​​         Chinese Stories in English   

1. Blockage
2. Fashionable Workout
3. Getting Lost
4. Prescription
5. Project, A

11. Masked Man
12. Paper Figures Shop
13. Password to Peace
14. Robot Gets Mad, A
15. Swimming into City

Stories by Liu Wufu (刘吾福)
1.Blockage (堵)

      I’m sitting in a privately-owned mini-bus. The bus is a wreck. The glass is missing from some of the windows and has been replaced by taped-on transparent plastic.
      The north wind is whooshing outside.
      I know that anyone taking such a broken-down mini-bus is a third-class citizen.
      Officials ride in Toyota Crowns, development company bosses ride in BMWs, mine owners ride in Mercedes-Benzes. First-class citizens ride in taxis, second-class citizens ride in luxury busses, and we third-class citizens – like laid-off workers, shoe shiners, scavengers, rice-cutters.... we ride in broken-down mini-busses like this one!
      The broken-down mini-bus I’m riding in comes to a crossroads and screeches to a stop.
      I ask the person sitting in front of me, “What happened?”
      The guy sitting in front of me says, “Traffic’s jammed up in front of us.”
      I open the glass window and stick my head out for look. “Oh, mother! It really is jammed! And it goes on forever!”
      Someone squeezed in there inside the bus says, “Seems like a strike!”
      Oh – it really does seem like a strike!
      So then the people on the bus start a buzzing clamor –
      “Strike? A strike’s good!”
      “This fiscal year those officials have been so greedy! They get millions for each bribe, at least, maybe tens of millions!”
      “And those bosses, every one of them is so fat the grease just drips off of ‘em!”
      “And each one can have ten sweetheart ‘private secretaries’!”
      “Hey – ain’t that the truth! And us common people eat crap!”
      Just when the talk is heating up, the mini-bus suddenly starts to move. Turns out it isn’t a strike.
      There’s a work zone in front of us where they’re widening the road!
      Guided by a traffic cop, the mini-bus gets free of the snarl in a flash.
      I’m sitting in this broken-down mini-bus, moving slowly forward....
      But, I don’t know why, my heart suddenly feels all blocked up!

2. A Fashionable Workout Method (时髦的锻炼方法)

      The most up-to-date workout method these days, very fashionable, is called the "cut down on clothing method" – that is, in the cold of winter, deliberately reduce the amount of clothing you wear and resist the cold with your own body, to the point where you go shirtless to struggle against the bitter cold. By continuing day after day in this way you can effectively increase your resistance and your body will become stronger and stronger.
      This "cut down on clothing method" has been spreading from the provincial capital where my son works. When he came home for a visit, he talked up this method of theirs to me. He said that just about everyone there in that provincial capital of theirs is doing it, men and women, young and old. It’s very fashionable.
      I was really interested in this latest and most fashionable exercise method.
      So I began to try this newest exercise method.
      One early morning I went running in the suburbs wearing only a pair of shorts. I was shirtless, braving the frigid wind. The air was fresh there, dogs were barking and birds singing, with crowds of chickens and ducks. Very interesting.
      I said to myself, “You’ve got to stick to it no matter what. This is the first day, it’ll gradually get better.”
      That’s when some people came out from a village to see what was going on. And then some more people. More and more came out. I was flying high. “Come on, come on, all you guys come on and use this ‘cut down on clothing method’ to work out. Temper your bodies big league! It’ll be so good!”
      Just as I was standing there shivering, thinking these things, an old lady who looked to be over seventy came walking out of the village.
      She was talking to herself. “Oh, jeez, what kind of family has such unfilial children and grandchildren. They throw this old man out here in his nakedness. Look at what a shame it is that he suffers such a crime.”
      “Hey,” she says to me. “My old man just passed away a little while ago. He left this shabby quilted jacket. It is a bit shabby, but like it or not it’s still clothing that’ll hold off the cold. You take it!”
      That said, the old lady took that stinky, shabby jacket and put it over my shoulders....

