his own funerary portrait, inconsolably grieved, tears flowing down his face….

To get Chinese text by return email, send name of story to jimmahler1@yahoo.com

Clear Little Master (清清小主)

6. Father with No Memories
7. Papa Never Really Thought
8. This Snowman is You
9. Self-Respect
10. Auntie

An Exhibition of Contemporary Chinese Flash Fiction Writers (In Process), Page 3

Translated from
here, also available here.

Wang Pingzhong (王平中)

11. Guess What I Saw
12. I Ended up Winning
13. Where's My Head?
14. April Fools' Day
15. Crying at a Funeral

Hurrying Scholar (赶路秀才)

1. The Leader
2. She Told Him "I Want…."
3. New Discovery
4. Poet, Artist, Perform Artist
5. Media Hype