3. Getting Lost (迷路)

      A fellow was driving his car on a tour with his wife and children.
      They got lost on the way through A city and he stopped to ask for directions. The person he asked said, "Ten Yuan for one set of directions." The driver asked, "You charge money for directions?" The man replied, "These days, who’s gonna give you directions for free?" The driver thought it over and decided that that made sense, so he handed over the ten Yuan. Following the man’s directions, they made it through A city.
      They got lost again on the way through B City, so the driver stopped again to ask the way. The person he asked said, "Twenty Yuan for one set of directions." This time the driver felt that he absolutely should pay, so he handed over the twenty Yuan without delay. Following the man’s directions, they made it through B city.
      They got lost again on the way through C City, so he stopped another time to ask the way. The person he asked said, "Thirty Yuan for one set of directions." The driver didn’t hesitate to hand over the money and, following the directions, they made it through C City.
      They got lost again on the way through D City. This time the driver took it on himself to fish out 50 Yuan even before he stopped to ask for directions. When he did stop, the person he asked thought it was odd. "You expect to have to pay for directions? Just turn left at the corner!”
      The driver thought about it, but when he came to the corner he turned right. This time he got really lost.
      The driver's wife complained, "Who told you not to listen to the man's directions?”
    "He didn’t ask for money,” the driver answered, “so how could I dare think his directions were worth anything?”

4. The Most Efficacious Prescription (最灵验的处方)

      I was wandering the streets, extremely down in the dumps and unsure of myself. I suspected that I was clinically depressed. While I was wandering around that way, without any conscious destination, I dimly became aware of a clinic and, without thinking, walked into it.
      The doctor was a very kind old fellow. He smiled when he saw me and told me to sit down. Then he benevolently tousled my hair and patted my shoulder.
      He started out by asking about my symptoms.
      I systematically poured out my depressed state of mind to the old doctor, and the discontent, restlessness and anxiety....
      The old doctor listened patiently until I finished my whining. Then he picked up that odd stethoscope (not like ones I’d seen during doctors’ appointments at other hospitals, the commonly seen stethoscopes). He took his time and closed his eyes as he moved from my chest to my back and both sides of my body, listening carefully.
      Then he lifted up my eyelids with his fingers and took a look at my eyes, and parted the hair on my head to look at my scalp. He told me to stick out my tongue and examined the coating on it. He was even conscientious enough to take my pulse and look at my fingernails and the soles of my feet....
      When he finished, he told me “Yours is a classic case of frustration!”
      “Frustration? Oh, yeah, damn straight! – I’ve spent eight years as a deputy group leader, eight years! And I’m still a deputy leader! I’ve seen each and every one of those colleagues who came into the organization with me become section chiefs or department directors.... You tell me, how could I not be frustrated?”
      The old doctor told me, very seriously, “I’ll write a prescription for you. You don’t need medication. As long as you do what I prescribe, you can recover!”
      The old doctor leaned over his desk and wrote out the prescription right away.
      I paid the bill, took the prescription and walked straight out of the clinic.
      I did as the old doctor had prescribed. Sure enough, I immediately got promoted from deputy group leader to group leader, and right after that I became a deputy section chief, then a section chief, then assistant office manager, then office manager…. And if things keep going like this, I’ll fast become a department-level official!
      I knew the old doctor had done me a favor and I needed to do what I could to repay his kindness!
      My pocket stuffed with a
hongbao, a red envelope, the traditional way to give a gift of money, I walked along the same street I’d been on before, looking for the clinic. Eventually I saw it. When I got up to it, I looked it over carefully. Only then did I see clearly that it was a pet clinic! The old doctor who’d seen me was a famous dog doctor!
      The prescription the dog doctor had given me was actually quite simple, only seven words:
      "Lick, wag tail, grovel under the cane".
      You could say that that’s the world's most efficacious prescription!

5 A Big Project (大工程)

      The word was that the new County Magistrate, Magistrate Yang, wanted to do a big engineering project in the county this year.
      A general contractor named Zhang came to Magistrate Yang’s home in the evening and stuffed a million Yuan into his hands, which the Magistrate accepted with a smile; a contractor named Wang also came to the Magistrate’s home and stuffed a million Yuan into his hands, which the Magistrate accepted as before; and a contractor named Li came to the Magistrate’s home, too, and stuffed a million Yuan into his hands, which the Magistrate did not refuse.
      Zhang, Wang and Li were ecstatic. They were all confident that victory was within their grasp.
      The next day Magistrate Yang called a meeting in the County Magistrate’s conference room. In attendance were the County Propaganda Minister, the County Cultural Director, the County Education Minister, the Chairman of the County Federation of Literature and Art, and other officials.
      Magistrate Yang took out three large paper bags and placed them on the conference table. Pointing to the bags, he said “I want to thank the three contractors, Zhang, Wang and Li, for their strong financial support. They have now put three million Yuan into our county’s “Five-in-One Project”, giving us a financial base. The prospects for our project certainly look great!”
      The Propaganda minister, Cultural Director, Education Minister and Arts Federation Chairman all applauded!
      The contractors Zhang, Wang and Li looked at each other in surprise. They didn’t even know what sort of project the "Five-in-One Project" was!

Stories by Liao Yuqun (廖玉群)
6. Bow Down to
RMB (向人民币鞠躬)

      He was training a new employee:
      “Remember to smile the first time you face a guest. Your bow should be at moderate speed, from the waist, with your body forming a ninety-degree angle.
      “Jeez, that’s not right.
      “Wrong again!”
      He’d already repeated it three times.
      The small of her back was stiff and straight, as though there were an iron rod in it that just wouldn’t bend. He gave her a merciless glance.
      He turned his face and said, “Don’t think you’re bowing to some person. When you bow, remember not to think of the guest as a person. It’s better to think of him as money, as RMB. You’re bowing to RMB – I’ll say it again for emphasis, you’re bowing down to the almighty RMB!”
      Sure enough, her waist turned into a supple willow branch. She began to extend her waist softly and with a natural flexibility.
      Truth is, he’d taken the
Ah-Q-like phrase “bow down to RMB” from some book or other. Only he’d never expected that it would actually prove to be so unusually successful in repeated trials. Later, as he trained one group of new employees after another, the cleverly efficient phrase helped him solve the problem that lots of people had bending their stiff-as-a-board waists.

7. The Beauty of Sympathetic Death (殉美)

      Four eyes facing.
      Not a word spoken.
      It was the wife who broke the impasse in the end, consoling him with soothing words. “It’s nothing, really nothing. I can take it.” She smiled coolly. The medicine was putting her back into a deep sleep.
      As he looked at his young wife’s angelic face, tears as icy as frost fell quietly down his cheeks. He couldn’t bear to look further down to his wife’s disfigured body covered by the white sheet.
      She’d just undergone a mastectomy. This disease, lung cancer, with a devilish lack of sympathy had taken away the parts that are a woman’s pride. The Mount Everests on her chest had been leveled, which amounted to a cataclysm for her. He’d wrung out his heart bit by bit, but surprisingly it didn’t hurt. He’d been numbed by the pain.
      The door to his studio had been closed for a long time and was covered with dust. He pushed it open during the night. An oblique light from the ceiling splashed down like water onto the statue of a goddess.
      It was the statue, too beautiful for words, which his wife had modeled for. Of course, she wasn’t yet his wife back then, but she was a goddess in his heart. He felt over the statue’s exquisite body inch by inch. In the end his deepest feelings had been locked onto her Everests.
      He moved over to the window, step by step, like a meteor completing a graceful stroke across the sky. But if anyone had been looking, he seemed like a gunnysack full of mud when he fell heavily to the floor.
      Everyone in the Fine Arts Academy knew that his love of beauty surpassed his love of life. But his
Hippocratic face, the look on his face when he died, was truly something that no one could stand to look at. It left an impression of unbearable ugliness – how could that be the one thing he hadn’t thought of?

8. Don’t Wear a Mask (别在我面前贴面膜)

      The first time he saw her wearing a beauty mask was one day shortly after the honeymoon.
      He was in an excited frame of mind coming home that day. He had to bang on the door for a long time before she opened it. When the door jerked open with a squeak, he instinctively stepped back. Her ghastly white face was enough to scare anyone. She laughed when she saw him standing there like a dolt, her red lips open wide.
      She asked him, “What’re you looking at? I’ve got a facial mask on, you know? You haven’t seen them very often so it looks weird to you.”
      With her white face and red lips, his new wife, who had been so beautiful, looked like a demon.
      “I’ve never seen you with a beauty mask on before,” he said.
      “Before now you’ve only seen what I look like after I put on my makeup. Starting now you’ll have to see the cruelty behind the beauty.”
      Thereafter he would occasionally come face to face with that horrific visage. It wasn’t bad during the days but at night, under the lights, the way she looked with a mask on was like a lady ghost in the movies. It made him shiver, and not from the cold.
      Several times he wanted to speak up, to tell her not to wear a beauty mask around him, that he really couldn’t take the ugliness. But sometimes words that are too close to the truth can be hurtful, so he never dared to say it. He thought he’d wait for an appropriate opportunity.
      One evening she was curled up in the crook of his arm like a kitten. He reached out to pull her closer, but it seems a rolled-up beauty mask that she’d just taken off was squeezed between them. As softly as a purring kitten she said, “Today’s Valentine’s day. Don’t you have something to say to me? Something you really want to say now?”
      He opened his mouth, intending to say “Absolutely do not wear a beauty mask around me.”
      But he didn’t. The words that did come out of his mouth surprised even him: “Wife, wife, I love you. May Buddha protect you.”
      They were the lyrics of the most popular song on the market at the time.

9. Dying Young in Spring (春之殇)

      The soldier’s post was in a kiosk facing the other country. The grade school campus on the other side was so close. Big patches of sunlight filtering down through the sparse leaves of the camphor trees burst forth softly on the exercise yard.
      After the clouds of war had dispersed, the noises of children playing had been added to the exercise yard.
      A buffer zone extended across the exercise yard, separating the villagers on either side like a river with flooding green waves. A stele marking the international boundary stood off to one side. Several Plymouth Rock chickens strolled leisurely in the yard while a golden retriever gamboled in the thick grass on the far side. The chickens and the dog couldn’t care less about the buffer zone or the solemn boundary marker. Occasionally they crossed the border brazenly.
      The soldier’s eyes opened wide when he saw a boy following along behind the dog. The dog started to run across the buffer zone, coming closer and closer. In the sunlight its hairy tail looked like golden marsh reeds swaying in the breeze. The boy was chasing it. The soldier cried out urgently, “Hey! Hey!”
      The soldier instinctively tightened his grip on the pistol in his hand. His index finger curled slightly as he made to pull the trigger. He immediately laughed at his reaction.
      All of a sudden the boy tripped and fell. He grabbed onto his knee, twisted his eyebrows and skewered up his face….
      “What the…?” Suddenly the soldier saw the ten-year-old boy limping forward, as though taking a tumble were part of a boy’s everyday life. The soldier felt that he himself was just a big boy, even though he was a veteran. He came out of the kiosk.
      The soldier and the boy locked eyes. The boy’s look was cold and hard. He grabbed his sleeve tightly in his right hand and pulled out the pitch black muzzle of a gun. The boy’s anger and pain burst out with the muzzle: “Gimme back my father! Gimme back my mother!”…. At the same time, the muffled sound of the soldier’s gun resounded through the broad daylight.
      The soldier bent over to pick up the gun that had flown out of the boy’s hand – it was a toy pistol! In that moment, the soldier saw the dazzling sunlight falling around him like snowflakes.

10. Lost on a Lanai (迷失在阳台上)

      Lanais, they’re heaven and earth for city people.
      Grace planted an asparagus fern in a pot and put it in this heavenly place after they’d moved into their new residence. She liked this kind of willowy plant, thinking that the dull green leaves were reminiscent of a complacent frame of mind.
      Sea, on the other hand, seemed not to care much for the asparagus fern. He often stood out on the lanai, but his gaze was pulled off into the distance. Following his gaze, Grace saw a spectacularly red bougainvillea across the way. That kind of red, overflowing with warmth, lifted one’s heart.
      Grace quietly exchanged the fern. What she replaced it with was a brilliantly burning, flaming red bougainvillea.
      But Sea’s gaze was still far away in the distance, as though it were pulled by something.
      Grace edged up to him gently. “What is it?” she asked softly.
      “It’s nothing. There’s nothing to look at,” he said.
      Following his vacant stare, Grace saw to her surprise that the bougainvillea on the lanai across the way had at some point disappeared without a trace. And the plant there now, throwing out threads of greenness, wasn’t it an asparagus fern? – The thing she’d just thrown away.

11. Masked Man (面具人)

      The doctor, a disconsolate expression on his face, told the woman, “Your husband, we did everything we could. We can’t work miracles. Go home and start making funeral arrangements.”
      The woman jumped up like a wild animal and grabbed his white gown. “What are you saying?” she roared. “He was fine just now. His complexion was glowing and he was smiling when he went in there. You guys have treated him to death!”
      She howled wildly and pushed open the ward door like she’d gone crazy. The sight that met her eyes stunned her. Her husband’s complexion was glowing, and he still maintained an amiable smile.
      The doctor pointed to a computer screen. “Look at his electrocardiogram,” he said. “He’s flat-lined. This is our basis for issuing the Death Certificate.”
      The woman was mystified. “His complexion is still….”
      The doctor just pulled lightly with a special kind of appliance to take the mask off the dead man. “These types of cases,” he said coldly, in a professional tone, “are commonplace in today’s society.”
      This was the first time the woman had seen her husband’s true appearance. She saw a countenance as strange to her as though it was several generations away. By this time the face had already changed to the color of death. As for how he’d looked before he died, she couldn’t imagine it no matter what.

12. Paper Figures Workshop (纸马坊)

      Everyone said that Uncle Blackie’s paper figures, [the horses and other representations he made for people to burn in rituals], were without exception the spitting image of the real thing. Rumor had it that, even more miraculously, on nights that were really quiet and still, if you cocked your ear and listened, you could hear horses whinnying and birds singing in his workshop!
      Second Sunflower had prepared some considerable gifts to acknowledge his master, Uncle Blackie. Uncle Blackie looked them over but said only one thing: “The effort needed to glue a paper figure together isn’t in the mouth, or in the hands, but in the heart.” He told Second Sunflower to take the gifts back. Then went on with his own business, puff-puffing clouds of smoke from his pipe. Second Sunflower got a snoot-full of smoke and resolved that, every day from then on, he would concentrate on watching what Uncle Blackie did and copy everything meticulously.
      It wasn’t long before the figures made by Second Sunflower were also the spitting image of the real things.
      And Uncle Blackie’s shop was no longer the only maker of paper figures on that street.
      Second Sunflower was sharp. Every time you turned around he would be rolling out a new design: gold dollars, little limousines, little Western-style houses…. And every single one looked like the real thing.
      Uncle Blackie was taking it easy all day, every day. He frequently he didn’t even lift a fingernail.
      Second Sunflower was secretly delighted. Uncle Blackie was already over the hill and couldn’t make the new designs.
      As the items in Second Sunflower’s shop proliferated, the people ordering goods also increased. In comparison, Uncle Blackie’s shop got quieter every day. Then one day, Uncle Blackie’s shop was closed up and padlocked.
      So now there was only the one paper figures workshop in town. Second Sunflower took advantage of the opportunity to raise prices sky-high and his business prospered like never before.
      Suddenly Uncle Blackie became seriously ill. Second Sunflower went to visit him and found him sitting upright in his room. Half the room was filled with gold dollars, little limousines, little Western-style houses… each one miraculous, and ready to go.
      Second Sunflower was surprised and mystified. “Uncle Blackie, with your artistry….”
      Uncle Blackie said indifferently, “It’s not easy for an out-of-towner like you to come out and get along in the world.”
      Warm tears came to Sunflower’s eyes. “Master!” But the word caught in his throat. When he got back to his shop, he changed the price tags back to what they had been.

13. Password to Peace (平安密码)

      The image of the green sweet olive tree swirled and danced outside the window. A small noggin flashed among a clump of leaves and disappeared.
      I got up and strolled over to the window.
      “Teacher, can I borrow your cell phone?” A timid voice. As soon as I heard it I knew it was that kid called To-the-Woods. He was hugging a tree trunk with both hands as he spoke. In a flash he ducked behind it.
      To-the-Woods had transferred to our section when the semester was already half over. He’d kept his lips pursed tightly when he registered. I’d asked him softly, “How come you didn’t come at the start of the year?”
      To-the-Woods buried his chin even deeper into his chest. His father said, “He was in the countryside. There’s no one else in the family now….”
      I reached out and rubbed the boy’s head, then took him to his seat.
      Usually To-the-Woods wasn’t much of a talker. It was certainly a major event for this sort of child to speak up and ask to borrow a teacher’s phone.
      I took out my cell and punched in the number To-the-Woods told me. When the call went through, I put the phone in his hand.
      To-the-Woods took it and put it to his ear. He listened attentively for a while but didn’t say a word. Then he quickly handed the phone back to me.
      “You called your Papa, right?” I asked. “Why didn’t you talk to him?”
      His eyes flashed and the corners of his mouth crept up in a smile.
      “The school provides a phone free, to use as I please.” I told a white lie to this child, so wise in the ways of the world. I squatted down and put the phone back in his hand.
      “No thanks. Papa’s standing on a high scaffold right now and can’t listen to the phone.” He put his mouth right up to my ear. “He’ll see your number when he comes down and will know I’ve arrived at school safely. And he’s told me that I’ll be coming to school by myself every day from now on. He’s standing on the side a skyscraper and can see me and the whole world!”
     My eyes started to burn. “When you go home tell your Papa that we’ll dial his number twice every time after this, OK?”
      This little extravagance made the boy laugh. He looked up and outside the window. From the expression in his eyes, it seemed that he could see his father’s silhouette over the rows and rows of tall buildings.

14. A Robot Gets Mad (机器人暴怒了)

      After I bought a robot that knew how to do school assignments, doing my homework became a relaxed, smooth-going affair.
      I piled my assignment books by the robot, pushed the on button, entered the instructions, and everything would come up roses!
      Something did happen, though, something I’d never expected. When I arranged the last pile of assignments in front of the robot that day, the son-of-a-gun got obviously mad. He tapped out the English letters “NND”*, followed by a line of words: “Go back and tell your teacher there’s too much homework! I’m not doing it!”
      He really did go on strike after that – he wouldn’t budge!
      I restarted him, but when I pushed the on button he still didn’t pay me the slightest attention. The most aggravating thing was, the next day he up and died. Sheesh….
*[Non-Negotiable Demand – Fannyi]

15. Swimming into the Sea of the City (游入城市的海里)

      Little Five’s spittle was flying. He was giving us a lecture about the heavenly life in the city and was talking about the part that interested us most – his work.
      “The job doesn’t require any technical skills, really.
      “Can you stand up? If you can, you’ll be alright.
      “Can you move your hands? If you can, you’ll be alright.
      “Can you shout? If you can, you’ll be alright.
      “My good fellows, for this standing and gesturing and shouting you’ll get 5,000 a month in your pocket.”
      “Well,” we asked” what is this profession called?” Little Five had made our curiosity rise in our craws. He was fanning the flames of our enthusiasm to go the city to find work, heating it to a vigorous boil.
      Little Five smiled but didn’t answer.
      So the bunch of us, myself as well as Little Six, Little Seven and Little Eight, mindless fishes led by Little Five, swam off into the sea of the city. We all went into the business where Little Five worked. Our job was to play the part of savages in a place called Urban Ocean Recreational City.
      Every day we have to lean against trees and wear palm leaves as skirts like uncivilized savages.
      Like savages, we have to jump and dance around without even a moment’s decorum. Sometimes we have to strike poses like we’re grappling with wild beasts.
      When customers come in, we have to go “ooga-booga” like savages to express our joy and excitement.
      The boss told us 500 a month. That 5,000 that Little Five mentioned is our salary for a year.
      We’ve been looking for Little Five. But after he developed us savages, he took off for parts unknown. The city has already changed him. Like a true fish, he was gone in a “swoosh”.

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

Flash Fiction Monthly, Premier Issue, Distinguished Authors' Manuscripts, Page 2
Translated from
here, also available here

​​​       Liu Wufu (刘吾福)                                                                           Liao Yuqun (廖玉群)                                                           

6. Bow Down to RMB
7. Death’s Beauty
8. Don’t Wear a Mask
9. Dying Young
10. Lost on a Lanai